We enter the American Advertising Federation Awards each year to support our local AAF chapter. We believe a strong, local professional association, where peers gather to work to advance our field is critical. Unfortunately, the local Dayton AAF Chapter banned us a few years ago, without more than a 2 line unsigned note. Since we’ve always participated with the Cincinnati chapter too, we’re a member there and entered our work in their show.
Typically, Cincinnati is a much tougher competition, with much larger agencies and larger clients (like P&G)- and larger budgets. They also tend to choose higher caliber judges. This year, we were awarded 2 Gold’s and a Silver. Gold’s automatically advance to the Regionals, and Silvers may be advanced for an additional entry fee. We paid to advance our silver, and we got word that our Gold’s won Silver at the regional level. 51 awards were given at the regionals- including 15 to Cincinnati chapter, the most of any of the seven cities in our district. We paid to advance our Silvers to see how they do on the National Level and came up goose-eggs.
The two campaigns were in the political advertising category: Surgeon Generals Warning #BLM, and BLM- Police Rebrand. We’re very proud of the work, and the recognition it’s getting, but would prefer if our country would make this type of messaging unnecessary. We would love to work with National Police Organizations on a national stand down/retraining effort. We say this, on the 4th day of the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd.
Here are the winning entries:
Surgeon General’s Warning
SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Running causes BLACK MEN a higher chance of death in encounters with police. You are more likely to be arrested, beaten or shot than a white man (2) Being black impairs your ability to live free in America, and may cause equality issues, including being shot in the back. Quitting running now greatly reduces serious risks to your life, unless it’s part of being a pro athlete.
GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, BLACK MEN should avoid all interactions with police. You are more likely to be arrested, beaten or shot. (2) Being black impairs your ability to live free in America, and may cause equality issues, including being shot in the back.
GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, BLACK MEN should not drink alcoholic beverages because it’s now a legal excuse for police to kill you. (2) Being black impairs your ability to live free in America, and may cause police problems, including being shot in the back.
BLM Police Rebrand:
Are police making a fashion statement?
Photo by Jonathan Bachman for Reuters
Fear is a horrible motivator. Photo by Roscoe Myrick | Flickr/CC BY 2.0
If this is how far the balance of power has shifted, police have failed. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty photos https://www.patricksmithphotos.com
We’re not done with these ads, and will continue to help communities come together to address serious issues of civil rights, voting rights, environmental protection, workers rights and health care for all. We’ve founded 2 non-profits to reform politics as we know them, on both a local and national level. Reconstructing Dayton exists to improve our own community, and to test the policys and ideas of The Modern Policy Institute. This is not what most ad agencies do as part of their business mission. It’s why we consider ourselves an Activist Agency.
On the front page of our site it asks why are you here? Either to do great advertising and make a lot of money, or, because you work for the competition and want to figure out how we do it.
The funny thing is, we’ll tell you how to do it, but most of you will still fail. Because, we’ll make you uncomfortable. You’ll ask, “has anyone done this before” or “show us a case study” to somehow soothe your rankled idea of what works. And by the time you are able to rationalize, to knit pick, to quiet that little demon on your shoulder saying “are you willing to bet your career on this idea”- that idea has sailed. It’s done. It’s too late.
Lee Clow has disrupted the ad world and done some of the most iconic advertising ever. He’s also failed spectacularly- but, after bringing Apple back from near death to be one of the most valuable companies on the planet- maybe, you can trust him just a bit. At TBWA\Chiat\Day they call that discomfort “Disruption” and here’s their little manifesto:
People couldn’t stop complaining about the tagline “Think Different” for not being grammatically correct, while they showed a whole rogues gallery of people who were told that they were trying to do the impossible. They made those people, or the idea of rising to their level, to be associated with Apple. Never mind that Mohamed Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Picasso, Einstein never touched an Apple product on their rise to fame.
That this video isn’t on an Apple official YouTube channel is proof that even with the best advertising agency and smart people, some companies still don’t get how to do this right.
So when CP+B suggested to Domino’s to tell the world their pizza sucked- and that they were going to change it with “Pizza Turnaround”- was the only reason they allowed it- because Domino’s were either at rock bottom- or the people selling the idea rock stars? You decide.
The crazy part is everyone thinks they know the secret to great advertising, because they can identify it when they see it, but, even when they see it- sometimes, they still don’t understand it. Ryan Reynolds isn’t an ad guy- but his Superbowl worthy ad for Match.com is great advertising- even if it breaks all the supposed taboo’s of dating site ads- suggesting you may end up with a sociopath for a date- or worse- Satan.
If it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably going to make you remember it, share it, think about it, have some kind of emotional response. If it’s just funny, snarky, or cute- it probably doesn’t have a real basis to convert thoughts into an action. The real question is if Match knows how to make this more than a one hit wonder- will it keep doing what it’s supposed to do- after the 2020 dumpster fire is over?
The true skill in advertising is finding an insight, a universal truth, a way to connect your product or service to something the customer already believes, or knows, and wants more of- and getting the client to trust your skills enough to be brave, to disrupt, to evoke trust and create lust. To do this- you start with truth. It’s authenticity that’s the currency, not the size of your budget.
On the last day of 2020 I sat down with my favorite former intern, who left us to get a masters at BIC, and went to work in a NYC agency. He was a bit disillusioned with the business- because so many people are too timid to greenlight work that will work. And that’s a part of the business too. You come up with great ideas- and then the client kills them. Over and over. He was in the first meeting we had with the following client- there’s a funny story that had us both wondering if we were going to get shot on the spot to the answer I gave to a question, but, that’s a story for another time. Instead, the client tortured a big idea to a slow death soon after we started on the account.
At the beginning of 2016 we had a client who made a light that was optimized for old people who loved to read- and we had a new president who was elderly and proud of his not-reading. We quickly put together an ad for the Washington Post- that the president supposedly did read.
To the brave, can go the spoils. Unless you pick it apart
By the time, 4 months later, the client was done picking it apart and re-writing it, Trump had started to perfect his “Squirrel!” strategy of distracting people daily. The days to contemplate the idea of actually reading his daily brief was long gone- and the client stripped out the address line. And, then, it only ran once, as a remaining space ad. C’est la vie. BTW- the “Get illuminated” line was contributed by the one and only Alex Bogusky. Yes, I ran it past the Creative Director of the Decade for suggestions and he liked it.
A Public health anti-covid campaign that doesn’t suck
Star power, a big idea, digital activation and talk value
Just before the second spike of Covid in the fall of 2020- we responded to a public health RFP to reach out to minority communities to get them to be smart about Covid- to warn them of the dangers of not wearing a mask, not washing your hands, not gathering. It had a fixed budget. The RFP was written by people who had no idea of how to write a brief or an RFP (see this post). They asked for the moon- on a shoestring budget. As part of our activism, we’d uncovered them as crooks 6 months before- handing out a no-bid contract for even more money to the agency that would do a county officials political campaign. Needless to say- we knew we wouldn’t get the contract- but, with good ideas and good connections- we decided to pitch them the moon. We came in dead last on the score sheet. Why? Maybe because we’d embarrassed them- or maybe because they have no idea or tolerance for a great idea. Here it is:
Strapline: Don’t bet your life.
Idea: Groucho Marx used to host TV show- You Bet Your Life. We will have Dave Chappelle talking to people about betting their life on Covid- in a very Dave way.
Action: We’ll have scratch off lottery like tickets to win in a sweepstakes. The scratch offs will be distributed in gas stations, corner stores, minority businesses, churches. They will be supported by a poster by Shepard Fairey and Studio No 1.If you don’t think you know Shepards work- you missed the whole Obama Hope and Change poster thing.
First round prizes- 1 in 4 chance is to win a deck of washable playing cards. 56 chances to share messaging- and lots of room for sponsorship. You can play solitaire with yourself- and take no chances- or you can play cards with friends and engage in risky behavior.
By filling out an online form- and allowing us to continue to message you via text or email- you can register to win a top of the line phone and service for a year- from T-Mobile who was signed on to sponsor. 10 prizes available
To get pastors into the act- they were to do short video sermons against gambling- either *wink* lotteries and scratch off- or with the virus. The top ten in shares and views would be randomly eligible to win a complete video streaming system.
And- the grand prize- sponsored by a local funeral home- for if you gamble and lose, a complete pre-paid funeral. Because if you bet your life with Covid- you stand the chance of needing one.
The last part- well, it made the “evaluators” nervous. Talk about death, oh, no. As if it’s not something everyone will face?
We pitched it to the State as well. The former newspaper reporter who runs public health communications, and knows nothing about advertising said “At first glance, I don’t think it strikes the right tone that we are trying to convey.”
And there you have the death of a big idea that would have made a difference.
A US Army recruiting campaign- for your mom and dad
Here’s one more. The US Army is a huge marketeer, it’s hard to get people to sign up to risk dying for their country. The account, worth $4B over 10 years recently went to DDB. They had some brilliant insight in their pitch to the Army and their new tagline, “Tomorrow takes an Army” was a huge departure from the gung-ho video gamer campaign the Army was running- “Warriors Wanted.” As a former soldier and disabled veteran, I understand the dilemma of teens on deciding to join the service- and their expectations, better than most people in advertising (very few minorities and very few veterans in the field). Unable to get in at the last agency or current one- we went to Ft. Knox in November of 2019 to pitch our idea based on a key piece of insight: a higher percentage of recruits come from families that have veterans in them.
We pitched a reality TV show called “Back to Basic” where old veterans went back through basic training to finally dispel the eternal myth of “It was harder back in the day” and compare the experiences- and the wisdom gained by serving. We had hoped to get parents with their kids at the same time. We had the perfect host- a celebrity MMA star who had served- and we knew it would do blockbuster ratings.
The Army rejected us- saying “We’ve done reality TV” and it didn’t work. Hate to tell you, Mark Burnett has done a lot of reality tv- and some has worked out just fine, others have bombed, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to try.
Well, last month we found the vindication for our pitch. AARP posted a video about a 59 year old veteran who had to go back through basic training so he could serve with his kid. In less than a month it had 750K views, it’s at 847,411 in 50 days. That far exceeds the views, shares and discussion of anything the Army is producing right now.
If an idea doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it’s probably not big enough.
And, the size of your agency, the size of your budget, has nothing to do with the size of your agencies ideas.
Do little kids still want to grow up to be police officers in America? By the time they’ll be old enough for the job, they’ll have seen a constant stream of news of police officers making major mistakes and causing significant damage to their professions reputation.
If Police in America were a major airline, which killed random customers daily and “accidentally” do you think they’d still be “flying the friendly skies?”
Reputation management is something we do at The Next Wave. This would be a major challenge, up there with getting kids to stop smoking, or people to trust a brand again after a major fail. We believe we need a national conversation to take place about what it means to “serve and protect” and being an “officer of the peace” looks like in 2021.
One thing we’re certain of, showing up in military gear to a legal protest is probably not the best way to diffuse the situation. We put together a series of posters/memes to try to show how ridiculous this has become. Note, we don’t own the rights to these photos, nor do we have permission to use them. However, since it’s educational and for public criticism of the new “trade dress” of police in the US- we believe it falls under fair use.
Are police making a fashion statement? Jonathan Bachman for Reuters
If this is how far the balance of power has shifted, police have failed. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
We believe it’s time for a national re-training of the police in this country, It’s time to re-examine what service police are here to provide and it’s value and values. When protesters say “No justice, no peace” what does that mean?
Can you honestly tell little kids that being a police officer is still a desirable job when they will hear stories of police shooting people in their garages, holding a subway sandwich, or in a raid in the middle of the night, or even when an officer comes “home” to the wrong apartment and shoots it’s occupant? The common thread- is the victims are Black. I’m not linking to any of these stories or naming names, because to do so is actually minimizing the scope of the problem. It’s happening way too often, way too frequently, and that’s the basis of our call for a rebrand and some reputation management.
It starts with public perception. It starts with how you come dressed to the party. It’s time for reform.