Advertising, art and public spaces

Hope Poster by Shepard Fairey

Hope Poster by Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey just got smacked on the hand in Boston. A $2000 fine is nothing compared to the national press this criminal proceeding brought him.

Fairey, a graduate of the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design Rhode Island School of Design, was best known for his “Obey” campaign with the image of Andre the Giant- until he hit the big time with his Obama “HOPE” poster which may go down as one of the earliest iconic pieces of art from this century.

Before having a sponsored show in Boston, Shepard did what he does- and did some wild postings. That means putting up posters with wheat paste in places where he didn’t have permission.

One persons art, is anothers eyesore.  This piece from the Boston Globe sums up the outcome of this high profile case:

Shepard Fairey, the street artist who for decades has plastered his stickers and posters on buildings and street signs, yesterday agreed to stop leaving his mark in Boston.

Fairey, who once told the Globe he had been arrested 14 times for tagging, apologized to the city and pleaded guilty to three vandalism charges.

“People should be responsible about sharing their art,’’ Fairey said after agreeing to the plea deal in Boston Municipal Court. “That is not a transition or an evolution in my philosophy.’’

Fairey said that now that he is an established artist – an ongoing show at the Institute of Contemporary Art has drawn 100,000 visitors – he does not need to tag like he did when he began his career.

“Fortunately, I am in a place in my career where I can get sanctioned places,’’ he said. “So, it’s not an issue I will ever have to worry about again. . . . There should be more public outlets for art.’’

via Fairey pleads guilty to vandalism charges – The Boston Globe.

It’s nice that Shepard thinks there should be more public outlets for art- in NYC construction barricades have long been places for posters. Other cities have created legal graffiti areas. However, there is a distinction between permanent paint and posters with wheat paste- I’d much rather deal with the wheat paste than spray paint. This doesn’t give anyone the right to place posters, ads, or tags anywhere they want.

Microsoft tried to cover NYC with static cling decals- and got caught. Is chalk on sidewalks OK for advertising? That too is up for discussion.

As we assault the public with non-stop advertising messages, the realm of outdoor ads is just too lucrative to ignore: they can’t be ignored, tuned out, skipped past. However, legal outdoor like billboards, vehicle wraps, mall signs are expensive when compared to the guerrilla style postings that got Fairey in front of the judge. For a $2,000 fine and a lot of publicity- Fairey came out ahead.

For the rest of us, it’s a warning. Future cases won’t be so easy or cheap.

The advertising industry has powerful lobbyists protecting billboards and other big media. The Next Wave believes that the industry needs to make a case for different access to local affordable outdoor- like bus shelters, legal posting areas- for local businesses as a part of making place and local wayfinding. Small business makes this country run- and yet, when trying to compete for space with powerhouses like Procter & Gamble, the little guy often gets squeezed out.

Shepard can afford to pay the fine these days. As he says- he now has access to galleries. Were all those arrests and court cases worth it? Obviously.

Guerrilla ads for a guerrilla political campaign: how to wow on the cheap.

I’m not going to go Sun Tzu on you, but a guiding principle in warfare is to attack where your enemy is weakest. In judo, you try to make your weakness your strength. Political advertising may be one of the areas where this is toughest- since incumbency and large campaign chests are considered prime indicators of product value. Shrewd political contributors don’t give to longshots, they bet their dollars on who they think can win. It’s the nature of the game, and a very hard marketing battle.

Think of it as launching a challenger brand, with no money, no time, and a very absolute deadline to dominate the market (election day). Can you imagine Procter and Gamble launching a new detergent and having to have 51% of the market make a purchase in two months?

Here is our first shot at launching a local political activist into a National Congressional race. Please note, not only did the candidate star in the ad, he wrote it himself (unlike his competition) because of course, the candidate is the same person writing this post.

it is also available as a downloadable iPod version here: http://esrati.com/?p=490

One of the keys of viral marketing and leveraging your low budget campaign is getting others to talk about it- the “word of mouth” factor. You can’t count on this happening automatically. This is where your established network of customers can make or break you. First, you have to actively tell them that the campaign is out there. Digitally- this means sending e-mails, posting appropriate comments in appropriate places, and reaching out to people who think as you do. It used to be marketing to the influencer or early adopter- now, it’s to your social network either formal (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace) or informal as I did. Here is what creative genius Ernie Schenck said about the spot:

Ernie Schenck Calls This Advertising?
Seriously, people, show me a spot in this already tired political year that comes close to this simple little gem from Dayton ad guy, David Esrati, and I will eat my moustache. Attention, candidates: A little imagination, a little self-deprectation and a little ability to lighten up can go a long way. The man ought to get elected on the spot alone. Nice work, Esrati.

A client, and really smart guy, Charles Halton posted on his Awilum site:

it’s the funniest political ad I have ever seen. If politics were more like this it would make election season actually fun!

Another client, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Underground site posted it here:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=385×82652
which quickly became the highest click through on YouTube- even though the numbers are very low for what it has to do. (more…)

Back when marketing still meant something

Cirque Du Soleil mime on stilts at the 2nd Street Public Market in Dayton OHToday I was at the farmers market and their were clowns/mimes there from Cirque Du Soleil doing advance work for the Saltimbanco show next week. Call it “street teams” or guerrilla marketing, it was refreshing to see a business go out and actively seek customers in their environment. Doesn’t happen much anymore. We’ve gotten lazy- trying to invite our message in by interrupting their entertainment with commercials, their landscape with billboards and their websites with ads.

But while I was shopping, I was listening to American Public Radio’s Marketplace on my iPhone, and heard a story of how Procter & Gamble invented the market for Crisco- and it reminded me why they are the marketing powerhouse- not just by dollars spent, but by long history of working hard to connect with consumers. Our current industry fixation with “Branded Content” is nothing more than a new name for the soap opera- a P&G invention.

Here is an excerpt of the podcast- and a link to the whole she-bang. Highly recommended short podcast:

Marketplace: Crisco: A marketing revolution
…Crisco maker Procter & Gamble was a pioneer in the emerging science of creating demand. Historian Susan Strasser says the Crisco experiment started in 1911, when the company was selling Ivory soap. Cottonseed oil was a key ingredient.

Susan Strasser: And they decided to develop a product that would use a lot more cottonseed oil, so that they could control that market, really.

P&G’s scientists came up with this white, fluffy substance. It sort of resembled lard, and yet had no taste and no smell. It wasn’t food, exactly, but the company would ask consumers to bake and fry with it. Thus began an American mass-marketing milestone.

Strasser: Originally, they tried to call it Crispo, but then they discovered that a cracker factory already had the trademark.

P&G hawked its new product as a “scientific discovery.” The company sent free samples to every grocer in America. They held Crisco teas — an early version of the focus group. P&G even niche-marketed the product as kosher to the Jewish community….

In the podcast they talked about how P&G educated the consumer in how to use their products- something that the web is incredibly useful for. Yet, how many company websites feature big how-to communities built around their product?

Screen shot of Flash intro to BMW motorcycle Xplor siteFor instance, BMW motorcycles has an xplor area that’s focused on tips and tricks for sport touring – the segment of the market that they have a preferred position. How to pack your bike best, tips on GPS usage, and segments on where to go. However, it’s a members only site for BMW owners- you have to provide a vin number- and not open to the general public. Why not open the doors- so that potential customers can get a feel for what “joining the family” by buying BMW means?

Back to the Crisco story:

Marketing scholar David Stewart says P&G’s genius was not only giving people a convincing reason to try the product but training them to use it as well, with free cookbooks and recipes.

David Stewart: First of all, they focused on the health benefits — recognizing that this was a time we didn’t know about transfat and so forth. And then they taught people how to use it, they taught people how to cook. They gave them ideas. And between giving them a real benefit and information about how to use the product, they were able to get people to adopt it.

Crisco’s crowning achievement was creating demand for something nobody knew they wanted.

In today’s open information economy- putting your “recipes” behind a log-in is as silly as trying to charge for it. Would Google have been as successful if they had asked users to pay per search? Sounds absolutely stupid, doesn’t it? How about having to log in to use Google? Again, very silly.

To make friends with consumers today you have to be informative, useful, practical- and be able to demonstrate value. So, before you do an ad that is either hard sell- or entertaining- think first about what it does to enhance the customers life. The same way P&G introduced Crisco as the consumers friend: “Honestly, with a little Crisco in your frying pan, you can have supper on the table in a jiffy.”

That was marketing.

It’s the size of the idea, not the budget that counts

Screen Shot of “The Slog” site from Horizon AirWhen friends send you ads because they think they are “clever” – your faith is restored in our profession. Before I did a quick Google search on the ad, I already suspected it was the work of WongDoody out of Seattle. Not that it was stylistically identifiable- but because it was clearly an amazing use of a small budget to create something that was worth passing around.

That, my friends, is the mark of a great ad agency, one that understands our mantra of “It’s our job to make you more money than you pay us,” – that seems lost on many of the mega-agencies.

Here is the synopsis of the ad campaign from AdRants:

Adrants » Horizon Air Convinces Sloggers The Slog Is Not the Best Way to Travel
But the way WONGDOODY crafted the site – a collection of videos highlight each of “the slog’s” oddities and frustrations Old West-style – lends a certain attraction to the road.

In addition to the site, the campaign also includes print, radio and a branded truck with a museum-like diorama of the road that makes stops along the highway. Brochures will also be handed out to travelers on the road convincing them Horizon Air is really the way to go. In all, it’s one of the best airline campaigns we’ve ever seen.

To briefly explain how the campaign works so well on a limited budget:

  • The campaign connects with consumers based on a fundamental truth: commuting by car can really suck.
  • The small video clips aren’t video at all- but sequential stills with a solid voice over. This saves considerable cost to the client, yet delivers a comparable effect.
  • The short vignettes are funny- “the suicidal marsupial, the speed bump possum” doesn’t make it into every campaign.
  • No matter how entertaining, the stories connect back to the consumer/commuter to parts of their regular journey in a way that almost can’t but remind them that “I could have taken the plane.”
  • The campaign was supported by other low budget yet highly visible media to connect to the site.

There are of course a few flaws in the strategy- one being that while the time you save from your I-5 Slog by flying over all those dead possums- you now have to deal with the TSA and their less than friendly shake downs, not having a car when you reach your destination (not as bad for destination Portland where you can find decent public transit- not good for Seattle bound folks where it’s still car culture).

From a delivery standpoint- WongDoody hasn’t made the site as search friendly as possible- and have totally failed on accessibility standards. That’s the norm for almost all agencies today. Without costing the client, Horizon Air a dime more, the site could have been built in a way that met all 508 requirements and had exactly the same effect- only being much more search and consumer friendly.

For instance, there is no way to send you a link to just one of the funny stories- like the one about the dead possum in the middle of the road. I also abhor any site that starts playing audio without specific instructions for it to- just in case I’m looking at something somewhere where I shouldn’t be (like watching this at work).

All that aside, working with a smaller creative shop like Wong Doody can definitely get a client much better results than working with a mega agency. Not only is the work top-notch and yet affordable, they are genuinely nice people as I remember setting an appointment with Pat Doody on my last visit to Seattle on a moments notice.

So, next time you are looking for a big bang for a smaller budget- look to agencies that deliver high value concept- not high dollar production expenses. Making your advertising budget work hard is the mark of a true hot creative shop, and when that happens- friends and strangers will start sending out emails about your last campaign calling it clever.

It's the size of the idea, not the budget that counts

Screen Shot of “The Slog” site from Horizon AirWhen friends send you ads because they think they are “clever” – your faith is restored in our profession. Before I did a quick Google search on the ad, I already suspected it was the work of WongDoody out of Seattle. Not that it was stylistically identifiable- but because it was clearly an amazing use of a small budget to create something that was worth passing around.

That, my friends, is the mark of a great ad agency, one that understands our mantra of “It’s our job to make you more money than you pay us,” – that seems lost on many of the mega-agencies.

Here is the synopsis of the ad campaign from AdRants:

Adrants » Horizon Air Convinces Sloggers The Slog Is Not the Best Way to Travel
But the way WONGDOODY crafted the site – a collection of videos highlight each of “the slog’s” oddities and frustrations Old West-style – lends a certain attraction to the road.

In addition to the site, the campaign also includes print, radio and a branded truck with a museum-like diorama of the road that makes stops along the highway. Brochures will also be handed out to travelers on the road convincing them Horizon Air is really the way to go. In all, it’s one of the best airline campaigns we’ve ever seen.

To briefly explain how the campaign works so well on a limited budget:

  • The campaign connects with consumers based on a fundamental truth: commuting by car can really suck.
  • The small video clips aren’t video at all- but sequential stills with a solid voice over. This saves considerable cost to the client, yet delivers a comparable effect.
  • The short vignettes are funny- “the suicidal marsupial, the speed bump possum” doesn’t make it into every campaign.
  • No matter how entertaining, the stories connect back to the consumer/commuter to parts of their regular journey in a way that almost can’t but remind them that “I could have taken the plane.”
  • The campaign was supported by other low budget yet highly visible media to connect to the site.

There are of course a few flaws in the strategy- one being that while the time you save from your I-5 Slog by flying over all those dead possums- you now have to deal with the TSA and their less than friendly shake downs, not having a car when you reach your destination (not as bad for destination Portland where you can find decent public transit- not good for Seattle bound folks where it’s still car culture).

From a delivery standpoint- WongDoody hasn’t made the site as search friendly as possible- and have totally failed on accessibility standards. That’s the norm for almost all agencies today. Without costing the client, Horizon Air a dime more, the site could have been built in a way that met all 508 requirements and had exactly the same effect- only being much more search and consumer friendly.

For instance, there is no way to send you a link to just one of the funny stories- like the one about the dead possum in the middle of the road. I also abhor any site that starts playing audio without specific instructions for it to- just in case I’m looking at something somewhere where I shouldn’t be (like watching this at work).

All that aside, working with a smaller creative shop like Wong Doody can definitely get a client much better results than working with a mega agency. Not only is the work top-notch and yet affordable, they are genuinely nice people as I remember setting an appointment with Pat Doody on my last visit to Seattle on a moments notice.

So, next time you are looking for a big bang for a smaller budget- look to agencies that deliver high value concept- not high dollar production expenses. Making your advertising budget work hard is the mark of a true hot creative shop, and when that happens- friends and strangers will start sending out emails about your last campaign calling it clever.

When getting sued can be a good thing.

Collectively, very few people had heard of the little Duck Duck Goose Boutique in Troy Ohio. They sell stylish baby clothing and accessories- you want to be like Bradjolina, you head to Duck Duck Goose Boutique. We know about them because we host their website- and because Steve came and took our Websitetology seminar.
Then Lionsgate Films sues them for selling something that says “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” and it makes national news – note, the product’s manufacturer, Urban Smalls isn’t even mentioned in the news release:

Studio sues over “Dirty Dancing” line – Yahoo! News
Nobody puts Lionsgate in a corner. That’s the message of a trademark infringement lawsuit the studio behind “Dirty Dancing” has filed against several companies selling merchandise featuring the phrase “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” from the hit film.
The suit, filed August 15 in Los Angeles District Court, claims 15 companies including Uncommongoods.com in New York, Lucky Lou Boutique in Fishers, Ind., and Duck Duck Goose in Troy, Ohio, have used Lionsgate’s registered trademark without permission.

The quote, said by Patrick Swayze at the climax of the 1987 film starring Swayze and Jennifer Grey, has achieved a cult-like status, marketed and often repeated in films and TV shows for 20 years.

“The American Film Institute voted ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ as one of the top 100 most popular quotes from a motion picture,” (it’s number 98) the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff markets and sells merchandise with the movie trademarks through approved licensees as part of the ‘Dirty Dancing’ line of approved merchandise.”

The defendants, many of which market baby clothing and merchandise, are not authorized to use the mark and have created a likelihood of confusion with merchandise authorized for sale by Lionsgate, the lawsuit alleges.

Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., seeks to prevent the businesses from selling merchandise containing the phrase. It also seeks a court order requiring the defendants to pay restitution as well unspecified statutory and actual damages, treble damages and punitive damages.

The defendants could not be reached for comment.

Lionsgate is obviously looking for some attention to hype some 20 years of Dirty Dancing promo, but is going about it in the wrong way. While the logo, the name of the movie, the stars, etc. can be trademarked, taglines and corporate slogans can be trademarked- language from a movie shouldn’t be allowed to be trademarked unless it is done before the release of the film. Coming back after a phrase catches on, is just bad manners. Fair use should also come into play- the only connection between that line and the movie is in the fans heads- and those of us who didn’t think the film was all that- wouldn’t have a clue that “Nobody puts baby in a corner” has any connection to Dirty Dancing.

Think about how many times you’ve heard or said “Beam me up Scotty”- it’s homage, not a lawsuit. In fact, most brands would love to have their trade slogan become a part of the lexicon- but in cases like Nike’s “Just do it” and Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” they were trademarked and created with the intent of generating income from the phrase- the same can’t be said for a line from the movie.

Did I go to see “The Terminator” because I heard Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back”- of course not.

Little Duck Duck Goose Boutique isn’t harming Lionsgate, and wasn’t intentionally trying to steal their money. Any right thinking court of law would recognize that- but, from a PR standpoint- it’s certainly their 15 minutes of fame.