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pepsi

So at this point, anyone who is a fan of Pepsi will have noticed the major overhaul that has been done. The old red white and blue “swash ball” logo with the sans serif block font has been replaced with a new, slimmed-down look with lower case thin lettering and a renovated swash on the ball. This change seemed to come out of nowhere to me, and I was surprised at first, and not really sure what I thought of the new look. 

Now, the more I see it, I’m thinking I agree with a lot of the commenters here. The new typeface is elegant, understated and clean; but the crooked white swash in the icon is really annoying. It’s not a smooth curve and one is left wondering what exactly that shape is meant to invoke. The old shape was a simple, even curve through a ball, but the new shape has a fat part and a thin part, and angles in such a way that one wonders if it’s supposed to be a sail, a ribbon, a road? Some have even compared it to a smirk, which is not a very positive association to make.

I discovered today on Pepsi’s website that the swash ball actually changes from can to can. Now that, to me, seems like a colossal branding mistake. Your icon is your image – why throw off your consumers by making it fluctuate? I think I see what they’re trying to do, by communicating “Pepsi Max” with a fatter swash and the low-cal options with a thinner swash. But the problem here is you probably wouldn’t notice the difference unless you were comparing the cans side-by-side, so they end up looking like they couldn’t decide between logo versions 1-4 during the design process and decided to just use them all. 

What do you think? Some have compared the icon to the Obama campaign logo or even Girl Scouts of America. Do you see any other similarities?

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When the big summer blockbusters hit, the average citizen is as unlikely to notice as if an atomic bomb went off in their living room. Typically the movie is accompanied by promotions by fast food, candy, soda, beer, chips, car companies, cellular phone carriers, vacation destinations… the list goes on and on. And on the same token, the average citizen is unlikely to question these pairings, as they’ve become an accepted and expected part of the moviegoing experience. Do these huge movies really need product placements in order to make their money, when their box office sales often run into the hundreds of millions?

An article on Advertising Age today discusses this topic, suggesting that while the movie benefits from the increased exposure created by the hype, the real winner is the advertiser who benefits from being associated with the movie, as well as the “event” surrounding it. Who doesn’t want to be part of the biggest party on the block?

So my question is, who decides which products are right for a movie? There are the legends of product placement that often happen by accident – E.T. and Reese’s Pieces, for example – but lately it seems to be pretty random. Apparently Dr. Pepper is going to be one of the big advertisers for the new Indiana Jones movie. But I can’t think of a moment in the previous three movies where Indiana Jones said anything about preferring that particular brand of cola. So it becomes a forced association, along with M&Ms, Expedia, Kraft Lunchables and Burger King. At least BK is giving their Whopper the nickname “Indy” for the time being, making it seem at least somewhat connected. 

It seems the bottom line is that the big guys talking about each other gets the word out, and nobody really cares if it’s relevant. You think Indiana Jones, maybe Dr. Pepper pops into your head (pops… get it?) and you’d be more likely to buy a super-grande combo Dr. Pepper drink at the concession counter on your way to see the movie. Or maybe not. But it must work, or it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

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I’m a huge fan of the Sony Bravia commercials that feature brightly colored randomness in public places (San Francisco bouncy balls, exploding paint barrels on old apartment buildings, claymation bunnies in downtown New York City). I’ve even reported on an apparently local effort for the same effect, colored string on a pyramid. But a good advertiser should know when it’s been “done” and move on to newer things.

Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case. A new TV spot goes back to the big “balls” success, now attempting to wow its audience with streets filled with soap foam. People play in the foam. They photograph the foam. They get hit in the face with foam. And overall, the spot comes across as a dry attempt to cash in on past success. 

It’s quite sad, really, but it’s a reminder to advertisers out there who are tempted to return to the same old ideas that worked before – a new idea only works when it’s new. Creativity doesn’t run out, people just get lazy. The last thing a client wants is an audience rolling its eyes and saying, “Next!”

Found on AdFreak.

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Last year on this blog, while writing an article about ways that companies and agencies are trying to make a difference, I mentioned the amazing and inspiring results of Sydney, Australia’s effort to bring attention to climate change. For one hour, the city turned out the lights. 2.2 million people participated, and corporations got involved. Their goal was to reduce carbon emissions during that hour by 5%, but the enthusiasm for the attempt resulted in a 10.2% reduction.

This year, the Earth Hour movement has gone global. All across the world, cities and individuals are getting involved and turning out the lights on March 29 from 8-9 pm. Every person counts! Get involved in this event – have a candlelight dinner, watch the stars or have a “lights out” party with your neighborhood. Turn out the lights in your business’s building. Spread the word to everyone you know, and let’s make an impact: Lights Out on March 29!

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An article today on AdAge bemoans the continual loss of correct spelling and grammar from everything from personal messages to resumés to professional documents. I’ve found this to be quite the touchy subject since typically people don’t like to be corrected, especially on things like spelling and grammar which are often seen as rather petty subjects. However, the importance of these subjects is underscored time and again when people on the receiving end emphasize that a misspelled word or a typo can automatically disqualify a prospective employee or applicant, regardless of their other qualifications. It demonstrates an attention to quality and detail, and it shows that the writer is educated enough to care about how their written communication is perceived.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve intercepted a document or email going out to a client from a coworker, riddled with common mistakes that would have easily been caught by a proofreader or helpful friend or even a spellchecker. Why is it so difficult for people to admit a common weakness in this area and seek help? I know my arithmetic skills are by far my weakest point, and so I carry a calculator with me everywhere I go to double check my math. An incorrect sum can be costly and often embarrassing, and I’ve been burned enough times to know I should take steps to prevent these mistakes. But drive down any city street and there are public signs on every side proclaiming “theirs no better deal” or “don’t loose time.” It’s generally considered impolite and nit-picky to correct someone on these errors. Why is that?

Call it a pet peeve, call it a rant – but the art of writing correctly is a skill that is highly valued, even if it’s often subliminal.

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The recent 3-hour closure of Starbucks stores around the country was intended to show consumers that the chain was dedicated to improving the quality of their beverages. As a PR effort, one would think it was highly successful, since news and media picked up the story and made sure that everyone knew they wouldn’t be able to get their grande skinny decaf iced frappucinos for those three hours, and that desperate caffeine addicts would have to get their fix elsewhere. However, the message faltered in that only about 50% of people surveyed knew WHY the stores were going to be closed. This grand gesture of selfless quality enhancement went right over the heads of about half of their consumers. Rather than try to make a spectacle of the event, they might as well have held the training during non-business hours and saved themselves 3 hours worth of business income.

I wouldn’t call it bad enough to be a failure, but when it comes to PR, the message has to be absolutely clear, because people are way too impatient to read more than a few words.

Found on Ad Age.

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In a great article on AIGA recently, Grant McCracken discusses the beauty of the un-designed, the things that just happen that spark a positive reaction. Specifically, he discusses sounds, like the one made by a plastic coke bottle as it works its way through the mysterious tunnels and slides to land – thunk – into the collection slot, ready for your cold drinking pleasure. This is an accidental noise, not one designed to advertise its product but simply the mechanical noise of delivering said product to you once you’ve chosen to buy it. One might debate that the internal workings of a Coke machine have already been harnessed for marketing efforts, as in the recent epic “Coke Side of Life” TV spots.

Are designed sounds effective as well? That’s debatable:

“This isn’t like the car door closing sound that Detroit builds into cars to persuade us that we have bought wisely, that our automobile is a paragon of quality and workmanship.” 

I can’t imagine that the particular sound of a car door closing would make me more likely to buy a particular car, especially since in order to hear that sound, I’d have to be getting into the actual car at the time, which would suggest that I have already decided at least to give it a test drive. However, if the rumbly growly engine noise passing me on the road is what convinces me that I need to have that car, there’s the good advertising. Honda Civic uses the “accidental” noises in a very ingenious way, with an amazing choir reproducing the noises and interspersing clips of the car going about its normal routine to emphasize the audio illusion. In that moment, the advertisers seem to recognize the beauty of the found sound, something that happens with their product that can’t be designed into being but just is, and can be recognized as a pleasurable sound by aligning their product with it in a companionable way.

The author of the article sums up by saying that some of the most important meaning in sound means nothing, except perhaps the meaning that we ourselves attach to it. In recognizing that not everything has to have some kind of deep truth attached to it, perhaps advertisers can step back and let their customers find meaning of their own, which is a whole lot more significant and lasting.

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