Archive for the ‘New Ideas’ Category

If you haven’t yet seen this video, you absolutely must. Right now. It will make you smile, it will make you happy, it just might renew your faith in the future of humanity.

It’s a student-made music video to Black Eyed Pea’s “I Gotta Feeling,” and it is all done in one long unbroken shot. 172 students at the University of Quebec at Montreal participated in this feat of organization, each one taking their place in front of the camera and passing it on to the next in perfect sequence, each with genuine smiles and coming together like a mosaic in perfect unity.

The amazing thing is, if you compare it to the original video done by professionals, the student-made video wins hands-down. The original video has a lot of skin and seems at least at the beginning, to show a group of dancers getting ready to take the stage at a strip club. It doesn’t reflect the happy, carefree mood that the song wants to express. Thank goodness for the freedom of expression of students!

Well done, bravo and all that. I hope this inspires more groups to take on self-made challenges like this.

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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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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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As a regular listener to a variety of NPR shows, I have heard a few from the series This American Life, though since they’re on the weekend it’s typically on a long car ride which is convenient considering the show lasts a full hour with a single theme but several linked stories that can ramble on a bit. Recently, the show made the leap to TV, producing artsy shorts with the same “real guy” rambling voice over linking it all together. Most of the shows are produced live-action but some even use animation, and I found this fantastic episode on Veer today. The quirky, simple animation style perfectly matches the style of the show, and takes the story to the next level of humor, poignancy and beauty without changing the audio a bit. It’s truly an amazing leap that some said couldn’t be done.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.veer.com posted with vodpod

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In a keynote address at the School of Visual Arts, Milton Glaser discussed propaganda and art. Which is culturally necessary? Which can be identified or defined? His words are important for designers and advertisers, so often the purveyors of propoganda, as well as the people to whom this social artwork is directed. The thing that stands out the most for me is his comment: “Informing us makes us stronger. Persuading us robs us of our ability to observe things for ourselves.”

The ability to question the status quo, to educate oneself and then make decisions accordingly, those are the freedoms that can take us above the influence of propaganda. Propaganda only works if the public has no alternative, no dissenting voice, no method of researching truth. It’s not always the popular path but it can be the right one, if the choices are made for the right reasons.

We are expecting our first child in a couple of months, and we have spent a lot of time educating ourselves about how we’d like to bring this child into the world. Opinions about drugs, hospitals, doctors and tests have come from every direction, often unwanted and unsolicited. However, we have discovered an ugly truth: unless we act like the clueless first-time parents and step onto the obstetrics assembly line, we will be looked down upon and judged for our decisions. There are reams of literature out there that debate the usefulness, and sometimes even the safety, of certain established practices when it comes to having a child. But certain things are done because they’ve always be done that way, or because it makes the hospitals or drug companies more money, or because it allows the hospital to cover their rears legally, and to buck that tradition is to fly in the face of that scariest of authority, the Health Care System. They’ll call us bad parents, they’ll ridicule us for not understanding that this is a precious infant child of all things, and how could we possibly consider making a decision that opposes what is considered typical? We must be endangering our child to not blindly accept what the doctors and nurses push on us.

This kind of social propaganda, which relies on guilt and conformity to manipulate, can be even more dangerous than any other kind. I can choose to snicker at a fear-mongering political ad. I can avoid reading posters or ads that attempt to affect my opinion, or read them and choose to maintain my own beliefs. But when it comes to that face-to-face judgement, one human being to another, especially from a person like a doctor who, culturally, has always been touted as the purest of high authority on What Is Good And True And Right, it becomes a whole lot harder to ignore. The strength to resist this kind of propaganda comes from education, and the freedom to educate oneself must be the finest freedom there is.

“Propaganda is not necessarily a lie, but it affects our neurological system and brain in the same way. It undermines our ability to understand our own reality. It makes us more infantile and dependent. It substitutes an alien authority for our own perception.”

It is our responsibility to recognize the power it can have over us and equip ourselves to recognize it. In advertising, the ability to affect decisions is used freely, and considered to be the goal of any well-motivated designer. But advertise with conscience. 

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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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