Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nothing better than a client that makes your ideas better.

We recently banged out a happy little website landing page, working with and for master sound stylist Coll Anderson whose company CASound, Inc. does sound design and all manner of sound effects for some of Hollywood and the world's coolest feature films. Below is a still from his landing page, which we love so much, but don't just look at this little pic, go there and behold: CASound, Inc. landing page.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It's here! Or there. As the case may be. The app store now offers our first ever app, a kid's app of Old MacDonald's Farm with paintings and animation by our boss Norm Magnusson and vocals in English by Jill Sobule and in French by Dominique Durand of indie darling band Ivy. Sound effects are by hot shot movie sound guy Coll Anderson and the whole thing was produced by Mister Paul Millman.

But enough about the credits. Here's the link to the app store.

And here are some scenes to give you all an idea of what it looks like.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Political advertising success story.

Sweet mother of Kennedy! We finished our first soup-to-nuts and pearls-to-swine political campaign last week and it was an amazing experience. Just amazing. If you want to know exactly how amazing, you'll have to buy each and everyone of us here at Woodstock Organic Concepts a few beers to loosen up our tongues. Otherwise, we'll just stick to the facts:

Our guy won. Jeff Moran. Keep Jeff Moran Woodstock Town Supervisor. He won another 2 years as 'mayor' of our small town. It was a long and complicated campaign with lots of players but W.O.C. provided the image management from start to finish, with a little sometimes-but-not-always-helpful input from everyone else under the sun.

We'll spare you all the details and spare ourselves the 5,000 words it would take to tell them. Here's the topline of what we did that helped Jeff win:

1) Once his platform had been written and the competitive environment had been analyzed, we were ready to identify the candidate's unique selling proposition (USP) or brand essence or brand DNA or turf or whatever else you want to call it. For our guy it was "don't mess with success." He was the incumbent and had done a great job during his first term. Everyone said so. We executed this concept by using the format of "Keep (fill in the blank)" for all of his communications, a format we lifted from the suggestion of a past town supervisor who said that Jeff's campaign promise should be to "Keep Woodstock Small and Beautiful". Perfect. Keep Woodstock thriving. Keep the Comeau for all Woodstockers. Keep Woodstock Elementary open. Et cetera. It's positive, it's differentiating, it's ownable. And the candidate liked it. So that format became our hook, our main way of communicating his USP.

2) Jeff Moran's major negatives going into the campaign were that he was perceived as an elitist and as the anti-green candidate. Here's what we did:

a) As there were no other "Jeffs" running in the area, we were able to drop his last name from the bulk of our communications and refer to him simply as "Jeff", working against the elitist perception.

b) We recommended a snappy URL "KeepJeff.com" and helped set up a website that laid out his platform in a simple way.

c) We made his logo out of grass and daisies, turning him instantly 'green', which in fact, he was.

d) We included this message on the website and on all communications: "If you have any questions on this or any issue of town business, please call me at 679-2113 ext. 7." Because really, what kind of elitist public servant passes out their phone number in case you have a question?

3) We relentlessly recommended against print advertising and for person to person contact. For the primaries, we set up a phone tree to reach out to the 700 voters identified as likely to vote. This outreach was our stated number one priority in every meeting with the candidate and his advisors and was based not just on the numbers but also on our category insight that in local political elections, there is always somebody in every cluster of people who knows the inside scoop. The guy next door or down the street or at the meat store who pays attention to this stuff. He or she is the person people look to for "who do I vote for" guidance and so we had to get to them.

4) We set up political committees and letters to the editor campaigns to address the important election topics from a variety of perspectives.

5) We set up Facebook groups and YouTube videos and ran print ads and did door hangers and direct mail pieces and all the stuff that you'd expect. It didn't hurt.

6) We got the candidate out there to every pancake breakfast and soccer Saturday and senior's meeting.

7) And this is the really interesting part: our chief officer sent out a personal email explaining why he was supporting Jeff. It started with the admission that he had begun working on the campaign not as a supporter but as a mercenary, and went on to explain how he had personally been won over in the course of the work. The letter received numerous replies from people saying they hadn't known who they were going to vote for, but now they would vote for Jeff. Wow. In the course of the campaign, our boss had become the guy that people looked to for election guidance and our early thesis was proven correct. He personally swayed votes.

8) Lastly, we stayed cheerful and helpful despite a lot of crap.

As we mentioned, it would take thousands and thousands of words to detail all the work that went into this. If you want them, pay with beer. The more beers, the better the story will get. Otherwise, we hope you enjoyed this summary.

We'll leave you with one of the advertising pieces we liked best from the whole campaign, a print ad for Team Woodstock that sold Jeff as the coalition candidate that he was: (click it to enlarge)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hey! It's an art show!

This week, our head honcho's having an art show. Check it out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Intelligent touch

Well, it was a slow week here in Lake Wobegon. Oh, wait. No. It was actually kind've a crazy week here in Woodstock. We're getting ready for a beautiful Norm Magnusson art retrospective at Bard College at Simon's Rock, working on a local political campaign that's got plenty of its own politics going on, putting the finishing touches on our first app for iPhone and of course cutting the grass and feeding the masses. Somehow, in the midst of all that slowness, we did a quick logo for our friend's reflexology practice. Hope you like it more than she did; it doesn't look like she's gonna use it. Any other reflexologists out there want it?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Landing pages, art+industry

For a certain type of website, we've always believed that landing pages are a nuisance and a turn off. If we've got to find out, for example, what to do when one steps on a rusty nail, or whether or not that shiny three-leafed plant we all just touched is poisonous, we want the information stat. For most other things, though, we're happy, delighted even, to be subjected to a little art on our way to information. Such is the case, in spades, as they say, for Orba Squara's spectacular website. Oh sure, all the links are right there at the bottom of the page, but the top part invites the reader on a trip they just can't refuse to join. Go here: http://www.orbasquara.com/ and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Brides Magazine

Like lots of national magazines, Brides has a regional edition and our friend Dave somehow got himself an ad for his professional dj services in the northeast run.

As we always do for such things, we looked around at what everybody else was doing to see the similarities. And as we always do, we noticed that almost all of the other music services ads in the last issue of Brides had a number of elements in common: full color bleed, cheesy pictures of dj's or bands or dancing happy party-goers, and boring typefaces. So, as we always do, we set out to make Dave's ad different. In a smart way. Here it is:

This ad is the latest expression of our big campaign idea for JTD: JTD delivers peace of mind. Unlike most other dj services, Dave carries a million dollars insurance, backup systems and backup dj's, so if you hire JTD there's one less thing to worry about on your big day. "JTD. Free your mind, so your ass can follow."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Introducing our newest staff member.

Or at least, the Wisconsin part of her. And the word of the day: synecdoche.

Her name's Nicole Tappa and she's super awesome and a pleasure to work with and has already taught us old dogs a whole bunch of Photoshop tricks. Stop by the shop and make some cheese jokes. She's awfully good natured.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hail to the Ch-ch-ch-chief

We were finally minding our own business, watching America's Next Top Magicians Reveal their Dancing with Animals Tricks Caught on Video or something to that effect, when the Chia Obama commercial came on. Ooooooh, we thought, ohhhhhhh, we gasped, we would have been so proud to have thought of this. But alas, we didn't. Here's the commercial in question. God bless America.

Animals Inc.

This company specializes in bringing animals into schools. Educational animalia. As we do with many logo clients, our first step is to design for the most constraining format: the business card. Here's theirs:

Friday, June 26, 2009

One of our favorite kids . . .

. . . recounted an experience she had yesterday in which she saw something one way which we saw another. It brought to mind this wonderful spot that ran in 1989 when we were working at Saatchi London as impressionable young creatives. 20 years later, it's still in our minds. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

iNDIE programs

A few years back, we started working with this totally cool organization that takes "at-risk" kids from the local high school and gets them to make movies. They write and produce and cast and film and edit and then, seriously, they win awards. It's a super awesome program that teaches these kids that they have the ability to make their dreams a reality; a lesson that is transferable to any other pursuit they may choose later in life -- a profound and translatable skill.

Anyway, we're thrilled to help them out and thrilled to have worked with them on their new logo and tag line. As sometimes happens, the logo we liked best was chosen by the client and the copy we liked best was not, but here it is anyway, the logo we sold and the ever-evolving, "dynamic tagline" that we didn't.

You can see where this could go. Fun city. The line that was chosen was "iNDIE. A fresh take on learning." Not too shabby, but we liked a line that focused on WHO they served and WHAT they did, rather than the ever-so-slightly-fluffy HOW they did it. Anyway, it was great fun collaborating with Jack from iNDIE on all of this and we're proud of how it all turned out.

For more on iNDIE programs, visit their new website here.

Lucy's getting married

And asked us to do a save the date invite for her. Great romantics that we are, this is what we came up with. We're just certain that the in-laws are gonna love it.  (As always, click the image for a larger view.)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More beautfitul advertainment

We've played this video to everyone who's visited the offices for the past week or so and finally decided to post it.  Keep your eye on the ball, as they say.

Awareness Test - More amazing videos are a click away

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sister logos

These two organizations are run by the same group of people and serve related causes, dealing with airborne illnesses that are a result of toxic exposure.  So we wanted to create logos that would relate to each other.  Since we're deep into a logo love affair with Arial Black, we were off to a good start, the other defining characteristic of them both was the concept of rising from the smoke.  

For Recover, which is primarily an online resource for health care and public health professionals, the smoke was created with binary code, a series of ones and zeros laid over each other until nearly black at the bottom and light and ethereal at the top.  Here the Arial type is filled in with blue sky and clouds, symbolizing the clean breathing that will be the result of physical recovery from exposure.  The URL is part of the logo, adding more context to the binary code background.

For the LMPHC, the 'rising from the smoke' concept was paid off with the literal smoke of ground zero in a moving photo taken by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jim Watson of the U.S. Navy.  (which means it's in the public domain)

We like doing logos and hope it shows:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Seth Godin on Ted

This talk fit right in with some of the other marketing trends we've been posting about -- the Smart-growth manifesto and the 'don't advertise, start a movement' movement.  He's an entertaining speaker, enjoy.

p.s. It almost seems like we need another word than marketing to describe this new technique of moving the masses.  Hmmm.  Massvertising, social marketing, group think.  Suggestions, anyone?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


A few words about bad-vertising: People love bad-vertising. The blogosphere cant' get enough bad-vertising. We love bad-vertising.

A local billboard advertising its proximity to a car dealership showed an enormous head with the headline: "Johnson Ford...just ahead." Bad. Good. So bad it's good? This is the eternal paradox that defines bad-vertising.

Years ago, some hot-as-the-dickens agency in Minneapolis did a super-cheesy spot for Easy Spirit dress shoes. It showed an actual game of basketball being played by actual women wearing the actual shoes and sported the not-so-elegant tagline: "Looks like a pump, feels like a sneaker." So bad it's good and supposedly crazy crazy crazy effective -- sales went through the roof. Our old friend and ad pro Stephen Hersh used to say "nothing beats a good product demo" and the Easy Spirit spot's success was certainly proof of that.

Why all this recent rumination on bad-vertising? Behold this spot in the spirit of Rodney "can we all get along" King:

Damn, we love the Casio. Here's a link to the guys who made this spot: http://rhettandlink.com/ make sure you watch the Taco-bell drive through folk-musical, it's very nicely done.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Don't just make an ad, start a movement

Not sure what kind of a movement or how much of a movement this ad is gonna start, and there's fer sher a zeitgeist of 'movement starting' out there in the ad world and beyond, but we like this spot anyway and love the way it makes it all personal with 4 little words of copy, the last 4 of the spot.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What is the sound of one hand slapping?

Via my favorite adblog: Brand Flakes for Breakfast.  Enjoy; it's mesmerizing: 

The Bahamas

The Bahamas has been advertising again, putting their commercials in the highbrow places we're likely to see them: American Idol, CSI, Celebrity Rehab.  We're delighted to see this lovely logo once again. It was created by Duffy and Partners (http://www.duffy.com/) a few years ago and feels fresh as the day it was born.  The individual colored circles and shapes represent the 700 islands in the chain of islands that make up the country.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Over and over and over again.

That's how much we watched seconds 35 to 45 of this gorgeous video. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lines we wish we'd written. #1 of 100

The whole office here is hard at work on a logo and line for yet another pro bono client of ours and so naturally our thoughts have turned to great headlines and taglines throughout the ages as well as Rosser Reeves' classic formula for tagline success, the USP.  

Our thoughts have also turned to this Nike line, written by who knows who and stuck in our heads for who knows how long.  It's our first in the new series, "Lines we wish we'd written."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Viral schmiral

One thing we never promise to create for a client is a viral video.  Who the hell knows what is going to 'go viral' and what is not?  Not us - people find a crazy variety of things to be wildly fascinating, some of which we might not even find to be mildly fascinating.  

This beautifully executed video below has a paltry 20,000 hits on YouTube while the laughing farting cat has 1.7 million.  We love them both, of course, but might have put our money on the wrong horse in this race to engage the masses.  Don't get us wrong here: we're not saying that marketers shouldn't try to create a super contagious message, we're just saying that the best bet to make on going viral is to get a money back guarantee from anyone who promises they're gonna do it for you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Creating relevance

This is a fine example of what we call "piggyback branding".  The University of Minnesota put out this video talking about the physics of the hot new movie Watchmen on which the fine professor consulted.  1.4 million hits on YouTube as of today.  Watchmen opened nationwide last Friday and the University of Minnesota is open for applications all year 'round.  Nerd-tastic!  (via Brandflakes for breakfast via Yaybia.com. to which we have just added a bookmark.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

William Lamson

As is our happy habit, we spend a portion of many of our days practicing our posture whilst clicking around the internet hoping to find things that make us feel positively uncreative.  What this actually is is a strong appreciation for stuff that is really really awesome and a hope that some of it will rub off on us in a way that isn't recognizably derivative.  (The other portion of many of our days we simply spend being long-winded.)

Here's the latest doubleplusgood thing we've found thanks to swiss-miss.com:  William Lamson.  Artist.  Funmaker.  Visit his website here: williamlamson.com and watch this video here:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The smart growth manifesto

Tired of looking backwards and finding, each week, something new upon which to hang the blame for our current economic woes?  Look forward for a sec with Umair Haque of the Havas Media Lab, as he lays down a road map for Capitalism 2.0:  The Smart Growth Manifesto.  Its basic pillars are:

1. Outcomes, not income.
2. Connections, not transactions.
3. People, not product.
4. Creativity, not productivity.

Read the whole short thought-starter of a piece right here:

Monday, February 2, 2009

2009 Super Bowl Ad Round up

As is our longstanding habit, since the days when videotape recorders could first pressed into our service, this year, once again, we skipped the Super Bowl action all together and watched only the commercials. A dismal array of crappy, crummy and jaw-dropping badness interrupted by the occasional shining star and decent spot. Here are the highlights:

Pepsi. “Forever young” The spot opens up with Dylan and rolls on to will.i.am, both of them eventually singing along to “Forever young.” It’s a great illustration of the span of Pepsi’s relevance in American life. Very nicely done. Check it:

Bud Light. Didn’t they used to have the best ads of the Superbowl?

Doritos. Didn’t they used to have the best ads of the Superbowl?

Castrol. “Grease monkeys” In the “weird creative” category, this spot wins for finding the perfect balance. Just weird enough to be enjoyable not so weird to be off-putting. “Strange days indeed.”

Teleflora. “Rude flowers” Nice idea, coulda used a little more polish.

Nextel. “Roadies” We like this campaign, the ‘what if everything were run with Nextel push to talk technology’ idea. “Roadies” follows the school spot that’s been on tv for the past month or so.

Budweiser. Holy crap. What happened to them? Is there some new research out there that's made them decide to target women with sappy Clydesdale love stories? Were they aiming for a wink to kitsch and missed? Terrible.

Toyota Tundra. Awesome guy stuff but I want more. If you’re gonna build a spiral ramp to the sky and drive a huge truck towing a huge load up there, I wanna see more. I want to see the ramp being built, I wanna see the driver, I just want more of the coolness. Also, lose that damned folksy voice over. It’s too much.

Careerbuilder. Perhaps our favorite spot of the year. Watch it here:

Coca Cola. “Picnic” Very cute and nicely done, but really made me think about how bad Coke can be for people and kids and teeth and whatnot and seeing it enjoyed by all the creatures of the glade made it all seem a little eco-menace. Favorite moment: when the butterflies make a Coke bottle.

Heineken. John Turturro in another serious mock serious double reverse reading nice copy for this esteemed beer. Classy and engaging and a little bit fun. Sounds like the brief.

Cash4Gold.com. This was the biggest jaw dropper. Famously broke celebrities encouraging us to put our gold in an envelope and send it off to get cash in exchange. Whoa. Ed McMahon and MC Hammer dropping everything but their gold teeth into the bag.

Hulu. We love Alec Baldwin as a comedic actor and loved his performance here for Hulu.

GoDaddy. A great service for a great price and these juvenile ads. Are 15 year old boys really the main target for a domain name registration service?

We're thankful to Fanhouse for posting the ads. If you want to see them all, click here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


We just got an email about a potential illustration gig; something we've done a few of over the years and have always enjoyed.  Traipsing through the files of old illustrations and pondering doing another one, we tripped across this one from 1999 or so:  Absolut Magnusson.  Absolut had a whole campaign of artist's interpretations of the bottle and it was thrilling to be asked to do one.  The watercolor study (below) made it through the agency in NY, was approved by the importers and sent off to Sweden, where it died of unknown causes.  It was fun anyway.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Woodstock Organic Concepts - 2008 highlights

One of our most fun jobs last year was the opportunity to design a logo for Jill Sobule's new record label, Pinko Records.  

We started looking at other logos and they all had one thing in common: they were either illustrations or were created in Photoshop. Thusly identifying the design zeitgeist, we were able to zig where everyone else zagged, and decided to create an actual, physical object for the logo.

The object we proposed was a red silk flag with a black star in the middle.  The black star would look like a vinyl record and the label in the middle would read "Pinko" and we would shoot the whole thing against a blue Catskills sky.  Jill loved it right away, so we started production.

The flag design was created in Photoshop, the massive file sent via YouSendIt.com (love that service) to ArtFlag in NYC and within a week, the flag was here in Woodstock being tied to a long stick and starring in its very own photoshoot.  The photos turned out great, we added a little filter mood and type to it and voila.

Another great summer gig was doing some billboards for an upscale casino/resort/hotel in Las Vegas. Many of them had the famously awesome headlines that our boss Norm Magnusson is renowned for, but this one below is our favorite of the batch.

2008 was a deeply political year both nationally and locally, where an election for the board of education for the wider district would decide the fate of one of our local elementary schools. The election hinged on getting people from the town of Woodstock out to vote and this poster we did was widely credited with tipping the election in the desired direction.

A small job to design a logo and cards and letterheads and whatnot for our friend Belinda Pruyne's company Life Vision Strategies was another case of having a perfect client, which basically means she bought everything we sold and said we were brilliant exactly as many times as we needed to hear it each day.

The concept she bought was a concept we created so many years ago and dubbed "dynamic design".  The concept seems to be getting a little more traction these days, but trust us, when we first introduced it to the world in the early 90's, it was truly groundbreaking.  Here's how it goes:  if your brand owns and is defined by a certain look or typeface or color combination, you can strip away a lot of filler and still telegraph the design essence of the brand with just the bare bones of those elements.  Then you can replace the filler with whatever you want and it will all still read as an ownable manifestation of the brand.

Here's how 'dynamic design' plays out with the LVS look:  we own the 'LVS' and the 'LifeVisionStrategies' below it.  We own their relationship to each other, the size of the letters, the space in between them and so on.  These are the defining elements.  The space inside the letters 'LVS' can be filled in with a color, a series of colors or something more symbolically rich.  Guess which of those options we like best as you peruse the 4 versions below.

On the freebie front, we did some work of which we're well proud.  Here are a few examples:

A logo for our friend Kevin's meat store golf team, 'Team Meat' . . .

. . . a whole slew of invites for Dave's charity golf tournament, including this one . . .

. . . some radio for Dave's DJ company JTD Productions . . . 

. . . and perhaps our very favorite gig of the whole year, a job that launched an entire new branch of viral philanthropy: AIDS Global Action.

When we sat down with AIDS Global Action to discuss their needs, it was obvious from the get-go that they needed more than just a web redesign and new ways of talking about what they do, they needed a new strategy for fundraising and we came up with a doozy, a whole new idea in giving.   Here's the press release: 

We did the concept, the logo, the website, the blog, the P.R., the copy, the art direction, everything.  And couldn't be more proud.  The amazing thing, as mentioned in the press release, is that no charity has ever before shown up at this particular point in time with their hand out.  

The original idea, "half a percent for AIDS" quickly morphed into "half a percent donation" and eventually people will be able to choose from a whole list of potential charities to help out with their donations.  Visit the website here: www.HalfAPercentDonation.org.

Last but not least, we did a fun series of logos for our own company. Whenever the mood strikes us, we will do more and, as always, if you have any ideas to donate, please call or write. Attribution will be given immediately even if compensation is slow.