Monday, December 1, 2014

"To travel is to take a journey into yourself" - Danny Kaye

Recently, our client sent us this photo (below) from the Galapagos. Well . . . a) WE wanna go to the damn Galapagos and b) this photo was the missing link in the story that follows and we were happy to finally get it.

You see, a few months ago, travel and destination photographers Preston Schlebusch approached us to do a logo for them. 

A pic we love from the Preston Schlebusch archives

Now, usually, we wanna do a whole brand exploratory and whatnot, but frequently clients only want what they want, despite our cajoling and whining, and in those cases, we try to give it to them. In this case, a simple logo to go along with the new website they were designing for themselves was what they wanted.

So we started in, thinking about the world and camera lenses and cutesy type treatments and whatnot . . . 

. . . until we finally hit on the idea of a flag. Now, we'd done a flag before for Pinko Records . . . 

. . . and it turned out great and when we told the Preston-Schlebusch client about it, they liked the idea and that's how we found ourselves, one day, gathered around the client's conference table with a bunch of paper and a big batch of colored pencils.

We made deeply symbolic flags representing sea, sky and mountains, beaches and world domination and simpler flags with fun graphic elements. But, as so often happens in these cases, the client had an interest: they had a collection of geckos that they'd brought home from trips all over the world, and they thought it would be nice to include a gecko on the flag. So we started looking at geckos and drawing some of our own.

We really liked number 3 but the client liked #4 and we ended up going with a version of that. Here's how it looked in the mock up that the client bought:

For the finished flag, we stole some elements from some of our client's gorgeous photography, a Mediterranean sky here, a Caribbean leaf there, et voila! a flag! Here below is the final Photoshop version of their logo.

And here it is with their name and tag line:

So the next step was to send the big Photoshop version out to the flag printer and so that's what we did, and within a week or two, we had the brand new Preston Schlebusch flag, ready to go.

Here it is, below, in situ on the Keralan backwaters in India and below that on a patch of New Zealand beach. Stay tuned for more pics as they come in; the Preston Schlebusch folks are planting their flag all over the globe and we're thrilled to see it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Booze, hooch, liquor, spirits, demon rum, the hard stuff...

Well, like lots of seasoned ad folks, we've done our share of booze advertising over the years. Enough to keep the whole of America intoxicated, inebriated, drunk, tipsy, plastered, smashed, blotto, blitzed, baked, blasted, bombed, sozzled, sauced, soaked, stinko, hopped up, gassed up, loaded, tight, loose, three sheets to the wind, and in their cups for a long long time.

Like this guy:

We've worked on more booze than you can shake a finger at: Absolut, Boru,  Captain Morgan (where we coined the word "chillax"), Celtic Crossing, Chivas Regal, Christiania, Ciroc, Courvoisier, Crown Royal, and many many others, whose names fall further down the alphabet. We've even worked on booze from the art side of our aisle once; this ad for Absolut:

What we always like about doing booze advertising is that we always like booze. We like the social aspect of it best and we like the effect it has on us. We like whipping up a mean new cocktail for friends and trying a new micro-brew beer. We love a big Aussie shiraz with a steak on the barbie and a not too dry Champagne to celebrate milestones. We love it all. But back to the advertising part of it: we love sharing that love with others. We love creating an image for a product in a category that is wide open receptive for some crazy cool images. We love print ads and table tents and coasters and bar events and clever sponsorships and everything.

So, here's a small batch of creative hootch we've distilled from all those years of making liquor ads:

BORU - Vodka from Ireland

The client had some research that said people were sick of new vodka brands and all their B.S. advertising. So they decided that Boru would be the no-B.S. brand and sent us packing to execute around this idea.

We loved it. And, as it turned out, Boru's main product attribute (apart from being from Ireland) is that it's triple-distilled. An attribute that helped us to latch onto the concept of "clarity" as sort of the anti-B.S. positioning. Once that was in place, the campaign flowed like a Boru-tini: "Boruisms". Little gems of wisdom, aphorisms that would represent the anti-b.s. nature of our product. The tag line was easy to land on after the campaign had been decided and everyone loved the anti-b.s., straight-shooting line: "clarity from Ireland."

The campaign was a blast to work on and it won a bunch of awards, got a lot of press, and sales went up nearly 500%.

Not too shabby. Here below is some of the work:

CHIVAS REGAL - Blended scotch

Next up on our little trip down muddled memory lane is a fun campaign we did freelancing for TBWA/Chiat Day and the great Scott Carlson, who wanted "ArtForum" kinda musings defining what "it" is -- in the tag line, "You either have it or you don't." Some of the best of the batch are below:

CROWN ROYAL - Blended scotch

For Grey advertising, we created this campaign that came right straight out of their market research (yes, we loooove market research) that Crown Royal was a stepping stone brand that came after beer and Captain Morgan and before the single malts from the Isle of Islay. We came up with a bunch of fun headlines that completed the sentence "You reach a point where . . . " with lifestyle and age appropriate thoughts. Again, the tag line practically wrote itself: Crown Royal. The taste of experience.

SAUZA - A family of tequilas

While we wrote the campaign that eventually saw the light of day, it's this campaign, a runner up that everyone loved but no one loved enough, that we like best. Tequila in general (though it's changing a bit now) is a booze for a wild night out. We wanted Sauza to pay homage to that but also to be seen as slightly more upscale. These ads take a literary approach to the crazy nights in which Sauza tequila played a role: (click on them to see bigger.)

copy from the ad above:

I see the perro peligroso foaming in my direction, jerking hard against his strong chain, redefining in the fine earth his well-worn path of ever-fresh rage.  My own feet move fast, instinctually following invisibly numbered dance steps in the dirt, a half-mad mariachi tapping out a samba of safety as he skirts this canine arc of anger.  Each night I make this trip, and the shimmering reward waiting never loses its luscious luster.

Live a legend.

So that's it for our small summation of lovely booze ads. A range of work representing differing product attibutes, different strategies and different targets.

We'd love to bring our little liquor storehouse of fresh ideas to help your new or old brand. Give us a call; we'll talk over a drink.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Business to business business

Well, we always loved the b2b stuff: the print ads, the occasional tv or radio spot and the meat and potatoes of it all - the direct mail. 

Quite possibly our love for direct mail comes from the fact that so much of it is exactly the same, which makes our job easier. Our custom, you see, when undertaking any image management (aka advertising) campaign is to look at what everyone else does, understand what rules they are all following, and then to go off and do something that cleverly breaks a whole bunch of those rules. And in direct mail, the rules are easy to spot and so the sky kinda really is the limit.

The rules seem to be this: write a letter and put it in an envelope. Write something teaser-ish on the outside of the envelope and wait for the business to come rolling in!!! Or, for the e-counterpart, write a big teaser headline and watch your email get opened. Then sit back and wait for the business to come rolling in!!! Naturally, we love these rules; 'cause they're so easy and so much fun to break.

Case #1 - O'Hare + Associates - National direct mail campaign

Well, we went to visit our friendly headhunter in NYC the other day and she said she'd find us some high paying freelance jobs and then she asked if, in the meantime, we might not like to do a little something for them, for the headhunting firm itself. "Sure," we chimed, and here's what happened next.

The boss came in, the big cheese, the head honcho, the guy with his name on the door and it turns out he's a most excellent guy and we totally hit it off. He had a piece of paper in his hand. It was filled with type. He wanted us to take it back to the workshop and work in a few semi-colons and one or two top-shelf adjectives and then he was gonna send it out to drum up business.

Well, after a short discussion, we had successfully talked him out of sending a letter and into doing something a little bit more noteworthy. Phew.

Our point of view on this is pretty simple: if you're engaging in a b2b campaign, your target audience gets a lot of letters exhorting them to use your goods or services, and, honestly, their assistants, the people who actually open the letters, don't even read them. So don't waste a second writing a letter to try to reach and persuade them. Just don't.

Well, the honcho bought our argument and away we went to the drawing board to create an ad that would drum up some business. We pitched him on doing a top to bottom branding of his company, complete with in-house and out-of-house image research, but he just wanted an ad, so that's what we did. A few of them. And some other stuff too.

Now, the client's competition is not just the other recruiting firms, it's also the online job boards and, increasingly, LinkedIn. The job boards are a little impersonal and so is LinkedIn; headhunters, on the other hand, do all of their real business face-to-face. They meet with the clients, they meet with the candidates, they make a match. They are much more like old time matchmakers, while the job sites are akin to online dating sites like or

We presented a few ideas, but the one we all liked best was a take-off on a poster that was very popular circa 1979:

Created by a student at UVA, Tom Shadyac, the poster was wildly popular and right on the money. Shadyac went on to fame and fortune in Hollywood (more here). And, following in the footsteps of so many other advertising greats, we stole the idea. Got theft? Our version is here below:

Well, this one was so popular, the client decided to do versions poking gentle fun at the stereotypes in each department of an ad agency. Here below are a couple of those:

And, below, a rough version of the next one:

Our client sent out 250 of these in each mailing and over the course of the 6 month campaign, got (he estimates) about 18 calls from ad agencies who wanted to talk with him. That's a respectable 7.2% response rate. Again, far far above the typical for direct mail or b2b.

Needless to say, the O'Hare client was thrilled.

Other details

• The posters are 17 x 11", suitable for hanging on the refrigerator in the common area of each agency.

• Instead of folding, we recommended sending the posters out in 2" diameter mailing tubes, so they'll arrive at their destinations not looking like all the other direct mail.

Case #2 - ClickRadio - National direct mail campaign

ClickRadio was a precursor to Pandora and music platforms such as that. The main difference was that the music "lived" on your computer, not in the cloud. (Which didn't really even exist back in those days.) A benefit to this was that when you purchased a song you heard on ClickRadio, it was already on your computer. Like Pandora, it worked with simple thumbs up or thumbs down interactivity. Once the individual user's likes and dislikes were known, the program used collaborative preferencing algorithms to predict which songs that user would likely like and which he or she would likely not like. Then it brought you "more of the music you like and less of the music you don't like", a promise we made in consumer advertising.

Here below is a trade campaign we did in lieu of a press release. The goal was simple: drive traffic to the website. It was an enormous success. Recipients got a series of 4 mostly "blind" cards, delivered to them in an envelope. "Mostly" because each had a "copyright ClickRadio, Inc. 2000" on the top of the back side. Each card illustrated one of the points of the ClickRadio manifesto ("Personal preferences must always be respected", e.g.) and they were sent out in one-week intervals. The final card contained the manifesto in its entirety (worth a read, if we do say so ourselves) and a simple URL. After the campaign ran, visits to the website were up over 300% and, though we don't have numbers on media requests, we do recall that the client, ClickRadio, was very very happy.

So, here below are the 4 teaser cards and the 5th, the teaser with URL, that kicked ass for ClickRadio back in the day:

Case #3 - Samuel's - Local direct mail campaign

Samuel's is a Rhinebeck tradition. They're our local old time candy store and also the purveyors of the best coffee in town. A big chunk of their business comes from holiday gift boxes and last year, they wanted to drum up a little more holiday business. We created this poster for them that was put up in selected locations around town. It's a simple, sweet message, "Shop local, ship global", helping local clients understand that their local store has a broader reach then their E. Market Street storefront. It worked great, brought in a bunch of new orders and (proof is in the pudding, here) the client is planning on repeating it this year too.

below: holiday gift packaging ideas for one of Samuel's clients.

Case #4 - radio Unleashed - National direct mail campaign


Client radio Unleashed is a nationally syndicated radio program and they wanted to send out a letter to prospective stations that might be interested in picking up their show. "A letter?" we said, with full-tilt maximum disdain and condescension, (we're trying to become more tactful, really we are), "letters are stupid!" (see parenthetical just above) "What you need is something that will cut through the clutter." It's true, it's totally true. Our point of view on letters is exactly that: you send a letter to a prospective client, that client's secretary isn't even gonna read it. (Have we said that before?) Send something fun and funky. Something that makes your point in a way they haven't seen before. Something memorable. And so that's what we came up with.

The creative solution
(Keep in mind, our target audience is program directors at radio stations; they've seen it all.)

Pee. Yup. Pee. Specifically pee stains on a piece of newspaper. Make pee stains on a piece of newspaper and send it out to your list with a little note on the bottom of the paper that says something like "Good radio is no accident." Fun. Different. Gross. Still, it will totally cut through. How many times do people get something like that in the mail? And if your branding is a dog logo and a tagline "music with teeth", then it's perfect. No? Yes! (see rU branding case study here.)

The creative

So here's how we did it. Yellow food coloring in a spray bottle sprayed on newspaper pages, a sticker on the bottom and nice printed letterhead envelopes. Like so:

And just to make sure that: a) the envelope got opened, and b) when it did get opened, people understood what they were seeing (and what they weren't seeing), we wrote on the back of each envelope:

So here's how it went: (sorry, we took the photos and we're gonna use them)

Grossed out? But still think it's a cut through the clutter and bolster the branding direct mail effort? Well our client got a response rate of 10% on this. Pee = the sweet smell of success. (Keep in mind, a typical direct mail effort yields a 2-4% response rate.)