CAN WE FINALLY TALK ABOUT THE SUPER BOWL?
Yes, we'll finally do it.
Now that the hoo-hah has died down;
Now that my die-hard Philly fan of a wife has been in an Eagles victory parade down Park City's Main Street with eight other cockeyed optimists in green jerseysand been covered in the local paper;
Now that the Valentine's Day launch of CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit has happened and you may or may not have paid attention to it (here's the link: https://tinyurl.com/y73nu26g);
We can finally talk about the commercials.
And we're going to talk about what should be your personal favorite, even though it's probably not.
BUT FIRST, A DISCLAIMER
I know that it was also the favorite of Wizard of Ads partner Jeff Sexton, a brilliant copywriter the hem of whose garment I am unworthy to kiss.
I know Mr. Sexton has already opined upon this commercial.
I, however, have not yet read his missive.
I did not wish to be influenced, in whole or in part, by his writing.
So everything here is on me. We are not cribbing notes from his screed. (Though, that could be difficult. His screed is generally much more polite than my own.)
Here it comes:
Thirty words of announcer copy.
One single, 40-second take.
OPEN ON A LONG SHOT ACROSS A RIVER
Coming through tall, dry grass is a red Jeep.
The Jeep plunges over the river bank and into the water.
Announcer: "How many car ads have you seen with grandiose speeches over the years?"
There's a big a splash as the Jeep barrels through the river towards the camera, water up to the bumper.
Announcer: "Big declarations making claims to some overarching human truth."
The Jeep passes by the camera and heads towards a waterfall. It surges up a rock ledge.
Announcer: "Companies call these commercials manifestos."
The Jeep aims towards the cascading waters. It bounces across a series of rocks, climbs up the waterfall, and barrels away.
Announcer: "There's your manifesto."
Graphic: "The all-new 2018 Wrangler." Graphic fades to: "Jeep."
THE SIMPLICITY AND ELEGANCE OF THIS MESSAGE DEFIES SUPER BOWL MADNESS
It's been a long time since Super-Bowl-commercial mania dished out anything this refined.
It also belies a deep emotional charge that fuels the purchase of vehicles like Jeep.
And there's the fact that weeks after seeing this message just one time in a crowded, noisy room, it still resonates.
It may not resonate for you.
Speaking personally, my wife and I live 5 miles up a rutted dirt road with over a thousand feet of elevation gain.
We live a different kind of Jeep lifestyle.
Jeep is relevant to us. We owned a Wrangler for a while.
WE PRESENTLY OWN A 19-YEAR OLD JEEP CHEROKEE
That vehicle is a beast.
It, too, is red.
And it could have easily followed that all-new 2018 Wrangler up that waterfall.
And laughed. Ha!
This Jeep commercial is one of the oldest, most time-tested ways of advertising: The product demonstration.
It cuts, it chops, it dices, it slices, it gets out blood stains, it'll blend a Justin Bieber CD, an iPhone and a wooden rake handle, it even starts a car that's been left parked in zero-degree weather overnight with the lights on.
PRODUCT DEMONSTRATION IS NOT HIP, IT'S NOT COOL, IT DOESN'T WIN A CANNES GOLD LION
But it's arguable that this product demonstration breaks the mold enough that it could win all kinds of awards.
Because it is smart, refined, and has attitude up the wazoo.
"Hey, buddy. Ya know all the pretense that car makers love to throw atcha? We have no pretense. We just quietly kick ass. So there."
That Jeep commercial isn't really aimed at me or at the Fabulous Honey Parker, or at anyone else who lives a Jeep lifestyle.
People with an actual need for high-clearance, 4WD vehicles already know Jeep. They love it or they don't.
YES, WE ALL APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF THE PRODUCT DEMONSTRATION
But there's more at work here.
Brand is the one way the core customer should feel about the product.
And in this case, a company sold just shy of a million vehicles in North America in 2016 to almost nobody who needs to drive up a waterfall.
They mainly don't even need to drive five miles up a rutted dirt road.
You know where they need to drive? The supermarket. School. The office.
But all those Jeeps get bought because people feel like they're buying the power to control.
AND IN A TIME WHEN THE WORLD SEEMS OUT OF CONTROL?
The feeling of control is a powerful thing to be selling.
Moreover, in an overcrowded advertising environment, saturated with big and dramatic commercial productions that come at you throwing down rhymes and riding horses and breathing fire and kicking ass and taking names...
The ability to be heard above the mayhem...
With the power of a whisper...
Is a glorious thing.
It's too soon to know how well the Jeep commercial will do.
And this one message is a tiny part of a huge advertising machine.
Jeep has such an enormous product line, we may never know.
BUT HERE'S WHAT WE CAN TAKE AWAY...
It is mighty.
It makes a statement.
And it does so without pyrotechnics.
It takes an unsexy technique like product demonstration and gives it wings.
Or, rather, big tires.
And those qualities are available to any and all of us who have to create advertising on a micro-budget.
What we lack in budget, we get to make up for with talent and finesse.
Those two qualities can make even the smallest ad really, really big.
If you haven't yet been to iTunes for the CoupleCo podcast, it's filled with laughs, insights, and couples who are crushing it in business without crushing each other. Here's the link:
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Your life together.
Working with your spouse could be a make or break undertaking, fraught with peril--or possibly filled with reward.
Yes, my loyal friend, it's really happening.
For the last year or so, you've occasionally heard that the Fabulous Honey Parker and I are working on a project called CoupleCo.
In our business, we frequently find ourselves working with or otherwise surrounded by couple entrepreneurs who are shaking it up and making stuff happen in the 21st century.
And this project called CoupleCo is starting life as interviews with such couples in a podcast called, CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit.
And, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, this nutty little project goes live tomorrow: Valentine's Day, 2018.
WE'RE KICKING OFF THE FUN BY FOCUSING ON ANOTHER HUSBAND & WIFE ADVERTISING AGENCY
Long before Slow Burn Marketing was born on a defensible ridge at 8,000 feet elevation outside beautiful Park City, Utah, there was Whitney Advertising.
With big ad-agency chops from their careers in New York and Los Angeles, Jim & Robin Whitney have spent 20 years plying their trade in Park City.
Yes, 20 years ago, back in the dial-up '90s, the Whitneys left the big city and moved to a dinky little town in Utah and opened an ad agency.
Park City has a population of 7,000.
They moved here because this is where Jim comes from.
They could have moved to where Robin came from: Cleveland.
A CITY OF 400,000 WOULD'VE PROVIDED A LOT MORE BUSINESS
But, they instead chose a little town surrounded by ski resorts and cows. (Yes, there are cows. Many of them graze on land that is luxury-resort adjacent.)
The Whitney's story is interesting, engaging, and a lot of fun--augmented by the fact that Robin Whitney is adorable and often speaks in sound bites. Jim is the handsome, low-key one who lays in wait.
Together, they bring a lot of heart, laughter and insight.
But wait, there's more.
Because it doesn't stop there.
The first two episodes are the Whitneys.
Then, there's a couple who were profiled here in the screed back in November: Crystal and Ryan Waugh of Waugh Family Wines.
WE INTERVIEW THEM IN THEIR WINE CAVE IN SODA CANYON
Their winery narrowly escaped the devastation of the Napa Valley fires, and they were good enough to take us into the cave at their winery, serve samples of their wines, and talk about the synergy that catapulted Ryan's micro-winery business--which began in a rented garage--into a micro-empire of in-demand and hard-to-get product sold to a nationwide customer base that is much like an extended family.
The Waughs appear in episodes three and four.
And then, for the third couple, it's back to Park City for an in-depth discussion with Trish and Jared McMillen of McMillen Galleries.
The McMillens used to be commercial photographers together in Vegas before moving to Park City and shifting their business model: they are now fine-art photographers.
When you consider the creative egos involved in a pursuit like shooting landscapes with a large-format view camera and turning them into enormous, wall-filling works of art, you have to ask yourself: How on earth can two artists work together as one? How do they not kill each other? How do they not have a marriage counselor on staff?
BUT THEY DO IT-AND THE RESULTS ARE STUNNING
You'll hear them talking about how they built this business using a style of creative cooperation that is useful not only for any married couple, but for any two people required to cooperate in a creative undertaking.
And, of course, as with Whitney and Waugh, there are plenty of laughs.
Every one of these interviews comes with a degree of fun and love that is refreshing and revealing.
These are passionate people who have merged their marriages and their businesses, meeting life on their own terms, and they are crushing it.
MARRIED OR NOT, YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT
Here at the screed, we rarely self-indulge in shameless plugs.
This is one of those times. Lucky you.
The goal here is to launch the podcast into the New & Noteworthy section of iTunes.
And the way that happens is when someone like you goes to iTunes and subscribes to the podcast.
Yes, the podcast is free, but you do need an iTunes account. If you did not know, you do not need an Apple device to have an iTunes account. iTunes also runs on Windows.
But why would you want to this?
Well, other than doing a small favor for your relentless screedmeister here, these first three interviews comprising the first six episodes of CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit could be really interesting for you.
THE PODCAST OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES TOMORROW, VALENTINE'S DAY 2018
You'll be getting a link in a special, Valentine's Day email tomorrow.
But why are we even doing this, and why iTunes?
We're doing this because it's a labor of love, and this is a market that is vastly underserved. There just aren't a lot resources available to folks who are willing to put their businesses and their marriages on the line in order to create a life that's the way they want it to be.
And iTunes is one of the easiest ways to reach people.
So, whether you're in business with your significant other or not, whether or not you plan to take your partner onto the wire without a net, join us for the fun.
Or just download it and pretend you listened. We won't check up on you. But we will be eternally grateful.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
CAN WE FORGET THE SUPER BOWL FOR JUST A MOMENT?
If you've been around for at least a year, you know that we here at the screed do not touch Super Bowl commercials for at least a week after the game.
We talk mainly about big-brand thinking for small-business marketing.
And we are champions of the thoughtful process.
So, we wait for the dust to settle. And when all the pundits are done clamoring over the public's "favorite commercials," which means nothing, we move in.
We talk about actual, sales-inducing, ROI-generating tactics and strategies.
So instead, this week, we're talking about the smallest thing that could possibly be on your radar.
RHODE ISLAND TOURISM LIVES!
That's right, Rhode Island, the state that brought you the spectacular failure of a tourism slogan in 2016, along with a tourism video featuring footage of Reykjavik, is back in the news!
Over a year and a half ago, Rhode Island unveiled the baffling slogan "Cooler & Warmer" to great and immediate derision across the nation.
At that time, an old friend of mine named Bob Holfelder, who lives in Rhode Island, commented publicly that he had a much better slogan for the smallest state in the nation.
And since Mr. Holfelder is a professional trombone player, you can be certain that his slogan comes with equal amounts gravity and profundity.
The Providence Journal liked it so much, they spoke to Mr. Holfelder and published his suggestion on April 4, 2016.
WE HERE AT THE MOUNTAINTOP MARKETING FORTRESS APPLAUDED HIM IMMEDIATELY
It was genius.
And it didn't go unpunished.
Last week, scandal ensued.
Rhode Island has a new tourism slogan.
It is (drum roll please): "Fun-sized."
That's right, Rhode Island moved from a nonsense tourism slogan to a plagiarized one.
Mr. Holfelder immediately took to social media to decry his lack of credit, payment, acknowledgement, or even a pat on the back.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN RHODE ISLAND?
They spend a gazillion bucks on "Cooler & Warmer," then don't have the nerve to stand behind it, but they do have the nerve to rip-off a new and better slogan from a resident without so much as a phone call.
"Hey, Bob. Love your idea. We can't afford to pay you. But here's a six pack of Narragansett lager. Which, by the way is probably being brewed in Rochester, New York. But hey, it's still fizzy and yellow. 'Bye."
Mr. Holfelder was understandably chagrined, but journalism to the rescue!
A reporter from the Providence Journal got back in touch with him, and turned his tale of woe into further news.
In the article, the reporter speaks to Mr. Holfelder, as well as to the state's chief marketing officer--who credits Nail Communications with the campaign.
SEEMS THEY THINK NAIL NAILED IT
In the meantime, Mr. Holfelder said to the Journal, "It would be nice to at least get recognition, if not some compensation."
The state's CMO said, "If we make a profit on it, we could certainly give it to him."
That is about the worst public case of indefinite pronoun usage to a reporter imaginable. "Give it to him."
"It" being what?
This does beg a question, though.
Did anyone really swipe that slogan?
It's hard to know.
My guess is, not consciously. We get so much information flying at us every day that it's possible to hear something like that, sublimate it into your unconscious, and then later on spit it back out as something you just came up with.
And, it could have just been independently barfed up by some other writer with a wit equal to Mr. Holfelder. I've certainly written down ideas only to have due diligence reveal that I'm not the first genius to barf up that idea.
What Mr. Holfelder has going for him is that he's on the record in the state's newspaper of record using the phrase.
So, maybe he'll get something. And he deserves it.
And I'm not saying that just because I still owe him money.
In the meantime, this all points to a much greater problem for people, especially non-professionals, who need to create advertising.
"THIS IS THE LAST IDEA I'LL EVER HAVE!" SYNDROME
The difference between actual writers and non-writers creating advertising?
Actual writers forget more original ideas than non-writers ever come up with.
When the Fabulous Honey Parker and I write names and taglines for a business-branding project, we can easily generate two-hundred ideas for each.
When a non-writer tries the same thing, they often quit at the first mediocre idea they come up with.
Then, they're surprised when someone else comes up with the same idea.
If this happens to you, it means you means you haven't worked hard enough yet.
You can do more.
And you can probably do better.
BUT NEVER, EVER SHOULD A WRITER STEAL SOMEONE ELSE'S IDEA
That's the lowest of the low.
And, worst-case scenario, that writer can get sued.
It's OK to be inspired by other work. You just can't copy it.
I've been inspired by plenty of other advertisements throughout my career. But you can never draw a line between the work that inspired me, and the work that came from the inspiration. It's completely different.
It's easy to be original.
It's even easier to be merely competent.
But either requires spending a lot of time writing down a lot of crap on a blank page, and then being astute enough to recognize a diamond in the rough.
Got a writer who can't give you anything original? Tell that writer, "Do not fear the blank page. Embrace it. And despoil it with lousy writing. That's what it's there for. And that's how one's writing becomes worthy."
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.