Something You Otter Know About Puns



It’s Thursday May 22, 2013 and I’m on a dream vacation to San Francisco, birthplace of the great Harvey Milk. I’m about to leave the Aquarium of the Bay after spending 15 minutes–quite the disappointment. This bald fella stands about five feet from an advertisement for the upcoming  Sea Otters exhibit. He stares at it as if trying to figure out a puzzle, tilts his head sideways, and bites his fingernails. After what seems like 10 minutes, his eyes light up and his hand comes out of his mouth. His right index finger extends knowingly. Others ignore the pun completely; it’s not worth the effort.


Advertisers have an affinity for puns. Entire sites are dedicated to the puns of advertising, like this Tumblr. And there’s been a lot of talk about some truly superb ads lately that have used puns. In my last blog post I highlighted Ship My Pants; it’s no secret that I love that commercial.   And it’s also no secret that I am just generally a fan of puns–even bad ones. It’s all good pun.

But advertising is a form of sales. If the pun befuddles the message that the ad is trying to convey,  that’s wasted dollars. A bad pun might be hilarious to the copywriter creating it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to sell diapers. A good pun, one that most of society can easily get, can make a campaign. A clever, timely pun shows that a brand is tuned into the pulse of culture.

So, advertising, you have my permission to pun (Advertising: “Thanks, Jonathan!”). Please, please, just don’t be lazy about it. Mustard up the courage to put your best foot forward, pepper the ads with your wit, and relish in the  reward.

Four QR codes across a subway track and modern day sexist advertising:  we still need to talk.

Ad Professionals: Tips for Breaking into the Business

On my recent trip to New York to visit ad agencies, I heard from some incredibly talented ad people. Here’s some useful advice for entering the business:

What Makes a Successful Ad Person?

Noorin Bhanji, Account Executive for NFL at Grey NY, laid out the following characteristics of account people:

  • Know their client’s business
  • Able to set priorities, multitask and manage time
  • Proactive
  • Born leaders
  • Knowledgeable
  • Insightful (be strategic)
  • Resourceful/problem solvers
  • Able to work well in a team
  • Able to work well under pressure

Chris Wooster (@chriswooster), Executive Creative Director at McGarryBowen, had these tips for wannabe strategists:

  • Are digital
  • Think about connections (what target audience is/does)
  • Aware of trends and research
  • Solve problems
  • Creative in solving problems
  • Have a book or a Tumblr
  • Have stories about that work

For art directors:

  • Don’t waste time learning HTML or Flash, you’ll never be as good as actual coders

(Side note: Some might heavily disagree on this one, like Edward Boches (@edwardboches), Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen.)

  • Thoroughly know Photoshop/InDesign
  • Be mindful that you are most likely to get production work first
  • Be comfortable building online experiences
  • Study other work

For writers:

  • CDs look for concepts
  • No grammar typos EVER
  • Get good art directors to work your ad
  • Focus more online
  • Fight the fat in your writing (“as well as”=”and”)

What Do Ad Agencies Look for in Creative Books?

There’s no set answer on this. Every agency and creative director will think different. For example, Chris Wooster says this:

  • It must be online
  • 15-20 pieces max
  • Don’t have a clever theme/concept
  • Summarize the problem you’re solving
  • If you need to explain it, the ad is not done
  • More than one-offs
  • Clever use of media, not just words and images
  • Have some “cool” pieces and some that solve a strategic problem

Dennis Grealey, VP Creative Director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler, looks for a few specific things:

  • 5-7 pieces
  • The idea itself has to be good
  • Did the creative challenge themselves? Try something like a financial system
  • A diverse portfolio

Tips for Interviewing

Melissa Schulz, SVP, Global Group Account Director at Publicis Kaplan Thaler:

  • Any job can be relevant, even those not in advertising
  • Come to the interview with a solution
  • Ask questions that show your interest and leverage your skills, such as: What will I be doing? What kind of projects are you working on? What will my role be in the agency?
  • Dress to impress

Chris Wooster :

  • Keep your “talk” quick: 20 seconds a piece
  • Explain problem solved
  • Research agency interviewing with
  • Don’t look like a suit or a slob (dress to impress but not a full on suit)
  • Be engaging as we want to hire people we like
  • Following on Twitter is okay, but not LinkedIn or Facebook
  • Have a question or two on deck (What are you looking for out of this hire?)

40 Actors Play One Part in Film Sponsored by Intel & Toshiba

Guy falls in love, guy struggles to get girl, guy gets girl. That’s how most Hollywood romance stories go. But it gets more complicated when a few dozen different actors, some of them female, play the same guy. That’s the concept behind The Beauty Inside, an interactive social film funded by Intel and Toshiba.

Here’s the premise: Every time a guy named Alex goes to sleep, he wakes up a completely new person. He could become any ethnicity, any gender, any body type, but he’s still essentially the same person on the inside.  Alex uses his Toshiba laptop as the means to record his daily transformations and subsequent struggles to connect with the outside world.

What makes Intel and Toshiba’s The Beauty Inside special is that it used social media to engage an audience like no other interactive film before it. The Beauty Inside was the first film to feature both everyday people and Hollywood actors as leads. Intel and Toshiba asked people to audition for the part of Alex by posting videos and pictures of themselves on the film’s Facebook page. The winners were featured either in the film or on the film’s timeline.

Not only was the audience a part of The Beauty Inside, they were the film. They shaped who Alex would become on a daily basis. By cheering for Alex, the audience was essentially cheering for themselves. This created a deep participatory experience that went beyond product placement.


A small case of Multiple Body Disorder

The Beauty Inside resonates because it doesn’t tell youth how to look or how to feel. You want to be yourself. Okay. Toshiba & Intel understand. Be yourself. Be real. In turn, we’ll put you in a movie. That says a whole lot, without saying a whole lot.

 Toshiba’s and Intel’s Big Insight


The Beauty Inside is the natural evolution of advertainment like BMW Film’s seminal The Hire. Released in 2001, The Hire succeeded where traditional 30-second spots rarely could in that it drove millions of consumers to seek it out, rather than avoid it like the plague. Here was a fiery, entertaining film that openly had a brand as hero, and millions of consumers still wanted to see it.

Following in the footsteps of The Hire, Intel and Toshiba created The Beauty Inside because they struggle to take market share from youth-oriented companies like Apple. Intel and Toshiba wanted to find a way to show that they are still relevant to youth. Through research they noticed that youth use laptops for more than just work; they use them to be entertained. Armed with this insight, they created social films, a combination of gaming, social media, and movies.  What better way to stay relevant than to meet youth where they spend time?