The Top 5 Most Strategically-Driven Advertisements of 2013

2013 marked what I like to deem as the start of the “human era.” I’m not alone, as Hill Holliday later released a white paper stating the same thing. More than ever, people crave authentic stories and companies that value them as individuals. The rise of social media has allowed people to cut through the bureaucracy of large companies–to see them for what they are. As such, personable, transparent communications  have never been more important. Advertising built on a sound strategy that helps reduce the distance between brand and consumer, such as the ads featured below, will  continue to come to the forefront in 2014.

*Note: These ads were chosen for their ability to utilize insights effectively, they aren’t necessarily my personal favorites.*

1. Chipotle “Scarecrow”

A continuation of the “Back to the Start” advertisement that has received rave reviews from consumers and industry experts alike. It may not be very popular with marketing execs, but it does have 11.6 million views on YouTube. This ad lines up with a consumer desire to know where their food comes from and to live a more healthy lifestyle. It positions Chipotle as daring enough to take on the establishment. The introduction of an app-based game gives Chipotle another medium to show how they “cultivate a better world.”

2. Skype “Family Portrait” Campaign

Rather than explain the features of Skype, these ads show the end benefit to consumers. Skype connects people; it makes the world a close-knit place. Since Skype is free, barring some extra features, all the ad needs to do is get more people to use Skype.

3. PlayStation 4 “Perfect Day”

The juxtaposition between a classic song and visually aggressive behavior provides the perfect backdrop for what console gaming is about. Men (and it has been mostly male since video games were engendered in the late 1990s) want to play online with their mates as a way of socializing in a competitive environment. No other ads have captured the reason men game better than this one.

4. Coca-Cola “Let’s Go Crazy”

Coca-Cola wanted to spread happiness, but it is tough to do that in today’s world of 24/7 bad news. The folks at DAVID The Agency discovered towards the end of 2012 that kindness was the best way to spread happiness, as 98 percent of consumers agree that it’s the key to a happier world. By highlighting positive stories of people giving, they were able to create a campaign that resonates globally.

5. Toshiba “The Beauty Inside” (crowdsourced short)

Mac is cool, but Toshiba…not so much. That’s the problem Toshiba faced when trying to stay relevant to younger generations.  In response, Pereira & O’Dell created several short films that utilized social sites such as Facebook.  “The Beauty Inside” story spilled onto social media and continued beyond the confines of film. It won several awards and made the Toshiba brand a little more desirable to youth.

Honorable Mentions:

Dove “Real Beauty Sketches”

Famous Footwear “A Letter to Mom”

Dodge Ram “Farmer” (See my criticism)

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.

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?