Feb 23, 2012

J460. James Franco x 7 For All Mankind Jeans + Uprising Movements.

I originally wrote this for Scott Goodson's Uprising Movements blog (it was published this morning, you may read it here).

Apparently James Franco's hidden talent is directing youthful, hipster-esque, raunchy short videos for 7 for All Mankind's latest campaign. I spotted the brand's newest ad in this month's Vogue, which features washed out stills (from the shorts) of models on the beach, in bed and at a party. 

The copy reads, "Episodes of an untitled film imagined and directed by James Franco." The first two episodes, which were shot in Santa Monica, CA in December, have already been released: 

Plus, the behind the scenes short:

The premium denim brand is known for its laid back, youthful style with a high price tag. This campaign gave its consumers (me, currently wearing my favorite pair) something to get curious about. The provocative pictures in Vogue and Franco's direction were enough to get me to put the magazine down and pick my computer up. 

I had no idea Franco directed anything (a huge motivation to watch the shorts). After a quick IMDB check: he's actually directed 15 films, most of which were shorts. This was clearly the right move for 7 and it peaked my interest much more then an iPhone app or a typical magazine ad would. The print ad allowed me to engage with the online videos. 

These shorts appear to be in the same genre of advertising as BMW's short films, which were carried by famous directors and actors such as "Beat the Devil:"

There are obviously big difference between the very short shorts, starring groups of beautiful people dancing around, and 10 minute films with a plot guided by acclaimed directors. Though, I think both do a marvelous job of selling a specific lifestyle to their rightful consumers. 

Well done. 

Feb 20, 2012

J460. Selling a Brand's Story.

I was greeted with an App Counter during today's visit to Apple's site. Above the flickering numbers reads, "The App Store is about to hit 25 billion downloads," and below the number, currently in the 24.47 billion range, reads, "The countdown has started. And someone's going to win." By clicking on the growing number I learn that if I download the 25th billionth app that I could win $10,000 to the iTunes App Store, redeemable for apps, books or music.

I can't fathom what 25 BILLION even means. The number is so far off from anything or group of things I've ever experienced that I'm not even going to try to wrap my brain around it. All I know is that it is a really, really big number. What I don't know is what are people using their apps for. Why are people downloading so many apps? Once people download apps, do they actually use them or do they remain idle on their screen for weeks or months? I currently have 24 extra (didn't come with phone) apps downloaded on my iPhone and I only use 5 of them: Epicurious, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and This American Life. 

What I don't own are apps that were designed by companies to help me find or buy their products. I can't imagine buying Coca-Cola's app, "Coke Drink," that allows me to "show everybody that you can drink one Coca-Cola anywhere, anytime!" The money that was put into this app, which was probably significant, could've been spent on an interactive campaign that would encourage participation and engagement from the user.

Some of the most creative and highly effective interactive engagement hasn't come from apps, but rather from alternate reality games (ARGs). While reading Teressa Iezzi's, The Idea Writers, I learned about the interactive campaign for Steven Spielberg's feature, Artificial Intelligence: AI.

The campaign was called "The Beast" and "drew audiences  into a story via a number of cryptic clues, tiny threads that those who were paying very close attention could grab and use to unravel a narrative across a range of media" (Iezzi p. 47). Many of the clues were delivered during trailers such as the one above, which included a credit for Jeanine Salla, a "Sentient Machine Therapist." Through different web sites and trailers, clues were revealed that worked together to describe a story that intrigued participants. Iezzi describes that "by the time the story had unfolded, it involved 30 web sites, live events, TV commercials, phone calls, texts and newspaper ads" (p. 47).

It seems like this kind of viewer interest and participation couldn't arrive from an app because there wouldn't be sufficient rewards or excitement derived from a single platform campaign.

Many agencies followed AI's model and created large scale interactive, rewarding campaigns that lead to intrigue surrounding the product. Wieden + Kennedy New York later created a fake beta tester named, "Beta 7," to interact with gamers about the launch of SEGA's ESPN NFL Football 2K4 game (Iezzi p. 47). Beta 7 was introduced on game-oriented blogs and sites where he explained that "he was a volunteer beta tester of SEGA Football and was experiencing some troubling after effects" (p 48) from playing a game with such intense violence during First Person Football. When the campaign wrapped there were sites, blogs, and message boards involved. Gamers were talking about it on their own forums and blogs providing free advertising and coverage.

This interactive model has continued with great success with The Blair Witch Project, Dark Knight, Discovery's Shark Week, and True Blood. These campaigns transcended what an app can accomplish and managed to get audiences to fully engage and get enthused about a product before it has even hit the stands.

Feb 11, 2012

J460. A Quick Chat About Digital Etiquette.

First off, I'm an avid iPhone and Twitter user. I have nothing against checking emails, replying to text messages, seeing if anyone has tweeted about me, reviewing blog posts or watching a quick, funny YouTube video. I fully embrace all of these activities and partake in them every day but I also believe there should be some ground rules. I'm not asking for much. Just be present. That may sound like a lot to some but it's really not, especially since people managed to live their lives without computers, internet or cell phones for quite some time. Remember when we were kids? Remember the stories our parents told us about when they were kids?

Now that computers and the web encompass our basic cell phone or tablet, it's hard for us Millennials to understand how anyone could ever live without instant text messages, emails, or Facebook updates from our friends across the city or across the country. I'm in awe of the brilliant business and life tools that have come with the web and I'm excited to see where they're headed. 

However, I'd like to posit that what is far more important then texts or Facebook updates are the people and wonders around you. I've learned more from the people I've met in airports and coffee shops then I ever have from a friend's status update. All of my meaningful relationships grew in real life and all of the amazing monuments I've seen were made better by just being there and observing. Though, I will proudly acknowledge that Twitter has been one of the greatest business tools I've yet to encounter and has lead me to meetings with some incredibly talented, creative and important people that I wouldn't have been able to meet without an initial tweet. But how the relationship grew was when I spoke with these creative people and were present in our conversation.

I believe there's value in tweeting/texting/facebooking important and interesting things in the right company so I'd like to propose a few digital etiquette guidelines:  

1. Share influential ideas. Nobody cares about our daily routine, famous one-liners, or senseless drama. Though this has been said countless times, I'd just like to take a moment to reiterate since I continue to see tweets and FB updates about current bagels being eaten, "life is like a box of chocolates...," or the ever-present, "sometimes I just hateeee boys." Instead, if we use these tools wisely, maybe interesting people will want to talk to us. Sharing intriguing content that applies to our audience will help us get jobs!   

2. Create and maintain an audience. This is key. Inevitably we all have audiences but we also have the power to create an audience who will be loyal and help us grow by giving us useful feedback and sharing useful content. Write about things you know, care about and are interested in. An employer will notice if we have cultivated a loyal group of followers who are interested in what we have to say. Ultimately, tweet smart. 

3. People over device. If we're with our friends, be with our friends. People should trump devices every time. I can't stand when I'm with someone and they don't have enough respect for me to focus on me and our conversation. It's pretty simple, I'm here and the person your texting is not. Not only are you favoring the person that's not here, you're also participating in something that I can't participate in because I have no idea what you're typing about on your small device.

4. Be present. Even with a medium. If we're going to watch TV, we should watch it, and that's about it. Texting, tweeting, facebooking, browsing the web, AND watching TV seems like a tad much. We Millennials are guilty of indulging in all mediums at once. Our brains are built to focus on one thing at a time and every time we move our eyes from the TV to our phones, we're changing our focus. Love the TV. Love the tablet. Love them separately.

Feb 2, 2012

A Culture of Others: A Documentary about Wieden + Kennedy and North.

Recently, I set out to produce a documentary about two of Portland's most influential ad agencies, Wieden + Kennedy and NorthNick Pothetes and Bret Emerson, two fellow students, worked with me to create a short movie about the people behind the ads we love. Specifically, what gets them going. 

To find out, we asked creatives, planners, producers, and writers what their 'other' is. We defined 'other' as being any hobby or interest that isn't related to advertising but influences their work.

What culminated was a beautiful documentary about the talented ad folks residing within Portland and how the most bizarre and unrelated hobbies lead to the most impressive work.