Worth Fighting For

In the advertising world, when pop culture gives your brand lemons, you have to make lemonade quickly or everything could go sour.

Recently, a security tape recording of Beyonce’s sister Salonge Knowles fighting with brother-in-law Jay-Z at the Met Gala went viral. In the video, Salonge not only kicks and punches Jay-Z, but, true to female form, she throws her purse at him.

Salonge’s “golden clutch” subsequently becomes infamous on the Internet. So does the brand that made it, Anya Hindmarch, an English designer purse company.

In a stroke of genius, the Anya Hindmarch company not only made lemonade from lemons, but even added some extra sugar. Its online marketing campaign directly capitalizes on the video, claiming that the purse truly is “worth fighting for.”

Anya Hindmarch was able to take an incident that could very well have had a negative impact on the product and twist it into a clever, humorous angle to promote the product instead. This goes to show the powerful influence that pop culture has on the advertising world, and that we can only embrace it’s effects- not try to fight them.

Pop culture is a fickle monster for advertisers; we know it could have a massive effect on our brand, but we never know if it will be positive or negative. Perhaps the most precious thing a company holds dear is its reputation, because a company with a bad reputation is like sour lemonade that no one will drink.

The purse, no more than 5 inches long, retails for about $1600.  Otherwise, I would probably buy one.

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The Boys Are Back in Town

Two years after the game against Scotland, the U.S. men’s soccer team is making its way back to good ol’ Jacksonville for another friendly match. This time the boys in red, white, and blue will be playing Nigeria in their last game before heading to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

So how has Jacksonville, out of all cities, landed another soccer game?

For one thing, we had one of the largest turnouts for the U.S. men’s team of the summer.  In the game against Scotland, over 44,000 fans filed into Everbank Stadium to watch. Other host cities that season did not come close to number.  For instance, the attendance for the match against Venezuela was just over 22,000. This year Jacksonville city officials made 70,000 seats available for purchase and are predicting a near sellout.

Sounds like Khan needs to talk to the marketing department in charge of promoting the soccer game and take a few notes on selling tickets, especially since the Jaguars average attendance was 55,000 for the 2013 season, putting them in 28th place out of all NFL teams. If the Jaguars could get Jacksonville as excited about their games, this ranking could soar!

But what does bringing the U.S. men’s team mean for Jacksonville?

It means we are one step closer in becoming a “world-class city.” The name “Jacksonville” will be in the news, social media, and travel word-of-mouth amongst the fans in at least two countries. It also means bringing diversity to the sporting world in Jacksonville. The team isn’t staying permanently, but the hype about soccer is a breath of fresh air in a football-dominated country.

With this positive response to a soccer game, will Jacksonville reconsider building a team?

I doubt it; at least, not in the near future. There are other priorities before we make Jacksonville a “world-class city,” and creating a MLS team is probably near the bottom of the list (that doesn’t mean I’m not still crossing my fingers for it to happen).

One thing is for certain; if you want to find me this Saturday, I will be putting my vuvuzela to good use while watching Dempsey lead the boys to another victory for the U.S. at Everbank Field.

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“These Heroes Died For Your Tweets”

Honor, sacrifice...Cheerios?

There’s not much I hold sacrosanct. In fact, I believe most sacred cows are meant to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  Political correctness can often give rise to a particularly pernicious  brand of self-righteous indignation that snuffs out creativity and humor, and which makes life less, for lack of a better word, fun. I take immense pride in being a  habitual violator of good taste and proper decorum, if for no other reason, than to see self-anointed purveyors of good taste squirm.

I share all of this to let you, the reader, know there is little in the way of content or conversation that outrages me or pisses me off. That being said, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, in the world of social media marketing that makes me go into full-on PTA mom anger mode like holiday corporate messaging/branding. When I see a hashtag like #MLK, #VeteransDay or, most recently, #MemorialDay attached to a corporate name, I know I’m probably in store for something reprehensible. It seems more and more companies that should know better are perfectly fine with creating tweets that take solemn days of national remembrance and turn them into cynical shit-shows. Here are a few of the most cringe-worthy examples I found on Memorial Day of companies piggy-backing on our troops’ sacrifices to market their brand and sell their products. To all these companies I offer a salty salute and a red, white, and blue f**k you!

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Free People Fiasco: Does Branding Trump Credibility?

It’s been said that you can tell a lot about a girl by the contents of her Pinterest boards.

Take me, for example – look on my profile and the vast majority of pins are fashion-related. Look more closely, and you’ll see that many of them come from Free People, a company that sells “Bohemian” clothing for women.

Free People works hard to portray its ethereal image with fashion trends so “out there” that they can’t even be “trendy.” And the price tags don’t pretend to hide the lofty brand label. I follow Free People because at times I like to imagine myself as one of the wistful models, riding bareback through wildflowers or lying sullenly on the back stoop of my urban apartment, all while wearing the cream of the crop in Bohemian fashion. I guess Free People is doing things right, then.

This week, however, some would beg to differ. Free People recently added dancewear to its “FP Movement” line. The somewhat unconventional but still breathable-looking wear was introduced both on their website and blog by a single model demonstrating the clothing in various dance poses (I apologize for the ambiguity – dance knowledge is not in my brain bank).

The ads look fine to me; I don’t see anything wrong with them. But many who are actually knowledgeable, skilled, and trained in the field of dance are very upset by the way Free People chose to model the new line, ranting about horrible technique and form. Not only that, but the angry dancers report that having the model in pointe shoes without proper training can be very dangerous.

Much of social media is abuzz about this ad. This video on YouTube has 10 times more dislikes than likes. Other YouTubers have gone so far as to make parodies of the ad that have reached tens of thousands of views. Comments on all forms of social media convey feelings that the model should have been chosen to portray the beauty of dance rather than the beauty of Free People’s new line or even the beauty of the model herself.

Perhaps Free People could have sought out a professional dancer to model its new line, which would give it the “legit” that it needs now. Perhaps the “look” Free People holds so dear is taking precedence over the company’s credibility. Or, perhaps the trained dancers are taking this too seriously. We’ll have to wait and see how Free People responds to this uproar, or if the company responds at all.

Tell us what YOU think! Comment below or tweet us @brunetgarcia.

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Mad Men 7.3

"You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension of booze and brylcreem."

There is a fifth workplace, beyond that which is known to most men. It is a dimension as vast as space and as shallow as a wading pool. It is in the middle ground between inspiration and desperation, between branding and bullshit, and it lies between the pit of man’s materialism and the summit of social impact. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Advertising Zone.

Submitted for your approval: an expectant father and advertising copywriter with a monstrous propensity towards going off on thematic tangents – in this case, taking a lengthy discourse detour based off of a seemingly innocuous reference on “Field Trip,” the third episode of Mad Men’s bifurcated final season. Early in the episode, Megan Draper’s manager calls Don Draper to tell him Megan’s been going off the rails as she tries to fulfill her Hollywood dreams. To make his point, the agent tells Don about Megan interrupting a director’s lunch with Rod Serling just to ask the director to let her re-read a part. That Rod Serling mention was very apt given the inspiration Mad Men has always drawn from Serling’s seminal 1960s sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone.

The pilot episode of Mad Men made a point to let us know that The Twilight Zone had just premiered. Also former Sterling Cooper copywriter Paul Kinsey often quoted lines from the show. So, it should come as no surprise that Mad Men creator Matt Weiner has often talked about the influence The Twilight Zone had in inspiring his own program. The Twilight Zone brilliantly used science fiction and fantasy as a vehicle for social commentary, in much the same way that the Sterling Cooper (& Partners) workplace represents a kind of professional Petri dish for the societal mutations of the 1960s.

Watch the show, not the crappy movie version.

I’m not the only one who has noted the historical and cultural connections between the two shows. In 2010, writer Marc Scott Zicree, creator of “The Twilight Zone Companion” as well as writer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, wrote a spec script for Mad Men in which Don Draper meets Rod Serling. Titled “Walking Distance,” after a classic Twilight Zone episode, the story has Draper meet up with Serling after learning CBS has canceled  The Twilight Zone. As Draper tries to convince Serling to become an advertising pitch man, the two men learn they have more in common than they realize. You can read Zicree’s script here. The chances of this spec episode ever getting made are slim to none, but it is well-written and and a fascinating read for fans of both show. If you’ve never seen The Twilight Zone, CBS has an online channel where you can watch full episodes. Check them out by clicking on this link.

Don meets Rod: the spec script that would have made a great episode.

Rod Serling references aside, “Field Trip” had a Twilight Zone vibe in the way that time felt unhinged; with characters from the show’s past suddenly appearing (Francine, Betty’s friend who we haven’t seen in a few seasons), seminal Mad Men moments being revisited (Ken Cosgrove’s mention of Don Draper’s classic carousel pitch from Season 1), and characters clearly not fitting in with the present (Betty’s early 60s hair, makeup, and wardrobe amid the mud and slop of a 1969 upstate New York farm). “Field Trip” deals with three actual field trips that don’t go quite as planned: Don’s surprise flight out West to try and play the role of protective father figure to Megan, Don’s ex-wife Betty taking their son on a field trip to the farm that turns as sour as spoiled barnyard milk, and Don’s uncomfortable return to the agency he founded.

That development was probably the most significant plot turn of the season, as it was rife with subtext and character intrigue. Don goes to Roger, who agrees to Don’s request to get back to work at the agency, except Roger doesn’t bother telling any of the other partners about the plans. This leads to a surreal sequence in which we cut from shots of Don in his apartment contemplating his return, to his perspective walking through an agency that is familiar yet alien; where familiar faces stare through Don as if he were the fraudulent visage of someone who existed in another place, another time.

For a character whose life is built on a series of lies, it is a humbling moment for Don. The emperor has no clothes, yet he is willing to bravely face his former subjects naked. With the exception of Lou (the worst) and Jim, the men at the agency are happy to see Don. The women, not so much. Joan, one of Don’s closest allies over the years, greets him with a venomous smile and then proceeds to tattle-tale news of his return to Bert Cooper. Peggy’s rancor towards Don was troubling, and much like her flower fit last week, seemed out of character. I’m not quite sure where this well of bitterness is coming from, and I’m not sure why she is so angry with Don in particular. I really hope the show does a better job of explaining this in the coming weeks.

No one, and I mean no one, can tell a joke like Lou Avery.

As Don sweats it out like a kid waiting to get called into the principal’s office, Roger Sterling goes to bat for him in a partners’ meeting that will decide Don’s fate. It is a gratifying moment, and a tender one as well, as Roger throws Don a life preserver, and in the process, tacitly acknowledges that both he and “genius” Don need to evolve in order to be taken seriously in the coming decade. Roger is learning the delicate art of compromise, while Don is learning that authenticity doesn’t come easily. Eventually Don agrees to a list of odious stipulations from the partners in order to return to work. Even in his humbled state, it seems strange for Don to acquiesce to such demands. My guess is he has a plan in place to reconquer his kingdom, and we’ll start to see it play out in the coming weeks.

"Sorry Don. This ain't no party...This ain't no disco...This ain't no foolin' around."

There were a few aspects of ad agency life in”Field Trip” that need to be addressed. First off, someone really needs to audit the communication and decision-making process at SC&P! Seriously, every one of the partners had a different understanding about Don’s “status” at the agency. I just can’t see an agency with SC&P’s clients and billings being this out of sorts in regard to the status of a founding partner. On the flip side, I think this episode did a nice job of showing the internecine conflict that can take place at a workplace with as many competing egos as an ad agency. Harry Crane, representing media, doesn’t feel like he or his department are appreciated. Meanwhile, Peggy’s campaign for Chevalier Noir is rained on by Lou (the worst) demanding to know why Stan has drawn art cards for the campaign. Peggy is also jealous that Ginzo got a CLIO nomination while she didn’t. *Full disclosure: this type of petty behavior never occurs at Brunet-García.*

Speaking of that scene between Ginzo and Peggy, it reveals a dirty truth about advertising. Lou explains to Peggy that her Rosemary’s Baby ad was pulled from CLIO contention because of all the awards Ted Chaough has already won for the client. When Peggy incredulously asks if the client is upset about winning, Lou responds that clients hate awards and that’s why Ogilvy never submits.  This is true for some clients. They see ADDYs, CLIOs, and other awards as exercises in self-indulgence that take the focus off of them and cast all the shine on the agency. They are not crazy about award-winning campaigns being seen strictly as the “creation” of an agency and not something that is organic to their brand. In their minds, a good agency should follow the lead of the mob, executing killer work without attracting too much attention. At Brunet-García, we believe creative awards are not just an acknowledgment of our work, but also an acknowledgment of a great partnership between agency and client. We may never go the old Ogilvy route, but we will always make sure that when we accept an award, we acknowledge the client who is an inspiration and partner in all our achievements.

Ok, so I can’t wrap up this review of “Field Trip” without discussing the return of Betty Francis. It’s a return that can be summed up thusly: Betty is still awful and her son Bobby will likely always have Freudian issues with gumdrops.

Betty doing what Betty does: Crushing the souls of her children.



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