Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Universe

I watched this today and was pretty blown away. I know I'm a speck in the universe, but this is an amazing way to show it.

A very cool gift from the American Museum of Natural History.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Implied Quality at Starbucks

I've seen this poster dozens of times at Starbucks:I had read it, never really considered its message, and just assumed that it meant that Starbucks sold some of the best coffee beans in the world. The implications is either that Starbucks sells the top 3% of coffee beans in the world or that Starbucks selects from the top 3% of coffee beans in the world.

This morning I thought about it a bit more. It says that Starbucks coffee is made from 3% of the best coffee beans in the world. Not THE 3% best coffee beans but 3% OF THE best coffee beans. There's a huge difference. If you took the worlds coffee and split it into 50% bad beans and 50% good beans, then Starbucks would only have to pick 3% of that latter group to live up to this message. Their coffee could be incredibly mediocre, and yet this poster would still be true.

I actually think that Starbucks does pick better than mediocre coffee. And I'm sure no one else actually considers posters like this the way people like me do. But I do feel like they're being a little sneaky in this, and that it's things like this that give advertisers a bad name. It shouldn't be hard for Starbucks to get across a quality message, they shouldn't have to rely on little tricks like this.

Or, maybe Starbucks did mean what I had originally thought, and now I'm overthinking all this.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brilliant Schweppes Spot

Perhaps I should be ashamed of only now seeing this spot, because it was in the Gunn Report's list of most award winning spots in the world last year. But this is just gorgeous. It's rare to see something with such beauty fit so perfectly with a brand promise.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yukon trip - Part II

My sister gave me a hard time the other day for starting to write about my Yukon canoe trip and then not carrying it on. It's been 3 months now, but I'll see if I can tell the story.

On the morning of our second day we woke up to a breakfast of cinnamon bun leftovers. We finally finished off the gigantic bun we'd bought the day before, and were thankful to not need to eat it anymore. We'd had enough.

Right outside our tent were footprints that explained some of the noise from the night before. I think they're moose hoof prints, but when it's dark outside and you're in Grizzly country every sound has added meaning. Particularly when you're a city dweller like me.

We got out on the water for our day's paddle. It was a little overcast / smoky still, and not particularly warm, but it was a decent enough day to be out on the water. After a couple of hours of paddling we came to a point where our map said that there was a small settlement off to our left. We were able to beach our canoe and head up a little hill to check it out. It was a small homestead that someone had built for themselves many decades ago.

There were several of these during the trip. Little homes and communities that people had built, usually back when the Yukon river was the primary means of transportation between Whitehorse and Dawson City. It was pretty interesting to think of this big river where we were all alone being populated and acting as a vibrant transportation route 100 years ago, when now there is almost nothing along its length.

We returned to our canoe and continued our paddle. A great deal of the shore on this day had been destroyed by fire within the past decade or so, but it was still quite beautiful. There were a couple of signs of development along the way as well. We paddled from time to time near a highway. We passed a mining operation with a big ferry that crosses the river.

Then, in the early afternoon, the highway left us and there were no more signs of life anywhere. We were truly on our own. I put out the fishing rod to see if I could get us some dinner. I had no luck then or at any point for the rest of the trip. I'd bought the rod, all the tackle, and the licence, hoping to grill up a fresh fish at some point. But I'm not much of a fisherman, so it was a good thing that we didn't have to rely upon my skills for food.

By now it had really clouded over. It was looking like it was going to rain pretty soon. My goal for the day had been to make it to Fort Selkirk, an old trading post where I had heard that there was fresh water and a fenced off camp ground. We knew we were close when it started to rain a bit.

Fort Selkirk is right after the confluence of the Yukon and Pelly Rivers. I was pretty excited when I spotted the Pelly because it meant that we were close. We knew we needed to make a certain turn in the river at that point to get the shortcut to Fort Selkirk, but the current decided that that wasn't going to happen. It grabbed us and forced us across the river. This wouldn't have been so bad, except there are sand bars all across the river at this point, which we were doing our best to avoid. You can dodge the ones that are out of the water, because the river flows around them, but the ones that are just a bit under water are much more difficult, because they can cover the width of the river, they're hard to see, and the flow of the river can take you right on top of them. We hit several, got stuck a few times, but were able to continue without ever getting out of the boat. (I know, it doesn't look too bad. But that's what makes it hard.)

Needless to say, it took as a long time to get back on track and make the final leg into Fort Selkirk. By this time the rain had turned into a downpour. We were getting drenched. We paddled hard and I dreaded setting up camp in the weather. We had proper gear, but it was going to be a very unpleasant night.

Fort Selkirk is build on a plateau above the river. We could easily spot it from 10 minutes away. We beached our canoe and I climbed the stairs that had been left for travellers like us.

I'd been told before we left that we could camp in a fenced off area near the flag poles, so I went in search of our site. The whole area around the poles had been turned into a muddy bog by the rain, so I went searching in the opposite direction, which looked more promising.

At that point I saw a woman coming towards me from the opposite direction in the rain. She welcomed us, said her name was Wendy, and that she was from the first nations group who looks after Fort Selkirk. She let us know that we were welcome to camp in another area, nowhere near the flagpoles, but that with the rain and since we were the only visitors there we could take over the warming hut if we liked and stay in there for the night. This sounded like a terrific improvement over staying in the cold downpour. The she quickly showed us around - the hut had a giant stove, there were external storage lockers for food, there was a pile of dry wood that they had cut for visitors, there were water pumps and there were outhouses. I couldn't have been happier if we'd come across a Four Seasons in the woods. Compared to the night I thought we were about to have this was luxury.

We rescued our gear from the boat. Secured our canoe. And got everything into the hut.

The hut was fantastic. We built a roaring fire. (It took a few attempts to get it to the roaring stage. Many thanks to Colleen.) We set up our gear in hopes that it would dry that night. I cooked us a bit of dinner. That night it was pad thai and biscuits. Delicious! And we got set up for the night. Here's Pig making another appearance.

It turned out to be a terrific end to a very nice day, and the best possible alternative to what was going to be a pretty miserable night. A huge thanks to the Fort Selkirk First Nations people, it was greatly appreciated.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Perhaps not your dream vacation

So, my mother and step-dad are taking a two week holiday to Israel.

Yesterday my sister forwarded me their itinerary. The second item on page one read as follows:

"Drive to Sderot. This is city has been an ongoing target of Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip located less than a mile from the city. Sderot has borne the brunt of Palestinian rocket attacks since 2001, killing 13 people, wounding dozens, causing millions of dollars in damage and disrupting daily life and ruining the economy. More than 1,000 projectiles have exploded in the town of about 20,000 people in the past year alone."

Well, of course, who wouldn't want to go to Sderot. I've dreamed of going to Sderot. And after that I might go spend some time on the Somali coast and then maybe cross the border between China and North Korea.

Mom, David - You're pushing 70. Shouldn't you be on a cruise in the Caribean?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sweet 16

I was just sitting in bed browsing some interesting blogs and watching a video or two when it struck me that the functional internet, and by that I mean the Web, is only 16 years old. It was '93 when Mosaic, the first really usable web browser was released.

I remember the first time I saw the web. Before that I'd been online using tools like Archie and Gopher. Then I was visiting a friend of mine for the weekend while he was studying at Western. He introduced me to the web, and I was simply blown away. Who knew what a major part of my life it would become.

One of my first jobs at an agency was helping Palmer Jarvis figure out what this new web thing was back in '95. I had to give an opinion as to whether there was any business to be had there, and what sort of business model the agency should set up to take advantage of it. In hindsight, the reco I prepared for them was actually pretty spot on.

16 is remarkably young. The consumer internet is really just a pup. I can't wait to see what the next 16 years brings.

Rory Sutherland at TED

I enjoy reading Rory Sutherland's blog.

I'm a big fan of TED and wish I could afford to attend.

And I thought Diamond Shreddies was brilliant.

So here are several things I like, all together.

Thanks to AdHack for pointing this out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Info factoids

I enjoy informational videos like this. I'm not sure if I retain much of the info, but it's always a good reminder of how fast things change. On the other hand, statistics can be misleading...

And no, I didn't know what "Rickrolling" was. Did you?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hypocrisy at the Community Centre

I was down at the False Creek Community Centre the other day and walked past their vending machine. A little chart on the inside left of the machine with colour coding caught my attention. Headed "Healthy Choices" it had four levels ranging from the double check marked green "Choose Most" to the red unhappy face "Not recommended".

And beside each item in the machine was a corresponding colour sticker. So, for example, trail mix got the nice double check mark, whereas one of my favourites, Coffee Crisp, got the dreaded Red Sad Face.

Now, in some ways I don't mind this. It's not a bad thing to remind us that some foods aren't very good for us.

But don't you think it's a little hypocritical to sell a product and, at the same time, say it's "Not Recommended". How about this, if you don't recommend it then don't sell it. Don't sell it to me and try to lecture me at the same time. Stand up for what you believe in.

I could honestly accept if they said that one was a "Healthier Choice" and one was "Less Healthy". But instead it's "Choose Most", "Choose Sometimes", "Choose Least" and "Not Recommended".

Shouldn't a Rec Centre be a leader in healthy eating. If anyone should be expected to set an example and not sell crap, it should be the place you go to to get healthy. I guess in this case the potential for revenue from the machine outweighed their principles. And that's kind of sad.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Canoeing the Yukon River

Colleen and I set off on our trip down the Yukon River two weeks ago. We flew into Whitehorse on the Friday evening, did some last minute shopping at the local Canadian Tire, where we picked up bear spray, fuel, bear bangers, flares and other things that they don't like you to carry on the plane. We then spent the evening with our friends Jeff and Jenn.

The next morning we went grocery shopping and added to our camping food. We also picked up a couple of last minute things like a toque for me and a safety knife for paddling. Then we went down to Kanoe People, where we picked up our boat. They had answered all my trip questions for the past couple of weeks, they had set up transport to Carmacks, where we w
ere to start our trip, and they were helpful on that Saturday morning, providing us with new gear, a bear cache, maps and lots of good safety stuff.

Next we got a ride from a gentleman Harris from Whitehorse to Carmacks. On the way we stopped off at the Braeburn Lodge, home of the Yukon's giant cinnamon buns. I was shocked at the price, $8.50 for a bun, but it served as lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning for the two of us. Sorry I didn't get a photo of the bun. They really are huge and really rather delicious.

Harris dropped us off in Carmacks, where we were able to get one last fabulous meal before our trip. Cheeseburgers, onion rings and milkshakes. Yes, we were eating terribly, but we felt we deserved it if we were going to be on the water for six to eight days.

We went down to the dock, loaded up the canoe, strapped it all in with bungies. And we were ready to go. It was after 4:00 by the time we hit the water, much later than I'd hoped for.

The first few hours on the water were pretty uneventful. The forest fires in the area at that time were pretty terrible, so there was a haze covering the water and you couldn't see that much. One canoeist who had arrived at Carmacks when we had been leaving said that he'd seen fire on both sides of the river shortly before getting there. All the same it was a nice start to our trip, regardless of the limited visibility.

Our goal for the first day was to make it to the Five Finger rapids and the Rink rapids. These are the only two rapids to speak of on the trip and, as a pretty novice paddler, I had been stressing about them. I'd watched videos on YouTube and I'd done all the research I could to learn how to tackle these rapids. I'd had sleepless nights worrying about them. All I know was that it was critical to stay river right when we went through them.

After about four hours of paddling and tracking our progress on our map we knew we were getting close. We finally rounded the bend and there they were, five basalt pillars in the middle of the river, just waiting for us. It was now or never, although we had no choice really, since the river was flowing pretty fast at this point. So Colleen and I got our nerve up and charged ahead.

We hit the first gap in the rocks at just the right spot. We paddled for the left hand side of the opening. We bounced around a bit, rode a swell or two, and that was it. No drama, no capsizing. It was fun and somewhat exciting, but for all the stress that they had caused the Five Finger rapids were quite a disappointment. More than anything, they were really pretty.

Next up were the Rink Rapids, about an hour later. Nowhere near as dramatic as the Five Finger rapids, we still didn't want to mess with them. But by staying river right again, we were able to avoid them pretty much altogether. You can see them here, just ahead of us.

Having survived the main challenges of the day, we were beat. It was time to find an island and make camp. We had to paddle some distance still to find just the right, relatively bear free, location. While we paddled the sun was beautiful as it poked through the smoky haze.

It took quite awhile for us to find a location that we liked. We ended up settling for something less perfect than we wanted, but it was getting late and we needed sleep. We set up camp, at some more of our cinnamon bun, and called it a night.

This is our friend Pig, who likes to travel with us.

The night was eventful, with lots of deeply disturbing noises. But we'd survived day one, and we'd made it through the rapids, so things were good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm so depressed.

Thanks to Stan Lee of Brand DNA for pointing this out.

Last year Queensland Tourism ran the hugely successful Best Job in the World contest. I loved this idea. People around the world entered. It got massive PR coverage. In my opinion it was a huge success, as I'd never even considered travelling to Queensland before, and now it was on my mental map. The agency that did the work, Cummins, won loads of awards, including a gold Lion.

We've spoken about this campaign several times with our Tourism Yukon clients. I'd kill to do a campaign this successful for them.

What happened next? Well, Cumming got fired and replaced with a new agency.

And then the new agency put out this:

What a load of advertising drivel. What crap. Now, the only way anyone's going to pay attention to this campaign is through rants such as this.

Maybe there was a good reason why they fired their agency. Maybe they felt that the ROI on the Worlds Best Job campaign wasn't good enough. Maybe the agency was expensive. Maybe they were difficult and didn't want to do a TV campaign. (That one seems possible.) But there's no way that they should have moved to this.

Versace or D&G

I'm curious. Who do you think the designers are who have decided to take on the oft overlooked sweatshirt market?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A reminder for fighters

They had these antlers on display in the Dawson City visitors information centre.

It's two sets of antlers, intertwined. Apparently two moose decided to butt heads to determine who would get to mate. The bigger moose won and likely killed the smaller moose in battle. However, as a result of the fight the antlers got stuck together, meaning that the winner ended up having the loser moose attached to his head until he starved or was taken down by opportunistic predators.

The moral of the story - Be careful of which fights you get into. Even when you win, you might lose.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Only in the North. (Or the South)

I saw this sign outside a government office in Dawson City.

I love it. One stop shopping for your liquor, driver's license and shooting license. The only thing that would make this better would be if they also sold ammo and motorbikes.

I suspect that the other places you might find a sign like this would be Texas and Alabama. (Both states that I'd like to visit some time.) Something tells me that the people might be rather similar too. Very friendly but fiercely independent.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Poor kid.

Colleen and I did a canoe trip down the Yukon River the other day. We started in Carmacks and ended up in Dawson City. It took us 5 days to do the trip. I'll probably do a few blog posts about our little adventure, because it was quite a different experience for me.

After the trip we had a couple of days to spend in Dawson City prior to flying back to Whitehorse, where we spent the weekend. I noticed this sign on a street corner in Dawson.

I love this sign. It's so retro. I wonder what year they phased this sign out. If any kid today wore tight little shorts like that to school he'd get killed by the other kids. Plus, that hair and those tiny little shoes are kind of adorable.

And what is that kid doing with that ball? He's flat out dribbling it like #23 on a breakaway. Run kid, run!

Nailing the coin toss.

I have an admittedly very geeky side. I also enjoy a bit of gambling.

Someone pointed me to a cool blog today where they have done a summary of a 31-page document titled "Dynamical Bias in the Coin Toss", which shows how coin tosses are not completely random. Have a read here.

This reminds me of a rather successful night a few years ago with the guys from NewAd at Chambar, where I took a lot of money off of people based on coin spinning. If anyone that lost money to me that night is reading this - I promise I was not aware of these facts before today.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A pure rant. - Kia Forte ads

Most of the "bad" advertising out there really isn't that bad. It's pretty innocuous and ineffective, but it actually causes no harm to anyone other than the advertiser, who paid money and will see no results from it.

But there's a special category of bad advertising that is actually so bad, so annoying, so devoid of any positives, that it makes me angry. And the current Kia Forte campaign falls in that court.

I've been complaining about this campaign for months, but I wondered if it was just because I'm a pretentious ad hack. So when my sister started complaining about it the other day I realized that this was one bad ad that transcended boundaries.

Interestingly, I can't find the spot on YouTube or anywhere else, so I can't link to it. But if you've watched Canadian TV over the past 6 months, I'm sure you've seen it. And I expect that you hate it like me.

First of all, what's the point of these spots? The only thing that they accomplish is to get me to associate the word Forte with Kia cars and remember that there is a vehicle called the Kia Forte. So, if their sole objective was to drive awareness, then their job is done. However, if any of my team ever brings me a brief whose communications objective is to drive awareness, they know that they're going back to the drawing board. Awareness is never an objective. It's one part of the equation. What do you want people to be aware of? That's the far more important and challenging issue.

But what do these spots make me aware of? I don't know. Perhaps they make me aware that people who drive the Forte aren't good at anything else. (And I'm not sure if driving the Forte makes them good at anything either, except for buying a crap car.) Or maybe it just reinforces the fact that anyone driving the Forte is a massive dork, since that's what they've made all of the drivers in the spots. And, at this time, I would have to agree that anyone that drives a Forte is a dork, 'cause I wouldn't be caught dead in one after that campaign.

Those are the only two possible messages that I can take away from this campaign. There's nothing about the car, about the kind of person who drives it, or even the kind of experience you might have in driving one. There's nothing else. The entire message is about the name of the car. They couldn't come up with anything other than the name as a feature? Does the freakin' car have an engine? A fifth cup-holder? A bilingual manual? Anything?

Maybe, heaven forbid, this has been a successful campaign for Kia and sales have gone up. I have a hard time imagining that, but it happens from time to time. And there's no doubt that they put some serious support behing the campaign, because I saw the spots dozens of time. So maybe they've sold a few cars, but this has to be bad not just for the Forte, but for the overall Kia brand, which had a nice little niche and I suspect has now killed that niche.

I'm tempted to rant more about the agency that did this. But there are a lot of factors that go into creating something this bad. And the truth is that you can see how something like this would happen. Someone came up with a little idea about the name and thought it was a fun little joke. The agency pushed hard and found a way to sell it in. Someone made a joke at the start of the meeting about "presentations are not my forte" and everyone laughed and the thing took on a life of its own. Maybe the client felt unsure, but the agency talked him into it and assured him that "not my forte" will become part of the vernacular. So the client dropped his million dollar production budget into a few spots, showed it to his bosses who decided to trust him that day, and it just happened.

Good lord. I love this business. But sometimes it just baffles me. Back to it now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The world in real time

I found pingwire today via William Gibson's blog.

It provides a real time view of the images being posted to Twitter. No editing, just a pure image stream.

It's pretty amazing to watch and see what people are shooting. No context or idea of who the photographers are, just things that people thought were important, interesting or beautiful enough to take a photo of and post.

There seemed to be a lot of shots of breasts. Why am I not surprised? I've never posted a photo of breasts to Twitter, which probably says a lot about my lifestyle. (sigh)

As Mr. Gibson, who I am a huge fan of, says: "Simultaneously profoundly amazing and definitively boring."

This is one of those random things that wouldn't have been conceivable without massive bandwidth.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's your lion made of?

Our creative director sent this around this afternoon. Hilarious.

It costs a lot to buy your Lion if you win. Is it worth it?

(The physical Lion award, not the win. I'd still give my left arm for a titanium. Wonder what that one's made of?)

Monday, July 13, 2009

LED Wall

My colleague, Michael, forwarded this to me the other day:

La Vitrine - Montreal from steven bulhoes on Vimeo.

I love it. I'm sure it took a lot of skill to create, but it seems to be very simple. As a user you don't get any info about what's going on until you're interacting with it, at which point you understand how to work with it immediately.

I love an idea like this that can be used at street level for a variety of businesses. Obviously you could create other ways of interacting with the wall that might be more specific to your specific business or product. And you've just added a little fun and wonder to people's day.

I also love the fact that this is from Montreal.

That's one bad billboard

I spotted this ad while driving to work the other day:

If you can't see it, then let me give a little explanation. The headline says "Many like their cider to be just like them. Au Naturale." And it's got a photo of several older, overweight people hanging out on a dock.

Now, I'm not one to argue that your target needs to be reflected in your ads. I think you can do a perfectly good job of reaching your target by featuring someone that's not your target. It's all about the message that's taken away, not whether they can place themselves in the ad.

All the same, what in the world is Grower's trying to do with this? Are they trying to say that this is the cider for fat middle-aged nudists? I think I get where they're trying to go with this - Relax and be natural. But honestly, this is not an appealing image. It certainly doesn't make me want to go grab a Growers and hang out, and I love a nice cold cider on a hot day.

Middle-aged, naked and chunky - Not good photo for alcohol ad.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Starbucks sociology

Maybe I should go back to school or get a government grant to study random sociological things that I'm curious about.

Today I'm curious about the cultural impact of milkbars around the world. Now that Starbucks is pretty much global, how does regional culture effect how we cooperate at the milkbar. (BTW - a milkbar is the station where you put in your cream, sugar and whatever else you add to your coffee.)

For instance, not surprisingly, Canadian milkbars seem pretty cooperative. We'll step aside for one another, pass the cream, and be pretty deferential. While American milkbars can be more competitive and a little more aggressive. The occasional elbow gets thrown.

I've also noticed that sometimes you can get into milkbar harmony, and both party's moves can be coordinated and choreographed. I wonder if that's what Brazilian milkbars are like. Akin to how they play soccer.

So, I'd like to get some Canadian government grant to study this. Then I'll travel around the world to document milkbar behaviour. The final study will have great importance for the world and could have a major effect on how people work with one another. Perhaps the bells of peace will ring across the land.

Here's a random milkbar photo from the Starbucks across the street from my office. This shows some nice collaboration:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tweeting vs. blogging

I think it would be interesting to study the impact of tweeting on blog postings. I know my postings have tailed off since I started posting to Twitter. I now put out half formed thoughts in a moment, versus putting a bit more thought to it and writing a few more words. Does one replace the other?

This seems intuitive, but I haven't seen any data on it. There seem to be more than enough people out there excited to take shots at blogs and Twitter (particularly Twitter) whenever they can. You'd think one of them would be all over this.

I still haven't bought into Twitter. But I haven't stopped yet, even after a couple of months, so clearly there's something in it for me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gutsy move by Starbucks

I was in my local Starbucks the other day and saw this sign.

Wow! I was totally blown away.

The copy reads: "I long for the day that you completely ignore me. You'll be on your break, enjoying a coffee in your favourite mug or tumbler. And I'll just sit back and smile."

For a company for whom I'd suspect 90% of their sales are made in disposable paper cups to put out a poster saying "stop using paper cups" takes serious guts. I'm no better than the next guy. I get my coffee in a paper cup far too often. And I love the fact that Starbucks told me to stop it. And I don't love Starbucks. It's hard to love a gigantic company like them. But I like them a lot more after seeing this poster.

The problem is that the next time I went into this Starbucks the poster was gone. And I haven't seen any more since in that Starbucks or any other. I hope they didn't chicken out. Because with their volume I could actually see something like this having a very positive impact for them. Hell, imagine if they actually made a big deal out of this. I'll bet they wouldn't hurt sales at all, but their brand likability scores would go through the roof.

If you're reading this Starbucks people, consider it. It's counter-intuitive, but it's so crazy that it just might work.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wonderful work from Stella

I love this ad.

It's a wonderful Stella spot. Great brand feel. And totally unique.

But my favourite thing, by far, is the use of that strange little oil painting in the middle of the spot to show the carnage that took place when the pirates attacked the beer ship. It doesn't fit at all with the rest of the spot, yet it fits right in. It tells a part of the story that is untellable, and does so in a manner that makes you not question the outcome. Totally odd, completely random, and yet it's perfect.

In looking for this ad on YouTube I also found the 60 second version of the spot. Perhaps it's because I've become used to the :30, but I think I like the shorter version more. More shots of the painting and the blood flowing from the fountain don't add to the perfect feel of the spot. I still think it's great, but it's just not as understated as the :30.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Brutal Honesty

I was heading into my local driving range when I saw this sign.

But I appreciated this sign for two reasons. First, the insight is bang on. Most golfers suck. After playing for 20 years and loving the game, I still suck. And I think that most golfers know they suck. So they go to the range to improve. But all they really do is practice doing the things they already do wrong, so they continue to suck. Lessons are the only way I've ever gotten better, and it's amazing how seldom I take them.

Secondly, they got the insight across in as blunt a form as possible. Some insights need dressing to make them more palatable. Some need features added to make them more noticeable. But for someone going to the range to try to get better, the brutal harsh truth is the way to go. Leave it clean, leave it simple, and maybe I'll get it through my thick head.

The truth, plainly stated. How refreshing.

Who'd have thought that I'd find a lesson in communications at my beat-down local driving range.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Magnum / Star Wars

OK. Forgive me from stealing from the viral video charts, but I thought that this was just too brilliant.

I knew when I first watched this that it was damned close to the original. But it wasn't until I saw this side-by-side comparison that I understood what a great job they'd done.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


It's amazing how often I find myself in these discussions. And each time I find myself surprised. The requests sound so reasonable, but in the end they're asking us to devalue our time and services. I can't see someone asking a lawyer to write up a contract for free the first time, or to just pay their accountant to do half their taxes, but companies often treat their agency like this.

I guess that's just the business, and it's in our hands as to whether we're going to have the self-respect to just say "no".

Huge kudos to whomever put this together.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Safe Merchandising

This falls under that category of things that amuse me...

Colleen and I were in Costco the other day. I love wandering the aisles there and just checking out everything they've got. As we walked through the office supplies section they had some safes for sale. 'Cause, you know, you just might need a safe. Here's my favourite:

I can't imagine they're being too successful at selling a safe that's had its door ripped right off. I might be going out on a limb here, but I don't think that "easy door removal" is a key driver of brand choice in the safe category.

On a related note, I was quite impressed by reports that Brian Mulroney kept his $250k payments in a safe at home. What he did for the money may or may not have been illegal, but when you keep $250k in $1000 bills in a safe in your house you sure aren't setting yourself up to look innocent.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

McChucks vs. The Bucks

There was some very interesting research posted by Pew, looking at whether people would rather live in a community with more Starbucks or more McDonald's. McDonald's won the day, which perhaps isn't surprising this year when people are returning to comfort (& cheap) foods and perhaps eschewing their everyday indulgences.

Here's a chart that shows some of the results. You'll have to click on it to be able to read it:

Most of the stats here aren't surprising. McD's does better amongst those with lower incomes, less education and guys. I did think that the age gap was interesting though, with younger respondents being far more Bucks-Positive, while the older folks headed for the arches. Also interesting was that Starbucks performed better amongst Liberals than Conservatives and amongst Hispanics vs. Whites and Blacks.

One other item that isn't included on the above chart that somewhat surprised me is that McD's performs well amongst all sorts of religious groups, but that Starbucks did well amongst the agnostics and athiests. Perhaps not surprising from the above data, but it's an interesting finding.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Brilliant blend of tech and creative

Check out this case study on an outdoor ad that uses face tracking technology to know when viewers are looking, and then changes that based on whether people are looking or not. It's a cool technology, but it's brilliant when combined with this domestic violence message.

It just won at the One Show. In my mind, deservedly so.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I went to the auto show a few weeks ago. On the top level they have all of the ancillary displays showing aftermarket parts, cool paint jobs, etc. One of the biggest displays was of fuel efficient vehicles put on by Environment Canada. They were handing out this guide to fuel efficient vehicles:

The problem I have here is that this was a pretty substantial book that I had no need for. I didn't want an fuel efficiency guide, nor do I have any intention of buying a car in the next year, but this was shoved in my hands. I recycled this when I got back to my office, but the idea of how many of these fuel efficiency guides were printed only to be immediately tossed aside after distribution seemed pretty ironic.

Monday, April 27, 2009

School Trademarks

There seems to be a great number of ESL schools around Vancouver that have appropriated the names of famous institutions. There's Haarvard College, Yale and Columbia English schools. I spotted this ad the other day at my local SkyTrain station.

I'm sure that they do this in cities around the world. I'll bet it's pretty impressive when you return to Korea, China or Japan and tell everyone that studied hospitality at Eton and then did your English language training at Haarvard.

I'm curious what the trademark law is on this one.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A&W Refinement

I went to A&W this afternoon. Sometimes you just can't escape the need for a Mozza burger and onion rings. Fortunately these days it's a somewhat rare occassion.

Here's my tray:

Check out that frosted mug full of Coke. What a thing of beauty. A&W may not have the best burgers. And they're certainly cheap bastards with those ketchup containers that hold no ketchup. But they more than make up for it with that beautiful frosted glass.

I'm sure there's a cost associated with it. Breakage. Theft. Cleaning. Etc. But I give them full credit for finding some part of a typical fast food meal and making it special. It made my lunch feel a little more civilized.

Plus, it was a little less garbage to be tossed at the end of my meal.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wicked bike video

I think we're all a little tired of viral videos showing people doing things that are clearly impossible, but that look real. (Ray Ban started it. Levi's jumped in through the same agency. Nike and Kobe did it. Mini recently made fun of it.) The worst thing about that trend is that it has now made its way into mainstream advertising, such as that annoying car ad that's currently running that show the amazing ways a couple gets all their gear into their car by tossing it out the window. Granted, it's better than 95% of the car advertising out there, but it feels a little weak to grab an expired online trend and spin it into your offline ads.

So instead here's a video of a guy doing stunts on his bike. The big twist this time - it actually is real.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why are they following me?

I ran in the SunRun on the weekend. It was somewhat disappointing, since I came down with a brutal cold on Saturday. All the same, I was happy with my time.

Today I got this e-mail:

Hi, hawes (hawes).

Vancouver Sun Run (vancouversunrun) is now
following your updates on Twitter.

Check out Vancouver Sun Run's profile here:

You may follow Vancouver Sun Run as well
by clicking on the "follow" button.


I realize that this is somewhat standard practice, but don't you think it's a little weird to have an event follow you. People, sure. Companies, maybe. But an event? This might go so far as to be creepy.

I know, I'm taking things too literally. But I don't get it. I want relationships with people, not with fun runs.

And hell, I like the SunRun. I've done it 4 times now and will do it again next year.

Volt advertising

Just a bit of a rant today:

I'm fed up with Chevrolet ads for the Volt. They've been promising this car for several years now. When they first brought it out it was this sweet looking thing that was all electric. Then they showed the final prototype, which became a lame family sedan. And they keep advertising their line-up of vehicles featuring the Volt, trying to claim that they are earth conscious, when the damn thing isn't even for sale yet. How about this Chevy - Shut the hell up until you've actually got the car to sell. When you do, beat your chest as much as you want.

Monday, April 6, 2009

How to work with creatives.

One of my favourite work related blogs is Scamp, from Simon Veksner of BBH London.

Today he posted a great presentation on how to work with creatives. He makes the analogy that working with creatively oriented folks is like working with children. This is something that I never would have had the guts to say publicly, out of fear of the repurcusions from the people that I need to work with day-to-day. But since he's a creative director at a pretty damn good agency I feel secure in reposting this. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Twitter growth

My media director sent the following chart the other day showing the growth rate of Twitter in Canada.

That's a tripling of traffic that puts Twitter into the top 15 of Canadian sites visited. And that really doesn't include people like me, who only send and receive tweets on their mobile device and don't really have a need to go to the site.

Now, I have to admit to being a Twitter newbie and sceptic. I've only started Twittering within the past few weeks, and only to see if I can understand this phenomenon. Frankly, I still don't totally get it, but there are a few people who I do enjoy following, and I don't mind sending a posting when I'm doing something particularly interesting.

All the same, that's a pretty amazing graph there. And all that growth is really due to the network effect. There's no advertising or PR push for Twitter, even though there is a lot of hype.

Will it last? Who knows. I think that depends over the long run on its utility. But it'll at least be interesting to see what it morphs into.

By the way, you can follow me if you wish. I'm "hawes".

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quotes on change

I received this presentation yesterday in one of the many regular e-mails that I get from TBWA. There must be a whole slew of TBWA employees somewhere putting this stuff together. But this one I particularly liked, as it brings together a lot of different thoughts from a lot of different sources all about the concept of why we need to change and what that change looks like.

My personal favourite is on slide 5 - reminding us that no one really cares that much about what we have to say. Wong Doody, a pretty good agency out of Seattle, used to have a great saying on their homepage. I think it was "No one cares about your advertising." Sadly, they're not quite as bold any more, but it was nice to see them speak the unadulterated truth.

TBWA quote compilation on change
View more presentations from Mad Blog.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One Show costs

There's a very interesting item in Ad Age about the One Show intern (poor guy) who leaked the number and cost of entries by agency. You can read the article here:

The cost of award shows is a little crazy, and the fact that the One Show brought in about $10MM last year is pretty amazing. At the same time, I'm not shocked that a big agency network like DDB spent about $100k according to the article. In fact, for the PR value that they get out of winning several pencils, combined with internal value of having a goal such as this, it's not a bad deal for a huge global corporation. (TBWA, where I work, isn't listed in the article.)

The two most interesting paragraphs in the article are these:

"BBDO's spending was well ahead of the amount spent by the closest agency, the notoriously award-hungry Leo Burnett, which spent around $150,000 to enter about 400 different ads or campaigns. JWT, Ogilvy and DDB all appear to have spent about $100,000, for about 300 entries each, while Crispin Porter & Bogusky entered nearly 100 times.

Perhaps the only surprises in the top 20 in terms of numbers of entries: Vancouver-based Rethink Communications, a 60-person shop, had 87 entries, while MTV Networks had 59, perhaps showing the media owner's serious intent to become an agency-like player."

I have to admit that I was pretty amazed that Rethink had almost as many entries as Crispin. Don't get me wrong, Rethink is a very good agency and they have some incredible talent over there. But to be just a few entries behind Crispin, with their huge client roster and amazing creative output, is pretty incredible. And with the average price of an entry being $358, that works out to an investment of over $30k for Rethink. And that's just for one show. But they haven't had to lay anyone off this year, that I've heard of, so I guess they doing something (or a lot of things) right.

It'd be great if Cannes had an intern like the One Show. I'd love to see what the various agencies invest in that show.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Changing Pods

I came across these super-funky changing pods in the Bay downtown the other day.

As you can sort-of see, they're hidden in the back area of the Olympic store, buried behind the kid's clothes where no one can see them. I doubt they get much use. Which is really too bad, because if you go into one and close the door it's like you've got yourself your very one little bubble zone. You're just sitting quietly in a nice white sphere. The next time I'm have a super-stressy day, I'm going to go up to the Bay, close the door, and have a little meditation session.

Sadly, I don't believe that the Bay is going to get any more of these. Apparently they take up too much floor space. Maybe I can buy one off of them post-Games and put it on my deck.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Location based branding

Two new Artigiano's have opened recently in my 'hood.

For those of you not from Vancouver, Artigiano's is a fabulous local coffee shop. There was one on the ground floor of the building that DDB was in, when I worked there. And there are now two of them within a block our TBWA\Vancouver offices. They make lattes with some form of addictive milk that makes them better and creamier than anywhere else. They used to sell very premium super-high end beans. There was usually a line-up to place your order. And the cafes are still relatively rare so, needless to say, I was pretty happy to find one opening near me.

I went to the nearest one the other day. It had all the same interior trimmings as the others, and the same delicious coffee, and the same great foam-art. So it seemed all good.

But the new Artigiano is on Broadway and Laurel. It's two doors down from a Tim Horton's / Wendy's. And it's sandwiched between two unleased spaces. Here's a shot of it.And I've got to admit that while they've done everything in their power to maintain the brand equity in this new location, it's just not cutting it. And I believe that it has everything to do with this more down-market location. The cafe doesn't feel as unique or as interesting as the downtown urban locations. It feels out of place here and a little awkward. Like you're at a pool party and you're wearig a suit and tie.

But it gets even worse. They've opened another one just a couple of blocks away in the entrance area to the new huge London Drugs. Frankly, in that case, I don't think they're even trying to maintain some sort of brand standards anymore. They're just capitalizing on some serious volume. It makes them feel more like a McDonald's than a premium cafe where a tall latte costs $3.33.

I think they've made a pretty decent error here. It may work out well for them in the long run, but I think that they're starting to lose their special feeling. When you're sharing space with LD Insurance and competing for coffee dollars with Timmy's, you're gonna lose some of that premium feel that allowed you to get away with selling $20 cups of coffee. (True story. But not for today's blog.)

The beauty of Vancouver

Here's what today looked like in my neighborhood. Simply spectacular. Although a few degrees warmer would have been nice.

An aside - I hear that yesterday was the opening of the Cherry Blossom Festival at Van Dusen Garden. Unfortunately, there are no cherry blossoms this year. It's been too damned cold.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The dog store

I enjoyed this video this morning. I love the idea of a dog store. And all of the design elements are beautifully done. It's great work.

But I'm pretty sure they could have done a better job with that taxi video. What's up with that?

This is all from the agency that did that great Nissan spot years ago about how dogs love trucks. TBWA\Chiat Day clearly loves dogs.

BTW - I picked this one up from Scamp, of whom I'm a pretty big fan.

Monday, March 16, 2009

fantastic media idea + patience = brilliance

I am so impressed with this ad. Most consumers who see it won't even realize what they've seen because they'll only see part or they'll see it in the wrong order. But those who do get it will be amazed.

What I'm most impressed with is the patience of the client to allow a year to pass before their creative is revealed. This is no quick hit.

And it's just a package shot. Nothing more. The brilliance is all in the execution and media buy.

The ad is for Nedeburg Ingenuity wine and the creative is from Network BBDO Cape Town. I hope they take home a bucket-full of awards for this.