Category Archives: advertising

Culture Pub vs. Firebrand

The French week continues!


Pub stands for “la publicite”, the French word for advertising – rather than the more British “Public House”.

Culture Pub is a TV show about advertising that was broadcast weekly on French channel M6 for almost 20 years. This is actually an impressive amount of longevity for France (yet as a point of comparison, the soap opera General Hospital has apparently been showing in the US since 1963).

Culture Pub was taken off the air in 2005, but is now reborn as a web site which launched a couple of days ago: It is literally a Youtube for commercials with thousands of spots available – very much the same concept as Firebrand which coincidentally launched yesterday.

The jury is still out since Firebrand is in beta, but my preference right now goes to Culture Pub.

Compared to Firebrand, they seem to have more depth and editorial video content (albeit only in French). Hopefully they will realize the potential benefits of making English language transcripts or subtitles available to reach an international audience.


Is advertising effective?

The answer is… at least sometimes!


I am in France for business this week. I attended last night the French Effie Award ceremony that crowns every year the most effective advertising campaigns in several categories.

One of my international clients won this much coveted award and needless to say, I am very proud to be an integral part of this success from New York.

I moved out of France quite a while ago which made it kind of eerie to bump into former colleagues who also attended the event. Congratulations again to Pierre D. and Philippe D. from Rapp Collins and to Francois B. from Eurodisney, if you read these lines!

Since today’s post is about Effies, I would like to share the link to their US case study database. Lots of amazing success stories there… They speak for themselves.

Another one of my favorite Effie story is from the UK and illustrates the work Wieden + Kennedy did for Honda. Truly interesting how they examine the impact (or lack thereof) of potential other factors

Talking of Honda… I cannot resist the temptation of including the 2002 Accord commercial nicknamed “Cog”. I’m not sure if the debate is settled on whether this was a painstakingly precise real life domino effect or whether it was just the result of some computer graphics wizardy.

Whatever – the resulting visual feast is what matters!

More Yous – new Sprint campaign

Just saw this new advertising campaign for Sprint on TV.

The market for smartphones has become much more competitive with the launch of the Apple iPhone on the AT&T Wireless network earlier this year, so competitors have to work harder to get noticed.

Sprint works with advertising agency Goodby Silverstein, who have quite a track record in technology products since they also work for HP and Adobe.

I liked the way they illustrated in the TV commercial that smartphones can demultiply your productivity and that made me quite curious to see how they would leverage this idea in the digital space. So I paid a visit to the site

Nice touch while I was waiting for the site content to download: my mouse cursor suddenly turns into 6 or 7 different cursors.

But after that, things became somewhat disappointing: the promotional site offers a very traditional and dry product picture (OK, you can look at it from all angles) – and a link to the main Sprint site. Granted, this is about selling products but nowadays, consumers react well to a little display of originality.


The only unexpected digital component is an online game that reminds me of Nintendo’s Brain Age, but feels somewhat out of sync (or should I say out of “ActiveSync”) with the idea of increased productivity.

This feels overall like a bit of a missed opportunity. There could have been some interesting ways to engage visitors around the idea of “what would happen if there were multiple yous”.

Maybe you just escaped an online remake of the movie “Multiplicity” with Michael Keaton!

Creative and focus groups = no love lost

In advertising there is something called the “torture test ad”. Usually torture test ads put the product under extreme circumstances to prove its worth. One recent example that comes to mind is the US Superbowl ad for the Toyota Tundra.

Here is a new twist on the genre … the video below is in a way a “negative torture test ad”. It was put together by creatives from the Boston-based advertising agency Arnold, who have opted for this impactful approach to express their disdain of focus groups.

If you want to read more about the authors’ motivations, read the interview on the Influx Insights blog.

It is clearly worthwhile to revisit the role and value of focus groups, and if / how consumers should be involved in the process of creative development.

However I would like to highlight a few things about this video that made me feel uneasy.

When I first saw it, it made me think of Michael Moore’s approach to documentary: a focus on real important issues, but a sensationalist and biased way of presenting things that can defeat the purpose.

Arnold’s creative team chose this Apple commercial by Chiat/Day (nowadays TBWA\Chiat\Day, please note the backslash) because of its emblematic value.

Apple was truly David against the IBM Goliath back then. Their meager advertising budget could only allow for one single airing of the commercial which took place on Superbowl day, 1984. This back-story helped make it one of the most famous TV commercials in recent history. Not to diminish the strength of the idea, nor the inspired cinematography of Ridley Scott.

So now that we have set the original context, here are at least three key reasons why testing this commercial in 2007 is bound to be a misleading exercise…

  • Apple and Chiat/Day captured the zeitgeist by picturing an imaginary totalitarian environment. Back in 1983, the George Orwell book played a key part in the media and political conversation. Most people could relate to the meaning of the line “why 1984 won’t be like 1984”. In 2007, the dark environment and the reference simply are out of context and get completely lost.
  • The original Macintosh was priced at $2,495 – or a bit less than $5,000 in today’s dollars. This is hardly a product that everyone could afford in 1984, and as a matter of fact it was originally targeting a business audience rather than a consumer one. It would therefore make sense to pay particular attention to how an educated professional would react to the commercial. Obviously not the focus group crowd described as “I’m here for the 50 bucks and the free food”.
  • The paradox of this commercial is that it was not intended to be a regular piece of advertising. It was designed as a PR coup, to generate conversations in the press and amongst the audience thanks to the shock factor. Most of the effectiveness of this campaign was because it begged for commentary. It was clearly successful in that regard, and Apple has more recently accomplished a similar feet with the buzz surrounding the launch of the iPhone.

I do agree that research must be used carefully when it comes to advertising. I have seen clients and agencies spend hours and hours scrutinizing insignificant tidbits and findings from preview tests – getting the best research score had become an end in itself, rather than simply a tool to help improve advertising.

I’m not sure that this video is making the right points, but it has however the merit of opening the debate. What is your point of view?

Online video

In my previous post, I wrote about Gunn’s 12 advertising formats – which were illustrated with video clips embedded in web pages. An interesting symbol, as video advertising is becoming more and more prominent online.

It is an easy way for TV networks and media agencies to follow audiences: people watch less TV, more online video, let’s just deliver the same TV commercials online.


In my humble opinion, there are a few things to consider when using video for marketing messages on the Internet. Here are just four examples on possible ways to make online marketing videos different from their TV predecessors.

1) Interruption vs invitation. Interruptions of the user experience are definitely not welcome online. Advertising is more effective when users choose to watch it voluntarily rather than perceive it as an intrusion. Users should also have options to come back or be reminded later, so that they consume the advertising on their own time.

2) Linear narrative vs. adaptive story line. Let users interacting with the story to increase their engagement. It does not have to be complex, it can be simple branching such as “yes/ no” or “go left / go right”.

3) One size fits all videos. The Internet is a very personal medium unlike TV. Sending different messages to different audiences or different audience segments is possible. It can happen without breaking the bank in terms of production budget – green screen videos combined with computer generated images open greatly the range of options.

4) Substance over production values. The most successful online videos are often shot with low-cost webcams or camcorders. Users’ expectations are different than on TV. Don’t spend extra budget for details that will be barely noticeable on a small size video window.

What are your thoughts about online video? Can all of Gunn’s formats be reproduced as such? Are there going to be eventually new formats that fit the online environment better? I’d love to hear from you.

Advertisers, break free from your TV addiction…

A few weeks ago I found this 12-step program to understanding TV advertising formats. I am not sure if it will remove or reinforce advertisers’ ingrained reliance on television advertising! But read on…

For those who don’t know him, Donald Gunn is a former JWT Creative Director whose claim to fame is the Gunn report – a third party assessment of the best advertising campaigns. Third party means supposedly objective – always an interesting concept in an industry where subjectivity reigns. Nevertheless, it’s gone like Robert Parker with wine – Gunn’s choices now garner almost as much attention as some other advertising accolades and awards like the Clios or the Cannes Lions.

Gunn recently talked with online magazine Slate and described what he considers the 12 types of advertising formats. Well, really he’s talking of 12 types of TV commercials formats… repeat after me: “advertising = television commercial”.

Gunn has been there , done that and his analysis makes for a very interesting reading, especially since he illustrates his theory with several recent campaign examples conveniently embedded as Youtube clips.

Are these formats universal? Gunn implies that little has changed in decades, and that new commercials are simply variations of the same old themes. But as video becomes more and more common online, can things evolve?