Inspiring ad for a Toronto children's hospital

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"Sick isn't weak." Toronto's Hospital for Sick Kids has a perceptual challenge with "sick" in their name, so they created a great new ad called VS. that presents their patients and employees as heroes. Read the rest

Creepy clown thought to be wandering in Wisconsin was indie film marketing stunt

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Last week, freaky photos appeared online of a strange person dressed in a filthy clown costume and carrying black balloons wandering the night streets of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Turns out, "Gags the Clown," as the character was known, turned out to be a hoax by indie filmmaker Adam Krause. He hoped the online freak-out would help market a new short horror film that he plans to complete in the next few months. It worked. From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

Krause and his film crew had wanted to keep Gags' secret for a little longer and include four more Gags sightings in Green Bay to promote the film. However, according to Krause's post, some actors who did not get parts in the film "felt it was their civic duty to inform the media of what was really going on."

"Green Bay's creepy clown was marketing ploy"

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KFC's new meal box with a built-in battery to charge mobile devices

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KFC's new "Watt a Box" is a meal box with a built-in battery, micro-USB, and lightning cables to charge your smartphone. It's available as a special limited edition "prize" for customers at KFC stores in Delhi and Mumbai. BGR reviewed the Watt a Box. It's a fun marketing gimmick but, no surprise, the battery kinda sucks. They claim it's a 6,100mAh power bank but perhaps a better approach (and name) would have been a Bucket of Batteries. From BGR:

The power bank claims to have a 6,100mAh battery but the claims fell short during our brief test. We put an iPhone 5s to charge, which gained 17 percent battery after charging for half-an-hour. But the downside was that the power bank was drained during this process. We recharged the power bank to 100 percent and tried to charge a Redmi Note 3. But the power bank ran out of juice again with the phone gaining just 7 percent of charge...

KFC is not the only one to toy with such marketing campaigns. Pizza Hut came up with a limited edition box in Hong Kong that converted into a projector for smartphones. McDonald’s had launched a special edition of its Happy Meal boxes in Sweden that could be converted into cardboard VR headsets. Coca Cola too had a similar cardboard VR headset one could make from its 12-pack cartons.

"Hands-on with KFC’s ‘Watt a Box’ that charges your phone while you eat" (via Laughing Squid)

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Blandly is a full-service blanding agency

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Tired of bad publicity? Terrified of the social media snarls that consume unwary brands daily? Your company needs Blandly, a full-service media agency that can bury you in a colorless mush of vacuous positivity, thereby guaranteeing your disappearance from the public imagination.

BLANDLY IS A FULL-SERVICE BLANDING AGENCY.

We specialize in bland identity, bland development, bland strategy, blandbuilding, bland positioning, digital blanding, fully integrated blanding campaigns, bland UI/UX design, and bland environments.

BLANDLY CREATES AWARD-WINNING BLAND SOLUTIONS FOR OUR CLIENTS.

From technology startups and trendy restaurants to established multinational blands, we work with each of our clients to develop innovative approaches that deliver measurable value.

WE ARE BLAND STORYTELLERS

The homepage is a great exemplar of the minimalist-but-not-really monosite that's basically every website now. Read the rest

Koyaanistocksi: Koyaanisqatsi but with stock art footage

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Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance was an experimental, dialog-free film by Godfrey Reggio (with a score by Phillip Glass) that depicts our relationship with nature and technology through a series of striking film images. Jesse England's Koyaanistocksi is a convincing recreation of its trailer made exclusively from generic stock art. A funny simulacrum, but of what order I can't tell: art rendered empty of meaning thanks to the pervasive replication of its own forms. [via Jeremy Erwin] Read the rest

Kickstarting a tool to block robocalls and tie up scammers

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Roger Anderson, a telephony expert, developed the Jolly Roger Telephone Company to block and madden robocallers. Read the rest

$10 "bean to bar" chocolates were made from melted down Valrhona

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The Mast Brothers, a pair of bearded chocolatiers in Brooklyn, have built an empire on beautifully packaged "artisanal" chocolates that run $10/bar, billed as "bean to bar" confections. Read the rest

Clever food festival posters turn produce into landscapes

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These delightful images were created to celebrate an annual food and culture festival in Brazil. Read the rest

Federal judge cancels Washington Redskins trademark

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A federal judge today cancelled the Washington Redskins federal trademark registrations on their name because it's racist. US District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee's decision affirmed a previous ruling that that the name is offensive to Native Americans and as such can't be legally be protected. The cancellation, hailed by Native American activists as a “huge victory,” doesn’t go into effect until the team has exhausted the appeals process in the federal court system. And Redskins President Bruce Allen vowed Wednesday that the team would appeal.

“We are convinced that we will win on appeal as the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Washington Redskins for more than 80 years, said Resdskins president Bruce Allen.

From the Washington Post:

(Lee rejected) the team’s argument that the vast majority of Native Americans had no objection to the name when the trademarks were granted between 1967 and 1990. Instead the judge questioned why the team ever chose the name, pointing out in his ruling that Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defined the word as “often contemptuous” in 1898, “seventy years prior to the registration of the first Redskins Mark.”
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The real state of neuromarketing

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Remember the hype about neuromarketing, the use of brain imaging and other technologies to directly measure consumer preference or the effect of advertisements on our unconscious? In The Guardian, Vaughan "Mind Hacks" Bell looks at the latest in neuromarketing and breaks it down into "advertising fluff, serious research, and applied neuroscience." From The Guardian:

First, it’s important to realise that the concept of neuroscience is used in different ways in marketing. Sometimes, it’s just an empty ploy aimed at consumers – the equivalent of putting a bikini-clad body next to your product for people who believe they’re above the bikini ploy. A recent Porsche advert (video above) apparently showed a neuroscience experiment suggesting that the brain reacts in a similar way to driving their car and flying a fighter jet, but it was all glitter and no gold. The images were computer-generated, the measurements impossible, and the scientist an actor.

In complete contrast, neuromarketing is also a serious research area. This is a scientifically sound, genuinely interesting field in cognitive science, where the response to products and consumer decision-making is understood on the level of body and mind. This might involve looking at how familiar brand logos engage the memory systems in the brain, or examining whether the direction of eye gaze of people in ads affects how attention-grabbing they are, or testing whether the brain’s electrical activity varies when watching subtly different ads. Like most of cognitive neuroscience, the studies are abstract, ultra-focused and a long way from everyday experience.

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Pizza box becomes a phone-powered projector

Ogilvy & Mather HK's Pizza Hut Blockbuster Box converts into a low-powered projector for your phone. Read the rest

FCC tells Paypal to knock it off with the robocalls

Although Paypal's new take-it-or-leave-it terms-of-service give it the right to give robocallers your phone number for endless harassment, the FCC has warned the company that this idea isn't just stupid and evil, it's also illegal. Read the rest

Internet users care about their privacy but have given up on safeguarding it

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It's not a fair trade, and everyone knows it.

Inside a click-spam ad campaign

I'm fascinated by conspiracy theories and their origins. I'm also fascinated by the real people behind click-bait and spam email scams. This story brings them both together.

Reporter Zack Beauchamp went looking for Frank Bates, the face of a "FEMA hates this!"/"The secret Obama doesn't want you to know!"-style online ad campaign that sells overpriced dehydrated food (and lots and lots of fear) to middle-aged conservatives. He quickly discovered that Bates doesn't actually exist. Instead, the company Food4Patriots is the work of a salesman named Allen Baler who was just tired of working in an office and wanted to run his own business.

Unlike Bates, Baler doesn't live off-the-grid. He doesn't appear to be under any threat from FEMA and/or the Obama administration. It's not even clear that he's particularly conservative. But Baler is making an awful lot of money pretending to be Bates.

I wouldn't normally link to ThinkProgress, which generally seems to exist for the sole purpose of getting liberal people outraged about things. (I'm not particularly fond of the Outrage-Industrial Complex, no matter which side is participating.) But this story is a fascinating look at what goes on behind the scenes of scammy ad links you see all over the Internet and I think it's worth reading.

Baler started dabbling in this field in his free time after work. His first foray — a campaign he refers to as “How To Train Your Pug Dog” — got noticed by his boss, who told him to choose between making cheapo pug training videos and his “multiple six figures” salary.

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Smooth sales-patter from Union Square's Gentleman Peeler

Here's a 2008 video of NYC's legendary Union Square potato-peeler salesman, Manchester-born Joe Ades, the Gentleman Peeler, whose patter was as smooth as the carrot slices he produced with his sharp little gadgets. He died in 2009, the day after he was notified that he had attained American citizenship. He modelled himself after "the patterer," the well-dressed salesman that were written about in Henry Mayhew's classic London Labour and the London Poor (this book also inspired Terry Pratchett's brilliant standalone novel Dodger).

If you regret not buying a peeler from Joe when you had the chance, here's the same "machine", though the price has doubled since Joe's day. Read the rest

Food studio that makes edible fireworks, four-ton punchbowls, and floats a steamship in 55K litres of green jelly

Bompas and Parr are a London-based "food-nerd" studio that makes weird and amazing foodstuffs, including an edible fireworks display for New Years Eve that showered revelers with strawberry smoke, peach-flavored snow, orange bubbles and banana confetti. In a fascinating profile in Wired, they reveal something of their methodology and their portfolio, which sounds delicious and ambitious.

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Officemax sends junkmail addressed to "Daughter Killed In Car Crash"

Officemax sent junkmail to Mike Seay at his address in Lindenhurst, IL, with the notation "Daughter Killed In Car Crash" under his name. Seay's 17 year old daughter was killed in a crash last year. Officemax says it bought Seay's name from a marketing company, and implies that the company had made the notation in its list. It's not clear what marketing purpose this information was intended for (is there a sub-list for "bereaved parents" that's rented out to grief counselors looking for business?) or whether this was a one-off in a data-entry department.

Seay is understandably very upset. The Officemax call-center person he spoke to refused to believe him, as did an official spokesdroid. He's seeking an apology from Officemax's CEO. Read the rest

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