The Luxury of Rejection

Luxury is relative.  It is a person’s idea of more than enough, something to strive for but something not expected.  I recently chatted with a friend about her father’s perception of meat at the breakfast table.  Growing up, meat was special and having meat in the morning was a treat.  Now, he gives his family meat with every breakfast to celebrate that he has normalized this luxury.  When the children do not want meat upon waking up, he becomes upset.  He tells them to be grateful they can have meat for breakfast, and to celebrate their good fortune.  The kids eat the meat, reluctantly and without celebration.  Meat in the morning is standard, it is not a treat and it is not coveted.  The children are so fortunate, that they can reject this luxury.

Social media is villainized by many people.  Complaints that people are too addicted, or that they rely on social media are commonplace.  Still, sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are successful in keeping users addicted. They do what they can with updates and additives to convince you to use the app more, to keep you obsessed and slaving over your screen.

Tik Tok has over 800 million active users – anyone who is anyone uses it.  People laugh over their “addictions” to Tik Tok.  Tik Tok does not need to work any harder to keep users on their app for entire days, people already do that.  Actually, Tik Tok wants users to use the app less:


Pause your scrolling. Time for a night time snack break!

♬ original sound – TikTok Tips

Tik Tok has reached the ultimate standing as a social media platform.  There is no competing with them, they have user attention and they don’t covet other sites’ active user numbers, they don’t aspire to be more like other sites.  They don’t want to eat meat for breakfast anymore.

Art In Nature

I recently remembered this out of home advertisement by Cramer-Krasselt for Corona Beer.  Luna Corona watches over a dark Manhattan night.  If you look at the ad at just the right moment, it looks like a half-moon fits perfectly where a lime would.  

It takes great imagination to use the moon as a tool to sell an advertisement.  I love how they used the natural world to highlight the cultural world Corona lives in. 

 It would be interesting to see how much further Cramer-Krasselt could have gone with this campaign.  Though I did not see any other communications about this campaign, one idea is a digital leg where customers Tweet a picture of the moon shaped like a lime and win a Corona.

Elevating Spam

For most students of creativity, the dream is to sell America’s favorite products.  We strive to write taglines like “Have a Coke and a Smile” or “America Runs On Dunkin.”  But the truth is, while those are the hardest jobs to get, they involve the least consumer conversion. Who doesn’t love Coca-Cola and Donuts? The hardest thing for an advertiser to do is to convince the buyer to change their attitude about a product.

Spiced Ham… Special American Processed Meat…  How did SPAM become an American staple? I wanted to find out.

I looked back on the history of the SPAM brand. SPAM represented American cuisine during WWII and was sent overseas for GI’s.  A few years later SPAM rebranded as a “SPAM-dandy” breakfast to be eaten with eggs. In the 1990’s it became widely popular in Hawaii, and was a way to put Polynesian foods on the table in a budget-conscious way.  SPAM has consistently been the food for the real Americans.   It’s not 9-5ers it’s the real majority of 8-6 and 7-7ers. It’s special, American meat for the unspecial American.   

The brand sparked my interest over the last few weeks over a social media campaign. I was impressed by Instagram ads of recipes that looked so delicious that I was shocked to find out they included Spam. Eventually I started to see recipes for SPAM poke bowls and SPAM pizza trickling into the feeds of food bloggers, both sponsored and unsponsored.  This was one of the clearest ways I’ve ever seen digital marketing working. 

Watching this digital marketing work in a real way was so compelling that I wanted to try it myself.  Not only because I like to reward good marketing whenever I see it, but also because I needed to see this thing in action. 

Following Spam’s recipe, I made my own version of SPAM Musubi.  It tasted “SPAM-tastic,” like the Instagram ads told me it would, and made you feel like you were eating something more special than canned meat.  (Less Special American Processed Meat, more “Sizzle, Pork, and Mmm.”)  The campaign changed my mind about SPAM brand. SPAM is the pulse of a happy family that values cultivating joy at the dinner table.

The way I see it, SPAM Brand understands America’s most beautifully unpretentious citizens, and finds ways to elevate people while staying true to itself.  It is celebrated in a way that no other American classic ever could.

Creative Branding Through Covid-19

This eerie time can feel unthinkable and disheartening.  But there is always a silver lining, there is a reignited sense of community, and a special kind of togetherness that we feel by all being apart.

Among some of the many tragedies we will see, are the loss of small businesses.  One of my favorite things to see is the stand out small business owners who are fighting to stay open by continuing to come up with new ideas.

Barstool Pizza Reviews

Dave did not quit One Bite Pizza reviews when New York went into a state of emergency. Rather, he joined his viewers in staying at home, and continued reviewing pizzas by using popular frozen pizza brands. Rebranding to stay relevant, Barstool Pizza Reviews from Dave’s home have comprable views to his average pizza review posts.

Pritchard Music Academy

Local music academy in Gaithersburg, MD has joined the digital community by providing lessons over facetime.  Many businesses have had to move online during the pandemic, but doing music lessons online takes it a step further.  This is something that can help them not only stay in business for the time being, but also grow when the dust settles.


Clyde’s was known in the area for a higher-end choice for family’s Sunday brunches or celebratory dinners.  Without this option, Clyde’s rebranded. Clyde’s was known as a “home away from home” for many, and now they are bringing it to people’s homes. Now they are offering delivery for the first time ever.  

Ledo Pizza

Though pizza is a take out staple, Ledo’s is a locally owned pizza chain that was losing business after people started to stay home for the virus.  Ledo’s started providing make-your-own pizza kits, the perfect solution. Easy to sell, and great for families looking for ways to keep themselves busy.

Zoom Charlottesville 

As a local spin studio in Charlottesville, providing online classes was not going to cut it for Zoom to keep their doors open.  Rather than cutting their losses, the dynamic studio owners rented the bikes from the studio out to their customers. Now, Zoom can continue to operate online spin classes to their regular customers.  

Creativity is more than dreaming up great copy on just the right design, or the perfect cast for an advertisement.  Creativity is understanding the consumer in a way they didn’t know they could be understood, and then delivering.

The Most Creative Super Bowl Ad of 2020

“Famous Orders” McDonald’s Super Bowl Ad by Wieden & Kennedy New York is remarkable because of its audacity not to be just another Super Bowl Ad.  The 30-second spot highlights celebrity fans’, fictional characters’, and famous NFL players’ go-to orders. 

It is not obvious, but once you start watching – you’re hooked.  The viewer is intensely reading to see who orders what at McDonald’s.  The ad uses celebrity features and humor, but the creative team at Wieden & Kennedy did not opt to merely plug in the expected Super-Bowl ad formula for success.  This is something only a brand with great customer loyalty and tradition, like McDonald’s, could accomplish- and they did it perfectly.

McDonald’s is an icon, and the ad features iconic orders by icons.  Somehow, comparing Kim Kardashian West’s or Julius Caesar’s McDonald’s order to your own, the customer becomes a part of something larger than themselves- a community of icons, and maybe they are even an icon themselves just for lovin’ it too.

The Chicago Roastery

For those who worship, Starbucks in the morning is an important ritual.  But when you’re visiting the same shrine every day, it’s hard to keep the fire inside you ignited.  When Starbucks announced its largest Reserve Roastery was opening in our city, the zealots all praised the gods.  Finally- a cathedral for all fanatics to come together to honor their rite.

Although I do worship,  I was reluctant to join the celebrations at first, but once I saw this print ad the day before the grand opening, I knew I had to wait in line on opening day.

I admired the copywriting, and started thinking about why Starbucks is a great brand and what this opening means for the brand.  Located on Michigan Avenue, this location is more about the experience Starbucks can offer than anything else. The glass outer shell of the building makes it stand out on one of Chicago’s main tourist destinations.  Unlike the buildings around it, it has a modern yet welcoming look that matches the feeling of a traditional Starbucks in a non-traditional way. The inside of the store caters to travelers. Each floor features specialty cuisines and foods that aim to replicate traditional italian cafes and french pastry shops.  Though lesser celebrated by critics, my favorite attraction in the Reserve Roastery is the specialty espresso beans available from all around the world. The beans are for sale along with a coffee passport to encourage customers to try them all. This gives the consumer a sense of urgency to continue to explore all the options, and a feeling of special status to loyal customers.

Starbucks mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit.”   While the focus remains livening their customers daily routine, the growth of the Reserve Brand keeps people in awe of Starbucks.  The Chicago Roastery is truly a spectacle, (and so was the hour-long line I waited in on opening day.) This opening is a link in strengthening brand culture.  Starbucks has nurtured the human spirit by supporting local artists, offering college scholarship programs to employees, famously sending employees to an anti-racism training, and now- becoming tourist destinations. 

Consulted: Starbucks branding review

Eyes Say More Than Words

“How the heck do you make eye exams and optometry interesting? There’s nothing sexy about an optician.”

-Pum Lefebure, CCO, Design Army

Advertising does the impossible by using storytelling to make even the most mundane things feel magical.  In Eyes Say More Than Words, the Quietest Library on Earth silence is protected by the “Quiet Guard” who shushes all sounds from the clicking of heels, to chewing of gum, and even wind created by the waving of arms.  The library’s patrons use their quaintly adorned eyes to start a revolution against him. They use an elaborate code or winks, glances, and eyebrow raises to create a mutiny for expression while showing off their elaborate eyeglasses.

The spot is glorious.  The beautiful old fashioned library, the wild yet classy designer clothes, the “unparallelled fashionable frames,” and the exoticly compelling narrations come together perfectly.  

The campaign takes it even further: “The world has become noisy with ineffective distractions and opinions,” says Pum Lefebure, Design Army’s chief creative officer. “It’s time to silence the noise (a bit) and join the silent revolution to hear and think more before we put it out there. Speak Less. See More.” You can actually “Join the Revolution” on Georgetown Optitian’s website.

Having grown up around Georgetown, I never thought I would read about a place I used to walk by on the way to Starbucks.  I think it is brave of an optometrist to take the initiative to have great advertising, and it has seriously paid off. This is just the latest in a series of cutting edge, weird and fantastic ads for Georgetown Optician by Design Army.I am so impressed with how Design Army managed to make Georgetown Optician so badass.  Georgetowners are posh and scrupulous. To create a world for them where eyeglass-wearing becomes electric and aspirational is optimal in the creative world. 

The Michelob Marathon

The Michelob Marathon is Spotify’s first dynamic audio campaign. Spotify uses personal streaming history, intensity of your run, and where you live to create a very specialized playlist with oddly specific targeted ads for Michelob, even including the weather where you’re running.  The customer then has the opportunity to redeem prizes for their run.  

This is not the first time Michelob Ultra has targeted runners.  In 2017, they launched a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon” campaign where they sponsored races and cycling events all over the US.  

Tim Deeks, marketing manager for Michelob Ultra, said: “With Michelob Ultra, we want to inspire people to live an active lifestyle and the Michelob Marathon with Spotify is a great platform to do so.”  

Every beer company has a personality in advertising.  Bud Light owns using humor, Coors Light owns cold, Corona owns the beach. . . So, does this mean that Michelob Ultra owns exercise? Not what you would expect from a beer brand- it is bold and sets Michelob apart. 

The Whopper Detour

The Whopper Detour, brought to us by FCB New York, is what we live for as creatives.  Effectively, this glorified coupon more than doubled Burger King’s mobile sales. They told customers to go to McDonald’s and download the Burger King app, order a 1 ¢ Whopper, then go to Burger King to pick it up.

What I love about this campaign is the drama.  It gets you thinking “wow, did Burger King really just own McDonald’s like that?” They perfectly executed digital marketing in a really unapologetic way.  Creativity can fall flat on the digital side by getting overly complicated, The Whopper Detour is personal, differentiating, and “Pokemon Go”-kind-of fun.  

At the same time, it is traditional.  By walking over to McDonald’s, you have earned your Whopper coupon.  Just like standing outside the competition’s store and directing them away, but more magical.  

Fernando Machado, global CMO of Burger King, said it best: “that’s the power of an idea.”  Because of FCB NY’s creativity, this wasn’t just some smug attempt to get customers away from McDonald’s.  It “bent logic” and made the Whopper the people’s priority.

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