Friday, October 30, 2009

Chris Farley DirecTV Commercial In Bad Taste?

Direct TV is currently airing a commercial that features the late Chris Farley in a scene from his 1995 movie, Tommy Boy. The spot also features Farley's Tommy Boy costar, David Spade, in the 'Fat Guy in a Little Coat' scene. It's a memorable scene in the movie and in the commercial, David Spade turns and speaks directly to the camera about Direct TV while the scene continues with Chris Farley in the background. Watch the spot below:

Some controversy popped up when fans of Farley thought the spot was in bad taste for featuring the late comedian. Farley died of a heart failure from a drug overdose in 1997. Recently David Spade told People that he didn't think the spot was inappropriate and that he agreed to do it because it thought it was funny and something he though Chris Farley would have agreed to as well. According to the People article, the Farley family agrees, but some fans are still offended and think David Spade was just using Farley's funny bit for a paycheck.

Personally, I don't think the spot is in bad taste—it's amusing and far enough removed from Farley's death that it shouldn't be offensive. If someone used Marilyn Monroe in a TV spot would it be offensive to anyone? I doubt it. Perhaps the offense is whether David Spade is using Farley's memory for a paycheck. It's possible, but I think I'd agree with Spade's statement that Farley would have agreed to do the spot too.

What do you think? Funny or offensive?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Volkswagen's Fun Theory Competition

Volkswagen has a fantastic new initiative in Sweden called the Fun Theory Awards. Their blog hosts a few hidden camera type commercials that aim at getting people to do things that are better for themselves or the environment by making the activities fun. The theory itself rests on the idea that making things fun is the easiest way to change behavior for the better.

The Fun Theory Competition wants your ideas on new ways to change behavior through fun and Volkswagen is offering €2,500 for the winning idea. As far as I can tell, the contest is open in anyone, you don't have to be Swedish, so get thinking! The contest ends December 15th.

Check out the videos below, which are also on the Fun Theory Blog, to see what Volkswagen has already done to get the fun started!

(Thanks to the Truth Against the World blog for the heads up on this awesome initiative.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Microsoft Opens Its First Store, Launches Windows 7, Aspires To Mac Design

Yesterday, Microsoft opened its first retail store in Scottsdale, Arizona to coincide with the launch of Windows 7. If you read this blog, you'll know I'm a Mac user. Macs are the industry standard in the design world, and like many other designers I wouldn't have it any other way, but I have to give Microsoft some snaps on their two new launches yesterday since I think they both demonstrate some great strides forward, if a little late.

Macs have ruled the world of aesthetically pleasing computer design for some time now and Microsoft is finally taking some cues. In the not-so-distant past, Microsoft has been ridiculed for its sad designs compared to Apple's. Remember that Microsoft redesigns the iPod packaging viral video from a few years ago? Well, Microsoft seems to have taken heed and cleaned up their packaging. The new Windows 7 packaging is nice, clean and colorful.

Similarly, the look of Windows 7 (above—via Microsoft's Windows 7 website) is pretty close to that of OSX Macs (below). They've changed the bar at the bottom of the desktop to look quite a bit more like Mac's Dock and added a Gadgets feature, which seems to be a copycat of Mac's Widgets. I don't think either of these are a bad thing—on the contrary, I think it's a great step forward for Windows since both features are ones I've learned to love on my Mac and I think PC users would like them as well. In terms of aesthetic design, I think better design is just better for everyone, no? Has Microsoft copied a lot of Mac features in this new release? It appears so, but they were good choices. Now it'll just be interesting to see if Microsoft can innovate some features that Macs don't already have—and hope Windows 7 proves to be a more accepted operating system than Vista was.
From what I can tell from videos on the web (like the one below) the new Microsoft Store is, well, pretty darn close to an Apple Store, it just offers different products. It looks very similar, differing only by a little things like extra color on the employees and a video wall that surrounds the upper part of the store. Just like an Apple Store it has a 'help' desk area (aka the Genius Bar in an Apple Store), the ability to schedule appointments online for a personal shopping time in the store and hand held check out devices that allow employees to run credit cards and sell merchandise anywhere in the store. Unlike he Apple store, there's a cool place to play video games and it houses products Apple does not have, like the multi touch coffee table computer that's been talked about for years, but is not really all that available yet. Unfortunately, it still isn't as a Microsoft employee quotes below, 'They're mainly targeted right now towards businesses and the high-end clientele just because the technology is still technically being developed.' So it's really kind of a gimmicky crowd draw, though a very cool one. Similarly, the store houses top technologies from PC manufacturers, including touch screen computers. The video below is a bit long, but gives a very good idea of the launch and what the store inside is like.

Even though a lot of what Microsoft came out with yesterday feels a bit like a copycat of Apple, I think it will be good for their business. Microsoft has a corner on a large chunk of the market because it is the standard for most businesses. I know many friends and some family that would love to get a Mac, but it's impractical since they use PCs at work and often need to run specific programs not available on a Mac. Unfortunately, fixes like Parallels often seem a bit daunting to some potential first time Mac owners, so they stick with PCs they're not so happy with. I can see some of these changes from Microsoft changing that unhappiness and may help Microsoft retain those customers.

I think the stores especially will help since they'll easily be the expert place you go when looking for PCs and Microsoft software. Right now, you may not always feel you're getting really knowledgeable advice from the kid selling computers at Best Buy. Plus a Microsoft version of the Genius Bar could really help their sagging reputation as easily malfunctioning computers. If you're PC has a problem, what do you do? Go to a third party like the Geek Squad to try to fix it? As a Mac user, I simply make an appointment at the Genius Bar in my local Apple Store for free. It's awesome and has worked at as a great selling point for some Apple users.

Overall, I think Microsoft is taking some very good and very needed steps forward. What they need to do next is something outside of Mac's shadow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Global Warming Ad Too Scary?

This global warming ad in Britain has caused a number of complaints that it's 'too scary.' It features a father reading a story to his daughter about 'a strange land' with too much CO2 and the potential disastrous consequences lack of action could result in. Apparently half the complaints were about the ad being too scary and half were about the science presented—which is pretty general and widely assumed by most, I thought. In the end, the girl asks if there's a happy ending.

My question is why shouldn't an ad about global warming be scary? Global warming and it's consequences are a potentially very scary future for the planet. Besides,if you want to talk about scary, haven't these people seen the PSA aboout texting?

(via AdFreak)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is Drinkability?

Bud Light's Drinkability campaign has been out for awhile now and I find it one of the most irksome campaigns around. I know I'm not the only one. It's been around about a year now and I'm just kind of trying to patiently wait it out until an actually interesting campaign replaces it.

Drinkability. What is that? Since it's a made up word, I have to assume that it means 'easy to drink.' Cool. Okay. That'd be a great direction for a new flavor of cough syrup, but for a beer, all it says to me is 'I taste like water.' And I'm reminded that, yes, Bud Light tastes a lot like water. Carbonated alcoholic water, but water nonetheless. Now maybe that's because I'm the type of girl that actually likes beer—real beer—like microbrews, IPAs and belgian whites. Don't get me wrong though, I went to college in Budweiser's hometown and definitely had my fair share of Bud Light during that time, but since those college years, I guess my taste (and budget) have matured a bit.

I can only think of a few of instances where you might prefer a watery beer—when you're drinking it after a physical activity, when you're drinking for quantity or if you really don't like beer very much and you want something pretty bland. Are those the audiences Budweiser is after in this campaign?

The commercials are also pretty bad. Budweiser has a historic reputation for some truly great advertising, but I'm sorry to say everything I've seem come out of this campaign strikes me as trying too hard and not really very entertaining or likable. The commercial posted here—which was one of the spots used to introduce the campaign—seems to be poking fun at a beer drinker who dares to assume all light beers taste the same. Well, um, they kinda do. I mean Miller Light has a bit more flavor than Bud Light and Coors Light and Natural Light have a bit less, but when you really get down to it, they're all pretty similar. Especially if you're comparing them to a non-light beer.

Drinkability? More like Stupidability. Let's move on Budweiser and launch a new campaign already. Please.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ralph Lauren's Overly Thin Ad—Continued...

So I'll admit it, this post is a little off topic for the blog and a bit editorial, but it's an interesting update on last week's post about retouching—specifically referring to the Ralph Lauren ad I discussed.

Apparently, around the day that I originally posted, Ralph Lauren issued an apology about the ad in question, probably realizing that trying to silence bloggers was not really working. But the PR nightmare isn't over for Ralph Lauren now that the model in question, Filippa Hamilton, has come forward saying that she was fired from Ralph Lauren six months ago for being 'overweight.' Wow. She'd worked for Ralph Lauren since she was discovered at age 15. According to this Shine article, Hamilton is a size 4, 5' 10" and 120 pounds. That height and weight puts her BMI at 17.2 which is technically underweight. She'd even be too thin to participate in runway shows in Madrid which has banned models with a BMI under 18. Apparently, that is not a rule Ralph Lauren agrees with since their technically underweight model was so overweight by their standards that after firing her they felt the need to whittle away not just her waist and hips, but her legs and arms too. To the right is a photo of a healthy version of Hamiliton. Compare it to the one in my previous post.

Ralph Lauren's defense? This ad was never supposed to be seen in the U.S. It was for Japan only. Oops. Sorry to break it to you, but this is a flat world and other company's mistakes should teach you that country specific ads often leak their way into territories they were never intended for. But even so, why is it okay in Japan? The few Japanese women I know well, via an exchange program, are all significantly more fashion and weight obsessed than most American women I know. All the more reason to be portraying health, not anorexia.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Truth in Advertising #41

Never underestimate the importance of note passing during conference calls.

Friday, October 9, 2009

When Photoshop Gets Ugly

Photoshop is awesome. It does some truly amazing things to photos and give us creatives the freedom and ability to create all kinds of cool stuff. But overly photoshopping something can ruin something just as easily as it can make it work.

Retouching photography is one of the most prolific uses of Photoshop. It's done every day in the world of design and advertising, it's just part of the business. But when are you over-retouching? It's a fine line that, as an art director, I have to think about every time I'm using a photograph. On the one hand, you want the product to look perfect, but not unnatural.

When it comes to fashion adveritising however, things take a different turn. I was intrigued by a recent acticle criticizing Ralph Lauren for a print ad of a model who'd been retouched so drastically "her head's bigger than her pelvis." Well, Ralph Lauren tried to quiet the blogger, a combination of BoingBoing and Photoshop Disasters, by claiming copyright ingringement which really just backfired and the ad is now plastered with even more criticism in various areas of the web.

I understand minor retouching in any ad—to get rid of a flyaway hair that distracts or an odd shadow etc. but why are we retouching outragously thin models to be even thinner? It goes hand in hand with the recent debate in the fashion industry about models being too thin. There's an interesting story about the editor of Vogue accusing designers of providing sample sizes for photoshoots that are too small to fit healthy models thereby forcing the magazines to hire bony, too-thin talent. She goes so far as to say her art department retouches in some meat on those models. The designers came back saying it was the modeling agencies only sending them tiny girls for the runway. It's probably an all around blame game—especcially if you read this article about the editor of SELF magazine. Wow, what a warped way of looking at photography for magazine covers.

The odd thing is, there's been so much good press for having healthy models that it's confusing why it's taking so long for the fashion world to catch on that emancipated models aren't popular anymore. Why is Ralph Lauren taking an already very thin model and making her thinner? She actually looks kind of freakish in the photo. Personally knowing far too many women who have suffered or are suffering from eating disorders, manipulated photos like this make me feel sick. It's even worse when you see what some companies do to already beautiful celebrities like the Campari ads featuring Jessica Alba.

On the flip side, this Glamour article about a real size underwear model in their magazine is what women would rather see in their literature. It's a huge step forward for the fashion industry and I hope other magazines follow.

(Also see our follow up post: Ralph Lauren's Overly Thin Ad—Continued...)

Friday, October 2, 2009

iStockphoto To Offer Logos

The buzz in the design world for the last week was all about iStockphoto's announcement about starting to offer logo designs on their site. The design community is divided on the development. I've posted about before, discussing the positives and negatives of a site like theirs. Overall, I'm a fan of iStockphoto and frequently use them for certain design aspects. For example, the appearance of iStockphoto has made very visually heavy and layered designs less expensive to produce, opening the doors for experimentation and offering more options to those very low budget clients. The topic of my original post on iStock centers around Twitter’s use of an iStock image as a central design on their site—invariably associating it with their brand. This is a problem since anyone could purchase and rightfully use that illustration for a mere $10. Not good for a brand.
So it's a very interesting development that iStockphoto is venturing into the stock logo realm. . iStock’s logo set up will be different in that each logo is only allowed to be sold once, not many multiple times like their royalty free photo library. The idea of an online source for cheap logos isn't new. There are sites that offer inexpensive logos around on the web, Logoworks, for example, offers logo designs for flat fees with X number of revisions included and X number of different designs and designers assigned to the project. But sites like these are mostly frowned upon by the design community because they’re 'cheapening' logo design. There's a bit of an argument to both sides of this issue, however. There are many small business owners and startups that need a good looking logo, but have little money to spend on it. I'm asked about it all the time, “Where can I get a logo and what would it cost?” The answers aren't always so simple. I've done freelance for friends and family that I charge dirt cheap for, but I've also worked on logos within my agency that cost thousands of dollars. It all depends.

The iStock setup is for logo design is when submitting an accepted design you get $5. If they hit 10,000 logos by January 1, 2010, you get another $5. From what I gather, this is only while they're building their initial database of logo designs, I don't know that the $5 'deal' continues after January 1, 2010. After that, your logo is priced somewhere between 100 and 750 credits, which is set by iStock with a recommended price point from the designer. Depending on how you buy your iStock credits, that means a price range between $95 and $900. iStock says it "...will pay a base royalty rate of 50% per logo design for the first 6 months. We’ll give advanced notice for the rate going forward after that." Hmm. So what's 50%? How do they figure out the cost of the credits when they vary from $.95 to $1.50 per credit? It raises a couple questions. And then that's only for the first 6 months. If you don't sell you're logo by then, who knows what the designer’s payment is. 10% of the royalty rate? 5%? Who knows?

There's a lot of debate in the design world about 'cheapening' our craft through cheap alternatives like iStockphoto. Years ago, it was one of a kind with maybe one or two copycats. Since then, they've been purchased by Getty Images and many other traditional stock photo sites are starting to offer their own 'value' stock photos. It seems the thirst for cheap photography and illustration has caught on. The thing is, cheap online logo design places already exist online (e.g. Logoworks) and iStockphoto’s prices for logos isn’t vastly different from the prices offered at their competitors. Logoworks will give you six original logo concepts with three different designers and unlimited logo revisions for $399. iStock’s cheapest logos will be $100, assuming you bought thousands of dollars of credits from them in bulk. So their price is competitive, but you’re also getting a prepackaged logo rather than a custom one.

My biggest problem with this set up is the pre-conceiving of logos. Logoworks, while dirt cheap, is at least attempting to give the client a customized logo for their business. Granted, I’m not at all familiar with their work, so maybe they’re stuff is horrible and cheesy, but at least it has the guise of trying to give you a logo for your specific business. iStock’s set up is odd. They want designers to upload icons and logo marks that are preconceived and thereby completely ignoring the very important role of typography in a logo mark. For one thing they’re requiring the logo designer to have rights to the font they use in the logo mark – all well and good for legal reasons – except that font is not uploaded with the logo when submitted. They want it outlined. Well, you can’t edit outlined type, so are they going back to the designer to set the purchasing company’s name in the logo? Is the client putting their own name in? How? Are they then purchasing the font? But even that has issues. I worked on logos where suddenly the name I’m working with changes and it can make big problems for the design. Say there’s a logo mark of a tree with some sample text with a company name surrounding it. The difference in how that logo will look with the name ‘ABC Trees’ and the name ‘Amanda’s Lawn Care & Garden Design Center’ is huge. There’s also the limitation that absolutely none of these logos with play off of the typography and the word, which is often one of the best ways to create a unique logo. Paul Rand’s logo for Morningstar would be a completely different animal if it just had a rising sun just set next to the type.But maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges. Afterall, Paul Rand is a logo genius and and the clients shopping there are probably not willing to ante up the money for that quality of a logo either. So if we’re talking about the difference between a small business designing their own logo in Microsoft Word or purchasing a logo from iStockphoto the latter is probably better. I think there will be some very well crafted logo marks submitted to iStockphoto for this new direction of theirs, and I do think it will help some businesses get something decent to put on their business cards, but for the vast majority of businesses, this ‘resource’ would be a poor direction to go. I guess we will see how this new initiative goes. What do you think?