Rob Lowe Shows His Less-Flattering Sides for DirecTV

Rob Lowe continues to portray his unflattering alter egos in DirecTV ads.

Rob Lowe

Creepy Rob Lowe really is the best Rob Lowe. In DirecTV’s new campaign, the actor plays several different versions of himself. The one constant in the ads is normal, cool Rob Lowe. This version, of course, is a DirecTV subscriber. Opposite this character are three other less-inspiring alter egos, who all have cable.

First there’s Super Creepy Rob Lowe, whose cable is out, so he decides to go out on the town, watching people swim at the public pool, or smelling their hair at movie theaters. Then you’ve got Less Attractive Rob Lowe, complete with thinning hair and bad teeth. Now there’s Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe, who wears a fanny pack and spends all day waiting for the cable installer.

Super Creepy Rob Lowe is easily my favorite, as it hearkens back to his intense, sleazy persona from the Showtime series “Californication.” This is a role that Lowe plays with ease, and there are few actors better at getting under a viewer’s skin.

The message of the ads is as old as time: Buy this product/service and it will make you cooler/more attractive. This formula still works as long as it’s done with tongue firmly planted in cheek, as it is here. These spots do a good job of illustrating – in an exaggerated manner – the company’s advantages over cable.

Apparently there are at least two more spots from Grey New York on the way, and it will be interesting to see where Lowe’s alter egos take us next. No matter what, DirecTV-subscribing Cool Rob Lowe will be there to tell viewers, “Don’t be like this me.”

Creepy or not, Rob Lowe is on my nerves.

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts

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Real Companies Hire Fictional Agency in “Buy This!”

In Finnish sitcom “Buy This!,” real companies work with the show’s fictional ad agency.

Buy This

An unusual collaboration is brewing between TBWA Helsinki and FremantleMedia, the company that produces “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.” The two companies have combined forces to create a sitcom called “Buy This!,” with TBWA Helsinki creating ad campaigns and Fremantle writing/producing the 30-minute episodes.

What gives this sitcom a swanky twist is that “Buy This!” features real brands – including Nissan – hiring the show’s fictional agency to create ads. (Product placement on TV has come so far since the good old days of a box of Cheerios sitting conspicuously on the edge of the counter!) So far, “Buy This!” appears to be a hit, as it is performing well in the all-important Sunday primetime slot on Finland’s biggest network.

It’s hard to see how this collaboration could be anything less than a win for all players. The brands get extensive exposure to the audience of a popular sitcom. TBWA Helsinki gets to flex their creative muscles for brands with which they (largely) are not currently associated. Fremantle, for their part, does what they usually do – reap the rewards of a successful television program.

The project is especially cool for each show’s featured brands. The reason I say this comes from a quote from the vice president of TBWA Helsinki’s innovation unit, Juha-Matti Raunio. Raunio says:

“The format allows you to let loose, and gives you the courage to experiment more, and create a new kind of campaign. We’ve tested new ideas like looking at what would happen if you sell a brand to women instead of men.”

The benefit to the brand here is enormous. The ability to test-market new audiences with little to no risk is a no-brainer, and explains why the first season features 10 of the top 15 advertisers in Finland. As long as the show continues to garner ratings, “Buy This!” will provide heightened visibility for TBWA Helsinki and Fremantle, not to mention the brands featured on each episode.

Good job guys!

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts

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Eleven Has Flown the Coop with Virgin Airlines

Eleven in San Francisco has flown the coop with Virgin Airlines.

Virgin Airlines

Together, they have taken flight with a super strange, Warholian Web film depicting the experience on a typical rival carrier during a log flight from Newark to San Francisco.

Have you been flying BLAH Airlines? That’s the conceit of one of the more absurd advertisements in recent memory—Virgin America’s six-hour-long, mind-numbingly boring look at what airline travel shouldn’t be.

The Web-flm is downright creepy and extremely boring. In fact if you can’t stand average airline travel, you probably won’t be able to sit through the first five minutes of this nonsense. ,

The commercial is somewhere between pop art and insomnia aid: it’s Enter the Void on an airplane, a soporific but well-crafted condemnation of banal conversation and quotidian annoyances.

I’m having none of this film. First of all, the mannequins just creep me out. Secondly Eleven is just trying way too hard to get a cult classic. Come on, Rocky Horror has entertainment value. No one is going to watch 5 hours of this “airline horror film”.

I will say that if they had condensed this into a few minutes it could have been funny and somewhat worth watching. But they didn’t ask me for help.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA

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Finnish PSA: What If Kids Could Pick Their Parents?

A Finnish public service announcement flips the script on adoption, posing the question of what would happen if children could choose their parents.

PSA

Finland-based children’s charity Fragile Childhood has again teamed up with Helsinki ad agency Havas Worldwide to produce a chilling study on parental alcoholism. The two groups collaborated a couple years ago for a PSA depicting drunk parents as horror-movie monsters. This new spot is less in-your-face, but is every bit as effective.

The ad follows two children as they tour an ‘orphanage’ of parents. They are first shown three sets of ideal parents, before a fourth couple appears, this one drunken and shouting. Of course, children can’t choose their parents, and the kids are forced to accompany their abusive, alcoholic parents back home.

Adding to the spot’s unsettling nature is the quasi-futuristic art design that depicts the ‘parental orphanage’ as a sort of cavernous observation laboratory. It’s quite clearly meant to make the viewer feel a sense of foreignness and discomfort, and it works.

I’m a big fan of these ads for that very reason – they make the viewer uneasy about topics that should make everyone feel that way. Contrast these with American PSAs, which are usually brightly lit affairs stuffed to the gills with celebrities. Which ones do you pay more attention to?

We’ll probably never see PSAs like this in the US, because American PSAs are usually just excuses for famous people to feel good about themselves. The message itself is nearly always secondary. It’s nice to see that isn’t the case everywhere else.

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts

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Pepsi Uses Sugar and Stevia to Produce Yet Another Diet Soda

Pepsi has yet another diet soda on the market, which uses a combination of both sugar and stevia.

Pepsi Uses Sugar and Stevia to Produce Yet Another Diet SodaPepsi. Coke. Diet Pepsi. Diet Coke. Pepsi One. Coke Zero. Clearly, this hasn’t gone far enough. Pepsi’s new offering, “Pepsi True,” has 30% less sugar than traditional Pepsi, and is marketed as a “mid-calorie” beverage. I suppose the target market here isn’t fat people or fit people, just those with a couple extra pounds to shed, or someone who skipped yesterday’s workout. I guess.

Making things even weirder, Pepsi True is only available on Amazon. Pepsi is following Coke’s lead in many ways here. First, Coke recently launched a “mid-calorie” soda of their own, Coca-Cola Life. Secondly, Coke brought back Surge – an abomination of a soft drink that tastes like Mountain Dew with a rotten egg mixed in – as an Amazon-exclusive a few weeks ago.

Just sit there for a second and let it sink into your head that each Pepsi and Coke now sell three diet sodas each. The part about being Amazon-exclusive isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Amazon continues to increase its impact on Americans’ shopping habits, especially since the company expanded to include grocery items.

However, the packaging details for Pepsi True are befuddling, to say the least. The beverage will be available exclusively in 24-packs of 7.5-ounce cans, because traditional 12-ounce cans are boring and unhip, I guess. Also, for those of you who live in apartments without the storage space for entire cases of soda, too bad, you don’t get to have any.

Pepsi claims to be targeting Pepsi True at “adults in their late 20s.” Most of the people I know that are under 30 haven’t even bothered switching to light beer or reduced-sodium soup yet. Maybe Pepsi knows better than I do, and maybe your average 27-year-old does feel like his life would be better with a mid-calorie soda in it…but I have my doubts.

I’m done with all this True business.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA

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Zipcar: Would You “Tap That” Car-Share?

Zipcar car-sharing service launches three new video ads that encourage consumers to “Tap That.”

Zipcar: Would You “Tap That” Car-Share?

“I’d tap that.” While the ‘tap’ in that phrase represents tapping a Zipcar card to unlock the company’s shared vehicles, the Boston-based brand gets a little risque in their new campaign. From old women watching shirtless young men play basketball, to a husband who takes things a little too far for his wife, the ads are very funny.  But of course, I am much funnier.  Just ask.

The spots also work well with Zipcar, as each of the ads makes sure to reference the service’s ease of use and convenience. While a well-executed joke will help any ad, bonus points always go to the spot which ties the joke into the product or service it aims to sell.

Impressively, the ads come from Zipcar’s in-house creative team. I wouldn’t have expected a company like Zipcar to have an in-house creative team, but that’s yet another indication of the brand’s forward-thinking mindset.

One spot, in which a rather large woman claims she’d “tap that just about anywhere,” might be best-suited for late-night air time. As a male co-worker struggles to fit his luggage in the car, the rotund woman asks, “Is it in yet?,” which leads to a conversation about a man’s preference for “big trunks.” It’s funny, but it pushes the envelope quite a bit further than the other spots.

As for my personal favorite, I’ve got to go with the hiking couple who happen across a group of young men with their Zipcar. After the woman proclaims, “We’d tap that,” the man enthusiastically adds, “With them!” The resulting awkwardness earns a big laugh, as no one really knows what to make of the man’s suggestion.

I’m into the ads. The tone is pretty edgy, but it’s played perfectly, and the spots never cross the line of bad taste (though the one with the “eager” fat woman does come close). Kudos to Zipcar for producing legitimately funny material, and in-house at that.  Next time, gimme a call.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA

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Lycra Making Moves to Bring Back Spandex

Lycra attempts to bring spandex into the 21st century with new Lycra Moves campaign.

Lycra Making Moves to Bring Back Spandex

Lycra is showing staunch opposition to fading quietly away into the night like slap bracelets, pogs, and other fads of yesteryear. Instead, everyone’s favorite stretchy fabric that doesn’t breathe at all is back and, assuredly, better than ever.

I will admit that the campaign’s TV spot is quite effective. The Lycra Moves ad shows people dancing their way through everyday activities, as their clothing stretches out and trails behind them. This is both a clever play on Lycra’s flexibility as a fabric, and an impressive aesthetic accomplishment.

On the other hand, I have never understood what the difference is between Lycra and other spandex (Is there a difference?), and this campaign doesn’t change that. Furthermore, I can’t help but think about how the unfortunate souls in the video are likely imprisoned in a skin-tight layer of their own sweat. Do I really need to see women dancing in fabric that doesn’t breathe? I don’t think so.

SapientNITO cranked out this campaign which also includes an interactive website. Scroll just a couple screens to the right on that site, and you’ll see an image of a man – dressed head-to-toe in obnoxiously neon spandex – that looks like it was pulled straight out of a trade publication from 1991.

The company is also targeting new brands specifically at their desired markets, including Lycra Energize, which claims to support wellbeing and wellness. This sounds like the magnetic bracelet of fabrics. I bet it comes with a bonus set of healing crystals.

With the meteoric rise in popularity of yoga pants (which do actually breathe, so I’m told), I guess it makes sense for Lycra to get back into the marketplace. I’m just not sure there’s any demand for the product these days.  Not to mention, just the idea of Lyrca gives me hives.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA

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Coach Hits Up Hip Celebs to Push New Line

Coach has hit up hip celebs to push their new line.  The fact that I don’t know many of these hip celebrities is another story.

Coach has hit up hip celebs to push their new line

It’s one of the oldest, and most effective, tricks in the fashion marketing handbook. Want to generate buzz about your new line? Dress up hot young celebrities in your new threads and watch the money roll in.

That’s exactly the strategy Coach is using to push their fall line of handbags. In the new campaign, Coach features striking black-and-white photography of musicians Zoe Kravitz and Banks, as well as actress Odeya Rush, all clutching to their fancy Coach purses.

Coach isn’t limiting this fall push to women, as the brand also features actor Christopher Abbott modeling satchels. As a fan of good photography, I appreciate the dramatic framing and composition of the photos. The shots of Kravitz and Abbott in the rain are particularly effective. Everything’s more dramatic with rain!

I don’t claim to be an expert on women’s fashion, but I’ve got some serious questions about Kravitz’s sweater. I’m pretty sure they stole that from my first-grade teacher. She wore a sweater just like that. Honest question, is frumpy cool now? That would be the ultimate irony.

All told, it’s a reliable, go-to campaign for Coach. There’s lots of overlap in the Venn diagram between consumers who read People magazine and those who follow fashion trends. Putting the “next big thing” celeb in your ads guarantees attention from your target market. I’m still wondering what’s up with that spaceship sweater, though.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA

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Starbucks Pours Beer-Flavored Latte

Starbucks is pouring beer-flavored latte.  Eew.  Totally sounds gross to me.

Starbucks Experimenting With Beer-Flavored Latte

This new dark barrel latte from Starbucks is an experiment in flipping the script on coffee-flavored beers.

Coffee-flavored beer has existed for ages. Whichever local microbrewery is nearest you likely has some sort of coffee stout. It’s a flavor profile with proven staying power…for beers. How would you feel if the script was flipped, and instead of a coffee-flavored beer, you were drinking a beer-flavored coffee?

That’s the selling point of Starbucks’ new Dark Barrel Latte, which is based on the rather insane concept that people over the age of 22 want beer for breakfast. The beverage – which is non-alcoholic, for the record – is geared to taste like a Guinness-type stout. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want my morning coffee to taste like is beer of any kind.

I was schlepping through grocery store the other day and saw cappuccino-flavored potato chips. Now I see that Starbucks is creating beer-flavored coffee. Can’t we just let things taste like they taste? If I want a mocha, I’ll order a mocha instead of eating mocha chips. Same thing applies to this new beer-flavored coffee. Enough is enough.

I’m officially declaring war on anything that is artificially scented or flavored to taste like a completely different food or beverage. I just don’t get it. Not to mention the fact that I can’t help but wonder what sort of crazy chemistry went into making coffee taste like beer.

Bottom line: If you’re the kind of person who needs your morning kickstarted by the flavor of beer, you probably have a problem that requires professional help. The kind that Starbucks can’t provide.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA

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PepsiCo Puts a Mustache on Quaker Oats

PepsiCo has put a mustache on the famous Quaker Oats man thanks to a deal between the PepsiCo-owned brand and milk processors.

PepsiCo Puts a Mustache on Quaker Oats

The milk-mustached Quaker dude is featured at the end of a new ad in a campaign that includes Quaker’s tagline, “Quaker Up.”

Remember the long-running “Milk Mustache” Got Milk? campaign? Well, that changed to Milk Life in early 2014 to put an emphasis on milk’s nutritional benefits, including its protein content.

The wonders of milk are plugged at the end of a Quaker ad by Energy BBDO, which created the brand’s ads. Mister milk mustachioed Quaker Man will also be in People Magazine with text that says: “My outfit is from 1877. My mustache is from this morning.”

This marks the first time that the Milk Processor Education Program has partnered with a brand that will feature the milk mustache on packaging sold in grocery stores. Sounds there is a war for shelf space and mindshare what with all the other dairy products like tasty yogurt, colorful cheeses and snack bars.

The ad might help shake some sales. I’m a fan of daily oatmeal. sans milk. Hey, it’s cheaper than metamucil and does the same trick.. Although it doesn’t put hair on my upper lip.

Howard Davidson Arlington Massachusetts

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