FCB Declares No Meeting Wednesdays

At ad agency FCB Chicago, there are no meeting Wednesdays.

The bustling ad agency whose clients include Boeing, Coca-Cola, Fiat and Discover has decided to axe Wednesday meetings for the foreseeable future. (And no, not Axe, the Millennial gag-magnet.)

Astutely named “Meeting Free Wednesdays,” the company decided to say sayonara to time-wasting get togethers. Why? Not for eliminating greenhouse gases, but because everyone hates meetings. Every Wednesday is meeting free at FCB Chicago. Except for it’s only from 1 to 5 in the afternoon. And if they don’t like it they can bring meetings back – to fill that time they get to do other work, which they hate too.

According to the memo the CCO and CEO sent out to the company, the employees spoke and they heard loud and clear: We are done with meetings! But then again there are those who as so very proud of their filled calendars.

Here’s the memo:

RE: Introducing Meeting Free Wednesdays

You spoke. We heard. As such, we are excited to announce “Meeting Free Wednesdays” at FCB Chicago!

Beginning next month, we are encouraging all of you to go meeting free each Wednesday from 1-5 p.m. This new initiative is in response to employee feedback that too many meetings are interfering with their ability to complete work during office hours—but now, you can! Please do your best to NOT call any client or internal meetings on Wednesday afternoons in April. We’re both very committed to this policy, and will not schedule meetings during this time.

To help encourage everyone to use this time for work, we will be sending out an agency-wide calendar invite blocking Wednesday afternoons. Look out for the first one—taking place on April 4. HR will also be conducting a survey at the end of April to ask for your thoughts on how we can continue to make Meeting Free Wednesday better—and most importantly, meeting free.

We value your happiness and well-being, and hope this new initiative helps everyone achieve a better work-life balance!


Michael & Liz

Nice work Michael & Liz. Those who love kvetching about meetings can fuss about something else each Wednesday.

-Howard Davidson, Arlington, MA


Elon Musk Is Tinkering with His Tesla All the Way to Mars

Elon Musk has been very busy tinkering around launching his SpaceX rocket to Mars. With his personal midnight cherry Tesla Roadster. And a mannequin astronaut called “Starman.” All while David Bowie is in rotation on the radio. Go figure.

Musk makes everything seem Forrest Gump simple. Or Bruno Mars hip. Or Douglas Adams geeky.

Yet he won’t spend a penny on advertising. What chutzpah!

That doesn’t make it cheap. On this mostly harmless planet on the outer eastern rim of the galaxy, Earth’s favorite multibillionaire has still dropped a wad of cash. SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket: $90 million. Tesla Roadster: $200,000. I have to confess I don’t know what a mannequin costs. I was never a fan of the Andrew McCarthy movie.

The February 6 SpaceX test launch of Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket reminds me of the introduction of Mosaic in 1993. (Remember the Mosaic web browser? Everybody used it for 15 minutes. It made the World Wide Web cool by displaying pixelated pictures on the same page as pixelated type. It made the one guy in your office who wouldn’t go out for a drink with you giggle and snort until he realized you could hear him.)

Musk’s goal for SpaceX is simple. He wants to make it cheap to go to space. He really wants to go to Mars. Not for its bars. Rather, Musk believes it’s an insurance policy for humans should our planet become unlivable. You know, like if nobody’s allowed to surf porn any more. Or you can’t steal your neighbor’s Wi-Fi.

He’s as serious as a pay wall.

But SpaceX doesn’t have the scratch to run a few ads on the Travel Channel and sign people up. (It does get volunteers, though. Two suckers have already made a substantial deposit for a flight around the moon.)

What does a tech genius guerrilla marketer do when he’s got no ad budget? He tells the world he’s going to launch a car piloted by a mannequin called “Starman” in a space suit, and aim it toward Mars.

Did it work? Consider this. For the cost of this SpaceX rocket, Musk could have bought 18 commercials in the last Super Bowl broadcast. Had he flown with the Eagles, he’d have reached a cumulative viewership of 1.8 billion people. (If they weren’t in the john.) That’s way more than 14 million. (That’s how many of you loaded YouTube to watch Musk’s mannequin in the Space Tesla listening to “Space Oddity.”)

But don’t panic! Because it’s all about the brand.

You see, right now, everyone on the planet – from Kim Jong Un to the light-saber kid – knows that the only operation on this planet that can put a car in space is SpaceX. They also know the only car that’s been in space is a Tesla.

That’s sky-high awareness.

Brand equity? Beyond the moon. (Beyond Mars, actually.) Sure, maybe Musk could have powered the SpaceX with the Tesla’s batteries. That would have maxed out the branding. But recharging would have taken forever on the way up from Launch Pad 39A to beyond Mars.

The only thing that remains is for Musk and SpaceX is to do the tie-in promotions. The Falcon Heavy-branded Tesla. The be-a-Starman-in-a-Tesla memes on Facebook and Twitter. The live remotes with Jimmy Fallon. Maybe the only better thing would have been for Musk’s childhood Tamagotchi to have hitchhiked in the glove box. (Does a Tesla even have a glove box? Now I want to know!)

And that’s why this is the greatest car ad, ever. For no media money down.


Axe is telling guys how to quiff with an Instagroom campaign

Now here’s some brand marketing foolishness. Axe had 30 allegedly influential instagrammers be yentas and inspire young guys to start styling with Axe hair products — all packaged up in an Instagroom campaign.

Hair gel for the cool young dude

Axe thinks it’s time young men start rubbing in the goo. The Axe Instagroom site touts to have a “3-step guide to pulling off the perfect look.”

Excuse me, but, perfect look? Is styling your hair into the Messy Man Bun, Rockabilly, Braids for Men, The Comb Over or Modern Quiff considered perfect?

Not quite, because if it was already they wouldn’t need popular internet personalities to showcase their luscious locks. Currently, not many men use hair products in their daily morning routine, which means the Axe-inspired Instagram videos have a ways to go. Influence marketing, however, is growing in popularity, so maybe they have the right idea.

Influencing hair and purchasing decisions

Each of the Instagroom videos walk guys through the hairstyling necessities of the modern man. The Instagram influencers who made the videos were given Axe product to use and the freedom to craft whatever messages they wanted, and their messages will be seen by the collective millions of fans they have garnered on the web. They are writers, producers, actors and umm, hairstylists with the goal to encourage millions of fans to style their hair in that effortless, “I’m 24 and just rolled out of bed” look every day — and of course, use Axe products to do it.

Axe is totally into pushing guy-centric messaging. The videos made by Axe’s “Hair Creators” are entirely chick-free, focusing instead on what most consider guy-stuff, like driving and skateboarding and, in general, just hanging out. Think back to early 2000’s; Axe had a stinky campaign for cologne-like body sprays for young men that were the end-all, be-all of making them appealing. The message to young guys delivered most memorably in spots like 2006’s “Billions”—that if they squirted some of this magic potion under their arms, the babes would come running. Fech!

A hair off the mark

While each video has it’s own unique style, and is unscripted from Axe, it’s still an advertising campaign, and the viewers know. Comments have been somewhat negative, which isn’t surprising considering the appeal of online Influencers is that it’s an unscripted look into the life of an interesting person.

The internet personalities were apparently given the freedom to make their message their own, which explains the lack of continuity between their hair stories. To me though, it sounds more like a lot of mixed messages lost between jokes me and my gel-less hair are just too old to get.

Looks like I’ll be sticking with my own perfect look, thank you very much.

Howard Davidson, Arlington, MA


Apple’s Health app ad makes you want to relax

Apple is using soothing animation and stop motion in their ads in the simplistic new spots show the benefits of being good to your body.

Everyone these days seems to be so busy saying that they are busy getting healthy and/or losing weight. I’m having very little of the fodder. In fact, it’s a pet peeve. Is losing 2 pounds in 2 weeks a milestone that needs to be shared on Facebook? Anyway, I am into this recent ad Apple’ Health app campaign that sedates viewers into believing that using the app will make them feel just as comforted as the ads do.

Tracking steps in the right direction

Fitness tracking apps and wearables are nothing new, and are a standard part of most major smartphone operating systems sold today. Fitness trackers like the Fitbit have hit mainstream popularity, while in-phone apps like Apple’s Health app makes health tracking as easy as lugging your phone around – something most people do anyway.

These apps are just a tool towards taking the first step in getting healthier, something Americans desperately need to do. Apple is taking steps to help by having you think healthy choices can become the lullaby of your day. With this app and just a few small life changes, it appears your life can be drastically improved.

The most relaxing activity

It’s not just the words spoken in the latest Apple Health ads that speak to viewers, but the images and tonality of it. Fitness ads commonly contain high-energy content, like muscle-clad athletes partaking in extreme sports or high-endurance workouts to inspire the viewers to buy their products in hoping they too can reach the heights only the top 1% of athletes ever will. The Apple ads, however, take a different view, without a single hint of neon sweat or top-tier athlete in sight.

The most relaxing activity

It’s not just the words spoken in the latest Apple Health ads that speak to viewers, but the images and tonality of it. Fitness ads commonly contain high-energy content, like muscle-clad athletes partaking in extreme sports or high-endurance workouts to inspire the viewers to buy their products in hoping they too can reach the heights only the top 1% of athletes ever will. The Apple ads, however, take a different view, without a single hint of neon sweat or top-tier athlete in sight.

A dreamy, female British voice speaks over soothing colors and images as the user feels more like they’re entranced in a children’s animation than an ad for an app to get you sweating more. Images in the “nutrition” campaign show colorful, healthy-looking veggies next to vibrant snack and junk foods, potentially asking the viewer “which will you choose,” though everyone knows that cookie will be eaten before the asparagus any day.

It’s not telling viewers they’re bad for eating the cookie, but rather, they should eat half the cookie and eat an apple too – and that’s okay they want the cookie, because who wouldn’t?

Simple as an avalanche

“Everything’s connected,” is the mantra of Apple Health backbone, with explanations of “eating better leading to sleeping better,” and alluding to a few good behaviors escalating into a full-blown healthy lifestyle whether you like it or not. It’s the chilled-out butterfly effect of being healthy.

“Squeeze in a minute here, a minute there – anything to get your heart beating. As long as you’re moving, you don’t need to hit the gym, just find something you love to do.”

It’s a great notion, especially since even a small amount of daily activity can amount to great outcomes in the long run. Making time for that activity in a busy workday, however, especially when trying to pay off the debt of buying the latest Apple device, isn’t as easily explained.

Health, mind and wellness are all interconnected, but with the busy work schedules of many Americans, that tends to take a back seat. While many ads for improved health and wellness tend to shy on the edge of fear-of-obesity, you have to give Apple credit for trying to showcase it differently. However, if working out was as easy as listening to a British lady explain animations in front of pretty colors, everyone would be doing it.

“The less we sit now, the more active we can be later in life,” the dreamy voice says, quietly inspiring viewers to get off the couch and get outdoors. There is another option untold in the ad however – you can always just sit now, and sit later in life, and buy an Android that won’t tell you to do otherwise.

Sweet dreams are made of this. I guess.

-Howard Davidson


Goodby’s Adobe Stock campaign is a work of art

It’s rare when advertising can be called a work of art, but that’s the best way to describe this campaign for Adobe Stock.

If you didn’t know that Adobe had a stock image offering, I’ll forgive you because I honestly didn’t know either. Of course we’re all familiar with the usual stock image suspects – and I say suspects because have you seen some of their cheese-tastic images? Don’t get me started on clip art, BTW.

Well apparently Adobe wants to compete with the likes of Getty Images and shutterstock, so they tasked Goodby Silverstein & Partners with promoting their brand.

Those who use cliches (I would never) might say a picture is worth thousand words, but the Make a Masterpiece campaign says a whole lot more about Adobe Stock. Four digital artists from around the world were hand-picked from Behance to show off their digital brush-work skills by re-creating lost, stolen, or destroyed art using Photoshop and images from Adobe Stock.

So far, four paintings from Frida Kahlo, Carvaggio, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and Rembrandt have been recreated and showcased in Adobe’s video series. There’s a plan to bring even more masterpieces back to life, and to have “how to” tutorials. Right now there’s a time lapse, behind-the-scenes video of artist Ankur Patar from India recreating “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” after it was stolen in 1990 from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Goodby’s associate partner and creative director Will Elliott said, “No one can truly replace these lost paintings. But by faithfully re-creating them with Adobe Stock, we can remember them again and reshape what the world thinks about stock photography in the process.”

Goodby managed to take an artist community owned by Adobe (Behance) and combine that with software from Adobe (Creative Cloud/Photoshop) to promote a third Adobe product – Stock. It’s a campaign that matches different pieces better than the most perfect color palette, and truly shows that for a digital artist/designer, Adobe has everything you need.

Visit the Masterpiece site to watch the transformation that happens during this process. You’ll get to see work that’s a thousand times better than some paint-by-numbers watercolor creation.


MTV says “Elect This” to Millennials

MTV is telling millennials to “Elect This” and vote in November.

The network has an edgy campaign to get millennials, who are often criticized for being too entitled, to show that they care enough about politics to take action. This might seem like mission impossible, but MTV had a genius idea: only talk about issues that millennials care about because they’re directly affected by them.

Basically MTV wants to inspire people to go from watching Real World to actually doing something to change it. And yes, I’ve watched the show — many times.

The main spot touches on gun control, student debt, immigration, LGBT rights, and the war on drugs. It’s a very upbeat video that features an “Elect what?” “Elect this!” call-back chant. We’ve also heard (and seen first-hand in some cases) that millennials are narcissistic, so it makes perfect sense that this video ends with a re-purposed Leonardo DiCaprio quote saying, “You are the last best hope of Earth.” Talk about inflating egos, but can someone really go from unpaid intern to the best hope for Earth in under a minute? That’s pretty scary.

If you aren’t sick of the election yet, then you’re really in luck because this campaign is a lot more than just one video. There’s a whole “Infographica” series, which is a collection of 30-second clips featuring quick-hit facts about many of the same hot button issues from the first video. Give it a watch if you care to find out what percentage of millennials support gun control.

I find this interesting because it seems like more of a peer pressure tactic doesn’t it? What happens when you find out that you don’t agree with 80% of people your age? I would think this would make you less likely to want to vote, but then again I think it’s crazy to pay $5 for a single slice of pizza even if it is “artisan,” so what do I know about millennials?

Just when you thought it was over, there’s more! This is starting to feel like an infomercial, but MTV added another leg on to this campaign with a “Robot Roundtable” video series. This is a big shift from focusing on the seriousness of issues, to making fun of them with talking stuffed animals. It appeals to a totally different audience from the first two ideas, so if weed smoking parrots is more of your wheelhouse, then give these a watch.

Finally, there’s a celebrity component that features Melissa McCarthy and Common among others telling the viewer their stance on the important issues. Again I find myself asking “how will this convince people to vote?”

This campaign truly has something for every millennial, but the biggest thing I take away is that neither candidate is mentioned – at all. Not sure if that says more about the mindset of millennials, or the quality of our nominees, but 74% of voters age 18-35 have said that they’re embarrassed by the current election because it reminds them of a bad reality show (and MTV seems to know enough about those).

Every 4 years we can count on MTV doing an election campaign, but do they really work? We see stats about issues millennials care about, but where are the stats that prove MTV actually influenced people to go out and vote? If they’re not making an impact, then they’re just adding more to all this election noise. Maybe MTV should treat these campaigns like they treat music videos now – just not show them.


Medical Students Get Trained Using Origami, Sushi and Insects

Ad agency TBWA conjured up an ad that identifies medical students who have the dexterity to make brilliant surgeons. The clever ad is helping to train medical students – using origami, sushi and insects..

Countdowns, Bright Lights and Unexpected Challenges

Keep all the multicolored production lights, countdown buzzers and come-from-behind dramatic finishes from Ninja Warrior, but replace those agility and upper body strength obstacles with challenges that aim to identify steady hands, scalpel precision and staying calm under pressure.

Kurashiki Central Hospital in Okayama, Japan partnered with advertising agency TBWA/Hakuhodo to develop a practical examination striving to identify elite ninja surgeons.

Medical students applying for surgical rotations at Kurashiki Hospital were required to perform three, 15 minute challenges in game show-esque fashion to showcase their coronary artery tweezing, scalpel slicing, combo move potential.

Using Tradition To BREAK Tradition

To protect unsuspecting patients from a rag-tag gaggle of newbie medical doctors, Kurashiki Hospital’s actual Surgeon Tryouts were designed around popular Japanese art forms including origami paper folding, reconstructing dead-dismantled beetles, and preparing immaculate plates of various sushi dishes.

Watch Kurashiki Central Hospital’s new recruitmentment video below to see why these modified tests of Japanese tradition were so unique for evaluating surgeon slashing potential:


Aetna Pays Employees To Sleep

If you work for Aetna Inc., you can get paid to sleep and count sheep.

According to a CNBC interview, Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna Insurance, is offering his employees up to $500 to get more sleep. Sleeping on the job? Gotta love it.

I’m not sure if Bertolini and George Costanza are somehow related, but great minds surely think alike. And enjoy their beauty sleep, of course.

The perk is a part of Aetna’s ever-improving wellness campaign for their employees. While many companies offer wellness benefits such as gym memberships or smoking cessation assistance, Aetna is going straight to the core of wellness by providing incentive to wake up refreshed and well rested, and not just to lower annual coffee bills.

Improved shut-eye is something Bertolini claims is “really important.” The program is offering employees $25 per night of 7 hours plus of sleep for 20 nights in a row, with an annual cap of $500. The sleep will be tracked by the ever-popular fitness trackers you can see on the wrists of nearly everybody these days, which apparently are more useful than checking your heart rate after walking up a flight of stairs.

The program isn’t solely vested in the interest of good sleep or more time spent dreaming, but in pursuit of a more effective and alert workforce. According to the National Institutes of Health, 7 hours of sleep per night is the recommended minimum a person should get. But I am so done with recommendations for anything other than desserts.

Bertolini is hoping this incentive will help show up in Aetna’s revenue down the road. He quoted in a CNBC interview saying “It’s going to show up in our bottom line and in the Street’s confidence that we can do it quarter after quarter; year after year.”

I’m all for a good afternoon nap at work. But getting paid for doing so it truly a dream come true.


Dyson Goes from From Vacuum to Vroom

.Dyson is is not sucking wind. They’ve gone from vacuum to vroom. Racers, start your silent electric motors. It looks like a new competitor in the race to produce the best electric car may be soon in the running next to Tesla.

A History of Innovation

The Dyson company has long been known to be forerunners on innovation and design. Their bagless vacuum cleaners were the first of their kind, and other products like the Air Blade and BallBarrow have shown Dyson’s commitment to providing the consumer market with new and unique twists on everyday necessities. No bathroom is complete without an Air Blade, right?

In an interview with The Independent, Dyson CEO Max Conze said how the Dyson company is similar to Apple in their desire to perfect their products. Apple has seen its fair share of rumors recently around the creation of electric cars as well, which could be yet another product the company could slim down until perfection. Products like their Rotork Sea Truck, a cargo boat used by the military, have shown an interest in transportation for Dyson. Maybe it’s time to evolve from sea to land.

It’s All About the Batteries

When it comes to building the next electric car to race Tesla to the finish line, the battery and electric motor are the keys to success. We’re not talking about AA’s here either, these batteries are top-notch and are what keep these cars and inventions high-powered for extended use.

Creating a electric car won’t be as simple as throwing a few wheels on a vacuum cleaning however, but the Dyson company appears to be ready for the challenge. Their acquisition of Sakti3, a solid-state battery company, in October points to a line of improved batteries for all their electric products. Improved batteries are the key towards efficient electric cars, which is one of the reasons Tesla’s promise of a Gigafactory creates so much hype in the tech market.

Additionally, in 2014, Dyson spoke out publicly on working towards improved electric products over the coming years. Dyson claimed his company would dedicate 1.5£ billion on research for new electronic products, and would aim to have 100 new products on the market by 2018.

Maybe one of these products will be a car? If nothing else, hopefully they will at least make a ride-on vacuum cleaner to make house chores a little more fun.

The Waiting Game

Only time will tell what Dyson has in store for us as far as electric cars go. That market, however, is seeing a significant growth of interest with Tesla leading the way. With all the technological advances in electric motors, batteries and cars on the horizon, it sounds like our future transportation may be a lot quieter and easier on the gas stations.

There is still one last burning question we have about the potential Dyson electric car: regardless of price, ingenuity and reliability, is it self-cleaning?


Poo-Pourri Lawsuit Stinks up Federal Court

The smell of potpourri really stinks. And now there’s a lawsuit with Poo-Pourri that’s stinking up federal court.

Scentsible LLC, the Dallas-based company that owns Poo-Pourri, is suing the makers of V.I.Poo for its marketing tactics. Once the Dallas-based toilet deodorizing line Poo-Pourri got wind of what their rival V.I.Poo was doing, it aired its grievance in court.

There’s a rotten smell floating through the corridors of a United States District Court in Texas, and it’s not the scent of dirty politicians. Pou-Pourri – a company that sells air-freshening toilet sprays – is suing a British competitor for copyright and trademark infringement.

International manufacturing goliath Reckitt Benckiser (RB) is the defendant, and it would appear that Poo-Pourri’s claims of crappy conspiracy hold some messy merit. According to Poo-Pourri, RB intentionally copied Poo-Pourri’s popular “Girls Don’t Poop” YouTube video, as well as several images from advertising materials. Based on the wording in the suit, Poo-Pourri is the leader in the market, with V.I.Poo “a distant number two.”

While RB removed their English-language video for V.I. Poo – the British company’s take on Poo-Pourri – it’s still available in other languages. There’s certainly some stinky idea-theft going on here, as the two spots are remarkably similar, even with the language barrier.

Still, it’s hard to see Poo-Pourri dropping a victory in this case’s bowl. V.I. Poo’s marketing absolutely lacks in originality, but I don’t think it crosses the line into copyright infringement – especially since V.I. Poo is not sold in America, calling into question whether U.S. laws apply to a product that isn’t available here.

No matter how the case ends up, I got to say the phrase “Pou-Pourri is suing V.I. Poo” with a straight face. That’s a win for everyone.