When Advertising Stings

April 15, 2010

By Michelle Edelman, President @ NYCA

Whether you TiVo them or skip over them, ads are an important part of our cultural experience.

I don’t know about you, but I still find it creepy when brands bring back people from the dead, cure disease, or otherwise mess with life and death. I didn’t like it when Christopher Reeve stood up and walked. Because he never would again, and it seemed somehow disrespectful to use his condition for commercial purposes. Most famously and most recently, we heard Tiger Woods’ deceased dad questioning his son’s morals. Will the much-debated TV spot sell shoes? We don’t know. But probably Nike is on your mind now. You are noticing that swoosh on people’s feet and heads more than you used to. It’s not that there is suddenly more Nike out there, it’s that Nike is more present for you. That’s what advertising can do, at its best. Because when it’s time to go shopping, the swoosh will jump out at you then, too.

But still, it feels like a dirty trick. And that’s where advertising stings. A sting has both pleasure and pain associated with it. Or so we said in our advertising campaign for the good/bad nightclub, Stingaree. There is a certain truth in it – our brains can mix up good and bad feelings and there is intensity in this.

I didn’t mean to write this post about Tiger Woods. Actually I wanted to address this piece of copy. It stopped me because I thought – wow that woman looks uncannily like Gilda Radner! Whom I loved and miss. On further inspection, I found that the ad was using her image to sell fake wood flooring. Point taken. Looks real. But would Gilda want to be brought back to life to shill laminate? Do we want her to? The ad represents her beautifully and yet – misrepresents her wholly. I am left feeling that Armstrong is inauthentic and not simply fake.

Sometimes advertising points out its own lines to be crossed and that in itself, is part of our cultural learning.

What the flock is up with Twitter?

June 26, 2009

By Dave Huerta, VP, Associate Creative Director @NYCA  

Have you ever wondered how flocks of birds are able to change direction in unison like they do? It’s amazing.  birdsThey’re all going one way and then all of a sudden, on cue, they all go a different way.

You might think it’s some highly evolved bird-brained telepathy, or that there is a leader in the group sending out signals to all the other birds to turn left NOW. “ 

Actually, it’s a much more democratic process that happens millisecond by millisecond. As birds fly together, individuals within the flock make decisions resulting in the collective direction the flock will travel.  

If a bird in the group senses danger, for example, it flies away from the potential danger. All the other birds then react eventually changing the direction of the entire flock.  

That same kind of interconnectivity that’s shared by a flock of birds is shared by millions of others who use Twitter. And, it’s this social aspect that allows information to go from one member to another that gives it its power.  

As its millions of users are following links or videos or tweets about what you’re doing right now, like the birds flying in a flock, they are collectively changing the course of how information is shared and used. 

Imagine if advertisers and marketers worked this way. Imagine if their products and services were conceived and sold with the same input that a flock has from the birds in it. 

The smart ones are already working this way. Little by little, other companies are following the flock. They’re finding relevant ways to have honest dialogue with their potential customers through sites like Twitter. Access to new products or promotions, live customer service, and customer involvement in new product development are all ways consumers can feel valued and closer to the brands that choose to listen to them.  

The smart ones will understand the strength consumers have when they’re part of a network like Twitter.

And that a comment from co-workers and peers will have more weight than a trophy from J.D. Power and Associates. 

The marketing model of the past where a company would create a product, create a need and sell it to a customer is growing stale fast. If advertisers want to stay relevant, they’ll have to develop a new model that works in the reverse order: listen to your customer, understand their need, and then provide them with a solution.

The Art of Production

June 4, 2009

By Lynne Roswall, VP and Director of Production @NYCA 

Producers are a unique bunch.  We are, by nature, PROblemsolvers, PROactive and we PROmote the importance of executing work efficiently for our clients.  Producers who grew up in advertising are most likely focused within an isolated medium; Print Producer, Broadcast Producer, Online Producer. 

Yesterday, that worked well because the world of advertising was also categorized into specific mediums and we found ourselves categorizing our agency’s work, “that’s a TV spot, that’s a sales video, that’s a billboard, that’s a microsite.”


Today, the world is not as clean. A TV spot could be edited from an internal training video and assets for a flash feature could be repurposed from a print shoot.  Today’s producers across all disciplines must collaborate.  Skill sets are expanding. Broadcast producers may produce a flash video for a microsite, print producers may now work with CGI companies to produce 3D renderings at higher resolution, online producers may become broadcast producers developing video used in a viral campaign. Even if you don’t set out to work across disciplines, chances are you will one day be faced with doing so.

The artistry of becoming a good producer is in the ability to be malleable, resourceful and inventive.  We have a hunger for figuring out how to get things done and become fed by accomplishing the seemingly impossible task;  on time and on budget.

I believe the process of production development is similar, regardless of the medium. Producers take something intangible in the creative idea and make it into a tangible thing. The more diverse the project, the more the producer’s tenacity is tested.  What skills or experience we may have gleaned from one project, we take to the next. 

With production budgets getting slashed, faster deadlines, sales targets and most brands needing to interact more directly and personally with today’s consumer, it is imperative that producers start thinking of different ways to develop assets used across many mediums.

While somewhat daunting for those of us who have been in the business a while, there is something happening to our industry.  It is a new time.  There is an art in re-evaluating one’s role, one’s experience, one’s ability to engage a new consumer.  The only ‘known’ is that what was done before is probably not what will be done now, or at least not in the same way. 

The art of production is in the doing of it.  The artistry is in the journey, gaining experience while wading through impossibilities and coming out the other end, grown.  It is in considering the potential of inventiveness.  On time and on budget.  Kumbayah.