“You make a film to learn a little bit about life and to have an adventure of your own. But little do you ever realize what’s actually in store for you.”
That’s but one of many sentiments and insights shared by my good friend and cycling partner Chris Szwedo in the above film, The Making of Eye on the Sixties, about the documentary he recently wrote and directed examining the work and career of photographer Roland Scherman.
This short captures Chris talking about the experience of crafting the full-length film. It’s a 12-minute narrative on photography, filmmaking, storytelling, creativity, fund raising and shoe-string budgets. But perhaps more importantly it’s a story about determination and a passion to create.
Two summers ago, Chris, an independent filmmaker, a lover of photography, and a child of the 60s himself, met the legendary Life photographer Roland Scherman (Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Woodstock, the March on Washington, etc.) after discovering his work in a tiny gallery in Orleans, MA.
As I recall him telling me, the images were remarkable. Arthur Ashe before his US Open wins. Bobby Kennedy on the campaign trail. Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell in a tree house strumming guitar and singing a duet. Bob Dylan, back lit and silhouetted, playing the harmonica.
Chris didn’t know Roland, but instantly understood that there had to be a story behind the man who’d created such iconic images. He decided then and there he’d make a film about the aging photographer. He tracked Roland down, introduced himself, convinced (not easy) the cantankerous photographer to cooperate and then endured, and grew to enjoy, their many road trips back in time – to the Washington Mall, to Woodstock, to Newport. He funded the film with a little bit of help from Kickstarter and good hunk of his own money. Then spend the better part of two years writing, filming, editing and narrating the production. He even composed and performed the music.
Though audiences welcome the film with both praise and enthusiasm when it plays in theaters, Eye on the Sixties may never be a mainstream documentary. It may never get to HBO or win big at the festivals. But that’s not why Chris made it. He made it because he had to make it. Because the story needed telling. Because the subject captured his imagination. Because it’s always more rewarding to make something for yourself than for a paying client.
Hope you enjoy this clip – it’s wonderfully written and reveals the director’s feelings and motivations. And if you get the chance, keep an eye open for the full length film.
Yesterday, in a class at BU, I gave a lecture and led a discussion about “advertising” creative ideas. We explored “big” ideas: Let’s build a smarter planet; Giving wings to people and ideas; Day One. We dissected “campaign” ideas: A long day of childhood calls for America’s favorite pasta sauce. We thought about “advertising” ideas.
While some are clearly the creation of a traditional advertising creative team, the higher up the idea food chain you get, the more you can see the contribution of the strategist, or at the very least the strategic side of the creative team.
Ideas like “Day One” don’t happen without a pretty deep understanding of the user.
With the proliferation of screens, the mainstreaming of social media, the omni-presence of digital technology and the arrival of the Internet of Things, it becomes essential to know a lot more than how a consumer feels about a category, a company or its advertising.
How does she use technology? When does she access content? What role does her community play? How does context affect her willingness to engage? What kind of value and utility does she expect from a brand? What inspires her to share? Can you turn her into an advocate?
Today, the very best creative people have to be able to ask and answer those questions. And the very best strategists have to be able to get to ideas as good as Smarter Planet or Day One.
Years ago, when we worked in a linear fashion – client hands assignment to account guy who passes it to planner who writes brief for the creative team – we didn’t need to be T-shaped or know all that much about each other’s roles. Now, however, we have to be 20 or 30 percent something else. A writer/planner. A designer/coder. A strategist/creative.
Which leads me to the second part of this post — my excitement about Planning-ness having its 2013 conference in Boston next month. There is certainly no shortage of conferences, planning or otherwise. But as we all know, too many of them are designed to have you sit and listen as opposed to think and do. Planningness labels itself an “un-conference” for creative thinkers who want to get their hands dirty, offering a bit more how-to and interactive workshop sessions than the typical conference.
That makes Planningness a good thing for strategists who want to get more creative, or for creatives who want to get a bit more strategic. There may always be a distinction between creative and planning, but look at the very best of new, big, or digital ideas and that distinction gets more and more blurred.
The Planningness Grant
This years Planningness is offering a $10,000 grant for anyone the best research idea or project designed to benefit the planning community and creative thinkers.
How do social ideas spread? Are smaller communities of influence a new trend? Does real time come at the expense of enduring ideas? Do we learn by iterating or by testing?
Come up with a proposal and get it in. You have three days left. But this is a great opportunity to learn something that will make you, your agency and the community of planners better.
Anyway, hope to see you at Planningness. Let me know if you’ll be there.
There were some good spots on the game last night. Impeccably shot, brilliantly edited, scored to perfection. Many demonstrated a mastery of advertising’s tried and true techniques. Mercedes Benz used Willem Dafoe and Kate Upton and what the industry calls the reveal at the end.
VW found a device both likeable and controversial, generating both pre-game views and in-game thumbs ups.
Doritos once again showed us that dumb visual jokes and guy humor is solid and reliable.
And Budweiser reminded us that tugging at the heart strings always works, especially if it’s about having to let go.
These spots are all solid commercials. But every one of them comes out of the playbook on how to do a Super Bowl ad. Frat humor. Celebrities. Animals. Follow the formula. Go for the yuks.
Which is why for me, Ram wins. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the arguments about how it was just a copy of something already done. The Richards Group found the idea in a video online. And Paul Harvey’s speech has been a farmer favorite for decades. So what. Had you ever seen it?’
The YouTube video wasn’t a spot, it wasn’t great, it wasn’t even on anyone’s radar until the agency made it a spot, hiring William Albert Allard and Kurt Markus to create the riveting images that elevated the story and actually made us feel the words.
Nothing else on the game — despite how well executed, or cast, or scored — was truly original. Nothing else took a chance or dared to do something outside the familiar box of advertising tricks.
Ram’s Farmer spot and the agency behind it took a risk, got all the pieces right and pulled it off. For taking that chance alone, they deserve credit. For making it work, they deserve our outright admiration.
Years ago, I was CD on the very first Super Bowl spot to use a poem. In an attempt to follow up on the success of our previous year’s blockbuster — Monster.com’s “When I grow up” — we shot a black and white commercial to Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
The New York Times liked it.
The sequel to last year’s hugely popular Super Bowl commercial, shown twice during the game, was more serious than its predecessor, which perhaps accounted for its lesser popularity in day-after ad polls. Still, the spot, focused on ”The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, was a standout, if for nothing more than its novelty as perhaps the only game commercial ever based on a poem. Stuart Elliott, NY Times, February 1, 2000.
But it ended up at the bottom of the popularity polls. And that was the beginning of the end of our relationship with Monster.
A few years later CareerBuilder fired its agency (or the agency fired Career Builder) for failing to make the polls with a Super Bowl commercial.
All of which makes The Richards Group decision to try something unsafe braver still. And makes me like it all the more.
When the big three automakers, seeking government bailouts, flew to Washington DC in their separate private jets, CP&B leveraged the event with its clever Shocking Barack social campaign.
When the recent bitterly contested presidential election polarized the nation, Mullen and Jet Blue leveraged voter anxiety with their Election Protection promotion.
And now, when Super Bowl frenzy focuses millions of viewers and hundreds of media outlets on the advertising as well as the game, Wieden and Kennedy and Old Spice show us yet another tactic: leverage the buzz without spending the money.
You’ve no doubt seen the new “smell of the wild” spots. Nothing less than what you’d expect from the team that brought you “Hello,Ladies.” But what makes this idea equally interesting is the attempt to jump on the PR train without buying a $3.8 million ticket.
The agency has released the spots the week before the Super Bowl, managing to suggest that one is a Super Bowl commercial by augmenting a YouTube buy with the purchase of spot TV in Juneau, Alaska. W&K justifies Juneau by reminding us that it has the nation’s highest population of wolves. So there.
Obviously that’s another attempt at securing a PR soundbite because the men in Juneau probably don’t need an artificial scent to smell like the wild.
So far the press coverage beyond the ad trades is minimal. And YouTube views after a couple of days have barely cracked 200,000. By contrast, the best of Old Spice’s Internet response ads in 2011 easily exceeded a million in the first day or two even though attention was dispersed across dozens if not hundreds of them.
Is this a good idea? Will this week’s attention on advertising draw more interest to this campaign? Or will the actual in game commercials and pre-release frenzy diffuse any focus on Old Spice. On paper it seems like a solid PR and media strategy. It certainly doesn’t cost any more than it would have to just launch the spot on Monday as planned.
Either way it is a reminder that as lines between media blur, as interest in marketing and creativity grow, and as viewers decide what is and isn’t a big or viral idea, we have to add more media and social media thinking to our traditional advertising strategies. Your thoughts?
You know the guy in this year’s Budweiser Clydesdale Superbowl spot? The guy who nurtures the Clydesdale foal, feeds him, trains him, guides him and then says good-bye? I have to admit I feel a little bit like that today.
It was four years ago when a few of my creative hacker friends and I conceived of Brandbowl. The idea was to get an ad agency and an industry aware of, and interested in, Twitter by giving them something familiar and easy to talk about: the commercials. After all who doesn’t want to be a advertising critic?
By most indicators it was a huge success. It helped launch Mullen’s social media business. (You may have seen this Forbes column, which named the agency among the top 10 in the U.S. and attributed that ranking to an early adoption of social media.) And it played some role for sure in getting traditional agencies to sit up and take notice of a new platform. It may be hard now to remember that just a few years ago ad agency resistance was strong, not just to Twitter but to all the new digital tools and platforms.
However, it did suck up a lot of resources to pull off. Designers, developers, writers, social strategists, analysts, project managers and PR people all contributed. And that doesn’t even count the help that initial partner Radian 6 offered or in the last two years our third partner Boston.com.
And so Mullen this year decided to take a pass. Between opening new offices, pitching new business, producing volumes of work for existing clients and pursuing new innovations (as in what comes after BrandBowl) it was time to move on.
Fortunately our friends at Boston.com decided to assume the mantle with a new partner Points Local. (Radian 6 had to excuse itself due to contractual obligations with Twitter.) I can’t think of anyone to whom I’d rather give the concept.
It should launch today. I’ll be there, tweeting away with my all time favorite hashtag. #brandbowl. Hope you will be, too.