Archives For February 2010

What if you were a young communications professional, and an old crusty turd who has been in the advertising and communications biz for 20 years sat down and gave you some solid advice on how to be awesome at your job?

That’s the premise going into a presentation I’m giving tonight to Ad2 Madison, the association for communications professionals from 18 to 32 years old, here in Madison, Wisconsin.

I wanted to arm these younger folks with the stuff I wish some crusty old turd like me would have given the younger version of the crusty old turd I became back in 1988 when I started. Some of it is the finger-waggling kind of “keep your elbows off the table” advice. Some of it is stuff that’s laser-beam relevant to communicators. I hope that all of it is of value.

Tonight’s co-stars include: Confucius, my Mom & Dad, Bill Bernbach, a sloppy puppy, Frank Zappa, Bart and Homer Simpson, my brother-in-law Clay, my 10 year-old daughter Lilly, and George Bernard Shaw.

If it sucks, hopefully the pizza and beer will provide some awesomeness.

I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow.

I worked for an agency for a couple of years in Detroit. The first creative director I had there didn’t last long. Nice guy, but he got the boot.

His replacement was Harvey Gabor. He was famous. He was the McCann-Erickson art director who had the idea called “The First United Chorus of the World”, aka the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” TV spot. One of the best spots evah. It was released in 1971. It was huge. The ad knocked down racial barriers, and the song became a top 10 hit. A big accomplishment for an assignment that called for selling sugar water.  Haskell Wexler, the famous cinematographer, shot it.

There’s a great story on the ad posted here. Here is another. It was a very challenging shoot, to say the least.

Harvey was one of the most intense ad guys I’ve ever met. We were concepting ads for Ziebart once, and he was ferociously picking at a hangnail on his thumb, and spalt! a Jackson Pollack burst of blood went all over his onion skin sketch pad. It was really cool. I’m not sure that he noticed.

After about a month of being the new creative director, he held a seminar for the 15 or so folks in creative department over lunch one day. It really pissed off the art directors. But it was a great message. And it worked.

He said our print ads needed to be better, and to do that they needed to be simpler. His direction: either make ads that have a big headline and a little picture, or a little headline and a big picture. Boom. Simple. Look at some great print ads. Most follow this axiom. Ads of the World blows this out to the extreme, typically showcasing work with a microscopic headline, and gigantic picture. It works.

Great advice from a great ad guy.

“Shortly after the turn of the century Berlin became the center of commerce, and the birth place of the art movement called Plakatstil (poster style). The standout artist/ posterist in Berlin at the birth of this movement was Lucian Bernhard. Bernhard in 1906 was the first to move away from the decorative tendencies of Art Nouveau and focused on one product image combined with bold minimal lettering.” (From

Buy some here.

Go to Interviews, links, archive de luxe. Get a big cup of coffee for this one.

Check out this Design Facts flickr stream. You’ll see some cool historic tidbits on design, type and designers.

Check out this interview with Craig Allen and Eric Kallman, the creative team from Wieden & Kennedy who created the “I’m on a Horse” spot for Old Spice. They dissect how this great ad was shot. It was a really intricate three-day shoot in Malibu, using just one shot. (Take 57 was the The Take.) The actor Isaiah Mustafa had a lottttttttt of patience. From

Here is another interview with more W+K creatives about the ad.

Thanks to pal Mike Rock for zinging this over via his Twitternets. (Mike’s the fake exec in the wonderful Truth anti-tobacco campaign.)

Fast Company just put out a story on the most innovative ad agencies.

Grey took #1. They have typically been known for pretty straight communications for huge brands. Nothing very innovative or earth shattering. Just safe blocking-and-tackling. They weren’t even in the top 10 last year.

Their historical “yawn” position put them in the backseat underdog spot when it comes to innovation. And that can be a great place to be.

Humans love when the underdog wins. Clearly, Fast Company does too. You could argue with a few of their choices as maybe-not-so-legit, but for Grey, this is certainly nice news. They won 17 of 19 pitches in `09.

It takes some brave souls and ridiculously hard work to turn around a ship as big as Grey. As a 102 year-old company, they’ve been around longer than the rest of the top 10 combined. And changing a 102 year-old ain’t easy. I think this is part of what Fast Company is rewarding. The change of Grey. And hey, the work is pretty damn good too.

E-trade babies. The hilarious truTV spot with Punxsutawney Polamalu that ran in the Super Bowl. The cool NFL slo-mo spots. Nice stuff.

But THE most innovative? Discuss.

The rest of the list:
Firstborn, a pretty amazing digital multimedia shop
Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, known for Burger King, Old Navy, Gap, Dominos
Unilever, the packaged goods giant (an kinda odd choice)
R/GA, the digital communication agency of the decade
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, one the offline greats has been rocking online
Mr Youth, newish to the scene & Mashable’s social media agency of the year
Mindshare, all the stuff around the ad
Katalyst, Ashton Kutcher’s brainchild. Cool idea, but will it last? Hmmmm…
Trumpet, a cool New Olreans up-n-comer

1. Chug teeth whitener.

2. At the end of your routine, look very happy AND like you’re going to cry at the same time, and then happy again, and then sad-ish one more time, then happy.

3. Don’t blow the edge on your lutz jump take-offs, silly!

4. Pretend you’re in a tragic opera.

Growing up as a Wallman was funny. We laughed a lot. It wasn’t until after I performed and wrote a lot of comedy that I realized how many things I learned about comedy while growing up: timing, delivering a punch line, working a room, surprise, and listening. Being the youngest of five kids helped, as we always a built-in audience.

I was lucky enough to perform and write comedy for many years. About 8 years in improv (ComedySportz), and 5 in sketch comedy (The Prom Committee). Getting paid to deliberately make people laugh put a few general comedy maxims in my head. I could always lean on one of these tactics to get a laugh. Use `em yourself. They’re easy.

  • Surprise – an unexpected thing or statement or moment always works. Surprise is the most powerful of human situations. This German coffee commercial does a great job of using surprise.
  • Conflict – setting up a conflict leads to funny. Groucho Marx as a crass wise guy at a hoity-toity party is great conflict.
  • The least likely scenario – moving a scene along was always aided by inserting something that didn’t exactly belong. This whole scene from A Night at the Opera was built on “What’s the next least-likely thing that could happen?”

Whilst stumbling around the internet, I found some cool contemporary thinking about the science of funny, from The Science of Humor (, and The comedy circuit: When your brain gets the joke (

– Incongruity is the name of the game. Surprise, conflict and the least likely scenario are all forms of incongruity.

– A jolt hits the brain’s limbic system when we “get” a joke, the same kind of jolt associated with dopamine release and reward processing, possibly explaining why getting a joke feels good.

– People laugh an average of 17.5 times per day. (“The Psychology of Humor“, Rod Martin.)

– Where does the funny come from?
11% of daily laughter comes from jokes
17% is prompted by media
72% arises spontaneously in social interaction
(“Stop Me If You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes“, by Jim Holt)

That one is kinda sad. Before the internet, TV, radio and movies, we humans were less dependent on funny being fed to us. This doesn’t bode well for our ability to be funny with each other for the next 100 years.

Here’s more than your daily average of 17.5 laughs, courtesy of Steve Martin.

Bunny rabbit pancakes.

February 13, 2010 — 2 Comments

Click the photo for what is presumably a vegetarian recipe.