Ad campaigns that pass the "I like it" test

In the spirit of celebrating stuff that is pretty good, here's some ads that might not make any award shows but are still tight.

This ANZ pre-roll
Everyone hates pre-rolls: those six second ads that run right before an online video starts playing. People hate making them, people hate watching them. So often they just end up being nonsensical cut downs of the TV ad. When they are good it's usually because someone has taken the time to think about how to do something clever with the medium.

The ANZ Bank has been running a bunch of pre-rolls that involve Dylan Alcott slowly being approached by a variety of apex predators. Sharks and big cats stalk towards him while he BEGS you to press the skip button. There's no stats but we can all guess that the audience's innate Schadenfreude kept most from "saving" Dylan by skipping. This is more than a cheap trick to game Google ad stats though—it also demands the viewers attention in an interesting way. The strong blue ANZ branding does the rest.

I didn't manage to get a screenshot of the pre-roll but here's the instastories version.

I didn't manage to get a screenshot of the pre-roll but here's the instastories version.


Sidenote: you might be wondering who Dylan Alcott is and why he's in a wheelchair. Well he's ANZ's current big ambassador—a Paralympian and motivational speaker. ANZ took the unusual route of not making his disability the center of the ad campaign. Instead, he's used like any other talent would be. Banks have their own issues, but it's refreshing to see marketers consciously wield their social influence.

Remedy Kombucha boxing clever
God dammit I confess. I fricking love Kombucha. Where do I hand in my punk card? We've seen a few challenger brands embrace their edgy side. And Remedy definitely fits that mould by telling sugar to "get FRUCT".


Yeaaaah maybe KFC already did the F word better with "Bucket. Why not?" but there are two different strategies at play. KFC is trying to convince people to "live a little" by eating the sort of greasy food that has really fallen out of fashion. Whereas Remedy are showing off their unique selling proposition vs sugary soft drinks in a bold way.

Remedy have slowly but surely been building a cheeky brand image that goes beyond just wellness. Last year they did a sponsored piece with youth/millennial publication Pedestrian, which poked fun at the kinds of people who typically drink the beverage.

" has like no sugar and heaps of beneficial orgasms in it."

" has like no sugar and heaps of beneficial orgasms in it."

Dolce & Gabbana partnering with Emilia Clarke isn't even terrible

Here's why this is a good execution of a pretty standard marketing approach. Haute couture makes a large chunk of its money from accessories and perfume—not from show pieces. Even a relatively poor worker can be hoodwinked into dropping a few hundred bucks on a bottle of perfume. Ninethousand dollar dresses? Not so much. And what is more appealing to poor workers than Game of Thrones right now?


Everyone and their dog recognises Khaleesi and her blonde wig! According to D&G, The Only One is their "new floral fragrance that captures the essence of sophisticated and hypnotizing femininity." Say what you will... Clarke's Daenerys 100% embodies those qualities in today's pop culture.

Then you have the issue that D&G probably couldn't make any sort of reference to Game of Thrones whatsoever. That's the big challenge here. How do we leverage Daenerys without saying anything about queens and dragons? D&G just kept it simple. They made sure that brunette Emilia went with her signature blonde hair and they wrote "The Only One" on the poster. You don't really have to say anything else.

I found the ad where Emilia Clarke sings a little more cringe.


But that's the point. It doesn't matter. It's not for me.

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Sidenote: seeing as, we're talking about D&G it would be remiss to not mention their recent China racism controversy. Quoting Vox:

"The Dolce & Gabbana trouble began with a series of Instagram ad campaigns released this week in which a female Chinese model attempts to eat various Italian dishes with chopsticks. In one involving cannoli, the male narrator asks in Mandarin, “Is it too huge for you?”

Gross. At least this time they stuck to a fictional white savior...

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Inside the bowls of the world's greatest archive

"The internet is an enormous, ethereal place in a constant state of rot."
That's how Zachary Crockett of The Hustle starts his article on the Wayback Machine.

I remembered the Wayback Machine recently because -as always- it came in handy. I asked The League of Community Managers (a Facebook group) if they had any free examples of GDPR compliant T&C's. A helpful contributor pointed out that I could jump into my own emails and look at the torrent of compliance letters that businesses sent when GDPR kicked in. And if the pages had 404'd, I could just check the Wayback Machine to find the originals.

The Wayback Machine, you see, is a massive archive of the internet. You can type in any website and chances are you'll be able to see what it looked like during different eras (as far back as 1996).

Here's Google in 1998

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MySpace in 2004...

Some images are missing but you get the gist.

Some images are missing but you get the gist.

...and New Grounds in 2001

Love the "do you hate Osama Bin Laden?" game and movie recommendations. Proto-clickbait.

Love the "do you hate Osama Bin Laden?" game and movie recommendations. Proto-clickbait.


The archive contains 40 petabytes -40 million gigabytes- of data. Now they don't archive everything... The internet grows at a rate of 70 terabytes -about 9 of the Internet Archives’ hard drives- per second. But the archive is still extensive.

As Crockett points out, there are ethical questions when you don't archive everything. While the archiving is mainly done by bots, humans decide when the bots should stop a "hop" and move onto another site. Do they have any biases?

The other question is, do you let people request that their page isn't archived? And do you retroactively delete things upon request? In the past, the Internet Archive (the NFP body that owns the Wayback Machine and other archives) would always comply. But according to The Hustle they have recently become more reluctant to delete anything. In the era of "post-truth" this NFP is increasingly aware of the danger of censorship and manipulation of the public dialogue. In fact they announced a plan to create a back up archive in Canada just in case things go south in the US.

~Read more in The Hustle's article~

Intangible Goods is snack-sized psychology for a good cause

Recently I had the pleasure of writing an article on bravery for my friends Liz and Mark over at Intangible Goods. The two artists and advertising veterans started "Intangie" as an art installation for Art & About Sydney. They researched which emotional states people were missing the most in their daily lives. Then they created a vending machine that dispensed advice on how to get more of each.

The Intangible Goods vending machine doing its thing in Martin Place.

The Intangible Goods vending machine doing its thing in Martin Place.


The (psychologist approved) advice was "dispensed" in packs that resemble chip and cookie wrappers. Many a hungry customer probably felt better about not getting an actual cookie, because they knew part of the profits go to charity.

The art project was such a big success that you can now also purchase the online, where it's evolved into a larger project to destigmatise mental health.

It's also been successful enough to attract some... Admirers. Check out this unaffiliated "Instant Karma Machine". That The Event Space created for the real estate group Mirvac.

They do say imitation is the highest form of flattery!

They do say imitation is the highest form of flattery!



Anyway let's be real. Most of us don't -only- want to do advertising. It's probably true of other professions as well but no kid says "when I grow up I want to be an account man at Ogilvy!" So It's satisfying to see two Creatives who paid their dues in advertising graduate to a more artistic and cause based project. A big inspiration to anyone who wants to use their creative super powers for good!

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Let's talk about trust baby

The Edelman Trust Barometer reports on how the public’s trust in a variety of institutions is faring. This is necessary reading if you have any interest in the nuanced and confusing world of public confidence. Edelman's clients always pay close attention, and you can often see the ripple effect of the report’s findings in how organisations position themselves over the next 12-18 months. Some of this year's findings:

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It is definitely a publicity driving yearly IP event for Edelman. But nonetheless I always find the report fascinating. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to position a client’s brand for the year, or whether you’re trying to get a handle on how the powers that be view public opinion - there’s something here for you.

~Read the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer here~

But do Super Bowl ads even WORK?

Let’s consider a few facts here:

A lot of the data that is being thrown around in marketing articles is pretty shady (surprise surprise). One article I read used this Genesis Media claim to argue that the Super Bowl wasn’t worth it: “90 percent of respondents said that they were unlikely to buy something tied to a Super Bowl ad; and roughly 75 percent of respondents said they couldn’t remember ads from last year.”

Except those aren’t useful metrics because they are claimed behaviour. I’d be surprised if normal TV or digital video fared much better on those questions anyway. Also Genesis Media sell programmatic video. Of course digital vendors are going to want to take the “controversial” angle that TV is dead and thus the Superbowl is extra dead.

Then there’s spot commentary stuff like social media analysis by Crimson Hexagon or ad testing data by tools such as Unruly. It’s nice to have this data because it might start to give you an inkling of how different ads performed against each other. But they’re undeniably soft metrics. As far as I know social media buzz and engagement hasn’t been linked to sales as of yet (although aiming for “fame” has) and ad pretesting is very hit and miss.


On the other hand, we do know that the super bowl CPM (cost to reach 1,000 viewers) sits at around $50 if we ignore the non-US citizens watching the game. The CPM of US cable is predicted to be about $17.49. Sure the Superbowl is more expensive but it’s not that much more expensive. And it comes with undeniable fame building potential considering that everyone in the States is watching the same ad at once and that everyone is leaning in to be entertained.

Let’s face it the big brands that are taking part might be the only ones who have access to proper data and they’ll most likely guard it pretty closely. But here’s the ringer. There are only two legit Super Bowl studies that I came across: One for cinema launches, one for beverages.

Both of them defy the conventional wisdom that Super Bowl ads aren’t worth it.

They use an interesting fact as the starting point of their analysis: Cities that have a team playing in the finals are far more likely to watch the game than other cities. So you can actually conduct natural experiments and compare sales uplifts in cities with skin in the game vs non-participant cities.

  • For movies: “The average additional opening-weekend revenue generated by a Super Bowl ad amounted to $8.4 million, at a time when the average ad cost about $3 million.”

  • For beer: “One beer manufacturer earns almost $100 million more because of its ads -- far more than what the ads cost."

And that’s why you should just lean back and Taste The Rainbow.

~Have a read of Bloomberg article on these studies here~

How far we've come! Or have we?

Even if you aren't a student of advertising you may be familiar with this 1950's VW ad. 


The campaign it was part of was voted the No. 1 campaign of all time in Advertising Age's 1999 The Century of Advertising. Whether or not that's a deserved title, I'll leave up to the reader to decide. But the ads undeniably demonstrate a great amount of resourcefulness, an understanding of how to grab and hold attention, skillful long form copy and tasty design aesthetics. And it came at a time when all of these things were considered "game changers."

A cynic might also point out that there's something fascinating about how an ad can erase the memory of fascism so quickly and replace it with joyous consumerism - People love to talk about how VW was Hitler's favourite car and by no means a shoe in for the American market.

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Given this legacy, it was extra funny when writer and Art Director Vic Polkinghorne tweeted his take down of this digital VW ad:

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Two points of view are competing in my head:

As an ad-fan, this is a perfect example of learning from the past and invigorating today's bad advertising with some respect for people's intelligence. Don't tell me you're cool, show me you're cool.

But the uninvolved bystander in me feels Schadenfreude. Maybe it's good that VW are having a harder time doctoring their broken reputation with slick branding. Maybe helping big corps to reengage with the magic of yesteryear's advertising is not only a Sisyphus task but also counterproductive. VW purposefully under-reported their cars' CO2 emissions on a mass scale. Could it be that the uglier a corporate system becomes, the harder it becomes for it to engineer an amicable public facade? I have no proof of that theory, but it's a nice thing to contemplate.

Either way, here's a quote from William Bernbach, the purported driving force behind the iconic campaign:

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level,” 

~And here's a Mark Hamilton article on the historic significance of the lemon ad~