My thoughts on improving the St. Louis ADDYs

The St. Louis ADDYs were held this past Thursday night at Plush.

Overall, I thought the quality of work was significantly better than last year’s show – at least what I could see.

And that’s my biggest gripe about the show.

Only the winning entries get shown at the show. So if you happen to have a finalist that earns a Certificate of Excellence – congratulations – your name will be printed in the ADDY book but no one will be able to see your entry.

As for the winning entries? Well good luck, there, too.

Plush is a great place to host a party. It’s not a great place to show work. So if you come to the party hoping to see the work, grab yourself a beer and enjoy the party. Because about 50% of the work on display is not exactly easy viewing, if it can be viewed at all.

Some of the winning entries were placed at shin level. Others were so poorly lit that the question, “Who reads copy, anyway?” had the answer of nobody.

Digital Advertising has about eight or nine categories. In the program book, the winners and finalists take up 15 pages. It’s up to the entrant to display the work, generally showing the home page and maybe one or two sample interior pages. Some don’t even do that, just showing a nice screen grab of the home page leaving you to wonder what magic this winning entry had because a screen grab of a home page doesn’t exactly do justice to a fully-integrated, brilliantly designed website.

Here’s a thought … why not have a few nearby laptops that could actually showcase the websites?

Granted, there’s no guarantee that people wouldn’t spill beer all over the laptop or begin surfing X-rated sites but I think generally, you could count on this audience to actually want to explore the work to see what the winners looked like.

If that’s not feasible, here’s another thought … why not give each finalist and winning entry a QR code that people could scan on their smart phones to at least view the work that way? Most of these sites have been optimized for mobile so why not allow us to see what they look like?

The ADDY invite could even tell people that they could bring their own smartpads or Ipads or whatever device they might choose and they could then scan the codes and view the work the same way the judges got to see it.

That same idea of using QR codes could be applied to all of the video and broadcast entries.

It used to be they would at least show the winning entries on a large screen. Now, in the rush to get through the 80 or so ADDY categories, you get 5-15 second snippets of the winning work, played onstage before the crowd that just wants you to get on with the show.

True, the bulk of those in attendance don’t want to watch every single entry and they don’t want to watch the same entry win in five different categories which sometimes happens. Still, I’d have a tough time telling you what the winning broadcast entries were this year – I never saw more than 15 seconds worth of any of them.

If the event is held again at Plush, there’s a big empty room when you initially come up the second floor steps. That would be a great place to have a big screen and maybe showcase the video and broadcast categories that didn’t win and then after the awards were handed out, you could show a winner’s reel.

Continuing to stick with that QR code idea … what if the same QR code that allowed you to see the work while at the show was included in the printing of the book?

I’m not saying they need to show every single finalist. But it would be nice if the book became a little more user-friendly. Think of it – technology being used to advance the art of advertising by allowing those of us who create the work and who bothered to come to the show to actually be able to see the work after the show has come and gone.

At the very least, it would be nice if the Ad Club considered making entrants provide the link to the work in the entry information. Right now, you have to google the winning entry and hope that the site is still live while trying to figure out if it’s a .com, .org, .gov or some other domain.

I’m all for the party and it was great seeing a lot of people that it seems that I only see at the ADDYs.

But it sure would be nice if the work, which is the reason for the party in the first place, were just a little more viewer-friendly.

I would drink to that.

It’s ADDY Week in St. Louis

Yesterday morning, while walking around the track at the Des Peres Lodge, I learned that ADDY week begins tomorrow.

If it weren’t for Walt Jaschek, I would have been completely oblivious that ADDY week is even taking place, culminating with the ADDY awards this Thursday evening.¬†Thankfully, Walt was seeking a little exercise as well and he asked if I was going to the big event on Thursday.

“Uh, what?”

So I went to the Ad Club’s website which has gotten a nice makeover since the last time I visited and looked into the upcoming events for ADDY week.¬†

Unfortunately, with most of the activities taking place during the day, I’m probably going to have to pass on the speaker forums – though I’d love to sit in on the developing social media strategies panel and still might try to make that happen.

But I do plan on being at the ADDYs on Thursday evening. I want to see the best work that’s being done in St. Louis.

I’m hoping this year print makes a rebound and that there will actually be some finalists on display. I hope the TV reel makes me jealous. I hope the radio reel does the same. I want to see fully integrated campaigns that work across the board.

I want to see the celebration of St. Louis’ creative community on display. There are a lot of good firms doing all kinds of great work and it’s fun to see that work recognized. It’s also fun to visit with people who I don’t see often enough anymore.

It amazes me how much advertising has changed since I first got into the business – back when writers worked on manual typewriters, art directors did their layouts on drawing boards, audio engineers used razor blades to cut commercials and some editors were still using movieolas, cutting and splicing scenes (that was my favorite room in the basement of Technisonic).

But the celebration is still for the same thing – the big idea. And big ideas should be celebrated.

So thanks, Walt.

I’ll see you on Thursday.






My top 5 2014 Super Bowl commercials

This post is long past due.

Some agencies are already busy working on next year’s Super Bowl commercial. I hope they do a better job than this past one which wasn’t exactly memorable – for the game or the game breaks.

There were no commercials that people are still talking about two Mondays later. There was no, “See why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

Blame it on social media. There’s simply way too much hype, too much that’s revealed before the game ever starts. Too many teasers, too many reviews after the fact (like this).

The bar is set so high for Super Bowl commercials that it has become harder and harder to deliver a message that cuts through, gets noticed and actually does something for the brand.

That being said, here are my five favorite spots that I can still remember even though the game is now a distant memory.

1. Bud Light – “Up For Whatever” – Bud Light used to have great commercials. Then they started going in all kinds of directions. I like the premise of this series of spots and I was involved in the story. And who can resist Arnold, in a wig, playing ping pong? Keep it going Bud Light.

2. Radio Shack – “The Phone Call” – I have no idea if this commercial will do a thing for Radio Shack. I haven’t been in one since the 1980s and I have no intention of visiting any time soon. But I loved watching this commercial and hope they will run it again before they go completely out of business – because I really enjoyed this Blast from my Past. I heard last week they were shutting down 400 Radio Shacks across the country as part of their re-branding overhaul. Good luck with that Radio Shack. The word Radio isn’t exactly state-of-the-art and “Shack?” Like I said, “Good luck”.

3. Chevy “Life” – I love it when commercials tell stories – and when they’re unexpected. I knew this was going to be some emotional message – but I couldn’t quite tell where it was going. It’s a simple, beautiful spot and I love the end message that Chevy delivers of “celebrating cancer survivors on the road to recovery”. No hard sell, just heart-warming – and that’s not a bad thing. Good job, Chevy.

4. Coca Cola “America is Beautiful” – This commercial is beautiful. I’ve watched it several times and I am not in the least offended that they took America the Beautiful and used it for their own purpose. That’s commercialism at its finest! Nor am I offended that they took the song and put it into multiple languages. What’s wrong with that? America is beautiful because it’s so diverse and so is this commercial.

5. Microsoft “Empowering” Microsoft gets my best of show. I saw this commercial and instantly wanted to see it again, hooked immediately by the voiceover – provided by technology. Technology really does have the power to unite us. It gives hope to the hopeless and a voice to the voiceless. Technology is empowering us all. I’m sure there are many people that would disagree with some of these statements but they backed those declarations up with real life examples. Technology has changed – and will continue to change – this world. I know Microsoft has a lot to do with that – how I don’t know but overall, I’m buying into this Microsoft message.

Well, that’s it for my late reviews of this year’s Super Bowl commercials. Hopefully, next year we get a better game and a better crop of commercials between the game.

In the meantime, stay on the lookout for big ideas. You never know where they might surface.



My picks for the 5 worst 2014 Super Bowl commercials

The Super Bowl came and went and most of us have already put the game and the commercials on the shelf as there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about.

I kept hoping to be wowed during the commercial breaks and there were a few spots that I’ll cover in my next post that I thought were really well done, on target and did a great job of branding.

Then there were other spots that had me saying, “What?” and, “Why?” and “Huh?”

The hard part of all this was finding a good source where you could watch the commercials without having to watch another commercial to help pay for the cost of posting the commercial.

The biggest disappointments were for car or truck commercials. Chevy gave us the story of a man and his bull and his quest to breed his bull, towing it from place to place with his truck. Generally, I like those stories but the calves that kept licking their lips when the bull announces his presence seemed a bit overdone. But Chevy isn’t on my bad list.

Chrysler is.

Thanks for selling out Mr. Zimmerman.

Though it was interesting having Bob Dylan do the voiceover, I wonder what he thought of the script.

“Is there anything more American than America?”

How’s that for an opening line? Deep thoughts by Jack Handy.

This commercial was well-produced. It had that Chrysler Americana vibe that they’ve been selling. But the whole thing just seemed like one big selling out to me. “So let Asia assemble your phone.” I’m going for a ride on America’s roads to see, “the creatures that live on it.”

This had to have been a million dollar production budget. I won’t mind watching it again. But sorry, Chrysler, I’m not buying the hype.

Still, I must admit that Chrysler did a way better job than Maserati. This is your classic example of spending 50 seconds of telling some story that makes you wonder what in God’s name can they possibly be talking about only to find out, “Oh, it’s a car commercial.”

After viewing it multiple times, I know nothing more about the Ghibli – (what the heck is a Ghibli?) and the more times I’ve watched it, the more I wonder why they were showing all of those working class people who would need about three years of their total salary to purchase a Ghibli. And why was this little girl telling me a story about monsters in the world? I don’t know. But I do know it was a colossal waste of money – but maybe that’s the point – when you’re selling Maserati’s, what does common sense have to do with a purchase, anyway?

Rather than complain about car commercials this entire post, I’ll instead pick on Coca-Cola. No, not their controversial “Anthem” commercial – I actually like that one quite a bit. No, the one that bugged me was “The Long Run” It was trite, it was predictable. It looked like it was made years ago. It reminded me of Forrest Gump. And slamming a Coke after a long run like Adrian just had isn’t a very healthy thing to do. Sorry, Coke. Fail.

I know this is getting kind of long and these are just silly commercials I’m writing about now three days after the fact, so here are my final two losers, WeatherTech and Chobani Yogurt with their bear commercial

WeatherTech must have been doing this commercial for their shareholders. I had no idea what they were talking about and the name went by so quickly, I had no idea what I just saw. And the bear coming in to the store while in the background we get another Bob Dylan song (who did quite well in royalties off of this year’s Super Bowl commercials) – sorry, I just didn’t like it.

Certainly there were more stupid or inane commercials and it’s all a matter of opinion. Volkswagen and their “wings” commercial reminded me too much of “It’s A Wonderful Life”. And what do these guys do once they’ve got their wings – do they have to keep reporting to work?

Somehow, all these commercials remind me of a B movie I saw long ago about some ad writer who had been fired from his job and was at the bar lamenting to his buddy.

His buddy consoled him, telling him it was no big deal that he got fired.

“You know what advertising is?” said his buddy.

“Nah,” slurred the former adman.

“It’s just a bunch of grown men playing silly little games.”

Watching this year’s collection of Super Bowl commercials, one would have to agree.

What’s the plan, Stan?

The media-shy, billionaire owner of the Rams is playing poker with the city of St. Louis and he now holds a pretty good trump card.

As usual, he refuses to give any insight as to his future plans for the as of now, St. Louis Rams.

It seems like this has been going on for years – and it has.

I think I first heard about the top-tier clause in the Dome lease agreement as early as 2008 though it’s been present from the time the Rams and the leasing parties signed the deal, all but assuring that this thing would boil to a head when the lease finally expired in 2014, granting the Rams a free pass to go to whatever market willing to take on the privilege of calling itself an NFL city.

Take a look at the list of major metropolitan markets (for St. Louis’ sake, you can’t measure this area by city size due to our city-county split) and there is only one market out of the top 20 without an NFL franchise.

That would be Los Angeles.

Stan just bought 60 acres there, which is more than enough room to put in a new stadium but not quite enough room to build an NFL kingdom. Still it’s enough to get everyone’s attention.

St. Louis is number 19 on the largest metropolitan area list that I googled, though they called our metro area St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington and I don’t quite consider Farmington to be in our immediate metro area. Still, somebody does and from that population mix we roll in at more than 2.8 million people.

The majority could probably care less whether or not we’re an NFL city. They don’t want their tax dollars being allocated to helping Stan make even more money than he already has, caving in to the demands to build a top-tier stadium somewhere between St. Charles, St. Louis and downtown Farmington.

The whole process angers me. If Stan decides to play that trump card and move his franchise elsewhere when the lease comes up, we’re stuck with a dome that would be used about 10-15 times a year. And if he does decide to stay, we have to somehow dump about $700 million into making it better which seems preposterous – or build a brand new stadium somewhere, again, leaving the dome a place that is used about 10-15 times a year.

It seems like a lose-lose situation for St. Louis no matter how you look at it.

One would hope that Stan Kroenke might decide to be a civic hero and have a community forever indebted to him by dropping a billion or so into the franchise to make those improvements to the stadium on his own or buying a parcel of land and then building a new state-of-the-art Kroenke-Dome that would make Jerry Jones jealous.

But that’s not going to happen.

Stan has four professional sports franchises in his portfolio. I don’t think he plays favorites and the way things have gone recently, the Rams are probably at the bottom of his list.

He has a city that’s backed into a corner. He’s got a plot of land in LA that could be a future home. He also owns a really nice football (soccer) franchise over in London and would probably love to be the first owner to bring the NFL across the pond, opening a new era of international football.

I have no idea what’s going to happen.

I won’t say St. Louis needs the NFL to be considered a major city or that having the Rams here makes this area a better place to live and work. I certainly don’t consider Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville or Oakland to be anything close to an ideal metropolis. Without an NFL team though, I’d knock those cities down a few more notches in my own personal mindset.

Bottom line, I hope Stan stays.

I guess we’ll find out.