A writer’s gotta write

2018 is off to a great start, but in the coming weeks, I hope it gets even better with a variety of assignments that would spin most ordinary heads.

Blogging. Video scripting. Website content creation. Speech writing. Print ads. Email marketing. Pay-per-click ads. Direct marketing. All for different clients and all tied back to delivering the brand.

What’s missing? Well, I sure would welcome the opportunity to create some cut-through radio ads and develop some local TV commercials that would truly stand out amidst the sea of mediocrity that litters our airwaves.

But I’m not complaining. I love to write. And I love to write just about anything as I am insatiably curious and love to find creative solutions to whatever marketing or advertising challenge I may face.

All of this requires an inherent ability to ramp up quickly on a subject so that i can quickly grasp the key messaging that needs to be delivered and then deliver it – in an unexpected, surprising and memorable way.

I don’t always hit home runs. And I certainly don’t accomplish everything on my own as I continue to be blessed by working with a talented team of designers, developers, editors, account people and best of all – clients.

BloodLines Creative is now in its seventh year. We’ve been staying quite busy. But there’s plenty of room for more.

If your business would benefit from big idea thinking, BloodLines Creative can be the communications partner you thought you couldn’t afford. Put us to the test. You will not be disappointed.

Welcome to Missouri, the only state in the country on Fodor’s Do Not Travel list

I

Fodor's has the entire state of Missouri on its No List for 2018. I completely disagree.

Fodor’s has the entire state of Missouri on its No List for 2018. I completely disagree.

I never realized what a dangerous, backward, unfriendly state I live in. But there it was, on the inside pages of yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, stating that Fodor’s, the internationally-recognized travel advisory company had listed Missouri as the only state in the USA to make Fodor’s No LIst 2018.

That certainly makes the job for Hoffman Lewis, who I believe still handles the advertising for the great state of Missouri, more formidable.

The article struck me as hard to believe and somewhat akin to a bunch of blind men describing an elephant. Depending upon where you stand, your view can be radically altered.

I’ve been to about 40 of our 50 states. Yet I am certainly not qualified to blacklist an entire state based on some limited opinions and generalities. According to Fodor’s, here’s why they recommend that no visitor should set foot in the state of Missouri:

“Missouri is the place where SB 43 was passed making it more difficult to sue employers for discrimination, a state representative argued that homosexuals weren’t human beings, a tourist who got lost and ran out of gas was later found murdered in his jail cell without ever being put under arrest, and two men were hunted down and shot on suspicion of being Muslim on the outskirts of Kansas City. And that’s just in 2017.

Those are just a few of the startling headlines from the state that prompted the Missouri chapter of the NAACP to advise tourists to skip this state and the “looming danger” for visitors when they’re touring United States.

Missouri has “a separate standard of laws that are only applicable to some people,” Nimrod Chapel, Jr., head of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP, told Fodor’s. He includes people of color, women, the disabled, senior citizens, foreigners, and people of faith as among those who are discriminated against.

He further cautions against the manner in which these laws are policed in the state. “Not everyone dies after an encounter with law enforcement, and we wouldn’t suggest that. But there [are] so many negative outcomes that would indicate that there’s some bias in the way that their laws are enforced that we think that people have to be aware of the danger and, you know, decide for themselves.”

Thanks a lot Fodor’s.

Based on the opinion of some Nimrod, they’re now saying that anyone who happens to be a person of color (not specified what color), a female, someone who’s disabled, a senior citizen, foreigner or a person who believes in any type of religion, you best stay away from the Show Me state.

If you just so happen to be a 65+, disabled, African nun from the Republic of Ghana, well, you may never get out of here alive according to Fodor’s.

C’mon, Fodor’s. You owe the great state of Missouri and all the people who are working hard to overcome all of the negatives that have been hurled at this state in the past few years a major apology.

The metro St. Louis area has more than its share of problems. Yes, there still is a racial divide here, just as there is a serious economic divide. But there are so many good things happening as well and those items just don’t get the news time they deserve.

The murder they reference in Kansas City actually took place in Kansas. And from everything I’ve heard, Kansas City has made dramatic strides as a community that’s not only a great place to live, it’s a great place to visit.

Having an entire state on a travel company’s No List is a farce. They don’t know what it’s like to enjoy a weekend in the Ozarks and probably don’t even know where it is.

Personally, I’m contacting Fodor’s to let them know of my disgust. They have a Forum and I intend to register and post my opinion. And I will never be purchasing any travel-related guides that bear their name again.

And if, by chance, you were planning on a trip to the Taj Mahal or Everest this year, Fodor’s recommends against it – but with a little more actual reasons since the Taj Mahal is being completely re-furbished and most of it is under wraps while with Everest, their reason for not going is simply that too many people die on their quest. Especially if they’re a 65+, African nun from the Republic of Ghana.

That’s what I think, how about you?

In addition to providing advertising and marketing communications services by day via BloodLines Creative, Tom sometimes writes about what interests him, especially when it comes to all things St. Louis. He is also dedicated to becoming a better surrealist painter, trying to paint the impossible. He invites you to visit his work at his Pixels website, or via his BloodLines Art website. His work can also be viewed on Pinterest, Saatchi Art and on the mobile app, Art Loupe.

Is there a PuppyMonkeyBaby in my future?

Would I ever have thought of this?

Would I ever have thought of this?

I’ve been creating ads now for well over half of my life. During my time, I’ve come up with some rather unusual creative solutions. But I must admit, I have yet to ever be part of selling a client something as outrageous as Mountain Dew’s PuppyMonkeyBaby used to sell their Kickstart drink. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql7uY36-LwA

Yes, I know, this is old news. The commercial made its debut this past February on the Super Bowl. But I saw it again last week and for some reason, it really stuck with me this time.

BBDO out of New York was the agency that created it. I have no idea who the writer on it was. Amazingly, I think the ad is very strategic. The team knew they were creating an ad for the Super Bowl so it had to stand out. Kickstart is a combination of three things – Dew, juice and caffeine. On the Super Bowl, everyone loves commercials that have a baby in them – or a puppy – and yes, there have been quite a few memorable commercials featuring a monkey.

So someone had the very simple thought, “Hey, why not combine all three into some really weird creature with a dog’s head, a monkey’s upper body and a baby’s lower body walking around in a diaper?” It’ll be a Puppy Monkey Baby.

It makes no sense. It makes brilliant sense. It’s weird. It’s disturbing. It speaks – in a very strange voice. It dances. It carries its own little bucket full of Kickstart and it makes its grand entrance through a kind of little trap door in some guy’s apartment where three slackers are just sitting there chilling when the PuppyMonkeyBaby arrives.

Later commercials play up the tag line “It all starts with a kick”. They’re fun, they’re crazy. But they’re nothing like the PuppyMonkeyBaby.

So the question I ask myself is this – “Is there still a PuppyMonkeyBaby waiting inside me, just yearning to come out?”

Yes.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to create TV commercials all that often anymore. It’s my biggest lament of running my own business that caters to a client base that most times, simply do not have the budget nor the need to do broadcast advertising.

So that PuppyMonkeyBaby stays locked up in my brain, just waiting to be unleashed.

It’s in there.

And it wants out.

The endless pursuit of ‘What’s Next?’

As a business, BloodLines Creative is continually in new business mode. Even with my existing client base, I’m always seeking new ways to help build their business, knowing full well that if I can help them expand their market share or drive more customers to their website or Facebook page or directly to their store it will ultimately generate more business for BloodLines.

So I’m always on the lookout for new ways to deliver messaging, new techniques for grabbing attention, new avenues for targeting potential customers, new ways to reach people in unexpected ways. One must remain forever curious.

With BloodLines Art, I face a similar challenge. I do paintings very similar to the way I read books – once I start one, I don’t even consider what’s next until I put my name on the painting. When I do finish, I begin searching for ideas.

Rene Magritte said that the most difficult part for any artist is deciding what to paint.

I agree with that dilemma.

So with my work by day and my art by night, I continually face the challenge of, “What’s next?”

Work has been strong this year. One project seems to lead to another and when one client goes dormant or isn’t currently in need of marketing support, it seems another one comes along. I have been very fortunate.

I have also been quite pleased with my painting progression this year. My techniques are improving and I feel as if I’m getting better at what I do and finding my own unique style.

Every business faces that “What’s next?” quandary.

The key is to never stop learning. Never stop exploring. And always be open to possibilities as well as opportunities.

If you do that, the opportunities will find you.

Working partnerships – Part III – E-Merge Interactive

I’ve been working with the fine folks at E-Merge Interactive (http://www.connectwithemerge.com/) long before they were known as E-Merge Interactive.

Barry Lee, David Smith and Kerry Brown are pretty much the brain trust behind E-Merge Interactive and I have worked with all three of these individuals for more than 25 years. I used to do quite a bit of video and audio production at Smith-Lee for a variety of clients. Dave’s wife, Sandy, is an amazing composer and gifted musician who I worked with to create award-winning commercials and videos back in the day.

But times changed and though Smith-Lee still does an impressive array of audio work, they shifted their focus more to the interactive world and formed a separate company,
E-merge Interactive, providing a full range of interactive services, primarily for B2B clients.

One of those clients is Byrne & Jones Construction. (http://www.byrneandjones.com/)

A partial look at the home page of Byrne & Jones Construction.

A partial look at the home page of Byrne & Jones Construction.

When we first began working with Byrne & Jones, their website was, to put it politely, a work in progress. Many of the sub-pages were incomplete. The home page featured rotating imagery but it didn’t really focus on key benefits of what the company provided.

And Byrne & Jones provides a lot. They’re the largest asphalt provider in the St. Louis metro area. Their sports division is one of the largest builders of tracks and athletic fields in the Midwest. They have a booming micro surfacing division, as well as perform concrete and soil stabilization work. In the past year, they also bought a company called Midwest Foundation that does marine work on rivers and lakes throughout the Midwest. (http://midwestfoundation.com/)

We recently launched a newly updated website for Midwest Foundation, a Byrne & Jones Company.

We recently launched a newly updated website for Midwest Foundation, a Byrne & Jones Company.

Over a period of time, we completely overhauled the website and began doing SEO work as well, partnering with Romondo Davis of Davis Interactive for his expertise in all aspects of social media. The Byrne & Jones blog, that hadn’t had any new posts for quite some time began getting regular entries which we pushed out via social media to help drive more traffic to the site.

Thought leadership articles and profiles of projects are now regularly posted via the Byrne & Jones blog.

Thought leadership articles and profiles of projects are now regularly posted via the Byrne & Jones blog.

Numbers have been trending upward and the growth of Byrne & Jones continues to be on the rise as well. They are a well-managed, well-run company that needed their website and social media to catch up in order to better tell their story.

Byrne & Jones is just one of the clients that I have partnered with E-Merge Interactive to help provide marketing communications. We’re in the process of launching a new website for another B2B client and there are more projects in the works. It’s been a good blend of their interactive capabilities and my branding and writing expertise.

There’s always room for more.

The business model for BloodLines Creative is fairly flexible. I work directly for clients. I also work with agencies to help with their client needs in times of overflow or for select projects. I work with in-house agencies, helping to write or produce videos. And I partner with other designers, social media providers or production companies to assist their client needs. It all results in an ever-changing, always interesting flow of assignments. I am honored to be a part of each and every one. Now, what can I do for you?

Working partnerships – Part 1 – Phoenix Creative

It all began with a recommendation.

Phoenix Creative needed a broadcast writer to assist them in the development of a new TV and radio campaign for one of their clients. They asked Mike Sneden, a director at The Arbor Group if he knew of anyone that could help and he mentioned my name.

The good folks at Phoenix Creative reached out to me, asking if I was interested and after a get-acquainted meeting where I met the team that I’d be working with, I was awarded the assignment: develop eight new TV commercials and eight new radio spots promoting a variety of topics for Jensen Tire & Auto out of Omaha, Nebraska.

A still from one of the 8 new Jensen Tire & Auto TV commercials.

A still from one of eight new TV commercials developed for Jensen Tire & Auto out of Omaha, Nebraska.

Deans Lynch was my key point of contact. Becca Jordan was the account coordinator who kept me in the know. And Matt Mauger was the art director/agency producer who ultimately would be turning my scripts into storyboards and then, working with Mike Sneden as director, turn those boards into actual commercials and my radio scripts into radio commercials.

Our initial download on the Jensen brand was full of information and gave me a solid understanding of the tone, style and expectations they hoped I could match. They gave me a list of about 10 potential commercial topics, provided a good creative brief and strategy and told me to see what I could come up with.

Jensen Tire & Auto is a locally-owned, family-owned operation that has been in the Omaha area since 1973. They’re honest. Straightforward. Down-to-earth. They’re proud of their stores, the people who work there and they all work hard to deliver the best in service and services. Both the TV and radio concepts had to reflect that.

So I began generating ideas. I wrote a variety of scripts – from the customer point-of-view, the employee point-of-view and a few from the store manager point-of-view. I wanted to be clever – but not overly so. I wanted to find interesting ways to help deliver key points of difference.

At our first internal presentation, I presented campaign directions. We narrowed those down and I went back to work. At our next presentation, I presented more script ideas on the campaign directions I had previously presented. We narrowed those down some more and I went back to work.

By our third presentation, we had zeroed in on the direction – then I needed to fill out the roster, making sure I covered all of the topics that had ultimately been decided upon. We fine-tuned some more. After all those meetings, I understood just how well the people at Phoenix understood their client.

Ultimately, we narrowed down the script candidates and Matt went to the story boarding process. I, in turn, started in on the radio scripts and with a stronger understanding of what would and wouldn’t fly, I seemed to fall into the Jensen point-of-view and hit the mark right off the bat with a few of the scripts.

By the time we made the trip to Omaha for the client presentation, we were more than ready and I truly felt a part of the team – and for that, I congratulate and thank Deans, Becca and Matt for how they welcomed me and enabled me to play a key role in the presentation.

“So the only pressure around here … can be measured with a gauge.”

The homework, teamwork and hard work all paid off. The result is a new broadcast campaign that began airing earlier this summer and will continue for many months to come. This was a working partnership that really worked.

The business model for BloodLines Creative is fairly flexible. I work directly for clients. I also work with agencies to help with their client needs in times of overflow or for select projects. I work with in-house agencies, helping to write or produce videos. And I partner with other designers, social media providers or production companies to assist their client needs. It all results in an ever-changing, always interesting flow of assignments. I am honored to be a part of each and every one. Now, what can I do for you?

Volkswagen gets it right this time

A few weeks ago I lambasted Volkswagen for their ‘Birds and the Bees’ commercial in which a couple love to procreate in their VW, eventually, needing a bigger model to accommodate their growing family – hence the need for the new seven-seater VW Atlas model.

Now, I’m here to sing their praises as they’ve taken another iconic song, this one Simon & Garfunkel’s classic, “America” and set it to a story that is both moving and beautifully told.

The first version I saw was 60-seconds. Here’s a link to the full :90 Volkswagen Atlas commercial – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpq4NXtokNU

Not only is it a masterful telling of a story that connects generations, it’s also some brilliant editing of the song, making the most of the lyrics that are applicable to a cross-country voyage while cutting out the parts about being on a bus and smoking cigarettes.

One of the scenes from a new VW Atlas commercial using Simon & Garfunkel's 'America' song.

One of the scenes from a new VW Atlas commercial using Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘America’ song.

I was drawn into the story immediately. An immigrant father’s dying wish – for his wife to see America courtesy of their daughter and her own family. We see them leaving New York city behind and they’re off on their journey in the new roomy VW Atlas. Of course, that is never mentioned. They simply let the visuals of the cross-country trek unwind, managing to get in a few on-the-road shots as well as interior shots.

But it’s not about the car, it’s about the experience. We see the granddaughter, bonding with her grandmother and getting reassured from her mother that everything’s going to be okay. We’re along for the ride as we get to see the entire family taking the time to experience the many sights and sounds that America has to offer.

Sure, it’s a little sappy. But the cinematography is gorgeous. The on-going story, told through a few snippets of family interaction between various family members evolves and pulls you in. This isn’t meant to be Aunt Edna strapped to the roof of the Griswold family truckster. When they reach the coast of California and Grandma sets Grandpa’s ashes free into the Pacific ocean, I didn’t feel like the story had been trivialized.

And this time, the payoff of “Life’s as big as you make it. The all new 7-seater Volkswagen Atla” made perfect sense to me. I felt better toward Volkswagen as a company. I only wish that it had been Chevy that had jumped on this song and told the story rather than some German manufacturer.

But I don’t blame them for borrowing a bit of Americana and a classic American song called “America” to try and sell vehicles here in the good ole U.S.A. – that’s what commercialism is all about. And this one gets four stars in my playbook.

Watch the commercial. Then let me know what you think.

BloodLines Creative provides advertising and marketing communications support to a variety of consumer, B2B, non-profit and government-related clients. No project is too big, no budget is too small. If you’re looking for big idea thinking, you’ve come to the right place.

 

 

 

An unexpected blast from the past

The music grabbed by attention and pulled me upstairs

The music from this 60-second commercial grabbed by attention and pulled me upstairs.

I was downstairs painting Thursday night, starting in on a new canvas when I heard a music track from the TV upstairs that immediately grabbed my attention.

It was the music we had created for an Infant Adoption Awareness commercial that I wrote and helped produce back in 2005 while working at Hughes.
http://bloodlinescreative.com/tv-radio-video/infant-adoption-awareness

That commercial has always been one of my favorites that I’ve written. It is simple, understated and delivers a powerful message at the end. The whole spot consists of a girl on a swing, coming in and out of the frame.

Each swing takes her higher, and with each swing, she knocks the type that’s on-screen out of the picture …
Like many kids,
she’s happy,
well-cared-for,
loved,
confident,
optimistic
and adopted.

A voiceover delivers the line, “To all those who give birth to, homes to, or just give thought to people adopted as infants … thanks for considering adoption.”

The whole purpose of the commercial was to raise awareness for the Infant Adoption Awareness Council of America. An adopted child is no different than any other child. So why not show a happy kid on a swing to help point that out?

We shot the commercial in Oakland, edited in San Francisco and used Elias Music to create the original score. That was more than a decade ago so I was truly surprised when I saw the commercial was still running.

Its message and ability to cut through the clutter was as strong now as it was back then.

That’s the power of Big Idea Thinking. That’s the power of BloodLines Creative.

 

 

 

Get a room, Volkswagen!

Life's as big as you make it.

Life’s as big as you make it.

Volkswagen has a new commercial that I have already seen about 10 times and though I’m a fan of Dean Martin, I’m not a fan of this commercial.

Set to Dean’s rendition of “The Birds and the Bees” this spot was probably considered ‘cute’ and a throwback to VW’s days as a bit of a rebel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyPbpU3Smhg

Back in the hippie days, a couple going at it in a VW bug may have made sense. But with this timeline, it doesn’t really go back more than 8 years or so and the couple portrayed don’t exactly seem like they’re counter-culture. Dad just seems to have a weird thing about procreating in very tight spaces – rockin’ away in the VW bug at first resulting in a trip to the dealership for a larger VW. The process repeats itself and the happy, growing family continue to have mom and dad go at in the confines of their car. It concludes with another VW rocking away – presumably VWs are very fertile places – only it shows the entire happy family inside the vehicle causing enough of a commotion that they’re causing the car to sway back and forth on its apparently not very sturdy frame.

The commercial ends with the statement, “Life’s as big as you make it. Introducing the all new 7-seater Volkswagen Atlas.” Oh, I get it.

This commercial is trying too hard. Personally, I find it kind of obnoxious, too. In-between all of the Viagra and Cialis commercials, I now get this couple that loves to breed in a bug.

I’m not sure what the key selling points of the Volkswagen Atlas actually are. There are all kinds of vehicles that can seat 7 or more so that isn’t much of a sales pitch.

To me, Volkswagen simply isn’t getting enough bang for their buck.

And I certainly would never want to ride in the back seat of their vehicle.

Being responsive

Visit BloodLines Creative on whatever device you have and hopefully you'll enjoy the experience.

Visit BloodLines Creative on whatever device you have and hopefully you’ll enjoy the experience.

Yes, it took a while.

But BloodLinesCreative.com is finally a responsive website.

So whether you visit on an iPad, your phone, a tablet or on a mac or pc, the site now adapts to the confines of the device.

Yes, it should have been done some time ago. And yes, the site could use a refresh of new work that’s been done over the past year or so. That will come. In fact, the site still isn’t 100% fully functional – my broadcast reel still doesn’t play on mobile devices – but that should be addressed in the next week or so.

I have fallen victim to what so many other advertising and marketing communications companies deal with all the time – it’s tough to manage your own marketing when you’re busy helping with the needs of the clients you serve.

It’s been a busy start to the year. But in order to keep that momentum going, I need to ratchet up my own marketing efforts – and before I began that endeavor, I needed to get the website fully functional no matter how it was viewed.

So I guess I need to wait a few more days until we get the broadcast section remedied for mobile viewing.

In the meantime, feel free to visit the rest of the website – http://bloodlinescreative.com

I welcome any feedback!

BloodLines Creative provides advertising and marketing communications support to a variety of consumer, B2B, non-profit and government-related clients. No project is too big, no budget is too small. If you’re looking for big idea thinking, you’ve come to the right place.