Breakthrough Creative Now Requires You to Break Things

There was a time when breakthrough creative really had nothing to do with “breaking through.” Rather, it was about being funny, emotional or dramatic within very rigid constructs, whether those be thirty seconds of airtime, a magazine spread or a bulletin billboard. Obviously, digital and mobile have changed all of this and most of the really big creative ideas now start with, “Is it possible to … ” So that now, creativity is less about working within an established space and more about altering the medium through the use of new technology or new ways to use existing technology.

Here are a few examples of things we’ve recently created at WONGDOODY. In each case, you’ll see that somewhere during the process, we had to go a little Christopher Columbus and explore previously unchartered waters.

The first, is an application we created to promote the TBS animated comedy, “Neighbors From Hell.” It’s called Phone Call From Satan and basically, it allows you to enter your friend’s information online and select from a series of potential offenses that range from, “Putting ho’s before bros” to “Telling your mama’s fat jokes when your friend’s mother is in fact overweight.” Then, you punch in your buddy’s phone number and Satan himself dials him or her to relay the message.

In case you were wondering what the Satan hotline looks like. It’s actually rather dated.

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You Can Learn a Lot About Women, Prison and Brands From a Boat Name

If you’ve read “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink, you know that in a world of increasingly parity products, the intangibles are often what make the difference. Things like design and likeability and tone of voice. This got me thinking about the ways companies name themselves and their products. We’re all probably familiar with the story of how Nike needed something to put on the shoe boxes before they rolled off the printing press, and at the eleventh hour, Phil Knight made that fateful proclamation, “Go with the Nike thing I guess.” But what about the hundreds of thousands of companies whose names range from “Armor All” to “Zune?”

While there are plenty of businesses who’ve pocketed large sums of money by helping brands with these naming chores, it occurred to me that we could all learn a lot about the subject from boat owners. So, while I was recently on vacation in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, I took the liberty of snapping a few photos of watercrafts I passed while struggling to catch striped bass.

First, you have what I like to think of as the garden variety boat name. These names are typically rather lofty and rooted in boat terminology — nautical terms, constellations, weather patterns, tides and, um, birds. I imagine these names make their owners feel proud and important, but the truth is, most of them are infinitely forgettable. (In fact, “Infinitely” is probably on the back of a 32-foot yawl owned by an investment banker.) I equate these names to brands like “Coffee Bean” and “Blockbuster.” There’s nothing wrong with them, but they lack personality or soul.

For those of you didn’t know, Alcor is a star. Sailboat captains like to talk a lot about stars — typically while they’re following their $10,0 Lowrance radar.

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On the Set of ESPN College GameDay

Here’s the first spot in this year’s campaign for College Gameday.

After fifteen years working on ESPN, sometimes you forget just how much damn fun this piece of business is. This shoot helped remind me. In addition to having three of college football’s premier coaches Nick Saban, Mack Brown and Chris Petersen, we had all the biggest mascots — Florida, Georgia, Oregon and, um, Williams.

This is always one of my favorite shoots of the year because I genuinely feel like I’m friends with the talent and they’re always excited about the work we do for the show and eager to see what we have in store for them each year. In a lot of ways, it’s actually like writing a sitcom or a film, where each of the hosts becomes a character with certain traits that you find yourself writing to. Lee Corso is as good as they come at doing the broad, physical stuff, so we inevitably give him every one of those roles and then have to dial back to avoid the campaign becoming too Lee-centric. Chris Fowler is the best straight man I’ve ever worked with. Honestly, he can do as much with a look or a comment under his breath as any comedic actor. (Side note: Chris scripts the entire show on a set of note cards and has an almost Goodwill Hunting-like ability to remember and relay details.) Kirk Herbstreit plays a fantastic common man — he’s comes across incredibly sincere and likeable because, well, he is. And Desmond Howard has this great playful and mischievous quality that adds tons of energy to every spot he’s in. Half the time, Desmond is genuinely splitting a gut laughing while we’re shooting, which makes the spots feel a lot more real and sincere.

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Getting Real About Augmented Reality

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat through a presentation where one of our creatives didn’t eagerly show an augmented reality extension of their idea. And my response is typically the same; sheer joy over the promise of doing something technologically immersive followed by confusion and mild depression over the prospect of consumers holding a piece of cardboard in front of their computer so that… Oooh, a two-dimensional character can become three-dimensional. It always reminds me of that scene in Big where Tom Hanks is looking at one of the toy prototypes and says, “So, it’s a robot that turns into a building— what’s so fun about that?”

In my mind, the reality of augmented reality in 2010 is that it’s a technology with very few compelling applications.

However, a company called Total Immersion is making some pretty big strides to change this. I witnessed a presentation from them a couple weeks ago, the most interesting part of which highlighted an innovative face tracking technology. In short, the camera in the subject’s computer locks onto their eye line, allowing the advertiser to then place a mask of sorts over their image that will turn and rotate perfectly with the motions of their head.

This first demonstration of this technology was for an eyeglass company called Atol. Thanks to the face tracking capability, you can virtually model multiple pairs of glasses and basically look at yourself in a mirror from both head-on and profile perspectives without ever leaving your home.

Another fun application was for the Iron Man 2 film, where kids could essentially robotize themselves.

Hopefully, before long, the rest of augmented reality technology will improve to the point where it’s more integral to most marketing campaigns and less of a bell/whistle.

Until then, I’ll be waiting for the Pirates Of The Caribbean marketing team to use this face tracking technology to show me what I’d look like with an eye patch.

Marketing To Half Naked People

I’ve been in a lot of department store dressing rooms in my life. I’ve crawled under the doors. I’ve stuck the pins that were supposed to be put in the pin cushion into my finger. I’ve tried on underwear and subsequently decided to put it back in the package because it didn’t fit right. Hey, this blog is supposed to be about truth, right?

During those literally hundreds of visits though, I can safely say I never saw anything that differentiated one dressing room from another. Until last week, when I noticed these ingenious little plaques behind the clothes hooks in the T.J. Maxx dressing room.

Possibly / Definitely

Are they going to change marketing forever? No. But in an age where retailers are placing more emphasis than ever on in-store experiences and staff are trained to respond to every tweet, what a nice little touch to demonstrate that the folks at T.J. Maxx are trying to help their shoppers.

A Tiny, Giant Idea

See those little balls of excess donut batter below. Those are called, “Dunkin’ Munchkins.” If you grew up in the Northeast, this knowledge is as common as where the Old North Church is located and what position Carlton Fisk played for the Red Sox. And it can all be traced back to one guy — a fellow named Steve Cosmopulos. In addition to being somewhat notorious for his temperamental nature and absurd work hours (4 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Steve, the second “C” in Hill, Holiday, Connors, Cosmopulos, was revered as New England’s first true creative powerhouse.

Dunkin MunchkinsA couple weeks ago, I judged the 50th Anniversary of Boston’s Hatch Awards with him. At which point, I learned that I disagree with, well, pretty much all of Steve’s political viewpoints, but have tremendous respect for the dogged determination with which he built a number of brands, including Dunkin’ Donuts.

As Steve recalls, the way that Dunkin’ Munchkins came to be, was that in 1970, the agency was given the assignment of coming up with a new product. The only stipulation, they couldn’t use new materials or new machinery. Which kind of limits what you can do when all you’ve got left is batter and frosting. Steve noticed that there were a couple stores were selling donut holes made from the excess batter and immediately latched onto the idea. Within a matter of weeks, he and his team created and tested two commercials, one for Dunkin Donut Holes and the other for Dunkin’ Munchkins, in Harrisburg, PA and Portland, ME. The results were overwhelming: These little dough balls were not “holes,” they were “Munchkins.”

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