i'm with the brand

I like my gateaux like I like my Van Gogh: on display
April 2, 2010, 10:06 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,


Coolhunter brings us mouthwatering images of La Pâtisserie des Rêves, a Parisian bakery which displays their tantalizing wares in gallery form throughout the store. So it’s not really a bakery per se–it’s a pastry boutique, and the presentation suggests true artistry.

The best ideas are those that solve business, branding, and audience problems simultaneously, and this execution would definitely qualify: from a branding perspective, the unique presentation is a differentiator amongst the myriad bakeries dotting Paris; from a business perspective, it moves traffic more efficiently through the store and speeds transactions, relieving congestion at the counter where throngs of customers would normally mob the bakery case; and from an audience perspective, it allows patrons to unhurriedly peruse the merchandise in a playful atmosphere that elevates the various trifles from mundane commodities to little works of art, infusing pastry purchase with a sense of occasion.

It’s cool when businesses seize fresh ideas by conceiving of themselves as another type of business, a business in some other industry or category. For example, in some ways, Mini is a car company that behaves like a toy company; Virgin Air is an airline company that behaves like an entertainment company–obviously in part because the larger Virgin brand informs how they approach their airline business, but still.

This particular instance isn’t anything drastic or revolutionary, but it’s an example of how we can revitalize ourselves and learn from other disparate industries, businesses, and brands by retooling the way we think of our own, and by being open to the idea that our “best practices” may not really be the best practices.


Kit Kat & The Salvation Army: Useful interactive posters give people a break

kit kat chair

JWT for Kit Kat is on fire–but this time it’s Auckland, not Tokyo. In their latest, passersby in local parks are invited to take a break twice over–that is, break up a poster to take a break. The confectioner placed wooden posters at park entrances and in public spaces–posters that could be popped apart and assembled into the perfect bench for a (snack) break. (And it’s got to be intentional that the mode of assembly so closely parallels the way you would snap apart a Kit Kat bar–it’s too good not to be.) The poster is not only interactive–it’s useful–and it does a kindness while connecting simple pleasures with the “break” line Kit Kat’s been using for years.

kit kat

In the spirit of useful interactive posters, here’s one of my all-time favorites, from the Salvation Army, which posted blankets emblazoned with the words “Support the homeless this winter. If you’re cold or know of someone who is, please take this poster” in areas of need. Not only did these ads get the word out and even provide much-needed comfort to the homeless that began using them for warmth, but when the blankets were thus displayed, on the backs of those in need, the message became all the more starkly powerful. The absolute opposite of urban spam.

salvation army

50 Billboards Worth Pulling Over For
March 18, 2010, 8:22 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , ,


Best Week Ever has collected 50 of ambient’s stodgiest sons (that’s billboards, to those of you not chuckling at your own jokes) for a showcase of “50 Awesomely Elaborate Billboards”–translation: Media Arts City.

I’ve got almost undue love for a good ambient execution. (That and packaging; I can’t help it.) So while I’ve seen most of these before over the years (and have even posted a couple here on the site), you might not have, and I think you’ll love them. These billboards demonstrate that no medium is dead or dying or dull or limited, so long as inspired insights meet inspired creative.

The list is missing many of the greats (Mini chief among them–the one they picked was basic by Mini standards. Unconscionable–I will have to fix this. Look out for a facemelting Mini post soon.) but check it out nonetheless–a nice survey of billboards that play with (and even transcend) their format to do it right.

Hey Guinness, I thought shaken-not-stirred was just for martinis


Happy St Patrick’s Day! In celebration, AdFreak brings us a cheeky-but-upstanding execution by St Pat’s staple, Guinness. In a 2007 effort by BBDO Toronto, the Irish brewers sent bars and pubs cans featuring blurry logo and type, each imprinted with a gentle reminder: “Please don’t drink and drive.” A clever, attention-getting call to responsibility in service of their “Enjoy Responsibly” campaign.

Libraries turn vending machines into lending machines
March 15, 2010, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags: , ,

lending machine

Just yesterday I was lamenting the fact that almost all of the LA Public Library branches are closed on Sundays (where am I going to get my free weekly plane-reads?), and thought that it was a shame that you could return books in dropslots after hours, but not check them out then. That’s when it struck me–a book vending machine would be a great way to get around it–just stock it with a random assortment of books popular and not-so-popular, and have people swipe their library card and make their selection. I was sure this couldn’t have been the first time anyone had thought of this, and a little Googling proved me right.

Library vending machines (more like lending machines! high five!) have found varying iterations globally, each re-purposing the familiar vending machine format more or less slickly. One of the most advanced and comprehensive ones may be the ones used by the southern Chinese city of Shenzen, which makes accessible its 2+ million books and other media (including CDs, DVDs, etc)–and even dispenses library cards–through a fully automated, RFID-powered, round-the-clock self-service system. Just as a Redbox is to DVD rentals, so is the Integrated Library Automation System (ILAS) to library borrowing–patrons may even reserve materials online and receive a text when their item is available in the nearest machine, each of which can hold 400 items at a time. At a cost of approximately $57,000 per machine, the ILAS is a much more cost-effective alternative to building and staffing smaller satellite branches across Shenzen, getting the city more literacy bang for its library buck.

Even simpler versions exist, but even these are not only whimsical but highly utilitarian–certainly more so than the statement-making luxury vending machines we’ve seen around over the past few years. In our case, the machines are a unique tool in service of  public libraries’ mission of literacy and free access to information for all, both in terms of the reach of an individual machine as well as in the cost-effective means of peppering a city (and especially its underserved communities) with many more easy-to-use portals through which to access library stock.

It’s a simple idea but it’s powerful: whether commercially or in public service, the potential (and indeed chief virtue) of such machines is to reach people where they are, when they want it, in a way that is easy, convenient, and intuitive. Library vending machines make literacy more accessible, and that access more timely and relevant. These machines give libraries the chance to reach people in the most relevant and useful moments–in subways, parks, offices, stores, and schools; when they’re waiting, when they’re bored, when they’re curious–allowing people to seize the impulse to read whenever and wherever they most crave the written page.

A little Tender Lego Care for buildings in need of repair

lego patch

He’s done it all around the world–Amsterdam, Berlin, Quito, Tel Aviv, to name just a few cities–but artist Jan Vormann just brought his Lego patchwork installations stateside. Showing that Legos–and grassroots urban beautification–are for all ages, Vormann was joined by a volunteer team aged 3 to 40 that helped him renovate cracked and pitted buildings across New York City. The project was done as a part of the VOLTA art show, and took citizens’ initiative and immediate action to address buildings in need of repair–literally, unsightly “gaps in the urban landscape”–by applying playful patches of color that both highlight the problem and help fix it. (Incidentally, these Lego installations are conceptually similar to Pete Dungey’s British pothole gardens, which simultaneously draw attention to the problem of poorly-kept roads while providing a cheery quick-fix with the addition of flowerbeds to the roads’ many blemishes.)

Vormann’s installation goes along so well with Lego’s past “Build it,” “Rebuild it,” and “Build Together” campaigns it’s uncanny–you almost wish it were a branded installation, but ultimately it’s even better that it isn’t; it’s indicative of the cultural inroads Lego has made that it would be independently seized upon with such enthusiasm and for such on-brand purposes.

In an Absolut World, ATMs are harder, better, faster, stronger kinder, fairer, easier, cheaper

absolut atm

Absolut gave bar-hoppers a taste of what it’s like to live in an Absolut World when they set up Happy Hours at branded  ATMs, which would dispense free money during the given period of time. This branding effort syncs with past efforts by agency K-MB, which sponsored free subway performances by famous comedians and published a newspaper titled Abolut World which only printed good news, and agency We Are Social’s Kindness As Currency executions against “in an Absolut World,” which included free coffee for a smile and free movie refreshments for compliments and high-fives, among other playful twists on our more dreary reality. The Absolut ATM, by agency TBWA\Berlin’s estimation, saw an expenditure of €12,000 in free cash generate an astounding 1.5 million media contacts, reaching audiences when they could use a break and turning up the buzz in the press.

There’s a bit of confusion in the blogosphere as to whether the machine doled out free money (as in a cash giveaway) or whether it simply was a fee-free ATM (I’m fairly certain it was the former), but either way, the point is made–in an Absolut world, things are just better. In fact, while the cash giveaway scenario is more dramatic, I actually like the fee-waiving ATM idea better precisely because it’s less outlandish and therefore somehow (to me at least) is a greater random-act-of-kindness gesture of goodwill. It’s also a better leverage of audience behavioral insights, recognizing a truth about the audience’s experience of a night out (running out of cash and having no choice but to pony up for exorbitant ATM fees at in-bar machines), and stepping in to provide a useful service at the right place and the right time, to make life easier and fairer–not to be a magnanimous mechanical rich uncle rewarding greed.

By turning a one-time stunt like free money giveaways into a branded utility like a fee-less ATM, Absolut could give this execution real legs: a fee-free ATM would have a more sustainable application in a bar setting as a fair and easy way for patrons to get money they might end up spending on Absolut, and as a way for grateful barkeeps to earn more money in exchange for a little high-traffic, contextually-relevant adspace.