i'm with the brand

Puma HardChorus won’t make you choose between the loves of your life
March 4, 2010, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,

hard chorus

For Puma, Love equals Football. They make this amply clear throughout their recent campaign, replacing a hand-drawn football for the word “love” all over their site. Football (soccer–I’ll say it once, then not again) is about passion, loyalty—an enduring affair. In a banner on the relentlessly upbeat site, the football icon completes the sentence: the power of love, or the power of football? They both work, because to Puma, they are one. I couldn’t possibly care less about the sport, but even just going to their website is inspiring, uplifting. Nice one, Puma! It’s refreshing that it’s not about the brand, really—it’s about the sport. It’s not “Puma is for those who love football”—it’s “Love football; that’s enough for us.”

My very favorite element of this campaign, however, the one I honestly cannot get enough of, is the HardChorus. A microsite for the HardChorus declares “They want to be in your arms. You want to be in the stands,” challenging the true superfan with the unthinkable: “What do you do when Valentine’s Day falls on match day?” What indeed? Well, for starters, you can let the HardChorus say what you can’t.

An almost cartoonish assemblage of  hardmen and everymen—balding, pudgy, snaggletoothed, cauliflower-eared, all—motley hooligans of the Vinnie Jones variety, the HardChorus belt out their love with the fervor of a pubscreaming sports anthem. In a charmingly awkward display of machismo-wrapped sincerity, the men holler out a surprisingly tuneful “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden, while for Italian-speakers, a separate Italian chorus sings Umberto Tozzi’s oldies hit “Ti Amo.” Urging you to “dedicate a song to someone you love as much as football,” the site allows viewers to send the HardChorus performance to their disgruntled beloved by email or Facebook.

I don’t want to get carried away here, but I just love the whole thing to pieces. It’s hilarious, it’s adorable, it’s inspired. And it gets to the heart of a very real feeling, somehow managing to capture and articulate that which so often eludes authentic, unvarnished portrayal: the experience of loving the game, of loving sport—the thrills, the anguish, the camaraderie, the sacrifice—all of it.

In English…

And in Italian…


OK Go fights for their right to party embed their own videos

ok go

OK Go are master choreographers, and they know how to play the low-budg homemade video game–they launched their career on it. On their first it was treadmills; on their latest, it’s an elaborate and well-timed Rube Goldberg setup. Here it goes again indeed:

With a knack for knowing what will go viral, they rode their Youtube promotional model to success and recognition–“To the band, ‘Here It Goes Again’ was a successful creative project. To the record company [EMI], it was a successful, completely free advertisement,” says lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash, Jr. in a recent New York Times op-ed sending up the band’s label for misguidedly disabling the embed feature on the band’s Youtube videos in an attempt to eke out additional revenue. (Youtube only pays royalties for those videos viewed on the site, not those that are embedded.) The move fundamentally misunderstands the function and potential of Youtube in today’s cultural (and musical) landscape, and is merely one in a long string of embarrassing failures by a hopelessly outdated and pig-headed recording industry blundering indignantly and ever-insistently towards obsolescence.

The old music business model’s inability to accept, embrace, and leverage technology and the changing ways in which people are discovering , sharing, and interacting with music is a tired subject by now (and it’s not to say that some artists and labels are not learning to approach the changing business with enthusiasm, innovation, and aplomb), but Kulash lucidly argues his point : “In these tight times, it’s no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos. But it needs to recognize the basic mechanics of the Internet. Curbing the viral spread of videos isn’t benefiting the company’s bottom line, or the music it’s there to support. The sooner record companies realize this, the better — though I fear it may already be too late.”

As of two days ago, EMI (which has a mortifying track record of desperate, just-doesn’t-get-it, artist-and-fan-alienating gaffes) has allowed OK Go’s videos to be embedded–but not because the label concedes the error of its ways. Rather, the band has secured a sponsorship from State Farm Insurance (huh??) which will allow them to embed with the sanction of EMI, which, while it’s something, does nothing to resolve the fundamental issue, and further encourages the label’s blind and ignorant drive to monetize–ironically, at all costs.

Read the rest of Kulash’s great op-ed, which goes on to question the shifting role of the label in music and the detrimentally-morphing artist-label relationship, at the New York Times.

And lastly, here’s the video that made them famous:

Tweet it into reality: Sony Ericsson’s hoppers and popcorn poppers
February 9, 2010, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , , ,


I saw both of these within a day of each other and was struck by the curious ways online activities can be brought to life, visualized, or given meaning in the physical world through interactivity. In this case, it’s how activity on Twitter being translated into something tangible and easy to digest (in one case, quite literally—yikes, guys.)

In the first, Sony Ericsson, as a part of a larger Spark Something campaign to promote their new Satio and Aino handsets, a Hopper Invasion campaign urged people to tweet what they’d like to use a hopper (a roly-poly, colorful character) for, and to use the #pumpt hashtag in their tweet. Corresponding to the use of the hashtag, deflated hopper balloons arranged on a physical grid in a “secret warehouse” were inflated in a visualization of hopper-oriented Twitter activity, all streamed on the campaign website—real-time visualized buzz. The best suggestions taken from Twitter will be brought to life in the real world, filmed, and posted online.

The campaign has further interwoven the physical and the digital by inviting audiences to create unique hopper personas, which have in turn taken part in a series of virtual flashmobs on pages all over the internet—an act the company touts as the world’s first online flashmob. In the next phase of the campaign, says Global Marketing Communications Manager Andrea Heinrich, “the concept [goes] one stage further allowing users to take the concept offline and create real life space hoppers which will be used in real life events.” Making the digital real, and vice-versa, is not a bad idea for a company that uses technology to connect people and ideas.


In Popcorn Tweets, essentially a social media virtual Flintstones car, Twitter enables “human-powered physical computing” to cook popcorn. In a device built by Dave Britt and Justin Goeres, a kernel of corn is placed on a heated surface every time the #popcorn tag is used on Twitter, producing popcorn as fast as people tweet it so.

It’s interesting to see online activity made real, but given the strengths and innate character of a networking medium like Twitter, there is an opportunity to see the online communities engendered by social media translated into real world communities as well. Although not necessary to a successful execution, it’d be cool to see the community aspect incorporated to a greater degree in each of these ideas in order to more comprehensively leverage the medium.

Paste magazine asks: Is Indie Dead?

Illustration by Samuel Bosma (via Paste)

A must-read for anyone who cares about culture: Paste’s Rachael Maddux asks the question: Is Indie Dead? in the cover story for the magazine’s February issue.

In an incisive and far-ranging analysis Maddux grabs for fistfuls of smoke trying to pin a definition on the word, but nevertheless expertly and wittily charts its history, influence, rise, and fall—explaining, among other things, the advertising-music-culture cross-ramifications of a pervasive sensibility built around precisely its non-pervasiveness.

Read the essay to find out just how the democratization of technology, an Internet that eats its young, morphing music industry models, and cultural co-option (co-option?) of scene have worked together to create (and in some ways, kill) one of the most unstoppable and influential forces in pop culture today: the paradoxically elusive and ubiquitous “indie.”

James Mercer & Danger Mouse launch teaser scavenger hunt to sample Broken Bells
December 14, 2009, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , ,
Broken Bells

This cryptic ad appeared early today on music sites all over the interwebs

James Mercer of the Shins and Danger Mouse (of Gray Album fame, among other things) have a new collaborative side project called Broken Bells, and a mysterious sleuthy viral teaser trail to promote it.

Earlier today their label sent out a coded message in binary (spelling out “the high road is hard to find”–their first single is “The High Road”) and a link to www.brokenbells.com. At the same time, a strange uncaptioned picture of two silhouetted figures started appearing on a number of music sites. When clicked, these led to www.ebbelkslorn.com, www.oebkenllbsr.com,  and www.berobrknells.com –all anagrams for Broken Bells. Whenever you visit any of those sites, a distinct looped fragment of a song is played; when you refresh, a new looped segment is played. Since each URL contains a different set of song components, when you open all of the URLs in your browser simultaneously, the looped bits layer to give an impression of this hard-to-find High Road–or at least a rough idea of the album’s sound. (Kind of cool how they leveraged the technology and format to create this ad-hoc digital 8-track)

An artful and legitimately relevant underground scavenger hunt of this sort is a bit new (the pervasive-game-lite fits these artists and this highly anticipated project to a tee; better luck next time, Wall of Ice conspiracy theorists!), but the whole discover-layers-and-build-the-song idea isn’t. Arcade Fire did something a bit similar for “Black Mirror” with the release of Neon Bible, creating a microsite (with confusingly-but-cleverly mirrored mouse) where users could layers tracks, all of which when layered yielded the song as recorded. For someone like me without the background to understand just how that distinct sound is created, it was eye-opening and awe-inspiring to hear each stem independently and then with other ones in spare, incongruous arrangements, to manipulate the cumulative sound by mixing them in every permutation myself, to hear the sum total of the song as a piece-by-piece accumulation of textures and tones. Masterful.

In a tangentially-related vein, I feel like I’ve noticed a trend lately in artists (recently among them, Phoenix; Radiohead, who held a remix contest, ironically charged for In Rainbows stems after famously not charging for the same album) making stems or multitracks readily available, encouraging remix and experimentation, making it easier for a broader range or people to play with their work. I think it’s exciting that bands are letting us in the kitchen to see how it’s made (or, they’re giving us the ingredients and telling us to go on ahead?), and are making the process of creating and refashioning music more accessible, allowing us to own and appreciate their work in new ways.

UPDATE: Just a day after this viral campaign went live, Pitchfork reports we now have a release date for Broken Bells: March 9 on Columbia.