A Positive Pre-Thanksgiving Meal Message

As Thursday’s feast looms, most of us have one word in our mind: tryptophan. That sleep-friendly amino acid behind so many of us missing the second half of the Lions game…

Peter Diamandis has a different word in his mind: abundance. As one of the founders of Singularity University and Executive Chairman of the XPrize, Peter relentlessly beats the drum for the positive advancements made possible by technology, despite what he considers the epidemic of negative news by the media industry.

Last weekend, he released his annual Evidence of Abundance PDF. This relentlessly positive document is filled with all sorts of data supporting basic premise that we live in times of extraordinary abundance and opportunity. Consider food scarcity and hunger:

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Diamandis cites World Bank data showing the percentage of the world’s population with an inadequate caloric intake dropped from 18.6%  in 1991 to 10.8% in 2015.

Though we’re clearly not done, that’s progress. And that’s worth giving thanks. Have a wonderful day tomorrow,

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PS: Actually, chicken contains more tryptophan, so it’s not the turkey, it’s actually the stuffing. Of our collective faces. Overeating is really what makes us so sleepy.

Oh Canada! A Pre-Thanksgiving Travel Message

Everyone knows the day before Thanksgiving is our busiest travel day of the year.

Except it’s not. Summer weekends consistently outrank it. Nevertheless, this is a week fraught with family, shopping, and travel, so this little piece seemed timely…

If we must accept that foreign powers will influence our social feeds, let’s choose the decent people of Canada over the divisiveness-spewing trollbots from Russia. We make mistakes, we apologize, we shake hands and move on.

What a wonderful world that would be…

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A Pre Thanksgiving/Black Friday Shopping Message

According to data from Adobe, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday 2016 all set records for online sales, totaling over $5.5 billion. Black Friday remains the monster; last year, Friday online sales topped the three billion mark for the first time ever, reaching $3.34 billion: an increase of nearly 22% over 2015.

In bricks and mortar, ShopperTrak reported a 1% drop in foot traffic from 2015 over the Thanksgiving weekend, but Black Friday itself didn’t dip. The manic early morning shopping rush has clearly become a new holiday tradition; retailers predict it will hold strong this year even as they foresee another 5%+ growth in online sales.

Retailers revel in this reorientation of our Holidays toward mass consumption. But the Forest Hill Church in South Carolina takes a different perspective. Last year, on December 3, their in-house creative media team posted this “Christmas Presents” video to Facebook…

It’s not particularly sophisticated or slickly produced–all the actors are either churchgoers or staff–but the idea itself struck a resonant, relatable chord. Over the past year, it’s earned well over 6.3 million views and been shared almost 93,000 times. The idea of gift wrapping the everyday gifts we take for granted is simple and powerful. And joyful; for a non-actor, director/congregant Matt Nunn delivers a very likable performance as the man who wakes up with so much gratitude.

This is a brilliant example of relevant video content and clearly, Forest Hill is very savvy with multimedia. They also have a great looking website that boasts lots of content. They’re definitely doing it right.

First and foremost, by starting with a smart, relatable idea. Well done.

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Thanks to my friend and constant student of culture, Neilan Tyree, for finding and sharing this video on Facebook.

Today’s Example of How Creativity Pays

Ad agencies struggle to convince clients to pay for creativity, mostly because we gave it away for years, trusting television’s healthy margins to more than cover the cost of development. And so we inadvertently devalued our industry’s one core asset that spans medium and format: the idea.

Which is why it’s so fun to hear the story of Max Lanman, who recently decided to help his girlfriend sell her car online. Actually, he used her old Honda to produce his idea of making a luxury car commercial around a junky car. Her vehicle was one of a whopping 382,298 Accords produced in 1996, but now, twenty one years and 141,000 miles later, her “Greenie” shows its age…

The thing is, this spot’s fun but not especially hilarious. A similar used car ad spoof featured on this blog back in May used outsized visual effects to far more hysterical effect. Yet the simple fact that Max took the time, made the effort, and did something delightfully unexpected in a tired, uninspiring venues made his work shine.

It also paid off handsomely. Kelley’s Blue Book values the Honda at just over $1400. After posting the spot on YouTube last Thursday, Max and his girlfriend listed the Accord on eBay for $500.

By the weekend, the bidding hit $150,000, and eBay took the listing down, understandably concerned about “illegitimate bidding.”

Now it’s back up and bidding currently hovers around $4300: almost ten times their initial asking price and well above the Blue Book value. All because of Max’s creative idea and approach.

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eBay also released this statement: “Mr. Lanman is a talented filmmaker and we’re pleased that the eBay platform brought us together. We’re hoping to work on some creative video projects with him in the future.

Wow. Nice work Max. Well played.

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Filmmaking Lessons from David Fincher

Back when DVD’s were a thing, it was always a joy to rent anything directed by David Fincher. Whether or not you enjoyed the movie itself didn’t really matter because every Fincher DVD came with the director’s invariably intelligent and thoughtful commentary track. If you paid attention, it was like a grad school class for filmmaking. You’d learn why he set up shots and edits in specific ways, the character development motivations for holding on to a long take or creating an elaborate, circling camera move. It was always my favorite part of the DVD experience.

Sadly, this piece doesn’t include any Fincher commentary, but it does show the amazing focus to detail he brings to pursuing his vision. Truly remarkable. The green screen sections starting around 3:47 are breathtaking…

 

The visual effects company behind this spectacular work is Artemple Hollywood. Creating a fantastic alien or a futuristic city on a distant planet is a true challenge, but creating visual effects that appear seamlessly invisible? Those are truly special effects. Wow.

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Why Video Content? It’s Simple Neuroscience.

Seriously. Our brains process video imagery differently than text.

While researching this piece, a number of remarkable statistics popped up repeatedly. A particularly amazing one claimed we process visuals 600,000x faster than text. The problem is, like so many things on the internet, this claim wasn’t corroborated by any credible sources. Actually, they were compellingly argued against here. Oh well, live and Google. And Google again. Repeatedly.’

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A Nine Page Argument for Video Content

“He Shares His Slides On SlideShare.” Try saying that three times quickly…

Or just take a look at this short deck. It asserts the critical relevance of video content, as our marketplace continues moving away from text-based communications. It’s intentionally short because apparently, all these modern digital distractions have left us with the attention span of tree frogs.

For years, I loved making television commercials. Today, I’m genuinely excited to make all sorts of other video content for all sorts of other platforms and audiences. It is, in the words of the immortal Sammy Davis Jr., ‘a gas and a giggle.’

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Photo credit: Ray Hennessy

Five Reasons Why Every Brand Should Be Using Video…Presented on Video

Okay, so it’s a wee bit longer than sixty seconds, but the points remain…

For anyone who prefers written lists, here they are:

  1. Four times as many people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. Source: Animoto
  2. Viewers recall over 90% of a message after watching it on video, as opposed to 10% from reading text. Source: insivia
  3. Embedding video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%. Source: Eyeview  (Self-imposed time constraints prevented me from sharing the other big number: video makes your site 53% more likely to show up on Google’s page one.)
  4. Visual content–particularly video–is forty times more likely to get shared.  Source: Buffer
  5. Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.  Source: Aberdeen Group

As you may have noticed, I’m particularly fond of number five. That’s basically a mic drop for video…

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Photo credit: Jakob Owens

Shoulder to Shoulder with Mentors

Two weeks ago, Joe Sciarotta, the CCO of Ogilvy Chicago who was recently made co-CCO of Ogilvy US, asked me to film a video. Since I was in Chicago on business, I stopped by their office at the end of the day. Producer Mike Diedrich and CD/DP Peter Angus Medlock filmed my bit in under a half hour, most of which we spent laughing.

Candidly, I thought the project was to congratulate Joe on his big promotion. Instead, it was for the 4A’s 100th Anniversary celebration, held Wednesday night in Chicago.

When I saw the roughcut, I was knocked back. To be in the same video as Lee Clow, Shelly Lazarus, Jeff Goodby, Ari Helper, my old bosses Keith Reinhard and Bob Scarpelli, and a host of other cool people was the nicest compliment I’ve received in ages.

The clip also proved I can’t talk without using my hands.

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PS: The commercial I reference is over twenty years old but remains a favorite. This marvelous spot for Black Currant Tango soda inspired me to go bigger and sillier whenever possible. It is, quite simply, flawless.

In Praise of Gentle Giants

Many of us struggle with life on social media these days: the bickering, the artless insults, the escalation of every disagreement to defcon 1… I find myself spending more time on Instagram, surfing the brighter parts of friends’ and relatives’ lives.

For my father-in-law, the brighter part of his life has always been his big dogs. Actually, anyone’s big dogs. So this morning when I checked my email, I wasn’t particularly surprised to see he had forwarded another one loaded with adorable dog shots.

But this one felt different. It was a collection taken by Andy Seliverstoff, a photographer based in St. Petersburg, Russia. His work features small children playing with very big dogs.  According to the email, Andy got into this subject later in life after taking family portraits for friends that included their Great Dane. He was fascinated by the relationship between the large animal and the young children. This dichotomy became his signature subject, to the point where early this year, he released a book called “Little Kids and Their Big Dogs.”

You can see a lot of Andy’s work on this page on 500px, a social network for photographers. I apologize that it’s not curated more ruthlessly, but if you are having an off day, or if you just like big dogs and play and smiling, click on the link and start browsing.

Some might find this work the canine equivalent of Anne Geddes‘ baby portraits; a little too adorable, too saccharine, too too. If so, I get it.

But compared to the sturm und drang of our political circus or the thought of Ted Cruz’ indiscrete habits, a healthy dose of gentle charm feels exactly right.

Happy Thursday.

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