The Power of Simple

In the daily deluge of news items, memes, and hot takes regarding social distancing, this one leapt off my feeds …

Astoundingly elegant, powerfully persuasive

It is a public service ad shot for the Ohio Department of Health by Real Art: an experiential production agency out of Dayton. An incredibly imaginative idea that’s perfect in execution, it racked up over 6 million views within its first 24 hours. Perhaps the only negative about this piece is how it inspires so many shameless headlines that feature the word ‘snappy.’

Real Art’s video team lead Andy Nick provided some fascinating production details on his Twitter feed. The set up for the explosive shot required 8 hours. And like most productions, time got short toward the end of the day. So much so that for the final ‘distanced’ scene, he took the precaution of supergluing the balls to the traps in case the bouncing ping pong ball thrown into their midst went awry. Remarkably, it didn’t and he captured it on the first take. Check out another view of the madness on this BTS video he shot on his iPhone from another angle.

Very impressive thinking, an even more impressive production, and an unforgettable message. This is advertising at its best. Well done Andy and team.

Government Ads: Lotteries? Yes. Tourism? Okay. PSA’s? No.

Creating advertising is tough; criticizing it is easy.  And yet sometimes, decency demands you point a finger when the whole damned deal goes horribly, desperately wrong.  In most cases, this results from a well-intended, inexperienced client mistakenly believing that the general public wants and needs to know every last factoid about the product they wish to sell.  However, when the client is the government, the foolishness hits an entirely new level of dumb.

This sad reality hit me no less than three times as I watched college football game this weekend.  Even though my beloved Irish showed marked improvement on defense, this ad–and the fact that it had a ridiculously repetitive media buy–truly soured my Saturday.

This exercise in wasteful government spending comes courtesy of the Illinois Department of Transportation and it’s even less welcome than the traffic cones and lane closures on I-290.  It looks cheap because it is cheap–from the cliched concept right through the Jr. High School Drama Club performances, the entire effort is guaranteed to send right-thinking Land of Lincoln-ites straight to their liquor cabinet with the sole intent of washing the horror from their synapses.  Jack Daniels!  Jim Beam!  Make the horror stop!!

The meager production budget is particularly inexcusable given this spot’s enviable media buy.  Cleaving off even another two percent of that media to fund a legitimate Illinois production company and actual SAG actors would have made a world of difference even on such a ham-fistedly bad concept, but apparently, we’re not paying off the right people.

Technology like hi-def camera phones and iMovie have democratized the production process, making it available to the masses.  But it’s like Jerry Seinfeld’s classic commentary on the comedy explosion of the 80’s: “Before the comedy thing blew up, there were like 200 comics and eight really good ones.  Now there are 2000 comics…and eight really good ones.”

You want a really good one?  You’ll probably have to pay for it.  If not in cash, then at least in time or freedom.

And believe me, given the alternative, it will be well worth it.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Parenting, Mirroring, and Passing on Geeky Tendencies to Children

When I was a kid, the anti-smoking PSA “Like Father, Like Son” seemed to run constantly.  A Dad and his boy spend an easy Saturday together, painting the house, washing the car, skipping stones, and everything the man does, his little towhead tries to do as well, right up to the moment they sit down under a tree and he reaches for a smoke.

I don’t have a son, but we do have two girls.  And last night, as I watched them while their Mom went to book club, I sat on our bed, tweaking this blog.  My ten year old brought the family laptop in and sat down next to me.  She noodled a bit then asked if she could write a blog entry too.  About a year ago, she saw me doing this and asked to start her own.  So I found the page for her, helped her set up a post, then went back to work.  And so did she.

Like most kids, she’s not a particularly dedicated journalist, still her subject matter (chinchillas, Benihana onion volcanos) perfectly reflects the rangy interests of an elementary schooler.  Last night, she wrote an entry about school and her teacher, Ms. Feldman…

Dennis Ryan Chicago Advertising Element 79


Hmm…I better get going.  I gotta do some cancer research, work on improving crop yields in third world nations, and try to get my mile time under four and a half minutes…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79