Abused to Make a Point

For home remodelers weighing whether real hardwood or Pergo XP laminate will wear better on the floor, check out this marketing video, produced by Atlanta-based ad agency, Fitzgerald+CO. Pergo XP foregoes the standard product performance demonstration and shows a cast of odd characters performing unspeakable acts on the flooring. Fitzgerald+CO wisely chose to film the ad in Venice Beach, California, where even bikini-clad roller skaters and Mr. Universe muscle men don’t cause a stir — just another day at the beach.


Royal Navy’s Christmas Wish

The crew of the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean came up with a creative way to announce their Christmas homecoming after seven long months at sea. In a series of giddy antics, they lipsynced their way through Mariah Carey’s rendition of “All I Want for Christmas.”

Last April the HMS Ocean was sent out for what was supposed to be a seven-week training exercise, but suddenly got diverted to Libya instead to support the UN air mission during the uprising against Moammar Gaddafi. When the crew finally got word that they’d be back in their home port of Plymouth for Christmas, they celebrated by making their own video during an unusually quiet two-day period. A morale booster for the crew, the video is silly, funny and a “feel-good” way to usher in the holidays. Welcome home.

Public Service Campaign

Greenpeace Turns Chopsticks into Trees

Consider this: Consumers in China went through 57 billion pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks in 2009 alone, which equates to more than 3.8 million trees. For a nation that ranks 139th worldwide in forest land per capita, that means that China’s forests may be wiped out in 20 years if consumption continues at that rate.

Last winter Greenpeace East Asia and Ogilvy Beijing teamed with artist Yinhai Xu and students from 20 Chinese universities to stage a public awareness campaign. Together, they gathered some 80,000 pairs of used chopsticks from Beijing restaurants to assemble a “Disposable Forest” in a popular Beijing shopping center. The display urged people to carry around their own pair of chopsticks when eating out and asked them to sign a pledge to stop using disposable chopsticks. The 80,000 pairs of chopsticks that were transformed into four full-sized trees are a mere sliver of how many disposable chopsticks are used worldwide. Even though wood is a renewable resource is it really worth it to cut down a tree to make an eating utensil that is used once and thrown away?

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McDonald’s Beacon of French Fries

Here’s a case of taking the same visual concept and using it to communicate two different marketing messages. This “night light” print ad, created by Cossette West in Canada, promotes the fact that McDonald’s is now open all night, 24/7.

It builds on a visual idea, conceived by Leo Burnett USA, for an outdoor marketing campaign touting McDonald’s as having the “Best Fries on the Planet.” Visible from three miles around, the billboard shot vertical beams of golden light up from a super-sized French-fry packet, illuminating the night skies of Chicago. Although this spectacular “tribute to fries” garnered lots of accolades for its ingenuity, the outdoor light show was also called insensitive for what some considered an uncanny resemblance to the Twin Tower “Tribute in Light” commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy. We don’t think so. For one thing, the billboard – which came down last week – was only shown in Chicago near the company’s headquarters. Also, the red box of fries is so iconic that viewers immediately associate it with the fast-food giant and chuckle. Don’t know whether this marketing concept will be extended beyond print ads and billboards, but maybe it should be turned into a promotional giveaway of a real “french fry” night light.

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Information Graphics

Graphically Evoking Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”

Our musical notation system follows a convention that dates back centuries. By reading it, musicians can get an aural sense of melody, tempo and all the other instructions on how the score should be played. But what if the notations were shown in graphically different colors and dot sizes? This is a study done by graphic designer Laia Clos of Mot Studio in Barcelona. Clos explains that the self-initiated project started with a woman in her studio who has a knowledge of music. From there, they created a new graphic musical notation system called “SisTeMu,” which translates a musical score into simple geometric forms and basic printing colors, exploring the rhythmic and melodic harmonies found in the musical composition. The system somewhat simplifies the complexity and mathematical structure, making it accessible to the viewer through a visual narrative. For their first translation, they used the musical data for the lead violin part of Antonio Vivaldi’s baroque concerto, “The Four Seasons” (or “Lesquartrestacions”). In addition to producing a booklet documenting how to read the SisTeMu system, Mot Studio created limited edition posters of each concerto (or season) and a set of postage stamps, which you can order from Mot’s website

Clos presented graphic extracts of her musical notation system on postage stamps, part of a limited print run of 300. The postage value is equivalent to Spain’s regular national charter.


Citroën’s C3 Bip Bip Fantasy

Created by Agence H in Paris, the new Citroën commercial for the C3 is funny, effective and amazing for what it doesn’t say and doesn’t show. For one, it doesn’t show the new C3 until the very end. It doesn’t have a voiceover explaining each of the car’s fancy standard features. It just shows a man driving an old car and pretending that it comes “loaded with specs” by imitating the sounds that each feature would make. You don’t have to speak English or French to get the point.


Mahatma Gandhi’s Words in His Own Type

Leo Burnett India ad agency commemorated the 141st anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth (October 2, 2010) by creating an alphabetical font in the Devanagari script in the style of Gandhi’s trademark wireframe eyeglasses. The special typeface was the brainchild of Burnett’s national creative director KV “Pops” Sridhar, who wanted to inspire younger generations with the teachings of Gandhi. The glasses symbolize Gandhi’s vision and his visionary thoughts on truth and nonviolence. Sridhar explains, “The way he saw the world is completely different than the way we do – and hence the glasses, to subtly nudge people into thinking like him again.” Gandhi had originally given the glasses in the 1930s to an Indian army colonel who had asked the great leader for inspiration. Gandhi reportedly gave him his glasses and said, “These gave me the vision to free India.”

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Avoiding Typographic Fiascos: H&FJ Offer Tips.

There’s an art to combining typefaces. When it is done well, the entire layout comes alive. Words become more legible, information feels organized and easier to understand, and the typography itself reflects a mood that is consistent with the message being conveyed. When it is done badly, it’s a jarring hodge-podge.

That’s why when we ran across this lesson on Hoefler & Frere Jones’s website, we had to bring it to you. (H&FJ, as most of you know, is one of the world’s foremost digital typehouses.) H&FJ’s overriding advice is: Keep one thing consistent, and let one thing vary.

1. Use typefaces with complementary moods to evoke an upbeat, energetic air.

The interplay between fonts gives them energy.

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School in a Bottle

In the mountainous village of Granados in central Guatemala, Peace Corps volunteer Laura Kutner came up with a way to solve several problems at once – the need for more classrooms, the shortage of building materials, and the abundance of plastic trash littering the ground.

Kutner rallied the community of roughly 860 people living in the village and surrounding area and together they collected more than 4,000 discarded plastic soda bottles. From there, students and volunteers used sticks and hands to cram the plastic bottles with more plastic — used bags, packaging and grocery sacks – to give the containers heft and form, then stacked them like bricks held in place by chicken wire, and “stuccoed” them with a cement-sand mixture.

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Ten Years Told Through 92 Covers

From the Magazine Publishers Association and American Society of Magazine Editors comes this two-minute video “Covering the Decade in Magazine Covers.” This edited America-centric view of the Aughts glaringly omits world-altering stories such as the disputed “hanging chad” Presidential election that started the decade and the rise of social media and focus on climate change that ended it. Overall, however, the video is a fascinating glimpse at the visual devices that publishers use to grab consumer attention at the newsstand. Faces, especially of celebrities, dominate most covers. Pop culture and sensational headlines trump the promise of substantive, thoughtful reporting. Obviously, the magazine reading public is more interested in being entertained than informed.

Viral Marketing

Post – Christmas Guerrilla Ad Campaign

Passersby in Amsterdam did a double-take as they walked by post-holiday curbside trash heaped high with the usual plastic garbage bags, assorted discards and… a Mini Cooper cardboard packing box with a red ribbon still dangling off the side. The brainchild of Ubachswisbrun/JWT agency, the Mini Cooper guerrilla “advertisements” were strategically placed throughout the city. It left people to wonder if the popular tiny hatchback was really small enough to be shipped in a box and possibly even fit under a Christmas tree. The white stick-on label on the side of the box provided the sales message – a 99 euro a month finance deal. Except for the black outline drawing of the Mini on all sides of the box, the actual product was nowhere to be seen.




Euphemisms – substituting a positive description for a negative one – have been a device used by marketing and advertising writers forever. For example, apartment ads that can only promise that it is “clean and sunny” are a sure sign that the place is cramped and drafty with a fresh coat of paint. If it says “in an up-and-coming neighborhood,” you know it’s a dump in a dumpy area.

Corporate writers will try to soften the blow for shareholders by talking about a “challenging” year, when “disastrous” might be a more apt description. Marketing writers will look for ways to turn a perceived negative into a positive. Some politicians and scam artist will say anything short of an out-and-out lie.

Lately doublespeak has become a universal language, so we thought we’d provide a brief glossary of what the terms really mean.

In Other Words

Design Education

Teaching Design to Inner City Kids


Design, particularly graphic design, is not a profession that most inner city kids consider, partly because many don’t know that such a profession even exists. In fact, the whole notion that somebody had made design choices about the size, color, typography, etc. of a simple sign comes as a revelation to some kids. Jessica Weiss, a student in the nonprofit Inneract Project program, explained her surprise. “I just thought, oh, someone wrote this sign. Someone wrote that sign. No, it had to be designed.”

This is exactly the lesson that Inneract Project founder Maurice Woods hoped to pass on. Woods, a senior designer at Studio Hinrichs in San Francisco, started the program in 2004 when as a graduate student in a University of Washington’s Visual Communication Design class, he got the assignment to “Use Design to Try to Change the World.” Drawing from his own experience growing up in the violent teen-gang and drug-plagued town of Richmond near San Francisco, Woods wanted to help young adolescents expand their awareness of the career options open to them.

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Stamps to Help Kids Learn

Every year since 1924, the Dutch Postal Service has worked together with the Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland (SKN), or the Foundation for Children’s Welfare Stamps Netherland, to produce a series of stamps to help disadvantaged children both in and outside the Netherlands. The last campaign raised more than 9.3m euros to fund educational programs. The special edition stamps, which cost a little more than regular stamps, have been sold door-to-door by Dutch school children since 1948. Art director Christian Borstlap from Kessels Kramer Creative Collective designed this year’s playful worm-like creatures, which were featured both on the stamp series and on postcards. The little worm people were turned into an animated commercial by Paul Postma Motion Design.

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