A constant struggle for editorial artists is the search for a way to capture the essence of a story in a single powerful image. Unfortunately, picturing a semiautomatic assault weapon, as sinister as it looks, no longer shocks readers. In fact, guns and even images of crying survivors of mass killings feel cynically banal. That’s why this week’s Time Magazine cover stopped us in our tracks. San Francisco Bay Area artist John Mavroudis simply hand-lettered the 253 locations of mass shootings in America so far this year and added the word “ENOUGH.” The crude lettering is crammed onto the page with city names shown vertically, sideways and at a slant in large letters and small, filling every nook and cranny. Mavroudis calls his drawing “a frightening portrait of a country drowning in gun violence.” Indeed, the effect is chilling and memorable and gives perspective to our epidemic of domestic terrorism.
How do you publicize something that is widely considered socially rude to talk about? It’s okay to urge people to get regular dental exams, annual mammograms, eye tests, and melanoma check-ups, but suggesting the need for a rectal exam is usually not well received (and often not meant in the kindest way). Yet colon/rectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer in America. Ironically, it is also one of the most treatable types of cancer if detected early through regular rectal exams. Meredith’s Miracles Colon Cancer Foundation wanted to bring these facts into the public discussion and asked the ad agency, FCB Chicago, to raise awareness through a public service ad campaign. FCB delivered the warning to Chicago commuters by selectively posting ads on the back side of bus seats. In this case, the placement of the ad is the butt of the joke.
Winner of a 2014 Cannes Outdoor Advertising Award, this Corona Extra billboard campaign feels like a high school science project on steroids – e.g., drop a raw egg from 30 feet without breaking it, make a rocket that can shoot across a football field, build your own fog tornado. In this case, Corona and its ad agency Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago came up with a way to put a real crescent moon on top of a Corona bottle billboard.
It was all very clever and fun in a geeky way. The idea involved showing an open bottle of Corona Extra surrounded by the moon in its different phases. The beer bottle itself butted up to the top edge of the billboard. By calculating the angle of the moon at a specific geographic location, the time that it would be in its crescent phase, and other measurements, the creative team could precisely predict when the moon would rest on the bottle top like a wedge of lime. Such calculations, however, are typically beyond the ken of “right brain” advertising people, so they turned to experts at top universities and planetariums for help. The consensus was that on June 14 and June 15, 2013, the crescent moon would be positioned over the bottle top shown on the billboard at 15th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan. The historic lunar lime event was publicized online and via social media and created such a buzz that spectators came out specifically to witness the moon hovering over the Corona bottle. Such an occurrence is even rarer than a lunar eclipse.
Consumer focus groups have long been a mainstay of marketing research. It’s a great way to gather user perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitude about a product. Chicago ad agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul pulled together a panel of mostly four-legged consumers to roll out Big Lots’ line of pet supplies and toys. Two improvisational actors served as panel “facilitators,” conducting a tongue-in-cheek user opinion survey. The panel of dogs and cats weren’t exactly forthcoming in their preferences, but they did give the discount retailer an opportunity to show the vast and varied range of pet products it sells.
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In the realm of classic comic book heroes, there is Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, the Green Lantern …and Tintin the baby-faced boy reporter. A comic strip introduced in 1929 by Belgian cartoonist Herge (Georges Prosper Remi), “The Adventures of Tintin” relates tales of a Belgian teenager with a round head and a dorky quiff hairstyle who is dispatched by a youth newspaper called Le Petit Vingtieme (the Little Twentieth) to file investigative reports from hot spots around the world. Unassuming and good-natured, Tintin gamely goes wherever he is assigned, taking his little fox terrier, Snowy, with him. His travels often put him in the midst of political upheaval in the land of the Soviets, the Belgian Congo, China, Chicago, Latin America and elsewhere, and in trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, he is forced to deal with ruthless special agents, diamond smugglers, Al Capone gangsters and other villains who want to run him over, shoot him, torture him, kidnap him and feed him to crocodiles.Tintin and Snowy deal with each encounter without fear and get themselves out of each jam through quick-thinking action and sometimes through sheer dumb luck. What has kept Tintin so beloved over the decades is that he isn’t presented as an egotistical super human like Spiderman and Wonder Woman, but as an average young man who doesn’t seek out danger but doesn’t run from it either. In Brussels, Tintin and Snowy are honored with a life-size bronze statue, and they are even commemorated on a euro coin, which is legal tender in Belgium. An unlikely action hero, Tintin is probably the most admired fictional Belgian in recent history.