More than four decades have gone by since acclaimed designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark International were hired by the New York Transit Authority (now the MTA) to modernize and unify the look of the subway signage, which by Noorda’s own account “was a mess.” Cluttered with varied typefaces of different sizes and rendered on different materials from mosaic tile to a paper sign stuck to the wall, the old signage system confused more than aided travelers. In its place, Vignelli and Noorda developed a cohesive subway wayfinding system designed to promote intuitive understanding — so much so that they promised: “The passenger will be given information or directions only at the point of decision. Never before. Never after.” It did all that and more. The New York Transit Authority’s wayfinding system is still considered a masterpiece of clarity, logic, consistency, and elegant modernist design.
The accompanying 174-page Graphic Standards Manual was as brilliantly written and produced by Vignelli and Noorda. One day in 2013, two young designers at Pentagram – Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth – stumbled upon an original copy of the manual in the basement of Pentagram’s New York office. The pair found the manual so awesome that they wanted to share it with friends, so they created a dedicated website (thestandardsmanual.com) and posted scanned pages online. The site instantly went viral. Within 72 hours, more than a quarter million people visited the site. Although delighted, Reed and Smyth felt strongly that an on-screen viewing didn’t do justice to the beauty of the real Standards Manual. To truly appreciate it, they felt people should see it full size in print, and they set out to produce a book with an introduction by Vignelli protege and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and an essay by New York Magazine’s Christopher Bonanos, author of “Instant: The Story of Polaroid”.
An entertaining TV commercial is better than watching a 30-minute sitcom — and this ad for Adobe Marketing Cloud by Goodby Silverstein & Partners proves the point. The 60-second “Click, Baby, Click” spot shows how an innocent act can have reverberating disastrous effects in a broad range of markets and industries around the world — unless, of course, businesses protect themselves with the online services of Adobe. So many great commercials today are written like a comedy skit, reeling the viewer in and then delivering the marketing sell at the very end.
Oh, how marketing has changed since YouTube came into being in 2005. On the whole, online commercials are more entertaining and longer in length than the 30 and 60 second spots shown on television. This video for OPI fingernail polish titled “Instinct of Color” is like viewing a mini stage performance. Sensuous and mesmerizing, this video features a dance challenge between a beautiful thoroughbred named “Lady in Black” and four talented dancers – all to promote fingernail polish. Created by DAN Paris using music “Down the Road” by French DJ’s C2C, the 2 ½ minute video ad doesn’t display the actual OPI nail polish bottles until the end and mostly shows the best-selling colors in the OPI line on the hooves of the horse and the dancers’ apparel. The commercial is without voiceover or marketing spiel. You watch it for pure enjoyment. This is the push-pull difference between TV and Internet. TV ads push their message in front of viewers by ”barging” into hit TV shows. Online advertising videos have to pull viewers to their site by offering the promise of fun and amusement. They need to give viewers a reason to seek them out and tell their friends so their message will go viral.
These commercials aren’t selling what you think they do. They were created by London-based John Nolan Studio/Robot Factory, which boasts an impressive portfolio of film assignments including “Dr. Who” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” The Nolan’s Cheese and Nolan’s Nuts brands don’t exist, but John Nolan’s animatronic design and FX services do, and the videos show off the firm’s talent and capabilities quite effectively – little wonder that they went viral online. The cheese video came out first, and a nutty variation of the idea followed.
Sports and beer were meant for each other. If you watch beer commercials, that’s the impression you get. The beer- sports fan theme is an advertising cliché. Unfortunately, most of the ads are so interchangeably similar that one brand name on a beer bottle could be photoshopped out and replaced with another and no one would know the difference. Most of these commercials feature attractive, young people with bottles of beer in their hands, yucking it up in a crowded sports bar. When you’ve seen one beer-in-bar commercial, you’ve seen them all. Which brings us to the Carlsberg Fan Academy spot, created by Fold 7 agency in London. Like most videos that go viral, this one has a story line that holds your attention and is fun to watch. It’s a comedy sketch, with actors not models, and the brand message for Carlsberg comes through strong, but doesn’t stomp over the entertainment value. The viewers’ delight in getting amusement from an ad, makes them feel good about the brand and want to retweet it to share with friends.
Clocking in at two minutes, this Honda commercial would be a very expensive ad buy on prime-time TV, but thanks to the accessibility of YouTube and Vimeo, audiences are seeking it out online. The Honda “Hands” ad starts with a cog, just like its award-winning Cog commercial (see July 24 post below). This time Honda teamed with Wieden + Kennedy London to “celebrate the curiosity of Honda engineers” who have made Honda the world’s largest engine manufacturer and racing company since it was founded in 1948. Through “slight of hand” and brilliant animation, the cog morphs into a dazzling array of products, from motorcycles and jet planes to solar-powered cars and robots. The making of this video, directed by Smith & Foulkes and Nexus Productions, is a technological feat in itself. For brands that think they don’t have the budget for such an ambitious production, consider this: Is it better to do something middle-of-the-road and run it on prime time TV or to create something awesomely original that people will “google” to see on their own. If it is good, it will go viral.
To celebrate the holidays, AKQA, the San Francisco/London-based digital creative agency, teamed up with members of the Pacific Chamber Symphony and Music Director Laurence Kohl to produce an interactive arrangement of “Carol of the Bells.” They are assisted by “shadow orchestra members” led by a “shadow conductor” who coordinates the performance by linking to Mobile Orchestra.com via wi-fi to get a unique web address. From there, up to 12 people may sync their smartphones, each choosing an instrument played by one of the real musicians. Once the “conductor” sees that all the mobile instruments are ready, he/she presses a key to let the music begin.
For Coke Zero’s joint promotion of the new James Bond film “Skyfall,” Belgian ad agency Duval Guillaume Modern set up an elaborate stunt in the Antwerp central train station. It began when unsuspecting commuters walked up to a Coke vending machine, which displayed a promotional offer that came with a hitch. They could win two free tickets to a special screening of “Skyfall,” if they could get to the vending machine on Platform Six within 70 seconds.
This video was produced to promote the launch of the TV channel TNT in Belgium. We’d tell you more but don’t want to spoil the tagline. The viral stunt was produced by the Duval Guillame Modem agency, with Geoffrey Hantson as creative director and Koen Mortier as director.