21. Athletes in Advertising

As a student athlete, I often feel as if I don’t have the time for anything but eating, sleeping, playing and going to school. I savor the small moments in between—a ten-minute nap here, a snack there. It seems like everyone else has so much more time than I do to commit to “white space,” as Deb Morrison says—the time in between classes that should be spent creating portfolio pieces and developing work skills. People always tell me that being a student athlete will pay off when searching for jobs, but it’s so stressful to see the seemingly endless list of extracurriculars and internships that other students have to put on their resumes. I’ll have one big one—“Student Athlete, 4 years.” But I’ve come to realize that that one item on my resume speaks volumes about my natural skills.47864_190641714393364_1251450787_n

What made me feel better was a conversation we had in class regarding the skills needed to be “nimble.” Some of the skills mentioned were leadership and communication. Hold on a minute…I know those. I work with 28 other girls, 5 of which are PMSing at any one time, striving to make our team the best it can be and to produce a desired outcome. First of all, you try communicating logically with a bunch of girls on their periods—harder than it sounds. Secondly, communication is pretty damn important when there are girls chasing after you with sticks. Skills such as communication and leadership apply to most workplace environments, but advertising itself requires certain traits that I’ve honed in my athletic career.

One of the hardest things as a creative is to take criticism. I take criticism every day—tiny details that must be hammered out to make my game better. Sometimes this criticism is screamed at me across the field, sometimes right in my face. What’s really the difference between a coach and a boss, besides the amount they yell at you? Athletes are used to this criticism—it’s how we get better. We have to have tough skin or we won’t make it. When my design work is critiqued in class, it doesn’t affect me personally at all; it’s just another step towards making my game better.

The advertising world also requires a level of competitiveness—that drive to be the best and to make the best work. However, this competitiveness does not translate to within one agency, because that’s the team. This balance between competition and selflessness makes the best creative team—one in which each teammate holds each other to the highest standard possible.

Knowing that there are former student athletes making it big in the creative industry inspires my competitive spirit. Talented people such as Chris Witherspoon at DNA Seattle brought the lessons learned on the field to their workplaces. If they can do it, so can I.

20. Nike Found Greatness

For the most part, Nike advertising revolves around role models—professional athletes, or people who look like they could be professional athletes, sweating and playing while wearing the swoosh. The idea was to inspire. Most people who use Nike products aspire, on some level, to be athletic—to be like the toned athletes shown in the Nike advertisements. I strongly stand behind the fact that Nike was not ignoring those who don’t resemble these athletes. It was simply an advertising strategy, depicting Nike as an elite athletic brand used by the top athletes in the world.

Then, out came the “Find Your Greatness” commercial, in 2012 by Wieden+Kennedy.

A chubby boy runs down a country road, towards the camera, while the hunky Tom Hardy inspires us with the inspiring words, ” Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for a chosen few, for prodigies, for superstars, and the rest of us can only stand by watching.
You can forget that. Greatness is not some rare DNA strand, not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it. All of us.” Buzzfeed wrote an article that blasts the commercial for falsely claiming that we all can be great. “The ad is a lie,” the article says, “Let’s hope obese people who should be walking slowly, at most—not running, uphill—don’t start piling up in emergency rooms and morgues…You know what? Let’s give everybody who tries super hard in school A+’s.”

Woah, woah, woah. I’m sorry, are you asking that Nike come out and say “sorry fat people, you shouldn’t run. Just walk.” Hell no. It’s called inspiration. You have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is different for everyone.

The expansion of the elite Nike brand to all body types is endearing and inspirational. Some argue that Nike needs to expand the clothing as well, in order to fit larger body types, which might be a good idea if they continue the “Find Your Greatness” campaign. But for now, the motive behind the ad is good enough for me. Everyone’s level of motivation and ability is different, and Nike is finally recognizing that while still encouraging them to get out and get moving.

19. People Magazine Commercial

I was casually (cough, obsessively) watching my wedding shows the other day, when suddenly this commercial spot came on.

Hold the phone, that idea rings a bell! The promotional video that I made for my magazine is the same general concept, but I’ll admit that People pulled it off a bit better.

What I appreciate about the spot is how People represented itself. When I was making my spot, I focused on the “voice” of the magazine—if the publication could walk and talk, how would it sound? How would it portray itself?

People tapped into this idea—its “voice” is the voice of the people. It targets our desire to hear about other people—whether that is celebrities or simply everyday people with extraordinary stories, we are intrigued by the human condition. People delivers this information in a voice that is both informational and conversational, and that’s what they put into the commercial spot. “People love people.”

They went a different route than I did—I went more literal with the “voice” idea with an actual voiceover, whereas People chose to use Bruno Mars’ “Just the way you are.” The voice in their spot is the headlines, taking us back in time to the events that caught the public’s attention.

What I appreciate most about the commercial, however, is that it is selling the magazine directly. The end tells the audience to go pick up a copy. A copy—as in, real life, paper, printed copy. When else have you seen a commercial selling the paper copy of a magazine? Hardly ever, now that so many magazines are moving online. It’s nice to see attention given to the printed publication, which still houses a special place in my heart because of my need to cut things out.

18. Blah Wedding Advertising

I’m a wedding fanatic. It’s the dresses, mostly—I border on obsessive. I’m constantly looking through new collections and discovering new designers, pinning them to my Wedding Ideas board on Pinterest. I’m constantly on Weddinginspirasi.com and Marthastewartweddings.com, skimming the thousands of long white gowns for something that catches my eye. My dad doesn’t understand it. “They all look the same, how can you spend so much time looking at wedding dresses?” It’s true that many do look the same, but these don’t catch my attention—I scroll right by them because I’ve seen that style so many times before. It’s the unusual that I’m looking for. I’ve found that this mixture of the repetitive and the new translates to wedding advertising as well.

First, let’s examine this “classic” depiction of bridal fashion. mary

This example comes from the Mary’s Bridal Spring 2013 collection. Pink bouquet. Old mansion background. Frozen, doll-like facial expression topped by a classic updo. I know this has a lot to do with my taste level, but I’ve just seen this so many times before. I pass right by images like this without even stopping to check the details of the dress. The whole feel of the image lets me know that I already don’t respect the aesthetic of that designer, so why would I look at more of his or her dresses? I won’t.

Now look at the Michael Cinco designs. michael-cinco-ss2013-15

It’s intriguing, unusual, and so beautifully done that I’m inspired to look at every single dress in the collection. I even followed from Weddinginspirasi.com to the actual Michael Cinco website just to see more.

In a world of white, wedding designers must be especially careful how they portray themselves. Simply doing the usual won’t get you noticed, even by fanatics like myself. Advertising that goes against the norm of the typical wedding will ensure that I look at every single gown, even if I don’t like the designs of the dresses themselves.

17. Inspiration and Originality

It’s pretty ballsy to try to revamp something that’s already been done. There’s such a high percentage of failure, especially if the first one gained a large amount of popularity. The dodge ram 2013 superbowl commercial did just that. In order to tap into its audience of hands-on, tough working people, the people at The Richards Group in Dallas, Texas were inspired by an oldie but goodie.

However, the definition of “inspired” is foggy here. Are you still only “inspired” by something if you essentially make the same exact thing? Both videos use the voiceover from Paul Harvey’s 1978 “So god made a farmer” speech, delivered to the Future Farmers of America. They both use still photography of American farmers and their work, slideshow style. The only real difference, besides the fact that one ends with “Dodge,” is the quality of the photographs—which, according to texasmonthly.com, were taken by highly regarded commissioned photographers

The ad was a huge hit—the superbowl audience loved it, and it got great reviews on social media. However, the advertising world brought into question the creativity of the work. The pictures were better…so what?

To me, it’s a cop-out. Most people watching the super bowl wouldn’t have seen the farm.com version, so Dodge was able to touch the same level of emotion that the original video received without the claims of “copycat.”

Even though Dodge is apparently working with Farms.com to raise money for the FFA, the ad doesn’t cut it for me. There needs to be a level of originality that all ad agencies are held to. Referencing the old video is fine, but this is just too similar. Even simply using videos instead of stills would have cut it for me.

16. Targeted Facebook Ads

As advertisers, we’re trying to reach our audience. Now that everyone is online, it’s logical that advertising would do the same on the Internet. I know that many believe that the next step of advertising revolves around “targeted ads” online, but I have a few problems with it.

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The idea is there…stalk my online activity and throw ads up that correlate directly to what I was just searching for. Problem: I sit in the front row of class. Second problem: people shop for underwear sometimes. Thank you, targeted ads, for displaying exactly which underwear I was shopping for. Boys sitting behind me, you’re welcome.

The advertisements on Facebook are decided by multiple factors of your online personality, the most basic being your general information on your profile. Where you’re from, your age, your interests—these factors place you in defined demographic categories, from which advertisers pick and choose how to advertise to you. This is not the factor that annoys me. What annoys me is when Facebook takes directly from my recent browsing history and throws it on my damn page for anyone looking over my shoulder to see. Please don’t think that I sit on Facebook during class—it just happens to be up when I first open my laptop, showing the row behind me precisely what I was just shopping for.

I shop online a lot—I don’t usually buy, but I browse regularly. Putting the exact products that I was shopping for on the sidebar of my Facebook does remind me of them, but I didn’t buy them for a reason. If I wanted it, I would have bought it the first time.

Though the targeting of advertisements makes sense to me, it still creep me out a bit. Lay off, Google. I’m a teenager; stop telling on me to mom/Facebook. I’ve never clicked on the sidebar displaying my favorite brands, but then again I browse their websites anyway, without prompt from Facebook. So does this targeting advertising actually work? Or are people as creeped out/annoyed as I am by big brother Google?

Brian Boland, Facebook’s director of product marketing, describes the new manner in which users can click out of ads. “We have always given our users the ability to provide feedback on and control the ads they see on Facebook, by hiding, reporting, or clicking through to learn more about why particular ads are being served,” he said. I appreciate the effort to show me ads that actually apply to me, and to allow me to click out of them, but please keep my underwear out of it. Thank you.

15. Mobile Ads Terrorize Users

Heads up: here’s another rant. I get that free apps need revenue somehow. I get that the mobile web is a target for advertising—that makes sense. What I don’t understand is the freaking tiny x you have to tap in order to get out of the ad. They’re not even good ads—maybe that’s why I’m so annoyed. Why make your audience angry? It baffles me. If I’m having to focus this hard to click on a tiny x, if I miss it and accidentally click on the ad, taking me to a different window entirely, I’m even less likely to pay attention to the window I was just taken to. In fact, I won’t pay any attention to it at all, just because I’m so pissed at myself that I missed the damn x. They’re practically like the pop-up ads online, where even if you click out of them a new pop-up window attacks your screen, or where you can’t click the “back” button and are eternally stuck on that ad page, cursing the advertising heavens.

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In my gateway class we discussed designing for mobile and tablets. The “rule of thumb”—yes that’s a play on words…think about it—is that every thing the user must tap should be a minimum of 44 pixels. The exceptions to this rule include the iPhone keyboard when held vertically, but most people can handle that. What if you have a huge thumb? You’re screwed if a pop up ad ever accosts you while you’re trying to play angry birds.

For the most part, ads haven’t reached the mobile web pages yet. This is probably because of the lack of the sidebar space, but I have no doubt that this will soon change. Possibly the next step will look similar to the “suggested posts” on Facebook, where the ads are mixed in with regular posts as you scroll. (Note to Facebook, I hate country so stop suggesting I buy cowboy boots). The screen is just so small that ads cannot hide on the outskirts of the page. Instead, they are thrown in our faces, teasing us with small x’s.

I prefer Twitter’s method: Put the ads in there for people to click on if they want to. Make it intriguing enough and maybe we’ll go there. Make it frustrating, and we definitely won’t.