Category Archives: ddb

the corporate social responsibility bandwagon

Companies that take a stand are all the rage now. It used to be that the limit of corporations’ social ambitions were to make a lot of money, thus keeping people employed, returning profits to stockholders and helping the economy as a whole. For better or worse – and there are arguments on both sides – that has all changed.

That corporate social responsibility is in vogue is not new news…and that fact alone means that it was only a matter of time before the whole idea, or at least of advertising the idea as a point of differentiation for your brand, jumped the shark.

When McDonald’s, via agency DDB Stockholm, is touting the morality of its hiring practices because it sees a business opportunity in positioning itself as a moral company you know that what was once a trend is now firmly mainstream:


Body copy: “Nor Swedes, South Koreans or Norwegians. We hire individuals. We don’t care what your surname is. Because ambition and determination have nothing to do with your nationality. McDonald’s is one of the most integrated companies in Sweden, with as many as ninety-five nationalities working for us. Join us at”

Forget the Economist-esque treatment that Adrants rightly has a little fun with, the point of this ad, which is running as a full page ad in major Swedish newspapers, is not to recruit for McDonald’s stores – they would hardly use such an untargeted means of recruitment were they really struggling to find workers – it is to convince Swedes of McDonald’s social goodness.

It’s tangental to the product offering…it’s trite copy that is kinda familiar…it’s something that McDonald’s thinks will get it new business.

If every company is touting how wonderfully superb they are to the world at large, and The Economist says that most companies are, then is that really something that will make your brand stand out? Or has it become mere cost of business these days?

Either way, Fonzie’s strapping on his skis as we speak.


paul tilley dead of apparent suicide

Paul Tilley, ECD of DDB in Chicago, is reported dead at age 40 of an apparent suicide. Tilley apparently jumped from the roof of Chicago’s Fairmont Hotel at around 6:25pm on Friday night and, though Chicago authorities have not yet identified the cause of death as suicide, the word on the street is that it was.


The thoughts of the Daily (Ad) Biz go out to Mr Tilley’s family, with special thoughts and prayers to his wife and two daughters. Any premature death is a tragedy, especially an apparent suicide and particularly in this case as it robs a family of its husband and father.

The Daily (Ad) Biz did not know and has not posted about Mr Tilley, but a death like this of a man so high up in the industry will surely open the door to condemnation of any number of assumed reasons behind his death, even though suicide, by its very nature, is an unreasonable act. We cannot know what drove him to jump on Friday, but we can do our best to direct the inevitable inquisition into the right direction.

Agency Spy, who has posted about Mr Tilley recently, is dealing with commenters who would pin some, if not all, of the blame on those blog postings. This is asinine and dangerously misguided.

This isn’t about blogs. This is about the personal demons and struggles of one man.

Blogs bring transparency to the industry and, while that is not always pleasant to those who would prefer to operate without it, it is, on the whole, a good thing. Those intra-agency e-mails that make it out onto the blogosphere are nothing more than the leaks from government agencies that you might read about in the papers that give citizens an idea of what is really going on in their country. Having a mechanism for uncovering the politics and bad work environments and other issues of the industry only helps those who are in it. Information is a good thing.

Of course, blogs can be deliciously nasty and it is understandable that those who are on the receiving end of a negative post may not like either the post or the fact that it often comes from an anonymous blogger. But most of the people featured by name, for good or for bad reasons, in blog posts are at the top of the industry heap. The Maurice Levy’s, the David Droga’s, the Bob Garfield’s and, yes, the Paul Tilley’s have made it in the industry to the point that they are public figures. Criticism dogs public figures when they do criticizable things.

And if the criticism from those anonymous bloggers is unfair, the comments section is there to let said bloggers know about it.

One needs only to look at the posts about Kansas City agency VML to see how the comments section allows those who disagree with a post to give their opinion and to level the playing field. Blogs are a conversation, a two-way street and when engaged correctly they are a great tool for the industry (even with the acid tongue of some bloggers).

The death of Paul Tilley is a tragedy. But it is not a tragedy that involves blogs like AdScam or Agency Spy or any other that comments on the public figures in the ad industry. Mr Tilley did criticizable things and was criticizes for them. Sort of like politicians are. And sports stars. And business leaders. And other public figures.

Criticism happens. To blame Mr Tilley’s death on mere criticism is to demean the man and his character and to give too much power to blogs that, while not un-influential in their way, certainly do not have the power to drive a man to his death.

The focus of the questions surrounding this terrible situation should be firmly about Paul and his family; namely, what can we as an industry do to help them through this and what can we do as an industry to give support to people like Paul who are in high-pressure environments and struggling under the strain.

the world’s grossest art project

The world’s grossest art project started so well, with an assignment to create an ad campaign that would convince people not to litter the streets of Sydney with bubble gum and, as the person who inevitably steps in gum on the street, I can get behind that in a serious way.

The solution to the marketing problem, as shown at i believe in advertising, was simple and elegant; the agency, DDB, found something that people could do with their gum instead of spit it out on the street:


Yep, they plan to make art with used chewing gum. Art with something that has been the mouths of other people. Paint-by-numbers boards using as paint something that has been chewed by and stewed in the saliva of people you don’t know.

I am so grossed out.

commodity no more

My first book right out of ad school used to have some ads for Duracell (parity product and all that), but then Acme Idea Company launched their fantastic campaign for the brand:

You can probably remember when advertising for batteries was nothing more than competing ads from Duracell and Energizer talking about how their batteries had more power. Before you knew it, nobody cared and batteries were well on their way to becoming a commodity.

Then this campaign ran and it became about more than power. It became about trust because, whether it is you and your daughter or you and the EMT trying to save your life, when it just has to work only Duracell is the battery to choose. And, really, that is what batteries are about. Nobody cares about the battery, they just need to be able to rely on it to make whatever product it is in work.

The current Duracell campaign, though now getting a little long in the tooth, rescued the brand from commodity suicide and made their power claims actually mean something.

Batteries don’t only have to be serious, though. Over at i believe in advertising I ran into an ad for Energizer by DDB Johannesburg that takes a more whimsical approach:


I have to be honest, this used to happen to my roommates a lot in college and I am not sure that having a light in the bathroom would have resulted in a different ending.

My roommates were special people.

mcdonald’s & one big burger

I like when fast food restaurants, especially the traditional burger guys, just tell it like it really is and stop tip-toeing around the fact that their burgers are big, greasy, unhealthy and totally indulgent. They are not something that you should have every day, but doesn’t that make the times that you do have them better?

At least until you’re in the bathroom and hour later.

DDB Stockholm took that strategy and ran with it for the new McDonald’s Big N’ Juicy burger launch where they created this fantastic outdoor piece:


It made me laugh, is pretty creative and it definitely makes me think that the Big N’ Juicy is exactly what the name says…even though I am pretty sure that it’s not.

From i believe in advertising.

every car has a color

I came across yet another wonderfully shot ad by DDB Milan, this one for the Audi Q7:


DDB Milan seems to lean on photographers Winkler & Noah for a good portion of their work, and rightly so. Not only do they always do very good work, but the home page of their website is a big picture of a woman’s breast.

Nothing wrong with that.

Back to the Audi ad. Like I said, I love the shot, with its attention to detail and the dog staring down the car, I love the “makes everything else go pale” line (it even sounds good in translation) and think that this is a solid, upscale auto ad. My only nitpick is with the color of the car.

Every car has its color. The one color that brings out the beauty of its design more than any other. On a Ferrari, any Ferrari, it is red. The BMW 5 Series needs that classic midnight blue (to hide the oddities of its “flame surfacing”). The new Jaguar looks best in a silver that shows off the sleek lines of the metal and seems to be straining to contain the power of the engine.

The Q7, especially when it makes everything else pale, needs more color.

I don’t which color is best for the car, though one of the agency partners has a very sleek black Q7. But it needs something (or I need something to complain about).

Either way, it is a small nitpick.

smart horses & good auto advertising

Having worked on an automotive account in the past, I always look at auto advertising with a critical eye. I know that I am critical, too, I just can’t help myself.

There are lots of ways to do auto ads well.

There is the approach Fallon took BMW and the famous BMW Films:

You also have the classic DDB / Bill Bernbach ads for VW:


There are even interesting ways to illustrate the product benefits, like the Saatchi & Saatchi ads for Toyota:

There are lots of ways to create compelling work for auto accounts. There are an equal number of bad ways to do auto advertising as well, but the point is that there is good work out there and I am particular about what I like.

So when a reader emailed me a print ad for VW (by DDB Milan), I was ready to pick it apart:


There were a few things that jumped out at me. Like the German-language newspaper in an English-language ad. Very weird. It reminds me of Bozo the Clown, the lead CD at the agency, who I know watches German porn (in the office, whenever I start talking about things he doesn’t understand or isn’t interested in), in German, even though I know he is an English speaker. But I digress.

I liked the line, “intelligent horses.” I liked the ad in general, actually – very VW, interesting information about the car, compelling visual. But, beyond the weird language thing, I wanted a little more. Even just a sentence more, to tell me what was intelligent about the horses in the car. Were they more environmentally-friendly? Were they more powerful? Were they bilingual?

Clean layouts are nice and all, but it’s better when you have great copy involved.

Like the classic Bernbach ad.