Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why Do Most PR People Play it Safe?

Always good for me to go to DC Ad Club event – it’s so hard to find really creative people in this market. New York was flush with them but DC is so cautious, much of the PR is words like effective, appropriate – PR people are into consultant speak.

I put out a call for designers recently and the stuff I saw was not just boring, it wasn’t creative. Stock photos, dull headlines, a tribute to safeness.

Come on people – we live in a world of clutter. If you want to cut through you have to think no I will not say “outside of the box.” You just have to think.

Don’t people know the difference between good and bad design? Good writing and fluff? Don’t they care?

Anyway went to a lunch to see this year’s DC area Addy award winners and it was an eye opener. The grand prize winner was a real breath of fresh air.

Glorified Spies

The grand prize winner was the Redhead Companies, and two young, enthusiastic redheads presented. They did a campaign for the Spy Museum, sort of a take-off on the Cold War but with modern day imaging, bold colors and very striking.

Their creative plan of attack was very simple “Be conspicuous.” They created “Metro Station Domination.” When you got off the train at the Spy Museum’s metro stop you couldn’t miss them. The ads were everywhere. Some of the best headlines:

Most Museums Contain Donated Treasures – Most of Ours are Stolen

This is the Only Museum that Requires a Fake ID to Get In

An actual CIA spy called and asked for posters of the ads. Ticket sales were up 18%. Web traffic was up 57%. And what happened? They got canned.

Fun of Playing the Lottery

Another winner was Smith Gifford which did a series of “Dodge Ball” ads for the Virginia lottery. The idea was to get across the fun of playing but not the fun of winning – which was a departure from the traditional lottery ads which push “You’ve Gotta Be in It to Win It.”

When they presented the creative a scientists stood up and said “Technically you win when you don’t get hit.” That provided some inspiration, they realized it was not about hitting but about watching someone else get hit. Favorability ratings shot up.

National Train Day

This campaign was done by Arnold Advertising for Amtrak and it was clear that they spent a fortune creating National Train Day. Seven different artists created materials in four different cities: NY, DC, Chicago and LA. Thousands of man hours were expended. They gave away a week on a train on Wheel of Fortune. Ninety three stations across the country held train station events.

Some of the results – 140 stories in 28 markets, more than 70 videos on YouTube, yada, yada, yada. If you give me a couple million bucks for a campaign I can make a big splash too.

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