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September 2008

Kodak Makes Me A Super Hero!

It's official. I'm now a super hero thanks to a new viral marketing campaign by Kodak.

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Created by San Francisco based agency EVB, the "Make Me Super" campaign lets you download an image of yourself and superimpose it into the face and body of a superhero. A video is created, and all of a sudden you're the star of the show.

It's incredibly amusing, and the music is pretty catchy too. If you wish, you're able to purchase your superhero image emblazoned on a mug or mousepad. The campaign is fun, memorable, personalized, and you're able to pass the video on to friends. The tagline at the bottom of the custom edit page says "Kodak Gallery make something", so you get the feeling that it's OK to do something funny (or silly, depending on your perspective of life), if it's a way of expressing your creativity.

I wish more ad campaigns were this fun. Kodak has a history of hiring agencies that use intriguing and interactive techniques. Years ago, OgilvyInteractive incorporated the principles of digital storytelling into the design of a multiple award-winning campaign called "The Adventures of John." It appeared in the form of a stick man comic strip which showed up as banner ad teasers on media sites such as 24/7 Network, Engage Network, Toronto.com and Sympatico.ca.

The interactive story eventually brought the audience to a Kodak product page that contained the message "It's not the same without pictures."

Do you think interactive storytelling works in the adspace? If so, what is it about this technique that grabs your attention..if not, why not? What was your impression of the "Make Me Super" campaign?


What Happened To The Real Risk-Takers?

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This weekend we went to see Who Do You Love at the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie is director Jerry Zaks riveting rendition of the story of Leonard Chess, the founder of Chicago based Chess records that helped catapult legendary musicians Etta James, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley to fame and fortune.

Leonard Chess, a Jewish man running a junkyard in the forties, teamed up with his brother Phil and opened a nightclub that catered to blues musicians. What's interesting about the movie goes far beyond the classic "immigrant works hard to reach the American Dream story."

What makes the story so real and inspiring is how Leonard Chess reached the top with absolutely no background in music - nor any connection to the music industry. He and his brother ran a junkyard, yet Chess was able to sense something great in the music of the time that ended up having universal appeal with the American public. He had a vision and a sense that he was onto something - and he took risks that many in his shoes would not have taken.

Leonard Chess could have gone on in life leading the comfortable life of a working-class Dad, yet he followed his instinct and his drive and passion led him to a place beyond his wildest dreams. He followed his gut, without knowing anything about the business and made up his own rules along the way. Mistakes were made, but he went on and somehow worked everything out. While he had an incredible business sense and thrived on the art of the deal, Chess also possessed an almost child-like quality in his dealings. To him, there were no obstacles because he didn't know enough about the business to know what he was getting into. Without that knowledge, he operated on pure gut instinct and a keen marketing sense on what the American public needed and wanted.

In the corporate world where conformity is still rewarded and often revered, what we need are more people like Leonard Chess. People who operate by gut instinct, people who are willing to take a chance on the new guy. It doesn't matter if you never had a hit record - what mattered was your potential as an artist and how that potential could strike a very deep chord within the target audience. Every single artist who signed on with Chess records got there because someone saw their talent - and believed in them. Without that, they would have been nothing - or at least their careers would have waited until someone else figured out their talent and value as artists.

So, if you took the time to sit down and envision the kind of future you'd like to live..."Who (or what) do you love?"

Why is it that in business, some people take risks - and others don't? If the stakes are high - would you take a risk to make your dream come true? If so, why? If not, why not? Is it true that the bigger the risk - the greater the potential gain? Do you ever feel that if someone would just give you a chance, you could use your talent in a way that would help catapult you (and the person who believed in you) to the world stage?


Jerry Seinfeld And Bill Gates Sell Shoes For Microsoft

Microsoft has launched a $300 millon campaign to show people how the Windows Operating System has managed to keep pace with their busy lives.

The kickoff ad is a 90 second commercial created by MDC's Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami that features Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates shopping in a mall at a discount store called Shoe Circus. Gates is in the process of buying a "faux leather" pair of shoes called "The Conquistador" - much to the delight of some gawkers outside the store window (why the gawkers happen to be Hispanic is something I'm still trying to figure out).

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Upon leaving the store, Seinfeld asks Gates why he couldn't create computers that tasted like cake, so people could eat them while they were working. The last words seen after they make their exit are "The Future. Delicious." I wasn't even sure as to the point of the ad until I saw the closing words - pretty scary considering that it must have cost a small fortune to bring in Jerry Seinfeld.

While interesting to watch, the pairing of Seinfeld and Gates still seems a bit odd. The pacing is a bit slow, and I find myself waiting for some classic Seinfeldian lines...."No Microsoft for you!" Interesting yes, but will it sell product?

According to Adweek, the bloggers have been all over this ad. Many say it doesn't make any sense, while others hinted that the ad was "all about nothing."

David Webster, General Manager of Brand and Marketing Strategy at Microsoft, told Adweek that "We've crossed the line where we're not going to let a competitor define our story anymore - we want to tell our story not somebody else's."

If the point of storytelling is to create a place in the consumers mind that helps give context to an experience, then what happens when the story itself is convoluted - or misunderstood? Was it a good idea to include Jerry Seinfeld in the ad - or would the message have been more clear had another celebrity been chosen?

Either way, Microsoft succeeded in Phase One of their strategy. They have everyone talking about it.


High Profile Bloggers Hit The Political Arena

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We've come a long way fellow bloggers. Once dismissed as mere renegades of the internet, bloggers are now taking their rightful place in the high profile political arena.

The Democratic National Convention in Denver catered to bloggers in a way that is normally reserved for journalists. The "Blogger Lounge" offered free massages, smoothies and leather couches with pillows.

In the world of social media, bloggers wield incredible power and have the ability to sway public opinion. This hasn't gone unnoticed by the political powers that be, and media savvy politicians are taking steps to invite bloggers into the conversation.

Mark Nickolas, editor of politicalbase.com, says that "blogs are a hybrid of journalism, editorial writing and talk shows." The official website for the Democratic National Convention features its own blog with video clips and opinions posted by various bloggers.

It's a great feeling to know that blogging and bloggers are gaining the respect they deserve. In a world that's often skeptical of what comes out of the mouths of politicians, blogs are an effective way to put opinion into perspective (something Canadian politicians could learn to do better if they're interested in swaying public opinion).

Word of mouth has now become interactive, and in some ways there's more truth in what's written on the page than what's seen on the mainstream stage of network television.

How have blogs and bloggers swayed political opinion in your area? What do you think of "Bloggers Lounges" - is it an idea whose time has come, or are we allowing too much room for opinion, in a way that could eventually backfire on the politicians who allow it?

(Oh - and by the way, the folks at the 2008 DNCC encourage bloggers to use the official logo as a way to spread the word - so the use of the posted logo for this purpose is officially sanctioned!)