Who approved this?

On November 14, 2011, in Copywriting tips, by John Ellis

My tax money.

After paying $60 in parking tickets last week, I came across this sign at the well-heeled corner of Yonge & St. Clair, a swanky address for ad agencies, surrounded by 7-figure real estate.

Someone at the City of Toronto approved this copy and paid for the creation of this sign.

I get it. But, the verb disturb disturbs me. What can it possibly mean? How does anyone disturb a shrub? It’s unlikely that the local millionaires were stealing them for their balconies. I can’t even imagine what disturbs a shrub.

Loud music?

Asking for directions?

Crawling over the iron fence and asking them to pose for a photo?

This isn’t the first time I’ve spotted my taxes supporting moronic copy. For another disturbing example of rotten copy, paid for by me and you, click here.



Occassionally perfect.

On October 24, 2011, in Great experiential marketing, Uncategorized, by John Ellis

OK, we all know this is just a stunt to get hits and a cool award-show, making-of, aren’t-we-cool video but it’s still kinda cool.

Mural art and narrative from Philadelphia.

On April 26, 2011, in Artists, by John Ellis

The Horseman Slider from the Mural Arts Program.

Larry Fine from the Mural Arts Program.

Photos by Jack Ramsdale.

Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

For anyone needing a break, the work featured on the The Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia site offers a few minutes of inspiration.

The Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as a component of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, an effort spearheaded by then Mayor Wilson Goode to eradicate the graffiti crisis plaguing the city. The Anti-Graffiti Network hired muralist Jane Golden to reach out to graffiti writers and to redirect their energies from destructive graffiti writing to constructive mural painting. (from muralarts.org).

What’s amazing about this video is the reaction of the amateur paparazzi who can’t wait to send this footage to someone else. This is a good test of a creative idea. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this something that someone would video and send to a friend? Really?”

Writing for outdoor. Taking risks.

On February 24, 2011, in Uncategorized, by John Ellis

Rolled the dice and lost. Risky outdoor from Hacienda.

Would you pull this ad? Would you approve this ad? If comedy is tragedy plus time , when is it OK to trade on tragic events? In this case, ‘a northern Indiana restaurant that erected billboards referring to the 1978 Jonestown cult massacre in which more than 900 people died.’

The company admits it was a mistake but only after complaints. But let’s be honest. This is not a cheap execution and a lot of people had to approve it. A billboard like this one takes weeks to execute. There was plenty of time to see the mistake. These guys rolled the dice on a controversial ad and got nailed for it.  That’s all.

Story and photo credit to Associated Press, Mon Feb 21, 10:27 pm ET.

I came across the expression “no-assembly-required, batteries included idea” in Tom Wolfe‘s latest novel, ‘A Man in Full’. Now, I’m obsessed with the idea and plan to revisit it on Ellisism, often.

Here’s my first attempt to put this into practice: Creative teams love a brief that they can use straight away. They open the box and begin to play. They don’t want to “see the website” or go to a server for more information. And they don’t want to summarize the research spread across a half dozen conflicting reports. They expect that work to be done by account managers and planners. And that’s fair.

The no-assembly-required brief comes ready to use. Ideas have already been connected. The logic already works. Someone has taken the time to figure out what has to be said. All that remains is figuring out the best way to say it.That’s what creative teams do best.

The opposite of the no-assembly-required brief is the Swedish-furniture model. This approach dumps a pile of crap and an allen key on people who didn’t train to be nimble-fingered assembly workers.

If you want your teams to do their best work, give them something they can work with. Give them a short, tight brief with everything they need to create relevant, engaging creative. Don’t send them to the store for batteries. They might not come back.

Great sandwich board advertising

On November 13, 2010, in Great design, by John Ellis

This one comes from a loyal Toronto reader. It needs little explanation. Here’s a simple, low-cost idea that comes straight out of the product. Well done.

Nice, simple idea.

This is reminiscent of the great sandwich board produced by Rethink a few years ago. I always admired the simplicity of that idea.

Rethink Canada. Flow Yoga poster, 2005.

Calgary Zoo Guerrilla Marketing

“Guerrilla-style marketing” doesn’t mean free and amateur. Guerrilla marketing works best when it is:

  1. Well planned.
  2. Thought out.
  3. On strategy.
  4. Unexpected.
  5. Appropriately financed.

Guerrilla campaigns don’t have to cost a bundle but the Calgary Zoo obviously spent some cash on this custom stroller. It’s worth every dollar. The idea is fun, attention-getting and unexpected. You can find more examples of clever guerrilla campaigns at the Bootstrapping blog.