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Venables Bell & Partners

VB&P, Audi Chase the White Whale in ‘Ahab Redux’

In 2012, a creative director fell into Herman Melville’s 720-page trap and reimagined Ahab as a tow truck driver, madly chasing his white whale, an Audi Quattro. “Sometimes, I actually think it’s mocking me,” Ahab says in a gruff voice, anxiously twisting his thermos as he waits in the arctic tundra.

Said creative director then got distracted by Cetology, but has now resurfaced to produce “Ahab Redux,” in which, obviously, our automotive whale has yet to meet his driver. Ahab has retired on an island “most folks would call paradise,” but he can’t escape his all-wheel drive demon. “There isn’t a road on earth that can stop it.”

Thankfully this ad is a departure from the old winding-mountain-road glamour reel, and I appreciate the attempt at literary allusion. We’re all familiar with Moby Dick, whether we became obsessed like Ahab or SparkNoted its entirety. “Ahab Redux” is a bit of a cop-out due to its repetition, but the general idea probably gives Audi’s target affluent audience a twinge of self-satisfaction: “Oh, I know that story!”

Credits and original Ahab after the jump Read more

Google Fiber’s Latest Spot Makes High-Speed Dreams Come True

Better than any of their campaigns with colored blocks and folky music, Venables Bell & Partner’s latest spot for Google Fiber exemplifies the coming-together of technology, passion, and creativity.

Last summer, Google Fiber was introduced to Kansas City. In the year that followed, Google wanted to “see how high speed Internet could impact lives.” At Children’s Mercy Hospital, they met Nick LeGrande, a 13-year-old baseball player who has been diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a life-threatening blood disorder. His mom said he’s only cried once during the subsequent ordeal, when his doctor said he couldn’t play baseball.

Last night, Google Fiber technology (and the generosity of the company itself),  gave Nick the chance to get back in the game. He threw the first pitch at an Oakland A’s game, even though his illness prevents him from being around crowds and he’s 1,800 miles away from the stadium. With help from a Google-Fiber enhanced, Deeplocal-built telerobotic pitching machine, Nick’s movements were translated to Oakland as he felt the field in Kansas City via live camera. He stood on a specially-made indoor baseball stadium, with real sod and clay. The crowd cheered in real life and online. I cried.

Here’s hoping VB+P continues in this innovative, benevolent direction. If Google Fiber means making dreams like this come true, then we need it all across America. In the meantime, our thoughts are with Nick.

Audi Shows Us How ‘It Couldn’t Be Done’ Got Done

Audi has been busy lately, pumping out ads for their newest cars in sponsorship deals with Iron Man while simultaneously pitting past and present versions of Spock against each other. The automaker seems to be at it again, now with longtime agency Venables Bell & Partners, for a 60-second spot that traces back to the origin of the company. Retro footage of Audi’s founder, August Horch, and old-school automobiles plays for most of the spot, set to narration of the children’s poem It Couldn’t Be Done, written by Edgar Albert Guest. I guess Dr. Suess was busy.

By design, most of the commercial feels like it belongs to pre-1980, but the dissonance of the kid’s poem and the speeding-car shots strikes a cool chord. While previous car spots may be clever or topical when full of movie stars, this one stands out in a good way. It’s smooth and engaging, presumably, like a ride in a new Audi. Credits and a couple of :15 second spots after the jump.

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Audi, Iron Man Try to Make Commuting Sexier Than It Really Is

This 30-second spot, produced by Venables Bell & Partners, attempts to show the audience how billionaire superheroes commute to work. The average worker takes the bus, the train, maybe drives an average car. Tony Stark drives an Audi R8 supercar. Of course, he could also just commute in his Iron Man suit, which would make the R8 seem irrelevant, but that wouldn’t be very good Audi product placement.

You’ve seen this type of spiel before: “It’s never a bad day at work when your commute looks like this.” I’ve never been a fan of this pitch to consumers. After enough time, a car becomes a car. And if your job still sucks, if you have that pontificating boss, or you work till 9 p.m., going home in an R8 won’t stop you from hating a job (but it might help you attract women). And with a minimum MSRP of $114,000 on last year’s model, you’ll most likely hate your bank account afterward, too. But at least it looks cool, right? Credits after the jump.

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VB&P May Need Honkaholics Anonymous

What the beep? is right. Venables Bell & Partners is teaming with gasoline company 76 to stop honkaholism, a vicious nonexistent affliction that doesn’t actually affect many people. If you happen to live in New York City, you may hear the occasional overzealous honker, but building an ad campaign around the concept of overhonking seems overzealous in and of itself. Not to mention the humor rooted in the idea of a gasoline company trying to stop noise pollution, which is like a drug dealer trying to encourage people to take Tylenol.

The campaign comes fully stocked with website, billboards, the above 30-second spot, and even a touring “Stop Honkaholism Bus.” If you’re compelled to dig deeper, you can receive a free Honk Suppressor for your dashboard, which means instead of hitting your car horn, you pound a fist into the suppressor instead. Kind of like a Nicotine patch for your vehicle. It is free, so VB&P and 76 should get points for that. Credits after the jump.

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VB&P Cuts Staff, Thanks in Large Part to eBay

Sources familiar with the matter confirm that San Francisco agency Venables Bell & Partners had to let go of 11 staffers across departments late last week. Why? Well, mainly because its client, eBay, has decided to cut spending on brand advertising this year. From what we’re hearing from spies, eBay’s decision had more to do with ROI concerns than it did with VB&P’s actual work for the brand, which includes the recent “Pony” holiday effort below.

You can check out VB&P’s first work for eBay after taking on lead creative agency duties for “the world’s largest online marketplace” here. We’ve been told that following the cuts, which spies affected some senior-level staffers as well, staff count at VB&P is approximately 200. The agency, of course, works with other notable clients including Audi and Intel.

Today in New Agency Websites: VB&P Launches ‘Living Organism’

Who needs holy intervention when all it takes is a little HMTL5 and CSS magic to do the trick. Seeing as it’s lunchtime over here on the East Coast and all, why not kill a few minutes and take a stroll through Venables Bell & Partners’ newly redesigned website, which, according to the folks at the San Francisco agency, is “designed to be a living organism—complete with an ever-changing real-time feed announcing everything the agency creates from the moment it launches.”

While the homepage of this “living organism” is not quite as playful as, say, Mullen’s, the animated tile display in each section makes it pretty easy to navigate and find out more about VB&P, if that’s what you’re going for. As for specs, the majority of the new VB&P site was built in-house, from UX to technical architecture, while L.A.-based shop Active Theory assisted on front-end development. We’ve been told that there are even a few Easter eggs hidden within the JavaScript-animated content and tags. Feel free to search away.

Audi’s Super Bowl Spot: Let’s Get Some Ass at Prom!

Audi and VB+P are traditionally all about appealing to consumers’ inner-adolescent with their Super Bowl ads. Remember when vampires were a big deal? Audi remembered, so they put vampires in their Super Bowl spot last year. However, as the Twilight film series has ended, Audi and VB+P are telling a bit more of a timeless story with this year’s installment, “Prom (Worth It).”

We open on a classic American pastime, a young lad about to go to prom who, judging by his lack of date, is a loser. His dad, in a surprising move, allows him to take his sleek Audi A6 to the big dance. This isn’t the only unrealistic part of the spot, as the boy ends up making out with his crush and getting a shiner from her boyfriend. It’s not exactly the kind of bold move I support, especially as the boy doesn’t seem to ask permission from his female victim. But, according to Audi, who cares? He took what he wanted, and was rewarded. There’s nothing more American than that.

The campaign, which uses the #BraveryWins hashtag, doesn’t seem to be targeting suburban high-schoolers like the protagonist in “Prom,” and instead aims at fathers who are fearful that their spawn may never get any action. In any case, it’s cute enough to be a crowd-pleaser, but I hesitate to think that this will be one of the Super Bowl’s most talked-about ads. Credits after the jump.

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Google, Audi Join Forces for a Pleasant Ride Through San Francisco

Worlds collide in the latest spot from Venables Bell & Partners, as Google and Audi share in the stage in “Enhancing Navigation.” How significant is this pairing? Well, I want you to question that as you listen to this classic Powerman 5000 song from 1999. God, what a ridiculous song.

Anyway, the above spot follows an Audi A4-driving couple through a freeze-framed Google Street View rendering of San Francisco. As we watch the couple traverse a familiar blue line and arrive at various red checkpoints, it’s funny to think of how much Apple Maps made Americans pledge their undying allegiance to Google Maps. Perhaps it’s this rekindled fandom for Google (and the jangly soft indie folk track) that gives this spot a warm, almost nostalgic ambiance.

Finally, we see the couple arrive at (SPOILER) a sunny beach where we realize they’re using Google Maps (which pulls from Google Earth and Google Street View) to navigate to their own wedding. As an Easter egg, you may notice that the couple’s four pits stops along the way were to pick up something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Yes, the thought of something that cloying is a bit gag-inducing, but somehow VB&P keeps this spot fun-cute as opposed to annoying-cute. Credits follow after the jump.

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VB&P Promotes Birks-Hay to MD

Nearly eight months after joining up with San Francisco’s Venables Bell & Partners as director of client service, Paul Birks-Hay is quickly moving up the ladder as the agency’s already promoted him to managing director. We’ve been told this is a newly created position at VB&P, which is also celebrating its reported 26 percent revenue growth in 2012 by promoting head of business development and eight-year vet Kate Jeffers to Birks-Hay’s old post and John Minty from CFO to COO.

As for the new managing director, Birks-Hay joined VB&P from U.K.-based AMV BBDO, where he spent two-and-a-half years and helped, win, lead and grow (we believe in that order) accounts including Mercedes-Benz, Capital One, Guinness, Diageo and PepsiCo.

 

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