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OpEd: A Watermelon Grows in Brooklyn

We continue our industry op-ed contributions with this piece from Drew Miller, director of client development at Sound Lounge and RadioFace. The soapbox is yours, Drew.

A few years ago, in a fit of mild insomnia, I was blankly gazing at Jay Leno interviewing Drew Barrymore on the Tonight Show. Seemingly out of left field, Leno stated “I heard a rumor that you love grill cheese sandwiches.” Barrymore took the cue and announced, “Oh, not just any grill cheese, Jay.  It has to be KRAFT grilled cheese!” At first this only served to zone me out even more, but around the third mention of KRAFT SINGLES by Barrymore, I got the message. She was a shill. Affronted with such an obvious sell out, I click off the TV.

I remember being offended by such a blatant plant. Those of us in advertising tend to believe ourselves impervious to such obvious sells, and this was Itchy hitting Scratcthy over the head with a Kraft anvil. But as I made my way to the kitchen to make a grilled cheese, I could not help but appreciate the idea.

Read on after the jump…

At Sound Lounge and Radio Face, we launched The Radio Show, an in-depth Q&A with great people in advertising. As we sat with Gerry Graf late last month, talking about what Barton F. Graf 9000 LLC will look like in its early stages, he spoke extensively not of the latest buzz words or new fangled technology, but about simply coming up with great ideas. Graf states “What is an ad, really? An ad can be anything. [If I thought it would help sell their product] I would recommend a client start planting watermelon gardens in Brooklyn and San Francisco.”

And there is a lot of wisdom is that. Graf went on to tell us of when Lee Clow was asked what he believed to be his most memorable piece of advertising. The man behind Apple’s “1984” and dozens of other iconic spots replied that his best ad wasn’t a commercial or great piece of print. It was his input in the design of the Apple Store. Think about it. How cool do you feel just walking into one? Have you ever walked into any store in your life that made you feel smart just by being there? And it happens almost instantly. The Apple Store is a great ad.

Lisp-y Kraft mentions on talk shows by Drew Barrymore, watermelon gardens in Brooklyn or the Apple Store. They can all be great ads. So can clever radio content or fashion shows held in the windows of NYC hotel rooms. Studies tell us that you have less than three seconds to make an impression on another human being. After that, their mind is pretty much made up about you. I’d say that means brands have even less than that, so your packaging, your branding and your content all better be ready to connect in a hurry.

And as simple as it sounds, all you really need to accomplish this is the willingness to create something that is truly worthy of busy people’s time. Thomas Jefferson, one of the original creative directors, reminds us: “Victory and defeat are each of the same price”. The same can be said of great and unmemorable advertising. The cost – at least financially – is about the same. It’s believed that Jefferson said this to Ben Franklin over a Kraft Singles grilled cheese sandwich, just before writing a famously great ad for a cool new start up company country. Credit to Jefferson, who ignored focus groups results saying his work didn’t test well in the UK.

The greats always seem to go for it, don’t they?

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