DISMALAND: What the Theme in Banksy’s Theme Park Really Is

The recent Collective show in Britain by the renowned Banksy and others, entitled “Dismaland,” sheds more light on our (aka “the reporters”) understanding of art, ideas and satire than it does on the targets of that art, idea and satire. That is to say… no understanding.

What the reporters aren’t getting is that the object of the satire isn’t Disneyland; it is merely the metaphorical vehicle for the IDEAS. It is the cultural icon that is recognizable enough that Banksy can hope his audience will understand the ironies. No, the object of the satire, as another famous cartoon character, Pogo, may have explained, “is us.”

The perfect example is the work showing paparazzi shooting Cinderella in a wrecked carriage. Remind you of another princess perhaps? The pumpkin carriage is the vehicle for a satirical statement on media, reporters, paparazzi and us, for supplying the demand for the paparazzis’ work. Carrying the IDEA further, it is an indictment of all of us for the fatal end of Britain’s favorite princess, Diana.

Part of Banksy’s charm is that he is only partially subtle, meaning you have to not be a complete dummy (or city official or reporter for major medium) to get his point. Part of his charm, too, is that he is invariably ironic, the means to laughter.

But, some don’t want to be satirized. Some want Disneyland to be satirized. Too bad. As one of America’s biggest IDEAS, Disneyland is immune. I will explain the IDEA THAT IS DISNEYLAND in future posts. For now, be content with Banksy’s “bemusement park.”

— Nate Lee


THE BIG GAME BIG NAME AD GAME — Do Super Bowl Celebrity Ads Work?

There are two things one should expect to convey in any TV spot — the name and the benefit. Even in the convoluted world of Super Bowl ads, with the added push of social media, I wonder if many of the companies achieved even that.

Let’s pick on the ones who, in addition to paying for the time slot, paid celebrities to help them carry the ball. It’s been about 48 hours. Do you think you still remember the cars, insurance, games, foods and phones those Q-raters were hawking? No, not Avocados from Mexico. That’s a gimme.

  • The Breaking Bad dude (Bryan Cranston)
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Steve Buscemi
  • Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel
  • Matt Damon
  • Brett Favre
  • Kim Kardashian
  • Liam Neeson
  • Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler
  • Kate Upton

Sudden Death:

  • 100-Year-Old People
  • Hare & Tortoise
  • God

You didn’t do very well, did you? You shouldn’t feel bad, at least not as bad as the folks who paid for you to remember. No, I’m not going to give you the answers; that’s not the point. You can go here, though, to see the ads again. 

Oh, okay. Here is a jumbled up list. Have fun, sorting it out: Snickers. Dodge. Kia. Mercedes Benz. BMW. T-Mobile (2x). Game of War. Clash of Clans. Esurance. Nationwide. Wix. Mophie. Squarespace.


ZAG — It’s Dutch for KLM

A reliable path to IDEAS is one we call “zagging.” That is, when everyone else zigs, you zag. This also happens to be a reliable path to marketing differentiation, which is often mistaken for an IDEA.

In the case of the airline KLM, though, they don’t just zag, they do everything right in a commercial for their special way of returning left-in-plane items to their owners. Everyone else is going high-tech? Let’s zag. Everyone else is using handsome models and actors? Let’s zag. Everyone else is talking big picture savings and corporate devotion and quality service? Let’s zag.

And, by zagging, they have communicated a friendly, caring, humorous “human touch” to an increasingly inhuman thing known as air travel.

‘Cheeseburgers!’ — Getting in the Right First Word

We have a client who, instead of saying “hello” on the phone, prefers to say, “Cheeseburgers!” It’s quite friendly and does the trick of a greeting, so we don’t ask him why he says it. Our own reasons suffice: it’s amusing and unique; it points out the arbitrariness of “hello”; and it is memorable.

What we don’t understand about this client is why he doesn’t say something equally unique and memorable for “good bye.” After all, last words are as important as the first, and also reveal a bit about you. Some people are fond of saying, “Take care.” It’s friendly enough, but also has a certain pessimistic ring; they may as well say, “Watch out!” or “Be careful out there!” or “Don’t forget to look over your shoulder every few hundred yards.”

We say, “Have fun!” And we mean it. It is happy; it is a motto, a life lesson, and a reminder. It is Zorba! It is us.

Likewise, we wonder why so many companies have given up on taglines. Are the best ones taken? We don’t think so. We think there may be room for something that stirs the stew, or at least isn’t “Take Care.”

And exit lines are great, but what about the IDEA of entrance lines? There are statistics to show how well they work in thirty-second spots, but companies are stingy with those seconds. But how about something like the Intel chimes to tell all your fans to look up from their laptops and tablets, their books and magazines, and watch?  Something to make them hear all thirty seconds instead of the last five?

Something, maybe, like “Cheeseburgers!” to remind them that you are amusing and unique… and possibly even memorable.



BIGG IDEAS — Beyond the Bucket, for the Greater Good

There has been an enormous amount of attention lately — and that is a good thing — paid to the Ice Bucket Challenge on behalf of ALS. It has possibly raised understanding, and has certainly raised awareness and money.

A lesser-known challenge is, ironically, one that is from a man, Chris Rosati, who has ALS. You may have seen a news piece on him handing out thousands of donuts to people in cancer wards — all from his wheelchair.

Chris has upped the ante for those of us who aren’t satisfied with a bucket of ice water. Through his InspireMEdia, he has started BIGG: Big IDEAS for the Greater Good. Rosati challenged kids, knowing that they do not carry notions of their own limitations, to do something really special to contribute to humanity.

In his sweet, calm way, Rosati has inspired a lot of kids to think beyond the easy bucket, to use their natural empathy and act upon it. Their IDEAS are as remarkable in their cleverness as they are in their goodness.

So, now that we’ve dried off and warmed up, and passed the bucket, let’s not pass the buck, too. We’re all of us good enough, big enough, for a BIGG IDEA.


Das Auto — Existential Ads and Multi-Interactive Media

In the not too distant future, philosophy, communications and business professors will be lecturing on the power of guerilla marketing to engage customers with a hearty mix of real and unreal… and hyper-real.

Flash mobs break down the fourth wall, bringing the audience into the “scene” for all time, courtesy of YouTube. Interactive marketing, by its very nature, changes the audience’s relationship not only with the medium and the marketer, but everything else surrounding them at the time of the interaction.

When the interactivity is compounded by multimedia, mixed media, or multi-interactivemedia, as in the case of a “public service” Volkswagen presentation, even though the message itself is compelling, the IDEA of layering these media is what resonates.

And, of course, the clincher is the irony in that to make the point, they are mixing the two places where interactive technology (cellphones, anyway) is least appropriate — while watching a movie and while driving.

Recipe for a McViral Video — Why Their World Cup Spot Works

There is a lot of talk about the McDonald’s two-minute “spot” for the World Cup, but nobody — at least none of the critics — seems to understand why it’s so good. In an embarrassing fail, Ad Age didn’t even take the time to find out that all of the trick shots from everyday people seemingly all over the world are real.

The spot is textbook viral, which may be a little easier for McDonald’s, especially when they aren’t really selling anything. But it’s worth a look at what exactly they did so well.

They start out by  “zagging.” Everyone else is zigging (using famous players), so they “zag,” using very unfamous non-players. All of the trick plays were probably already viral; that’s most likely how the ad agency found them, so they knew going in it was essentially “pre-sold.” They get a big formulaic with a beautiful model and an old man, but those two work precisely because they are juxtaposed.

There are two things that make the spot truly an outstanding piece of work. The music is likewise a “zag.” It’s a hip retro Burl Ives tune (it even sounds part Spanish, part French and part English) that is bright, cheerful and innocent — and fast-moving and that perfectly matches the fun and innocence of the video.

The more subtle element of the spot is the one that truly lets it ring the bell: the reaction shots!! They are so honest and real. The people are so genuine, sweet and even humble about their amazing feats; and the crowds are elated and sometimes dumbfounded. The truly brilliant editing brings out just the right touch of the homemade video, so that the escalator boy’s self-deprecating laugh is cut off; the girl who knocks the McDonald’s sign away is embarrassed, but at a distance, leaving us to fill in the blanks; the big guy with the over the bridge shot looks uncomfortable with the camera. The girls who react to the old man or to the young boy are beyond either’s wildest dreams, but they’re still in awe of these show-offs. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

So, the whole exploit is not just real, it’s genuine. Maybe that’s the special sauce of a viral video.


What’s Wrong with TV Hockey?

Watching two of my favorite cities — L.A. and Chicago — go at it so fiercely in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with reportedly “the most exciting games ever,” I am struck by just how unexciting TV hockey is. It’s like going back in time when sports was covered with one or two cameras from the middle of the field.

Sure, hockey moves fast, and no doubt the sports channels don’t want to take the chance of missing something big by showing a replay of something not so big. So, what’s their answer? Show everything, so that, even on HD, we actually see nothing. To augment this, the announcer spews forth in a meaningless drone for a pseudo-play-by-play that also tells us nothing.

TV Hockey needs two things: a John Madden figure to attract us to the analytical side of the game, augmenting our appreciation of the skills required, and therefore our enjoyment of the televised version of the sport; and “tape delay.”

So, you’re seeing the game a few seconds behind “live.” So what? What possible difference could it make? You use that time to show all the missed shots from various angles; to entertain us with actually seeing the puck now and then in close-up shots; to draw on the screen Madden-style to explain some of the cool things that we saw but didn’t really see; to slow down a few of the important moves to let us revel in the athleticism.

Then, if you get too far behind, you can catch up in the twenty-minute rest times, or speed through the parts of the game that are just skating back and forth. NBC, for instance, could conceivably run this alternative version on one of its other channels to test how many viewers want to actually see the game. Or even try it online. A face-off of sports coverage.

It’s time, though, to bring hockey coverage into this century. Overtime.

Mini-Mayhem — Allstate’s Esurance Ads Too Quick for their Own Good

There was a time when insurance ads were not the best thing on TV. That was, perhaps, before technology brought us talking lizards. Now, though, the mayhem Allstate brings us is infinitely more entertaining than what it sponsors, especially when measured in half-minute increments.

Progressive’s Flo has a back story that easily outweighs any sitcom character. Farmers University is a competitor. The only thing wrong with State Farm’s pop-on agents is there aren’t enough spots for all the media they buy; even the entertaining woman trying to grab a dollar from a fishing line stinks after three months.

What’s puzzling in this mix is the ads for Esurance, the ones where people are so old-fashioned that they think posting photos on their wall means their living room wall. Esurance seems to be trying to position itself as the new, cool Geico.

They seem to be making the case that Geico is a waste of time at 15 minutes. You could be saving money and spending only 7. 5 minutes with Esurance. So, after the laughs die down, we’re left wondering, Really? Do they think there are people out there who care about seven minutes in buying insurance? Then, when we see that it’s really an Allstate ad, we wonder if we are paying too much for the Allstate insurance we got that wasn’t through Esurance.

Isn’t it terrible when a funny series of spots is betrayed by an idiotic strategy? I call that mini-mayhem.


Cheeri-Uh-O’s — Can You Sue Companies You Like?

Is it General Mills’ fault? Their standard line about “if you sue us, you must agree to arbitration, which we will pay for,” was so misinterpreted that the New York Times, an impressive publication in its previous lives, reported that GM was saying that if you “like” them on Facebook, then you can’t sue them.

Even accepting the general level of idiocy that is the currency of facebook, it’s hard to decide which is the most outrageous: that people would believe they can’t sue anybody for anything in this litigious society; that GM can’t control its communications better; or that the New York Times would get involved. After all, it’s the journalistic equivalent of hanging around the Russian Tea Room, asking patrons what’s news.Can we sue NYT for such disinformation? Even if we subscribe?




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