Pushing for cool.

Seems every time OK Go comes out with a new video I have to post about it.

What does this have to do with advertising? As I’ve written before, OK Go does a great job of surprising the viewer. That’s what great advertising does. We say “That was cool.” What we mean was, “That surprised me.”

The band could have made this entire video about those Honda Uni-Cub scooters, and it would have been been pretty cool.

And that’s where a lot of advertising creatives stop. We come up with one idea and say, “Cool. Let’s do it.”

But what OK Go did was say, “Cool. And then what?”

We take them outside the studio and ride around.

“Cool. And then what?”

We have a bunch of Japanese girls come dance around us.

“Cool. And then what?”

We film this with a drone to get a bird’s eye view of us and the Japanese girls.

“Very cool. And then what?”

We make patterns that can only be seen from the drone’s eye view.

“Cool. And then what?”

We incorporate umbrellas opening and closing to add some color.

“Cool. And then what?”

We use the umbrella’s as pixels and create patterns only the drone could see.

“Very cool. And then what?”

Let’s not just create patterns. Let’s create images. And even text.

They could have just stopped at “Let’s ride around on Honda Uni-Cub scooters.”

And that’s where most of us stop creatively.

But there’s always more we can do.

Don’t stop too early.

You’ve got to push for cool.

(On a side note, I just did my first shoot with a drone. Loved it. Shout out to Charlie Kaye, our drone pilot.)




Advertising Lessons from OK Go

This is the new video from OK Go.

What does this have to do with advertising? Plenty.

In this post, I talk about how you need to have something surprising in your portfolio. These guys are always working to surprise.

In this post, I talk about the virtues of being a control freak when it comes to producing great work. You couldn’t pull off a video like this without being a control freak. Or putting one in charge.

And in this article, AdAge points out that they’re not just a band. They’ve become a brand. And probably a stronger one than some traditional companies.

Cool = Surprises

We all want to make cool ads, right? Cool digital stuff. Cool TV stuff. Cool print, packaging, and even letterhead and table tents (if they’re cool enough). Cool goes viral, gets talked about, gets rewarded. Cool will be the difference between a book that gets hired and one that gets sent back.

But what does cool mean? How do you create cool?

For me, cool = surprises.

When you see something you weren’t expecting, something you hadn’t anticipated, that’s pretty cool.

When the mundane suddenly becomes fresh and interesting, that’s pretty cool.

When something you’ve seen a million times before (say a marching band or a Rube Goldberg machine) is presented in such a way you think Why didn’t I think of that?, that’s pretty cool.

You’ve probably seen these three videos from OK Go. Just like you’ve probably seen their latest video All Is Not Lost.

But go ahead and watch them again. And notice how many things you find genuinely surprising. It’s those surprise that make these videos cool.

Control Freaks, Part 2

A few posts ago, I wrote about the virtues of being a control freak (a humble, respectful control freak, that is).

You’ve probably seen the new OK Go video “This Too Shall Pass.” If not, take a look. You’ll enjoy it.

Be sure to check out the four-part making-of video featured below. Damian Kulash is definitely a control freak. I’m betting in a good way.

Kulash did everything from write the two paragraph synopsis to buy trophies at the flea market. He could have handed the idea over to the Syyn Labs people, who obviously knew more about the process. Instead, he got all control freaky.
So why is he a control freak in a good way? Well, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. But the clue for me is that he’s collaborating. He seems willing to learn. He’s surrounding himself by really smart people and listening to their ideas. Plus his dad seems proud of him.
Take ownership of your ideas. Immerse yourself in the details. Be respectful and open-minded. Listen, but take responsibility. I think you’ve got to be a control freak on hand to pull off something of this magnitude, whether it’s a music video, a double-page spread, a :30 spot or an iPhone app.

"How to Write Great Radio" by Coldplay

Maybe you’ve seen the new Coldplay video directed by Dougal Wilson. If not, here it is:
Weird as it will sound, this is exactly what a great radio spot should be.
LAYER 1: This could have been video of Coldplay lip-synching on a soundstage. You’ve seen a million music videos like that. They’re pretty boring. Unmemorable. And very self-indulgent of the group that’s funding the project. Just like 90% of the radio advertising you hear.
LAYER 2: If the director had simply said, “Let’s have the band be puppets!” that makes things a little more interesting. But just seeing puppets sing wouldn’t have made it as memorable. In radio that’s the equivalent of “Let’s have this announcement be read in a silly voice or accent!” or “Let’s have this be a conversation between two people!”
LAYER 3: There’s a little more to this video than just “Coldplay as pupppets.” It’s recreating a concert. There’s a jumbotron, pyrotechnics, crowd surfing. Things are starting to get a little more interesting. In a radio spot, you need to start pushing past the initial concept and consider what your idea really means.
LAYER 4: There is a lot of unexpected stuff in this video. And like a Cirque du Soleil show, every gag builds on and outdoes the last. First the stage expands. Then a catwalk appears. Then there’s a sound guy by the hors d’oeuvres. Then the motorcycles. By the time the helicopter crashes through the glass window things are completely over the top. In a radio spot, you can’t just pick a gag or a theme or a hook and just repeat it over and over. The spot has to build. Maybe it gets funnier. Maybe it gets more profound. It definitely has to get more interesting.
LAYER 5: When I started watching this Coldplay video, I was not expecting funny. Cool? Sure. But funny was completely unexpected. But it’s not un-Coldplay. In a radio spot, if you can add a dimension that is still true to the brand, but completely new, you’ve probably got some Mercury Radio material on your hands.