By all means, Keep Walking

May 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have so much to say about the Johnny Walker Black Label TV Spot, “Keep Walking.”

Lots to write. All important. About the Johnny Walker commercial.

Verbal responses. Regarding this brand. And its ad.

Words. Whiskey. LISTEN TO ME!


Seriously, when I watch this ad, I feel as though I’m being treated like a kindergartner with a hearing problem. How many times do I need to hear the same message, repeated slightly differently? And why does it speed up with each repetition? The words come barreling down at me, faster and faster, accompanied by images, one after the other, fast, hammering in the point at an unyielding tempo. By the time it’s over, I feel stressed and jittery, and desperately in need of a dri—oh, I see.

Honestly, though, the fact that Johnny Walker thinks I’m dumb as a box of rocks isn’t the worst part about this ad. What really irks me is that they think they’re bringing me wisdom. And quickly, without taking a breath, before I have a chance to think about what that “wisdom” means.

I am all for the ad world’s conveyance of meaningful truth. All for it. Advertising is so powerful a medium that it’s transcended the concept. And just as it turns us into automaton consumers, it also has the potential to wake us up. To use a brand promise as a springboard to say something real.

Perhaps it’s because of this belief that I am responding so negatively to Johnny Walker in this case. Because I can feel them trying. The repetition, the hammering in, the tone that gets more insistent as it reaches the 1 minute mark. The fact that this ad is a whole 60 seconds long, the universal sign post for WE ARE TRYING TO SAY SOMETHING HERE, WE ARE FULL LENGTH, WE ARE EMINEM AND WE ARE CHRYSLER. And they are saying something. It’s just that what they’re saying is incredibly damaging.


I don’t mean “Keep walking.” There’s nothing wrong with “Keep walking.” It’s great. It ties in the brand name, the logo, the sense of encouragement, like Johnny Walker is your companion that is helping you get through the tough times and always on hand to celebrate once you reach those hard-earned accomplishments. I love that idea. I love Johnny Walker being your friend.

Except Johnny Walker isn’t your friend.

Not because J.W. will harm your liver or hurt your brain cells or damage your judgment or anything like that. These negative qualities aren’t unique to Johnny Walker, they’re generally accepted to be true for all liquor. And this isn’t a commercial for liquor. It’s a commercial for Johnny  Walker.

No, Johnny Walker isn’t your friend for a different reason. Johnny Walker is not your friend, because, by the ad’s own admission, this is the pinnacle of what Johnny Walker can offer you:

“The chance to define yourself by where you’re headed, instead of where you stand.”



Everything in your life has led to this moment. Your backpacking trip, your getting fired from your job, that bowl of soup, a chance meeting with a redheaded girl. They’ve all led you here, to this moment of true success. Your coworkers are congratulating you. A whole roomful of people are toasting to your greatness. (I’ll leave a harangue for this idea of “success” for another time.) Everything you’ve ever done has led you to this wonderful moment. Johnny Walker is there. Your friends are there. Everyone’s laughing. Brown liquor abounds.

Now, please, says your good friend Johnny. Forget about this moment. This isn’t the moment. Stop. Stop. Stop it.

Think about the future greatness in store for you.

Everything in your life has led to this moment. Which is to say, those moments weren’t important. They were “routine.” Ordinary. Merely stepping stones to lead you to this moment. The great moment. The moment which is here now and is finally worthy of celebration. Just look at all those smiling people! Look how full their glasses are!

Now close your eyes, and think about the future.

That’s right. You see now, don’t you? This moment is just a stepping stone, too. You thought it was important, but it’s leading to something even greater. Do not waste your time by enjoying it. Don’t even waste your time savoring the delicious flavor of Johnny Walker. There will be more Johnny Walker to come. In the future. When it matters. When you become who you’re meant to become.

Because the person you are right now? That’s not you.

No, you are the intangible idea of what you might accomplish in the future. Gosh, that feels good. Feels cozy.

Go ahead, wrap yourself up in the warmth of that constant struggle. Continue to strive for a future sensation of pleasure at the expense of any present pleasantness.

And if you still feel unfulfilled, don’t worry. A great way to feel better is to reach for a glass of—oh, I see.

You got me again, Johnny.

You got me again.





QR Codes and Skinny Jeans: Calvin Klein X

April 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I do not wear skinny jeans.

It’s something I’ve been saying for a long time. Recently though, my resistance has waned. I’ve started looking at my boot cut jeans a bit differently. I’ve even caught myself tightening the cuffs with my hand when I’m sitting down, just to see what it might look like.

Which I’m sure means the trend is reaching it’s end. When I finally give in and start wearing skinny jeans, I can almost guarantee that that will be the bellwether of the style.

In honor of my change of heart regarding tight fitting pants, I’ve decided to go back to a 6-month- old Calvin Klein campaign for this post. It’s a campaign involving QR codes, that slow-to-catch-on-because-it-requires-3rd-party-software “phenomenon.”

I’m sure I’m just being slow to appreciate the finer points of QR codes, like I was with the skinny jeans. Both present genuine obstacles to me, and both seemed a little forced at the start. The skinny jeans I initially resisted because years of style magazines had informed me that a pear shaped body type should stick with the boot cut. The QR codes, because I don’t understand why they need to look so sci-fi when they’re really quite simple.

In Calvin Klein’s Fall 2010 global print and outdoor advertising campaign, the brand used QR codes in billboards in both LA and New York. “Get uncensored” it demanded of passers by.

Get Uncensored-Out of Home QR Code, Calvin Klein X

First off, I applaud CK’s gumption in making the QR code ANY COLOR OTHER THAN BLACK. Even though it still looks like a ghost from PacMan, at least they gave it a wee bit of personality.

The other great thing about Calvin Klein X’s QR code is it gave the people what they want: video.

When a passerby scans the above QR code with their smartphone (and 3rd party software in most cases) they get to watch this video on their smartphone:

In what appears to be some kind of urban, abandoned children’s playground, the video portrays tough, shirtless guys in skinny jeans (frowny face) making out with hot girls on the ground. Sometimes they play on rings, but mostly it’s just gritty makeout sessions with an improbable cast of characters.

The music is kind of good, I guess. And it has an effect. An X-rated effect. Which I suppose was their goal.

But my question is, does it sell jeans? Or is it just a series of marketers and ad execs congratulating themselves on using the latest technology?


Video created by consulting creative director Fabien Baron of Baron & Baron.

QR Code aspect of the campaign developed by Ace Group.

Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener takes over creative duties for TGI Fridays.

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Perhaps Guy Fieri will no longer make an appearance in their TV spots?

In other news, do you think Crandall feels out of place?



6 Talking Animals That Don’t Work

April 2, 2011 § 4 Comments

Talking animals seem to be an unavoidable aspect of modern television commercials. However, with CGI and advanced animating tools, talking animals have taken on a renewed vigor in recent years. Some of these talking animals work. Below are 6 that do not.

1. Duke, Bush’s Baked Beans

2. The Car Fox, Car Fax

3. The Foster Imposters, Foster Farms Chicken

4. The Aflac Duck, Aflac

5. The Charmin Bears, Charmin Toilet Tissue

6. Guy Fieri, TGI Fridays

So close, DSW. So close.

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Let me start out by saying that I have never met a DSW I didn’t like.

Amazing sales. Amazing selection. Even for my size…wait for it…eleven women’s feet.

And we’ve reached the real reason I love DSW. Sales, schmales: It is the only store in California (or the world, in my experience) that carries shoes my size in stock. It is the only offline place in the universe where I can buy shoes that look good and fit me–at least until I can find some kind of drag queen shoe emporium. At the moment, it exists only in my wildest dreams.

So when I saw my very first DSW ad campaign (both print and TVC) I was excited. Also a little nervous, because I didn’t want any other big footed girls horning in on my find. But mostly excited.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the ads are that bad. Solid concept, well-directed, consistent execution. The tagline is great: “It’s where you get those shoes.” Very colloquial, very vernacular, very nice.

And then they show the shoes.

If I were judging the quality of DSW on the shoes they show on these ads (and logically, that’s what I should be doing) I would not be tempted to shop there. Why? Because the shoes are butt ugly.

Example A: The Wedge

Great attitude, totally attention grabbing–and completely misleading, which I happen to love. I thought it was an ad for the Cosmopolitan “Just the right amount of wrong” hotel in Vegas. Which I totally want to go to. But then at the end, that shockingly deep-voiced woman–Are they riffing off the insight that even drag queens with large feet can get stylish shoes for a reasonable price at DSW? If so, bravo–confronts the purple dress lady and asks her “where she got those shoes.”

And the shoes are some ridiculous wedges. Not classy pool party shoes, not even Cosmopolitan at Vegas shoes. Am I totally out of it? Are wicker wedges with ridiculous patterns in? If so, I’ve got a great pair from my college graduation that I have been hiding in shame for the past 5 years.

They do not match the dress, like at all. Stacy and Clinton would have a field day with those shoes.

In closing, I have two pieces of advice:

To DSW: To paraphrase the Beach Boys, be true to your shoes. Y’all have got some great stuff, but I’m not seeing it in your ads.

To women of the world, everywhere: Never be jealous of a woman wearing wedges.

And oh, hello, what’s this?


JCP vs. Lay’s: Two Brands. One Battle.

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

This time, the battle runs over the use of a slogan.

For some time now, I’ve been noticing that the JC Penney commercials are pretty smart. I mean, I guess I’m in their demographic. But JC Penney had a lot to overcome with me. Pretty much that brand is lower than Sears, in my book. And Sears sells tires.

But now I see ads from JCP that remind me of the new Marshall’s/TJ Maxx ads (another battle waiting to happen). They’re bright, colorful, lots of florals and flowing skirts. Everyone is 22 and rich and multicultural and bouncing down the street…like those Old Navy commercials  before they brought in the mannequins.

But anyway. Last year, JC Penney made an enemy of me with their “New Look. New Day. Who Knew!” campaign. “Who Knew!” is a question. It begins with “who” for god’s sake.

But then this year, they turned it around on me. Did a little reevaluating. Maybe bought a grammar book. I don’t know–I’m not inside their heads. But what I do know they did is they got themselves a new slogan:

“We make it affordable. You make it yours.”

They had a lot of other lines, like “We make it floral, you make it sing” or something like that. It was good though. Convincing. If it didn’t look so much like a TJ Maxx commercial I might even have to rethink JC Penney. (I’m not a Maxxinista. I always feel like the clothes have been worn before. I’d maybe buy a purse). The funny thing is that according to some research I did JC Penney is trying to be like Target and they are waaaaaay not there yet. They need to shrug off their Mervyn’s rep’, and frankly I think they’re on their way.

But wait, you say. Where is the battle? I’ll tell you. The battle is with the Lay’s brand.

Picture of Frito Lay Chip Packages

Lay’s is coming out with some “natural” versions of their standard products. Shocking. But what is more surprising is the commercial they’ve chosen to go with. I can’t find the video online, but it is basically a bunch of chip chefs cooking up some crunchy treats. They’re doing it all naturally–you can tell because they are like coating each individual chip with a brush. And then one of the chefs (a particularly natural looking mom) takes the chips homes to her family. And the voice over is something like “we wouldn’t give you any chips we wouldn’t feed to our families.”

Well, I should hope so!

Seriously, does that really need to be said?

Anyway, the battle here is of the “bitch stole my slogan” variety, not a deeper dive into my own paranoia and the eating habits of highly successful capitalists. At the end of the commercial, the slogan is: “We make it natural. You make it fun.”

Sound familiar?

I think I need to work on sounding impartial until I get to the end. I think everyone knows where I’m going with this.

The winner of the battle is…JC Penney!

Now stop letting cats do your SEO. They’re good on the Internet, I know–but only at one thing.


Update: Joy of Joys

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Thorough research has demonstrated that the former creative agency for BMW North America was GSD&M–and for five years, at that. Following the demise of that partnership they worked with Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, a place that you think would shorten its name. KBS&P. It’s not that big of a deal.