Marmot VO Work

Had the chance to do some VO work for Barkley client Marmot. Great script from my friend Tony Marin. Fun to actually tell the story, speak the words, instead of just write it. Thanks Andy Pitts and Marmot team...


A Commercial In A Commercial: Part Deux.

The second rendition of a fun Berkshire Hathaway project we did for my client Helzberg Diamonds in conjunction with The Martin Agency. Barkley creative team wrote the script, which was then then approved by Martin, Helzberg, and Geico. Shot with Director Roman Coppola, who let me look through his viewfinder. Copywriter Libby Hall, Art Director Kyle Anthony. And got to work with "My Favorite Martin," Wade Alger.


Anaconda vs. Jaguar

Bad news. Nobody in our brain-fried ADD culture has time for your stupid story.
Good news. Unless you know a few tricks.

Here is one: Create unavoidable conflict. Put two things together that cannot co-exist in the universe and make your audience wait to see how it plays out.

Hot Vampire vs. Hot Werewolf
James Bond vs. Super-villain
Rihanna vs. Chris Brown
Charlie Sheen vs. The World
Obama vs. Romney
Israel vs. Hamas

The audience is hooked. It’s human nature. We all want to know,
“What’s going to happen?”

Here’s an example of a marketer who employed this dynamic (fairly recently) in a brilliant and modern way. You can't stop watching this go down:


On mass extinctions. And meeting makers.

I did something great recently. I took my kids to a museum. Chicago’s Field Museum, to be specific. The main attraction was Sue, the T-Rex. The biggest one they ever dug up.

Apparently, there have been six mass extinctions on planet earth. One of which wiped out the dinosaurs. Which caused me to wonder, is our “bad economy” really a corporate mass extinction?

The parallels are interesting. The dinosaurs dominated for 260 million years. From a trend standpoint, their demise was unthinkable. But KA-BOOM, they were done. Apparently, in a colder, more challenging environment, they were too big and too slow and ate too much.

Is the Internet a six-mile wide asteroid? Is social media the ash cloud? Are big corporations T-Rexes? Are start-ups (and companies that think like start ups) furry monkeys? These are not rhetorical questions. They’re valid ones.

The conversation about how companies need to behave like start ups is all over my Twitter feed. And we’re constantly hearing how businesses need to be more “nimble.” But day in and day out, what the f does that mean?

Here are a couple not-so-radical ideas:


Don’t make them. Don’t go to them.
Just go see people.

Picture a conference room in your office with ten people all staring at a Powerpoint presentation. Mathematically speaking, each person in that room is only 10% accountable for the solving the problem at hand. And any good cynic would tell you those ten people are not trying to solve the larger problem, they’re trying to ascertain their own minimum requirement. Because they’ve got six more of those meetings. Back to back to back.

Now, by contrast, picture two people talking in a hallway about a project. They’re actually both 100% accountable. To each other. And that meeting is likely to take half as long.

The big meeting is 10x the labor cost of the small meeting with 1/10 the accountability. Multiply that over 250 days a year. That’s what’s effed up about corporate America. (Or one of the things, anyway.) Everybody’s accountable. Nobody’s accountable. Why is this the tradition? Certainly, it’s driven in part by by managers who want to get everybody in the room so they only have to delegate once.

This isn’t crazy. Construction workers agree. They know what a bunch of people standing around talking is. It’s a bunch of people who need to get to work.


I just watched an interview with Tom Peters where he states big companies simply cannot innovate. He says it’s a proven fact. Ten years ago, not as important. But change is now coming at an exponential rate. Innovation is like having a warm-blooded cardiovascular system and a fur coat in an ice age. You’ll die without it. The question is, can your dinosaur turn itself into a hundred monkeys?

Smaller teams is the solution for me. But it’s also a mindset. The “hand off” from one department to the next is deadly. It virtually ensures nobody cares about the end product except the people who actually deliver the end product. Maybe Henry Ford’s radical innovation is finally obsolete.

Consider also the assembly line is inherently demoralizing. We’re numb to it now (we’re numb to a lot of unnatural things), but when it was first introduced, skilled workers loathed it. It deprived them of their natural desire to be craftsman and even more relevant, it deprived them of their ability to be ingenious.

The best ideas about perspective and vision are likely to come from the top of the org chart. But the best ideas on how to solve problems are likely to come from the people who get their hands dirty. As my friend Per Hakaanson likes to say, lazy engineers are the best problem solvers. Because they’re the most highly motivated to make a problem go away. If that’s true, which approach is more likely to yield the best result? Give a problem to ten lazy engineers? Or one?

So my fellow dinosaurs, what kind of culture are you promoting? The empty illusion of mass collaboration and activity? Or the substantive reality of accountability and work?

Come on, people. Grow some fur.

P.S. If you’re in Chicago in the near future, make time for the Field Museum. What a great way to spend an afternoon.


Check it beotch! A generation in 1:36.

Here’s a video I wrote promoting a Barkley-sponsored conference on The Ones They Call The Millennials. Weird that we have labels for generations. Weird that I feel like a Millennial even though I’m ten years older than the top end of the age bracket.

Motion graphics, music and general cool factor by the multi-faceted and talented but not from the outback, Paul Hogan. Behold, a woefully inadequate but nevertheless interesting snapshot of a generation:


Thanks, boys.

A documentary project in which I played a role as Writer (I interviewed the guy) just got recognized by Communication Arts Magazine. I did two smart things:
1. I said yes to the project.
2. I let a talented shooter and editor do their thing w/out messing with it.
Here it is:

Whispering Danny from Austin Walsh on Vimeo.

In a business where most of the players focus on the business of self-promotion, I'll take the CA mention. And while CA may be sort of a relic at this point (a big, thick magazine with slick paper pages of screen shots from digital videos?) but that’s actually what makes it sweet for me. CA taught me how to write. Back when it was full of insanely smart and painstakingly art directed print ads from Fallon and Weiden and Neil French and Mark Fenske.

So thanks Austin Walsh (shooter), Dustin Schirer (cutter) and Glen Scott (Art Director). Nice to be in CA again. Like they tell the parents at Cub Scouts. Boys love to be recognized.


Empty Picture Frame

You get a phone call. There’s something for you at the front desk. You push up out of your ergonomic chair and go see what it is.

A picture frame. Gilded. Empty. With a note.

Our task was simple on this pro bono assignment: get the people from ArtsKC into meetings with decision makers at local companies. This was one of our ideas. Another involved a hard hat and a shuttlecock. But that's another story. Much credit due to Art Director Carolyn Cawley and Writer Quinn Katherman.


The Helzberg / Geico Project

I guess Mars aligned with Jupiter. Or Helzberg Diamonds' CEO aligned with Geico's. Regardless, we did something I've never heard of before: product placement in a :30 commercial. Is it a hideous Frankenstein? Will the Gods punish us for incest? Nah. I think it really works. A funny commercial that stays "in campaign" but makes you look twice. Or at least once. And does a great job of promoting both companies in the process.

Why did this happen? Berkshire Hathaway owns both companies and somewhere along the line, Warren Buffet approved of this idea. Hence, everybody got cracking. Amazing how decisive leadership encourages collaboration. And great to see a recent mention in CNNMoney.com.

Script written by me and my team, Matt Bowne, Glen Scott, Kyle Anthony. ECD'd by the great and wise Steve Basset at Martin. We shot with Chris Smith, director of American Movie.


The Library Trucks

I saw this truck on the road the other day. It’s one of 4 Johnson County Library delivery trucks my AD partner, Glen Scott and I re-skinned for a marketing campaign. The library had no media budget, but they did have a fleet of trucks.

So we brought the trucks to life, as extensions of famous stories. Inside humor connects big with people who love books, but maybe forgot how cool the library is. Client loved it. Ended up on NPR’s blog of the nation and got merit at The One Show. All for around $10k. Badass design work done by Mister Travis Kramer (to see the other trucks click here.