Posts Tagged ‘Harris Bank’

A group of us spent the day yesterday at a briefing session for a new business pitch. Unlike most of these exercises, this client spent a lot of time carefully assembling a presentation that was incredibly dense with facts and background information.  To a person, they understood their advertising’s key shortcoming: it is long on reason but lacking in emotion.  They want to inspire people to not simply consider, but to care.  

After 104 powerpoint slides, they ultimately arrived at the same sentiment as Bill Bernbach’s famous quote: “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”  “Art” is a big word and one that many of us shy away from: it implies too much, it assumes a level of importance that a static banner ad may not seem to merit.

And yet, the best advertising messages contain an extra something, a spark of humanity or truth or simple engagement that transcends mere communication.  You can call that art, but in television, that ‘art’ usually amounts to ‘performance.’Picture 2

Which brings me to this ad for Harris Bank.  To see it, surf to this Harris microsite, click on the small TV icon in the lower left, then click on the little square that pictures a blue shirt-wearing young businessguy.  Now pay particular attention to the second vignette of the couple kayaking on the Chicago River…

Nice huh?  I’m probably more proud of how the team brought this scene to life than any other we’ve captured on film in years.  Candidly, I didn’t think this vignette would even work when I saw it in board form.  Yet somehow, inspired confident casting, deft choreography, and two actors capturing a commonplace yet momentous human exchange through a believably natural yet heartwarming performance, elevates this scene beyond the prosaic.

If you analyze the meaning of this scene in a commercial context, you reach one understanding.  But when you feel it, the experience reaches a far deeper, more meaningful level.  A great human performance–whether remarkable or hysterical or moving or naturally relatable–can be powerfully persuasive.  Because it can make you feel.

And that my friends, is why creating an animatic to understand how a commercial might work is like buying a blow up doll to understand how a relationship works.  It’s not even close.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Guest Blogger: Alan Spindle, E79 CD

Alan Spindle is an intensely curious and fascinating man with a near encyclopedic knowledge of everything from Vespas to foreign films to 70’s era music and stereo hi-fi components, and yet very little with any practical application.  Perhaps not surprisingly, all that makes him an incredible skilled advertising creative.



A mini-industry has sprung up around an old British WWII poster, and it’s made me realize not just the power of words and simple design, but especially the power of white capital letters on a red background.


These posters were meant to reassure the British that living under a Nazi regime was something to be faced with a stiff upper lip and Arthurian resolve.

The English Government destroyed the posters after the war, since Germany didn’t take over (story here):

This message has struck a chord in today’s turbulent, tempestuous, tripped-out, terrifying, tumultuous times, and has been reinterpretated and mutilated and spun out all across the blogo-cloud.





Long ago, when Swine Flu surfaced as a Trending Topic on Twitter, we saw this:


And, of course the various American spins on British Reserve below.


2postersResident Type Nerd Lindsay Stevens thought at first this typeface was Gill Sans, but it seems this was hand lettered by some Skilled Ancient Being back in the 1940’s (story here).   

Having helped produce a couple thousand ads for Harris Bank over the last few years….


I’ve become attuned to the many wonderful, subtle possibilities of such a graphic look.  You don’t always need a seizure-inducing flashing visual to get someone’s attention.

To paraphrase Howard Gossage: “Do people read ads? People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

Carry on.

By Alan Spindle, Creative Director, Element 79

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Replace These Discards With Logos And You Get The Idea

Replace These Discards With Logos And You Get The Idea

In this 24/7/365 all-access culture we inhabit (Brought to you by Sprint and the Now Network!) where every location (Your White Sox play at US Cellular Field!), every event (the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl!), and damn near every flat surface (Your message on this parkbench!  Right under the pigeons!) presents an ‘exposure opportunity’ for yet another brand, a certain recognitional numbness inevitably seeps into the populace. 


As marketers, we don’t help that by flooding the online marketplace with an estimated 3.6 trillion banner ads every year (that’s 3.6 followed by eleven zeroes).

Simply put, we live in a Brandfill™…which I just added to by including the semi-snarky, and totally unnecessary ‘™’.  We have too many brands shouting too many messages in too crowded an advertising ecosystem.

The challenge these days is finding ways to lift our specific client brands out of this anonymous muck of saturation, parity and irrelevance and finding ways to drive active engagement, to incite interaction.

That’s no small task (so talk to a Harris Banker–We’re Here to Help).

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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A few weeks back I mentioned I was re-reading Robert McKee’s tome “Story” in hopes of finding some fresh insights to tap into as we wrap our minds around the notion of Brand Stories.  Happily, two smart guys–Doug and George–posted thoughtful comments that helped sharpen my thinking…

First, Doug cited how Brand Stories rarely have a beginning, middle and end.  In the one-way world of the old push advertising model, that was not a problem–we told stories as closed loops.  But today’s social storytelling has no set story entry point nor any guidelines to keep stories consistent.  Doug also mentioned ‘listening’ as critical to making the story human and authentic–our ultimate goal for Brand Stories.

George was a bit more pointed–he wondered if I ever actually did plow through McKee’s voluminous tome.  Truth be told?  Nope, not this time.  In the end, McKee focuses too heavily on screenwriting for my purposes.  Still, he makes some salient points, most regarding the critical aspects of motivation and character: issues our industry all too often ignores.

Something Tells Me There's More To This Story Conflict Too

Something Tells Me There's More To This Story Conflict Too

So I dug deeper into my closet, checking out old writing books and eventually turning up a copy of Linda Seger’s Making A Good Script Great.   Her book has two advantages: it’s shorter and it’s paperback. Plus, it focuses on conflict–the key element to any story.

Linda wants her students to find the conflict in their stories, and to do so, she helpfully breaks them down into five types: inner, relational, social, situational, and cosmic.

Practically speaking, I didn’t get a lot out of her list–aside from thinking that ‘Cosmic Conflict’ would make a pretty cool band name.  Still, I like her challenge to identify your story conflict, and so I started applying it to some of our clients.  Not surprisingly, the client brands that consistently inspire our best work have easily-identified conflicts.  For Harris Bank, the source of conflict would be impersonal, disengaged banks.  For Cricket Wireless, the conflict is a cellular version of “The Man”–uncaring, disdainful, gouging to our customers.  And for Amway–a company that had never really advertised and became an all-too-easy punchline–the conflict is misperception.  These conflicts underpin each brand’s respective tagline: “We’re Here to Help,” “Respekt for You,” and “Now You Know.”

You can have great variety among the brand stories you and your audience generate, as long as you have a well-defined conflict rooting them to a similar theme.  And if you know the conflict, it really doesn’t matter where people enter along your story path–if the conflict stays consistent, story beginnings, middles and ends don’t really matter.

The conflict for the advertising industry’s story right now is convergence.  Interestingly, that’s also the answer.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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