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Original articles from Diane Levine.
Avoiding the Advertising O.D.
Need some inspiration for your next campaign? Here's a tip. STOP looking at all the other campaigns out there.

The Right Way To Let Customers Write Your Brand Story
Once upon a time, there was a brand. And the brand had a story. And they told that story over and over and over again to anyone who would listen. The end. It's hard to believe that brands really used to construct their identities this way. These days, such a fixed approach to brand building really does sound like a fairy tale.

Behind The Beauty Myth
Recently came across this series of vintage ads aimed at striking fear in the hearts of young women everywhere. The ads threaten that you will wind up unpopular, undesirable, and unloved if you let yourself get too...wait for it...SKINNY. As someone who grew up in a culture that has always lionized female thinness, these ads were a welcome change of pace — at first. "Finally!" I thought to myself. Proof that our image-obsessed culture once celebrated normal, realistic standards of beauty for women. But upon closer inspection, I realized that this ad was just the flip side of the same coin. The ideals of beauty may have changed, but the approach feels quite familiar.

Will Baby Snooki Ruin Brand Snooki?
Last week, a stunning development in the world of pop culture shocked us all: Snooki, the fist-pumpin, shot-swilling, leopard-wearing party girl of "Jersey Shore" is pregnant. The news left many in the media wondering what would become of her upcoming reality show spin-off. And it leaves me wondering what will happen with her brand. That's right. Brand. Over the course of five seasons, the pint-sized reality starlet has grown from a hot mess that everyone mocks into a bona-fide brand mogul complete with endorsement deals, product lines, and a Facebook page packed with 1.6M fans. Still, it is a brand borne of notoriety. Getting drunk, hooking up, falling down — these are the behaviors most closely associated with its spokesperson.

Do You Agree With Banksy?
UK street artist Banksy weighed in on the world of advertising in his latest statement, Banksy on Advertising (natch). What do you think of his comments? When he calls for the public to "take, re-arrange and re-use" what advertisers put out, I couldn't help but think: aren't we doing that already? Think of all the crowdsourcing efforts out there.

Will Anyone Ever Buy Hyundai As A Luxury Brand?
When Hyundai announced the 10-year, 100,0000-mile warranty a few years back, they took a big step towards repositioning a car company that had long been synonymous with junky vehicles. In one bold move, Hyundai became a brand that stood firmly by the quality of it products. More firmly, in fact, than any competitor out there at the time. And because of that, they became a brand whose quality you could trust — or at the very least, take a chance on.

JCPenney's New Campaign Is Annoyingly Effective
Let's get one thing straight. I really, really, really can't stand these new JCPenney commercials. The yelling, the crying, the histrionics...it's all pretty grating. And the polar opposite of the lovely and elegant Every Day Matters campaign that came before it. But only one of them actually makes me consider giving JCP a shot.

Brand I'd Like To Rebrand: LaCroix
Do you ever have a product that you know and love and use all the time despite the fact that you can't stand certain things about the brand? For me, it's LaCroix Sparkling Water. Why? Because everything about it — from the pastel palette to the swishy, right-tilted type to the colorful brushstrokes to the soothing beach scene on their website — makes me think of old-school feminine hygiene products. The kind they used to feature in the movies they terrorized us girls with in sixth grade.

In Defense of Suspense
Remember when Super Bowl commercials were simply Super Bowl commercials — i.e. spots that ran during the actual Super Bowl? They're becoming a rather distant memory these days, as more and more brands take to tweeting, teasing, and even previewing their spots well before the big game.

Will Volkswagen's Super Bowl Sequel Fall Flat?
Is anything as torturous as waiting for the sequel to something you loved the first time around? It's a time fraught with terror and what-ifs. What if it doesn't live up to the original? What if it does? What if it sucks so bad that it tarnishes the legend established by the first?

Crowdsourcing Done Right
Design our logo! Direct our commercial! Write our slogan! Everywhere you turn these days, companies are jumping at the chance to crowdsource critical advertising elements. As a professional creative, I hate the way crowdsourcing trivializes the time, effort, and attention that we advertising pros put into our craft. On the other hand, as a consumer, I love the way crowdsourcing celebrates my ideas and encourages my creative spirit.

The Truth Behind Tebowing (And Why Brands Should Try It)
By now we've all witnessed the phenomenon. Whether it's the athlete himself dropping to one knee on the sidelines or the legion of imitators gesticulating in their living rooms, the practice of "Tebowing" has taken the world by storm. And regardless of how you feel about the man and his growing myth, this simple action is something every brand can benefit from.

The Real Evolution of Advertising
Kudos to the folks at Infolinks for bringing us The Evolution of Advertising, a lively infographic that details our winding path from primitive public notices carved in steel (2000 B.C.) to professionally produced videos published over and over again by the public themselves (2010). It's a fascinating study packed with surprising facts.

Sponsored Stories Lack Social Cred
In this day of rampant crowdsourcing and continuous check-ins, the line between branded messages and consumer-generated content about brands sure has gotten squiggly. But the line exists nevertheless. And yesterday a California judge ruled that Facebook could be sued for crossing it.

What Are The New Old Branding Rules?
Hot on the heels of Versace for H&M and Missoni for Target, Marni became the latest high-end fashion house to announce a collaboration with a low-end fashion retailer. In this case, H&M again. Just ten years ago, it would have been inconceivable that the most elite of elite brands would be willing to peddle their wares among the masses.

1984 All Over Again?
Motorola and Samsung's blatant attacks on the Apple brand certainly follow in the footsteps of one of Apple's own landmark campaigns. But will they be this generation's "1984"? I think not. The message is clear. Apple has become the new behemoth. Those loyal to the brand are, at best, delusional fanboys devoid of common sense, and at worst, mindless drones. Is anyone buying into this vision? One thing's for sure. No one's really buying the Motorola Xoom. It's still too early to tell whether Samsung Galaxy will prove to be a more formidable opponent for the iPhone. In any case, when it comes to challenging Apple itself, both these spots only serve to strengthen the brand's position as number one. That's the danger of positioning a brand or a product around what it's not.

When Ads Attack
In a culture infused with tell-it-all books, show-it-all reality shows, and say-it-all songs, it seems damn near impossible for anything to offend anyone anymore. So, perhaps a tip of the hat (be it Santa or yarmulke) is due to the folks behind this recent billboard for the vodka brand, Wodka. For they have achieved the impossible. They managed to offend a good portion of my social network

How Great Brands Are Like Cozy Blankets
I just had a terrific brand experience with the online retailer Fab.com. And the best part is, I didn't even realize it. Here's what happened.

Advertising That Trips (And Trips Up) Down Memory Lane
When it comes to developing campaign creative, advertisers are typically racing to try something new and novel. But recently, two big national brands did something different. Never mind the early '80s styles and taglines. Toys 'R' Us and Wendy's are running these spots right now. Such blatant nostalgia happens to be a brilliant move for one of the brands. But let's start with the other one. Every child of the eighties harbors fond memories of those little old ladies and their quest for the missing meat.

Keeping the Love Alive: Lessons From Heinz Ketchup
Long-term relationships are tricky. Many believe that the hard part is getting into one in the first place, but it's the hanging on that really takes work. Typically, both partners are charged with the task. But in the brand-customer relationship, the onus falls on the brand alone. And when it comes to taming the wandering wallets of fickle consumers, few have done as remarkable a job as Heinz Ketchup. Since its introduction 135 years ago, Heinz Ketchup has maintained solid market dominance (they maintain a #1 or #2 market share in 50 countries). Their enduring success can be attributed to a few simple, yet brilliant, relationship strategies. So brands (and boyfriends), take note. 1. Maintain A Core (Or At Least An Air) Of Consistency. When Heinz lowered the salt content of their ketchup in 2010, it was the first change to the recipe in forty years.

'Go You'? Says Who?
Last month, health insurance provider Cigna unveiled a $25 million ad campaign targeting individuals. The ads are wonderful. Visually exciting. Conceptually brilliant. Who wouldn't want to live in a marvelous world populated by people living their dreams? The opening line alone ("Deep inside you, there's a person who refuses to be kept deep inside you.") is enough to inspire a very serious case of copywriter envy. Everything about this campaign aims straight for the heart, using ideas and emotions that just about every human being will identify with. That's exactly why it sucks so bad. According to the website, the Go You campaign aims to inspire people.


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