I eagerly awaited the delivery of my 2012 MINI Cooper, tracking it day by day on the boat from Southampton, England to Brunswick, Georgia. When it finally arrived, I was practically giddy.
Meanwhile, most of my coworkers glanced in the parking lot and shrugged: “Uh, what’s the difference?” After all, it was my third red MINI.
But I was excited about this one because of the addition of a new feature called MINI Connected.
What is MINI Connected? Watch the Official MINI Video.
By now, most of us are used to some level of iPhone integration with our cars. Many of us have cables that allow us to control our music from the dashboard, Bluetooth to make calls and that sort of thing. But MINI Connected takes the bleeding edge of automotive technology to a whole new level.
It consists of two components – an enhanced navigation system built into your dashboard, and an app you download from Apple’s App Store.
It’s a little bit unwieldy, because you have to launch the app on the phone, plug it into the dashboard cable, and leave it on the console.
But to hear BMW engineers tell it, that inconvenience is by design. Texting and driving has become an incredibly dangerous habit on our roads. And c’mon, tell the truth: you know you’ve checked a Facebook update at a traffic light.
What MINI Connected (and its similar but not identical sister, BMW Apps) aspire to do is give you some of the functionality of your smartphone, but delivered in a way that’s safer and more car-friendly. Meanwhile, it reduces that temptation to reach for that cell phone and check just… one… more… message.
It includes about a half dozen features, with more being added. Part of the beauty of this is that now adding new functionality is as easy as updating your iPhone. Suddenly, the electronics in your car aren’t a total dinosaur three years after
you buy it.
What can MINI Connected do? You can do a Google local search and program the results into your nav system. You can use Google Send To Car to pre-send various addresses from your home computer to your Cooper nav system. You can subscribe to RSS feeds. You can listen to web radio. I couldn’t be happier to have access to one of my favorite stations, Birmingham Mountain Radio, wherever my travels take me. Or, you can listen to your iTunes, with the Cooper suggesting a mix of music, based on your current driving style.
And you can check your Facebook and Twitter feeds. On a three-hour road trip, I find Twitter especially useful for keeping up with the news. You can read friends’ updates and “Like” or retweet as desired.
Wisely, BMW engineers have made it impossible for 70 MPH motorists to tap out status updates while driving. Instead they helpfully offer a rather hilarious selection of pre-written tweets, based on activity on your iPhone and your car:
“It’s 92° outside and I’ve just talked with
Lewis Communications on the phone.”
“I’m listening to Nirvana and will arrive on
Peachtree Street at 9:32 PM.”
When disconnected, the iPhone lets you carry vehicle stats with you – how much gas is left in the tank, how many miles of range you have. But for me, the most compelling feature is a brand new one. MINI Connected now includes MOG, a music service similar to Spotify. Now, I can drive down the road and listen to virtually every CD on the planet, for $9.99 a month. It takes a toll on your iPhone’s data usage, however, so I’m grateful to be grandfathered into AT&T’s unlimited data plans.
I love the way BMW and MINI are continuing to bring value to my new car with app updates. I suspect that in three years, most cars will come with a 4G LTE connection, and we won’t need smartphones as a bridge.
But if this is where the future is heading, I Like.
This has happened to me before. I was watching the movie The Crying Game and developed an emotional attachment to the main character until something completely different was revealed about “her” at the end.And so I was left to deal with my emotional attachment—if it was right or wrong based on new information.
The same thing happened last night as I was mesmerized by the Dodge RAM spot that ran in the 4th quarter. I can’t remember another time I’ve watched a Super Bowl spot and been so completely blown away by such an artful, compelling piece. It was masterful. It was minimalist, yet larger than life. The lack of sound track combined with such a powerful voice from one of the premiere legends of radio—blended with some of the most moving still photos ever to grace a broadcast spot. I tweeted my excitement.
The artful world of advertising I have loved so long was back. And then I woke up.
This morning I discovered that the entire spot—the voice of Paul Harvey, the still photos, the lack of a soundtrack—all of it—was stolen verbatim from an earlier spot aired by Farms.com. It was “The Crying Game” all over again.
Only this time it hit closer to home. And it opens up some painful questions that we all need to consider in our advertising careers.
Where is the line? At what point does stealing an idea—verbatim—make sense for what we try so desperately to protect?
This happened a few years ago from another agency with a large budget stealing the entire “Whassup?” idea from an aspiring young director. His idea, but they got the credit because they had the money to “own” it. But was it their idea? No way.
Original ideas are what define this industry. Or at least they should. If you’ve spent any time in this business, there have been times when you had the same idea as someone else. In fact, every time I see someone have a really simple but powerful idea, their first reaction is “surely that’s been done before.”
And maybe as the years get added on it is harder and harder to have a truly original idea. But does that mean we should stop trying to attain it? This question opens up some deep wounds. Over the past year I lost one of my best friends and one of the best writers in the industry over a misunderstanding about this very same issue. We had worked on a campaign idea that had already been pitched to the client and sold (and was in production) before he told me he had already done it before. My rationale, for right or wrong, was that we had indeed come up with the idea independently of knowing about his. And since the campaign was already sold through, I let it go forward.
Judge me as you want, but at least I didn’t see a campaign and then steal every element of it as we see with the Dodge RAM spot. I won’t name the agency that did this because that is not really the issue. But I can’t excuse them just because they had far more money to produce the spot better than the original creators did. And I can’t excuse them for contacting the original creators of the message to get their permission. Stealing is stealing. There are a million different other equally great ideas out there. This farming spot had been done before. Move on.
Lee Clow would have. David Lubars would have.
On December 1, at the Annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association International Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Lewis Communications helped Tiffin Motorhomes unveil their newest model, the Allegro Breeze. The Breeze is a 28′ Class A diesel-pusher that isn’t just a new product, but creates a whole new category in the RV industry. Just as luxurious as Tiffin’s high-end models, the Breeze is smaller, more maneuverable and fuel efficient.
In an industry where in the past bigger almost always meant better, a teaser campaign was developed with the tagline, “This is BIG.” The campaign targeted dealers and industry media letting them know Tiffin would soon be unveiling something brand new. The Tiffin website homepage included a countdown clock promising something huge at the industry’s leading annual show. Direct mail and social media posts also helped spread the word of Tiffin’s big news leading up to the show.
The actual unveiling at the RVIA show included an oversized curtain with fake wheels pushed out to create the impression of a vehicle almost twice the size of the Breeze.
When the curtain was dropped attendees were surprised to see a luxury RV half the size of what was expected. Miniature pocket-sized brochures were handed out and the wording on the side of the display changed to say “Small is Big.”
The Breeze was named Best of Show for the RVIA Expo and was featured in RV Business and MotorHome Magazine.motorhomemagazine.com
Saturday morning I woke up to the sun peeking over the horizon. I walked out onto my balcony with a steaming hot cup of coffee in one hand and my iPhone in the other. The view was stunning; an orange, yellow glow grew over the city.
At least, that is what I saw in the consecutive pictures taken with my iPhone camera.
Is this worrisome, that my initial response to nature’s beauty is now to capture it through the lens of my cell phone?
In our world today, cell phones, tablets and laptops are a constant and growing phenomenon that we generally cannot escape. The continued expansion of the communications revolution is a beautiful and incredible thing, but it has become so all-consuming that it can be challenging sometimes to be attentive, still and aware in the moment.
Imagine: How Creativity Works is a book by neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer that will be released in March. In his book, he talks about high-level creativity that perpetuates from inactivity of the brain. Scientists call this creative area of the brain “the default network”, which is only stimulated when all other parts of the brain are inactive.
I guess what I’m saying is that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to put down our iPhones and iPads for just a minute and be present, allow ourselves to be inspired by our surroundings and open our minds to new ideas.
My family moved to Birmingham from Los Angeles when I was a kid. It seemed like everyone on the playground that first day asked me if I cheered for Alabama or Auburn. “I cheer for USC,” I proudly told them. The other kids didn’t seem impressed. Instead, they further pressed me, “War Eagle or Roll Tide?”
I quickly learned how insane this rivalry is, and it was absolutely necessary to pick a side. The emotions around the Iron Bowl run deep, and all year long. It’s definitely not just a game.
Recently, fans have shown that there are no limits to how far they’ll take things, from vandalizing the lawn in front of Bryant Denny to poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner. If you watched the Roll Tide / War Eagle special on ESPN this week, you would agree that it certainly encompassed the extreme nature of the two fan bases. It is a deeply rooted hatred. Fans here mean business.
This summer, we shot new TV spots for one of our clients, Tiffin Motorhomes, who sponsors various SEC football programs, including Alabama and Auburn.
The spots feature Aubie and Big Al poking fun at each other and playing pranks. The mascots put this playful, innocent spin (especially when Big Al steals Aubie’s toilet paper!) on a rivalry that often runs deeper and more extreme than seems reasonable.
I love how these two mascots are able to make light of a situation that can get a little crazy, both on and off the field. Aubie and Big Al are never going to be best friends, but instead of hating each other, they channel their emotions and intensity into silly pranks and poking fun.
I like history, always have. Even as a kid, I preferred a good war movie to Star Wars and cartoons. The future was all lasers and space. Phooey. History just seemed more exciting. And it actually happened. It was true. It was real. Luke Skywalker couldn’t hold a candle to Magellan or Robert E. Lee.
For a time, before getting into advertising, I worked towards a PhD in history. I quit my studies midway. As it turned out, I preferred reading history to researching it. Still, many years later, I get a great thrill from reading a solidly researched, well-written historical tract. Nothing beats it, except golf.
It bothers me that people don’t know or appreciate history. I think they’re depriving themselves of an important part of being alive. They’re missing the richness of appreciating where they exist in time. They don’t get to absorb the happenings of another place and era. And sadly, I believe their ability to fully make sense of the present world is compromised. Because man is a creature of memory, custom, and ritual, and the past will always be with us. For good and bad. The future is coming; I’m here to tell you, so is the past.
Well, for my money, there’s no better supplemental training a creative can have than a grasp of history. Each day, I face the blank sheet of paper. It can be daunting. But thanks to my passion for history, I don’t look down on that empty whiteness alone. I have inspirational helpers as I search for a concept to tackle a client’s problem. You may know some of them: Napoleon, Buzz Aldrin, James K. Polk, Cortez, Thomas More, Erasmus, Hannibal, Pericles, Botticelli, Peter Abelard, Chester Nimitz, Plato, Hadrian, Otto Von Bismarck but enough name dropping.
For so many people, social media is exactly that – a place to be social. But during the dramatic unfolding of devastating weather conditions in the state of Alabama, social media became more than just a social website – it became a lifeline for so many. Facebook became a site to literally check-in on your friends’ lives. For those who had already lost power, it was a way to pass along information to the outside world that your friends were among the living.
It also serves as a giant Hallmark card of sorts. For our friends who have lost so much, once they are able to check back in, hopefully the sight of their Facebook wall will help them to get through the next stage – whether it is grieving, recovery or rebuilding. For our own co-workers, the outpouring of love and concern and the many offers of assistance should serve to at least let them know that they are loved, in our thoughts and that their needs are our top priority.
And as the state begins to pick up the pieces of what these tornadoes left behind, the number of pages popping up on Facebook to assist are truly inspiring. The page “Animals Lost & Found from the Tornadoes in Alabama on 4/27/11” helps connect displaced pets with “foster parents” until their owners can be located as well as alerting people as to missing pets. “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” allows the return of what may appear to be debris to some but could be the only photo reclaimed of a dear family member.
I’ve seen everything from “how to volunteer”, how to donate, how to file your insurance claim pop up within the last 18 hours. It also serves as the most relevant news source to some. After all, the news that’s important to our friends tends to be that which is most important to us.
And while the penetration of Facebook continues to increase, one can only imagine that it will continue to have an important role in these types of events. For me, social media took on a whole new realm of meaning in my life this week.
Lewis recently completed six new television spots for Alfa Insurance. The spots were shot by director Kevin Donovan and employ a wide range of comedic (and occasionally poignant) moments to illustrate Alfa’s superior value and responsive claims service. This is the fourth year of the ongoing Let’s Talk About Tomorrow campaign the agency crafted for Alfa.
Let me ask you a question: Where are you reading this?
Chances are, you’re on your desktop computer, and by desktop, I’m including laptops. What about a tablet? Okay, maybe. But mobile phone? Not likely. It’s not that people don’t use mobile devices for entertainment and social purposes. It’s that they’re more likely to use their mobile phones to take action. Find a restaurant. Get directions. Make a phone call. So the fact that you’re probably on a desktop says more about where you are than who you are.
This is a fundamental shift in thinking for those of us in the business of marketing and communications. When it comes to the mobile space, the most important consideration is no longer demographic, it’s geographic.
That’s just a taste of some of the yummy tidbits we feasted on at the Mobilizing Mobile event put on by Google the other night here in Mobile, AL. The event featured Jason Spero, Director of Mobile at Google, and Edward Boches, Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen.
The main takeaway for agencies and their clients is that we must stop treating mobile websites like the kid brother who wants to tag along with big brother desktop website and his buddies, TV and Print. The mobile web is its own thing and needs its own strategy and implementation.