May 31, 2010

Art direction and digital

Following on from my series on the David Ogilvy book “Confession of an Advertising Man”, I should be covering the chapter How to write potent copy. But I am skipping to the one after that while waiting for a copywriter colleague who is helping me put something meaningful together. So we will be covering How to illustrate Advertisements and Posters.

David Ogilvy devoted a whole chapter to creating illustrations/images for advertising. He believed that they “should work as hard to sell the product” as copy and headlines. In the book he states that the subject of the illustration is more important than the technique. That they must “arouse the reader’s curiosity”. He refers to “story appeal” and talks about the eye patch that he put on the star of the Hathaway campaign – one of Ogilvy’s classic success stories.

What would he make of art direction in the digital age? Perhaps he would be horrified by the motion graphics and rule-breaking nature of online communication. Or maybe he would love the instant results of digital campaigns and would forgive their flashy visual nature. Let’s look at what kind of art direction works well today…

The first challenge is how to define digital art direction. With more campaigns using the same visual assets on and offline it is becoming harder to isolate specific examples of pure digital art direction. Then you have multiple disciplines within digital art direction such as interface design, animation, motion graphics and more. Probably the best place to start are the D&AD Awards that champion art direction above the idea behind the piece itself.

In terms of Interface and Navigation there are many projects that forgo the rules of simple usability for a more experimental and experiential approach. One of the 2009 winners was 12 CAMS, CREATE YOUR RAINBOW for the band Radiohead. By integrating video footage and a clever interface they created a way for users to interact extensively with both media. Every user’s action was recorded as a piece of a rainbow. At the end, the resulting rainbow containing everyone’s feelings into one piece of art.

This style of art direction relies heavily on the data-centric nature of the web and uses data visualization as its main design theme. Even the video footage was extremely pixelated that adds to the glitchy nature of Radiohead’s music.

Good design online should make people want to explore. Take this award winning campaign site from Poke London for Orange which brings to life the advertising concept that good things should never end. Many people believe that the best websites should never make people scroll. This one scrolls forever. Along the way you will learn things about the product and be entertained too.

Uniqlo have continued to build an instantly identifiable brand image partly thanks to the work they’ve done online. They have created their own unique language that goes from the style of typography through to the videos that mix seamlessly in their websites. Not only is the design a masterclass in simplicity but the thinking that goes into their digital work really makes them stand apart.

When it comes to graphic design, one big trend in digital is the Apple school of art direction featuring white spaces, highly polished images and (of course) reflective surfaces. Take the Heinz “Talk to the plant” project from Daddy. Every pixel is polished to perfection. The 3D animation of the plants is beautifully rendered. It makes you want to lick the screen.

Another trend is non-design. When design is reduced to a minimum to take down any barriers between people and what they are looking for… it creates a whole new approach to art direction. How more minimalistic can Google’s homepage get? Now they even have navigation hidden on first load then it slowly appears. A great example of non-design is the Modernista website. Or rather a floating navigation that guides you to content about the agency wherever it may be online. There is no actual website. Try selling that to a client.

So unlike David Ogilvy’s book there are no real rules any more when it comes to art direction. But it has to be noticed by the audience and be true to the brand. Designers, you have more freedom than every before. Use it wisely.

May 28, 2010

And the CLIO goes to…

The award season keeps on rolling. The CLIOs were announced this week and some nice projects scored gold. Let’s take a look at some…

The World’s Biggest Signpost – Nokia. Farfar, Stockholm

I love interactivity on a massive scale. This project combines mobile, location-based services, social and more. A worthy winner.

Virtual Box Simulator – United States Postal Service. AKQA, Washington.

We see so many pointless ways to use augmented reality it’s great to see a useful tool being recognised for taking an interesting technique and applying some smart thinking.

Magical X-mas Cards – The Swedish Post. Crispin Porter + Bogusky Europe.

I had not seen this project until now. Great ideal beautifully executed. Another example of digital and physical coming together in a creative new way.

Twelpforce – Best Buy. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Boulder.

Using Twitter to give customers access to support from real people. CP+B took this idea and built a whole campaign around it.
Take a look at all the winners here. It’s interesting that HBO Imagine can win a gold at the One Show but only a bronze at the CLIOs. Go figure.

iPad 2015

With people queuing for the new iPad and Apple surpassing Microsoft as the most valuable technology company, you have to wonder where things will go in the future for a company many thought was dead in the water 15 years ago. If you look at the first generation iPod from 2001 and compare it to the iPod touch of today it is clearly shows a quantum leap in capabilities and possibilities. In this article Henry Blodget has some interesting thoughts about the iPad’s future but we can imagine something so much bigger. So let’s fast forward five years and try to picture how the iPad might evolve…

iPads everywhere

In the same way that some people call any vacuum cleaner a Hoover, slate devices from manufacturers like DELL and HP could be referred to as “iPads”. Will Apple try to ban people from using the term for anything other than their own devices? Is that the police banging down your door? In the future the iPad OS might be in the cloud and no matter which device you pick up, if you are a true iPad user your thumb print will grant you access to your own iPad hub with all your preferences and content. Not an iPad user? You’ll be stuck with the Android version that will still look like clipart hell. Even though you are accessing your iPad hub via your friend’s DELL slate the experience will (of course) be slower and the screen less bright. Apple will always try to make sure their hardware is one step ahead. Next time you are visiting friends remember to bring your own iPad.

Free iPads

Today colour printers cost very little as companies like HP and Canon make a fortune on ink cartridges. With Apple making more and more money from apps, advertising and content they could actually give away the iPad but make it useless if you don’t get all your content from them. In this scenario you would see iPads lying around in Starbucks waiting to be picked up so you can access your own iPad hub with all your music, magazine subscriptions and secure access to your social network.

iAd therefore iAm

We’ve seen a preview of the iAd solution from Apple. Five years from now it will be so sophisticated that it will know everything about you, where you are and what you are doing next. In this article from Oren Frank he imagines a predictive context device that knows your every want and need. Brands will be clamouring to be part of this holy grail of advertising. They will be able to target the right person at the right time and place with the right message for them. They still won’t be able to use Flash in their ads but it really won’t matter. How about privacy in all this? Well of course people will be able to opt out. But those who do will soon regret it as their lives will be a lot poorer and empty. In the iAd future there will be a new class of people – the sponsored few. If you’re not connected to your favourite brands then who are you? Oh, and of course Apple would have bought Facebook by 2015 with instant access to all the personal data that comes with it.

How do you see the iPad evolving in the next 5 years? Or will it just be a flash in the pan?

May 22, 2010

Week of Tweets #13

It’s so easy to miss so much on Twitter. Been in Portugal for the past 3 days for a work conference and it feels like the world has moved on without me. I need a bot to collect the Tweets I would have found interesting based on the ones I’ve clicked previously. Now there is an idea! If you’ve missed any of my Tweets from the past 2 weeks here is my selection of the best:

Toasted marshmallow? RT @mattinnewyork: Love this post by @BBHLabs Is the iPad the new campfire. a must read.

  • According to BBH Labs, “Barely an opportunity goes by for someone with an ipad to share something with me. “Check this out”. “Look at this”. “Let me show you something”. Users seem to want to show off new apps, cool new vids (and of course the device itself). I am very often drawn into the experience others are having around the iPad. We literally gather round, pull up chairs”. Is this the first communal computer?

Great work… RT @bannerblog: Shots pick theit top 20 digital campaigns. Heavy weighting towards viral….

  • These lists are always debatable. But it is always interesting to see someone elses opinion about what is best.

Word “magical” not mentioned. RT @ThinkingDigital: Interesting albeit mixed review on iPad usability from Jakob Nielsen

  • Too much on my blog about the iPad? Maybe I am just subconsciously showing how much I want one. I don’t think Steve Jobs will care much about the comments on this usability review. Then again, Apple want us to believe they create the best products. Their approval process should include sending everything to Jakob Nielsen.

Awesome. RT @heywhipple: Augmented Reality Window Display To Try On Watches Without Entering Store.

  • I came up with this idea about 5 years ago (with some friends in HK) but never got to sell it to the client. Damn it!!!

Clever clogs RT @Campaignmag: Creative lands dream job through $6 Google campaign:

  • The message was a bit lame but the thinking was great. Hope you can keep it up!

Interesting article… RT @AdweekDotCom: The Search for Creative Leadership

  • What makes for the ideal Chief Creative Officer today? According to this article, the job of CCO “requires exemplary creative work, the ability to attract talent, and a combination of traditional and digital skills. But today agencies also need execs who are as credible around clients as fellow staffers. That level of client connection — necessitated by increasingly flatter structures at agencies — requires a certain business savvy not typically associated with award winners at Cannes”. Call me, I’m open to offers!:)

As always, end on a smile…

Google ‘whisper ads’ detect keywords in phone calls – hilarious Onion video

Until next time…

May 15, 2010

One Show Interactive Winners

So here we go again… awards season is upon us. Last night the One Show winners were announced and you’ll be seeing these project again and again in the coming weeks as they take home all the prizes at various festivals. I’ll stick to gold winners here but many other great projects picked up silver and bronze. Here are some of my favourites:

Monopoly City Streets by Tribal DDB London

Below is an unofficial demo video I came across. It’s amazing how Hasbro has been able to bring their classic games to life online and generate a lot of hype. Creative Director Matt Ross and Head of Technology Matt Oxley where the brains behind this great idea. It is also one of the more innovative Google Maps mashups.

HBO Imagine by BBDO

Just 2 years after blowing us all away with the incredible Voyeur project they come back with Imagine which allows you to see a story from various perspectives in a way that changes how you perceive it. Online video has really come into its own.

BMW Z4 by Dare

In a sign that augmented reality is being taken seriously it now has its own category. This project was truly integrated with an amazing TV campaign and mobile app.

Nike Chalkbot by Wieden + Kennedy

I’ve featured this project before on this blog so I’m really happy to see it pick up gold at the One Show. When you answer a brief by inventing a piece of technology it is really thinking out of the box. And all for a great cause too.

Swedish Armed Forces by DDB

Over the past few years some amazing work has been created for this client by DDB. Not sure if the example below is the project that has just been awarded (the winners list PDF is not specific enough) but it show what kind of thinking is going into the work.

Ikea Facebook Showroom by Forsman & Bodenfors

Another project previously shared on this blog. So many campaigns are now using Facebook as their platform but few use it in such an unexpected way.

No doubt the One Show site will be updated with case videos for all the projects. Take a look at all of them (not just gold winners) and try and be more creative, innovative and unexpected – yes, I’m talking to myself here!!:)

May 14, 2010

Get social

Erik Qualman from Socialnomics produced this video, an update of his original video from 2009 that had about 2 million views on YouTube. It has the latest stats, figures and information on everything social. Shame the soundtack makes it feel like it’s 1999 when social media was just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. via the DigitalBuzzBlog

May 11, 2010

Web 3.0

Great video by student Kate Ray about the semantic web. This 14-minute documentary, Web 3.0., is a brief but high-level overview of the semantic web, what it is and why it matters to all kinds of Internet users. As said on Mashable, “simply put, the semantic web gives us more than just raw data; it shows us the context and relationships behind and between those data”. Still don’t get it – want it even simplerer? Watch the video.

May 7, 2010

Week of Tweets #12

It’s been a bit quiet for me on the Twitter front in between Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, other public holidays and interesting projects to distract me. But here are some of the most interesting things that have been tweeted by me these past couple of weeks…

Cool idea for promos – RT @simonmainwaring: Coke cans as the new media channel: use barcodes to upload content.

  • Right now, somewhere in an agency, someone is working on a campaign using this technology…. or not. Interesting concept but yet to see if it is something that will captivate an audience. See a review below.

Good report… RT @OgilvyWW: Missed opportunities with iPad advertising says Ogilvy Digital Labs

  • Get the latest on who’s doing what for the iPad and why they could do better. Below is one of the videos featured in the article.

Nice RT @ericphu: I think this is the most succinct summary of the impact of the internet on advertising I’ve seen…

RT @intersphere Are small agencies changing the game? Independent agencies vs 4As – From client marketers’ POV

  • Should large agencies be worried? I should think so! In this article Rayana Pandey in Singapore says that “Marketers agree on the same thing: smaller agencies tend to be more agile and reactive, more focused on driving BTL activities with big ideas that have potential for ATL campaigns and are generally well rounded and creative”.

RT @BBHLabs: A painfully brilliant *must-read* – @MarkFairbanks on the ad industry and 5 stages of post digital grief:

  • Great article about the reactions of people to the idea that to “maximize the potential of digital media, traditional agencies must be willing to restructure the venerated copywriter/art director team”.

Amazing… RT @BenShaw: Stunning looking iPhone game – eBoy FixPix

OK, as a game it is pretty mindless but it looks very cool. If you’ve been a fan of pixel art then you’ll need this app when it comes out.

…and one last interesting innovation from Dutch agency THEY

Great idea… RT @Schwartzie14: Radio goes digital and interactive –

May 3, 2010


Nice promotion from Jimmy Choo in London. The Jimmy Choo Trainer Hunt in London invites people to “follow” a pair of designer trainers as they “make their stylish journey around London. Checking in at the coolest, hippest places around town – from the Saatchi Gallery to Shoreditch House – the trainers will update you on their whereabouts in real time. And if they check into a venue near you, you can catch them to keep them”.

Using Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook it is interesting to see a premium, luxury brand getting into social media and mobile this way. Via the always inspiring PSFK blog


Nike have been the pioneers of branded utility and now with the iPad Nike Football + Team Edition is providing footballers across the world with an app that will boost their skills. To fit into their mantra of we don’t do advertising, we do cool stuff’, this is an ipad training app for coaches/players to improve their football skills. On the ipad, you can view drills, instructions, challenges, create custom programs from some of the world’s best teams. Found this via Dan Pankraz (amazing strategy guy in Sydney I once worked with) who says on his blog – “no doubt the 2.0 version will have more of a social component, but this is a great starting point. It has amazing interactivity and leverages the viewing power of the ipad brilliantly.  It’s is an example of how the best brands are creating marketing in their products as opposed to just marketing products”.