Beyonce’s web presence and the artist-fan relationship

According to this Ad Age article, Beyonce does not feel that her brand website represents her diverse interests (in “fashion, travel, photography and art”) and is entertaining proposals from various ad agencies in hopes of change it. While the content feels rather impersonal and the blog format and arial fonts do seem a bit amateurish for an artist of her stature, it is odd that in order to accomplish her aims of personalizing her website, she is employing an external corporate entity.

In any case, this seems to be another example of the shift toward artist-fan intimacy, where she is now using her web presence to develop relationships with fans (by revealing herself as an individual—tastes, likes, dislikes, etc.) rather than the impersonal promotion of products associated with her brand (i.e. taped concert materials).

– Nima Hassan


More on Ads and Entertainment Content: When is a song just a song?

When we consider the integration of advertisements with entertainment content, we usually think of painfully transparent product placement—of Paula Abdul sipping from Coca Cola merchandise during American Idol. The insertion of branded goods into television programs often feels forced—as something highlighting rather than destabilizing the distinction between advertising and actual entertainment content. But the advertisement of a good with inherent entertainment value—such as music—presents a more naturalistic application of the technique.

Apple produced a commercial featuring the song “Lose Yourself” by Eminem for the rapper’s best hits album, “Curtain Call.” The work certainly functioned as an ad in that it caused sales of the promoted good to increase, but it also functioned effectively as ‘entertainment content’ by being consumed and enjoyed by audiences. Evidence of this is the popularity of the clip on YouTube—the commercial has been viewed 70,449 times as of November 2011. YouTube user TomateFarcie posted a revealing comment, writing, “I love this piece! That’s what I call a great iPod commercial. Eminem used to do great stuff before he became commercial…”

It is incredibly ironic that the product of a national advertising partnership with a major multinational corporation is being characterized by some viewers as a “[non-]commercial” artistic work (particularly signified by TomateFarcie’s use of the term, ‘piece’). The statement is testament to the degree to which the (already fluid) line between advertising, art and entertainment is becoming even more blurred.

– Nima Hassan

What does it take to make Scandinavian home furnishings as popular as “Lost?”

Cultural theorists have long predicted the integration of advertising with entertainment content. Often, advertisers do this by inserting their products into established, popular shows, rather than trying to build narratives and characters around the brand from scratch. However, we are seeing more and more commercial webisodes of the sort IKEA has produced for Youtube (see as well, Fresh Takes, Alicia Keys’ “micro-series” for the Dove Go Fresh campaign But how successful have these efforts been? ‘Fresh Takes’ appears to have had little impact and most of the episodes in the IKEA series above have only double digit YouTube views. Compare that to the million + views of many of Allstate’s viral Mayhem commercials (

All three productions were intended to have high entertainment value and prevent viewers from remembering they were watching an ad. So what explains the huge difference in their success? Is it an issue of commercial length? The ironic tone of the Allstate ads? Or merely a matter of writing quality?

– Nima Hassan

make love, not war

Today’s world is facing a deep political and economic crisis:  the financial collapse, the eurozone debt crisis, US unemployment reaching two figures, Occupy Wall Street and a global sense of instability fill the headlines from Beijing to Buenos Aires.

Amidst all this mess, Benetton the famous brand known for its revolutionary multiracial campaigns in the nineties, has released its latest advertising creation where uses pictures of world leaders kissing their opponents under the promise: Un-hate.  The campaign was launched this week in Italy, after Primer Minister Silvio Berlusconi was forced to step down for leading the country towards an imminent profound debt crisis and it is part of the brand’s social responsibility strategy.

The Un-Hate Foundation was created by United Colors Of Benetton to help building a more tolerant world.

David Corzo for Vidalogo.  @Ricorzo

Occupy Madison Avenue?

A group of advertisers, after finding out they were the second least trusted professionals (after politicians) created and interesting website where bad advertising practices are denounced and get a positive buzz around it. shows how some brands can come up with a huge number of bad ads without even considering that in the era of information, traditional media and traditional advertising as a tool to generate revenue need to reinvent themselves and also need to become more creative and funnier to attract targets that, thanks to the enormous diversity of media outlets are now more informed and more demanding.

David Corzo

Go Big or Go Home

The goal of any ad is to capture the attention of its audience; if it fails to do this, it has failed all together. However, in the the modern age where flashing lights and sounds constantly buzzing by the ear are the norm, people are inured to the traditional attention-grabbing techniques that advertisers might want to use. So, ads must adapt: today, that means that they must make use of the new medium–i.e., the internet–or they must use the old mediums in a new, interesting way.

This particular Dutch ad campaign for a job placement company is of the latter camp. They caught my eye because of their creative use of existing, previously ignored spaces. Their ads depict people working in exaggerated drudgery. For example, one ad on the side of a coffee vending machine seemingly shows the inner workings of the machine: a woman laboriously making coffee for the unsuspecting, uncaring consumer. At the bottom, in Dutch, reads “Life’s too short for the wrong job.”

Similar ads were posted on the sides of other common machines: ice cream machines, cigarette dispensers, jukeboxes, ATMs. The hyperbole is acknowledged; however, rather than allow the ridiculous to overshadow the message that the company wants to convey, it draws attention to real world dead-end jobs and spurs the audience to consider what the company has to offer.

The ads had enough shock value to generate wide interest, and ultimately the creators of the ads had in their grasp the holy grail, of sorts, of advertising–the consumers themselves were disseminating images of the ads online and telling their friends, family, and various audiences (even now, I continue the chain). The campaign had gone viral. Thus, having made use of both old and new mediums, the success of this campaign reflects the new standards necessary for modern advertising in a media-saturated world.

Michelle Chan

Exxon & Gasland: “The Way We’re Thinking About ‘em…”

Nice guy, nice smile, soft black and white lighting, the kind of guy who you’d know from church or youth soccer, the golf course maybe, always active in the community. He’s telling us something. He’s relaxed, but he has something to say. “A lot of times things are right underneath our feet, and all we need to do is to change the way we’re thinking about them.”

The gent turns out to be Erik Oswald, an Exxon-Mobil geologist, and he’s telling us about the rich new resources of gas found in America. What he’s alluding to every so obliquely as the ‘new way of thinking,’ is accessing previously unavailable gas trapped deep inside rocks in the earth through a new process called hydro-fracking: shooting water into the earth under high pressure, making a mini-earthquake and capturing the gas that’s released. This process is highly controversial, because it’s not easy to control where the newly released gas goes. The independent film, Gasland, shows a man living in a hydro-fracking area who can literally light his tap water on fire. A national movement to fight hydro-fracking is a new battle in the continuing war between environmentalists and big oil.

Here’s a quick look at how both sides sell their stories:

Exxon is selling myth, movement, the Great American Exception of innovation, enterprise. We have always overcome challenges with intelligence, and determination, and we didn’t let fear get in the way. We cut away from smiling Oswald to a color point of view of trees and the sun, natural as anything, drifting by from inside a fossil-fuel-burning automobile. It’s an image of health and green balance.

We come back to Oswald for “we didn’t even realize…” and now we pick up speed, as we whiz past a southwestern looking environment… a scrappy field with low mountains in the distance (nothing worth preserving here); a billboard flies by (echo of how we’ve built the environment up to now, perhaps). Now, we go to split screen and see: first, highly technical looking glowing red numbers and lights – then pan to an oil derrick tower lit up at night to look as majestic as the Eiffel Tower – a symbol of American grace. On Oswald’s words, “safely unlock” we see the Tower turn from a ‘real’ representative image, to a schematic on a computer screen, as a technician turns his head to the right… (one of Oswald’s concerned and kind colleagues at Exxon Mobil). And what is he looking toward? The comforting site of a white vinyl-sided (made from oil, saves money on paint) modern version of a traditional Colonial Style American home, at dusk. Any threat or danger sensed by the evening is dispelled by the warmly glowing (from their yellowish appearance, apparently energy-burning incandescents) outside lights. We come back to Oswald, tight enough in close-up to see some of the flaws in his skin, as he says evenly, “These deposits can provide us with fuel for 100 years.” We cut away now to a less subtle message: A spotlessly clean and shining small-town American Main Street, so full of warmth and red-white-and-blue bunting that nothing has been seen like it since the 1984 Ronald Reagan “It’s Morning in America” presidential campaign. As Oswald talks of “energy security,” two attractive apparently single young women walk by — a subconscious echo, maybe, of all those “protect the women” images from westward expansion stories that would have men urging suicide or actually slaughter ‘their’  women before allowing them to fall into “Injun” hands. Significantly, the biggest sign on the street is “Open”  – an open for business sign. We come back to the geologist for the finish: “It’s just takes somebody having the idea,” Oswald says, making a grasping motion with this hand, “and that’s where the discovery comes in.” All that other stuff… protests, objections, long-term considerations, amount to not very much… Once you have the idea, the ad suggests… ‘just do it.’   An equivalence is being made between fossil-fuel… and civilization.

Gasland, with far fewer resources, uses the tools of David to fight Goliath. The shaky camera, the poor video quality, the outsider’s camera angle, the executive walking out on the tough question… these we associate with another America, the America of the rebel, the people’s champion, fighting against overweening power.

And which best deals that other American demand, “Show Me”?  Well, without knowing anything else about the issue, no one could look at a man setting his water on fire and not want a little better explanation from Mr. Oswald and company as to how they know this procedure is safe.      —-  Bill Lattanzi