Monday, November 26, 2007

They're always after me Lucky Charms!

I know it's a little weird, but I spend and unusual amount of time thinking about ad campaigns: who comes up with them, who approves them, why they stick...
Like this guy right here. Who had the brainflash that created this, and, more importantly, who had the balls to present it in a meeting. I guess we'll never know, but in my mind, it went down something like this:

Bob couldn't take it anymore. He really truly couldn't take it. It wasn't the long hours. And it wasn't the accounts, though he'd much rather be designing copy for General Motors than General Mills. Still, he was playing in front of a national audience, and he couldn't complain. No, what really bothered Bob was the triviality of it all.

It was a given that in advertising, no one really knows what they are doing. That was just part of the game. But lately? Geesh, it seemed like the pitches that made it and the those that didn't were separated by nothing more than mad whim. And so, Bob had taken all he could take. If whim was good enough for the bosses, it was good enough for him. This time, instead of slaving over the campaign pitch for two weeks like he normally would, he hadn't even looked at it. He didn't even know what the product was, other than the name on the folder. Sure, it had been hard. There had been a few moments of temptation over the last fourteen days when he had glanced up from the Raymond Chandler novel he was reading and almost opened the folder. But his will had won out over his curiosity. He was determined to go in to the meeting completely blind, and see what he could come up with.
So, Friday morning, he stepped into the conference room, sat down across from Glen and Chuck and opened the folder.
Hmm. Lucky Charms, the breakfast cereal. And a single request that the ad campaign revolve, naturally enough, around a leprechaun.
Bob took a deep breath and looked at his two bosses. Chuck was leaning forward, eager to hear what Bob had and get on to the next thing. Glen, Chuck's boss, was the picture of ease, relaxed and ready for some good clean brainstorming fun. Chuck would do all the talking, Bob knew from experience, but it would be Glen who would have the final say.
Bob cleared his thought and wiped his sweaty hands on his pant legs. It was go time.
"Okay, so, Lucky Charms," Bob began. "Of course, the campaign will revolve around the leprechaun... Lucky. "
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "Lucky Charm's mascot is named Lucky?"
Bob hurried on. "And of course, his interaction with children. The mystic of Luck Charms is that the marshmallows are shaped like magical... artifacts or whatever-"
"Artifacts?" asked Chuck.
"So we really want to engage the kids through the way children interact with Lucky and experience the magic."
Chuck was nodding now. Glen was still the portrait of immobility. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," said Chuck. "Just what I was thinking. The kids will be failing a test or sucking it up on the basketball court or whatever, and, er, Lucky, shows up and uses his magical powers to help them."
But Bob was on a roll now. "No, no, your missing it! Just like in the stories, people are trying to steal the leprechauns' gold, in the commercials, they are trying to steal his cereal."
Chuck frowned. "So Lucky's the bad guy?"
"No, he's just trying to defend what's his! Keep his cereal! But they're always after his lucky charms!"
"So the kids are the bad guys?"
"No, man, that's not it either! Don't you see?! The cereal is too delicious! The kids can't be held responsible for their actions! Both sides are innocents, drawn in by the dark and mysteriously tasty allure of Lucky Charms cereal!"
There was a long silence in the room. Chuck looked like he wanted to say something, possibly 'you're fired', but could quite get his mouth moving.
Finally, Glen leaned forward. And he smiled. "I like it. Get the art team in here! I want this ready to roll by Wednesday!"

At least, that's how I imagine it went down....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Eric is Derek?

This won't come as a shock to anyone, and it' probably a lame way to start off this blog, but I'm gonna say it anyway: Layla and Assorted Love Songs is an amazing album.
Last week I finished Clapton: The Autobiography. It was an odd book, both moving and reaffirming of the limited perspective anyone can have about their own life. Clapton is pretty fearless in his transparency about some of the darker times of his life. At the same time, Clapton chooses to focus on odd details, like a joke he played at a party one night or the first time he saw a certain hair style, and he glosses over some things of seemly greater importance, like say Cream's recording sessions. But the book did spark my renewed interest in both the man and his music, and I went out and picked up a few of the 'Clapton Remastered' editions of a few albums: 461 Ocean Blvd, Slowhand, and the afore mentioned Derek and the Dominos album. Wanna guess which one blew me away? As well regarded as this album is, it may actually be underrated.
Let's start with the cover. Rarely has artwork so closely fit the feel of the music dwelling inside. Take a moment to look at it: The layers! The girl, the flowers, the birdy-thing, the closer you look, the more you see. And yet, probably the best way to see its beauty is to step back and let your eyes see it as a whole, not focusing on any one detail, but letting the sum be greater than the parts. Just like the music within.
This is my favorite Clapton. Not preachy about the purity of the blues like on his early albums, and not burdened with carrying the torch of the blues into the future like on his later albums, this is Clapton just surrounding himself with great musicians and letting his emotions rule. And if there is one defining characteristic of Layla, it is that emotion trumps all. The voices soar, more concerned with being honest than with perfect harmony. The guitars seem to moan along with both classic and unexpected phrases. And listening to this album, really listening, can tear you up. Here's a few of my favorite moments.

Bell Bottom Blues: The simple fact that a song called Bell Bottom Blues could have stood the test of time is amazing in itself. When the twin voices rise in the chorus of 'Do you want me to crawl across the floor for you?', it's maybe the first gut-wrenching moment of many that will follow.

Have You Ever Loved a Woman: Two-thirds of the way through the album, and it's like they just couldn't hold the blues in anymore. And boy does it shine.

Little Wing: I'll be honest; I used to kinda hate this version. After hearing the SRV cover of the Hendrix classic, this one seemed like an odd departure that completely missed the point of the original. The truth is that both SRV and the Dominos capture the intent of Jimi's beautiful tune, they just do it by tapping into completely different veins. And I love both of them.

Layla: What can be said? Unrequited love; accept no substitutes.

Thorn Tree in the Garden: Out of left field come this quiet beauty that rounds out the album in an intense and fitting manner.