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US Creative Works: featuring Ogilvy, Barkley, We Are Unlimited and more



Welcome to The Drum's US Creative Works, supported by Workfront. Dedicated to showing the best creative work in North and South America, we give our readers the chance to decide which work features as our 'Creative Work of the Week'.

Scroll through the latest work, then click through to the Creative Works site and see what stands out. For project information, creative credits and more, click on the project to expand to full screen and click on the stars to vote.

To submit work for our US Creative Works section, fill out this online form.

The winner will be chosen based on the average rating and the number of votes cast. Voting closes on Wednesday, May 30.

Aktuellmix: Hershey's 'Hold the Bar'

Agency: Aktuellmix
Client: Hershey's
Date: May 2018

How does a brand leave the gringo image behind and be part of the conversation in the Brazilian Internet? Owning it.
Hershey’s related its chocolate bars to a popular expression used in one of the greatest hits of the 90s in Brazilian music. The slang ‘’hold this bar’’ is the chorus of Cheia de Manias, by Luiz Carlos. Despite its huge success the song didn’t have a clip, so Hershey’s decided to create an official one in the rhythm of reggaetón.
The brand proposed a challenge to find out who’s ‘’the best bar holder in Brazil’’: how long can someone hold the computer spacebar? The website had hours of exclusive branded content and a prize in gold bars.

Agency: Aktuellmix
Brand: Hershey
Country: Brazil
Entrant Company: Aktuellmix, São Paulo
Advertising Agency: Aktuellmix, São Paulo
Media Agency: Aktuellmix, São Paulo
Chairman/Partner: Rodrigo Rivellino (Aktuellmix)
Partner/Co-CEO: Celio Ashcar Jr. (Aktuellmix), Mario Medina (Aktuellmix)
VP Strategic Planning and Creation: Fabio Mergulhão (Aktuellmix)
Creative Director: Adriano Panda (Aktuellmix)
Creative Lead: Erica Igue (Aktuellmix), Rodrigo Joia (Aktuellmix)
Art Director: Rodrigo Joia (Aktuellmix), Maurício Quitero (Aktuellmix)
Copywriter: Erica Igue (Aktuellmix), Lucas Negreiros (Aktuellmix), Bianca Ramos (Aktuellmix) Rebeca Avila (Aktuellmix)
Strategic Planning Director: Gabriel Boaventura (Aktuellmix)
Strategic Planning: Gabriel Boaventura (Aktuellmix)
Artbuyer: Edson Silva (Aktuellmix), Andrea Carmassi (Aktuellmix)
Account Director: Juliana Pileggi (Aktuellmix)
Account Manager: Daniela Bayer (Aktuellmix)
Account Assistant: Alexandre Nobrega (Aktuellmix)
Executive Production: Priscila Pacionotto (Aktuellmix), Rodrigo Niro (Aktuellmix)
Print Production: Rodrigo Merigue (Aktuellmix), Amanda Xavier (Aktuellmix)
Media Director: Filipe Crespo (Aktuellmix)
Media Manager: Nathalia Cantalejo (Aktuellmix)
Product Design: Waldir Rugno (Aktuellmix)
Illustrator: Iuri Nogueira (Aktuellmix)
Photography: Paulo José Leite Jr
Film Production Company: Time Riding
Film Director: Dan Reis (Time Riding)
Photography Director: Paulo Leite Jr. (Time Riding)
Sound Production Company: Time Riding
Sound Direction: Thiago Gigliarano e Débora Murakawa (Time Riding)
Art Treatment: Marcelo Xavier (Aktuellmix) e Clesio Teixeira (Aktuellmix)
Illustration Studio: Big Studios e R2 Studio
Client: Marcel Sacco (Hershey), Gustavo Milo Marasco (Hershey), Patricia Prado Gonçalves (Hershey), Amanda Luisi Mendonça (Hershey)
Tags: Brazil

Video of Hold The Bar


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Yard NYC: Schutz 'Because'

Agency: Yard NYC
Client: Schutz
Date: May 2018

Schutz, has unveiled a new branding concept and the 'Because' campaign, created in partnership with Yard NYC. With the upcoming opening of the brand’s largest pop-up shop to date in the heart of New York City, the campaign is designed to launch Schutz’s first major marketing push in the US and celebrate it as a more diversified brand – both in terms of product and geography.
To support this launch and initiative, Yard NYC’s strategy focused on developing a concept and a campaign that would help expand Schutz’s reputation, reconnecting with its Brazilian and global audiences and building greater recognition amongst American consumers as the ‘world’s best-kept secret’ in footwear. This led to the development of 'Because' a freshly conceived creative platform born from the insight that you don’t have to explain yourself.
The brand tapped Adriana Lima, a notable Brazilian-born supermodel in both North and South America, as the company’s campaign star and brand ambassador. For the first edition of the new campaign, Lima was photographed in four separate scenarios. The series captures moments of stylish irreverence and spontaneity on the streets of SoHo. This will appear in the company’s stores, digital mediums, and in high-visibility outdoor locations in downtown New York. Two more releases will be revealed over the coming year featuring Lima.

• Stephen Niedzwiecki Chief Creative Officer
• Mathew Jerrett, Executive Creative Director
• James Denman, Executive Director of Strategy & Digital Innovation
• Korey Vincent, Creative Director
• Mirelle Majas, Creative
• Tino Barreiro, Sr. CreativeLeah Keiter, Copywriter
• Kirsten Arongino Head of Production
• Molly Dowd, Sr. Producer
• Devon Hay, Account Director
• Katie Pilot, Account Manager
• Theo Wenner, Photographer/Director
• Deering Regan, Director of Photography
• Tom Guinness, Stylist
• Tomo Jidai, Hair Stylist
• Chiho Omae, Makeup
• Andy Harman, Set Designer
• Julia Reis, Executive Produce, Art Partner
• Jordanna Vogel, Executive Producer, North Six
• Kalena Yiuaeki, Producer, North Six
• Adriana Lima
• Chauncey Dominique

Tags: United States

Video of BECAUSE. SCHUTZ starring Adriana Lima // Part #1


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Office of Baby: Parachute 'Very Comfortable'

Agency: Office of Baby
Client: Parachute
Date: May 2018

Independent creative agency Office of Baby has unveiled a new series of out-of-home ads for premium bed and bath brand Parachute. Launched ahead of the opening of Parachute’s first flagship store in New York, the work consists of snapshots of people who are at their most content and carefree when enveloped by Parachute’s soft, soothing line of sheets, towels and bathrobes.
The 2018 'Very Comfortable' campaign aligns lulling imagery with escapist messaging such as 'The city has enough people today', 'Deadlines are a social construct' and 'If I die, tell naps I loved them.' “We wanted to evoke the inner monologues of people who are extremely comfortable,” Office of Baby Co-Founder/Chief Creative Officer Paul Caiozzo explains. “There’s something that happens to you when you’re wrapped up in toasty sheets or lounging in a really soft bathrobe; you have more funny, interesting thoughts when the daily stress has melted away.”
Parachute’s new OOH ads are being strategically placed in subways, kiosks and on taxi tops initially in New York City, followed shortly by a rollout in Los Angeles.

Chief Creative Officer: Paul Caiozzo
Executive Creative Director: Nathan Frank
Creative Director: Michael Hagos
Art Director: Kelsey Shang
Copywriter: Prit Patel
Producer: Connor Hall

Tags: United States, ooh, advertising


AKQA: Palms 'From Dust to Gold'

Agency: AKQA
Client: Palms
Date: May 2018

The Palms Casino Resort is taking a crowbar and chainsaw to the past and is paving the way for a new, sparkling renovation in Las Vegas.
To celebrate, the resort is launching ‘From Dust to Gold,’ an original marketing campaign designed to embrace the demolition of the property’s storied past, and usher in a collection of new venues opening and to build anticipation for the progress unfolding every day.
In a city that’s constantly reshaping itself, the multifaceted Palms campaign puts forth the resort’s vision of ushering in a new era of Las Vegas by destroying the old. The $620m multi-phased renovation of the property is celebrated in the creative, showcasing the destruction and progress.
‘From Dust to Gold’ shows the resort as a leader in pop culture, food and entertainment, but also highlights its evolution by addressing new phases in art and design. Palms’ executive team and AKQA, Palms’ innovation and experience design agency of record, tapped director Paul Hunter to bring that vision to life. The Hollywood director drew from his experiences from works ranging from Notorious BIG’s ‘Hypnotize’ video to videos for Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, U2, Justin Timberlake to most recently, his video for Pharrell’s ‘Freedom.’
Conceptualized and created by AKQA Portland and New York, the From Dust to Gold campaign was further brought to life by Academy Award-winning Swedish cinematographer, Linus Sandgreen, and famed street artist, Revok. The integrated campaign features a series of five online brand films, over one dozen social teasers and an immersive campaign microsite that highlights all of the new features and venues that are part of the renovation.
In the feature spot, we see a well-dressed crew of people destroying the opulent resort, taking baseball bats, gasoline, crowbars, Molotov cocktails, fierce dogs, spray paint, chainsaws and explosive charges to the old Palms, paving the way for the new, with the unveiling of Damien Hirst’s first interactive bar concept in the US – the Unknown. The dramatic center bar, designed personally by Hirst, showcases The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded), a piece of work that consists of a tiger shark divided into three parts – alongside works from his Pharmaceutical series of spot paintings.
In addition, a 30-second spot will run on local Las Vegas television and more than 90 different out-of-home placements can be seen in Las Vegas and the corridor to Los Angeles.

VP, General Manager: Jon Gray
Creative Director: Tal Cooperman
VP, Marketing: Lauren Westerfield
Director, PR: Alex Acuna

Sr. Art Director: Alice Chiapperini
Sr. Copywriter: Matteo Capaldi
Creative Director: Aaron Seymour-Anderson
Associate Design Director: Carlos Bernal
Associate Design Director: Benjamin Parisot
Associate Creative Director: Riaad Merwe
Executive Producer: Dustin Freeman
International Design Director: Carlos Matias
Art Director: Antoine Christian
Designer: Terry Lee
Designer: Felipe Yamaoka
Associate Designer: Chris Lopez
Client Partner: Rodrigo Moyses
Senior Account Director: Daniel Jones
Senior Account Manager: Jack Lodge
Associate Strategy Director: Alec Black
Senior Strategist: Sarah-Jayne Boyd
Associate Program Director: Christine Dippold
Senior Project Manager: Tyler Hilton


Director: Paul Hunter
DP: Linus Sandgren
Line Producer: William Green
VP, Executive Producer: Ali Brown
Co-Founder, Executive Producer: Kerstin Emhoff

Editor: Sam Ostrove + Randy Baublis
Assistant Editor: Doug Scott
Head of Production: Remy Foxx
Managing Partner: Carr Schilling
Creative Director: Rob Hodgson
VFX Supervisor: Toya Drechsler
Executive Producer: Elexis Stearn
VFX Producer: Jamie Loudon

Colorist: Ricky Gausis
Producer, Color: Rebecca Boorsma
Executive Producer, Color: Meghan Lang

Tags: United States

Video of Palms: From Dust to Gold (Extended Cut)

Video of Palms: From Dust to Gold


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That Lot’s David Levin: things I’ve learned from 18 years of working my arse off in London



Last week, my business partners and I sold our little social media agency to a massive shiny global agency to help take it, as Dane Bowers might say, to another level. Our excitement levels are bordering on Game of Thrones season finale and I’ve mostly been drunk ever since.

But in a moment of self-indulgent reflection last night, during an ad break in Love Island, I asked myself: “How did I get here? And what have I learned?”, to which my internal monologue replied: “You should write a bloody blog about it, mate.” So here we are.

Let’s start with where I’m from. Before reading the rest of this paragraph, please watch the below to get you in the vibe.

Yes, that’s right, I grew up in a reet simple part of the country called Leeds where folk work down’t pit and everybody sounds like Mel B. Rush hour is tolerable, people speak to each other on public transport and in most pubs you can get a round of drinks for a tenner.

Naturally, when given the opportunity to escape to dog-eat-dog London to do an internship at MTV for 8p a month, I put down me Yorkshire pudding, kissed me mammy and me daddy and set off down the cobbled streets shouting: “I’m off to London! I’m off to London!” at me neighbours as I skipped passed them on’t street like a less graceful Billy Elliot. But none of them responded because they’d never heard of London.

Anyway, despite plummeting me into debt and forcing me to live in a hoover cupboard in Cricklewood, the internship was the best thing I’ve ever done. It kickstarted my career, absolutely changed my life and allowed me to hang out with some of the most important artists of our generation such as Kerry Katona, Shaggy and The Vengaboys. I’ll forever be grateful for it. So, there’s my first tip: internships are great.

david Levin
Levin with maestros Shaggy, Atomic Kitten and The Venga Boys


Having talked my way into a junior news writer position during my internship, I spent the next few years at MTV learning what it actually means to have a job, discovering essentials of professional life such as brainstorms, email etiquette and Jägerbombs.

I also learned that most of the people at the top of their game had something in common: they weren’t dicks. The industry is full of dicks who treat junior staff like crap and give it the full Lord Sugar in meetings, but most of those guys end up working in Chicken Cottage eventually. It’s worth remembering that, in an industry like the media (even more so in social media), the intern you were just a dick to will probably be the global marketing director at Facebook in a few months. So, tip two: don’t be a dick.

A few years later, I heard about this thing called ‘freelancing’ where you can work whatever hours you want for whoever you want and you can work at home in your pants. It sounded great. What nobody told me was it requires some effort to get work and, in order to get paid, you need to spend about seven hours a day chasing these things called invoices.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I made approximately £17 in my first year and ate a lot of soup. But like Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich, I soon got the hang of it. I realised how great freelance life can be. Being your own boss in charge of your own time is a wonderful thing. If you can get your day-rate to a decent level, you can earn what you need without having to work a full week. Or you can work a full week and have a bit of extra cash to save (or to climb out of your overdraft). And being freelance makes you better at what you do because you constantly have to adapt your skills to different clients. That’s tip three: freelancing is good.

After MTV, I made the obvious career move for someone that wants to be a successful freelance writer: I joined a band. We got signed and went on tour and lived like we were on Magaluf Uncovered. I felt like Bono (if Bono ever travels in a transit van). When I ran out money, I started freelancing again. And I was better at it. Because I had a fresh perspective, a renewed hunger and a leather jacket. Tip four: take a break from the thing you do, then go back to it. Particularly you, Bono.



A few years later, I set up a Twitter account for a pub. It was just an excuse to make jokes about east London and 1990s R&B artists, but it got pretty popular and I started getting asked to tweet for brands, famous people and TV shows. Loads of them. I whored myself round dozens of agencies, brands and broadcasters and worked until I passed out.

What this taught me was the importance of a specialism. The Evening Standard called me ‘the UK’s first professional tweeter’. Shortly after I doubled my day-rate (thank you, Evening Standard). A lot of people use the phrase ‘fail fast, fail often’ and I’m sure there’s something clever about that. But I prefer: ‘find something you’re good at, do loads of it fast and often, and keep doing it brilliantly for ages while you get more brilliant at it’. I appreciate, as slogans go, mine is less catchy. But anyway, tip five: find your niche.

In my capacity as the Tweet Writer About Town (maybe I should turn that into an acronym) I found myself speaking at events about my unusual job. If you’ve never done public speaking, it’s terrifying at first but becomes less awful if you stick with it, like Love Island.

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After speaking at one of Twitter UK’s events, I met David Schneider. We went to the pub, I spent two hours reciting my favourite lines from Alan Partridge [Schneider played Tony Hayers in the show], yet somehow he didn’t run away. We decided to start a social media agency with a third Dave (Beresford) who seemed to understand numbers and was also dead good at Photoshop. We all got on brilliantly, we made each other laugh and we were very honest with each other about what we wanted.

And that’s never changed. We’re a team. The three Davemigos (needs work). We took risks, including bringing in someone who wasn’t called Dave: pinching Laura Tannenbaum from Bauer Media who came in and built our accounts team and revolutionised our entire agency. Tip six: if you start a company, do it with the right people (shared first name optional).

As our agency grew, we started pitching for clients and hiring new talent. And in the process of both, something became clear: the advertising/marketing industry is disproportionally white. Not, like, Donald Trump rally white, but as a mixed-race person who tends to be confused for an Egyptian or a Mexican, it’s not uncommon that I’m the only person in a meeting that’s not the same colour as all the other people. When we recruit for a job, we get very few non-white applicants.

But herein lies an opportunity. Many brands and agencies (including ours) want and need to be a lot more diverse. So, tip seven: if any talented BAME folks are reading, and you want to work in social media, get in touch. And if you ever find you’re the only non-white person in the room, use that as a strength. I find a good way to get everyone to shut up and listen to you is to say: “As the only non-white person in this meeting, can I give you a different perspective?” That, or wear a Bob Marley t-shirt.

Building an agency is like building a Bavarian Shortbread Clock Tower Cake on the Great British Bake Off. There’s no point trying unless you have the perfect ingredients. That’s why we’ve hired the most supremely talented and specialised writers, designers, videographers, account managers, strategists, Instagrammers, Facebookers, Tweeters, Snapchatters etc that we could find. Which seems to have worked. Our team is a Bavarian Shortbread Clock Tower Cake made out of humans. Tip eight: hire people who are better than you. And not just at baking.

Perhaps the most obvious thing I’ve learnt from these 18 years of working my arse off in London is: do what you love. If you can get paid to do something that you’d still be doing if you won the Lottery, you’re very lucky (as I pointed out in a thing for Cannes Lion that had the most awkward logo placement of all time).

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For it to be worth putting as much time and energy into your work as most people I know do every single day, it’s got to be something you’re passionate about or part of your well-curated five/10/18/65-year masterplan. Otherwise what’s the point?

Tip nine: don’t do work for fun, girl (or boy). Let it be the one, girl. Love work for a reason, and let the reason be love.

Well done for reaching the end of this romp through the past 18 years of my work-life.

Shoutouts of course to everyone who’s hired me, taught me and helped me over the years; to our unbelievable team at That Lot (now ‘That Lot, a Weber Shandwick agency’), to my family and friends who I only tend to see when nothing major is trending on Twitter and to my fiancée who I haven’t had a proper date night with since the arrival of Instagram Stories.

I now intend to put some of my energy into life outside of work too, starting with a return to those cobbled streets to tell me mam, me dad and everyone in the Yorkshire pudding factory that things have worked out okay in that faraway place they’ve never heard of.

David Levin is creative director of That Lot, which was acquired by Weber Shandwick last week. This article was first published on LinkedIn.

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The Art of Storytelling: why dirty hands are better than beautiful words



Sixty hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute. How can branded messaging avoid getting lost in a sea of noise? Seth Godin’s book ‘All marketers are liars’ claims the answer lies in stories: “Truth is elusive. What we do know is our story. Marketing is storytelling”.

Since then, brands have relied on storytelling to win the attention battle. Countless articles share the secret to telling a great story: understand your customers; engage them in a timely manner; be relevant; be entertaining; create emotional connections. Except storytelling isn’t a magic recipe for turning branded content into entertaining content.

To begin with, what most brands talk about are not proper stories: can Budweiser’s “Whassup”, Old Spice’s “Smell like a man, man” or Cadbury’s drumming gorilla seriously be called stories? Those who think so must never have read War and Peace.

Brands simply don’t need to tell a story to be compelling.

That’s even more true in the social media era where responsiveness is key. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and their ilk have perverted the concept of ‘story’ by attaching it to everything. But in reality, those ‘stories’ are more collections of independent pictures rather than narratives with a beginning, a middle and an end.

Even brands that do tell stories well struggle for credibility. Only 23% of consumers in the U.S. and just 7% in Western Europe believe that “brands are open and honest”.

No matter how great your story is, it’s likely to fall on deaf ears. Hiring social media influencers to tell your brand story for you won’t do the trick either: people have learnt that where there is money, there is no authenticity.

So how can brands thrive in a non-storytelling world? By taking action. Focus on producing useful, beautiful or bold content – and let people judge for themselves whether they buy in or not.

Adopting a ‘show don’t tell’ approach is one way to take action. Rather than telling your audience something they’ll ignore – or at best question – engage in showmanship. Elon Musk could well be the greatest showman on earth right now: who needs advertising after shooting a car into space carrying a mannequin wearing a SpaceX space suit with the radio blaring David Bowie’s Space Oddity?

Such grandiose events might not be attainable for most brands. Red Bull manages to build a more accessible type of show – from sporting events to festivals.

What makes the brand so powerful is the fact that it doesn’t use these events to tell a story about itself. It entertains people and lets them associate the brand with the feelings they get from these events.

But showmanship isn’t a good fit for all brands. Taking a bold stand can sometimes be enough – as long as it is reflected in your offer. Patagonia’s ‘Worn Wear’ programme, which makes it easy for customers to repair or recycle their garment is a case in point: people don’t need extraordinary events where they can see unwavering commitment.

Going back to the entertainment industry, Childish Gambino’s video “This is America” shows again that powerful images and arresting lines can be more memorable than well-constructed narratives. What is striking is that this bold stand against racism has inspired such frenzied analysis; it reminds us that the quality of creative content, no matter which form it takes, can only be judged by how people receive and internalise it.

The moral of the story here is this: rather than crafting beautiful stories about your brand, get your hands dirty. Do something different. Do something spectacular. Or do something meaningful. And if it resonates with people, they’ll do the storytelling for you.

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network Entertainment special

Jeanne Charbit-Dunoyer, consultant, The Clearing

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Brainwashing your wife to want sex? Here is adtech at its worst



If you need to use targeted adtech to convince your wife to want sex, you are a wanker. In both senses of the word.

This is 2018, so we all know today how marketers and tech companies use online tracking to deliver direct response and sell personal data. For better or worse, most consumers seem to accept it. But there is a new – alleged – platform that embodies the worst of where surveillance marketing can lead.

The Spinner purports to let individuals influence the behaviour of others through tracking that displays tailored news articles on websites that the targets visit. The primary example that the company highlights is that husbands can subliminally convince their wives to initiate sex more often.

Based on the company’s website, the basic idea is that a husband pays $29 and then receives a shortened URL with a tracking code that is linked to a cookie. He then sends the URL in a text message to his wife (with, presumably, some cover story).

When the wife clicks on the link, a cookie is downloaded to the her phone. Then, whenever the wife browses news websites, she will see articles supplied by The Spinner such as “3 Reasons Why You Should Initiate Sex With Your Husband.”

A "news report" in a video on the company’s homepage summarises the process with this graphic.

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The reaction to The Spinner

Maya Kosoff, a tech writer for Vanity Fair and The Hive, tweeted on 9 July that an "Elliott" – see below – pitched her on the company. She wrote: “This is by far the creepiest and worst pitch I've ever gotten. What about the stories I write or who I am as a human being would make you think I wanna write about this?”

“We should all be thanking the Valley Bros that made The Spinner – it might just be what it takes for folks to sit up and take note of (a) how this crap works (b) what it is designed to do (c) how fucked up it all is,” Aral Balkan, a self-described cyborg rights activist, added. “The Spinner is surveillance capitalism in its purest… The Spinner is surveillance capitalism’s Martin Shkreli moment.”

Doc Searls, an adtech critic and the editor of Linux Journal, condemned the idea on Twitter. So did David Carroll, the American media professor who helped to break the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal this year in the UK. The Spinner, he wrote, is “essentially using a spearfishing attack on friends and loved ones to entrap them in a microtargeting/retargeting peer-to-peer digital psyop”.

The Sun in the UK, not surprisingly, published a sensationalist article last week about the platform without bothering to verify anything.

Let’s look at the marketing

The Spinner itself is evil – that goes without saying. If any husband would use the platform on his wife, I am sure she would kick his ass to the curb and force him to listen to Nickelback albums on repeat until his head explodes.

I do not even understand how a cookie could control which articles appear on major, third-party news outlets. But this is a marketing column, so let’s have a look at the communications.

There is a website that looks like it was created by a child in junior high school and includes a home page stock photo of a woman, for some reason, brushing her teeth. There is a call to action that would interest only a lecher such as Donald Trump: “Launch your ‘initiate sex’ campaign today!” The “user reviews” are anonymous and so generic that they must be fake.

The main advertisement is a video consisting of a fake news anchor and a fake reporter saying a fake script. There is this unsupported statistic: “The global number of married men who want their wife to increase the number of initiated sexual advances towards them is estimated to be around 1 billion.”

What my investigation found

This might not be a surprise, but The Spinner may not be entirely on the up and up. I did some digging.

I emailed the address listed on the website. Someone named “Elliot Shefler” replied and said he was a co-founder and the spokesperson. I asked if he could create a dummy account so I could see how the whole thing works for a column for The Drum.

His curt reply? “You can afford $29 for this story.” (If any marketing professors want to show students how not to do media relations, this story is a good example.)

Later, Shefler sent me this text, which he said was what people receive after their paid registration.

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I said that I still needed to verify everything myself and again asked if he could create an account. His reply? He simply wrote “ok good luck” and added the paid sign-up link. I said that I needed to get some basic information for my research, so I asked for the names, backgrounds, and work histories of the co-founders. I received no response.

Several days later, Elliot sent me this curt message: “So did you write about it?” Again, I said that I needed to verify more information. His reply: “This is the info i can give you at this point. Sorry.”

(The first two rules of media relations: any communication with a journalist is on the record unless there is mutual agreement beforehand. And always know the reporters with whom you are speaking. I am obviously the complete opposite of an adtech cheerleader.)

All I know is that Elliot Sheffler's emails were not written in native English, his email headers were in Hebrew and Google found nothing specific on anyone with that name.

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The domain is anonymously registered with Amazon Web Services – which, to be fair, is not that uncommon. But the London address listed on the website is a French bakery. Mon Dieu.

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To quote the immortal words of Elaine Benes, I think this company might be "fake, fake, fake, fake".

As someone who is half-Israeli, lives in Tel Aviv, and speaks Hebrew, I take personal offense to this sketchy operation. It gives credence to the negative stereotypes of Israelis. And even if it is not a scam, The Spinner would still be the worst tech product with the worst marketing in the history of humanity. And I saw Juicero.

The real significance

Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps my cynical, journalistic spidey sense is awry when it says this is probably a scam to lead humanity into what would be truly the darkest timeline. Maybe it is nothing like this purported scam discovered by Lukas Stefanko, a malware researcher at security company ESET.

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The Spinner could be a new startup that is seeking so-called “traction” by any means necessary. It could be yet another way to collect and sell personal data. It could be a meta-joke on the adtech industry. As a YouTube commenter on the aforementioned video said, it could even be guerilla marketing for an upcoming season of Black Mirror.

Still, my real concern is not that this alleged company exists. My issue is with how people in the marketing world believe it without a second thought. It reveals the ever-decreasing expectations that marketers have for adtech specifically and the high-tech startup world in general.

If The Spinner were spun in 1998, people would not believe that such technology could be possible and would be aghast at the immorality. But after 20 years of providing personal data in exchange for free services, people today shrug their shoulders at the collection and use of such information.

Today, we just accept that invasive platforms will exist in a world that is increasingly dominated by technology that erodes privacy and targets individuals – in marketing as well as every other part of our daily lives. We just accept that tech companies will do bad things from time to time and shrug our shoulders yet again.

We are only beginning to understand

In response to such occurrences, two American artists whose material looks at the intersection of society and technology, Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, have created New Organs to study how Internet companies track and monitor people online and offline. (The independent project is commissioned by Mozilla.)

As we are seeing, our over-reliance on technology comes with risks. See these two recent reports from Positive Technologies: researchers obtained full control of the infrastructure of every single corporate network that they tested as well as found that every single Internet platform has at least one security vulnerability.

Just as some unscrupulous businesses accept that their products will result in occasional personal injuries and lawsuits as costs of doing business, so has the world accepted the negative consequences of technology as costs of having high-tech platforms. We are falling down the slippery slope of getting used to more and more invasions of our privacy.

Nothing is safe. But by all means, let’s keep insisting that we should be digital-first in our marketing. Adtech is becoming not only a technology to sell products and services but also a Pandora’s Box that may harm the world irreparably.

Thankfully, both the marketing industry and the world in general are beginning to wake up. Brazil may soon enact its own version of the EU’s GDPR regulation. And as I discussed in a keynote address at the Synergy Digital Summit in Moscow in May, the adtech industry as a whole operates on a set of marketing assumptions that are actually entirely false.

What real relationships need

Thankfully, there is no need to resort to the totalitarian vulgarity of adtech to talk with one’s partner.

Any healthy relationship should have real, constant communication. If you need to use some passive-aggressive advertising platform to discuss your needs, you have bigger problems than a lack of sex. (In response to a query for this column, Rachel Stomel, a women’s rights activist here in Israel, tweeted a meme saying that “it's impossible to love someone and control them at the same time.”)

And if such technology is the only way that you can sell your product, you have bigger problems than a lack of conversions. You wanker.

The Promotion Fix is an exclusive biweekly column for The Drum contributed by global marketing and technology keynote speaker Samuel Scott, a former journalist, consultant and director of marketing in the high-tech industry. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Scott is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel.

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