How to Tell if Your Ad Agency is Punting On Creative Deliverables

LAVAZZA_critique_loopdsgnPeople who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And God knows I’ve done my fair share of punting when executing low level creative deliverables. There are a myriad of factors that can influence flubs like this. An unreasonable budget, crazy deadlines, endless deliverables, last minute client changes, etc. The list goes on forever. And this could be a problem that starts at the client level.  So for that reason, calling out the agency here would be bad form. But look how bad this banner ad is! I can spot flubs like this from a mile away, and I can practically recreate the chain of events on this one.

The underlying creative here is actually solid. Decent copywriting concept. Sexy branded color palette, great typography lockup. The individual components are all pretty good. So you’re probably thinking, then why is the composition of the banner ad so totally fucked up?! And the answer is that the agency most likely passed off the low level creative executions to a junior designer or inexperienced freelancer.

The initial campaign creative was probably done by an experienced Art Director / Copy team. They probably presented the campaign in the form of print ads —  a tall, narrow vertical format. Once the client approved the high-level creative, the agency probably pulled the ad team to move onto the next big money project, and passed off all the low level executions to freelancers or junior designers who were then tasked with doing all the executions based on the initial print creative. Unfortunately, extending the print campaign out to dramatically different ad formats, say… wide landscape web banners for example, gets complicated. In this case, it looks like the junior designer only had one type lockup to work from, and didn’t know how to create a new version that would work in a horizontal layout. Poor kid. So they did their best, but the resulting product just looks… weird. So the lesson here is, if you’re paying for top level agency creative, make sure you’re receiving top level agency execution.

HBO’s New Real Sports Logo / Rebrand

HBO did a nice job on this new REAL SPORTS logo. The original logo was soooo bad and it’s been inexplicably hanging around for over a decade. (What the hell are those arbitrary shapes around the word sports?!) It’s a smart move by HBO to extend elements their own branding into some of their shows and documentaries. (Namely the dot inside their “O” & their dark astral background) My only gripe would be new set design. The original set backdrop was a “live” nighttime shot of New York with the traffic and trains going over the bridges. It was super cool and moody and aligned much better with HBO’s aforementioned “dark astral background”. The new set looks like the gift shop at the MoMA, and the fireplace is kind of corny and dated. It’s not Masterpiece Theater, guys. B+

The New Men’s Fitness Logo

I’m liking the knockout apostrophe in the new Men’s Fitness logo. It’s a gorgeous little brand detail that doesn’t impair legibility in any way. I also think the switch to a blockier font is a nice subtle comtemporization of the logo. (Is that Tungsten?) The capitalization, while admittedly less visually interesting, seems appropriate for the direction they’re moving with the brand — BIG & BOLD. I suspect they probably sell a lot of ads for booze, body spray and energy drinks in this magazine. Regardless of the douche demographic, it’s a nice manly logo evolution.


FX’s 10 Second Promos for The Bridge Are Amazing

These understated yet über-creepy promos for FX’s new show, The Bridge are inspired. The best short films accomplish a lot with a little, and despite being only 10 seconds long (?!) these spots manage to be both thought provoking and chilling. The series is a remake of a hit Swedish television show, Bron, and tells the story of two detectives tracking a serial killer believed to be working on both sides of the Mexican border. (I also happen to really dig the logo.) Very nice work.

Ben Templesmith’s Awesome Hand Drawn Trailer for Warren Ellis’ New Book, Gun Machine

Copycat — Tokyo Milk Dark / Kraken Rum

The gorgeous, award-winning packaging for Kraken Rum was designed by Stranger and Stranger. The vaguely derivative Tokyo Milk Dark packaging was designed by Margot Elena.

Design as Differentiator — Photoshoot vs. Photoshop

This is the same campaign, separated by a few decades. On the left we have the original, award-winning ad featuring bold, densely composed typography paired with a masterfully painted physical prop. The dramatic lighting and ominous shadows in the photograph convey the metaphorical weight of concept and gravitas of the subject matter. On the right, the 2012 version of the ad abandons everything good about the original campaign, opting instead for a muddy-looking flag-gun Photoshop composite.

The Case For Not Being Stopped — Warwick Johnson Caldwell

I find myself getting “stopped” a lot in my artwork making process. My art-school-educated brain is constantly explaining my aesthetic failings and shortcomings to me. These wonderful Dr. Strange drawings by the super talented, Warwick Johnson Caldwell make a great case for not being “stopped” by imperfection. The final piece is amazing in a way that’s only hinted at in the initial marker rendering. I particularly like the subtle tonal shifts and the addition of the texture in the background. You can see more of his killer stuff here.

Design & Thinking Documentary

Probably worth a look if you’re ever thinking about A.) becoming a designer. Or B.) hiring a designer.