What happens when you let your Copywriter write whatever they want?


The Ad-ventures of Landis McClure — Pt. 01

In a world controlled by a nefarious network of computer intelligence constructs, where the Human is secondary and subserving, the only advertising allowed is that which is devised by teams of marketing AI. Whispers of resistance, however, murmur through the night. Guerilla Marketing forces, heroic holdovers of a forgotten time, convene in city shadow and murky mire to plot the redemption of humanity and the overthrow of the bits and bolts which took from them what they held most dear. This is the story of one such hero. This is the story of Landis McClure.

Run, Baby. Run.

“Run, baby. Run. / Ain’t comin’ down / til’ butter pancakes n’ mornin’ sun.

Run, baby. Oh, / run. Baby, run. / Got somethin’ special now They want me gone.”

—Randall Ferrár. New-American Blues Singer. 2029 A.D.

 

Drones. They pocked the sky, celestial dome made grackle’s egg all spotted and dashed by the humming, whirring things roaming the city in search of us insurrectionists and for wicked-sick high-angle shots of the skyline that’d be great for, like, the establishing shots of Winderston’s Atuo Traders’ upcoming 3.4% APR Sellapalooza broadcast campaign.

––Journal Entry. Marvis Stapleskint, Project Manager @ Glenn, Groake & Dagger. June 32nd, 20XX A.D. (015 A.F.)

 

Ace copywriter and acer detective Landis McClure was in a bad way.

How did he get here? Down here. On his back, dust oatmealing the air, congealing in his nostrils, breaths coming slow, hard. Pain in his side, likely a fractured rib. He’d hold out for bruised. He’d been down before, but this was a new low. A lower low. Church-basement low, or maybe an old schoolhouse. Grain elevator? Shit. Clean’d be his neck (always and proudly 5 o’clock shadowed) and long-rued would be the night, after all these years, he’d let himself get caught—but from the state of things, tonight might just be it; from the scratch of things, he could use a shave.

He’d been on the run. Knew that much, heart still fast they way hearts get when the goo and bone they’re stuck with get marked for dead. Where’d he come to, from? Something canine, dogged, in him itched, flashes of the night like fleas in his skull. He tried to remember his training from Advertising Detective and Anti-Counter Insurrectionist finishing school, after The Fall, before he’d lost Her.

Drink. Blink. Think. The top tenets, one of those cheery mnemonics you couldn’t shake, bullshit you couldn’t help but breathe in sweet; one of the first things they taught you in REBL 162: “Guerilla Adware.” He reached for the wide-mouthed flask at his breast, coming back to him now though still, ether-thin. Shit again. Flask empty, he’d left the last of his scotch sizzling on the pursuant drones cam-eye, weather casing damaged by a slung rock hurled behind him (he’d pitched in the minors, Tulsa Tenspeeds), by sheer luck splashed it clean-on when he’d let it get too close, had been able to fry it’s sight circuits but not evade the thing’s sonic resonators, primitive stethoscopic things but now not so useless to the murderous hunk of tin. Blinks, those proved futile, eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the inkiness enveloping him, just as blind as his sight-fettered and soulless ferreter. All that was left to him was to think.

The Quiet One Speaks: Why You Should Invest in Creative.

Think back to the last time you made an appointment for something. Maybe it was the doctor, chiropractor, hair salon, a tax appointment, or a wedding planner – you get the idea. You scheduled that appointment because you couldn’t do that service yourself; you hired a professional. It only takes seconds for someone to view a logo, and develop their first impression of that brand – the same goes for websites. You want someone to look at your logo or website and instantly know what kind of business you are and what you’re all about. Hiring a creative team to hash out all of the details essential for your brand would generate a different outcome for your business compared to asking your cousin Fred who took a couple of art classes to take a swing at it. First impressions are everything, and it plays a huge role in brands.

Nowadays, I see and hear too often about business owners creating their own design work, which is great if that business owner went to design school and also took some marketing classes. However, that is more than likely not the case. When budget resources exclude hiring a professional for marketing and design, the brand lacks what can be and often are the most integral components to that brand’s success. If the work is amateur, the brand itself is bound to appear unprofessional, a bland, impersonal product whose name no one really remembers – or, so much worse, they do remember it because of how strikingly bad the logo is. Don’t be that brand. Too, and too commonly, business owners will allow a budget for marketing and design, but their budget is so low it doesn’t allow for essential creative hours to achieve the best possible outcome. I’ve seen it happen: companies turning to one-off websites, paying $500 for a logo that looks like a template with just a tweak or two. It can work, but personally, I couldn’t recommend making so big a gamble on something as crucial as brand differentiation, and all of that starts at first sight.

So then.

What makes brands successful? They invest in themselves. McDonald’s, for example, has been around for years, and as far as dining out goes it’s probably safe to say their food isn’t anything special. We all know, especially today, how bad that stuff actually is for us, but they’ve survived for so long because they’ve established a brand presence. They have catchy slogans that ring in our heads, they have the iconic “golden arches”, and they are constantly advertising to us with billboards, commercials, and social media. Quality, professional creative work can’t stand alone either, I hear you. Having a successful business requires a lot of hard work, and a lot of knowing what you are doing – and when to ask for help. My word of advice: hire the professionals. Just like you hired that doctor to look at that weird mole on your back (turns out it was just a weird mole!). Let us help you create a brand presence that establishes a successful first impression.

“Seeking real world experience in an environment that is both challenging and allows for creativity.”

aj

The words from my resume, assembled months prior, echoed in my ears as I sent off the last email of my workday. Those words were written as a means to describe my ideal career path in a professional way. I would have been willing to accept a job that does not completely fulfill these requirements, challenging and creative, but was certainly wishing for one that would meet both. There’s a reason the old saying “be careful what you wish for” is often followed with “because you just might get it.” The objective from my resume is a glowing reminder why.

It’s been a month and half since I walked into the Red Thread office for my first day as a project manager. Trust me when I say that the environment in which I work allows for creativity in every sense of the word, and brings challenges in ways I would have never expected. Each day comes and goes with a new lesson to be learned, and every new experience offers up the opportunity to hone my skills. This is the sole purpose behind my desire for challenge: I never want to stay complacent.  

Life at Red Thread has exceeded all my expectations. It's crazy to think about now, but for a long time I saw myself attempting to climb the corporate ladder wearing a suit. I know now that the cubicle life is not meant for me. When people ask me what I do now, “project manager” is fairly self explanatory; there are projects, and they need managing. But this job, like any good novel, poem, or boxing champ, is so much more than its title. “Project Manager” is what I am. What I really do — keep people sane and happy. That’s the real challenge. And when everything and everyone comes together is the real reward. Luckily I’m surrounded by talented and passionate coworkers, and we’ve all left our suits at the door.

-AJ

Adam’s Award Acceptance Speech

Last month, I was honored as the 2016 Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) Young Professional of the Year. I had a lot of advice to give, people to thank and ramblings to ramble. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow me give a speech at the banquet. Fortunately, we have a blog.

Without further adieu, my acceptance speech:

1.     Blood, sweat and beers: I haven’t seen blood in the office, yet. We’re passionate and there’s no getting around it, but nobody has thrown a punch, yet. Imagine walking into your workplace every single day prepared to present your inner workings of your brain to people whose job it is to critique every aspect of your creative idea. Yeah, that’s bound to bring tension. Tension turns into sweat. We push ourselves because we want our creative to reach a level of excellence. And until it does, sweat figuratively and literally pours down our faces. But at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, there’s always beer in our fridge to wash it down.

2.     My emotional support cat, Pisa: again, if you haven’t removed me from social media or blocked me from your newsfeed, you’ve probably seen pictures of my cat.

With all the stress of starting a new business weighing me down something was missing. You see, I’m an animal lover. Ask Brendon, he found an old video in my YouTube archives of yours truly commentating a trip to the animal shelter. In my 2009 high school yearbook I was dubbed, “Adam Kroft: Animal Whisperer.” Long story short, I felt the need for a feline companion to help manage stress. Her name is Pisa, and she’s become a friend of the office. Thank you for keeping me sane, Pisa.

3.     CULTure: If you were hoping to get out of this award speech without having to read some sap, too bad. The only reason why I was up on that stage in the first place is because the of people I have the honor of working next to and communicating with seven days a week, 364 days a year. (We usually don’t talk on New Years — too hung over.)

I added emphasis on “cult,” because a cult can be defined as: “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” Red Thread is successful because every single person on this team lives and breathes this company. Most people don’t like to work, but if you walk into work mildly content, you’re in a good place. If you walk into work ecstatic to be there — that’s a whole new ballgame. Well, we’ve created a whole new ballgame and we’re ready to show Lincoln, Nebraska and the United States what we’ve got.

The academy, aka Rhett, has started playing the music to get me off the stage, so in the meantime, to see amazing photos of my cat, add me on social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/adam.kroft

Twitter: www.twitter.com/adamkroft

Instagram: www.instagram.com/adamkroft

Snapchat: @adamkroft

Inspiration For Me, Inspiration For You

As the multimedia director for Red Thread, I have to produce and also consume. For me to be able to produce work, whether it’s a commercial, branding video or some design, I must have something that inspires me.

When I first started out in advertising I had no idea where to look for inspiration so I decided to look toward the things that I knew. This ranged from movies to music to books. As I have become more experienced, I have found some pretty cool projects and work that others have done that continue to give me ideas and new ways of looking at things.

As a creative, the real struggle is finding awesome work that gets your wheels turning. Everyone is different so everyone’s inspiration will be different. However, for me, immersing myself in the creative lifestyle and the arts has allowed me to grow as a creative and a producer (go ahead call me a hipster.)

So, in an effort to inspire you, here are 10 things that have recently inspired me:

1. Jon Contino

Jon is one of my favorite graphic designers. His rugged style and personal brand are everything I want for my own.

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2. Chet Faker - Gold (Music Video)

Chet Faker is an awesome musician and his music videos are up to par with his talent. It took me a few views to figure out how this video was produced. The coordination between the skaters and production crew is mind-blowing.

3. The Fox Is Black

When I’m really stuck I go to The Fox Is Black blog. If you can’t find inspiration here then you’re doing something wrong.

4. The Martian by Andy Weir

I started reading the book after I saw the movie and have found it to be even better. The writing style and casual tone of voice provide for a very “real” story…or as real as a book about living on Mars could be.

5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Although Wes Anderson has been my favorite director for a while, I neglected to watch The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for years. I finally sat down to watch it and it immediately became my favorite film of his. The quirkiness, odd sets and of course Bill Murray’s wit do not disappoint.

6. Alabama Shakes - Sound and Color (Music Video)

I first heard this song while watching the finale of USA’s show Mr. Robot. After looking up the song, I found the music video. My love for space, music and high production value all came together in this one.

7. Aaron Draplin

Aaron is a graphic designer and creator of the stationary brand Field Notes. I love this video because he takes you step by step through his process of creating logos.

8. TV On The Radio - Careful You

Motion graphics are huge right now and TV On The Radio took full advantage in this lyric music video. It’s just mesmerizing and the song has a great use of French. Oui Oui.

9. Nick Offerman Wood Shop

This may seem like an odd one, but yes Ron Swanson is a badass outside of Parks and Rec. Nick Offerman’s Wood Shop has some beautiful pieces that will make you want to dig into your savings fund.

10. We Don't Coast

Last but not least, the new campaign from my hometown of Omaha makes me proud to be where I’m from. The visuals, copy and message give me butterflies every time.

Now go make something cool!

-Rhett

Why I Suck at Drinking

Don Draper might smite me, but whiskey tastes awful. There’s nothing pleasant about foul smelling cough syrup stirred together with a bit of regret with a hint of gasoline. One of the common chants heard in the office is “Krofty take a shot. Krofty take a shot,” which is usually followed up by a face akin to one of Santa’s helpers being told that Christmas is cancelled. Thanks to Mr. Brendon Henning’s Snapchat (@btastee), you can see that face here:

 
 

So despite my inability to drink what is considered ‘cool,’ here’s what I enjoy to drink:

  • Electric Lemonade. This is my go-to drink. Know why? Because it doesn’t taste like alcohol. I am struggling to find pleasure and reasoning why someone would enjoy the taste of alcohol. And if someone says it’s an “acquired taste” they’re a liar and probably a communist. Electric lemonade can be described as three to four shots of rum mixed with Red Bull, sugar-free of course.
  • Rum and Coke. See, this is progressively becoming more macho. I like rum and coke, simply because it tastes like vanilla coke. And it doesn’t taste like alcohol! Are you seeing a common theme here?
  • A Flying Monkey. Now I’ve only had this drink once at Granite City during happy hour, but since this picture below describes my level of seriousness in alcohol consumption, I felt it was appropriate.

Here’s me enjoying a Flying Monkey after a softball win. It was delicious.

 
 

In summary, I suck at drinking. I have the palette of a sixteen-year-old girl trapped in the body of a hairy twenty-three-year old. Nevertheless, it’s in my job description to drink with clients. Well, I suck at it. So if you’d like to train me or want some post 5pm amusement from watching me take a shot of whiskey let’s meet up at your favorite bar.

-Krofty

Renata: Social Media Student/Expert

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Social media is fun. Social media is inspiring. Social media isn’t easy. 

Time to confess, I’m a broadcasting major. When I applied to Red Thread four months ago, my expertise had more to do with microphones than promoting tweets. At the time, I saw that as a good thing. I’m a senior in college, so I should be all about my major. Then I realized my love for being attached to my phone could be my job. 

So here I am, exploring new depths with each and every social media outlet. My grandma used to say the phrase, “you learn something new every day” and with Red Thread, that’s true. Not only are we learning together, but we are also teaching each other new things day by day. 

I’m a documenter. Whether it’s taken pictures, writing in my journal or posting something new on Facebook and Instagram, I’m always keeping track of life’s adventures. Working our clients’ social media pages allows me to document their day and captivate their audience. It’s incredible 

But like I said, the job can be challenging. Sometimes it can be hard to see feedback, considering it is so public on social media. Sometimes it is exciting because your notification center is blowing up with likes, comments and shares. It’s the ups and downs that make this job extraordinary. There is always room for improvement and to learn. But then again in the ever-evolving world of social media, that will always be the case.  

-Renata 

In the Life: Design

As you may know, it’s hard to run a creative agency without a Graphic Designer. Lucky for me, I’m Red Thread’s Designer. But my role goes far beyond just making logos.

Everyday I get to make cool “things.” These “things” could be a brochure for a dental office. Or they could be commissioned street art. Or they may be photography for a salon. Or videography for a fundraising event. Graphic Designers do not only create business cards and flyers, we make beautiful media that functions.

As Designers, we get to analyze placement, color, size, etc. These properties are all related, and work together to create a cohesive work of art. It is our job as designers to guide the eye.

…..And we just like to make things look good.

-Devon

Learning to Embrace the Creative Process

I am a Type A. If you meet me, you’ll see it within minutes. Deadlines are life or death. Being late gives me ulcers. I do that weird thing with my jaw when I get stressed.

When I joined Red Thread last year, it was up to me to use my overbearing need for timeliness and efficiency to keep everyone in line and getting their work done. My presence was an adjustment for everyone. I recall with fondness early tales of people admitting how they felt a pang of anxiety when I would demand progress updates. I drank it in. It nourished me. At 5-foot-almost-1, I felt powerful.

But I knew whatever small amount of charm this new “energy” brought would expire soon. Deadlines would go unnoticed. Projects would be pushed back. So began a mandatory journey to appreciate the creative process—and to acknowledge that it didn’t always match up with my need to shove work out the door without a second look.

I observed, I listened, asked questions and tried to be patient. I watched careful work get picked apart in our office and in the offices of our clients and realized that there is nothing simple about the work we do. We spent an hour trying to figure out the right shade of green on a design project. We poured over hundreds of fonts before we found one that we kind of liked. I got headaches from doing that weird thing with my jaw.

Now I’m proud to say that I’m approaching a better understanding every day. Because if we did everything the way I originally thought we should (faster, efficient, accurate and just enough), our work would be mediocre at best. But we found the perfect green! And we eventually settled on a font. And even though it took FOREVER, it’s always worth it to present work we’re really proud of.

That’s enough sappy talk for a week. Back to work.

-Natalie

Fashion Advice from Brendon

I’m known for a lot of things, but my sense of fashion is not one of them. I still wear clothes I had in middle school. I’ve had friends force me to change before they would leave the house with me. Don’t get me wrong; fashion has a time and a place. But I have never found that place and have no time to look for it.

If you’re like my coworker Devon, and look like you stepped out of an H&M catalog every day, bully for you. I have nothing against people who take pride in their appearance. But I might refuse to go shopping with you.

Now, I’m lucky. I work in an industry that allows me to be young and dumb and ugly and I work in an office that has no boss to tell me otherwise. I wear shorts, a t-shirt, and the same Sanuk sandals with socks everyday. Not exactly a recipe for professionalism. And there are three simple reasons:

  1. Indifference. Picking clothes out isn’t excruciating to me, but I don’t find pleasure in it either. Why devote time and energy to something I don’t enjoy?
  2. Comfort. Wearing nice clothes makes me feel like I’m wearing someone else’s skin. To do my job to the best of my ability, I need to feel confident. And to feel confident, I need to feel comfortable.
  3. To be taken seriously. Counterintuitive, I know. But I want to be judged solely on my ideas, not how I look. It’s easy to sugarcoat bad ideas with an elaborate presentation involving fancy ties and shiny shoes. When you remove looks, you remove prejudice. Bad ideas are easily revealed and good ideas stand for themselves.

Agree with me? Throw on a t-shirt and let’s grab a drink. Disagree with me? Throw on a button-up and let’s grab a drink.

Figure 1: A live look at my dresser.

Figure 1: A live look at my dresser.

Super Bowl Ad Review

If you're like me, you gather with friends, pizza and beer on Super Bowl Sunday not to watch the game, but to watch the commercials. It was a conservative year relieved from sex appeal. (Minus the Kim Kardashian ad. What was she selling again?) With over 100 million viewers, many of which have already evaluated these commercials to shreds, I thought I'd weigh in on with my favorite and least favorite picks. 

FAVORITE: Carnival's "Come Back to the Sea", BBDO Atlanta

Now, maybe I'm partial because the copy was likely written by Lincoln-native Ted Sorensen, but this one nailed it. The voiceover borrowed from a 1962 speech delivered by JFK. In an evening cluttered with choppy story lines and jokes that didn't land, JFK's voice coupled with serene images broke through in a poetic fashion. This was Carnival's first ever Super Bowl commercial. Undoubtedly, they aimed to gain some popularity after years riddled with tragedies. And what better way to win back the hearts of America than by utilizing America's favorite president? JFK's speech describes humanity's infatuation with the ocean, and Carnival expertly took advantage of his message to pose itself as a extravagant way to "come back to the sea." It certainly wasn't the most creative spot of the night, nor the most effective, but as soon as the Super Bowl was over it was the first commercial my friends and I looked up to watch again. 

LEAST FAVORITE: Nationwide's "Make Safe Happen", who cares

This was the epitome of trying too hard. The ad features a little boy who talks of learning to ride a bike and getting married. But he can't because he "died in an accident". OK. First off, I don't even want to think about how much this ad cost. It's full of cinema-quality special effects on top of the $4.5 million the media buy cost. I will admit that this ad is probably the most talked about of the bunch. But not in a good way. The video on Youtube already has 8 thousand dislikes to 3 thousand likes. I've even seen blogs discussing the possibility of this being the worst Super Bowl ad of all time. Not the best bang for your buck, Nationwide. 

But what really upsets me about this commercial is it's lazy. If you explained to a 5 year old what insurance was and then asked him to write a commercial to sell it, I would bet my left nut he would come up with something like this. It's not creative. It's not clever. There's nothing subtle about the delivery. It's laughable. Using scare tactics is a delicate and powerful art. Too little and you fail to evoke emotion from your audience. Too much and you turn off your audience all together.

When parents think of Nationwide, they no longer think of "on your side". They only think of children dying. Not great.

Advertising sucks.

What I hate about advertising:

    There's no such thing as a beautiful billboard with an obnoxious sunset behind it

    Repetitive ads

    Repetitive ads

    Repetitive ads

    Seizure-inducing banner ads

    The whiteness of the teeth plus the size of the boobs multiplied by the number of product placements = sales. 

    QR codes (for personal reasons)

    "Call within the next 10 minutes to get a second piece of shit absolutely free!"

I could go on, but just flip on a TV and add what you see during the next commercial break to the list. I hate advertising for the same reasons you do. And as I've gained more experience, I've learned to depict why 95% of the ads I see suck. It's created a frustration not unlike an imprisoned pirate's staring into the eyes of the canine that holds the keys to his freedom in its mouth. There's just so many things I want to say (and do when I'm home alone) to the people who make these ads, but there's nothing I can say that will change the situation.

So, why am I in advertising?

Here's the deal. Advertising will always exist. That's set in stone, but it doesn't always have to make us want to mutilate 2 of our 5 senses. I strive to create the ads that inspire us to just do it, to teach the world to sing, to try harder, to think different. Those are the ads we remember, share on Facebook, quote during phone calls (can you hear me now?) The ones that send a shiver down your spine or a smile to your face. I'm intrigued that we can love something that we simultaneously hate so much. It's that emotion-muddling contradiction that makes each day a riveting challenge.

It will be long road to change advertising's negative reputation; But it can be done, one caffeine-saturated idea at a time.

The New Kids

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For those of us at Red Thread, there’s only a few things we have in common.

First off, caffeine. Great ideas are not constrained to an 8-5 day. We don’t hit rush hour on our drive home very often. We’ve gotten to know the night time cleaning crew in our building quite well. The office couch has been known to double as a bed. It’s the awesome work we’re creating that keeps our brains awake, but it’s the cases of energy drinks and the gallons of coffee that keep our eyes open.  

Next, honesty. People tend to have an emotional connection to their ideas. Ideas that are put on the table are fresh, raw and come straight from the heart. Every so often, that idea gets picked up, nurtured and loved. Other times, a meat tenderizer mallet made out of reality and laughter crushes your idea into an unrecognizable ball of humiliation that gets thrown back into the pit of your stomach. We’re brutally honest with each other. And we’re cool with it. It’s what is known as creative tension.

Finally, the color red. But there’s something about red. It’s the color of energy and passion – something you will find plenty of in our office. It’s the color of the Huskers – the school that brought us all together. It’s the color of our eyes when we’re working at 2 in the morning and Pandora keeps stopping the music to ask if we’re still listening. (Yes, Pandora. We’re still here). Red is strong. Red lifts, bro.

It’s the things we have in common that keep us from ripping each others heads off, but it’s our differences that turn our good ideas into great ones.