Forgive me if I have a lingering respect for the English language —

NutriBullet, you’re the worst, with this wronggrammar.


Stop it.

Also, Expedia, aren’t you better than this derivative ish?

expedia-ad-campaign copy

Jesus. STOP it.





Fuck you, dudes. Wronggrammar is not the flat design of “brand storytelling.” Stop trying to make fetch happen.

Brand managers?

Ugh. You too.



Subscribe for more like this.

Make More Ads Like This

It’s not that fucking hard.


Yesterday I was served this ad as the pre-roll in front of a TLC music video on YouTube and kind of freaked out. It was such a profound departure from the typical ad aimed at women, it felt like I’d seen a unicorn. I then proceeded to devote way too much of my day trying to find it afterwards. I reloaded “Creep” at least 50 times to try to get the same ad again. I finally ended up tweeting at @SecretDeodorant to help me track it down. (Thanks, Secret!)

“Did you know, striking a confident pose for 2 minutes can leave you feeling fearless all day?”

Did you know that this is actually true?


As social psychologist, Ann Cuddy, explains in her Ted talk, this is actually true whether you believe it or not! Our body language affects not only how others see us, but it can also change how we see ourselves. She goes on to show how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can alter testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain (all things that affect perspiration, by the way) and may even have an impact on our chances for success.

When people feel happy they smile, but conversely, holding a pen between your teeth, which forces the facial muscles into a smile, will actually make you feel happier. So you can stand there doing the “Wonder Woman” and feel silly the whole time you’re doing it and it doesn’t even matter. Our minds change our bodies, and likewise, our bodies can change our minds. Posture can become power. For a product so intimately tied to the mind-body connection, this message is a no-brainer.

Oh, hey, sup, creative directors and brand managers: MAKE MORE ADS LIKE THAT.

Make less ads like this:


You can either have your intended target associate your brand with a message that depicts them as clowns, and experiences that make them feel foolish — the kinds of things we all try to avoid, forget, and deny. Or you can associate your brand with experiences that LITERALLY make people feel assertive, confident, and powerful — a sensation we all crave like a drug fix, and cling to with all our might in the face of an uncertain world.

The choice is not that fucking hard.


Subscribe for more like this.

Black and Purple

Boston Latin School, my alma mater, is the oldest (and longest existing) public school in the country. 141 years older than the country, in fact. Ben Franklin went there before he moved to Philly. Alumni include Sam Adams, John Hancock, Joseph Kennedy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Bullfinch, you get the idea. There’s an admission test, but it’s free to attend for Boston resident teens. All students at are still required to study Latin for three or four years, and many study Greek as well. It’s a school that consistently ranks among the top in the country, bringing a Classics education into the 21st century.

Last night I saw the video below, made by current BLS students, making the rounds on Facebook through fellow alumni, and it’s just so totally epic I had to post it here. Never mind the sense of nostalgia seeing the old hallways in the background, these kids have done a better job of branding the iconography of my alma mater than my class ever considered. Watch out, marketers, the next generation will soon be doing a better job at our jobs than we are.

Sumus Primi!


Subscribe for more like this.

The Post-Empire’s New Shoes

On September 8,2011, Nike announced they would be releasing a limited number of pairs of a new product. As the shoe’s official site explains:

In 1989, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield was asked to design a shoe for the second chapter in the Back to the Future series. He created the power-lacing, self-illuminating, Nike MAG. Riding on a pink hoverboard, Michael J. Fox made them the most famous shoe never made.

Over 15 years later in 2005, Tinker’s attention was caught by an online petition asking that the shoes come back. With no mold and nothing but an original prop shoe from the film, Tinker and footwear innovator Tiffany Beers began rebuilding the MAG from scratch. It would take six years, three restarts and many thousands of hours. But when it was all said and done, the shoe was a perfect replication of the original and the true predecessor to the 2015 power-lacing Nike MAG.

It would only make sense that the shoes be auctioned to benefit the foundation of the man who made them famous.

And with your help, the proceeds of these shoes will help erase Parkinson’s from existence.”

As Fox himself adds:

That something which has previously only existed in the realm of fiction is becoming real, that Nike is actually making a shoe it predicted would exist in the future, that a franchise about a time traveler is being leveraged towards changing the future both by and for the actor who embodied him, as well as for others who suffer from Parkinson’s disease…. basically everything about this is totally fucking awesome in a uniquely 21st century kind of way.

Back in March I wrote about another celebrity who came up in the 80’s and has recently been doing his part to blur the lines between “real” and “not real.” Charlie Sheen has gone a long way towards making that distinction irrelevant by transforming his life into an existential performance. In a Daily Beast article titled, “Notes on Charlie Sheen and the End of Empire,” author Bret Easton Ellis (also a pop culture staple spawned from the same decade as Sheen, Fox, and McFly), called Sheen, “The most fascinating person wandering through the culture.” Ellis’s concept of “Empire” and “Post-Empire,” is based on Gore Vidal’s definition of global American hegemony, a period Ellis dates from 1945 until 2005: the era that defined the 20th century. As Ellis sees it, Empire was a lie, a self delusion the global west lived for 60 years while it kept up appearances and didn’t think about the future; post-Empire, on the other hand, is where we are now, a world 10 years after 9/11, seeming to teeter perpetually on the verge of economic collapse and endless other global crises. If Empire was binary (truth vs. lie; real vs. counterfeit), then post-Empire is meta. As Sheen has shown, he is both real and not real at once. And so are the Nike MAGs, sneakerheads’ long unattainable holy grail, “the most famous shoes never made”…. until they were.

These kicks haven’t just crossed over from fiction, they’ve arrived from the future. Right on schedule.

“It’s like in Terminator when John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time so that he can be his father,” says Simon, from the British TV show Misfits, a character who sends himself back in time to die so that he can live in the future. (Side note: Five years before Marty McFly, Kyle Reese also wore Nikes in 1984’s Terminator. Hopefully those don’t come back to the future.)

“In 1981, I was a futurist,” said William Gibson, author of the seminal cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer, in an interview with New York Magazine’s, The Vulture Blog last year, “Or at least I was a guy who put on a futurist hat occasionally and I wrote about the 21st century. Now I’m here in the 21st century and if I write about it, I think it makes me a literary naturalist.” Gibson’s three latest books have all been set not in a dystopic, sci-fi future world but contemporaneously with the one we all inhabit. A recurring character throughout this trilogy is Hubertus Bigend, the charismatic founder of an alternative marketing agency, whom Gibson describes like a 21st-century Cheshire Cat as CEO (“He smiles, a version of Tom Cruise with too many teeth, and longer, but still very white;” “An overly wealthy, dangerously curious fiddler with the world’s hidden architectures.”) So fitting is Bigend as an antihero for a post-binary, meta reality, this fictional character’s actual Wikipedia entry cites a passage from his fictional Wikipedia entry. (Your head hurt yet?)

In an interview for the release of his 2007 book, Spook Country, the second of his 21st century-published novels, Gibson said:

I thought that writing about the world today as I perceive it would probably be more challenging, in the real sense of science fiction, than continuing just to make things up. And I found that to absolutely be the case. If I’m going to write fiction set in an imaginary future now, I’m going to need a yardstick that gives me some accurate sense of how weird things are now. ‘Cause I’m going to have to go beyond that. In the ’80s and ’90s–as strange as it may seem to say this–we had such luxury of stability. Things weren’t changing quite so quickly in the ’80s and ’90s. And when things are changing too quickly you don’t have any place to stand from which to imagine a very elaborate future.

Case in point: Gibson’s most recent book, Zero History, which came out last year, has characters using silent, hovering, iPhone-controlled surveillance drones. Less than a year after Gibson wrote it into his book, it’s a thing that’s now on the market. In fact, it’s a toy:

Pattern Recognition is the first of Gibson’s “present tense” trilogy, and the first of his books I ever read. It was given to me by an acquaintance in 2004. The book follows Cayce Pollard, a marketing consultant with an intuitive sensitivity for branding so acute its anaphylactic. Her clients hire her to research street culture in search of the next new trend. “She’s met the very Mexican who first wore his baseball cap backward,” Gibson writes. “She’s that good.” The person who gave me the book told me, “This is you.” At the time, barely a year out of college, where I’d been a film major, I’d never really considered I’d be working in marketing. And yet, it’s where I ended up. Two novels and seven years later, Cayce Pollard makes an anonymous cameo near the end of Zero History. Her name is never mentioned, but if you’ve been following along, you know it’s her even before she says, “I’d been a sort of coolhunter, before that had a name, but now it’s difficult to find anyone who isn’t.”

The Nike MAG exists now not because it’s where 21st century sneaker trends were naturally headed but because a vision of footwear future (which Nike itself created) 20 years ago predicted it would. If Charlie Sheen’s contribution to Post-Empire has been to embody the now indistinguishable nature of real and fictional, Nike has taken it one step further and shown us that the future is no longer strictly linear. In our new century the future is recursive. It is a future we have sent back in time, to become itself.


Subscribe for more like this.