THE IN GROUPS
Until recently, Club 606, a bad-boy spot in the heart of Toronto's fashion and advertising district, had it all: mirrors on the ceiling, cool champagne on ice . . . everything, that it is, except signs on the bathroom doors to funnel the upscale clientele into the appropriate loo. Which may or may not have been an accident, considering the club's '80s nights and Studio 54-like decor. (Owner Michael Summerfield invites readers to "use their imagination" when it comes to action in the washrooms.) Anyhoo, the problem was solved last June when Summerfield commissioned his first ad campaign for the club. Personal embarrassment inspired the creative output (above), by Grey Worldwide. "I went into the bathroom and this guy just came right in after me!" says creative director Shelley Weinreb of her first trip to 606. "They really needed signage."
The self-referential gags, which skewer ad execs, models and movie-mavens, have been a hit, says Summerfield. "At first the signs were sticky-taped to the doors, but people kept stealing them. So now they're bolted down under plastic."
It's a rare and wonderful thing when hard work is recognized, let alone quantified. The Los Angeles office of Grey Worldwide is currently enjoying its moment in the sun, thanks to a 12-spot energy conservation campaign that has saved the state $2.5 billion since February, and reduced peak energy use by 14 percent, according to a state review. The first three spots were filmed in a brisk five days, under flickering lights, with no contract and no actors to avoid government bureaucracy and sticky unions. "Crises are not nearly as relaxing as you'd think they'd be," quips chief creative director Peter Mooney.
Grey is hoping this success - along with some high-frequency staff additions - will transform the agency's image from slow and methodical to a whirling dervish of devil-may-care creativity. To this end, the agency is promoting Mooney as a marathon man who wrote 11 spots in one month, producing all but two. An impressive pace, surely, but one Mooney says he has been keeping for as long as he can remember. "I've been doing this for many years for many big clients," says Mooney. Nice try, Grey. Two lightbulbs.
A hole in the summer news cycle incited a brief scuffle between Philip Morris International and the AIDS Committee of Toronto over the use of the Marlboro Country logo. According to reports from both sides, news hounds badgered the cigarette maker about possible trademark infringement until the company demanded that the AIDS_Committee withdraw the ads. Without a legal leg to stand on, Philip Morris realized they'd eat dirt if they took the case to court, and couched the threat. "We don't want to get in a fight with these guys for any reason," a Philip Morris spokesman told the Globe and Mail. Nothing like a nonprofit to bring a multi-national corporation to its knees!
It's a stretch, but glass-half-full folks will take comfort in a new survey from the Creative Group, which found "tight deadlines" to be the number one cause of creative blocks. Test drive this equation at cocktail parties: Less Work=More Time=Better Output. Sunny side up!
In the Department of Overboard, a Manhattan couple recently auctioned the right to name their unborn baby boy to the highest bidder, for a minimum of $500,000. There was to be no restrictions on the corporate backers, other than the exclusion of tobacco and firearms companies. ("We have standards," the father, Jason Black, 32, told The Detroit Free Press.) The name would be up to the company, meaning the kid could spend his life answering to Tylenol or Listerine or CheeseWiz. The money was to be put into a college fund, and little Liberty Mutual would be reminded, day after day, of the importance of education as he was pounded on the schoolyard. (How ya doin' Pine Sol. What's the time, Tampax? How's the wife, Massengel?)
Alas, no corporate sponsors took Mr. Black and his wife, Frances Schroeder, 32, up on their offer. One branding expert attributes this to the fragility of the product. "The reason for the no takers has to be the unknown quality of the vehicle," says Timothy Foster, CEO of AdSlogans Unlimited, a service that analyzes the quality of taglines for agencies and clients. "Suppose the kid turns out to be a serial killer. What would that do for the brand?" Foster offers a sample headline, sure to comfort any new parent: "Serial killer Coca-Cola was executed by lethal injection at the State Penitentiary at 10:00 a.m. today. His last words as he succumbed were `Life Tastes Good...not."'
Once it was clear that little TM wasn't going to pay his way, the couple christened him Zane, after that dishwipe from Titanic.
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We've all been there. Standing in line for the port-o-pottys, covered in dust and wishing we had something - anything - to look at besides the guy who's had one too many MGDs. But suddenly, things are looking brighter. A husband and wife team from California have designed - and patented - a cylindrical john that can be plastered inside-and-out with billboard-style advertising. "It just came to me one day," says our hero, Lawrence Wieringa, a 50-year-old car salesman. "There's no reason they have to be square, and there's no reason they have to be dirty." (Once companies start advertising on port-o-pots, Wieringa reasons, they'll be held to higher standards.) The Promo-Can will cost about the same to build and maintain as the traditional square potty, and allows room for such improvements as coat hooks and mirrors.
The initial response has been encouraging. The prototype has piqued the interest of several advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Nike, Evian and Philip Morris.