Archive for February, 2010

Remembering Pop and Joe Ebdon…

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Got a call this morning from Joe Ebdon. For those who don’t remember, Joe Ebdon and his father Pop Ebdon starred in an Oldsmobile commercial that Bob and I did back in 1989, with the remarkably talented Don Guy at the directing helm. It was part of the “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign.

The spot won a bronze Lion at Cannes. It featured Joe (then 71, now 91) and Pop (100). Pop talked about this not being like any Oldsmobile he’d ever seen before, while  his boy Joe tooled around in the Cutlass Supreme,  followed  at the end by a bunch of girls. It was quite a hit and quite different from the other Oldsmobile spots that featured sons and daughters of celebrities…such as the off springs of Harry Belafonte, Elvis and Priscilla Pressley, Williams Shatner, etc.

Sadly, I learned today that, Pop passed away a few years ago, but Joe is still doing great at 91. Joe moved from Florida and now lives in California about 10 minutes from his son. He had become quite the local celebrity after the spot ran and was approached for his autograph on more than one occasion.

I promised Joe that when he makes it to 100, we will find a way to use him in a commercial with his son. He liked that!

Keep in touch Joe and we’ll see you in nine years!

The commissioner of JimBob_Dallas!

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Picture-2I really  enjoy FourSquare, the new social media thing-a-ma-jig. I don’t know really what to call it. But it’s fun…and it’s simple. You basically tell people about your favorite places and where your at and earn points that go toward badges? Sounds stupid. But I like it, probably because I always wanted to be a Boy Scout and wear a greeen uniform when I was a kid.  There wasn’t Boy Scout troupe in Hico, Texas when I was growing up. So I never got to earn a merit badge. Now, I can! Right now, I am the Mayor of a couple of local establishments. I want to eventually become a commisioner like my friend Roger Goodell!

Check it out. It’s a little easier to stomach than Chatroulette.

If this is the future…count me out

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

images-1My dad once told me that he wanted to live for along time because “the good stuff happens in the future.”  I think he’s got a great point.

This is a great article on Chatroulette, which some critics are calling future of  Social Media. I don’t think this is worth waiting around for.

According to the experts, after only a few short years, consumers are getting bored with Facebook and ready to move on. Same thing happened, from what my daughters tell me to MySpace.

I happen to enjoy Facebook. It’s a great way to keep up with old friends and share photos, etc. But I know consumers are a strange lot and are always looking something that is new and different. Thus, Chatroulette, which was invented by a 17-year-old Russian lad, who was obviosly bored with making friends and building relationships via Facebook.

I did try Chatroulette…for about five minutes. Let’s just say it’s not my cup of pee…yes, you read right.

Take a look. You might enjoy it. If so, let me know, so I can de-friend you on Facebook.

The looseness of a tight brief.,..

Monday, February 15th, 2010

imagesBob and me were in a new biz pitch last week, pitching our butts off. Suddenly, one of the catchers asked, “how do you guys come up with such great ideas.”  Bob and me both agree, when it comes to developing ideas, we like to start with a tight brief. The tighter the better!

Not the kind pictured here, but a creative brief.

Let me explain: Believe it or not, there are a lot of marketing people out there that still think the best way to get the best work is to “blue sky it”, give the creatives the opportunity to creative anything they want. Wrong! What we want is direction.  I have been known to say, “when you go duck hunting, you don’t shoot a bullet into the air and hope a duck flies into it. No! You take aim at the duck when it flies overhead and shoot it.”

The same goes for a creative brief.

We want to know as much as we can about the target, the problem (and how our product can solve the problem),  the tonality,  the best way to talk to the group… and on and on. We ask a lot of questions. Then, we (our planner as well as the creative team) work together to write the brief. Soon, we get back with the client team to tighten it down even more. Once we all agree that the brief is so tight there is very little wiggling room, then it’s time we go to work. If executed correctly, we have a very simple strategy document that will help the creative team develop big ideas.

If you think about it, a brief is like a road map. By knowing and seeing where we’re going, we can reach our destination much faster, that means a more pleasurable trip and with less wasted gas (or money).

Polamalu spot hits the spot…

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

thumbFather Bernbach, I have sinned. I must confess I liked one of the most tasteless ads in the super bowl…Punxsutawaney Polumalu starring Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Forgive me of my sins!

The spot was for the Tru Network, letting us know that since PP had seen his shadow there would be “six more weeks of football” on the cable channel.

But I wasn’t the only only one that thought Troy’s ( will call him that because I it took me six times already to spell his last name) spot was funny. So did director Jeff Bednarz. We had a good laugh about it at lunch today. “Can I tell you something, Ferg?” Jeff said, leaning over the table. “I liked  that commercial with Troy.” I leaned over the table and said, “Me, too.”

It’s good to get this off my chest.

I feel so much better now.

Searching for a great Super Bowl Ad? Google Google!

Monday, February 8th, 2010

UnknownYears ago, someone asked my daughter what her daddy did for a living. Being a bit of a wisenheimer, she replied, “he tries to teach taste to people that don’t have any and don’t want any.”

That’s me all right…the industry’s purveyor of taste.

After sitting through four hours of  the menagerie of caca that was on the Super Bowl, I came to the conclusion that I have failed miserably.  If taste were a state, it would be Rhode Island. If lack of taste were a country, it would be China!

It is as obvious as a slap in the face by a six-year-old watching out for his “mama and Doritos” that taste took a major holiday when it came to advertising in the Big Game yesterday. I didn’t think it could get worse than last year’s mess…but it did! I believe advertising as we know it hit an all-time low….yesterday.

But just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, something happened. A miracle! And from all companies, Google! If you haven’t seen the spot, just Google it! No midgets. No animals. No meaness. Just a great idea, flawlessly executed.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It told a wonderful story, though a search engine. Until I got home from the party and watched the spot again, I had no idea there were sound effects up and under. Nice touch without being heavy handed.

Taste! That’s what it tasted like!

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. Most of my friends in adversting, couldn’t stop raving about it.

There’s only one problem…consumers, according to the USA Today Ad meter, basically ignored it. They went for the typical over the top, mean-spirited type of advertising, created by agencies whose only strategy was to “win the Super Bowl!” Who really cares if the spots weren’t grounded in the essence of the brand. The Budweiser spot where frenzied townsfolks built a “human bridge” felt like a spot right out of the “what would you do for a Bud Light” campaign. Budweiser, to me, is still the King of Beers. But in the case of the human bridge spot, it became more like the Court Jester of Beers.

It is easy to sit back and criticize, so I will  say one last thing…Go Away, Go Daddy. Your  :15 seconds are over!

Can’t wait to see how Google rolls out its terrific…TASTEFUL…campaign.

NOTES: Whose idea was the Who and why?  Did it have to something to do with “Who Dat”? I saw the Pete, Roger and the boys back in 1971 when I was a freshman at Texas Tech. That’s how ancient we both are…Best comment of the day at our Super Bowl party came from a four year old girl who said, “I know to to make a commercial funny. Put a dog in a bikini and have it dancing the hula on its toes!”. I hear she just got a job at Draft FCB!

JFerg raps about KFed

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I have worked with more than my share of celebrities over the past 25 years, from MJ to General Chuck Yeager. Most of the time, it’s a good experience, excect in the case of  General Yeager who was a complete and total jerk.  But, the celeb I probably enjoyed most was Kevin Federline. At the time, the  KFed was known as “America’s Most Hated” celebrity. He had just been told to take a hike by wife Brittany Spears and was in the middle of a nasty divorce with America’s sweetheart. He was taking a beating everyday by every gossip columnist in the world.

I didn’t know what to expect when he showed up for the shoot. I was expecting KFed to be an AHole.

But quite the contrary. I liked him immediately. We had a mutual friend in common, Paul Hunter. Come to find out, Kevin had choreographed  a coupled Dr. Pepper commercials that Paul had directed for Y&R, with the spanish singer Talia and the Black-Eyed Peas. Small world. Plus, I love to dance and taught him a couple of moves!

But the great thing about Kevin was that he wasn’t above poking fun at himself. That’s what the spot was about. One minute you are on top of the world, the next minute you’re not. Hey, life comes at you fast. And Kevin admitted it. We were told that when he was first presented the idea by his agent, Kevin was opposed to it. He turned us down flat. But “his people” convinced him that it would be the right thing to do for his image. And it was! He parlayed his new image into “Parent of the Year” by People Magazine. Meanwhile, Brittany, as we all remember, self-destructed.

Kevin was a great guy. He showed up on time and worked his butt off for the director, Frank Tadaro of Moxie Pictures.

He also worked his butt off for Nationwide Insurance.  He and the marketing director of NW, Steven Schreibman, musta made every news show, talk show and morning show between New York and Los Angeles prior to the Super Bowl. And it paid off. Estimates ranged in upwards of over $20 million in free publicity that Nationwide received by introducing the spot prior to the game, instead of debuting during the game. Smart move by Steven!

The spot turned out to be Number One in the Sports Illustrated  online poll and featured  the following year on Fox’s “Best Super Bowl Commercials of All-Time” program. It was also ranked in the Top Ten in the USAToday poll.

It’s great when the good guys win, and Kevin Federline is one of the good guys.

“Ferg, Bob, it’s Steven Spielberg calling…”

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

IMG_1120Our secretary Rachelle Tasker told Bob and I that we had a call from a lady named Deb Newmyer from Amblin Productions.

The call came on a Monday morning, after Super Bowl Sunday, which is always a weird day in the advertising business. Everyone is usually standing around in the halls talking about which spots on the Big Game were good and which ones sucked. We happened to have a  McDonald’s spot on the Big Game that year that didn’t suck. The folks out in Oak Brook had decided at the last possible moment to air a :90 second spot on the Super Bowl. Yes, :90 seconds, a minute and a half. So, we scrambled like hell to produce a tribute to Pee Wee football called, “The Perfect Season”, directed by Steve Horn. It turned out to be the best spot on the Super Bowl that year.

Needless to say, Bob and I were on cloud nine. After a brief meeting with our boss, then her boss, then his boss, then all of our ultimate bosses on the 22nd floor (let’s just say there were a few layers back then at LBC) we returned to a heroes welcome on 24th floor.

When we reached our offices, there was a pink “While You Were Out” slip in our mailboxes. The message read, please call, “Deb Newmyer, Amblin Productions”

“Amblin Productions,” I said to Bob. “That’s (Steven) Spielberg’s company. ”

We both thought it was a joke. One of our cohorts being funny. Rachelle told us it was NOT a futile attempt at humor, and Ms. Newmyer had mentioned she was calling for Steven Spielberg himself. The call was quickly returned. “Please, hold,” she said, “Steven would like to talk with you.”  Yes, the Steven Spielberg, the man who had brought the world ET, Jaws, and Close Encounters. The most powerful man in Hollywood.   He wanted to talk with Ferg and Bob personally. Put him on! First, he wanted to congratulate us on the commercial, which featured a variety of kids playing pee wee football around the country. He loved it. He wanted to set up a meeting with Bob and I, the next time we were in Hollywood. “If you guys can do that kinda work in 90 seconds,” the legendary filmmaker said, “I”d love to see what you can do in 90 minutes.”

The rest is history. We happened to be in Hollywood the next week. So we met Steven at his office in the backlot of Universal Studios. We talked for a hour or so. He loved talking about advertising and marketing.We loved talking about the movies. He then asked the question, “would you guys like to write a movie for me?” The answer was yes. But we had one problem . We’d never seen a screenplay, muchless written one. So the greatest movie maker of all time, gave us a 30 minute lesson in screen writing….three acts, character development. Then,  gave us a stack of scripts and sent us on our way. He asked that we meet again in a month, so that he could OK our story idea, which we did. For the next six months, working nights and weekends,  we wrote Little Giants, which has gone on to  become one of the highest grossing kid movies of all time.  (Fourteen years later, we are still getting residual checks!

We had numerous meetings with Steven and his production people. People have always asked what he’s like. He was incredible. He gave Bob and I a tremendous opportunity.  And we will always be indebted to Steven (as we call him) for hiring us.

NOTES: The photo above is the first draft of what would become “Little Giants”. …The original title was “The Perfect Season” and numbered over 156, single-spaced, type-written pages. That’s how little we know about writing screenplays. Ideally, a screenplay is no more than 110 pages and always submitted in a standard format.  If broken down into the standard format, our script was over 200 pages, or the equivalent of “Gone with the Wind”… Eight different teams of writers worked on the script…We went into arbitration and lost sole credit to a pair of writers who contributed practically nothing to the final version….However, we were told by the WGA Board candidly, “Everybody takes it up their ass on their first script.” …We took a good boning on “Little Giants” but nothing like the screwing we took for “Snow Day”, another script we wrote. We lost sole credit on “Snow Day” . We didn’t know it was even being made, until we got a call from our friend and director, William Dear, who said, “l’m in a meeting reading your script.” Thanks again to the WGA, for another good “boning”….Bob went on to write and direct two more movies “Bored Silly” and “Uncle Nino.”