Sexist, Creepy and Just Plain Wrong

Do the new “marionette” Direct TV commercials give you the heebie jeebies?

There are currently three to be uncomfortably confused by – Wife meeting an unaware guest (really? you don’t mention your wife is a puppet?), Son flying from a ceiling fan(are wires a dominant gene?) and, the most disturbing of all, Wife disrobing and attempting an awkward sexual dance.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with all that’s just wrong with this campaign.

As this is positioned as reality, (otherwise that stunned friend would accept those wires as truly “not weird”), there are some disturbing unanswered questions. Where did this guy find this woman? Where do these wires go? Who is controlling them?

Frankly, the conclusion drawn is that Husband is a modern Frankenstein who concocted his very own … ahem… “companion” animated to his requirements and then proceeded to procreate a son, also to his manipulative specifications.

Husband is a creep, through and through.

That pathetic, sexist and creepy seduction in the “Am I Pretty?” ad takes the women’s movement back by about 60 years. The overall implication of this campaign, that women are puppets, – kinda sweet, kinda stupid, kinda willing to swallow whatever baloney Husband spews and keep coming back for more – is exactly the stereotype women have been fighting for decades. And now it’s made absolutely real; this woman is really and truly a puppet! And an ideal one, as she serves and services unquestioningly.

On a more tangental note – How does she get that robe off when there are wires running through it?

Husband’s conversation with Son reminds me of the novel “Room.” How did they reproduce this kid? How (again) stupid is this kid? Does he have any life outside of the house? No one has ever pointed out his wires are unusual? WHO IS CONTROLLING THESE WIRES? 

Is that really the first time he got caught in the ceiling fan?

And the worst wrongness of all – I had to look up the offering company because the massive amount of weirdness stuck in my brain and not the actual brand.

Remember – if your audience remembers your “singing monkeys” but doesn’t remember YOU, you’ve just wasted your money.

A “dreamy” folding mailer helps Lincoln-Way students’ dreams come true.

CLICK HERE for a quick video about Lincoln-Way’s custom mailer with built-in return envelope. 

Have you purchased your ticket? Our job with the Lincoln-Way Foundation for Educational Excellence is to design materials that will get this fundraiser and mega-raffle noticed!

Using a bright green and lively purple, we feature a mix of images of actual students and stock photography to convey the importance – and benefit – of buying a raffle ticket.

Marketing materials include four direct mailers, two of which are surprising simple (they look pretty tricky) folding pieces which include return envelopes, buckslips, posters and of course the tickets themselves which come with $100 worth of local coupons (your money for the ticket back right there!)

Printing and mailing schedules are optimized with our vendor partners, so costs are kept as low as possible.

Get your chance to win $100,000 before July 27th to be eligible for an Early Bird Drawing! You’ll be helping our region’s students and getting 12 very nice coupons! Click here or call 815-462-2999.

Are you going to the Party?

Orland Hills Annual
Party In the Park.
It’s Always A Blast – to Design!

Who doesn’t love a warm summer weekend filled with music, food, refreshments and community? We sure do – and we love designing the marketing materials too!

This year, our Party In The Park theme was inspired by stage lights and the good ol’ red, white and blue of the upcoming Fourth. Originally, this photo was just blue, but with the magic of photo retouching, we added some dramatic red beams as well to really emphasize the connection to Old Glory.

You’ll see this brochure all over the Southland and far beyond, and you’ll see that billboard blinking on 159th Street near 92nd Avenue.

The inside of the brochure, mailed to thousands of addresses (yes, we help with that too!), is very cleanly laid out, so there’s no confusion as to when Bad Medicine or American English take the stage. There are also community exhibitions like local dance schools and martial arts that proud grandparents wouldn’t want to miss. The font is fun, kinda funky, but still very readable. After all, if you can’t figure out when and where the Party is, you can’t get there!

We also design and produce the Recreational Program book, with a cover inspired by but not exactly like the Party In The Park brochure. That way, everyone is in the Party mood all season long (and we maintain that developed brand).

Are you planning on attending Party in The Park? It’s Friday June 27th through Sunday June 29th at Kelly Park in Orland Hills, just east of 92nd Avenue on 167th Street!

Do you need marketing materials for an upcoming event, a new product or service? We can help! Just reply to this email or call 708-614-9766.

Kohls thinks it’s 1950.

Kohls campaign is extremely out of touch.

I’m not sure what decade Kohl’s is living in, but it isn’t even in this century.

Walking into Kohl’s on Friday evening, I noticed a huge pink striped elephant in the window with a headline telling me that we need to start talking about the elephant in the room. The elephant? Breast cancer.

Are they nuts? Do they think their audience is nuts?

No one that I know is ashamed to talk about breast cancer. Friends, family and acquaintances have helpfully, freely and honestly shared their diagnosis, treatment and recovery, reaching out for comfort and for support.

Breast cancer is no elephant in the public forum either. Over 1,000 charities fundraise – very publicly – exclusively for breast cancer.  Hundreds of thousands walk each year for breast cancer. In October, breast cancer is practically the only thing seen or heard in advertising; everything is awash in pink. There are pink ribbons, pink socks, pink makeup containers, pink pants, pink Barbies, pink nail polish, pink toasters and mixers, pink toilet paper, pink breath mints and candies, pink athletic shoes, pink NFL gear including football cleats, pink soups, pink candles, pink purses, pink slippers, pink pens, pink yogurt, and, gawd help us – even pink KFC chicken buckets.

Breast cancer is simply not an elephant in the room. Breast cancer is not shameful, embarrassing or even uncomfortable to discuss, either privately or publicly. In truth, the campaign made me angry that Kohls is trying to increase their sales with a campaign that is very clearly manipulative, incredibly disrespectful and patently untrue.

Kohls, if you want a breast cancer fundraising partnership, have at it. But not with a campaign that plays up a ridiculously outdated, ignorant fear that an illness – any kind of illness – is something to be ashamed of.

A perfect location deserves a “perfect” advertising campaign.

As my advertising hero Don Draper likes to ask, “What’s the benefit?” In my own marketing philosophy, I always add, “What makes the product unique?”

Sometimes, in marketing a town or a region to attract tourism dollars (“heads in beds” or “feets in sheets”), the tendency is to emphasize benefits that are very commonplace. You see hundreds of the same billboards across the nation; “Great food! Charming downtown! Historic landmarks!”

Don’t you see Don shaking his head right now (and probably pouring a glass of scotch)?

The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) needed a new campaign for 2014 – and we needed to think about the unique benefits that could attract real dollars, across four entirely different markets; leisure, group tour, meetings and conventions, and sporting events.

We designed a campaign built around assets that can’t be found anywhere else in the whole U. S of A. and how those assets, as a matter of fact, make the Southland the right choice for these four markets.

For the leisure market, we emphasized the extensive (and yes, unique!) natural areas, forest preserves and outdoor activities, along with the largest outdoor sculpture park in the country. Group tour operators see the Southland as a perfect place to stay the night on cross country trips, with clean, safe hotels at a very reasonable cost. Sporting events also race to the Southland, with its plethora of facilities. Meeting planners like the newly-expanded Convention Center and Iron Oaks team building facility. The Southland’s biggest asset, applicable to all markets and emphasized as such, is its prime location, at the crossroads of America’s major interstates, both north-south and east-west. Free parking, highly beneficial and also unique, is strongly emphasized too.

The campaign includes QR codes unique to every publication, ensuring the CVB can track hits effectively, determining which magazine and guides are giving the most return on investment.

Unique benefits. Everyone has them. Make Don Draper proud and use them in your advertising.

A thoughtful media kit for a thoughtful company.

Brian Thompson of Black & Essington is thoughtful. He’s thoughtful in his career moves, in his educational moves and in his business. This thoughtfulness is what makes him so very good at what he does; advising other businesses about their strategies, their procedures and practices, and their best next steps.

Brian needed a media kit but realized that most of his prospective clients and referral partners are investigating him digitally first – and almost exclusively. But that shouldn’t mean a basic, plain, boring document – how thoughtful is that?

Tweaking his copy just a bit and encouraging a slightly more forceful sell, we designed a lovely 9-page media kit inspired by his website that details what Black & Essington does, how Brian does it and how he can help small to mid-size business grow in a positive, controllable manner. The imagery in the piece reflects his connection with Chicagoland and his workshop and seminar work and includes testimonials of satisfied clients. Visitors to his website can download the piece to view, to email or to print.

Today, rather than extensive, beautifully designed packages that are snail-mailed, media kits tend to be digital pdfs. Instantly downloadable, these kits are faster, easier and less expensive. However, they should still be beautifully – and thoughtfully – designed.

When your small to mid-size business needs help – with sales, with strategies or with management techniques, call Brian Thompson at Black & Essington at 815-557-1734 or email by clicking here.

Pathetic. Absolutely Pathetic.

Apparently, David’s Bridal is marketing very heavily to Bridezillas.

You know, those women obsessed with a wedding and not a marriage. Those women who’ve been on the prowl for a groom and not a husband. Those women who want to get married to satisfy their own goals, not to create a real partnership. THOSE women.

This new commercial is enough to turn the stomach of any viewer who has thought that this new bride culture has gotten completely out of hand, over-the-top and just plain ridiculous. It encourages women on the edge of silliness to fully indulge, because that man standing at the altar will just go right along with it anyway. David’s Bridal said so!

As a mother, I shudder when I see this commercial. I certainly don’t want my daughter to think that a wedding is all about the bride. I want her to understand that a wedding is just a celebration of the start of your marriage, your partnership, your walk through life, hand-in-hand with another person who understands your very soul.

And if some woman were to treat my son like he was “just a cog in this big machine,” I’d be the one that jumped to my feet when the officiant asked if anyone had an objection to the union. 

Marketing Materials For A Urology Practice. Finally.

Sometimes, reality sets recommended procedures on its ears. The urology practice of Drs. Uppuluri, Patel and Chavin has been successful and well-recommended for many years, yet they didn’t have a logo, a slogan, a website or even a name, generally the first things a business is tasked with creating.

For a long time, that worked. Now, it was changing.

Recommended to us by a local hospital’s Medical Staff Development Director, Dr. Chavin laid out the problem. Prospective patients, he knew, are now doing more and more research on the web before scheduling any procedures, making any appointments, or even choosing a physician. Even when a primary care doctor recommends a specialist, patients are checking them out thoroughly before making a phone call. Patients want to see their doctors’ faces before meeting them. They want to read CVs. They want to know that the physician they are selecting really knows his or her stuff – and they want to feel a bond before they ever shake hands. Dr. Chavin knew that, even considering the practice’s stellar reputation, in this fast-changing digital world, they had to get out there – and fast.

Smart man.

As there were no existing marketing materials, we asked alot of questions about the philosophy of the practice, the style of the physicians, their specialities, their reputations, their attitudes about patient care and their goals for their patients – and for the practice. We read through CVs. We investigated online reviews of each doctor. We talked about preferences in colors, styles and themes.

The doctors selected the name Chicago South Suburban Urology and we went to town. First, we designed and presented a variety of logo directions, then began to refine, redesign and then arrived at the logo you see above, a stylized illustration of exactly what concerns a urologist. Simple and clear, in a clean blue that can be used digitally, in print, on lab coats and office uniforms and on promotional products. We also wrote their slogan, which truly exemplifies CSSU’s philosophy.

We designed and wrote the website; again simple, clear and very easy to navigate. It’s chock-full of information already, with more to come as we continue. We researched and investigated all things urology to write the copy, with the doctors giving us input and edits as necessary.

Now, a web search helps locate the entire practice quickly. Patients can use the website as a resource for all their urological challenges and they can become better acquainted with all medical professionals right online.

CSSU is a perfect example of how a successful business needs to continuously evolve to stay successful. Together, we took a well-regarded but very traditional practice and brought it into modern times.

Stop. Because I’m Crying Again.

Sniff, sniff, snuffle.

Oh my goodness.

What a twist, what a change of heart, what a positive message after all! I truly hope that you were able to experience this commercial, a true-meaning-of-Christmas gift from Apple.

A teenager, seemingly glued to his phone, seemingly bored out of his mind by this family Christmas gathering, is in fact creating a most marvelous gift to celebrate the love he gets and gives, but, at this awkward age, just can’t express (I’m tearing up now just thinking about it – are you?).

My 20-year-old daughter, infinitely better at snark than sentiment, stops everything to watch this commercial. She sits in a veil of tears and exclaims, “Look how he really loves his family! It’s so beautiful!” Her friends, a lovely, lively but logical bunch, also stop and watch and sigh and cry. My husband murmurs, “Well, isn’t that nice?” My whole family room is awash in happy tears when this commercial airs.

Apple has hit the goldmine of marketing here. They have bonded the product with the audience, they have shown its benefits and they have made you want an iPhone, so you can make such an incredible gift yourself. There are only smiles here, only positive associations, only warm, happy feelings, an affirmation that Apple can make your life better.

With all this embedded in our psyches, I’m thinking Apple will have a very happy new year.

Hoping YOU have a very happy new year too!

Please. Make It Stop.

Gawd help us.


If you’ve watched any television this holiday season, you’ve been subjected to this commercial, or some version of it. And odds are, you’ve cringed.

Social media is atwitter (get it?) with “I’ll never buy a Honda” and “Honda, these are the most annoying commercials ever” and “I was thinking about buying a Honda but that commercial killed it for me. Toyota, here I come” — all because of Michael Bolton. Turns out he doesn’t necessarily appeal to Honda’s chief purchasing demographic.

The smart marketers at Honda know that. I’m sure they meant this whole campaign ironically – they meant it to be aggravating and maddening and over-the-top and downright annoying. They are delighted at the outpouring of exasperation and displeasure.

Because everyone is talking about these commercials. Everyone is deriding Honda’s decision to use Annoying Man for its Songperson this holiday season. At my annual holiday gathering with girlfriends, “Honda” was mentioned over and over and over as women clutched at their hair and wished laryngitis upon Michael Bolton. Facebook is covered with nasty memes. As horrible and dreadful and awful as this Honda commercial is, it put Honda in the shining spotlight this Christmas.

But it is horrible and dreadful and awful and there is absolutely no solid reason for that. Advertising that is memorable, creates a buzz and makes people talk shouldn’t be uber annoying. That truly defeats the purpose.

A positive message, something that makes people feel good about the product and its benefits is always always always a better choice. Those good feelings create a happy bond with the audience and positivity just lasts longer, meaning the happy audience turns into a happy customer, which is exactly what truly good marketing is supposed to do.