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Trends, commentary, and insightful rants from the bleeding edge of advertising, content & branding.

Super Genius’ car rescue TV reality series bows Aug. 1(ReelChicago)

 

Bruno Massel gives an update on Garage Squad.

Bruno Massel gives an update on Garage Squad.

Super Genius’s all-Chicago produced reality series, “Garage Squad,” devoted to helping gearheads restore their cherished vintage vehicles, will premiere Friday, Aug. 1, on Velocity, a supercharged Discovery Channel entirely devoted to all things automotive. Velocity deems “Garage Squad” so good that it’s part of Velocity’s current Dream Car Week’s 14 hours of programming focusing on the most unique, beautiful and exotic vehicles.   The half-hour, 10-episode series was developed and produced at Velocity’s request by eight-year old Super Genius, a hybrid advertising/entertainment shop. The partners, co-managers Bill Connell and Mat Burnett – EPs on the series — and ECD Craig Motlong are former long-time Leo Burnett executives. “We’ve had a relationship with Velocity for several years, when we turned a turned a brand initiative into a series, called ‘One of a Kind’ for the network.  It’s about the early design and production of custom cars,” Connell says. (continue reading at ReelChicago).

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Filed under: ad agency, advertising, super genius inc., TV Production, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Papa Says, Sit Down at a Typewriter and Bleed.

INTERVIEWER

Could you say something of this process? When do you work? Do you keep to a strict schedule?

HEMINGWAY

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through. (read the full story here at the Paris Review)

Filed under: super genius inc., , , ,

The Great Recession is Over. Now What?

 

ass kickin' time

I know you probably don’t remember this, but a year ago, you were sweating bullets. The end was nigh, this was the big one, the economic cataclysm that would consume a generation. You saw your life flashing before your eyes.

And then? Well, things got bad for a while. But somehow armageddon was averted. The ship righted. The blood stopped flowing. And you opened your eyes and realized that you weren’t going to die this time.

Every few years or so, a turning point pivots this little roller coaster called the economy. You don’t realize it at the time. You only see it in retrospect. When Netscape went public. When Google launched. Seismic events that redefine the economy and change the rules of the game.

This is that moment.

We’re at the bottom of one of the biggest recessions in American history. All the deadwood has been cleared out, the money is starting to flow again, and the 2010’s are going to be defined by what you do right now. The tendency is going to be to sit back and be cautious, because people got burned by this thing and they’re not going back into the fire.

More playground for us.

Because the next decade is going to be defined by those of us who recognize the signs. Who realize that media isn’t dead, it’s just fractalizing. Who know that people don’t change habits just because they’re moving more and more of their life online. Who know that whenever something dies in an ecosystem, there is nothing but daylight for the sure and the strong.

Recoveries are made by those who invent them.

If you wait for others to see how warm the water is, you’ve already lost. Pretty soon the whole pool will be packed with people. You’ve got six months, tops, to try to do the things you’ve wanted to do, and help shape what the next phase will look like. After that, you’re locked into whatever shape the economy will take. You’ll be a spectator, not a driver.

Stop reading blogs. Go reinvent the economy.

Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

Filed under: mobile, recession, skateboarding cats, supergenius llc, , , ,

Super Genius launches Facebook brand page and application for client lia sophia.

liasophia_AppADOur agency has just “given birth” to an official Facebook brand presence for lia sophia. Their business is largely driven by referrals and relationships, and social media tools align perfectly with how their Advisors work.  We’ve also created a photo sharing app that brings the lia sophia brand to life – by literally allowing fans to share jewelry on photos of their friends.  The photo sharing app was designed to tap into the sharing functionality Facebook provides.  With a simple call to action of “add lia sophia jewelry to your friends’ photos”, a user can select a photo from their own albums or their friends’ available albums they want to decorate with lia sophia jewelry.   Complete with cropping and rotation features, users can get their touches of jewelry just right before sharing.  Users can save the photos and post their friends’ walls which generate powerful news feeds for awareness.  The app also allows a user save an unlimited amount of images that they have created and sent to friends and any that they have received from friends.

Filed under: facebook, social media, supergenius llc, viral, , , ,

Black Dynamite: In Your Face Advertising

ebonyjetrethinkCheck out a piece we wrote for EbonyJet.com that debuted today.

RETHINK is an occasional series featuring contemporary thought on classic Ebony And Jet photos and articles.

We asked ad agency executive Mat Burnett, of Super Genius LLC in Chicago to give some modern perspective on a series of revolutionary ads done by Johnson Publishing in the late 1960s and how far (or not) ethnic advertising has come since then.

Filed under: ad agency, advertising, supergenius llc, , , , , ,

Twitter is Dead, Long Live Twitter.

tweety1We are slowly dying in 140-character bursts.

Twitter has gone from a precious little idea to a respectable mini-blogging service to a massive cultural phenomenon in a little more than a year. And I think a lot of us are looking around at each other, nodding, saying, yes, this is awesome, I get it, tweet tweet birdhouse tweetdeck rt @imsohip.

I think some people have a legitimate use for Twitter: comedians, technical support, and Barack Obama. I think the rest of us are fumbling around for a way to stay relevant on it. Because Twitter suffers from the same problem blogs, podcasts, and user-generated content does: most people either have something interesting to say but can’t figure out how to tell it, or don’t have something interesting to say and disguise that fact with wry observational humor that went out of style with Seinfeld.

Here’s the great thing about Twitter: you can only communicate in 140-character bursts, so if it sucks, it’s over. Here’s the crappy thing about Twitter: we haven’t learned how to create stories on it yet. What we’re getting is fragments, little tic-tacs of information that hit us like pellets and we pretend are refreshing and informative and clever, but what we’re leaving off is: for a tweet. As in, that’s cute. For a tweet. We’re grading on a 140-character curve.

That’s why most people who sign up for Twitter don’t stick with it: there’s nothing yet there to stick to. There’s no flow there. Say what you want about Facebook, but people have learned how to tell stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. There’s a continuity. Not so on Twitter. Each tweet lives and dies like a fruit fly, leaving us not necessarily wanting more.

I’m not saying there aren’t uses for this sort of communication, but that they’re more limited than we think they are. If I am wrong — and I am never wrong — then maybe it works as a meta-communicator and tastemaker, directing your attention to bit.ly links. The Japanese are writing novels this way, but they’re not necessarily the sanest of nations, pop-culturally speaking. Pogue has decided to let others write a book for him, which is stupid, lazy and just like him. It’s nice when you have a question to pop it into the ether and get responses. And it helps to have a brand, a mission, and something worthwhile to say. Three times a day. Every day.

We’re tweeting, we follow other tweeters, so we’re biting the hand that feeds us. But it feels like the Twitter phenomenon, like billions of “Margaritas! WOO HOO!” tweets themselves, has a shelf life, until something better comes along.

Filed under: social media, supergenius llc, twitter, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Social Media and the New Social Responsibility

givingIt’s one of those trends clients are tired of hearing us drone on about – that one of the most social (and if you must, “viral”) activities companies and brands can practice is cause related marketing.  And conversely, non-profit brands and corporate social responsibility are intensely digital/social propositions. The reality is  that given the state of the economy more people and families than ever find themselves on the roles of the unemployed and subsequently more “in need” than ever before.  And, honestly, it’s this state of affairs that presents brands or NGOs or CSR departments with an opportunity to make a deeper emotional connection with their consumers/stakeholders.

Brands, like people, are increasingly being judged by what they do and not simply what they say in advertisements.  The upside of being held to this higher standard is that those brands that deliver are rewarded with greater consumer commitment than mere :30 television ads could have purchased.  You combine this shift in consumer approval of action over “advertisement” with digitally driven succession of control to consumers and you’re left with a pretty powerful sweet spot.  A sweet spot where brands that invite consumers into a conversation “win,” and brands that invite consumer into a conversation and having something meaningful to say (hello causes) “really win.” Why? Because a conversation that matters is one that you’ll invite your friends to participate in and not feel guilty about.

There’s also the Obama effect. The ability of technology or social media to efficiently aggregate inputs (comments, conversations, contributions.)  This is the ability to go beyond even the accumulation of checks from individuals into the rarefied realm of micro-gifts or micro-payments on a social media platform and make them cost effective and meaningful.

Who’s doing it right? Well, one platform that gives brands an easy way out is Facebook.  What’s that you say? You’re tired of hearing about FB, well deal with it, because I can count on one hand the number of brands that are doing it right. And of those most have a cause/charity related component or angle at some point. To wit:

“Feeding America.” Amazingly strong and consistent voice on FB, and online in general.  In the sea of so many dead brand pages that never update and never talk to their “fans” let along consumers, this NGO stands out as a brand that has strong social media presence. By the way a presence they maximize with clever applications and extensions – see “bread art” and the Kraft “Feeding America” challenge as good examples of social media in action.  The FB app “Causes” remains one of their most consistently powerful platforms for brand calls to action. See “Ben & Jerry’s.”

Great. You’re intrigued but wonder what’s next? What to do now? Well, one thing we like to do is peer a few minutes (let’s call it five) into the future. Why five? Because any further and it’s not useful to those of us who need to generate action (sales, interest, activity etc.) TODAY.  So, five minutes out, here’s what we see:

Branded micro-blogging. Think Twitter but cooler, faster, stronger.  How about a private “tweetspace” where volunteers or contributors speak up about or around a particular event.  Or how about a public tweestpace that’s branded/customized to a particular company or cause, where tweets from anyone who cares or contributes shows up.  What a powerful way to track cause engagement (and btw brand engagement.)  Yes, Twitter has already been engaged to drive charity, but social technology that helps brands and their causes both benefit is still virgin territory.

Cause Communities. Friendfeed for the charity set. Imagine a private social net or even a branded FB page where content from everyone touching a particular cause is aggregated.  Think video feeds from the organic farm you sponsor in Mexico, or micro posts from the youth volunteers in NYC mashed up with the corporate blog about the entire program. Cool.

Do Better Now. Like I said before. Very few brands have their FB geography in order let along the things that are five minutes into the future. I’d argue for getting that online territory sorted first.  Get your FB or Tumblr or whatever page/community sorted properly and integrated with your corporate assets and launch from there. By the way…call us if you need help with this!

There’s a reason casuse marketing has exploded at the same time that the web is becoming more social.  While there’s some concern about the potential for mis-application. As the level of chatter increases it’s harder to filter out the good stuff.  Those brands that are clearly aligned with the good stuff – products and also causes they support will tend to rise to the top of the global conversation. For deeper discussions about how social media can amplify your cause marketing please connect with us at mat@supergeniusllc.com or wbc@supergeniusllc.com.

Filed under: social media, , , , , , ,

Sailing and the Art of Social Media

Man Overboard

Man Overboard

Let’s say you want to take sailing lessons. You go down to the pier, and pick up two brochures: one that’s glossy and slick, explaining how fun sailing is, with pictures of smiling sailors drinking champagne at sunset, put out by a well-known shipping company. The second one is obviously made on someone’s Macintosh, by two guys who live by the ocean, and tells you the nuts and bolts of what you’re going to learn.

Which company do you choose? Replace “sailing” with “social media” in the above paragraph, and it’s likely you’ll take the glossy brochure. Because they’re professional shippers, right? They know the ocean. They’ve been there before. The problem is, they have no idea how to actually get in the boat and push off the dock.

This is the trouble with PR firms right now. Their traditional media world is disintegrating around them, and they’re flinging themselves into social media like it’s water and they’re on fire. Because as Public Relations becomes less about newspapers (dying), magazines (gasping), broadcast (fragmenting) and blogs (moving to Twitter), the only thing they can see that makes sense as a future business model has an F at the beginning and a K at the end and has “aceboo” in the middle.

But PR companies are shipping companies: they are built to deliver big messages along traditional lines to create “news” and “events.” They are not built to scale. It’s likely that they got interested in social media about the same time you did, and are about the same place on the learning curve. It is also likely that they do not use social media.

This point bears repeating: while they know what social media is, and how it works, and who else is on there, if they don’t use it, they’re useless to you.

In social media, fluency is everything. Literally: everything. It changes so quickly that by the time most learn about a trend, the trend has played itself out: see “25 Random Things.” It’s not enough to be ahead of the curve. You need to be the curve. You don’t need PR. You need to know where social media will be tomorrow.

Creating and sustaining conversations with consumers, users, people requires a skill set built around engagement and participatory storytelling. Frankly, if the engine of online today is conversation then the fuel is content.  To keep the conversation going, to keep the dialogue moving requires more than just words in the air, it requires the ability to develop social tools (apps, widgets, etc.) and useful content (video, games, etc.) and cede some control to your consumers.  Sure, we (agency/brand/whomever) need to participate in those conversations but it starts with a strategic understanding of the sandbox we want to create and the technical capacity to create the right pails and shovels to go in that sandbox.

And not to toot our own horn – or, screw it, that’s exactly what we’re doing. If you’re at all serious about social media, you need people like us. Geeks with ideas. Plugged-in members of the technorati with a marketing background. We’re rare. We’re effective. And most importantly, we know how to sail.

Filed under: social media, , , , , , ,

Why We Blog

thacarterAgency blogs suck. That’s why we write one. It is a strange feeling to communicate in a medium you despise. Deep down, you despise blogs too. With rare exception, blogs do not add anything to your life. They are time-suckers. They are usually poorly written. They breed like gnats. Of these creatures, there are few things worse than the corporate blog, which are typically just glorified vehicles for press releases. Of the corporate blogs, there are few things worse than the advertising agency blog, because it has the stench of desperation. You can see someone, somewhere in the organization decided the blog had to be clever – because we’re an AD AGENCY, dammit – and so you have the obligatory twist of whimsy. But since it’s still a corporate communication, it has to go through legal, PR, IT, and some poor junior copywriter whose job it is to keep the blog from doing anything that would slander the reputation of the company. The result is inevitably unreadable. Why do we blog? I’m sure the readers of this blog are using the word ‘hypocrite’ along with their epithet of choice, and they’re probably not wrong. We might be hypocrites, or worse. We snark. We steal from popular culture. We bite the hands that feed us. We link to the sites that pique our interest and occasionally offer meta-commentary. We post opinions as fact. We have an alarmingly high opinion of ourselves. We lie to ourselves while pretending to be brutally honest. We’re maddeningly inconsistent. None of which you’ll find on a typical agency blog, except for the alarmingly high self-regard. If these were other times in history, we’d streak, or skywrite, or perform magic tricks. We’d paint, drink absinthe, and become expatriates. In some eras, we’d be hailed as prophets, in others, heretics. But this is 2009. And that is why we blog.

Filed under: advertising, online advertising, skateboarding cats, supergenius llc, , , , , , , ,

The Enduring Mythology of the “Name” Advertising Agency

death of the dinosaursThe Enduring Mythology of the “Name” Advertising Agency

Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. That’s the story. IBM was such an industry standard, and so widely perceived as being the best in the business, that no one could impugn you for making a decision based on that name alone.

Well, we all know that was a load of horse crap. Plenty of people got fired for buying IBM; IBM just had them quietly killed to preserve their word-of-mouth. But the temptation to buy something large, well-regarded, and safe is still with us. It’s how most of us buy (or bought, and will again) houses, cars, investment funds.

Oh, and by the way, advertising agencies.

That’s the funny part of this business. Agencies stake their name on their early campaigns that create edgy, breakthrough, back-of-a-napkin, two-guys-in-their-wetsuits campaigns that change a category and instantly make a name for themselves. Then those agencies get noticed, and get more business than the two guys in their wetsuits can handle. They get big. They hire people. They hire people to manage those people. And every level they add puts them further and further away from the ideas that made them great in the first place.

Here’s the ugly truth: big agencies get out of the idea business. They get into the selling-the-idea business. They stop feeling the idea and start thinking it to death. That’s why with every idea, you get a ream of paper explaining why the idea is not only good, it is also right. And they create an entire bureaucratic structure of planners, account service, creative and media to sell the idea to you, so you can sell it to your boss. Because nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.

Everyone who works at Super-Genius has worked at a big agency. We’ve made the sausage. We know what goes into one. And we were once seduced by the big names, too. We get it.

But we wanted to talk ideas without asking the admin assistant to schedule a pre-brief meeting in the staff room. We wanted to pick up the phone and talk to you. We wanted to be closer to the work and farther away from the smoke and mirrors we use to sell you the work.

Who knows? We might hire a bunch of people and sell out to Omnicom tomorrow.

But today? You’ve got two guys in wetsuits. Anything is possible.

Filed under: ad agency, advertising, brands, supergenius llc, , , , , ,

About

Super Genius LLC is a digital media and creative incubator that excels at bringing fresh, new thinking to existing strategy as well as blank-page strategic development. Our mission is to open up unique and exciting ways of connecting brands and consumers.

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." William Gibson

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