Project Re:Brief and it’s potential to blow your mind.

Browsing the internet today, I came across Google’s Project Re:Brief, an endeavor started this year to take some the world’s most successful and iconic ad campaigns and re-contextualize them for digital technology as a commemoration of the 18th anniversary of the internet (they never fully explain what makes 18 yrs special enough to “commemorate” it, but it’s Google and they can basically do whatever the fuck they want). The case study list is short and eclectic, giving the team a broad range for experimentation and implementation:

Volvo’s “Drive it like you hate it”

Alka-Seltzer’s “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”

(see their 2002’s redux of the classic here)

Avis’s “We try harder” (a slogan that continues even today)

(and of course) Coke’s “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”

Taking some of our greatest campaigns and adapting it to today is no easy task – it opens itself up to criticism, skepticism and backlash. What I love about the project is that it’s more then just stretching it’s creative might as one of the world’s most innovative companies today; it’s trying to solve a digital advertising problem that has become more and more prevalent as our technological capabilities expand. As questioned in the project’s intro, how is it that digital advertising merely looks to inform the viewer rather then engage and entertain them. The interesting hurdles in digital advertising is that the product or brand has to explicitly compete for your attention as the user is in 100% complete control of the content.

Think about it: in television and radio, the medium directs your content, with allotted time for either advertising or shows/music; you can’t listen/watch them both at the same time. And while the audience always retains the opportunity to just change the channel, with about 1/3 of the entire broadcast being used for exclusively advertising, chances are they will just change to another commerical. Expound that on the fact that it takes a direct initiative to change the channel, advertising is able to capitalize on passive viewership. Now, in cases of magazines and printed materials, successful advertising works on the real estate of the viewing space. Quarter page ads, half pages, full pages, and spreads all work to define and take up the target audience’s viewing space so in that it absorbs 25%-100% of that viewing context. Advertising works to the benefit of the viewer as well – with longer articles and in-depth features, advertising actually colors the landscape with periodic and impacting breaks in a way that provides relief to magazine readers.

The results of digital advertising has been murky and convoluted as we wrestle with the need to engage the viewer in the content without being annoying and ineffective. The executions on doing this have been numerous with no clear winner surfacing: Some ads engage in petty flash games where they push you to shoot a target, answer a question, or spot a mistake (like a shitty dumbed-down puzzle from the back of a Highlights magazine.)

    Other ads try to do the let-me-take-over-your-screen-every-time-you-accidentally-roll-over-me which oddly enough never gets me any more interested in their product/movie/brand. In most cases, many just have a simple passive ad that does little to engage the user in their content (which is probably of no issue to the user, but probably an issue for advertisers). The latest craze in digital advertising, isn’t even so much advertising as it is just faux-brand engagement through the use of contests, twitter feeds, blogs, and facebook pages (just as a side note, I never “like” brands, nor follow them on twitter as if they’re real people living in my neighborhood-that’s just fucking weird.) So it’s safe to say that on a whole, advertisers are still puzzled as hell in navigating the digital landscape and figuring out just the best way to integrate themselves in it.

Now that I’ve given you a run down on my opinion on the current situation, it’s time for you to check out Google’s end result  for Coke and Volvo, with both cases using vastly different implementations. Honestly, visit the site and look through it, poke around and develop some opinions of your own. I’ll be posting my own critique on each in the following days, but I’m interested in hearing your first impressions!

Seriously. Do it. I’ll still be here when you come back. Go ahead. I’ll be here…waiting.


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