'It's Not Surprising' Featured by The Drum

November 09, 2017

By Kyle O'Brien

Geico hits the mark again with another spot from the Martin Agency, featuring a 'Casual Friday' beefeater at Buckingham Palace.

It’s the latest in the insurance company’s ‘It’s Not Surprising’ campaign, which has also included Ice T selling lemonade, an orchestral triangle solo and Tiki Barber running a barber shop.

‘Casual Friday’ finds a changing of the guard for the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace. While the outgoing guard is perfectly upright, stoic and on point, his replacement saunters in wearing the signature puffy hat, but also an unkempt bathrobe and tee shirt, plus flip flops and carrying a coffee drink and a bag of food as he sits in a folding chair on guard.

“Casual Fridays at Buckingham Palace? Surprising,” says the voice over. He goes on to say that it’s not surprising that people are saving money by switching to Geico.

"With a lot of Geico ads, we try to tap into human, relatable truths. Like say, butt-dialing or looking-busy-while-the-boss-walks-by from our 'It's What You Do' campaign," said Ken Marcus, senior copywriter with the Martin Agency. "Casual Fridays are pretty much a universal experience, so we tried to come up with a situation in which a Casual Friday would be unexpected and fun-to-play-with. Originally, we talked about 'Casual Fridays' at The Center For Disease Control. You know, all these folks are in hazmat suits and some guy in a bathrobe walks up, eating a donut. But ultimately, we felt like Buckingham Palace would be more visually interesting and well, surprising."

Marcus gives credit entirely to the team at Geico for the success of the campaign.

"They have this disciplined instinct to keep our messaging bone simple. In this case, demonstrating our savings claim with real customers. This allows us the time to let a joke breath and play out, versus cramming all of these RTBs into thirty seconds. Also, we try and mine our humor from everyday life. Versus just being weird for weird's sake. So hopefully, our material is always relatable and universal in appeal," he said.

Read the full story here.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Randy Jackson's 'Dawg' Show in Adweek

November 09, 2017

Randy Jackson Finds New Gig Judging a ‘Dawg’ Show in Geico’s Latest Ad Westminster Kennel Club awaits


Music producer and American Idol judge Randy Jackson calls people “dog” so much, it became the central gag of a new Gecio ad.

This spot by The Martin Agency, titled “Dawg,” sees Jackson lend his patented brand of vague critiques to a kennel club dog show. He’s also wearing what looks like Will Smith’s prep school jacket from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

There’s a behind-the-scenes video for “Dawg,” too, and it might be even more staged than the ad itself. Watching Jackson try to coach a poodle through scene banter is totally worth it, though. His comedic timing works much better in interactions. And I mean, it probably beats working with Stryper again.

“Dawg” is part of Geico’s “It’s Not Surprising” campaign, where most (if not all) of the ads are built around obvious wordplay. It’s one of the insurance company’s most charming marketing initiatives, and has been in play for over a year at this point.

Read the full story here.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

DoubleTree Took Its Signature Warm Cookies On Tour

November 09, 2017

DoubleTree took its signature warm cookies on tour — and drove nearly 400K social impressions

By Peter Adams

When travelers think of DoubleTree by Hilton, one of the first images that pops to mind is the warm chocolate chip cookies the hotel offers for free to its guests. The service, core to DoubleTree's identity — it even has its own website page — is now being brought to life in new ways to meet the heavy demands of multichannel marketing.

This fall, the brand launched an ongoing campaign spanning digital and social media channels, as well as out-of-home activations and live events in cities including Malibu, Boston and Washington, DC. The idea driving "Your Warm Cookie Awaits" and the #SweetWelcome contest, according to DoubleTree's Vice President of Global Brand Marketing Stuart Foster, was to help spread the hotel's dedication to providing warmth and hospitality well past the check-in desk. 

To accomplish those goals, DoubleTree looked to offer a resonant experience that stepped beyond traditional brand advertising. Based on initial results, the approach is working: Just a few weeks after the campaign's mid-September launch, a gamified "Catch a Cookie" social contest drew 5,500 entries, exceeding the brand's expectations by 83%. Three of the live events also generated 44,000 Instagram Stories views, 398,641 social impressions and 5,428 total engagements via real-time posting, with plans to extend the tour into 2018.   

"People are sort of immune to advertising," Foster told Marketing Dive, calling out research that underscores how consumers have become completely inundated with online ads, receiving thousands of generic messages a day.

"You've got to do it in a breakthrough way," he said of his strategic mindset. "Otherwise no one's going to see you and no one's going to care. That's really what we're trying to do here — something different and more innovative."

Baking up a solid strategy

If Your Warm Cookie Awaits and the #SweetWelcome push have been a success, it's only because there was a lot of work put into getting them off the ground. From its genesis to planning and national rollout, the entire effort took anywhere from three to four months and required the help of four partner agencies: The Martin Agency, Ketchum Public Relations, HZDG and OMD.

Foster noted that the lengthy gestation process and scale of collaboration exemplifies the challenges brands are facing in developing truly multichannel campaigns for the digital age.

"My job and my team's job as a marketer or as a marketing team is just becoming increasingly complex," he said. "The number of channels we have to manage [and] the number of channels where we have options are definitely complex."

Those complexities included not just a big social play, but also properly tying the digital components to real-world and OOH elements — a feat DoubleTree finessed with skill.

Read the full story here.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Finding the Poetry in Animal Feed

November 09, 2017

Martin Agency finds the poetry in animal feed appeal

By Stephen Foster

Mars animal feed brand Purina Mills is donating a dollar per pack (bale?) to look after retired horses so this, in a way, is a B2B ad.

The Martin Agency usually finds a way with the most unpromising task and goes straight for the heart here – with a poem from one Jess Vee about Sam.

Only American agencies seem able to do this without emptying the room. Maybe it’s the nature of Americana – a set of myths built on sentiment.

Clever idea to use someone else’s words too – no self-conscious copywriter would own to such feelings. Been done before of course, most notably in The Richards Group’s ‘so God made a farmer’ celebrated Super Bowl ad for Ram Trucks.

Read full story here.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Downtime: Santia Nance’s hoop dreams

October 17, 2017

Richmond Biz Sense

By Jonathan Spiers

When Santia Nance finished college in 2010, she found her life outside of work spinning in circles.

So, naturally, she picked up a hula hoop.

After googling “hooping” and taking a local class, the VCU grad, now a media planner at local ad giant The Martin Agency, found a pastime and passion she’s pursued ever since.

Recently promoted to media planning supervisor, Nance’s workdays are spent in the thick of Richmond’s biggest creative shop, strategizing media placements for ad campaigns for clients such as Land O’Lakes and pudding maker Kozy Shack.

But while her job is in the heart of the creative think tank, Nance said her own creativity comes out when she’s hooping.

“It’s like yoga in a way: it makes you feel at peace, it makes you feel yourself,” she said. “It makes you feel happy, because it’s so nostalgic, and you’re focused on something else versus thinking about other things. You’re just in your zone.”

Active with local hoop group RVA Hoop House, Nance can be spotted spinning hoops around town in group sessions and events such as Inlight Richmond, when she’s encircled with LED-illuminated hoops. She’s performed in theater showcases and in a burlesque show at Gallery5, often under her stage name, Santobella Spark. She’s even picked up fire hooping, spinning a circle of flames to the point that they make a whooshing sound.

“When you’re fire-hooping, you hear it. The rush is to hear it,” she said. “It’s hot!”

A Hampton native, Nance first picked up on hooping in high school, motivated in part by an unlikely source: Hilary Duff as Lizzie McGuire.

“For some reason I was obsessed with the Disney Channel in high school. (Duff) did this thing where she was a rhythmic gymnastics person or something, and she threw the hula hoop in the air, did a cartwheel and then caught it. I was like, ‘I’m going to do that!’”

After graduating from VCU with a degree in creative advertising, Nance revisited the activity when she found herself idle outside of a part-time job with Radio Disney.

“I was real bored. I didn’t have a job really. I was like, ‘What do I do?’” Nance said.

“In 2010, I just made it up in my head that this has to be a thing, so I googled it. That’s when I found my hoop mama, Stacey Firefly,” she said. “She’s one of the originators in Richmond who was hula hooping.”

Nance signed up for one of her now-mentor’s classes at Dogtown Dance Theatre, and she’s been hooping ever since.

“It was Oct. 13, 2010 – my hoopiversary. That’s a real thing,” she said, laughing.

Watch Santia Nance Hooping Outside The Martin Agency

When she’s not spinning her hoops or dancing in circles of flames, Nance said she’s found joy in her work at The Martin Agency since joining the firm in 2013, specifically planning digital media placements for campaigns.

“We have to figure out where the best place is to put the advertising,” she said. “Not necessarily just thinking about is it on TV or a magazine or a website; it’s usually which website, which TV show, which time, what makes the most sense and what’s the cheapest and what’s going to actually get people to do what you want them to do. A lot goes into that thinking.”

Focused on strategy at work, Nance said she releases her creative side out of the office in her performances, which she choreographs herself.

“I try really hard to come up with something unique for each event,” she said.

And when she’s not performing onstage as Santobella Spark, Nance said she helps “spread the hoop love” in group hooping sessions and community outreach events, helping first-timers pick it up and pinpoint difficulties.

Laughing, she said: “People call me the hoop whisperer.”

Watch Santia Nance Hoop With Fire

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Why is He-Man Fighting For The Power of GEICO? Thank 80s Nostalgia And Old School Animation

October 11, 2017

Clio Entertainment

By Christine Champagne

The idea that the GEICO commercial “He-Man vs. Skeletor” could introduce a new generation of fans to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe—an animated television series that first aired in syndication for two years in the mid-1980s and can now be seen on Netflix—delights Neel Williams and Justin Harris, VPs/creative directors from The Martin Agency, who created the spot.

“If just one child sees the spot, then decides to watch a He-Man episode as a result, well, we should probably just retire and become grape farmers or something. Our creative promise will have been fulfilled,” says Williams, who, like his creative partner, watched He-Man cartoons when he was a kid.

“I even had the action figures—He-Man, Man-At-Arms and a random character called Stinkor that actually smelled bad,” Williams recalls.

If you aren’t as versed in the He-Man universe, a quick primer: Although long rumored to have been an aborted Conan the Barbarian toyline (original toy maker Mattel refuted the claim and even won a lawsuit against Conan’s rights holders), He-Man was a muscular barbarian billed as the most powerful man in the universe, and he fought a rogue’s gallery of ghoulish baddies including main villain Skeletor. The toy line debuted in 1982, with the TV series following the next year.

Beyond tapping into their own nostalgia for the He-Man crew of heroes and villains, Williams and Harris were confident that other adults would get a kick out of seeing a new He-Man and Skeletor showdown, and they felt like adding an animated spot to GEICO’s “Great Answers” campaign, which until the release of this one, featured only live-action spots, would give it stylistic breadth.

In each of the commercials rolled out as part of the campaign since it launched last year, characters in sticky situations, including a thief on trial in one and a mole sitting in a car with mobsters in another, get out of trouble by bringing up how switching to GEICO can save you money on car insurance at just the right moment.

Before “He-Man vs. Skeletor” could go into production, The Martin Agency had to get Mattel to agree to license the characters for use in the spot. It turned out to be less treacherous than anticipated.

“You never know with licensed properties like this, but they were supportive from the very beginning. GEICO has great reach and a reputation for injecting ads into pop culture, both of which should be appealing to partner brands,” Williams says, stressing, “We try hard to respect the brand parameters we’re given so that everyone comes away feeling good about the end result.” Mattel also approved the use of live-action versions of He-Man and Skeletor in two ads created by Mother for the U.K.’s MoneySuperMarket.com this past year—and while they aimed for the same nostalgia button, they lacked the added element of the kitschy animation that defined the show and, in many ways, defined He-Man for a generation.

You hardly ever see 2D animation these days, and The Martin Agency needed to find an animator who could lovingly recreate the look of the original cartoon while making the humor pop, and the advertising agency hired animation director/producer J.J. Sedelmaier of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, a go-to source for humorous animation for not just advertisers but also television shows including Saturday Night Live (Sedelmaier co-created The Ambiguously Gay Duo with Robert Smigel), The Daily Show and The Colbert Report among others.

The GEICO gig was right in his wheelhouse, Sedelmaier says. “One of the studio’s cap feathers is working with established character icons for advertising. In the past, we’ve done spots using [characters from] Speed RacerThe JetsonsSchoolhouse RockUnderdogRen & Stimpy, etc. So the idea of being able to add the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe crew to our list had all sorts of dandy potential.”

When it was produced in the 1980s by the Filmation animation studio, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was drawn on paper, the drawings were photocopied onto acetate celluloid, painted with cel-vinyl, photographed onto 35mm motion picture film and transferred onto videotape, Sedelmaier explains.

But he and his team at J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, including head animator Andy Friz, created the “He-Man vs. Skeletor” commercial in an entirely digital domain. “It’s drawn on a computer-based tablet, colored digitally, composed digitally and downloaded/uploaded as a digital file. It’s so much easier now and allows for more control over the work,” Sedelmaier says, adding, “I can’t imagine going back to the old process.”

While working digitally is less time consuming, care and finesse went into making the commercial look like it might have been pulled out of a time machine that went back into the 1980s in search of a lost He-Man and the Masters of the Universe episode. It was important to do that because many people watching this GEICO commercial will remember the characters from when they were kids.

"The bond you have with things you remember from childhood is pretty strong, and one’s personal nostalgia is like a narcotic. If you can recreate that for the viewer, you bond with them immediately,” Sedelmaier says. “But you have to be careful because these are people’s favorite memories. It’s got to be entertaining—humor always helps. But you can’t disparage the characters.”

Sedelmaier did add a fun modern touch to the commercial—Skeletor performs a celebratory “Yesssss!” arm jerk after he dupes He-Man and his crew.

Asked if making an animated spot is more difficult than working in the live-action realm, Harris answers, “Yes and no. Yes from the standpoint that you end up having to wear more hats with animation. In addition to creating the idea/script, we might help a little to plot out blocking and action and also help direct [voice] talent in the booth. But that was all under the watchful eye of J.J., so maybe it wasn’t quite so hard since he’d help steer us in the right direction if we veered off course too much.”

Expanding on the no portion of his reply, Harris muses, “And then I’d say it’s also not as difficult—from our standpoint, not J.J.’s—since there’s less moving parts in the form of casting, location scouting, permits, crew. Our agency producer, Brian Fox, also worked tirelessly to help bring this thing to life. It’s getting to work with such talented people on all sides that can make things so much easier.”

Sedelmaier says creatives and producers working in the advertising industry these days have a good sense of how to do animation. “It used to be that you had to indoctrinate your agency cohorts, and especially the client, into the animation process,” says Sedelmaier, who formed J.J. Sedelmaier Productions with his wife Patrice Sedelmaier in 1990. “But as of the past 10 years, creatives are very savvy. They’ve grown up knowing the process because animation is no longer a mysterious sort of craft.”

“That being said, each project does have its own aspects that need to be prepared for, and everyone has to be on board when it comes to schedules and budgets. One thing that’s terrific about a project like the GEICO one is you know that the agency has the support of the client, and they’re out to do stellar work—always. This means, I can look forward to more emphasis being on the work rather than other distracting logistics,” Sedelmaier says. “The priorities are sound.”

Posted By: The Martin Agency