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30-second spots

How BMW gets into your brain Add to ...

1. Remember the frenzy over subliminal advertising back in the Fifties? It seems so last century: Marketers got excited about the possibility of sending a message straight to consumers’ brains – say, flashing a brief image of popcorn in the middle of a movie – while people got upset about the idea of having, um, a message sent straight to their brains. Well, it’s back – sort of. In a recent experiment, BMW’s Munich agency Serviceplan outfitted a movie theatre with a light behind the screen which, when flashed briefly, created a ghostly, negative image of the auto maker’s logo in viewer’s heads when they closed their eyes. We’re not sure it sells cars, but we’re suddenly very hungry for popcorn.

2. This week DDB Canada brought us another sort of ghostly image. On Wednesday, the agency’s Vancouver office sent three life-sized – but faceless – sculptures of homeless people onto the streets to shock passersby into thinking about the real people their charitable donations may be assisting. “Hopefully these sculptures will prompt us to engage also in personal conversation and relationships,” said Rev. Ric Matthews, executive minister of First United Church, which sponsored the campaign. Each of the three characters in the campaign has a Facebook page, which is great for educational purposes. But if the goal is to get us to actually engage with homeless people, wouldn’t it be best if we logged off Facebook first?

3. Speaking of pain in the name of a good cause, Toronto’s Zulu Alpha Kilo announced it is diverting the money it would normally spend on end-of-year client gifts into meals for clients of a local shelter. Visitors to www.zulualphakilo.com/singingzuligans are greeted with pictures of 48 staff members; clicking each brings up a brief karaoke performance of a Christmas carol – along with a pledge by the agency to provide one more meal. The performances, we’re sorry to say, are enough to make us want to kill whoever wrote Joy to the World, but the goal of 4,000 meals had been hit within the first day, so they’ve pledged more funds if more people submit to the pain. C’mon, what’s a little masochism in the spirit of Christmas?

4. Or, for that matter, in the name of the environment? This week Starcom MediaVest Group and the U.K. environmental consulting firm Envido launched CarbonTrack, a tool that allows agencies to monitor the environmental impact of advertising campaigns. In its announcement, Starcom claimed that, “the U.K. advertising industry is thought to produce an estimated two million tonnes of CO2 annually, the equivalent of heating 364,000 U.K. homes for a year.” The tool is designed to allow a marketer to immediately evaluate the environmental effects of changing a campaign – from, say, billboards to digital – and to benchmark their campaigns against others in the industry. Which makes us think we wouldn’t mind a very green Christmas, after all.

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