Pride in Advertising: The LGBTQ Community in Advertising

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Allow me to set a scene for you -- the year is 1994, and you’re living in the hoppin' environment of New York City, doing your best to emulate this new show “Friends” that just started and everyone won’t shut up about. You’re coming back from a night on the town, maybe of rocking out to the Beastie Boys’ new hit “Sabotage” -- f you’re looking for something softer, maybe some “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men. Maybe you’re coming from the movies and about to begin life anew as one of the millions of people who won’t stop quoting “Forrest Gump” or “Pulp Fiction.” You arrive at your apartment, crash on the couch, and flip on the T.V., fixing to watch David Letterman’s new late night talk show on CBS, but instead see something your ‘90s self definitely wasn’t expecting.

It’s a commercial for Ikea. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a couple browsing the store, trying to put together the perfect dining room. You know, Ikea stuff. But at the time what floored people about this commercial is that the featured couple is two men. It’s not flashy or pandering or cliche by any means, it’s just a casual commercial about a couple creating a dining room. But the fact that it was two men was such a groundbreaking occurrence that it completely upended the notion of what could commercially be portrayed as a family, and it totally changed the landscape of advertising. This was the dawn of the LGBTQ community’s acknowledgment in marketing.

The right stuff

In the two decades following that brazenly ambitious Ikea ad, more and more advertisements have been released featuring same sex couples, but not without controversy. In 2013, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson was fired for authorizing not just one same-sex ad, with two women celebrating Mother’s Day, but one with two men celebrating Father’s Day as well. In 2010, McDonald’s released an ad featuring a young man pondering to come out to his father, but it ended up being aired in France and not America.

But the LGBTQ community still shows up in advertising, with major companies releasing some truly memorable ads. On the print aspect, Absolut has been active in the market for almost thirty years, featuring several famous ads; a Ray Ban ad features two proud men holding hands and walking through the streets of New York City, encouraging people to “Never Hide;” General Motors went a little cheekier when they advertised for their Chevy Volt, choosing to celebrate Pride Week by having the Volt tell his vehicular parents “Mom, Dad, I’m Electric.” On the video production front, Amazon and Toyota went for a pair of brilliant bait and switches, choosing not to reveal the sexuality of their ads’ characters until the very end of the commercial to some solid comedic effect. Wells Fargo went more sentimental, with a revered and undeniably moving commercial about a pair of women learning sign language for their soon to be adopted daughter (you have to be a certifiable monster to not be affected by this one). These are some very effective, heartfelt, well-executed ads.

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However, there are cases where that pure desire to make some cash reveals a company’s faux-liberalism is really just a cash grab. While it can be great to see added awareness, there can be obvious frustrations with perpetuated stereotypes and cliches. For example, Budweiser’s print ad of a bottle being pulled from a six-pack that reads “another one coming out,” followed by the lazy “be yourself and enjoy a Bud Light” really isn’t the finest example of earnest advertising. Sure, Doritos and Burger King had rainbow products to honor Pride, but really, it’s much easier to just throw some color on a burger wrapper and say you’re supporting Pride than actually committing to creating something honest and meaningful. Sort of an issue of showing, not telling. Nobody wants to be emotionally pandered to or manipulated.

Even more middle of the road in terms of LGBTQ advertising is what some advertisers call “gay vague” advertising. In fact, it’s as middle of the road as you can possibly get; it’s like a proverbial deer in headlights. Do you dart across the road and make a mad dash to fully commit to LGBTQ advertising, or do you literally turn tail and head back to traditionalism? Well, gay vague advertising chooses to stand right there in the middle of the street, and have you make the choice of veering one way or the other. One of the best and most famous early examples of gay vague advertising would be the Schlitz Beer “I Was Curious” ads in the late 1940s. Typically these ads featured two couples, and the man in one of the couples is “curious” to try a Schlitz beer. So he and the man from the other couple drink a few, usually while their girlfriends/wives end up chatting in the background, and the ad ends with the two men staring at each other happily, apparently enjoying the beer. Or are they enjoying each other’s company? Or both? This is exactly what Schlitz was going for. If you’re in the LGBTQ community and you see this ad, clearly it’s about an LGBTQ couple. If you’re a heterosexual, clearly it’s just a couple buddies enjoying a beer. It’s all in the eye of the beer-holder, as the old saying goes. It’s difficult to deny that it’s a pretty deft strategy in terms of advertising, as it plays to many perceptions. However, it's difficult to categorize this as being particularly progressive.

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So whether you agree or disagree with the existence of LGBTQ advertising, the fact of the matter is ... it exists. It comes in many different forms; some good, some bad. Raising awareness is a positive, but the endgame of LGBTQ advertising should be to represent that community accurately. Nothing on the nose, nothing formulaic, nothing overly sentimental or hackneyed; just a casual representation of a community that doesn’t want to be perceived as overly different, portrayed as a stereotype, or seen as forcing a stereotype on anyone else. Just as casual as a couple of dudes picking a dining room set from Ikea. 

 

Thanks again for reading this week guys! Check out the rest of our bloggage and what else we do at Trove on our website! We’ll be back next week to finish up our advertising through the decades blog series, Ad Nauseam, as we dive into the 1980s and ‘90s!

 

Psych-Ad-elic: Advertising in the 1960s and '70s

Part 2 of Trove's Ad Nauseam Blog Series

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Welcome back to Trove Studio’s Ad Nauseam blog series, where we chat about advertising in America and how it’s changed through the decades! Last week we tackled the 1950s in a jiffy (one last '50s slang drop before we move on) and now we move on to a pair of the grooviest, most far out decades we’ve ever seen -- the 1960s and '70s.

First stop, the decade that saw the dawn of the hippy…the 1960s. CAN YOU DIG IT?

Counter-Culture Shock-- The 1960s

After the quaint, polished, seemingly innocent calm that was the 1950s came the veritable storm that was the 1960s, a flurry of counter-cultural movements and ideals. Feminism, racism, classism, jingoism, pretty much any “-ism” that has a negative connotation finally began to be addressed and opposed. The countryside was thick with swarms of hippies, campaigning for peace, love, equality, and recreational and experimental drug use. On a more serious note, the civil rights movement was rapidly picking up momentum, with inspiring and galvanizing people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X acting as impetus for social change. Tragedy struck the nation early in the decade with the shocking assassination of John F. Kennedy and the end of the era of peace known as “Camelot” that many believed he had brought with him to America. All of this conflict affected the country on such a seismic level culturally that, to keep up with the times, advertisers had to act accordingly. If they continued to practice the type of advertising they utilized in the '50s, they’d be kicked to the cultural curb pretty soundly. The '60s were a time of great liberal beliefs, led by a major shift in demographic focus. The legion of babies that had been born in the '40s and early '50s as a part of the baby boom were now becoming young adults, with nearly fifty percent of the population being under the age of 25 by the middle of the decade. That is insane, “Children of the Corn” kind of stuff there, folks.

So if a bulk of your demographic are socially aware teens or twentysomethings who loath modern institutions and are striving for a change from the traditional, you need to have some youth-oriented and non-traditional ads. And that’s exactly what advertisers did.

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Divine Comedy

Bluntness, irony, irreverence, and humor were the now the name of the advertising game, as traditionalism was promptly thrown out the window. Some of the best ads of the decade were also the ones with the most candor, the most famous possibly being the Volkswagen campaign by Doyle Dane Bernbach, which centered entirely around calling out their own product on its flaws. A seriously bold strategy, they referred to the Volkswagen as “Ugly,” a “Lemon,” and, in perhaps the most memorable, “Think Small,” where they put a tiny Volkswagen way in the background of the ad. Somehow, this self-deprecation proved to be a serious master stroke, as customers basked in the glow of its honesty. Other companies that followed suit were Benson and Hedges 100 bashing their own gimmicky concept of an extra-long cigarette, as well as Canada Dry blatantly telling customers “Sure we could make it cheaper” and that “We always said that nothing could compare to an ice-cold bottle of Canada Dry. We were wrong.” As we all know, the Sacred Texts of Advertising say “Thou shalt not pointeth out one’s own flaws,” but the '60s well full-blast defiance on that one.

As for skewing towards a younger, more liberal demographic, you could find as many examples of that in the '60s as you could find people wearing bell bottoms. Campbell’s literally modified their famous “m’m m’m good” slogan to “m’m m’m groovy,” to stay “hip.” Pepsi especially went wild with it, coming up with campaigns like “Think young” and the “Pepsi Generation.” Coke didn’t go down easily though, in what became known as the early years of the “cola wars,” as they created their “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” ad, basically a “We Are the World” ad campaign about achieving peace...through Coca-Cola. A master military strategy many of our nation’s leaders failed to utilize.

But while the 1960s were a time of advertising that was both extremely effective but also fun and humorous, like the Pillsbury Doughboy, the terrifying Ronald McDonald, and Alka-Seltzer's brilliant “Mama, mia, atsa some spicy meatball,” things took a much more serious turn in the 1970s for the American economy, which we’ll dive into on next week’s blog.

PSYCHE! That’s how use '70s slang there, baby. Actually thought I was about to end the blog, didn’t you? Well “do me a solid” (there’s another one) and keep on reading!

That '70s Show

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The 1970s, despite being known as a swinging era of killer music (how were Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones all making music at the same time?), free love, and spirituality via hallucinogens, was actually a time of great political and economic turmoil. The '70s were, unfortunately, a strife-laden period in our country, with Nixon going crook with Watergate and the epic mess that was the Vietnam War proving to be the cherry on top of the conflict cake that had been baking since the early '60s. On top of that, foreign markets had begun to significantly affect American manufacturing, as the ever evolving electronics business as well as a little thing known as oil were practically dominated by other nations. America was going through a bit of its own rumble in the jungle, and it was taking it on the chin pretty hard. Once again, advertisers had to respond in kind, beginning a rumble of their own known as comparative advertising.

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Comparative advertising is...wait for it...when you compare yourself to your rival, obviously with the intended goal of making yourself look like an advertising stud. This became essential in the '70s, as the public was becoming a more selective in their purchases given the economic downturn the country was suffering. Remember the aforementioned “cola wars?” Well this is when they really kicked into gear, with another company leaping into the fray, 7UP. 7UP went full tilt comparative, assailing Coke and Pepsi by branding themselves as “Uncola.” As a wise fictional gangster once said, you come at the king, you best not miss, and, for the moment, 7UP certainly didn’t. The '70s also saw the growth of the great Burger King/ McDonald’s battle royale (with cheese). McDonald’s had introduced the Big Mac in the late '60s to combat the Burger King’s Whopper, and the burger blitzkrieg continued into the '70s. Plans to release “light” beers and “diet” sodas were set into motion to attempt to head off competition heading into the '80s, which companies believed would be met with smashing success. They would, ultimately, be proven correct, but how? How did they have any idea that a lighter beer without as much alcohol content (blasphemy!) or a soda that’s better for you but leaves some taste to be desired would be at all successful? That would be due to the evolution of a concept that advertisers can’t live without today and all high schoolers bane when writing papers for classes they despise--research. After the freewheeling advertising methods of the 1960s, advertisers decided to rein themselves (and their finances) in a bit more. With the advent of more enhanced computer technology, advertisers were able to really buckle on down and get some firm empirical evidence as to what their customers enjoyed, and would continue to enjoy in the future, into the legendary advertising era that would be the 1980s…

 

So that’s it for this week’s installment of Ad Nauseam, but we’ll be back to close the series out with a look at the 1980s and 1990s in a couple weeks! If you thought this blog was “cool beans” (here comes the slang rampage) then don’t be a “chump” and check out our website! Catch you on the flip side, thanks for reading!

I Think, Therefore, I Jam: How Music Impacts Film and T.V.

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Naaaants ingonyamaaa bagithiiiii Babaaaa sithi uhm ingonyama.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the actual translation of the lyrics to the song that famously accompanies the opening scene of “The Lion King.” Now you actually know the exact lyrics and don’t have to make them up if you ever feel strangely compelled to sing it, i.e. “Iiii see Kenyaaa a mighty chihuahua.” (Fun fact, it actually translates to “Here comes a lion, Father, oh yes, it’s a lion.”  A tad less epic, if I may say so.)

Now imagine said opening scene ... without that song. The YouTube series “How Music Affects Film,” (which was literal music to my ears when I stumbled on it making this blog) shows what that would be like in their seventeenth installment. Per their usual routine, they take several types of music and dub them over the scene or, in one case, not having music at all. Watching the scene without music is like seeing a wet koala. Go ahead, look it up. The illusion of the adorable koala is cast into the shadow realm and replaced by something ... something terrible. And that’s exactly what happens to the scene. It just ends up being a bunch of bored-looking animals glancing at the sun. Not the most powerful stuff. Or, in another case, the original Kenyan lyrics are replaced by “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. Obviously, the tone is a little looser. It ends up looking like the hippest gathering of wild animals you’ve ever seen since Mowgli and Baloo got crunk to “Bare Necessities.” The series goes through a few other musical choices and, unsurprisingly, they have a serious effect on the tone of the scene.

Music is, in some ways, taken for granted when we’re watching television or film. If a scene gets you pumped, makes you sob, evokes a giggle or two or a shriek of childlike terror, you’re probably so caught up in what’s going on that you don’t even realize that music is a major driving force behind those feelings.

Sweet Emotion

Now you can go anywhere on YouTube and see hilarious examples of how wildly different a scene can be perceived emotionally by changing the music, but let’s focus on this one, the scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” where we get introduced to the drunken rambling genius who is Captain Jack Sparrow. In the clip, we see the exact same scene in four different ways thanks to the use of four different scores, those being triumphant and victorious, scary and foreboding, comical, and sad and thoughtful. It’s literally the exact same scene, replayed four times, but with each change of music the emotion conveyed radically changes. You could have a close-up of me standing in a field with a totally neutral expression, and the music playing in the background would really be the only thing you have to go by as to what the mood of the scene is supposed to be. If it’s emotional and powerful music, maybe I’m getting psyched to do something bold or courageous. If you hear shrill and piercing violins, I very well may be about to be stabbed. If it’s some funky music, I may have just spotted a devastatingly attractive woman. Music is essential to understanding a film or television production’s tone.

Sometimes, however, in a method used by the much more skilled, this notion can be totally thrown out the window. Take Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” In a scene where Marie and two of her homies are just hanging out, eating some evidently fancy candy, the song (and I’m not kidding) “I Want Candy” plays. That’s right, a 1982 pop hit by the band Bow Wow Wow is used in a biopic about the last Queen of France in the 18th century. A pretty wild choice, but Coppola wanted to present the subject matter almost as what a teen movie would look like two hundred years ago so, ultimately, it’s the right one.

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Another great example of this is the master himself, Stanley Kubrick, maybe the greatest film maker of all time (disagree and I humbly request you alienate yourself from your involvement with Trove). His use of music is widely considered the best, as he both utilizes and defies convention at every turn. Take “A Clockwork Orange” for example. In his adaptation of the classic novel about Alex, a teenage psychopath in a dystopian future, Kubrick presents grandly staged scenes of a bit of the old ultraviolence to classical music such as Beethoven (or Ludwig Van, as Alex calls him). The result is a tone that is one of just plain chaos.

For The Longest Time

These are particularly good examples (if I may say so myself) of skillful defiance of musical convention for another reason as well, as they don’t just defy tonal tradition but also the tradition of another function music is commonly used for -- to create a sense of time and place. You would think Coppola would choose the classical music for a biopic on Marie Antoinette, and Kubrick would choose some techno music that sounds a bit more futuristic. Both filmmakers do at one point employ these tactics, and it works, evoking a real sense of when and where the story is taking place. How many movies, shows, or commercials have you watched about the 1970s America that just have an incredible soundtrack? Even if the quality may fluctuate, the only constant about productions made about that era is that their music is awesome because ... well, because some awesome music came out in the '70s. If you’re watching something that takes place in 1920s New Orleans, there’s a good chance you’re going to hear some jazz. 1990s California, maybe some grunge. If you’re watching a clip of a dude eating some bratwurst in Berlin in 1983, it probably going to be accompanied by some “99 Luftballoons.” Regardless of where and when what you’re watching is taking place, music is an extremely effective method of taking you there.

Leitmotifs (You Try to Come Up With a Creative Title With that Word)

While we’re on the topic of “luftballoons,” let’s address another German word, this one being “leitmotif,” another pivotal factor in what makes music so important in production. Some of you are probably familiar with the word “motif,” which basically means a recurring theme in a story. A leitmotif, however, is essentially a recurring theme song, commonly associated with a specific person or event that you’re going to end up seeing repeated quite a bit in whatever you’re watching. Take for example one of the truly great cinematic badasses of all time: Darth Vader (until the petulant man-child that is Hayden Christensen whined his way into the franchise). Every time that man shows up in a scene, the classic Imperial March score plays, and you know every time you hear it that some bad, bad business is about to go down. Same thing with Bruce, the shark from “Jaws.” Yes, the crew actually called him Bruce. Terrifying, I know. Every time Bruce is about to get his munch on, we hear that famous score, and, much like Lord Vader, we know that things may not turn out too well for those involved in that scene. Villains aren’t the only ones that have leitmotifs though; whenever Indiana Jones does something of an obscenely heroic or adventurous nature, his token jam accompanies him. When any of the four charmingly whimsical hobbits of “The Lord of the Rings” do anything of particular charm or whimsy, we get ... you guessed it, some charming and whimsical music!

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Even in everyday life, when you’re just watching television, leitmotifs present themselves in the form of a jingle. When you drink Folgers, it’s hard not to remember that, apparently, the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup, as the jingle decrees. Or when you go get some Meow Mix for your starving cat, who doesn’t think of the utter and ceaseless onslaught of musical “meows” that invade your ears when one of their commercials would come on?

Music is influential on so many levels. Without music, your favorite movie may not be your favorite movie; “So King Kong fell off the building, big whoop.” That episode of T.V. you watched that one time may not have moved you to tears; “Ned Stark? Really? Are you kidding me? Why?!” Or that commercial wouldn’t have been anywhere near as effective in seducing you to buy their product; “You know what? I think I will buy the world a Coke.” An amazing musician who passed away just two days ago, a Mr. Tom Petty, once said that music is “pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals. It communicates and does all of these incredible things.” Couldn’t have said it any better myself, Mr. Petty.

Was this particular blog your proverbial “jam” this week? Well we have quite the playlist of similar tunes on our website, check it out! Thanks for reading!

Hunk a' Burnin' Consumerism: Video Ads in the 1950s

Part One of Trove's "Ad Nauseam" Blog Series

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As I sat writing this blog, tucked away in the orange glory that is the Trove Studio office, I looked around to notice that, somehow, the room seemed to be relatively barren of ads (besides, of course, the majestic “TROVE STUDIO” logo). I was fixing to make a point that you can’t escape advertising in everyday life, but it appeared my theory and therefore my entire introduction to this blog had been cast into the shadow realm.

Then I notice the deer.

It’s a real mack daddy stag, strutting his stuff, dominant but...noble. Behind him is a vast countryside, complete with a roaring waterfall. This particular deer, and said vista surrounding him, is the face of the brand Deer Park, “100% Natural Spring Water,” the particular brand of my half-empty bottle of water (or is it half-full?) While the deer isn’t cavorting about with its deer bros on my T.V. or anything, an ad is an ad, and branding and packaging are essential to a successful campaign. There’s even an ad within the ad, as Deer Park advertises their delivery service on the label as well. This is some Christopher Nolan, “Inception” level advertising here folks.

The point here is that advertising, whether we’re blasting down a busy urban highway at an alarming rate or sitting in a cozy production studio office, is all around us. It’s a living thing, as the Electric Light Orchestra would say, and it’s constantly growing, changing, and adapting in accordance with society. Advertising is of such pivotal importance to both Trove and to culture as a whole that we’ve decided to do a three-part post on it discussing how it’s operated and looked through the ages. So here we go with Part 1, where we go way back to a time that is essentially the birth of modern advertising. A time where the phrase “cruisin’ for a bruisin’” actually struck fear into the hearts of men, and where fedoras were actually deemed normal -- the 1950s.

Obviously, advertising had been around for ages before the 1950s in the form of print -- and I mean ages. The ancient Egyptians were literally making posters for medicine on freaking papyrus thousands of years ago. Like Roger Sterling once said on the hit show “Mad Men,” “For all we know, Jesus was working on the fish and loaves account.”

So what makes the '50s such a big deal? Well it’s a combination of a couple of factors, the first of which being the old boob tube -- television. The television as we know it debuted in 1941, and by 1951 advertisers were earning about 41 million dollars in revenue from it. Not the most stunning of numbers with today's inflation, but at the time, that was a damn decent amount. Which makes the fact that by 1953 television was producing 336 million dollars in revenue extremely impressive for the time period.

Why the explosion in productivity? Well, as decreed by the gods of economics, the fundamental concepts behind any economic expansion of a product is supply and demand. And gee-whiz (as they would say in the 1950s) was there demand. In 1945, World War II had finally come to a close, and it was time for America to kick off a new generation -- the baby boomers. In 1945, there were roughly 2.8 million births in the United States of America. By 1950, there were 3.6, and by the end of the decade there were 4.3. To reference both my genius title of this blog and the words of a man who was absolutely killing it in the '50s, there was some serious burning love going on.

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And with said romantic inferno came quite the economic domino effect. The growth in population led to the growth of the classic form of suburbia that we all know today, with its white picket fences and cookie-cutter houses, i.e. “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Stepford Wives.” By the end of the decade, about one third of Americans lived in the surburbs. They were a perfect spot to raise families; a commutable ride to a major city, but not in the actual city itself. So you have seemingly endless rows upon rows of suburban homes, with seemingly endless amounts of families coming to fill them, and seemingly endless demand from a country that had been exhausted from a massive war. Enter advertising and its newest weapon: the television.

Sights, Sounds, and Sponsors

People needed the latest, greatest, and most fashionable new appliances to fill their homes. They needed the sleekest and most stylish new car to show off on their way to work. They wanted the tastiest and most easily made food to feed their probably massive family. And advertisers stepped up to the plate and just Mickey Mantled the thing. Air conditioners, heaters, stoves, ovens, refrigerators, washers, dryers, furniture of all shapes and sizes, frozen foods and/or prepared food; pretty much anything you see in your house right now saw a major spike in demand. And, of course, it had to be fashion sensitive. Nobody wanted a pea green and dark yellow couch (I tried to think of possibly the worst color combination imaginable). Advertisers began to emphasize catchy slogans, mascots, and celebrity endorsements in an attempt to stand out in the midst of such rampant demand. The '50s gave us such classic mascots as Mr. Clean, the Jolly Green Giant, the Budweiser Clydesdales, and the beginning of beautiful, breakfast-centric friendship between three gnomic elves named Snap, Crackle, and, of course, Pop. Speaking of breakfast icons, a surprisingly jovial predator feline named Tony the Tiger showed up in the '50s too, telling the world that Frosted Flakes are “Grrrrreat!” And that was just one of a bevy of legendary slogans to spring up during the time, as we also learned that Rice-A-Roni was the San Francisco treat, you can double your pleasure (as well as your fun) with Doublemint Gum, a little dab of Brylcreem will do ya’ just fine, many people wanted you to give them a break of your Kit-Kat Bar, and Dinah Shore told us all to “see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet.”

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Speaking of Dinah Shore, celebrity endorsements became more popular in the '50s as well. John Wayne essentially said if you smoked Camels you’d be just as much of a badass as he is. Frank Sinatra serenaded us about Halo shampoo. Loretta Young evoked some serious product placement for laundry detergent. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz smoked Philip Morris cigarettes like it was their devout religion on “I Love Lucy.” In a shocking twist, Philip Morris heavily sponsored the show (gasp).

In fact, the 1950s is when America saw some of the heaviest sponsorship from advertisers to the point that shows were actually taking on their names in their titles in a fashion that seems more than mildly ludicrous today. (For you young people out there reading this, I swear to you that these shows actually existed and their names have not been altered in any way.) Such shows included “The Colgate Comedy Hour,” “Texaco Star Theatre,” “Kraft Television Theater,” “Goodyear TV Playhouse,” and the “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports,” and that’s just to name a few. Back in the '50s the advertising agencies had the real power, with the networks basically acting as a secretary of sorts, working on scheduling. Networks were the fat little Sancho Panzas to the Don Quixotes that were the ad agencies. However, the agencies would soon find themselves tilting at the wrong windmill and losing that power with what are known as the quiz show scandals, but we’ll get to that when we talk about the 60’s in the next blog.

But while memorable slogans, anthropomorphic cartoon animals, cowboys smoking cigarettes, and radical sponsorships were the name of the game in the '50s, the most iconic bit of advertising that came out of the decade and legitimately redefined the culture was simple--family. With the 1950s came the portrait of the “idealized” American family. The father was a suit-wearing, smoking, 9-5 worker, driving his outrageously nice car home from work to his lovely wife, donning her best apron as she made an immaculate dinner after cleaning the house so well it practically shined. The children were well-behaved and respectful, watching “Howdy Doody” or “The Mickey Mouse Club” while not dutifully accomplishing their chores. At the end of the day, the family sits around the dinner table, says grace, and shares a warm meal. This image, while obviously not the most legitimately idealized version of an American family in today’s society, was all any family wanted in the 1950s, and advertisers knew it, and attempted to sell them products that could help them achieve it. And, to most people, it appeared to be working, as the '50s were seen as quite an idyllic era, especially after the strife of the '30s and '40s. But little did they know, the not-so idyllic '60s were right around the corner...

 

So while that’s it for this week’s blog, that’s definitely not if for advertising! Stay tuned for the next chapter of Trove’s "Ad Nauseam" blog series, where we’ll tackle the 1960s and '70s! If you want to see what else is “buzzin’, cuzzin’” (more good fifties slang) with Trove, check out our other blogs and website, daddy-o (I had to include one more). Thanks for reading!   

Growing Pains: A Guide For How to Survive As a Small Business

A lot has happened since our last blog post. 

Over the past several months we've had the privilege of working to create video content for our wonderful clients including Herff Jones, Siemens, and our newest theater partners, Theatrical Outfit. We've also done our fair share of traveling- shooting video in Texas, New Mexico, and Boston. It's been great expanding our customer base and really getting to build roots in our new home here in Atlanta, Georgia. While it's been awesome to have the work, the influx has contributed to some growing pains. Here's what we've learned through the spurts:

Stream of Consciousness

How Netflix and Other Streaming Sites Are Changing the Game in the Entertainment Industry

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I have a really good friend of mine who blows up my phone on a regular basis just for the casual chat. We cycle through the usual topics of discussion one would find in your run-of-the-mill conversation -- work, school, romantic interests (or lack thereof), yada yada yada.

However, as the conversation comes to a close, another frequently discussed topic surfaces -- what show we’re currently watching. The latest of her obsessions (besides calling me), include bingeing Netflix’s “Thirteen Reasons Why,” NBC’s “This Is Us,” streaming on Hulu, and the latest season of “Blacklist”, also on Netflix. For me, it was Hulu’s latest original “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and currently “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” available on HBO’s streaming site, HBOGO, which is prettay, prettay, prettay, pretty good.

Truth be told, this is the state of the world today. Binge-watching and streaming sites in general are dominating the entertainment industry today, whether they're original sites, like Netflix or Hulu, or streaming sites for particular networks, like FOX, ABC, or HBO. In fact, it’s almost to the point where DVDs and other, more traditional methods of home entertainment are becoming extinct. The fact of the matter is, these services wield unheralded power; the power to keep your posterior somehow irrevocably immobile, as you steadily lose your concept of what’s going on around you in favor of watching Kevin Spacey ruthlessly insult his underlings in “House of Cards,” or Piper Chapman attempt to not get shivved in “Orange Is the New Black.” How did these services acquire this power? What are they doing with it? And how exactly is it affecting the entertainment industry as a whole? In the words of Robert Plant, all will be revealed. That is, if you can pull yourself away from bingeing for a few minutes to read yet another masterful blog.

Netflix and Chill

Let’s start with the one that started it all -- Netflix. The now media giant began in 1997 as a rival to Blockbuster and other video rental businesses. As you may notice today, Netflix won that battle; spotting a Blockbuster is almost as likely as seeing a Yeti, or hearing Justin Bieber sing like a man. That’s because Netflix didn’t stop there. In 2007, the site began to focus on streaming media, starting small with only about 1,000 movies available to stream. It only grew in popularity as time went on, climaxing with the cultural tectonic shift that was “House of Cards” in 2013.

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While not the apex of quality television, “House of Cards” is forever culturally relevant due to the fact that it was the dawn of what’s now a massive movement in streaming services, that being original programming, with the big names attached (Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, director David Fincher) launching the site to super-stardom. Sure, Netflix had distributed films and television in the past and had semi-original content, but “Cards” is what really put it on the map. From there, Netflix has gone on the warpath, as their cup now runneth over with original content, with dramas such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” and “Narcos,” as well as comedies like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Masters of None.” Marvel’s gotten in on the action too, as they now have another mini-universe inside their already gargantuan one, with shows like “Luke Cage,” “Jessica Jones,” and “Daredevil." These originals, combined with the thousands of films and shows available from other studios and networks, are what’s made Netflix an absolute cultural B.A.M.F., with nearly 100 million subscribers in 190 countries.

Other Islands in the Stream

But, of course, Netflix can’t be allowed to have the monopoly. Enter Amazon Studios and Hulu, Netflix’s chief rivals. Hulu, the scrappy up-and-comer, arrived in 2007, actually beginning original content in 2012 with the little known travel series “Up to Speed,” but not really taking off until 2016 with “The Path,” “Casual,” and this year’s hit, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Amazon Studios, a division of Amazon that focuses on developing, producing, and distributing films and television shows, came on the scene in 2010, and launched original programming in 2014, their marquee accomplishment being their dramedy “Transparent,” starring Jeffrey Tambor. Both Amazon Studios and Hulu, like Netflix, also thrive off of streaming non-original content as well, with Hulu at about 12 million subscribers and Amazon Studios at around 50. Naturally, the success of these sites led to networks creating streaming sites as well, such as premium services HBOGO, ShowtimeAnytime, and your standard cable services, like the streaming sites for ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.

Four Reasons Why 

So why so successful? A few reasons. First, price. All three come in at roughly ten dollars a month, more towards twelve if you get the fancy-shmancy premium packages. That’s a hundo fifty a year to stream seemingly endless content. Don’t mind if I do.

Second, convenience. Whether it’s Hulu or FXNOW, you are the master of your domain, to quote a Mr. Jerry Seinfeld. You can pretty much watch whatever you want, whenever you want. Netflix alone has -- and I swear, this isn’t a joke or a number I pulled out of my hiney -- 76,897 micro-genres. If you assembled 76, 897 people and assigned them all a micro-genre and attempted to seat them in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium here in Atlanta, some people wouldn’t have a seat. That is such a preposterously accommodating move by Netflix for their customers that a butler from the Victorian age would feel downright ashamed of himself.

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Third, commercials. Or, more specifically, their absence. Netflix and Amazon are the most popular forms for a reason; in no way do you have to deal with commercials or advertisements of any kind. Why watch a rerun of “Parks and Recreation” on television when you can watch it without commercials on Netflix? Even streaming sites that do have commercials, like the network streaming sites and Hulu, are actually bending advertising to their will and promoting major shifts in advertising methods. One method that’s been around forever but is growing particularly popular due to streaming is targeted advertising, where various methods, whether it’s looking at your browsing history, gender, past views, or even location, are employed to get right down to the nitty-gritty and snare that particular viewer’s attention while they watch whatever they’re streaming on their device. Another, newer method is interactive advertising. I was watching “Fargo” on FXNOW a few months ago and was given a choice; watch a full trailer for “Alien: Covenant,” or “interact” with an “Alien: Covenant” ad by simply clicking a link. I chose the latter, and returned to “Fargo” seconds later. If you’re offering viewers an alternate mode of dealing with ads that not only is shorter than dealing with an actual ad but also one where they get to interact with your product, chances are they’re going to bite. And streaming sites are the perfect place to practice such innovations.

Finally, the last reason these sites are so successful is, to put it simply, that they know what you as a viewer want. Netflix has a legitimate mathematical algorithm where they can figure out what exactly will appeal to an audience, and they use that to both create original content and to recommend new content. Netflix sees that millions of users love streaming “Parks and Recreation,” so they pounce on “Masters of None,” the brainchild of one of the stars of “Parks,” Aziz Ansari. Netflix’s microgenre “80’s Science Fiction Classics” is getting a lot of action, so they pick up “Stranger Things,” a series-long homage to that decade. “Arrested Development” and “Breaking Bad” are highly streamed, so Netflix snags “Bojack Horseman,” a series starring Will Arnett and Aaron Paul, major stars from those respective shows. You get the picture. And once they see you’ve watched “Arrested Development” and “Bojack Horseman,” what do you know; now they’ve recommended “Flaked” to you, another Netflix original starring, you guessed it, Will Arnett. Hulu and Amazon employ similar tactics, and it’s been a smashing success for all three sites.

Mad With Power

So what now? Well, power begets the desire for more power (I just made that up, damn I’m good). All three sites are pretty much overwhelming television at this point, even beginning to clean up on the awards circuit, with all three beginning to notch regular wins and nominations at the Emmys and other major award ceremonies. Just this last Sunday, “The Handmaid’s Tale” became the first streaming service original to win Outstanding Drama Series, the creme de la creme of Emmy wins. Kind of a big deal.

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When you’ve conquered television, the next logical course of action has got to be film, of course. Now all three sites have begun to both produce and distribute original films, some being more successful than others. But the movement is there, especially with Amazon Studios and Netflix, who went on a rampage at Sundance film festival. They were the biggest spenders there, buying fifteen movies between the two of them. Amazon Studios became the first streaming site to win an Oscar last year, as they co-produced “Manchester by the Sea,” winner of two Oscars and the cause of the first time I’ve sobbed uncontrollably in a movie theater (and a plane). These sites are now casting a wider net to include prestige film making, and they’re not that far off.

So while you lay there, rendered useless to society and your peers, at the mercy of what’s next on your Hulu queue, or lying to yourself and saying you’ll watch just one more episode and then do something productive, know this; you are not alone. And with all the streaming fervor Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have created, this may just be the tip of the iceberg.

 

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Atlanta: The Hollywood of the South

     A New Entertainment Production Empire

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It’s a typically wonderful Atlanta day, with it’s abnormally wonderful weather, so you decide to go through a little jaunt through downtown. As you go about your little stroll, you notice bright yellow signs pointing down certain streets with the word “FIGARO” scrawled on it. Curious, you follow them.

A few minutes later, you reach “FIGARO” and spot some familiar faces there -- Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, and many, many more. That’s right -- “FIGARO” is, in fact, the production code for the upcoming mega-blockbuster, “The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1,” filming right here in downtown Atlanta. In fact, your odds are pretty good, if not a slam dunk, that if the movie or show you just watched wasn’t filmed in New York City or California, it was filmed in Atlanta or Georgia in general.

the current clientele

On the movie front, Atlanta has become Marvel Studios’ go-to spot, with both “Ant-Man” films, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Black Panther,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” all filming here, just to name a few. Atlanta also has become Tyler Perry’s base of operations, as literally every film with the prefix “Tyler Perry’s” is filmed in the city.  And it doesn’t end there; “The Hunger Games” franchise, “Anchorman 2,” and this year’s big hit “Baby Driver” were all filmed right here in Georgia. The list goes on for days.

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And television is just as, if not even more, active here, with endless projects filming here regularly. “The Vampire Diaries,” “Stranger Things,” “Archer,” “Atlanta,” and, of course, the one that started it all, “The Walking Dead.” Rodney Ho, a reporter for The Atlantic Journal-Constitution, notes, “There are nine scripted shows being shot in Atlanta. One on ABC, one on CBS, three on Fox, and four on the CW, which is by far the most we’ve had so far and doesn’t even include those shot by Netflix, which has at least three shows shooting here. Amazon’s shooting a couple shows here. Syfy’s got a few shows here. AMC has a couple shows shooting here. Almost every network that does scripted programming has something shooting here.” For every one of those networks to be involved in one area is absolute insanity for an area that isn't N.Y.C. or L.A.

fat stacks

Speaking of New York and Los Angeles, Atlanta is hot on their trails with production at a level so wildly profitable it’d make Ebenezer Scrooge blush. In 2016 alone, Georgia productions made $2.02 billion off of 245 productions, resulting in an economic impact of $7.2 billion. As George Harrison might exclaim, my sweet lord. That, my friends, is a lot of money. And what’s even more astounding is how fast the industry has grown. In 2013, those numbers were 142 productions, making $933 million for $3.3 billion in impact. In 2007, just nine years ago, there were only 48 productions with $93 million made for an impact of $242 million. For you math whizzes out there, that is a jaw dropping five times as many productions being made, 22 times as much money being made, and nearly 30 times as much of an economic impact being made in just nine years. It’s like that scene in the aforementioned “Captain America: Civil War” where Ant-Man goes from being ant-sized to being a giant -- except economically.

Of course, with big business comes jobs, and the entertainment industry has helped create literally thousands of them. For the production of “Ant-Man” alone, 3,500 people were employed. For one production. Not too shabby. Let me throw another impressive number at you. The Atlanta film and television production industry is responsible for roughly 85,000 jobs in the state, directly and indirectly related to the industry. It’s just a freaking gold rush right now for Georgia, California’s looks like small potatoes.

“[The production boom] is about the 1,000 people that are behind that actor. It’s the hotel rooms that get booked out for months. It’s the caterers. Nobody can get studio space, because every studio is booked.”
— Matt Thompson, Executive Producer, “Archer”

tell me why

So what’s provoking such fantastic filming fervor in the area? There are a few factors, none of which have anything to do with money.

Of course, that was a joke, and the primary reason is, naturally, centered entirely on money. In 2005, a bill by the name of HB1100 was passed, otherwise known as the Entertainment Industry Investment Act -- how fancy is that name? Right off the bat, it was a filmmaker’s dream, offering tax incentives that would make Donald Trump salivate. Slowly but surely, the bill was revised and edited to its current glory, where a production that costs 500,000 dollars or more to make gets a fat, juicy tax credit of twenty percent, with an extra ten percent if you reference the state or feature their logo at some point during your credits. You know you’ve seen the logo before, the big Georgia peach, sometimes with a man rocking a robustly deep voice powerfully stating in a voiceover that what you just watched was “MADE IN GEORGIA.”

So that’s a 30 percent tax credit you’re getting just for having your production “MADE IN GEORGIA.” Not a bad gig, huh?

Shockingly, though, the allure of the Peach State for production purposes isn’t all money-based. If you take a little cruise through our fine state, you’ll find that you’re really running quite the geographical gamut. Georgia’s got beaches, mountains, forests, sleepy little rural towns and hustlin’ and bustlin’ cities. So want to film a scene in “New York?” Let’s try downtown Atlanta, they won’t notice the difference! A skyscraper’s a skyscraper, right? Want to film, say, a show about zombies that takes your characters through seemingly endless miles of woods? Try the little town of Senoia, which AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has made into a quite a thriving community. You name it, Georgia’s got it.

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So we’ve got a state with tons of geographic variation, a ridiculous tax incentive, and a humming metropolis that’s one of the biggest cities in the nation. Sounds like a recipe for success as is. But there’s one more contributing factor that is worth noting, and that is the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Hartsfield-Jackson has 26 direct flights to Los Angeles alone, which is a huge advantage. But, it also helps that the airport is literally the busiest airport in the United States. With that much of a transportation hub in your state, that’s only going to make business even better.

don't stop me now

Because of all this, Atlanta and Georgia’s production industries are constantly growing. Sound stages and production studios are only becoming more and more prevalent, some spanning several acres. Pinewood Studios, arguably the most popular in the area due to its involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has 18 sound stages on over 700 acres of land, and it even has its own Home Depot. Its own Home Depot! Come on!

So sure, enjoy your L.A.’s and your N.Y.C.’s. That’s fine, they’re remarkable cities. But there's another set of initials in mind, as you may be hearing more and more about it as it becomes bigger and bigger in the production industry. Those initials are A.T.L.

 

If you just had the time of your life reading this, which I imagine you did, you can check out the rest of our blogs from Trove Studios right here, or like us on Facebook! Looking to get in on the action and get some production? Trove can help you with that too! Feel free to contact us!

 

 

 

Nostalgia vs. NostalgUgh

The Positives and Negatives of Film and Television Remakes, Reboots, and Revivals

Photo by fergregory/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by fergregory/iStock / Getty Images

The website Rotten Tomatoes, probably the most consulted and popular source for film and television reviews on the internet, runs a weekly article called the Weekly Ketchup -- cringe-worthy pun, right? In this stunningly named series of articles, which we at Trove follow religiously, the site posts “the best and worst of film headlines,” to use their own words.

Now if you were to go on and sift through a few Weekly Ketchups, which you can do right here you would find a fairly obvious trend: remakes seem to be on the rise. If it’s not a remake, it’s a reboot. And if we’re talking TV, you’ve got yourself a revival. If you conduct a simple Google search, you’ll find an overwhelming amount of examples from this year alone. On the big screen, to name a few, we’ve got “Baywatch,” “Jumanji,” “War for the Planet of the Apes” (the third of a trilogy of reboots), “The Mummy,” “Chips,” “Power Rangers,” “Flatliners,” “It,” “Death Wish,” and the second reboot of Spider-Man with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

TV is running up their revival tab this year too with shows like “24,” “Twin Peaks,” “S.W.A.T.,” “Will and Grace,” “Dynasty,” and even “Star Trek,” which already got the film reboot treatment. Trust me, it’s just as exhausting listing all of them as it is reading all of them. And that’s just this year. According to Den of Geek, there’s at least 120 more remakes or reboots in production to be heading to a theater near you . And on the television front, roughly 40 shows are being made reviving or rebooting classic television or film.

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Is it a Reboot, Remake, or Revival? Here's How You Know

To clarify, there actually are legitimate differences between remakes, reboots, and revivals. A remake is pretty straightforward, you’re … remaking something. For example, pretty much any of the plethora of upcoming live-action Disney adaptations can fall under the remake category, such as “The Jungle Book” or “Beauty and the Beast.”

A reboot is a remake with a twist, as it will feature an old concept and characters but throw them in a new plot, like the aforementioned “Baywatch” or new “Star Trek” film trilogy.

A revival is more associated with television, as it will take old characters and continue their stories years after the fact, like the latest season of “Gilmore Girls” that appeared on Netflix a few months ago, or Showtime’s “Twin Peaks: The Return,” currently airing.

Like it or not, these three concepts are becoming a pivotal part of modern pop culture. There’s no ignoring them. How do you cope? Well, the three Rs -- as I’ll be referring to them from here on out -- certainly aren’t the best thing for the film and television industries, but they may not be the worst. All three have both positive and negative aspects worth exploring.

 

Follow the Money

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On one hand, and a more obvious note, the three Rs are a financial slam dunk. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What, “Star Wars” is one of the highest grossing franchises of all time? Let’s make three more with some of the old guys but a bunch of new guys! The Andrew Garfield “Spider-Man” movies were a bust? Let’s give it another whirl a few years later with a new kid! “24” was a ratings monolith? Let’s see if it can be again! You get the idea.

Money is obviously at the forefront of the decision making process when it comes to greenlighting any of the three Rs. Let history repeat itself, and everybody gets their wallets a little more padded. Financially, it’s not the worst thing for the entertainment industry, as money, to quote “Cabaret,” makes the world go around.

But then we encounter that term “selling out.” While the three Rs are banking on a previously tested successful entertainment formula, they lack one attribute that is valued by all viewers. Whether it’s the binge-watching sloth/man hybrid who’s become one with his couch, or the posh film critic whose nose is permanently pointing upward, their looking for originality. Watching something that’s bursting with original, unique ideas is one of the most refreshing and rewarding experiences someone can have when dealing with entertainment.

While the three Rs are mostly reliable for financial success, there is the law of diminishing returns to consider. At some point, people just want something different. And the three Rs don’t contribute to that, mostly out of sheer laziness. Sometimes film-makers and television show runners can lapse into a numbing sense of reliability on that formula, like “24: Legacy,” where a rogue embattled hero endlessly kills massive amounts of terrorists while breaking all the rules. Maybe the studio execs would rather go with the “let’s just slap a familiar name on something that’s not going to be very good” plan, like “Baywatch” and “Chips,” profane and asinine R-rated comedies just taking the concepts of the originals. We’d like to offer the point of view that taking a chance and trying something new a good way to go.

 

Saving Graces

On the other hand, there is the rare circumstance where the three Rs inject originality into the story they’re reiterating or continuing, and those are the real winners that almost make the three Rs worth it.

*Some spoilers follow

Take, once again, Spider-Man -- who doesn’t like talking about Spider-Man? You had the super successful Tobey Maguire original trilogy, which ended with the epic crash and burn that was “Spider-Man 3.” A few years later, Sony tried again, producing a reboot starring Andrew Garfield in the title role of “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The first one received solid reviews, but was essentially the same film as the original Tobey with a different villain. Garfield saw his stint end in tragedy as the sequel proved to be another misfire for the franchise.

Enter Tom Holland, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” That’s how you reboot a franchise right there. Sony decided to hop on the Marvel bandwagon with Holland’s incarnation, which means “Homecoming” had the bonus of being included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On top of that, “Homecoming” was a true reboot, keeping Peter Parker in high school the entirety of the film, giving him a love interest previously unseen in the films, and a paternal figure in none other than Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man. None of this had been seen in the franchise before, and critics and fans alike ate it up.

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The new “Star Trek” trilogy is another example. It had the same cast of beloved characters, but threw them into a fresh timeline where the famous Captain Kirk lost his title of captain, Uhura had a romance with Spock instead of Kirk, and Spock saw his entire home world destroyed. Again, nothing we’d seen in the franchise yet, and it worked swimmingly.

And on the television front, let’s talk about “Twin Peaks: The Return.” While it isn’t a ratings giant like “Game of Thrones,” it’s had a solid amount of viewers at roughly a little over a million, and the critical reviews have ranged from positive to feverish and laudatory praise. Some people are calling it the best thing currently on television -- and for good reason. The show, continuing the original story set in motion by its predecessor made nearly twenty-five years ago, has taken advantage of its continued run to expand on the show’s legendary and dense mythology, which was a huge part of what made the original run of episodes such historically successful and groundbreaking television.

It’s these kinds of projects that give the three Rs a real sense of meaning in pop culture. They’re few and far between, unfortunately, as most of the time you get lackluster results. If you were to add the Rotten Tomatoes scores for “The Mummy,” “Chips,” and “Baywatch,” you’re barely breaking fifty percent.

 

Keep Your Chin Up

So while creativity and originality do occasionally fall by the wayside, certain reboots, revivals, and remakes can be very rewarding experiences, like “Twin Peaks: The Return,” “Star Trek,” the new “Planet of the Apes” trilogy and, of course, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” So next time you hear about a new addition to the three Rs catalog being made, wait before you roll your eyes and cry to the gods for mercy from such un-originality. Every once in awhile, one will come along and surprise you.  

What are your thoughts on the three Rs? Are you game to see the old become new, or are you just ready to move along? Sound off below in our comment section! And be sure to check out our other blogs on our website, trovestudio.net/blog !