Celebrating excellence, creativity, inspiration, and leadership in business with an eye for compelling marketing and communications.

I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.

By Joanne Maly

February 16, 2012


“If I think I can  -  I can  -  and  -  will”


Amid the noise.

Despite the to-do lists.

Regardless of the title on our office door.

No matter how many  degrees we have earned.

I believe that one principle remains rock-solid for all of us.

The desire for excellence is personal.

The easy mantra from a favorite children’s story – “The Little Engine That Could” – has long served as an important personal motivator for me.

I know that if I think I can – I can — and will.

I’m reminded again and again that it is our own inside voice that really counts.

My hope for our Simply Said blog readers today is that — you believe … that … you … can!


What is your own personal motivation message?


Thank you for visiting the Simply Said blog within the Lincoln Maly Marketing website.

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Steve Jobs: The End of an Era – Guest Post by John Biggs as posted on Tech Crunch

By Joanne Maly

August 26, 2011

Inimitable Leader – Steve Jobs


His impact. His vision.

Guest post – authored by John Biggs of Tech Crunch.

An inspirational tribute to Steve Jobs.

- a passionate generation-changing cultural leader -

- Apple founder and long-time CEO -


Intro – Joanne Maly of Lincoln Maly Marketing

No doubt, each of us experienced our own personal reactions and emotions on Wednesday evening, August 23, 2011 when Apple announced that Steve Jobs was resigning as CEO of Apple because of health reasons.

Steve Jobs personally impacted the culture of America and the world with his own entrepreneurial spirit and vision, as well as the creative culture of excellence that he has inspired and exemplified for more than a generation. Mr. Jobs has become more than a business leader, technology icon, and innovator.  The creative genius of Mr. Jobs and his very public life helped this man become ‘a real person’ in our lives even though we have never met him personally. We are sad for his failing health and for the loss of his continued ‘thinking-outside-the-box’ inventions.

The day after the announcement, I read the following post written by TechCrunch.com editor, John Biggs and was inspired by the beauty of the John’s words and the simplicity with which he captured the impact, spirit, and legacy of Steve Jobs.

John Biggs has graciously agreed to allow me to include his TechCrunch,com post on the ‘Simply Said’ Blog. Thank you, John.  - jlm

John Bigg’s bio follows at the end of this Simply Said Blog entry.

Steve Jobs: The End of an Era

by John Biggs on TechCrunch.com, August 24, 2011

We all know the broad strokes: a boy is born to a graduate student and her Syrian boyfriend. She places the boy for adoption. He comes to live with Paul and Clara. Paul is a machinist who moved to San Francisco after WWII. He grows up in Santa Clara county. It’s flat, lots of one story buildings, mostly middle/upper middle class, outside of the bad parts. Parts of it are pretty, parts aren’t. He wasn’t coddled. His biological mother makes his adoptive parents promise to send him to college. In fourth grade he has a great teacher and, presumably, another and another.

His parents scrape to send him to Reed. He drops out of college and starts dropping in on classes that interest him. He makes money returning bottles and he hits the Hare Krishna temple now and then for a free meal. He takes calligraphy, eschews the typical coursework, and at age 20 he and a buddy start a company.

He’s a buddhist with a temper. He cuts down rivals and builds up a team of 4,000 dedicated to his singular vision. He’s ousted, builds another company or two, and comes back. He’s kind of a hippie, enjoying Bob Dylan and the Beatles. He loves music.

He’s leaving, now, the victim of something gnawing at his health like sea spray whittles a wooden pier.

Where does that leave Apple? And where does that leave us?

I wasn’t always a Mac lover. I thought they were over-priced and pretty, the candy colors far too silly for my 486 tastes. Any chip that had the word Power in its name was overcompensating, I wagered.

But over the past decade I learned the satisfaction of a machine that just works. It’s a machine that the boy put most of his life into, a machine that has the heart of a much older thing, a thing that lay blinking and frantic in a Stanford computer lab somewhere and then, over time, shrank down to something you and I can fit into our pockets.

Many complained that the ecosystem that he created was a walled garden, but I’d equate it to a pasture. “The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance,” wrote Zen master Shunryu Suzuki. “But its background is always in perfect harmony.” In the front, anything can happen. In the back, perfect calm and order.

There is a strain of Internet thought that requires us to tear down, to refuse to see the other side. There will be plenty of that going on in the next few days as talking heads talk. But name one CEO who, on leaving his company, will raise such a wave of well-wishes and interest? When Michael Dell dodders off or Howard Stringer plops into a club chair for his final cigar, will anyone care the next day?

We all know the broad strokes: The man got sicker, he almost quit, kept at it. He embraced a successor and groomed him to be as calm a force as he once was. He kept us surprised, entertained, constantly speculating. We wondered where he was. If he was well.

We all know the broad strokes: He isn’t well. He’s stepped down. Another Buddhist (or near enough to one) said “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

Godspeed, Mr. Jobs. We’ll miss you on stage.

About John Biggs

John Biggs lives in Brooklyn, New York and writes about technology, security, gadget, gear, wristwatches, and the Internet. After spending four years as an IT programmer, John switched gears and became a full-time journalist.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Laptop, PC Upgrade, Surge, Gizmodo, Men’s Health, InSync, Linux Journal, Popular Science, Sync. John has written a book called Black Hat: Misfits, Criminals, and Scammers in the Internet Age.

John Biggs is currently Editor-in-Chief of CrunchGear.com and he runs the BigWideLogic.com family of blogs, including SlushPile.net and WristWatchReview.com. John also runs the HourTime Podcast with Ariel Adams.

Thank you for allowing us to share your post, with our Simply Said Blog readers.  - jlm


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Yesterday … You Said Tomorrow. Today is … ‘that’ day.

By Joanne Maly

April 3, 2011

Yesterday … You Said Tomorrow.



The simplicity of these words disguises the depth of this message.

The length of the phrase minimalizes the weight of the thought.

The power in this thought can change a direction.

The direction of a person. A cause. A career. A life.

Did you ever step back and ask yourself what am I putting off until tomorrow that I need to do today?

I saw this particular Nike message a few years ago and it still serves as a wake-up reminder for me.

Yesterday … You Said Tomorrow.

What is it that holds me back from being all that I can be?

From being the person I was created to be?

From being the force of change in the world around me?

From being the quiet when the world is loud?

From being the voice when others won’t speak?

From being the soul when the cause has lost its heart?

What is it that halts me from speaking from my heart for fear that others will think less of me?

What is it that prevents me from being the courageous leader when it is more comfortable to be a silent follower?

What is it that holds me back from speaking the positive when being negative is more popular?

… From being the creative source when others just repeat what is working for others?

What is it that is stopping me from seizing “this” moment?

… From not accepting risk and not taking a chance?

What am I not seeing? Not doing?

What am I not taking personal responsibility for?

What am I waiting until tomorrow to do … when if I could do it now … I could make the difference that is needed … today.

If this was my last day on this planet – what do I need to do?

To make the difference I was meant to make?

If I want to make a difference, then no more tomorrows.


Today is the day.

Today is that day.

I am going to Seize it.

How about you?



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The Power of Simplicity.

By Joanne Maly

April 30, 2010

The Power of Simplicity

©Sergey Galushko - Fotolia

Quiet. Solitude. Peace. Purity. Simplicity. Beauty.

Important words. Words that are at the core of each one of us. As persons. As professionals.

And again, as individual persons first.

Whether our role in life is as a business professional, a medical professional, an artist, a teacher, an athlete, or a politician, a government employee, a student … one pervasive need is simplicity.

A very inspiring video of a 7-year-old Texas girl and young gospel singer named Rhema Marvanne singing a simple rendition of Amazing Grace gave me a moment of reflection this morning before I began a busy day, followed by a busy weekend, in a busy month, in a busy life.

The purity of the song and the quiet acoustic presentation of the music itself helped remind me again in my own personal life – and in my business life – to get to the core of the message, get to the baseline, drown out the noise, stay focused, and remain grounded.

Solutions, results, and success will follow.

Quiet, solitude, peace, simplicity, and beauty will follow.

I’ll leave you with that simple message today and with this moving video.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share your comments in the section below.

This post is dedicated to a new friend, T.C., who works passionately and importantly to find the baseline message amidst the noise and mentors many in pursuit of that goal.

If you liked this post, please share it on Twitter, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And, I’d be honored if you would like to follow me on Twitter @JoanneMaly or visit the Lincoln Maly Marketing Facebook Fan Page.

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It’s Contagious – Viral Marketing – Creative Ideas

By Joanne Maly

April 23, 2010

It’s Contagious.

I love the new definition of contagious these days. Not medically speaking, of course.

For many businesses, the trend du jour is to be perceived as different, bold, edgy, creative and fun — and to have your message spread with a mind of its own.

The goal is to have your message reach potential eyes, ears, fingers, computers, ipods, ipads and mobile phones as quickly and as broadly as possible.

Undoubtedly, there are many an ad agency and product company who woke up this very morning hoping that someone on their staff would have a simply genius idea today. And they hoped that idea would result in a print ad, tv commercial or online video that in turn would then spark a contagious flurry of viral proliferation throughout every social media medium.

The Old Spice – If You Have It – commercial continues to have its own afterlife on the internet for instance, long after the actual spot aired on tv.

The ideal scenario is to have the germ (ahem, I mean concept) eventually disseminated across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Plaxo, FriendFeed, Hulu, MySpace, Google and Bing, etc. The inspired graphic, the 30-second tv spot or the one-minute video would catch the imagination of the public and in a nano-second, we would see the idea-as-a-finished-product then proliferated across the world’s airwaves and web-ernet with immediacy and ‘contagious’ enthusiasm.

An example in point: the Roller Babies viral video produced by Evian cleverly spread the product’s targeted message across the internet through subtle fun.

Instead of virus symptoms being the topic reserved for doctor offices, we now spend time talking about viral basics in our conference rooms. We analyze an idea for success fundamentals such as message clarity and visual creativity. We probe ideas for elements of uniqueness, factors of fun, the possibilities for success, and hopefully, the potential for a full viral outbreak.

Last year’s amazing public singing debut of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent swept through social and traditional mediums with a vengeance. Companies dream of a similar word-of-mouth success.

This new world of viral thinking has added a whole new world of fun and energy to business.

In essence, we have a new vernacular for successful marketing and advertising. And the word contagious now enjoys a whole new reputation.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

If you liked this post, please share it on Twitter, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And, I’d be honored if you would like to follow me on Twitter @JoanneMaly or visit the Lincoln Maly Marketing Facebook Fan Page.

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(Part II) – And Let the Annual Advertising Ritual Begin – The Super Bowl vs. The Super Bowl Commercials

By Joanne Maly

February 7, 2010

The Google Parisian Love commercial might just be the quietest, most creative, classiest, memorable spot of this year’s Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XVIV is now history – and the hundred-plus $2 million commercials have had their 30 seconds of glory – or not.

Part I of this casual look at the impact of Super Bowl commercials ended with the thought that perhaps this annual advertising ritual reflects who we are at this point in our history and perhaps also helps sew the very fabric of our culture. After tonight’s commercials, I am reflective.

Are you as well?

I don’t recall as intense of a pre-Bowl ad frenzy as this year. What impact has social media played in the global grassroots conversation about the good, the bad, the ugly commercials? How much Twittering, FaceBook posting and blogging was going on during the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints? There might not be a definitive answer to those questions, but there is no mistake that Bowl viewers were anticipating some daggoned good ads to complement the four quarters of passing, tackling, whistle-blowing, chest-butting, touchdown dances, and on-screen animated scrimmage line drawings.

One of the most humorous 30 seconds in the game actually was part of the ‘real’ game, and not during the commercial breaks. The second half began with a mound of scrambling of 250 – 300 lb. men grabbing for anything that felt like loose pigskin. You had to laugh.

But I digress. There were definitely some good commercials as well during the 2010 Super Bowl including:

- Volkswagen’s Punch Buggy ‘That’s Das Car’ spot;

- the Doritos spot where the young boy warns his mom’s date to keep his hands off his mom and off the little boy’s Doritos;

- the Coke spot in which a sleepwalking man in the deserted outdoors opens a fridge and opens happiness;

- the Simpson-themed Coke commercial, again with the open happiness theme;

- the E*trade spot that added a young girl to the voice-over toddler conversation this year;

- the artistic Kia spot highlighting the company’s great car finishes.

For the consumers who wanted to have a say in which commercials they thought were the strongest, there were many options this year, including the MSNBC.com online ballot.


And not to be out-done by a competing network, CBS had their own website-driving concept.


Have you voted yet? Which was your favorite commercial in Super Bowl 44? Which commercial was your least favorite?

And… if you didn’t catch the Part I blog post of And Let the Annual Advertising Ritual Begin – The Super Bowl vs. The Super Bowl Commercials, you can find it here.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

If you liked this post, please share it on Twitter, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And, I’d be honored if you would like to follow me on Twitter @JoanneMaly or visit the Lincoln Maly Marketing Facebook Fan Page.

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And Let the Annual Advertising Ritual Begin – The Super Bowl vs. The Super Bowl’s Commercials (Part I)

By Joanne Maly

February 6, 2010


I am one of the millions who look forward to the annual Super Bowl Football Game, but I will confess that I am not a pro football game fan.

I am however, a non-carded-but-nonetheless-still-certified Super Bowl Ad Connoisseur. (now, there’s a cool Twitter #hashtag for you.)

There are numerous statistics out there to prove that the annual Super Bowl ad-watching frenzy has now reached almost epidemic proportions. AdWeek columnist and marketing expert, Pete Blackshaw tweeted this same fact on Thursday, February 4. “Most Super Bowl Viewers Tune in for the Commercials,” he tweeted. Pete (@pblackshaw) used a recent study by Nielsen to back his claim.

There are many of us out here in the arm-chair-watching crowd who feel that the four quarters of football activity Sunday, February 7 are in reality, the necessary skeletal frame on which the guts of the competition are really tested, aka, the awesome, creative annual commercials. My apologies of course to the professional players who will be competing this coming Sunday in Super Bowl XLIV.

Nielsen found in a recent survey that 51% of the (90 million +) Super Bowl viewers “enjoy the game’s ads more than the action on the field.” Source: NielsonWire.com – January 20, 2010.


The Super Bowl night is frankly an advertiser and marketer’s dream. It is like watching the Emmy’s. The Academy Awards. It might even beat the finale of American Idol. Or the last episode of the last Lost.

The cost for one of the Super Bowl ads is no hiccup. According to msnbc.com, the cost of a 30-second spot for Super Bowl I in 1967 was as low as $37,500. Twenty years later, a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl was $600,000. This year, it is reported that CBS is asking $2.6 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot. (Source: www.msnbc.com)

There is no doubt that major corporations have been sequestered behind iron-clad, double-bolted doors creating this year’s blockbuster Super Bowl commercials. And the unveiling is just a little more than 24-hours away.

No doubt too, the post-game viral afterlife of these Super Bowl commercials and the inevitable social media traffic (via blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn and FaceBook posting) can be considered priceless.

And so I ask, “Coke, Pepsi, Annheuser-Busch, CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, Doritos, Apple, and E*Trade — what will you perennial favorite Super Bowl commercial producers show us this year?”

Given the nation’s economic woes, the world’s focus on the plight of Haiti, and more, I wonder, will we see a litany of comedic 30-second spots — or will advertisers wow us with themes of sentimentality, the outdoors, or the memories of youth. Perhaps we will see a theme in the commercials for high-tech, light-flashing, fast-moving 30-second vignettes (similar to many of last Sunday night’s Grammy Award musical routines.)

Your thoughts? What do you think this year’s Super Bowl XLIV commercials will be like?

Will there be any commercials that make advertising and marketing history?

Yes, advertising history – like the unforgettable, dramatic Apple commercial introducing the MAC computer, against an eerie backdrop of a prison-type setting, the sound of rhythmic, marching feet, and the visuals of bald-headed, blank-staring men and women garbed in grey-prison-type uniforms moving in robotic symmetry?

Apple\’s 1984 Macintosh Introduction Commercial


TV commercials mirror our culture and yet, at the same time, they help sew the very fabric of our culture.

Note: Part II of this blog post will be available Sunday evening, February 7 …. after this Sunday evening’s entertainment.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

If you liked this post, please share it on Twitter, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And, I’d be honored if you would like to follow me on Twitter @JoanneMaly or visit the Lincoln Maly Marketing Facebook Fan Page.

Feel free to join the Lincoln Maly Marketing Facebook page as well for regular updates on excellence, creativity, management, leadership, motivation, marketing, and corporate communications.

Excellence Exemplified … quietly

By Joanne Maly

January 23, 2010


Excellence Exemplified … quietly

Excellence and Beauty

Small woman. Beautiful heart.

Deepest soul. Giving soul.

Laughing smile.

Twinkling eyes.

Tender hands. Warm spirit.

Quiet power.

So very missed.

Two events in our own family lately have me reflecting today on the power of individual people in the world around them. One of these family events will be written about another day. The second event though is the focus of today’s post – the death of a special person this week – an aunt (M. B.) – who, simply said, exemplifies excellence.

When I began writing Simply Said blog posts, I knew that I wanted to write about the people and things that inspire me. In-turn, my hope was to inspire readers. My focus would be on excellence in business, in creativity, in marketing, in communication, in leadership – and I’d like to add – life.

There are people in my own life who I could name in a nano-second who define for me ‘the best’. The best CEO. The best corporate executive. The best marketing mind. The best social media trend-setter. The best professor. The best political leader. The best friend.

The most creative musician. The most talented artist. The most Renaissance-like thinker. The most charismatic personality.

To me, M. B. characterizes the impact that one person can make in the world without headlines, clamor and fireworks. Her quiet, understated beauty of spirit evolved throughout her life into an inimitable power that radiated to those who came in contact with her. The person who met her on the elevator at work. The colleague who sat next to her in the office. The person sitting next to her on the bus. The children in the neighborhood. The women and men in her community. Her friends. Her family.

With my marketing hat on, I could say that ‘M’ was the epitome of the concept of viral marketing. She touched a person, a life, a day. That person was then calmed, inspired, loved.  That life was then left changed. That day was then left whole. The chain had begun. That chain of events would continue. Then multiply. And spread … virally.

There is a magic that some people can bring to the world just by the simplicity of being who they are. ‘M’ was this type of magical person with an engaging heart and giving soul. An excellence that so many of us aspire to model.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

If you liked this post, please share it on Twitter, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And, I’d be honored if you would like to follow me on Twitter @JoanneMaly or visit the Lincoln Maly Marketing page.

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Dreams… and a belief that we can do anything.

By Joanne Maly

December 18, 2009

Dreams… and a belief that we can do anything.

Let me set the stage by sharing that this has been a special week in our family’s lifeline. Some recent family milestones have me in a reflective space – about life, and business, and relationships, and creativity, and energy, and well… life.

Life itself, and our spirit, our motivation, our feeling of our place in the world – can be challenged by the upswings and the lulls; by the always-changing events of our small circles; by the decisions of corporate and government leaders; and on and on. But I am convinced that, ultimately, the moments of personal decision and personal courage determine our personal happiness and our personal success.

Our oldest son, B, became engaged last Saturday night to his awesome girlfriend, R. Another son, J, married his long-time, special girlfriend, MB, in early June. Our daughter, L, took a courageous, life-changing step this fall and moved back to the Midwest from her beloved New York City to make a difference in this part of the country. And a fourth child, T, graduated from college in late August as a mature-beyond-his-years young man ready to set the world on fire (editor’s note: I think he will.)

These scenarios no doubt mirror stories in your own life and in those of your family, your friends, and your colleagues. I am wondering how we can all tap into these magic times and hold on to ‘the positive’; hold on to ‘the energy’; hold on to ‘the contagious spirit.’

Important choices in our lives require preparation, sacrifice, observation, determination, creativity, and a willingness to believe in a dream. The young people described above have had to set their sights on a goal and stay steady – despite setbacks, sadness, negative influences and influencers, disappointments, and naysayers. They believed they could … and they did. They believed in the goodness of another person. They looked for the beauty in another person’s soul. They listened to others’ ideas. They looked for positive leadership and they chose to become positive leaders themselves. They believed in the power of knowledge and the need for personal discipline. They believed in their ideas and their vision for what ‘could be.’ They believed in ‘who they were’ and that ‘they could’ when others thought ‘they couldn’t.’

I’d like to bottle that type of belief, enthusiasm and spirit in a bottle – and sprinkle it on those who live to be negative. Spray it on those who live by the mantra, it can’t be done. Shake some of that magic on those who say I could never do anything like that because my boss won’t let me. Scatter it over those who remain silent because they believe no one would like my idea, so why even say it. Dust it over those who could become something so great – even in their own circle (office, neighborhood, network, city) – but remain stuck in the glue of indecisiveness, negativity, or misdirection.

Have you ever noticed that we are drawn to personalities that radiate energy? We seek out people who are filled with a positive spirit. We want to have the people with the can-do attitude on our team? We can name the people in our lives who stand out because they have a smile in their own soul and they are willing to share it with others. We want to be near others who have ‘life’ in their eyes and they glow with that light.

The newly-engaged, the newly-married, the newly-moved, the newly-hired, the newly graduated – their lights are shining. Their spirit is contagious. Their excitement is infectious.

I believe that you – and I – can each believe more that ‘we can do it.’ Anything. You – and I – can each share our own inner glow more with those we work with, live with. I believe that you – and I – can recapture a dream that lays dormant – and give it wings.

And, I am not going to wait until tomorrow. You?

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

If you liked this post, please share it on Twitter, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Reddit, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And, I’d be honored if you would like to follow me on Twitter @JoanneMaly or visit the Lincoln Maly Marketing page.

Feel free to join the Lincoln Maly Marketing Facebook page as well for regular updates on excellence, creativity, management, leadership, motivation, marketing, and corporate communications.

Note: Today’s Simply Said blog post is dedicated to B, R, J, MB, L, and T because each of you believed and you share your own light with all who are lucky to be around you.

Looking for Marketing Excellence in 2009 Holiday TV Commercials – The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

By Joanne Maly

December 10, 2009



Looking for Marketing Excellence in Holiday TV Commercials

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

We’ve heard it said a hundred times – holidays bring out the worst – and the best – in people. For this post, I would like to add an extension to that old adage: holidays bring out the worst  – and the best – in marketing efforts – namely, TV commercials.

A seemingly steady stream of holiday-themed-30-second (going-on-five-minutes) commercials visit us, uninvited, each winter holiday season. I have begun to now identify some of the main culprits this year as ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly’. Of course, there are examples of ‘the good’ as well.

Simply said, we have a potpourri of ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’ commercials regularly interrupting our lives in our family rooms and living rooms this December. Laughingly too, some of the worst creative commercial offenders also have the largest ad budgets.

I have conducted my own non-scientific study of some of the 2009 season’s spots and have analyzed why – despite jingles, bangles, and red and green pizzazz – many of these commercials seem to conjure up memories of unpleasant reactions (similar to an attack of mosquito bites, biting into a lemon slice, or sipping a bitter glass of wine.)

My criteria for the good, the bad, and the ugly ratings was culled from years of knowledge shared by excellent graphic artists, research articles, personal observation and intuition, and of course, ‘some’ experience in the area.  When judging your own TV commercial experience, your criteria will be based on some of your own experience and training – but both of us will need to add in our own individual tastes when rating commercials.

A pattern evolved in my review of over forty 2009 holiday commercials for this post. I’ll share my ratings here but I wonder … which commercials are your good, your bad and your ugly? What criteria do you use to make your own selections?

The Good

- The good commercials may take an often-used theme (e.g., receiving an engagement ring during the holidays) but then approach the idea with emotion, creativity, and a sense that ‘this is a genuine moment.’

- The good spots make strong use of basic Marketing 101, Cinematography 101, Consumer Behavior 101, and Design 101 concepts.

- The good spots have incorporated age, gender, ethnic and cultural demographics subtly and effectively.

- The messaging and scripts in the good commercials are often simple. Simple phrases. Limited verbiage. Songs with clever, new lyrics (to traditional holiday tunes) are not sung too fast.

- The good spots are visceral, often emotional, and feeling-based.

- The good commercials incorporate scenes of lightly falling snow or gentle flurries, and feature soft and often-diffused colors and simple visuals.

- The music in the good commercials is not clip-artish but instead is original, non-abrasive and enveloping. If the spot includes bells or chimes, these are not the same bells or chimes that we have heard on three other holiday commercials in a two-hour window. The sleigh bells don’t resemble Mannheim Steamroller electronically-created music.

- The good commercials invoke a reaction that I would like to watch that spot again (a bit similar to wishing for a rerun of an old Hallmark holiday show like “The Gathering,” or the perennial favorites “Miracle on 34th Street”, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “White Christmas.”)

- The good commercials leave viewers saying to themselves I want to be there, go there, do that, wear that.

‘The List’ of ‘The Good’

The Disneyland 2009 Holiday Commercial

This year’s Disneyland holiday commercial offers us 30 seconds of visual eye-candy. Period. The spot’s creators didn’t fall for the temptation to say a lot. The text and the print-over copy simply states ‘joy to the small world.’ Even the treatment of the Disneyland.com address is creative – from the branded use of the word Disneyland to the sprinkling of Tinkerbell fairy dust over the word Disneyland. There is the most obvious call-to-action – visit Disneyland. The final result – the best of the good and we could watch the commercial again without feeling bombarded and annoyed.

L.L.Bean 2009 Holiday Commercial

The 2009 L.L.Bean holiday commercial captivates you immediately with its original chime sounds, the quiet feel of each video vignette, the slow-motion of the hikers, runners, sledders, and the gentle-falling flurries, and the young girl sweetly blowing a mist of powdery snow.

Even the unobtrusive voice of the commercial’s narrator doesn’t jar us out of our own personal experience while watching the 30-seconds of fine videography.

One objectionable fine-tuning criticism of this commercial though was that the very first text words used in the spot are… ‘every penny counts.’ I wish L.L.Bean had stayed with the simple magic of their spot and chosen to not interject a jarring economic message as their first visual message point. The commercial’s now-second text-over … ‘every memory counts’) would have been a strong text lead-in. That message could then be followed up with another text-over … ‘every moment counts’. The producers could have then perhaps included these simple text-over messages… ‘be family’ … ‘be a friend’. I believe the commercial’s effectiveness would have been stronger with these tweaks.

The call-to-action L.L.Bean discount slide at the end is simple, effective.

Zales Jewelers 2009 Holiday Commercial

We expect jewelry store commercials every winter holiday season and frequently the spots can feel expected and non-original. This year’s Zales holiday spot taps into the moments of raw emotion. The commercials provide soft backgrounds, simple shots, persons we relate to, and a purity of moments and memories we remember, or long for. The spots succeed too because they focus on the receiving of the ring, not the worry of buying. By focusing on the quiet intimacy of others’ holiday moments, Zales doesn’t need to say much – and they don’t – thus not detouring – or deterring – from the magic of the simplicity of the commercial. In fact, the bulk of the verbal comments in the spot are different variations of the word ‘yes’. A simple text-over slide with the solo diamond ring, followed by the strongly-simple placement of the Zales logo on a simple grey-white background, says all the commercial needs to say … and that is …  ‘Say… I love you like never before … with the Celebration diamond. Exclusively at Zales.”

The Rock School – Nutcracker – 2009 Holiday Commercial

Think December and you think of ‘The Nutcracker” and multitude performances of that treasured ballet. Philadelphia’s Rock School’s 2009 commercial for The Nutcracker is so well-produced and viewer-enticing that I’ve included it as one of the good holiday commercials this year. The piece is simple with soft fades and titillating moments of colorful performance visuals. The minimal use of script in the commercial is handled effectively with superimposed short phrases (fairy tale holiday; the new classic; Nutcracker 1776.) The last text-over slide provides viewers with all of the important – and simple – next-steps to ‘get this experience’ (i.e., the necessary buy-your-tickets-now information.)

The Bad

When reviewing commercials in-depth for this post, I saw many Target-looking, Gap-acting, Apple-imitating, Disney-cloning commercials… but, bottom line, ‘they were not.’

Electronic-ized sleigh bells were the ‘bells de jour’ this year and if you would do a similar exercise, you might find yourself laughing, as I did, when you realize how many companies are using the same sleigh bell sounds. Somewhere out there, a savvy sleigh bell entrepreneur/slash/semi-musician is making a fortune on sleigh bell royalties. (Note: why didn’t I think of that?)

For those holiday commercials that aren’t ‘really bad’ but just plain ‘not good’, there is thus the category: ‘the bad.’

‘The List’ of ‘The Bad’

Hallmark 2009 Holiday Commercial

Feelings-prominent holiday Hallmark commercials have become a branded product of themselves. The commercials possess a popularity not dissimilar to the pull of the Super Bowl in that many viewers watch that annual football game to be sure to catch all of the special-occasion commercials. There must be a high level of creative pressure on the Hallmark team to produce a home-run each winter holiday… much less each major holiday throughout the year.

I was disappointed with the Hallmark 2009 holiday commercial. The 17-second-long Hallmark delivery truck spot is clever, but feels as if it should receive one of those nice-teacher-nice-effort compliments and not a good ranking. This is unfortunate because it does appear that someone went to ‘a lot’ of trouble creating this commercial and making the spot ‘work.’ Perhaps therein lies the source of the problem. Are we viewers being asked (told) to understand that Hallmark provides ‘love, caring, joy, wonder, concern, thoughtfulness, wonder, etc.? Hallmark, how about picking your top three emotions and going with those? Otherwise, we have a case of packing so much into the package, that we’re not too sure at the end of the commercial what we feel – much less what we are supposed to do next.

Target 2009 Holiday Commercial

Target offers a series of similar-themed holiday commercials this year. In this particular Target holiday spot, the viewer is privy to an intimate Christmas morning moment with a wife unwrapping a flat-screen TV. We are thrust into a ‘tense’ family moment and are put into one of those awkward, uncomfortable minutes while the couple debates (in front of their eye-focused young children) Santa’s choice of spending this season. The commercial doesn’t offer good acting, good script, a good take-away feeling, a good memory, a good anything.

The final short music clip of ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ feels as if these music bars were thrown in for good measure.

An interesting note is that so many companies and advertisers are trying to imitate Target with their almost iconic red/white color theme; its traditional fun, product- Kaleidoscope-type ads. Yet, Target itself has deviated from its own success history.

Acura 2009 Holiday Commercial

This year’s Acura holiday commercial could have made the good list with its creativity alone, but some elements in the final spot cause enough conflicts that I’ve chosen to bump them to the bad category.

The commercial begins with an original friendly tune … but stops … and then picks up the melody again half-way through the spot. The final result is a feeling that we have a cut-and-paste music track as the commercial’s foundation.

The quick, fun video clips that provide the base (for the first half of the spot) each focus on a simple image, simple activity, and excellent photo concepts – but the camera focus in several points is skewed. We are also left wondering who is unwrapping present #1 and what is that present anyway?

Garmin 2009 Holiday Commercial

Some elements in the 2009 Garmin Holiday Commercial are excellent, but there are enough of the what-were-they-thinking? type bumps that, based on this post’s judging criteria, this potentially-home-run commercial moves to the bad grouping. Garmin tries to achieve something that in my mind is a sure-fail. They’ve taken an identifiable, fast-paced holiday tune and created their own lyrics with this result: the first-time, second-time, and even the third-time viewer is left working hard to hear what the vocalists are saying.

At the end of the commercial’s song, the lyrics say (in tune with the music) ‘fun local tips at finger tips’. That tagline is good enough that I would have liked to have seen that as a text-over on the screen – in addition to – or even instead of – the final script/text tagline ‘follow the leader.’

The Garmin commercial provides us with an example of the often-used, check-out-line-mimicking holiday bell sounds. And… who does the scary clown appeal to in this commercial? The look, feel, and treatment of this holiday clown almost conveys a Chucky-like karma and it doesn’t seem like a strong fit with the total package, especially in a spot that does have some strong creative elements. Kudos go to the Garmin creative team though for their effective reinforced take-away message  – go to garmin.com

The Gap 2009 Holiday Commercial – Tween Demographics

Gap commercials are traditionally identifiable, fun, memorable, and successful. This year’s Gap ‘Kids’ holiday commercial misses the mark on several key elements. The child dancer/singers’ lip-synching is not only off, it is distracting. There are numerous moments in the 30-second spot that the visual photography is out-of-focus. There is such a quantity of fast-paced-quickly-sung lyrics to follow that you have to watch the spot several times to catch everything and work hard to follow the script. The youths are in fact talking about a ‘moose’ (why, I don’t know) but it definitely ‘sounds’ like they are singing about their boots. Final result: such potential that missed the mark.

The Ugly

In addition to not offering all of the elements we might observe in a strong or a good holiday commercials, the ugly rating is reserved for those commercially that appear to be inexpensively-produced (if not cheaply); offensive; message-off-targeted; visually-poor; and musically-challenged.

Commercials in this category are actually not all that uncommon and fall into the category of I-would-not-want-to-watch-that-again. I liken these holiday commercials to the many holiday TV specials (e.g., a Lifetime Channel-type production similar to ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and I Wish I Hadn’t.’)

‘The List’ of ‘The Ugly’

Overstock.com 2009 Holiday Commercial

Overstock.com seems to have a large holiday advertising budget this year and unfortunately that means that their ugly-ranked commercial is airing frequently. The solo female vocalist’s voice is not lip-synched. Ditto… some of the other chorus singers’ synching. Not only is the mouth-synching off-kilter, but in the final selection of the commercial, the clapping rhythm for the chorus members is off as well. The music utilizes the above-described clip-art-type tech-type holiday bells. I need to ask: Is the white-fur-trimmed-coated-boot-wearing-out-of-date-hairstyle-red-lipsticked-only-walking-a-lot star the focus for Overstock.com … or is the focus the Overstock.com products, free shipping, unique service, great pricing? The first time I saw this spot, I was across the room and didn’t know this was an Overstock.com spot until the end, and had initially thought that perhaps this was a commercial for fake snow, red lipstick, fur coats, or perhaps face lifts.

This commercial again reinforces the issues that arise in a short commercial spot that use specifically-created new lyrics for a fast-paced traditional holiday jingle. The result so often is that we viewers (or listeners when the spot is also cross-pollinated on radio) miss the cute lyrics. I mentioned above that many companies try to duplicate the old Target-type ads with the almost all-white, sterile background scene set with highlighted ‘Target’ red products or apparel. This is one of those commercials.

Old Navy 2009 Holiday Commercial

According to this post’s criteria, this year’s Old Navy holiday Modelquin commercials are rated as one of this season’s ugly offerings. The commercials feature manikin ice skaters (super modelquins) skating to a cut-and-paste type electronic holiday jingle tune.

The spot begins with a fast (very fast) title text-over slide announcing the Old Navy Super Modelquins vignette. The commercial’s visuals and the production quality are marginal and accompany an even poorer script. Why is Old Navy using manikins? Why the addition of the female manikin’s British accent? Why the corny humor? After you watch this commercial, you are left with this question, is this really the best Old Navy can do as a large national company?

IHOP 2009 Holiday Commercial

I’ve been impressed by the remaking and rebranding of IHOP as a product itself over the last five years, but this year’s national IHOP holiday commercial takes the company back more than a hop and a jump. The showcased pancakes don’t look tasty; they do look out-of-focus and as if they have been sitting on the conveyor belt too long. The Nutcracker jokes about Halloween costumes are corny and meaningless – and take up 6-plus seconds of the total 17-second spot. The Holiday Hotcakes text-over appears so quickly (2-seconds) that it can be missed or at least not fully caught. The last 2-second quick text-over of the IHOP website and core information appears on the screen so quickly and in such small scope that it isn’t visible and thus, not effective.

The Gap 2009 Holiday Commercial – Adult Demographics

Gap has tried to be all things to all people in this year’s adult-targeted holiday commercial featuring a rap-friendly, somewhat-clever, trendy, politically-correct and politically-safe holiday theme. I believe their end result is a off-message, hard-to-understand, lyric-heavy, words-unclear, noise-infused, semi-creative commercial. This spot mentions Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice … and taps into the green initiatives and liberation movements. Whew! That is a hefty agenda for a 33-second spot.

Which commercials are your good, bad and ugly? What criteria do you use to make your own selections?

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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