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July 21, 2011

Thanks for stopping by and all, but this is no longer an active blog.

A project of the Rodgers Townsend Account Planning team, Tangelos was a collection of thoughts on pop culture, advertising, and creative strategy.

There’s some great stuff in here, so feel free to peruse through past posts.

For more up-to-date content, please visit the agency website,, or follow us on Twitter at

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All American Family

May 25, 2010

We’re hosting a lunch and learn tomorrow about cultural fluency and advertising appeal. We’re looking at audiences and creative work from various perspectives — demographic, cultural, mindset, media. The process of curating the content for this hootenanny sparked lots of great discussions in The Lair.

Take this Target ad for example. Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait.

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s a Target ad.” Or you might be wondering if you missed an Asian stereotype. You didn’t. The big deal about this ad is that it was passionately blogged about and heavily commented for its non-stereotypical — better yet, very cool — depiction of an Asian family.Yeah. That’s it. For those of us who work in advertising, that should make you pause and think.

Angry Asian Man dedicated a post titled Freaking Love This Target Commercial

“I just watched the 30-second spot like five times in a row. It features Shannon, a Cool Asian Mom doing all sorts of Cool Asian Mom stuff for her family (with the help of products she purchased at Target, of course). She does it all …

Playing tetherball, working at the travel agency, beatboxing for her groovin’ kid, taking fabulous all-American family portraits. Sure — nobody’s mom is this cool, but it’s so friggin’ cute, you cannot resist. It’s just refreshing to see a nationally-televised commercial where Asians are not the butt of the joke.”

It was reposted at Racialicious where a commenter named Ashlynn wrote

“Not to take away from this great commercial at all, but is it just me, or does “normal” not seem to be the best word choice here? Because if you want to break it down, that implies that anything outside of that- i.e, traditions within each culture of Asia- would not be normal. I’m thinking that what’s meant here is that the mom can do things with her family that don’t have to be stereotypical and overtly “ethnic.” That aside, I absolutely love that this family can just be an American family, and other families can see this and feel as a part of American culture as anyone else.

Also, my mom is just as cool as that- i’ll do you one better than beatboxing- she’s a DJ! turntables, vinyl, and all. aww.”

8 Asians also blogged the ad

“I think this was the first time I’ve seen an Asian American simply portrayed as the normal, all-American family for a major nationwide brand. To many, this may be making something out of nothing, but for those who actually pay attention to such things, it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised.”

Wow. That’s a lot of love from cultural critics who appreciated Shannon and Target. It made us think and sparked a great discussion. We talked about the fact that the spot didn’t appear to be targeting Asians specifically. We talked about the extra care we take with diverse casting and developing non-stereotypical insights. We asked ourselves if we’re doing enough as strategists to seek out perspectives like these to challenge our assumptions and shape how we approach our work. We all agreed that we were surprised by the passionate love for Shannon. To some she’s just a mom. To others she’s a breakthrough.

Creepy Clown US Postal Service Ad

January 24, 2010

What a terrific execution for the Flat Rate boxes product and the “if it fits it ships” copy point the Post Office has been delivering almost as often as the mail. Just when you were about to get tired of the campaign — or at least I was — they have taken advantage of the now familiar premise and loosened up a little to keep it fresh. This spot was watched 3x before letting the Tivo ride back to figure skating. I like the spot better than pairs skating, but hey, compromise is key in the family room.

Very Cool Trade Show Booth Promo

December 2, 2009

Kris sent this to me. It’s really cool. More info for those who don’t speak German. They say flies weren’t harmed.

Campus Welch – Behind the Scenes

November 23, 2009

We took our show on the road and did a welchy (i.e. exceedingly awkward) speech sort of thing on creativity and strategic planning as part of the Ad Club St. Louis speakers series. I say we because even though I did most of the talking it was a total team effort. The Lair – our strategic space and team brand of sorts – pulled together as always to bring the show together. One of the things I didn’t get to share because we ran out of time (technical difficulties) was the behind-the-scenes atmosphere and creativity in action we enjoy every day.

Regular readers of this blog and visitors to The Lair know that we’re exploring non-linear narrative in console games, social media, social gaming, mobile and mobile applications. We want to understand these engaging forms of communications and implications for the work we do as strategists studying motivation and behavior as we hunt for The Insight. The investigation looks like play and in many ways it is. If consumers are finding utility in play, then we must play to find utility for advertising. Ponder that.

The journey we’re on is impossible to explain, but very inspiring and kinetic and fascinating. At least we think the stuff we’re into and learning about is fascinating. And I’m sure it sounds nerdy and downright academic. But in fact, it’s social, creative and at times very fun.

If you came to the Campus Welch, you saw us at our most thoughtful. We turned the camera on ourselves for a few weeks and thought we’d give you some fun out-takes and behind the scenes of how fun being thoughtful can be. Alex is the primary camera man and editor on the welchy video that features yours truly, Kim, Mary Pat, Frank and of course Alex himself.


Joseph Campell, George Lucas and Star Wars

November 23, 2009

Did you know that George Lucas had a planner when he created Star Wars?

I like to wax on about the role of Joseph Campbell in Lucas’ work when people ask me why I get so wound up about narrative and archetypes and universal truths when “it’s just advertising.” You could say George Lucas just makes movies. But Star Wars is clearly distinctive – from sales to lasting cultural impact. The difference between Star Wars and most movies is in how and why it connects to the audience. There’s literally a brief, a briefing and ongoing collaboration behind the story. Sounds like planning and creativity to me.

I mentioned this clip at the Campus Welch last week but cut it for time. If you were in the house on Friday, give this a look and give it a think. And check out the work of Joseph Campbell and watch Star Wars again with fresh eyes.

Hi, My Name is Alex, and I’m addicted to FarmVille.

October 27, 2009

I guess it all started about a month ago. I had seen some friends of mine on Facebook were starting to use FarmVille. “Hey man. Be my neighbor on FarmVille. All the cool kids are doing it,” they were saying. After ignoring multiple neighbor requests, I finally gave in. “It’s probably lame. I’ll try it once, for work,” I told myself. Well, that was all it took. The next thing I knew I was sitting in the darkened back room of a focus group, begging Crystal to let me use her laptop to check my farm. “You don’t understand. My crops,” I pleaded with her, “If I don’t harvest them, they’ll wither and die.” That’s when I knew I had a problem.

So, maybe that’s an exaggeration, although they did just open the first center for the treatment of internet addiction. The real story here is that “social games,” like FarmVille, are changing expectations when it comes to gaming. They’re also adding a surprising new layer to social media.

If you’re one of the 300 million people using Facebook, chances are you’ve seen posts or received requests from your friends who are playing FarmVille. In fact, according to Mashable, FarmVille claims to be the fastest growing social game in history, reaching 11 million daily users in a little over two months.

“To put that in perspective, World of Warcraft is the largest massively multiplayer game that dominates MMO market share with, at last report, 11.5 million active subscribers. Its publisher Blizzard hasn’t revealed any new population statistics since the end of last year, but assures the press that its figures are still growing. It took WoW four years to reach that many subscribers after its launch in late 2004.”

So, just what is FarmVille? Check out this video from the game’s creator, Zynga:

Did you ever, in your wildest dreams, expect a game about farming to become so popular? Of course, you didn’t. And that’s the genius of FarmVille. All of a sudden everyone wants to be a farmer. Teenagers, young professionals, middle-aged lawyers – they’re all harvesting their crops as you read this. Crazy, right?

So why is FarmVille so popular? Two reasons:
1. It is highly social.
2. It is highly addictive.

FarmVille is perfectly integrated into Facebook.
The defining characteristic of FarmVille is that it is a social game. As a Facebook application, once granted access, FarmVille has access to your Facebook profile. That’s how it spreads.  You can visit and help out on neighbors’ farms, send them gifts, and fertilize their crops. As you become a more capable farmer, you get awards and prizes. “Do you want to share the good news with friends.” “Yes?”  CLICK… BOOM…  every one of your Facebook friends was just exposed to FarmVille. Think about that happening two to three times a day per FarmVille user. That’s the power of social gaming, baby. As Crystal would say, FarmVille tumbles like crazy.

Farm coins are like crack.
To buy anything in FarmVille (seeds, animals, trees, houses, tractors, decorations, etc.), you need Farm Coins. As you get deeper into the game, you’ll discover more and more ways to earn Farm Coins (you can buy them with real money, but that’s for posers). You can see your neighbors’ farms, and they always seem to be cooler than yours. So you plant more seeds, milk more cows, but it’s never enough. You want more land, more expensive crops, bigger barns, better houses. The next thing you know, you’re helping out on a farm owned by some girl from grade school you haven’t spoken to in 10 years just to earn 5 extra Farm Coins. Just today, a friend of mine asked me if I thought it was poor FarmVille etiquette for her to pawn gifts neighbors had given her for more Farm Coins. Addictive? I’d say so.

Picture 1

My Farm (I'm saving up for a sweet barn)

Ultimately, success on Facebook isn’t measured by number of fans; it’s measured by level of engagement. And if that’s true, FarmVille is doing a hell of a job. So, what lessons from social gaming can we apply to brands on Facebook?

Try FarmVille for yourself on Facebook: