Magna Carter, Holy Ye

So I didn’t watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals last night, but apparently Twitter did. And most of what Twitter wanted to talk about wasn’t the Spurs, it was the Samsung/Jay-Z commercial. This was pretty much my conversation with Twitter:

Me: Hey Twitter. How’s the game going?

Twitter: 3.

Me: 3 points?

Twitter: 3 minutes.

Me: 3 minutes left?

Twitter: There’s a 3-minute Jay-Z commercial. I’m so excited!

Me: What’s the commercial about?

Twitter: Some album; I don’t know. But it was 3 minutes.

Me: Was Jay-Z in it?

Twitter: Yeah, for 3 minutes.

Apparently, it’s 3-minutes long.

And after watching it, that’s probably still the most noteworthy thing about it.

(Okay, that’s not really true. There’s a lot of noteworthy things. Samsung is giving away 1 million copies of Jay-Z’s new album. Jay-Z has a new album. Does this mean the album is already platinum?)

But it feels like, for all the money spent—at least $5 million for the albums according to the WSJ plus an estimated $2.58 million ($430,000/:30 x 6) for the commercial air time—it’s certainly not the most creative ad.

(Okay, it is creative. It’s creative in the there’s-an-18-second-long-mostly-obscured-shot-of-Jay-Z-through-a-doorway kind of way. But as a creative who makes, you know, actual advertising—not this awesome stuff—what am I supposed to do with this? As Jay-Z says, “What the hell is that?”)

Still, a 3-minute commercial that prominently features Jay-Z is going to get Twitter talking no matter the rest.

***

What is worth talking about is what appears to be Jay-Z’s introspection on the impact of success on self. Sitting with Jay-Z are other hip-hop dignitaries including bearded hip-hop buddha, Rick Rubin who, when referring to material riches, muses, “Have you found in life experience that you’ve gotten enough of those things to realize that it doesn’t change your life at all?”

It’s humility, hip-hop and the American dream, which is maybe why the album’s dropping July 4th. In Jay-Z’s words:

Pretty much what the album is about is this duality of how do you navigate your way through this whole thing—you know, through success, through failures, through all this—and remain yourself?

And then there’s Kanye West.

Or Yeezus—as his new album is called. If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last week joking with friends about Kanye’s vanity, his artistic new album that you probably won’t listen to more than once, and quotes from that NYT interview.

Like this one on fame:

I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” [from the song “Slow Jamz"] I was going to be a big star. At the time, they used to have the Virgin music [stores], and I would go there and just go up the escalator and say to myself, “I’m soaking in these last moments of anonymity.” I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen.

Here are two figures who have achieved what most would consider to be ultimate success—fame and fortune far greater than what any of us could ever personally imagine for ourselves, and yet their personas appear as if they couldn’t be any more different. Where Jay-Z has sought to remain Sean Carter, Kanye has imagined his transformation long before it ever happened and embraced it ever since.

And that leaves me with a lot of questions:

When you are gifted with success, with the dreams you can’t comprehend, will it change you?

Will you be Jay?

Or will you be Ye?

Will you really have a choice?

And will you ever get a chance to make a 3-minute long commercial?

Allstate has a newish campaign out from Leo Burnett. Moving away from Mayhem for the moment, Allstate’s attempting to tackle the more positive aspects of insurance by owning “good.”

To support the campaign, they’ve released two spots that show just how important good execution and good writing are to accompanying a good concept. One’s as great as the other is lacking, but I’ll let you be the judge.

There are man-eating sharks in every ocean.
But we still swim.

Every second, somewhere in the world, lightning strikes.
But we still play in the rain.

Poisonous snakes can be found in 49 of the 50 states.
But we still go looking for adventure.

A car can crash. A house can crumble.
But we still drive and love coming home.

Because I think deep down we know,
All the bad things that can happen in life,
They can’t stop us from making our lives…

Good.

Let me just say something.

The way I see it, we all got a choice to make. Now, we can keep focusing on the bad, dwell on the bad, talk about the bad, or, or…

We can focus in on the good. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve heard just about enough from bad. I’m tired of bad, okay? I want to hear what good’s up to. Because I know it’s here. I see it, I hear it and I feel it.

So I tell you what I want to do. I want to give it up for good. Give it up for what is good, what can be good, what will be good in our communities and our homes and in our lives.

Now who’s with me?

Republicans Buy Shoes

For the last three months, I’ve been working on the launch of a new sports advertising blog called Republicans Buy Shoes. The incredibly confusing title (we’re off to a great start, right?) is a reference to a Michael Jordan quote. You can read the full explanation here.

The blog is a labor of love for myself and longtime friend Andrew Humphries. For those of you who don’t know Andrew, he’s an old friend from Duke and is a far better writer than I—his words once convinced Mike Krzyzewski not to leave Duke for the Lakers. He’s also written extensively for other sports blogs including Let’s Go Tribe, the official blog of the Cleveland Indians, and is one of the funniest people I know. So while he doesn’t work in advertising, he brings a wealth of sports knowledge, humor and insight to the table.

Also, I’d like to thank Erik Stark who worked with us to develop a lot of the look and feel of the site, including almost all of the design elements.

We try to post daily to the blog and have a weekly podcast that we publish on Mondays for which we’ve already recorded seven episodes. You can also follow us on Twitter at @RepublicanShoes. So if you’re into advertising, sports or both, check it out, let me know what you think and, if you like it, maybe share it with a friend or two. Thanks friends.

Facebook has made an ad, which is a big deal because Facebook never makes ads. They’re like Google. They don’t need to make ads. But when they do, in Google’s case, they’re usually pretty awesome. So in honor of reaching its billion-user milestone, the social network has released what Ad Age is calling a 90-second “film.”

Facebook AND Wieden+Kennedy? And not only Wieden+Kennedy, but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu—the director of both Nike’s “Write the Future” and Procter & Gamble’s “Best Job” spot? Holy shit, this is going to be good.

Let’s watch:

Chairs.

Ooh. I like it. Starting with something unexpected. Excited. Chairs, let’s do this.

Chairs are made so that people can sit down and take a break. Anyone can sit on a chair, and if the chair is large enough they can sit down together. And tell jokes or make up stories or just listen.

Alright, I get it. Chairs are for sitting. Still with you.

Chairs are for people. And that is why chairs are like Facebook.

Okay… you lost me. Chairs are like Facebook because people use them? I mean, people use a lot of things. Why a chair? Seems like if you’re going to create a metaphor for Facebook you could have come up with something better than a chair like maybe…

Doorbells. Airplanes. Bridges.

Okay, there you go. Back on board. Things that connect people—bring people together. I get it.

These are things people use to get together so they can open up and connect about ideas and music and other things people share.

Man, I can’t wait to share this on Facebook. How meta?

Dance floors. Basketball. A great nation.

Wait, what? Okay these things aren’t connecting people. You can’t just name any random noun and say Facebook is like it.

A great nation is something people build so they can have a place where they belong.

Also, saying Facebook is like a great nation is kinda scary. It already feels Big Brother enough.

The universe.

Okay, WTF?! The universe? Come on. You can’t be serious. I mean, Facebook, you’re cool. You were there for me during some awkward college days when I wanted to click endlessly through a sea of photos and status updates from some girl I’d never actually met, but I mean, you’re not that big a deal. Has anyone seen Facebook’s stock price lately? Somebody at Wieden+Kennedy is drinking some serious Kool-Aid.

It is vast and dark and makes us wonder if we are alone. So maybe the reason we make all of these things is to remind ourselves that we are not.

Man this is depressing. I think I’m going to try the new MySpace.

RIP Art Heyman

In the history of Duke basketball, only three players have ever been picked first overall in the NBA draft. Their names are Kyrie Irving, Elton Brand and—pretend I didn’t already give away the answer in the title to this post—Art Heyman.

Heyman passed away last night at the age of 71. He is a Duke legend who led the Blue Devils to their first ever Final Four appearance in 1963. He still holds the Duke record for career scoring average at 25.1 ppg. Tweeted ESPN analyst and former Blue Devil Jay Bilas, “He was a tough player, and a true original.”

One of the best accounts I’ve ever come across of Heyman is from Will Blythe’s 2006 book To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever. In it, there’s a great passage titled “The Tough Jew,” which you can read a bit of here, in which Blythe recounts an interview with Heyman. Most interestingly Heyman reveals that had it not been for his father stepfather, who almost got into a fistfight with then UNC coach Frank McGuire during a recruiting visit, Heyman would have been a Tar Heel.

Ironically, it was Heyman who later punched McGuire in the nuts during the infamous 1961 brawl in Cameron Indoor Stadium initially between Heyman and then UNC player Larry Brown—as seen in the GIF below. (Brown’s the one with the ball getting clocked by Heyman.) According to the story, years later McGuire came up to Heyman at a professional game and told him, “Geez, it still hurts, Art.”

Though most people, myself included, won’t remember watching Heyman play, he will forever be remembered as the star New York City guard who spurned UNC for Duke and stoked the embers of a burgeoning rivalry that still burns hot today. And as a native North Carolinian, Duke alumnus and long-time Duke fan, for that I will forever be grateful.

I know Art Heyman is in heaven because he’s the reason we tell Carolina to go to hell.

The NFL season starts September 5 and that means fantasy football drafts are upon us. Of course, the most fun part of any new fantasy football season is coming up with a good team name. In my opinion, the best team names are typically puns involving a player’s name crossed with a pop culture reference (Call Me Brady, Somebody That Might Use Tebow, etc.). Since I happen to watch a lot of AMC these days, here are three potential candidates. Art direction by the inimitable Erik Stark.

Louis Vuitton has a new campaign out courtesy of Ogilvy France, paying homage to Muhammad Ali. The campaign includes two videos posted to the brand’s YouTube account that feature hip-hop artist Mos Def (er… Yasiin Bey) and calligrapher Niels Shoe Meulman interpretation-battling (that’s what I’m calling it) the words of Muhammad Ali. After watching both ads, it’s really those words that stand out the most. It’s hard to imagine any athlete writing something like this today.

My longtime friend Andrew Humphries and I discuss this ad in greater detail over at the Republicans Buy Shoes podcast. But for now, here’s the beautiful copy:

Last night I had a dream.

When we got to Africa,
We had a hell of a rumble.
First, I had to whip Tarzan’s behind
For claiming he’s the king of the jungle.

For this fight, I done wrestled an alligator,
Done tussled a whale,
And handcuffed lightning,
Thrown thunder in jail.

You know I’m bad.
I done murdered a rock,
Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so bad I make medicine sick.

So fast I run through a hurricane
And don’t get wet.
And when Foreman sees me,
He’ll pay his debt.

I’ll drown a pool of water.
I’ll kill a dead tree.
Wait till you see
Muhammad Ali.

This is the story of Muhammad Ali,
The prettiest fighter that ever will be.

He talks a great deal and brags in deed-y
Of a muscular punch that’s incredibly speedy.

The fistic world was dull and weary.
With a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary.

Then comes someone with color, someone with dash,
To get the fight fans running with cash.

This brash, young fighter is something to see,
And the heavyweight championship is his destiny.

Ali fights great—he’s got speed and endurance,
But if you sign on to fight him, increase your insurance.

Ali’s got left. Ali’s got right.
And if he hits you once, you’ll sleep for the night.

As you lay on the mat as the ref counts to ten,
You’ll pray you never have to fight him again.

For I am the man this poem is about,
The heavyweight champion, there is no doubt.

This I predicted and I knew the score,
The champ of the world in ’64.

When I say three, they go in the third.
Don’t bet against me, I’m a man of my word.

For I am the man this poem is about.
The heavyweight champ, there is no doubt.

Here I predicted Mr. Liston’s dismemberment.
Hit him so hard he wondered where October and November went.

When I say two, there’s never a third.
Standing against me is completely absurd.

If I tell you a mosquito can pull a plow,
Don’t ask how; Hitch him up.

I am the greatest.
I am the greatest.
I am the greatest.

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