Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Audi ad echoing “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler Superbowl ad

I recently came across an Audi commercial that has been touted as a rip-off of the “Imported From Detroit” Superbowl advertisement from Chrysler. Apparently Eminem sued them for plagiarizing instrumental parts of “Lose Yourself” and the settlement was donations to Detroit charities (although the exact terms are a secret). I love that part. 🙂

You can view the Audi ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqzsIZ6Qth0

And the Chrysler ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc

I enjoy well crafted television ads, because they are storytelling distilled: story question, beginning, middle, end, arc, all in a few minutes (both of these ads clock in at more than two minutes, less than two-and-a-quarter minutes) of video, music, and dialogue. Many ads do it in 30 seconds.

I have particularly enjoyed both the Chrysler Imported from Detroit and Jeep Manifesto stories, because they have focused on American themes — humble beginnings, pride of workmanship, achievable greatness. But the Audi commercial…well. I think it’s pretty clear that Audi’s agency copied the look and feel of the Chrysler commercial, but there’s no story.

Seriously, can you tell where it takes place? Bonn? Vienna? Berlin? It wasn’t intended to be shown outside of Europe, so it’s probably less mysterious for the intended audience. But I’m fairly familiar with landmarks of the bigger European cities and I couldn’t tell.

A series of disjointed images of a European city, a driver weaving between columns and spinning cookies in a parking garage all night, a fencing match, a clean shirt in the trunk for going back to the office: these do not make a story. Frankly, they don’t even make sense. There are shots of the car, but nothing connects the pieces together. Obviously, Audi didn’t understand what the Chrysler ad said, so they couldn’t effectively echo it.

Three statements from the Chrysler ad tell the backbone of their story: “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life…the strongest steel is made in the hottest fire…we’re the Motor City, and this is what we do.” The music (the guitar riff from “Lose Yourself” by spokesperson Eminem, a nice touch) and the images simply underscore that story.

Even the choice of Eminem to deliver the last line is part of the story; a skinny white guy who grew up in a run-down trailer park, found his god-given talent and worked his hiney off to become successful is pretty much a living symbol of Detroit. Who knows that story better than him?

Audi’s story says… this is the new A6 Avant. In a city, with a parking garage. Oh, and there’s fencing. Where’s the story, people? Consumers want the story. Because the story defines the brand, and people define themselves by the brands they use. Your story becomes the story of your customers.

For example, I come from Jeep people. My father drove Jeep products until he rolled his Cherokee on a freeway onramp and stopped driving; he and mom walked away with a few scratches, but the Cherokee gave its all. And mom bought a Chrysler van, LOL.

My oldest brother owns three Jeeps (one of them a 1948 Willys 4×4 in rusted tiger-stripe desert camo) (no, it doesn’t run), and I’m seriously considering a Grand Cherokee to replace my teenaged Subaru Outback in a couple of years. We need something taller, since Spooky Man’s back doesn’t like climbing down into a car. Yo Jeep, make a hybrid Cherokee, okay? Thanks.

Spooky Man likes Ford and Toyota, and Jeep is good too; General Motors products — other than the GMC version of the Suburban — are Of The Devil. I have no idea why, nor do I understand his exception for the GMC Suburban and not the Chevy Suburban, since they’re essentially the same vehicle with different nameplates.

However, I know better than to shop GM models, because we are Not GM People, just ask him. Whatever. (They seem fine to me, but on this occasion, it’s convenient for me to obey. See the bit in yesterday’s post about wedding vows.)

That’s the power of brand. And since brand is defined by story, that’s the power of story — tell it poorly/wrong? Your product suffers, and you end up paying for “selected social projects” for “the revitalization of Detroit.” Poor Audi; you can’t buy that kind of publicity, but it made the company look stupid. At least they make good cars.

September 22…

The first day of fall, the Autumn equinox, and my parents’ wedding anniversary. My parents died of natural causes in 2005 (mom in February, Dad a week after their anniversary), but today would have been their 55th. Happy Anniversary, you old coots. 🙂

Ten days ago, Spooky Man and I celebrated 19 years of wedded bliss with seafood and key lime pie (crustless for me, sigh). I’m hoping we both last long enough to get to 55 years, but how did we get to 19 so danged fast?

I could swear it’s only been six or seven years since we were rained out of the Boise Train Depot garden and I ended up promising to love, honor, cherish and occasionally obey Spooky Man. It works; I get to choose the occasions.

Happy Autumn!

Ellipses…Cannot End A Sentence Alone

Okay, today’s grammar rant lesson is about the ellipsis (ellipses is the plural). It’s those three periods that indicate text has been left out (like an apostrophe does with one or two letters), or that a speaker has paused to gather his or her thoughts.

If indicating trailing off at the end of a sentence, ellipses require the final punctuation to be included. For example:

“But I thought…” She stopped and chewed her lip. — This is incorrect. That’s right, it’s WRONG (that was yelled; I find this incredibly frustrating).

“But I thought…?” She stopped and chewed her lip. — This is correct. The ellipsis indicates a pause. The punctuation indicates what kind of [bleep] sentence the speaker is pausing in the middle of.

Incorrect: “What the…” (unless the sentence continues after the closing quotes)
Correct: “What the…!”

Incorrect: “Well, I don’t know…” (unless the sentence continues after the closing quotes)
Correct: “Well, I don’t know….” — note that there are three periods making an ellipsis and another period to end the sentence. That’s how it’s done, people. Really. I hope you didn’t just ask “Really?” again, because I will have to hunt you down and give you such a split infinitive.

Tomorrow, I will demonstrate the correct ways to introduce a person with a job title (hint: if you don’t have a closing comma on a parenthetical phrase, you’d better not have an opening comma, either).

Ahh, the eyelid twitch is getting less pronounced already. Thank you for your kind attention.

Blade’s Edge is two years old today!

My first book hit the shelves two years ago today. Happy Birthday, Blade’s Edge!

In other news, Monday is my wedding anniversary (19 years and I haven’t killed him yet, but then he hasn’t killed me yet, either; it’s all good). Yes, the stupid terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center the day before my wedding anniversary. Hey, they bombed the London Tube on my birthday — it’s apparently all about me.

I’m an Early Bird Bonus Pitch winner for the Emerald City Writers Conference, which means I get to meet the fabulous Angela James (editor of Blade’s Edge, by the way) for the first time. And she wants to talk about “The Valmont Contingency,” also known as “The Reluctant Socialite, The Privateering Engineer and Zombies In Spaaacccceee.” What? It’s catchy, it’s accurate, and it’s going to be changed anyway…and I stink at titles.

Sometimes, a girl has to accept her limitations. String theory, yes, no problem. Juggling two jobs while writing novels and running a household, no problem. Repairing the car, fine as long as I can get it onto a rack. Complex space-opera plots — really, is there any other kind? Good book titles…. Um. Not so much.

And I’m in the middle of reading through the manuscript for “The Valmont Contingency” for Savvy Authors’ Editpalooza class. I have to have my notes posted by Sunday.

Maybe by this time next year, my first book will have a sibling. 🙂

Why I Love Writing-Contest Feedback

I try to enter a contest or two every year as I have time/money/manuscripts, both to give support to fellow genre fiction writers (RWA chapters often use contests as fundraisers) and to get feedback outside my critique group. Interestingly, once one has been published, there are fewer contests open to unpublished work.

This year, I entered seven pages — approximately the opening scene — of two works in progress in the Emerald City Opener (put on by the Greater Seattle RWA chapter and commonly referred to as the ECO), and the first chapter or so of a historical I’ve been tinkering with for several years in the Rebecca (put on by the New Mexico chapter, Land of Enchantment Romance Authors).

I find judge’s comments from a tiny slice of a novel to be interesting on several levels, because they almost always approach it as if it’s the entire story. One ECO judge complained that hero and heroine of Open Mike at Club Bebop had not met by page 7; they actually meet when she dies in his arms on page 8 and he gets her on life support. By way of comparison, the hero and heroine of Jennifer Crusie’s NYT bestseller Welcome to Temptation meet on the last page of the first chapter — page 25 of the paperback. Judge #1 also repeated several times how much he/she loved my voice. Yes, they say nice things, too.

Another judge described the same beginning scene as “very passive and unemotional”; a cyborg veteran (the hero) confronts a criminal gang (the antagonist) ineffectually trying to break into his secured building. This is exactly what I wanted to convey, because his character arc is to rediscover his humanity (through falling in love with the heroine) and take back his life.

Judge #2 suggested beginning the story later, when the hero and heroine meet. Unfortunately, that would mean the second half of the story wouldn’t make any sense, because the antagonists wouldn’t have been introduced prior to the point where they kidnap the heroine. However, because Judge #2 didn’t have the rest of the story, all he/she saw was the gang poking at the hero and the hero poking back. I’m inclined to think this judge was female, because most men of my acquaintance don’t find that sort of thing boring. 🙂

I didn’t receive the third judge’s comments on this story due to a slight technical difficulty; I entered the openings of two stories and got two copies of this judge’s comments for the other story. I sent the coordinators a note, and I’m sure they’ll get it straightened out soon.

So the sum total of my feedback (so far), is that the story opening is doing exactly what I want it to, even if the scores reflect that the judges don’t quite understand where I’m going. Really, how could they, since they get seven pages and no synopsis to sketch out the rest of the plot — not even a back-cover blurb? They did a great job with what they had and told me what I wanted to know.

Thanks for your help, Emerald City Opener judges. You do good work.

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