One of the world’s largest public relations companies has become embroiled in a controversy surrounding its representation of a Tunisian Islamist political party and is downplaying a report that it refused to work with Israel. CaNo stranger to taking on controversial clients, American-based Burson-Marsteller is representing Tunisia’s Ennahda Party to improve its image abroad, according to the New York Observer. The Ennahda Party formed a coalition government in Tunisia during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The Party recently handed over the reins of power to a caretaker government after reportedly coming under pressure for failing to stop terrorism and keep the economy on an even keel. Burson-Marsteller is reportedly going to help the once-outlawed group with stakeholder and media engagement. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Tunisian group was behind terror attacks against tourist hotels in the 1980s while one of the group’s leaders called for the destruction of Israel. The same year that Ennahda came to power, Burson-Marsteller turned down a $3.5 million contract to work on improving the image of Israel. At the time, the head of the firm’s Norwegian office was quoted as saying, “If we accept this project, this will create a great amount of negative reactions…Israel is a particularly controversial project.” While the Observer and other publications have since ripped the agency, Burson-Marsteller reps issued a response claiming that the statement by their Norwegian colleague did not represent the firm’s position, which is: They have no policy about working with Israel. Burson-Marsteller, headquartered in New York City, hasn't shied away from controversy in the past. It is the same firm that took on rebuilding Tylenol’s brand after the tampering case, worked on helping Dow Chemical weather the Bhopal chemical disaster which killed thousands, and currently represents the Washington Redskins in their battle to keep their name and logo. Burson-Marsteller isn’t the only company to wade into the turmoil of Middle East politics to land business. Brown Lloyd James, another U.S. PR firm, coordinated a Vogue magazine photo shoot for Syria's first lady and worked on improving the image of then-Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
MillerCoors is betting big on branded content, revealing during an Advertising Week panel today that the company is currently testing initiatives with 26 different tech companies. Like most beer brands, MillerCoors’ marketing up until now has primarily homed in on broader brand-building. But with the explosion of digital over the past few years, the brewer is now using mobile, video and media partnerships to make a larger impact at the point-of-sale. "Twenty-six different tests," said Stevie Benjamin, MillerCoors’ senior director of digital and media. "We don’t sell products to consumers—we’re not distributors—we have retailers, so we’ve in the past focused a lot of our marketing on higher-funnel. We’re really doing a lot of testing lower-funnel." One of the recent trial programs used beacons—small smartphone-triggered devices set up in physical locations to ping nearby consumers with messages. Per Benjamin, MillerCoors partnered with Hooters, the Chicago White Sox and a media company she didn't name. Benjamin declined to talk about results after the panel, but did say that the test started this summer. While not all of the content is created for individual platforms, she explained, each test is being customized for a specific platform or experience. Benjamin said that MillerCoors is meeting—along with its agency, Initiative—next week with potential partners to build out next year’s content programs. When it comes to branded content that is working right now, Benjamin cited a program dubbed the Coors Light Axis program she's running with Complex Media, which follows two hip-hop artists by showing exclusive, behind-the-scenes interviews and content. While Benjamin stressed that she views content and advertising as two separate concepts, Jamal Henderson, Mountain Dew’s senior brand manager, said that his brand veers toward creating content. "That’s the lean-forward creative that people react to, and ultimately, it’s just storytelling," he said. Henderson also pointed to Mountain Dew’s recent work with augmented reality and Oculus Rift to indicate where branded content is headed. "I think it’s going to take the creative up to another level, [and] I think it’s going to take what’s expected from a brand to a new level," he said. Meanwhile at a separate panel today, Heineken talked about its mobile efforts to drive awareness of a new product launched in a particular U.S. region earlier this year. "Within three months, we went from zero awareness in that part of the U.S. to 23 percent awareness," said Ron Amram, the Dutch beer company's senior media director.
How quickly we forget what an art school nerd Matt Groening is. Every so often, producers of The Simpsons get one of their stranger pals to offer a unique spin on the characters to open an episode, and invariably, those ideas are as good as or better than the episode itself. Groening's high-art bonafides are real—he and illustrator Gary Panter used to "split burgers and scheme about how to invade pop culture." So it would follow that the list of collaborators on Simpsons couch gags is heavy on high-art cartoonists, animators and, uh, whatever you want to call Banksy. Mind you, Groening's guest directors come in all cultural shapes and sizes—there's a great Robot Chicken opening from last May, and Guillermo Del Toro, of course, showed up to do this beautiful/terrifying sequence for last year's Treehouse of Horror episode—but we're chiefly concerned with the gallery-haunting oddballs and geniuses whose work doesn't look like anything you'd ever see on TV. And here they are now!—Clown in the Dumps—Sept. 28, 2014 Last night, the weirdest thing happened. Like, ever. Don Hertzfeldt, he of the hilariously un-airable "promos for the Family Learning Channel use spell check) 36.4, in the year 10,535. Better yet, a clips show. With some very strange noises, some even stranger voice cues and, of course, Bach's Air on a G String, Hertzfeldt treated us to fond memories of that time Marge and Homer had two limbs each, that time the whole family appeared to be flagella-flailing unicellular organisms, and that time tripodal Marge croaked something loosely translated as "I will never leave you" to Hompod. Interestingly, Hertzfeldt, like Banksy (see below) enjoys dinging the show for its vast, nay, encyclopedic variety of merchandise, notably a few items available 8,520 years from now: Sampsans Helmat, Sampsans Lasar Hat, Sampsans Moon Vest, Sampsans Ape Spray, and Sampsans Mating Gel. Really, Matt, the Ape Spray was a bridge too far. I'm not even going to tell you how many times I've freeze-framed my way through the time travel shot in the opening.—MoneyBart—Oct. 10, 2010 Reclusive U.K.-based graffiti artist Banksy apparently decided The Simpsons was a valuable forum for a few sharp digs at global capitalism when producers approached him after seeing his film Exit Through the Gift Shop. What's interesting about his Simpsons work (as is always the case with the artist) is how well it uses the iconography of the show. I mean, the Hertzfeldt piece is truly amazing, but it doesn't look particularly like a Groening drawing, although I'd argue it's a more interesting cartoon. Here, Banksy has drawn boards for a bunch of jokes about how The Simpsons and related merch are produced in sweatshops, using the style guides the show has employed for years (more on how it came about here, and how it was censored by the broadcast standards department). This is Banksy's deal—his own work is incredibly diverse, stylistically—and to that much, the show was very faithful. Polish director and illustrator Michał Socha is less known and less political than the guys above, but his work is no less inventive: Homer gets pushed through the door to the garage, into the living room and...down his own throat, where we get to go on a magical mystery tour of his body. Favorite bit: drinking with Barney, using his liver as the table. It shrivels and dies, of course. The French director of The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist, Sylvain Chomet, came on board for last year's mid-season premiere to briefly relocate Springfield to the France of every American stereotype. Homer eats live escargots by the bucketful, he has a dashing mustache, and Bart opens a box called "DIY Goose Liver Paté" containing a goose, some corn and a funnel. (Yes, it's mean, but it's funny.) Marge's dialogue turns French briefly, too. ("Ou est Maggie?!") It's an interesting reminder that the bare-bones animation style employed on television is a function of cost, not capacity. You could absolutely make a TV show that looked like The Triplets of Belleville in every frame; it would just cost a kabillion dollars. It's always jarring to see Springfieldians in a different light, but here in particular, it's kind of nice. If you want a guy with serious dedication to his craft, look no further than Bill Plympton, the guy who draws every single frame of his cartoons. Plympton has been a big deal in the art cartooning world for quite a while and has logged multiple guest director credits on The Simpsons—he's had three different couch gags, but this one from 2012 is arguably the best. The other two are loads of fun, as well—there's Maggie changing the channels from Married to The Blob and this film noir homage from Black-Eyed Please—but the above tale of woe (do we even want to know how Homer fathered that tiny little armchair? How does Marge feel about all this?) is pretty surreal, in keeping with the weirdness we've meticulously catalogued here. If Groening et al are taking nominations for the next one, I'm going to suggest Charles Burns.