Category: Media commentary
April 11th, 2012

Ashley Judd Joins Conversation; Proceeds To Kick It In The Nuts.

We’re always conversing about the Conversation here at Mortar – whether it’s TIME making our brilliant clients sound appropriately brilliant, or an anchorman pantsing a brand’s strategy in the high school hallway. So naturally, it struck our fancy when Ashley Judd decided to get all up in it.

The media’s rampant disparaging of female celebrities generally renders them helpless as a field mouse caught in a boa constrictor’s death grip. Though Judd says she typically turns the other cheek to what the world says about her – she doesn’t read any of her interviews with news outlets – her friends alerted her that this time they’d gone too far. So-called legitimate publications were attributing Judd’s recent puffy face to plastic surgery, instead of to steroid medication she needed to fight a month-long sickness.

It sucks, but you can’t control the conversation about yourself. What you can do is deliver an intelligent, pointed response that upholds your integrity, and exposes your attackers’ douchebaggery.

Judd opted for the latter, and pulled it off with surprising grace. Her rebuff is critical, yet respectful, and definitely worth a read – even if just to soak in Judd’s cunningly elegant phrasing and deft vernacular. (Ashley, if you’re ever looking for a new gig, we’d love to have you. Operators are standing by.)

Talk amongst yourselves.



March 6th, 2012

Industry’s bacon saved by bacon. (Not Kevin.)

If you’re a newspaper, by now you’ve recognized that the paper news format has been fully overthrown by the force of digital media, and is lying helpless on the floor in a puddle of defeat. The gut reaction to this humiliating coup d’etat would be to curl up and weep while listening to Phil Collins on repeat. But is that what the Guardian is doing? He-ell no.

No. Instead, they decided to give us one of the smartest pieces of work we’ve seen in a while. One that goes a long way toward proving that newspapers aren’t dead at all — they’ve just relocated. And what a rich platform the web makes for discussing timely, controversial issues.

By casting doubt on a centuries-old story we thought we knew, BBH found a captivating, entertaining way to explain the new way to news. While the print ads (below) tell a less interesting story, they’re bold, intriguing, and focus on the conversation (which we’ve always insisted is far more important than the medium).

Yes, paper is dying a slow death. But format, schmormat. There’s not an ounce of doubt that we will always need news, and someone to deliver it to us through an all-seeing, unbiased lens.

Via Adweek.

February 24th, 2012

But The Memo Clearly States: “…Not Crusaders And/Or Rebels.”

“You think you know Wheat Thins? F*%k you.

Prepare yourself to fall completely in love with – then back out of love with – then be sort of ok again with –  a brand, all in the space of 6:50.

Yes, we posted this because it’s funny.

Yes, we posted this because it reminds us just how ridiculous we all are in our attempts to turn the art of conversation into the “science” of marketing.

But most of all, we posted this because it reminds us of Kurt Vonnegut’s asshole.

No, not his actual asshole, but the big ol’ asterisk he drew in Breakfast of Champions that represented an asshole. Right in the middle of the page. Just drew that thing. In the middle of a non-illustrated novel.
Which is, as we’ve noted before, A Thing You Cannot Do. But he did.

Stephen Colbert’s sponsortunity/takedown/whatthehelljusthappened routine certainly shows us how ridiculous megacorporate brand strategists can be, but more importantly, it lifts the curtain on strategy itself. Which is a bona-fide asterisk-in-the-middle-of-the-page-moment.

You can’t do that, right? You can’t just tell people your brand strategy…they might…they might discover that crackers are not in fact baked by tree-dwelling elves, but that they come from giant megacorporations who want their money! Gasp!

Here’s another example:

This Old Spice ad starts out as a Bounce ad; becomes an Old Spice ad, then a Bounce ad again and finally, we get a strong powerful Old Spice finish.

Again, you can’t do that! You just spent half your expensive media time plugging a brand you didn’t mean to plug! Unless…unless you’re a megacorporation who happens to own both brands. But even then, aren’t you outing yourself as a megacorporation? Won’t the people rise up with pitchforks and torches?

And since you’re a megacorporation, aren’t you supposed to be acting like mega-tools? Like the people who wrote that Wheat Thins memo?

So, gentle readers, we ask you: How are we supposed to feel about this? Megacorporations drawing asterisks? It’s unnatural, we tells ya! And since megacorporations love nothing more than blindly following one another, is it reasonable to expect more of this?

We sure hope so.

February 24th, 2012

Mortar, GGU, TIME Magazine, and The Romney America Doesn’t Hate.

“Dolla-dolla bill, y’all.”

What is wrong with you people?! Do you not recognize a Presidential-level haircut
when you see one? Just look at it! The salt-and-pepper sideburns! The strong jawline!
The erect posture! Shouldn’t looking that much like a President count for something,
America?  Huh? Come on!  OK…Perhaps not.

All politics aside, Mitt’s $12 million-and-counting Windows Vista launch of a primary
campaign proves what Mortar has been saying all along – big ideas beat big budgets
every time. 
But it wasn’t always this way. There was once a Romney who Americans
loved didn’t want to repeatedly punch. We’re speaking about Mitt’s father George, the
former Governor of Michigan, presidential candidate, and not-complete-tool.

We are not, however, speaking about him very eloquently.

We’ll leave that to TIME Magazine, which recently interviewed Mortar client and
Golden Gate University President Dan Angel.

See, In 1964, when the elder Romney was running for re-election as Governor, an
intrepid young writer by the name of Dan Angel received permission to become a
participant observer in the campaign and write a biography from a remarkably up-close
and in-depth perspective. Over three years, he continued his research, which included
hours of time and multiple interviews with George, as well as his family and friends.
Angel also landed the rare opportunity to interview former president Dwight Eisenhower
at his Gettysburg farm. The book, Romney, A Political Biography, was published in 1967
and provides a full account of George’s professional and political life.
Like Mitt Romney, Dan Angel was born in Detroit. Unlike Romney, Dan is actually
popular in Michigan, serving three terms in the Michigan State Legislature before
embarking on a career as a college professor, and then as President of Marshall University,
Stephen F. Austin University, and other nationally known colleges.

Fast forward to 2012, and Dan Angel is now Dr. Dan Angel, President of Golden Gate University.
And Mortar is GGU’s PR agency.
And Mortar PR knows that local and national media appreciate an expert who can offer insight into a candidate’s history and influences. (We also know more than a few writers’ phone numbers.)
Which is why Dr. Angel has been interviewed and published in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as well as TIME. It’s also why the media repeatedly turn to GGU when they’re looking for intelligent opinions from experts. And that, in turn, is why students know they can turn to GGU when they want to become experts.

The Mortar PR team remains busy lining up additional interviews, and possibly some
on-site events.

Dr. Angel remains an expert.

As for Candidate Romney? It remains to be seen.

July 29th, 2011

In Which We Follow The Advice Of A Devil-May-Care Flying Chipmunk.


A little humor makes a "me-too" service special. We're pretty sure we've mentioned Hipmunk before for precisely this reason – their Agony Index is not only funny; it's useful. Combine that sensibility with ads like this and one begins to think that these people (or cute animals who can book flights) might just be able to make the nightmarish hellscape that is modern air travel a little more tolerable.

The spot itself could have used more Trololo Cat and the narration is pure crap, but overall, great job.