Category: Outrageous Outdoor
February 26th, 2018

Marketers who take a stand: what’s the downside of declaring a clear point of view?

Days after another school shooting, the Daily Caller attacks U.C. Hastings for raising universal questions of justice and the need for strengthened gun control laws.

The University of California Hastings College of the Law’s “For Justice” advertising campaign took center stage last week in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

The conservative Daily Caller claimed Hastings is violating its charter by asking “political” questions in its advertising. 

Looking for a moment beyond the incredibly insensitive timing of the article—published within days of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we question the Daily Caller’s central premise – that questions about “justice” are an unacceptable topic to raise…at a law school.

Amber Athey’s article “California Law School Promotes Pro-Abortion Messages” offers this critique:

The University of California, Hastings College of the Law is promoting left-wing political messages in a year-long campaign that may violate its own policies as a state institution… The law school’s campaign, which began in July of 2017 and is titled “This Is Why We Work For Justice… address[es] that core principle of ‘doing justice’ with questions generated through conversations with our students, faculty, staff & alumni.”

For one portion of the campaign, UC Hastings posted blatantly political statements about abortion, gun rights, immigration and taxes on street poles throughout the city of San Francisco. One such banner claims, “A uterus is more heavily regulated than an assault rifle”

Athey goes on to quote Joseph Shashaty, the student president of Hastings Republicans as:

“Advertising clearly partisan views tells conservatives that Hastings only welcomes those views,” Shashaty explained. “Why else would they commit to paying for those advertisements if counter viewpoints were embraced?” “The so-called ‘For Justice’ campaign sent a clear message: UC Hastings is more interested in controlling the narrative than encouraging dialogue on campus,” he said. “These advertisements are 100% political. They are not based in fact, but they were produced to induce a political reaction.”

From a communications perspective, the Daily Caller’s article does raise an interesting question: When are the merits of a controversial point of view worth a potential backlash?

At Mortar we never stop urging marketers to make smart decisions about their product, and to focus their communications on the “A-ha Moment” their decision provokes.

So, we thought you might be interested in our decision-making process in this particular case.

 

Hastings is in a tough neighborhood when it comes to competition. U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall to the east, Stanford Law to the south. We weren’t going to coast on our reputation, or outspend either of those Goliaths. So, we studied our client. We worked to understand what, specifically, was different about a Hastings degree. What it was about Hastings that set them apart. What we found was this: Hastings is the oldest law school in the University of California system, with a history of working for justice that goes back 140 years. Most recently it was Hastings lawyers who rushed to SFO to help immigrants navigate the White House’s 2017 travel ban. Hastings grads have always been first on the scene – literally standing up for justice.

If ever there were an A-ha Moment, that’s one.

A program that is forthright in its mission of educating others so they can go on to tackle the most contentious issues of our time attracts a special kind of student. Students who are more likely to be motivated by a social conscience and perhaps just a little less interested in a huge paycheck. Such students will lean towards public practice and the bench—an area of strength for Hastings graduates.

Now that’s not to say Hastings does not graduate attorneys with interests elsewhere. Or indeed, that Hastings is not interested in alternative views or those with challenging opinions. On the contrary, Hastings would be one of the first to declare its interest in students of all viewpoints.

Neither does it imply that students’ views might not change after graduation.

But it does carve out a strong point of view for Hastings the educator: because Hastings is more than just a place to get a law degree. Hastings is bold about its educational mission. And Hastings is not shy about inviting controversy and passion into the classroom.

And that’s an idea worth raising a little hell about. That kind of shoe-leather-on-the-streets approach to justice is an idea worth talking about—in bold, possibly controversial terms.

Did we think it would please everyone? Of course not. Is it proving to be worth it? Absolutely.

Hastings’ tiny, no-budget campaign — executed on their website and supported by a relatively small number of street banners with limited distribution in the city of San Francisco — has generated a massive amount of attention. Posts about the campaign on various social media outlets have generated engagement from nearly 40,000 individuals.

Now, we could easily stop there. We could say “We got our client attention, our work is done,” and pat ourselves on the back. After all, we’re marketers, not policy-makers. But we think the Daily Caller misses the mark philosophically as well as factually.

The campaign does not violate the University’s charter.

It does not misrepresent the truth.

And it is in no way inappropriate for a law school to advertise the fact that it fights for justice – particularly when that law school’s 100+ year-old motto is “Fiat Justitia”  – “Let Justice Be Done.”

Some students see “For Justice” and feel connected to an institution that is sympathetic to their desire to change society. Others will be passionate about a particular issue (we heard a lot about women rights from the Hastings’ students we interviewed).

Some are drawn to the possibility of active, passionate debate and a classroom experience that is invigorating and insightful—mimicking the experience of pleading your case in court.

And yes, some are turned off by a tone that might be seen to imply there is a lot wrong about how we sell guns, treat the unborn, what we do with immigrants, or care for our environment. The campaign forces viewers to face uncomfortable truths, and implies that Hastings may force them to defend their views in front of uncomfortable people.

Isn’t that what law school is for?

Our point is this: A-Ha Moments are not without risk.

This one made us all take a deep breath. But in the end, we knew we’d brought the right kind of attention to a client with zero budget and massive competition. We did it honestly. And we did it by bringing our client’s true strengths to the fore. Did the work please everyone? Obviously not. Is that scary? Definitely. Was it worth it? Absolutely. We’re grateful for a client willing to take risks. For an opportunity to stand up for the idea of justice. And for the chance to prove that great ideas don’t need a huge budget to have a huge impact. That’s what A-Ha Moments can do.

See the entire campaign here.

The views expressed here are my own (Mark Williams, the CEO and Founder of Mortar). They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.C. Hastings or the Mortar team.

June 25th, 2015

Shaking up San Francisco in the Most Amazing Way.

Take a jaunt around the Exploratorium at Pier 15 for a head-to-toe experience that will have your senses jolted in a truly unique (and legal) way. The Exploratorium is San Francisco’s museum of science, art and human perception; the quintessential place that illustrates our city’s commitment to innovation. It serves children and adults—and everyone in between.

The Exploratorium came to us wanting a big idea for their Spring-Summer 2015 campaign to remind people—both locals and tourists—that to truly get to know San Francisco, the Exploratorium is THE place to start. People flock to this great city because it’s a world-renowned focal point for everything that’s cool, quirky and truly unique. And the Exploratorium is San Francisco’s epicenter for all that and then some.

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We learned that the majority of people visiting San Francisco (and locals) don’t have a trip to the Exploratorium on their must-do list. We set out to change that by creating a campaign called “Your Epicenter for Amazing.” The campaign utilizes four words to end the sentence “Your Epicenter for…” including: amazing, quirky, curiositivity and what the…? — all a nod to the inquisitive-fueling exhibits.

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If you’re roaming San Francisco streets today, you can’t miss the outdoor campaign—it’s literally everywhere. We’ve wrapped MUNI light rail trains and double decker Hop On Hop Off tour buses. The city is blanketed with ads on news racks and transit shelters, as well as landmark kiosks. As you travel into the city, you’ll even find the campaign in both East Bay and San Francisco BART stations. If you find yourself downtown and near the water, you might run into our work on the backs of pedicabs shuttling tourists up and down the Embarcadero.

With 600+ hands-on exhibits, we wanted to highlight that the Exploratorium is San Francisco’s focal point for interactivity… and everyone’s epicenter for amazing. We sought to “shake up your plans” in the coolest way possible.

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January 21st, 2015

Mortar’s Work. Spread the News, or Pour Some Booze?

When you go to museums it usually involves learning about something or someone else. The Exploratorium’s new Science of Sharing exhibits are something completely different. You actually learn about yourself. Will you like what you learn about “you”?

Ponder that, people.

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Do you act for the common good, or your own good?

 

Over the past few months, we partnered with the Exploratorium to promote the exhibits to the entire Bay area. But first we had to learn everything we could about The Science of Sharing. We were taught that similar to chemistry and physics, there’s also a science behind human thought and behavior. The Science of Sharing exhibits take societal challenges—like trust, cooperation and competition—and turns them into fun, problem-solving activities and experiences.

During our concept phase, lightning struck. The aim of the exhibits is to generate discussion and provoke thought around why we do the things we do, right? So why not create ads that do just that? Get Bay Area residents to ponder their behavior right in their native environment.

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This billboard was placed at the 101/80 ramp in San Francisco, a hotbed for road rage.

 

From bus shelters to digital billboards to coffee sleeves, we sure got people pondering. The units even featured a hashtag (#SocialDilemma) so they could weigh in on why they do the things they do. But we went way beyond just ads. We also made the discussion mobile by taking over San Francisco MUNI trains and turning them into “Conversation Cars.”

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Our Conversation Cars turned passengers into ponderers.

 

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Each Conversation Car posed questions that were relevant to a rider’s experience and got people contemplating while commuting. Do you put your bags on the seat, or at your feet? Should you just sit there, or is it okay to start talking to strangers? Is MUNI a call-free zone, or do you blab loudly and incessantly on your phone during the entire trip, annoying riders that are even three cars away? (Not that we’re judging.)

We also posed San Francisco denizens with perhaps one of the most pressing dilemmas of our times…especially in a city where the dogs outnumber the children.

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We created quite a movement.

 

A guerrilla-style marketing attack in the form of hundreds of pieces of fake dog poop scattered in San Francisco parks and on city streets was launched last week. Each “land mine” featured a sign asking passers-by if they’d clean up after their dogs if no one was around. The stunt was so attention-grabbing that our plastic poop propaganda pieces became collector’s items as people scooped them up and carried them home.

Also running are the following radio spots we produced for Pandora. There’s no judgment here.

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Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

The Science of Sharing exhibits are open now at the Exploratorium, so head over to Pier 15 and get baffled by your own behavior.

And the next time you’re merging onto the Bay Bridge, eating a curry dish on BART, or taking Fido out to do his business, don’t be surprised if you hear a little voice in your head asking, “Why do you do what you do?”

(For those keeping score, the answer to the question in the headline of this post is: BOTH.)

August 4th, 2014

There’s a Place for People Like Us! (And It’s Not the Nuthouse).

Our summer campaign for the Exploratorium is live, and it feels so good.

Using exhibits at the museum, we produced a series of short films that were shared on the Exploratorium’s social media pages (see the rest of the videos on their YouTube page).

And then we took over the entire city of San Francisco.

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Mortar’s biggest ad of the year.

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Our Thursday night campaign targeted young locals (and, we’re pleased to report, Thursday night attendance numbers have soared since the campaign’s launch.) The current summer campaign aims at the hordes of tourists trudging aimlessly toward Fisherman’s Wharf, because that’s all they’ve ever known. We’re here to let them know there’s more to San Francisco than whining sea lions and sourdough bread. Head down the road to Pier 15, and your brain just might get bigger.

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Because the Exploratorium’s exhibits play with perception and encourage interaction, we created a campaign with plenty of “head-tilt” factor. The black and white photos, which came from the Exploratorium’s archive, all depict actual exhibits from the museum.

For Pandora radio, we wanted to make people stop and tilt their headphone-wearing heads. So we created anthem-like spots that glorify everything the Exploratorium…isn’t.

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We’re sure there’s a place for non-curious people, too, but we couldn’t tell you where it is.

 

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The above billboard was supposed to go up at the Pier 39 parking lot, but the Port of San Francisco requested that we move it to Union Square. (So now we’ll catch the tourists before they board their cable cars.)

And of course, the new work is expected to draw more locals to the museum, too. At 100,000 square feet, you literally discover something new every time you go. Curious? Well, we know a place.

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June 4th, 2014

Exploratorium the for Work Our Out Check.

Over the past few months, we’ve journeyed with the Exploratorium from the strategy phase to creative execution, and man-oh-man what a sweet ride it’s been. The people who work there are so flippin’ smart, we get butterflies when they speak. For those not privy, the Exploratorium is a museum unlike any other museum. Part science, part art, and centered around interactive exhibits, it’s a full-blown cognitive and sensory experience – no matter what age you are.

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The museum recently relocated to Pier 15. Stunning architecture and avant-garde outdoor exhibits draw you before you even step inside. 

As you might predict, the Exploratorium is a haven for families with kids. But on Thursday nights, the museum is open exclusively to adults 18 and over for $10-15, a discount off the regular $25. Basically, you pay less, you’re allowed to drink alcohol while touching everything in sight, and you don’t need to take down a mob of five-year-olds just to see the concave mirror exhibit. It’s clearly a win-win-win.

We knew the Exploratorium wanted to promote their Thursday night events. We also knew that their exhibits play with perception, presenting the world in ways you’ve never seen it before. So we created ads that do just the same. It was almost too easy. (Just kidding. Nothing we do is easy. Except Spoonrocket. That ish off the hook.)

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The posters are currently up at Muni stops, BART stations, as well as thousands of local store and restaurant windows. Also running are the following radio spots on Pandora. We hear Yoda is a huge fan.

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Exploratorium, “Perception Flipped #1”

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Exploratorium, “Perception Flipped #2”

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For the optimal viewing experience, continuously rotate your computer screen 180 degrees.

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The next time your Thursday night plan involves Blokus and a 72-ounce Gatorade, haul your rear to Pier 15 instead and experience the transcendent wonder that is the Exploratorium. You really have to see it to understand it. And even then, mystery a still is it.