Brandish Creative

>>> This blog is a series of dispatches from the brain of creative director Rob Schnapp on media, branding, technology and pop culture. Enjoy. <<<
Recent Tweets @RobSchnapp

The most famous Super Bowl commercial of all time is now 30 years old. It only ran once and I have to admit that I missed it. That is, I didn’t see it during the game in its paid placement…

Houston, we have a problem that needs creative thinking

I love this scene from Apollo 13. It’s the creative brief in its purest form. The team knows exactly what needs to be done. No time will be wasted trying to figure out what the heck they’re supposed to be doing. They can jump right into the task at hand to come up with the best solution.

My creative process starts with asking lots of questions and lots of listening. The more I understand, the better I can communicate.

It’s called the creative process for a reason. There are certain steps needed in order dream up ideas that are not only captivating, but relevant. Nothing is quite as liberating for a creative professional as a well conceived strategy and brief.

If you know what you need to say, it makes it a whole lot easier to find creative ways to say it. 

- Rob Schnapp


Curly from the classic movie “City Slickers” wasn’t just a cowboy, he was one helluva brand planner.

As a creative director, few things annoy me more than creative briefs that aren’t singleminded. A piece of communication, in a sea of other communications vying for your attention, should not be expected to convey more than one idea.

Just because your product or service has multiple attributes doesn’t mean you can convey them all effectively at one time. You insist? Send in the shit wagon. That’s the vehicle into which you cram in all your benefits. It may satisfy the marketing person who wants to check off boxes, but it’s a waste of media dollars.

That’s not to say you can’t execute against various attributes that all ladder up to one overarching, higher order benefit. You can. But it takes numerous singleminded executions to get you there.

When I write a brief, or collaborate with a planner who writes it, I insist on keeping it to one target, one insight and one promise on one piece of paper.

One thing.

Yes, I’m from the Curly school of brand planning.

- Rob Schnapp

Here’s a quick look at the long-lasting Energizer Bunny campaign from Chiat/Day.

The original drumming bunny toy was actually from Duracell’s campaign.

Energizer was a new product line from EverReady with their eyes focused squarely on market leader Duracell.

Chiat turned the Duracell campaign on its rabbit ear and went for the throat.
It pretty much started out as classic side-by-side competitive advertising. But that lasted all of about 30 seconds.

Then came the breakthrough that made the Energizer Bunny a household name.

After seeing the convincing-but-ordinary Energizer commercial, another commercial appears. Some typical commercial for some typical product. But that commercial is suddenly disrupted with the Energizer Bunny who is “still going” strong long after his commercial ended. This went on for years. 

When you least expected it, the bunny showed up.

This was not a cute campaign. This was a tremendous idea. I wish I thought of it. Completely disruptive. Energizer snatched their competitor’s equity right out of their paws and made it their own.

Easter eggs for ad geeks:
The © for the allergy commercial says Clow Laboratories, Inc.
© for the wine spot says Sittig Vineyards.

- Rob Schnapp


As someone who creates advertising for a living, I occasionally feel guilty for using a DVR. But paid media at the whim of an advertiser, even if the ad is my creation, doesn’t automatically deserve your attention.

In the digital world, ads often ask for your permission. Is it out of politeness or low self-esteem? I’m not sure. Of course I will pretty much always skip it. Pretty much. 

Ads, or actually any content, require you to opt in. That’s true in any media. A print ad that doesn’t interest me gets the same reaction as an uninteresting banner ad - yes, that’s most banner ads.

This may seem obvious, but things that interest me earn my attention. That could be in the form of a movie trailer or a direct mail piece. Ads that believe that I owe them my attention are living in the past. Content that is relevant and/or entertaining to me is always welcome.

- Rob Schnapp

Found a blog that features an ad that I worked on. The blogger apparently sees female genitalia in a wood grain surface.

Yes, you caught us. The photographer and I searched the world over to find a wood table with just the right cracks in it. (dripping with sarcasm) 

Pace’s Pepper is Ready for Action

stud pepper

“We’ve Got A Secret Weapon For Breeding the Perfect Jalapeño,” says the headline in this ad for Pace Picante Sauce. Then they talk about the “Stud Pepper.”

The image shows a bowl of chili and a pepper on a wooden table. But the table isn’t the only wood in the photo—the real secret weapon in this ad is the pepper doing double duty as a man-sword, ready for action, and pointing to a large crack in table.

If you think this is just an accident, take a look at this. I’ve traced over the area you should be paying attention to:


But surely an advertiser wouldn’t be hiding sexual imagery in an ad? Well, sorry, but it appears that they have. I’m not aiming to become the new Wilson Bryan Key, but it doesn’t take a genius to see what they’re trying to do here.

Whatever. But hey, thanks for noticing the ad.

- Rob Schnapp

A great logo should represent a brand down to its core. The old logo didn’t do that because it was fun and full of personality. The new logo really brings out Yahoo’s true brand character - or lack thereof.

Well done Yahoo. Well done.

- Rob Schnapp


0 Tweets
15,773 Follwers

Am I missing something? How can newb accounts who have never tweeted have this many followers?

When it’s a celeb account with 0 Tweets and over 100,000 followers, I understand.

But a no-name egg account? I don’t get it. I don’t care. But I still don’t get it.

- Rob Schnapp

Every now and then I check out my Spam folder and empty it. Well on a recent look at my Yahoo! mail’s Spam folder, I noticed a sponsored message on top. Somebody actually paid to show up there? Worse yet, somebody sold a company to advertise there.

Daytime TV has always been where commercials for questionable products and services target the vulnerable. Reverse mortgages anyone? It’s bad enough when Spam arrives unfiltered in your inbox. But how many people are really scanning the Spam folder for deals and bargains? 

The sponsored message looks just as sketchy as what lies directly beneath it. Granted, there could be a cool creative opportunity for brands looking for a humorous way to break through and get a little PR. But even in that case, the ads probably wouldn’t be discovered in your Spam folder but rather from the buzz created by the agency who placed it.

Funny enough that the sponsor in the example pictured here is called Fisher as they are probably phishing. I’m not implying they are not a legit company. But I’m not taking the chance of clicking on their link.

- Rob Schnapp


Dave Grohl’s film “Sound City" explores recording with reverence, not nostalgia, for a place. Not just a physical place, but a place in time and a mindset that is fading away like the end of a song.

This isn’t one of those curmudgeonly “things were better in the old days” look at the past. Grohl, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Mick Fleetwood and many other artists discuss the magic of technology and luck at their favorite, and very dumpy, recording studio.

No disrespect to digital recording and mixing, but analog recording artists have to be legitimate singers and musicians. WYHIWYG (what you hear is what you get). There’s no hiding place from a sour note whereas digital technology can fix it. 

The limitations of analog are a boon to creativity. It forces you to actually make decisions as opposed to being wishy-washy with the crutch of being able to fix it later. Certainly great music is being made using digital technology. But with all the advances, the amount of great music being recorded hasn’t increased. That still takes talent, regardless of the tools at your disposal.

"Sound City" is a great movie if you’re geeky like me about creative process. And, of course, music. Hence, one of my all time favorite books is "Here, There and Everywhere" by Geoff Emerick about his experience as The Beatles’ engineer. These two works connect as Paul McCartney shows up in the film and plays with the surviving members of Nirvana. Yes, you read that correctly.

- Rob Schnapp


In many ways, this picture sums up my perspective on technology. My love of media, old and new, is represented here. Both of these items are in my home right now and neither of them work anymore. This is not the first TV remote control ever made. And this phone is obviously not the end of the line. (This iPhone 4 has been replaced by a soon-to-be-outdated iPhone 5.)

Years ago when my wife’s grandparents were moving out of their house, I asked if I could have the old DuMont TV and remote. It gives my den a retro look and is a great conversation piece. It’s from way before my time but plenty of the shows that were viewed on it during its heyday have made their way into my heart via reruns on Nick@Nite, TV Land and the like. I still love Lucy. 

At this brief history of time, the DuMont remote control and the iPhone 4 seem worlds apart. After all they were not made, nor conceived of, in the same millennium. I wonder how many years it will take for this picture to represent two technological items that are considered relatively close to each other. The two actually have a great deal in common. Both fit neatly into one hand. Both control power, video and audio. Both have led to addictive behavior. And in fact, both have allowed us to consume some of the same media.

Ironically the old-timey TV and remote had a much longer lifespan. Things used to be built to last - and repaired when necessary. Now when things come off the assembly line, their demise has already been engineered.

I’m not complaining. In fact I’m looking forward to my iPhone 6. And 7. And so on.

- Rob Schnapp

"I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have time to write a shorter one." - Abraham Lincoln

Many “traditional” agency folks believe that Twitter leaves no room for creative storytelling. But I think it’s just their resistance to change.

I’ve heard the argument from those clinging to the 30 second commercial. “How can we tell a brand’s story in only 15 seconds?”  And then once they figured out that stories can be told in 15, they screamed when asked to do it in 10 seconds. I’m sure the previous generation was making the same argument using the numbers 60 and 30. The answer is approaching the medium head on.

The problem happens when you try to apply the principles of one medium onto another. I’ve been in situations where TV assignments were unclear as to the length of the spots. That’s all well and good when trying to find the big idea. But if your media is pre-determined (not ideal) you MUST make that clear up front.

A billboard is not a print ad.

A print ad is not a banner ad.

The medium is NOT the message. But the medium MUST influence how you craft your message.

Tweet-writing needs to be short, clear and hopefully catchy. Wanna share an article, video or picture? You need to lead me there with just a few words. If you just write “Amazing” or “Hilarious!” I’m not going to click on your link. Or worse yet, some people just post a link with no other info.

But if you intrigue me, I may give you a look. And if you mislead me, I won’t follow your next link. Keep it smart. Keep it short.

140 characters isn’t much. And that’s a good thing. Get to the point. There’s a lot to be said for brevity.

- Rob Schnapp