Shell: Let’s go! What 10 things are wrong with this print ad?

In honor of Shell’s “Let’s go” ad campaign, let’s play “What 10 things do you see wrong in this picture?” Ready? Let’s go.

Actual Shell print ad

1.  The kids look Photoshopped in against a photograph of a Brazil coastline.

2.  That roll of kite string looks like it could be Photoshopped in too. It’s HUGE! And look at the way he’s holding it.

3.  The second kid has his own kite string but no roll of string. (Sorry, you probably can’t see the string, but it’s there and it heads off the page.)

4.  There’s no “to” needed in the headline. Why not say “Let’s help keep the skies blue”? C’mon, who was the copywriter on that?

5.  Who are they saying “Let’s go” to? Given the BP disaster, they should be saying this to the oil industry. So, why are they saying it to us instead?

6.  “Let’s go” seems to be a lame rip off of “Let’s roll.” The latter phrase helped galvanize our nation after the September 11 attacks. Shell’s tagline sits weirdly near the ad headline, not making sense, and then ends the paragraph like it’s trying to galvanize an industry—a spoiled, very rich industry.

7.  “Let’s help to keep the skies blue”—why? Because you can’t keep the water blue?

8.  Shell is talking about its supposed success minimizing pollution, but the picture looks like a filthy haze is still settled over the coast.

9.  Why Brazil? I don’t think Brazilians want to hear “let’s go” from Shell. (Here’s why.) Is this a lame attempt to change their minds? Trying to influence a court decision on Shell’s role in pollution-related health problems?

10.  The website given is, obviously their United States site, so again, why mention Brazil? It only makes people like me look it up and find bad news about you.

On an added note, I might know why Shell chose Brazil. It was to distract our attention from their appalling (but exonerated) actions in Nigeria. Or from their questionable environmental and/or advertising practices in Canada, New Zealand (case dismissed), and the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Maybe their ads should say, “Let’s help to keep the Shell ads true.”


Like to read about marketing and advertising with a sometimes social spin? Check out MultiCultClassics and Business Week’s Brand New Day.

Boost your creativity: Stop reading.

I’m sure you’ve heard about people going a week without television. Lately, people trying to take a break from technology and reconnect more humanly are going a week without social media or texting. I have something harder.

Try going a week without reading.

Yeah, you heard me, reading—and not just novels and magazines. No reading blogs, newspapers, or online news stories. No reading texts, e-mails, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. About the most you’re allowed to read are street signs.

Try stopping for a day, you’ll see how much of a reader you’ve become. Try stopping for a week, you just may change your life.

As Julia Cameron says:

We have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried.

In Ms. Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (a self-led workshop on creativity), Chapter 4 requires that you stop reading for the week.Blog author reading The Artist's Way

The goal is to free your mind from all that weighs it down. Instead of filling your mind with other people’s thoughts and words, you can now fill it with your own.

I can tell you I wasn’t very good at not reading, but even by limiting my reading (cutting out a heck of a lot), I learned this is true:

  • Creativity comes more easily. One blog post came to me while I rode my bike. For another, I looked to my surroundings and interviewed someone rather than reading for ideas.
  • You have more time to do with what you want. I was more productive at work and at home because I wasn’t online or in a book.
  • You spend more time reading than you think you do. In today’s online world, we read way too much. Much of what we read is by routine.

Here’s what else I learned:

  • Not reading is HARD! Monday morning, I logged in to my e-mail and immediately opened the day’s USA Today. When I was done skimming the headlines and reading about two stories, I realized I was reading. Ugh. An hour into my week and I was already, accidentally, breaking the rules.
  • Not cheating is hard. Excuses are so easy to come by. I read for my job, so I easily could have read much more and excused it. Don’t fall into this trap.
  • Defining cheating is tough. Sunday night I popped in to Twitter’s #blogchat, but within a few minutes I had to leave. As much as I wanted to call it “chatting,” I was reading, no doubt.

If not reading for a week scares you, give it up for a day. But really give it up. At the very least, you’ll be more conscious of what you do with your time. And that is always a good thing.

Let me know how your day or week of reading deprivation turns out. Oh, and one piece of advice: Wait until you finish that fantastic novel you started—why make it harder, right?


Want to know more about The Artist’s Way? Check out the official The Artist’s Way website. To see how others fared with reading deprivation, try the unofficial The Artist’s Way blog and Watson’s Unleashed.

Advertising masters show, don’t tell

Unlike many others, I didn’t cry when I first saw Subaru’s new “Baby Driver” commercial. In fact, I almost jumped out of my seat and cheered.

Sure, I’m not a parent, but I’m not emotionless either. I’m just a big fan of good advertising.

In 30 seconds, Subaru confronts every parent’s fears and emotions they face when their children start driving—without talking about those fears and emotions. It’s pure “show.”

See for yourself:

3 keys to great advertising

“Baby Driver” hits three keys of advertising seemingly without effort, and that’s what makes it so great.

  1. Piques your interest immediately as the dad hands car keys to a little girl. You think, “Where is this going?” You want to keep watching to see why this man is letting this little girl drive.
  2. Appeals to the emotions most parents feel when their kids hit milestones such as—and especially—driving.
  3. Gives a strong message without telling, without preaching. And everyone, parent or not, can identify with it.

Authenticity rules

People talk a lot about being “authentic,” and Subaru shows they understand.

The man in the commercial, Andy Lyons, is the actual father of both girls you see onscreen. Even better, what he says comes straight from his heart.

As Kevin Mayer, director of marketing communications, Subaru of America, Inc., says, “When we found this family we threw out the script. We simply asked the dad, what would you tell your daughter before she pulled away? The dad took it from there and he was perfect.”

Another perfect choice was the car. Subaru owners are known to be loyal and pass along their cars. Hmm…what else is known as something passed down? I know—a legacy! How smart and subtle they are highlighting the Subaru Legacy.

A bonus is that they promote responsibility behind the wheel. No texting, no talking on the phone. Their message isn’t preachy. It comes from a dad who wants his daughter to be safe, to be okay. It comes from love.

Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.

So, do you love it too?


Carmichael Lynch produced this commercial. I didn’t want to force their name into the copy, but they do deserve credit for the Subaru spot.

Unfreeze! Be creative to get a tough message heard

How do you get your audience to do something they might not want to do? How do you get your message across if it’s not a popular message?

Photo of stop sign w/ sign that says "Rolling stops $109.50"Business owners, CEOs, marketers, parents, governments, and pretty much everyone face this problem. So, how do we solve it?

One answer? Humor — especially when you’re trying to get people to follow rules.

Just ask the Ambler Borough Police Department.

Ambler, a town of about 6,400, gets a ton of transit traffic. Their main street, Butler Avenue, sees at least 10,000 cars a day. Many drivers also cut down side streets to avoid the most heavily trafficked areas.

Many of these drivers have one thing in common. They don’t like to stop for stop signs — either not at all or not for long enough. The result? More accidents happen. Residents complain. They don’t want these cars putting their kids at risk.

What’s a police department to do?

Traffic Safety Officer Robert Calhoun had an idea—signs at the busiest intersections that say “Complete stops free. Rolling stops $109.50. Your choice.

He first saw the signs being used in nearby Plymouth Township and knew they were a terrific approach for his department too. He was right.

Ambler’s signs have been up for about two years, and police have received mostly positive feedback.

Why does this solution work?

  • Humanizes the police department by using a sense of humor.
  • Shows drivers the choice is theirs. The police aren’t there to punish people; they’re there to make towns safer.
  • Responds to residents’ complaints.
  • Creates awareness that lingers.

Officer Calhoun told me he sees a difference. People stop and read the sign. And the message stays with them. Drivers become more aware of stopping at other signs as well.

Making your audience aware of a problem that needs to be fixed is the first step toward finding a solution. These stop signs also make the residents aware the police are taking action.

Why does humor work?

Humor tends to relax people’s defenses. They’re more likely to hear and accept a difficult message.

Obviously, humor isn’t always appropriate. Different problems require different approaches. For example, for layoffs, cutbacks, and mistakes, humor would be insensitive and disastrous. Honesty and sincerity are the way to go.

The point is to think about problems from different perspectives and not limit yourself to one solution:

  • How do you want your audience to respond?
  • What are different ways to get them to respond in the way you want?
  • What has been tried before and didn’t work?
  • What has been tried before and did work?
  • What will your audience be most receptive to?

Ask yourself these questions and more. Ask your team. Ask your audience.

Like all police departments, towns, and businesses, preventing and solving problems all starts with understanding your community.


Special thanks goes out to Officer Robert Calhoun for taking the time to talk with me. He couldn’t have been nicer. I’d like to have his police department in my neighborhood. Merci beaucoup to Stephanie Eubanks who sent me a new header photo, which is now in place.

Marketing, bicycling and Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I wasn’t thinking of Robert Frost or of marketing when I started my bike ride Saturday morning. But along the way, I kept smiling at all the ways my ride resembled good marketing advice. Ride along with me, won’t you?

I started with a plan (marketers love plans): Start at Lower Providence Park (in Oaks, PA) and ride to and through Valley Forge. While I was getting gear out of my car, my bike fell and my handlebar mirror snapped off, unusable. I like to see what’s coming up behind me, so I was not happy about this.

I haven’t been on the trail in Oaks for a while, so I was surprised when I came across a fork in the trail—one way leading to my old familiar route and one path leading to a new route, Phoenixville.

I decided to take the new route. Not much thought went into it really. I approached it and thought, “Why not? I can always turn around.”

And I almost did turn around when the smell of sewage or putrid, stagnant river water polluted the first part of the ride. But I thought, “It can’t smell this bad for long.” Luckily, I was right.

About halfway to Phoenixville, the trail stopped and, according to the park sign, I had to go on the road for a while to get to the other part of the trail. I was a little nervous because I had no mirror. With drivers these days, you never know when you’ll have to make quick, evasive maneuvers. I decided to risk it.

I also had no idea where I was. This neighborhood was new ground for me.

The road had directional bike route signs that led into Phoenixville, right near the canal. I had always been curious as to what was down the road where the canal sign was, so I was happy to suddenly recognize where I was. On one side of me was a narrow river channel, and on the other side were woods, separating me from more water.Picture of the canal

Immediately, I came upon a man painting. His canvas was at least 3 feet tall and his painting of a red house at the riverside was gorgeous. Dressed in black, leaning over his oils, with a slightly battered straw hat shading him from the sun, the artist would’ve fit perfectly within his own painting.

You’re probably thinking, well, that’s nice but where are the marketing lessons?

Well, too many marketers push their “innovative products” or “integrated solutions” and claim they “think outside the box.” Cliché, cliché, cliché.

Time to do something new. These lessons are good for marketers, business owners, artists, writers and more.

  1. Take the path less traveled. Sure, it’s risky, but it’s also different. And you want to stand out, right? Sometimes you have to ditch your plan and be open to taking a new path.
  2. Keep pedaling through the hard parts. At first, things might stink, but if you keep working at it, you’ll be rewarded. Immediate gratification is for five-year-olds, not marketers or business owners.
  3. Once you choose a path, don’t look back. Not having a rearview mirror can be a good thing. If you spend too much time studying what you’ve done before or worrying about the competition coming up behind you, you’ll lose sight of what’s in front of you.
  4. Inspiration is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes and your mind to see it.

So ride, walk, work, and choose new paths every day. You never know which one will make all the difference.


The excerpt at the beginning of my blog is from Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” In case you don’t know who Robert Frost is, here’s a link to learn more. The artist I met is Larry Francis. Check out his work too. Enjoy!