Spreading the Love this Valentine’s Day

Spreading the Love this Valentine’s Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the bi-coastal Access Emanate Cares team wanted to join forces across the San Francisco and New York offices to spread the love to those in need. We partnered with Cards for Hospitalized Kids, a charitable organization that spreads hope and joy to kids across America in hospitals. The organization works with hospitals across all 50 states to send children cards around various holidays and has sent more than 100,000 cards to date.

We thought it’d be a great idea to get the San Francisco and New York offices together to both create cards for these deserving kids. Not only would we be giving back to a really important organization that is helping do something small to brighten kids’ days, but we’d get to have some fun and put our creativity to good use.

In SF, a group gathered in a conference room and channeled their inner artists to create some really adorable cards toward the end of a work day. With glitter glue, construction paper and some heart stickers, the team was able to create a bunch of valentines with sweet messages inside. We also learned that crafting is quite a stress reliever. Everyone enjoyed taking a brief break from their desks to use their creative spirits for something good.

The following week, the NYC office, armed with glitter, plenty of heart stickers and doilies, penned Valentine’s Day cards for dozens of children to be distributed in hospitals around the country. Inside, encouraging messages included phrases like “Keep it up!” and “We’re so proud of you!”

Across both offices, we created more than 100 cards to be distributed to kids who are looking for an extra smile this Valentine’s Day. We hope our messages of love made their day a bit brighter!

Super Bowl Ads Through a PR Lens: Politics and Poignance

Super Bowl Ads Through a PR Lens: Politics and Poignance

LONDON — The Super Bowl is a huge moment in time in the marketing calendar and while it’s adland’s moment in the sun, as PRs, we’d be remiss not to pay attention and speculate about its reach into our discipline. In fact, it’s like ‘our’ version of the annual Christmas ad reveal, so every year @AECLondon, we embrace American football, grab the chips and dips and sit together to talk about the highlights, so here’s our view, grouped by theme and trend.

With 2017 being the year that it is, the overarching theme for the Super Bowl — with some of the most epic production and spend to bring it to life — is POLITICS. This begs so many questions, which could give rise to a whole other blog post, and we’re asking:

  • Politics may be more divisive than ever, but it’s now an omnipresent dialogue. Is it acceptable now to talk about politics…at work, on Facebook, at the Super Bowl? When will we get fed up, if ever?
  • Is it the role of a brand to comment?
  • Is it even authentic for brands to act like they care? Are they stepping in to save us when we’ve lost faith in everyone else or is their money at the root of their motivation and so therefore also suspect in the consumer’s mind?

Ponder that as you take a look at the ads that speak directly to this theme:

  • 84 Lumber, a building materials company, breaks our hearts with the most overt reference to The Wall and the promise that America holds.
  • In Born the Hard Way, Budweiser risked backlash with its immigrant founding story, as did Coke with its “It’s Beautiful” spot.
  • Airbnb comes at us with #WeAccept. See the attached spot and article to read how this is a through-the-line campaign with CSR and social attached, but also a refreshingly honest way to confront discrimination baked into their own model.
  • And Audi puts the pay gap under the golden lit set in Daughter. That’s right Audi. You go.

In the wake of Brexit, we saw some Christmas ads embrace diversity in England — note the multicultural cast of characters in the Sainsbury’s ad, but it has not yet been as overt as the above examples. No matter what you think, it seems more brands are playing the role of provocateur, so you may find your agency pushing your boundaries. It may be uncomfortable, but it may also be time to listen.

Another theme, in a fragmented America, is the idea of COMING HOME and all the comfort that brings, with a reminder that it’s a safe-haven (ideally) where love lives. Check out how Google portrays warm homes embracing all sorts of diversity in Home, By Google. Or Michelin bringing people home safely to events both mundane and memory-making in I Need You. What we like here is the subtlety of the branding. It’s imperceptibly perceptible. Is that a thing?

Celebs are not new to Super Bowl ads, but on the heels of losing so many ICONS in 2016, it’s worth pointing out that the likes of Peter Fonda (for Mercedes Benz), John Malkovich (for SquareSpace) and Arnie (Mobile Strike) get some recognition for their classic roles. On that star-studded note, Honda put forth a very sweet ad based on your yearbook-self giving advice to your older self as it pursues dreams (as the Honda brand promises always to do). These cameos are impressive and…MISSY ELLIOT!!!! Tell ‘em M-I-crooked-letter-crooked letter-Y!

And what about Being John Malkovich? Well, in a nonsensical year where a lot of us are asking WHAT THE?, he makes the question perfectly clear in the spot for SquareSpace.

On an even more nonsensical note, Bai uses discordance to sell a drink that manages to taste great and be good for you (and here we thought that was wine!). After Horse Whisperer, they give us Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake swapping roles. Finally, we really liked the spot about the Secret Society behind Avocados from Mexico (a Ketchum client), but we always enjoy a conspiracy theory here in the Big Smoke.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and are taking an informal poll here at Bankside, so Tweet us with any feedback @AECLondon.


Told Ya So: 2016 Trend Prediction Outcomes

Told Ya So: 2016 Trend Prediction Outcomes

Around a similar time last year, we gathered around a table with several months’ worth of notes to bat around what we believed would be the year’s biggest consumer trends.

6 rose to the top:

  • Peer Heroes – the idea that regular people are the new celebs
  • Big Emotions – leveraging our understanding of our emotions to live a better life
  • New Languages of organization – the shift in ways in which we communicate
  • Gender Neutrality – the continued blurring of the lines between male and female
  • Proliferation of VR/AR – how brands are now using it for good
  • Errorless Society – the rise of innovations that keep humanity from making mistakes

So, were we right with these trends? Did we see them continuously pop up in the market? Almost as much as the dab, with the exception of one.

Peer Heroes: We got to see big brands tap kids and their unique creativity – like Target, which leveraged a 7-kid team to make its Back to School ad. In a more grassroots example, CEOs in training created companies like iRummage – started by elementary school kids to raise money for their schools. As for stardom, music video lip syncing app Musical.ly made celebs out of normal teens who garnered fans across the globe and kudos from Billboard. Talent at its finest.

Big Emotions: We’ve found ourselves at a cross section between technology and emotions and how they work together to better people’s lives. Headspace, one of the most popular mental wellness apps has expanded its offering to children. Planextra – created by physicists and engineers – is a device that detects 64 emotions and helps humans better understand what sparked them. Zenta is the newest wearable startup boasting stress and emotional management. Imagine downward facing dog for your mind.

New Languages of Organization: Society is moving away from words and toward the visual, a la emojis. This can be seen in companies like Yarn – an entire platform dedicated to sending and receiving clips from movies and TV shows. Another instance of this can be seen in Thngs, the Russian Wikipedia database for physical objects or a digital museum of things. Need info on the original Gameboy? Here ya go, nerd. We’re even using WiFi as currency with companies like Velvet letting us buy and trade it.

Gender Neutrality: Though not a surprise, certainly relevant. Making history, this year’s first ever Coverboy was announced, James Charles, for makeup giant Covergirl. And now rewriting history, we’ve seen gender role reversals in mainstream movie culture – Ghostbusters, Splash, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to name a few. Who ya gonna call? Either sex.

Proliferation of VR/AR: So here, my friends, we admit defeat. This trend didn’t prove to go in the direction we thought, and in fact went in the opposite. We found an instance or two of brands using VR for things like supplemental patient care, but for the most part, it’s being used by brands for marketing and entertainment. Perhaps we were a little early to the call, so watch this space.

Errorless Society: Terrifying? Yes. Happening anyway? Also yes. We’re seeing just how smart we can get with brands like Multiply Labs that can 3d print pills in layers so that consumers can take a day’s worth of meds in one gulp while timing the layers perfectly so drugs don’t mix improperly. Beyond medicine, Fysiopal has created shirts that vibrate when the wearer has poor posture. Your nagging mom’s new partner in crime.

So it all begs the question, what could possibly be next? We’re so happy you asked! Stay tuned for our 2017 trends predictions coming soon to a blog near you.

After the Interview: What’s Ahead for Tech, Media, Storytelling

After the Interview: What’s Ahead for Tech, Media, Storytelling

SAN FRANCISCO – What’s ahead for tech, the news media and storytelling in 2017? Video – short, long, live and lots of it; artificial intelligence; and a landscape re-shaped by the presidential election.

Those are among the topline takeaways from our San Francisco office’s third annual media mixer – After the Interview – which brought together PR professionals from around the Bay Area and Silicon Valley as we tapped into the zeitgeist with top national journalists from Wired, Fast Company, Fortune and Yahoo Finance. I moderated the panel along with my colleague Jared Leavitt from New York.

What they said…


IT’S MOBILE: In our mobile/social age, there are many more places for content to go, but good stories work everywhere and journalists have to be where the audience is, says Wired’s David Pierce.

IT’S VISUAL: Fortune now has a video person in the Bay Area on the hunt for visual angles to tech stories, and Yahoo Finance bakes video into more and more stories for the site – recent Facebook Live experiments included a you-are-there experience at a recent Apple event. Giving people a chance to engage and “be in the room with you,” is really powerful, says Pierce.

IT’S LONG, AND IT’S SHORT. Fast Company is known for long form, deeply reported stories, but has experimented with new sections that have shorter reads that are meant to quickly inform or entertain, says technology editor Harry McCracken.


It’s still early days, but McCracken believes a lot of content soon will be consumed via messaging platforms; every journalist should be thinking about the implications of messaging/chat bots.

Speaking of bots, McCracken foresees them playing a bigger role in determining sites’ lead stories. [An observation as I write this, and as someone who has been there during my 20+ years at Gannett: Is there a desk editor anywhere who will miss the graveyard shift? On the other hand, the graveyard shift will get even lonelier.]


The presidential election was a moment of self-reflection for Silicon Valley, says Fortune’s Kia Kokalitcheva, whose beat includes the ‘gig’ economy.

The economy really came front and center, she said, which means that examining the on-demand economy and assessing its impact on the larger economy will be even more important.

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons of the election was that journalists aren’t fortune tellers. There will be fantastic stories to tell in the months and years ahead, says McCracken. But journalists should say what’s happening, and what they think, and be clear about the difference between the two.


Artificial Intelligence; Silicon Valley culture and how it will course-correct post-Election; Uber, Lyft, AirBNB and the regulatory impacts on these companies; communication and the way technology is impacting the way people talk to one another.

And that’s a wrap. Until next year.

You can find videos from the panel here. Leave comments below if you have any additional insights or learnings from your own experience with media!

Vive La Insight

Vive La Insight

So what exactly is an insight? It’s a question batted around year after year and surely many more to come. A question everyone and their mother has a different answer to – and by mother we mean Creative Director (really the same thing when you think about it).

Lucy Goode, VP of Planning at Publicis Canada says an insight is “A revelation. Something that makes you go, “f**k me, I never thought of it that way.”

A former colleague once said: a conclusion you draw from two seemingly unrelated statistics.

Trace Follows, Chief Strategy Officer at JWT defines it as: “Something that is weird-normal.”

Here at Access-Emanate, Blair Arthur, SVP of Planning and Insights, who started up the planning practice over 8 years ago defines it as: “a real truth.” Something unobvious and uncommon that will motivate the target.

Which leads me to this: if I read in a brief that the human insight is, “our target is a busy mom who doesn’t have lots of time and is willing to pay more for products that help her save time” one more time…I might just sit Shiva for all of marketing and advertising.

I won’t sit here and claim to have the absolute definition of an insight. Or even exactly how you can find one. But I will tell you this — it should get a reaction out of you. It should feel unobviously obvious. Maybe it makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe it’s something you can’t get your mind off of for two days. Maybe it makes you feel electric or maybe it makes you interrupt four other people because you just need to get it out there.

Whatever it does, go with it. Let it be weird normal. Let it be shocking. Let it be too big or too real or too honest. As my mother once said, “Nothing worth having comes obviously.” Or maybe it was my creative director. I forget.