How to Make Sure Your Branded Content Isn’t Really Just an Ad

Within the last few years, we've seen the TV and advertising industries devolve into a state of bedlam.

Toshiba Creates Futurama-esque Ad Mocking Its Own Industry

Toshiba skewers a certain hype-driven West Coast tech-topia in the brand's new animated spot, "Sillycon Valley."Packed with fun visual gags, the spot from goodness Mfg. takes us to a highly caffeinated zone of hyperactive technophilia that boasts computer goggles for canines (doggles!), WirelessWater (the bottles are WiFi hotspots), Asimo-type robots on public-works details and 5-D printers that inadvertently summon slimy tentacled monsters.A java-drone flying Starbucks colors soars above the local wind farm—and almost everyone's eyeballs are glued to their smartphones, if they're not hip enough to have Google Glass. "Animation is a great way to deliver over-the-top humor," goodness Mfg. ecd Tom Adams tells AdFreak. "It immediately transports the audience into another world where they don’t take things too seriously."Of course, tech excesses have been parodied to death—in HBO's Silicon Valley and just about everywhere else—so Toshiba's not doing anything especially innovative. Plus, this is a commercial, ultimately promoting the Encore 2 tablet for the back-to-school season, so the satire can't bite too deep, lest it risk being branded as hypocritical.All that said, the spot hits just the right tone. It's snarky, but not too mean-spirited, with a look that fits the tech biz to a T—busy yet sleek, over-bright and self-consciously befuddling. The commercial feels kind of like a spoofy segment on The Simpsons or Family Guy, which makes sense, as Friends Night, the studio that produces Fox's Animation Domination HD programming, worked on the project."Because they come from a TV background, they were able to move quickly, which was very important to us," Adams says. "We were able to complete the project from concept to the final approved version in about six weeks."Overall, the effort seeks to position Toshiba as "providing products and services that offer solutions, not empty promises," Adams says.(That's also the thrust of "Unleash Yourself," a live-action spot with a cartoon-y feel that shows Satellite Pro laptops magically morph into useful or fun items in various situations. You can watch that one below as well.)"Today’s savvy consumers are constantly questioning the practicality of new technology," Adams says. "We decided to have fun with this shift in attitude [emphasizing that Toshiba makes devices to] meet the real-world needs of today's consumer."Laptops and tablets are great, but I'll take a pair of those "smart-scissors" revealed during the animated extravaganza's crazed climax. It looks as if they'd cut through the clutter—and just about anything else.

This Digital and Traditional Agency Hybrid Showed Its Might at Cannes This Year

Specs Who (l.-r.) Nancy Daum, COO; P.J. Pereira, CCO, co-founder; Jaime Robinson, vp, executive creative director; Andrew O’Dell, CEO, co-founder What Advertising and communications agency

Toshiba Gets Sophomoric in Ads Aimed at College Crowd

Toshiba targets the college-guy demo with sophomoric humor in a trio of Canadian spots from Capital C. All of the action takes place in dorm rooms, and the ads seek to show how the client's computers can improve the school experience."Chicken Prank" focuses on a dude who can't peck away with his fingers on a keyboard or touchscreen because he's been wrapped in plastic and tied to his bed. Oh, and the room's filled with clucking chickens, naturally. He wiggles his toe to operate an All-in-One desktop with gesture control. Presumably, he summons assistance. (Dude, why not just scream "help!" at the top of your lungs? Maybe someone's in the room next door. Clearly no Ivy Leaguer.)"Black Light" touts the ability of Satellite P-series laptops to power and charge USB devices even when the laptop is closed. Two roommates just moving in are horrified when a USB-powered black-light wand reveals unsavory streaks, smears and smudges soiling just about every inch of their walls and ceilings. (I guess the pervious occupants hosted some all-night, um, study sessions.)The third spot, "Math Notes," showcases the Excite Write tablet's ability to convert handwritten notes and sketches into sharable files. A guy asks his roommate for calculus notes, and looks extremely dismayed, almost repulsed, when he instead receives a drawing of himself reimagined by his roommate as a hunky centaur. All three spots are cheeky, just a tad naughty and probably in tune with the teen and young-adult audience. I wonder, though, if some viewers won't find "Math Notes" borderline homophobic, since the punch line falls back on what Glaad has dubbed the "homo-queasy" ad cliché of showing a guy looking disgusted that another man might be attracted to him. "Toshiba would never intentionally set out to offend our customers," Sherry Lyons, vp of corporate and marketing communications at Toshiba of Canada, tells AdFreak. "We do not feel that the 'Math Notes' video is offensive or cliché."

Intel and Toshiba Peddle Product Placement in Branded Film The Power Inside

Brands have another incentive for crafting compelling content marketing beyond engaging consumers—it might prompt other advertisers to pay to be included. Such was the case with Pereira & O'Dell's latest online Web series for Intel and Toshiba, The Power Inside, which drove a handful of marketers to sign deals for product placement within the branded storyline.

Intel and Toshiba Follow Up ‘The Beauty Inside’ With Alien Zombie Saga ‘The Power Inside’

Pereira & O'Dell's social film "The Beauty Inside" for Intel and Toshiba was a major success—an engaging episodic tale with a delightful premise that propelled the small San Francisco agency onto the world stage when it won a Daytime Emmy and

The World’s Best Commercials, 2012-13

It was a long haul of judging for Sir John Hegarty, Joe Pytka and their jury teams at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week.Hegarty's Film Lions jury watched 3,125 commercials. Pytka's Film Craft Lions jury watched 2,029. In total, they awarded three Grand Prix, along with 21 Gold Lions, 38 Silver Lions and 70 Bronze Lions.

Pereira & O’Dell’s ‘The Beauty Inside’ Picks Up 2 More Grand Prix—in Film and Branded Content

CANNES, France—This Cannes Lions festival has turned into a thing of beauty for Pereira & O'Dell.The San Francisco agency added two more Grand Prix here tonight, in the Film Lions and Branded Content and Entertainment Lions categories, for "The Beauty Inside," the episodic social film it made for Intel and Toshiba.

Draftfcb and Pereira & O’Dell Each Win a Grand Prix in Cyber Category

CANNES, France—The U.S. doubled its 2013 Grand Prix count in a single award ceremony here tonight, as Draftfcb and Pereira & O'Dell were both honored as Grand Prix winners in the Cyber Lions.

The Top 10 Tech Ads of the Year

Take that, Apple fanboys.