Author Archives: talexarsenault

Video of the Week: Audi – Barely Legal Pawn

Audi, the German automotive giants recently released a lengthly commercial–or short promotional video depending on how you see your glass– for an online audience. The web-based video features some of this year’s biggest television stars, just in time for the 2014 Emmy Awards scheduled for August 25th, 2014. This funny commercial takes cues from popular television shows, using both character and story line references to entrap viewer attention. It’s a landed hit that shows off the best of the Audi brand, featured actors, and Emmys.

In brief description, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad fame, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the Seinfeld Dynasty and current star on hit comedy show Veep, are Audi’s celebrity features. The two guys are working off of their Breaking Bad chemistry, playing gritty small-town business partners. The first part of the video shows us Dreyfus in her Audi, explaining why she’s in need of some quick cash. Continuing, she admits to drinking a little too much rosé and accidentally buying her own island, one a bit out of budget. Relatable, right? Dreyfus, playing herself, walks into Cranston and Paul’s pawn shop, cheekily titled, “Barely Legal Pawn” to hesitantly negotiate a deal for her coveted Emmy award. This is parodying popular love-it-or-hate-it History channel show “Pawn Stars” and other shows of the like. Cranston and Aaron Paul go out of their way to be as uncomfortable as possible and Dreyfus ends up not following through with the sale, leaving the shop and keeping her Emmy. She signs a media release form with the “Pawn Star” producer and suddenly realizes she forgot her car keys, forcing her to reenter the shop.

As she enters the shop, the lighting is dimmed, and the suspenseful violins kick into gear as the tone of the commercial dramatically shifts. She, of course, walks into a back room alone where Cranston and Paul are standing. Cranston closes the door behind her with a menacing tone and puts on a gas mask, a literal reference to the Breaking Bad series. Paul is in the background pouring liquid into a container, similar to the same show where both men played big-time crystal meth chemists. We find out that no, they are not making meth, but running an illegal puppy-bathing business. Paul pull’s out a cute puppy and Dreyfus asks “is it a boy or a girl?” and without missing a beat he replies, “Ahh… b*tch”. For those who are unaware, that colourful expletive was Paul’s Breaking Bad catchphrase.

These commercials jive with nearly everyone. We love being in on the joke. Using two extremely popular shows to capitalize on this fact makes us all feel part of some elitist cultural group. Most of us get the references, making the entire production feel tailored to popular taste. It’s also playing on the fact that many fans of Breaking Bad, approximately 112% of the American population, were in some form of withdrawn state of mourning following the series finale. Needless to say, the demand to see those two actors together has remained at boiling point for a while now. So Audi basically stroked our cultural ego, toyed with the army of Breaking Bad fans, and made a standalone funny internet video to boot.

For Audi’s branding purposes, yes there are many great shots of their cars throughout, but as was clearly the strategy, showcasing the vehicle became secondary, if not tertiary to creating a memorable moment. People might not remember every detail and spec of your new vehicle, but they’re more likely to remember how they feel. Not to mention, this video is just over six minutes long, so assuming the viewer watches it through, they are volunteering to invest in the Audi experience. Holding someone’s attention for 6 minutes is a rich amount of time to construct an experience, and Audi does it very well. Plus, it does build and play on the Emmy hype which never hurts, no?


Video of the Week: Banned Advertisement, “Marmite Rescue”

For this week’s post, let’s mix things up with a little controversy. I should preface this by saying that some readers may find this advertisement distasteful. On the other hand, some may find this coy and brilliant. In either instance, it get’s you talking, which I’ll elaborate more on later. Marmite, the salty breakfast yeast spread enjoyed primarily in Britain, worked with Cannes’ 2014 agency of the year winner adam&eveDBB. The ad itself was released in 2013, but received most of its acclaim in 2014. Interesting to note, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) recoded 250 complaints within the first twenty-four hours of the commercial’s release. This comes as a bit of a shock when taking into account Marmite as a breakfast brand, usually set on maintaining a family-friendly brand image. Depending on how you read into it, that statistic either spells out a clear home-run or regrettable fumble.

So, why the controversy? Marmite’s advertisement was unmistakably inspired by reality and/or documentary-style television shows that follow animal protection workers as they investigate cases of reported neglect. The shaky camera follows the Marmite workers into different residences where they rescue neglected Marmite jars from kitchen cupboards around Britain. They carry the rescued jars in tiny cages and bring them to the Marmite Rehoming Centre where new potential families look to adopt. The guilty culprits of Marmite neglect are ashamed and remorseful, and at one point we even see the taxing toll the job has on one of the workers, as he weeps behind the truck confessing to a coworker, “I’ve not seen one that small before”. At the end, we join a family in their home who have just adopted a new jar. As their youngest child takes a bite, he makes a grimace at the taste and the voiceover restates their slogan, “Love it or Hate it. Just Don’t Forget it.”

The bulk of complaints came from viewers accusing Marmite of trivializing and corporatizing animal abuse, neglect, and rescue efforts. In one respect, they are making a laughing matter out of a very serious issue, so it’s understandable that viewers who are especially passionate about animals rights could take offence. Not to diminish the value of these complains, but my personal opinion–and this is coming from a vegetarian animal-lover who semi-regularly fosters animals from the SPCA–is on Marmite’s side.

Humour, if used properly, can be a solid means of communicating a point or position. It can also be a great subversive tool to hammer that point home. If Marmite’s financial benefit from emulating this serious genre of show is your issue, I would recommend directing focus to the mothership–the television networks who pioneered the genre for their own gain. Moreover, I view this work as more of a hit on the television style and genre than the subject matter at hand. If anything, it reminds the viewer that there is an entire industry crafted around exploiting causes of the like. Even though it is humorous in nature, I would argue that it really does stress the difficult job of animal abuse workers.

Now, all that aside, Marmite’s slogan is “Love it or Hate it. Just Don’t Forget it.” That’s exactly what this commercial accomplishes. It splits its audience, whirls up conversation, and a year later, it’s still as punchy as ever. To be acclaimed at Cannes is a big deal, and side note, PETA also affirmed their support of the commercial. This tongue-in-cheek commercial did exactly what the brand set out to do. And you must admit, the ridiculousness of rescuing jars from houses in residential Britain is pretty funny. It may be insensitive to some extent, I’ll accept that stance, but when the dust has settled, it’s probably done more good than harm by reminding people about the cause through farce. The final shot of the child’s less-than-impressed face is also perfectly placed. If you’ve ever tried Marmite or the similar Australian version Vegemite, you know that the pungent taste also divides, probably to greater extents than this commercial.

In closing, Marmite produced a cheeky ad that got more flack than merited, or alternatively, just as much as they intended.

Horse & Cart at WordCamp Mtl 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 2.13.11 PM

Over the weekend, Horse & Cart attended the 2014 edition of WordCamp Montreal. For those unfamiliar with the conference, WordCamp is a weekend that brings together developers, designers, and writers, unified under the point of commonality that is WordPress. The conference is an event for talks, workshops, and networking to better one’s understanding on how to navigate and leverage WordPress and WordPress-related tools to sharpen your skills. The weekend was packed full of informative presentations and panels from industry leaders, assuring something for everyone.

Our very own digibomb was asked to speak on a panel that tackled making money with WordPress. He served as the agency voice among mostly freelance workers and answered transparently about the realities of determining price points, client relations, and WordPress strategy. The panel went notably well, giving way to a slew of audience questions and subsequent discussion. Defining the value of one’s work was arguably the largest takeaway, working either as a lone developer or agency. Everyone speaking did a strong job communicating their experiences in the workplace. Judging by the questions that followed digi out the door, it was clearly a burning topic. Two attendees with further questions for digi told us post-discussion that “the panel was pretty insightful” with one saying there was “more taken away from this panel than any other ones that I’ve been at today”. This was concluded with the conception of the newest digi-inspired hashtag, #lovethebeard.

There were also strong presentations on writing, and more specifically blogging. Liesl Barrell and Dan Levy of Unbounce allied together to break down and explain the various elements of effective writing, pitching, and promotion, using an impressive amount of “P” alliterations. As someone who always appreciates feedback, their advice was a strong motivator to continue pushing for personality in writing; Rules are meant to be broken (within reason), wordplay is an appreciated garnish, and red ink is your frenemy. One massive wakeup call was how trying to get into the perfect “writing zone” is by and large just another stalling tactic to keep you from hammering out your work. The talk was refreshing, especially given that both speakers were coming from complimentary positions as writers and editors.

All in all, the weekend was a smooth success. Everyone from the Horse & Cart team who attended took useful tips away that we all plan on incorporating into our practice. For those interested in learning more about WordCamp Montreal, you can check our their website here. We also managed to sneak a couple cool pictures, so please feel free to check out the others at our instagram for more of that fun. As always, if you have questions about marketing, agency life, or our operation here at Horse & Cart, drop us an email or come stop by the office for some coffee and a chat!

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 1.30.27 PMScreen Shot 2014-08-18 at 1.30.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 1.30.45 PM

Fun Friday Post: Horse & Cart Drag Race. May the best woman, Win!

In honour of Pride Week here in Montreal, we thought it only fitting to show our… true colours. Ron Paul’s Rupaul’s Drag Race has provided us with a wonderful tool called the Dragulator to give us some drag queen, first time at a ball, realness. With a few simple clicks, you too can preview your weekend look as a fierce queen of the night. Who do you think pulls it off the best?

From all of us here at Horse & Cart, happy Pride!

Paula as Bee Onesie
Bea Onsay_body   Bea Onsay_face

Alex as Dee Ceased

Dee Ceased_body Dee Ceased_face

Drew as Em Brio

Em Brio_body Em Brio_face

Digi as Ginger Vitus

Ginger Vitus_body Ginger Vitus_face

Tully as Jean Pool

Jean Pool_body Jean Pool_face

Josh as Marsha Mellow

Marsha Mellow_body Marsha Mellow_face

Moniba as Miss Construed

Miss Construe_body Miss Construe_face

Leila as Ivana B. Queen

Miss Diagnosed_body Miss Diagnosed_face


Video of the Week: Wendy’s “To Be With You”

Last week, I ripped apart an Arby’s fast food ad from their 2014 campaign. I only thought it fitting to present a competitor’s commercial that I argue to be more effective as promotional material. Full disclosure, I’m not a fast-food eater myself, so neither of these companies have my undying allegiance. However, after the snore that was the Arby’s commercial, it was nice to land on something that held my attention without any teeth-grinding. Wendy’s has gone slightly vintage with an early 90s throwback. Using the same actress, they recreated several iconic early 90s hits while plugging in their new menu item. Even though parodying old music videos isn’t the most groundbreaking idea of 2014, its the choice in song, casting, and lyric changes that give these commercials the quirky edge to make them entertaining.

The “To Be With You” commercial, in case you weren’t aware, parodies the 1991 smash hit of the same title by the band Mr. Big. It remains an infectious track impossible to truly forget, which is probably why it’s such a karaoke go-to. The commercial reinterprets the chorus, taking great inspiration from the original video, general hair-band aesthetic from the late- 80s early-90s, and even a Will Ferrell SNL cowbell reference from 2000. For those who pick up on all the components, this is a slightly aged pop-culture treat.

The lead actress Morgan Smith was an excellent decision as far as casting. Not only does she have a strong singing voice, but has an energy that charms you into laughing with little effort. She sings over the track and pours her heart out to her Pretzel Burger. The lyrics are changed to plug in the product where possible and she holds the burger (love of her life) through most of the song. Taking notes from the original video, she plays the various instruments just like the guys of Mr. Big in their video, as they jam out in a living room. The commercial strategically plays with the contrast between black and white and colour filming, like the original had done. Mr. Big’s music video slowly turns from black and white to colour by the end of the clip. At the 15 second mark, she whales on a cowbell, like Will Ferrell’s famous “More Cowbell” SNL skit.

So, why is this video so much better than the Arby’s? Truth be told, this isn’t the most innovative take on a fast food commercial we’ve seen in recent past. What does work is how all the elements team together to tap on that nostalgic nerve. The song choice, casting, and even lyric change boost the overall experience. Even though it’s unarguably cheesy to plug in a cheeseburger into a song, they accept the reality of what they’re doing and run with it–much needed self-awareness. It also helps that the lead actress has made several appearances in Wendy’s commercials recently,  making her a familiar face to the brand. Allegedly, they dyed her hair red to match “Wendy”, but despite the peroxide, she seems to fit the role naturally. The commercial is light-hearted, catchy, and at least pulls a smile from the viewer. Thumbs up!

Fun Friday Post: The most funniest examples of poor spelling and grammer

Proper spelling and grammar are unfortunately suffering skill sets. In most fields of work and study, fundamental to communicating your idea is being able to do so in legible, error-free English. This is especially true in the world of business marketing where bludgeoned websites, advertisements, labels, and even company names can leave your brand looking… in need of revision. Few things compare to the disaster of a confident company message lost entirely due to a blinding spelling error mid-text. We live in a time of short messages and shorter attention spans, and when many are faced with presenting their thoughts in written form, fewer and fewer are able to do so without fault. Bless spellcheck, but it is not and should never be a writer’s sole crutch. If it is, well, it will probably spell disaster later on (sorry). Here is a list of some of the more notable instances of corporate error.

1. Lands’ End

lands-end-young-jerks-1As the story goes, the misplaced apostrophe was an oversight when incorporating the company name. Now, the clothing brand has no choice but to stick out their chests and own it. Even if most people don’t pick up on the error, I can imagine the writer being tormented to the day having that silly mistake looking back at them, time and time again. source

2. Tesco Orange Juice

juiceAs recently as this year, Tesco was publicly called out by a grade school teen for using a double superlative–a big faux-pas. If you haven’t picked up on it already, I eloquently threw one into the title of this blogpost for effect. It’s a simple rule, nothing can be greater than the greatest, better than the best, or tastier than the tastiest. That is why “most tastiest” is a redundant overkill. source

3. Reebok’s Quick-Thinking
reebok-typo-500x375This one’s too good… This New York targeted subway ad was exploiting the “New York minute” expression, suggesting people take their time. In the same breath, they misspelled, “everything”. You just want to hold a mirror up to their own advice. Unless the error was somehow attempting to mimic the local dialect, I’m not buying it. Ah, the irony sustains me! source


4. Rachel Ray and Her Long-Lost Friend, the Comma.

rachelray01This example isn’t new, but it does serve as a classic example to show the importance of a comma. Commas are your friend. One tiny line at the foot of a word can change the entire meaning of a sentence. In this instance, the addition of a few commas would have saved the lives of Rachel Ray’s family and dog. Now, they are little more than another meal in Mrs. Ray’s kitchen. Rachel, you monster! source

Also see: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” vs. “Let’s eat Grandma!”



5. The unintentionally crass.

lbj_poster Take a second to read the bottom line of this commencement ceremony poster. The horror! This is a traumatic mistake that someone, I promise, has lost sleep over. Let this example serve as a warning for anyone writing copy for, or pitching to any person or institution who works with the public, or publics. Forgetting that one letter dramatically changed the orientation of this school. source





Moral of the story, put your pride aside and get a friend, coworker, or professional editor to examine your work. It’s not a sign of weakness or lack of ability to reach out for a second opinion. Don’t fall victim to poor communication!

*title errors are intentional 😉