August 24, 2009

Time Travel Posters

excerpt from time travel poster

The coolest store in Los Angeles is a small storefront on Sunset Blvd. called The Echo Park Time Travel Mart. The Mart is fully stocked with all of those sundries that your well-equipped time skipper covets...robot milk, caveman translation books, 10,000 year calendars, you name it.

Their latest addition is a great series of time travel posters...among them the one excerpted above that reminds us that fire is both good AND bad. I'm also partial to a great poster on unintended consequences with the adage "Let's work together to keep the future INEVITABLE!"

You can see (and order) all of the posters here.

And if you're in the neighborhood, drop in. But remember, like it says on the door, if you were born on this day after 7,021, they won't sell you fire-generating products. You know why.

Comment welcome via email to

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January 11, 2009

Is disputing God false advertising?

bus sign

Earlier this month buses starting appearing around the UK with ads bearing this provocative message...

""There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.""

The ads are the brainchild of British comedienne Ariane Sherine, who says she got tired of seeing religious ads that threaten non-believers with eternal damnation. Volunteers quickly kicked in the £140,000 cost, and the signs started popping up on buses and in tube stations from Glasgow to London.

Not surprisingly, many religious groups have taken offense to the ads(*), and this is where things get interesting. A number of groups have filed formal complaints with the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, saying that an ad denying God's existence amounts to false advertising. (Atheists have been saying the same thing about religious ads for years, but evidently they never went through the formal complaint process).

Even though the ASA is not an official government agency, it holds significant influence in British society. Many organizations, such as municipal transit companies, will not accept ads that are not approved by the ASA. Which means the ASA, if it decides to act on the complaints, may end up having to make an official ruling on God's existence. The Telegraph newspaper's website has a story and video on the whole thing.

By the way, atheist bus ads appears to be a growing movement around the world. The official Atheist Bus website is tracking the latest developments.

(*) In fairness, it needs to be said that many religious groups do not object to the signs, saying that they welcome the public thinking about God's place in their lives.


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September 06, 2007

UNIQLOCK screen saver

still image from the UNIQLOCK screen saver

All around the world, the computer screens of graphic designers and other members of the visually elite are filled with images of dancing Asian women. The cause? The screensaver from Japanese cloting designer Uniqlo.

The screensaver alternates between a minimalist display of the current time and five second videos of four young Asian women in polo shirts and jeans performing synchronized dance moves. Five seconds isn't very long...barely enough time to do a couple of pirouettes...and the "now you see them, now you don't" quality of the video clips makes the whole thing strangely compelling.

You can download the screensaver here. They also have an online version, if you just want to watch without installing software on your machine.

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April 09, 2007

Coudal partners Swap Meat

photo from Coudal's Swap Meat film

The Chicago-based advertising and design firm Coudal Partners noticed that from time they receive unsolicited items in the mail... books, photographs, tee shirts, posters, stationery, stickers, games, pins, you name it.

"So..." they thought..., "what if we didn't just wait for stuff to come in, what if we asked people to send us items? And then mixed everything up and sent everyone back something different?"

That's the idea behind Swap Meat, and you can join in. Just send them something that you've made, and they'll send you someone else's stuff of approximately equal value and coolness. (They have a few other rules, mainly to make sure that people don't just empty out their closets and ship them a bunch of crap. Here are the complete rules and the address where you should send your item).

Want to see what type of stuff they've been getting? Check out their gallery of recent items. Want to join the Swap Meat? Send 'em something by the end of the month.

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March 10, 2007

Every ad in Times Square

photo of a Family Guy billboard in Times Square

For his Ironic Sans blog, photographer and designer David Friedman recently set himself a noble goal... to photograph every advertisement in New York's Times Square.

To get the full effect, go to this page on his blog and start scrolling!

By the way, I'm well aware that you could look at this collection of ad photos and get all riled up and angry about the rampant consumerism pervading our culture, but in this case that's a little like going to the Amazon and complaining about all of the leaves.

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March 07, 2007

Printable Cold Sores

printable cold sores

You've probably seen the recent ad for Dove soap... the one showing how a woman's appearance is altered my makeup hairstyling and photographic manipulation to achieve a level of beauty that's unattainable for mere mortals, but standard in advertising. (If you haven't seen the ad, watch it here).

If you want to take your derision of the consumer culture's impossible beauty standards to the next level, and don't mind a bit of law breaking, arm yourself with some of these printable cold sores and begin infecting the ad faces at your regular subway or bus stop. (Employee of the Month photos are a good target too).

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March 04, 2007


image from Justine Cooper's Havidol ad

Nice bit o' culture jamming from artist Justine Cooper. She's created a full ad campaign for a drug called Havidol, the first drug designed to combat Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder. It's a completely made up condition of course... a commentary on our modern "want it all" culture.

(Thanks Wired's Table of Malcontents)

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January 26, 2007

The Ad Generator

random image from the ad generator

There are so many ads out there, you would think the last thing the world needs is something that generates more ads automatically. But the Ad Generator is kind of cool.

The Ad Generator
takes real corporate slogans (things like "Just do it" and "Think different"), chops them up and remixes them, and then combines them with related random images from Flickr to create ads that seem simultaneously real and off-center.

It's the creation of Alexis Lloyd, a grad student at Parsons New School of Design.

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December 24, 2006

The Alchemists

still from Apple 1984 commercial

Some of the best documentaries are the ones that introduce you to people you've never heard of, and then explain how those people have had an enormous impact on your lives. A perfect example of this was "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", the great 2002 film that showed how a half dozen anonymous musicians were the engine that drove a zillion musical hits.

Another such film is in the works right now. It's called "The Alchemists", and it's the story of five people who changed the world... through advertising.

Among the subjects are Lee Clow, who created the Apple "1984" commercial; Hal Riney, who created the commercial that got Reagan elected; and Dan Wieden, who took murderer Gary Gilmore's last words and used them to drive Nike's multi-billion dollar business.

The movie's producers are still trying to raise money to finish the project (you can make a donation if you'd like), but they have a great trailer on the film's website.

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November 09, 2006

The best political ad in the history of the world

still image from Lopez Murphy political ad

After the last few months I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but you can create a political ad that is stunning, beautiful, memorable, and that doesn't bash your opponent. Don't believe me? Watch this ad for Argentinean candidate Ricardo López Murphy.

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November 05, 2006

Ads in space

MIT's Mars Gravity Biosatellite

As reported Friday in the Boston Globe, a group at MIT trying to raise funds for their satellite has decided to offer ad space on the spacecraft. They've set up a website,, where you can buy ad space for as little as 35 bucks for a one centimeter patch. (Prices depend on ad size and location on the satellite. Areas that are visible to the spacecraft's on-board camera cost more, but you get a photograph of your logo floating in space). They've also set up an area on Facebook.

This isn't the first advertising in space of course, back in 2000 Pizza Hut placed a 30-foot logo on the side of a Russian spacecraft, but this is the first time relatively low-cost, mass market advertising has been tried. Peter Barnes, writing on, sees this as a disturbing harbinger of evil things to come... a not-to-distant day when space is filled with logos.

Nonsense. Earth orbit is a big place, way bigger than the entire surface of the Earth, and if slapping some "Eat at Joe's" stickers on the side of a metal box helps get that box into orbit I'm all in favor. Hell, I may even spring for an ad myself!

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October 08, 2006

You can dress like the PC guy!

photo of PC guy John Hodgman

Just yesterday I blogged about how someone figured out exactly what clothes to buy to look just like the Apple guy in those Mac vs. PC ads. I also thought it would be great if someone figured out how to dress like the PC guy (portrayed by comic actor and author John Hodgman).

Ask and you shall receive! A reader (thanks Chris!) pointed me to this post on where they give you the item by item rundown. Total cost: $156 bucks, including shoes.

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October 07, 2006

Free-form advertising on a building in Amsterdam

photo of The Sandberg Institute building in Amsterdam

The owners of The Sandberg Institute building in Amsterdam want to pick up some extra cash, so they've turned the facade of the building into a free-form ad canvas. Each square on the building (about 10 inches square) cost 20 Euros per month. Since the building's ad contracts are as short as a month, it means the building's appearance is constantly changing. This is such a great contrast to the usual state of affairs with building murals and the like, where you better like what you see, 'cause it's gonna be there for the next 40 years.

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How to dress like the Apple guy

photo of actor Justin Long from the Apple TV commercials

Want to exactly match the appearance of the Mac guy in those Mac vs. PC ads? The LiveClever blog has analyzed the clothing that actor Justin Long is wearing. The full ensemble will cost you about $160 bucks, mainly because of the insanely overpriced $90 Levi's distressed blue jeans.

photo of the PC guy from the Apple adsOf course, what would be really cool would be if someone figured out where to get all of the clothes that PC guy (comic and writer John Hodgman) wears.


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September 03, 2006


still from Nike's Defy ad

A little bit o' visual beauty for your weekend...check out director/cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay's beautiful commercial for Nike, titled Defy.

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July 21, 2006

New McDonalds billboard hits Chicago

McDonalds billboard in Chicago

McDonalds has rolled out a clever new billboard in Chicago, turning the billboard into a giant sundial, and the McDonalds' logo into the sundial's gnomon, casting its shadow onto the recommended food for that hour.

There's an article about it in Chicago Business magazine, and on the BILLBOARDROOM blog.

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July 17, 2006

Blogging for peas

photo of Justin from Birds Eye

Russell Davies in the UK pointed me to this charming little blog by a pea grower for Birds Eye Peas. It's an interesting slice of life... what it's like to manage an industrial scale farm. Rudyard Kipling once wrote that there's nothing on earth more interesting than how another man earns his bread. This blog is a perfect example... I look forward to taking a few minutes off from my job each day to catch up on how the pea harvest in England is coming along.


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June 26, 2006

Al Gore takes on Bender

image of Al Gore and Bender

Hopefully by now you've all seen An Inconvenient Truth, the film version of Al Gore's presentation about the terrible consequences of global warming. (If not, get to it).

If the film has left you in need of a little levity, check out this great trailer made by Rough Draft Studios, the folks who draw Futurama.

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June 24, 2006

Billboard that comes and goes with the sun

billboard on a sunny day
billboard on a cloudy day

The Mighty Optical Illusions website has come up with another amazing bit of trickery...this time a billboard that only appears when the sun is shining. The billboard consists of 12,148 aluminum pegs of different lengths. The difference in length causes each peg to cast a different size shadow, turning the whole billboard into a greyscale image. Brilliant!

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June 21, 2006

Excellent interview on the global youth market

Guy Kawasaki has posted an absolutely excellent interview on his blog with Kathleen Gasperini of Label Networks. Label Networks specializes are the quintesential "cool hunters", investigating what interests young people all around the world. They do first-hand observation and interviews in coffee shops, at music festivals, at the mall, any place that has a critical mass of 13 to 25 year olds. All of this research has given them great insight into what appeals to...and what offends...young people. Here's Gasperini on clueless marketing by big companies:

Young people don’t care about sweating and being hot, say, at an outdoor festival. Older people do. Success can truly smell! And young people can smell anything that smacks of insincerity a mile away. To them, some companies just stink. They are so removed from their reality. The reason so many companies try to do top-down trending is because they don’t know how to do bottom-up marketing or are afraid of change. Or of getting sweaty.

...and on some of the differences among young people in different countries...

The London kid right now isn’t as hopeful but thinks he’s trendsetting in his own head. The Munich kid is more philosophical, but socially “younger” than the 15-year-old in LA or Palo Alto, mainly because he’s not online as much and this isn’t encouraged by parents. For the Addis Ababa kid it depends on their socioeconomic level, but like the others, this kid is heavily influenced by music. Music is the common thread because it’s emotional and personal and taps into that mammalian cortex.

Completely fascinating stuff from someone who actually does first-hand research, instead of just spouting a bunch of marketing consultant-speak.

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June 20, 2006

American Apparel opens a store in Second Life

image of American Apparel store inside of Second Life

If you're looking for further evidence of the growing influence and importance of Second Life, check this out -- L.A. based clothing manufacturer American Apparel has now opened a store in Second Life. Second Life citizens can buy American Apparel clothing for themselves in the "real world" as well as for their avatars in Second Life. FutureLab's blog has a posting about it.

(P.S. I've bitten the bullet and got myself a Second Life account. Look for me as the suavely-named "Ralph Beeper").

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June 04, 2006

What the HELL is that woman drinking?

photo of woman from Rosetta Stone ad

I read a lot of science related magazines (Scientific American, Discover, Technology Review and the like) and they all carry ads for a company called Rosetta Stone that sells foreign language software. Those ads always feature this photo of a woman sitting at an outdoor cafe, laptop at the ready, drink on the table.

After having glanced at this ad perhaps hundreds of times (it really *is* in every science mag every single month) I've become obsessed with wondering just what the hell she's drinking...

close up of drink

...I assume it's not lime Kool-Aid or some mutant strain of Gatoraide, and other than that there just AREN'T that many bright green drinks in the world, and certainly not ones you'd want in a 10 oz tumbler.

Any ideas? Let me know.

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May 15, 2006

Save the 76 ball!

Kim Cooper photo from the L.A. Times

Kim Cooper (pictured above) is my newest hero. She's waging a one-woman crusade to get ConocoPhillips to stop their plan to get rid of the bright orange "meatball" signs that adorn 76 gas stations throughout the west. Her blog, has the full skinny on the balls, and the latest ones to be yanked down. There was also a good article about Cooper and the ball controversy in Sunday's Los Angeles Times.

Advertising and other roadside ephemera is, for good or ill, a big part of the Southern California landscape. We should be preserving and celebrating things like the 76 signs in the same way that towns in Mississippi preserve plantation homes.

And everyone should read Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, a great defense of silly looking iconic structures.

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May 03, 2006

Hilarious "Shave Everywhere" online campaign screenshot

Phillips/Norelco has rolled out a hilarious website called "Shave Everywhere" touting the advantages of their "Bodygroom" electronic razor, designed for shaving underarm, back and (gulp) genital hair.

A smarmy guy in a bathrobe touts the product's advantages (everything from less body odor to an "extra optical inch"). There's even a dead-on music video.

(It may or may not be safe for workplace viewing, depending on how uptight your workplace is, and it requires Flash 8).

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April 24, 2006

More on sheep-based advertising

photo of ad-waring sheep

A week or so ago I blogged about sheep-based advertising (thanks to the folks at We Make Money Not Art for turning me on to this). Now the International Herald Tribune has an article on the phenomenon, which has also been picked up by the New York Times. From the article:

The latest low-technology billboards along highways in the Netherlands are startling enough to prompt motorists to indulge in U-turns.

Or make that ewe-turns. These ads are walking, woolly flocks of bleating sheep. Early this month,, a Dutch online reservations company, began displaying its corporate logo on royal blue waterproof blankets worn by sheep.

The company spends 1 euro, or about $1.23 a day, per sheep and sponsors about 144 sheep in flocks throughout the Netherlands. But commercially branded sheep roaming the bucolic meadows of the northern Netherlands have prompted a reaction.

On Saturday, the town of Skarsterlan began fining 1,000 euros a day for putting branded blankets on sheep. Advertising on livestock violates the town's ban on advertising along the highways.

You can see the full article on the International Herald Tribune website.

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April 16, 2006

Coming soon to a sheep near you

photo of ad-waring sheep

The folks at We Make Money Not Art have this great photo of sheep wearing ads. I'd love to know if this is a common thing in Europe.

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