The Diplomat offers an insider’s view of U.S. foreign policy by examining the storied, 50-year career of Richard Holbrooke, who is widely credited with ending the Bosnian War in 1995, with an accord signed in an Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio. His oldest son David directs, gathering a who’s who of dignitaries to speak on his Dad, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, and a number of top journalists. But this isn’t a wide-eyed paean to diplomacy’s power to bring peace; nor is it a cynical exposé on the backroom dealings of a few powerful men. As The Diplomat traces the legacy of Holbrooke from his days in Vietnam to Bosnia, and finally to Pakistan and Afghanistan, it humanizes diplomacy, yet also shows its dark underbelly—a battle of wills between a select few who are far removed from the front lines. Holbrooke, though surely fallible, was keenly aware of the “service” part of the Foreign Service; The Diplomat shines a light on the strategies he employed to make peace an all-too-rare reality.
Attacking The Devil tells the story of London’s Sunday Times Editor Harold Evans and his fight against the makers of the “morning sickness” drug thalidomide, which left 100,000 babies born in the ’50s and ’60s with severe deformities and caused nerve damage to nearly 500,000 adults. The film is a powerful testament to the importance of good investigative journalism: Sir Evans launched numerous such campaigns to effect changes that would have been unlikely or impossible without his journalistic intervention. His work was epic, both in scope and in the momentous ways in which it changed the status quo. The Distillers Company, the maker of thalidomide, refused to admit malfeasance or compensate the victims for the irreparable damage its drug had caused. Evans devoted space in the paper every day to reveal the company’s wrongdoing, fighting a legal injunction that prevented the discussion of any case under court consideration. Evans’ passion is palpable in this documentary, and it serves as a reminder that speaking truth to power is not an overnight process.
The second feature film by French director Laurent Bécue-Renard (War-Wearied) offers an unprecedented and intimate look at PTSD and some of the war-ravaged men and women suffering from it. Set in the Pathway Home, a treatment facility in California for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the film benefits from its fly-on-the-wall approach, squarely turning its lens on the group therapy sessions and residents’ interactions with their families, which allows the soldiers to tell their own stories. They seem unable to extricate themselves from the war zone, forever held hostage and unable to unsee the horrors they’ve witnessed. They describe feeling “embarrassed, small, defective… crazy.” The degree of access granted the filmmaker is truly amazing, and it’s even more impressive considering the degree of trauma with which each of these soldiers is wrestling and the Herculean effort required of them to share something so antithetical to the “be stoic about it” military ethos. An unflinching exploration of the “collateral damage” of war trauma, the film poignantly illustrates that there is nothing collateral about it. Of Men And War is one of today’s most engrossing and gut-wrenching commentaries on the high cost of our recent military conflicts.
A little more than a week ago, the bearded beekeeper and co-founder of Burt’s Bees, Burt Shavitz, passed away. “Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left for greener fields and wilder woods,” the company wrote.
It all started with candles. Shavitz had a honey-making business in Maine when he teamed up with Roxanne Quimby in 1984, who used his leftover beeswax to make candles that she sold at a craft fair.
The candles were a hit — they made $200 at their first fair and $20,000 after a year, according to the company. The pair launched a business together, soon expanding to personal care products like lip balms and soaps.
The brand’s signature and best-selling product, its beeswax balm, was introduced in 1991.
Hold on…how did a bee-loving, business-hating Maine hippie start one of the most beloved cosmetics brands? Burt Shavitz was not interested in lip balm or moisturizer and definitely not big business. His passions were bees, his golden retrievers, nature…
In the documentary Burt’s Buzz, Shavitz says, “There was no company. My bees were the company. My truck was the company. My chainsaw was the company.”
Then in the summer of 1984, he gave a hitchhiker named Roxanne Quimby a ride. What followed…well, a history of thumbs up and thumbs down. Quimby essentially created the business.
Shavitz and Quimby eventually parted ways and not happily, after the business moved from Maine to North Carolina and grew exponentially. In 1999, she bought him out for $130,000, according to The New Yorker. She later sold most of her share to a private equity firm for more than $140 million. She reportedly gave Shavitz $4 million. “If Mr. Shavitz had held onto the stake he traded to Quimby for $130,000, it would have been worth about $59 million,” the New York Times wrote in 2008.
Burt’s Bees was sold again to the Clorox Company for nearly a billion dollars in 2007. Today, the products are sold in over 50 countries. Shavitz was compensated for the use of his image on the label, and he was paid to make special appearances to promote the brand.
“In the long run, I got the land, and land is everything. Money is nothing really worth squabbling about. This is what puts people six feet under. You know, I don’t need it.”
In his typically wry way, he commented on the company takeover, “Except for the fact that they’re from Clorox, they’re nice people.”
The reluctant face of Burt’s Bees was an intensely private man: “A good day is when no one shows up and you don’t have to go anywhere.”
And this is the story of Burt, who made sharing the hard work of his bee friends some of his beeswax.
Chobani’s latest ad, part of their “Love This Life” campaign, is certainly high on the cheesy content (apropos for a dairy brand, no?). When I first started watching it, the message I got was “this poor soccer Mom has such few sensory enjoyments in life that she is supposed to be thrown into near-orgasmic paroxysms of delight upon the consumption of yogurt…in some exotic locale straight out of Eat, Pray, Love.” No, seriously–see for yourself. Yet, the “stunning reveal” at the end of the ad–that the ever-ubiquitous snoozing husband is, in fact, a wife is meant to somehow make this edgy!? Confusing, yes; controversial, hardly. It’s yogurt, for Pete’s sakes. Hardly transformative.
Yet, of all of the other “Love This Life” ads, I would say this one is probably the least confusing. Take a look at the 90-second anthem spot, created by Oppermann Weiss. “This is a modern American story,” Chobani CMO Peter McGuinness told Adweek. “It’s a family, and we don’t know what happened with them. Something happened that involved the kids. And then they work through it as a family. And they come out of it stronger and better and closer.” Ummm, OK…I would probably describe this more like a riff on Blue Valentine–a tinge Southern gothic and not even a smidgeon…yogurty. So, how is it that this ad is supposed to convince me to buy Chobani!?
“The point is, Chobani doesn’t see a pretend world—the world of most yogurt commercials. It sees the real world. And when viewers see the authentic, real-life moments in the ads, they may be more inclined to believe the realness of the brand.
It’s an approach that almost turns Chobani into a lifestyle brand—if you buy the lifestyle here, you well may buy the products, too.” Eureka! The so-called lifestyle brand–if I am able to relate to the “realness” and “authenticity” of the lifestyle portrayed in the ads, I am to immediately assume that also translates to Chobani’s “real” and “natural” products. Interesting.
What is a lifestyle brand, you might ask. “Lifestyle Brands,” associate themselves firmly with a particular way of life. They deliver strong social benefits through which a consumer will be able to subconsciously answer the question, “when I buy this brand, the type of people I relate to are…” They create a sense of belonging or disrupt the status quo. So, Nike aligns people who want to push their limits. Club Med connects those who wish to communicate; The Body Shop, those who value nature.
A lifestyle brand will almost always originally connect with young consumers and represent change. Brands such as Apple, Virgin, and Nike initially grew from a youthful community before convincing more people that adopting them would amplify their personal ethos or identity.
So, to get back to the same-sex couple in the ad. They are a part of “modern American stories.”
“For us, it’s why not [feature a same-sex couple]—not why,” said Chobani CMO Peter McGuinness. “There’s nothing new here, per se. Inclusion and equality has been and is foundational and fundamental to the company.”
Fair enough. In conclusion, gay couples are just as vulnerable to cheeziness and schmaltz, apparently. Sorry to be such a cynic, but see the ad and tell me that it is not cringe-inducingly saccharine (despite the seemingly low sugar content of that particular yogurt). I would dair-ily appreciate your thoughts.
In last month’s issue of Real Simple magazine (my go-to source for D.I.Ying by household cleaners…kidding not kidding), I chanced upon an ad that grabbed my attention for a lot longer than a second–a true marketer’s dream, indeed. “First the cookie. Then taking on new adventures.” The picture underneath was of a blissfully in love African-American couple, who appeared to be riding a bicycle with a wicker basket in front. Idyllic; check. Perhaps the French country-side…or Portlandia would have been apropos settings.
Innocuous enough, yet I was thoroughly perplexed by this ad. What do cookies have to do with new adventures!? A confusion-causing conflation!
On a practical level, yes, one probably needs to fuel one’s body for new adventures. I, for one, however, would not plan my vacation adventures around the presence or lack thereof of cookies. Clearly, I am in the “I Threw It On The Ground” minority!
The cookie ad was for DoubleTree by Hilton hotels and it has yielded some pretty sweet results for the chain. DoubleTree has been giving a warm chocolate chip cookie to every guest upon check-in since 1986. “At DoubleTree by Hilton, we believe that no matter where you are or what you are doing, cookies have the power to make you smile. It’s the reason we’ve welcomed guests with a warm chocolate chip cookie for more than 25 years,” said John Greenleaf, global head, DoubleTree by Hilton.
The cookies are so popular that one can even order them online. For May 15, the National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (yes, there is such a holiday!), DoubleTree gave a cookie to anyone who visited a hotel, with or without a reservation.
Ketchum has been the PR brains behind this sweet reward-reaping program, generating an ever-evolving campaign that included things like a Cookie Careavan, which traveled country-wide and various impression-yielding hashtags like #cookiecare and “Where in The World is the DoubleTree Cookie?” Facebook campaign. In 2012, there was the “tell-me tree,” where people could tweet the things they most want to get when traveling using the #littlethings hashtag.
What is the confection connection? Why is this campaign so successful?Are cookies really that important to people when traveling!?
“It’s something that seems to transcend all cultures — a chocolate chip cookie,” according to John Greenleaf, the global head of DoubleTree. Consumers look at DoubleTree’s signature cookies as a symbol of the brand’s “care” culture.
No matter how poor or how superb a guest felt about a particular DoubleTree Hotel, s/he often talked about the cookies.
Apparently, this is one small touch that yielded no small crumbs for DoubleTree by Hilton.