Throwback Thursday: Minnesota pride for SapientNitro’s John Biondi

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A favorite ad nominated by John Biondi, Midwest creative lead at SapientNitro, is the 1999 campaign that helped Target transcend being “every bit as cool as the dollar store.”

When asked about his favorite ads, John Biondi, Midwest creative lead at SapientNitro, had trouble narrowing it down, like everyone else. He wasn’t even sure that his final selections are even his favorite favorites.

“These are the ones that just broke through my brain today,” says Biondi.

Biondi eventually decided on three ads, two of which have one big thing in common: they share his hometown. Minneapolis serves as headquarters for both Target, Minnesota’s most famous brand; and Fallon, the Publicis subsidiary agency behind the Super Bowl XLIX ad Biondi couldn’t get enough of.

Loctite Glue – “Positive Feelings”

Last year, Loctite dedicated its entire annual marketing budget to taking out a Super Bowl ad. We appreciated the German glue brand’s guts and named it one of the Big Game’s winners.

Biondi agrees, appreciating the music, attention to small details and general ridiculousness of “Positive Feelings.” The people in Loctite’s ad are dancing, but they’re also using the brand’s glue to affix bottles to a wall, as well as fix glasses, chairs and unicorn broaches.

“When it comes to TV, the main job is for things to be memorable, especially during the Super Bowl. This ad has does the really funny, weird vibe so well without forcing it, and coming off as fake and trying too hard,” says Biondi.

“It isn’t broad comedy where they’re like, ‘Wocka wocka, isn’t this funny?'” he continues. “These people are sincerely dancing in this way that makes [the ad] absurd, but they’re doing it with a commitment. That’s what makes it funny, instead of going for the cheap laugh.”

Volkswagen – “Safe Happens”

Part of a larger 2006 campaign by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, “Safe Happens” shows two friends driving along a suburban street. One guy talks about a girl, while his buddy ribs him for saying the word “like” too much. It’s a lighthearted conversation and just like when a horror movie killer pops out of the closet, you notice the truck pulling out of the driveway a second before the characters do.

There’s a crash. There are airbags. But the two friends are unharmed because when you drive a Volkswagen, safe happens.

“It made a massive impact on me because it’s so visceral,” says Biondi. “It’s almost upsetting; you feel as though you’ve been in a crash because of the misdirection. [Volkswagen] nailed the feeling of being in a car crash like no commercial I’ve ever seen.”

Target – “A Sign of the Times”

“In the late 1990s, Target had as much chic as, like, Filene’s Basement. It was every bit as cool as the dollar store,” recalls Biondi.

Peterson Milla Hooks, a retail-focused Minneapolis agency, pioneered the turnaround. “A Sign of the Times” was heavy on branding, with 30 seconds of logos in a style familiar to anyone who’s seen today’s Target ads.

This was also the campaign in which the brand introduced Bullseye, its now-iconic Bull Terrier mascot. According to Wikipedia, Bullseye has gone Hollywood, living on a ranch just north of Los Angeles and occasionally flying to Minneapolis for special occasions.

“Every second of every shot is meticulously planned, like a Wes Anderson movie. There’s a glossy, bright, cheery beauty combined with this really strong design aesthetic that redefined Target,” says Biondi. “It turned [the brand] into ‘Tarjhay.'”

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