“Drugs” is the first word Charlie Sheen utters in his only scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a cinematic relic from 1986. It takes place in a police station where Jeannie Bueller (Jennifer Grey), waiting to get bailed out by her mom and fuming about brother Ferris’s charmingly anarchic ways (he breaks all the rules and is happy; she follows all the rules and is unhappy), realizes she’s sitting next to a gorgeous (he was!) sullen-eyed dude in a leather jacket who looks like he’s been up for days on a drug binge. But he’s not manic, just tired and sexily calm, his face so pale it’s almost violet-hued. Annoyed, Jeannie asks, “Why are you here?” and Charlie, deadpan, replies, without regret: “Drugs.” And then he slowly disarms her bitchiness with his outrageously sexy insouciance, transforming her annoyance into delight (they end up making out).
That’s when we first really noticed Sheen, and it’s the key moment in his movie career (it now sums up everything that followed). He hasn’t been as entertaining since. Until now. In getting himself fired from his hit TV show Two and a Half Men, this privileged child of the media’s sprawling entertainment Empire has now become its most gifted ridiculer. Sheen has embraced post-Empire, making his bid to explain to all of us what celebrity now means. Whether you like it or not is beside the point. It’s where we are, babe. We’re learning something. Rock and roll. Deal with it.
Post-Empire started appearing in full force just about everywhere last year while Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” gleefully played over the soundtrack. The Kardashians get it. The participants in (and the audience of) Jersey Shore get it. Lady Gaga arriving at the Grammys in an egg gets it, and she gets it while staring at Anderson Cooper and admitting she likes to smoke weed when she writes songs—basically daring him: “What are you gonna do about that, bitch?” Nicki Minaj gets it when she sings “Right Thru Me” and becomes one of her many alter egos on a red carpet. (Christina Aguilera starring in Burlesque doesn’t get it at all.) Ricky Gervais’s hosting of the Golden Globes got it. Robert Downey Jr., getting pissed off at Gervais, did not. Robert De Niro even got it, subtly ridiculing his career and his lifetime-achievement trophy at the same awards show.
James Franco not taking the Oscar telecast seriously but treating it with gentle disrespect (which is exactly what the show deserves) totally got it. (Anne Hathaway, unfortunately, didn’t get it, but we like her anyway for getting naked and jiggy with Jake G.) Post-Empire is Mark Zuckerberg staring with blank impatience at Empire Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes and telling her how The Social Network and its genesis story (he creates Facebook because he was rejected by a bitchy girl!) got it totally wrong (which it did; he was right; sorry, Empire Aaron Sorkin). Empire is complaining that the characters in Jonathan Franzen’s great 2010 novel Freedom aren’t “likable” enough.
For every outspoken I-don’t-give-a-shit Empire celebrity like Muhammad Ali or Andy Warhol or Norman Mailer or Bob Dylan, there were a dozen Madonnas (one of the queens of the Empire who was never real or funny enough to get it—everything interesting about her seems, in retrospect, dreadfully earnest) and Michael Jacksons (the ultimate victim of Empire celebrity—a tortured boy lover and drug addict who humorlessly denied he was either). To someone my age ( 47 ), Keith Richards ( 67 ) in his memoir, Life, has a rare healthy post-Empire geezer transparency. For my younger friends, it’s no longer rare; it’s now the norm. But nothing yet compares to the transparency that Charlie Sheen has unleashed in the past two weeks—contempt about celebrity, his profession, and the old Empire world order.
To Empire gatekeepers, Sheen seems dangerous and in need of help because he’s destroying (and confirming) illusions about the nature of celebrity. He’s always been a role model for a certain kind of male fantasy. Degrading perhaps, but aren’t most male fantasies? Sheen has always been a bad boy, which is part of his appeal—to men and women. What Sheen has exemplified and has clarified is the moment in the culture when not caring what the public thinks about you or your personal life is what matters most—and what makes the public love you even more (if not exactly CBS or the creator of the show that has made you so wealthy).
It’s a different brand of narcissism than Empire narcissism. Eminem was post-Empire’s most outspoken character when he first appeared. We were suddenly light-years away from the autobiographical pain of, say, Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks (one of Empire’s proudest and most stylish moments). It’s not that we’ve moved beyond craft; it’s just that there’s a different kind of self-expression at play—more raw, less diluted. On The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem rages much more transparently than Dylan against the idiocy of his own flaws and the failure of his marriage and his addictions and fantasies than any Empire artist (and let’s include Empire Bruce Springsteen and his great Tunnel of Love album while we’re at it) by recording fearlessly the fake murder of his ex-wife at his own enraged hands, a defying act that Bob or Bruce would never have even considered. Blood on the Tracks and Tunnel of Love have an Empire tastefulness and elegance that in post-Empire has no meaning. That doesn’t deny their power or artistry. It just means we’ve moved on. And, hey, that’s OK. Let it go.
You’re completely missing the point if you think the Charlie Sheen moment is really a story about drugs. Yeah, they play a part, but they aren’t at the core of what’s happening—or why this particular Sheen moment is so fascinating. I know functioning addicts. They’re not that rare or that interesting. What this moment is about is Sheen solo. It’s about a well-earned midlife crisis played out on CNN instead of in a life coach’s office somewhere in Burbank. The midlife crisis is the moment in a man’s life when he realizes he can’t (or won’t) any longer maintain the pose that he thought was required of him. Tom Cruise had a similar meltdown at the same age in the summer of 2005, but his was more politely handled (and, of course, he was never known as an addict). Cruise had his breakdown while smiling. He’s always essentially been the good boy who can’t say “Fuck you” the way Sheen (or even someone as benign as Cee Lo) can. Cruise is still that altar boy from Syracuse who believes in the glamour of Empire earnestness, and this is ultimately his limitation as a movie star and as an actor.
But oh, no, not Sheen. Arrests. Accidental overdoses. Halfhearted stints in rehab. Martin Sheen’s teary-eyed press conference. The briefcase full of coke. The Mercedes towed out of the ravine. The misdemeanor third-degree assault on the third wife, who also went to rehab. Sheen allegedly threatening to cut off same wife’s head, put it in a box, send it to her mother. Sheen chain smoking on TMZ. The priceless dialogue. (On CBS executives: “They lay down with their ugly wives in front of their ugly children and look at their loser lives.”) The September 11 conspiracy theories. Shooting Kelly Preston in the arm. Fucking porn stars Ginger Lynn and Heather Hunter and Bree Olson. Compared with Cruise, Sheen has put on a mesmerizing and refreshing display of midlife-crisis honesty. He’s just himself, an addict—take it or leave it.
It’s thrilling watching someone call out the solemnity of the celebrity interview, and Sheen is loudly calling it out as the sham it is. He’s raw and lucid and intense: the most fascinating person wandering through the culture. (No, guys, it’s not Colin Firth or David Fincher or Bruno Mars or super-Empire Tiger Woods.) We’re not used to these kinds of interviews. It’s coming off almost as performance art and we’ve never seen anything like it—because he’s not apologizing. It’s an irresistible spectacle. We’ve never seen a celebrity more nakedly revealing—even in Sheen’s evasions there’s a truthful playfulness that makes Tiger’s mea culpa press conference look like something manufactured by Nicholas Sparks.
Anyone who’s put up with the fake rigors of celebrity (or suffered from addiction problems) has a kindred spirit here. The new fact is: if you’re punching paparazzi, you look like an old-school loser. If you can’t accept the fact that we’re at the height of an exhibitionistic display culture and that you’re going to be blindsided by TMZ (and humiliated by Harvey Levin, or Chelsea Handler—princess of post-Empire) while stumbling out of a club on Sunset Boulevard at 2 in the morning, then you should be a travel agent instead of a movie star. Being publicly mocked is part of the game, and you’re a fool if you don’t play along. Not showing up to collect your award at the Razzies for that piece of crap you made? So Empire. This is why Sheen seems saner and funnier than any other celebrity right now. He also makes better jokes about his situation than most worried editorialists or late-night comedians. A lot of it is sheer bad-boy bravado—just cursing to see how people react, which is very post-Empire—but a lot of it is pure transparency, and on that level, Sheen is, um, winning.
What do people want from Sheen? I’m not denying he has drug and alcohol problems—or even that he might struggle with mental illness. But so do a lot of people in Hollywood who hide it much better—or who the celebrity press just doesn’t care enough about. What fascinates us is the hedonism he enjoys and that remains the envy of every man—if only women weren’t around to keep them liars. (His supposed propensity for violence against women hasn’t hurt his popularity with female fans either.) Do we really want manners? Civility? Empire courtesy? Hell, no. We want reality, no matter how crazy. And this is what drives the Empire to distraction: Sheen doesn’t care what you think of him anymore, and he scoffs at the idea of PR. “Hey, suits, I don’t give a shit.” That’s his only commandment. Sheen blows open the myth that if men try hard enough, they will outgrow the adolescent pursuit of pleasure and a life without rules or responsibilities.
We’ve come a long way in the last two weeks: Sheen is the new reality, bitch, and anyone who’s a hater can go back and hang out with the rest of the trolls in the graveyard of Empire. No one knew it in 1986, but Charlie Sheen was actually Ferris Bueller’s dark little brother all along.
Last Updated (Monday, 28 March 2011 04:01)
NOW that the 1960s are commodified forever as “The Sixties,” it is apparently compulsory that their legacy be rendered as purple-hazy hagiography. But that ignores an inconvenient counterintuitive truth: Relatively clear-thinking entrepreneurs created some of the most enduring tropes of the era — not out of whole paisley cloth but from their astute feel for the culture and the marketplace. And no one was better at it than Augustus Owsley Stanley III.
Entrepreneur? Mr. Stanley, who was killed in a car accident last Sunday in Australia at the age of 76, is remembered chiefly as a world-class eccentric — his C.V. lists Air Force electronics specialist and ballet dancer — who after ingesting his first dose of LSD in Berkeley in 1964 taught himself how to make his own. In short order, “Owsley acid” became the gold standard of psychedelics.
But Mr. Stanley didn’t stop there. He started cranking out his superlative LSD at a rate that by 1967 topped one million doses. By mass-manufacturing a hallucinogen that the authorities hadn’t gotten around to criminalizing, Mr. Stanley singlehandedly created a market where none had existed, and with it a large part of what would become the “counterculture.”
At the time Madison Avenue was at sea about how to reach the so-called youth market. “House hippies” were deputized as cultural ambassadors but didn’t prevent travesties like Columbia Records’ infamously clueless “The Man Can’t Bust Our Music” ad campaign. Which made Mr. Stanley’s effortless grasp of his peer group and its appetites — he was, after all, an enthusiastic consumer of his own product — seem all the more prescient. When his lab in Orinda, Calif., was raided in 1967 — thanks to him, LSD had been declared illegal the year before — the headline in The San Francisco Chronicle anointed him the “LSD Millionaire.”
Mr. Stanley shared several qualities with another entrepreneur who, a decade later, would imbue his company with a hand-sewn ‘60s ethic that persists today. To compare Mr. Stanley to Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, purely on the basis of their operating philosophies is not as big a leap as it might seem.
Like Mr. Jobs, Mr. Stanley was fanatical about quality control. He refused to put his LSD on pieces of paper — so-called blotter acid — because, Mr. Stanley maintained, it degraded the potency. “I abhor the practice,” he declared.
Whereas the formulation and provenance of most street drugs was unknowable, Owsley LSD was curated like a varietal wine and branded as evocatively as an iPod — “Monterey Purple” for a batch made expressly for the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, which may have factored into Jimi Hendrix’s chaotic, guitar-burning finale. (Relentlessly protective of his brand, Mr. Stanley seemed insulted that many believed the Hendrix song “Purple Haze” was about the Monterey LSD — far from inducing haze, he sniffed, the quality of his acid would confer upon the user preternatural clarity.)
And like Mr. Jobs’s mandate for creating products he deems “insanely great,” Mr. Stanley’s perfectionism had the effect of raising standards across an industry — or in this case, a culture. He became a patron of the Grateful Dead and helped transform them from inchoate noodlers into the house band for a generation. Noting the dreadful acoustics at their performances, Mr. Stanley drew on his electronics background and designed one of the first dedicated rock sound reinforcement systems, thus making plausible that highly lucrative staple of the 1960s and beyond, the rock concert. (Ever the perfectionist, he later designed an upgraded version, the legendary Wall of Sound, that towered over the band like a monolith and prefigured the immense sound systems at stadium shows today.)
It is said we are living through times not unlike the 1960s, the catalyst being not rock ‘n’ roll and its accompaniments, sex and drugs, but the communications and information revolution made possible by the Web. Among the movement’s many avenging nerds, Mr. Jobs alone epitomizes Mr. Stanley’s unhinged originality and anarchical spirit — before founding Apple, Mr. Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, sold illegal “blue boxes” that allowed free long-distance calls and later proselytized so persuasively about the latest Apple gizmo that he was said to project a “reality distortion field.”
Augustus Owsley Stanley III knew a thing or two about that.
There is a bit of Owsley in me.
You see, my father, a strait-laced middle-class Jewish kid from Los Angeles, enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964.
That same year, in that same town, a brilliant renegade named Augustus Owsley Stanley III spent three weeks in the university library’s organic chemistry stacks learning the secrets of synthesizing lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD. Before long, Owsley was creating mass quantities of the purest acid the world had ever known, just in time for the seismic cultural and generational transformation of the era. By the time my father graduated from Berkeley in 1969 with degrees in sociology and economics, the world had changed and my dad along with it.
My very existence is a direct product of that moment, when old cultural systems gave way, for better or for worse. I was born just a few years later after my father, by then a politically active hippie, moved to New York and married a young working-class black woman from Bridgeport, Conn.
It should almost go without saying that such a story would have been quite literally unthinkable before the social upheaval of that time engulfed America. And Owsley connected some of the dots.
Owsley Stanley died last weekend in a car crash in Australia, where he lived. It was Owsley who made Ken Kesey’s parties the Acid Tests. It was Owsley who made 300,000 hits for the Human Be-In. It was Owsley who gave acid to Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend and Brian Jones (among many others) at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival of 1967. It was Owsley who agreed to deliver a lifetime supply of LSD to John Lennon. And certainly not least, it was Owsley who originally financed, inspired, amplified and dosed the great American rock band, the Grateful Dead (more about that in a bit).
On Tuesday evening my father, Jonathan, sent me an e-mail about Owsley and what it was like to be present at the epicenter of a cultural revolution.
“Owsley Stanley,” my dad wrote. “Didn’t know his first name was Owsley. Just knew that the first few hits of acid were called Owsley. Went with friends to the Fillmore West to see Janis Joplin and the Holding Company, or so I was told. They laughed when I told them that I didn’t know who she was. Had just started U.C. Berkeley and had taken an Alternative Course in creative writing and another course on Gandhi. Dropped the Acid and well what is time and space anyway. The second hit of Owsley was back in Santa Monica where I walked a stairway to the clouds above, or was in the process of doing that when gentle hands pulled me back from the cliff. Rainbow Bubbles streaming across the room from the sounds of the Grateful Dead.”
There was certainly a dark side to the 1960s drug culture. But many people, including my father, considered LSD positively transforming.
“Before Acid, my neck was so strong from carrying the concrete and bars that made up my skull and with the drug coursing through me the concrete chipped off and WOW, I could see and hear and feel so much. Just a reflection of pre-acid American culture chipping off; one chip for repression, another chip for anxiety, another chip for ignorance, another chip floating away carrying my image of short hair, plaid shorts, tennis shoes and high ankle socks. What remains is the sculpture revealed, the New Age of liberation and caring so deeply that it was impossible to remain hidden in classrooms of agonizing dogma. Take to the streets. Let Love be heard. Let Love be seen. Let Love be felt.”
Given the family history, it may seem a surprise that I actually didn’t learn about Owsley, LSD and the Grateful Dead from my father, or even while I was growing up in Woodstock, N.Y., the renowned hippie town.
For that I had to wait until I met the other kids at one of the nation’s most exclusive elite boarding schools, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
By the time I showed up as a 14-year-old in 1987, Andover, as the school is known, had been a Grateful Dead hotbed for at least a decade. Not coincidentally, LSD was readily available on campus.
When I got there I was a serious Led Zeppelin fan, but of course by then you couldn’t actually go see Led Zeppelin anymore. The Grateful Dead, on the other hand, was this mythic creature that was actually alive and more popular than ever. (In 1987 the Dead released the popular album “In The Dark” and the band’s biggest hit single, “Touch of Grey.”)
That fall one of my 10th-grade classmates, Liza Ryan, received a new teddy bear from her father. She named it Owsley. (Owsley’s nickname, known wide and far, was Bear.) Before long she and I and many of our schoolmates were on our way to becoming the last, final generation of true Deadheads.
Soon I learned about how Owsley designed some of the first modern rock amplification systems for the Grateful Dead, culminating in the over-the-top (literally) “Wall of Sound” in 1974. As I started collecting tapes of Dead performances, I learned about how Owsley was probably the first sound engineer in the world regularly to record and archive every performance by a band straight from the soundboard. (Rolling Stones fans wish they had had one of those in the early days.) Naturally, the first Dead album I ever bought is known as “Bear’s Choice.”
“I think growing up in the early 1980s it was kind of a dark time, and it felt like minds were contracting rather than expanding,” Liza said on the phone from the Bay Area on Tuesday, speaking eloquently for our cohort. “Everyone was worried about nuclear war and the arms race and the Cold War and that movie ‘The Day After’ about a nuclear holocaust. It was a scary time. And it seemed like the ’60s were a time when people were embracing civil rights and crossing social boundaries and of course the music was great. So I guess I was trying to connect with aspects of the ’60s that seemed to have been lost.
“I called my teddy bear Owsley because he always seemed to be this fascinating character, this magician in the corner making everything happen, not just with the acid and the sound systems but in pushing the band out to different audiences.”
I attended my second Grateful Dead concert, on July 9, 1989, at Giants Stadium, in the company of a famous New York City acid dealer named Mountain. I was 16. Mountain, who was probably in his 50s, told me that he had known Owsley back in the day, and that he was one of the most extraordinary people on the planet. I believed him.
By the end of that show I was on the bus, as they say. And by the time Jerry Garcia died in 1995, when I was 22, I had seen the Dead more than 90 times.
So there is a bit of Owsley in me. And if modern popular music means anything to you, there is a bit of Owsley in you too.
His last job was on a network sitcom that drew 15 million viewers a week. Now Charlie Sheen, fallen television star, delivers nonsensical, expletive-laced rants before an audience of roughly three million on a live video-streaming Web site called Ustream, whose most prominent claim to fame was showing the early lives of six Japanese hunting dogs.
“Sheen’s Korner” — tagline: “You’re either in Sheen’s Korner or you’re with the trolls” — has elevated Ustream into the pop consciousness for a second time. The idea for the site came from John Ham and Brad Hunstable, who met while attending West Point and were looking to create a service that would enable those serving in the Iraq war to see and hear their families back home. It was introduced in March 2007.
“We created Ustream with a vision of giving anyone, anywhere, with a camera and an Internet connection, a platform to talk to their audience live, whether it’s friends, family or fans,” Mr. Ham, its chief executive, said in an e-mail.
As with YouTube, Ustream users can create their own channel, but unlike YouTube, the only option on Ustream is live streaming, making it more like a live-to-tape version of Skype. There is no editing or possibility of retakes, making it a curious forum for the unpredictable Mr. Sheen, whose logorrhea in recent weeks has included some damaging rants.
The service reached worldwide fame a year and a half after it started, when a San Francisco couple trained a camera on their six Shiba Inu foster puppies so that they could monitor the dogs while at work. Within a month, the Shiba Inu Puppy Cam had drawn three million visitors, serving as a cuddly distraction from a contentious presidential election. A second litter of puppies drew more than 26 million total views, making it the most-watched continuous live stream on the site.
“The puppy cam really put it on the map, but there have been a number of different broadcasts that really put it on the map as well,” Lynn Fox, the company’s vice president for marketing and communications, said. “Like the Obama inauguration. Michael Jackson’s funeral. Recently we had the Chilean miner rescue,” which attracted 5.3 million views over two days.
Ustream, a privately held company, makes money from advertising, production services and some premium content like pay-per-view. Movie studios have approached Ustream to broadcast red carpet movie premieres, in part, Ms. Fox said, because the company follows copyright laws. The site has also hosted live sporting events like boxing and rugby, and news footage is shown live, like the horrific images of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday.
“Ustream is much bigger than a few days with Charlie Sheen,” Ms. Fox said. But Mr. Sheen is a clear ratings winner. “Sheen’s Korner came upon us really, really quickly,” said Ms. Fox. “It was an opportunity grabbed very nimbly by one of the guys in our content group.”
That person was Jason Kirk, and as he watched Mr. Sheen’s public rants, he saw an opportunity. Mr. Kirk heard Mr. Sheen say he would like to do live streaming and reached out to the actor on Twitter. Less than 12 hours later, “the whole world knew that Charlie Sheen was going on Ustream,” Ms. Fox said.
Mr. Sheen directed his own production company, WyTV, to set up the channel; Ustream just advised. The live and interactive nature of the site meant that viewers could comment on Mr. Sheen’s performance in real time, and that he could immediately respond.
The show made its debut on March 5, and a few days later Mr. Sheen used the show to give his first on-camera response to his firing from “Two and a Half Men.” He has produced four videos so far, each littered with the bizarre, rapid-fire utterances he has become known for, like referring to himself as “the Malibu Messiah” with “Adonis DNA” and weaving in warlocks, tiger blood and rock-star Vatican assassins.
A call to Marty Singer, Mr. Sheen’s lawyer, was not returned, and attempts to reach his management were unsuccessful.
For its part, Ustream does not mind Mr. Sheen’s negative image, as long as he doesn’t violate the site’s terms of service. So far, he has not.
The second episode of “Sheen’s Korner,” “Torpedoes of Truth,” opens with Mr. Sheen in midphone call with his friend Bob Maron, who warns, “Don’t give them too much. Keep the mystery. Keep a little bit of smoke and mirrors between you and the people so that you’re not overexposing yourself.”
It is advice Mr. Sheen does not seem to be heeding.
THE nonprofit organization TED, whose tagline is “ideas worth spreading,” has decided to spread something else: advertising.
At the annual TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., organizers on Thursday are to announce the winners of the inaugural TED Ads Worth Spreading Challenge, a contest the group began in December to get advertisers to create online marketing videos that people actually want to watch, said Chris Anderson, the curator of the conference.
“Let’s not make it the same conversation we’re having on TV,” Mr. Anderson said. “It’s not an ad, it’s an idea. It’s not an ad, it’s a story.”
The ubiquitous presence of video on the Web, Mr. Anderson said, means that advertisers need to think of new ways to engage their audiences. The idea of the contest was for ad creators to go beyond the 30-second spots that viewers usually associate with television commercials or the 15-second spots that run before a video online.
“Part of this is really about starting a conversation about advertising,” said Ronda Carnegie, the head of global partnerships for TED, a conference originally known as Technology, Entertainment and Design. “Advertising is just not about selling you something. It really has to give you something back in order to reward the attention you give it.”
On the TED Web site, which features online video seminars, ads are shown after a video is watched, not before. The longer form ads can also help “humanize a company,” Mr. Anderson said. “In the long term, it’s good for TED to be a place where people can expect the ads they see are as compelling as the content.”
The ad challenge was open to anyone and was free to enter. Among the 1,000 submissions collected from December through February, 10 winners and 14 honorable mentions were selected by a panel of 24 judges that included advertising and media executives, video artists, filmmakers, journalists and producers.
According to TED representatives, 40 percent of the submissions came from major brands, 30 percent from small businesses, 40 percent were from nonprofits or were public service announcements, and 10 percent came from students and advertising schools. The video submissions varied in length from 30 seconds to five minutes.
TED also teamed up with YouTube on the project. “The fact that they are seeing ads as a critical part of the cultural landscape, that seemed like a natural fit for us,” said Eric Meyerson, group manager for video advertiser marketing at YouTube. “A lot of publishers really recognize that the world comes through YouTube-defined video.”
The TED channel is one of the most popular channels on YouTube, Mr. Meyerson said. On March 18, YouTube will showcase the winning videos in a special section on the YouTube home page. On March 22, YouTube will host an event for the winners at the Art Directors Club in New York City.
Judges were asked to look for submissions that were powerful and memorable enough that a typical TED audience member would feel compelled enough to pass it on.
“We’re very much interested in pushing advertising forward,” said Paul Kemp-Robertson, the editorial director of Contagious magazine in London and a contest judge. In judging the ads, Mr. Kemp-Robertson said he asked himself questions like, “Would I want to look at it again? Would I want to share it? Would I see it as redefining advertising as an industry?”
One of Mr. Kemp-Robertson’s favorite ads was a spot that generated a lot of attention during the Super Bowl because of its length of just over two minutes. The ad for Chrysler called “Born of Fire,” by the agency Wieden + Kennedy, featured the rap star Eminem driving a Chrysler through the streets of Detroit on a gray winter day.
“That had a resonance way beyond the Super Bowl,” Mr. Kemp-Robertson said, “It was like ‘O.K., we’re back.’ This is the sprit of America, the muscle.”
Mr. Anderson said the ad fulfilled the goal of rebranding an entire city and not just an automobile company. “It felt gritty, it felt honest, it felt really powerful,” he said.
Another ad featured Dulux, a line of decorative paint from AkzoNobel. The spot was a stop-motion video of people from Brazil to India using brightly colored paint to cover up blighted areas. The ad was produced by Euro RSCG and was part of a worldwide project to provide paint to communities that need sprucing up in the form of color.
“The campaign was as much created by the people who participated and observed as much as by the people who created it,” said Mr. Kemp-Robertson.
One ad, which took a more whimsical approach, was created for the German home-improvement store Hornbach and was produced by the agency @radical.media in partnership with Heimat, a Berlin-based agency.
The ad shows a man who lives in a tiny wooden shack and begins to expand his dark, cramped dwelling to include, among other things, a bowling alley. While the version submitted to TED was three minutes long, the original version was a nine-minute short film that was shown in movie theaters and on television and was advertised in print in Germany.
In addition to the YouTube promotions, the winning submissions will receive multiple prizes, including their own Web page on TED.com for one year and will be used as ads on TED.com from March 21 to 27.