Category: Video
February 1st, 2024

SF AIDS Foundation

In honor of AIDS Is Not A Crime Awareness Day on February 28, we thought we might share the Manifesto we developed during our rebranding of the SF Aids Foundation.

November 6th, 2014

Did We Just Anthropomorphize a Log? Yes, Yes We Did.


If you’re the kind of person who ever buys stuff, you’ll want to check out At any given time, the site features thousands of coupons, discounts and cash back offers, with deals at more than 50,000 stores. So not only can you save money on clothes, shoes, plane tickets, toys, computers, and more—you also get cash back on top of that.

Despite having a lot to offer, had little brand awareness. They needed an original, distinctive brand personality that would put them on the map. So they asked Mortar to concept their holiday campaign.

The cash back aspect was what made their story interesting. Sure, giving gifts at the holidays is great. But let’s be honest: Everyone also likes getting a little something back for themselves. We had an opportunity to speak to mall-worn shoppers who were constantly getting burned during the holidays, paying full price for gifts and feeling like a dolt about it. And the idea of being selfish was real and honest—a sharp contrast from the usual ad clutter of picture-perfect moms and saccharine Christmas cheer.

But how could we promote the idea of being selfish without coming off as totally greedy? We mulled. We brainstormed. We wassailed. And then, in a quiet manger underneath the Bay Bridge, Yulie the Yuletide Log was born.




Meet Yulie. He’s excitable, a little bit nervous, and too shy to talk. And ever since Yulie discovered, he’s become an online shopping nut. This holiday he’s been buying insane amounts of gifts for his friends—they have no idea why, but they’re not complaining. Little do they know for every gift Yulie buys, he saves huge and gets cash back. Thanks to, Yulie won’t get burned every holiday: Instead, he’ll make bank.

To bring Yulie’s story to life, we polished our vocal chords and crafted a good old-fashioned jingle.

Our creative intent was to evoke the cozy, nostalgic feel of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday classics, then contrast that with our modern, offbeat character. Since we were targeting a younger audience, we made Yulie’s character a bit absurd with a penchant for frantic, gif-like movements. Wrap it all up in a frighteningly catchy song, and you’ve got a Christmas nondenominational holiday miracle. By making Yulie the selfish, clever, slightly manipulative one, we can all live out those unbecoming-but-oh-so-human qualities through him.

Pre-roll video and banners are live on,, Hulu,,, and more. We’re halfway through the campaign, and results have been phenomenal. Click-through rate is 21% higher than the industry average. Cost-per-response is 10 times lower than the campaign goal. And brand awareness has grown dramatically, based on year-over-year Google searches for branded terms. Which reminds us that the best part of making goals is meeting them. And exceeding them is icing on the fruitcake.



August 12th, 2014

Mortar, Ben Stein, and Jackson Remix the Fireside Chat.

If “fun” isn’t a word you associate with financial services, congratulations, you’re normal. The category is plagued by dry text, stock photos, cryptic bar graphs, and cheesy Flash animation. Our client Jackson was determined to shatter this unfortunate trend. They asked us to explain their investment plan Elite Access in a way that people would legitimately enjoy and understand, which just so happens to be what we’re good at.

To start, we teamed up with the one and only Ben Stein. Any of you millennials know who that is? Anyone? Maybe you just need to get the sand out of your eyes. The professor from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off also happens to be a respected economist and an adorable old man, which made him the perfect face for the Elite Access brand.  Through an elegant combination of live action video and animation, we breathed life into an arguably dull story. May we present, Ben Stein’s Storytime.

The storytime setting and whimsical illustration style offer a sense of warmth and accessibility. So instead of leaving the video with brainhurt, you actually understand how Elite Access works. All it took was a little simplicity and humor to make a complex topic entertaining. And we had a boatload of fun filming in LA with Ben and the Criminals. (Hey, that sounds like a band.) Did we just use the word “fun” to describe a financial services video? Looks like the category’s moving on up.

May 12th, 2014

The Never-Ending Importance of Strategy, Now Applied to Cleantech.

The clean technology industry is worth $170 billion and counting. But spend that money the wrong way, and it all goes down the low-flow drain. When Mortar started working with Westport, they told us they were a Canadian IP company, citing Dolby as an analogy. In the same way Dolby develops technologies for speaker systems, they said, Westport built the technology behind natural-gas-powered trucks.


But when we took a tour of their Vancouver facilities, we saw this.

That’s a natural gas engine designed for a long-haul truck. Oh, and it’s about the size of a smart car. Imagine this bad boy dangling from a factory ceiling on a thick metal chain, connected by giant wires to giant computers, whirring and humming as engineers test its power and agility. It was like the truck equivalent of a disembodied brain-in-a-jar, hooked up to a life support system.


Eets aliiiiive!!


Westport sure didn’t look like an IP company to us. From our initial observations, it seemed like they needed to focus less on their technology, and more on the human impact their technology drives. It’s a common situation we find our tech clients in, ingredient brands in particular – and cleantech is no different.

And so the Mortar360 process began. Our conversations with customers, partners, prospects, and industry analysts confirmed our suspicions. The same way that Intel was a computer processor company, Westport was absolutely an engine company. And these were no ordinary engines. They were more efficient (read: cheaper), better for the planet, and powered by domestic-fuel – which happened to be exactly what Westport’s early adopter audience was looking for.

Our research also revealed an important market perception. In 2013, Westport’s natural gas engines were already being used in long haul trucks. Yet most of the world was still talking about industrial natural gas vehicles as “the next big thing.” Why? Well, when your friend starts wearing mesh shirts to work, that’s an obvious change. When trucks start running on new engines? Much harder to see. And having an unclear brand message certainly doesn’t help.

Guided by these insights, we crafted a positioning that celebrated the powerful advantages of Westport engines and declared natural gas a thing of the present. The tagline, “Here and Now,” said it all. Add a custom photo shoot, and a stunning brand book and print campaign were born.





And some snazzy print ads, too.




The white balloons are a quiet nod to clean fuel. They represent purity, clarity, and the wonder of discovery. They represent possibilities and potential. They signify how Westport is changing transportation in cities and industries everywhere, helping make the world a cleaner place. We also brought those ideals to life in a brand video that’s been used at events, trade shows, and online.


Visit our case study page to see the brand identity, website, and manifesto ad we also created. We enjoyed helping Westport find its place in the clean transportation world. And now we’re doing the same for CALSTART, a nonprofit that knocks down the political and financial barriers standing in the way of clean transportation. That’s all we can divulge about our adventures in cleantech for now. ‘Til next time.