30 December 2006
22 December 2006
Moog promotes its synthesizers and other sound products with neat ads that demonstrate a sound quality so real you might actually expect to see an amp wire trailing out of that mean-ass neighborhood dog's jaw. Text reads "Moog synths & effects: Any sound is possible."
Courtesy of VLAN! who has other variations.
For me the ads illustrate an ever-blurrying line between the real and the fantastic, just as we see consumers invading advertisers' Olympus, and just as we watch those confined to the information-strained Mount having to walk earth again, remembering what it is to be on the ground floor. That might be reading too much into it as what I've just described is a theme I see constantly. In any case, props to Moog.
08 December 2006
06 December 2006
Her harsh letters served as handy yardsticks for me. It is always good to get constructive criticism on how you're faring from somebody on the outside, particularly when you'd rather just complain about your sad lot in life and be sympathized-with.
In her honor, this is my take on the harsh letter. It is written, gently but firmly, for my peers.
Yesterday someone sent me an article about how college graduates have a hard time finding the kind of work they want in this economic climate. They're also strapped in mountainous debt and consequently moving back in with their parents. This article pretty much tells the same story.
Say hello to our generation: the self-entitled, the bewildered, the indebted. It comes as a major surprise for some that those diplomas might not have been worth all the blood, sweat and tears. Oh yeah, and money.
Here's my perspective. If you go to college and study aborigine art, then for some odd reason try to land a financial consulting job, you're not going to get jack unless you have work experience in that field or can demonstrate on the fly that you've got savvy in that arena. I don't know how else you expect to go about it in a rational world.
The old adage about how college is about studying what you want really only works in two scenarios:
- If you're willing to study what you want, which could be totally left of center, with the raw understanding that getting great work isn't about your degree; it's about selling yourself. That's tough and it requires some thought and skill-set development
- If what you want to study happens to be in line with what you're actually going to get work in. Judging from the stories coming out of the woodwork, apparently this is harder than it sounds
If you go into sociology, for example, and would like to write a book on social welfare or the effects of culture on society, that's fantastic. But don't come out of the educational incubator wondering why social welfare opps at $65K a pop aren't falling out of the sky back home in suburbia. Take that waitressing job, volunteer at a non-profit (YES! For FREE) and go write your book. There's no shame in that.
Ayn Rand said it best when she noted that wanting something doesn't automatically entitle you. Show the world how much you deserve your heart's desire. Show the world you're willing to do it just to do it, like breathing. Then the money comes.
Just my $0.02. Take it "until your $#i+ starts to make cents" as Jay-Z would say. And yeah, lit-lovers, that's a pun. (English minor over here. Can you tell?)
When all is said and done, we as people change and so do our interests. It's not like we're married to whatever we choose to do right after college. But try to prepare for at least that first gig.
If you've already graduated, be practical and think systematically about how to get where you want to go from here. You can't demand a powerful, high-paying dream gig for no other reason besides an unmanifested belief that you "earned" it over four years bent over books.
This concludes my harsh letter. And because I'm kind, and because you're awesome, here's a bit of optimistic news - just for you.
29 November 2006
Earlier I wrote an article about the Freelancer's Union (will post or link to it later) and upon reading the stats I was like, great scotts, that's amazing. You're kidding when you say freelancers make up approximately a third of the American workforce. Then again, maybe it's not so hard to believe: "Part-timers piece together a living with multiple jobs, full-time workers supplement their incomes with freelance projects, and others make their entire livings as independent contractors," founder Sara Horowitz explains.
Interestingly enough, with my deeply-involved full-time job and side projects I would never have characterized myself as a freelancer. But maybe it's just my packaging terminology. I like to think of myself as a covert agent or snazzy product juggler or (and this is my personal favourite) straw-into-gold-spinner.
"What about retirement?!" I can hear my pops sputter. (Indeed, it was just the other day.) "What about a good pension!" Come on, dad. I've got higher aspirations than a pension. That's part of what drives anybody's desire to take projects on in addition to one's day job - that and a healthy dose of passion.
Clearly it ain't mom and pops' world anymore.
I don't consider myself a big union person. In my opinion unions outgrew their value once minimum wage became law. But I like the ideas behind Horowitz's atypical customer centric model. Let's face it, freelancers are largely ignored by employers and unions alike in the benefits and advocacy arena. Die-hard freelancers don't get unemployment when they need it, and hell - who needs health perks more than the guy juggling several short-term gigs at once?
I also want to point out that there's no monthly fee associated with membership with the Freelancer's Union; instead you pay for a benefits package (a logical idea! Imagine that), and admittedly they're a little rudimentary, especially health-wise. But hey, reshaping the existing union model for the "New Economy" has to start somewhere. It's not like Horowitz is holding still, either - she created a social networking site for freelancers last summer and is looking to add 401(k) benefits to her cache. Awesome.
The Freelancer's Union was founded in 2001 and already boasts over 37,000 members. It's the 7th-largest union in New York and is headed in the direction of Killa Cali, though the progress is slow-going. Hey, I won't be shy; consider me signed the moment they cross Golden State soil.
All right. I think I'm done evangelizing for the night. But speaking of, here's some interesting reading for your book list. It's all about how consumers are today's It marketers. (Like anybody needed to tell you.) Let me just take this opportunity to point out how incestuous the consumer/marketer relationship is. Screw the old stodgy Ogilvy types (no offense, David O. - I think you're awesome) - you can really only be a great marketer if you know intimately what it is to be a consumer. Embrace the consumer in you the way you'd embrace a bratty, mildly spoiled inner child.
Yes. You hear me. Marketers, your inner consumer is alternately id and innocence. Bow, obey, embrace. Consumers, your inner marketer is that leap in your chest or that sense of complete revulsion generated by a product, brand or company. Roll with those feelings. We're one and the same.
15 November 2006
I can't believe this type of thing exists, but I guess we've all been there. Sometimes you can't help asking questions about The Ex - whether she was hotter, smarter, better-dressed, a more creative cook. Was She Pretty? is a strange and sometimes sad little anthology of exes, summed-up in revealing sentences like "Leo's ex-girlfriend had a cult following." Line drawings illustrate a topic composed of heartstrings.
There are also sequences of linked lovers, kind of like a family tree but with fewer doe-eyed promises of tomorrow. Daily Candy looks at them as daisy chains of disappointment, hope, antipathy and longing. Sounds like a fucking party, yo.
01 November 2006
Fucking awesome work. I love seeing pop appropriations like this.
Courtesy of Creative Criminal.
31 October 2006
I'm weirded out by Volkswagen's demonstrated fascination with killing its customers or at least subjecting them to all sorts of traumatic accidents in order to hawk the safety of their vehicles, but that's the tune they've chosen to keep humming with their latest Polo campaign.
The only difference is this time people aren't having accidents midway through conversation. In this ad the Polo is apparently so safe that it acts as a kind of "I'm invincible - seriously!" hallucinogenic, kind of like 'shrooms. Here a driver simply blows himself up, and here a tame enough afterlife fixation ad.
Who the hell is doing VW's marketing? A troupe of existentialists? Or is that just the demo they've chosen to target? It's hard to tell.
26 October 2006
The word odalisque is conventionally used to refer to a chamber maid or harem girl but that's probably not quite the reference here. I'd appreciate more info if you have it. It's interesting shit.
25 October 2006
I suppose if my kid had some sort of compulsive wall-scribbling problem I might try my hand at some similar action. But hey, some graffiti is beautiful and vandalism effectively betrays certain dangerous sentiments floating around in the public sphere. They merit attention. Although I guess one could argue that if one riled up enough emotional attachment to one's city, its utter cleanliness would betray common sentiment too.
It's the classic "What if it happened to you?" stance. Still provokes some thought. Imagine coming home to a bedroom that looked like a public latrine.
20 October 2006
Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco (nicknamed Mayor McHottie by some), fresh off the stench of his divorce to the already incomparably hot Kim Newsom, nailed a just-turned-twenty model/hostess who, for his sake, initially lied about her age (on MySpace of all things) but the press was too smart for her. Or else they just opened her college yearbook.
Honey is cute but, to the consternation of Newsom's otherwise-tolerant constituency, also a registered Republican. "How dare he?" demands a bummed-out city official. "He knows how to pick 'em. You can count the young female Republicans in this town on one hand."
The warped Patrick Bateman-looking bastard. Dating young girls, mixing parties - what will he think of next?
N. Korea Says "Sorry We Set Off All Those Bombs the Other Day. Shake Hands?"
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il says "sorry about the nuclear test" to the Chinese delegation. He adds that he's willing to make concessions if the US is willing to make concessions too.
That's really sweet. I hope the US is sympathetic. My parents almost always were every time I detonated a complex series of explosives and felt bad about it later.
My Attempt to Do Penance
Sorry about the silence. My roomie moved out so I've been on a mad hunt to replace her. Still haven't. Kind of bummed. I'll get over it though.
By the way - what's up with Blogger? It's slow as all hell, plagued with spotty connections, a royal pain in the ass.
27 September 2006
I like the ad in particular because it speaks to a deep desire within me to do this very same thing when I walk into a Gap store. You have to admit all those khakis and button-downs year after year is a fucking frustrating sight. Bravo, I'm anticipating what the new store will bring.
26 September 2006
I have my own opinion about the ethical implications of ripping your buddy's idea, but hey, if it's easy to rip and it's not patented either then somebody would've done it anyway. Might as well be the cat who can turn it into a billion-dollar idea. And don't you think this is sort of pricky and bitter? Because, well, I do.
I didn't initially think that Facebook.com was worth a $900 million offer from Yahoo but a friend made a good point earlier this morning:
"Can Yahoo serve $100 worth of ads to 9 million users? Easily," he said. He's right. And with the suite of Web 2.0 yummies, including Flickr.com, that Yahoo's swooping up like candy, they're going to have quite the marketing-rich arsenal when it's all said and done.
Cheers to Yahoo and Facebook and maybe a beautiful future. Sucks about Greenspan and Facebook's users, who aren't terribly thrilled with the company of late. But hey, such is life.
25 September 2006
-Hugh Macleod, GapingVoid.com
For his views on the components of an organically successful blog, check out Case Study: English Cut.
20 September 2006
The guy is sweet and totally guileless; I told him he shouldn't have a problem if that's what he wants to do. But he said he's troubled because he'll have great conversations with "strategic relations," make conversation about the wrong things, then completely forget to mention what he does for a living.
The ideology of networking as a glamorous professional game has given him cold feet. I thought about the conventions and dinners I've had over the last couple of years, remembering the disdain I felt while staring into the face of a talking head with a plastic smile who knew all the proper "casual" things to talk about (sports, the weather, small jabs at my town) before pitching the shit out of me. Out of this monotonous dance, repeated thousands of times by thousands of different faces with little apparent imagination but a savvy for the rhythm, a networking relationship is expected to bloom. Am I actually supposed to feel something for these people, much less be willing to help them out sometime?
I began to consider what lives at the core of the networking relationship, a tool so vital to conducting business. Many articles have been written about the benefits of maintaining connections. One in particular, called "It's Not Who You Know, But Who You Get to Know" (2002), is comprised of interviews in which people discuss professional networking organizations, among other things, including the benefits of remaining in the loop after college:
But what's at the core of networking? Why is it such a big deal? One of the biggest beefs I had early on in my career was with the artificial relationship-building that goes on in companies. It's sterile, contrived and worked down to a science. As things stand, I don't consider myself much of a socializer; I spent all of college working and developed pockets of relationships with people I genuinely liked, people who wouldn't give me plastic smiles and with whom I shared a sense of mutual respect or regard. But many would allege this is not how it works; this is doing it wrong.
The ability to stay connected with colleagues, to seek and give counsel, to share information, news and opportunities, to give and obtain career and employment information are but a small part of the benefits you receive.
-Wayne Phillips, President of the Oakland/SF Bay Area
Chapter of the National Forum for Black Public
I'm not discounting the merits of developing strategic alliances; they're key to any career. But we need to remember why networking is so powerful a force in the first place: people aren't wholly rational. We're emotional creatures who are keenly aware of chemistry. How often are accounts won, not because of a great pitch, but because somebody is a "good fit" for the company or job?
With that in mind, I think it's critical to be less concerned with knowing the "proper talk." Instead, let's get more invested in being sincere, so the connection is a pleasure to maintain instead of a royal energy-sapping pain in the ass. Business is comprised of people seeking to make beneficial connections - and when I say beneficial I don't merely mean career-wise. We want to feel that extra something: the connection with somebody that suggests we're really friends, we get each other, and maybe you want to help me, not because I knew what to say about sports or make the right jokes, but because you can see my merits as a person and a professional.
We experience too little genuineness from day to day, especially while running the career track for the majority of our days. You stick out when you truly engage somebody and make a real connection, and that's far more meaningful than the hundreds of business cards stacking up in my desk, representing chipper hollow faces about whose characters I truly know nothing.
19 September 2006
Last month Nickelodeon launched ParentsConnect.com, a social networking site that is just completing beta. Unbranded thus far as a Nickelodeon offering, parents can create profiles, scope blogs, post on message boards and watch videos. The site has already piqued the interest of some heavy rollers in terms of advertising, like State Farm Insurance and Nissan, which seeks to promote the Quest minivan they were once targeting at children.
The site is moderated by parents and Nickelodeon plans to conduct the official launch in January. They expect it to become profitable within the next two years.
In my opinion they could try and make it a bit more attractive. It's wildly dull. Are parents wildly dull? They're typically fairly active people and more than a few watch (and enjoy!) Nick cartoons with their kids. I'm wondering whether they'll toss in television tie-ins, particularly those for which Nickelodeon (er, Nick at Nite?) is most known. My generation still falls all over itself when somebody brings up The Wonder Years.
14 September 2006
A Seattle elementary school teacher, royally pissed about the topless mermaid with the wide-open welcoming fins (why are those fins split anyway?), made some noise in the media this week about her unease. She's also pushing staff and teachers at Kent Elementary, her home base, to cover the logo up with coffee sleeves if in fact they must patronize the caffeine giant.
I can appreciate the nod to history but in all honesty I'm not a big fan of the old logo. It strikes me as boring and tasteless, hardly the meme I'd attribute to the coffee brand of all coffee brands. And I consider my opinion relatively unbiased - my relationship with Starbucks has lasted longer than most marriages.
11 September 2006
Over the weekend I hung out with my relatives in the cities where I spent more than fifteen years of my childhood. Back in a world in which I passed so much time, a world I abruptly left, I experienced a sense of culture shock almost equal in magnitude to what I felt upon my return from France.
Urban fashion for the hip-hop generation in Fairfield and Vallejo is strikingly distinct from anything you'll find in the City or in Concord, which are less than an hour away. To illustrate the point, my cousin is dating a dude from San Francisco and they absolutely hate the way the other dresses. There's a jarring of the tastes that simply can't be overlooked. The hyphy movement is of course wildly influential across the Benicia Bridge, considering this is the home of E-40.
It's not uncommon to see the stunna shades everybody is trying to wear. But there's an added flavour in the clothing that, superficial sheen of hyphy/crunk aside, maintains a sense of the authentic. It's attractive, witty, tongue-in-cheek - and anything but lazily conceived. I still love the elegant earthy embroidery on colourful LRG hoodies pulled up over a crisp shirt, big-ass headphones draped lazily over the shoulders, and contrasting kicks you won't find anyplace else. I dig the brass-coloured pointy heels you wear with mid-calf jeans, a form-fitting wifebeater and a flesh aviator jacket that falls down to mid-waist. I love the long straightened hair partially covering oversized shades, and baby tees that say I'M GOING GOING BACK BACK TO CALI CALI. I think it's hype the way Vallejo and Fairfield natives have their own slang and have really pushed grassroots marketing for "the soil where them rappas be getting their lingo from" (E-40, Tell Me When to Go).
As kids, the music permeating through the flesh of the streets was wildly influential. All of us were in bands and most guys were rappers who made beats on the side. It was as if the music industry was the only foreseeable way to do anything with your life. I wrote songs to somebody else's music. Breakdancing thrived here. And we wedded all this to the provincial, authoritarian way in which we were raised - those nagging apron strings that added inherent and uniform values to our foundations.
Another interesting thing about Fairfield and Vallejo is the sense of pride wrapped around the slippery and infectious lyricism E-40 is known for. It's not something that originated with him; it's part of the earth in the cities, the asphalt's twang. I grew up saying "sigg" when a kid got teased, "goosed" when somebody got laid and "hutch" to refer to a girl of questionable propriety.
I've spent so much time away from the place that I forgot what it's like, how slow and chill life feels, and how it's as much a part of me as anything else. I can see why we moved - my father always felt that if I grew up in this atmosphere I'd acquire a brand of comfortability and possibly racial self-entitlement that would never be beneficial to an opportunist - but at the same time, I can appreciate the culture that thrives at the roots of the cities, both provincial (when I was young Fairfield was a farm town) and gritty as you can imagine (I went to church on a boulevard that, to this day, remains rife with prostitution and street drug sales).
It's nice to come back to the soil in which you took root, even if life brought you elsewhere. And hell, it's also nice to know there's still nuance to hip-hop.
07 September 2006
Anglophones have a similar metaphor in the chasing of the white rabbit - a pursuit that, while perhaps futile at best, will at least lead you through dazzling, curious and life-changing adventures. Just ask Alice.
Mini's put together a wildly imaginative campaign that plays upon these notions and on the 'net-roving wanderlust characteristic of Generation: Web 2.0. The object of the pursuit, however, is zippier than a woman or a rabbit - it's a Mini in telltale white.
Click on a Mini banner to start the chase. Instead of finding yourself at the Mini Cooper website (what a dated idea!) the merry little Cooper leads you haphazardly through an eclectic series of websites, including the Museum of Food Anomalies, the Silly Sign Collection, and the online home of the Handlebar Club. Each respective site has yet another Mini banner inviting you to continue the odyssey.
According to AdCritic, "the ingenious campaign aims to reinforce the freedom of movement enjoyed by MINI owners, while simultaneously proving that even banner ads can veer off the beaten path."
The campaign's been nicknamed "The White Rabbit" and it was put together by Profero, a marketing agency based in London.
06 September 2006
- The Mona Lisa's fame is only perpetuated by propaganda. She's not all impressive and I'm sorry I broke through the exhaustive crowd just to see her
- I want to eat, and eat well, 3 times a day - sitting down, with no distractions
- I'm preoccupied with hot chocolate and prefer it over coffee in the mornings
- I smoke
- I feel the desire to walk and be outside a lot. Everything here is so remote, and I want sunshine, wind and rain
- I am a red wine person, and I favour Beaujolais
- I like knowing the people around me, and the people who make the ingredients in my food
- I love Doisneau, Klimt and Dali
11 August 2006
10 August 2006
The chronicles of a wife whose husband cheated on her (with her best friend!) are located here. It's the stuff of Lifetime television and contemporary soaps. Best of all, it's rife with rage and domestic vengeance.
I mean, you've got the whole nine yards: cancelling his credit cards, blackballing him from the joint accounts, accessing his e-mail and letting all his contacts know he has gonorrhea, destroying his childhood stuffed playmate, spraypainting his car:
Don't forget to check out the handy-dandy Youtube videos of her creepin' hubby and best friend, and of her throwing stuff around like an enraged tornado.
Dee-fucking-lish, yo. To tear a page out of E's last entry, "next time you’re tempted to cheat, think once, twice or however many times it takes – and if you need to, think of that girl Emily."
Marvelously well done. I only wish she sullied her graceful conclusion (just slightly!) by divulging how he reacted to the deluge. But that's like wishing for a sequel to Gone with the Wind. (And in my mind, there isn't one.)
03 August 2006
So this morning my employer's son GT walks up to me and goes, "Angela. Is there an urban slang term for talking on your cell phone?"
I consider. "Not that I know of," I reply. "But if one exists, I can find it."
"No." He swirls his hands around. "I want one that's ... common. Used."
"Then no, there isn't one that comes to mind."
GT looks at me a moment longer, then resolves, "I'm going to ask someone younger." And walks off.
"Thanks!" I shout, and he laughs.
Moments later he returns, smug: "Do you know what urban slang is for your cell phone?"
"People say celly." He repeats it for good measure: "Celly."
I can't help but be nasty: "Oh, that's been around forever, plus it's bopper," I snarl. "You don't really ever say that unless you're, like, eleven."
Perhaps encouraged by my surprising exhibition of rage, GT again experiences a moment of resolution: "I'm going to use it." And walks away. I can hear him typing with quiet glee as we speak.
01 August 2006
A friend directed me to InstantDef.com, an interactive ad campaign run by Snickers and featuring a liaison with Black Eyed Peas. The page exhibits gritty graphics and BEP all decked out in what I imagine is gear for the future. They also have a spotted dog that occasionally talks.
The website contains five episodes in a drama for which BEP are the protagonists. Granted, I only watched "The Knockout," but one was all I really needed to see. While the graphics are interesting enough, I wasted critical seconds watching background buildings appear in a most snazzy and futuristic manner. When the episode finally loads, we cut to a BEP marginalized by society (kind of the way they are now with the underground hip-hop scene), passing flyers out to a line of fans and demanding that they stay real, save hip-hop, and not buy into the evil lyricist villain Boo-T (the one who's "all about the almighty dollar," according to their spotted dog).
At some point a blinged-out midget appears, canes the crap out of BEP's boombox (something I imagine doing every time I hear "My Humps," for example) and destroys a choked-up will.i.am. in a freestyle battle with rhymes like "I got it made, and I'm getting paid, while you're still stuck in the '80's with your hi-top fade."
The idea is that by the end of the series Black Eyed Peas, who happen to have super powers donned upon them by an accident at the Snickers plant, improve their wack lyricist skills thereby saving hip-hop from those who would seek to, er, sell out.
I hope this is satire. Let's forget for a minute how silly it is to paint Black Eyed Peas as saviours from sell-outs. Will anybody really be won by the exhausted "save hip-hop" rallying cry? That was so late '90's.
Snickers, if this is the best you can do, you aren't making your situation any sunnier.
Interesting integration of traditional and contemporary sports activities: all-stars from all callings, doing amazing things. Well, ricocheting a baseball around to some techno, anyway.
In any event, it made my chest swell with proprietary pride for the colourful sports history of Japan and the great people involved, despite the fact that the Japanese invaded my parents' country and acted like total pricks. That's the magic of advertising.
25 July 2006
Polish fashion designer Ania Kucznska and graphic designer Michal Lojewski have paired up to create the UEG project, a visually titillating brand whose fruits are intended to play on the idea of consumption. Using symbols and icons, UEG clothing reminds the wearer of the inconsistency of today's existence.
The clothing line, made from a paper-like fabric called Tyvek, is as inconstant as you can possibly imagine. Based on the premise of "desirable objects designed to deteriorate," its curious and attractive designs are intended to fade, then wash away completely after a certain amount of wear. And when you're finished with the 'fit, you trash it.
Desirable they most certainly are. Available in the US, they most certainly are not. You can currently only purchase UEG designs in Warsaw, Berlin and Tokyo.
Rich with its own worldview, UEG loves to tote manifestos. It's clear they totally ran away with this. "Usa e getta" is the running slogan, and it's Italian for "use and throw away." The product even comes with rules of engagement: unification, unisex, uniseasons.
Cute. Too bad I can't swing by my local boutique to pick up a deteriorating dress. I wonder what one would pay for something they expect to throw away?
A friend who's more fashionable than I: "Um, you're paying for what the product stands for, man."
22 July 2006
God damn, everybody's a marketer. That's got to be one of the most amusing methods I've ever seen used to defame a person in the private arena. Ogilvy, meet your next guerrilla.
13 July 2006
The dominatrix made me do an eyebrow-raise, but whatever, I've seen "Run Lola Run" and am willing to believe that all Germans (including their children) have embraced the art of the domina as mainstream and don't even look twice at one. Maybe she is Deutschland's response to our own All-American girl-next-door coquettes (Kirsten, Scarlett, Lindsay).
"Yes, the dominatrix idea is mature, but so is the PSP," which is marketed to a broad demographic, explains Ulrich Proeschel, marketing director for TBWA Group in Germany. "It talks to kids, young adults and real grownups."
Something interesting to note: I don't generally think of a dominatrix in white. I normally think black or red, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this sentiment. PSP's ad forces me to transition my traditional ideas about the colours typically associated with BDSM, just as we'll all have to transition our ideas about the PSP going from tech-darling black to stark trendy white. Alienating? Possibly. Revolutionary? I'm open to it. I certainly dig the juxtaposition.
11 July 2006
Far from just an interesting (and probably cheap) music video concept, I think it comments on how internet communication has changed the way we court and develop romantic relationships. I mean, how often have you popped at the MySpace of the cat you're trying to talk to?
Additionally, AIM's taken most of the sweat out of carrying on the requisite getting-to-know-you banter. Some of us are just better writers than we are talkers. In defense of traditional methods, though, charm's a lot harder to feel through a monitor.
Edit, August 4, 2006. Aw, looks like they took down the nifty IM video. That sucks. But here's another cool video for "Smiley Faces" - more a vanity faire for Cee-lo and Dangermouse than anything else, but I can still dig it.
10 July 2006
Me: "See? That's why we need to implement siesta. Countries who siesta pull ahead. So too will our company."
My boss: "When you have your own company, you can implement siesta and hire me."
Me: "Fine. I will." Long pause. "Meanwhile, we flounder and long for naptime."
My boss: "Finally Americans and the French have something in common: a shared despise."
Me: "And a shared sleeplessness."
Ha. Ha. Ha.
01 July 2006
A few months ago I took a business trip out to Texas. On the way home I found myself sitting next to a kindly-faced older man named Mike Wright, who engaged me in conversation about the agricultural state of Austin. Mike explained that he owned a farm and was going to California to attend a seminar on how to plant a special bacteria in his soil that would encourage the growth of the crops he wanted.
"My second wife and I love the country," he said. "I never been to California. We ain't been separated more'n five days at once."
This naturally led to a conversation about his life and past. I was particularly intrigued by his use of "second wife" - he didn't seem much like the divorce type. At some point he began talking about his first wife, a woman to whom he had been married perhaps 25 years, give or take a little.
"We were so happy ... and so different," he mused sadly. His eyes watered slightly and he elaborated a bit on their life together. She liked to play the piano, and they lived next door to their respective best friends, another longtime married couple.
"If anything ever happens to me, you ought to marry [my best friend]," she often said. "You two are so alike."
One day a wildcard took them both by surprise and changed their quiet, happy lives. I didn't know much about Lou Gehrig's disease until gentle Mike began his painstaking elaboration of what it was like to see it overtake the person you love.
"It disables the muscles you use the most, to start," he said slowly. "So for her ... it was her hands, her piano-playing hands, that first went. So for us, Lou Gehrig's announced its arrival when the music stopped."
Lou Gehrig's crept over and across other vital muscles, slowly disabling and eventually asphyxiating the vibrant woman he loved. In six months she was gone. In so short an amount of time between complete happiness and total desolation, it must have been like the wind just up and took her one day.
"Sometimes it's slower, it can take years," he said. "I'm glad it didn't take years. I couldn't see her suffer like that."
This was probably the tragedy of Mike Wright's life. He moved away from the home they shared and their two best friends, then vanished for awhile. Then one day, years later, he ran into his former next door neighbor's wife, the woman his wife once joked would be his perfect match.
"She divorced," he said. "And we found we are very much alike! We married soon after that." His smile was bittersweet. "We do everything together - we're very outdoorsy. Neither of us like to be apart. And we both miss my first wife very much."
The talk with Mike Wright made the plane trip a short one. After a pause during which the plane began to descend, he took my ticket stub and wrote out, "When the Music Stopped - Mike Wright."
"That's the book I wrote about my wife," he said with the gentle, arresting smile I'd become familiar with. "Look it up on Amazon - read it and see if you like it. If you don't, you let me know and I'll send you your money back."
We shook hands, and he asked me to give him a call next time I find myself in Austin and crave a fresh-farmed meal.
Talk about organic marketing.
If his is the kind of story that moves you, here's where you can pick up a copy of his work:
29 June 2006
Funny news snippet of the day:
The tempest in a champagne flute kicked off when Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Cristal parent Louis Roederer, told The Economist that he viewed his brand's ubiquity in hip-hop lyrics and videos -- such as Jay-Z's own line "let's sip the Cris and get pissy-pissy" -- with a combination of "curiosity and serenity."*
I don't know how you can write a sentence like that with a straight face. I had to read it at least six times and I still can't stop laughing.
If you're curious about how Jay-Z took this totally nebulous statement, he was pissed, infusing the byte with perhaps more clarity than the situation called for: "I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products."
AdRants puts it well when it muses, "Jay-Z called Cristal's almost-compliment about him mentioning the brand in his lyrics racist. What now, smiling at someone the wrong way is racist?"
In other news, Cristal falls from spot 7 to spot 8 as hip-hop's swig of choice according to National Brandstand, which tracks how often brands get name-dropped in popular tracks.
*Jeremy Mullman, "Def Jam President Jay-Z Angered by Liquor Marketer's Comments," AdAge, June, 27, 2006
In what's been called the "most significant repositioning effort" in the company's 55-year history, Dunkin' Donuts has launched a fresh campaign under the tagline "America Runs on Dunkin'." The campaign vibes fun-loving American quirkiness, sunshine and smiles and the good, ol' Protestant work ethic that brought us all here - an appropriate position, considering it aims to "[invigorate] the hard-working people that keep America running day-to-day," according to to John Gilbert, VP of Marketing at Dunkin' Donuts.
Since its acquisition by a collective of private equity firms last month, Dunkin' Donuts has been pursuing an ambitious campaign strategy with the intention of tripling its reach in the next ten years, aggressively targeting the West in particular, where Dunkin' Donuts franchises are few and far-between.
I've kept Dunkin' Donuts in my periphery for the last few months because I began to suspect early on that it's making waves in the waters of that green mermaid we all know and love. I say this because it doesn't even try to whoop Starbucks in its own chic arena, a mistake many other purveyors of "fine coffee" have made, leaving them looking like cheap imitations in the shadow of the Big Green.
While Starbucks has made a niche out of its third-place policy, creating an elegant environment for the type of people who get a kick out of saying words like "tall, grande, venti" to the croons of Michael Bublé, Dunkin' steers its course in the opposite route, emotionally connecting with the av'rage Joe who might feel a little weird walking into barista-ville with paint-speckled jeans. He doesn't want to reinvent the (perfectly suitable) terminology for small, medium and large. The soundtrack to his life probably won't include heavy helpings of Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. He just wants a good, unpretentious caffeine fix before going back to making an honest day's living.
And have you met anyone who's had a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee? It's a bit like a religion - one of those quiet religions, the likes of which carried the spirits of Netflix and Diesel before they possessed the public cachet they do today. I have friends who actually order out to the East Coast for Dunkin' Donuts beans because we haven't got a franchise nearby. I can hardly say the same for Starbucks, which isn't exactly known for great-tasting coffee.
Don't get me wrong. My love affair with Starbucks has lasted almost a decade. I fell in love with the green aprons, Italian sizes and holiday lattés laced in foam. It did a beautiful job of bringing a pseudo-European café experience to a prototype American that was otherwise indifferent to his or her paper-encased black puddle. Starbucks converted espresso education and complex, finicky orders into serious cultural capital.
But the wind changes, and in a world gone mad, the day dawns for an America that represents the simpler things. Amidst polarizing politics, confusing wars, the growing worthlessness of an increasingly costly undergrad education, and sports heroes on steroids, we're too tired to play the caffeine elitist. What anchors us to shore? What reminds us of our roots, our worldview, our very raison d'être?
A marketing undercurrent that whispers, "America runs on Dunkin'."
Av'rage Joe wants to go back to saying, "A cup of coffee, please." But now it's an emotionally charged statement that means something different than it did before Starbucks turned coffee into high culture. With the dawning of the Dunkin' Donuts age, the old statement ties us back to Americana - the apple pie values comprising a hard-working bunch of people who are just trying to work out that "pursuit of happiness" thing. When that small, simple request slips out of your mouth, it's a little uplifting to know you've anchored yourself back to all that.
So keep your eyes on Dunkin' Donuts. In far less than ten years, it's going to contribute to a serious cultural shift. Caffeine-wise, anyway.
The "America Runs on Dunkin'" campaign was developed by Hill, Holiday.
27 June 2006
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished and Buffett has his critics. There remain a few who feel he's provided his children with too much of an advantage, despite the fact that they lived out relatively normal childhoods in Omaha and aren't lifting a finger to contest the whoppin' $37 billion of dad's money that's not going to them. He's allotted them stock in the illustrious Berkshire Hathaway and has enabled them to devote much of their lives to charitable work. In 2004, his son Peter Buffett and wife Jennifer each received a $40,000/year salary for 30 hours of charity work per week within the family foundation. I'd hardly call this cushy, but I suppose there's always reason to nitpick.
Inherited wealth makes me rather uncomfortable, and that's hardly a unique sentiment. Even King Solomon, the Bill Gates of his own time, laments this problem: "I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me; and who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?" (Eccl. 2:18-19) All you need to do is turn the television on to witness the countless kids who've made a mess of their lives with mom and dad's money.
Acknowledging the same discomfort (he's been known to say inheritances are privately funded food stamps), Buffett gave his kids a grander gift than madd bills: he enabled them to mold their own futures and make their own decisions about money. (Therein lies the power of getting stock and not cash.) How do you know your kids have internalized your respect for the dollar? When you can let go of 85% of your fortune without a one of them raising a finger to stop you. "Love is the greatest advantage a parent can give," Buffett says in the Fortune story that broke the news about his donation - a sentimental notion, but one many can relate to. The gift of character is infinitely more valuable than a signed check you didn't earn.
Buffett made the majority of his money through the stock market, following mentor Benjamin Graham's philosophy of securities analysis and his own contrarian guidelines. He is worth an estimated $44 billion according to Forbes, just a few billion shy of Gates' $50 billion. Like Gates, who has been without question the spearhead of Microsoft from its inception, Buffett's fortune was carved with a sense of passion and deep propriety: "I get to do what I like to do every single day of the year," he says. "I get to do it with people I like, and I don't have to associate with anybody who causes my stomach to churn. I tap dance to work, and when I get there I think I'm supposed to lie on my back and paint the ceiling. It's tremendous fun." His annual reports to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders read like letters to close friends, demonstrating his enthusiasm for his work.
In a letter to Gates and his wife, Buffett writes: "You have committed yourselves to a few extraordinarily important but underfunded issues, a policy that I believe offers the highest probability of your achieving goals of great consequence." Even in contributing to charity he follows the principles of securities analysis, investing deeply into an undervalued (in this case, underfunded) niche. He also lends insight into value of a different kind: that with great fortune come significant responsibilities within the world - larger ones than most people will encounter in their lives. For a full and satisfying life, it's critical to take care of your money the way you would a well-kept garden, keeping it circulating in productive arenas to prevent it from stagnation, thereby ensuring a rippling sustainability beyond yourself. Following your dreams doesn't just enrich you; it enriches everything you touch, as it should.
By no means do I think social responsibility should be imposed by outside forces upon the man who takes the plunge into the land of his dreams - and succeeds beautifully - by his own will, wits and other merits. A person's financial decisions are deeply personal. But Buffett and Gates (who recently announced his 2008 retirement to devote time to his foundation) ensure the value they spent their lives generating remain productive within the world and to their own children.
Read more about the story here.
Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates and Bill Gates in New York on Sunday, June 25, 2006, shortly after Buffett announces his decision to donate $1.5 billion per year to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. [AP]
23 June 2006
But if you haven't got your finger lightly pressed to the pulse of what it truly is to be connected with your consumer, and with what's salient to him or her, and with all the outlets they reach for or that reach for them on a given day, then what have you got? You've got a quantifiable past and, at best, a marginally speculative future.
Granted, you can never really tell for sure what's going to catch your audience's fancy. But if you can tap into what's closest to home and do so in an authentic way, you significantly improve your chances.
A great marketer needs to remember she's as much a consumer as an accomplice in the sales process. What catches her eye, what stirs a sense of relevance deep inside? How does the product feel in her hand, what does she think of it? Our senses are an immense resource, and they can only add to the numbers we've written out, looked up and stored in the banks of memory.
Due diligence is a critical aspect of the profession. It keeps us out of a lot of trouble, protects us from making ancient mistakes. But one's own experience is also a unique and information-rich resource. Hone your intuition, and you've got a weapon that can't be replicated by any competitor.
At the same time, we need to learn to freely cross the line dividing the self-titled "marketer" and consumer. Consumers today are, more than ever, all marketers - they're hawking their lifestyles and opinions off to us, and we're as hungry for their attention as they are for ours. They know now that the images and personalities we wrap around their products are reflections of themselves - and they want to contribute to the canvas. I can't think of a more exciting time for the profession.
20 June 2006
I need to hand it to the guy for being so clear-sighted. The Berkeley homeless are notorious for their colourful personalities and curious wares. Teenage kids create street art out of the coins they've gathered. Older staples, like the hat lady with the painted face, are known for the strange stories they tell. I've actually seen Park Avenue couples put shopping bags down and sit on the curb, listening to the hat lady with rapt attention. Homelessness in Berkeley isn't so much a condition as a religion, a movement as politically charged as a commitment to buy all-organic. They're reflections of a tear in time or a glitch in social sentiment that was never quite fixed.
Jokemon, a nearby cohort and another of those Berkeley staples, appears to have mastered media manipulation and marketing well. Jokemon, who gives away free jokes (generally rehashing the same one throughout the day), is known for his three-card monty personality, corny punchlines and friendly banter with passers-by. He never begs for money, preferring instead to provide a product or service in exchange for alms rendered. I've seen him at the same street corner on Telegraph throughout my time in college. If he hasn't got something to say, he's got something to put into your hand. And whatever it is, it tends to be self-promoting.
"I got one for you I got one for you. What does a gay horse say?" he asks me for perhaps the umpteenth time. I'm sucked in on each occasion.
"You told me this one already," I say with a smile, and he waves my protests off with a sly grin, repeating, "What does a gay horse say?"
He juts out his hip, flips out a hand and replies, "Ha-aaay."
But jokes are hardly Jokemon's sole product. One afternoon he takes my arm and says, "I'm in the paper! Here. Take a copy." Beside him lie a stack of newspapers, neatly folded, with a photo of him sitting at his usual perch, a wooden crate. I can see "Jokemon" written in print somewhere in the headline. I take a copy. Most people do, regardless of whether they actually read them.
In another instance, he hands me one of a series of photocopies, also neatly folded beside him, awaiting distribution in a stack. The photocopies came in two iterations. One is a close shot of his face, eyes drifting off to the side. Behind him is a filthy wall with graffiti across it. But it's the other photo that sticks out in my mind: Jokemon lying across the pavement, his hands across his chest like an ancient mummy, making a face at the camera as though he's having a seizure. Meanwhile two cops examine the vivid scrawl across the brick wall behind him: THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. One cop looks down at Jokemon in a reproachful way.
I still have the photocopies. Recently I walked by Jokemon and he had shirts, upon which were printed that same image. THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED, they whispered from starchy white cotton.
"Come on," Jokemon coaxes. He grins at me as always with a familiar intimacy, but that could just be his hustle. "$10 for a shirt. They're fresh made."
"I haven't got $10," I say.
He makes a face like I'm twisting his arm and says, "All right. For you, $7. What's your size?"
"Small," I reply.
"I'll put one on layaway for you." He winks at me and walks off, toting his shirt before the next prospective customer.
If he hasn't already (and I wouldn't put it past him), Jokemon's one of those eclectic cats who's going to land an HBO special one day. He can't not. Who knows how many of us have received the pages of self-promoting propaganda and bad jokes he unfailingly disseminated through the years? Who knows how many of us stood and laughed with him on that street corner, knowing full well that he'd be one of the defining memories of Berkeley we'd hold near and pass on?
Jokemon is both medium and message, product and purveyor. Cheers to a media master in his own right.
16 June 2006
Apparently your hard drive can illuminate your lifestyle in ways we didn't consider. And why not? Hasn't the computer become an unquestioned staple in most of our daily lives?:
I crazy dig this ad. It probably has more to do with my feelings for the artist than for the presentation of the ad itself. The concept was clean but it lacked the je ne sais quoi that could have pushed it over the edge. In defense of the vision, this ad from the same campaign is more fluid, much cleaner and just way more chill. Much in line with the worldview Apple's wrapped around itself, without losing a sense of authenticiy. It merits a watch and a listen. Can you work out who it is before time's up?
"You focus on the content and what is being pulled out of the computer," says Steve Simpson, HP's creative director. "[The campaign is] focused on the central idea that our autobiographies are told by what's on our hard drives. The bonus is that for the first 45 seconds, it's a guessing game."*
Gotta love that.
*Gleaned from AdCritic.com's June 12, 2006 e-mail edition.
15 June 2006
-The Mad Hatter, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
I finished Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest yesterday afternoon. Chief Bromden, the looming deaf-mute from the acclaimed 1975 film, charts the arrival of robust, life-loving Randle McMurphy to a mental institution efficiently managed by an entity called the Combine. Catalyzed by McMurphy's humor and friendship, minds long lost in fog slowly remember what it's like to be human beings with valid desires, and what exactly it costs to opt out of the world.
The narrative bleeds the reality Bromden witnesses and the nightmare of his own insanity, culminating in a crisp view on the subtle dynamics of good and evil. It's a book that lingers, held fast by the rambling, whimsical prose of the silent witness, the moving complexities of the characters, and a story whose framework we all know well. What is it to be crazy? What is it to be strong? What is it to be alive? Of course it helps to pepper the tale with gambling, hookers and the occasional (well-deserved) drunken binge with the guys.
Oh hell, I'll make it easy for you to check the book and the film out yourself:
01 April 2006
To briefly digress, I heard this morning that $100 million doolars may be invested in creating a monument to MLK, Jr. Whatever. Let's pose the question: what's more extravagant - mind-blowing expenditures in stone or in square footage? Read on:
A source (among several, I swear to you) claims that Jobs plans to launch the first ad that can be seen from space. You can check it out on Google Maps here, but my screenshot is infinitely better:
Look familiar to you?
Supposedly it's to be unveiled this Saturday (can anybody remind me what Saturday's calendar date is?), so we'll see whether there's any truth to the tale. Or else we'll find out we're all 'tards to ever imagine somebody would try to use 1,000,000 square yards of Australian Nothingness as marketing space.
Perhaps the Great Wall of China was just the marketing of yesterday, and until Steve Jobs none of us have been clever enough to replicate the idea. Bravo, Stevie - if the stories are true.