Monday, October 31, 2005

Quote of the day

From this: "'That's what I like about what we do. You don't find the next answer. You find the next question.'"

I suspect that this attitude -- whether about a hobby, a job, or the world in general -- is probably a good indicator of an interesting and happy person.

What kind of screen does that have?

All I know is if Steve Jobs has "a well-known reality distortion field," I want one too.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bigger D

To my eternal consternation, the megapolitan is not a new cocktail. Rather, it's CNN's term for future boomtowns across the country and Dallas, incredibly, could be one of them: "No region better captures and caters to the Latino population boom. A new generation of Hispanic business owners and industrialists will drive the growth, and the area will become a magnet for foreign firms trying to cash in on the U.S. Latino market."

And to everybody in The Bubble: relax. "Dallas's Caucasian population will jump 30 percent over the next two decades as relatively cheap real estate draws more people willing to move from overpriced markets in other states."

Really, there's only one thing to worry about: "Texas will be the country's new base for wind power."

Wind power? In the oil state? That's not exactly primetime material.

Quote of the day

From an AdPulp commenter: "A man or woman installing sheet rock and insulation doesn't have the ego of copywriter. Why is that?"

Don't forget!

Make room on your blog now for lengthy and vicious criticism of the new Forbes cover article by Daniel Lyons. C'mon people. Let's get the "lies, libel and invective" started!

Once again, I confront the incredible limitations of my own brain

There should have been a warning.

Had we been properly advised, we would have taken a day off or at least cancelled a few meetings because that's the kind of time investment needed to process Grant McCracken's blog this week. The latest bit is this: "But it's not clear to me that the beast called advertising is dead. There is no meaning maker in the marketer's tool kit as powerful as advertising. A TV spot can use 15 seconds to astonishing effect. It can make meanings, build relationships, construct brands at a stroke. When this is followed up by the smaller message and the more delicate interventions made possible by the new media, then we've really got something. But it seems to me too early to dismiss the mass media advertising instrument. I think it will be with us always."

At a time when all attention and energy seem focused on virals, that kind of talk is almost shocking. Imagine: mass media, new media -- working together for a more meaningful tomorrow!

But my favorite part is this which really applies to anyone in advertising: "Design will have to become deeply knowledgeable about contemporary culture and increasingly skilled in the ability to read its shifting trends.... The designer will have to have a deep and systematic knowledge that takes them outside the aesthetics and design communities they normally inhabit. (This is another way of saying that living in NYC, going to the right clubs, and reading the right magazines, will no longer be enough.)"

Oh my.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


It's a sad day for Anheuser-Busch when they can't even attract the cheap drunk: "U.S. brewers have been slashing prices in recent months in a bid to drive up volume, which has suffered as consumer tastes shifted toward wine and distilled spirits....'Discounting is not working.'"

Also, their strategy of smearing the family of a dead baseball player didn't seem to help the bottom line either.

As ripe as all this is for smart-assery, there's no delight to be had in this news. Aren't Budweiser and Michelob great American brands? Isn't this the last big American brewer? Doesn't anyone in St. Louis have any pride?

If people have turned to the more expensive option of cocktails -- a trend that is hardly news -- you could assume that price is not an issue. If spirits and wine can gain such wide acceptance without the luxury of TV advertising, you could conclude that maybe lounge culture, film and the popularity of TV gourmets have real power. And you could question why -- while all of that was becoming obvious -- Anheuser-Busch's own advertising was so out of step.

Let's see if there's a positive note anywhere. Searching...searching. OK. Here: "Anthem" might not be original, but like The Girl In The Moon, it works on some level and doesn't make me ashamed to drink beer in public. And oh yeah. That Budweiser logo, the one with the script B and the little crown? That's kinda awesome.

Why will Google succeed as a TV ad buyer?

Because they're smarter than us, that's why. If they can buy and sell print advertising, they can broker TV ads too.

I can't imagine a worse development for media people. I mean, other than having to pay for their own lunch or something.

"Renegotiating the convenant" is not a Hollywood sequel. Wait. Maybe it is.

Evidently if you're an investor, these are fate's most damning words: Blockbuster met with lenders yesterday.

Deep breaths. I promise -- we can get through this. Unless there's a secondary stock offering in which case current stockholders are totally screwed share price-wise and we should all look around for a window to jump out of.

Until then, here's something to feel good about: next year's movies might not suck!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Things I learned while reading blogs at the office

During my daily 40 minutes, I discovered there are places in this world where cellphone etiquette actually matters. Bewildering. You mean, not everybody will dodge my advances with a loud but fake conversation? There's hope!

The meeting really blew. Thank you, I'll be here all week.

It should not be interpreted as anything other than coincidence that this year's movie industry conference was scheduled for the very time and place Wilma struck. To suggest otherwise -- to draw some kind of unflattering analogy between the weather and the state of the film business -- why, this would be too obvious and a tad mean.

Yet fans gotta worry. Especially when the MPAA president embraces the new iPod only tentatively: "'I don't think people will want to watch a 1 1/2- or two-hour movie on something the size of their hand, but it could have value to advertise and promote movies.'" Right. Because the masses cry out to see more advertising. And they'll pay $499 for that alone.

Are theater owners more sensible? Their goal is to "rein in rude patrons and cell phone users" -- promising! -- and "making sure that any onscreen ads 'don't look or feel like TV.'" Well now. That's gonna take some money.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

By all means, bring back the shorts

Is Major League Baseball missing a huge merchandising opportunity? With two teams steeped in the grand tradition of uniform experimentation, every World Series game should have been Throwback Uniform day. Oh, the pageantry!

Netflix discovers everyone's a critic

"Debacle." "Annoying arrogance." "Insane." It's fun to read Herb Greenberg's take on Netflix. And it will be especially delightful for a certain Dallas company: "'if Blockbuster starts to get its act together (be it sending DVD's from stores, or partnering with Amazon) that will be a huge negative for Netflix.'"

WalMart's big, squishy group hug

H. Lee Scott will save the environment. Someone actually used "WalMart" and "chic" in the same sentence. And there's a new employee health plan.

It's not winning you over, is it?

Maybe it's not meant to. It's hard to tell if WalMart is seriously pursuing more upscale and urban shoppers or simply encouraging current shoppers to spend more per visit. After all the new clothes -- which are not Camilla chic, just "cheap chic" -- are aimed at this audience: "we're hoping to help a segment that's already shopping at our stores but wasn't necessarily finding what was essential to them." And if they can make those same shoppers forget about any controversy, all the better. I mean, there are 500 more stores to build.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hello my little deadbeats

While others contemplate which of Dante's nine circles Phillip Bennett will one day call home, the NYTimes asks the important question: who'll pay for those Refco ads? I think we all know the answer. But did you know this: it's "been estimated in the magazine industry that 25 percent of all ads are 'dead debt,' meaning they are never paid for." Wow. That would affect like a whole pound of the September Vogue.

So can we assume that 25 percent of agency work is also never paid for? Would that be too low? And can we get names?

Friday, October 21, 2005

As reliable a harbinger as roiled clouds

It's always a sign of trouble when they trot out Bill Ford to appear in TV spots: "Ford is making his first TV ad appearance since the 2002....That effort was meant to reassure a wary public about Ford's ability to carry on in rough terrain. Back then, it was a tumultuous year ending with the ouster of Jacques Nasser as CEO. Now, it's the end of a disappointing quarter in which Ford reported a net loss of $284 million, and is laboring to sell SUVs."

But this note provides some relief: "In the new ads, Ford again speaks extemporaneously." Good. Because for a minute there I thought his last line -- "Innovation is the compass which will drive this company forward" -- might have been the product of a beaten and bowed copywriter.

UPDATE: Upon further review, the call has been reversed. Ford actually says: "Innovation is the compass which will GUIDE this company...." Which is better. I'm going out right now and buy an Expedition to atone for my mistake.

Last night I went to a meeting and a hockey game broke out

The concept of consumer-centricity has not, it seems, taken hold in some executive offices. Because after Comcast's OLN blocked hockey broadcasts to EchoStar's DISH subscribers, EchoStar slapped back: "Sources said EchoStar stunned Comcast brass by yanking the channel without warning. Company executives flew to the satellite service's Denver headquarters Thursday to negotiate a truce, but after 10 minutes of discussion, EchoStar ended the meeting."

And don't worry about all those viewers in New York City. Blip on the radar.

You're gonna make it after all

It was just a so-so look at the fashion trend of customization and then they went and referenced the Bedazzler. Now I think it's the best article ever. Could it have saved Michael Kors menswear?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The unbearable ingenuity of Netflix

Proving again that, eventually, everything can be blamed on advertising, Netflix claims marketing costs ate away at their third-quarter revenue. But here's the interesting part: "Netflix also will postpone a test launch of its online movie download service indefinitely because of problems obtaining licensing agreements from Hollywood studios."

I can't decide if that means Netflix is too smart for Hollywood or not smart enough. Didn't Steve Jobs just do something with some content? Aren't studios starting to talk to BitTorrent? Can't we all just get along?

After all, instant gratification is at stake here.

Progress? Or sign of the apocalypse?

We will have World Series baseball in Texas.

White Sox batters beware.

Oh my God

Murdoch's right. No one reads newspapers anymore. There's just no time what with Starbucks cups to study and discuss. That's especially true now that they'll include a quote from Reverend Rick Warren, something USAToday considers "a spiritual jolt" and a reason to examine all Bible-quoting businesses.

Oh, another reason people don't read papers? Sometimes their writers can miss the point.

It may not be a jolt for the 20 million people who bought Warren's book. Starbucks isn't becoming an evangelical version of Ben & Jerry's. And this is simply the latest phase of a larger, continuing campaign that invited everyone to contribute. "The Way I See It" cups feature quotes from all sorts of people. Maybe the more interesting story here is how Starbucks sells ideas, atmosphere, music --and maybe in the future literary works? -- as well as some truly average coffee. I mean, isn't that a kind of miracle?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Can a cell phone make you feel underdressed?

I don't know what I like more -- the product or the product review.

I thought you had to call 'em "pre-owned"

How to sell CDs in the Age of iPod.

There's a lesson in there for Blockbuster if it's not too late. Then again, it's never too late if Hollywood can't afford for you to go bankrupt.

We have apparently been going to hell for quite some time

"There are in our times a multitude of complex motives for adolescents getting into trouble, or marriages breaking up, but it is not too far-fetched to say that our homes and the way we live in them must be listed among the important causes." -- Mary and Russell Wright, Guide to Easier Living, 1950

I will only add that for a couple devoted to modern, fuss-free design, their writing style sure is clunky. Still, I'm enjoying the book.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Will they sell the paint-on panties too?

Are you tired of Juicy? Me too! Do you still want to overpay for sweatshirts? Me too! Let's be friends! And let's go shopping for some Barbie fashion for women. The jeans are about $176 and there's a Judith Lieber purse that's to die for. To. Die. For. So how much does that come to? Oh! Math is hard.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Getting old

They don't want to be treated like big kids even though they're buying up all the scooters. They're open-minded except when they're turned off by young people and indie music. And they respond best to realistic images of actual women like, you know, Christie Brinkley. See, marketing to Boomers is so simple with these 5 time-saving tips!

What was that about God and details?

Of course, you've already got the spinner exhaust pipe, right?


Talk about bringing down a room. Actors and directors demand their share of iPod video fees. Fine. Whatever.

But what happens when artists' demands end up stifling art? As the NYTimes observes, "anyone armed with a video camera and movie-editing software can make a documentary. But can everyone afford to make it legally?" The answer is -- did a cellphone go off in a scene? was someone watching The Simpsons? are you using archival photos? -- no, which means even monumental works like "Eyes On The Prize" can't be rented or sold. "'What's really important here is that documentary commitment to telling the truth is being compromised by the need to accommodate perceived intellectual and copyright constraints.'" So go ahead. Speak truth to power. But not to other artists.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What I wish I could watch right now on the new iPod

Last Friday's Charlie Rose show. Because that was the night Michael Eisner guest-hosted and interviewed Barry Diller for the last half-hour. The conversation was indeed illuminating: Diller reminiscing about the Marvin Davis years -- "who do you have to screw to get out of this room?" -- Diller getting bleeped for describing, in anatomical terms, how far back a pendulum can swing and mostly -- most delightfully -- Eisner trying to convince Diller of his own tech prowess by claiming he reads "brogs."

For a mere $1.99, who would not watch that again and again?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Maybe the term "listen" was too loosely defined

The most listened-to radio programming in the country is the Kroger InStore Network. And they want more advertisers.

Should OLN feel shame?

Was it the questionable choice of onscreen fonts or the experimental camera angles that made hockey on OLN feel so different? I couldn't tell. But for now, there's something charmingly retro about the absence of big-time advertisers. No pop-up promos. No sponsored scrolls. No Dodge Ram tough player of the game. Just old-time hockey. Toe Blake and all that.

Of course I was lucky. I saw the game. Some fans missed out because OLN is not airing NHL games to all DISH subscribers. It's a strategy designed to pressure DISH into offering OLN in its basic programming. And I'm sure hockey fans are just the audience to be overflowing right now with enough goodwill and patience to understand.

Pixar and Disney agree to seek counseling

So while we try to decide if the new iPod is the best thing ever or not all that, wasn't yesterday's real story that Jobs shared the stage with a Disney CEO? Y'all!

Does this mean that the problem was pure personality? Is Chicken Little so good, it scares Pixar? Can a Toy Story 3 disaster be averted? I want my gossipy, Eisner-mocking explanation now!

Rapp, huh?

There was a time in this city when you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting 4 or 5 Brinker concept restaurants. That has changed. Now, Brinker = Chili's. There are other, minor brands and it's these accounts that Brinker just handed to Rapp for "a new marketing program...that drops television advertising and relies on direct marketing." I smell coupons!

Chili's -- which generates 74% of Brinker's profit -- will apparently remain at GSD&M. And apparently not drop TV.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

For this we let her out of jail?

Has Martha Stewart, truly, paid her debt to society? Is it, in fact, justice that she roams free, completely able to threaten the general population with shows and videos and plans like a new builder licensing agreement "in which the designs of three of Ms. Stewart's personal residences will be used as inspiration for the more modest homes in a new subdivision" in North Carolina.

Where is the law?

UPDATE: I just remembered that KB Home has a slight image problem, at least in Texas where one of the Martha communities is planned. See what I mean. Martha's a menace. Somebody do something.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

There are no mistakes. Only valuable lessons.

Helpful advice for school applications, press releases, RFPs and if need be, first dates.

Social shopping doesn't always lead to social buying

First there was the Gap Lounge. Now: Forth & Towne social-shopping fitting rooms. Anything, it seems, to keep women from noticing that the clothes might just suck.

UPDATE: Wardrobing room? Stop the madness.

He may be an SOB but he's not our SOB

Ranger fans say hell yeah, we'll have us some schadenfreude.

But does it taste like the back of a school bus?

Wine label comedy: "Clever names are the wine industry's tactic to compete in an increasingly informal age, and it is working, according to a July Gallup report that showed wine in a tie with beer as Americans' favorite 'adult beverage.' 'Food and wine should be fun, no?' says marketing director John Locke of Bonny Doon Vineyard.'"


Big wine sales could be credited to vintner puns or maybe to health news, celebrity chefs, or even movies. No?

Reddy Kilowatt cashes out, plans to invest in NBA team

It was only 3 years ago that electric power was de-regulated in Texas. It was only 1 year ago that Dallas' TXU announced the novel money-saving strategy of laying off their workforce -- except for the executive management team -- in favor of outsourcing. Now TXU is planning to "spin its electric transmission business into a new public company that could be valued at more than $10 billion." Nice work.

Oh. And nice work by the Dallas Morning News, who graciously allowed to break the story and the New York Post to pick it up. Yeah -- The Post.

New at Target: the Forced Resignation Barbie

Mattel fires its president and folds Fisher-Price into its iconic Hot Wheels and Barbie brand family. Remember this day. Like Romans who smiled then changed the subject as Nero appointed his horse to the Senate, we have just, as a culture, surrendered all sense of ourselves. And put Bratz in charge.

Don't strain yourself

Some of us won't just do it. So while sports gear sales are up, it's the same energetic people who are buying. Oh, it's a desirable demographic -- "enthusiasts tend to be college educated, in their mid 30s or early 40s, earning a six-figure income or better and overwhelmingly male." You know, ubersexuals. But how do you grow beyond that? Simple. Make sports-like stuff that in reality only enables our bad habits: "Coleman has recently expanded their reach towards the not-necessarily-active population by offering equipment especially designed for tailgating." Genius!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Quote of the day

How can this be: "But luckily I’m not longing for brand-zealots to add me to their MySpace pages or sing my praises in some sticky thread on an EasyBoard. You know what; it’s entirely possible to not give a damn about the label, packaging or company behind a product."

Questions of journalism ethics are so much more interesting when there are strippers involved

Sports Illustrated settles a lawsuit over a story they still claim to stand behind. Reasons to care: the story got a college football coach fired, a court ruled that magazines don't have the same protection as newspapers and the source might have been a topless dancer. How long do we have to wait for the ESPN original movie?

Sunday morning at the movies

An anti-WalMart documentary gets distribution help from the United Church of Christ. Yes. That's the same church that created a TV spot so controversial, networks refused to air it.

How was your weekend?

Mine was good.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Magazine ranks Mark Cuban somewhere between man-whore and criminal

As a supplement to their list of people they envy most, Fortune magazine votes Mark Cuban into their Lucky Hall Of Fame. Alongside Kevin Federline and Richard Scrushy.

See, this is Fortune's attempt at humor. Aren't they cheeky? Isn't it edgy? Don't you wish you could reference Britney Spears and corporate scandal in the same story? Exactly why fellow geek cash-out and NBA teamowner Paul Allen is considered enviable while Cuban is just a right-time, right-place dumbfuck is not fully explained. Don't think about that too much. Just know that Cuban looks goofy on the sideline and so, for Fortune, it must seem like comic genius simply to mention his name. And if Cuban invested early in Weblogs, Inc. -- a company that was just sold to AOL for $35 million? More stupid, stupid luck.

Those Fortune writers. They know funny!

Blockbuster, still in the toilet

Blockbuster admits that people haven't been all that eager to rent their DVDs online. Possible silver lining: the rest of the rental industry is sucking harder.

Quote of the day

From this: "'Publishing has a long history of publishing schlocky fiction for women.'"

Does this make them the DB Cooper of WiFijackers?

TechDirt links to this tale of Starbucks employees who allegedly helped customers steal a neighboring shop's free WiFi. Tsk, tsk baristas.

Maybe all these ugly incidents can be avoided when our cities build free WiFi. Maybe not. Because muni WiFi will bring along its own nerdy problems. Like, should cities be able to take over a business category and turn it into a public utility? Politicians -- or at least, their contributors -- can't agree. And if your city's WiFi features location-based advertising, is that appropriate? Can clubs advertise if part of the audience might be underage? And finally, why is WiFi a basic right but not premium cable?

TiVo for the masses!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Consumer confidence is at a new low. Or not.

We all felt so hopeless about the economy last week that we had to go shopping just to get over it. Who can blame us? No one wants to miss out on Su Doku.

The day the music died but then got resuscitated

Sony and EMI continue to sell CDs you can't copy into iTunes and the labels' own artists are revolting. I love you Switchfoot. And even though you had to go and write a song that "bemoans corporate product branding and marketing," I forgive you.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Do they skip ads because they're smart? Or are they smart because they skip ads?

It's a conundrum: people who fast forward through TV spots or use pop-up blockers "were generally more interested than their ad-watching peers in online product research and more likely to participate in online discussions of products, like those on blogs or product review sites." Knowledgeable influencers? Advocates-in-the-making? Hold me!

But how can you reach this audience? Should you consider, for starters, making sure your product is worth talking about?

No. If it were that easy, everyone would do it.

My day at the State Fair, or what I learned from a pile of horseshit

I ate a Corny Dog and rode the Crazy Mouse and didn't vomit, not even once. But when I visited the Clydesdales tent, I was overcome with emotion.

After all these years, the best Bud ads are still those that feature the horses. I feel safe in making that statement primarily because I did not visit the Whassup tent. Or the frogs tent. Don't get me wrong. I like those campaigns. They worked. It's spots like the "Bud Beer Tree" that kinda break my heart. Because the message of that ad is "guys wanna get drunk." And somewhere in St. Louis, they wonder why more Americans are now choosing wine over beer.

The Clydesdales are different. Can you hum the Christmas Card music? Do you remember old Auggie riding the wagon into the ballpark? The horses have an elegance and majesty that the brand itself often lacks. They're the connection to a story, a tradition. They're the symbol of a respectable grown-up beverage instead of a cheap, quick way to get liquored up. Not all ads should feature the Clydesdales, but shouldn't all ads strive for such aura?

And another question: why would anyone wait until the State Fair to buy cookware and cleaning products?

Fresh produce is not, always, your friend

Dole's pre-packaged salads have been linked to E. coli. Hmm. You rarely have this problem with potato chips.

They might burn their anime collections in protest

The people who make games are upset. And it's not because they've never had girlfriends. No. Today, game makers -- people who have probably, over the course of their lives, re-sold a car or at least a college textbook -- are angry at Best Buy for selling used games. There's all the usual arguments, predictable hypocrisy and underlying core issue of 40% profit margins. But Best Buy will not be stopped. They gotta do something with all those old CD aisles.