Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Danny Snyder wins a business fight but is frustrated to discover he is still a dork

He can't prevail on the football field but, by God, Dan Snyder can and will sponge off the business success of his most hated rival. How else to explain Snyder's takeover of Six Flags -- whose flagship amusement park is conveniently located near Jerry Jones' new stadium? You can't teach this kind of business instinct: in true Snyder fashion, his first moves include firing somebody and wrapping everything in corporate logos. Because that's so different, so breakthrough.

But if you're going to dump Mr. Six, just be sure to replace him with something truly entertaining.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Maybe Tolstoy meant to say all rich families are alike

Is it a coincidence that Bill Ford, August Busch IV and the Johnson heir are all currently featured in their companies' TV spots? And is it a coincidence that they all look like the same person?

They can dance if they want to

Pylbug's right. WalMart Dance Parties are the best thing that could happen to a big box retailer. Fun, vaguely subversive and no pepper spray! In fact, I -- a middle-aged capitalist -- would love to witness one, and that should horrify any true anarchist.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Words and pictures failing together

The newest AT&T -- sorry, at&t -- ad is somewhat problematic. And it can't be saved by the visual.

It's not exactly a new practice

Disney markets a new movie to churches and "corporate America has set its sights on the black Christian market." Potential upside: more variety in media and entertainment. Possible downside: moneychangers, temples, busted furniture.

More like Low 70 Degrees Welcome

So obviously I like a good beer. And prompted by the Real Ale Question, I am now on my annual search for Winter Welcome Ale. (Central Market: yes! Goody Goody Liquor on Greenville: still selling last year's bottles. Sigh. Goody Goody indeed.)

I have no idea if Winter Welcome Ale is a legitimate product. It could very well be that Samuel Smith makes a top-notch ale to sell in England, then mops the brewery floor, names the bucket contents Winter Welcome and ships it all off to please the dull palates of unknowing Americans. I like it still. Now the holiday season has officially begun. Let us rejoice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Good news for the horse

Since it's 80 degrees outside, he will not have to carry the sleigh through any white and drifting snow. Old Dan can kick back. The rest of us will try to find a pair of shorts that can faithfully reflect an obvious commitment to Puritan tradition.

Now, for you, I have a sincere message and it's this: I hope you have a safe, comforting and happy Thanksgiving. Because I am thankful for you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's not just a job. It's a controversy.

They're supported by taxes and their programs have accepted promotional fees in violation of a long-standing ban yet the BBC attempts an objective, even humorous, look at product placement. I think they succeed. Just don't miss the reader comments. Because for every Richard Knights -- "No matter how much advertisers try and justify what they do, (even calling it creative! for heavens sake) in the end they just recycle the ideas of others to peddle their own rubbish" -- there is a clever D Debry: "Businesses need to be as strong as possible to remain economically competitive and keep friends and family of the people who have these views in employment."

Also, it will be harder to christen ships

OK. The wine tube is practical. I get it. But I don't care. I just don't think any part of the decanting process should ever involve a spigot.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Text only? How visionary.

There are excellent reasons for saying nice things about Google. For instance, when they finally own everything in the world, maybe they'll one day remember the kind words and not demand my first-born male child. Also: they almost single-handedly killed creepy pop-unders.

I never have known what "business casual" means

After years of careful experimentation, I have learned that the secret to a good holiday office party is exactly two drinks. Any fewer and it's just too excruciatingly awkward to chit-chat with the CFO's wife. Any more and it's just too excruciatingly awkward to puke on the CFO's wife. Still, it's a little sad that company parties may be on the decline.

Evil marketer high five

It thrills me to my soulless core that a mere TV commercial could have this effect.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I was told I could play my podcast at a reasonable volume

They're going to start counting podcast listeners. Interesting. But if you really want media people to care, Adam Curry will have to personally present the numbers to them over dinner at Nobu.

Quote of the day

From this: "'That is what I do. I write copy. I don't prance around and have meetings and have teams under me.'"

What's wrong with prancing?

They don't wear it in the pros

Oh my God. It's happened. I've reached an age where men my age sound like my Grandpa. Conversations now open with a severe and lengthy criticism of what people are wearing, and end with a prediction of what this means for the direction of the country. And don't even get them started on the ever-changing state of team uniforms.

But if there's a sport that could use an update, surely it's wrestling. The singlet -- you've seen the singlet -- is something invented by someone who never thought women would be watching. It can't die soon enough. So I for one welcome the two-piece wrestling uniform. It's colorful, cool and I think chicks'll dig it. Middle-aged guys? No telling.

That's one way to eliminate laugh lines

If you stand in a reinforced doorway, will it protect you when a paradigm shifts? First, new research reveals that People readers earn more than Vogue readers. Now it seems less and less women believe big bucks lead to softer, firmer skin -- and it's causing layoffs at Estee Lauder: "Estée Lauder has faced pressure from rivals such as Procter & Gamble and L'Oréal, which have tapped the huge demand for cut-price, age-fighting remedies including Oil of Olay's Age Defying lotion and L'Oréal's microdermabrasion kits." Aren't those brands sold at grocery stores? Oh the horror!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Compare, contrast

Interesting but just a tad stale: how the iPod taught manufacturers to care about design.

Fascinating yet brilliant in its simplicity: how the iPod made dating more problematic for women the world over.

Yeah, I don't know why newspapers are dying

It would be logical to assume that a New York Times style editor has a better understanding of the Internet than, say, a 74-year-old man but let's have their testimony read back to us:

Editor: "I hate blogs, I don't read them. I think they're for rich people with too much time on their hands to vent."

Old guy: "everybody now is empowered: Anyone can buy what they want, shop where they want, talk to anybody in the world that they want (and) state their own opinions. There's no mystery to a blog: Put up your thoughts (and) find friends. And the younger people are, the more time they're spending on it -- it's extraordinary."

Jury awards it to the old guy. Poor Elizabeth Hayt. She does not know her consumer very well. Let's at least hope no one will notice and she can avoid a vicious mocking. Oh. Too late.

Meanwhile, the 74-year-old man has been interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter. He says many interesting things. He can be controversial but, really, who can hate someone who claims that "too often you get a group of very brilliant Harvard MBAs in a company that are set up to study strategy or whatever, and it tends to slow things down. And it also tends to get political: People would rather say no than take a risk on something."

And he's a Simpsons fan!

So you're telling me it was a mistake to deduct the venti lattes?

You'd think that an article about job tips for 2006 would be helpful. Maybe even empowering. Instead I was bummed to learn I shouldn't ask for a raise and outright horrified to realize that auditing is now considered a growth industry. Auditing? Man, The Beatles totally were visionaries.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Have a story. No, wait. Have a point.

I buy the books. I scan the blogs. I even, upon Michael Eisner's advice, try to read the brogs. So I've learned that story-telling can be a powerful marketing tool and you can well imagine my excitement at finding a new brand of crackers with the name "Elsa's Story." From Godin's lips to marketers' ears!

Then I read the package:

"Elsa's Story sends you back to a time and place when you were young and carefree. It is about a memory, a hint of nostalgia, captured in the scents and tastes of warm cookies baking. Elsa's Kitchen was always open, her recipes remaining a well kept secret. Elsa's heritage is now relived through the goodness of quality ingredients and care that remind us of tastes long forgotten."

What is that? Why does it sound like the notes for manufacturing a story and not a story itself? In fact, there is no story, only a description of what effect the story should have on us. Puzzling.


Unless they're doing a bit. Yes, that's it. This is a send-up of advertising, right? A parody of everything overwrought and unauthentic, and a rebuke to ad people everywhere.

In which case, it might be genius.

Two nations, a common language, unintentional comedy

Odd headline of the day.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Terabyte is not the name of a new porn star

It's always fun to guess what Apple will do next.

Art is a jealous mistress

Bravely imperiling the connection between sponsorship money and their ability to make a living, Hollywood writers and actors have now spoken out against the evils of product placement. Clearly, they had to act while there's still hope of saving day-time TV. And their argument is heart-rending: "We are being told to write the lines that sell this merchandise and to deftly disguise the sale as a story." Yes. That is too much. If only everyone were as committed to quality as the gifted visionaries behind Rocky VI.

Friday, November 11, 2005

We blogged him back into our lives

Those "down-home folks from Oregon," the dears, have put aside Kobe Bryant's sexual assault trial and rolled out a new Kobe shoe campaign. Expect Mike Lupica to become a 4'10" spigot of outrage. Still, there's no denying that Kobe has fans: "among male teenagers and young adults -- the primary drivers of Nike's high-priced footwear sales -- Mr. Bryant continues to be a star, according to market research firm Umbria Inc., which tracked 12 million blogs last December for data on popular NBA players." Troublesome bloggers.

Thanks. I had no idea.

It took an in-depth survey to tell us but evidently knowing the right people and having the right attitude are key to getting a good job.

Herb's tour of love

Proving that we still, as a society, have a place in our hearts for smokers, Southwest Airlines' Herb Kelleher wowed 'em at the Senate hearing yesterday. Thank goodness. Let's hope it means the repeal of the Wright Amendment which in turns means cheaper airfares for me. Missouri better be just the start.

But there's another reason to watch this debate and it's Kelleher himself. He's a throwback, a man so fond of Bloody Bulls, he may in fact sweat vodka. He joshes. He tosses out jovial insults to business rivals: "'American Airlines does not exactly welcome interlopers with warm milk and graham crackers.'" In a low-carb, sexual harrassment world, Kelleher is the last of his kind. Let's enjoy him while we can.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Were you one of the 15 people who bought Derek Lam's poplin pants?

Stella McCarthey -- the person -- always seems a little sullen to me. But Stella McCarthey -- the line -- is evidently popular. If you too have a fashion dream, remember this: one of New York's hottest designers has no annual salary and must live off his tax refund to get by. Pure glam! In fact, success for many high dollar labels is only possible through selling out or designing a little "something for Target." Target? Oh no.

Winning is, apparently, a 20th-century concept

Running, jumping and skiing are all fine but it's the truly gifted person who can make us cry: "As the countdown to the Winter Olympics...begins, advertisers have begun backing athletes whose life stories may be more golden than their medal prospects."

This raises many questions. What's the shelf life of an athlete who loses? Will NBC skew coverage to give sponsors' athletes more air-time? Is that ethical? And will any of this matter when American Idol's on?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm sure it was funny on paper

Maybe people don't want to be run over in the grocery aisle. Then again, it might not be an issue for my robot.

At the end of the day, it was a good interview

You know, this is how dealers do it. The WSJ is giving away content this week so enjoy all you can and tell yourself you can quit anytime. Today: Dan Wieden speaks. After winning Coca Cola and working with Procter & Gamble, he claims his agency is "'just down-home folks from Oregon.'" So THAT'S how they do all those Nike ads. They just use their simple hick sensibilities. Shoot, yeah!

I think we should start seeing other people

Heineken has a heart-to-heart with Publicis. They want -- they need -- better creative thinking for their new Heineken Light. And so they do. In fact, it's going to take a freaking creative Einstein to keep people from noticing the beer tastes just like tap water. But the bottle is elegant.

In other news, brewers may have finally learned the error of their ways: "'People will tell you that beer is not sophisticated enough, or stylish enough, to compete with wine and spirits,' says Tom Long, Miller's chief marketing officer. 'Why do they think that? Well, I believe it's because we told them.'" Mr. Long: I want to shake your hand.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My Election Day endorsement

I don't want to get all partisan and everything but after careful consideration, I've decided to vote for Laura Roslin over Santos or Vinick. Although I have to admit: her running mate bothers me.

Circling, circling

Two months after their CEO described business as being "in the tank," Blockbuster posts a third quarter loss. Consistent!

Evidently Bea Arthur does a little something for them

What does it mean when 200,000 people like Golden Girls re-runs so much they'll sign up for the show's online newsletter? I'll tell ya what it means: A Golden Girls movie, slated for summer release and already destined for a sequel. But that's just a guess.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Today's essay question: is pole dancing helping or hurting Las Vegas?

If you're going to write an article about the stagnant state of Vegas tourism, wouldn't you naturally title it "Crapped Out?" No? Well then. There's good reason I toil in anonymity.

But back to Vegas. Business is good. It's just not growing at double-digit rates and, with everybody and their ex-wife building a high-rise, that means vacancies.

If there's a city that people should be flocking to, it's Vegas, right? There's the high-profile ad campaign. One, no, three TV series are set there. It's a gossip column staple. And now Vegas, so in need of venues for self-employed models, will be home to a new Playboy Club -- complete with updated bunny costumes.

In fact, we're a nation awash in Vegas promotional messages. And still Indian casinos -- with not even half the publicity -- have "accounted for about 40 percent of nationwide casino revenues" some years. So what's the solution? Because I'm pretty sure it sure can't be more advertising.

I hope to do better in the coach's poll

I didn't make Fortune magazine's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women. But neither did Paris Hilton and for that, we should all feel better.

Free people, free markets and free content. At least until Friday.

The Wall Street Journal has opened up their site for the week and of course the first thing I chose to read was Hollywood gossip. There I learned Chicken Little had a decent debut weekend. Decent? How very frustrating. The numbers are not good enough or bad enough for anyone to know what this means for Disney, for Pixar or for the "well-known reality distortion field" of Steve Jobs. But if "Disney has decided to slow down production of some of its animated titles," it's probably safe to assume they're still struggling with details. Like story-telling.

Anyway, the real question: will anyone even remember Disney's Computers 101 experiment once Harry Potter opens.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Really. How bad could he have been?

Now that we've heard the musical gifts of Kevin Federline, please hold a thought for Jason Allen Alexander. And what might have been.

Mollie Kuhn's cabana is bigger than my house

And I'm happy for her! And for all others like her who customize their kitchens with high-dollar appliances they'll never, ever use. Some call it "'range envy' – the desire to show off decked-out trophy kitchens to friends and party guests," but it has to be, in part, FoodTV fallout. Who among us can watch Ina Garten day in, day out and not feel the need for a built-in fridge and marble countertops? Rachel Ray's knife? Just the tip of the icemaker.

But this much is clear: the FoodTV audience isn't cooking. You can tell because prime-time is devoted to lifestyle, travel and remodelling shows. The most frequently downloaded FoodTV recipes are simple ones. The most popular hosts aren't formally trained chefs. And new shows have titles like Semi-Homemade and Good Food Fast.

So. It looks like there are two ways to get rich. Either make expensive gadgets then pay for placement in a TV chef's show. Or become a TV chef and don't use them.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The little sweeps period that couldn't

As a special service to those of you with things like Lives and Plans and Places To Be, let me urge you to go ahead and accept all social invitations this month. It's not like you'll miss anything on TV. November may be Sweeps month, but thanks to Local People Meters, there will be no Neilsen Diary-dominating specials, no stunts, nothing. Another hallowed American tradition, mauled by the merciless beast of technology.

Oh well, it's only a ratings fight for CBS and ABC anyway. "A deflated NBC--the network perhaps most notorious for stunting during sweeps--said it too is committed to its regular schedule." Which of course is hilarious when you consider this story from John Cook: "One media buyer...was so flabbergasted when NBC announced its fall schedule in May that she told her clients that it had to be a fake, and that Zucker would announce some sort of bold Thursday-night shake-up closer to launch. No such luck." Zucker was committed even then, "committed" being the new euphemism for "out of ideas."

But with words that might be cubicle wall-worthy, one network executive urges programmers to take more risks: "UPN president Dawn Ostroff said that quality projects usually come from people who are especially passionate about their work and that it's often best to not interfere with them....'You have to be respectful of people's vision,' she said. 'You get something more pure when they have a vision and you get out of their way. Why get in their way when someone has got the road map in their mind?'"

She's either saying something quite inspiring or absolving herself from all future blame when the shit hits the fan, I don't know. But let's hope it means better TV shows. Soon.

Let's talk about those pants

Growing up I used to think that Haggar pants were made by the Hager Twins. Seemed logical. But they weren't and now they're not even made by the Haggar family. After inventing the word "slacks" and the bar-coded sales tag, the Dallas family hung 'em up. But thank God we still got the twins. Right?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Will they comp the drinks too?

Ryanair says introducing inflight gambling could "do away with the need to charge air fares." Lesson: craps tables, yes. Organic food, no.

Quote of the day

From this: "'Blogs exist, in large part, because people have jobs that they are bored with.'"

Something touched me deep inside the day the music downloads leveled off

We just aren't downloading enough iTunes music to please industry executives. Where are our hearts? Where is our compassion? These people have Escalades and Cristal to pay for! And 99¢ a song isn't helping! So while I try to find some Brasso, you decide: do we see the iPod as just another way of managing our music, "not an incentive to buy new music?" Are we too busy with video? Or can we all just blame Ashlee Simpson?

Grant McCracken: an ad agency's best friend

For this alone, we should at least bake him a cake.

If a Yoga Mama marries a Ubersexual, is their offspring a wunderkind?

It's not about identifying new trends anymore. It's about naming them. So just know that while a Yoga Mama sounds all earthy and spiritual, she's kind of a snob. And one hellacious shopper: "no matter their income, they spend like lottery winners on their babies and toddlers. In the process, they're revolutionizing the baby-products market and forcing manufacturers and retailers of all sizes to adjust."

Sir Martin is ready for his close-up

The Weinstein brothers are so devoted to the art of film-making, they'll promise special promotions for WPP clients just to get Martin Sorrell to invest. You have to respect that level of commitment.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Ali and Cosell of the animation world

Pixar is a story-telling genius. Disney, with its distribution channel and parks, is a merchandising machine. So why can't these two crazy kids get along? And why would Steve Jobs sell Pixar to Disney?