Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ever wonder what's happening in your own backyard?

Then you must turn to the NYPost. That's who has the potentially big news about Fort Worth's Pier 1: "Board members have held recent discussions about finding a successor to Marvin Girouard, 65, the longtime chairman and chief executive." Is it a pre-buyout move? A buyout-blocking move? The possibilities are endless and interesting because Pier 1 has always seemed like one of those old-school, hometown, home-grown successes where people can actually expect to retire instead of being let go. An outsider probably would change that. And of course, there's still creative up for grabs!

Then again, maybe there are just too many stories for the Dallas Morning News to cover. Things being the way they are, it's going to be an eventful time for many local CEOs. Anyone in account service know Betsy Burton? Start dialing now.

I can offer you no additional comment

Only this: "With Oscar buzz in Tinseltown nearing a crescendo, owners of the Puppies and Babies pet boutique say devising their Valentine's Day-themed window display was a 'no-brainer.' "Brokeback Mountain" is one of the great love stories of all time, so of course "Barkback Mountain" just came out,' says Hannah Brand, who...crafted a cheeky homage to the Heath Ledger-Jake Gyllenhaal film about two cowboys' epic romance. The window's canine mannequins — one in a hunter's parka, the other in a fisherman's sweater — huddle around a faux campfire, accompanied by squeaky squirrel toys, migrating geese and two clearly unused fishing rods."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dieting: it's not just for girls and gays!

Part of me thinks it's brilliant that NutriSystem is targeting men and seniors with new weight loss ads. Part of me wonders what took 'em so long.

Go ahead. Hate the playa.

So. Yeah. I've been watching Dancing With the Stars. What can I say? I'm a middle-aged woman and that is, apparently, what we do when we're not scrapbooking. But after only a few episodes it's clear that there is no one so inexplicably cocky as male professional ballroom dancers, who rival perhaps only Fabio in terms of creepy, unrelenting vanity. That's why I can read GQ's list of the 10 most hated athletes and laugh. Compared to, say, Louis van Amstel, T.O.'s a sweetheart.

Friday, January 27, 2006

They grow up so fast

It's been a bad week for the video game industry. First: sued. Then: parents are playing? And now, a large video game trade show attempts to clean up its image by banning boobies.

Fear of restrictive legislation will do that.

Call it "faux-ga"

Now that we know the proper outfit for yoga -- thank God! -- I have a question. Is it -- and I ask this question merely for a friend -- is it OK to still wear yoga clothes even if you hate yoga? Because those shoes are really cute. According to my friend.

Quote of the day -- extended play version

A cable news anchor, in TV Guide: "How do you reach out to the larger audience, you mean? If you spend your time doing news for people who don't like news, you're on a fool's errand. What you try to do is the most interesting and intelligent and sophisticated broadcast you can do about the subject at hand and believe that's the way to attract a big news audience. Everybody else will have to take care of themselves. My feeling about this is if it becomes 'Well, nobody cares about this, so let's bring on Matt Damon or Jessica Simpson to analyze this' — once you start that, you're on the road to having nobody watch. You can't get people to care about things they're not interested in."

Bartoli to the rescue!

It is destiny.

...a pteradactyl or a brooch...

Jim Beam has bought up so many new brands and is now so international and big-time, they have to change their name. Are you ready for this? It's Beam. Yeah, Beam. "'It's a name that works because it does have a lot of flexibility inherent in it,' [Chief Executive Tom Flocco] said, noting that it could also refer to a beam of light, a balance beam, a support beam or even the beam of a ship." Uh huh.

But you, dear drinker, can still call the bourbon by its birth name: "'The change is not as relevant to consumers as it is to our employees, distributors and retailers,' he said. 'We don't get any benefit from putting Beam on the back of bottle of Sauza.'"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Comedy or something like it

Well, the Wall Street Journal tried. In attempting to find a new slant on Super Bowl ad stories, they explore how brands make their final concept selection. Laughs are almost always a top priority.

And the secret to being funny, fresh and unexpected? Focus group everything.

Lists? Everybody loves a list!

Two questions: do you ever look at a list like Business 2.0's 10 Dumbest Moments in Business to see if anyone you know is on it? And second: if you realize that their Smartest Moments list includes GoDaddy.com's Super Bowl ad, do you immediately swear off Business 2.0 forever?

Media, money and my future as a productive member of society

It might at first seem tragic that Diane Mermigas wrote her article about the TV programmers convention immediately before WB and UPN announced their merger, stealing the limelight and thoughtlessly spoiling everyone's free Vegas stay. But in the long run, maybe Mermigas has the more interesting story.

Or not -- it's a tough read. Still when someone speculates that "new paid distribution models [represent] a challenge to the conventional wisdom that advertising sales are fundamental," you have to pay attention. "Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff says a popular series like ABC's 'Desperate Housewives' can generate significantly more gross revenue for ABC from a downloading model generating $1.20 per episode per user, compared with the 45 cents per episode per viewer generated by advertising sales. 'Even if 20% of the audience shifts its viewing from broadcast to iTunes (iPod) downloads and ad revenue drop as a result, ABC makes an incremental $1.8 million,' Bernoff says in a recent report."

So that's the secret to getting entertainment executives to embrace change: just make their cut bigger.

And look, there's even a nice, reach-out-and-touch-somebody's-hand conclusion: "the developing media landscape is not so much about us vs. them -- content vs. distribution, or so-called old vs. new media -- as it is about all of the players bringing something to the table and needing each other to thrive. Traditional media companies have an indisputable expertise in content production and solid touch-points with consumers and advertisers, just as new-media players have the high-tech flexibility and savvy to respond to emerging competitive challenges and opportunities."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And I mean this sincerely

If I seem a little down, a little unmotivated this week, there's good reason. Miss Texas did not win the Miss America title. It instead went to Miss Oklahoma. Yes, Oklahoma. Believe me when I tell you: this state feels the humiliation to its very core! Maybe Texans should have sensed the impending doom when our candidate revealed that her platform would be "Putting an End to Verbal Abuse."

Then again, maybe she's just tired of all our sarcasm.

Special bonus: strippers!

Once we rid the world of drug advertising, everything will be perfect. You won't ask for prescriptions you don't need. Drug costs will come down. And your doctor can go on getting paid the kickbacks he so richly deserves: "companies employ a variety of financial ruses to pay doctors who use their devices, a practice that medical and legal experts say is unethical and possibly illegal. But despite industry efforts to clean up such practices, the documents and accusations made by former Medtronic employees suggest that the problem persists and may have gotten worse."

Payments range as high as $700,000 and can include other rewards: "When the doctors visited Memphis, she said, Medtronic employees would take them to a local strip club, PlatinumPlus, disguising the expenses as an evening at the ballet."

But don't you worry about it. Senator Bill Frist always says that doctors know best. And we should trust him. Because he's a doctor.

Also, she doesn't want to make anything that's been sold or processed

Rachael Ray, upon whom Oprah has smiled, describes her own talk show: "'I'm not interested in chit-chatting with experts or talking about anything serious, and I don't want any crying because that's not me.'"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tree huggers vs wine-lovers: cage match!

In simple terms of happy confluence, there is no bigger lottery winner than American winemakers: between the health studies and the movie, they must have wondered if they'd ever have to pay for real advertising again. But there had to be a buzzkill. Or at least a buzz saw: "developers are buying up land in remote, ecologically fragile areas such as northwest Sonoma County...[and] are eager to turn their forests into vineyards because wine grapes, especially for high-end pinot noir, are worth more than timber."

Who wants to be known as the winemaker who cut down the redwoods? The label design alone would be tricky. And you know you look bad when the Sierra Club can issue an opposing statement that is the very model of reason and moderation: "'We're not saying you shouldn't drink wine. We're saying there are more appropriate lands to grow wine grapes on.'"

That's right. It's come to this: we're all environmentalists now.

20,000 people I'd like to become close, personal friends with

Buyers in the Ferrari customer database don't mind the waiting list. After all, they're purchasing more than a car: "selling cars in volume isn't Ferrari's business. Ferrari's business is creating and sustaining mystique around products that many aspire to but very few can possess. 'It's a life experience,' says Marco Mattiacci, vice president of marketing for Ferrari North America. 'We sell lifestyles.'"

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Besides I learned what "tooty" means

I was about 10 minutes into Dancing With the Stars: the Results Show when I started to wonder if I watch too much TV. I pondered that a bit, making a mental list of shows I might go without, things I might get done if I could just reclaim those hours. And then I realized it was almost time for Battlestar Galactica.

But now? I know I'm at the leading edge of a societal phenomenon: "Gathering in groups to watch favorite TV shows is the 'book club' of the new millennium." So says the Christian Science Monitor. So say we all.

"Those who study TV and pop culture say these gatherings...come out of two things: the desire for more shared experiences and the types of programs being produced today." Shared experiences? That sounds familiar. So maybe TV is the new movie house: "Anna McCarthy, author of 'Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space' thinks in part these gatherings may happen because....TV may provide something more personal. 'The TV narrative is pitched more toward social groups, movies more toward demographics,' she says."

And I'd extend all this to include the online watching party, which itself has given rise to the two most exquisite literary forms known to man: live-blogging and the online recap. Really, Auntie Mame's Project Runway commentary was a revelation. It exponentially increased my enjoyment of the actual show, which is already pretty intense. And Althouse Idol blogging is a same-night must read. Again, like the movies, you don't have to be present to win. You enjoy it on your own time. Television Without Pity, a weary nation thanks you.

So after thinking it over a little more, I'm not backing off. All TV, all the time. It's what all the other kids are doing.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hooking up

Starbucks and Yahoo, match.com and perfectly-timed-relationship-book author Dr. Phil -- they all make such cute couples. Or such cute copiers. But if Dr. Warren really does have "over six and one-half million men and women registered on the eHarmony site, and...ten to fifteen thousand new registrants every day," I suppose there's enough optimism to go around.

Hiding from the law is easier without 27 million people watching

It wouldn't be an Idol season without a contestant in jail. This year, it might be a twofer thanks to the Brittenum twins. Does Fox know how to entertain us or what?

So much for good genes

Is it me or is Princess Stephanie looking more like Peter O'Toole everyday?

The big business of being Indie

It's Sundance time and of course the question on everyone's mind is how much free shit will Paris Hilton get? Oh yeah, there are some movies too. Mostly though there are movie executives, "all chasing the same holy grail: accessibly entertaining, low-budget, high-quality movies with known stars and indie cred. And besides the usual suspects, there are new alternative releasing partners on the scene -- from Google to Starbucks to Netflix -- adding to the demand." So good luck finding something.

It doesn't help that movie people can get it all so very wrong. Last year, "'March of the Penguins' barely registered on the Sundance radar until Warner Independent Pictures swiftly closed a deal...and re-edited it into an English-language version; it then grossed more than $77 million."

All the while John Crudele is, with strange and unseemly delight, predicting the end of movie theaters. He might want to tap the brake there. Mark Cuban, who's thought this movie thing through, said yesterday on SquawkBox that movie theaters can best survive by specializing -- teen movie houses, arty movie houses, gay cowboy movie houses. And that seems right. If you can keep teens -- who don't care so much for your dialogue and character development -- separate from everybody else, you might be onto something.

But SquawkBox? With no Mark Haines, they're dead to me now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Promoting a TV show like a new record: will there be payola?

Depending on your point of view, this is either synergistic genius or an obnoxious new form of product placement. In CBS's new show Love Monkey, "Sony BMG artists will cycle through as Cavanaugh scouts bands for his fictional label, which will have a Web site with real information on the artists." Did I mention that Love Monkey is a Sony Pictures production? Or that "CBS is collaborating closely with two divisions of Sony Corp. to drive promotion of the show: the Sony TV studio and record label Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which is providing marketing expertise and a roster of artists." Also, I think Sony's involved. Which is just brilliant for CBS really. Everybody knows what a fan favorite Sony is these days!

You too can be organized, elegant and monochromatic

Businessweek wonders if America is just not that in to Martha Stewart. You know, the failed Apprentice, the unremarkable talk show -- the woman has clearly pissed away some post-prison sympathy. But I'd say the one thing Martha Stewart knows how to do is a magazine. Martha Stewart Living launched nearly 15 years ago and since then, what women's magazine hasn't been influenced by its design and content? It's still beautiful and it's still readable and that's more than you can say about a lot of women's publications these days.

So yeah, Blueprint's mission statement makes me roll my eyes but -- honestly? -- I can't wait to buy it.

Rupert Murdoch will spend his money however he damn well pleases

Oh sure. He might be making a cluster of MySpace but Rupert Murdoch knows how to succeed. And he isn't about to lose out to cable. In fact, he might just toss a billion into DirecTV wireless broadband and that means just one thing: you'll have even more ways to watch Simon Cowell. Isn't new media great?

Gadgets, girls: not what you think

When I was little, we didn't have your fancy-schmancy computers. Without the world wide web -- or Blogger -- I had to walk two miles through the driven snow just to find ways to waste time. But girls today have options. So when they want a hobby, they can make accessories with high-tech functionality. Frames that talk. Skirts with magnets. Hell, Switch.tv even appeals to ME. And since it was launched by Project Runway's Diana Eng , it's all the more fascinating. You know Diana. She was once famously described as "adorable in that way that only the goofy intellectual nerd-girls can be," but she could in fact be a 'tween brand waiting to happen. So y'all! C'mon! Grab the wire-strippers and remember: "We girls can do anything."

Monday, January 16, 2006

There's a fantasy in there somewhere

Major League Baseball makes the odd claim that stats are not historic facts.

To review that decision-making process: on the one hand, calling it intellectual property means fantasy leagues will have to pay for that information. Money. Easy. Good. On the other hand, 15 million devoted fans might be annoyed. Let's do it!

The shared, social experience on my couch

There is of course no scientific evidence that the last generation of dinosaurs examined their changing landscape, shrugged casually and remarked to each other, "Nothing can replace a 3-story-tall beast." But it has been recorded that a famous director told CES audiences: "'Nothing is going to replace the shared, social experience of going to a movie theater.'"

So touching. So sharing-is-caring. And it's the only defense for movie theaters anyone can think of: "'There's always going to be the need for the shared movie experience,' said [Entertainment Weekly writer Dade] Hayes."

Is it even right?

For answers, we must turn to American Pie: Band Camp. Direct-to-DVD movies make money because "'how people watch movies is shifting dramatically,'" said Kevin Kasha, senior vice president of New Line Home Entertainment. 'The living room is the new drive-in.' Which means that the onus is on studios to bring entertainment into the home rather than on audiences to go out and find it."

And this month, the new Soderbergh movie will air on HDNet the same night it debuts in theaters and will be sold on DVD that same week. But read the fine print. Soderbergh's distribution team, which includes Mark Cuban, is setting "aside 1 percent of DVD revenues for this and future similar releases, divvying it up between theater owners who agree to distribute their films."

Are they bribing movie houses? Hedging their bets? Or giving us the one profit model that makes sense these days? The only thing keeping movie houses alive now is the distribution window -- protectionism -- and not mankind's inherent need to gather with others and overpay for popcorn. Soderbergh's movie deal is important because for the first time, consumer choice is a factor. It's an approach that means wherever we enjoy watching a movie, it'll be there and when we watch it, everyone in the foodchain profits. Soderbergh's team realizes the "shared, social experience" is not confined to any one place and even extends to what comes after, when everyone goes to their phone, blog, office or Hookah bar to talk about the movie they just saw.

Really: it's exciting. It's fun. So why can't our society's most creative, most innovative people see that? Hmm. Maybe nothing will replace self-delusion.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Awkward MBA chest-bumping in Cincinnati

There is, I think, a direct correlation between an event's cachet and how many of its attendees' outfits are openly and cruelly mocked. If no one gets ridiculed, it must not have been very important. So using that formula alone, I was inclined to answer yes, the People's Choice Awards show was "one of the most gloriously stupid, implausible, and unsuccessful episodes in the history of contemporary marketing." But look. The early numbers indicate it was a ratings win for CBS. Is that possible? People love Procter-branded entertainment! They really, really love it!

That's not all. Some earnest people saw a serious lesson in it for the Oscars: "the public is applauding one set of stars and filmmakers while the critics and other key awards givers are celebrating a very different kind of group. Neither of them are right or wrong because it's all a matter of taste. Nonetheless, when awards show producers go looking for big ratings what they run into these days are problems tied to the fact that most of the films they're putting up for consideration aren't ones that the public's actually seen." You mean you can't expand the audience for the Oscar broadcast by celebrating Brokeback Mountain? Why, that's just hateful!

If the People's Choice Awards show can draw ratings, Procter & Gamble's money and even George Lucas, I fear there may be no stopping it. We're just going to have to curl up with our Pringles and accept it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gap news: Down goes Rosen, down goes Rosen.

In case you got up to get a drink and missed the last round, Paul Pressler landed a brutal right cross to the face of Julie Rosen after narrowly avoiding being knocked out himself. But stay tuned. Pressler and his corner don't have this thing won yet.

Smarmy, how I love ya

I get the intention. And I almost believe the astounding claims of worldwide success. But to me, Dove's Super Bowl ad -- the earnest, multiethnic one featuring "Cyndi Lauper's True Colors, sung by the Girl Scouts Chorus of Nassau County" -- is just asking to be worked over into a new SouthPark episode.

Okay. Maybe I judge too soon. If I ever do see the spot, maybe I'll like it. Or maybe I'll be so emotionally wrecked by the revelation that body shape doesn't matter that I'll have to overeat then puke just to cope.

The predictions that you dare to predict really do come true

It would be a shame to waste all this nice weather so let's put the top down and set the Wayback Machine for last November 18. Remember? That's when Brand Autopsy told Radio Shack: "It’s what you do during the 46-weeks leading up to the Holidays that makes a business relevant. If you are expecting a multi-million/multi-dimensional Holiday advertising blitz to make a brand relevant, then you should expect to fail." Sure enough, Radio Shack's 2005 fell short.

Theirs wasn't the only one. If you register -- which is not recommended while inside a Wayback Machine -- BIGresearch has the December numbers: "retailers spending on TV commercials to drive shoppers into their stores met with indifference. When asked if their favorite commercial motivated them to shop that retailer...only 26.5% said yes." What holiday shoppers really wanted was a print piece with coupons.

Then there's this: "When asked which retailer has the best holiday TV Commercial...Target was the top commercial mentioned at 5.6%." Which maybe indicates doubly bad news for all those imitators.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How to do a list

Ask Ron Moore to rank his favorite sci-fi books. I'd read 'em but I'm a blogger -- living in Dallas -- and therefore somewhat illiterate. Best to stick to TV.

The television will not be revolutionized

Someone invents a way to actually measure TV ad viewing and we're supposed to believe that agencies -- those "free-spending Madison Avenue idea factories" -- now face the End Times.

Or not.

Ad ratings could alter some client ad selection but it may cause more confusion for TV programming: "ad ratings could upset the decades-old system of pricing ad time based on how many viewers are watching a show and instead force networks to price time based on how many watch the commercials....networks could be charging advertisers who put up poorly rated ads higher prices for airtime than those with better ads, on the premise that bad ads spur viewers to surf to a competing channel."

Did you follow that logic? If no one watches your ad, you'll be charged more for it. Let's see how networks make that work. Or this: could a top show get axed because none of its sponsors can hold the audience through a commercial break? And if the audience does surf, is it the ads or the demo that's to blame? After all, the average Larry King viewer probably doesn't work the remote quite the same way as a Mountian Dew-fueled ADD teen.

Look, all this makes my head hurt. I just can't worry about it right now. Besides, I gotta get out there and free-spend while I still can.

Look at it as only 37 cents a minute

If you launch a DVD fashion mag filled with arty video, you can naturally expect favorable media attention. But when you're selling it at $45 per copy, it's extra helpful if the reporter could parrot your own invented reasons to buy. Et voila: "it's a worthwhile investment for the fashion-forward media junkie who wants a cool DVD to play in the background at a party, or a retailer looking to show collections in a more refreshing light. Or, for anyone who wants to be the first to collect something that could turn out to be a pioneering direction for fashion editorials."

See? So very practical after all. Better get two.

Curiously, there were no envelopes

How was your People's Choice Awards watching party? Mine was fantastic! And in case you missed it, these were the big winners:

"-- Crest Whitestrips Fans Favorite Smile: Cameron Diaz.

-- Nice 'N Easy Fans Favorite Hair: Faith Hill.

-- Olay Total Effects Fans Favorite Look: Jennifer Aniston"

So seamless, so integral to the content -- it's like you couldn't even tell it's a Procter & Gamble production! And even though they have to admit that the winners are notified in advance, the whole thing was still filled with suspense and genuine excitement. Right?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Be glamorous. Is that so hard?

Evidently helpless without stylists and free clothes, the world's most beautiful people are starting to dress like citizen-journalists -- or worse, me. This must be stopped. Let's all take a minute now and pray for intervention from above.

It was for the ninos

I know. I know. It seems like more people have seen the rap than the movie, but Narnia will likely be Disney's most successful live-action film ever. And it's because of Latin America.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Let's count the ways we contributed to their success

Further evidence that it's a good time to be selling wine.

Yeah, there are side effects all right

The best intentions of federal regulators are no match for the financial motivation of competing drug brands. One way or another, it's always lawyers who keep advertising in check. And although it's sometimes hard to remember given the reporting, for every drug controversy, there really might be someone who's living a better life because of those drugs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The automotive equivalent of Rod Stewart singing standards

Like any sensible, well brought-up person, I love a sweet-looking muscle car. But I'm no fan of the re-issues. Even when the new models are well done, they just seem to suggest that Detroit's best days are in the past. Can borrowed glamour really be considered true glamour?

A plot thick with cruel irony

You know all those reasons people hate going to the movies? Turns out those are the very ways theater owners make money. Yeah. I don't understand it either.

Ich ben eine consumer

It took total cultural immersion that included a trip to -- good Lord -- a mall but Volkswagen designers have learned much about American drivers: "like why storage space is so important to them and why they can never have enough speakers in a vehicle. While Germans prize a car's driving capability and frown on eating while driving...Americans think of their cars like a second home or office."

Good for VW. They actually recognized there's a cultural gap between themselves and American consumers. This differentiates them from many American brand managers who, secure in their advanced degrees, generous salaries and friends who share the exact same opinions, never question their own ability to connect with shoppers in faraway locales. Like Lubbock.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Good thing the Corvette is paid off

Between the $109 baby doll and skanky Bratz, there's just no love for Barbie. So you gotta wonder: maybe what Mattel needs right now is a really smart mom.

Focus groups, unreliable? Did you research you that?

Ad agencies seek new ways to track consumer behavior. Apparently, not a moment too soon.

The lively DJ was not enough

Nothing conveys life-long devotion quite like a threat to set the entire prairie ablaze.