Friday, April 28, 2006

How we know what we know

As everyone fumbles with their buttons and zippers on the way to a big Interpublic inter-agency coupling, a few leaders set an interesting example for the rest of the office: "The executives spoke on the condition they not be identified because they were discussing internal matters that they were not authorized to talk about publicly."

First, remember that the next time client confidentiality comes up.

Second, let's see if we can guess who the Chatty Cathy is. "One issue that could prove a problem to a union of Draft and Foote Cone...would be who would serve as chief executive. Both Mr. Blamer, 50, and Mr. Draft, 52, are strong-minded, take-charge types of leaders who are loath to serve in secondary positions. Indeed, Mr. Blamer's desire to become a chief executive of a major agency led to his leaving Grey Worldwide, where he ran the North American operation, to join Foote Cone....Mr. Blamer, in his staff memo, reacted strongly to a suggestion in the report that Foote Cone would be taken over by Draft. 'Please understand that if we are to do anything of this sort it will be a merger of equals,' Mr. Blamer wrote."

Hmm. Seems like we know a lot about Mr. Blamer and his desires all of sudden. Wonder how?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Weird, random fact of the day

Neil Young "is a model-train enthusiast who owns about one-fifth of Lionel. He has developed technology for the company in the past."

Yeah? Well. Just wait 'til you see Grace Slick's all-new design for the Easy Bake Oven. Woman's a genius.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Maybe it's the lingering effects of Austin

Following in the honored footsteps of great UT athletes who always seem to zig when they should zag, Vince Young has signed up to endorse a debit card just when everyone else starts talking about financial responsibility.

But because we, as a state, owe Vince Young eternal gratitude, we wish him well. It's the NetSpend owners who might need to be tested. "Bertrand Sosa, who co-founded NetSpend with his brother, Roy, in 1999, said that he had been scouting Young long before completing the deal with Young and his agent, Major Adams. Sosa, who estimated that he had seen 85 percent of Young's home games, said by telephone, 'Having gone to U.T., I watched Vince's first game...'" and apparently wanted to sniff his jock ever since.

The Sosas are paying Young $10 million -- from a company that's "privately held and has estimated revenue of $75 million to $125 million." The fun thing is, no one can say how this will turn out. Is it smart? Is there any money left over for a good agency? Or a decent production budget? And will any of it matter if no team drafts Young this weekend?

I only feel bad that Vince Young couldn't get a high-profile deal. You know, like the high school kids have. But I remain hopeful. Maybe someday soon, the greatest Longhorn quarterback will be the most trusted celebrity spokesperson. Oh Nelly!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mr Cameron's heart will go on

In a dramatic "call to arms," director James Cameron addressed a Digital Cinema Summit in Las Vegas last week and at long last revealed exactly what movie-lovers truly want:

"'Digital 3-D is a revolutionary form of showmanship...It can get people off their butts and away from their portable devices and get people back in the theaters where they belong.'"

As someone who is currently sitting on my butt and typing at a portable device, I'd like to thank Mr. Cameron for setting me straight about where I, in fact, belong. Also, I was unaware that I was yearning for 3-D technology. So again: thanks for clearing things up. That whole notion about the value of character development and story line was so utterly misguided.

Still, I worry that most movie-lovers might never read Mr. Cameron's words. They might continue on in their ignorance, not properly excited about cinematic technology and unaware of the distinct cultural value of a King Kong franchise. Most of all, I worry that the artistic vision of Mr. Cameron -- a man undeniably in touch with the masses and so very, very forward-looking -- will be lost forever. He might just mean it when he says, "'I'm not going to make movies for people to watch on their cell phones.'"

And then we'll be sorry!

Friday, April 21, 2006

There's nothing a little all-weather wicker can't fix

I've been following the Page Six scandal closely and I must say: delicious! More than that, it may explain why the NYPost is always predicting imminent disaster for Fort Worth's Pier 1 -- even when hometown newspapers are silent. So, two suggestions for Marvin Girouard. First, advertise in the magazine already. And just to be safe: send some furniture to an editor's Hamptons beach house today. That gloomy coverage will turn upbeat in an instant!

The man did claim to have a lovely bunch of coconuts

I'm considering, seriously, buying the Merv Griffin DVD set. The Friday show from Ceasars Palace, Jack Sheldon on trumpet, the Totie Fields post-amputation interview -- didn't everyone spend their childhood tuning in to that? No? Guess there's a reason I was always the palest kid in the class.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

American Airlines still does not care about you

Last night's Mavericks giveaway did not impress Deadspin: "Just so you know: This was not some kind-hearted deal from American Airlines; it’s a way to make you hopefully forget how they’re screwing you over."

And archrival Southwest responds in classic Kelleher style: free drinks for everyone!

G4's body is changing

First, "Attack of the Show" was ruined when two of the three hosts ran off to get married. Now my favorite quirky channel is going all Maxim: G4 is moving "away from videogames into broader-based fare for guys," hiring hot girl show hosts and planning to relaunch "both 'Filter' and 'Attack of the Show'... with a scaled-back focus on technology. Heavier emphasis will be on attitude, humor and a broader range of male-oriented topics."

Meanwhile, I cry bitter tears.

Do we need another Spike TV? If the young male demo is so valuable, why imitate a competitor who's only partly successful at attracting it? And can Beth Otrosky's rack really be considered an original programming idea? Honestly, what made G4 so unique is its tech-dork-smart-ass persona. Who else would show me how to hack my own phone?

Oh my little G4 friends, you've been hanging around those media people haven't you? And now I'm stuck here in the basement all by myself. Life is so not fair.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The wide world of retailing news

Did you hear that WalMart is going upscale? No. Really. WalMart is going upscale! And all this is, evidently, only the latest phase in a large, orchestrated plan for WalMart to go upscale.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Maybe Kara Thrace will never choose the right guy

October is so far away. Until then, crumbs like these must sustain us.

At times like these, Mark Cuban's money must be a great comfort to him

Nikki Finke pretty much calls Mark Cuban a window licker. Amusing. Except she thinks everyone's stupid.

And that reminds me, what do you suppose would happen if Nikki Finke ever met George Parker? Shudder!

NEXT DAY UPDATE: Mark emails Nikki. Nikki claims she didn't really think he was dumb. In fact, she thinks Mark's totally smart! Then they punch each other in the shoulder, snort-laugh and go back to googling their own names. Crazy kids!

Friday, April 14, 2006

You will see the doctor now

If you can endure the unfunny and pointless Oprah jokes, Sean L. McCarthy asks an interesting question: is Dr. Phil now overexposed? Maybe funny movie cameos aren't such a good idea when you're selling a show, books and new dating site. But if part of your appeal is that you seem so gosh darn folksy and likeable, maybe it's not a bad thing after all.

A more important question: do I want to live in a world where overexposure is even a possibility for someone like Dr. Phil?

Your homogenous zones

Without the distraction of the markets, investment scandals and all the other "important" news, we finally get commentary we can actually understand:

"So when we're not clear on where a company stands PR-wise, we go to one the more fashionable 'burbs of NYC and find ourselves a hipster...and ask them what they think about a particular company. Hipsters make for an interesting litmus test because they pride themselves on non-conformity but have fairly homogenous tastes and value systems. We can't decide if media perception is reflective of their value systems or they're simply reflecting mainstream media perceptions, but the correlation seems to be very high."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Breathless." Remember that?

If you truly care where your vodka comes from, maybe you're not drinking enough of it. So why not the Ukrainian stuff?


It's the name, isn't it? Something about "Soyuz" just doesn't convey an unwavering commitment to quality.

Prefab post-mortems

You know, I feel bad for making fun of Martha Stewart yesterday. First, there's no sport in it. Skewering her requires little to no imagination and certainly no special insight. Second, a few hours later, I read this in the Spring issue of Modernism:

"[Raymond Loewy] designed Leisurama, an early 1960s community of affordable prefabricated beach houses in Montauk that could be purchased complete from Macy's department store with every necessity -- down to the toothbrushes."

Leisurama is now considered such an important moment in consumer design that a documentary has been made and symposia have been held. And you can see why scholars love talking about this. It's a chance to hold forth on pop culture, art criticism and, to a very small degree, marketing principles. Like Volkswagen without the associated fascism.

But I don't think Leisurama was an exercise in central planning or even enlightened design. Like Martha's houses, it's about brand power. The intended consumer is someone who's confident that Loewy or Macy's or Stewart inherently means good taste. I think this is what Virginia Postrel calls "'Mediated shopping' -- experts and tools that narrow down the possibilities to a manageable number." Some of us want to do it ourselves; some of us don't. Either way, we don't want friends making fun of our paneling. I just never realized our grandparents had these exact same worries.

Also, while everyone talks about "design for all," the people who seem least interested in that may be designers. Why else would this year's Milan Furniture Show feature so many "goods brought out to appeal to collectors, ...'made to be sold for a lot of money?" Who'd have guessed it? Designers don't care about Target shoppers! Martha really IS concerned about you and me!

Now I really feel bad.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A very alert and awake sort of promotion

Red Bull's new contest raises many questions, among them: is the difference between "art" and "ART" merely the amount of stimulants ingested by the sculptor?

By law, "rolling hills" must be used to describe every real estate development

Martha Stewart will not rest until all the world is re-created in her image. And until she sees that it is good. Today, she takes on Georgia.

Just remember: to truly live like Martha, ignore state taxes. It's the easiest way to free up funds for decorating!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Quote of the day

Perhaps not a quotation so much as an ingeniously crafted sentence: "'This is my very first acceptance speech so I made a list,' Underwood said before thanking everyone from God to 'Idol.'"

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a time warp.

This has been flying over my house for the last few days. Now the sound is strange but there was a time when it would've been common around here -- and when a maiden flight was, in all likelihood, piloted by a maiden.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Questions for the 7 people who watch OLN

If Larry Merchant works for HBO and Bert Sugar's with ESPN, what crazy, incoherent old guy will OLN hire if they too start airing fights? And can OLN bring to boxing the same famous formula for success they brought to hockey coverage? Exciting!

I just hope this doesn't affect the 40 weekly hours of Survivor reruns!

Same store sales: as seen on TV!

Uh oh. Maybe it's time to start selling the Spin Spa.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The unique insights of best-selling authors

A Stanford professor discovers that, yeah, a lot can depend on dumb luck.

Pay attention

In an article that I intended to finish but then got distracted from, WSJ looks at an NBC ad experiment:

"In a five-night test that began Monday, one program airing on the company's USA cable channel will feature one commercial break that runs just one minute, considerably shorter than the others, which run about two to four minutes. Only two 30-second ads will air in the shorter break....NBC Universal, which is working with Publicis Groupe media-buying firm Starcom on the test, wants to see whether viewers pay more attention to ads they watch in a less-cluttered environment."

Let's hope this fails. After all, if there's no clutter, there will be no controversial campaigns designed to "break through the clutter" -- and then how will ad execs ever hope to sell bad work? More distressing, where will chesty girls find jobs?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ernie Banks had it about right

Even if you can't make a game, I suggest cutting off your sleeves and going for the Ted Kluszewski look, just to commemorate the day. Enjoy.

I'm going to call it the Oldham effect

Maybe we're just not that into designers: "elite style-setters are having to watch their creations land in the discount bin. Just a few months ago, Target rolled out its biggest-ever home-furnishings line, with 500 items designed by New York decorator Thomas O’Brien. But the brand, which includes items as varied as pleated curtains and a $500 sliding door chest, is already struggling."

Two things though. Designer lines are the only idea anyone has for stores like Target and Linens N Things to crack the furniture market. And the partnerships might, on some level, be working: "Sales of furniture at U.S. stores that don’t specialize in furniture rose 4 percent last year...and 8 percent in 2004."

No wonder traditional furniture stores are looking for methods that are even more creative. God knows their own designer effort had mixed results. "Even former fashion designer Todd Oldham, who lent his hip moniker to La-Z-Boy chairs, hasn’t been able to bolster sales in some areas." Really? Oldham's failing? I'm stunned.

But does the lipstick make that little burping noise when you close it?

How did this happen? How did Tupperware turn into a beauty business without anyone telling me? Or inviting me to the parties?

Movies and the people who love them

So Hollywood is selling movie downloads, but you can't copy them to a disc for TV viewing even though they'll cost as much as a DVD.

Yeah, that makes total sense. Embrace new technology without making anything actually easier for your consumer. You guys are geniuses!

And sure enough this isn't a thought-out strategy, just a confused but defensive move from Hollywood: "Studios are being cautious about selling films online in part because DVD sales produce more profit than box office receipts. But studios are also preparing for the day when major retailers such as Wal-Mart and begin offering their own movie download services."

Of course the real question here is how this affects Netflix. They don't seem worried. And I'm beginning to think they shouldn't be because Netflix might be the only people in the entertainment business who understand consumers: "Rather than a studio dispassionately selling one picture at a time -- hit or miss -- to a mass market, Netflix builds enthusiasm for movies by catering to each consumer's personal passion. Markets with high Netflix penetration tend to have healthier boxoffice." Guess you can bring coals to Newcastle.

And because Netflix can market a film so effectively and efficiently, that may mean more high-quality stuff. "Netflix is seeking to fill the gap between a good movie that should have an audience but has trouble reaching it." Everybody wins!

Well, almost everybody. For some unfortunate souls, the only thing to do is hope this year's movies wil be better. Good luck with that.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Good morning to you too

Thanks to their "The Way I See It" series, Starbucks coffee cups are now just like book jacket blurbs: you read them even though you know there's a good chance it's slap-happy bullshit. This morning's proof: #84, a Wynona Judd contribution:

"In thinking about my journey so far here on planet Earth...."

I'd give you the whole quote, but why bother? After that opening, do you really think she's going to impart anything terribly worthwhile? Well, she doesn't. And I discovered that after I read it and re-read it, the quote actually counteracted the caffeinated contents of the cup itself. I'm in a stupor.

And I want my four bucks back.

Let's be clear about Ms. Weber's sex life

If you want to be a smart-ass blogger and crack on the whole WPP-Benatti scandal, just remember: apparently Daniela Weber had an extramarital affair with Martin Sorrell but not with Marco Benatti. I mean, girl's not a slut! Suggesting otherwise is simply inviting this report to appear in your blogger comments:

"The chief operating officer of WPP's Italian arm is suing the Sunday Times over allegations she had a relationship with Marco Benatti, the former WPP country manager dismissed for alleged financial irregularities in January.
Daniela Weber, who runs WPP Italian business, is taking libel action against the paper....On Sunday, the paper ran a printed apology...."

This part's interesting too: "following a ruling handed down last year....people - including those in the public eye - were entitled to 'significant protection of privacy' including relationships with other people and regardless of the validity of the nature of the information published."

Regardless of validity, huh? Tsk, tsk, Ms. Weber.