Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It could have been avoided if they had simply watched South Park

Gore's home is carbon-neutral and all Oscar attendees received carbon offset certificates in their goody bags so: no worries! Unless, of course, you fear the Smug Alert.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Thesaurus alert

The NFL is serious about trademarking "the big game" thus making life more difficult for non-official-Super-Bowl-affiliated advertisers everywhere. (Too many hyphens? Sue me!) It's interesting, though, what that league obsesses over and what it doesn't.

You might even say it's rich, since the Super Bowl is itself a stolen name.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I just pray this doesn't affect the drive-thru

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz: "Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand. Many of these decisions were probably right at the time....For example, when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista."

And while Schultz admirably accepts full responsibility for all this, you know who's really to blame? Those money-grubbing middle-managers: "'A lot of people they've brought into the company think they know what the Starbucks experience is, but what they're bringing are the tactics and types of business that they came from,' said a five-year store manager who asked not to be named....The manager said he thinks that having many layers of middle management distorts messages from Schultz, Chief Executive Jim Donald and other top executives."

That'll happen. But let's get back to the "intimate experiece with the barista." Where does the line form for that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Smells like something's burning

Cheerfully tapping out "joie de vivre" and "high jinks" where other people would simply write "coke habit," Hello! magazine reports that Kate Moss is getting her own fragrance. I know! I can't wait either! And this is amazingly cunning on Coty's part: maybe "Britney Spears' real-life woes are threatening to ruin...her best-selling perfume brand" but with Moss? Nowhere to go but up. In a way.

Definitely an admirable promotion; possibly an Eddy Monsoon idea

Uniqlo wants your clothes: "Uniqlo is often called 'the Japanese H&M,' but today they announced a project that might make them 'the Fashion Red Cross.' Starting in March, you can drop off old or unused clothing at any Uniqlo store, and it will be shipped to refugee camps in Thailand and Nepal."

Too bad it's limited to their Japanese stores. Otherwise, it would be a great way to get rid of last year's Target purchases!

Friday, February 16, 2007

This is what happens when Robert Best isn't the designer

New NASCAR Barbies. There have in fact been previous NASCAR Barbies and yes: I own one. Because it's cute! And because it goes so well with the rest of my collection.

MONDAY UPDATE: 1. I checked and I own two NASCAR Barbies. Double cute! 2. A lot cuter and far more fun than live-action Bratz dolls, outfitted by Jeffrey Sebelia.

Bill Cosby: the dog world's Susan Lucci?

His terriers never seem to win the big ribbon. It might be just as well. A Cosby victory would only encourage the involvement of more celebrities, who clearly aren't happy unless they're photographed at every single major event in this country. No. With only a smattering of B-listers in attendance, the Westminster Dog Show can retain a slightly nerdy purity that makes for refreshing TV.

Also, I really cannot say enough good things about Pedigree. Their creative remains unchanged and brilliant. (Celebrating the human-dog bond with spots that never show a human-dog embrace? Audacious. Not editing the shot of puppies sniffing each other’s butts? Authentic.) But it’s their whole approach that I liked. This year, it appeared Pedigree used the show to launch a pet adoption drive and committed to match any online Human Society donations made during the broadcast. That’s right. In front of a Madison Square Garden crowd obsessed with AKC registrations and breeding fees, the Pedigree marketing VP championed the cause of the shelter mutt. Talk about spunk. Pedigree seems to get the pet-love thing, don't they? Not everybody does.

In this very court

I wish TJX and Pier 1 would solve their problems the same way other successful business people do: with a hair match at Wrestlemania.

In the meantime, I can't decide if the Star-Telegram's free advice solicitation is hateful, helpful or simply lazy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Maybe we should give hockey back to Canada

Can a new ad campaign help the NHL? "Two weeks after the NHL drew an anemic 0.7 rating for its All-Star game, the country's No. 4 sports league is amping up a marketing campaign that attempts not to explain the game or showcase the talents of its players, but rather to show its highest-wattage stars as normal people." Well, luck to 'em. They need it.

The road for Helo is paved with good intentions

What bothered you most about the latest Battlestar Galactica -- the Hippocratic Oath reference, Chip-Gauis, or that the catastrophic decision-making processes of Helo, who was finally right about something, will now continue unchecked?

Building on the theme of inane, out-dated reporting styles

Women just aren't into morning shows anymore. I know what you're thinking: how could this be? "It's difficult to trace the exact cause of the drop. It comes after two popular morning hosts, Katie Couric and Charles Gibson, left their shows.... At the same time, the advent of 'mommy blogs,' the growing popularity of online news sites and the ever-more-frantic press of daily life appear to have led many women to forgo the morning ritual of watching TV. News executives are sanguine about the ratings dip, calling it a short-term fluctuation. They attribute it in large part to the unseasonably mild winter in much of the country until recently."

Yes, blame everything but the shows themselves -- an excellent response to change! Of all the commentary, I think I like this best: "Those shows' producers may be the first ever to go broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

I mean, isn't that part of the problem? In the minds of producers -- and women's magazines editors who, oh look!, are facing declining revenue too -- women's content = dumb stories, delivered in dumb way. And I'm not even talking about Matt Lauer interviewing Miss USA. Here's the vice president of morning broadcasts for CBS News: "these morning shows on the networks have been so feminized. It's always, 'How to catch your cheating husband,' not 'How to catch your cheating wife.' " It makes me kinda queasy that he thinks this is feminization when in reality it's just stupidity. And why would anyone devote news resources to a subject handled so much more deftly on "Cheaters?"

At least TV executives aren't too down about this; they just have to wait it out, like Jim Bell, NBC Today executive producer: "I maintain the foundation of the morning is perfectly stable and fine. I suspect that when there are big, breaking news stories or significant weather events, we will grow." Take a moment and think about what he seems to be relying on there. You have a heckuva business plan, Jimmy!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'll bet cash money that Erin White has never even touched that skirt

It's not even clever to mock fashion reporting but I think this Proenza Schouler at Target story with its OMG!OMG!OMG! tone is especially horrific. Predictably, it reads like a press release: "They're a part of Target's Go International movement, which brings the work of young, successful designers to the mass market chain." (Thank you reporter lady, for 'splaining that!) Even the photography was supplied by Target so no one had to so much as leave their desk to create this story.

Honestly, maybe the real issue here is that I'm now officially sick of Target. I think it was the Beatles song that did it.

But back to Proenza Schouler: watch those buttons!

This is why Mimi Swartz is my all-time hero. For her Slate article, she tries on Target clothing and critiques it not only for what Ms White would call its "killer" look but for construction and fit. You can probably guess the conclusion -- "real fashion fanatics always want cheap, stylish clothes that don't look, well, cheap, and these new lines don't always solve that problem." Two years later, it's still one helluva relevant article.

They're doin' choreography

If you're in New York City today, can you do me a favor? Can you go see Big Dance Theater and tell me how it is? Because today's the last day for their new work based in part on the language of corporate meetings: "Layered with the company's fearless fusion of dance, music and visual design,...[a] beautiful projected carp leads the audience through...the Million Dollar Round Table--the global conference of life insurance salespeople." Well, who doesn't appreciate a carp? And motivational speeches -- re-purposed for the arts? Seriously now, I would love to see that.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Old Baylie

I hesitate to link to this Ed Bark post because the photo of Dale Hansen will, quite possibly, burn your retinae. (Really: are Hawaiian shirts required for old guys now?) Try to scroll down quickly, though, because at the end there's an interesting note about Baylie Brown. Remember her from Tuesday's Idol? So small-town, so Texan, so -- how do you say? -- professionally handled:

"There's also a very polished bayliebrown.com Web site. Or at least there was....It's now been rerouted to 'Austin Lane Technologies,' apparently in an effort to re-position Baylie as the wide-eyed innocent portrayed on Idol instead of the slickly marketed phenom who 'has all the ingredients to emerge as country music's newest superstar.' The suddenly vanished site ...included a gallery of very professional looking glamour shots and a way to 'spice up your computer with one of our exclusive Baylie downloads.' ...And her CD, Big Trouble, is touted as a 'must for all contemporary and traditional country music fans.'"

A spicy download of a 16-year old? Y'all!

"13% said they don’t like the crowds in the theater"

Have you read Zogby's movie survey? It's presented as an indictment of the kind of movies Hollywood's been making, but there might be another problem: "The majority (63%) said they would rather have free unlimited DVD rentals with no late fees for a year than a year’s worth of free unlimited movie passes (30%)." Seems that we like movies. We just don't like each other.

So much for that "shared social experience."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Just in case Sir Paul was running low on funds

Roger Friedman explains the Apple-Apple accord: "The Beatles likely will receive a royalty on iPods and from other Apple hardware that produces music. It's no small change, either. In exchange, Apple will get The Beatles to back off. What's not resolved is whether The Beatles' songs will ever be available on iTunes. I'm told the answer is yes, but not just yet. In the meantime, by holding out, The Beatles continue to rake in a mint by making fans buy their CDs."

But will he send Donald Trump crashing into the Spanish announcers table?

The rivalry with Vince McMahon continues apace and how can you not be entertained? Last night when Mr. McMahon claimed that fans don't want free money -- no, what fans really want is value -- did you not laugh? Just a little? Or were you too horrified by the specter that is Ric Flair?

Oh, and judging only from the advertisers, the RAW audience seems to be obsessed with sex and Skittles. But really: who isn't?

Monday, February 05, 2007

She's not a failure!

After 180 days as Penney COO, Catherine West "was terminated involuntarily due to her failure to satisfy performance objectives" and was paid $10 million. The transition from the credit card business to the retailing world just wasn't a smooth one. But Ms West is not discouraged: "'Absolutely I would go into retail again,' she said. 'I'm captivated by it.'" What pluck!

You know, at first I wanted to be mean about this, to make some kind of sweeping generalization about executives, their sense of entitlement and the sorriness of people overall. Now I think Ms West might be a genius. She's actually figured out a way to get corporate America to fund her mid-life crisis. When most people want to pursue second careers, they accept that there will be a period of sacrifice. At the very least, they may have to put themselves on a budget while going back to school or getting training. But Catherine West is up $10 million and still looking. Fabulous!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

But what did the anarchists prefer?

People like McDonalds coffee better than Starbucks. The only surprise here is that Consumer Reports had to do a test to find this out. The puddle of water/gas/oil in my driveway is preferable to Starbucks coffee and this is, I think, the secret of their success. It's the latte, stupid. And the way everyone who works there seems genuinely nice. I mean, it's like they've internalized the six rules. Every day in every way.

Which brings me to this. It's difficult but I feel like we've known each other long enough that I can finally -- finally -- admit it freely and honestly: I love Starbucks. Don't judge me! I especially love their drive-thru locations. Don't judge me! That one in Grand Prairie? Down the road from the horse track? It's the only thing that can make driving I-30 bearable. The one on Cockrell Hill Road is nice too, particularly when you're getting your tires worked on at that Wal-Mart across the street. Don't you dare judge me!

Cynthia Harriss is suddenly free for lunch next week

Gap's president is gone, as Anonymous hinted she should and would be. But this is disappointing: "Marka Hansen, who for three years has led the smaller and more upscale Banana Republic chain, will take over at Gap." Did they have to poach someone from the successful side of the business? Would a total outsider have been better?

Alex W. Smith says yes. Or more precisely, people who think Alex W. Smith can turn around Pier 1 say yes: '"It’s certainly a positive that they brought in someone from the outside,' said Cid Wilson, an analyst at Kevin Dann & Partners....'Bringing someone from the outside changes the corporate culture. My concerns are that there are some things that I think are going to be tougher for him to turn around, particularly the fact that Pier 1 has seen a lot of pressure from competitors.'" Yes. Can't do much about the competition. Better just to cut jobs and keep hoping that wicker -- the hoodie of the furniture world? -- suddenly takes off.

There is good news at least for Marka Hansen: look at all the free advice! I do suggest, though, skipping right over Godin's comments. Complete buzzkill.