Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Miss Kubelick wishes you a happy new year

Shut up and deal.

The Fortune magazine quarterly survey, January 1937

It's from the issue with all the champagne coupes on the cover, and I highly recommend it for the collection of ads inside. Also, in the "Off The Record" pages, there's an anecdote about an advertising executive who composes what he's sure is a winning idea, only to discover there was no ribbon in his typewriter. Ah! Hate it when that happens!

But as the magazine's quarterly feature reveals, 25.5% of people surveyed thought the depression was over and 31.9% thought it was not. That's the word they use too—depression. With a small d.

When asked "John D. Rockefeller Jr. is quoted as agreeing with the statement that thirty years will see the end of great American fortunes. Do you agree with him?" 27.6% agreed. 44.5% disagreed. But there's a follow-up question: "And if wealth goes, will the people benefit?" 57.4% said yes. Seems odd. The editors note that "of the people who believe that dissipation of wealth would be beneficial, 68.9 per cent of those definite on politics declared they intended to vote for Roosevelt; of those who think fewer fortunes would mean less general prosperity, 61.0 per cent voted for Landon. These latter were most heavily grouped in rural districts and small towns, the backbone of American conservatism."

Respondents also worried that big chain retailers had an unfair advantage over independent stores and favored a tax to level the playing field. And while lots of people loved the idea of having an "automobile trailer" so they could travel anywhere, some worried this "mushrooming industry" would bring on "an alarming case of vagabondia."

Vagabondia. I'm determined to work that word into more and more of my daily conversations.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What the hell goes on at Fry's?

Bad: Ausaf Umar Siddiqui, their VP of merchandising "is accused of putting together a straightforward kickback scheme that demanded exorbitant commissions from a handful of companies in exchange for prominent placement at Fry's stores. Prosecutors say he used the money to pay off massive gambling debts at several Las Vegas casinos."

Worse: "Siddiqui's obsession with Las Vegas gambling was no secret on the second floor at Fry's headquarters....Whether Fry's knew of his multimillion-dollar debts is uncertain. Fry's loaned Siddiqui $5.1 million in November 2002 and $5.3 million more in February 2003, according to a lawsuit filed last week, but the company declined to say why it made the loans. A review of public documents shows Siddiqui has been sued by at least five casinos from New Jersey to Connecticut to Nevada, and owes the federal and state governments more than $21 million."

I think the story behind the story -- the winking at misconduct, the unseemly lavishness -- seems somehow in line with the Fry's shopping experience, which I can only describe as customer-hostile.

"Also she's beginning to remind us of the woman in the atrocious Lexus ad whose new car is an even better present than her childhood pony."

Are you surprised at the Caroline Kennedy backlash? It seemed to come out of nowhere. One day, she's Camelot incarnate -- tragic and admirable -- then, boom, everyone's making fun of how she talks. That's quite a turn. It'd be worth studying this to see what lessons there might be for brands except that it all will soon be forgotten: "He will eventually appoint Caroline Kennedy, as the Obama team would like, but he will bank that favor and leverage it down the road."

Friday, December 19, 2008

"the industry, which has long been viewed as being riddled with inefficiencies and extravagance, is likely headed for a massive shakeout"

The advertising depression: "media economist Jack now forecasting an unprecedented three straight years of declines in advertising and marketing spending in the U.S. starting this year. To put that in perspective, the industry hasn't suffered even a two-year spending decline in advertising since the 1930s. All the money expected to leave advertising has weighed on the media sector, especially the ad agencies. 'It's not just economic,' Myers said in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires. 'It's secular and systemic. It's like moving from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy. Anyone connected with the advertising business is challenged right now.'"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's obvious Tom Cruise needs reading glasses, isn't it?

Almost endearing.

T.O. = Norm Crosby

First he claimed this latest controversy was due to a "lack of unprofessionalism on Ed Werder's behalf." Now he tells ESPN, "I'm the pitfall for everything." See? He seems to be making verbal gaffes but is, in fact, revealing core truths. I'm telling you, I saw this act in Vegas once. I was very entertained.

"there's the concern there are no new products"

Steve Jobs will not be at Macworld. Is it just because there are no new products? Are there no new products because of the economy? Or because Jobs is ill?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"This is turning into reality TV for some people. They are seeing it on the news and then coming to the scene to check it out."

Bank robbery in South Dallas. A security guard may be shot and there may be hostages. But by all means, brave the icy streets and go out and get yourself on TV.

It's time once again to talk about Faith Popcorn's predictions

I just read the story about a shopper who hid her Hermes purchases in a plain bag and I'm trying to figure out what it means. Does this bear out Popcorn's prediction that "We’re shifting from bling and flash to no-logo apparel and accessories; from having the latest and greatest of everything to learning to live a Simple Life?" Maybe. Especially if "Simple" = white paper sack. But I don't know how any of this squares with the "Death of the Consumer" or "shared values."

Meanwhile, there's this from the NYPost: "'This is different from the latest "It" bag or the $1,000 pair of shoes,' said Alison Burns, global client services director for JWT's New York office. 'That's because diamonds have this remarkable store of enduring and emotional value.'....Consumers want to feel good about their purchases....'People are asking themselves, do I need this, does it matter to me, do I love it?' JWT's Burns said."

Which sounds an awful lot like this: "People will have to prioritize their spending, choosing the heating oil bill over the 'it' bag, filling the gas tank over filling their closets. They will still want to look their best, and shopping will still make them feel better in this tough time. (Small Indulgences) But when they do make fashion purchases, they will be more careful, selecting apparel and accessories that can be worn multiple ways for multiple seasons and/or items that are extra-special."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Voila Monsieur Tebow

They can't give him the Heisman again, can they? I'm not even sure he's a real person. Maybe just Brendan Fraser reprising his role from School Ties. In the name of Archie Griffin, please award that thing to Colt McCoy.

NEXT-DAY UPDATE: Bradford? Crap.

DFW-based companies are not, apparently, too big to fail

The 24/7 Wall St prediction for Pier 1: "More losses mean debt service becomes a huge issue. No other retailer is likely to want the stores, so this is probably liquidation."


That makes this Dallas Business Journal quote more interesting: "If the company can’t get through the short term, there’s no point in planning for the long term, says Cece Smith, a Dallas venture capitalist and member of the boards at Pier 1 Imports Inc. and Brinker International Inc. 'The board has to get as short term (focused) as a manager,' she said. 'You have to get to the long term.'" And it makes selling that building to Chesapeake Energy more interesting. Unless you're Chesapeake Energy.

Bright spot? Faith Popcorn would like to remind you that it's not Neiman Marcus. Radio Shack? Maybe!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shhh. I'm in my uber cocoon.

Faith Popcorn, again: "A new socioquake transforms mainstream America....Look for: The death of the Consumer, long live the Citizen....shared values, shared interests, democratic decision making...."

So are all the McDonalds meals, Walmart purchases and auto czar talk just temporary? Because I'm not seeing anything anti-consumerish and shared-valuish yet. I'll keep looking though.

Now that I think about it, Popcorn was right to predict "Luxury consumers don’t want fashion that screams luxury." But maybe it wasn't because of the "irresponsible" factor. Maybe it was because all the status-y stuff is so heavily discounted now, even the middle-class can buy it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I still can't believe he quit on his stool

This seems right: "If you don’t appreciate what this man has meant to boxing for the last fifteen years or so, and if you don’t see how his exit from the stage could prove a curse rather than a blessing to our sport, you haven’t been paying very close attention."

And this is interesting: "I compared Oscar to ARod – the money, the talent, the movie-star looks, the whole world at his fingertips and yet somehow everything he does turns to shit and ends up making him look like a fool." Yeah, why is that? It's like they both have blind spots when it comes to their own images. Do they misread popular sentiment? Or pop culture? They go on and on as if they're old-time Hollywood stars whose fairy-tale public images have been manufactured by a studio publicity department. They seem to think no one will ever know better. It's a little creepy and outdated.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"The secret is to 'talk, talk, talk. You can't let the customer think too much'"

From the Wall Street Journal: "At malls across the country, shoppers are being besieged by a determined crop of salespeople: young Israelis who man mobile carts and have a no-holds-barred selling style. Amid the grimmest holiday season in years, these workers are approaching passing mall shoppers or calling out from their stations, pitching body lotions, irons, toys and knickknacks."

I want to say that I admire the workers' artful selling and old-timey gumption but I don't. I stopped going to The Galleria because their kiosk vendors were so annoying. Turns out this is a problem: "After fielding complaints about overly aggressive vendors, some mall operators have taken measures. The Natick Collection, a mall in Natick, Mass., forbids cart salespeople from calling out to customers as they pass....The Westfield Group, an international owner and operator of malls, has a no-touch policy for cart sellers." Wise.

Howard Cosell > Rosie O'Donnell

Even his short-lived variety show outlasted hers.

Of course, of all the short-lived mid-70s variety shows, I still like The Jacksons best.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"rich folk ... are experiencing an unfamiliar emotion: luxury shame"

Newsweek's "vulgar" is Faith Popcorn's "irresponsible." Which is the trend -- rich people living modestly or articles about rich people living modestly? Because there's a difference. And can it truly be considered modest -- "humble in a good way!" -- if you make a show of it?

As for Newsweek's using Michelle Obama as an example of a "recessionista" -- oh well.

Monday, December 01, 2008

"'Buy art,' [Cynthia] Rowley said. 'That’s the only thing I buy now.'"

Searching for interior design that's not "irresponsible." Or vulgar!

Margaret Russell, Elle D├ęcor’s editor-in-chief suggests splurging on "quilts: 'things that really feel right, and humble in a good way.'" Splurging to look humble. That's her brainstorm? I want new tastemakers. Then again, while my reaction to all this is not as violent as Choire Sicha's, I remain completely puzzled by the shelter magazine category anyway. Blueprint, Home, House & Garden, O at Home have stopped publishing even though we're all supposedly staying home more. Even Cottage Living got shuttered, despite a million subscribers and an editorial philosophy -- "Comfort. Simplicity. Style." -- that seems based in reality. Maybe only House Beautiful's Stephen Drucker knows what he's doing.

On the bright side, I assume that in advising everyone to "buy art," Ms Rowley has now excused us all from buying any of her Target designs ever again. Freedom!