Friday, February 29, 2008

Things to make a mental note of: "a bunch of media" and my ass

In a story about Adidas' Dale Earnhardt Jr apparel, this quote stands out: "Adidas marks are currently on Earnhardt's firesuit and his crew's uniforms, as well. Whether Adidas comes back with any ad spots this year remains to be seen. 'I'd rather have the exposure we get through athlete wear than anything we might buy with a bunch of media,' [Adidas Business Director Mark] Clinard said." Hmm.

Happier note: "Clinard's talks with Hendrick have centered on researching in-car conditions and ways in which its ClimaCool technology could possibly be used for the seat material." As a Texan who always drives to work but doesn't always have covered parking, I beg Adidas to bring that seat material to the consumer market. And to do it by July.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's come to this

I have become a QVC shopper.

I could pretend that I only tuned in to see Laura Bennett—the very sight of whom always cheers me up—but that wouldn't be completely honest. This is honest: buying stuff is fun. And buying stuff before the time limit's up is like crack.

Also, I've become fascinated by QVC presenters. The way they keep talking, how they stand without rocking and move their hands without shaking—and the selling points they seem to instantly pull out of the air! Really. It's like a little presentation-skills seminar every evening.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'm tellin' ya it's all that robin's egg blue. It gives me seizures.

Of all the Martha Stewart-Emeril Lagasse news from yesterday, this is the most interesting bit: "it’s unclear how some of MSO’s other initiatives are performing, notably the launch of a home line at Macy’s. Morgan Joseph analyst David Kestenbaum noted in a report to clients published Tuesday that MSO has so far failed to provide any clear-cut evidence of the launch’s success at a time when Macy’s is struggling with sub-par sales and store closures."

Wow. I mean, Martha was the center of their whole advertising last year. And the entire housewares department was turned into a Martha Stewart wonderland of soft, comforting colors and subtle patterns. Hmm. A faux bois faux pas?

What is a huckleberry friend? Do we know?

It's something Johnny Mercer just made up. Like zip-a-dee-do-dah. Like moon face, starry eyes. Like Strip Polka.

O! I fear for Jason from Grand Prairie who chose to sing Moon River but halfway into it became Pat Boone. If nothing else, American Idol has certainly taught us that good-looking people should never sing and smile directly into the camera because apparently only cruise ship performers do that. But gosh Jason is cute. Maybe contemporary Christian market segment cute but still cute.

Jason from Rowlett, whom I did not want to like but of course now love, and the 17-year-old who's completely inarticulate outside of song—they won the night.

C'mon though: Moon River. The only time we've ever heard Audrey Hepburn's own singing voice on film. A guy ought to get a break just for making us remember that.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hmm: "recorded music sales are an ancillary business"

The Eagles' manager Irving Azoff: "'As much as The Eagles are making on sales of [now] 8.5 million albums around the world, it pales in comparison to the touring revenue. The business is going to have to wake up and realize that recorded music sales are an ancillary business.'"

Sorta explains Prince. Also, if the sale should be the start, not the end goal, of any artist-listener interaction—as Seth Godin says, buying music should "get you into a club, a club with continuing benefits"—that's awfully bad news for artists who aren't compelling beyond the recording.

And there's this, a note on how The Eagles' Wal-Mart exclusive CD sold in cities with no Wal-Marts: "'Wal-Mart has tremendous resources that no label could afford to bring to the party [getting premium placement in the front of the store and at the registers] in addition to what they spent on TV, circulars, and radio advertising....The Wal-Mart circular goes to 85 million households. There are 140 million people per week shopping at Wal-Mart. And with the Internet, people are just as happy to go online to buy a CD. Also, Virgin [in New York City] was selling it [because they went to Wal-Mart and bought it for $11.88] and put their sticker over it and priced it at $15.98 or $17.98. They marketed it up. They got their normal margin.'" Hilarious.

Happy NASCAR day

To those who observe it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Doughnut? donut?

If you haven't been following the paradigm-shattering events at the Retail Advertising Conference in Chicago, I suggest you catch up on all of it here.

However, if you're pressed for time, skip straight to the part about the Voodoo Doll Doughnut. You won't regret it. Remember: "The Magic is in the Hole."

Friday, February 08, 2008

The things you learn from the Morning News

Two stories stand out.

There's this detail about all the new condos being built downtown: "Many potential buyers who could have acquired a townhouse in 2006 or early 2007 can no longer obtain mortgages, said Mike Puls, a housing analyst with Foley & Puls Inc. 'The target market was buyers who spent a lot of their income on a house and had no credit,' Mr. Puls said." So there's a lot of unsold homes.

Then, evidently, our HOV lanes aren't working: "'We've got our share of complaints," TxDOT Dallas spokeswoman Kelli Petras said. "We get e-mails every day telling us we are ignorant idiots.'" So the lanes only attract about half the drivers they were built for.

Is there a common thread here? Does it have something to do with accountability to the customer or end-user?

The things you learn from Eddie Lampert

I didn't know the Sears chairman also has a large stake in AutoNation. (Question: Why does every place this guy owns eventually become a dilapidated, Godforsaken eyesore?)

And I didn't know this: "Although new cars outsell used ones about three-to-one at the car lots, the profit margins on used vehicles are about 18 times higher than new ones, according to industry data."

18 times? 18? Maybe Lampert is "an undisputed genius." I'm sticking to new cars. Where the margins are more reasonable.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"Now that designers have driven the sale of women's fashions into the tank, they are setting sights on men's fashions."

This comment from Dust Bunny Queen, reacting to the skinny man trend, is right to the point, isn't it? How will men's apparel sales, which have been healthy, fare once it's obvious that everything is made to fit a 12-year-old body?

Fashion designers are supposed to be trendsetters—tastemakers, rock stars if you will—but there's plenty of evidence that less and less people are following their trends even as the fashion business gets more and more media coverage. Hmm. That's odd, right?

I want to think this through, try to piece it out in some way, but I don't have time right now. Gotta go make myself throw up before lunch.

They had a magical year

Why do Disney parks continue to thrive while other themeparks fail? Daniel Snyder wants to know!

There are new attractions and brilliant uses of technology but I think what gets overlooked is this: Disney parks do what we always want all companies to do—make customers feel special, dole out the occasional reward, be efficient, get the details right, be genuinely upbeat. Maybe it's all a bit too sugary for some but whenever I visit Disney World, I'm consistently impressed. It's so clean. There's so much effort put into helping me avoid waiting in line or lugging packages or worrying about photos. And at one point or another, I feel like I get preferential treatment when, in actuality, a Disney employee is simply being nice to me.

That's how low the customer-service bar is—just be nice, act like you care—and still Six Flags can't clear it. A liquor license is probably not going to change that.

Was that the worst Project Runway challenge?

Designing for professional lady wrestlers sounds funny at first. And then? It's like that scene in Tin Cup when Doreen, the owner of a topless bar, advises a young dancer: "Becky, come here, sweetheart. Your natural thing is really sweet but we don't do natural here. We do big and bold. Colorful hair, lots of it. Look at me." She gestures to her own ridiculous appearance. "That's what we do."

There's just not anything more that can be done with wrestlers. The final designs looked exactly like what those women already wear.

But? Yay Blockbuster for the awkward but can't-miss product placement! And yay Chris!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The local Super Bowl ad that I sorta kinda maybe liked

You know, car dealer advertising is not usually worth talking about but I did giggle at Crest Auto's T.O. spoof. On the other hand, it took me three viewings before I realized there's a contest involved.

ADDED: The consensus among my vast array of friends and loved ones (OK—among two acquaintences) is that this spot is mean and I'm mean for laughing at it. So. I now sorta kinda maybe don't like it. I don't want to be mean!

Grunge as a key to success: keep an open mind

It's tempting to make a joke about "grunge-style plaid shirts and floppy knit hats"—I mean: floppy—but I think I just want Gap to do well. The failed retailer narrative is becoming tiresome.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The beginning of the end of quirky and weird?

Ever since Michael Hirschorn defined "quirk" as an indie-culture aesthetic principle—"an embrace of the odd against the blandly mainstream. It features mannered ingenuousness, an embrace of small moments, narrative randomness"—I've been sort of waiting for a quirk backlash. Hoping, really. Because as Hirschorn warned, quirk has become as an end rather than a means of storytelling, and I don't think that's very smart or entertaining or even irritaining. It's actually lazy and formulaic. So my own personal QuirkWatch, which unofficially began with Wendy's Red Wig news, now continues with two new notes.

From Project Rungay's review of the Elisa Jimenez show at Fashion Week: "We'll always be interested in what the weird girl in the cafeteria has to say, but just being weird isn't enough. Sorry, puppet girl."

From New England Guy's review of Super Bowl ads: "I salute the weirdness but I don't get it anymore."

"Weird isn't enough." I don't know. Just wanted to note that.

But it was such a beautiful use of dead trees

The Annual Report—once a lucrative, sought-after design job—is dying and it's not because of cost-cutting or paper conservation or the rise of the internet. No. It's because recent legislation has made companies less eager to say anything that matters. The result: instead of reports, companies issue 10-K wraps that are "really nothing more than an artless data dump written for SEC lawyers." The goal now is "keister-covering, not communications."

Which might be OK except that for designers and writers, there's not much money in keister-covering: "Traditional annual-report managers at companies are more likely to use an outside writer and pay more for doing so than if they are merely churning out a wrap. The fee for outsourcing the writing of a traditional report generally ranges from $10,000 to $14,999; for a 10-K wrap, the fee is $5,000 to $7,500. Then you have to make the report look pretty. A majority of companies employ an outside designer, no matter the format. The typical design fee for an annual report is in the $60,000 to $80,000 range. The fee for a 10-K wrap is usually only $20,000 to $40,000. Minimalist 10-K wraps are exactly what investors get from two of the best-known New Economy companies, and eBay."

A 10-K wrap sounds like it would be briefer, maybe even easier to understand. But just the opposite is true: "Dominic Jones, the communications consultant, recalls fondly when 'companies made an effort to put on a show with a fancy annual report with lots of color and photos.' The commonplace 10-K wraps of today are hard to love, he says, because the SEC filings they reprint 'are horrible to read. They use an unfamiliar structure and nomenclature—and information design is virtually nonexistent. It’s even worse now because most people rely on the Web for their information. Reading online is 25 percent slower than on paper, not counting the time it might take to download a big annual report in PDF.'"

That's right. Writers and designers = clarity. Well-intentioned laws = confusion and worse—less money for freelance creatives.

[via Dealbreaker]

Monday, February 04, 2008