Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Boxing (not Boxers) Day

How did the bank holiday in England acquire its curious name? According to a letter to the NY Times from an Anglophile reader in 1902, on the day after Christmas "the letter carriers, lamp lighters, messengers, and newspaper boys and others apply to householders for Christmas gratuities…presented in boxes." A hundred years later, most Brits know Boxing Day as the day sales start. Except when Christmas falls on a Saturday. Then the holiday is observed on Monday, as in 2004 when this Harvey Nichols ad ran. Ladies, take your corners.

DDB London, photographer Ben Stockley, via Ads of the World

Thursday, December 25, 2008

hey kids! it's not too late to turn your home into a winter wonderland

For some reason we were never allowed to do this at our house. Probably because of what George Fenneman (the anncr) doesn't tell you: how difficult the damn stuff is to get off. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

of course, sometimes only the oldest handheld reading device will do

Lucky (yep, that's) me. I'm on a beach while my NY compatriots suffer under inches of snow. My family and I are at a resort that was chosen in part because it has wireless internet--or so says the literature. Why do I so often let myself be duped by the canny words of other copywriters? The "wireless" internet involves an ancient modem strung up on wires below a desk in the room. I'm pretty tech savvy (having a blog and all) but after following the 14 steps in the laminated instructions (printed in 7 pt. type), I finally cried uncle and called the front desk. The "technology servicer" was gone for the day, but the next morning spent two hours with me trying to get their system to work with a Mac. "It's not designed to work with Macs," he informed, rather accusingly--as if I was trying to log on with something preposterous, like a mainframe.  After spending a good deal of time on the phone with the nice folks at Applecare, he finally got it to work. But only if I sit at the desk, bolted to the modem with the shortest ethernet cable imaginable. It's as frustrating as being tethered to a cord phone again. But, hey, snow bunnies, I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

sorry, kindle, you're being replaced

So much for my love affair with the Kindle. Even as I hold down the ALT key and press Aa to wake it…I'm itching to get my hands on the next generation, the geekily named Plastic Logic Reader. As soon as you see it, you think Why didn't Kindle do that in the first place? Instead of the weird let's-pretend-it's-a-paperback-book-folded-over design which is comfortable to hold but visually awkward, the PLR looks like an Air book. Only thinner and lighter. Like a flat etch-a-sketch. But designed for business use, made to eliminate all that paperwork you lug back and forth. It can read any office document, no matter what platform. And its XL screen allows for comfortable reading of newspapers. Magazines. Even sheet music. It's got wifi. And the battery life is measured in days, not hours. Best of all, the touch screen isn't glass, it's plastic and flexible, so unlike your 401k, it's designed to withstand a few drops and beatings. Not sure when the PLC will be officially launched--maybe they're angsting over a marketable name.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Charlie Brown learns the true meaning of Advertising

Poor Charlie. He's on impossible deadline for a concept but all his ideas suck. Linus lords his silver Addy over him, Sally's hounds him for timesheets and Peppermint Patty wonders why she ever slept with him. What a writer at Crispin would do?

Anonymous creators of this ought to get a Clio for Christmas. I got it from Adfreak who tipped Adrants and Brettner.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

top ten reasons to switch to i-phone

I haven't yet caved to buying an iphone. Partly, it's the thought of shelling out that extra $150 to Verizon. And partly it's dread of having to convert years of contacts, calendars, memos from Palm platform to Mac. (Yea, I know it's supposed to be easy, but it only seems easy if someone else does it.)

I'm not a gamer and hate the thought of hunting and pecking on glass. However. I was so tantalized by a friend's personal list of Top i-Apps, I just might appeal to i-Santa, after all.
1. Zenbe: This is a great for list making (to - do, shopping) and sharing. It's better organized that the simple "notes" that comes with the IPhone.
2. Movies by Flixter: Great for finding movies in your area using the GPS software. LInks to traliers and ticket purchase. Also gives box-office tops.
3. Jott: This one allows you to record breif notes which it then translates and sends to you in an email - this is free. Variouis levels of monthly payment allow for more sophistication as in sending texts to your kids, adding things to your clendar, etc.
4. Recorder: Is a simple recording device that creates AIFF files, stores the recordings and also allows you to email them.
5. Shazam: Picks up ambient music from stereo or radio nearby and tells you who it is and even allows you to purchase. kind of great.
6. Ambiance: Noise machine with a large number of sounds including a cat purring.
7. Urbanspoon: Using GPS function, finds restaurants in the area as well as reviews from NY mag, NY Times, Voice. Has bookmark feature.
8. Yelp: More broadly searches restaurants, bars, coffee shops, gas stations, drugstores with google maps. Has Bookmark feature.
9. Stitcher: Online radio offers many brief daily feeds from a variety of subjects. I listen to NPR and a few others. There's even Apple Category as well.
10. Mental Case: This is kind of interesting. It's a mini PPT in a sense, not to build but simply to rehearse small presentations on the run on your phone.
Thanks to Lisa M. for this list via Cathy W.

Friday, December 12, 2008

friday flashback: when beauty reigned in the subways

From 1941 to 1977, little girls rattling underground on their way to school or to Grandma's uptown, dreamed of being Miss Subways. The contest was sponsored by an ad agency set up for the purpose, called (what else) New York Subways Advertising. Applicants had to be aged 14 to 30, New York City residents and subway riders themselves. They sent their photos and bios to John Powers, a top modeling agent. The lucky winner had her face, along with a blurb about her life and ambitions, plastered in every car of the IND, IRT and BMT for a month. 

Interestingly, the posters reflected the rise and fall of women in the workplace. When civilian women were critical to the work force during WW2, December 1942's Miss Subways "aims to be a doctor as good as her dad" but by June 1950, her "fondest hope is a trip to Bermuda." Then the 60s came along and Miss Subways (pictured) is described as "young, beautiful, and expert with a rifle." 

Ellen Sturm, Miss Subways in 1959, owns Ellen's Stardust Diner where many of the posters are preserved and displayed. (It's where I found this one.) Would that these vintage cards still hung in trains to provide respite from ads hawking cures for bunions or hemorrhoids.

Are you, by chance, a former Miss Subways? If so, Fiona Gardner wants to picture you in her forthcoming book.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

oxfam to shoppers: get them something they don't want

This time of year, instead of earnest appeals, Oxfam might do better to exploit a consumer insight I learned this morning on the crosstown bus: sometimes gift donations are made out of spite.
WOMAN ON CELLPHONE BEHIND ME: Let's think how to get out of this the cheapest way possible…

My ears perk up for details of a real estate selloff or messy divorce proceedings…

… I'll do Mom this year and you can do Dad and Terry and we'll put both our names on it.

I'm about to stop listening when…

Dude! Dad and Terry are married now, you can totally get them something together. It doesn't have to be good. Just go to the drugstore and get them, like, a battery charger. Ooooooo, I have a better idea. Oxfam has a website where for, like, 18 bucks you can irrigate a farmer's land for a month. That's perfect. Just make sure its in a faraway country they've never even heard of, okay?
Someone on your gift list you can't stand? Give them something they can't use, but can't return either. A water buffalo in their name. A goat. A cow. Something that makes you look like an angel of mercy when you're actually feeling like Scrooge. You'll get the satisfaction of cold-shouldering someone in a way they can't object to, and helping someone else truly in need. Because it's sometimes easier to maintain the holiday spirit with people you've never actually met, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

from the annals of what else can't be done over here: bank ads featuring dildos

Can't get a mortgage? Try banks in Poland. Clearly bankers are more open-minded over there. At least the Dombankers who approved this commercial. VO/super reads, "Time to buy your own flat?"

another tip of the Santa hat to GardenBroad

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

adbroad *gets* the good housekeeping seal

One of the pleasures of writing a blog (aside from being able to use words like hornswoggle) is the people you meet because of it. Well, not actually meet. Most "meetings" are email exchanges of mutual admiration, but sometimes a meet-up in the dimensional world occurs as it did in the Hearst building the other day where a kind admirer offered me a tour of the Good Housekeeping Institute. Where the seal comes from.

The Seal is for real? I asked, not meaning to rhyme. All these years, I'd assumed that the gold sticker was just a marketing ploy, a gold star awarded to products whose manufacturers had the good sense to advertise in Good Housekeeping.

My cynicism dissolved after a hydraulic ride in a green (not literally) high-rise elevator which opened onto 2800 square feet of bright, spotless rooms where thousands of products are tested each year. Bras are stretched to make sure the elastic, er, holds up; down coats are worn in a room made to feel like a meat locker; cellphones are hurled to the floor, then picked up to check for dial tones; recipes are created at least three times to ensure they come out when a dunce like you makes them in your own inadequate kitchen.

Since 1909, readers have been promised that if any product advertised in the magazine, which bears the seal, proves defective within two years, Good Housekeeping will replace it or refund the purchase price.

Of course, as with any consumer offer, there are certain exceptions. The policy does not extend to financial/investment products. So much for getting a refund on that worthless hedge fund.

Monday, December 8, 2008

kudos to BBH for getting a brand manager to sign off on this

Everyone has a concept they've been dying to execute, if only they could hornswoggle a client into paying for it. Props to Pete Bradly at BBH who convinced Barclaycard to underwrite a shoot so extravagant, they did a short to explain the making of it. What does commuting home in a waterslide have to do with choosing a credit card? Um…Barclaycard is accepted everywhere, so it lets you…um…glide through life! Yep, that's it! Only envious fellow creatives would find the execution gratuitous.

Watch this and weep as you go into yet another bid meeting with CPG cost-cutting consultants.

hat tip to GardenBroad

Sunday, December 7, 2008

real men take ballet lessons

right after they quaff a few pints of Isenbeck beer.

From the troves of GardenBroad.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

bugs in his shorts

Obsessed as I am with stop-motion photography, I can't believe I've only just discovered the work of Wladyslaw Starevitch whose turn of the century (last century) animation is what computer animators attempt to imitate today.

A childhood passion for entomology inspired Starevitch to film insects. Under the heat of the only shooting lights available in Moscow in 1909, the insects died. But no matter. He used the bugs anyway, wiring the legs to the thorax with sealing wax and employing stop-motion photography to show them in action. After the British screening of one of his films, London journalists, convinced the insects were alive, praised not only the film, but the talent of the "unidentified Russian scientist who can train insects to act." (Those amazing Russians.) 

Starevitch also directed films in which leading actors of the day appeared, but he preferred working with dolls and (dead) insects because "actors never did what you wanted them to." In 1920, he moved to Paris to escape the Russian Revolution, anglicized his name to Ladislaw Starewicz and made over forty films casting inanimate objects, including dolls, branches, rocks, insects and puppets of his own creation. His The Tale of the Fox, a film that took him over ten years to produce, is still considered one of the best stop-motion films ever made.

In celebration of the season, here's a Starewicz short about Father Christmas. Entomologist viewers will note that the cast of insects include a Dung Beetle and a Grasshopper, not a Ladybug and a Dragonfly as indicated by the English captions which were added much later.

Other Starewicz films can be viewed here, including The Cameraman's Revenge (1912), a gripping drama about infidelity among insects.

Tip of the director's visor to Casey.