Friday, August 29, 2008

friday flashback-ayds before aids

Before Atkins or pilates, how did women stay looking good in their shirtwaists and twin sets? They got Ayds! Little candies, invidually wrapped (like Viactivs) were introduced in the 40s with the claim that users could "lose up to 10 pounds in 5 days, without dieting or exercising." After the FTC objected, the product promise had to be modified, but did not deter growing success of The Ayds Reducing Plan with Candy Cubes which became wildly popular until the early 80s, when a miscalculating acquisitions company purchased rights to the name.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

where is @don_draper when you need him?

Like many twitterers on this circuit, I was followed by Mad Men. At first it felt strange to receive updates from fictional characters. (@Don_Draper: Taking Betty to Birdland tonite to hear Coltrane or @Peggy_Olson: Hope Belle Jolie account is ok. Worries me actually.) But I found they integrated seamlessly into my stream of tweets (because who isn't a fictional character in cyberspace) and I began to look forward to their 140-character dispatches of daily doings and angsts circa 1962. I even began to interact with them directly, exhanging a friendly banter of girl talk with @Betty_Draper (who promised to try Jackie's milliner at Berdorf's.)

What brilliant marketers are folks at AMC, I thought. First, Sterling Cooper business cards as promos. Then, wrapping the Times Square shuttle (a train Draper takes). Now, they reach outside the (tv) box again to send their characters into Twitterville, connecting with (and recruiting) fans, maximizing entertainment value of their content, pushing it further, making it even more seductive-- which will make the show more seductive to advertisers, too. Of course (thought I) folks who display masterful grasp of last century adland would prove equally conversant with present-day marketing opps.

But, alas, I was wrong. I woke up this morning to a post from Alan Wolk reporting that most Twittering Mad accounts have been suspended. Why? No official word yet, but MG Siegler writing for VentureBeat reports that AMC invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to convince Twitter’s support team to suspend the accounts. (As of this posting, you can still tweet @Betty_Draper--perhaps, in keeping with sexist attitudes of the era, execs at AMC don't consider her a threat?)

I'm a content provider myself, so I understand how producers could be ruffled by others co-opting the characters they've worked hard to create. But rather than acting impetuously, hostiley, stupidly shutting down a growing opportunity to extend its fan base, shouldn't someone in marketing recognize the potential and put itinerant Mad Twitterers on the payroll, or sustain the effort in-house? Surely Don Draper would get it, if he was around. Despite the fact that, as devoted fans know, he'll be turning 79 on September 25.

Good news for some, annoying news for others: Nudged by Deep Focus, AMC's digital agency of record, Man Men's' Twitter accounts have been reinstated and the cast has resumed tweets.

Monday, August 25, 2008

weird sighting in our back yard

Fallen meteorite? Giant moonstone? Neanderthal cranium? No, it's a mushroom. A mushroom! And we thought we left freaks of nature back in the city.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

world without books

It's Sunday morning in August and I don't feel like writing. I feel like reading. Something offline. The Times, in its original, crinkly version. Then something bigger. Bookier. Something literary. Which makes me part of a dwindling crowd. According to Amy Stolls, Program Officer at the NEA, fewer than half of American adults now read literature.

Seems books are becoming an endangered species. (Hard to go to a party in NYC these days without a downsized publishing exec ranting about this.) I love my Kindle, sure, but it doesn't replace a book in the hand: the pleasurable heft, the solid page dense with vivid black marks by which you are channelled into an alternate universe--no power source required. (During daylight, anyway.) I use my Kindle to read in transit--on the subway or trains or planes when I am travelling and trying to minimize luggage. I load it with various newspapers from around the world (they update automatically!) and books which if I like them enough, I find myself buying in hardcopy to finish, parallel-reading them the old-fashioned way, because somehow, curling up with a Kindle in bed just doesn't provide the same satisfaction.

But do enough others feel about books as I do, enough to keep the enterprise going?

Sadly, Amy, in a POV from her perch at NEA, doesn't think so:
It's 2025 and you want a book⎯you being a senior who still fondly remembers books and a book being a non-voice-activated, tangible, artfully designed, paper and in-scented collection of human-generated original prose. Tmes are rough. An MP3 of the SparkNotes for "The DaVinci Code" has replaced the Bible in every hotel in America and Harry Potter is a middle-aged couch potato on welfare. You know this about Harry because you put him there in the videogame "Write the Next Harry Potter Sequel." Paper, pens, rubber eraser⎯they no longer exist. The last of the book critics wrote the last book review of a Post-it note from Pynchon while Pynchon was in the other room surfing YouTube.

It's 2025, and in the latest census, 87% of the population claimed "writer" as an occupation. The universal library of all human verbiage shows 1.4 million genres, with 230,000 subcategories labeled "For Dummies."

[You search for a book to read online] and subliminal ads pop up and whisper breathy directives while massaging your neck and temples, all from the sole remaining New York-based, foreign-owned publishing conglomerate in America, which paid the author an advance equal to the national debt. The book, which the author claims is nonfiction, is about an ogre who writes a book. The author's already sold the rights for his next book, "What I Would Have Written Had I Written a Book," which he claims is fiction. You don't care; your neck feels good. You're sure you're going to love it. [Complete premonition in Creative Nonfiction, Issue 31]
While this vision portends interesting briefs for digital agencies in the future, it's sad to contemplate a world without books, which would also be a world without bookstores and libraries, one where stalwart lions on Fifth Avenue might preside over a marble Pinkberry instead.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

when is a penis not a penis

When it's in a romance novel. A friend who is former editor for a romance publisher, informs me that words like "penis" and "cock" are redlined in manuscripts because the terms are considered too unromantic. (Interestingly, erection is allowed, but only two "erections" are permitted per novel.)

In case you ever decide to switch to the kind of copywriting that generates $1.52 billion a year, here's a list of acceptable euphemisms:
proof of his manhood
raging beast of his desire
tumult of his love
raging monster of his lust
love tool
his hardness
turgid shaft
unsheathed sword
the hard length of him
pillar of manhood
throbbing member
privy member
evidence of his masculinity
and (my personal favorite) the bald avenger
Of course, even in romance novels, manroots aren't always in action. When not "throbbing in her love grotto", a penis may be described as "a swaying promise of future delight."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

new era of adventure travel: medical tourism

Recently, I freelanced on a campaign for spare body parts, trying to get patients needing replacements to ask docs for them by name (who knew knees and hips are now being branded?!) So I was alert to a rather alarming article in The Economist reporting a new kind of tourism.

Last year, 750,000 Americans travelled abroad for medical treatment, and not just to Caracas for a nip and tuck. They're going to Singapore and Thailand and India for hip and heart surgeries, hysterectomies, shoulder angioplasties. The number is expected to soar to 6 million in two years. Why? Most people find it cheaper to fly overseas and pay for an operation than to shell out for deductibles and co-payments charged for the same procedure at home. 

Corporate benefits offices, of course, are encouraging this. Hannaford, a grocery chain, now offers its employees the option of saving $3000 in copayments by getting their medical procedures done in nearby...Singapore. Not to miss out on the action, Aetna is brokering deals with hospitals there.

So if the thought of getting a D&C in Hyderabad alarms you, you might want to read the fine print on your company's benefits policy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

olympic size sperm

Friend writes:
I've been glued to the TV watching the Olympics every night, and as I've watched the men's swim races, which have undoubtedly been the most incredible we've ever seen, I kept thinking they reminded me of something.....something that wasn't human. It kept gnawing at me.

I finally figured it out...they look like giant sperm.
Which made me remember this commercial for Durex. (Sorry, cribbed copy and youtube is all I've got time for.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

i didn't mean those email rules for you!

Dear Beloved Friends and Family Afar (whose email I look forward to even if I don't answer it promptly), Who I Didn't Even Realize were Readers (thank you),

I didn't mean these rules to apply you! I often do postings (like email) on the fly, as quickly as possible, so as to get on to other things. Posts aren't meant to be Proust remember, they are frequently  knee-jerk reactions to minor irritants that crop up in the course of a day--like receiving a string of emails in which recipients copy all 154 recipients on saying "thanks" to sender; or a virtual album of baby pics (same setting, different poses) from a proud dad with whom you are barely acquainted. 

Rest assured, as I wrote this, I was not begrudging your own welcome missives. Oh, how I sometimes long for days, far less complicated days, when mail came once a day through a slot in your door or plopped into an inbox on your (actual, real world) desktop. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

friday flashback--Tom Hanks, creative director, 1986

My 19-year old goes back to college next week and in searching for bonding activities of mutual enjoyment, I netflixed Nothing in Common, an advertising movie I missed somehow. (Oh, right. It came out the year I birthed my first child, a year in which the only movies I saw were reruns at 2 in the morning while breastfeeding.)

It was a great choice, a fun, funny, shareable film. Early Tom Hanks. Bess Armstrong. Sela Ward. "I can't believe it!" I gasped when Jackie Gleason's name flashed on screen. My daughter gasped, too. Someone her age likes Jackie Gleason? Nah. Opening credits were scrolling over first scene which takes place on a plane and announcement is made to extinguish all smoking materials. "You could smoke on a plane?" she said, incredulous.

Which had me noticing all kinds of things that have gone the way of smoking sections and DOS:

marker sets in 87,987 graduating colors
shoulder pads
storyboard pads with frames that looked like mini TV screens
Flashdance-type cutoff sweatshirt sleeves--for guys
purple lipstick
mechanical snow makers on set
long gloves worn with wrist-bling on top
designer briefcases
portable phones with pull-out antennas
wall phones

Of course, some things never change:

pencils stuck in acoustic ceiling tiles
presentation jitters (Don't bother me now, I'm in pre-game.)
theatrics during new business pitches
clueless clients
impossibility of juggling work and family
bosses who get it--and bosses who don't
window office envy
toy collections in creative offices
on set--"client areas" to keep clients as far away from director as possible (But why can't we watch the monitors over there.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

take a break from the hot air around you

And watch balloons over Casablanca. Galactica. Oz. Jerry Rees, film animator and balloon fanatic, spent god knows how long digitally inserting a balloon into key scenes of 18 film classics. The least you can do is spend 6 minutes to enjoy. Trust me, it's worth it.

Note for techies: He lit a real balloon to match each scene, shot it against a green card, then key-framed all the movement with After Effects - motion blur activated.

DTC marketing can deliver stunning results

Hilarious spot for a German mail order company. 

Another tip from Garden Broad.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

must ambient ads be omnipresent?

Nothing against practitioners of our fine profession, but do we really need posters under our feet for products in view on a shelf right in front of us?

Today's NY Times reports rapid disappearance of ad-free zones, citing several examples you might not have noticed:
*The airport baggage carousel. Adclaim Inc. of Irving, Tex., has ads at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and hopes to expand into entertainment-oriented cities like Las Vegas, Nev.; Orlando, Fla, and Miami. Local restaurants and limousine services especially like the location, said Hank Arendt, Adclaim's president. A 5-by-5-foot ad can be had for about $875 a month, he said.

*The cash machine in your neighborhood. The Electronic Data Systems Corporation of Plano, Tex., began testing talking ads on automated teller machines in the San Diego area in November. Such ads may one day play nationwide, with advertisers paying perhaps 40 to 50 cents for each shot at a newly flush customer, said Dale Dentlinger, director of product management at EDS.

*The local gas station. Rio Network Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., has installed television-like screens and speakers in gas pumps that gab as you fill your tank. The company's ads play outside 600 convenience stores around the country, with half the ads for products inside the store, said Louis Williford, president of Rio Network. His company gives grocers 20 percent of the revenues from advertisers, which average $300 to $700 a month per location.

*The rental car. A New Jersey company, Kallet & Grant Associates, is preparing to roll out cassette-tape ads that will play in Avis rental cars picked up at airports, first in Philadelphia and, if the test goes well, expanding nationwide. Along with an overview of the city, new arrivals will hear pitches for local restaurants, hotels and other vendors, said Geoff Grant, president of Kallet & Grant. He said his company would give Avis perhaps 10 percent of the take from advertisers, who will probably pay about $1,500 a month for spots in a single city.

because in new york, even hot dogs have an opinion

Monday, August 11, 2008

strangest game in china, seen only on chinese tv

Detonate Your Family! It's easy! It's fun! Do it in orange lederhosen, proclaiming your allegiance to Bavaria! OK, I made up that copy, but end translates, hilariously: Only one left, buy it now! (Don't miss the Dad's overly-enthusiastic "bye-bye" as his incinerated wife goes off the side of the building.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

sexual harassment ruled to be civic duty in Russia

True story. Ad agency in Russia. 22-year old exec is locked out of her office by her 47-year old boss because she refuses to have sex with him. She sues. Case is thrown out of court. Why? Judge rules that employers are obliged to make passes at female staff to ensure the continuation of the human race.

"If we had no sexual harassment, we would have no children," he said.
Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room. According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.

Women also report that it is common to be browbeaten into sex during job interviews, while female students regularly complain that university professors trade high marks for sexual favours.
So, think twice about accepting that transfer to the office in Moscow. For Mad Men-wannabes, of course, it could be just the place.

via DKR via Huffington Post

Friday, August 8, 2008

why writers need copywriters

twitter tip from ariel who is often at the other end of the phone

chef joker's special of the day

Check it out.

friday flashback: this 1979 ad could run today

For Prius.  It was art directed and illustrated by Helmut Krone, legendary art director and Real Life Mad Man at Doyle Dane Bernbach (NY) who was one of the greatest designers ever to wield an exacto. He knew how to use image to define corporate personality long before "brand" was used as a verb--an etymological development Ad Contrarian blames for our industry being in such a muddle. (Read the book.)

dog days of summer, upper west side

Emily, play nice now, that's a good girl.

She's so well behaved.

Daycare makes all the difference.

We're trying to get Barker into one, but they're all waitlisted.

Or, it could be the Prozac. Dr. Kibblemeyer just upped her dose.

Emily has a shrink?

Behaviorist. He's helping her cope with the fact that she'll never have puppies.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

new trend in home design: cardboard furniture

So I'm walking through Soho last evening and am startled to see (and it takes a lot to startle someone in Soho) a living room seating area laid out on the sidewalk: chairs, sofa, sidetables. As I get closer, I see the stuff is made out of cardboard. Before I can wrangle my camera out of my bag, then my reading glasses so I can see its viewscreen (age sucks), the furniture is gone, a guy has folded it up with few flicks of his wrist and toted it inside what has to be the world's tiniest furniture store in the world: I've seen newsstands bigger. But who needs more room? His inventory folds flat and stores neatly on shelves. He's the proprietor of a new store called Cardboard Design (Broadway between Spring and Prince) where you can furnish your entire house using recycled cardboard. Including the playroom. The woman on the right inquired about the rocket. $75, he said, folding it up small as a tray table, and ignoring her interest, closed up shop for the night.

When I got home, I googled it and found this mesmerizing demo:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

if i don't answer your email, maybe its your fault

More and more people are becoming email-immune. That is, opting out of email in favor of IMs, Facebook, Twitter and texts. (Don't you long for the days when checking your mail meant clicking a single inbox?) But for many people, email still remains the primary form of electronic communication. And (as you may have noticed) they can get indignant when their emails aren't answered promptly, or (as is becoming a frequent complaint) even at all.

For them, this post:

1. Don't write long emails. What's a long email? Anything over two paragraphs. Last century, when email was new, it replaced hand-held letters which were typically long and newsy in order for the sender to get his moneys worth out of the stamp. When correspondence went electronic, it took a while for many of the conventions of letter-writing to fall away. ( I still recall getting emails with proper salutations.)

Many people who made the switch late in life still tend to email Dostoevsky-length prose. Which is fine. Often scintillating. But not conducive to eliciting a quick response. Because if you write someone a long, heartfelt message, they'll feel that it's rude to respond to you with a just few dashed-off lines--which, unfortunately, is all they really have time for. They'll push your message to a file folder to "think about" while they attend to more pressing matters, which is all other matters, including rebuilding their photo cache.

If you have something important to discuss with someone, make a call. If you have something important to discuss with lots of people, do a blog. (Do not give in to temptation to write a long, ponderous email you'll cc to the world: see below.)

2. Don't cc someone on a message if you expect a response. Sorry to say, most people on your cc list won't even read it. These days, most people apply a triage approach to opening messages, in order to have time to do things besides read email. They figure if you have something to say to them, you'll put their name in the "To" line. Ironically, for this reason Cc's that are Forwarded to a single recipient stand a better chance of being read and responded to.

3. Don't cram more than one subject into a request email. Remember, your message is one of hundreds in an inbox, and likely to be read on a PDA in motion. It will be skimmed, not parsed. An email inquiring about, say, the best public schools in someone's hometown shouldn't also ask her for that empanada recipe.

4. No forwarded jokes. No exceptions. OK,  if you think something is really, really funny, that is honestly worth someone else's time, take a minute of your own time to think up a new subject heading and delete the 879,988 other email addresses in the message body.

You're not guilty of any of the above, and I still owe you mail?--please resend. My spamblocker is ruthless.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

new york's, uh, finest at work

There's an open hydrant at 108th and Columbus. I cross the street, so as not to get soaked. I am almost hit by a police car speeding towards the hydrant. To close it, I think. (Open hydrant wastes a million gallons of drinking water a day.) Cop car swerves, backs up, realigns, jockeys into position directly beneath the full force of the waterfall. Why? Won't the driving officer get soaked? Nope! All she wants is a free carwash. She takes her time, inching the car back and forth, back and forth, making certain car's exterior is thoroughly drenched. As soon as she's finished, she speeds away, making way for the lineup of trucks and cars, now waiting their turns, behind her.

Monday, August 4, 2008

is there a gold for overpromise in package copy?

Found in a Beijing supermarket:

Via Chinglish. (Thanks, Corporate Rock, for pointing me to it.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

for all your 19th century mustache needs

Thanks to a twitter post from Kodak's Chief Blogger, I discovered Mustaches of the 19th Century which promises hours of delight trawling through portraits taken when men were men with facial hair and photos were taken with something called film. What child wouldn't be thrilled to be have been sired by a gentleman with such a fine handlebar?

Friday, August 1, 2008

entry for advertising slogan hall of fame

Thanks to Scamp, I've just been enlightened as to the existence of the Advertising Slogan Hall of Fame which has its own tagline, of dubious distinction: Where the endline comes first. Check out old mantras in this compilation, some of which are still ticking after almost a century. (Morton's When It Rains It Pours was launched in 1911.) Perhaps they'll consider this winning slogan from North Korea, wildly successful in promoting the last vestige of a Socialist regime: Let's Extensively Raise Goats in All Families!

 More winning Mao-era style slogans can be found here and here.

sourced from The New York Times