Monday, October 31, 2011

storyworld conference in san francisco

Appropriate that Halloween, holiday for appropriation of fictional identities, is the launch day for Storyworld in San Francisco, the first conference dedicated to the art—and business—of crossplatform entertainment. This ambitious gathering is the brainchild of Alison Norrington, Doctor of Transmedia and founder of storycentralDIGITAL. I look forward to tales and insights from the trenches shared by luminaries like Jeff Gomez, Ivan AskwithMike Monello, Frank RoseLiz Rosenthal and other cross-platform players from around the world.

Thank you, Alison, for citing Betty Draper in your definition of transmedia storytelling.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs, RiP

BoingBoing just posted the statement from Apple's Board of Directors. Wired put together a video montage of his Apple announcements since 1983. The New York Times laid out a grid of the 317 patents he left behind. But the most vivid image in my mind tonight is a commencement speech he gave at Stanford, talking to 2006 grads about how to live:
I look in the mirror every morning and ask myself, If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today? Whenever the answer’s been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
He died today at just 57 of pancreatic cancer, the cancer that's killed 34,000 people this year--including my brother-in-law whose name was Steve, too. May they rest in peace.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

for post that makes an impression, spend 29 cents

I received a postcard today. A handheld postcard in a 3-D mailbox. How to describe the beauty of this. The lovely heft of the paper. The sincerity of the hand-written message, ink-smeared by weather. The satisfaction of getting a message to which no response was expected--no Like or Thumbs up, no request for repost. Curious to me that this formerly common means of correspondence can be a source of wonderment today.

Monday, October 3, 2011

disgruntled designer? post error message on cube

Friday, September 16, 2011

radio row, memory lane

When I wrote about the history of the World Trade Center, I'd never heard of Radio Row. But Rob Buccino, pitch consultant and author of PitchSmarter, makes it come alive with his memory of it:
Thanks for the blogpost on Radio Row—it brought back a lot of memories. My father used to work there when I was growing up, and every so often on a Saturday he'd take my brother and me on the subway from where we lived way, way uptown (in Inwood) all the way to his little office at 34 Cortlandt Street. We were fascinated by the military surplus stores, the little glass circles in the sidewalk (that let light into the warehouse spaces below), the boxes of vacuum tubes (remember them?), and the shadows of the elevated West Side Highway as we'd get closer to the river. All long gone, just like the Towers that replaced them... but still alive in memories.
Thanks, Rob. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

we know how they fell. but how did they rise?

Hard to believe what with Tribeca real estate prices, but the World Trade Center began as an urban renewal project. It was spearheaded in 1960 by David Rockefeller who hoped to stimulate the languid economy in lower Manhattan just as his father had revived midtown’s economy in the 1930s with Rockefeller Center.

Architect's model for proposed World Trade Center on East River, 1960
The original plan was for the Trade Center to be built on the East River, near where the South Street Seaport sits today. But the Governor of New Jersey objected, resenting that New York would get the $335 million project. (Kids.)

How to get New Jersey’s necessary vote? Ridership on New Jersey’s H&M (Hudson & Manhattan) Railroad had declined over 80% after commuters started driving over new tunnels and bridges. Port Authority promised to take over the bankrupt H&M and re-site the Center on Manhattan’s West Side, more convenient for New Jersey commuters. New Jersey threw in, and PATH was born.

Radio Row, looking east along Cortlandt towards Greenwich Street, photo by Berenice Abbott, 1936
New Jersey wasn’t the only force of resistance. The neighborhood where the Trade Center was re- sited, called Radio Row, was up in arms. It was home to hundreds of small businesses and residents who filed an injunction in 1962 against Port Authority’s power to evict them. A year later, the NY Court of Appeals overturned the injunction, on grounds that the project had a “public purpose.”

Also opposed was the Museum of Natural History, citing hazards the buildings would impose on migrating birds.

After years of controversy, work on World Trade Center foundations began in 1966. Construction started in 1968. More than 1.2 million cubic yards of earth and rock were excavated to make way for the  Center. The excavated was dumped in the Hudson to create 23.5 acres of land(fill) deeded to the City of New York--now Battery Park City.

The Twin Towers were completed in 1970. There were 43,600 windows. You may recall how narrow they were. They measured only 18 inches wide. Lead architect Minoru Yamasaki had a fear of heights. He thought narrow windows would make building occupants always feel secure.

Friday, September 9, 2011

the wisdom of age

Usually the world's best charts can be found in the inventory of Jessica Hagy. But an awesome graph turned up in my email this morning that remarkably distills complexities I've been wrestling with lately.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

10 most controversial ads in fashion history

In honor of fashion week which starts in New York tomorrow, Toponlinecolleges did a lookback at ads that have fueled the industry.

In 1980, 15-year old Brooke Shields launched Calvin Klein's career by announcing to the world she was going commando. "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." In those gentler times, this ignited public outcry against child pornography and the ensuing controversy (and sales) fueled a voracity in the industry for younger models.

Now, of course, the ads seem benign. Last year Brooke told the New York Post: "I look at these pictures now and I still am sort of shocked that they became so legendary. For me, it was just a huge job I went to after school at 3 o'clock. The one with my leg up, I just remember my arm hurting."

In 1997, creative director for Brooke's Calvin Klein campaign Sam Shahid teamed up with photographer Bruce Weber to produce another piece of fashion marketing that would inflame moral outrage: a 100 pg catalog targeted to middle schoolers with photos suggesting nudity, group sex (with dogs) and articles by "experts" advising sexual experimentation in college. It wasn't a catalog, exactly. A+F dubbed it a "magalog" and sold it in stores, ostensibly only to those over 18. (No ID required, of course.) Numerous lawsuits and boycotts ensued and they discontinued production in 2003, issuing limited editions to more tolerant European markets. The cover pictured at left was for the last issue which can be yours on ebay for $34.95.

The other 8 ads (including Sisley ad featuring models snorting white spaghetti straps) can be found in the post which inspired this one.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

he's still around, people!

The announcement that Steve Jobs is stepping down from Apple is sad, but isn't it creepy how everyone is talking about him like he's already dead?

image credit: the appera

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

a moving event

Today I had the opportunity to present at Hudson Valley's 140 Characters Twitter conference which was a scintillating event. Unexpectedly seismic. A 5.8 earthquake jolted the East Coast at 1:50 PM, rattling the audience, though not the speaker before me. It was the most powerful tremor to hit the right coast in decades, yet, happily, did little damage. Although there are rumors that the Washington Monument is now listing. Here's a pic of DC damage making the rounds via J McKinley, h/t David Benardo.)

DC Earthquake Devastation

Monday, August 22, 2011

coming to a bus stop near you: motion posters

Here's a new add-in for your media mix: the motion poster. Thanks to GIF technology, it's a cross between a poster and trailer. Foxsearchlight Pictures is using it to promote a film opening in October starring Mary-Kate's twin sister Ashley Elizabeth Olson. (Click on ad to the right to make GIF work in Blogger. Or, just imagine the girl in the M turning to you and opening her eyes.)

The studio is also making ingenious use of QR codes which few have devised ingenious use for. Instead of slapping a code onto the base of an ad, they're making it the visual and linking it to exclusive trailers that can be seen only by scanning the code. Sudden impact.

Thanks to @IanSchafer for finding it first.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

forgive my wanderlust

I know, I know. I've been away a lot. Thanks, if you've noticed. It's not that I haven't missed you. It's just that I'm trying to conserve downtime and focus to finish an analog project--a novel. I've been working on it for (an embarrassing number of) years. It's set in Adland, of course. With dramas and settings and characters you may recognize. (But not well enough to identify, hopefully.) I'm turning in the manuscript on September 22. After that, patient reader, I'm back to more regularly scheduled Adbroading. Thanks for saving my spot in your feed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

how to survive without a fresh air

As a new Mac Book Air rolls out to roaring (sorry) reviews, those of us who bought its forerunner too recently to consider plunking down for its shiny successor, can console ourselves with remembering just how high performing our machine is even without a Thunderbolt port or an Intel Core i5 chip. Remember splicing film? And waiting for stats? How did we accomplish anything when cut and paste meant actually cutting and pasting?

Of course, it wasn't only those in our industry who would have killed for productivity made possible by what we have at our fingertips every day. A friend in the financial services industry recalls his computer-less days as a newbie and makes me grateful anew for my trusty old Air.
As the new guy in the finance department I got the job of making the books (showing financial comparisons to budget for our 5 divisions.) There were 4 charts. To make the charts we had a 2'x4' foamcore board and we drew an xy axis on it and hand pasted black tape on it to make the line and you'd add another 3" to it each month. Then the foamcore went across the street to the photoshop where they would take a photograph of it, reduce and burn a plate. Then they'd print 50 of each and send them back to me 8 1/2" x 11". When the 24 page book was done, I took it upstairs and delivered it by hand to every exec and the Board. The book, when completed had maybe 1,000 numbers in it. If even a single number was off by $1, I would have to go back upstairs retrieve all the books, disassemble them back into the collater, replace the offending page, reassemble them and take them back upstairs. That happened exactly 2 times in 3 years. I got very good at checking numbers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

for California Milk Board, PMS = Please Make it Stop

By now you may have heard that the California Milk Processor Board has pulled the offensive er--educational campaign launched by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners due to unanticipated backlash on the back channel. The ads (see below) are based on a study which (sort of) shows that ingesting 1200 grams of calcium a day help relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. The campaign included a microsite called "Everything I Do Is Wrong" offering words "proven" to tame a species made psycho by moon cycles. (“I’m sorry I believed nothing was wrong when you said nothing was wrong.”) The site now abashedly redirects to

According to today's New York Times, co-chairman Jeff Goodby confessed that the campaign, which basically reduces women to an irrational species hapless in the face of their hormones, was "more controversial than we expected it to be." Perhaps his surprise resulted from the fact that he wrote and art directed a similar campaign based on the same study six years ago which continued its full run despite complaints that it was sexist and offensive. "It was a different world in 2005," Mr. Goodby said. Viva the girl power of social media.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

what email looked like before it was email

Perhaps because I grew up with a dad who worked on the first computers, I am fascinated by the origins of our virtual existence. There's a terrific article in the New York Times that traces email back to its birth in the 1960s when two MIT grads working for the school's political science department volunteered to write code for a new idea: electronic mail. Noel Morris and Tom Van Vleck were afraid, at first, that the US Post Office would want to get involved, insisting that a stamp be destroyed for every message sent. At the time, the rule was if you included a letter inside a parcel, you were to add an extra 5 cent stamp. They asked a superior to consult with someone high up at the Post Office who laughed and said no one in the department cared about messages sent on computers.

When Noel died suddenly a few years later, his family was afraid no one would attend the funeral, believing him friendless, as he spent all of his time at keyboards. They were amazed when the funeral home was packed. How did so many know about Noel's death, they wondered? "They all communicate with computers!"

More from Tom Van Vleck's "History of Electronic Mail".

apologies for the hiatus

Sometimes, it's restorative to immerse yourself in the actual three dimensional world, isn't it?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

pioneer "Girl Writer" made us love Lucy

I’d never heard of Madelyn Pugh Davis until this week when a friend posted a memorial tribute to “the genius behind two of my favorite TV scenes ever: Lucy and the chocolate conveyor belt scene, and Lucy and Ethel raising chickens.” (See below.) Oh! All those years I spent rushing through homework on Monday nights to catch “The Lucy Show” (remember when TV was appointment only?), it never occurred to me that a writer was behind the redhead’s comic genius. Ball, however, was always quick to attribute credit. According to Ball's daughter, Lucie Arnaz, whenever her mother was asked what she thought was the secret of her show's enduring popularity, she said: "My writers." One of them, Madelyn Pugh Davis, passed away this week at 90.

Davis always knew she wanted to be a writer. She was editor of her high school newspaper in Indianapolis and member of the school's fiction club, along with her classmate Kurt Vonnegut. She majored in journalism at Indiana University and hoped to be a foreign correspondent after graduating in 1942. She couldn’t land a job at a newspaper, and so settled (like many of us do) for advertising, writing commercials and copy for a local radio station. According to an extensive tribute to Davis in the Atlantic, her break came during World War II, as it did for many women of her generation. Her family moved to Los Angeles and she got a job as staff writer for NBC radio, and then six months later she was writing for CBS. "No one actually wanted to hire women in 1944," Davis said in her memoir. “But with so many men away at war, what else was there?"

At CBS, she teamed up with Bob Carroll in a partnership that would last 50 years. At first, they produced comedy sketches for radio, including Lucille Ball’s radio show “My Favorite Husband.” When Ball decided to launch a television series co-starring her real-life husband Desi Arnaz, Davis and Carroll and colleague Jess Oppenheimer wrote the pilot for it. The show premiered on October 15, 1951 and ran until May 6, 1957. It was ranked No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for four of its six seasons and was never out of the top three.

Unlike much comedy of the day, the writing wasn’t just sight gags and easy one-liners. The writers had to come up with ludicrous physical predicaments for Ball to get herself into. Often, they got their ideas from phone books. One day they came across “Candy Maker” which inspired the script for one of my favorite episodes titled “Job Switching” in which Lucy and Ethel become breadwinners, working in a chocolate factory. I’m convinced the 50s episode wouldn’t have elevated housework to “real” work without influence of the “Girl Writer”, as Davis was known.

Then there was the hilarious episode where Lucy does a live commercial for a liquid vitamin supplement which turns out to consist largely of alcohol.

“I Love Lucy” was one of the first scripted TV shows to be shot on 35mm film in front of a television audience. It is said that Desi Arnaz (the co-star was also producer) was not a believer in retakes so that flubs, bloopers and prop mistakes were all left in the episodes. Which gave shows a freshness you don't find in today's sitcoms where all dialogue is rehearsed and supposedly perfect. One of show's most famous bloopers was when Desi messed up a line and blurted the F word, which he changed to  "Fine" at the last, saving second.

Because the show was filmed live, laugh tracks weren’t canned, they were actual recorded reactions. One scene is said to have gotten the longest laugh in recorded television history: the one where she and Ethel hide eggs in their clothes, but the jig is up when Lucy has to dance the tango with Desi. Talk about far-fetched premises that would never fare well in concept testing.

RIP, Davis and writing based on gut instinct.

Friday, April 22, 2011

birth of earth day

Earth Day was founded 41 years ago today as an environmental teach-in by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Inspired by campus activism of the late 1960s, he organized students across the country to devote April 22, 1970 to speaking out about pollution and ecological crises. Twenty years later, the teach-in’s coordinator Denis Hayes made Earth Day international, organizing events in 141 countries. Today, it’s designated by the United Nations as “International Mother Earth Day.” Here’s a few images from the first celebration. Remember hand-drawn balloon type with Magic Markers?

Of course, founders couldn't have predicted how many retailers would learn to enhance their own green by celebrating with enviro-tie-in promotions.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

china bans ad words

Advertising in China? Beware a new mandate that bans headlines which include "supreme", "royal", "luxury", "high class" and other copy "promoting hedonistic lifestyle." An official interviewed by China Daily said the legislation was enacted because many advertisers use words to make their products sound better than they are. But even if products live up to the promise, banned words can't be used in promotions. Why? Because doing so upsets low-income residents who can't afford the products. Offenders risk fines up to $4500.

Hoping bureaucrats in Washington pick up on the trend and impose fines for "Revolutionary" and "100% Free."

Friday, March 25, 2011

social media maps, 2007 vs 2010

Just came across this artifact from 2007, buried in the depths of my computer. Brilliant cartography of ancient world, created by XKCD.

Online search took me to 2010 update created by Ethan Bloch of Flowtown. Fascinating to compare shifts in topographies. But is LinkedIn really still Timbuktu?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

takeaways from sxsw--more learning, less swag

I was momentarily disappointed this year at check-in to discover that SXSW "big bags" bulged with far fewer giveaways. (I arrived in the evening, hungry, having spent the day in sustenance-free air.) Was this year's dearth of swag due to a green effort, as organizers contend, or to the fact that recession-hit companies didn't want to pony up for thousands more note pads, snacks, energy drinks, pens and CDs? But who could blame them? There were 6000 more digital attendees this year than last, a total of 17,000 swarming the Convention Center for what felt like just as many panels. The bound roster was 330 pages and almost 3 lbs. (Callout to massage therapists attending return of digital warriors.)

Sheer volume of offerings makes it impossible to do a proper summation, but to my mind, Oliver Burkeman gets it right in The Guardian by observing that what the conference was ultimately about was the fading delineation between “real life” and “online life.” Almost all of our life (for better or worse) is now being lived in connection with crowds of others in various timezones. New ways to blur the line between the physical and virtual worlds excited a lot of SXSW chatter.

A hit at parties was Instaprint, the new location-based photo booth. (Pictured, at Club DeVille) It’s a lunch-box sized printer you can hang on the wall to turn online Instagram photos to tiny actual prints. Toting two to Austin made the Breakfast agency A-listers. Another much-talked about evernet topic was mobile tagging which makes anything clickable, according to Microsoft Tag’s director of marketing. TAGs are a color, updatable version of QR codes which, happily, were not part of badges this year, eliminating the need to awkwardly point your cellphone at someone’s chest.

What else did I learn at SXSW aside from the fact that the W is Austin's new "it" hotel? Here are notes from a couple of panels. Unfortunately, I missed the one that promoted itself with a hilarious video I just saw this morning.

This session was about UI designing for boomers. Not unemployment insurance. User interface. Which means how user-friendly a digital experience is. The goal of UI designers is to make interacting with a machine as simple and easy as possible. Obviously we need more of them on the planet.

Boomers comprise a third of the population online, reported the gratifyingly age-agnostic 30-something presenter, John McCree, pleasantly surprising me and, no doubt, the handful of other boomers in the audience of hundreds. The trick to UI designing for boomers, he said, includes added emphasis on ease of use: embedding terminology that’s consistent (don’t use “exit” on one screen and “quit” on another.) Don’t dumb down the experience, just make it simpler to navigate. And (to this boomer, most relevant) don’t keep adding features to make a device better. Adding unwanted features, just because you can, increases only confusion and irritation in those who grew up with 2-knob televisions and non-programmable rotaries.

Seeing Barry Diller on the schedule made me feel better. I knew I wouldn’t be the oldest one in the room. Conveniently, his talk was located in a Ballroom next to the Ogilvynotes table, where I was able to snag illustrated notes on panels I’d missed the day before.

At first, I wondered why I was sitting there instead of at one of the 15 sessions on simultaneous offer. “The internet is a miracle,” Diller began, waxing on about its impact on culture, as if it was 1999. But when CNN anchor Poppy Harlow nudged him into meatier territory, he was off to the races. (You don't get to be one of the world's biggest Media Magillas without learning to pivot.) He quickly reacquired attention of the audience by confiding that his wife, Diane von Furstenburg, plays Angry Birds. Here's a few of his most tweeted bon mots:

on owning a business
If you don’t have a business, you’re just out there on the town square, crying out to the crowd.

on pay per use
Premium content costs money to produce. If the person creating content receives no benefit from it beyond knowing it’s being shared, the model has no commercial prospect.

on policitians
Instead of going out and making speeches, politicians should stay home and make better laws.

is content king?
Well, if you do content, you want it to be king.

advice to startups
Get enough money to get it started. Give away as little as possible. Keep your head down. Don’t listen/talk to anybody except your audience. If it works, great. If not, you get to do it all over again.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

postcards from sxsw

Greetings from Austin where SXSWi campers have descended in unprecedented numbers. Hugh Forrest, director of the festival, maestro of orchestration, estimates via email there are 16,000 digital attendees this year--a increase of about 25% since 2010.

themed campuses
To accommodate surge in attendance, conference sessions are, for the first time, divided into "campuses." My session was (curiously) assigned to the Future of Journalism campus which I was dismayed to realize is 11 blocks away from Convention Center hub. I was afraid not many would make the hike but was gratified to arrive to the SRO crowd pictured. SXSWers are intrepid. Thanks to Austin Chronicle reporter Belinda Acosta for writing it up.

walking shoes
are necessary. Campus locations can be a mile apart.
Some of the best food can't be had in a restaurant, but ordered from the windows of parked lorries or airstreams with names as memorable as menu items, like Man Bites Dog and Electric Cock.

Where ever there's food, it seems, there is bacon. Even in waffles.

Taxis are scarce. Hotel line-ups long. People-powered transport is the fasted, most refreshing alternative to walking. No meters, though. Pedal-pushers work for tips. Going rate is $5 a, derriere. Now you can even call one with your smartphone.

'pile of legos' is a foursquare location. of course

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

fictional TV character lands gig at real magazine

Frontlines, brand fiction: Not only are TV characters writing books sold on Amazon, now they’re penning columns in national magazines. In an unprecedented media alliance, TV Land (formerly known as Nick at Nite) is partnering with Woman’s Day to introduce a column written by a fictional character in the upcoming series “Hot in Cleveland.” The character, played by Valerie Bertinelli, lands a gig as columnist for Woman’s Day. Her columns will appear in the actual magazine this summer, making the character “jump out of the show and land in the magazine” said Kim Rosenblum, executive VP at Woman’s Day. Great concept for increasing engagement with both platforms. Interesting (and heartening) that this breakout initiative is launched by entities creating content for older consumers.

Thanks to Corporate Rock for the tip

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

wikileaks launches product line

According to the Wall Street Journal today, Wikileaks is selling t-shirts, hoodies and other branded merch on Yes, Wikileaks condoms and coloring books already exist, but now you can choose from officially endorsed product line including messenger bags, laptop sleeves, umbrellas and baseball caps. Spreadshirt says the collection has "better than average" sales potential. Good news for Assange whose $1.5 million advance from Random House isn't nearly enough to defray costs. Lucky for him, he's managed to infiltrate secrets of wily CPG brand managers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

social media isn't just for kids anymore

A recent study by the Pew Foundation finds that while Millennials remain the most web-social generation, their elders are (slowly) catching up in networking activity. Social use of the web has quadrupled for 74+ since 2008, up from 4% to 16%. The percentage of adults on the web who watch videos has jumped to 66%. The group who most likes to rate things online is the "Silent Generation", ages 65-73. Perhaps they're most comfortable with hierarchy?

This ought to get the attention of pharmas and their agencies: searching for health info is now the third most popular online activity not just for older web surfers, but for all internet users 18 and up.

Read full report here.

tip o the hat to Ben Kunz

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the art of immersion

A lot of business books are so poorly written, you wish you could just jam a thumb-drive into them and download info into your brain without having to actually ingest the pages.

Happily, The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue and the Way We Tell Stories is that rare business book you don’t want to put down, a riveting read for anyone whose business is impacted by how audiences are changing--which is to say, anyone reading this.

The author, Frank Rose, a Wired editor, is a terrific storyteller who imbues in the reader his own fascination with how “after centuries of linear storytelling, a new form of narrative is emerging by which stories are told through many media at once."

Deep Media, he calls this emerging form. Henry Jenkins (eminent thought pioneer in this territory) says transmedia. But whatever it’s named, it’s a growing phenomenon profoundly affecting our business:
The 20th Century approach to advertising…had it all wrong. For decades, ad people had assumed that consumers thought in a linear and essentially rational fashion. All a television spot had to do to arouse desire for the product was to get the viewer’s attention and make a strong case…Cognitive researchers…discovered that this isn’t what happens. People don’t passively ingest a message. Perceptions of a brand aren’t simply created by marketers; they’re “co-created” by marketers and consumers together.
The book includes behind-the-scenes adventures in the creation of some of the most interesting experiments in crossplatform narrative for both entertainment and marketing--the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Lost Experience, Dunder Mifflen Infinity, I Love Bees and many more, including (disclosure) Mad Men on Twitter, a chapter in which @BettyDraper is honored to be profiled.

It’s not officially released yet, but I got my pre-order early here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

dilemmas of millennial parenting

A friend is visiting, to see his daughter who's moved to New York from a small town in New England. She's 27 and making her way in our crazy business and his visit is prompted by dismay that parental phone calls and emails go unanswered for days.

"Text her," I say. "The reponse rate is better."

He shakes his head. "My thumbs are too slow. Imagine if a new invention were announced today. A social networking tool that lets you connect instantly with someone far away. Faster and less awkward than using your thumbs. All you have to do is speak into it. You can hear a person's actual voice! The telephone," he says,"was invented a century too early."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

copywriter demos creative chops on craigslist

Genius. A job-seeking copywriter in Atlanta, Travis Broyles, resorted to Craigslist to promote his skills with SEO-gold headline "I Do Anything." Unfortunately, the ad's been flagged for removal but Agency Spy preserved its contents for the edification of ad grads who ought to know what they're up against. Guess Travis missed this recent appeal for "professional US copywriter" to rewrite Craigslist ads. But based on the copy sample below, Travis is worth way more than the promised $5/500 words.
My name is Travis Broyles and I will do whatever* you want me to do for less money than whoever you are paying to do it now.
Below is a list of just some of the things I can do. I do want to stress that I DO ANYTHING so email me if your requested service is not listed here.

Things I Will Do For $5:
Stare at you for 5 minutes
Give a hug to the person of your choosing
Call you on the phone and seem genuinely interested for 10 minutes
Draw your face on a balloon
Sing Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” from memory to the best of my ability
6 minutes of copywriting

Things I Will Do For $10:
Write your new theme song
Perform your new theme song on your voicemail
Spin until I throw up or you lose interest
Rename your Pokémon
Host a conference call with you and a person that you’ve always thought was cool but never really got the chance to hang out with, you know?
12 minutes of copywriting

Things I Will Do For $50:
Break-up with your boyfriend or girlfriend
Help you quit smoking (I’ll call you every day for a month and yell “HEY DON’T SMOKE”)
Tell the person you like that you think they’re cute and what if you had sex together?
Try my best to fly in a public place for an hour
Make you a really great profile picture
1 hour of copywriting

Things I Will Do For $100:
Tell your kids which one is actually your favorite, and what the others could do to improve their standings
Fight someone much smaller or girl than me
Email you a list of 250 things I like about you (need access to any and all social network accounts)
Clean most of your house and apologize for the things I didn’t
Deliver 5 fully cooked DiGiorno pizzas right to your door (5 mile radius from my home)
2 hours of copywriting

Things I Will Do For $1,000:
Host an event (will not host anything racially insensitive, i.e. human being auction)
Give a PowerPoint presentation on team building to your business and/or extended family
Rename your children
Build you a cardboard car and make vroom-vroom sounds while you drive it
Star treatment for a month (I’ll hide in bushes and take pictures of you)
20 hours of copywriting

Things I Will Do For $100,000:
Yell your name every time I wake up for the rest of my life
Change my political and spiritual leanings
Screen all your phone calls for five years
Recreate the best day of your life (or worst, whatevs)
84 straight days of copywriting *BEST VALUE*

If interested, email me at

*Prices and tasks are subject to negotiation. I will not murder or steal or perform a legendary murdersteal. No rapes, and the sex has to be unrelated to the payment, like “Oh, after you’re done cutting those trees down, do you want some lemonade?” but the lemonade means sex, mostly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

why Groupon's "apology" doesn't work, either

The Wall Street Journal published a piece today on Groupon’s “non-apology apology” issued yesterday by CEO Andrew Mason. In a blog post, Mason defended the commercials to the backchannel, saying they were meant to make fun of Groupon by “highlighting the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues."

Great concept. Unfortunately, not the one that was executed.

Humor is the hardest thing to pull off in broadcast advertising, because unlike in social media where you’re talking to a narrowed audience, in broadcast you’re reaching out to millions whose funny bones aren’t all in the same location.

Groupon’s spots are only funny (sort of) if you know that the company’s heritage is philanthropy. But even minimal research would have suggested that most of the 111 million viewers they spent $3M to address wouldn’t have a clue about this.

Guess Mason missed that Ad 101 class where curriculum includes the infamous ad conveying the state of mind of consumers:
I don't know who you are.
I don't know your company.
I don't know your company's product.
I don't know what your company stands for.
I don't know your company's reputation.
Now--what was it you wanted to sell me?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

the spot Groupon could've run instead

According to BrandBowl (at least at this hour) the two top Superbowl spots are my own choices: Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" (proof that copywriting still matters) and Volkswagen's "Little Darth Vader" (proof of the storytelling power of visuals.)

We diverge in choices for last place, however. Tweeters gave that to Suzuki, but my pick (and I've got company) is Groupon which (surprisingly) aired spots that were even more offensive than Go Daddy's typically gratuitous use of GURLs. What made Groupons spots appalling was the cultural cluelessness in exploiting oppressed peoples and endangered rainforests to make sophomoric jokes about saving money.

Apparently, they were only kidding. Their site suggests that they donate to the very causes they belittled. But do they really expect disenfranchised consumers inundated with ad messages to go trawling the web in search of their good deeds?

I understand that the brand was under pressure to come up with creative in very little time. But why didn't they run with something like this simple but memorable spot they already had. Youtube says it was rejected. By whom? Calling Bogusky.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

ads are already playing off in the Brand Bowl

Update: Ad Age just posted a playlist of spots, including agency, airtime and content here.

If, like me, you watch the SuperBowl for the commercials, you’ll love BrandBowl, a website that broadcasts real-time scores of how spots are doing according to viewers.

It works by aggregating comments about commercials and analyzing them via the magic of metrics. Doritos and Google came out on top last year, when the site was first launched by Mullen (Zappos ad agency) with social measurement leader Radian 6.

Any twitter post hashtagged #brandbowl is included. But you don’t have to have a twitter account to play. Just go to Brandbowl on your computer or mobile and join the cheering or hissing crowds. Players are already facing off, thanks to pre-releases on youtube. Volkswagen's in the lead with its pint-size Darth Vader. It’s like sharing a sofa with thousands of ad fans you don’t have to feed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kenneth Cole explains it all to you

I don't tweeter. But in the Town Car on the way to office this morning I think of something real funny to say--KC

I find out people don't have a sense of humor like they did in the 80s. Sheesh!--KC

Good thing is, I learned how to Facebook today! --KC

What I frankly don't get is why lawyers are all up my a**, but they can't send a simple cease and desist to this guy--KC

the most important story you tell is your own

Last night, a couple hundred social content enthusiasts, defying the wrath of winter, gathered at Columbus Circle to attend a Future of Storytelling meetup organized by Jeff Pulver, creator of 140 Character conferences. Much talk was on the future of narrative, but co-host Michael Margolis demonstrated its present-day importance by citing the role of storytelling in crafting a bio. He observed that many of us skilled in communicating the stories of others fall down on the job when promoting ourselves. Particularly true if we're in the throes of reinvention. And, these days, who isn’t?.

Because social media is the new meet and greet, everyone needs a short bio these days. And bio-writing is about making choices, he said. A bio isn’t a laundry list. All of us have countless stories we COULD tell, but which narratives will most help us achieve what we’re after?

5 rules of engagement:
1. Think about the “character” you want to portray. What is your origin? Who were your parents? What have you studied and what forces shaped you?
2. Define your work, so people know what it is.
3. Give a glimpse of past experiences that led you to want to do this work.
4. Provide external validators. These days, character trumps credentials but outside validators are still essential, especially if you’re pursuing work that hasn’t been done before.
5. Make yourself sound human. What are your passions, your peeves, what do you geek out on?
And—make it short. An attendee who licenses TedX conferences complained of too-long missives from prospective candidates. She said she dismissed pages-long emails, assuming that if people can’t present themselves concisely in writing, they won’t be able to do it onstage.

Examples of bios that stand out by following the 5 rules? Margolis cited (irrefutably) that of local-wine-monger-turned-global-marketing-guru Gary Vaynerchuck:

Gary Vaynerchuk is a New York Times bestselling author and American businessman who was born in Belarus and immigrated to the United States as a young child. Gary’s entrepreneurial instincts took over at a young age, when he owned a franchise of neighborhood lemonade stands and made $1,000 a weekend selling baseball cards. Much to his dismay, his father Sasha pulled Gary into the family business, a local liquor store called Shopper’s Discount Liquors. Before long, Gary recognized that consumers collected rare wines just like people collected baseball cards, and he was off to the races.

Now, off to rewrite.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

on long intermissions

When I first started blogging in 2007, I updated posts at least once a day. I couldn’t wait to report an observance in daily comings and goings or share a find from the net. Hitting “Post” made me feel connected, gave me an instant dopoamine hit.

And then there came Twitter. Where one can show and tell in just 140 characters. Same dopamine hit, a lot less commitment. To forbearing readers who’ve called me out on long absences, I apologize for what must sometimes seem like neglect. I do mean to do better. But you don’t have to tweet to also follow me here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

in other news, australia invaded new zealand today

And took it before lunchtime. To celebrate, the whole country is getting Monday off, just like us!

Friday, January 14, 2011

how to succeed in business even if you're a working mom

Thanks to Jeff Kwiatek for pointing out in the comments yesterday that a dearth of women at the top afflicts not only creative professions. He sent a link to this TED talk by Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg who offers insights on why so few women get to the C-Suite. One problem she says is that women systematically underestimate their own abilities. Men tend to attribute their success to themselves, while women attribute it to external factors. And, like it or not, people believe what they hear.

Sandberg offers three powerful pieces of advice to women who want to go for the corner office:
1. Sit at the table (Belly up, ad broads)
2. Make your spouse a real partner. (We've made more progress at work than we have at home.)
3. Don't leave before you leave. Meaning, don't ratchet down your performance before you have to, such as in preparation for maternity leave. Some women stop raising their hands for career-making assignments long before they have to. Leave when you leave, not before. That way, you'll have more to come back to.
The remark that resonated most for me was her acknowledgement that no matter what your choices, life won't be perfect. “I know no women, whether they’re staying home or in the workforce, who don’t feel guilty sometimes,” she said, adding how hard it had been for her to drop her 3 year old off in daycare that day. Yeah. Even all these years later, I can relate.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

one show, one body type

Frank Rose did an excellent roundup and analysis of the One Club's fun fling at MOMA last night celebrating their picks for best of the Digital Decade. So I won't try to reiterate here. I'd just like to add that my own observation was how very few women mounted the stage. Most acceptances were from teams in skinny ties and dark suits, like those shown here for BMW's The Hire. (9 out of 10 on stage, interestingly, no longer work at the agency, Fallon.)

I have no beef with the many talented guys who gathered last night to accept their due. But I suspect that consumers might be better served if the ad world was led by more than a smattering of creatives like Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin of Ogilvy/Toronto, who were among the few females honored, for Dove's Evolution.

Why do so many fewer women than men manage to prevail in creative fields like Adland? I'm convinced it's not just that guys want to play with their kind. It's that often women's drive gets deflected before the game is over. Their priorities shift, their goals are realigned by lifechanging events such as having a child (or trying to), their focus is splintered by encroaching demands inherent in juggling a worklife and life. I'm a perfect example of this. Twenty-four years ago, the then-hot shop Scali, McCabe, Sloves granted me a generous six month maternity leave. But a baby proved the toughest boss I'd ever had, and to preserve flexibility in meeting her needs, I went back as a freelancer.

Times have changed, happily, in that men are assuming more active roles in bringing up baby. (See alpha dads.) Being relieved of 100% responsibility for raising a family is essential if women are to achieve workplace success. But what's also essential is that they manage not to relinquish the drive and passion that launched them as interns.

There's a lot of talk lately about the necessities and benefits of cross-pollinating disparate brains around conference room tables. Yet, too often, the brains are of homogenous gender. Attendance at the table requires time and exertion and acknowledgement that it's important to be there. Belly up, ad broads. Yes, we can.

verbatims heard only by delusional clients

There's a new meme making the rounds today titled "Things Real People Don't Say in Advertising." Next time clients ask for a viral microsite, send them the link to this hilarious tumblr by a copywriter at GMMB in DC. Site now open for submissions. You know you've got 'em.

spied it first on Agency Spy