Friday, April 28, 2006

Lawsuits are so 1999.

Interesting post by the bloggers' blogger Jeff Jarvis on his Buzz Machine about a certain Tom Dutson of Maine, who recently used his blog to call out the problems created by that state's tourism ad campaign.

Seems the guy has now been sued by the ad agency behind the campaign. Feel free to judge the quality of this shop by its site. I'd share my honest opinions here except, damn, I might wind up getting sued. Let's just say that, on previous occasions, in entirely separate and different venues, on matters completely unrelated to said advertising agency Warren Kramer Paino Advertising LLC, currently domiciled in New York City, I have remarked that agencies who claim to be "fresh" usually aren't.

Interesting – but not surprising – that an ad agency doesn't seem to understand that suing people no longer stanches the flow of information.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

War News Radio.

Recently, I've been listening to a podcast from Swarthmore College called War News Radio. No matter what you think about the war, it's worth listening to this intelligent bit of podcasting – well-produced and, most of the time, offering more insight into life in Iraq than any network news, superbly coiffed correspondent can accomplish in ninety seconds. Check it out in the iTunes podcast directory or go to War News Radio.

If I was a parent of one of those kids who has the grades to make it into just about any college, this podcast would make me feel especially positive about Swarthmore. Certainly a lot more than one of those brochures with pictures of fresh, smiling – never hung over – students on some leafy campus. Why does every college insist on churning those out? I've always been amazed by the way these expensive brochures can make every institute of higher learning seem exactly the same. Harvard melds into West Hobart Technical College. Hey, is that Northwestern? No, wait, it's East Oklahoma Valley. I guess it might have something to do with the fact that some design firms do almost nothing but these brochures. One in every conference and you've got yourself a business.

But I digress. Check out the podcast.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Brand Tom Cruise.

The BBC dissects the crumbling Tom Cruise image.

Amazingly, they still tout him as one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. I'm not buying it.

I don't think men ever really cared for the dude, and now I think he's managed to turn off his female fans. Going bonkers over a woman seventeen years younger never really helps with the fairer sex. Saying that women should not use drugs to treat post-natal depression isn't such a good idea either. Letting people know that your wife will have a pacifier during birth so she'll keep her pie hole shut? Again, not especially wise. And, finally, glib comments about eating placentas – grilled or raw, we're not quite sure – pretty much seals the deal for many. The whole Scientology thing is his own business, but the guy just seems to be auditioning for the role of Dr. Bizarro.

In some ways, it's quite fascinating to see someone so liberated he seems to have absolutely zero concern about his image, much like watching a fiery car wreck that unfolds over a number of months instead of a few seconds.

Of course, there is still one future Tom Cruise picture that I'd love to be able to invest in.

The biopic that Bennett Miller will direct in twenty years.

Can marketers go backwards?

In the early days of television, programming costs were underwritten by a show sponsor. The one that most people probably know, thanks to Quiz Show, is "Twenty-One" with its Geritol sponsorship. (Incidentally, whatever happened to Geritol? If it's still available, I think I might start taking it.)

We all know that history often repeats itself. For a number of years, it's been clear that advertising is going to cede considerable ground to sponsored entertainment, and Stuart Elliott notes the latest developments in his recent piece in The New York Times. In a society that is increasingly impregnable to advertising, attaching a brand to the appropriate piece of entertainment becomes more than a little appealing.

So far, most of these efforts have been clumsy. The challenge might be that it requires a rather abrupt paradigm shift for the traditional marketing brain. In a business that has long prided itself on seeking pinpoint accuracy – always lauded, even if rarely achieved – sponsored programming requires one to take a giant leap, ceding control to others who know more about creating content that people will seek out. The problem is that marketers, the people at consumer companies and agencies who are trying to sell things, don't really think the same way as the entertainment types, who are trying to create things that are just plain interesting. This is a world without much in the way of pie charts or bar graphs.

I think that on the way to successful efforts – vehicles such as Extreme Home Makeover and American Idol spring to mind – we're going to witness to a great deal of clunkers. Programming that is thinly-disguised advertising will bomb, as old school sellers stumble and try to have things like taglines and other obvious signs of hackdom into scripts.

Real success will come to those who stretch, don't try to absolutely mimic the few efforts that have been successful and find news ways to go forward.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The new

Technology certainly is a demanding dance partner, isn't it? The New York Times has launched a redesigned web site and, with a few reservations, I think it's quite winning. Over at, Jack Shafer has his take on the new look – it's similar to mine.

The only question: is it too good?

Shafer actually says that, on the strength of the new site, he is now canceling his subscription to the paper version. As much as I've always loved the ritual of reading a printed newspaper, I have to agree that it makes even less sense to deal with the old, fully-inked version. The new design, as Shafer points out, does seem to combine the best elements of the newspaper and the web. The heirachy of a newspaper is now there, something that was always missing from the old

Of course, it wouldn't be the New York Times if they didn't do something extremely well and push themselves closer to winding up in a real bind. I'm still not sure if the ads on the site will ever have the impact of a full-pager in the paper in, say, 1994. Maybe the money is in sponsorship of the richer content they can provide online. And I must admit that I miss being able to read Thomas Friedman's pieces – they're part of Times Select, a subscription-only section. I may have to give in and start paying for them.

Whatever the case, I think the redesign gives us a look at the true potential of news site in Web 2.0. There's no question that blog formats have fueled a healthy chunk of it.

Kudos to the Times thinkers for improving something quite dramatically. Empathy for the finance guys who have to figure out how to make money in this new model.