Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Geico gecko on YouTube

Geico Gecko Reveals Multiple Talents on YouTube

The Geico gecko is cute, clever and lovable. But now, more talented than ever. In one YouTube video, he dances with "Snowball," the famous YouTubed cockatoo. In others, he ... well, go see for yourself.

It's all part of a new Geico online parody campaign that will run on YouTube through April 9. It leverages (hate that word) the strong popularity of the gecko plus the power of online videos to bring a bit of "entertainment courtesy of Geico." There are no 800 numbers, no calls to action. Just entertainment that everyone who knows the gecko will instantly identify with Geico. Top-of-mind awareness guaranteed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New feature: Schott's Vocab in NY Times

New NY Times Blog Explores "Vocabulary of Current Events"

Are you up on the vocabulary of current events? Do you know the meaning of the word "unbwogable?" How about the phrase "pessimism porn?"

If you are clueless about the above, maybe you should see a new feature in the NY Times called "Schott's Vocab."

"If language is the archives of history, as Emerson believed, then Schott's Vocab is an attempt to index those archives on the fly." - from article introducing Schott's Vocab.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beware Conficker worm come April 1

If you are not already on a Mac or a Linux-powered computer, now might be the time to switch.
Horrible new worm to wreak havoc on April Fool's Day.
Christopher Null, The Working Guy
March 24, 2009

In an event that hits the computer world only once every few years, security experts are racing against time to mitigate the impact of a bit of malware which is set to wreak havoc on a hard-coded date. As is often the case, that date is April 1.

Malware creators love to target April Fool's Day with their wares, and the latest worm, called Conficker C, could be one of the most damaging attacks we've seen in years.

Conficker first bubbled up in late 2008 and began making headlines in January as known infections topped 9 million computers. Now in its third variant, Conficker C, the worm has grown incredibly complicated, powerful, and virulent... though no one is quite sure exactly what it will do when D-Day arrives.

[Read more.]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why Facebook sucks now

Imagine you had built a pretty darned good social networking site called Facebook that people of all ages enjoyed using. Now imagine you wanted it to be more Twitter-like, 'cause you thought Twitter was more "now" than your site. So you took out a lot of the features that made your site enjoyable. And you dumbed it down to a kindergartner's level. That would be bad for your brand, wouldn't it? Sure it would.

It beggars belief that any outfit would make its successful site a clunker on purpose. But apparently, that's what's happened to Facebook. A "beta" version was sent to a few subscribers, like Matt, who ticked off 10 reasons why Facebook sucks now. Here's a snippet:
The Facebook staff really have no idea what they are doing, where they are taking the site, and what branding means.

The new "redesign" of Facebook, which was released earlier today to a "select" group of users (sadly, me included) was clearly designed by a 5-year-old -- oh wait, no, I take that back ... my daughter could design a better front end than they did.

They took a lot of functionality, customization and filtering capability out of the home page and replaced it with Twitter-like features, which is to say, they dumbed it down for children.

I don't think I have ever before seen such a global removal of functionality touted as a revolutionary beneficial redesign for all end users. It ended up being quite the opposite.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

State Farm "16 Going on 17" ad and download

State Farm targets new teen drivers with its new TV spot. I imagine it's the "Get 'em early, and they'll be loyal for life" tactic. Which makes good sense.

The spot features several shots of kids posing for their driver's license photo in various attitudes, while a bored, annoyed DMV lady does not share in their obvious glee. Pretty amusing.

What's really different about the spot is that it gives you a URL where you can download the tune that goes with it, "16 Going on 17," for free. It's a fairly good rockin' little number. First time I've ever heard of an insurance company talking to teens on TV (There's a safe driving message, too, of course.) and offering a music download.

What's really strange about it is that I couldn't find any reference to it on the State Farm website. Which is a logical place to look if you have forgotten the URL on the spot. Major oversight there. But kudos for smart targeting and a fun spot that likely will appeal to teens.

Wonder if teens in that age group will think the tune is cool enough to download. Take a listen and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Best Print Ads of 2008

MRI Starch has named the best print ads of 2008. You remember print, don't you? That stuff you have to read in a magazine or newspaper. You remember newspapers, don't you? Those papery things that are going the way of the VHS tape?

Some of these don't look so whoop-de-do to me, but then, perhaps there isn't as much thought given to print ads as there used to be. Or maybe Starch didn't have many to choose from. I do love the Milano one, though. The cookie and the ad. Yum.

Branding the hairy-nosed wombat

The Australian hairy-nosed wombat bears little resemblance to North American critters, so to describe it, you'd have to compare it to a dog, a bear and a koala rolled into one. Some people are nuts about 'em.

There's a website called "Russell's Wombat Burrow" where you can see lots of photos of wombies and even hear and watch videos of them doing what they do. Which is mostly moseying around and digging in the dirt.

Sadly, the hirsute little fellas are an endangered species. Only 115 remain in a huge preserve in Epping Forest National Park. But wait! A corporation has rushed to the rescue. A Swiss mining company. Wondering how that fits? Well, wombies can dig like maniacs. It's said they can outdig a man. And mining companies dig, so... an unlikely partnership has been forged. And the Swiss are getting into it big-time.

The company, Xstrata, has agreed to contribute millions to the endangered species' recovery. In exchange, the company's name will appear on everything related to wombats: websites, educational DVDs, wildlife workers' shirts. Xstrata top management types will also star in documentaries about the critters and speak at media events. By standing up for the little marsupials, Xstrata hopes to enhance its "green" image.

On their part, environmental officials have had to adjust their thinking about funding. They were operating on a skimpy budget. They needed money to continue their work and create a second wombat colony, and it became clear that voluntary contributions and grants weren't enough. Enter Xstrata. You can read the rest of the story here.

As advertising and marketing adapts to a rapidly shifting media environment, it pays to think in unusual ways. Crazy ways, you might say. Crazy can be good. As Hunter S. Thompson said, "When the going gets tough, the weird turn pro." Be weird. Turn pro. Save a wombat.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wisconsin's new logo - edgy or square?

From article linked above:
Coming up with the slogan and accompanying logo — which shows a silhouetted figure doing a cartwheel across letters spelling out Wisconsin — cost $50,000, Klavas said. The money came from the department's annual $10 million marketing budget.
Say, I can come up with better stuff than that for 1/10 the price. Whoever got this assignment must have embarrassing Polaroids of the decision-maker.

Thing is, numerous other brands, including a wine, have used the tagline, "Live like you mean it." There's even a diet book with that title. So the State of Wisconsin paid for a pre-owned tagline? Yes, that's what the Wisconsin folks decided they wanted. How about the "branding" agency creating a distinctive brand like they mean it? Would that have been too much trouble?

And how about that guy doing a handstand on top of the logo? Is that what you do when you're living like you mean it? And what would you do if you DIDN'T mean it?

I can just imagine the deep thought behind the decision to use the silhouette of a man (as opposed to a woman or a neutral-gendered illustration) as the guy who lives like he means it. Here's how the conversation probably went: Boss: "Well, we're trying to attract businesses. They're usually run by men. So we'll use a guy." Flunky: "Yeah, boss, that makes perfect sense."

I guess women and children can live their lives without meaning in Wisconsin.

This kind of chuckleheaded, hackneyed work should not be called "branding." It should be called, "Letting the client have what s/he wants and collecting an outrageously big check."


Monday, March 16, 2009

T-Mobile Dances at Liverpool Rail Station

What this country needs is more dancing! That's right. Just look at this joyous T-Mobile "happening" (more performance art than commercial) featuring professional dancers shaking their booties in a rail station. The legit rail travelers in the station couldn't help but join in.

Budweiser: Bad Day to Be a Frog

Budweiser has finally recognized a universally known fact: lizards are not only great-looking, but they're clever and funny, too. Funnier than the frogs, to tell the truth. But then, I'm partial to the scaly little critters. This commercial is a testament to the lizardly comedic art.

It's seldom that we adfolk get to do edgy, or even funny, commercials. The creatives on this account must have a ball. Except when it's time to top their last spot.

To see more inspired Bud spots, go here. The donkey spot proves that all you need to achieve your dream in life is toughness, persistence, and a really LOUD voice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Microsoft Revises the iPod

The original source of this video is unknown, but the content is oh-so-true. Microsoft haters will love it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Octo-Mom's publicist quits: "She's nuts."

Talk about a PR nightmare. How do you make a narcissistic woman who evidently cares nothing about the fact that her 14 children have no wage-earner to support them -- look good?


The saga of Nadya Suleman, a.k.a the Octo-Mom, continues. US Weekly reports that her new publicist, Victor Munoz, has quit, calling Suleman "nuts." The public relations group that previously represented Suleman quit in late February due to receiving death threats. This time, however, her publicist left due to personal reasons:

According to Munoz, the family is "freaking out right now. Not to sound arrogant, but those people depended on me for everything. You have no idea what I've had to do for these people.

"Nadya got real greedy. This woman is nuts," he continued. "This I can say: what ultimately destroyed the business arrangement was personal reasons."

KC Star to lay off 150 employees

The economic tsunami has hit the newspaper industry hard. The Rocky Mountain News just went under. Other papers are reaching for life vests. Now we hear McClatchy is to lay off 150 KC Star employees.

The Star's survivors who make more than $100K will receive 10% pay cut. Those who make less will find their paychecks cut by only 5%. When you have a mortgage to pay, that 5% can be critical. Still, a reduced paycheck is better than an unemployment check.

When paper news dies, will news be delivered only by Internet and TV? Will AP and other news organizations lose control, and therefore, control of ethics, accuracy and content?

And fer heaven's sake, what will we use to line our birdcages? My parakeet, Buster, is concerned.

Okay, I'm being rather harsh. But now that we pay more for the KC Star, we get less. The average daily Star is as thin as a comic book. And it's not only that the Star has fewer pages. It's also that local investigative reporting will undoubtedly disappear completely. There may eventually be one central "news" office that issues articles to news organizations throughout the country. Maybe there will be one local reporter dashing from city council meeting to Mayor's office to Topeka and Jefferson City 24/7.

So where do fired reporters, opinion writers, columnists, editors and fact-checkers go? Do they become embittered sackers at your grocery store? Do they pace the city sidewalks wearing sandwich boards for Pizza Hut or Statue of Liberty outfits for a tax prep company? Good grief, they have bills to pay, somehow. What fitting jobs are available to these journalistic professionals in this economy? This whole megillah is a pity and a shame.

The good news is that with printed newspapers gone, demagogues like Rupert Murdoch can't slant the news in an ultraconservative direction. The bad news is that readers (those with Internet access, please note) are set adrift in a sea of unsorted, unvetted "news" that includes slanted blogs and websites with zero requirements for accuracy and community spirit.

It's every man and woman for him/herself in the news whirlpool, once respected daily papers sink below the waves. Tread water, baby. Tread water.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kutiman Mixes YouTube

This you've gotta see and hear. An Israeli guy named Kutiman combs through what must be thousands of unrelated YouTube video clips and puts them together to create a video/music remix.

How is this possible? How can so many musicians all over the world be playing the same chords in the same rhythm, completely independently? Or maybe it's that Kutiman does nothing else but look for them. Anyway, take a look. Rock to the beat. Then see more of his video remixes. YouTube has had more of them the past couple of days.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bad worm for PCs. Tee hee, I'm a Mac.

Get thee behind me, Koobface!

If you're a PC, and you're on Facebook, look out. There's an ugly worm called Koobface afoot that will steal your info and try to get you to divulge your username and password. One more reason to be glad if you're a Mac.

Whether you're a PC or a Mac, you should never divulge that type of information to anyone online, unless you are 100% sure the request is coming from a company you can trust, one you do business with. For instance, if I get a message from Bank of America, I know it's a phish because I stopped doing business with BOA years ago.

One way to detect a "phishing" letter is that instead of addressing you by name, it will have a general "Dear customer" address line or none at all. Your bank knows your name; have no doubt. So do other companies with whom you do business. Don't be fooled. And if you do see a phishing message, report it as spam to your ISP. Help kill the worm!


As Facebook works to make itself more relevant and timely for its growing member base with a profile page makeover, attackers seem to be working overtime to steal the identities of the friends, fans and brands that connect though the social-networking site.

Indeed, Facebook has seen five different security threats in the past week. According to Trend Micro, four new hoax applications are attempting to trick members into divulging their usernames and passwords. And a new variant of the Koobface worm is running wild on the site, installing malware on the computers of victims who click on a link to a fake YouTube video.

The Koobface worm is dangerous. It can be dropped by other malware and downloaded unknowingly by a user when visiting malicious Web sites, Trend Micro reports. When attackers execute the malware, it searches for cookies created by online social networks. The latest variant is targeting Facebook, but earlier variants have also plagued MySpace.

[More at link]

Shake your tailfeather -- literally.

Have a great weekend, all. Don't forget to dance a little.

Bird Shakes His Tailfeather @ Yahoo! Video

See more of this boogying bird here.

Things not to do with your mouth in a meeting

The young man was lounging on a park bench, arms stretched out across the top. As I walked by, he opened his mouth and enjoyed a huge yawn right in my face. Was this guy being intentionally crude, or was he just plain ignorant? My reaction: disgust and annoyance. My opinion of that young man: rather low. All I knew of him was how his tongue and teeth looked, but his manner of showing them to me convinced me he was a rude, uneducated person.

These days, unfortunately, companies and grad schools have had to begin training their people how to act civilly and politely in meetings and elsewhere. Gone are the days when training films titled "How to Have a Family Dinner" (possibly made here in KC by Calvin Films, where Robert Altman got his start) advised adults and children not to put their elbows on the table and to refrain from unpleasant or controversial conversational topics while dining. More's the pity.

The problem is that Americans scorn rules that inhibit their natural behavior. Why the heck should I have to cover my mouth when I yawn (or cough or sneeze)? Why shouldn't I put my elbows on the table? In the first case, because nobody wants a view of your uvula and whatever else is in your mouth. In the second, because it gives the impression that you are an inconsiderate bumpkin. There are historical reasons, and also modern ones, for these rules of etiquette.

As Paula Williams says on the Ravenwerks website, etiquette is more than just selecting the right fork to eat the salad. "Being relaxed, friendly and considerate is what etiquette is all about."

The "considerate" part is a good one to take to heart. If you are considerate of other people's sensitivities, you probably won't remove a gob of gristly meat from your mouth and place it on the edge of your plate without shielding your activities with your napkin. You won't pick your teeth at the table. You won't gulp your water with audible "glugs." You won't talk over another table companion or start an argument that might upset digestive processes.

As an alternative to purchasing an etiquette book, if we all can keep "consideration" top of mind, we won't go far wrong. If you feel insecure about what to do and not to do in public, there are many etiquette resources at the bookstore, library, or on the Web. You may discover interesting sidelights, such as this: the reason knives are set on the table with their blades toward the plate is that in this way, ancient diners let their companions know they did not mean to stab them to death. Oh, by the way, stabbing dinner partners is considered poor form. But you knew that.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"Printer Jam" Video by Scott Beale of Laughing Squid

You may react to this video to the Mistabishi tune, "Printer Jam," with annoyance, delight, rolling of eyes, anxiety, admiration, or silly giggles. One thing's for sure. You will have a reaction. Seeing things like this can help sparkle up the sluggish brain. Hit play and see.

Mistabishi - Printer Jam from Hospital Records on Vimeo.

DM Spending Expected to Dive 8 to 9% in 2009

DM Spending Expected to Go Down -- and Down -- in 2009


Recession, media consumption changes spur shift from “saturation mailing” to targeted, analytical approach, says new study from leading strategic consulting firm

NEW YORK, February 27, 2009 — Squarely impacted by the “triple assault” of the recession, rising postage rates and growing marketer preference for low-cost digital communications, total U.S. direct mail spending declined sharply in 2008—falling 3.0 percent—and was accompanied by an even more significant cutback in mail volume, according to a white paper released today by Winterberry Group, a leading strategic consulting firm serving the marketing industry.

The white paper, entitled A Channel in Transformation: Vertical Market Trends in Direct Mail 2009, is the New York-based consulting firm’s fifth annual study of trends in direct mail media. Based upon feedback provided through hundreds of interviews with executives from throughout the industry (including both mailers and the service providers who support their campaigns), it explores macro trends, unique production sector issues as well as developments specific to one or more vertical markets.

According to Winterberry Group, a rapid drop-off in financial services mail activity (brought on by the crisis in the banking and mortgage sectors) fueled the overall decline in mail spending, the channel’s first in a recorded history that began in 1945. Further decay in mail activity is expected to continue through the course of the recession, at which point the direct mail channel will likely emerge as a medium used more for precise targeting than “saturation mailing” as it has been over the last decade.

The report concludes: “A wide variety of new mail applications will continue to emerge. Based largely on deep data and technology underpinnings—and structured to take advantage of direct mail’s unique ability to enable customer acquisition and integrate with other media—these applications have been incubating for several years. The events of the past 18 months have moved them to the forefront, and both marketers and service providers alike would be wise to follow.”

The white paper outlines six trends that took hold in 2008 and another three that are expected to continue defining the role of direct mail in 2009...

[More at The Winterberry Group site.]

Ed: Needless to say, this is terrible news for writers, designers, art directors, strategists and clients who have relied heavily on direct marketing. It's a call for ever-more-creative thinking about how to reach consumers in a cost-effective, compelling way. Digital media seem the best bet right now, but we'll continue to think of new vehicles for DM messages. How about changing messages like the ones on highway billboards appearing on dentists' and doctors' exam room ceilings? Or would that would patients associate the products with pain and fear? C'mon, think! Think!