Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When Hal met Adelle...

Interesting parallel here, but in all likelihood, unintentional, and ultimately, meaningless.  Still...

This photo, from today's NY Times article on the travails of computer maker, Dell:

Remind you of anything?  Perhaps the shutting down of HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey:"

Or maybe photographer Erich Schlegal is just a fan of the movie.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Nothing" goes on tour

"Seinfeld," the famed "show about nothing," found itself with something of a marketing dilemma.  After more than a decade has passed since its network run, the sitcom's distributor, Sony Pictures Television, sensed a need to court a new generation of viewers to keep its syndication ratings high.  Key to this strategy, as detailed in a November 21st New York Times Sunday Magazine column was a 60-foot bus touring college campuses and other venues, hoping to interest "those who were too young to have participated in the show’s first-run popularity."  So far, so good.  Then we get to this paragraph:
The bus’s interior has been modified into a kind of rolling Smithsonian for “Seinfeld” freaks, displaying props like the Bro/Manzier, “Fusilli Jerry,” the Assman license plate, the doll that looks like George’s mom and a replica of “the puffy shirt.”
And if those references mean nothing to you, well, that's the unintentional point, isn't it?  You've wandered into a closed club with enthusiasts talking only to each other.  Optimistically, the columnist then states:
And whether on campuses or at malls or sporting events, what’s easiest to imagine is the fervent believer dragging along potential converts. 
...who will probably roll their eyes at all the trivia that's meaningless to them and go back home to watch reruns of "Two and a Half Men."  But in the next sentence, the columnist seems to sense that something is amiss:
The bus...simply makes tangible the devotion that already exists, presenting the show about nothing as a labyrinthine text, a fully immersive narrative that’s not about nothing but about itself: totems, references, rituals. It’s a walk-in catechism.
And we all know how the religious doctrine can appear to an outsider, don't we?  Look, anybody who knows me, knows that there's no greater fan of the show.  But this is just (to stay with the religion analogies) preaching to the converted.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An ad guru pontificates

(Okay, it wasn't Jennifer Aniston, but no more hints.)

A recent New York Times Sunday Magazine article promised us "three gurus from the generation of advertising" debating "how best to sell soap in a post-TV world."  And at least two of the three so-called gurus were thought-provoking.  The third, a chief creative officer of an international "hot" shop, was often more cringe-inducing, with comments that reflected an astonishing lack of understanding about advertising's history and a mindless regurgitation of the typical hipster cynicism.  

For instance, here he talks about how the dwindling effectiveness of network TV advertising in a society transformed by "a multiplicity of screens:"
It used to be really easy for us to advertise anything because consumers had no idea what they were buying. We could basically sell them whatever we wanted. But the Internet has made everything so transparent.
Really?  You could sell them whatever you wanted?  Tell that to the makers of Billy Beer.  Or New Coke.  Or any of these infamous products.

Later, this neo-guru extolls the virtues of online consumer feedback over traditional research methods:
The feedback you get, though, is so much richer and more immediate than what we used to get. In focus groups, there’s always one guy who sort of steals the room, so you wind up getting his opinion and no one else’s. On YouTube, you put your ad up, and right away you can read the comments. It’s such a democracy.
Apparently, it hasn't occurred to him to wonder if the the same people are are bothering to post on YouTube wouldn't be the same ones to monopolize the discussions in focus groups.  (I don't have the answer, but it's a valid question, isn't it?)

Next, he parrots that usual knock against the industry that, even as a joke, has become tiring:
We used to joke that advertising was “lying for a living.” We got away with that back then. We can’t anymore. And now, if we get caught in a lie, we’re in trouble.
Right.  Everybody was lying back then -- or would have been, but for FTC regulations, the Better Business Bureau and industry codes of ethics.  Does advertising tell every side of the story, negative as well as positive?  Of course not -- the idea is to present your product in the best possible light (without misrepresenting it), and, shockingly, that's still going on today -- even in new media.

Finally, in a hypothetical discussion of how to sell Katie Couric in the digital age, our guru explains the need to expand her presence into a variety of new media, and not just rely on her CBS news program viewership.  I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but considering the above pearls of wisdom, I'm not so sure he realizes what he's said:
You can’t turn her into Walter Cronkite. That model’s dead.
"And that's the way it is."

Labels: , ,