Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Oscars

- James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Digging on Anne's enthusiasm; James, uh, not so much. And, the pink dress? Not cool, although the Charlie Sheen line was funny.

- Melissa Leo. The F-bomb...really!? And, think about what you might say before you get up there and string a sentence together, for cryin' out loud.

- Kirk Douglas. Touching--for about 10 seconds.

- Glad Toy Story 3 won for Animated Feature. But, where was Despicable Me?

- Why do local ABC affiliate personalities feel the need to dress up in formal wear given that their network is broadcasting the Academy Awards?

- Why do winners so cavalierly run over their allotted time with acceptance speeches? Do they do that with time and budget over-runs on their films?

- Russell Brand and Helen Mirren. What's up with that presenter pairing? I know I'm not in the demo, but what the hell has Brand done to qualify as a worthy presenter?

- Mens' tuxedo lapels were all over the body--from Justin Timberlake's, which covered his shoulders, to Matthew McConaughey's, which barely were lapels at all. And, is the double-breasted look coming back?

- Cate Blanchett. Okay, the circle in the middle of the dress? What was that all about?

- And, I'm closing this out...this Academy Awards telecast is deathly, deathly dull.

Postscript: Whether it was Hathaway's insistence on a "wooh" for every person she introduced, Franco's stoner presence on stage, the lack of any unexpected outbursts from winners or losers, or just the general lack of pizzazz, this was undoubtedly the worst Oscar telecast in recent memory. Thank goodness the tweet world was ablaze with witticisms and cynicisms about the evening.

Sunday morning coffee - afternoon edition

- Hmm, this is an interesting use for social media. A group of Columbia University researchers found that 83 percent of prostitutes have Facebook pages. They also determined that the average hooker gets a quarter of all clients from the page.

- Another sign of the apocalypse: Four workers at a Utah Wal Mart were fired recently for tackling and disarming a gunman. Wal Mart policy requires workers to withdraw if a suspected shoplifter pulls a gun. But, the four said they had no choice when the gunman put his weapon in one worker's back.

- While her public persona may give the impression that she's a ditz, Jessica Simpson is succeeding where other stars have failed. Simpson's fashion line is on track to make $1 billion in sales this year, according to New York magazine.

- A University of Louisville cheerleader was assessed a technical foul in today's game against Pitt when he grabbed the ball and threw it in the air, thinking that the game had ended. There was still time left on the clock and Pittsburgh got the ball back but Louisville held on for the overtime victory. Said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino of the cheerleader, "Hopefully, he'll learn the rules." Pitino's response would likely have been less muted had the technical foul cost the Cardinals the upset win over the #6 Panthers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Signs of the apocalypse

- Jesse James, Sandra Bullock's ex, is writing a tell-all memoir. (I'm assuming the working title is How to Cheat on America's Sweetheart.)

- Camille Grammer--"star" of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and ex-wife of Kelsey Grammer--has been hired by CNN to co-host an Academy Awards special on Sunday evening. CNN!? Really...!?

- Obesity is a well-documented problem for the U.S. public. Today, the Wall Street Journal has a lengthy report on obesity in pets. A new report says that more than half of the dogs and cats in our country are overweight or obese.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday morning coffee

- Perhaps reports of the Grammy Awards demise are premature. In another example of the success of this year's awards show, it's now reported that Lady Gaga's new single, "Born This Way," is the fastest-selling song in iTunes history. Gaga unveiled the song live on last Sunday's Grammy telecast.

- American Idol continues to be a television ratings juggernaut. The show attracted 21.9 viewers on Thursday as it pared the field of contestants down to 60.

- Speaking of Idol, look for judge Jennifer Lopez to get very emotional in an upcoming episode when one contestant, in particular, gets dismissed.

- Worldwide opinion is that America is the land of conspicuous consumption. But, on one list, the U.S. isn't even close to the top. The World Health Organization released a report on the "drunkest countries in the world." The top ten are the Republic of Moldova, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russian Federation, Estonia, Ukraine, Andorra, Slovenia, Belarus, and Croatia. Apparently there's a lot of vodka being swigged, er, gulped, in those countries.

- In the category of "huh?", spurned contestant Michelle Money, from The Bachelor, is aghast that she became this season's villain. Said Money to, "I never in a million years expected to be the villain. I was actually surprised and shocked by it in the beginning. I'm an easy target because I'm upfront and honeest." How about "catty and bitchy" instead?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mid-week musings

It's "hump day" boys and girls and the weather here in the good ol' Midwest is causing us to break out the flip flops and clean up the golf clubs. Let's check what's going on out in the wacky weather world.

- Shades of Office Space--the average American worker's personal space shrank from 90 square feet in 1994 to 75 square feet last year.

- Thank goodness I didn't grow up in Virginia! A high school student there was recently suspended for shooting spitwads, through the hollow body of a pen, at fellow classmates. Police said the 14-year old student violated the school's zero tolerance weapons policy. Really!?

- Quote of the week: This came from actor and well-known womanizer Jack Nicholson, who recently turned 73. Said Nicholson to the London Daily Mail, "There were points in my life where I felt oddly irresistible to women. I'm not in that state now and that makes me sad. I'm definitely still wild at heart. But, I've struck bio-gravity. I can't hit on women in public anymore--it just doesn't feel right at my age."

- Eric Clapton is performing again, this time with Wynton Marsalis. The classic rocker and jazz trumpeter will play three shows at New York's Lincoln Center in April. "Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues" will have the duo backed by a seven-piece band and will feature songs by Howlin' Wolf and Louis Armstrong.

- More and more workers are doing it remotely. And, Esquire UK magazine offered up the following hints at how to best work from home: (1) Set up a real office, (2) Get properly connected/hooked up technologically, (3) Stick to a schedule, and (4) Don't go stir crazy. On the last item, the magazine suggests going out for lunch and making small social interactions part of your routine.

- You saw Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand re-united on the stage at the Grammys. Now we learn that the movie which the two starred in, A Star Is Born, will be re-made by director Clint Eastwood and will star Beyonce. Rumor has it that the 1976 original movie co-stars may make cameo appearances in the re-make.

- Why does American Idol have all of the finalists initially perform as part of a group? It's like having a star student downgraded by participating in a group project with a bunch of under-achievers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Social media impacts Grammy ratings

The Grammy Awards scored their best television rating since 2001 and much of that success can be attributed to Twitter's trending topics last night. The Grammys dominated Twitter chatter, thus sending eyeballs to the telecast which was also buoyed by early-in-show appearances from Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and a divas' tribute to Aretha Franklin. (On a side note, Christina Aguilera, one of the divas who sang some of Franklin's songs, continued her bad month by falling on the stage after the divas' performance.)

The telecast drew 26.55 million viewers--a 3% increase over the 2010 program. It also was the youngest-skewing telecast since 2004, according to, with seven-year highs among 18-49 year olds and 18-34 year olds.

Will this ratings hit bode well for the Academy Award telecast in March? ABC sure hopes so given the going rate of $1.7 million per television spot, a two-year high for 30-second commercials on this show.

The language of meetings

Have you ever sat back and listened to the way words are used in the business meetings you attend? I intentionally tried to do that last week and was again struck by words used for purposes for which they weren't intended.

Here's a short list of the various word jumbles which were used, along with their supposed meaning:

- "We can sidebar on that one." The verb, "sidebar," means that two or more can get together separately, outside of the confines of the current meeting. It seems most closely linked to the setting in a court of law where lawyers are called to talk to the judge in an area where the jury cannot hear the conversation. My guess is that those who like this word must have secretly wished they went to law school, or they watched too much Law and Order.

- "We'll gin up a list of ideas." No, "gin" isn't linked here to the adult beverage by that name. It's an odd twist of the word which, in this case, suggests creating or developing a list of ideas. The original use of "gin" as a verb had to do with harvesting cotton and the removal of cotton seeds from cotton gin. Feel free to use that little factoid the next time you're in a meeting and "gin" is mentioned--in a non-consumption way.

- "It's our entre into this business." This is a fancier word for "entry" and is sometimes confused with "entree"--those listings you see down the right side of a restaurant menu. Folks who over-use this word want you to think they speak French as a second language.

- "(Blank) is the long tail here." The phrase "long tail" or "long pole" just makes me shake my head. Why can't one just say "(Blank) will take the longest amount of time" and be done with it?

- "What are our headwinds?" Said differently, it would be "what are the factors keeping us from achieving success?" But, in business, that's much too simple, particularly when one has words like "headwinds" and "tailwinds" which are much more interesting. Business travelers love these words as they hear them way too frequently from pilots who ferry them around the country.

- "Let's put a fine point on the discussion." Hmm, "fine point?" In meeting parlance, it's a combination of making a point, and making that point in such a way that it's too specific. Or, more positively, it's about editing down the discussion into one fine point. Either way, it's a wrong choice of words and makes me thinks of a writing instrument.

- "Bespoke." I don't want my British colleagues to feel left out, thus I'm adding "bespoke" to this list. Have you heard the word before? I hadn't either, other than in reference to clothing. And, in checking, that's the proper usage, i.e., custom made. I'm still trying to figure out the use of this term in a meeting I attended last week. It sure sounded good though.

- "Daft." If you hear the word "stupid" or "silly" in a meeting, as in "that's a stupid idea," you can substitute the word "daft" and sound far smarter.

- "The work is evergreen." Hmm, how does a word describing a type of tree makes its way into a conversation on marketing communications? Well, if the work is continually fresh, or self-renewing, then it's "evergreen." Who knew?

I contend that the urge to fill in spoken gaps with turns of the phrase like these, or words mashed-up, is our way of relieving business meeting boredom. And, it allows those with certain self-esteem issues to create ways to sound smarter versus searching for the most clear, direct words. I mean, after all, who would want to talk like that!?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The end of the copy desk

I heard a name today and was immediately transported back to a college classroom, cowering as a bombastic professor raged at our class.

John Carroll, former Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun and the Lexington Herald-Leader newspapers, was honored today as the 2011 recipient of the William Allen White Foundation National Citation in a ceremony at the University of Kansas, where the Journalism School bears White's name. And, Carroll was only a minute or two into his acceptance speech when he invoked "the name," the name which gave me an immediate nostalgic rush and elicited a knowing chuckle from others in the audience--students, faculty, KU administrators, and alumni of the Journalism School.

The name was John Bremner, former professor at the J-School, who lorded over Editing classes from 1969 to his retirement in 1985. And, in citing Bremner, Carroll was making a point about the "end of the copy desk"--of lax standards in the field of journalism which would have Bremner railing at those who are practicioners of the written/digital word.

You see, Bremner's personality was one of "constant outrage," as described by Carroll. Yet, Carroll hired Bremner's students whenever possible, knowing that they would have been schooled by one of the best editing instructors in the country.

To say that Bremner was a student of the language would be like saying that Steve Jobs paid attention to technology. Bremner drilled and drilled his students on proper grammar, and was a champion of logic and rhetoric. It was his personal passion to sharpen the skills of writers and editors--a quest that seemingly made him permanently frustrated at what he called the "steady growth of literary ignorance."

Bremner was a mountain of a man--a 6'5", white-haired, booming-voiced Australian. He was an ordained Catholic priest who ultimately left the priesthood. He was biting in his criticism and, when particularly frustrated, would open the window of his second floor classroom and yell out, "Help! I'm being held captive by a class of idiots!"

He had high standards for editing and expected his class, and graduates, to meet them. He took on what he dubbed "hyphenitis," the overuse of hyphens, and "synonymomania," a writer's reluctance to use a word more than once in a passage. Bremner urged his editors to be relentlessly skeptical, often saying "If your mother tells you that she loves you, check it and then check it again."

Professor Bremner's influence grew well beyond the campus in Lawrence and he was often called to speak at conferences and seminars for newspaper editors. It was at one such gathering that Bremner said, "Jesus Christ once said 'Where two or three are gathered together...' But, he couldn't have said precisely that. He didn't speak English. And, why would he have said 'gathered together?' When you have 'gathered,' you don't need 'together.'"

It was heartening to hear Carroll reference the influence of Bremner, but it was also incredibly discouraging to hear Carroll use this as an example of the declining literacy in the field of journalism--a profession which has changed dramatically given the rise of blogs, social media and other outlets for writers.

Bremner died in 1987 and his obituary in the New York Times attributed this quote to my former professor, "I have witnessed the steady growth of literary ignorance during a career of more than a third of a century. Many of my students arrive in my writing and editing classes as college juniors with an almost total ignorance of English grammar and usage and only a smattering of any foreign language. And these are prospective journalists whom one would expect to be less illiterate. But the blame is hardly theirs. It belongs mostly to their teachers."

If Bremner said that in 1980, what would he say now given a world where logic and rhetoric have to fit into a 140-character space on Twitter?

I miss Professor Bremner but, even more, I miss what he stood for--language used correctly, factual reporting, editors who play an important role in the news consumed by readers, and teaching which leaves an indelible mark on the life of a student.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Comings and goings

- Remember when Guitar Hero was all the rage and folks young and old were trying to get their fingers coordinated to tunes by Aerosmith, AC DC and Kings of Leon? Now, not so much. The "casual game" segment of the videogame market has declined appreciably, meaning slowed sales for titles like "Guitar Hero," Rock Band," and games associated with Nintendo DS and Wii. In 2010, sales by videogame genre were: Action, 21.7%; Sport, 16.3%; Shooter, 15.9%; Entertainment, 14.8%; Role-playing, 7.7%; and Other, 23.6%.

- Seen on the streets of San Francisco--a street person, sitting on the sidewalk, with sign "I won't lie--I need a beer."

- The lights, sadly, are out on Friday Night Lights. The critically-acclaimed show finished its final season this week. The series, shown on DirectTV, will have the final season broadcast on NBC this spring.

- The commercial which was viewed by the most eyeballs on the Super Bowl was the Chevrolet Camaro spot, given the audience tuned into the game at that point in the broadcast.

- Hey guys, online fashion shopping is coming our way. Mr. Porter, an online luxury goods website which will launch later this month, will try to entice men to buy clothing and luxury goods online--an environment where women have felt more comfortable making purchases.

- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay's QB, nabbed the MVP trophy for his performance at the Super Bowl, thus following the path of other guys who play this position and went on to lucrative careers as endorsers--namely, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Will Rodgers follow that path? It very easily could happen as Manning and Brady are on the backside of their on-field success. While Rodgers does not play for a major market team, he does work for a franchise which has a nationwide following and provides good season-wide visibility. Look for Rodgers to be an off-season winner in the endorsement business given his looks, on-field success, nice-guy persona, and dating relationship with Gossip Girl star Jessica Szohr, always important to maintain cross-over appeal among both men and women.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Best liked, and most memorable, Super Bowl ads

Nielsen has released their post-Super Bowl research on which advertising performed best--both as the best-liked as well as most memorable. And, only three ads made both lists--two spots for Doritos and the NFL montage featuring old TV clips.

Here are the lists:

Best liked--

1. Volkswagen "Little Darth Vader"
2. Bridgestone "Beaver saves driver"
3. E-Trade "Baby next to sneezing cat"
4. Doritos "Man licks crumbs"
5. Doritos "Housesitter brings grandpa back to life"
6. Volkswagen "Beetle"
7. NFL "TV clips montage"
8. Chrysler "Eminem represents Detroit"
9. Bud Light "Dogs work at party"
10. Audi A8 "Men break out of luxury home"

Most recalled--

1. Doritos "Pug breaks down door"
2. Budweiser "Cowboy in saloon"
3. Doritos "Man licks crumbs"
4. Pepsi Max "Couple on first date"
5. Pepsi Max "Soda can shoots out of cooler"
6. Snickers "Lewis and Barr"
7. Doritos "Housesitter brings grandpa back to life"
8. NFL "TV clips montage"
9. "Joan Rivers"
10. Bud Light "Kitchen redesign"

The objective is to be both well-liked as well as memorable. So, while I'm not a fan of the work, it's hard to argue with what Doritos has accomplished with their recent Super Bowl advertising.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl advertising

Super Bowl XLV is over and not only did the game live up the hype, it was a good night of Super Bowl advertising as well. Now, don't get me wrong, it wasn't a great night of advertising but certainly a marked improvement over the past four or five years when sophomoric humor and shots to the crotch were the order of the evening.

The following are ads which stuck out for me, both the good and some of the bad.

- Chevrolet Camaro: The ad played on the current fad of consumer-generated advertising but, along the way, provided brand imagery which was consistent with the essence of the new Chevy Camaro. The ad's ending twist made the commercial all the better.

- Coke: The Coke advertising was different, upbeat and what cola advertising is supposed to be about--lighthearted fun.

- Chrysler: Advertising on the Super Bowl is risky--producing a two-minute spot for the big game means you'd better get it right. I liked the intent of the spot and the execution but wonder about the use of Eminem, for a brand like Chrysler, as the spokesperson.

- Motorola Zoom: I've seen some suggest that this approach didn't resonate because of the linkage to Apple's iconic 1984 spot. Actually, I thought it worked for that very reason--it linked to the most famous spot in recent advertising history yet was different enough, and Apple-like in imagery, to drive the point that this product is different than the closed environment of Mr. Jobs and team.

- FOX's Daytona promotions: Really? What was up with that advertising!?

- Bud Light "product placement": This ad linked the overwhelming desire by men to drink Bud Light with the current topical marketing phenomenon of product placement. Well done!

- Audi A8: Any spot which allows Kenny G to make fun of himself is good stuff.

- Go Daddy: Just...GO...DADDY...AWAY.

- Chevy Cruze: Perhaps instant Facebook audio updates are social media gone bad to some, but the execution of this commercial through the understood anxiety about a first date was spot on.

- Doritos: The ad with the guy licking his buddy's finger was just plain weird; the ad with the dog flying through the glass door and pinning the boyfriend was funny and memorable.

- Snickers: Last year's spot featured lovable Betty White along with Abe Vigoda. This year's spot featured Roseanne Barr and Richard Lewis and was the exact same construct as the prior year's version. If you're going to repeat the idea, you'd better use talent which the public finds appealing--not Barr and Lewis.

Special mention has to go to Chevrolet for the "retro Chevy commercial combined with the hottest pop culture phenomenon of 2010-2011" long-form spot on Glee, immediately following the Super Bowl. The spot, and its integration into the show, capped off a good evening of advertising for the automaker.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday morning coffee

- A fascinating byproduct of Snowmaggedon was the volume of Facebook traffic generated by the winter snowstorm coupled with the postings of those frequenting the site. The overwhelming sentiment seemed to be in the "I'm bored" category. Isn't it sort of sad that we can't take a day to do nothing and feel confined and victimized by weather?

- In 2004, Janet Jackson had the now infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl halftime show. In every year since, men have ruled the halftime entertainment at the big game--Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and The Who. I'm sure the NFL is going to great lengths to ensure that Fergie is all "strapped in" prior to the Black Eyed Peas' halftime performance tomorrow.

- If you're an iPad user, you have to check out The Daily, the new app created by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The Daily delivers the promise of how a tablet can bring to life traditional print media in an interactive, vibrant format.

- Chrysler will control one entire commercial break tomorrow in the Super Bowl. The automaker is going to air a two-minute spot--the first ever on a Super Bowl--in an attempt to not only stand out, but to stand out amidst the long list of auto advertisers. Chevrolet, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Kia, Volkswagen and Hyundai all plan to air commercials during the Super Bowl broadcast.

- I'm sure the following will provide great comfort to you all--Charlie Sheen is telling porn stars that he's on lockdown. Sheen is apparently now in rehab and, according to TMZ, has texted several of his partying gal pals to say that the party's over.

- It's official--the American Idol judging threesome of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler is working well together. The show has also focused more on inspirational stories, from the opening round, versus the overwhelming number of loony contestants featured over the past two or three seasons.

- Sign of the apocalypse: Larry Drew II left the University of North Carolina basketball program. Drew's departure isn't surprising but the manner in which it was handled is sad--the father, Larry Drew Sr., called head coach Roy Williams to deliver the news and the son then issued a statement. At least Williams didn't have to learn the news via a text or Tweet.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl ad lineup

Game...what game? In the battle of Super Bowl advertisers, here is the current lineup for Sunday's broadcast on FOX.

- Groupon
- Kraft Snacks
- Paramount Pictures
- Pizza Hut
- Sony Pictures
- E-Trade baby ("talking" with FOX Sports)

Throughout game:
- Bud Light (3), Budweiser (3), Stella Artois (1), Doritos (3), PepsiMax (3), Brisk (1)

1st Quarter:
- Audi
- Bridgestone
- GM Chevrolet
- Go Daddy
- Hyundai
- Kia

2nd Quarter:
- Carfax
- GM Chevrolet
- Coca-Cola
- Motorola Mobility
- Mars/Snickers
- Sony Ericcson
- Teleflora
- Volkswagen

- bookends the performance by the Black Eyes Peas, sponsored by Bridgestone

3rd Quarter:
- Best Buy
- CareerBuilder
- CarMax
- Coca-Cola
- Disney
- E-Trade
- Groupon
- HomeAway
- Hyundai

4th Quarter:
- Bridgestone
- GM Chevrolet
- Go Daddy
- Hyundai
- Mercedes Benz
- Skechers
- 20th Century Fox
- Volkswagen

- E-Trade
- GM Chevrolet will sponsor the postgame show and will present the MVP with a 2011 Camaro Convertible

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No surprise: Social Media spending is rising dramatically

Perhaps you can file this piece of news under the "duh" category, but eMarketer is reporting that spending on Social Media will rise dramatically in 2011 and also in 2012.

In a new report, "Worldwide Social Network Ad Spending," eMarketer reports that 2011 U.S. spending on Social Media will be 10.8% of total media spending, up from 7.7% in 2009. In 2012, the percentage of U.S. spend is forecast to be 12.1%. In terms of total dollars, the Social Media spend is $28.5 billion this year and $32.6 billion in 2012.

This growth phenomenon is happening worldwide. In fact, by 2012, markets outside of the U.S. will account for more than half of Social Media ad spending.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Musings in the midst of Snowmageddon

- Has there ever been a winter storm which has been the subject of more analysis, speculation and discussion? And, it seems that everyone wants to name this one--Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, the Blizzard of Oz (here in good ol' Kansas.)

- As a student of language, when did the word "party" officially become a verb? And, how often have the words "party" and "Charlie Sheen" been used together in the past two months?

- Relax, Super Bowl attendees--the forecast for Dallas is that temperatures will reach a high of 61 on Sunday. And, the plan is to close the roof on Cowboys Stadium by game time. Today in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, it's a balmy 20 degrees for a high with snow showers in the forecast.

- Classic rockers still rule when it comes to touring revenue. In 2010, the top five acts on tour were classic rockers and one band which has been around for awhile. According to Pollstar, Bon Jovi was the number one tour with a total gross of $108.2 million for 51 shows. Rounding out the top five were: Roger Waters, $89.5 million, 56 shows; Dave Matthews Band, $72.9 million, 62 shows; The Eagles, $64.5 million, 42 shows; Paul McCartney, $61.8 million, 21 shows. Those five were followed by Lady Gaga, James Taylor and Carole King, Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, and Justin Bieber.

- Just in time for Valentine's Day is Fling, Mars' new chocolate and hazelnut candy bar which the company is aiming at the female market. The confection, wrapped in pink and silver packaging, is promoted with advertising which uses the phrase "pleasure yourself." In announcing the product, the company used language which was rather, shall we say, provocative, i.e., "wrapped in a shiny pink and silver package, this chocolate finger is intended for women." I'll reserve any editorializing on the product and approach but, seriously...!?