Friday, July 27, 2012


Ah yes, the end of the work week and another sizzling weekend (as in hot temps) is headed our way.  Let's get caught up on the latest and greatest, shall we?

- The Summer Olympics officially start tonight in London with the Opening Ceremonies.  And, once again we television viewers will get to see the storytelling ability of NBC's Bob Costas, the network's anchor over the 17 days of the games.  During that time, Costas will be on air an average of four to five hours per day.  Tonight Costas, as only he so eloquently can, will call out the International Olympic Committee for denying Israel's request for a moment of silence acknowledging the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Games.  It's the 40th anniversary of that terrorist attack and resulting tragedy, and Costas finds the decision "baffling."  I can't wait to see how Costas handles it tonight.

- What's the longest running episodic primetime program in the U.S.?  Give up?  It's Raw, the World Wrestling Entertainment's show on the USA Network.  Raw had its 1,000th episode this week--the show reaches 600 million homes worldwide.

- Quote of the week:  "In the left-hand corner of each page of the U.S. itinerary was the legal age for sexual intercourse in that particular state," John Taylor, bassist for Duran Duran, revealing how the band kept current on the age of consent during their U.S. tours.  Taylor has written an autobiography on his time with the band.

- Perhaps we should file this in the "duh" category.  In Sweden, a recent study of 4,100 people found that those who never turn off their smartphones and computers are prone to sleep disorders, depression, and mental illness.

- A South Carolina funeral home is opening a Starbucks in its lobby.  The baristas will wear Starbucks uniforms as they sell lattes to mourners.  Hopefully the home will have a rule preventing any beverages in proximity to an open casket displaying the deceased.

- What impact will the Olympics have on London?  Tourists are expected to spend $3 billion during the event and the London Organizing Committee says the Games are already spurring the redevelopment of East London where 11,000 new homes and 8,000 jobs are expected.  A study by Lloyds TSB estimated that hosting the Games could add $24 billion to the U.K.'s gross domestic product.

- This may have been the most telling fallout from yesterday's Google Fiber announcement--a former ad agency colleague in San Francisco posted on Facebook, about Google's roll-out plans, that he "wishes he lived in Kansas City."  The company's first-in-the-nation Internet services are coming to select neighborhoods in Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO, with the company urging those interested to register and rally their neighbors into "fiberhoods"--areas of town where the network will be deployed based upon interest.

- Tampa is readying itself for this year's Republican National Convention and one group that is rallying in preparation are strip clubs.  Tampa's club owners have heard that revenue pours in during convention time and that other cities, who have hosted political conventions, claim the Republicans spend more in these venues than Democrats.  The city has a dubious unofficial designation as the "strip club capital of the U.S."  (Source:  New York Times)

- A recent Gallup poll notes that 44% of Americans say they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in churches or organized religion.  That's a new low in our country and marks a long decline form the 1970s, when confidence in organized religion was as high as 68%.

- And, finally, here's yet one more statistic that reinforces the growing dominance of women in U.S. culture--this year's Olympic team will have more female athletes competing than male athletes.  In a first for the U.S. Olympic effort, this year's team will have 269 women and 261 men.  It's too bad they all have to wear those dorky berets designed by Ralph Lauren.

Have a great weekend, campers!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The internet for young and old

There's a new television commercial running for State Farm Insurance which plays off the phenomenon that some believe that everything which appears on the internet is true.  And, there was a recent blog post, authored by a recent college graduate, who opined that all social media managers should be under the age of 25 as it is this group who truly understands this relatively new form of communication.

Now, on first glance, one might react and ask "what do these two things have in common?"  The answer is, "a lot."  Both are misguided points of view.  And, they are points of view which appear to originate from two opposite ends of the audience spectrum.

Let's first break down the comments of the 20-something about social media.  As you would expect, this writer, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, was skewered in the comments section of her post.  One response, which I particularly liked, was by a reader who suggested that advancements in technology are happening so rapidly that using this logic means the writer would have a career life of, oh, say five years or so.  Others happily piled on, and not all of the respondents were baby boomers like me who may have simply taken offense at this young whipper-snapper's point-of-view.  No, the respondents used logic and facts to explain why this editorial opinion was rather absurd.  As I read the responses, and re-read the post, I wondered "How many young people, starting out in business, actually agree with this writer but understand the career suicide that a voiced or written opinion like this would cause?"

The myth that all things on the internet are true is most frequently represented by e-mail missives I receive from an older family member.  The most recent group e-mail contained a column written by a conservative "journalist" and credited to have appeared in the Wall Street Journal.  I had the time so I did some quick checking--using the internet, of course--on this writer and his published work, and discovered the piece in question first appeared in 2010, on his blog.  It did not appear in the Wall Street Journal or any other mainstream publication or website.

My point in all this is that users of digital communications have a wonderful tool at their fingertips but one that can be mis-used so, so easily.

We know that the vast majority of information appearing on the internet has not gone through a copy desk or editing desk.  Suggesting then that the internet is the highway for all things factual and true is horribly misguided.  Likewise, a belief that only young folks "understand" social media or any other form of digital communications is bent as it is the older demographic who is most quickly adopting sharing outlets like Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr.

As marketers, it is our job to understand consumer behavior in this vast new digital world.  It's easy to use one's personal bias as the basis for a point-of-view; it's harder to dig, find facts, and utilize real consumer insights to tap into the true, targeted potential of what digital has to offer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sadness, as once again the world proves to be a dangerous place

I've always had a love affair with movies and the very act of going to the movies.  When I was young, the movie theater was the place where we kids could go to see the latest from Disney, or perhaps a historical movie that counted as a school field trip.  Later, the theater was the place to take a date or to see the latest blockbuster during the summer or over the winter holidays.

As a parent, the theater became the place where I could take my children to re-live the wonders of Disney or to introduce them to the superheroes of my youth.  It also was a safe haven--a place where we could drop off the kids during their teen years and pick them up a couple of hours later.

Today, that very act of going to the movies will never be the same.  A gunman in Colorado has taken human lives, injured dozens, and laid waste to the idea that the movie theater is a place where we go to get away and suspend normalcy for two plus hours.

We'll all listen to the reasons why in the days to come and we'll soon be hearing the precautions which movie chains will take to protect their patrons.  That's all well and good but the feeling of wonder and anticipation at the theater is now joined with "I wonder who's sitting in this place with me?"

Once again, the world has proven to be a sad, and dangerous, place.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

2012 Emmy nominations

The nominations for this year's Emmy Awards have been announced and Timothy Olyphant and Justified are noticeably absent.

Neither Olyphant, in his best season yet, or his show made the cut among the nominations for Best Actor and Best Drama.  That's a shame as Justified (FX) was truly outstanding in its third season.

Not surprisingly, Mad Men (AMC) again led the way with nominations for Best Drama, Jon Hamm as Best Actor, Jared Harris as Best Supporting Actor, and Christina Hendricks as Best Supporting Actress.  Thankfully, voters also recognized Homeland (SHO) with nominations for Best Drama, Best Actress (Claire Danes) and Best Actor (Damien Lewis.)

The list of nominees looks more like an Oscars list than an Emmys list, though, as Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Jessica Lange, Emma Thompson and Kathy Bates all earned nominations for their work on the small screen.

Costner and Paxton received nominations for Hatfields & McCoys, the ratings blockbuster for The History Channel.  Kidman and Owen were nominated for their roles in HBO's Hemingway & Gelhorn.

The recent trend of paid cable networks gaining more and more nominations continued in 2012--HBO received 81 nominations which was far in front of second place CBS' 60 nominations.  HBO shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, along with Veep, pushed the network into the leader for overall nominations.

Were there other big misses, in addition to Justified?  I was surprised that The Good Wife (CBS) did not get a Best Drama nomination.  The show's Julianna Margulies did get a nomination for Best Actress, which she won last year, and former winner Archie Panjabi was again nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Another miss in the Best Drama category was the lack of nomination for Dexter.

Modern Family (ABC) and 30 Rock (NBC) were the most nominated comedies, as has been the case for the past two years.

The Emmys will be broadcast on ABC on September 23.

(Source:  New York Times, Los Angeles Times)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to build a successful career in marketing communications

The following is a reprint of a guest blog post, from me, which appeared last week on the website of the Kansas City chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.


I was a bright-eyed, headstrong journalism school graduate when I drove to central Kansas to interview for a sports editor position at a small newspaper many moons ago.  It had been my dream to cover sports and the prospect of an entry-level job, on a small newspaper, was simply the beginning of a career that would end up at Sports Illustrated or The Sporting News—or so I thought.
I was offered the job on the spot, accepted immediately, and then just as quickly had second thoughts as I drove three hours back to Kansas City.  I’m not sure what exactly caused my hesitance, but looking back, the decision to renege on my commitment was the first step on a fulfilling journey which has offered me stops along every discipline that marketing communications has to offer. 
My advice, when asked by those entering or new to our profession, is to encourage young professionals to find a company or opportunity where they can experience a wide swath of communications responsibilities.  The ability to one day work on a news release and the next to tackle a web assignment, not only exposes you to different tactics, but also helps one understand the importance of strategic message integration and linkage across communications tools.
My first job was with a publishing company that provided me exposure to news writing, print advertising copywriting and layout, and advertising sales.  Later, during my advertising agency days, I was on the management team of a small shop that integrated traditional advertising with public relations as well as event marketing.
Donna Schwartze, KC/IABC’s VP of Finance, told me a story of her early career when she worked at Six Flags/St. Louis in the marketing department.  The staff was small allowing Donna the chance to do a bit of everything and, along the way, determine that public relations was what she liked most.  The opportunity to sample various disciplines also gave Donna important experience across all marketing communications, now serving her well as the owner of her own business who can provide most any marketing service for her clients.
Working across various communications disciplines isn’t just confined, though, to small companies and/or departments.  While at Sprint, I utilized the size of the company to craft a career path which included advertising, digital communications, corporate communications, sponsorship and entertainment marketing, direct marketing, and retail communications.
My advice to you is to be open to the possibilities of jobs that provide a wide range of responsibility.  Make sure that you are making it clear that you want to help out across various areas of marketing communications.  Sample the possibilities.  Who knows?  Maybe your aspiration will change, like mine, and a whole new world of opportunity will greet you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The connectivity dilemma

Two recent data points are sobering if you're an American worker.

The first is a July 2 article on which confirmed one thing we know--U.S. citizens work a lot and are always connected.  A study by Good Technology logged the number of phone calls, e-mails and business texts you log in "after hours"--the number is 365 hours worth of "overtime."  Most of the 1,000 participants indicated that they do this "after hours" checking from the dinner table, while on vacation, and, yes, while in bed.

The Good Technology study also found that the average American starts checking e-mail at 7:09 a.m. and that 69% of us won't go to sleep without checking work e-mail.  The widespread adoption of smartphones is cited as a key culprit in ensuring that we're always connected.

The other piece of data from Inc. magazine, which again likely isn't a surprise, is the amount of time Americans take for vacation compared to their brethren in Europe and elsewhere.  U.S. workers take, on average, 12 vacation days a year which radically trails the 30 taken in Brazil or the 28 in Germany.  In the United Kingdom, workers take an average of 25 days per year while those in Norway take 21 and in India, 20.  Who trails the U.S.?  Only Japan lags us--workers there take an average of five vacation days per year.

In the U.S., the average number of vacation days which go unused each year is two.  What are the reasons for not taking all vacation days?  The most common reason cited is "I can't afford a vacation," followed by:
- "Work is my life."
- "I have trouble scheduling far enough in advance."
- "I can get paid for my unused vacation days."
- "Taking time off may be perceived negatively at work."

This depressing, yet not unexpected, information makes me wonder if we aren't setting ourselves up for a labor issue in this country as workers burn out from never being able to disconnect from work.  It's enough to make me want to take a vacation!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday afternoon rambling

- Mad Men, Game of Thrones and The Killing have finished their seasons but a fitting replacement is making Sunday nights appointment viewing again.  The Newsroom (HBO), the creation of Arron Sorkin, offers up the staccato dialogue and smart storylines we've come to expect from Sorkin (see West Wing.)  Jeff Daniels plays the acerbic Will McAvoy and leads a strong ensemble cast.  You can catch the third episode tonight.

- Only a retail chain catering to those buying for youngsters could get away with the brand Buy Buy Baby.  If you've not shopped in BBB, it's worth a visit if only to question how you ever survived without the multitude of gear and supplies for infants and toddlers.

- Speaking of interesting brand names, what's with Boston Market?  This purveyor of comfort food doesn't exactly conjur up images, for me, of good ol' Boston.

- I shake my head at those Kansas Citians who grouse about what the city is spending to welcome those coming to town for Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game.  Not only will All-Star week provide approximately $60 million in economic impact for the region, it's offering up immeasurable value in the visibility for Kansas City and the metropolitan area.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A simpler time

The recent passing of Andy Griffith has had me pondering the desire for "simpler times," and those thoughts made me recall my fondness for the Independence Day celebrations of my childhood.  No, there were no fireworks bans back in the day and the thought of spending that summer holiday inside, no matter the temperature, was simply unthinkable.

Simpler times, indeed...I miss them.

The following post is reprinted from the July 4, 2009 edition of this blog.  

My fondest memories of Independence Day were the family get-togethers which would always happen on this holiday.  My grandmother and grandfather and uncle and aunt all lived within five houses of us out in “the country.” (“Country,” in this case, indicated the larger lots which we had while all around us were farms of significant size.)

My grandfather owned the ice plant in town—the place where townspeople would come during the time when “ice box” was the kitchen appliance which evolved into today’s refrigerator. He also sold cold beverages and summer fruits out of this huge, walk-in cooler which held the coldest bottled soda in town.

Each year, grandpa would come to our family gathering after working a long day at the plant on what typically would be his busiest day of the year. When he arrived he usually had two ice-cold, sweet-as-sugar watermelons under each arm, grinning and chuckling as he walked up to our outdoor barbecue and picnic.

One year, my dad and uncle ordered a huge box of fireworks from a mail-order place. This was before ordering online and even toll-free numbers. Dad and my uncle mailed in their form for a huge box of sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and fountains. We had all waited in anticipation, knowing that this would be the best fireworks display ever. Eventually, the two brothers were setting off fireworks simultaneously--they had not calculated on the volume of fireworks that they would receive coupled with the short attention spans of all of us.

Time seemed so simple then. A sweet watermelon, my grandmother's fried chicken, a warm summer night and fireworks which were allowed in backyards. I miss those times and relish those memories.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's "Independence Day"

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following entry is reprinted from this blog on July 4, 2010.

I have an axe to grind, America. Can we please stop commonly referring to this week's holiday as the "Fourth of July," and refer to it as "Independence Day?"

For a quick history lesson, on July 2 (yes, 2nd), 1776, the American colonies legally separated from Great Britain. This was accomplished when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the resolution offered up by one of our Founding Fathers, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for our country's independence, Congress then focused on the Declaration of Independence. This statement explained the decision of our forefathers and had been prepared by a committee of five men with Thomas Jefferson as the principal author. The wording was debated and reviewed by Congress and ultimately approved on July 4.

A day earlier, John Adams, another one of the five authors, wrote this to his wife Abigail:

- The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

The suggestion that Adams offered up, in this letter to his wife, turned out to be two days off from the ultimate date used for celebrating America's independence. While resolution of our independence occurred on July 2, the date on the Declaration of Independence is July 4.

To further complicate our history's calendar, the signing of the Declaration of Independence did NOT occur on July 4--rather, it was signed on August 2, 1776. So enduring was the myth that signing occurred on July 4 that both Jefferson and Adams, late in their lives, recalled the signing occurring on that date. And, as we all know, both men died on that very day--July 4, 1826--our country's 50th anniversary.

So, when observing our country's independence this weekend, and carrying out Adams' vision of how we should celebrate, let's do just that--honor our "independence"...not the "4th of July."