August 25, 2006 by Colin
It’s a Mary moment: that point in the day when slow drudging work stares you in the face. The sort of task that looms on the horizon like an immovable monolith, blocking all sight of the weekend.
What to do? Knuckle down, chop through the work like a machete through unappreciated kudzu? Dig through the draft folder for something half-baked to start off with? Or might you actually look for a thread of inspiration, a spark of insight – you know, actually draw upon those creative skills that got you behind that keyboard in the first place?
Is there a touch of Mary in you? (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!)
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and – SNAP – the job’s a game.”
Or are you a Murray? More particularly, John Winger – Bill Murray’s character in Stripes? Are you going to shuffle through life, sucking it all up and taking each body blow – to your self-esteem, to your personal life, to your health – in a continuing spiral of negative introspection?
” … I’ve had an interesting morning. In the last two hours I’ve lost my job, my apartment, my car, and my girlfriend. …”
The key difference between a Mary and a Murray? The inspiration to reach for your vivid imagination and your inherent sense of fun when faced with a challenge. It’s much better to dance with penguins and fly over rooftops than be chased through Czechoslovakia in a coverted mobile home, isn’t it?
[tags] Bill Murray, Mary Poppins, Motivation, Stress [/tags]
(Two notes: I know that, in real life, Bill Murray is actually more of a Mary than a Murray. And, for a few minutes, I considered Murray Slaughter from the Mary Tyler Moore show as my ironic pop culture reference for the less energetic character. That seemed a little too obscure for most blog readers.)
August 24, 2006 by Colin
There’s self-promotion, then there’s desperation:
” … But there are smarter ways to get noticed, is my point. Ways that better use your energy and resources (and that preserve your sticker collection) — craft a great, funny query letter and send it to the young agents at all the reputable agencies, enter screenwriting contests, search Craiglist for screenwriting groups and network from there, make a no budget short and put it on YouTube, start a blog. There are lots of good ideas… and then there’s a fuchsia notecard in a dark corridor in the car wash in Eagle Rock. …”
Read the whole post, if only for the use of the word “fellatiotic.”
Thanks for the pointer, Holly.
August 24, 2006 by Colin
Michael Bierut reviews (a little late) what seems to be quite a fantastic book aboutÂ the standard-setting art director at Doyle Dane Bernbach: Helmut Krone. The book.Â Graphic Design and ArtÂ Direction (concept, formÂ and meaning) afterÂ advertising’s CreativeÂ Revolution.
” … It leaves me with no doubt that something I once suspected is, in fact, true: Helmut Krone is God.I sense that bit of hero worship would be scoffed at by many of those who knew Krone personally, which I never did. Another admirer, George Lois, once called him “a complex kraut” with a “dour, Buster Keaton face,” “a fidgety perfectionist who worked with deadly Teutonic patience.” And indeed, some of his simplest, clearest, most effortless-looking work was the product of brutal sweat. …” (Design Observer)
Included alongside Bierut’s piece are several memorable and still arresting examples of Krone’s work. (and more can be found at the Center for Interactive Advertising’s Volkswagen Gallery)
(For a discussion ofÂ of the relativeÂ weaknesses to be found in the history of graphic design and advertising, refer to David Crowley’s piece in Eye 57, which briefly mentions the Krone book: aÂ “… hagiographic account… In 257 pages of densely set text, Challis presents a forensic account of the art direction of every ad in Kroneâs portfolio to demonstrate his ârule-breakingâ genius.”)
August 24, 2006 by Colin
” … Jim Cabage is a Tennessee trucker who has danced at more than 450 Jazzercise locations in forty-seven states and two provinces.”
-Â found in Dave Feschuk’s “Every Highway: Riding shotgun in the big rigs”
August 22, 2006 by Colin
As handwringing and anxiety continues in the traditional media industries, an apt quote from the CBC’s Max Ferguson:
“… I see the CBC as a sort of domestic British Empire. Both were created and developed by a rather insular breed, exhibiting alternate flashes of brilliance and idiocy. At this moment there are many critics who would extend the analogy even further, gloomily predicting that the sun is already setting on the CBC also, and that, beset from without and within, its complete disintegration is close at hand. Certainly, to all those who help guide the CBC ship of state, the prospect of turbulent and dangerous waters ahead must occasion moments of doubt, confusion, and uncertainty. …” (Page 166, And Now … Here’s Max, published 1970)
For your listening pleasure: Ferguson’s Rawhide character completely messes with all sides of the debate on the flouridation of water, from 1961. (audio)
[tags] CBC [/tags]
August 21, 2006 by Colin
I don’t like the new Tea Partay video for its genius as a work of viral marketing (over 700,000 downloads on YouTube). I don’t like it because it mimicks the format and rhythmic structure of hiphop videos. I like it because I’m an unashamed preppy.
I don’t mean I jumped on the casual Friday bandwagon in 2000 and never got off. I’m not talking about stain-resistant casual chinos. I’m talking four pairs of penny loafers. With six resoles among them.
Twenty years ago this month, I was strolling the aisles of Halperns, the small chain responsible for forcing young men and women across Canada into grey polyester-blend slacks, white shirts blue blazers with brass buttons and plaid ties. The outfitter for Canada’s boarding schools. (long story there)
Wearing dress pants, button-downs, golf shirts and dress shoes to school was not a stretch. I had spent the previous years posing around downtown Ottawa as a mod. Making the transition to boarding school was not a great conceptual leap – even if it meant a radical shift in the implied socio-economic values of my new clique’s uniform.
In fact, the popularity of “transition” icons like Rick Astley (YouTube), the Style Council and Sloan Rangers meant preppy style was culturally acceptable outside of Princeton, Greenwich and New Haven.
Preppy style had been mocked by the Official Preppy Handbook and then, ironically, taken off in popularity. By the time I arrived at the party, Ralph had been throwing up stores as fast as he could. Youth brands like Club Monaco were drafting behind with lines of white cotton shirts, similar styles of chinos and v-necks. (And the “CM” logo meant they were already monogrammed!
Twenty years later, I still head towards the chinos, pinpoint cotton and plaid when shopping. Argyle is my friend – in moderation. And real men don’t do flourescents or reflective material – unless its on boating clothes.
By the way – I’ve never played golf, and I don’t belong to a country club. And while I may never have played a lawyer on TV, I do admire the work of 300 pound Samoan attorneys.
August 21, 2006 by Colin
More than a decade ago, archivists and historians fretted about what would happen to the tell-tale details of everyday life – the scribblings in the margins of books, doodles in journals, folded and unfolded personal telegrams – that help social scientists reconstruct how our parents, grandparents and forebears led their lives.
It was already obvious that handwritten notes had been abandoned in favour of the temporary record produced by e-mail. Even worse, successive generations of software and computing technology meant that electronic records were being lost to planned mechanical obsolescence, notÂ good old mould, water rot or poor filing.
Today, the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way thanks to cheap plentiful memory. A gig of memory (and rising!) in Gmail means you don’t delete your messages as quickly. Online sharing sites, like Flickr and YouTube, mean more data is being added to the public library every day (whether that data is valuable or not is subjective).
Terence Dick, writing in This Magazine, notes that YouTube may have some historical value (providing they don’t figure out a way to monetize the site and get bought out) :
” … The siteâs success lies in how easy it is to make the most minor of experiences and events available to all. That convenience, however, threatens to change You Tube from an idealistic adventure in media democracy (âBroadcast yourselfâ is its current motto) to something much more utilitarian. … You Tube has become a message board for its users, home to in-jokes, personal letters and individual exchanges. Instead of minor masterpieces, videos are reduced to the level of Post-it notes.
… And while this might not make for compelling television, it makes for incredible anthropology. Nowhere else could you access such intimate moments in the everyday lives of strangers. Instead of their current catchphrase, the powers-that-be at You Tube might consider changing their motto to âExcavate yourselfâ and encourage their users to share something more authentic (and original) than their lip-synching tributes to pop stars.”Â
Still – YouTube the anthropological reference should learn from the experience ofÂ the movie Galaxy Quest: if your culture indiscriminately beams out thousands of hours of programming into the ether, you better hope someone out there has a really good TV Guide.
August 18, 2006 by Colin
Hey folks! If the Federal Court of Appeals feels this strongly about members of the bar acting unethically in pursuit of billable hours from the tobacco companies, what in the world must they think of the behaviour of advertising, marketing and public relations firms?
” … Finally, a word must be said about the role of lawyers in this fifty-year history of deceiving smokers, potential smokers, and the American public about the hazards of smoking and second hand smoke, and the addictiveness of nicotine. At every stage, lawyers played an absolutely central role in the creation and perpetuation of the Enterprise and the implementation of its fraudulent schemes.
They devised and coordinated both national and international strategy; they directed scientists as to what research they should and should not undertake; they vetted scientific research papers and reports as well as public relations materials to ensure that the interests of the Enterprise would be protected; they identified âfriendlyâ scientific witnesses, subsidized them with grants from the Center for Tobacco Research and the Center for Indoor Air Research, paid them enormous fees, and often hid the relationship between those witnesses and the industry; and they devised and carried out document destruction policies and took shelter behind baseless assertions of the attorney client privilege.
What a sad and disquieting chapter in the history of an honorable and often courageous profession. …” (Judgement, Page 4 (pg 34 of .pdf))
The judgement discusses initial efforts in 1953 and 1954 to launch a public relations campaign in support of tobacco (around pg. 51 of the .pdf) and just builds speed and volume as it approaches the closing pages.
There is a danger in quoting historical documents out of context: still, they serve to shed light on the environment, the culture and the perceptions of the time:
” … According to a Hill & Knowlton memo dated December 22, 1953, the public relations firm was asked to:
develop suggestions for dealing with the public relations problem confronting the industry as a result of widely publicized assertions by a few medical research men regarding the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.
11. In an internal planning memoranda, Hill & Knowlton assessed their tobacco clients’ problems in the following manner:
There is only one problem — confidence, and how to establish it; public assurance, and how to create it — in a perhaps long interim when scientific doubts must remain. And, most important, how to free millions of Americans from the guilty fear that is going to arise deep in their biological depths — regardless of any pooh-poohing logic — every time they light a cigarette. No resort to mere logic ever cured panic yet, whether on Madison Avenue, Main Street, or in a psychologistâs office. And no mere recitation of arguments pro, or ignoring of arguments con, or careful balancing of the two together, is going to deal with such fear now. That, gentlemen, is the nature of the unexampled challenge to this office.”
There are a further 192 mentions of the term “public relations” in the 1742 page judgement, and none of them are favourable. Our colleagues in marketing and advertising have their weaknesses and failures cited in greater detail.
Our colleagues at H&K, it is plainly documented, pushed their new clients about the legitimacy of their claims and encouraged independent research to support any health or benefit claims. Still, they took on the work. It was a different time, businessmen embodied different values and accepted different social behaviours.
The question for every public relations counsellor and practitioner today, it seems, falls to a fundamental and introspective examination of personal values. How will your work be interpreted through the lens of history?
No matter if you hide behind a fig leaf of a code of ethics or point to a package of professional standards, does your work feel uncomfortable?
(BTW – my apologies to the blogger who originally pointed to the judgement’s remarks about lawyers. I’ve lost my notes, and can’t link back)
August 18, 2006 by Colin
Ouch. Andrew Young’s comments aboutÂ his own experiences with ethnically-owned neighbourhood retail and grocery stores may end up hurting hisÂ erstwhile employers rather than helping them.
Yesterday, he resigned after comments made to the Los Angeles Sentinel provoked reaction from a range of community and ethnic representatives.
” … Explaining his comments about Koreans, Jews and Arabs, Mr. Young said he was referring to the history of retail ownership in the neighborhood where he lives in southwestern Atlanta.
âAlmost everyone who has come into my community has moved in, made money and moved out and moved up,â he said. âThat process is still continuing.â
… âThe only thing I can do,â Mr. Young said last night before he resigned, âis to ask that people judge me about a life of working together with people who are different and bringing people together without violence and without rancor. I would hope that would count for something.â …” (NYT)
Â (BTW – The Sentinel’s website sucks)
Â [tag]Wal-Mart, Astroturf[/tag]
August 18, 2006 by Colin
NPR profiles John Sawatsky, a former investigative journalist and university professor, now on staff at ESPNÂ and charged withÂ teaching sports reporters how to ask difficult questions and produce better interviews.
(But who’s going to teach ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser how to react to criticism?)
ESPN’s interest in Sawatsky was piqued by a piece in AJR, “The Question Man“:
“Savvy sources are on to all of us, spinning back, all heat and no light, precisely because “we’re asking the wrong questions,” he says. Under attack, journalists are conceding defeat to well-oiled propaganda machines without really understanding why they’re losing. In the last decade, media trainers have become such a growth industry, “you can even find them among businessmen in Newfoundland,” Sawatsky says, teaching politicians and executives “how to run circles around journalists.”
“It’s a sophisticated battle for control,” he says. … Sawatsky contends the “message trackers are winning,” thanks to journalists who too often rely on outdated, conventional approaches to interviewing. Sawatsky denounces standard interviewing techniques as “the old methodology,” often characterized as a power struggle between interviewer and subject, as a battle of wills, a game to be won or lost.” (AJR, October 2000)
More observations about the inherent lethargy and lack of imagination exhibited by most interviewers can be found in a 2004 piece from the Ryerson Review of Journalism:
” … The easy question is anathema to Nardwuar the Human Serviette, who interviews bands for MuchMusic’s Going Coastal and has his own radio show in Vancouver. He spends hours preparing for an interview, surfing the Internet, reading music magazines and listening to music. “I’m lucky enough that I have the time, whereas other people could probably create the time but they’re too lazy or too busy doing other things,” Nardwuar says. “I won’t take on an interview unless I think I can do enough research for it.” … “
For an example of Narduar’s outrageous technique, I point you to NarduarÂ vs. Henry Rollins, originally shot in 1998.
Many more observations aboutÂ interview techniques and outcomes can be found at The Media Interview blog.
August 17, 2006 by Colin
- First Impressions Always Stick
- Half Baked Ideas Are Better Than No Ideas
- Big Voices, Small Minds
- Good Ideas, Badly Presented
- Catch Phrases Imply Wisdom
- Intellectual Plagiarism Is Rarely Called Out
- The Ends Justify The Means
- Building An Audience: Political Theory Versus Fashion Commentary
- The SlipStreaming to Notoriety By Commenting Strategy
- Lost Alliances: Disappointment, Disillusionment, Betrayal and Retribution
- Google Juice Bests All Comers
- If I Blog, I Must Podcast
- Pig-Headed Contrarians Stand Out
- Setting Up An Intellectual Straw Man
- Sympathy Drives Traffic
- Go Big Or Go Home
- Flying By the Seat Of Your Pants
- The Sisyphus Corollary: Down Doesn’t Mean Out!
- Another Day, Another Lame-Ass Idea To Float
- Opposition By The MSM Validates Me
- One Comment Is A Fad; Three Trackbacks Is A Trend
- When In Doubt, Join A Blog Network
August 17, 2006 by Colin
What efforts do you make to broaden your awareness ofÂ the world around you? Do you take steps to break out of the rut of reading only public relations and marketing-related publications? Prompted by a discussion on episode 20 of the Inside PR podcast, here is aÂ sampling of the books I’ve read in the past few months (I’m not going to give you personal book reviews, but I am linking to indigo.ca’s listings for the books):
- Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball’s Lunatic Fringe
- Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense
- The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World TradeÂ
- The Big Oyster: New York On The Half Shell
- The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes
- TheÂ Best American Sports Writing 2005Â
I’ll admit to being narrow-minded: there’s not a lot of fiction in that list, is there? In fact, it’s loaded with history and economic history. For more imaginative reading suggestions, try Spineless.
August 13, 2006 by Colin
Hello hearty and faithful subscribers. This is the new format and home for Canuckflack, the blog about public relations, marketing, branding, promotion, retail and related topics. The most convenient feed continues to be at Feedburner : http://feeds.feedburner.com/Canuckflack
Thank you for your patience as I (and you) make the transition to a world with more user apps, boxes with rounded corners and much mellower pastel colours.
August 13, 2006 by Colin
Hey folks. Remember last week when I said Movable Type was one of my top five social media tools?
Well, I’m migrating over to WordPress. The URL will still be www.canuckflack.com, and the most convenient feed is still the one at feedburner: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Canuckflack
I’m going to try to set up redirects for all the other feeds, but please be patient for the next few days as I figure things out.
If you have any problems, don’t hesitate to write to me at email@example.com
August 10, 2006 by Colin
Douglas Fisher, a longtime columnist, observer of Canadian politics and one-time Member of Parliament, spoke to the Hill Times upon his retirement at the age of 86. Included was a cutting observation about the Parliamentary Press Gallery, an organization that lately has attempted to hold the Prime Minister to account for his relative lack of media access:
“…The Parliamentary Press Gallery is a device that was created in order to ration in access and limit the reporting of politics on Parliament Hill in an ordered way. That’s the way I’ve always looked upon the Parliamentary Press Gallery. The gallery as a collective hasn’t any real function journalistically relating to what you might call ‘the profession.’ It’s just a device or an organization that enables the speaker and the government of the day to have a fairly normal and ordered relationship. So it’s not something, it’s not a collective of professional people who are carrying out or living up to any particular professional crude. [credo? sp.] …”