May 4, 2005 by Colin
Sprinting to the bathroom at a local Tex-Mex restaurant the other day, my five year-old was stopped cold in his tracks (despite a rather urgent calling) by poor design.
Faced with two doors, much like an abbreviated Let’s Make A Deal, he couldn’t decide which path to take. Cowboy or Cowgirl, the signs read. To me the choice was clear – then again, I can read. I understood the words and the context of the designer’s wry humour.
In their quest to develop themed spaces, are designers and developers overlooking utility and practicality as they pursue a vision or a unique experience? Frank Bruni examined some of the complications that are arising as increasingly self-important restaurants in NYC, ummm, “articulate their vision” in the restroom.
“At WD-50 … the doors to the restrooms are so well disguised as sections of a bamboo wall that the restaurant has been forced to post an only marginally helpful hint. “Push the wood,” says a sign nearby.
“We wanted to engage people throughout their time here,” said Wylie Dufresne, the chef and an owner of WD-50. “It’s all meant to be fun.”
Before the sign went up, Mr. Dufresne said, diners looking for the restrooms often went astray. “People were opening up the door to the liquor closet, people were opening up the door to the linen closet,” he said. Something had to give.”(NYT)
To me, the need to post an explanatory sign means the designer has failed at the simple task of moving customers around the space. The more time I spend looking for the john, the less time I have to buy another high margin drink. Even worse – the more time it takes the server to cycle my table.
A hasty note taped to a bamboo wall is the physical expression of the “L for Loser” hand signal. That note should be a scarlet letter to be featured prominently in the designer’s book alongside their expensive pre-opening photos of the restaurant.
More on wierd bathrooms.
May 4, 2005 by Colin
What does it say about the design of your comprehensive web portal if you feel the need to develop a separate tutorial site to help your employees use it?
That’s the situation with the Government of Canada portal (canada.gc.ca). The single entry point for information on Government of Canada programs and services, it is touted in every advertising campaign launched by the Government.
Apparently, some employees find the portal difficult to use. The solution? Explore the Canada Site, a separate web site featuring “courses” on using the Canada portal. The ultimate goal?
“In only 10-15 minutes for each tutorial, you will learn techniques and shortcuts that may shave hours off the time you currently spend looking for government information.
Of course, let’s view this in context: for the fifth year in a row, Canada ranked first in Accenture’s review of e-government initiatives.
May 3, 2005 by Colin
Wouldn’t be great if you some formal judicial process existed to prosecute (or even just persecute) lazy writers dependent upon tired cliches and poorly constructed analogies?
The Minor Fall, The Major Lift has taken a shot at what such an indictment would look like:
1. The defendant STRAWBERRY SAROYAN is a writer or “journalist” who was contracted to provide THE LOS ANGELES TIMES with a standard fame-limbo-resurrection profile of the screenwriter Shane Black.
2. On or about May 1, 2005, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES did knowingly publish said piece, under the execrable and obvious headline “The end of a fade for Black.” …
5. Defendant SAROYAN, in paragraph eight, violated the rule against mixing metaphors, with the following: “…Black seemed to be grasping at straws, throwing out pieces of the puzzle but unsure of how they fit together.”
The entire entry is worth a read.
May 3, 2005 by Colin
Not Edward von Kloberg III, who represented the unsavory, the unwelcome and the unelected in Washington’s salons and corridors of power.
von Kloberg told South America Report in 1999:
“I’m an old-fashioned lobbyist,” [said] von Kloberg, 57. “I give a lot of dinners and lunches.”
He’s also a name-dropper, and enjoys distributing photocopies of articles that highlight his company’s activities in red ink. Praised … as “a master of diplomatic mixing and mingling,” von Kloberg has acquired a reputation for representing dictators and despots like Suriname’s Desi Bouterse, Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko – even Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
Asked if he’s ever ashamed to represent men most normal people would view as tyrants, von Kloberg retorts: “Shame is for sissies.” He adds quickly that “my job is to give my clients the best advice: the truth. If they’re a basket-case, they need to know it. I never hide the warts, but show them what they can do better.”
The WPost ran von Kloberg’s obituary today. Nothing truly outrageous – no blowdarts, car bombs or poisoned sherry – he committed suicide by jumping from a castle in Rome.
May 2, 2005 by Colin
Although I don’t agree with her backhanded generalization about Americans and lists (after all, what the hell did Martin Luther post? A list. A loooong list), some of the reasons are amusing and challenging:
7. In music, the individual iPod playlist has become a form of musical expression in itself. The new version is iPod shuffle, which takes your playlist and randomizes the sequence. This has a modern, biodynamic flair, like the endless possible recombinations of the genetic code. What is the slogan for the iPod shuffle? “Life is random.” This pretends to subvert the traditional, hierarchical list—but a list it remains!
11. The indented paragraph begins to have a dated look. Magazine editors now “package” stories, breaking up scary blocks of text with sidebars, boxes, and snappy design elements intended to make print look more like TV. I can always tell the ages of my email correspondents by whether or not they use paragraphs. Punctuation, upper case, salutations—that’s for people who don’t have a life. Imagine Virginia Woolf ending a letter to Vanessa Bell with an emoticon…Dear Vanessa, I fear one of my headaches is coming on, so I must be brief. Do tell me what you think of my recent scribblings. Virginia.”
And while you’re feeling all literary …. try listening to the Indigo Girls’ Virginia Woolf.
May 2, 2005 by Colin
Michael Morrissey, an eighth grader in Clovis, New Mexico, prompted a school-wide lockdown after the police were called to investigate a suspicious object.
Turns out someone had reported his
“30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos. It was wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.”
Ironically, the burrito was part of Morrissey’s extra credit assignment to develop a product and create relevant commercial advertising.
“… We had to make up a product and it could have been anything. I made up a restaurant that specialized in oddly large burritos,” Morrissey said.(WFTV)
April 29, 2005 by Colin
Your ad is turned down. The advertising department has decided that it pushes the boundaries of the community’s standards. Matador Records dealt with one mag:
“Finally, we’d like to offer a shout-out (ie. “fuck you”) to the cowards and thought-cops at the Ad Dept at Paste Magazine who have deemed our proposed advertisement for ‘Face The Truth’ to be beyond the bounds of “good taste.” God forbid that anything might challenge the sensibilities of Paste’s Yep Roc-loving, Starbucks-guzzling, Wes Anderson-worshipping readership. Seriously, if there’s anything we or SM have done that is a poor fit with Paste’s Ad Dept’s narrow worldview, that is the highest compliment we’ve been paid since the last time Spin refused to run one of our ads.”
Thanks to stereogum for the pointer.
April 29, 2005 by Colin
Some thoughts about radio, the forgotten medium:
In Washington, the latest ratings period was a shocker for talk radio:
WMAL lost nearly 30 percent of its core audience (adults ages 25-54) from the preceding three months, when the election was the dominant story. What had been an up-and-coming station a few months ago (WMAL ranked 11th among all stations during the fall) is now a middle-of-the-pack afterthought (it tied for 16th in the latest survey).(WPost)
Thought for PR: Unless you can nail down a targeted radio program with a clear (and large) audience interested in your policy/products/issue (like the Car Guys), is the effort worth it?
Over in the U.K., radio sales (and profits) are beginning to drop.
“The consensus is that radio has lost the sexy image it gained with the trebling of its take of the advertising cake between 1993 and 2000. Much of this can be attributed to the rebirth of the internet as the new growth medium … ‘Radio has got into a bit of a pickle,’ admits Julian Carter, group sales director of GMG Radio. ‘It lacks the visual identity of TV, press and outdoor, so it has to be sold harder to advertisers. Consolidation has seen the industry take its eye off the ball; we have become more reactive in our selling.’”(Marketing, sub. req.)
Still in the U.K., new technology promises to measure exposure to numerous forms of media – not just radio or television.
“The introduction of electronic meter audience measurement in 2007 should boost confidence, and will enable the calibration of listening through digital stations on platforms other than radio. Carter believes this new media area presents radio with a big opportunity for advertising growth.” (Marketing, again)
Thought for advertisers: Digital tagging will allow advertisers to better track impressions across a range of media – outdoor, transit, in-store, muzak – which force planners to radically rethink their media strategies: what if in-store music channels prove to be the ubiquitous medium (especially if a company like Clear Channel strikes a bargain with Simon or another massive mall developer)?
In another medium: Washington television is getting ready for the Nielsen people meters, which will begin to roll out in the District in May:
“You need to get people aware of you every single day,” Bill Lord, WJLA vice president of news, said about the new ratings system. “Their behavior is going to be recorded,” he said, so the ratings won’t be based on what a viewer thought he watched last week via a diary.
“There will be more pressure to consistently be good,” said Darryll Green, WUSA president and general manager. “We have to be good every single day.”(WPost)
Thought for news consumers: It means a radical revision in current ratings strategy. Ratings will be measured more than four times a year. No more “Shark Roams Local Forest” teasers during the 8:17 ad block. No more periodic interest in consumer issues and retirement homes.
Unfortunately, local TV isn’t chasing an integrated approach to news delivery as fiercely as cable news networks. If research demonstrates that news consumers are pulling information from a number of broadcast, print, online and personal sources, why isn’t local TV trying to build better links with their audience – through channels they prefer?
Or will new ventures like ourmedia be eating their lunch as well?
But take heart, because we are all being freed from the tyranny of adult contemporary radio programming. Jack (a Canadian idea) is propagating like furbies in markets across the United States. What’s Jack? Take a/c, add some Ska, 80s Britpop, 70s country rock and Grunge rock every once and a while – and continually express disdain for programmed music.
April 28, 2005 by Colin
The CBC, in the course of a budget exercise, recently decided that there wasn’t a sound business case for keeping their in-house staff of publicists. Instead, they are going to outsource to standalone PR firms.
Now, the CBC is partially funded by the government. It produces made-in-Canada programming that has to compete with American programming broadcast on our other networks. And it has to raise profile for this programming in dozens of tiny markets with a limited quantity of MSM.
John Doyle, the television columnist for the Globe and Mail, asks: “Why is CBC shooting the messengers?”
“… it’s called an “asymmetrical outsourcing model,” a phrase that is easily the outstanding bafflegab of the year so far. Essentially, it means that in the key, concentrated markets for Canadian TV, freelance publicists will be hired to promote CBC programs.
No offence to freelance publicists, who contact me daily, but CBC managers must be out of their minds. This is how it sometimes works with the freelance publicists and me. Long before the show airs, I’m pestered with calls and e-mails about the show, which I haven’t seen. Before a tape or DVD is provided, I’m asked to commit to writing about it …
The freelance publicist, if reachable, can’t answer, must make numerous calls and gets back to me long after my deadline. Sometimes they can’t be reached at all, having long since moved on to promoting some other project. The result is that somebody who worked on the program I review gets busy composing the angry letter about his or her efforts receiving no mention.
Among the now-redundant CBC staff are people I’ve called at home, late at night or on weekends, when a news story needs to be written — by me or another reporter — and in some cases I’ve often spoken to their spouses and children. They never complain because they’re helping to get attention for Canadian-made television. They are an essential part of the fabric of a homegrown TV industry. They’re the messengers. Getting rid of the messengers, at a time when the CBC and Canadian-made TV need all the help they can get, is worthy of an Air Farce skit.”
(Globe and Mail, sub. req. )
April 28, 2005 by Colin
Medical Meetings’ Capsules has some comments about doctors allowing pharmaceutical companies to peddle research papers under their names.
Hits a little close to home for PR folks, doesn’t it?
April 28, 2005 by Colin
Well, I’ve always said minor league baseball has the best promotions. Take a look at what the Lake Elsinore Storm thought up for their promotional schedule on April 21:
“TAKE THAT MICHAEL: During its homestand last weekend, Lake Elsinore hosted a “King of Pop-Beat It Night,” at The Diamond, poking fun at recording mega star Michael Jackson. Fans that passed through the gates on Friday night received a medical mask and white glove. The Storm’s mascot, Thunder, was dressed in classic Michael Jackson attire, and fans could visit the “Neverland Ranch” petting zoo, set up in the concourse.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The idea for the night started to form some time in February during one of our midweek brainstorming sessions. With Jackson’s trial happening so close to us we felt that we had to do something to recognize (don’t you mean capitalize -ed) the situation.” — Lake Elsinore Director of Media and Public Relations, Casey Hauan.” (MLB.COM)
April 26, 2005 by Colin
Now, in the past I’ve written some internal communications materials related to restructuring, and the “Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Adobe’s ‘FAQ’ Regarding Their Acquisition of Macromedia” from Daring Fireball is accurate – and funny.
Q: What happens to the Macromedia brand?
Adobe A: Adobe recognizes the strong equity of the Macromedia brand. That said, it makes great business sense for a company the size of the combined company to align behind a single corporate brand. Over time, Macromedia products will transition to the Adobe brand. Adobe expects to keep and continue investing in key Macromedia product brands.
Translated A: The Macromedia brand is dead.
Thanks to Doc for the pointer.
April 22, 2005 by Colin
…At 122 kilometers (76 miles) in length by 28 kilometers (17 miles) in width, the bullying iceberg charged with great momentum towards the ice tongue, threatening to shatter the floating extension of the Davis Glacier …
In the weeks that followed, the iceberg rotated free, until finally it began to drift past the ice tongue into the Ross Sea. Just when it looked as if Drygalski might escape a collision, B-15A delivered a glancing blow, knocking the end of the ice tongue loose …
April 21, 2005 by Colin
Judging from this photo, Prime Minister Blair has hit the campaign trail touting a solid “for war, not Bach” agenda. Reminds me of the song selection on the President’s ipod. I wonder what’s on the PM’s ipod? Maybe some Billy Bragg?
“… One leap forward, two leaps back,
Will politics get me the sack?
Here comes the future and you can’t run from it
If you’ve got a blacklist I want to be on it … (Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards)
April 20, 2005 by Colin
From a reliable source:
CNN’s Vatican bureau chief, Alessio Vinci, holding up a copy of L’Osservatore Romano (the official Vatican newspaper) referred to the front-page picture of new pope Benedict XVI waving from the balcony at St. Peter’s as “the money shot.”
Of course, the coup would be much more impressive if L’Osservatore wasn’t one of several in-house Vatican organs.