Friday, February 29, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I can’t think of an indie band that’s had such high expectations for its first album as Grand Archives (though I’m not really trying).

When the word got out that Mat Brooke (ex-Band of Horses and -Carissa’s Wierd) had a new group, I get the sense that all the Horses fans started salivating in anticipation of Band of Horses 2.0.

From their bio on Sub-Pop’s website: “At their first show, Grand Archives were bottom band on a mid-week bill. They played five songs. Next time they performed, it was supporting Modest Mouse at Seattle’s historic Paramount Theater.” Yeah, there was a little excitement about these guys.

While Grand Archives do have some qualities in common with BoH (as is their texting shorthand), they are not Horses part deux. Brooke’s new outfit has more of a “summer of love” vibe with the multi-layered vocals and cheery structure. Or at least they do on “Torn Blue Foam Couch” from the just-released debut.

I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. You listen; you decide.

Oh, and while I haven’t made up my mind about this song, I have decided that the track Ben posted a couple days ago from Bon Iver is the most beautiful song I’ve heard in at least a year.

Check it out here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shout Out: RNC Chairman Mike Duncan

Earlier today, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan formally denounced the use of Barack Obama’s full name (which, as you know, includes the frighteningly evil-sounding “Hussein”) in a recent news release from the Tennessee Republican Party.

Said Duncan, "The RNC rejects these kinds of campaign tactics. We believe this election needs to be about the critical issues confronting our nation."

The news release, which also included the now-famous photo of Obama in traditional Somali tribal garb, has since been revised.

Thanks for policing your own, Mr. Duncan.

Nice to see some folks having fun with this development, like this post by AOL Political Machine’s David Knowles, which jokingly posits John SIDNEY McCain is a “one man sleeper cell from Panama.”

And the advertising’s not bad either

Cool campaign (from TDA in Boulder) for Bot Beverages, which makes flavored water for kids. The work features the adventures and mishaps of three characters (corresponding to Bot’s three flavors).

The TV is simple yet mesmerizing to watch, in part because the characters speak a playful gibberish language, not unlike that of the Teletubbies. The print is similarly simple and fun. All finish with the tagline “Bot is good.”

The best part might be the website, which allows for plenty of simple but surprisingly fun interaction. You can drag and drop the characters, click on the clouds to make it rain (and bring out a rainbow), and send a character airborne by lifting and dropping his corresponding bottle. On deeper pages, the characters appear on a header bar where you can drag them and even send them sliding across the “ground” as if they were on ice.

The web copy is surprisingly direct and simple as well, even though it’s obviously written for the parent.

I’d love to know how this campaign is working for them. Some of the comments I’ve seen online complain that there’s not enough information to know what it is and who its for. I guess I feel that when the creative is this interesting and engaging, the better part of the job is done.

More and more, advertising doesn’t need to provide all the answers. With the ubiquity of the web, advertising can be effective even if it just motivates someone to search, to learn and (most rewardingly) to discover.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The world according to Americans

I had to share this drawing because I think it's—sadly—kinda accurate.

Interesting that Africa isn't even on here.

Via El Gaffney on Tumblr.

Monday, February 25, 2008

John Darnielle connects with your inner creep

First, let me promise that after this post I will not write about the Mountain Goats again. I know it’s annoying when someone goes on and on about one band and I shudder to think I’m guilty. However, this post, arguably, isn’t really about the Mountain Goats but things related to them. So there.


I was struck by the packed house at Saturday night’s sold out show at Neumos. Amidst the crowd eagerly awaiting the band’s appearance I wondered: How can a guy with a nasally voice, a narrow vocal range (or two ranges: low and high) and little display of virtuosity on his instrument win over this many fans?

The answer might be Bob Dylan. But I think that’s not so much an answer as an extension of the same question.

(Side comment about the voice: Darnielle wouldn’t survive 20 seconds on American Idol, which I guess just illuminates the difference between the Idol path to a music career and his.)

While watching the show I decided Darnielle’s (moderate but impressive) success is the result of two things we in the branding and advertising business promote to our clients: authenticity and differentiation.

Authenticity requires constant reinforcement. It’s proven over the long term, and any misstep calls it into question—along with the customer relationship. Authenticity in music can be especially difficult to maintain. Success in the business world may come from the replication of a product or service again and again. But fans of a music artist don’t really want to buy the exact same album again and again. And artists want and need to evolve over time. The question lies in how to evolve while remaining true to the thing that brought you success in the first place.

I might argue a big reason why celebrities who die prematurely grow in popularity afterward is that they never have the chance to muck up their authenticity. Jeff Buckley will never make a silly pop album like Liz Phair did with her 2003 self-titled release. John Belushi will never make a trite family comedy like Eddie Murphy’s “Norbit.” Think what the collective perception of Murphy would be if he’d died shortly after making “Raw” (not that I wish he had, or course).

In a recent post on the band’s myspace page, Darnielle wrote, “The world needs a few creeps just for texture.” Darnielle’s work has dealt plenty with the dark side of the human experience, with creeps of one sort or another. His unflinchingly dark character portrayals reflect both his troubled youth and reveal to his listeners their own inner demons. This convergence is Darnielle’s authenticity.

Authenticity plays a role in differentiation too, of course. Due to the wide range of human experience, something that’s truly authentic is likely, as a result, to be different than other things in the market. By focusing on that which makes it authentic, a brand can reinforce its differentiated position. These things should work together. Brands that don’t focus on what makes them different and authentic eventually struggle for relevance.

And the Mountain Goats are certainly differentiated from other artists, most immediately due to Darnielle’s odd voice.

Would the Mountain Goats be as successful if fronted by Ben Gibbard, who joined the band onstage during the encore? I don’t think so.

They’d be “better” but as a result, worse.

Friday, February 22, 2008

(Un)funny because it’s true

Advertising focus groups, in general, suck. Sure, they can be helpful for gaining a better understanding of your target audience and developing strategy, but they’re awful for testing creative.

And yet tons of people who work in the biz could relate to you a personal story where 20 people earning $75 for sitting in a drab room drinking soda and eating Peanut M&M’s for two hours on a Tuesday evening destroyed thousands of dollars of perfectly good work (or made crucial decisions the client couldn’t or wouldn’t bring herself to make).

I believe that great (or even good) work rarely performs well in creative testing. Good creative is usually too challenging, and most consumers are ill equipped to discuss the ins and outs of creative work in a meaningful way.

And so it’s not uncommon, when forced to subject work to consumer testing, to hear a writer or art director (or myself) complain that even a spot like Apple’s "1984"—arguably the best and/or most famous commercial in history—wouldn’t have survived the process.

To prove this point, it seems some folks over at Arnold re-created an animatic (or “board-o-matic”) of "1984"—with a new ending that introduces a fake Apple product—and conducted creative testing focus groups with it. None of the participants seem to recognize the spot, so I think it’s safe to say their responses are genuine.

The resulting video won the Documentary/Personal Essay category at the recent OneScreen film festival.

Watch it here. And weep.

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

The Mountain Goats released their new album Heretic Pride earlier this week and after a couple listens I think it sounds great. John Darnielle (at left, with wombat) is a fantastic songwriter and delivers pent-up angst like few others, though his voice takes a bit of getting used to.

They’re playing at Neumos tomorrow night. Perhaps a two-sentence review of the show will follow. I guarantee it’ll be more helpful than Ben’s review of the album.

Here’s “Sax Rohmer #1” from Heretic Pride.*

* Wombat not included.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

41 hilarious science fair experiments

I really have no desire for this blog to become a string of links to funny things found on the Internets, but this series over at Photo Basement is awesome.

Via Seth Gaffney’s Tumblr blog.

McDonald’s commercial NSFW?

I think it was Teressa Iezzi at AdAge who referred to Kirshenbaum Bond’s recent spots for Wendy’s as “food porn.” In contrast to the Red Wig campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi the new work is certainly food-focused. And the very deliberate smoothing of the sandwich wrapping out across the table, with the accompanying crinkling sound, may even excite your senses.

But the new Wendy’s campaign is nowhere near as risqué as the McDonald’s Ranch BLT commercial that's airing.

Rather than describe it, I’ll just let you watch it.

It’s all here: the anticipation, the foreplay (they actually “undress” the sandwich), the act, and—most shockingly—the money shot. Multiple money shots, more specifically. I’m referring, of course, to the white ranch dressing... well you get the idea.

I was at least half joking when I first decided to write this post, but having since seen the online work, with its blatant “O-face” (Flash version here) I’m not so sure I’m kidding anymore.

Was "Open Your Snack Hole" just the precursor?

Has McDonald’s gone too far?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Top 25 band logos

The fine folks over at Spinner Magazine have compiled their list of the top 25 band logos of all time.

Rock and design? Sign me up!

It’s a pretty good list, with an interesting choice at #1, but I was surprised to see Judas Priest didn’t make the cut. (Yes, that’s a pun and no, I’m not sorry.)

Not to mention Motorhead.

This is not the post I promised earlier, but it’ll have to do in the meantime.

Fear not, gentle readers

A new post is on the way. Just experiencing some technical difficulties (and an inattentive IT guy).

Maybe I will do those timesheets after all.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Shout Out: Jonny Greenwood

I saw There Will Be Blood last night and was blown away by the score. Intense, eerie, dramatic. It adds monumentally to the experience and hold its own with the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis (which is really saying something).

Jonny Greenwood (yes, of Radiohead) is a genius. As I exited the theatre, I thought, “Well there’s the Academy Award winner for best score.” Sadly, because the soundtrack contains excerpts from a piece Greenwood did for the BBC in 2006, There Will Be Blood is ineligible for a Best Score Oscar.

I’m not saying the Academy’s rule is bad, but it’s a shame the best score of the year won’t get the trophy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I’ve decided to try something new, namely focusing Friday posts on music, just as Ben gets the rock out every Tuesday over at ICBINB!. (What, you never stole a good idea?)

You probably don’t need me to tell you that Brooklyn is a hotbed of new bands right now. The suddenly inescapable Vampire Weekend, the buzz-getting Yeasayer, MGMT, Mobius Band, Tigercity… the list goes on (and includes the not-as-new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Les Savy Fav and French Kicks among others).

The interesting thing about this latest bunch of Brooklyn bands, besides how good they are, is the surprising influences on display in many of them. Vampire Weekend makes everyone think of Graceland-era Paul Simon and maybe Talking Heads. Mobius Band occasionally reminds me of the Dream Academy. Tigercity sounds kinda like Roxy Music, Spandau Ballet and (gasp!) Hall and Oates.

But whereas it often seems like Interpol is really just pretending to be Joy Division* these bands are taking their influences and retooling them in an interesting way I can’t quite define. Maybe it’s that their reference points tend to be slick and polished but the bands themselves have retained a raw, unfinished quality. It’s like their DIY ethic is coming through.

Even Vampire Weekend’s video for “Mansard Roof” seems like a modern-day, low-fi version of Duran Duran’s “Rio” (without all the girls) with hints of INXS’s “The One Thing” (again, without all the girls).

I’ve been hearing a fair amount of Brooklyn-based MGMT (it’s pronounced “management”) lately. Earlier this week I stumbled upon their song “Kids” and really dug it. Now you’re going to stumble upon it too.

Thank me later. With beer.

* Yes, I’ve oversimplified this, and yes I’m piling on, but you’re only pissed because you know it’s kinda true.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Clemens smelling like a Rose?

Apologies in advance for consecutive posts about sports, but at least this one’s topical*.

I’ve been casually following the news on Roger Clemens and his testimony in front of Congress this week. It’s an ugly situation that’s boiled down to he said/he said. Former trainer Brian McNamee says he injected Clemens with HGH and steroids. Clemens says it was vitamin B-12 (and something called lidocaine). Both men are standing firm.

The likelihood that there’s no physical evidence to corroborate either side means there’s probably no resolution in sight. Which got me thinking. Is Roger Clemens the next Pete Rose?

For years Rose vehemently denied accusations of gambling on baseball. The seriousness of the situation kept Charlie Hustle out of the Hall of Fame (even though he finally fessed up in 2004).

It’s starting to look like Rose blazed the trail Clemens is on.

(It should come as no surprise that I’m not the first person to draw this connection. In fact, I’d be disappointed with today's sportswriters if they hadn’t already written about it.)

* Like the Cream. Or is it the Clear?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don’t sweat the small stuff, Plain Dealer

The NFL held its annual Pro Bowl this past Sunday, a game that means nothing, really. At most it’s a ceremony to acknowledge the players who had exceptional seasons. At worst it’s a sloppy scrimmage (especially when you consider the four or so days the “teams” have to learn their plays and each other). It might as well be a flag football game.

Given the above, hometown fans and media should respond accordingly. Namely, watch it only if you’ve got absolutely nothing else to do, and place no meaning on anything that transpires.

With that in mind, I was surprised to see the negative reportage in the Cleveland Plain Dealer two days ago.

Browns quarterback Derek Anderson (left) commanded the AFC squad for most of the second half. He had a bad game, but judging by Tony Grossi’s column you’d think this was reason enough to cut him in the off-season.

Read Mary Kay Cabot’s column Browns lack Hawaiian punch, and you might wonder whether the six Browns Pro Bowlers had played poorly enough to embarrass the city.

These two writers need to get a grip. Can’t we just enjoy the fact that six Browns went to the Pro Bowl? Six! Prior to this season Jamir Miller was the only expansion-era Brown to win a trip to Honolulu. That’s one player in nine seasons, people!

While it was disappointing to see the Browns miss the playoffs (though we Browns fans knew it was coming), I was amazed they finished with a 10-6 record. Prior to this year, they’d won 10 or more games only five times since 1978, when the NFL went to a 16-game season. And they’d had just one winning season since rejoining the league in 1999.

One year ago these writers would surely have agreed that just having a winning season would be great. Now, having gotten a small taste of sweet success, Cleveland’s sportswriters are ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Based largely on how guys performed in what should be a game of two-hand touch with a five-alligator rush.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Awareness < awareness + liking

If there’s a two-word rule of thumb for creating effective outdoor advertising, especially bulletins, it’s this: Simplify everything. Seven words or less in the headline, large and legible type, short words, no more than two things to look at, blah blah blah.

All of these make a lot of sense when you consider that your audience is probably driving by your ad somewhere between 35 and 65 miles per hour.

But what if they’re not?

What if you did your due diligence and discovered you had a board located across the intersection from a stoplight that takes its own sweet time in going from red to green? What if your audience, instead of imitating Speed Racer, is actually pretty likely to be sitting absolutely still with nothing to do but wait for that light? What if you knew that these nice people drove this same route five days a week?

How do those rules of thumb look now?

I’m not saying this is the greatest outdoor board ever (and my photo clearly sucks). But I do admire that it seems to have been created specifically for this location (and locations like it, one assumes).

For starters, it’s eye-catching simply because it looks unlike the outdoor boards we see every day. It’s intriguing initially because it appears to be a blank board that’s been tagged by some huge team of ninja graffiti artists. Once you realize it was designed to mimic an office white board (note the DO NOT ERASE note at the top), it’s easy to get sucked into exploring the many things written on it. And, thankfully, there are payoffs for exploring it by way of small jokes and funny drawings.

It would be easy to use this outdoor unit to raise awareness of Google’s job search capability. All you’d really have to do it put the URL on the board in big letters. Maybe set it in a typeface akin to the Google logo, to reinforce the brand, and voila. But after a month or more the audience would probably hate the way it seems to yell at them each and every day and gives them nothing in exchange for their time.

They’d know of Google jobs, but how would they feel about Google jobs?

Without saying—or really even implying—“we’re smart” or “we get you” this board leaves me with the feeling that, when it comes to job searching, Google is smart and might just “get me.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting raucous at the caucus (and afterward)

The Washington State caucuses were held on Saturday, and though I’ve lived here for more than eight years I’m a little ashamed to say the experience was a new one for me. But apparently I’m not the only one. I was told there were 35 participants at my precinct’s Democratic caucus four years ago. This year, there were more than 100.

In Washington, the Democratic primary is meaningless; delegate designations happen at the caucus. With Hillary and Barack in such a tight race, and each attracting such a passionate following, it was no surprise to see a large turnout.

The caucus is an odd process, and one that feels very old school. You show up, sign in, stating your preference or “undecided” (which is treated as though it were a living candidate). Each precinct then puts forth delegates for all parties receiving enough votes and based on the size of the precinct (my precinct—the storming 1330th—has six delegates).

Once the delegate breakout is assessed based on sign-ins, individuals are allowed to speak briefly about their candidate of choice, one speaker per candidate. Our lone holdout for Dodd used his time to encourage us to stay involved for the long term, noting, “Real change doesn’t happen at the White House level.”

Then the large group is physically divided into sub-groups by candidate preference and individuals are allowed to attempt to sway other citizens to their way of thinking. This being Seattle I saw almost no attempted coercion, though I’ve heard there was some at other spots in the city. In the end, our final delegate numbers were the same as the started: Obama 4, Clinton 2.

An informal poll of other precincts at my location looked to be about 3 to 1 in favor of Obama. The state went for Obama roughly 2 to 1.

But the interesting thing about the day was how retro it all felt. I half expected Patrick Henry to take the stage. Part of me kept thinking, there’s got to be a better way. (And as someone whose mother won’t tell anyone who she’s voted for, not even my dad, the public grouping of people based on their candidate choice was surprising.) But another part of me thought it was awesome. Out in the public space! Arguing with your neighbors! Standing up (literally) for your beliefs!


I don’t want to get into offering my political views here* but I do want to mention the concern I have for something Hillary said earlier today. According to CNN’s Political Ticker, Clinton dismissed the results of the weekend, arguing that “caucuses are ‘primarily dominated by activists’ and that ‘they don't represent the electorate, we know that.’"

I’m all for keeping your eyes on the prize and staying positive, but this comment rubs me the wrong way. It may seem like an insignificant phrase, but that tiny “we know that” feels like a common device used by many in politics (I won’t pretend it’s only the Republicans) to openly discount facts they don’t like. Discussion averted!

Seeing these comments today reminded me of something Obama said on 60 Minutes last night when asked if his version of change is change from both the Bushes and the Clintons. Obama said, “I think that there’s a difference, obviously, between the Bushes and the Clintons, but I do think that Washington is comfortable with itself, and I think the Clintons are part of that.”

And further, when asked about the difference between he and Hillary, Obama said, “I think Senator Clinton accepts the rules of the game as they’re set up.” Given how displeased many Americans are with how the game’s been going, I cringe to see signs of it exposed in Clinton.

I’m starting to wonder if Hillary’s going to declare Mission Accomplished on her campaign later this week.**

* Or do I?
** It’s also very possible that I’m making a bigger deal out of this than it’s worth.

Be the first on your block

To enjoy the many benefits of the Hawaii Chair.

Wait, what?

Friday, February 8, 2008

This diagram is the dog’s bollocks!

Are you weary of getting grief from your Scottish, Irish and/or British friends because of your sometimes obvious lack of knowledge about their homeland? This helpful diagram from Things Of Interest can help you sort it out (or sort you out, as the case may be).

As the author states, it’s not an exhaustive list of the islands within the British Isles, but it’s a simple, helpful display that works really well.

If you’re a big nerd, you might like to know that this is not a Venn Diagram but a Euler Diagram. If you’re a bigger nerd, you might get bent out of shape that some parts of this diagram are technically unassigned (for instance, are their things in the British Isles besides Ireland and the United Kingdom?), but to you I say settle down, grab a pint and get yourself bladdered. You obviously need it.

Found via Neatorama.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Continuing on the theme

Funny post over at McSweeney’s by Miles Klee written in the form of a Facebook news feed. Read it here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Social networks losing steam

I’ve seen almost no coverage about the recent data from ComScore on social networking sites. That surprises me, because it’s pretty interesting stuff. In short, the data shows Facebook, Myspace, et al have recently experienced slowing growth—and in some cases declines—in two key measures: unique visitors and time spent.

(If you’re allergic to statistics, you might want to skip the next four paragraphs.)

You don’t need me to tell you that 2007 was a big year for Facebook in terms of popularity. Facebook’s unique visitors in December were a whopping 81% higher than December 2006 (an increase from 19,000 to nearly 35,000 visitors). But data shows only 5% of that growth came during the last two months, signifying a major slowdown over the latter part of the year.

What’s more, Facebook users are spending less and less time on the site. Facebook’s average minutes per visitor dropped from 196 minutes in October to 169 minutes in December, a 13% decrease.

Things are potentially worse over at Myspace. Their average time spent on the site for December declined nearly 24% year-over-year, from 235 minutes to just 179 minutes per visitor.

And it’s not just a Myspace and Facebook problem. Creative Capital’s Spencer Ante writes, “The total audience of U.S. social networks seems to be stuck at a low-to-mid-single digit growth rate, while the engagement metrics are falling for just about everyone.”

So user levels are plateauing—with a likelihood of shrinking to a smaller core base of users—and the time users spend on the sites is decreasing, a sign (I’d argue) that the perceived value of the sites is diminishing.

About a year ago a friend of mine compared Myspace to the sticker books she had as a child. Her analogy: Sticker books are fun while you’re putting them together, and it’s great to show them around to your friends once their finished, but after that, they have no purpose. The fun is in the doing, the making, not in the having.

All those people who designed the shit out of their Myspace pages must be asking that same question: Now what?

Chris Williams at the Register sums up Facebook users’ behavior as:

“… Join, accumulate dozens of semi-friends, spy on a few exes for a bit, play some Scrabulous, get bored, then get on with your life, occasionally dropping in to respond to a message or see some photos that have been posted.”

I must say this describes my own Facebook activity pretty well.

So where’s the gap? Why are people so drawn to some social networking sites only to get bored and disengage? My opinion is that people enjoy the small-scale celebrity and in-crowd-ness that comes with the early phase of online social networking—being part of a rising tide, accumulating online friends (even if they’re just the same friends we rarely see in real life)—but either haven’t been given the tools to extend the experience beyond that first phase (though Facebook apps have certainly taken a step down that path) or don’t have the innate creativity to continue to produce meaningful content over the long term. And if there’s no new meaningful content—to create or experience—why visit the site?

What does it all mean?

For starters, it means Facebook surely ain’t worth no $15 billion.

Read Chris Williams’s “Facebook fatigue” article.
Read Spencer Ante’s “It’s official” article.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shout Out: Eric Grandy of The Stranger

“Goddamn, it’s hard to watch Paul Rudd pay the bills.”

That’s the opening sentence to Eric Grandy’s review of the Eva Longoria-Parker/Paul Rudd film Over Her Dead Body.

If you write movie reviews for a living, occasionally you’ll have to review films you know are going to be nothing more than trite Hollywood “product.” And if you write movie reviews for a publication like the Stranger, it’s likely that your audience has little to no interest in such cinema. Many of us, given a shitty assignment like Over Her Dead Body would phone it in and move on to something more worth our effort. Not Mr. Grandy, apparently.

Kudos, Eric, for rewarding your readers.

Full review here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Thoughts on Super Bowl Sunday

There will be tons of commentary today about last night’s game and the commercials, but what’s the point of having a blog if you’re not going to add your two cents? Here goes.

First, the game. I loved that it was a defensive battle full of big hits. I loved that it was low-scoring and close throughout. Going into it, I wasn’t rooting for either team over the other, I just wanted a good game. But as it went on I found myself pulling for the Giants. (What can I say? I’m an American; I love underdogs.)

The Giants defense looked fantastic, dishing out huge hits (even though some came at the end of 8- and 9-yard gains by the Pats). Looking back, I'm surprised the Patriots didn't switch to a run-focused gameplan. Maroney was getting good carries and the passing game was obviously struggling (save for Wes Welker). What a horrible time for Tom Brady to have the worst game of his season.

As a group, I thought this year’s commercials were above par (or is that below par?) as well. FedEx’s carrier pigeon spot was better than last year’s cavemen, partially because no one got killed. The spots were kinda fun, showed the benefit and included some feature details without spoiling the party or simply piggybacking on the joke. The Coke spots were entertaining and totally on-brand (plus what’s better than James Carville hauling ass on a Segway?).

My favorite spots included those for Hyundai’s Genesis, especially the first, with the VO announcing the spot’s “big twist” upon the unveiling of the Hyundai logo. The absence of their main competitors makes these spots even better. I also loved the Audi R8 “Godfather” spot. Attention-grabbing intro, awesome pop culture reference, and beautiful shots of a car that actually looks cool enough to merit this ad. But my favorite was the Tide To Go spot. A very clever way to get across the idea that a stain on your shirt says more about you than anything that might come out of your mouth. Plus, unlike most of the spots on this big day, I could watch this ad ten times and still enjoy it.

Shame on you, Bud Light, for stealing the fire-breathing execution from DQ (for whom it actually made some sense) and adding nothing. And shame on you,, for continuing to be your misogynistic selves.

CareerBuilder’s “Follow Your Heart” spot seemed logically flawed. Doesn’t a lifelike human heart holding an “I quit” sign imply a heart attack? Do I really have to comment on the Sales Genie spots? Did anyone understand the Gatorade spot with the dog at the water bowl? And was "Suck One" a spot for Semi-Pro, Bud Light or just Will Farrell?

To wrap it up, here are my Super Bowl Sunday winners and losers:


The ’72 Dolphins, who will continue to ride their claim as the only undefeated team in NFL history (even though they had a surprisingly easy schedule that year). Not that the Giants need any more champagne, but I hope they’ve got some coming from Nick Buoniconti and the boys.

Michael Strahan. I don’t really care one way or the other about Strahan, but he’s played a long time and this is a sweet cap on a strong career. Hall of Fame looks a lot more likely now.

Archie Manning. Two sons named Super Bowl MVPs in back-to-back years. How proud must this guy be?

The NFL and its fans. A nail-biting championship game like this pays dividends for years.


Alicia Keys. I happened to turn on the TV just as she was launching into her performance of “No One” to open the festivities. I actually like this song, but I hate lip-synching, and this was an obvious case. Why, when you have an opportunity to turn millions of people onto your music, would you do this? Watch last year’s halftime performance by Prince to see how this is supposed to be done.

Danica Patrick, whose starring role in’s titillating (sorry) spot surely reinforced the opinion of anyone who thinks she’s not much of a driver but, at best, a pretty face and a feel-good story about equality in sports. Shirley Muldowney must be so proud.

Junior Seau. See my comments on Strahan above and multiply them by negative 1.

And finally… Really, Fox, you can’t keep jubilant fans from standing behind Jimmy Johnson and distracting viewers from his commentary by waving at the camera* non-stop? Seems disrespectful or something. Put up a barricade.

*Why do people feel the need to yell and wave at a live camera anyway? Does it prove their existence? “Yeah, I see you, Porkchop. Looks like you need to go on a diet.”

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Clutter avoidance

I recently came across this photo I took last summer (I think) of a concert poster for United State of Electronica (a.k.a. U.S.E.).

(Click image for larger view.)

I love that it ignores pretty much every concert poster convention there is. No formal list of date, location, time, bands; no attention-grabbing visual. Not to mention that it was posted on a fire hydrant, at knee level at best. Perfect for the faux covert message. A great example of using traditional media in an unconventional way.

I also love the good-natured (I’m guessing) dig at the other bands on the bill.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The awesomeness of 33 1/3

The 33 1/3 book series isn’t new, but I feel the need to rave about it just a bit.

For starters, it’s a great concept. Little books about albums. But what’s better is that that seems to be the only real stipulation. How various 33 1/3 books are “about the album” varies greatly. Some read like extended liner notes, focusing primarily on the writing and recording of the album. Others may have quite loose connections to the album itself.

Joe Pernice’s fictional account of life as a Boston teenager riled many readers in search of the details behind The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder. As a reviewer on Amazon wrote, “if you want to know about what The Smiths were doing when they recorded MIM, who was in the studio when, what Andy Rourke was drinking etc, then you need to look elsewhere.” The recently released Music From Big Pink: A Novella guarantees more of the same from impassioned fans of The Band.

Another thing to love about 33 1/3 is that while many of the books have been written by professional music critics, music scholars and even artists, anyone can submit a proposal to write one—a fact that’s caused me to wonder whether or not I could write such a lengthy piece and, if so, whether I’d rather cover Luna’s Bewitched or Penthouse, and what my approach would be. (I also used to ponder what my jersey number would be once I got to the NFL, and I’m sure this feat is about as likely.)

Finally, although the folks at 33 1/3 obviously have to consider potential sales when deciding which titles to greenlight, I’m continually and pleasantly surprised by some of the choices they make. Sure, there’s the requisite who’s who of important rock records, but they’ve also made surprising selections such as Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn—instead of, say, The Wall—and even (gasp!) Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love.

(The fact that the book for Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was—and maybe still is—the series’ best seller is a head-scratcher. Makes me wonder if the book about the album has sold more copies than the album itself.)

Anyway, yesterday 33 1/3 announced that Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality, written by John Darnielle of the awesome band Mountain Goats, will be released in April. I’m not a huge Sabbath fan but this is a great choice from their catalog and a book I’ll surely purchase.

(Extra cool: send an e-mail to and 33 1/3 will send you about 20 pages of the book to preview.)