Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2021

talk, fool!
He’s been saying it for years. Now, Mr. T gets to apply his catchphrase toward greater societal good.

Or, er, close enough in TV terms. TVLand is going to broadcast “I Pity the Fool”, where Mister Mohawk travels across the land to inspire and uplift:

“The `t’ stands for talking,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m going to talk it up. It’s what I’ve been doing all my life.”

The series starts in October. He’ll offer help to people struggling with personal or professional problems.

“My show ain’t no `Dr. Phil,’ with people sitting around crying,” he said. “You’re a fool — that’s what’s wrong with you. You’re a fool if you don’t take my advice.”

Tell it straight, T! Just don’t ask us to endure it in half-hour increments.

FURTHER THOUGHTS: In hindsight, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t entitle this post, “You’re A Fool — That’s What’s Wrong With You”. Because that’s, like, the funniest quote I’ve come across in weeks. Alas, I was squeezed for time. Rather than change the permalink, I’ll live with the regret.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/02/2021 09:54:05 PM
Category: TV, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Monday, May 01, 2021

Yes, I know you’re tired of seeing semi-naked women enticing you to crack open a beer. Miller Brewing feels your pain, and so is rolling out “Man Laws”, a series of ads featuring celebrity menfolk pondering what’s in and what’s out in testosterone-land:

The commercials revolve around group discussions starring men who Miller says “have defined in their own way what manhood is all about.” Among others, they are the former National Football League star Jerome Bettis; the World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Triple H; Aron Ralston, the rock climber who cut off part of his arm after being pinned under a boulder; and the discussion group’s leader, the actor Burt Reynolds.

“They are true men,” said Erv Frederick, the vice president for marketing at Miller Brewing, owned by SABMiller. “They all have a lot of substance, and they have their own unique personal style.”

In the ads, the actors are assembled around a large square table, sitting before beer bottles and solemnly debating “Man Laws,” the rules by which men should ideally govern themselves. When toasting, should one clink tops or bottoms? (Answer: bottoms.) Is the high-five officially played out? (Yes.) How long must a man wait before dating his buddy’s ex-girlfriend? (Six months.)…

Mr. Frederick said that the company “wanted to move beyond that stereotype of men as sophomoric” or as “the lowest common denominator.”

Call me crazy, but it occurs to me that sitting around a table, swilling piss-water and analyzing the merits of a hand-slapping greeting is… Well, the epitome of sophomoricism. (Feel free to deduct man points from me now — as I watch my hockey game.)

I guess Miller is shooting for a similar male-bonding dynamic achieved by Levi Co., when it rolled out those iconic Dockers TV spots some 15 years ago. Those conveyed a casual, faux-unscripted, almost un-commercial feel that got audiences to chattering.

I can’t believe this concept is being played straight. It sounds to me a lot like the setting for sarcastic/goofy “experts” forum, with a now-self-parodying Burt Reynolds holding court. I think there’s a chance that, if the early reaction is flat and Miller somehow wants to hang onto this campaign, that agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky will retool it exactly that way.

At least there’ll be a predictable — and eye-pleasing — conclusion to this:

David H. Jernigan, the executive director at the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University in Washington, said that when the beer industry promised to reform itself, the old commercials usually came back again.

“This is the same thing we’ve heard after the Swedish bikini ad in 1991,” Mr. Jernigan said, referring to an ad for Old Milwaukee beer that drew some criticism.

As usual, it all comes back to the bikini…

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/01/2021 11:24:40 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg. | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Common sense tells you that growing your own food will save you a little money over paying grocery store prices.

Unless you’re an upper-class professional, playing at being a farmer-wannabe, and thus can’t plot out a simple vegetable patch for less than $16 grand. That, plus bad weather, bad soil, and a pesky pilfering groundhog named Superchunk, resulted in William Alexander producing a sorry yield of Brandywine tomatoes at the financial/resource equivalent of $64 per fruit.

On the positive tip, he did write a book about the folly.

To me, this is a great example of how you play down to your affluence. Alexander had far too much play money at his disposal, so rather than take a sensible low-maintenance approach, he over-engineered the whole show. It’s like it’s not a worthwhile hobby unless you throw money at it. Most people would buy some seeds, till a little dirt, set up a cheap fence, and leave it at that; and they’d probably be far more successful. Granted, economies of scale make buying processed/pre-picked food more cost-effective, but this was obviously an extreme example.

Then again, I hate tomatoes. So what do I know?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/01/2021 10:53:10 PM
Category: Publishing, Food, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, April 29, 2021

The Albany Institute of History & Art has come up with a jaunty semi-acronymical “AHA” to use as a marketing nickname. This conveniently ignores that pesky “I”, for Institute, in the full name. I guess “AIHA” would be a harder sell — comes off as vaguely Japanese.

If the Albany museum really wants to go full bore with this questionable branding, then they should put a comedic punctuation upon it: Get Steve Coogan to do some promotional commercials as Alan Partridge, who’s fond of using his “A-ha!” catchphrase. It’s damned obscure, but maybe it’ll attract some British tourists.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/29/2006 07:47:27 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, April 27, 2021

The new paperback edition of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” has topped 1 million sold copies. I can believe it — I’ve seen many a New Yorker walking around with their noses stuck in the book. And I’m sure “Da Vinci” mania will intensify with next month’s release of the movie.

In the meantime, you can try your hand at solving the Smithy Code, a word puzzle implanted into the written court ruling on the recently-completed copyright-infringement lawsuit against Brown:

The first clue that a puzzle exists lies in the typeface of the ruling. Most of the document is printed in regular roman letters, the way one would expect. But some letters in the first 13.5 pages appear in boldface italics, jarringly, in the midst of all the normal words. Thus, in the first paragraph of the decision, which refers to [”Holy Blood, Holy Grail” authors] Mr. Leigh and Mr. Baigent, the “s” in the word “claimants” is italicized and boldfaced.

If you pluck all the italicized letters out of the text, you find that the first 10 spell “Smithy Code,” an apparent play on “Da Vinci Code.” But the next series of letters, some 30 or so, are a jumble, and this is the mystery that needs to be solved to break the code.

Intrigued? Here’s the PDF of Justice Peter Smith’s ruling; have at it.

UPDATE, 4/28/2006: Well, that was quick. Smithy’s code’s been cracked, using the same Fibonacci Sequence that’s so central to the novel. Turns out to be about some British naval officer who pioneered the development of the dreadnought naval ships.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/27/2006 10:54:42 PM
Category: Publishing, Creative, True Crime | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, April 26, 2021

flips yours
I can’t believe this little tidbit wasn’t picked up by some news outlet. But it hasn’t, not even by Off Wing or Deadspin, so I think I’ll just make note of it here, for posterity:

After John Madden picked up his third goal in Monday’s 4-1 Devils victory over the Rangers, the Continental Airlines Arena crowd obligingly tossed their hats into the rink.

But one New Jersey fan, lacking a hat, did the next best thing — he pulled off his toupee and flung that onto the ice.

Luckily, OLN’s camera crew was on the spot to capture that funny moment. They also got a shot of the guy being handed back his rug after arena personnel scooped it up, along with all the caps. And of course, they interviewed him for a few seconds — if sacrificing your hair-helmet in a show of team support isn’t deserving of some camera time, I don’t know what is.

I’m going strictly by memory, so I don’t remember what the fan’s name was. But I thought it was a funny little playoff moment.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/26/2006 11:26:49 PM
Category: TV, Hockey | Permalink | Feedback

That something called the Word of Mouth Marketing Association even exists seems like an anomaly. Isn’t word-of-mouth supposed to serve as a trusted counterinformation alternative to advertising and marketing messages, beyond the reach of media machines?

You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. Fact is, companies latched onto the idea of harnessing informal and unconventional consumer communications channels a long time ago. That this approach has become such standard practice that a professional association with high-profile members is deemed necessary tells you all you need to know.

And WOMMA is certainly cutting edge in its mission to broaden its namesake discipline. In addition to the usual white papers and networking events, it sports not just one, but two blogs. Talk about word-of-mouthing!

Yes, even running-of-the-mouth has been subverted. Think about that the next time you put stock in what some relatable schmuck is recommending.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/26/2006 11:05:08 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, April 25, 2021

It seems that London-based HSBC is intent upon plastering its “Different Points of View” advertising campaign onto every New York City transportation hub possible.

Just about every subway car I’ve ridden lately has had as much as an entire upper-banner full of the distinctive double-image ads for the bank. Not content with just the mass transit system, HSBC has now contracted with the Port Authority to make itself the exclusive non-airline advertiser at JFK International Airport, and is working on the same arrangement at the La Guardia and Newark airports.

I have to admit, it is an ideal medium for a sales message, precisely because of this:

“When you get off a plane or on a plane, you have that same first image,” [HSBC’s U.S. division chief Martin J. G.] Glynn said. “It’s a powerful first image.”

I’d say moreso when you get off a plane and come through the gate, you tend to be more impressionable to the sensory stimuli you encounter. Even if you’re coming into an airport you regularly travel to and from, the natural decompression from a long airline flight tends to lower your sales resistance. A cherry spot in an airport gate is a great exposure spot, and makes that image so powerful. Not to mention the sheer volume of people moving through on a regular basis.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/25/2006 11:20:05 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Because it’s hard to cram “outdoor life” into a hockey rink, the former Outdoor Life Network OLN is rebranding itself one more time, this time to “vs.” (that’s “versus” to you abbreviationally-challenged).

“vs. is a word that perfectly captures the essence of our brand. It is immediate shorthand for competition and has a range that can suit everything from stick and ball sports, to bull riding, to field sports,” network president Gavin Harvey said. “We felt it was a slam dunk, and sports fans we talked to all agreed.”

The network, which began soliciting suggestions for a new name about a year ago, said vs. was chosen “not only for its bold nature, but because it universally evokes competition.”

“Whether it is man vs. man, man vs. beast or team vs. team, the channel will celebrate sports at its best, where athletes and sportsmen compete at their highest levels with the greatest passion,” the network said in a statement.

Like anything, the requisite amount of marketing will make the new name sing. I’m pretty neutral on it; it’s vaguely goofy, but no more so than the names other channels are saddled with. And in a sports entertainment context, vs. certainly hints at plenty of creative promotional ideas. How it jibes with NHL games remains to be seen.

Presumably, network owner Comcast scouted out the online terrain before approving this new name. Because as of right now, vs.com, versus.com, and even versustv.com are all occupado. Some domain owner is in for a big payday.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/25/2006 08:38:43 PM
Category: TV, Hockey | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, April 24, 2021

Let’s add Kaavya Viswanathan to the ever-growing lineup of authors who’ve pilfered copy from other authors. The 19-year-old wunderkind writer of junior chick-lit tome “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life” confirmed what was already obvious — her lifting of wording from a couple of Megan McCafferty novels for use in her own book, albiet under “unintentional and unconscious” circumstances.

And the borrowings may be more extensive than have previously been reported. The Crimson cited 13 instances in which Ms. Viswanathan’s book closely paralleled Ms. McCafferty’s work. But there are at least 29 passages that are strikingly similar.

At one point in “Sloppy Firsts,” for example, Ms. McCafferty’s heroine unexpectedly encounters her love interest, Marcus. Ms. McCafferty writes:

“Though I used to see him sometimes at Hope’s house, Marcus and I had never, ever acknowledged each other’s existence before. So I froze, not knowing whether I should (a) laugh (b) say something (c) ignore him and keep on walking.

“I chose a brilliant combo of (a) and (b).

” ‘Uh, yeah. Ha. Ha. Ha.’

“I turned around and saw that Marcus was smiling at me.”

Similarly, Ms. Viswanathan’s heroine, Opal, bumps into her love interest, a boy named Sean Whalen, and the two of them spy on one of the school’s popular girls.

Ms. Viswanathan writes: “Though I had been to school with him for the last three years, Sean Whalen and I had never acknowledged each other’s existence before. I froze, unsure of (a) what he was talking about and (b) what I was supposed to do about it. I stared at him.

” ‘Flat irons,’ he said. ‘At least seven flat irons for that hair.’

” ‘Ha, yeah. Uh, ha. Ha.’ I looked at the floor and managed a pathetic combination of laughter and monosyllables, then remembered that the object of our mockery was his former best friend.

“I looked up and saw that Sean was grinning.”

Twenty-nine “unintentional and unconscious” slips? Riiiiiiiight.

Regardless of the reasons for Viswanathan’s indiscretion, that it got through at all makes me wonder just what, if anything, the publishing industry is doing to cover its ass against a problem that’s not going to disappear anytime soon. Why on earth haven’t these companies instituted a basic scan-and-search of every manuscript, as an early phase of editorial rigor, to check for such obvious plagiarism? Hell, engage Google’s Book Search tool as an industry-wide resource for guarding against any more such surprises.

Beyond that, basic fact-checking for non-fiction accounts is easy enough to pull off; if the existing pool of literary editors can’t figure out how to do that, hire professionals who can.

I mean, this isn’t rocket science. If the publishers don’t catch the copycatting, someone else likely will. How many more embarrassing exposés like this is it going to take?

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/24/2006 09:56:47 PM
Category: Publishing | Permalink | Feedback (2)

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