How Grandma Needs Digital Papers to Work

4 03 2010

I’m worried about Grandma.  Not for her health, or her finances, which are both in fine shape.  No, I’m worried about her time.

Simple things that used to be a breeze are no longer as easy for her.  Balancing her checkbook takes a full day.  Doing the laundry requires so much logistical effort that it takes weeks to recover.  It simply isn’t as routine to do the routine as it used to be.

I know I can’t help with all of this.  She still deserves to do many of these things for herself – she is still perfectly capable, no matter how long it takes.  But what I want is for technology to help with at least one of these.

So the topic I’ve chosen to reform is the newspaper.  It seems like a popular topic these days, after all.  Some areas have been improved by technology – I think has made huge strides in the personal finance area, for example, so I will let them continue to be the experts.  But newspapers – well I think they have let Grandma down.  Things simply haven’t changed enough in the transition to digital to help her in any way, they are still the same newspapers, just on the screen.  So a while ago she literally said, “to hell with it” and stuck with her printed copies.  And this is where the problem lies.

You see, Grandma has always had a particular way of reading the newspaper.  She chooses the topics she is interested in, and then carefully and precisely underlines them.  Finally, she cuts the article out of the paper, and places it in a stack with the other articles related to that story.  It was that stack of paper that caught my eye.

This is what the digital age is second-best at, right?  Taking a stack of papers and making them easily accessible, searchable, archivable.  The stacks of paper were tenuous at best, susceptible to the breeze from an open balcony door or window, destroyed by a spill of coffee or vitamin-infused drink, mixed up in transport and painfully out-of-date within hours and days.  Grandma’s apartment didn’t have a convenient place for the endless stacks either, so they would become lost or trampled as new papers came in.

So how would the perfect paper work for Grandma?  The answer is surprisingly easy.  The effort required on Grandma’s part is to accept the digital copy, which would be difficult, but if we could show the value in the transition, she would do it without argument.  But the effort on the newspaper’s part is to allow her to personalize her content.  As she painstakingly underlines and highlights and selects articles from the digital copy, the paper itself should be recording her choices, developing a “Grandma L” algorithm that will determine which content to bubble to the top.

The presentation of today’s news would have to change.  First, the paper would show any updates to content Grandma had highlighted.  This would be general updates: new articles on her favorite topics, topics the algorithm had chosen as related to her favorite topics, etc.  Becoming fully informed takes hours longer than anyone has these days, let alone a busy Grandma who needs several hours for balancing her checkbook.  It needs to be easier to cut to the chase – she needs to know what is different from the last time she read the article – not another article revisiting what she already read.  The papers need to fix that, immediately.

Next, “today’s top stories” need to be presented in an easy-to-preview format.  Grandma can decide for herself which story is most interesting – she doesn’t need to wade through Page 1, Page 1A, and Page 2 to figure out which are the best stories for her to delve into.  She has been reading the paper for 60+ years – she can decide from the title.  The paper needs to realize everyone decides from the title and synopsis, so present it that way.

Finally, use keywords and meta-deta to attach current stories to Grandma’s favorites.  Google News does this to a certain extent, but let’s keep pushing the personalization.  Grandma and her historical society friends don’t discuss “today’s top stories” each day.  She doesn’t care about being exactly up-to-date.  She wants to know what are the larger issues that are affecting our world, and she does so by connecting a story about a local public works project with the President’s jobs bill.  The paper should help her along as much as it can.

This is merely an opening discussion on this topic – a brainstorm session.  There is so many possibilities with the new formats – we have to pursue as many of them as we can.  Please poke holes, propose changes, or just comment in general below.

Let’s make the paper work for Grandma again – her time is valuable to me.


Andre Still Has a Posse

28 11 2007

Obey Image

Today I took the brand new Karmaloop TV service from Karmaloop for a spin today, and it definitely has a lot of promise. I always dig an ‘insider’ look at an underground-type of industry. My favorite segment so far is an interview with Shepard Fairey, artist and founder of Obey. It was a Fairey experiment that produced the famous image above, which you probably recognize if you were skating in the mid-90’s.

Before I get to the content of the interview though, let me just say that Karmaloop CEO Greg Selkoe clearly should not be interviewing people. He is eating the microphone, his questions are pretty dumb, and he introduces himself with aliases? Who does that besides Sal Masekela and Sway? It detracts from the person you are trying to interview and just doesn’t look very professional. I admire him because he has been pretty successful, but leave the interviewing to someone else!

Once Shepard Fairey took over the interview, it became very insightful. He spoke on his humble roots and how the whole ‘Andre the Giant has a posse’ meme came about. Fairey really goes global when commenting on his reaction to the growth of the ‘Andre’ image:

“…it really opened my mind to the ideas of an image in public sparking a reaction that is something that is outside of advertising and the usual signage that you see that raises people’s awareness about what’s going on around them.”

I had just read something about influential street artist Banksy and his exhibit here in New York. Fairey’s comments got my mind rolling on the whole awareness idea. In advertising, we really inundate the public with ‘awareness’ campaigns that are trashed and forgotten almost immediately. Today one of my clients sent out almost two million direct mailings to consumers. They are hoping 95-98% of recipients don’t trash the piece immediately.

Comparatively, Fairey’s Andre image was first published on a sticker in 1989, and almost twenty years later his art has grown into not only a full business, but has influenced many people to look at the world in a different way.

All we have to do is take some time and create real creative work for our clients. More than just words on a page describing policies and legal. Make them feel something as well. This can be accomplished just as thoroughly with art as a traditional print or TV campaign. But make it something rare – make it something your target will seek out and obtain, rather than have it stuffed into their mailbox. Only then can we create influential works to last over time.

Total Gibberish and the Geniuses that Use It

26 11 2007

street selling

There is a guy who sells food for a diner down the street from our offices. I say it in these vague terms because I have absolutely no idea what this guy is selling. I know he is out there, day and night, yelling about the special deals the shop has that day. But what he is yelling…it’s not words.

It’s not another language either. It’s total and complete gibberish, a la Don Vito of Viva la Bam fame, or recently that guy on (edit: Mr. Wise) I Love New York 2 who cannot speak english.

But yet somehow…it just works. People actually take samples off the platter he shoves in your face, samples which look a little bit like 2 week old bagel bites covered with cheese sauce. He hands flyers out by the dozen, while others struggle to get a few tourists to take their pieces of paper.

And he has become an icon around here. In doing a bit of research for this post, I asked around the office, and EVERYONE knew who I was talking about with little or no explanation. Try describing a popular ad placed in the middle of prime time television. Some people know it, but even fewer will know what product it is for. That placement cost millions. This guy, for minimum wage (probably) stands outside a small diner and yells words that are literally not understandable. And people love him.

Does it sell more food? I’m really not sure. But they have created a buzz-worthy character with little to no spending. They could have wasted all their money on a stupid billboard or an ad in the paper. Heck, they could have really beat their marketing campaign to death and posted ads inside the Subway.

But they didn’t, and it’s been a real success. To top it off, their ‘advertisement’ is totally interactive. Not sure he will answer my questions in a real language, but I’m willing to give it a try. That’s marketing genius, brought to you by your local hole in the wall.

image via Flickr member Goran Anicic

This Weeks Links

14 10 2007


I’ve been saving a whole bunch of these up for a while, so I hope you haven’t seen all of this already!

Adrants turned me on to this new video from the WPP group and agency Cole & Weber on workspace etiquette. As someone who works at a desk and around cubicles, this video rings SO true. And it’s good to poke fun at something everyone in this business has to go through.

Agency Spy wrote up this piece on ways people get into the Ad Industry. That’s what this blog is all about, so I was really interested. They also pointed me to a new blog for the roll called “Getting You Into Advertising“. Their “Star Stories” are just like my “A Day in the Ad Life” but with a better title…guess I gotta get on that.

Stylish Labs brings you “5 Great Resources to Publish Your Portfolio!” A great post and some good advice.

Last but not least, uber popular Alex Bogusky, the Chief Creative Officer at Crispon Porter (and Bogusky too!) got interviewed by I Have An Idea and it was an inspiring read. Check it.

addendum: another great site coming up (shameless promo) is a blog-dialog (term I’m coining) called “Living the Dream”.  Check out some of the work I’ve put together for it here:


The Ballet Goes Off the Path

8 10 2007

bike path

So I’m sure you’ve seen the new Renault “Ballet” commercial. If not, here it is on YouTube:

Reader’s of this blog know I love to look at and dissect auto advertising. I have no clue why, I just find it fascinating. There are few other industries where the types of commercials vary so widely in their artistic quality and message. You start with incredible, thought-provoking stuff like the “Go Beyond” spot for Land Rover, to total push-type crap like Billy Fuccillo:

I enjoy him for comedic purposes, and he has definitely blanketed the East Coast with his repetitive and, ahem, inventive spots. Guess it goes to show that if you have enough money, you can get your name out there big-time.

My point is, this Renault ad has really caught a lot of people’s attention lately, and I started thinking – what if all car ads were like this? But specifically, what if everything related to cars went something like this.

My main client is a large, American-based Auto Insurance company. And up till now, they have always played it conservative, with direct mail, basic online presence, and fairly common-style television spots. But I’d love to see them take a bit of their budget and move it towards something off the beaten path, something totally different and eye-catching.

Looking at Auto Insurance, it’s hard to show the product working. But how about a new look at car damage, the way the ballet ad did here for Renault. How can the interaction between the car owner and their insurance company become a dance, not a cold or troublesome experience? It occurs to me that I’m not just looking at the advertising, but the product and customer touchpoint design as well. Maybe that means I’m on to something…

Please, don’t post your thoughts below (a little reverse-psychology)

photo by Flickr user Danntanna

Rabbits are Awesome!

4 10 2007

Just saw the new Sony Bravia ad, it’s awesome. It’s had so much hype and build up, I can’t believe that it totally delivered. I really enjoyed it, I think you will too. The graphics and music are really fun and work together so well.

Great for Sony, I hope this results in a whole bunch of sales so we can see more ads like this!

Also, here’s the “making of” they did on this commercial – so inspiration for somebody like me (and you too):

Open Letter to Ad Execs, re: TV Sponsorships

2 10 2007


This is a bit of an ongoing series, as I try to understand the bone-headed moves some ad campaigns make. To read my first installment, on eBay’s “windorphins” and advertising on the NYC Subway, click here. Today, I’m going to tackle TV content sponsorships: where they are now, and where I think they should head in the future.“Studying Again” by Pan-ga on Flickr!

I was watching Top Chef the other day, one of my favorite shows on TV. For any of you who live under a rock, Top Chef runs on Bravo on Wednesday nights. The finale of Season 3 is this week. The series pits chefs against each other in a series of challenges to determine one “Top Chef”.

When the chefs arrived at their ‘quick fire’ challenge, they were greeted by not a chef, but a Bombay Saffire mixologist. What the heck? The challenge here was to create a dish to go with a mixed Bombay Saffire drink. There were huge Bombay logos everywhere in the kitchen, and the different flavors of Bombay were extensively covered during the challenge. It was then I realized…Top Chef has sold out.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the show, I still love the content. But this type of sponsorship is a slippery slope. When the sponsors, and not the producers, have the control of the challenges in the show, the show takes on a completely different (and commercial) tone. Judges lose their power as sponsors begin to chose who stays and who goes on the show. The entire premise of the show begins to fall apart as it sells it’s soul to commercial chef logo

This is nothing new for Top Chef. They have been touting “the Glad family of products” and the “Kenmore Elite” kitchen the chefs work in since day 1 of the series. But this season they have turned a completely new corner. Failed TV chef Rocco Dispirito brought his new line of frozen meals to this season, with a spot during EVERY commercial break, and an episode where he acts as guest judge. I really enjoyed the “breakfast” challenge episode, except for how many times Padma referred to the Breville blenders the chefs were using.

This blatant, over-the-top type sponsorship is to me not only a growing problem, but a total waste of money. Oh, I believe in sponsorships, but it has to be done right. Did sponsoring ’24’ increase sales for Ford or Toyota? Not in a way that rationalizes all the money they spent on it. And it definitely wasn’t worth it for us 24 fans, who had to watch the Ford trucks logo pushed into our faces again and again.

Obviously this onslaught of branded entertainment is not worth it, nor is it going away. Instead, agencies have to find a way to support the content of the show, not alter or disrupt it. And just stop pushing it our faces already! Subtle sponsorship and support of content can go a long long way.

It seems to say somewhere in the “sponsorship handbook” that if you sponsor a program, you have to shove it down consumers throats or they will forget. It’s just not so.

The introduction of blog buzz has made that strategy obsolete. Instead, a subtle underlying sponsorship can reap you huge benefits as bloggers spread word about your supportive action and how it helped the event/content happen.

Take Top Chef for example. The sponsorships they have are relevant, they are just too blatant. If instead of mentioning Breville blenders a million times, let the consumer be the one to ask. Let them get on the blogs or forums and say, “man, I want one of those blenders! Where can I get one?” Let Tom Colicchio, a trusted source and head judge of Top Chef, provide an HONEST review of your knives, or blenders, or other products. Which you provided to the show, free of charge.

I know after every episode of the Sopranos or Entourage, I would go online to find out what music was playing in that episode. There are more consumer touch points to reach the target than just in the middle of the show itself. A smart sponsor will find where they can assist the participants or the viewers and position themselves there. Relevantly.

bravo TV online forumsWhatever you do, make the media where the sponsorship is inherently interactive. I mean make it on a blog, a forum, somewhere where the viewers can provide their honest feedback. Making the consumer seek it out, instead of shoving it in their face, makes them more likely to remember your brand and brand message.

I know, it’s harder and requires more thought than just throwing a bag of money at a show. This is supposed to be the challenge of our business. But don’t be afraid to try and be creative with your sponsorships, then let the show itself and the bloggers do the work. Watch your brand message spread quicker than any ad campaign could, and you are doing a good deed in the process!

Have other examples of good sponsorships? Feel free to comment below and tell us about them!

Flickr images provided by Pan-Ga’s Photos and FngKestrel. Thanks a lot!