Thursday, February 28, 2013

Do cell phone bars matter?

Readers, this is important! Okay, not important, important, but mildly important. Basically, it comes down to this: are cell phone bars even remotely accurate? I ask because there have been a number of times recently when I've had the envious "5 bars", the equivalent of a Unicorn riding a Pegasus. If I really have five-bar reception, why do I hear my mother say, "what's that?" and "I can't hear you". Does that sound like a mystical creature that doesn't exist? I thought not. All I ask is that you, the cell phone company, give me what I want: harsh and brutal criticism from my biological mother in real time. Is that too much to ask???

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Definitive 007

This past weekend, I finally watched Skyfall, the latest movie in the “James Bond” franchise.

Let’s look to the scoreboard:
Was it entertaining? Yes.
Were there plenty of glamorous set pieces? Yes.
Did the main character wear a tuxedo at some point? You betcha.
Was there an over-the-top villain and deadly beautiful women? Oh yeah.
Did bad guys die in droves? Of course.
Did James Bond actually do any spying? Uh, well, not exactly.
Did 007 infiltrate an organization using his high society upbringing? No.

Final score: Good action movie, but not a James Bond movie.

Here’s the problem: Just because the main character is in a tuxedo, doesn’t mean he’s James Bond. The producers have forgotten this crucial point. Casino Royale got it right. Quantum of Solace got it wrong.

The key to James Bond is that he has the upbringing, style, manners and insider understanding of how high society works. He is able to navigate past the social landmines in order to discover where the actual landmines are hidden. Sure, he has to be able to defend or attack physically if needed, but it’s not his first move. His first move is drinking martinis, sizing up opponents through gambling and seducing the right informant. That’s spy work. And that’s a major part of the appeal—getting to pretend, as viewers, that we’re not only a part of high society, but that we are masters of it.

Instead, we get a well-dressed thug. A heroic and charismatic thug. Heck, even a resourceful one. But, alas, nowhere near the gentleman needed for the task. “If you please, sir, Jeeves will see you out, Mr. Bond.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Super Awesome Treadmill

Readers: I don't mean to brag, but I've run on a lot of treadmills. While most are fine and get the job done, none have simulated the feeling of running outdoors ... until now. I was at the gym yesterday because it had snowed and running outside was too much of a hassle. As I headed to the standard machines, I noticed a new, curved treadmill. No one was using it, so I decided to give it a try. I stepped on the tread and it moved without having to hit any buttons. So I started running and almost fell on my face--I had to grab the sides for balance. The tread is on rollers (later learned ball bearings) and it takes some getting used to. But once you do, it's just like running outdoors. You can speed up or slow down as you need and it's definitely a workout.

Check it out:

And then buy me one (Spoiler Alert: Sticker Shock!):

Friday, February 22, 2013

Arnold from “Make a Difference”

A friend of mine was trying to describe Gary Coleman from Diff’rent Strokes and completely mangled it. This happens to me all the time, so I was sympathetic to her plight.

My most egregious fumble is now a running joke. One day at work, two co-workers and I had on similarly colored shirts* and someone joked that we were all in a boy band together. “Yeah,” I said, “like Boyz 2 Nite”, which, as you can guess, I meant to say, “Boyz 2 Men”. But the damage was done. So whenever the three of us get together, it’s a Boyz 2 Nite reunion.

*Blue, I believe

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Just 20 minutes a day.

Did you know that in as little as 20 minutes a day, you can have the perfect body you’ve always dreamed of? It’s true. And when we say, “20 minutes a day”, we’re not talking about the prep time it takes to pick out and put on your workout clothes. Nor are we including the travel time to the gym, which, honestly, will probably add another 20 minutes, if traffic is light. That also doesn’t include the time it takes to check in with the chatty front desk lady (super nice) or the time to find a locker without stuff inside of it (gross). And that’s if the machine you want is available and not taken up by some sopping-wet heaving mass of middle-aged fading glory. No, if that’s the case you’ll probably definitely have to wipe down the machine, which, as we’ve established, adds up. But hey, you’re on the machine and for 20 minutes you’re changing your body for the better! Just 20 minutes—any machine! Okay, full disclosure; we didn’t include the backend either. Whoops! If you like showering in front of people—good news—you can save time by showering at the gym. If not, well, it’s gonna take you another 20 minutes to drive all the way home, shower—we’ll assume an American 10 minutes—get dressed and primp for about 30 minutes, and then on to your next destination, let’s say your job, so that’s, what, another 30—carry the one—90 minutes. So as long as you’re up by 5 a.m., you should be there on time. Actually, you better set the alarm for 4:30, just in case. The body of your dreams doesn't involve actual sleep—that's just a figure of speech! And it can be yours for just 20 minutes a day!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Invest in yourself.

This past weekend, I built a desk. It was the result of not liking my current set-up; one desk I had acquired back in college and the other was a corner desk I picked up for about $40 from Walmart when I needed more surface area. The two made for a functional, yet disjoined marriage that never quite felt right. So I swung by a home reclamation store, bought a door for $5 and used the Walmart base as the legs. If I had tried to find the same desk elsewhere I would have had to run to about five stores and paid who knows how much more. I now have a 6’8” elongated surface for which to place both my computer set up and to do any paperwork.

And speaking of paperwork, I do my own taxes every year, sans software or accountants. I just use the robust site to get all of the booklets and form and, as a result, have saved myself $50 annually by not buying TurboTax or going to a tax preparer. Honestly, if you don’t have a business with employees, own multiple properties, or have some other complicated situation (claiming losses from another year, etc.) there’s a ridiculously good chance that you can do your taxes on your own, too (I’m not a tax professional, so take everything I say with a grain of salt). But what about deductions, you ask? That fear of missing out is what tax pros count on, but good luck finding or claiming any of those elusive deductions (the standard is pretty generous as it is). Just saying.

I share these two tales of triumph to illustrate a point (what? No way!). That point of course is to invest a little time and effort in learning new skills. Okay, so maybe you don’t want to build a new desk. Maybe your tastes aren’t as simple (re: awesome) as mine. And maybe doing taxes seems pretty boring and not worth the money. Fine and fine. But how many other projects do you give up on before even trying? Changing the oil in your car? Hanging a picture frame? Changing a light bulb? Do you really want to pay someone good money to do things an 8-year old can do (no offense to auto mechanics, who do many, many other things that I cannot do on my own)? To those 8-year olds, I say, “keep up the good work, youth of America”. To the rest of you, I say, “I’ll change your light bulbs: $10 per.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to be unpopular with clients.

I don’t care what my clients want. Not really. As an advertising creative and writer, I’m supposed to say the opposite; I’m supposed to say that their needs and wants and desires are not only of the utmost importance, but the sole reason for my existence. Wrong.

Clients only think in terms of bullet points. Oftentimes the points look a lot like this:
·      Sell more
·      Get more likes and reposts
·      Sell more
·      Sell more

They live and breathe their brands and products. The result: they think they’re more important than they actually are. Trust me, if you really have an all-important product, like a vaccine or cocaine, people will find you to hand you piles and piles of their cash. 

So when a client brief comes through the door, instead of treating every word like a jewel falling from the mouth of some great deity, I approach it as if it were a gun loaded with bullets in the hands of a toddler—with slow movements and extra caution. That’s not to say all clients are misguided or stupid, but more that they are coming at a problem only from what they want, which is where the danger lies.

If you only care about what you want, you aren’t listening. You’re telling. And telling is not selling. That’s a very “client out” approach.

So I don’t bother telling consumers what my clients want; they already know. Instead I ask myself why the consumer should care. What is it about my clients’ products or services that can improve a consumers’ lifestyle? Or at least provided them with a mildly engaging experience? Once I find that, oftentimes the bullet points get checked off in rapid succession. That’s a very benefit driven approach—a “consumer in” approach.

As a creative, it may not be the most popular approach, but as a consumer, I like it better than listening to someone incessantly talk about themselves.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

1200 points

I fired up the old Xbox 360 the other day and noticed an option to watch the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, before it came out on DVD. The price was a mere 1200 Microsoft points. What does that equate to in real dollars, you ask*? I didn’t know, so I looked online** and discovered that you could purchase 1600 points for $20, which meant that the movie would be … $15 to watch at home. Wow. I’m lazy, but I’m not THAT lazy.

Now, I understand that what I’d be paying for is convenience. However, that’s a few dollars more than it would cost me to see it in the theater and about $14 more when it becomes available at my nearest Redbox location. Sure, there is a cost/benefit involved, but barring any freelance projects, the ten minutes it would take me to get the movie would probably worth the $14 in savings, especially if I bundled the trip with additional purchases, like a martini to stir and/or shake.  

Having said all that, a friend of mine and I were talking about it and came up with an interesting solution. We would be tempted to pay the 1200 points if the movie had been released on Xbox Live (or some other service) at the same time as it was in the theater. Then people could have friends over for a viewing party, much like Pay-Per-View, and disperse the cost among multiple people. Granted, entertainment companies look at this as losing money, but I see it as more dollars than no purchases***.

*It was the same question I asked.
**Let’s pretend I used Bing.
***And entertainment companies wonder why people turn to illegal downloads.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Top dozen excuses I’m using right now.

1.     I’m not from around here
2.     My car took too long to warm up
3.     The Post Office
4.     I’m tired from being tired
5.     Meh
6.     I don’t want to get sick
7.     I don’t want you to get me sick
8.     Short month
9.     Me no speak-a English
10. TGIF
11. My dog ate my will to live
12. I know you are, but what am I?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Definitive Super Bowl Ad Review of 2013

Obviously this will be the Super Bowl known for its power outage. The same could be said about the inspiration behind a lot of the ads.

The Bright Lights
I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for animals. The Doritos ad with the goat was funny because 1. goats will eat anything and 2. too much of a good thing can be baaaaad. Also, the ad with the visual of the baby Panda astronaut was unexpected, yet well played, especially when we thought it might be a condom ad instead of a car ad.

Surprisingly, I really liked the GoDaddy dot co ad. No, not the one with the supermodel kissing the geek (can this old trope be retired, please?), but the one where the guys around the world all have the same idea at the same time. Granted, it still manages to be sexist (only guys come up with ideas, apparently), however the point about being a first mover was actually a real benefit of the GoDaddy product (for once). 

Sam Sung. More Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Saul Goodman, please.

The Dim Bulbs
I'm sorry, but sentimentality has no place in the Super Bowl. Especially when you borrow it from someone else.

Jeep teams up with the Oprah to talk about soldiers. That might work if your partnership wasn't with the USO. Maybe if Don Rickles and a few showgirls got out of a Jeep at the end it would make sense? As it stands, it felt really forced and disingenuous.

Which brings us to vehicle two. Ram gives an extended ode to the farmer. This wasn't a bad spot, per se, but it didn't feel authentic either. How has Ram helped the farmer, exactly? Every time I've been in farm country visiting my relatives, I see Ford F150s and beat up Chevys. Maybe this one should have had Don Rickles instead? It'd feel less insulting.

The Off Switch
A fish sings an old R&B song to a sapphire beer with a red gemstone? How much alcohol is in that thing?

Speaking of which, Budweiser Black? The first ad made it look like a beer for goths. Aren't you supposed to drown your sorrows in beer instead of celebrate them? Color me confused.

And speaking of confusing, some ads tried to cram too much story into too short an amount of time. The Flaming Lips ad for one. The lifeguard astronaut for another--you're sending people into space; you don't need another message than that one.