Insight. Antics.

Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Copy Blight.

In Advertising, Television on March 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

I’m glad Mad Men is finally returning to the air later this month after a much longer than planned hiatus. It’s arguably my favorite show on television, though Homeland is up there ever since it came out of nowhere in the fall.

Mad Men’s fourth season concluded a year and a half ago, and the run-up to its fifth season premiere on March 25th is well under way now: Banana Republic is trying to convince you to dress like a Don Draper look-alike, and there have been various ads all over town for the show. The latter present a jump-off point for a discussion of advertising, culture, and values.

Most of the ads were deliberately oblique: they didn’t explicitly mention the title of the show, in order to stoke anticipation for those who know what they were for and curiosity for those who didn’t.

The line that jumped out from the other two paired with it was “Adultery Is Back.” It struck a chord, and in so doing, re-opened a debate. Read the rest of this entry »

Snail Mail Fail.

In Advertising, Politics on June 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Stalling for the nosebleed-inducing climb to my walk-up apartment in schvitz-inducing heat, I check the mail, but it is not usually gratifying. During the ascent, I do often begin to thumb through the received parcels, and of course pause between the third and fourth floors to switch in my spare oxygen tank for the home stretch, to cope with the exhaustion and dense air.

Of late, I’ve taken to reading the updates and flyers from the elected (and aspiring) officials in my neighborhood with more attention. For many people, these Albany updates, Congressional newsletters, and glossy direct mail pieces are the most political contact they have, if they do not actively seek out information about their local politicians.

Some of the pieces are useful, some are boilerplate, and some are a waste of paper and our tax cash. State Senator Liz Krueger’s Q+A on fair housing laws is something that all renters in New York should read. Mike Bloomberg’s campaign materials last fall became more overbearing than a ubiquitous ad campaign for a Twilight movie. The most recent material I received from my current representative in the House and her challenger became most interesting for what they did not say… Read the rest of this entry »

Extreme Court Makeover.

In Advertising, Media, Politics on January 22, 2010 at 3:11 am

Man, every time the Supreme Court seems to be forgotten about for a while, it comes roaring back to the fore and shakes things up. This time they really did it, overturning key campaign finance limits, which will allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. Talk about judicial activism.

Hey, and it was another nail biter. Okay, not really. It split predictably along ideological lines. Yup, another 5-4 ruling! Maybe 5-4 rulings should just not count. Make it like a veto: two thirds majority. 6-3 or bust.

By the way, can the justices make some more public appearances, please? For one, it seems like they make these huge declarations and then hide behind the curtain Wizard of Oz-style. Moreover, the once-annual footage of them coming out for a class picture in full robed regalia is almost as worn out as that clip of Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky.

Today’s ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, is the judicial equivalent of a 20-yard loss and it’s going to be felt almost immediately. It reverses important components of the McCain-Feingold law (officially called the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002), two important related rulings, and “a century old-understanding,” as The New York Times put it, that imposed sensible balances on organizations affecting elections.

Am I missing something? Do the special interests not already have enough power? Are they not lobbying and throwing millions around behind closed doors to great effect? You need only look at the health care, climate change, and financial reform legislation to see their impacts.

We need some stare decisis up in here! Was this not settled law? I mean c’mon, it was bipartisan! Doesn’t that count as the same thing? Read the rest of this entry »

Condé Nasty.

In Advertising, Media on October 9, 2009 at 4:50 am

Gourmet Cover - August 2008

There’s nothing in the realm of media I associate more (fondly) with my mother than Gourmet magazine. For my whole life, it’s been an unfinished cookbook revealing new pages of recipes each month. They’re cut out and cooked up, tasted and tabulated: “Keeper? So-so? Garbage?” I couldn’t count on a centipede’s legs how many of its creations have become staples of my family upbringing and holidays.

I say this not merely for the sentimentality, but to demonstrate the power of a brand.

All of which makes the decision to shut it down a bummer. It was a magazine whose cover could make your stomach growl.

Kudos to those who saw this coming, but it’s a shame. And there’s a lot to unpack in its demise.

First is the paradox that it is falling even as we live in the “Era of the Foodie,” a time when more than ever the average person has the easiest access and most interest in the culinary upscale. As the eulogies poured in, the head of the Culinary Institute for America, Tim Ryan, echoed that:

“I am very surprised and saddened by the announcement. Gourmet was a high quality magazine and an iconic brand. Its demise is certainly not reflective of the public’s interest in food & wine, which is at an all time high; but more about the challenge of a print based business model in a digital age. Gourmet is just one of many print business dominos which are likely to fall in the next few years.” Read the rest of this entry »

Copy Blight.

In Advertising, Media on September 3, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Mad Men Boys - AMC

In our culture, brimming with brand barrages and sponsorship strafings, stepping back to consider the commercial colloquialisms of our media metabolism is eye opening.  (Good thing I didn’t have to read that off a teleprompter.)  So many of the same meaningless, vapid phrases are regurgitated and force-fed to us hourly, it can make you can feel like a duck being groomed for foie gras.

Space in print and time on television are costly and limited, so it’s amazing that these taken-for-granted lines have survived from Mad Men days until now, as they add remarkably little.  Let me explicate in translating Adman to Layman:


“Fun for the whole family!” is a guaranteed miserable time for at least half of the family.

Is it physiologically possible for Mom and/or Dad to enjoy Space Chimps?  Can their toddler’s teenage sister tolerate The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl without texting her friends?  That’s ¾ of a quasi-generic family right off the bat struggling to pay attention in the theater with more difficulty than a George Washington Bridge security guard.  Instead, advertisers should be clear and direct: “Kids love it!”  Parents know that this means they can entertain their tykes for a few hours at a flick without too many tantrums or complaints.  (Ohhh, nevermind, now I get it.  This is cunning copy.  Advertisers are leveling with the target: as a parent, any time without tantrums and complaints is considered fun.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Put Your Money Where Your Mouthpiece Is.

In Advertising, Energy on May 5, 2009 at 11:18 am

exxonmobil-ad-screen2Another story that got lost in the shuffle last month: know how we are seeing all these oil companies advertise on network primetime, cable news, and Sunday talk shows about how they are making major investments in harnessing the potential of clean, environmental, and efficient sources?  They are reassuring; they give the sense that aside from using fewer plastic bags and unplugging your cell phone charger, that climate change has penetrated the corporate psyche, has momentum with the big dogs.  Well, guess what: the ads are almost all for show.

Read the rest of this entry »