Posts tagged ‘tv’

Non Sequiturs, Vol. 2: Verizon culture wars

– posted by russellmania3000

This isn’t really my attempt to be clever or write Twitter-style without using Twitter or whatever, these are just things that if I were in a more self-indulgent mood, I would try to stretch into full written pieces but I’m not so here they all are.

On the subject of Twitter, I registered a few accounts on Twitter for my name and working alias, and one for Redikulus more as just a joke for Sam. I came down pretty hard on Twitter before, and I haven’t entirely had a change of heart, but the issue comes down to one of 1) protecting your name/personal brand, and, especially for design and marketing people like myself, 2) cultural/tech/media literacy. Twitter may be stupid or turn out to be a passing fad, but it’s important to be familiar with the new ways people chose to communicate. You may not like TV or fashion mags either but you won’t go far in design and marketing if you don’t understand or at least make an attempt to learn the nuances of the media you deal with. Besides, if you meet someone you want to have in your corner and they ask if you’re on Twitter, you don’t want to be the guy who obstinately says “I don’t do that.” You don’t have to use it, just have it available for a rainy day. It’s just a good idea in the same way registering the URL for your name or having a Gmail account using your name is a good idea.

I used to feel guilty or slack-ass for not writing more blog, and Sam and I would get on each other’s case about it, but since we’ve lost a little interest and don’t have the time or sense of urgency as much as when we first started, I assuage my anxiety by convincing myself that the relative rarity of our posts makes our blog more valuable, more like a quarterly journal of literary review or something.

I’ve got the cheapo freebee kind of phone (12-button keypad, not a full qwerty keyboard) so when I send text messages, its inordinately difficult to use profanity. The mode that guesses what word I want refuses to admit that I might be interested in cursing and hammering that shit out manually is just stupid and time-consuming, especially because I have to switch from guessing mode to manual and then back to guessing mode when I’m done. People who pay more for phones get the added benefit of the Verizon moral police leaving them the hell alone. Fuck that shit. What business does Verizon or Samsung have making it more difficult for me to use in private conversation words that the FCC unilaterally decided aren’t appropriate for public broadcast? Speaking of, if this digital TV transition ever actually happens and over-the-air goes away, wouldn’t that leave no reason for the FCC to exist?

It just occurred to me that while at first skydivers seem really impressive, what’s more impressive is the skydiving cameraman. Clearly he’s performing the more challenging activity of the two. I don’t necessarily mean skydiving, maybe rock climbing or hang gliding or skiing or other dangerous/physically demanding activities where some people do it and then some other guy does it too but with camera in tow and manages to get some good shots.

I’m not a big soda drinker, but here’s the key to enjoying a carbonated beverage: ginger ale/Sprite-ish stuff tastes much better close to room temperature but cola/root beer/Dr. P is better refrigerated. I say refrigerated and not chilled because putting ice in soda is just about as bad as putting ice in good scotch. I don’t want to hear anything to the contrary.

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May 12, 2009 at 8:12 PM Leave a comment

A conversation we have all of us had

– posted by russellmania3000

It begins something like this:

Act I, Scene I: The scene opens to the cold light of dawn. Two middle-aged men exit a makeshift trading post/tavern made of rotting beechwood located on the desolate main drag of a lonely rural mining town. Their skin is leathery and worn full of crevices such that a close-up photograph of one of their cheeks might look like a topographical image of the Himalayas. They walk together, blowing steamy breath into clenched fists and speaking in hushed tones. They wear silly fur hats.

Dmitri: What is this, this Sonic? Day after day I see their advertisements on the moving picture box, teasing and tempting me with their patties of ground beef, and slushie happy hours, and tots! Oh, the tots! But here, in the frozen wastes of the Urals, such an establishment there is not. Believe me comrade, I have looked, for my eyes long for the sight and my tongue for the taste.

Vladimir: They are places of legend, my friend, for in all my wandering I have happened upon nary a one for many moons. You will not find Sonic and her fresh bounties within 500 leagues of this place. But I have many fond memories of a carefree childhood in Omsk, for it was there that my family took my sister and me weekly to market and, after a long day of trading and peddling our wares in the village square, we ate a hearty meal of breakfast burritos and onion rings. Those were happier days. But here in the mines of Narodnaya, for us there is only sweat and dust and the meager root stew.

Dmitri: But why, Vladimir, tell me, why do they mock us with promotional messages for goods which we cannot procure? Surely such a ruse is not worth the price!

Vladimir: It is a strange and cruel fate that we should be cast so from the light and warmth of the simple pleasures we desire most.

Exeunt Dmitri and Vladimir stage left. End scene.

Or in 3-panel strip form, if you prefer it.

Like many of you, for years I have seen Sonic ads on TV, shaken my fist at the heavens, spat at almighty God and persevered. Or just went to Five Guys. I don’t want to make pithy banter with a balding friend or dumpy-looking wife or chubby Paris Hilton lookalike and even more busted female. And by busted I don’t mean she has nice mammaries or resembles a plaster cast from the shoulders up. I mean that when photons bounce off her body and are recorded by a camera, and this recording is played back so that more photons in the pattern of her visage scurry in the direction of my ocular cavity, the net result is an unpleasant sensation in my cerebellum. No, I just want a burger.

Last week some coworkers and I took a little 20-minute excursion up I-95 to get to the nearest Sonic, which was out in Bensalem in a run down industrial area that I would have no reason to go to otherwise. This kind of thing isn’t uncommon for us; we’ve driven a half hour to get to an Arby’s because, let’s be honest, time out of the office is time out of the office any way you slice it. Sonic’s website says “[t]here are more than 3400 SONICĀ® Drive-In locations across the country.” Just none where you live. Especially if you live in a city. Bensalem is not a city. In any case, if you haven’t been or even seen one (both my seeing and tasting cherries were popped with one thrust), Sonic is indeed delicious, though it would have been more delicious if a girl on roller skates brought out our food on one of those trays that hooks onto the car door.

But all this skullduggery does have an explanation, and a method behind the apparent scattershot advertising strategy. National cable advertising is, at certain volumes, cheaper than regionally targeted advertising, so that’s a no brainer right there. But the genius of the whole thing is that it drives people mad with wonder and envy. How flabbergasting it must be, as say, a resident of metropolitan New York, to find yourself jealous of some yokel from Georgia or Tennessee or where-bumblefucking-ever because they have a Sonic and you don’t, and you have to pay out the ass for McDonald’s in NY. They’ve stumbled upon the holy grail of marketing, sort of. They’ve achieved the kind of viral, word-of-mouth-driven national discussion that everyone wants, over the subject of “where the fuck is there a Sonic,” simply by advertising something that’s not available. Now, whenever they open a new joint, they get all kinds of media coverage and blog hype and lines around the block because they’ve been advertising for years to people who want to be customers but can’t.

This is not a new strategy or phenomenon. Companies have been doing this for decades in areas where they plan to launch. You’ll notice the ambiguous “Respekt” outdoor ads for Cricket mobile phone services around Philadelphia presently. They’re not available here yet, but they will be soon, and at that point they’ll start to demystify their messaging and identify that top-heavy K with their wordmark/logotype (a befuddling design choice). The difference here is Cricket isn’t offering any specific deal or even saying who they are, which is…I don’t know, who cares. But Sonic is offering free tots and gigantic slushies for under $1 to anyone in the nation lucky enough to live by or drive by one and that’s apparently been pretty rabble-rousing. The more significant difference is that Cricket’s hype/awareness campaign, and most things of that nature, will last maybe weeks or months. I’m not positive but Leap, their owner, has indicated they hope to that by the end of this year they will have rolled out service in all 27 markets they won bids on in the 2006 FCC auction. By contrast, Sonic has been advertising in Philadelphia and other major metropolitan areas for years and have yet to announce any new locations there. In fact there may never be a Sonic in Philly. But their incessant advertising has given them a legion of customers-in-waiting who are ready for a cross-country road trip, or like me, the opportunity to take an extra long lunch.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as a marketing guy, I am delighted that a protracted campaign designed to frustrate and drive people bats might actually work really well. It would sure be fun to try.

PS: holy balls.

February 12, 2009 at 2:54 PM Leave a comment


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