Monthly Archives: August 2009

Re-Start the Presses?



Fall Forward

The Monocle Weekly Podcast came back Sunday August 30,2009 after a relaxing summer hiatus during which the Summer Series took over and listeners were treated to live music from around the world and fairly lighthearted chats. Places included Japan, Sweden, even Canada. For those already pining for summer I would highly reccomend you check these out, I guarantee you’ll not run out of things to download for a while.

But other than learning that Bryan Adams sounds pretty current when he goes accoustic, the podcasts were kept fairly light on brain stimulation. That’s why I’m glad the Weekly is back. And this week, with fall looming, there seemed to be a focus on change. Will the new Prime Minister of Japan get the country back on track? Do the Spanish need to curb vacation time? Is there hope for newspapers?

The Scoop

There’s been much discussion, mostly negative, about the future of newspapers. Rupert Murdoch’s decision to start charging for online content again seemed nuts to me. The public tends to hate Indian givers.

Personally, I haven’t felt any loss of insight or overpowering desire to subscribe when a digital bouncer keeps me from a neat article. There’s simply too much content other content online demanding my attention. It’d be like going to a magazine rack and finding some of the neat ones wrapped in cellophane. You may flip through the pile to see if somebody had ‘accidentally’ opened one for you, but if you’re just a browser killing time, you’d likely move onto another mag or paper with a similar headline.

Perhaps most idiotic is the Associated Press’s attempt to block people from linking their stuff without permission.

Is it any wonder then, why such heavy-handed tactics just don’t seem to work?

To get somebody to pay attention, you have to be worth paying attention to

Resident media expert Mario Garcia remembers when many papers were run by intellectuals, who disdained pop culture and vilified advertising. Such people, Garcia says, don’t belong in the news business. Now moreso than ever, we see this as the case.

Editors who refuse to watch TV or go on Twitter must realize that the public isn’t out of touch with what’s going on, they are. I believe the solution is to provide a little sugar with the medicine; cover, even analyze, what most people are interested in along with what most people should be interested in.

This is a lesson great advertisers have known all along. If you want people to listen to your client, you’ve got to get them listening first. To get them to listen, you must entertain. For the press, this doesn’t have to mean ‘knock off the Daily Mail’, although it does mean reconsidering the traditional focus the news has on disposable facts in a Twitter world.

I’m not trying to step on journalists’ toes, and I’m sure they know more and have higher ideas and pursue a nobler profession than myself. I’m also pretty sure newspapers have yet to become completely obsolete. If anything they’re likely to become more relevant, interesting and readable. They don’t have much choice.


New Young Liberals Logo Design

The idea is to incorporate the ‘y’ (for young) and ‘j’ (for jeune) into the logo, and to lend it a sense of vibrancy/elegance.

l_logo_red sansserifDo you see it? Old on left, new on Right. Let me know what you think…

After Price and Function come…

Aesthetics. And that, sadly, is why the Zune can never win.

No news about whether this version will let you play songs you got for, uh, “free” (and come on, what’s the point of owning an mp3 player if you can’t control which songs you can play?). Price doesn’t seem that different from the iPhone ($219 for a 16 gig Zune vs $199 for iphone with similar specs). So it’s down to aesthetics:

Compare with the iPhone:

The Zune’s design is so overdone it’s hard to tell if it was imitating the Nokia 6300 or the iPhone. It’s angular design and austere logo may lend it an air of ‘business’ but the blocky all-caps sans-serif interface screams arrogant hipster. Which means? HD or no, just about everything from package design on down to apps and appearance will signal square.

Classic Illustration getting the love it deserves…

I’m late on this one but then, so’s the rest of the world. The hiring of Robert McGinnis to do these posters is genius, and perfectly in step with the Nouvelle Vague elegance of their movies. Evoking a hazy time demands beautiful, dream-like images, and McGinnis has always had that. More on it here.

Look familliar? That’s because McGinnis was there since pretty much the beginning. In fact he helped create the whole style, and it’s his imitators that made it look cheesy and tired the rest of us out. Here’s one of his more famous posters:

We Need Our Art & Copy!

What a film. I had really enjoyed it at a students-only screening put on by Marbles in Toronto some months back. I never commented because Sundance was done and I figured with most of these smaller indie flicks, readers wouldn’t be able to find it.

I was probably right, but I’ll say a few things anyway.

I snuck into despite not actually being a ‘student’ of that unholy capitalist trinity of PR/Advertising/Marketing (unless you count autodidacts), and this film, while not necessarily ‘changing my life’, did reaffirm my commitment to be in advertising. It’s a wonderful, glorious profession that can be difficult, can be dirty and nasty and ignominious, but is nonetheless outweighed by the impact it can have.

For any aspiring creative seeking to make their skills useful, to effect change with their art, and to get maximum exposure for their work and not their egos, there has never been a better career. This is true also because all artists have been advertisers. The Old Masters, like Handel or Bach, Bernini or Da Vinci, Shakespeare or Marlowe, just shilled for different clients, like the Church, the Monarchy or wealthy merchants. Still, advertising for a time was considered the domain of ‘failed’ artists, which isn’t necessarily true. After all, there are wall-painters and then there are Michelangelos. Billboard painters, package designers, and Alphonse Mucha. Fops and Beau Brummell. Poseurs and Andy Warhol… you get my drift. The point is that art and advertising are inextricably intertwined and hacks and true artists exist in both professions.

Art & Copy is a film about some of the people, who made this abundantly clear. It is also, despite his being dead, a film about the legacy and debt this whole industry owes to one man: Bill Bernbach.

PS: It has occurred to me that I’ve actually written very little about the movie itself. I’m recovering from vacation, but if you want to get a glimpse of the movie from people saying what I would were I not exhausted go below:

While you’re at it, check out 9 ways to improve an ad:

And stuff that’s likely to end up on the film’s DVD:

And lastly, a trailer:

Stop going Mad and get Burned

So it’s more than a little obvious that Mad Men and the world of advertising has become everyone’s form of escapism. A time when men were their jobs, women were gradually realizing a world of opportunities before them, and alcohol and cigarettes didn’t have to pretend they weren’t glamorous. But there may be a few in the biz who don’t want to come home and watch a show about their work, or maybe you’re one of those for whom the very idea of a job in advertising brings up memories more painful than Don Draper has after a few too many CCs. Maybe you just want something else to watch while waiting for the next episode.

Well for sheer escapism, I nominate Burn Notice as the show you should be watching. It’s also cool, neatly plotted and a throwback of sorts. Where Mad Men is an almost suffocating slow grind through the 1960s and establishment America’s self-immolation, Burn Notice is an update of┬áthe mostly self-contained, fun-packed thrillers of the 70s- 90s. Both shows contain neat suits and sexy skirts, and both have a lead who is resourceful, tight-lipped and seemingly self-confident.

But where Mad Men is a deep drama about real change in the 1960s, Burn Notice is a light action/comedy that still manages to deal with many of our current problems. At the core Burn Notice is about an unemployed guy who’s strapped for cash and forced to freelance as he tries to figure out a way back into his old job. On the way he deals with an aging parent, tries to sort things out with his on-again-off-again girlfriend and, uh, kicks ass with some c4, a cell phone, a handgun, and whatever else is on hand.

In fact, part of the fun is observing the new and inventive ways a guy with more know-how than all of combined manages to get himself out of near-impossible jams. Something anybody calling themselves a creative ought to be able to appreciate.

Not to say this show is better than Mad Men by any stretch. They are completely different genres. What can be said, though, is that Burn Notice is a welcome break for all those looking to take a break from the adworld, real or fictional.

And if that weren’t enough, it’s got Bruce Campbell, who can sell ‘it’ better than anybody.

Introducing the Wall of Lame: Ads to force 10 second online viewing

News from Adweek this morning states that top online publishers ” including The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, has signed up to test a new initiative that plops commercials in front of users as they arrive at Web sites, blocking the content.” Basically you’ll be forced to look at the silly thing for 10 seconds before you’ll be allowed to do anything else on the website.

Personally, I’m pretty sure these things already exist as trailers for online shows and other content, they just don’t accost you right when you get to the site. That’s like paying the doorman to slam a flyer in the face of everybody who wants to enter the establishment.

Predictions? Blogs and publications that DON’T require you to wait in darkness while seeking the light of knowledge will gain yet further ascendancy while these guys rage further into the night. Particularly since many web users keep multiple windows open and flit around on their web consumption anyway. Force 10 seconds of inactivity on me right as I enter your site and my space-age ADD will take me to your competition and forget why I was on your page in the first place.