The 60 Days of Christmas

November 3, 2009 at 12:27 am (advertising, Branding, economy, Florida, Fort Lauderdale, marketing, South Florida) (, , , , , , )

 

Snowball

Is it just me or does Christmas keep getting earlier every year? No, not the actual day, – that’s hasn’t changed much in roughly 1500 years – but the commercialization of Christmas starts earlier every year. Yesterday I noticed a JCPenny decked from mall entrance to parking entrance in winter holiday décor, and a Target that already had their Christmas salutations flying – THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN!

Remember when Christmas would not even be thought of until the day after Thanksgiving? Now it’s like our fine pilgrim friends never existed. No more turkey decorations, or pilgrim hats. No cornucopias filled with a bounty of veggies and gourds that no one really eats. For the first time a Hallmark Holiday has actually trumped a Hallmark Holiday. What will we see next year, kids dressed as Santa, elves, and Chanukah Harry for Halloween?

Today I actually saw a tent selling Christmas trees. For those of you in states where the temperature drops below 50˚ F for more than two days a year it might not be that uncommon, but for us in South Florida where at 11 pm in early November it’s still nearly 80˚ with 70%+ humidity. I don’t care if you call them evergreens, those trees aren’t gonna last 2 months.

I miss the days when Christmas was just fun. Now it’s more burden than anything else. I understand that businesses are trying to promote early savings on gift buying in this new economy, but c’mon, with every passing year the holiday season becomes less fun and more like a chore. Marketers, advertisers, and promoters of holiday cheer; I implore you, please give the holiday season its soul back.

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Call To Action From The Wolfsonian–FIU

September 15, 2009 at 7:42 pm (Design, economy, Florida, Miami, News, South Florida, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Wolfsonian

Reproduced from an email by the Wolfsonian Museum:

The second and final Miami-Dade County public Budget Hearing is scheduled for this Thursday, September 17th and your personal messages to the County Commission about the value of support to cultural organizations is critical. Presently, if no positive action is taken, there will be “zero” dollars in the County budget for social service and cultural organizations.

We all recognize the arduous task before the County Commission; however, we have all worked so hard over the past two decades to build a vibrant cultural community that reflects the creativity, innovation, and generosity of our community. The arts have demonstrated their impact on quality of life, education, the economy, and job market, not to mention that almost all of the good news that comes out of Miami-Dade County is related to cultural organizations and arts events.

The severe reduction of County support of the arts will impact every cultural institution and the community it serves. It will result in the reduction of staff and seriously curtail most public, educational programs—exacerbating an already dire economic situation. Furthermore, the economic multiplier of this loss of funding is immeasurable, affecting numerous local businesses, service providers, and countless individuals. No one would argue that Art Basel and Design Miami, among other major conferences and events, have chosen to come to Miami, in part, because of its dynamic cultural scene.

If you have a strong opinion about the County budget, we urge you to attend the upcoming budget hearing and state your concerns.

Alternatively, if you are unable to attend the meeting, you may write members of the Miami-Dade County Commission to express your opinions or concerns. Visit http://artsactionalliance.wordpress.com/elected-officials/ for a list of Miami-Dade County Commissioners. Your individual letters about your personal experiences are more valuable than a form letter.

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5 Ways to Stay Current as a Creative

September 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm (Art Event, Design, Design Events, economy, Education, Florida, Fort Lauderdale, marketing, Miami, networking, News, social event, Social Events & Networking, social media, South Florida, Uncategorized, unemployment) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

gaping1You’ve been downsized, laid-off, or decided it was time to strike out on your own and try the world of full-time freelancing and consulting…Now what? In school we’re taught that “no one designs in a vacuum”, but lets face it, when your whole company consists of you, your computer, and maybe a pet, you are not constantly surrounding by other creatives that provide inspiring stimuli. Have no fear, here are five ways I’ve found to keep myself  out of the vacuum and up to date while working as a design consultant:

1. Stay in the loop through social media
Social media can mean different things to different people, but what it comes down to is forging relationships with people online who you may not have otherwise met or stayed in contact with. Though reluctant to it at first, I have found Twitter to be one of the most informational and beneficial social media hubs. The reason for this is because I follow other professionals, media outlets, and design related companies and websites through Twitter. Here’s an example of a tweet from Smashing Magazine:

“@SmashingMag: 30 Amazing Retro Posters and Flyers – http://bit.ly/nG9i4#retro #inspiration

If I’m interested in the topic I don’t have to search through the website, because the link is right there. Other good online networking and portfolio sites are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Behance, and Coroflot.

2. Socialize and network in real face-to-face situations.
If you are on Twitter or Tumblr you might want to attend a local tweetup, where twitter members gather to have real conversations. Refresh and barcamp activities are usually free and informative. The open platform allows for a wide variety of topics to be covered by several presenters. Meetup.com is another great resource. You can find social groups for just about anything. I’ve written several posts about the Shoot Miami photography group that I belong to, but there are groups for WordPress, photoshop, young professionals, etc.

You can also go to art galleries, design events, museum openings, and other social events. Mix with a new demographic, tell them what you do, and maybe you’ll generate some new business contacts.

3. Read industry (and non-industry) related publications:
You don’t have to subscribe to the publications because most of them are online. Some of my favorites for inspiration are: Smashing Magazine, Inspired Magazine, Freelance Switch, Web Designer Depot, and Wired Magazine, and I still receive printed versions of Event Design Magazine. Computer Arts Magazine is a great resource that I check out when I go to book stores, and Smithsonian Magazine and Reader’s Digest are a great resources for escaping from all the creative stimulus when you want a well written and engaging story.

4. Start a blog:
Having a blog and actually trying to write interesting, topical, and engaging information everyday really helps to change your thinking. You start looking for new technologies, techniques, events, and anything else worthy of note to add to your blog. Pick a general topic you are interested in and write about it. As our good friend Benjamin Franklin said: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

5. Expand your creative horizons:
While working full-time you probably hit a comfortable stride. You knew what your boss wanted to see, how things should be done, and what type of clientele you were dealing with, so shake it up a little bit! Do projects outside of your comfort zone; this helps you expand your design reach. Be careful not to over extend yourself, but look for a project that is in a different style than what you are used to, or a new industry that you haven’t explored. E.g. I recently created a logo for a cake decorator. Most of the concepts I did were feminine with script fonts. This is not my usual style at all, but it expanded my design style a little further.

Another great thing you can do is volunteer. Find a museum or charitable organization within your field to help support with your time. You’ll feel better about yourself, have access to industry developments, and make valuable contacts all while doing some good in your community.

Hopefully these 5 little tips will help to keep you out of that design vacuum. Good luck in this new phase of your life, and remember to enjoy the journey.

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How Does Social Media Affect You?

August 20, 2009 at 10:27 pm (advertising, Branding, economy, marketing, networking, social media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

What is social media, how do people use it, why do they use it, and how does that effect you as a designer, advertiser, marketer, etc? Watch and learn:

Thanks @saribrooke for the link!

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AARP Joins the Fight with Canes a Swing’n

August 18, 2009 at 2:21 pm (advertising, commercials, economy, marketing, News, print media, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Amidst the debate of national healthcare reform, one television commercial really stands out. Regardless of your opinions on this controversial topic, this commercial has the perfect metaphor for AARP’s message; an ambulance running lights and sirens, getting cut-off at every turn – brilliant. I didn’t even listen to the words the first few times I saw the commercial, I watched the imagery and instantly got it. Maybe I connect with the spot because of my brief stint as a state certified Emergency Medical Technician and 8 years as a part-time health and safety educator, or maybe the symbolism is just that strong. Either way I though it was well done.

In the past few days this commercial has stirred more controversy than most advertisements ever will, here’s some comments:

From AARP.org on August 17th & 18th:
“My first impression was laughter.  I thought all of those cars were rich ambulance-chasing trial lawyers fighting to get a new client.”

“The AARP commercial looks pretty good – it takes on the myths and facts.  Take a look.

I love the comments about the use of American cars in the commercial (some people reallllllly have too much time on their hands to look for conspiracy theories.  They’re probably disappointed that black helicopters aren’t featured as well.)”

“WE WERE MASSIVELY OFFENDED by the commercial we saw tonight showing an ambulance being cut off by expensive cars at every turn. SHAME ON AARP for thinking that we are so gullible as to be influenced by such obvious tripe.”

I didn’t know the Dodge Caliber, the car most visible throughout the commercial, was considered an “expensive car”, but okay.

From YouTube on August 17th:

“This video is awsome it really shows how good the government has got at sponsoring propaganda!! 2 thumbs up!!”

“I hope AARP paid enough to make this commercial because I definitely think less of them after having seen it.”

Pretty strong opinions for a commercial sponsored by a non-governmental organization (and interest group). Whatever your feelings about the healthcare reform bill are, you have to admit that this is a strong commercial with unmistakable symbolism – people getting in the way of healthcare.

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Twitter Ho – Sponsored Tweets vs. Self-Branding in Social Media

August 13, 2009 at 11:26 pm (advertising, Branding, economy, marketing, networking, social media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

twitter_pimp_illustrationA recent tweet from @pbarbanes put forth the question “Have you heard of “sponsored tweets”? If so, any thoughts or feelings?” This simple question opened into a discussion among the South Florida tweeting community about how sponsorship affects social media.

Social media generates societal systems as overlapping and diverse as any other form of community. Social interaction is built on a few things, I believe trust and interesting dialogue rank among two of the highest. We follow, friend, connect, and link to who can provide us attention-grabbing worthwhile content from sources that we can trust, much like we engage in face-to-face conversation with people that interest and entertain us.

What happens when a relationship is based on a monetary transaction? To paraphrase a line from American Pimp, “pimp’n & ho’n is the world’s oldest profession.” So why not have prostitution in social networking, it’s part of every culture? Instead of waxing poetic about how sponsored tweets are like prostitutes, just read The Branding Professor’s posts about it…I pretty much feel the same way. In response to the subject of selling your avatar and username to the highest bidder @ctiedje had this to say, “Money corrupts. Influences opinions. As soon as paid ads take over a social media space – it begins to die. (i.e. MySpace)” I’ll even admit to trying to put ads on Facebook to sell my t-shirt designs. Turns out I would have had better ROI by putting $100 worth of singles into a cash cube and grabbing for them as they blew by.

The sponsored tweets discussion presents an interesting dichotomy between social media used exclusively for capital gain and social media as a corporate branding tool. Many of the people I follow and connect with, myself included, use social media for self-branding. However, intermixed with our self-branding message we try to add to the user experience with interesting links that may, or may not, directly relate to our brand. People follow us because they find us interesting, and enjoy our conversation, company, and content. Just as in real life, if followers don’t enjoy your online persona they will stop following you. For me nothing expedites this process faster than someone who only pimps their product, or someone else’s, while not adding credible information to the conversation – e.g. I recently unfollowed someone who would tweet twice a day “read our blog and follow us on twitter.” Now why would you put “follow us on twitter” on twitter? I already am following you on twitter, or at least was interested enough to look at your page – until I saw that you are adding nothing to the communal melting pot of quality information except for bot-like commands that order me to look at a blog you have supplied me no information about.

We’ll have to see how people react as sponsored tweets and advertising status updates gain a stronger foothold on our beloved social media sites. Will people stop following users due to them abusing our valuable time with more advertisements, or will they let them fade into the shuffle like billboards on the highway?

Just remember, my dear subsidized tweeters:

you don’t have to put on the red light
those days are over
you don’t have to sell you tweets to the night

you don’t have to sponsor that brand tonight
text the tweets for money
you don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right

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GEICO – Geckos, Caveman, and Kash, Oh My!

August 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm (advertising, Branding, commercials, economy, Florida, marketing, TV advertising) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

GeicoI doubt that when Leo Goodwin founded Government Employees Insurance Company, GEICO, in 1936 the thought crossed his mind that the company would produce such a hailstorm of odd characters as to make the Brothers Grimm jealous. No doubt it’s great to have an effective and well developed ad campaign for your company. Advertisements have life spans and like anything else once they have surpassed their usefulness it’s time to let them go. With this in mind, I ask myself “why is it possible that during a one our television show I can see three completely different and distinct advertisements for one company?” Why is GEICO going through such a spastic identity crisis?

To begin the journey through GEICO’s multiple personalities we have to go back to the last millennium to the Screen Actor’s Guild strikes of 1999. The Martin Agency came up with the idea of using an anthropomorphic Gecko in attempts to work around the strike. Originally voiced by Kelsey Grammer, the GEICO Gecko now has an English accent. After 10 years we’re getting a little tired of him, but Day Geckos can live for up to 15 year so I guess they’ll keep animating him at for least 5 more.

Since 2004 GEICO has been running the Caveman commercials. These commercials originally aired with the tagline “so easy, a caveman could do it.” The caveman ads proved to be so successful that ABC decided to make a sitcom based on the idea – it was the shortest-lived ABC sitcom of 2007, quietly sinking away into obscurity. Over the years the company has dedicated several websites in the caveman’s honor, all of them have been shut down. Even in their death throws the caveman GEICO commercials live on. The ad has been around so long that the tagline doesn’t even need to be present anymore – in the most recent ad we witness the caveman just running down a street to the song “Let me be myself” by 3 Doors Down. What does it mean? I still don’t know.

For a little while GEICO aired commercials featuring “real GEICO customers” telling their stories while celebrities embellished and narrated the tale. These featured celebrities like Charo, Little Richard, and Don LaFontaine to name a few. I actually liked these; they came, made their mark, and then left with dignity.

In 2008 we were subjected to a stack of money with eyes named Kash. The “googly-eyed” character reminds me of the old Florida Orange Juice commercial with a talking sandwich, just not nearly as cool (if that was even cool). The character for me is creepy and, frankly annoying. I get it, it’s a stack of money, his name is Kash, he follows people around to remind them they can save money – I just can’t get behind a creepy sales persona who stalks people.

So in 10 years we have had nearly 20 years worth of advertising space dedicated to GEICO – I think I saw that in The Butterfly Effect. It’s time that GEICO saw a therapist and worked through it’s multiple personality disorders. Let the Gecko live out his golden years in retirement, the cavemen should be allowed to party all night hassle free, and, please, put a restraining order out on Kash!

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Don’t Quit – Have Mario do it For You!

July 30, 2009 at 10:10 pm (Design, economy, News, Video Game) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I-Quit2So you want to quit your job? Do it in style! Back in April Jarrad Farbs decided it was time for a company switch, but instead of typing a boring letter of resignation he decided to make a game out of it, literally.

After 3½ years at 2K Australia the game developer has, for various reasons, decided to move on. In order to inform the company of his resignation he developed a game by combining one of his own creations with the Nintendo game Super Mario Bros. The game involves four levels, finally ending with: “Thank you 2K Australia! You gave me a paycheck, an incredible project and a world-class team to learn from. But my princess is in another castle. My last day is June 5, so I can still probably sign-off with … ”

When that time comes and you’re ready to make your next career move, I hope you remember this and try to do something just as fun. The game is available on his website

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United Breaks Guitars – Dave Carroll Breaks United

July 23, 2009 at 10:35 pm (economy, News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I ended my last post regarding the United Breaks Guitars video with: “I guess an important lesson for companies to learn is that the consumer is no longer helpless to retaliate. It will be interesting to see if any of these videos affect United’s bottom line.”

Well, guess what? It has affected the company. This morning many news outlets across the globe are reporting on the financial fallout from Dave Carroll’s YouTube video, United Breaks Guitars. The Times reporter Mike Harvey from San Francisco noted, “Consumer revenge, it seems, is best served with a video camera and three-part harmonies.”

In the past disgruntled customers could only threaten physical harm on company representatives who they felt had wronged them (this usually did not end well), but could not threaten fiscal harm to an entire company. This video has caused a 10% drop in airline stock price resulting in a loss of $180 million dollars to shareholders. “Which, incidentally, would have bought Carroll more than 51,000 replacement guitars” as reported by Chris Ayres of The Times.

For updates on the Dave Carroll saga you can follow him on Twitter: @DaveCarroll or Curve Productions: @curveprod

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