Jan 30, 2009

No News is Good News

Probably I will not be able to post anything here until at least Wednesday of next week what means I will not be talking about the SuperBowl ads. Like someone cares, they are all online already, the surprise is gone.

The thing is that we are moving tomorrow to a new home and Comcast told us that they are not sure if they can "move" our connection (even though we have a business account!) until Tuesday.

Nevertheless -connected or not-, I will have a lot to do between work and unpacking but I am excited because I really, really, really like the new house and we will finally have a garage... yeay! Anyway, don't worry I will be back soon.

Meanwhile I leave you with this picture (that I took with my cellphone from my car) that I have decided to titled....

"Moving, Florida Style"

Yeah, it is a palm tree in a convertible. It was right in front of me. I swear. This is Florida, remember?


What's up with Starbucks?

I can't figure out if Starbucks is being so eco-friendly that is trying to save the planet one tree at a time or if it is involved in a devilish plan to evade taxes, but since some months ago each Starbucks I go I got the same question: "Do you want the receipt?"

Let me tell you the truth. I don't really want that nasty piece of paper. It is not like I will return the coffee because it doesn't fit me well, if you know what I mean, and those little things tend to multiply themselves in my purse at a rate that makes bunnies birthrate look slow. But I am from a country that is working constantly in reminding shoppers to ask for the receipt because that is one the system that small and big companies use to evade taxes. No receipt, no transaction officially entered somewhere, that is money that they do not have to declare.

Now, I don't think Starbucks is doing that because each time I got the question there is a receipt in the cashier hands and I want to think that they have a much better and pure reason for that weird question. I just don't get why that reason is not being communicated, as it is clearly a new policy at least in all the Starbucks in Broward County.

Are they saving trees by not using paper to print the receipts? Or are they saving all those receipts and recycling them into coffee cups? What is the reason behind the question? What do they do with the receipts? Any Starbucks employee out there that can tell me more...?


It's Friday, Play Chess!

I am not a great chess player. I just don't have the patience for it. I can't be in silence for long periods of time (3 minutes is a very long period of time for me) and even when I love to think strategically I tend to think out loud..., not really useful when it comes to chess.

Nevertheless I have always loved what you can do with a chessboard -creatively speaking- and the collection "The Art of Chess", now at the Reykjavik Museum, is the perfect example.

Part of Gilbert's Collection, the sets on display in the Icelandic Museum includes fifteen unique chess boards made by internationally renowned contemporary artists. Artists include Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Rachel Whiteread and more.

The ones I liked the most are the following:

1. Good and Evil - Mauricio Cattelan;
with hand painted porcelain figures representing people he admires and despises like "White King" Adolph Hitler and "Black King" Martin Luther King, surrounded by characters like Rasputin, Donatella Versace and Gandhi.

Click to enlarge

2. Mental Escapology - Damien Hirst:
uses etched pill bottles and a mirror board displaying the biohazard sign.

Click to enlarge
3. Amorphous Organic - Alastair Mackie: Each chess piece encapsulates a single suspended insect; the "white" pieces are represented by flying insects and the "black" side by ground based insects. The chessboard design a light box set into the surface of the table to illuminate the insects trapped in the clear amber pieces.

I also loved the set by artists Jake and Dino Chapman but I couldn't find a really good picture of that set.

As I said previously I find a chess set an object with endless possibilities. I have seen sets made of salt and pepper shakers and Pepsi and Coke cans or this beautiful photographic set.

I specially remember one that I saw in Buenos Aires, populated by gnomes, witches and magicians. I didn't buy it (it wasn't cheap of course, I don't play the game and there was the issue of how well that could travel) but I bought instead a backgammon made of gnomes that I promise I will show here at some point.

The game of chess may not be for everyone but chessboards as a creative playground are priceless!

Via and via (among others)


Jan 29, 2009

Obama & Pepsi - Round II

Some of you may remember my comments when I first saw the new Pepsi logo. Apparently I wasn't the only one that noticed some similaraties between the redesigned Pepsi logo and the Obama logo..., or maybe I started something, who knows?

One way or the other, the resemblance picked up some attention on the blogosphere, to the point that PepsiCo brands VP (Frank Cooper) officially addressed the issue at a pre-Super Bowl conference.

Let me tell you just one thing: I do believe in coincidences but his line about "not being sure who followed whom" made me laugh. As I said before, I doubt that Pepsi tried to emulate Obama, but I don't think it was the other way either.

Here is the video, from Advertising Age:

So? What do you think? Who followed whom?


Jan 28, 2009

The Dark Side of HSBC

This new commercial that is showing in England has me wondering...

A friend of mine sent me the link to the spot with a big "WTF?". I have to say that my very first reaction was exactly the same.

It is a very good movie, nice music, great photography, no doubt, but it exudes suuuuch a dark mood that I find it plain weird for a bank, even though this may be the first "memorable" ad from HSBC. I am just not sure the dark and somewhat violent tone helps with the message.

Here is the spot:

Just in case you didn't notice, the lumberjack is the one that bails out the tree-hugger. It is not clear if they are brother and sister or a couple; I just hope they are siblings, otherwise I don't see that couple lasting too long.

I am still torn between what seems like a good movie -aesthetically- and what I feel may not be the best images to link to a bank. My friend though he is sure that the message is: "Don't get near the HSBC!"

What do you think?

Thanks Paulo for the ad!


Jan 23, 2009

It's Friday, Change Your Point of View!

Very nice (and soothing) video from German artist Lena Gieseke exploring the Guernica in 3D.

In her own words, "It provides the unusual opportunity to view the painting from a unique perspective, revealing aspects that would normally stay hidden from the casual viewer (...) Consequently this three-dimensional exploration of Picasso's Guernica is an innovative technique for comprehending and appreciating the original masterpiece."

If you want to read more about how it was done, here is the project's website.


Jan 22, 2009

Hope for the Mutts

If nothing else you have to admit that Obama's figure has inspired thousands of artists with his words, but it was Shephard Fairey's image the one that became the most known.

Now you can have your own image with that style, thanks to Obamicon.me.

The only thing you need to do is to upload your picture. Once it is converted you can choose the caption and you can also get it printed as a poster, a stamp or transfer to a t-shirt.

Here is my dog, a "pure mutt" breed; the "ugly doggy" that has given the name to this blog.

Of course, he is campaigning to get another mutt (s)elected to the White House.

He still has hope that a mutt can make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, as I do too.

If you want to help him with his campaign you can vote for him here!


Jan 20, 2009

Don't Cover Up, Speak Up!

"City of Hope" is a unique organization in the UAE that provides shelter to hundred of battered women.

Knowing that this is not an easy issue to talk about and that most women that suffer from abuse are hesitant to even speak about it, the ad agency (JWT Dubai) came up with a very creative idea to do what could be called direct marketing: makeup kits with a message.

The kits were distributed to women in shopping malls and as you can see below each color is covered by a situation of abuse.

The brush within the kit promotes City of Hope's hot line with the line: "Don't cover up injustice. Speak."

Click to enlarge

A very effective way of reaching women in a subtle way, something that is crucial when it comes to domestic violence. Excellent job!



Bye Bye W, Welcome Change!

For those that still don't think that GW will be remembered as one of the worst presidents of the USA, here is just a very small example of how he was seen worldwide. If someone will miss Little George that will be the advertising industry, specially those working in the creative departments. I don't think any other American president has given them so much material to work with!

Bush was clearly the poster boy for what is the bad side of America. Obama so far is the poster boy of hope.

If anything else, Obama has already delivered a change, that change being the general image of the US.

Welcome change, welcome hope!


Jan 19, 2009

Real Change in DC

Believe it or not this is not about Obama, even if we are talking about "Change coming to DC". Nevertheless it is a great use of Obama's signature word and for sure it will attract attention, considering the fact that Washington DC is packed for Inauguration Day.

I have to say that when I saw this picture I truly laugh out loud: what a great idea!

The "Real Change Exchange Truck" is part of the introduction by the US Mint of the new $ 1 coin, and the idea behind it is that the public can exchange their paper currency for shiny new 2009 Native American $1 Coins.

The coin is presented as part of the opening ceremonies of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) festival, "Out of Many: A Multicultural Festival of Music, Dance and Story." This festival is one of the several activities scheduled by the Smithsonian to celebrate the 2009 Presidential Inauguration (so you may say that this is about Obama after all!)

Nevertheless, kudos to whoever had the idea!

Via NotCot


Jan 17, 2009

A DIY Eye Controlled Mouse

Two students from a technical high school in Argentina (ORT) developed a mouse that can be controlled by eye movements, which allows people with total paralysis to use the computer.

Named the "Eye Mouse" this idea is not really new but what makes this case so different is that it is a DIY mouse that almost anyone can build with cheap and easy-to-find components.

How it works? The software that they provide for free, divides the monitor surface in squares and asks the user what he wants to do -focus on an area, right click, left click, etc-, with yes and no answers. If the eye looks at the camera, that is translated as a "yes".

Their work received the first prize at the "Technological Innovation of 2008" contest, organized by the Chamber of Commerce German-Argentinian. Here are the step-by-step instructions to build your own 'Eye Mouse'...

1. Download the free software and run the installation process but DO NOT execute the program until the web cam is installed in the machine.

2. Get a web cam, if possible small and light and without infrared filter (if it has one, it can normally be removed by unscrewing the frontal panel of the web cam lens).

3. Build something that will allow the webcam to be attached to the head and facing the eyes (see image at the top). In their case, they used:

a. The headband of a welding helmet (removing the mask).
b. A small, flexible metal tube that was screw to the helmet and that holds the web cam in way that can be adjusted to the height needed, so the web cam can point to the person's eye.

4. With infrared LEDs build something similar to a lantern, to be held with the web cam but lightening he eye. The infrared light is not visible for the human eye, but it is visible for the web cam).

5. Install the web cam, if required run the driver provided by the web cam's manufacturer. Finally, execute the Eye Mouse software.

The names behind this geat device are Nicolás Amaro and Nicolás Ponieman (students). Tutors for the project were professors Juan Ignacio D’Amore and Martha Semken. If you understand Spanish, here is a short video with the students and the mouse in action:

You can find more information -in Spanish too- here or download the free software HERE (click on the download icon) where you can also leave them your comments.


Jan 16, 2009

It's Friday, Laugh Out Loud!

I normally become confused when I heard these terms with reference to the word 'service':

Postal 'Service'; Telephone 'Service'; Cable 'Service'; Customer 'Service'; Internal Revenue 'Service'; State, City & County Public 'Service'...

This is not what I thought 'service' meant!

But today, I overheard two farmers talking, and one of them said he had hired a bull to 'service' a few cows. BAM!!! It all came into focus.

Now I understand what all those 'service' agencies are doing to us. I hope you are now as enlightened as I am.

PS: I normally don't post jokes here, but I HAD to make an exception with this one: supports my theory that bureaucracy and bad service are the only really totally "globalized business" in the world!

Thanks Kathy for the joke. The picture is from Richardmasoner's photostream.


Jan 14, 2009

A Job as an Advertising Tool

It is being advertised as "the best job in the world" and depending on your ideal lifestyle it may well be the case. It is really a dream job for nature-oriented people: it pays around 100K and some of your duties are to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, feed ocean fish and live in luxury accommodation.

It sounds too good to be true, I know, but this one is for real. Tourism Queensland is looking for someone to spend six months immersed in the culture and beauty of Hamilton and promoting its tourism to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates.

Other duties include feeding ocean fish, cleaning a pool and collecting deliveries of mail that arrive by plane but the employee is also required to go scuba diving, snorkeling and hiking and to enjoy at least 25 nearby island resorts. S/he will also be provided with accommodation in a luxury three-bedroom house and transportation to and from the island.

It is a very interesting advertising/marketing move that also shows the power of the "new" (not so new, really) media, like blogs and vlogs.

I am sure they will have thousands (if not millions) of applications, specially considering they are advertising the job in 18 countries including the United States and China. The job by itself will draw attention to the island and the Coral Reef and once someone is selected I am sure the vlog will get some attention too.

If you think about it, not so far ago, to do something like this you would need a TV crew and a TV channel interested in airing it as a show. Now, all you need is a domain, some good programming, a reliable server and someone that wants to spend some months there.

I love to blog and I am little by little getting into editing video, but I am not an island person, (I love big cities and fast pace, South Florida is as slow as I can take. So I am not applying..., even though this may be the ideal job for the hubby: being him from Puerto Rico, he LOVES the idea of living in an island, fishing, snorkeling and you know having that kind of relaxed lifestyle.

If you are interested, you will be happy to know that no skills or experience are required for the job that starts in July and there is no age requirement. They are looking for someone who "is dynamic, charismatic and interested in the world of barrier reefs," said Shana Pereira, Tourism Queensland's Regional Director for the Americas. The other small requirement is that you have to be an excellent communicator and be able to speak and write English.

Applications are open until February 22. Eleven shortlisted candidates will be flown to Hamilton Island in early May for the final selection process and the six month contract will commence on July 1. If you are interested in applying, just go here. Now if I were you I wouldn't send this resume!

(Warning: yesterday the site was down, my guess is that it was due to high traffic, but today it seems to work fine)

Thanks Odra for sending the info!


Jan 13, 2009

Really..., Who Needs Designers?

"Make my Logo Bigger Cream" and "The Emotionator" are just two of the several products being offered in this ad from Agency Fusion a web design company based in Salt Lake City.

Using the obnoxious style that is typical of infomercials, this ad will probably make you laugh or cry depending how much you have suffered with your clients asking for bigger logos or less "blank space".

Not as outstanding as the "Stop!" video (personally, I believe it is related to the fact that the infomercial style can get on anybody's nerves after a short period of time) but it is still a pretty funny ad that for sure will hit close to home if you are a designer or you work in advertising!

Now, I don't want to bother you but..., can you make my logo bigger?


Jan 9, 2009

Bad Commercials from Big Brands

Most of the time I focus on commercials that I believe are good examples of well thought strategies or creative thinking, but let's face it, TV time is full of mediocre ads and we are exposed to a good share of real bad commercials too.

Without entering in the realm of the infomercials (I consider those a whole different thing) it still amazes me to see how big brands with good budgets go out there with crappy commercials.

Last year wasn't different from previous ones and a share of mediocre commercials flood our TV... but let's see, which ones were the really bad ads when it comes to the big brands? Disclaimer: I am not judging production but strategies or ideas -because while a bad production is a big flaw-, a bad strategy is even worst.

The pole position goes, without any doubt, to the ARBY'S "Happy Birthday" commercial that is still airing. Each time I see it, I can't help but ask myself what those guys were thinking. By "those guys" I am talking not just about their advertising agency but also about the internal team responsible of approving that commercial.

For those that have not seen it, here is the commercial:

I mean..., no one really noticed that their logo is phallic in nature? That the logo "getting up" may not be a good idea specially considering is over a man lying on a bed that gets "excited" when his girlfriend comes with the food? Now, let's say it is the other way around and because they noticed they thought it was a funny joke... do you really think is a good idea to have your sandwiches related to a penis? Really?

I have to admit Arby's is not my favorite fast food chain to start with but after seeing that commercial (and sooo many times!) any little appeal they may have had is gone. Hey, I have nothing against sex, but penises and sandwiches just don't mix well for me.

# 2 - AmEx Business Card

This case is a bit more subtle but still I think that the strategy behind it is really poor. Again for those that have not seen it here is one of ads of this campaign:

At a time where some other cards are offering customization, American Express Business has nothing better to say that "we do not give customization"? REALLY?

I think that any grown up knows that it may be better to have an American Express Business Card than a Capital One but the "serious business" image is not in the design of the card it is in the name. Each time I see that commercial I think that what American Express is saying is something like: "We are old school, we do not know what this customization era means, we are the plain old grumpy business type". For not saying that if I had a business around comics (that it is serious business, believe me!) having a card with a superhero on it may be a great idea.

When it comes to position #3 I have too many to choose from. Hillary's "3 am call" may be one (I am not going to talk about how bad the GOPs ads were, that would be too easy for me). I personally find the King campaign from Burger King just creepy but I know that is a bit subjective. I am also tempted to include here the commercials that play on "woman=bitch; man=wimp" like the Cheerios one or the so celebrate viral "Doghouse" from JCPenney. But as I said before all these cases (maybe with the exception of Hillary's) are not so much horrible strategies or ideas, just a matter of taste. The same way I don't like women to be treated like stupid, I don't like men portrayed as wimps.

So let's say I am undecided about the third place...

Do you have a commercial in mind that you think should take the third place? One that you truly hate or that you find unbearable? Let me know we are looking for submissions!


Jan 6, 2009

My Two New Addictions

I have been resisting Facebook for a long time now and -even if it is a difficult battle- so far I managed to stay away from it (disclaimer: if they ever change hands I may join, my problem is with its management).

With Twitter though, I was just avoiding it mostly because I know that anything that means "communication" can be an addiction for me... but on the other hand, part of my work is to know about social networks so I finally gave in. As I suspected, it is addictive and pretty fun.

BTW, if you are new at Twitter and you are looking for nice looking "Follow Me" image for your blog check this article, with more than 100 signs to choose from.

My second new vice though was a little unexpected. Being a member of Kiva for a long time, when they started their groups I joined two: the Animal Lovers one (of course) and the AASFSHNB what translates in "Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and Non Believers. The intention wasn't really to "communicate" with others but to lend my money "in name of..." (my beliefs, you can say).

Really, I wasn't expecting too much from the group, due to my past experiences. As someone in the group said, "Freethinkers are like cats (hard to herd)" and in the past I joined several similar groups in some other social networks, like Gather.com, but no real action in there. This Kiva group ended up being great, with a lot of information being exchanged and good discussions to read.

So if you consider yourself a freethinker and you enjoy to do good you can have the best of all words by joining Kiva and then the AAFSHNB group, that by the way so far is the #1 group in number of loans and amount of money loaned. Funny, how the "godless bunch" pull it through and became the ones doing the most at least for now. On the other hand, if you are a Xian, you can join the Xian team at Kiva and try to get your group to be number one.

It may up being a friendly competition -who gets to give more loans-, (being the 3 top contenders being the Obama followers, the AAFSHNB and the Xians) that will benefit for sure a lot of people!


Jan 5, 2009

Marketing Without Imagination

This posting could have also be entitled "Marketers Without Common Sense" but I just decided to go with the shorter title.

Really, I am not sure if this is about imagination. It seems to me that at this point is a matter of common sense. I guess that it is true that "Common sense is one of the least common senses" (in Spanish sounds much better, sorry!), meaning that contrary to what we may believe, common sense it is not so easy to find.

The "mailing labels overdrive" is a perfect example. The picture at the left is a small part of all the labels we've received at home during the last quarter of 2008. They were sent by UNICEF, the American Heart Association, the Humane Society and State Farm Insurance, to name a few. Some were sent as a way to say "thank you" for a donation, some others to ask for a new donation and some as a "we value your business type" type of thing.

Reasons aside, in just 3 months I have received probably 400 or 500 labels with my name and address, labels that I will not be able to use even if I live a hundred years. To start with, I seldom send ANY MAIL... considering there is this thing called email that is fast and easy to use I would estimate that 99% of my written communications are done that way.

That is not all. At a rate of maybe one snail mail every two months (if that) chances are I will move to a different address way before I can use them all and considering that each year I receive a new set of labels I will have more labels as time goes by.

To make things worst, a lot of them have "Christmas time" designs what makes them more usable during that time of the year but that will look a bit out-of-place in June. Some of the others just have designs that I would never use, like butterflies or birds.

So to make a long rant short, it is a waste of time, energy and paper for nothing. I can barely remember who sent them (there are so many that I can't keep track) and they will end up in the garbage the next time we move.

Some may think that "well, it is a not very expensive way of giving you something". I agree with that, of course, but times have changed and mail is not as popular as it used to be and I would LOVE to receive labels that say "Property of Sandra Bavasso". THAT I can use and I can use them forever. I still have CDs and books and hey, things, that can make a good use of such label.

Sadly enough, the only labels I got with that statement are big and fluorescent as they are meant to be used on luggage (those were sent by Conde Nast Traveler).

I am not sure who to blame when it comes to this marketing approach, if the ones buying them to send them or the ones offering them to businesses. The only thing I know is that sheets with labels that can't get old (like "property of...") would be a better approach.

I know..., some people DO send a lot of snail mail during the Holidays season, but c'mon how many can you send? How difficult would be to send 2 sheets of labels with addresses and two sheets of labels without address instead of four sheets that will never get used?

I can hear someone thinking "Well, it worked for us during 20 years". My answer to that is very simple: a lot of things have changed a lot during the last 20 years..., have you noticed?

Any good marketer knows that the fact that something worked last year doesn't mean that it will work this year again. So next time before sending something like that, just think: could this be improved in any way? Can we make it different in any way?

Believe me, a bit of imagination and a lot of common sense can go a long way!


Jan 3, 2009

Another Way of Looking at Last Year

This is a very different take on a year... "One year in 40 secs" is the work of Eirik Solheim who took the same picture from the exactly same spot at irregular intervals during 2008. With those pictures he made two awesome videos.

Here is one:

You can see the other video and read more about this experiment and others at his site Eirikso.com.

Once again, a clear proof that some of the best ideas are the simple ones!

Thanks Dave for sending the video this way!