Digital Media: 'The Medium Is the Message' Still Rings True

I was introduced to the writings of Marshall McLuhan when I was an undergraduate communications/journalism major at State University of New York at Buffalo in the early 1980s. We read McLuhan's best-known books, including Understanding Media: The Extensions of ManThe Medium is The Massage (my personal favorite) and The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. I have to admit that McLuhan's writing style put me off somewhat. But, while his books were certainly challenging, I was successful in grasping the essentials of the basic theories put forth by McLuhan, including these key concepts...

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Publishing: Future of Reading & Writing

Margaret Atwood, one of my all-time favorite authors (The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, The Robber Bride and many others), was in Rochester NY recently to speak on the subject of being a writer and a reader in the digital age. A few weeks ago, she was keynote speaker at Rochester Institute of Technology’s three-day Future of Reading Symposium June 9-12, 2010. Atwood, age 70, expressed a less than enthusiastic commentary on e-media...

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Design: Seriously Cool Design with Repurposed Legos

If you're like me and you have teenage kids at home, chances are you have a gazillion Lego bricks in your basement that they have outgrown. Rather than putting them in storage for the grandkids some day... or donating them to a day care center... or (heaven forbid) throwing them in the trash... perhaps it's time to repurpose those legos into a lasting objet d'art.

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Photography: What Flickr Photos Can Tell Us

The most photographed landmarks worldwide are: Eiffel Tower, Trafalgar Square and London’s Tate Modern ... The most photographed cities worldwide are: New York City, London and San Francisco ... The most photographed NYC landmarks are: Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station (and, surprisingly, the fifth most popular NYC landmark is the Apple Cube Store … ahead of the Statue of Liberty). These are findings in a study conducted by Cornell University researchers who set out to test techniques for analyzing a global collection of georeferenced photographs.

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Photography: Getty White Paper Analyzes Imagery in Consumer Pharma Ads

Check out the Getty Images White Paper titled "Use Only As Directed: Visual Analysis of Pharmaceutical Marketing for Connecting in a New Medical Landscape." It's a well-written and beautifully designed white paper that presents the marketing logic of today's pharmaceutical advertising and the importance imagery plays in drug ads. This is information that is relevant to anyone who is involved in marketing any type of heathcare solution to a consumer audience

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Marketing: Bank of America CMO Offers Tips for Financial Marketers

Over the weekend, I read an interesting Beth Snyder Bulik article in a back issue of Advertising Age magazine (3/22/10). The article features an interview with Anne Finucane, Global Strategy & Marketing Officer at Bank of America. In the interview, Finucane addresses some of the marketing challenges Bank of America faces as it emerges from the financial meltdown and recession. (This is an especially challenging time for the institution, given that the fact that it is a much larger, more diverse company than it was before the downturn.)

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Marketing: The Importance of Embracing Brand Advocates

For the past few weeks, I've been telling some of my insurance industry clients that they could learn a thing or two about brand advocacy and customer loyalty from Toyota. Most laugh, given the image fiasco Toyota endured earlier this year. But there's more to the story than the crazed (some may say biased) news reports and public skewering of Toyota officials in those now infamous U.S. Senate hearings. Recently, I discovered Toyota's new brand advocacy site www.toyotaconversations.com...

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Photography: The Remarkable Work of Photojournalist John Bulmer

Several months ago (2/2/2010), the online version of London's Guardian newspaper ran a photo collection titled "North Faces" featuring select works by renowned British photojournalist John Bulmer. The collection is definitely worth a look. It's a riveting collection of black and white and color images that depict life in the harsh industrial landscape north of London in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Digital Media: Crazy Cool iPhone / iPad Apps

If you've ever fantasized about creating and selling killer iPhone and iPad apps, you need to check out app.itize.us. It is a site devoted to showcasing the coolest, most innovative apps.

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Design: Best Book Cover Art

As I've mentioned in many posts, I read a lot. It makes you a better writer. It also helps you appreciate book cover art. So, naturally, I am a fan of the Book Cover Archive website.

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Creativity: 30 Conversations on Design

s a writer who also works with graphic designers to create effective marketing communication solutions, I read all I can about design. When I came across 30 Conversations on Design I could not have been more pleased. On this site you can watch short videos of top designers and creative professionals talking about nothing but design.

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Photography: Cool-o-rama! Kodak Coloramas!

Nostalgia is what’s fueling my enthusiasm for the new Kodak Colorama exhibit at the George Eastman House (June 19–October 17). From 1950 to 1990, Kodak Coloramas consistently and creatively promoted Kodak cameras, film and the concept of “everyday” photography to the travelers passing through New York City’s Grand Central Station. It was a giant of an ad campaign – literally and figuratively.

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Insurance Marketing: Another Fun Centraal Beheer TV Spot

Centraal Beheer Insurance Company in Appeldorn, The Netherlands recently released their newest in 15 years’ worth of funny, memorable commercials. This one is called "Picknick" and it does not disappoint.

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All Art Is Dedicated To Joy: Philippe Halsman "Jumpology" Photos

1954. Halsman & Marilyn Monroe (Estate of Philippe Halsman/ Laurence Miller Gallery)Portrait photographer Philippe Halsman had a knack for making people jump. Whether through hoops, on trampolines or simply straight up in the air, Halsman coaxed many very famous people airborne and, in the split second of their flight, exquisitely captured  a part of each of them that no one had ever seen before. Among the rich, powerful and famous to jump for Halsman were Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Helpburn, Salavadore Dali, Richard Nixon, Ed Sullivan and many, many others. Why ask people to jump? Halsman said “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping, and the mask falls, so that the real person appears.” 


A 5/23/2010 New York Times article by Roberta Smith titled The Joys of Jumpology tells more about Halsman and his "jump" photos. In her article, Smith offers a preview to an exhibition of nearly 50 exhuberant jumps that Halsman captured on film from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. The exhibition is at Manhattan's Laurence Miller Gallery through Friday 5/28/2010. As Smith summarizes in her article, the photographs on exhibit feature stars of stage, screen and television; national leaders; a prima ballerina; writers; and other creative types. You can see exhibition images online here.


Insurance Marketing: Ouch! This Concept Makes Me Smile

I love examples of insurance marketing that make me smile. The visual concept in the ambient marketing example above does just that. The bowling alley installation was created awhile ago by German agency Jung von Matt for German health insurance company KarstadtQuelle (now branded as Ergo Direct Insurance, the primary insurance unit of Munich RE). It is selling KarstadtQuelle's insurance coverage for dental implants. Come on... you're smiling right? This ambient installation is brilliant because it works on so many levels:
  • It features an effective visual concept. Bowling pins representing vulnerable teeth... works for me.
  • It is interactive. In addition to the strong visual concept, the installation is also interactive. Every time a ball is rolled down the alley, the insurance company's message is powerfully reinforced: Teeth are vulnerable and it is very noticeable if some are missing. 
  • It engages the consumer for an enviable amount of time. I estimate that it takes an individual 15 minutes to complete a game of bowling. Multiply that times four or more bowlers on a team on in a league and you've got 30-60 minutes with all eyes focused on your message.
  • It effectively reaches the target demographic group. I am assuming the marketing message is targeted at adults ages 45 and older. That seems to be a group that might be out bowling. (Though I know plenty of kids and young adults bowl as well.)



Zappos.com Makes Me Smile & I Like That

Below you will find a terrific example of why I love Zappos.com. I received the cheery little email from the "customer loyalty team" within three hours of placing my online shoe order yesterday.


Woah, Nellie! Have We Got A Surprise For You!

Hello Patricia!

Although you originally ordered 2DAY, we're upgrading the shipping time frame for your order. It will ship out today, so you'll get it even faster than we originally promised! It's kind of like we waved our magic wand!

Please note that this is being done at no additional cost to you. It's our way of saying thanks for being our customer. We hope this has brightened your day a little! Thanks for shopping at Zappos.com!

With Love,
Your Customer Loyalty Team at Zappos.com

That giddy little email actually made me smile. How often does a company you are doing business with make you smile? I can tell you, in my experience, it just about never happens. On that rare occasion when it does, I am tickled and amazed... like how I used to feel as a kid finding a really great prize in my box of Cracker Jacks. In the above Zappos.com email example, what the company did was not earth shattering and it was not gimmicky. It was simply a pleasant surprise that exceeded my expectations. Any time a company does that they’ve earned my loyalty. Great selection. Smooth online experience. Delivery that defines the word "fast." And, of course, warm and friendly follow-up (that actually makes me feel like a person, rather than an email address). In three years of buying shoes from Zappos.com they have never let me down. All combined, that’s one heck of a marketing plan. 


Photography: Cartier-Bresson Retrospective

Henri Cartier-Bresson NYC 1956During April the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) launched an exhibition of the works of renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

MY CONNECTION. When I was in college, one semester I took a journalism class and a film class in back-to-back lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The journalism  class covered the works of various photojournalists, the most memorable to me being Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004). After we reviewed his striking photographic images one wintry morning, I remember going to film class to begin our immersion in Jean Renoir (1894-1979) and his magnificent film The Rules of the Game (a biting satire of French society on the cusp of WWII). Later, in the process of researching and writing my paper on that film, I learned that Cartier-Bresson was a friend of Renoir’s and played an English servant in that film. I was giddy with the discovery of that coincidence. In one impressionable day of my youth I experienced the works of what would, over time, prove to be two of my favorite artists in their respective mediums … and discovered their connection. I still remember the thrill of borrowing my professor's copy of Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment (a rare book now worth several hundred dollars), just as I still remember my first viewing of Renoir's The Rules of the Game in a darkened and drafty college lecture hall.

HOPING TO GET TO MOMA. I have not been to the current MOMA Cartier-Bresson retrospective, but I hope to make it there before it closes at the end of June. Upon reviewing some of the images featured by MOMA, I dug out my old journalism notebooks from college. On the first page was a quote that MOMA features on the exhibition website:

 “It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us.”

—Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952

I also refreshed my memory on what I found at the time to be some of the more interesting points of the lecture. My notes included:

  • Cartier-Bresson wanted to be a painter and studied with some of the European masters of the 1920’s
  • He did not try his eye at photography until 1932
  • His photographic work spanned early 1930s to mid 1970s
  • Cartier-Bresson was a master of the camera angle... his point of view is what made him unique
  • Surprisingly, he did not develop his own photographic prints
  • He was (and still is) considered a master of the art of photography, but there are critics who claim his images lack an emotional connection with the people, places and events that he photographed
  • He described photography as “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”
  • On why photography became his passion, he said it enabled him to “reach eternity through the moment”

Here a few of my favorite Cartier-Bresson images:


Inspiring Story & Photos: WWII's WASP Women

In recent weeks, I've learned a lot about the women who comprised the WWII Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP-WWII). They've been in the news recently because two days ago (3/10/10) these women were finally recognized in Washington DC as they were awarded Congressional Gold Medals for their service. The photo to the left is of Lillian Yonally at Avenger Field in Sweetwater TX, in 1943. Yonally, now 87, was one of about 1,100 young WASP-WWII women, a short-lived military program that trained civilian volunteers to fly planes stateside so men could report overseas for combat duty. The women, who were required to have previous flight experience, trained at Avenger Field and then were stationed at 120 Army air bases within the U.S. Yonnelly, it turns out, documented her service in color photos, which are featured at the NPR Picture Show Blog in a 3/10/10 article by Heidi Glenn titled A Contraband Camera: Photos of World War II WASP. The article and photos are terrific. You can also hear Yonnelly talk about her experiences and view her rare color photographs in the slideshow below. As you view the photos and hear the WASP story, keep in mind these words from the official WASP website:
Nearly 70 years have passed since America fought in World War II. In those critical days over a thousand courageous women pilots took to the skies in military aircraft for the United States Army Air Forces to relieve desperately needed male pilots for combat duty. These women pilots paid their own way to enter training, took up a collection to help pay 
for the expenses of burial when one of their peers was killed, and,
when they were disbanded in 1944, they had to pay their own way back home.There were no honors, no benefits, and few thanks.

Insurance Marketing: OK Go/State Farm Video Deal Inspired

Those of you who have seen my client list know that I have worked with some very large insurance companies during my 20+ years in the advertising/marketing industry. Rarely, in all those years, have I seen a truly gutsy and inspired sponsorship deal made by an insurance company. But State Farm just changed the game with their sponsorship of the new OK Go music video.

This video sponsorship, in my opinion, puts State Farm light years ahead of other insurers and financial companies in terms of finding ways to connect creatively and effectively with a more youthful demographic. Also, State Farm has proven to the world that it is not afraid to embrace new media. State Farm gets prime logo placement at the beginning of the video and the logo appears again at the end with a special note of thanks to the company. I don't know what State Farm paid in sponsorship dollars, but I am guessing they got their money's worth. The video was viewed on YouTube 1.4 million times within the first 48 hours. You can read more about the OK Go/State Farm deal here.


NPR Picture Show: Images that Inspire

Today, I want the snow to STOP. Don't you? That's why I chose to feature the above photo by photojournalist Clark Maxwell, which is aptly titled Stop the Snow. It is part of a collection called NPR Picture Show which is published online by National Public Radio (NPR) at The Picture Show Blog. I peruse this Flickr collection frequently to get inspiration and ideas. The collection features works by some 870 professional photographers and, as of today, displays 3,301 photos. I recommend taking a look any time you need some inspiration. Here's how the creators of The Picture Show Blog describe the blog and photo collection:

What is 'The Picture Show' blog? It's a daily take on what National Public Radio looks like -- through photographs and video. It is the NPR story-telling sound, visually translated.

Who will be posting here? Keith Jenkins, NPR's supervising senior producer for multimedia, and his team of visual journalists: Coburn Dukehart, John Poole, David Gilkey, Heather Murphy and a rotating cast of interns.

What do photography and video have to do with radio? It is often said that radio paints pictures with words and sound; we are simply returning the favor.

What can I expect to find here? Great visual journalism from NPR's photographers, video journalists, producers and reporters. Also, selected photographs, videos and stories from some of the best camera-wielding journalists in the world.

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