You are currently browsing the archives for November, 2013.

Kevin Spacey on Creativity and Storytelling

It’s 47 minutes long, but make the investment. It’s a tribute to creative pathfinders and an object lesson for business people in media. One thing both groups can agree on, he says, is that the long run will reward the risk-takers. Tell great stories really really well, and audiences won’t just watch you — they’ll carry you on the bus and take you to the hairdressers. How can anyone argue that our attention spans have shrunk to the size of tweet when we now watch 13-hour TV seasons in a day?

Lifestyle Publishing Meets Adult Education

Sunset Magazine launched in 1898 as the era’s equivalent of an in-flight magazine, published by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company to convince prospective railroad tourists that the West wasn’t as wild and crazy as popular literature of the time made it out to be. Maybe some of those Sunset Magazine-reading tourists would even buy a plot of California land from the region’s biggest land-owner, the same Southern Pacific Transportation Company. Thirty years later the magazine relaunched (under new ownership) as a Western lifestyle magazine that looked more like the forebear to the current publication, with its renowned testing kitchen, wine cellar and Cliff May-designed headquarters in Menlo Park.

When you’ve survived more than a century, especially in the magazine business, you have to feel a sense of pride. I mean, if I were in their shoes I’d be downright cocky, too busy taking victory laps to pay much attention to digital reinvention. (Come find me at the ChasNote headquarters in 2104 if you don’t believe me; I’ll be unbearable.)

Sunset Magazine Seminars w

So it’s pretty cool to see what they’re up to today: A new partnership with, the online learning platform, to turn lifestyle content into adult education for upscale foodies. Each seminar consists of video tutorials, exercises, and a Q&A backchannel. A nice marriage of the traditional (one segment dusts off a 1966 stuffing recipe) and the cutting-edge, and a clever move for a hundred-year-old print brand that’s looking to engage a new generation of digital readers.

GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys

Friggin awesome.

UPDATE 12/11/13: Less awesome is that this commercial has unleashed the lawyers on all sides. The Beastie Boys are suing GoldieBlox, and GoldieBlox is suing the Beastie Boys. From GigaOM:

When news of the lawsuit broke out in November, many rushed to defend GoldieBlox as the underdog in a classic David and Goliath case. But when more details emerged, some (including me) suggested the toy maker had drummed up the legal fuss as part of a cynical campaign to goose sales before the Thanksgiving shopping season. The lawsuit also led to intense debate about whether GoldieBlox’s use of the song qualifies as “fair use” — a legal rule that allows people to use copyrighted work for parody, news reporting or other uses that meet a four-part test.

Crossword Puzzle as Native Ad in NY Times Magazine

I knew something was wrong when I could actually answer the first few clues in a New York Times Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle. (One Across: Ask ___ what your country…. Answer: Not!! And then Two Down: JFK’s office shape. Answer: Oval!!) And what was it doing on Page 11? On a normal Sunday I can read most of the essays without even getting to the magazine’s back pages and seeing the damn thing, which always tempts me to try my luck and ultimately feel crossword inept. Perhaps the JFK-on-PBS ad below the puzzle, or “Advertisement” at the top should have tipped me off. Well, whatever. So it’s an ad. A good one, in my opinion. For lame crossworders like me, it was a novel and pleasant experience to find myself filling in some squares on crossword puzzle inside the Sunday Magazine. And the JFK trivia did spark my interest in the latest installment of the Kennedy files. Maybe I’ll tune in to PBS tomorrow at 9/8c.

PBS JFK Crossword Ad

Native Advertising 1959: Industrial Musicals

Ok, technically the industrial musicals of the 1950s, 60s and 70s weren’t advertising, per se. They were Broadway-style musicals scripted and scored to be performed once to a private audience of employees at annual sales meetings for companies such as Ford, Maidenform, American Standard, and others, featuring songs intended to ennoble the prosaic work of selling bras, typewriters, diesel engines or sneakers.

Industrial Musical

I highly recommend you carve out 45 minutes to listen to Terry Gross’s interview with song-writer Sheldon Harnick, actor-singer John Russell, and author Steve Young. You almost can’t believe how authentic these songs sound, until the lyrics register in your brain. Young, author of Everything’s Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals, introduces one tune, written for an Exxon event, as “a stirring bit of info-tainment about the petroleum industry” — and you’d think you’re listening to the theme song from that Disney film about Davy Crockett. Another, written for a Keds sales conference, promotes a new line of casual kids shoes to the tune of Old MacDonald, and literally makes Ms Gross snort on-air with laughter.

The lyrics are mostly atrocious. But what’s relevant to practitioners of modern native advertising is that everything else isn’t atrocious. The companies behind industrial musicals hired top talent from Broadway — dancers, actors, musicians, and song writers — and paid them to make catchy jingles that worked on audiences almost like the real thing. Sheldon Harnick made industrials, and he also wrote the songs for Fiddler on the Roof. Terry Gross admitted that one of the songs brought tears to her eyes, and Steve Young said (with some regret) that a song from Diesel Dazzle was stuck in his head, on and off, for twenty years.

Tell me you wouldn’t retweet a “very well done, very professional romantic ballad about a bathroom”?!

Proposed Taglines for US Postal Service

How cool would it be if the US Postal Service actually adopted one (or several) of these suggested taglines?!

Tucker Nichols Taglines for USPS

The above is an art piece by San Francisco artist (and a pal), Tucker Nichols. It ran as an Op-Art in the New York Times two years ago. (Don’t give me that look. What, you’ve never fallen behind on your reading?!)

All That Viral Goodness And Also On-Message: Intel Presents the Jack Andraka Story

Almost every time someone points me to a heartbreaking or hilarious commercial that’s tearing up the viral popularity charts, I laugh or cry and then ask myself what it had to do with the brand who sponsored it (for example). Or, worse, wonder who sponsored it. This Intel “Look Inside” spot bucks the trend.

Intel Look Inside

It captures an inspiring story of young man’s brilliant medical invention and connects it back to an innovative spirit that Intel wants us to associate with its brand, culture and products. For many years Intel asked us to look inside our laptops to make sure there was “Intel Inside” — a rational appeal to our inner IT Manager. Stories like Jack Andraka’s and the invitation (the dare?) to “Look Inside” ourselves is an appeal to our inner dreamers, and emotional arguments always kick butt over the rational ones.