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That Awesome U2 iPad Commercial

I just finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. If you haven’t already done the same, get on it.

One of my favorite scenes is the description of Bono visiting Jobs at his Palo Alto home in 2004 to pitch him on including U2′s soon-to-release new single in the next iPod commercial.

Superstar musicians normally charge enormous fees to companies that want to associate a hit song with a product, if they’ll rent out their songs at all. Microsoft, for example, paid the Rolling Stones $10 million to use “Start Me Up” in commercials launching its new operating-system software, Windows 95. It’s kind of incredible, then, that a tech company’s brand had become stronger, cooler and more accessible than one of the best-selling rock bands of all time — so much so that the band licensed its single to Apple free of charge. It’s even more impressive that the band was U2, who, according to Rolling Stone, were especially reluctant to partner with corporate sponsors.

In their twenty-five-year history, U2 have never licensed their music for commercial use or even accepted tour sponsorship. With radio playlists strictly formatted and MTV showing more reality-TV shows than videos [however], many bands are looking for new ways to bring their music to the public. And so U2 launched the first single from their upcoming album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, with an iPod ad rather than a video.

Given that another iPod spot (in 2006) helped Bob Dylan debut his new album, Modern Times, in the #1 position on Billboard’s chart — something he hadn’t done in 30 years — you have to credit Bono with his prescience. Clearly he’s no marketing slouch either.

Roger Sterling's New Book: Sterling's Gold

Sterling's Gold Jacket Art

Now available for pre-order at Amazon. Hey, if it’s written by the same people who market Mad Men, it will be filled with brilliance. I especially love that it’s published by Grove Press, my long-ago employer.

(Thanks for the tip, Rolf!)

Powerpoint Tutorial: Jennifer Egan's Visit From the Goon Squad

Put this book on your list. I recommend it for so many reasons, among them is a full chapter written in Powerpoint that nearly made me cry. Makes you realize there’s nothing inherently limiting about Powerpoint decks. The crappiness of most Powerpoint presentations isn’t a software problem — it’s us.

(Note: You need to read the earlier chapters before this one will hit you with its full-throttled Powerpoint glory.)

Rupert Murdoch: The Man Who Owns the News

Man Who Owns News Jacket My reading selection for this holiday break: Michael Wolff’s The Man Who Owns the News — how Rupert Murdoch built his father’s Australian newspaper company into today’s most important global media empire over the past 35 years. When he moved to New York in 1974, it was a time when “there are no real national news outlets. The New York Times is a metropolitan paper. The Wall Street Journal is a specialty business publication. USA Today does not exist. CNN does not exist. Cable television and cable news do not exist.”

Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow Is Also Available In Hardcover

Cory Doctorow is out with his new book too, Little Brother. What a week for readers who want to take their favorite online authors (like these) into the battery-free zone!

Doctorow’s Little Brother

Hardcover Heather Armstrong: Dooce, The Book, Now Available

Heather Armstrong, author of Dooce, has published her first book, a collection of essays (two contributed by Heather) called Things I Learned About My Dad. Congrats, Heather. I look forward to digging in to what, I’m guessing, will be the first of many books of yours I will read in the years to come.

Dooce The Book

The collection includes essays from some of my other favorites (and, full disclosure, FM partners) as well: James Griffioen from Sweet Juniper, Doug French from Laid-Off Dad, Alice Bradley from Finslippy and Maggie Mason from Mighty Goods.

Rob Walker's Buying In: Why We're So Vulnerable to Brands

Marketing has two functions, when you boil it down. One, to remind you to buy stuff you need (voice-over-IP phone service) or could imagine needing (Ginsu knives). This is direct-response marketing, and it often features a limited-time special price to lend urgency to that reminder.

The other purpose is to convince you to buy something you don’t really need but your desire for it somehow gets the better of you. This is brand marketing.

When it works — when a company creates a compelling brand associated with its wares — you begin to want stuff because to buy, wear, drink, drive, eat or smoke the variety that carries a particular logo makes you feel more complete. Taller, smarter, more compassionate, sexier and the rest.

Rob Walker, who writes the Consumed column for NY Times Magazine and the Murketing blog, calls this the Desire Code. His new book “Buying In” explores how and why it works — and it works, apparently, on just about all of us. “The fundamental tension of modern life,” he says on page 22, is this: “We all want to feel like individuals. [Yet simultaneously] We all want to feel like a part of something bigger than ourselves.” Ramones t-shirts and Viking stoves, it turns out, help us bridge that divide. And it’s often the symbols (brands, logos and ideas) rather than the products themselves that perform the magic:

“Sales of skateboarding ‘hard goods’ — helmets and wheels and actual skate decks — totaled around $809 million. But sales for T-shirts and shoes and other ‘soft goods’ brought in much more, around $4.4 billion…. It has become possible to participate in the idea of skateboarding without actually skateboarding.”

Buying In Cover2

The book publishes in early summer, but chapters are available online at Random House.

FM Is Reading Jaffe's “Join The Conversation”

Burned out on Oprah’s Book Club? Us too. So we’ve started our own book group here at FM. Our selection for Q1 2007: Joseph Jaffe’s Join The Conversation.

Jaffe Join The Conversation

From Page 29:

“Whereas [old marketing] puts the brand on a pedestal and expects consumer to worship it, covet it, aspire to it, and ultimately take a subservient position to it, [new marketing] asserts the opposite: that the brand must fit into consumers’ lives.”

While you’re waiting for you copy to arrive, you should be reading Jaffe’s site, Jaffe Juice.

Vance Packard's “Hidden Persuaders” At Fifty

Vance Packard’s 1957 classic critique of advertising, “The Hidden Persuaders,” is being republished with an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller — just time for election season. From the NY Times Book Review:

“What’s surprising is the degree to which we’ve all become sophisticates, engaging in our own Packard-like critiques of consumer culture without changing our habits. We know we buy irrationally; we just don’t care. We imagine that the ‘manipulators’ at J. Walter Thompson or BBDO play only on the fears and hopes of desperate consumers who aren’t as ‘conscious’ as we are (in which case it’s hard not to admire the ingenuity of the advertisers), while we ourselves are smart enough to decide when to give in. On the last page of ‘The Hidden Persuaders,’ Packard had to acknowledge the paradox: ‘When irrational acts are committed knowingly they become a sort of delicious luxury.’ We seem to enjoy both knowing that ads are hustling us and choosing to be hustled.”

Hidden Persuaders

IAC's Peter Horan on Intent-Driven Media

From Media Week.

“Like much else in the digital world, Google stands at the center of this shift, Horan said. The ability to use search engines to find information means a more meritocratic media world, where a smaller advertiser or publisher can compete with larger companies on the basis of relevance. A car shopper, for instance, uses search to find information and considers a variety of sources rather than turn to a single trusted brand, he said. Intent-driven media also means a blurrier distinction among content, commerce and community, he said. As an example, Horan pointed to Nike+, the running system and social network that blend product, branding and service.”

I’m wondering if Horan read Battelle’s book. ;)

The Search cover art