Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Freep lands on the iPad with a crash

The low-res "W" logo on the Freep iTunes page says it all.

App the presses!

The good news: after years of threatening to go mobile, the Winnipeg Free Press has finally hit the iPad.

The bad news: the app crashes so much, it makes a strong case for going back to newsprint.

I really want my hometown to have at least one media outlet with a kick-ass local news app, but I'm sad to say that a revolution in mobile media this app is not.

The final countdown

The first sign that the Free Press app is in trouble is that you launch it and can't actually see a clear rendering of the newspaper for a long, long time. And slow down, Magellan: if you dare try to click ahead before the app is ready, you're in for a long, frustrating, and crashy ride into iPad hell.

At the bottom of the app (to the right of the lower, black bar, below) there are three buttons I've never seen before on any app, which - I think - show that the app is "thinking," "rendering," or "downloading." Or all three?

Trouble is, the numbers that these buttons show "counting down" don't appear to mean anything - "0 T, 261-4, 107-4," anyone? And at least one of the buttons appears to never stop counting down - that is, until the app crashes, which it does - over and over and over.

The main selling point of any news app is that you can grab the headlines and breaking news on the fly. Sadly, this app is only a badly loading PDF when it could have been a clear and simple RSS feed, much like the Winnipeg Headlines iPhone app, so that the news is updated all day, every day with breaking news, not just a static document.

And the two one-star reviews (apart from mine) on the iTunes store back up that observation:
  • Gunserotti: "The interface is very clunky and prone to crashes. It is also very slow. Overall a very poor interface and attempt."
  • HollywoodOz: "Really weak news app. Hard to leaf through, crashes often, serves digital version of newspaperinstead of digital content on demand."

The forecast, like the page view, is hazy.

The best newspaper apps

By now, there are some great examples that show how to convert newspapers into awesome newspaper apps. They include:
  • The New York Times app, the Cadillac of newspaper apps, recently changed its "Editors' Choice" app to include every article in every section of the paper for free (for now!). I've seen grown men break down and buy an iPad on the strength of this app alone. I would pay for this one.
  • The Globe and Mail, a left-right, up-down news scroll that actually makes sense intuitively, looks clean and easy to read, and fits in comfortably with the Globe and Mail brand. 
  • USA Today, with its auto-scrolling ticker at the top of the page and insanely fast, and constantly updated breaking news.
  • For people who love their app papers to look like regular papers, PressReader aggregates over 1,500 newspapers from 90 countries in 47 languages. You download them for a buck each, or subscribe to all of them for just $30 a month. I wrote about this app here
  • And online entities the Huffington Post and Slate prove that you don't have to be overly fancy to give readers an iPad-friendly version of the news.
  • To get your favorite news sites into an easy-to-read iPad format, all you need to do is include the RSS feeds in Flipboard or Pulse app and - presto! - you've got a lovely and functional news ticker.

"The app is available free of charge for a trial period," says the blurb on the Winnipeg Free Press page on the iTunes Store, but I can't imagine that anyone would pay for the app in its present incarnation.

I really hope that this app is the start of something that will be constantly improved, and not the end of something that won't be.


John White writes about the Free Press app here and confirms the app is a "soft launch."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ten great things about attending Central Canada Comic Con 2010

"Irish Spring: manly, yes, but I like it too!"

Ten great things about attending Central Canada Comic Con 2010:

1. Getting a rare chance to observe Paul Stanley brokering peace between Sitting Bull and Custer.

2. Finally meeting a girl who loves me for who I really am.

3. Perusing artwork for the discerning collector.

4. Spritzing with on-site security.

5. Meeting Harrison Ford in person.

6. Congratulating Sam and Judy on their well-run campaigns for mayor.

7. Meeting your childhood heroes in the flesh.

 8. Being the first to catch the cryogenic Elvis head in concert:

 9. Finding one more action figure for your dead-actors collection!

10. Enjoying one of the only places in Winnipeg you can catch two Twi'lek women fighting with Lightsabers in front of a glitter-tattoo stand - other than maybe the Woodbine Hotel.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Now you scream - a disturbing Halloween radio vignette

Nothing is scarier than...a tree!

Time for another Monster Chiller Horror Theatre!

Tonight, I give you...a spooky Halloween vignette from the demented minds of Advertising majors Maeghan Heinrichs, Berea Henderson, and Jennifer Hanson, written and produced in Cathy Hanson's diabolical radio class.

Scary stuff, kiddies. 

You've been the link and... now you scream!


And if you thought that was's another Halloween vignette. Click here if you dare!

I want to start seeing other people (who can find things on a map)

Jar Jar Binks or geography may be grounds for divorce.

I remember a student once told me that she was having misgivings about a friendship, when the friend in question announced that she loved Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels. That was the straw that broke the camel's back - and she ended the friendship.

Similarly, I once dated a woman in New York, who told me a geography-based story that made me not only question the relationship, but my very sanity.

South of North Dakota, North of South Dakota: same diff

Americans are well known for their love affair with knowledge in general and geography in particular.

When I lived in Boston at a young age, it was common for Bostonians to see my family's Manitoba license plate and ask, "Where the hell is Manitoba?"

My family's stock answer: "North of North Dakota."

Their stock reply: "Where the hell is North Dakota?"

I also recall studying for a big test at M.E. Fitzgerald School in Cambridge, in which we got a blank map of the United States and were asked to fill in blanks with the states and capital cities.

The studying paid off. I finished the test early and looked around the room while I waited for the test to end. I couldn't help but notice the girl next to me filling in some questionable locations: India, Puerto Rico, Russia, and basically any place she'd ever heard about in her life.

The oddity continued when the teacher got ticked at the class, because the only person who could name all 50 states and their capitals was (wait for it) "a Canadian!!!"

He dropped my paper on the floor with disgust, and I picked it up victoriously. I didn't chant, "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Long-distance love affair - but how would she know?

My former New-Yorker girlfriend worked at a major investment firm with a name you'd recognize as one of the bad boys of Wall Street.

One day, the company president called a meeting of the firm's stockbrokers - each making millions of bucks a year - to let them know that they had just signed a new client from Japan.

"Would anyone like to show us Japan on a map?" he asked, pointing to a map of the world.

Not a single stockbroker was willing to take the risk.

When my girlfriend told me the story, I was gobsmacked.

"That's insane!" I said.

"I know!" she said. "Can you believe they expected us to find Japan on a map?"

We are the world

The punchline: one week later, the same girlfriend broke up with me for "being too worldly."

"At least I can find the world on a map of the Solar System!" I yelled after she hung up the phone.

Oh, well. We'll always have Paris. Wherever that is.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Funny makes the world go around at CreCommedy Night #2

The hilarious Ms. Henderson.

One good punch in the gut deserves another.

It was another great night of CreCommedy laffs at the King's Head tonight, as the second and, sadly, last group of Creative Communications students from my Comedy Writing class performed to a packed pub.

Congratulations to all of the night's performers - you did a kick-ass job, and you should all be proud!

Our judges were clearly blown away, as evidenced by their comments on the ratings sheets (update: top-three comics posted below).

Special thanks to our headliner, the always awesome Cara Lytwyn, and event organizer Matt Cohen and the advertising majors.

I'll be posting short clips from the night on YouTube over the next, few days.

In anticipation, here's a quick clip from my mother's favorite comic of the night, Sean Angus (sorry for laughing into the mic again...hee haw!):

DVDs from both CreCommedy Nights will be available for purchase soon - and make perfect holiday gifts for grandma. Watch this blog for more info!


Top three comics of the night, as rated by our panel of 12 judges, good and true:

1. Jeremy Giacomin
2. Maeghan Heinrichs/Sean Angus (tie!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Marketing Tide the P&G way!

My favorite marketing case study:

You work in marketing at Procter & Gamble, and your job is to sell 10 per cent more Tide detergent this year.

You have all the tools of marketing at your disposal (the four Ps: product, place, price, promotion), and can do anything you want in order to sell 10 per cent more - but you shouldn't break the bank to do it.

What do you do?

See the bottom of this blog post.

I pull out this case study at the beginning of every new advertising class or seminar I teach.

I love it because it's so simple, and - even better - it's true! This was my former boss's cross to bear when he worked as vice-president of Procter & Gamble (that was before he fell on hard times and had to work with me!).

It also underscores the point made my Bill Hicks in this classic stand-up comedy bit: marketers never met a dollar they didn't like, and are so focused on their quest to make more and more, they're not necessarily concerned with what you or I have to say about it:

What P&G did

My former boss was successful in his bid to sell 10 per cent more Tide that year, and quite possibly not a single consumer was aware that he did it.

What he did was simplicity at its finest: he increased the size of the scoop in the box by 10 per cent.

Genius or "Satan's little helper?" You decide!

Friday, October 22, 2010

13 more words to start using immediately

See number 6.

1. Appdates
 The daily app updates on the iTune store that always hold the promise of taking a sad app and making it better, Jude.

Born From A Boombox. Brittany, a CreComm student I don't teach, used it online, and I knew instantly she was talking about me.

3. Bizarrchitecture
Architecture that's weird without purpose. Like the traffic circles on Grosvenor.

4. Buffayo
Saying hello to the herd.

5. Doubleyou

6. Grease
It's the word that you heard, it's got groove got meaning. Psst. Come to the Ad Majors' Grease Sing-A-Long fundraiser, Monday, Nov. 8, at Lecture Theatre, doors open at 4 p.m.

7. Lightmare 
When the traffic lights stop working at Confusion Corner.

8. Manties
If we can say "murse" without blinking, we can also say manties, right? Hello? Come back!

9. Paroday
National Talk Like a Pirate Day, for example. 

10. Plantastic/plantacular
An awesome plan!

11. Son of a Botch 
Winnipeg: "Gitch." Saskatchewan: "Gotch." Disparaging phrase in Saskatchewanese: "Son of a Botch."

12. Threek
The fork at Papa George's with only three prongs.

13. Twitterification
A lame TV show that seems better when you're on Twitter talking about it in real time. Jersey Shore comes to mind - because..."It's T-shirt tiiiiiiime!"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giving CreComm a hand with the organic rebrand

Like Madonna in Like a Virgin, mobile technology has made me - and the program in which I teach - feel shiny and new.

See what I did there? Virgin mobile? Aww, forget it.

It doesn't mean that I - or Creative Communications - is perfect or has no room for improvement, just that we're moving in the right direction. Or it is, anyway.

The evidence is that this semester I've been getting more and more potential students emailing and tweeting me for information about the program, asking for tours of the downtown campus and to sit in on some of our classes.

Of course, the answer to all of these questions is the same answer I give to the media when I get a request to be interviewed: "I'm already there, baby."

Yes, I call everyone "baby," baby.

In fact, it's the media, old and new, that may be the catalyst to the rebrand that our program seems to be enjoying lately, kicked off by the mandatory mobile devices, and covered by the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC Radio One, CBC TV, Citytv, The Projector, the Uniter, the Telegraph UK, CTV National, CBC (French!) TV, and - most recently - blogger Erica Glasier.

Practically, organically, rebrandically

Rebranding is one of those weird things that can happen organically over time or for which you can hire an ad or PR agency to make happen.

You usually know you're ready for a rebrand when you change your products and servies, your vision changes, your customer changes, or you're misuderstood by your target public.

In CreComm's case, no one is actively coordinating our rebranding process, if that's even what it is. Our products and services did change with the addition of the media-production major, personnel changes in the teaching staff, new courses and options, more "crossover" work between majors, and the addition of mobile technology and a focus on social media.

As well, there's been some discussion about to major or not to major and even a name change for the program.

The question on everyone's mind: "Where's the app?" I have a meeting next week to discuss that very issue in conjunction with another program and an outside vendor, though we'll also need some money from Mark Zuckerberg to make it happen.

The sad and lonely CreComm brochure

Of course, branding is more than an app and a logo. But now that you mention it, there isn't a CreComm logo. Or an app. Or a website to speak of.

And the brochure is depressingly copy heavy (it's not produced by the department).

My beef with the brochure is that it should reflect our positioning - how our product is ranked in the mind of the consumer - and niche market that we attract to the program. Does this brochure yell "new media" to you?

As for the content, the brochure covers the classes that a CreComm student takes, but it doesn't focus on the benefits of taking the program - a classic advertising and branding mistake.

How to rebrand anything

If I were in charge of rebranding our program, which I'm not, I'd do it the same way I've done it for many of my clients, God bless them for feeding my imaginary babies and manservant Ruprecht:

1. Get to the heart of your positioning. How are you ranked in the mind of your consumer? How does your consumer feel about you? How can you tap into that emotion?

2. Figure out what your competitors are doing. CreComm doesn't really have direct competition, though there are little courses here and there that offer elements of what we do; in our case, we'd want to make sure we educate people about how we differ from, say, the Academy of Broadcasting or the U of W's PR diploma program.

3. Decide whether a name change may be in order.

4. Consider your visual identity: logo, colors, brochure, website, letterhead, business cards, golf balls, baseball caps, etc.

5. Know your brand and enforce a policy to ensure consistency. One person should own the process.

6. Market the hell out of your brand using the four traditional Ps: product, place, price, promotion.

Shall we begin?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hangin' with the Kids in the Toad Hall

How do you sell a store full of thousands of toys in just 30 seconds without any visuals?

I'm not sure. Maybe if we go to the toy store, we'll find out!

Today, my first-year advertising class and I went to Toad Hall Toys in Winnipeg's Exchange District, so students could learn more about the place, the better to write a 30-second radio ad for it in tomorrow's class.

Oh, yeah: we also got to play with a buncha toys instead of sitting in a boring classroom. Did you hear that, other schools? Sucks to be you!
The robots say, "Nyeah, nyeah, nyeah."

To start the class, I asked how many students had NEVER been to Toad Hall Toys. Many raised their hands. "Nooooooooo!" I yelled over a long shot of planet Earth.

Working and studying in the Exchange District every day and NOT going to Toad Hall Toys regularly is a sad situation that must be remedied as soon as possible. So, off we went.

Toad Hall Toys is the most magical store in Winnipeg - from its swinging, wooden exterior signage, to the homey, warehouse-style interior and awesome stuff on display, like, oh...dinosaurs and rockets!

The true weapon is the mind. Which is why he has a rocket launcher.

And, for gentler folks, an awesome selection of magic, games, models, costumes, doll houses, puppets, and literature:

Where's my wallet?

Toad Hall's niche is its undying loyalty to the retro charms of train sets, dollhouses, board games, and the wooden and tin toys of yesteryear.

On a day when you're feeling blue or want to get away from "that one person at work who drives you insane," Toad Hall Toys is a pretty great escape. Grown men in suits have been known to walk in on a tight deadline to be found six hours later like this:

 Find the puppet in this picture.

After our hour-long visit to the store, we returned to Red River College for PR class - where the sour expression returned to my face. Was it my sour disposition, or the "Extreme Sour Warhead" I had in my mouth while I taught?

Only I know for sure.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Comedy Writing students kill at CreCommedy night #1

The hilarious Ms. Lachuta, I presume?

I've been jabbed to death by the porcupines of comedy.

We kicked off the first of our two CreCommedy nights at the King's Head tonight with a kick-ass night of laughs, courtesy of second-year Creative Communications students (aka the aforementioned porcupines) enrolled in my comedy-writing class.

All of our first-time performers should feel pretty great right about now, because there was nary a dead moment at tonight's show.

Special thanks to CreComm grad and headliner Dan Verville, who absolutely killed, destroyed, and tore up the room. And more thanks to grad Matt Cohen for organizing the whole thing. And to all of the other CreComm grads who came to watch and judge the big show.

See you for part two next Monday at the King's Head. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8.

A wonderful DVD of the evening's festivities will be available shortly. Watch this blog for more info.

The hilarious Mr. Jeremie Wookey: 


Our panel of 12 judges have spoken, and selected the top three comics of the night:

1. Jennifer Hanson
2. Jeremie Wookey
3. Jessica Cable

Well done to all of our comedians! Incidentally, the point spread from lowest- to highest-rated is less than five marks out of 20. A squeaker that attests to the high quality of the show.

The famous shopping and pancakes assignment starts now

The best ad and PR class ever.

When is shopping more than just shopping?

Thanks for asking, Plato.

It's when the RRC advertising majors and I make our annual visit to Polo Park for apple pancakes and Apple computers. This year, the PR majors were nice enough to join us - the more people eating pancakes the merrier, I say!

All apples aside, the main reason we go to the mall is to conduct some worthwhile market research and personal observation at the retail level. Stalking is involved.

The assignment:
Shopping Assign 10

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Terrible rock songs based on kids' lit, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes

The mutton called. He wants his mullet back.

What could be worse than children's books written by rock stars?

Glad you asked!

Try rock songs based on children's books, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes - the sure sign that a pop singer has writers' block, a drug problem, a new child, or - most likely - all three!

Granted, there are some examples of the genre that buck the trend, like Aretha Franklin's "the House That Jack Built," but for every one of these there are three like the Castaways' "Liar Liar." Based on the "pants on fire" rhyme, the song is so bad, it must be heard to be believed (link below).

Ten of my favorite examples (links open in YouTube):

1. Paul McCartney - Mary Had a Little Lamb (see the video at the top of this post)

McCartney's first post-Beatles single was, like the lamb itself: fluffy and unwelcome at institutions of higher learning. Let it be said: the lamb has no chops.

2. Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit

Turns out that the "white rabbit" in Alice in Wonderland was a heavy user of mind-altering substances.

A YouTube talkbacker helpfully explains:
"Its weird, when I watched this on weed it was a lot more interesting than when I was on LSD. Maybe cuz I was sooo much more interested in everything around me while I was on LSD and while on weed I just watched the video lmao"
Thanks for the insight, @bmurder25. Ahem.

3. John Lennon - My Mummy's Dead

A short, creepy song about John's dead mother. Features the melody to Three Blind Mice.

4. Aretha Franklin - The House That Jack Built

Aretha could sing anything and it would be great - except for, maybe, Sting's gawd-awful Noah's Ark book.

5. The Castaways - Liar Liar

What could make "Liar, liar pants on fire, hanging from a telephone wire" more annoying than it already is? Cue the falsetto!

6. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - The House at Pooh Corner

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's embarrassingly sincere tribute to Winnipeg's most-famous citizen is just begging for an equally sincere cover version by the Guess Who. Get on it, boys!

7. Jethro Tull - Mother Goose

A song with a flute about Mother Goose, fairy tales, and - I'm quite sure - Vulcans, Wookiees, and Hobbits. So nerdy, it would get blushes at Comic Con.

8. The Cryan' Shames - Sugar and Spice

The rhyme about what little girls are made of comes full circle when the girl grows up (I hope) and all of the singer's friends want some paprika. Let's move on. I'm Roger Lodge.

9. Dave Matthews Band - Rapunzel 

Keep those scrunchies in your hair, Rapunzel.

I firmly maintain that Dave Matthews is the Devil and his fans are the evil dead, as evidenced by the terrible faux-funk noodling in this and all of his songs.

Hell, we chucked out the Spin Doctors for lesser crimes against humanity. 

10. Green Jelly - Three Little Pigs

The target audience for this song: the boneheads who live next door to me; they drink, party, and listen to metal all night long in addition to - wait for it - having a young child they're bringing up to be exactly like them.

Does the wolf make house calls?

Friday, October 15, 2010

The cradle will rock: terrible kids' books written by rock stars

Why do rock stars think they can take their crappy lyrics and turn them into awesome children's books?

Why, because they know they can become a famous author in just five, easy steps:
  • Step one: rock star goes on tour.
    • Step two: rock star discovers drugs.
    • Step three: in a drug-induced haze, rock star sleeps with groupies/gold diggers.
    • Step four: rock star has a baby.
    • Step five: rock star marvels at the miracle of life, and writes a children's book, because children's books are just like songs - they have hardly any words, and the illustrations - the visual equivalent of "melodies" - do all of the heavy lifting.
    I give you:

    1. Sting - Rock Steady: A Story of Noah's Ark

    Who needs God when you've got a God-like ego?

    Sting is the man who once wrote "Hey, Mr. Brontosaurus, don't you have a lesson for us?" but that didn't prevent him from reading the Bible and deciding he could do a better job. So, in 2001, he published "Rock Steady: A Story of Noah's Ark."

    Get it? "Rock?" Like a boat? Awwww, forget it. 

    While five Amazon reviewers give the book an unbelievable five out of five stars, I'm with the lone reviewer who gives it one.

    The reviewer calls himself "A Customer," but it's probably none other than Noah himself: "I have thrown my copy in the trash."

    2. Billy Joel - Goodnight, My Angel

    Somewhere between marrying young girls and crashing his car into trees, Joel penned this sappy love letter to his daughter, who - like his current wife - was already in her twenties when it was published in 2004.

    The illustrations make the book even creepier - so much so that even the School Library Journal gives it a giant thumbs down: "This bland visual rendering of one of Joel's popular ballads takes what should be a universal declaration of love between a parent and child and turns it into a narrow, limiting sentiment."

    3. Madonna - The English Roses

    Madonna trades in her pointy bra for something even more uncomfortable: the role of a moralist blowhard, who jumps to the defense of good-looking people everywhere.

    Our author knows of what she speaks: as a hot babe, she knows that even the best-looking among us have to endure terrible things like, for instance, the jealous barbs of ugly people who are so cruel that they sometimes even pretend good-looking people don't exist.

    And the problem is...?

    The book resolves itself when the bullies realize the pretty girl's mother is dead, and - whew! - the pretty girl squeaks into the gang on a technicality.

    4. Paul McCartney - High in the Clouds

    Will you still need me, will you still feed me (veggie burgers) when I'm 64?

    The title of McCartney's kids' book seems to hint at marijuana legalization, but no such luck: the book is predictably a pro-vegetarianism treatise.

    A squirrel sees his mom crushed by a bulldozer and he goes on a quest for a mythical island in which all animals can be free to do whatever they like - as long as the consumption of each other is not involved.

    5. Kylie Minogue - The Showgirl Princess

    A 32-page, hardcover picture book in which a showgirl takes a dazzling adventure through the scary lands of narcissism and self-promotion.

    The moral of the story, kids: Kylie's world tour is coming soon to a city near you, and you should buy tickets a.s.a.p.!

    6. Geri Halliwell - Ugenia Lavender and the Burning Pants

    Ugenia has burning pants, because she lies a lot. Make up your own joke here.

    7. Gloria Estefan - The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog

    A bulldog has trouble teething. I think. The most mysterious thing about this book is that it's in Spanish, which means that, at some point in the book, someone will hear the dog making noises and whisper to no one in particular, "El Diablo!"

    8. Bob Dylan - Forever Young

    How does it feel to write a tome like a complete unknown with no direction home?

    Just a touch less depressing than the Bank of Montreal ad that hijacked "The Times They Are a-Changin'," Forever Young simply transcribes the lyrics to the famous Dylan song and places them amidst a cleaned-up, cartoonish version of the man's career.

    Save your money for the Bob Dylan stuffed doll instead.


    What could be worse than rock stars writing children's books? How about rock stars writing songs based on children's books, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes?

    To be continued...


    9. Paul Simon - At the Zoo

    CreComm instructor Melanie Lee Lockhart loaned me the Paul Simon Children's book, called At the Zoo, and pointed out the best part, where "the hamsters turn on frequently."

    What would Garfunkel say!?

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    This blog post has NO arsenic!

    Maybe the dead-babies campaign wasn't such a good idea after all.

    Writing ads sure is hard.

    Just ask my first-year CreComm students, a lovely bunch, who just finished writing their first radio ad.

    Why start with radio? As Jarvis Cocker and William Shatner sang, "We had to start it somewhere, so we started there." That, and the belief held by many in the ad industry that "if you can write a radio ad, you can write any ad."

    It's usually within a week of writing the first ad that I get my first student who says, "Well, I guess I'm not cut out for writing advertising," as though the first idea is not only the worst idea but also the only idea he or she will ever have!

    That's my cue to remind the class that advertising is a language all of its own and, like any language, it takes some time to learn the basics before you can travel to the foreign land and have a full conversation with a person who speaks it every day.

    In some ways, the trouble that anyone has writing his or her first ad is a microcosm of the history of advertising itself.

    Ad Nauseous

    In the early days of the profession, no one understood how advertising worked, as you can see in the pre-1900 ads for Nestlé and Royal Seal oats I've included in this blog post (and which appear in the excellent book, Ad Nauseam):
    • To illustrate the security of its packages, Royal Seal showed its oats surrounded by a cockroach infestation. Mmm-mmm good!
    • Nestlé's ad was intended to stop moms from feeding their babies dangerous cow's milk, but the impression that the ad gives us is clearly, "Nestlé kills babies!" Worth every penny of the media buy, eh?
    Likewise, famous Mad Man David Ogilvy once pointed out that if you say, "Our salt has no arsenic!" in your print ad, a majority of readers will remember it as, "Salt has arsenic!"

    In advertising, you have to accept that you only have your audience's peripheral attention at best - something that is hard to get your mind around when you've spent all day putting your blood, sweat, and tears into writing the damn ad and making it perfect.

    If that's the fate of a good ad, imagine the fate of one that isn't so great.

    Something to consider the next time you enjoy a big, bowl of tasty cockroaches.
    Snap, Crackle, Pop: and that's just the cockroaches!

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Everything's coming up thank yous

    It's been an early harvest of thanks this year.

    I woke up this morning to a lovely Thanksgiving email from a former student, thanking his instructors for "giving me the skills to allow me to be where I am today." And he's in a good place, so it wasn't sarcasm! Ha!

    Nice or what? And he graduated when I still didn't know what the hell I was doing...poor fella.

    A couple of weeks ago, I got maybe the sweetest card I've ever received from a former student; apparently, she'd thought about all of the times I'd acted like a buffoon in class, told ill-advised jokes, and mercilessly teased my students until they nearly cried, and wanted to thank me for keeping things entertaining. The trick worked!

    So, let me just say thanks and "right back at ya" to all of the students who make and have made my job the very opposite of a thankless task - and whose thoughtfulness reminds me to be more thoughtful in return.

    Join me in raising a glass to you!

    Now, back to work: these frozen McCain pumpkin pies don't eat themselves!

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    What's the major idea?

    What's a complete idiot doing at college?

    @kentonlarsen: "Is it time for Creative Communications to get rid of majors?"

    I tweeted the question earlier this week because the idea of choosing a specialty in the second year of a two-year program seems somewhat counterintuitive (disclaimer: to me!) in a world in which a "communications professional" is someone who does everything.

    In CreComm, second-year students choose between Advertising, PR, Journalism, and Media Production streams.

    We added Media Production about seven years ago, but the other three majors have been the other three majors for as long as anyone can remember, which means that they don't necessarily reflect the modern-day realities and demands of a job in communications.

    Major minor part of diploma

    Weird but true: our students' major doesn't even appear on their diploma or marks transcript, though you could tell what it is by looking at the course breakdown, I suppose.

    I majored in journalism and worked in advertising and PR ("communications") for most of my professional career. Not a single employer ever asked me to announce my major in mixed company or whisper it to them privately, come to think of it. 

    "To major or not to major" has come up at faculty and curriculum meetings before, as has the suggestion that Ad and PR could be hooked up as one major and Media Production and Journalism as another. Or a major and a minor. Or an optional third year - like the Graphic Design program now offers.

    There are pros and cons to all of these approaches, and any change would need to be tabled by our Curriculum Committee and sent by carrier pigeon to a panel of experts on a secret island where Marlon Brando plays a piano as a creepy little person looks on.

    The tweeps weigh in

    Sounds like a lot of work, and I usually make the greatest progress when I do things myself, so I brought the question to my tweeps. Many, many CreComm students and grads weighed in.

    Here's what they said:
    • No!!! I love PR and am not totally in love with everything else. I like it the way it is. Too much craziness w/4 dif majors.
    • Oy Vey, I might have to start picketing about NO MORE JOURNALISM classes....aaaahhhhhh.
    • I would frankly support that wholeheartedly. The major took me away from the thing I most wanted to experience and learn.
    • Most journos end up in PR eventually. Media literacy is important so ad is good. Broadcast is going to be necessary for all.
    • I would be more supportive of two majors as J and Media Production are similar as are Ad and PR. I'd cry if I had streeters!
    • Works for me. I enjoyed the J stuff, but can always use help on technical side.
    • At least, more overlap -- some major-specific, the rest open 2 all, some required 4 all. agree on broadcast.
    • In that case can I come back and do every other major?!
    • If you could choose a major AND minor, that would really be something. Mostly I just wanted to work more with video.
    • Probably not me - my major was cave drawings.
    • I'd rather it be Ad and Media Production. We have a ton of almost ad majors in MP!
    • I like the idea, but wouldn't go with J as one of the options. Needs to be broader than that.
    • Could it even be two separate *programs*, CreComm and Media Production (which would include more multimedia content)?
    • I certainly agree w/ the double major idea-granted, broadcast was highly intensive. Count me in for a focus group if need be!
    • Heartily support twinned majors: in my experience, esp. here at APTN, having some J skills along with BPro is *very* key.
    • Yes, however you should be able to double major: take another major's requisite classes instead of electives.
    Your comments please

    The debate rages. What do you think? Comment below!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Oh, crap: I'm Captain Kirk!

    Set the iPhone for stun.

    Today, I ran around from meeting to meeting in my orange, V-neck sweater, getting things done and saving the world with my iPhone, iPad, and a Jack Sack full of whatever I might need on today's season of 24.

    I was feeling pretty damn good about myself until I got a glimpse of my reflection in a window and two things instantly came to mind:

    1. "Ewwww. I've been with that man!"

    2. "Oh, crap: I'm Captain Kirk!"

    It never occurred to me until today, but we're surrounded by some serious sci-fi hardware. No, the cars don't fly, and the robot butler has yet to be fully realized, but can you tell me that the iPhone isn't a Star Trek communicator? Or that the iPad isn't a tricorder?

    Sadly, the orange V-neck sweater is still the orange, V-neck sweater. And I haven't sussed it out yet, but the receding hairline is either a tribute to William Shatner or a dying Tribble. The green-skinned girlfriend has yet to materialize. Boo!

    The crazy thing is that I could time travel back to my technology-devoid CreComm days (see the previous blog post), haul out the iPhone, and completely blow people's minds:

    "It's a portable computer. I use it to surf the net, play games, listen to music, make phone calls..." and that's where they would've burned me for witchcraft.

    The future is now

    Whenever someone tells me that he or she thinks the iPhone isn't all that - too expensive, or whatever - I like to remind them that not too long ago, any ONE of the 180 apps on my iPhone would've rocked their worlds.

    Take Shazam or SoundHound. Shazam recognizes whatever song happens to be playing and reveals the song, artist, and album from whence it came. SoundHound lets you hum a song - hum a song!!! - and it does the same.

    Don't beam me up, Scotty, because there's some pretty wicked crap down here on Earth.

    It all reminds me of the time my friend's Dad couldn't find the fast-forward button on the TV remote control. After struggling for five minutes, he desperately asked, "How do you make this go to the future?"

    We're livin' it, baby!

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Ten things that crossed my mind at this weekend's two, big comedy shows

    Got fried? Gottfried!

    Roe v. Wade. Joe v. Volcano. Gottfried v. MacDonald.

    Not since Leno and Seinfeld played Winnipeg on the same night in the early 80s has the city seen a greater battle of comedy giants: in this corner, Gilbert Gottfried at Rumor's Comedy Club, in the other, Norm MacDonald at the Burton Cummings Theatre.

    Saw 'em both. Laughed. Cried. Had 10 thoughts:

    1. Funny.

    2. Psst: if you like hilarious stand-up comedy, check out Red River College's CreCommedy Nights at the King's Head on Monday, Oct. 18 and 25 - Creative Communications, Comedy Writing students performing stand-up comedy for the first time. And admission is just $5!

    3. Jewish heritage + genie + sex act = hilarity.

    4. Planet of the Apes, Alive, and Children of a Lesser God references? Why, it's like Gottfried hasn't performed comedy for 20 years! Err...

    5. Why, these comedians seek or intend to amuse and afford light mirth and laughter for their efforts!

    6. Memo to myself: save your "dying children" jokes for the big finish.

    7. Stand-up comedy really is just like rock and roll, minus the music, money, and women.

    8. Comparing two, white, male, middle-aged comics with receding hairlines is really like comparing apples and oranges.

    9. These two sure can tell jokes while remaining in a vertical position. If only we had a name for that.

    10. Laughter really is the best medicine. Unless, of course, you're actually sick or dying.