Monday, May 30, 2011

No pants please, we're insurers

Different cubes, same idea.

I once worked in the communications department of an insurance company that rhymes with Schreat-Schmest Schmife.

Although the place has a reputation for being as conservative as the angry hyphen between its first and second name, the fact is that sometimes pants in the workplace are optional.

Pantless story 1

One fine day, my pal Lisa stopped by for a visit and I noticed that she had zipper pockets.

Without thinking, I unzipped one - and we were both startled when her pants fell down.

"What are you doing?!" we screamed at each other.

Pants back on and secured, apologies were made, lunch was bought, and we never spoke of it again.

Pantless story 2

I shared one wall of a cube (staff parlance for "cubicle") with my friend, Barb.

At the back of the cube there was a gap we could stick our heads through to talk to one another - not unlike Uncle Fester used to do on the Addams Family.

On one occasion, I stuck my head through the gap and was surprised to see Barb standing there in her ladygitch.

She didn't see me, so I retreated and said nothing for a year. At the one-year mark, after my emotional scars had almost healed, I told her (and everyone I could think of, in person and online) that I'd seen her working in her knickers. 

She burst out laughing and explained that she was changing into (cycling shorts or ski pants or something) and didn't know anyone else was around.

However, I think she and I still both know she was working without pants on.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What happens to TV when we're too distracted to watch?



Watching TV used to be so simple.

When I was but a lad (see top photo), we had one TV with 13 channels and no remote control - not because we lost it, but because there never was one.

We weren't poor; in fact, what we had was state of the art, because we'd somehow figured out how to get the TV audio to play through those big-ass stereo speakers. Bigger stereo speakers meant louder stereo speakers and, therefore, better stereo speakers.

Meanwhile, the only distraction media to be found in the room was that box of Pizza Place pizza and smashing pair of argyle socks.

What a difference a decade or two makes.

DVRs, video on demand, streaming, laptops, iPads, video games, smartphones, the Internet in general and social media in particular have turned TV into a support medium, driving the audience more and more away from the TV and onto the Internet, in its many forms.

As AdAge's Brian Monahan recently said in this excellent article, people are turning to their smartphones and other "companion media" in droves when they watch TV, lowering their intellectual and emotional engagement with TV shows and ad content:
"Online video, with a less predictable cadence and an active user experience, does a significantly better job at holding attention. While distraction media is a threat to the value of video advertising, it also represents an opportunity to deliver a deeper companion experience to the on-screen content and ads. The consumers have the tools; it's up to the industry to give them compelling content."
I'd go one further and suggest that it won't be much longer until all of our TV networks stream all of their content on mobile devices for free at the same time they broadcast it on TV (as so many apps already do). After all, it's the audience networks that now tell the TV networks what to do, and in a mobile world, we want the flexibility to watch our content where and when we're ready to do it.

As consumption patterns continue to fragment across devices, it will be the TV content providers focusing on smart aggregation and intelligent-content networks that will ultimately rule the world by knowing what we watch and where, and allowing us to pick up where we left off on the device of our choice.

Brands (like Netflix, for example) will continue to develop their own content, merchandise, and transactions on their own branded platforms. The ultimate goal: to deliver all of the content, shopping, and advertising you want on a targeted, individual basis.

If they build it, we will watch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is the iPad the future of music?

The Alesis iO Dock Pro Audio Dock for the iPad Dock Dock.

Stop using your iPad as a weapon, Pat Benatar.

While the Vancouver Canadiens were busy winning the Heisman Trophy or something yesterday, I had the good sense to attend New Media Manitoba's "iPad: the Future of Music?" seminar, attended by lots of other pale loners interested in learning about how to use their iPads as a musical instrument.

Taught by Andrew Yankiwski from Precursor Productions, a guy who clearly knows and loves audio as much as SCTV's Gerry Todd knows and loves video, the presentation covered a lot of technical ground. In other words: it was over my head.

However, I did get to learn about some insane iPad hardware add-ons coming soon (see the above video - wow!), not to mention Mr. Yankiwski's iPad app picks for the music maker, mixer, and master in you:

1. GarageBand

The default go-to studio app - and an insanely great drum set, guitar, and keyboard too - all for the low, low price of $5. Chump change.

2. Meteor Multitrack

Twelve tracks, a built-in mixer, and multi-effects processor: perfect for the composer and journalist in you. Journalist? "Meteor is ideal for creating musical compositions, and also a great tool for journalists...who need to splice and piece together voice notes, narration or dictation."

Remix that hard-hitting interview with Sam Katz today!

3. Korg iElectribe

Make music on a vintage analog synthesizer and beatbox - just like current hitmakers Human League, A-ha, and A Flock of Seagulls do! Cough, cough.

4. Korg iMS-20

A complete recreation of the legendary Korg MS-20 analog synth - including virtual patching! - plus an analog sequencer, a drum machine, and seven-channel mixer with 14 categories of effects.

5. ReBirth

Propellerhead's ReBirth brings the Roland TB-303 bass synth and the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines together in one, frightening interface that would make RRC tech guru John Pura cry. With delight!

6. FL Studio

The classic Windows studio app is coming soon to an iPad near you, as shown on this YouTube video.

7. AC-7 Core

Allows you to mix and fade and - oh, I don't know what the hell this app is for. If you do, I'm sure it will bring you hours of pleasure.

8. Omni TR

Omni Touch Remote Omni is designed for live, onstage performance or in the studio; a cool, remote control surface, but you also need to buy the Spectrasonics Omnisphere software synthesizer to use it. Keyboard solo!

9. TouchOSC

MIDI control? We have no problem.

TouchOSC supports sending and receiving open sound control messages over a Wi-Fi network, like Apple Logic Pro/Express, Renoise, Pure Data, Max/MSP/Jitter, Max for Live, OSCulator, VDMX, Resolume Avenue 3, Modul8, Plogue Bidule, Reaktor, Quartz Composer, Vixid VJX16-4, Supercollider, FAW Circle, vvvv, Derivative TouchDesigner, and Isadora. Whatever the hell they are.

Is the iPad the future of music? I'm full of bull. Ishness.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Every catchphrase is relative: relative

Big boy meets big grasshopper.

Who needs Gary "Whatchu talkin' bout Willis?" Coleman when you've got my cousin, Derek?

Before Derek was an international man of mystery, fighting giant grasshoppers full of nuclear radiation in downtown Tokyo, he was a little kid with a big catchphrase.

I've always been envious of anyone with a catchphrase, and Derek's was pretty good: "But I'm a big boy!"
Derek's mom: Bedtime!
Derek: But I'm a big boy!

Derek's mom: Bathtime!
Derek: But I'm a big boy!

Derek's mom: Come here, so I can wipe that mud and ice cream off your face.
Derek: But I'm a big boy!
He said it about 1,000 times a day, so it was surprising when - at the end of a long day of I'm a Big Boys - the family chilled out in my neighbor's pool and Derek tiptoed his way to the end of the diving board, where he stood for a very long time.

"Jump in!" we yelled.

"But I'm just a little boy!"

And a new - and even better - catchphrase was born.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dogs just wanna have - errr - fun

"Mom - what are those dogs doing?"

Are we having fun yet?

When I was five or six, my mother walked me to my piano lesson every week.

On one of these walks, we happened upon two dogs going at it in the schoolyard.

Out of the blue, I said: "Some people would say those dogs are f***ing, but I say they're just having fun."

To this day, when I walk to work in the morning, I believe I'm having fun.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Updated tech requirements for first-year CreComm students

Message going out to next year's first-year CreComm students - in light of (we're told and hope) a new-and-improved RRC Wi-Fi system and global domination of tablet devices:

You are required to have ONE of the following mobile devices for your coursework:

1. iPod touch (8GB, 32GB, or 64GB)


2. iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, or other mobile phone offering access to 3G wireless, apps, the Web, email, photography, and video.


3. iPad, iPad 2, BlackBerry PlayBook, Motorola Xoom, or other tablet device offering access to Wi-Fi or 3G, apps, the Web, and email.

The iPod touch is the least-expensive option, good for mobile email, watching and taking video, playing music, reading news apps, mobile blogging, recording podcasts, tweeting, monitoring RSS feeds (like your classmates’ blogs), and understanding the app landscape.

With the iPod touch and Wi-Fi tablet devices, you require no contract with a service provider, as you can use Red River College’s Wi-Fi network for free.

Smartphones and 3G-enabled tablets allow you to do the same, in addition to having access to a 3G network wherever you are and – in most cases – make phone calls. However, they also require 3G cell service bought through a 3G service provider, which can be costly.

If you have any questions about these devices, we will be happy to answer them at registration on Monday, Aug. 29 at 11 a.m. in P107. You will be required to have these devices by the second week in September.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Take a ride on the absentee-o-matic!


I missed class because (mix and match as needed):
Another assignment
New condition
Ongoing condition
Job interview
Had to work on other stuff
Slept in
Mysterious illness
Personal matter
Women's issue
Men's issue
Car trouble
No explanation
Writing a Projector article
Hosting a show on KICK-FM
Roommate issues
Family issues
Pet issues
Alarm didn't go off
Class? What class?

Now that I'm back (mix and match as needed):
Did I miss anything important?
Where can I get the assignment you handed back?
Are you mad that I missed?
What's the due date of the assignment I missed?
Can I have my course outlines again?
Can you explain to me what I missed?
Why did I get this mark?
Am I failing?
Assignment? What assignment?
Here's a generic doctor's note.

Now that I've finally graduated (only one option):
Will you be my reference?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ten things that crossed my mind at the Cars' reunion show in Minneapolis

1. Who's gonna drive me home tonight?

2. It's great to see Ric Ocasek back together with whoever these other guys are.

3. I wonder if fans line up after the show to give them lube jobs?

4. It's nice that Rogers cares enough about me to ensure it only costs $45 each time I tweet from the U.S.

5. This concert is almost as fun as listening to Jason Beck play the new Cars album on repeat from Winnipeg to Minneapolis and back.

6. With the price of gas these days, the Cars should be paying me to see them - am I right, people?

7. It's hard to enjoy this concert knowing that the Terminator cheated on Skeletor.

8. Which one is voiced by Owen Wilson?

9. Some people walked and took buses to the concert. Ironic.

10. If Ric Ocasek had white hair, he'd look exactly like a Q-Tip.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Great Web tools all the cool kids are usin'

As recommended to me by students, instructors, and guest speakers this semester:

1. Prezi

3D PowerPoint - just like the Na'vi use for their presentations on the great planet of Pandora.

2. LinkedIn

Almost everyone has it, but if you don't: now is the time to sign up for the Facebook of the shirt-and-tie set and those who would join them.

3. Lanyard, Meetup, DemoCamp, and An Event Apart

Conference and meetup websites - and the perfect excuse to get work to pay for a vacation.

4. Edutopia

A cool website about the state of young peoples' education in the U.S. and how digital media might be able to help improve things - bankrolled by George Lucas himself. The focus is on "the kids," but the lessons are applicable at the college level.

5. CultureWorks, Krop, 37signals, and IxDA

Creative job sites, most of which skew to the U.S. job market (CultureWorks is Canadian). Still, a worthwhile way to spend time looking around to get a fix on the North American job market.

6. Dribble and Behance

Show off your art and creative work here.

7. TuneCore

Sell your music, keep your rights, earn your royalties. A worthy and more lucrative alternative to selling your stuff on iTunes?

8. CRA

More people than ever asked me these questions this year:
  • "How do you start a business?"
  • "How do you start a non-profit?"
  • "What's the difference between a non-profit and a charity?"
Only the Canada Revenue Agency knows for sure. Check in online or stop by the agency's office on Broadway (and enjoy lunch at the nearby Don Deli when you're done).

9. Zite (iPad app)

A personalized magazine for the iPad - the app syncs with Twitter, Delicious, and Google Reader and then suggests what you'd like to read based on your interests. And it works!

10. Vimeo

A more flexible YouTube for creative people - in app and Web formats.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Idea Writers: the best new book about the future of persuasion

When Live the Sheen Dream wunderkind and CreComm grad Jarrett Moffatt speaks, I listen. For at least a little while anyway, until my mind inevitably wanders back to tasty, powdered donuts.

So when he told me that he'd read an awesome book about advertising, I ran all the way to the ebookstore and picked up Teresa Iezzi's the Idea Writers. I'm glad I did: it's the best book I've read about the modern advertising industry and where it's headed, and I've read Rob Walker's Buying In.

Using case studies from some recent campaigns of note - the Old Spice guy, Burger King's Subservient Chicken, and BMW films among them - the book writes the rules for the new digital landscape and explains why copywriters are not just copywriters anymore, but:
  • Ideators
  • Comedians
  • Improvisers
  • Event planners
  • Tech experts
  • Collaborators
  • Sociologists
  • Social-media gurus
  • Masters of the craft - an expert at one thing, but good at many
  • Conversationalists: in social media, as a writer, and in every format
  • Dealers in emotions
  • Analog human beings - who take creative ideas from everywhere
  • Simplifiers
  • Utilitarians
  • Persuaders
  • Rule-breakers.
And, yeah, writing not only still matters - woo-hoo! - it's more important than ever to be able do it well.

The book quotes former Ogilvy creative director Guy Barnett:
"Your choice of phrasing and syntax needs to be that much more nimble and unusual. You need to keep people entertained and informed. You need to be authoritative, charming, funny. You need to be able to recount a story and digress in all directions."

"You should be reading all you can and writing for all you're worth. If doing that doesn't appeal to you, maybe you should pursue some other creative path."
Amen. This is probably what I already say too much in class, and what my head would probably continue to say too much, even if you cut it off with an axe:
"You need to write at a deeper and more entertaining level than everyone else. Hey, you cut my head off with an axe."
The book also makes the case that today's preferred ad team isn't the big agency model, but a pod of creatives consisting of a writer, developer, designer, and producer, who are always there for each other.

I find this idea so compelling, I'm hoping to organize next year's Advertising major this way - with help from our good friends in Graphic Design and computer programming (whatever that class is called now - me a stupid non-programmer. Grunt.). 

The book also tackles the approaching sea change in which advertising becomes not an interruption, but a destination: the early version of this trend is the app, but imagine a branded-entertainment universe in which advertisers flee the traditional media to create platforms, products, and content themselves; it's easy if you try.

And since "you can't spell party without PR" (thank you CreComm grad Will Cooke), PR and social responsibility are the core assumption of every communication campaign, which aren't so much campaigns anymore, but ongoing, two-way communication models (something the book Futuretainment calls "loopworld").

Imagine a world in which advertising doesn't just promote something, but actually does some good and makes your audience's life better - and your audience's audience. And your audience's audience's audience. And your audience's audience's audience's audience.

Says Pelle Sjoenell of BBH New York:
"People talk about a target audience, but you also have to figure out what your target's target is. Fans talk to other fans and they're our actual target."
The Idea Writers is a fascinating book and a must-read in a world in which everyone is, for the first time, an audience and a media outlet. Read it now, before everything changes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ten new words to help you lose friends and alienate people

See number seven, below.

Remember: some word inventors make as much as poets. Cough, cough.

1. AntiPaders - People who have never used an iPad, but believe they hate it anyway. 

2. Brand journalism - The creation of worthwhile Web content that positions your product or brand as one worthy of attention and business.

3. DemoGeoPsycho - A person crazy for target audiences. 

4. Dutilicious - Loving what you've been hired to do.

5. Empty figurehead - A dumb person with an important title and few duties.

6. Full-figurehead - A person with ample proportions, an important title, and few duties.

7. I Can't Believe it's Not Sluttier - The obvious name they're not using for the butter campaign, above.

8. The phone screen - The new job interview stage in which, after they read your resume and before you get an interview, they call you to make sure you're not a freak with a good resume.

9. Pixel pusher - The digital equivalent of pencil pusher: a person who does boring work on a computer.

10. So-Ho - Social hour at work, as defined on our great tour at GolinHarris, Chicago.

Monday, May 9, 2011

GolinHarris' checklist for potential employees and interns

One of the best things we did on the CreComm Chicago trip was visit global PR agency GolinHarris.

On our visit, recent hires Alyssa Bronikowski and Alexandra Kassel (pictured above) gave us the grand tour and a seminar about all things GolinHarris, including this list of the character traits that the firm looks for in new hires:
  • Passionate
  • Organized
  • The ability to research
  • A desire to "jump onboard" and "make things happen"
  • A person who can really write, as evidenced in his or her blog or journal
  • A person active in the industry with an awareness of how it works
Simple! And Canadian interns are welcome.

Thanks to GolinHarris for having us and to Alyssa and Alexandra for the great seminar - and my brand-spankin' new McDonald's shirt, which I haven't removed since last week, even to shower.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CreComm trip Chicago pix - Day 4

Just as it does every year, the CreComm Chicago trip feels like it's over before it even began.

Tomorrow, we begin our long journey back to a horrible place called, "The Mall of America." Shudder.

Highlights of the last day:

Your Wrigley Building (left) is in my Chicago Tribune (right). Your Chicago Tribune (right) is in my Wrigley Building (left). Hey, they taste great together!

We visited PR firm Golin Harris and its staff impressed us with their awesomeness. Watch this space for a future blog post, re: what the firm looks for when it's hiring staff and interns.

I won this kick-ass T-shirt at Golin Harris for knowing who Ray Kroc is. Tomorrow: I will begin wearing it wherever I go and bragging even more than I already do.

A lovely walk through the ruins of the American financial system.

Lunch at Petterino's, dessert at Mario's Italian Lemonade (above), dinner at Timothy O'Toole's. I'm not hungry anymore.

Went into NBC's Education Nation mobile home and came out all edumacated.

Around the bend, beside yourself, Next to Normal. A musical about me!

Goodbye, Chicago, we hardly knew ye.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

CreComm Chicago trip pix - Day 3

And on the third day in Chicago: our feet bled.

The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium are all great places, but after seven hours of straight museuming, I'm too tired to even look up the word "museuming" or care that it's probably not a word.

The day's highlights:

Aggie Semeniuk's new Scott Pilgrim tattoo. I got a matching one on my forehead.

Yeah, it's a good thing they stopped him before he did something crazy.

Al Bundy wuz here.

This Field Museum banner is hung like a horse.

I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky...hey, who stole my wallet?

Are you ready for your close-up, Ms. Kidman?

Chicago, 1959. Or, like, even earlier.

You say educational, I say gross.

Dude sleeps with the fishes.

What a lovely water ballet of graceful - arrghhh!

I find your lack of fish disturbing. 

I, Copernicus, hereby proclaim that I can see my hotel from here.

Casey Kasem: feet not on the ground, but still reaching for the stars. 

I walked in, said, "Domo arigato," and was banned from the store for life.

Mi Tierra, Su Tierra. Fine dining on Cinco de Mayo to celebrate the Mexican army's great victory over the French, which resulted in tortilla chips replacing French fries as the official snack food of planet Earth.

Of Montreal. In Chicago. On stage.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chicago CreComm trip pix - Day 2

The day started out with some shocking news from USA Today: killing bin Laden made people believe more in the war on terror. I can't wait for more revelations in tomorrow's edition.

The Wrigley Building. Did you know it's made entirely out of gum?

The beautiful Chicago River (floating bodies Photoshopped out).

An excellent PR campaign asking the people of Chicago to do nice things for each other. I did my part today by leaving a server a loonie.

Frank Gehry: what a showoff.

These two tourists just flew in from Jersey, and boy are their arms tired.

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion makes Winnipeg's Scotiabank Stage look like a student film.

Right before I jumped. Thankfully, a dump truck full of duck feathers happened to be driving by just at the right time.

The Art Institute of Chicago. The Emperor greeted us at the door and said, "May the 4th be with you."

Read between the stairs.

The Wrigley painting. Did you know it's made entirely out of gum?

Marc Chagall's America Windows. Made in America. Smoked glass or non?

Graham Crackers Comics. Honestly, these dudes were arguing about the Iron Man movies. Don't they have better things to do, like...go to music stores?

Reckless Records. I recklessly bought some music, instead of downloading it for free.

Ahhh, lovely blossoms growing in the heart of Chicago; take that puny tree in Brooklyn.


If you squint, you can see Dr. Robert Hartley walking to work.

The Chicago Tribune lobby. When I was a kid, there was a thing called "newspapers," and - aw, forget it: you'd never believe me. 

A dawg at Portillo's (above) followed by chocolate at Ghiardelli
Followed by heartburn and regret.

A lovely night of thea-tah with Jay and Silent Bob, above spelling of millennium aside. 

Tomorrow: a day at the museums!