Classic…yet not.

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Seriously?

This ad aired the other night and I was surprised to find out that it dates back to 2007 according to YouTube:

Zeitgeist

When this ad came on last month I said I would write about it. Then I was sidetracked by life. Since then this ad continues to air. Finger on the pulse GE, finger on the pulse.

Pepsi Pulls Ad After Calls of Racism

What do you think of the latest ad that has been pulled? Is it the “most racist commercial in history“? The series come form the creative mind of Tyler, the Creator.

Ad 1:

Ad 2:

Ad 3:

Redbox Promises Meat with Your Movie, Burger King Ad Blows Up

April Fools’ allows advertising teams to flex their creative muscles without much fallout. The ads produced this time of year range from the completely ludicrous to the few that leave audiences guessing whether or not they’re jokes.

This morning I received an email that promised bologna on my next movie night. The subject line read: Lunch meat is now available at Redbox. It’s the kind of teaser that you have to click on just to see how well the joke is presented and Redbox did not disappoint.

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 8.44.02 AM

When you click on the various meats, and who can resist clicking on ‘Mystery Meat’, you are brought to a page alerting you to the joke and then rewarding you with a coupon for your next rental.

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 8.44.24 AM

And here’s a great one from Bonobos for a “new” line: The Girlfriend Jean. The video delivers one of the best lines as well: “It turns out that mens’ and womens’ bodies aren’t all that different.”

For even more April Fool’s fun you can visit Google Nose, Google Maps (Treasure Mode), Sony’s new pet products, an update regarding vowel usage from Twttr, Toshiba’s inflatable laptop,  and bacon flavored mouthwash from P&G.

On this April Fools’ there is at least one company who may have wished their ad was fake. Unfortunately for Burger King, this ad is not only real but completely out of touch with the rising tensions surrounding North Korea. (Note: The Burger King is not new for April Fools’ however it is still being used by the company and has people scratching their heads today.)

Burger-King-Taste-The-New-B.O.M.B-2-For-5

Brand Alignment

Red Bull is arguably a leader when it comes to aligning its brand with the interests of its core audience. The latest in its stable of content creation masterpieces comes via YouTube: “Red Bull Perspective – A Skateboard Film” (below).

If you have the 16:27 available to watch this video today, take a moment afterward to ask yourself: When was the last time you created such compelling content that was so well aligned with your supporters’ loves/hobbies/beliefs? What makes them collectively individuals?

And when you are answering these questions do not let the funding behind these projects get in the way of your thinking. Sure money can add some polish or blow out an idea but remember that it’s free to connect with your supporters.

Read Larry Dobrow’s Video Critique.

PS4: Product Launch Minus the Product

CurtainsWhen 3PM (PST) rolled around I dutifully began watching the Ustream video for the big launch. Sony would be announcing its latest gaming console momentarily. What would it do? How would it function? And most importantly, what would it look like?

A few minutes in and someone said that we, the audience, was in for some big news “over the next few hours”. Wait. What? Next few hours?

Then we were on our second speaker. I knew the name of the product, the PS4. Not bad, sticking with the numbering and forgoing the invented model names that seem to water down a decent brand.

A few more minutes and product development was still being discussed. Were they serious about a few hours?

Almost an hour in and I’m seeing game preview after game preview. Where’s the console? They showed me a controller earlier but any excitement had worn off. (There wasn’t any to begin with…)

A little over an hour and my concentration broke. I watched a YouTube video a friend sent. That distraction lasted about 20 minutes. A quick check back to Ustream and…nothing. I slowly wandered away online…

Sometime around 6PM I remembered the announcement and clicked on the live stream I had paused. Wait, this guy again? Is it still going on?

Nope, it just started playing from the beginning. So let’s check the news feeds and take a gander at the new…

From The New York Times:

The console itself was never shown during the two-hour presentation. No release date was given, although before the Christmas holidays is a good possibility. No price was mentioned.

So when did we start having product launches without products? Isn’t that just an idea?

Storytelling Goes In-House (Like I Was Saying…)

I don’t know how many cover letters I have written in the past year citing my differentiators as being an embedded journalist, a chronicler, biographer, and storyteller for organizations. Thankfully I now have the support of Duy Linh Tu. The head of Columbia Journalism School’s Digital Program recently sat down with Manoush Zomorodi to discuss the importance of digital journalism and how corporations are adopting multimedia storytelling. Maybe now people will believe me:

A Disconnected NRA Responds to Tragedy

Picture 1Yesterday morning I was glued to the television watching the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre explain why we need more armed security personnel at schools across America. I wrote down my thoughts from a media relations perspective in a separate post since that is my trade however LaPierre’s fear mongering and call for armed nannies made me recall my own relationship with guns.I wanted to share that with you all here.

I grew up around guns. Not in the “I have a bunker behind this secret wall” kind of way. They were just always around.

My grandfather, a retired NYPD detective, had a small collection in his gaming room. As I circled the pool table, practicing my angles and trick shots, I was always under the watchful gaze of several rifles and shotguns. The guns never bothered me. I was more saddened by the deer hooves that bent upwards, acted as hooks for the mechanisms that killed them.

I never touched his guns, not even when my grandfather showed me his old service revolver. I have a faint memory of shooting my father’s .22 once behind my grandfather’s house. I only saw that gun a few more times in my life since my dad kept it locked away in a closet.

It wasn’t until I visited a friend in Vermont that I have a vivid memory of holding and firing a gun. My friend Joe, an Englishman I met at university, took me to an outdoor shooting range. I stood alongside a child, not much older than 8 or 9, who peered through a scope, systematically destroying a hay bail 50 yards away.

Joe unlocked a case and pulled out his .357. This is a large gun by any standards and he handed it to me to hold. He had already prepped me on gun safety and I handled the shiny piece with intense concentration and wonder.

I had never considered a gun to be a mechanism, a machine. I wrapped my fingers around the grip and felt the barrel dip down. Its weight was unsettling. In that moment it became less of an abstraction seen in movies and more substantial, a thing to be mastered and treated with respect.

Joe showed me how to stand and aim as he let off a few rounds. The target on the hay bail shifted slightly with each direct hit. There were no fiery explosions off in the distance. It was really quite lackluster to be honest.

When he handed me the gun again I mimicked his stance and took aim. As I pulled the trigger I waited for some sense of satisfaction, that tightness in my groin that I heard so many enthusiasts mention. It felt more like the first time I took a golf swing and realized why classes were so popular for an apparently simple game.

In that instant I fell out of love with guns. I did not feel connected to the object in my hands. I felt like I was holding something from another planet that I was incapable of understanding. I put down the gun and watched Joe fire off a few more rounds. We didn’t have a beer afterwards or bond as men are supposed to do once they share a new experience together. We drove back to our wives talking about our jobs.

It’s because of this experience that I can understand why people love guns. Just as for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, I believe that for every emotion there exists a counterbalance felt by someone else.

So, no matter how much I disagree, I can understand where Wayne LaPierre is coming from when he calls for more protection of our most precious commodity — our children. It may come from a good place, I can hope for that much from another human being.

Unfortunately, LaPierre “scapegoated” too many industries including entertainment and the media for me to take him at face value. His speech was more calculated than emotional. I could tell by that foreign look in his eyes. I know how it feels to be disconnected from what’s been handed to you.

NOTE: This post first appeared on Medium.

The Blame Game Goes Hi-Tech

SkywalkerWe’ve all stepped in it at one time or another. Modern communications is a fast paced, team effort however it consists of people so mistakes are sure to happen. Maybe you’re a journalist who misquoted a source or a spokesperson that cited the wrong fact only to see it shared across the web moments later. As long as it was not malicious you hopefully identified where you went wrong, learned from your error, and moved on. There are others though who will blame everyone but themselves for their error.

This week a fake press release made the rounds purporting that Google had acquired ICOA. The release appeared on PRWeb, was quickly picked up by media outlets from small blogs to the Associated Press. Eager journalists provided insight regarding the importance of the acquisition and swiftly retracted those reports once the release was identified as untrue.

This would be the perfect time to publish a retraction and if asked, own up to jumping on a bandwagon with others who did not check their facts with either Google or ICOA. Enter TechCrunch’s east coast editor John Biggs.

In an article published the day after TechCrunch, along with many other media outlets, reported the false news of the ICOA acquisition, Biggs highlighted the reporting error by lining up buses to throw everyone from the PR industry to his own audience underneath. It is a sensational article and well worth a read if only to understand the degree to which Biggs feels burned by the whole ICOA affair.

Weaving a thread through his article, Biggs mainly focuses on the increased speed of the news process in a digital world. It is an ongoing argument in communications circles regarding how to balance the speed at which journalists report the news with the voracious appetite of their audiences. It has become a chicken or the egg question as news sites seek revenue generating page views and consumers want to be the first to learn of and share breaking stories. (The wife of my former publisher was fond of saying,”It’s called news not olds.”)

There is a valid point to be made and a perfect opportunity to again own up to having rushed to press with unverified information (newswires or competing media outlets are not the sources I have in mind). In an odd turn Biggs preferred to martyr his profession by putting himself in the position of a journalist working to meet the needs of everyone but his craft.

While I can’t defend the “reposting” of any press release without proper vetting (and to be clear plenty of people fell for the ICOA pump and dump scam), I think the value we’ve added to the process itself far outweighs some of the risks.”

Amazingly Biggs embraced his fellow journalists to share in any blame and accomplished the difficult “backdoor brag” perfectly in a single sentence.

So what is this value-add? According to Biggs it is spreading the news quickly. Huh?

“Call it process journalism or call it “just talking” but what we do at TechCrunch and what they do at AllThingsD and what they do at TNW and GigaOm is approximately the same thing: we spread the word on important deals, inventions, and improvements in the tech industry. If that’s wrong then I don’t want to be right.”

Now that’s a nice bit of rhetoric. Biggs stated an obvious description of news production only to follow it with a statement with which readers people can only agree. Biggs follows by setting the stage for martyrdom.

“The problem comes when that churn, that endless wave of news, crests over our abilities to manage and vet. There is a call, for example, to slow down when it comes to coverage. You don’t care that Angry Birds Star Wars is out the moment it’s released. Why not just sit on that news for a few days, really give it a good dry rub? Why not give old Mighty Eagle a call, get him on camera. Really make an event out of it. We don’t do that because that’s even worse than pasting in a press release. There is a very large percentage of people for whom the words “Hey, Angry Birds Star Wars is out. You can get it here” is far superior to a 1,000-word article on how they got birds to look like Han Solo. We’re not any company’s marketing organ, no matter how many times we post about Apple. Those who want more can always find more. Always. So slowing down isn’t the answer.”

I agree that slowing down is not necessarily the answer however if doing your job means slowing down then you have a decision to make. When I started out as a reporter for a weekly newspaper I had to tailor my reporting knowing that I was up against a daily competitor and news sites online. My strategy was simply to dig up facts that I knew the other outlets did not possess. If there were no more facts then you decided to shelf the story or run it with added commentary to provide a greater insight. Speed worked against my competitors since I could use their reports to pursue different avenues of questioning with my subjects or dive deeper into their news briefs.

I can understand Biggs’ frustration at wanting to report every story 24/7 however even journalists need to know their limitations. Journalists need to pick and choose their stories with greater care given the “endless wave of news.” A simple rule could be adopting a policy that says if you can’t vet a story then you can’t publish it. It really should not matter what the policies are at other news outlets. Editors are responsible for their outlet’s integrity and no other site. I seem to remember a recent story where an entire industry blamed each other without looking at their own practices. Oddly enough it also had something to do with investments…

But let’s not slow down. This is where Biggs takes a really bizarre turn in an argument against posting less and vetting more:

“Could we post less? Sure. I’d love it if we did. But we have a team of people who want to write. They want to get stuff up. They revel in breaking news even if that news doesn’t seem important to you, specifically. It’s like asking a gazelle to take the bus. So that’s out.”

So who’s in charge over at TechCrunch? Unfortunately the TechCrunch writers enjoy writing so much they can’t slow down so there you have it. Yet this argument feels wrong. Is there someone else to blame? How about the usual scapegoat: PR.

“The answer, as far as I see it, is simple: avoid PR and PR newswires and keep the conversation going naturally. If you’re a founder, either hire a marketing manager internally or do it yourself. If you made something cool, tell us directly. At this point in the game gathering a list of friendly journalists is as easy as visiting 100 or so websites. It didn’t used to be that way. To get access to a newspaper you had to send a letter to an editor that would, inevitably, end up in the trash. Now you can spam a bunch of writers who are hungry to feed that maw.”

So it appears that journalists also fall victim to the awesome power of Spam.

Too bad they can’t think for themselves. I remember once upon a time I thought for myself as a reporter. But then again spam came via fax so unless the office assistant handed it to me I could avoid it. (If you are in PR or want to learn a bit ore about the industry, I urge you to read the comments section follow Biggs’ article for some fantastic responses from members of this profession.)

So will there be any sort of acceptance by Biggs for TechCrunch posting false news without confirming it with Google and ICOA?

“If we jump, once in a blue moon, at something that looks like it might be the little guy finally catching a break (and it’s actually a pump and dump scam or a stupid product or a lie), forgive us or at least understand: We’re getting up every morning and not going to bed in order to keep you informed. If you don’t like that, there are plenty of other ways to get your news, but I feel few are as fresh or as fascinating as this new form of tech journalism that we are all now building.”

An interesting ending that truly martyrs the profession while telling an audience that “there are plenty of other ways get your news” if you are unhappy with TechCrunch’s reporting. Seems like a non-apology I heard recently that was also covered by TechCrunch.

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