Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tired of Halloween Commercialization? Time to start B.I.T.C.H.I.N.!

If you're done with all the horror stories over abducted kids, over-priced costumes and trips to the Halloween store, then it's time to scare up some new thinking.

Any parent out there knows the score. The horror stories surrounding urban myths like razors in Apples (like who takes fruit on Halloween anyway!), rat poison in candy, abducted trick-or-treaters and candy coated with toxic materials like drain cleaners. It's enough to give you nightmares.

Then there is the frightful notion of custom buying. I believe halloween has surpassed Christmas in regards to event shopping. Halloween stores are like a department store having a "going out of business" sale or a Target on Black Friday. It's insane, people are rude, kids are going nuts, "…cats & dogs living together", it's bonkers, man! Seriously, I would just as soon drink a bottle of Castor oil than be caught in any of those places. And for what? Dropping $250 on four costumes and accessories so my kids can walk around for 20 minutes during trick-or-treating and then complain about how their feet hurt? Really? To be honest, my kids are turning into teenagers so Trick-or-Treating isn't really doing it for them anyway.

REMIX! Stick a fork in me, folks, I'm done. Time to hammer the old re-set button on this mofo. I love me some scary-time fun, but the commercialization alone is "killing" me. Not to mention the shallow, meaningless consumption-based nature of activities for All Hallows Eve. By the way folks, I know many of us LOVE this day, as do I, but please, it's not a "holiday", ok? Bite the bullet. It's just a day, you know, like flag day. If you don't watch parades, put up a tree, carve a bird or shoot off fireworks or – and this is the big one – HAVE THE DAY OFF, its not a holiday. So what do we call it? Halloween works just fine, thanks.

So where's this rant going? I propose everyone consider a B.I.T.C.H.I.N. party! It's an acronym; Big Incentive To Change Halloween's Inherent Nature.

Catchy, huh?

It'll be tough to sell this idea to Super-Conservative Right Wingers but they won't care anyway because they're mostly closed-minded about cool stuff like Halloween and let's face it, they aren't reading this blog anyway.

Teenagers (I have two) and adolescents (of which I also have two) will think this is way beyond cool! We'll eat pumpkin muffins (baking), do pumpkin carving (beforehand), eat something fun & gross (TBD) and watch a [Dad-approved] scary movie. Each child must also tell one scary story (told by candle-light) and show one piece of scary art (finger painting, illustration, photography, etc.) and the best one gets a special prize (for me, I'll do first and second place w/two runner up prizes). If its a bomb, no one will care, if its a hit, everyone will tell friends and the news will spread. Maybe next year, each kid invites a friend–?

Look, I get it, I spent plenty of Halloween nights roaming around the streets of of Boston as a kid with a hard plastic mask of Hulk or Frankenstein held to my head with a rubber band. I hated it but LOVED getting the tasty loot. My kids have certainly had their fair share of candy begging on Halloween. But this year, Halloween falls on a Monday night and let's face it, costumes aren't cheap AND they last about 45 minutes... not exactly the ROI Dad is looking for.

So, if you're tired of being terrorized by Halloween commercialization as I am, consider having a B.I.T.C.H.I.N. party. This year, all the kids will be doing it (at least in my home).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Admiring Shera's Wall of Silence

A brilliant ad campaign for Shera Sound Proofing silences any argument that the world has leap-frogged the US when it comes to advertising innovation.

The following ads are product of Ogilvy, Singapore for Shera's "Sound-Proof Wall Solutions" (right-click to preview each ad larger).

What is truly great here is how well these three ad messages translate (and resonate!) with every person who sees them. I mean, lets face it, we have ALL been on both sides of each of thee walls (if we've been lucky!).

Apartments, condos or homes, the context doesn't matter. The louder-than-necessary party that goes well past 3 a.m., the domestic dispute you know you just want a few more details of or the sounds of passionate love-making keeping you up all night – and not in the good way.

Apparently a materials-based noise reduction alternative, Thailand-based Mahaphant interior design solutions offers Shera, which delivers sound-proofing through technology-empowered building processes that shield you from sounds or keeps your sounds contained. Cool technology.

These ads are spot on. I have long held the belief that advertising is one of our society's greatest common denominators; it's often a common ground that allows us all to participate regardless of social, racial or gender bias.

Sadly this campaign would never run in America. We are too stuck up, too easily offended and too prudish when it comes to social views of what is 'morally right'. As the great David Ogilvy himself once said; "Advertising reflects the mores of society, but does not influence them." Advertising, as always, is a mirror, not a social barometer. We have lost our sense of humor and he ability to take almost anything at face-value.

This is NOT to say great advertising can't be done in America and by no means is all non-American advertising great. But advertising is a fascinating and energetic tool whose real potential is often squandered in the face of trying too hard to address too many different agendas while working within too many moral limitations. Often resulting in a failure to move product or even keep our attention long enough to communicate the message.

Sadly, many of the best communications and advertising in the world are simply created outside the United States. While we struggle to find our moral compass, we can watch as the world creates stunning and interesting sales messaging that really makes some noise.

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Thailand

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Force To Be Reckoned With

The recent release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-Ray reminds us of a sense of shock & awe "… from a long time ago…"

I recently purchased the mega-disc set of The Complete Star Wars Saga on Blu-Ray, prompting my girlfriend to ask me; "How many times can you actually re-watch the same movies?" Good question. Let's count, shall we? Kids, grab your abacus!

The answer “forces” me to recall the years of my youth. I was nine when Star Wars first hit the big screen and my life had been altered in ways I can only barely articulate. Though, indulge me dear friends, this was true enlightenment.
Though Jaws (1975), is officially credited to be the first-ever summer blockbuster, Star Wars epitomized this phenomenon. A blockbuster, for those who may not know, is a movie where the lines of moviegoers waiting to get in went out the theater door, down the sidewalk and – you guessed it – around the block, thereby "busting" the block. Remember, this phrase was coined at a time when movie theaters held either single or double screens. A 'megaplex' in downtown Boston was once known to have the unheard of number of four movie screens (gasp!). Back then, Hollywood saw the summer as a dead movie season. After all, who in their right mind would go the movies when you could go swimming, go to the beach or go on a trip? Movies releases were typically slated for late fall or early winter – prime movie release season at the time.

I vividly remember local (and national) TV newscasts interviewing scores of people waiting in lines – often for days – to experience George Lucas's other-world space opera. Sadly, I would see the movie just three times in the original year of release, but that, as they say, was just the beginning.
In 1978, Star Wars ran for six (6) consecutive months, only to be re-released months later in most major markets. The movie was a runaway hit and I couldn’t get enough. I went every weekend for an average of 2-3 continuous showings over the course of the summers of '78 & '79, I estimate I saw this movie roughly 55 – 60 times (keep in mind matinee admission was $1 for kids my age). I just couldn't get enough; the poor story pacing, the campy overacted script, mistake-ridden post-production – none of that mattered. What mattered was how many details my friends and I could discover by seeing it again and again. And Again.

And Again.

"Don't be a Vader-Hater, Son. Now, "Hand" over the remote...!
Then, in 1980, the Empire Strikes Back came to a theater near me. OMG—another one! The ride wasn’t over — it had only just begun! Now older, and on the high of watching Star Wars more than 60 times coursing through my veins, I proceeded to see Empire a whopping 14 times in 1980 alone. Another dozen or so times (thanks again to rereleases!) before 1983 when Return of the Jedi made my head explode with it’s jaw-dropping awesomeness. Was Darth Vader really Luke Skywalker's father? Would Leia & her homeboys be able to save Han from Jabba The Hut in time? Would the rebellion score another major victory against the Empire? As I entered my first year of High School, there were legions of die-hard fans there to share my fascination with.

All told I have viewed each of the six movies somewhere between 30 & 60 times apiece and I’m sure I am well over 200 all-time since VCR's, Cable TV (the original trilogy is run every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day on TNT) and DVD's have made these movies available anytime, day or night. Which brings me, finally, to the Blu-Ray release.

You’ll need a decent digital screen, the larger the better, and (of course!) a Blu-Ray player. I recommend a popcorn machine, a healthy supply of vitamin water and remember to shut off your cell phone. 

You’ll be blown away as you fall in love all over again with a story that has captivated two generations of fans. The image clarity is almost unspeakable. The sound is spellbinding and yet, the real gold is the extras. I most likely own every series release since the Gold VHS edition came out. This one "… grinds [the others] up and blasts them into space!" If you have yet to purchase a Blu-Ray player, I understand, but if you love movies like I love movies (just check out my Movie Blog, The Boxed Office) a Blu-Ray player is for you! The added image and sound quality is terrific and the behind the scenes commentary and hands-on documentaries along with the review of the special effects process(es) are too delicious for words – and the SW:TCS Blu-Ray delivers in spades!

To respect those who have NOT purchased this release yet (whoever THOSE left brain, no imagination clones are), I will not divulge any details so you must see the movies for yourself. No Blu-Ray? Visit a friend who has one, do whatever it takes. Yes, they are THAT good!

"Watch or watch not... there is no try."
So to answer the original question; “more than 200 times – and counting!” You can never get enough of a movie series that so epitomizes fantasy, imagination, good overcoming evil and more fantastic science, gadgets and special effects than you can wave a light saber at. Grab your blaster and your wallet; $80 for all six movies in re-mastered digital high definition with surround sound and more than 40 hours of extras – it’s pure heaven, even here in the outer rim territories.

I advise everyone to run, don't walk, and get re-acquainted with the most imaginative and captivating cinematic story-telling experience of the 20th century. (If you need a gentle reminder click here for a comical recap of Star Wars.)

To remind younger readers, Han DID shoot first, don't believe the re-master.
Greedo would never have missed at point-bank range.

"Remember, the force will be with you… always."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Visionary Down to The Core

The passing this week of Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic leader, is a disheartening and devastating loss for us all. Join me as I celebrate his fantastic life and say my goodbyes to one of the planet’s all-time greatest innovators.
It is a sad day when anyone dies, as my personal belief system informs me that we are all interconnected and sharing life’s journey together. Every person has worth, every human being has value and everybody matters. This is what I teach my children.

This week the world lost one of the 20th century’s most visionary business icons, Steve Jobs.

This tech titan envisioned a world that was computer friendly, technology savvy and made modern technology accessible to everyone. His efforts helped to make the internet universally accessible. Apple put tablet technology in the hands of the people of the world and, with the iPod, Jobs reinvented the way we listen to music, movies and streaming content; making iTunes the number music store in the world.

Steve’s road wasn’t an easy one. He dropped out of college to kick-start Apple from his garage only to be ousted from his own company years later once success was realized. Not to be denied his vision of a world where technology was accessible to anyone and improved – and embraced our lives through product like the iPad, the iPhone and the iMac. In many ways, these products have touched all our lives, even those without Macs benefit from the advantages and advancements these products have ushered in. His address to a graduating class at Stanford University is so inspiring, it sends shivers down my spine every time I watch it. View it here.
Though the founding of NeXT computer was not a massively successful venture, Steve was soon on the path to making entertainment history. His purchase of Pixar Animation Studios from George Lucas brought the company from a boutique SFX house to a powerhouse entertainment pillar of Hollywood. Soon after, Apple purchased NeXT computing and he was then once again at the helm of the ship he had launched. He took his genius with product marketing and coupled with some the world’s greatest product design talent and forged a culture of innovation, creativity and unique inventiveness.

APPLE at a Glance: Apple now operates more than 300 retail stores in 11 countries. The company has sold more than 275 million iPods, 100 million iPhones and 25 million iPads worldwide. iTunes is the number one music store in the world with up to 20 Billion file downloads. Apple held 6% of the world PC market five years ago. Today it commands 24%.

On Wednesday, October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs succumbed to his near decade-long battle with pancreatic cancer. No matter what else is said about his life, there is no dispute to the number and way in which he touched the lives of most of our planet.

After a super secret liver transplant in 2009 in Tennessee, he cooperated on a first-ever authorized biography, which scheduled to be published this November. Mine is already on reserve. 

Steve prioritized the importance of good design coupled with inventiveness and ergonomic principles of usability and desire. As someone with a design background and living a life that is fueled by creativity, this mantra resonates too deeply with me to put into words. My family and I are Apple adopters to the core.
I end with one of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes (and trust me there are many!), from a Fortune Magazine article;

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.
Goodbye, Steve... and thank you.