Nov 15

The only Simpson worth watching on Fox is Homer!

Can you believe Fox is paying OJ Simpson some $3.5 mm to appear on one of their programs andPh2006111500021  discuss his new book, "If I did kill her, here’s how I did it?"

Shocking, shameful and sordid. And, I’m aiming those words at Fox, not OJ (who is too loathsome to bother with).

The Fox-Simpson deal is yet another pitiful example of why it really is all "about the Benjamins" in our society. It’s also a great example why we’re held in such contempt around the world.

Nov 14

Is TLC TV’s answer to the old circus sideshow?

I cannot believe the type of programming TLC (aka "The Learning Channel") dishes out on a daily basis. A modern, broadcast version of the freakish sideshows that used to be in vogue on Coney Island and elsewhere, TLC titillates viewers with a mishmash of the most bizarre and warped things imaginable.

One show, for example, follows the plight of some unfortunate person who has a 400-pound tumorHzoom11  extracted from her body. Another depicts such emergency room horror stories as scalpels and other doctors’ tools being left inside unsuspecting patients. Then, there’s the show about "the boy whose skin fell off," a series about "little people in a big world" and all sorts of other bizarre features, including "99 Most Bizarre," to satisfy even the most prurient interest (not that I would know anything about that, mind you).

Slideshow_11 My interest in TLC stems, in part, from having worked on the publicity team that originally helped launch the cable channel back in the early 1990s. At that time, TLC was truly all about learning and education. Programming was aimed at parents, teachers and kids, and was designed to bring a new, broadcast dimension to what was being taught in classrooms. As a matter of fact, I can remember pitching local market reporters and urging them to write positive articles in support of TLC’s being selected by a regional cable operator instead of, say, the SciFi Channel. But, my, oh my, how things have changed. Today’s TLC offers more bizarre beings and events from the real world than the SciFI Channel could ever hope to emulate with its fictional offerings.

I guess sleazy, surreal sideshow stuff trumps informative programming every day. And, while TLC obviously appeals to someone (or some thing), I do think it’s a great example of a once-proud brand that’s really lost its way. While TLC does air a few educational shows as they relate to cooking and home improvement, the cable network seems to be synonymous with "freakish."

Business is business, and I’m sure TLC’s management is laughing all the way to the bank. But, this sort of programming should be kept where it originally existed: in a circus sideshow.

Nov 13

The return of June Cleaver

It seems like many suburban moms are going ‘back to the future’ to ease the stress of child rearing.

According to a feature in Thursday’s New York Times, more and more moms are gathering at the end of the day to share war stories, gossip and, yes, glasses of wine, martinis or some other alcoholic drink.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my glass of Grgich Hills chard at the end of a stressful day. But what740555_2   makes the suburban moms’ Kahlua klatch different is that they bring their little kids along for the ride. So, as the accompanying photos with the article demonstrate, the moms are walking around with their vodka martinis or merlots while the little kids are left to fend for themselves.

Many of the moms are defiantly proud of their social networking. One, in fact, blogs about it from her home in Michigan. The site’s logo is what Melissa Summers calls a ‘momtini,’ a pacifier garnishing a half-full martini glass.

Other moms disagree. One, in fact, Jennifer Ramsey, says on her own site that "giving up a career (and a piece of my identity) and boredom were the core reasons (she) began drinking."

Some academics and sociologists worry that, like Ramsey, the women are drinking to ‘escape’ and might be little more than modern counterparts to their desperately bored predecessors of the 1950s and ’60s, typified by June Cleaver in the classic sitcom "Leave it to Beaver."

There are always two sides to every story (and, as one woman complained, there may even be a double standard in place when it comes to society’s view of women and drinking). But, for me, something about the Momtini lifestyle just doesn’t seem right from an image standpoint. I have to believe the little kids are receiving the wrong message when, week after week, they see mom drain one glass of vino after another.

And, are the moms just getting together for companionship or running away from stress? It’s an interesting trend to be sure.

Nov 10

The right ingredients…

Blender manufacturer Blendtec recently launched a cool viral campaign called "Will it Blend?" They have a series of vids showing a guy throwing all sorts of items (marbles, wood, McDonald’s Value Meal, etc) into a standard BlendTec blender to find out if the stuff will churn up.

The latest video posted on Youtube shows 3 golf balls being chewed to bits. It’s only been on the site for 3 days and it already has 821,389 views. Great example of a company using viral marketing to get word out about a product.

Not only did this campaign probably cost Blendtec pennies to produce, it’s much more effective than a standard paid advertisement because it’s bringing consumers into the discussion. Over 1000 people have posted comments about it (mostly stuff like "I’ve gotta have this blender!")

Let’s just hope this little experiment doesn’t spin out of control with YouTubers trying things like “Will it Blend: Cat Edition.”

Nov 10

So, like, um, why should Laguna Beach moms be so upset? The business community sure isn’t…

The NY Times ran a fascinating article (subscription required) about the local community impact of MTV’s "Laguna Beach" from an image and reputation standpoint.

Moms in Laguna Beach are, like, totally freaked by the show’s impact on their grammar school kids. They say that, like, actually, um, the random and sketchy lifestyles led by the seemingly brain dead, pill popping, Cabo vacationing, sex-starved teens in the show are sending the wrong message to younger kids. Moms also say the show’s depiction of hot, surfer type teen girls has attracted a plague of child predators to the town.

Other residents couldn’t disagree more. As might be expected, the local business community thinks the show’s impact has been oh-so-sweet. All sorts of curious tourists are pouring into the town and shelling out Benjamin’s to see the actual mani/pedi shop the girls frequent, checking out some of the kids’ houses and driving by other hot spots featured in the show.

The Laguna High kids don’t seem too fazed by the show one way or the other, seeing it as a big, "whatever."

Whenever a town council strikes a deal with a reality show, it has to think through the repurcussions and image/reputation implications first. If the show’s characters are indeed influencing younger kids to adopt unhealthy life choices and attracting predators to the community, then all the money in the world isn’t worth it.

Since I don’t know the "real deal" here, I can’t pass judgment. One thing I do know, though, is that, unlike Cabo, what happens in Laguna Beach clearly doesn’t stay in Laguna Beach.

Nov 09

Ole Miss campaign may not change minds, but I like the approach

Print_read_1 In an effort to turn around its longstanding image and reputation as one of America’s true backwaters, the state of Mississippi has embarked on an interesting advertising campaign (NYT subscription required).

Created by a local ad agency, the campaign uses such provocative, self-deprecating headlines as: "Yes, we can read. Some of us can even write." The text then lists such notable Mississippi writers as Faulkner and Grisham. Another one states, "Yes, we wear shoes. A few of us even wear cleats." The list of cleat-wearers includes such NFL legends as Walter Payton and Brett Favre.

I like the "in your face" tone of the campaign. Some state residents disagree, however, believing it’s too defensive. But, hey, when you’re always at the bottom of the list when it comes to poverty, education, per capita income andPrint_shoes  any number of other key indicators, why not ruffle some feathers? The campaign hasn’t made me change any short-term vacation plans, but I definitely know a little bit more about Ole Miss and its remarkable achievers and achievements. And, in my book, that’s the hallmark of any communications program.

Nov 08

Why are doctors exempt from good customer service?

So, I’m about 45 minutes past the time of my appointment with the local Lincroft doctor and am sitting in a sweltering office alongside a woman who is sneezing her head off, a baby that’s crying and an old man with his arm in a sling who keeps staring at me.

The magazines on the badly dented table look to be about 10 years old, the music is Muzak and the carpet doesn’t look as if it’s been cleaned since the Nixon Administration.

Finally there’s some movement from the back office and a man emerges, carrying a bunch of rolled up papers. He opens the door to leave, then turns and shouts back at the doctor, "Hey, doc, I’ll have those blueprints for you by Friday at the latest."

Then it occurs to me that the "doc" has been meeting with an architect for the past 45 minutes toGg6_spec_2   plan his office refurbishment (much needed, to be sure). All the while, the angry old man, the whimpering baby, the severely congested woman and a blogger just sit and sit.

And yet, no one says anything. The old guy catches my eye and shrugs his shoulders with one of those, "What are you going to do?" looks. And, it occurs to me that doctors can get away with this shabby treatment because we’ve been somehow programmed to allow it.

Name me any other professional who could get away with this kind of treatment? If we left clients waiting in our reception room while we met with planners and architects, well, suffice it to say we wouldn’t have any clients (or any office to remodel).

Just once I’d like to keep a doctor waiting for 45 minutes with no explanation. None whatsoever. "Sorry to keep you waiting, doc," I’d finally say as I strolled out to reception. "So, what’s bothering you today?"

Oh well, I can dream. Hey, hold on, the old guy just got called in. Things may be looking up.

Nov 08

The almighty dollar wins again

The sacking of Dean Baquet, editor of the Los Angeles Times, marks another sad chapter in the7760334_2   downward spiral of traditional journalism. Baquet was fired by the Tribune Company, which owns the Times, because he objected to making job cuts among the editorial staff.

The Times has been staggering for years as its owners pared one layer of journalists after another. But, it’s surely not alone in its plight. The network broadcast news teams have found themselves in the same, sinking boat (the R.M.S. Titanic, perhaps?). Today, it’s all about profits and less about journalistic excellence. The winners are the management and shareholders of outfits like the Tribune Company. The losers are the American people.

When it comes down to a race between winning a Pulitzer Prize vs. squeezing out an extra percentage point of profit, the almighty dollar wins every time.

Nov 06

Red state, blue state, seems like we all hate

British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen’s just released ‘Borat‘ movie relentlessly skewers Americans of all types and persuasions, from gays and blacks to jews and evangelical christians.

Cohen’s genius lies in his ability to get us to open up and share our fears, hatreds and prejudices to his seemingly benign, seemingly innocent Borat character, who is masquerading as a documentary film producer from Kazakhstan.

Cohen’s Borat provides a fascinating look in the mirror at our country (and provides example afterVieo763321  example of why our image and reputation have sunk to the depths they have).

We see USC college kids berating gays and women. We see intolerant feminists walking out of the middle of a Borat interview because they resent his questions. We see a GM car salesman overlook the most loathsome Borat comments in his quest to close a sale. And, we see true blue American cowboy types telling Borat to shave his moustache because it makes him look like an Islamic terrorist.

In my mind, Cohen’s movie has borrowed a page from Ernest Hemingway by suggesting to Americans they, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

Let’s hope the flick provides some much needed self-assessment when it comes to asking why so many of us hate, fear and distrust so many of our fellow countrymen. If ever we do, I believe it will go a long way towards improving our self-image as well as our image around the world.

Nov 06

Just train boorish

What’s up with women applying mascara, make-up, lipstick, etc., on the train in plain view ofBy00994_1   everyone? Do I want to see that? Does anyone? And, why is it considered acceptable?

Could you imagine the guy sitting across the aisle from you suddenly lathering up and dragging a razor across his chin? Or, how about that other guy sitting in the middle seat pulling out a tube of jell and waxing up his hair (or hair piece, for that matter)? Talk about a double standard. Guys just don’t pull that crap in public.

Next to the loudmouths (of both sexes) who engage in cellphone conversations and make sure you and everyone else on the train know the most minute details of their weekend plans, my vote for most boorish train behavior goes to the make-up mavens. Ladies: give us a break and put it on before you get on. It’s not good for your image and just makes an already bogus NJ Transit experience that much worse.