Two Mind-Blowing Facts on Wealth Inequality from Oxfam

First the bad news–this statistic: 85 > 3,000,000,000

What that means is the world’s 85 richest individuals hold the net wealth equivalent of 3 billion people, or over half the world’s population. That is staggering. Somewhere Robin Hood must be rolling over in his grave.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

But this week’s Oxfam briefing paper is it’s not all lousy news. While wealth inequity is definitely on the rise, and most of all here in the United States as the middle class continues to get hollowed out, there is a small glimmer of good news in the fact that global poverty reduction is also on the rise. Since 1970, the  global poverty rate has dropped by 80%.

Read more here. And maybe it’s time we really start talking about balancing the US tax code.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

A Troubling Fact Regarding Digital Industries and Employment Figures

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonOn Tuesday, New York Times Op-Ed writer Joe Nocera wrote a fascinating article about Jaron Lanier’s recent book “Who Owns the Future?” Within the review, Nocera cites Laneir’s harrowing perspective on how the new digitally-centric economy ultimately decimates the middle class. A simple comparison between Kodak and Instagram  blew away Nocera. And then me. And probably you, in turn…

“At its height, Kodak employed more than 140,000 people…When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people…Instagram isn’t worth a billion dollars just because those 13 employees are extraordinary…Instead, its value comes from the millions of users who contribute to the network without being paid for it…Networks need a great number of people to participate in them to generate significant value. But when they have them, only a small number of people get paid. This has the net effect of centralizing wealth and limiting overall economic growth.”

Collaborative networks hold such promise for intellectual and artistic advances; if Lanier is right, we need to innovate to add economic ones as well. Or better still, find ways for more people to return to that old fashioned idea of making stuff.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

PS:  I stepped away from this blog for a while. But I’m getting back to it now–mostly as a repository for bite-sized information I find interesting. Hope you will to.

Goodbye Good Boy…

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingAmidst news of firefighters killed by a vicious wildfire or the arbitrary brutality of plane crashes, it’s hard to call the loss of a dog a tragedy. In our case, we shouldn’t.

Yes it hurts the family as tangibly as a kick to the stomach but that’s because a dog like our Jack was anything but a tragedy; he was a family adventure, a comedy, a silly sideshow of joy. Jack was a jovial companion, content and ever affable. And that’s why his silent absence resonates.

We found Jack at an Alaskan Malamute rescue group in Joliet, Illinois. He shared nearly ten of his unusually long twelve year plus lifespan with us, a constant fixture in our family life. His large, wolf-like appearance belied an incredible gentleness. He could be a bit of a baby, encouraging you to stay and continue petting him by standing on your feet. He howled at fire truck sirens and wailed when the vet performed the most routine blood draws. In truth, he was anything but the paragon of health, requiring surgery for his lungs and all sorts of anti-seizure medications and trips to the emergency vet. No less than three times, we were certain we would have to say our goodbyes.

Sadly, today we had to. And our furry, snow-loving, ever patient boy is gone from our home though he’ll never completely leave our hearts.

Good boy Jack. Goodbye my good boy.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

A Commentary on American Culture

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonI stumbled across this image last week. And no doubt, the uncredited artist who created it intended some sort of commentary on America’s consumer culture. And I agree, although probably not in the way the artist intended.

Yes, we live in a country awash in pitches for everything from Shamrock Shakes to Shamwows to Dollar Shave Club. And for that, I’m extremely thankful.

God Bless the USA. Happy Fourth!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

 

Hurry–There’s Still Time To Buy Ping Pong Balls Before The Fourth

Here’s a little video inspiration for your Independence Day celebrations … courtesy of some observant pyromaniacs in Germany apparently.

That’s right–you saw it here first: ping pong balls are flammable as hell. And if one is good, then clearly, one thousand are just that much more exponentially good-er. So if you can’t get to a fireworks tent, at least find a sporting goods store.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Television Commercials Aren’t Dead. They’ve Just Gone New Places. Amazing New Places…


Remember this spot for Cheerios? It first aired this past month and due solely to its casting of an interracial couple, incensed a disturbing number of bigot trolls, whose inflammatory comments forced General Mills to shut down comments on their YouTube page (but, admirably, not back down and pull the spot–way to be, General…).

It’s nothing more than a TV commercial. The same kind we’ve been watching for decades. The same kind certain pundits have deemed dead in today’s interactive age.

Television is far from dead. The numbers prove we watch more of it than ever. And as this spot demonstrates, no other medium has the breadth of reach or emotional impact of moving pictures and sound. No, while television may be many things, it is certainly not dead.

That said, television has definitely been transformed, mostly by the participatory web. A tiny but vocal smattering of racists attacked this sweet, simple story, using the coward’s cloak of online anonymity even as millions of people reacted normally, with emotions running the gamut from delight to benign neglect.

But those prejudicial attacks spurred another small but vocal group—Michael David Murphy and Alyson West from Atlanta, Georgia–who decided it was time to answer that ugliness with a showcase for love and family. They created a Tumblr  called “We Are The 15 Percent”: a reference to the 2008 census which noted that interracial couples make up 14.9% of all marriages in the United States. Michael and Alyson’s blog invites interracial couples and families to send in their photos as a counterpoint to this sort of idiotic bile. In just a few short weeks, they already have over 2500 submissions. And with national coverage from outlets like MSNBC, those numbers should continue to swell.

The photos are beautiful. The movement is affirming. The reach of television empowered by Web 2.0 is a marvelous thing to behold.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

The Automation Touch

A lot of people understand the brand building value of the human touch; how refreshing it is to talk to a real person, how nice it is when a service employee goes above and beyond to help you with your situation, how human it feels to be addressed by your first name.

But hiring people is expensive. People can’t consistently work twenty four hour days. They require things like clean restrooms and medical plans. And so management searches out automated solutions to drive costs down. And we lose the human touch.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Unfortunately, few people talk about the Automation Touch. The Automation Touch can be hamfistedly clunky. In trying to be personal, it can come off as transparently cloying. And sometimes, the Automation Touch can be just as costly. That’s probably what the management at this erstwhile-global outfit are feeling about now…

Happy Friday.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Google’s Own Search Results: Book Smart ≠ Job Smart

This morning, my LinkedIn feed presented a condensed version of an interview with Google’s Laszlo Bock, their SVP of People Operations.  Among other topics like  big data and predictability, Laszlo dropped this little mind bomb:

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all…Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore… We found that they don’t predict anything. What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.”

He goes on to talk about the artificial academic environment:

“One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

Boy is that the truth–the most valuable people in any advertising agency are those who love figuring things out when there are no obvious answers. And anymore, there are no obvious answers though some like to pretend there are, mostly to hold on to their hard earned profit structures.

Life isn’t true or false, it’s multiple choice. Actually, it’s nearly infinite choice. And in this modern era, when those choices have expanded exponentially and more critically, when the exponential multitude of those choices is more palpable than ever, we can become paralyzed, or at least insecure. The annoying but accurate acronym FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a very real, social media-fueled phenomenon that most of us have felt at least a twinge of at one time or another.

But that is the world we live in. Which despite the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, is one reason why a soft, unsaleable liberal arts education may be the best gift to young minds. It won’t promise answers, but it should help teach you to think. And that’s a start.

You can find Adam Bryant’s full Interview here.

 By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Um, Men’s Wearhouse? You Just Fired Your Only Asset

Not being one to wear tone on tone ties or burgundy shirts with black suits, I don’t spend a lot of time in Men’s Wearhouse. But I had a last minute need out of town once and was pretty impressed by their service. That said, yesterday’s news that they fired their founder and spokesman George Zimmer is astounding.

Apparently, despite a recent company announcement that profits were up an incredible 23%, the board recognized George’s audacious continuation to age. And at sixty four years old, their infinite wisdom deemed him irrelevant in their pursuit of young Millennials. One pundit claimed “An old guy with a gray beard may not provide credibility to the product in the eyes of a 22 or 24 year old.”Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Indeed. That could never work to drive a brand to relevance and interest, right Dos Equis?

On the upside, this could be an opportunity to energize the brand with aggressive and compelling new advertising… It could be a time to create new relevance with a new voice and look… This could unshackle the brand and allows it to soar to new, unimagined heights for men’s retail…

So why does it feel so inevitable that we’ll soon be seeing some pretty forgettable men’s fashion advertising?

Goodbye George, it was nice knowing you. Say, would you be open to voiceover work?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson