Hollywood Has Always Been About Retreads and Remakes…But Madison Avenue?

According to the fanboy blog Den of Geek, Hollywood currently has seventy-five movie remakes in the works.  Everything from Alien to Footloose and Police Academy to The Warriors is being reinvented, recast and rebooted.  All of which, candidly, is rather expected…

What’s less expected and candidly, rather inexplicable, is this spot for Verizon…

Okay, I guess their coverage map is red.  And the area is kinda big.  But more than anything, Wrigley ad jingles of the seventies and eighties were known for their, well, queerness.  Remember Extra gum’s unforgettable couplet “Extra flavor for that extra long trail, Extra flavor for that extra long sail”?  Were they even trying?

Why would anyone want to reuse that ad music in a different ad?

It’s all too meta for me…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

It’s Tuesday, It’s Holy/Spring Break Week: Here’s A Gift

See how I did that?  I set up the situation and then, instead of honestly admitting “I got nothing,” I reframed the whole thing as a little something I went out and procured especially for you.  Which in a way I did, but actually, that really clever person at thisisindexed.com did all the real work.  I just surfed and found.  Nevertheless, this little graph speaks sooth.  Enjoy.  And Happy Tuesday.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Thanks Twitter But I Don’t Want To Be Followed By Lydia Lancaster (ditzybabe83454)

My daughter and I attended the matinee of “Trust” at the Lookingglass Theatre yesterday.  This imaginatively-presented new play centers around an internet sexual predator and a freshman at New Trier High School.  We found it well-acted and decidedly well-intentioned, although that led to a few ham-fisted moments in the writing.  Still, this tale of the real dangers inherent to easy iPhone and laptop access is enough to make any parent yearn for more Luddite times.

So the topic of inappropriate web contact was already fresh in my mind when I received not just one but two consecutive notices from women I don’t know who nonetheless feel comfortable introducing themselves while topless.  Apparently these aggressively body-confident gals feel compelled to follow both my agency and personal Twitter feeds.

While it would feed my ego to pretend our Tweets provide the kind of entertaining and rewarding commentary that works like a bug light on nymphomaniacs, the truth is I fit a profile: middle aged professional male.  And so my inbox gets bombarded with pitches for every baldness, weight control and erectile dysfunction remedy imaginable.  These are the methods taken by some of the less savory corners of my chosen profession.

Spam goes everywhere–I get that.  And yes, I’m painfully aware of Internet Rule 34 (“If it exists, there is porn of it”).  It just bums me out that everything, everywhere merits a Parental Advisory sticker.  We were just looking to play in the social network, not ‘play’ wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

So no Lydia, I won’t be following you back.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


The Danger of Betting On Technology: Watching “The Hangover” on Blu-Ray

Remember the Newton?  It was a PDA intended to ‘reinvent the notion of personal computing,’ largely through a primitive tablet window, a stylus pen, and handwriting recognition software.  It went on to begat other useful devices–the iPod and iPhone foremost among them–but was itself a complicated, balky mess.  Some diehards did swear by it.  Then again, some people like dressing up in wool long johns and re-enacting the Civil War…

The point is a technological advance may be true from a technological perspective, but unless it’s meaningful to people, it’s dubious.  For years, we watched video graphics improve from boxy 8-bit representations to breathtaking vistas and reasonably convincing human movements.  And our TV sets have grown to be wider and thinner, progressively adding more lines of resolution to erase the fuzziness inherent in antenna reception or VHS tape.

And then came Blu-Ray.  Blu-Ray is staggering visual technology.  I’ve enjoyed “Finding Nemo” dozen times with my daughters over the years, but Blu-Ray let me appreciate its level of artistic detail at an entirely new level.  The experience was nothing short of breathtaking.  Blu-Ray images are incredibly razor-sharp.

Dennis Ryan Element 79 Chicago AdvertisingBut what works for Pixar (and Lord of the Rings and Avatar and other popcorn movies), is absolutely counter-productive in smaller, more human fare like say, The Hangover.  Watching the boys galavant across the Nevada desert in hyper resolution lends this epic tale of debauchery an ordinariness.  It feels like a stage play, like something you might find on Telemundo HD.  The near-metallic edginess of the picture distracts from the story, and that’s not a good thing.

Combine that with the news that theater chains will be jumping their admission price as much as 10% to take advantage of the popularity of 3D and it appears that once again, hopeful advocates are placing dangerous bets on technology.

Alice in Wonderland is a spectacular visual fantasy and a charmingly imaginative story–THAT is why the movie has proven so popular.  And Avatar was a singular achievement in filmmaking–a story that looks nothing like anything we’ve ever seen before.

Simply because they are 3-D doesn’t mean you can count on the same reaction to Clash of the Titans.  Great movies start with great stories, not great visual effects.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


The Challenge of Content: Captivate Network, Exhibit A

Dennis Ryan Element 79 Chicago Advertising

This morning, March 25th and day nine of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, I noticed this on the Captivate screen in the office elevators.  Let’s see: Villanova went down to St. Mary’s and Northern Iowa shocked Kansas five days ago.  In fairness, Duke is still in it and faces a compromised Purdue so indeed, they are ‘medium risk.’  But the sure thing and the longshot are both out.

Bad content.  Dated content.  Irrelevant content.  These will increasingly challenge emerging platforms that replace editors with AI and bots.  For most of these outlets, automation is the only financially-viable answer; smaller, fragmented audiences can’t warrant an investment in human talent to collate and curate content.

The issue then, boils down to sustainability.  Putting out a good product–something pointed and interesting and revealing–can be a Herculean task.  Today’s media consumes content with an unprecedented voraciousness.  But how long will these ‘always on’ times last, these days where immediacy and controversy seems to count more than knowledge and assessment?  For some platforms, they are sustainable.  If you want gossip and funny photos and Fails, the supply is steady and inexhaustible.

But if you want real information–actionable insight and considered viewpoints–your outlets seem to shrink daily.

Not sure that amounts to actual progress…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Debating the Rules for Brands in Social Media

In the latest issue of Advertising Age, the memorably-monikered Taddy Hall lays out Ten Essential Rules for Brands in Social Media.  Given the conflicting viewpoints regarding leveraging these platforms, these types of lists now clog every marketing outlet.  As someone clever once noted “Where there’s confusion, there’s money to be made” and advocates from all sides have leapt into the fray looking to profit.  But as the former chief strategy officer for the Advertising Research Foundation, Mr. Hall is no self-proclaimed spittle-lipped social media expert.  Instead, he drew data from hundreds of brand clients of his company Meteor Solutions to generate this shortlist of actionable insights based in proven fact.

Two of his essential rules really stand out as emblematic of the fundamental mindshift necessary for incorporating social media into marketing.  First is what he calls “The 1% Rule” where a tiny fraction of site visitors drive the lion’s share of total site traffic.  In case after case, his data demonstrates the power of heavy influencers to drive web behavior.  Importantly, that behavior goes beyond simply increasing site traffic to include a higher share of conversion.  For marketers, this means it is critical to identify, engage and reward ‘super-influentials’ when working in social media.  Historically, identifying and enlisting influencers on behalf of brands has been the province of PR.  Now that social media has grown so mainstream, that discipline must converge with general marketing if we want to effectively integrate our efforts.

The second is his “New Media/New Pipes” rule which shows that what consumers say about your brand means far more than what marketers say.  This is more quantified proof of the power of word of mouth and the need for a radical rethinking of how we present messages to the market.  More than anything, it means we must find more and better ways to cede control to consumers.

That’s hard.  Anyone with more than a few years of marketing experience has been steeped in the need to resist even looking at ideas from consumers for fear of legal exposure: brands must be managed, communication must be one way.  Except that today they aren’t, whether we like it or not.  Social media provide a mass channel for opinion.  More critically, that opinion can have more sales impact than our messages alone.  Content spread from consumer to consumer drives purchase intent far more powerfully than content directly from brands.  As an example, Mr. Hall says that brand content posted on a Facebook fan page has far less impact than the same content posted to an influential individual’s page.

The rest of his list makes for very worthwhile reading as well.  So much misinformation and conjecture fills the debate over social media; having guidelines culled from data, not mere experience, make this list actually worth reading.  Thank you for that Taddy.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


A Change In Perspective

So many remarkable ideas incorporate an element of surprise; they combine things in a fresh way, they invent a new use for something familiar, they make us rethink our most basic assumptions.

All of which is very good because we take so many things for granted.  Right now, we are all on this Earth rock, hurtling through space at upwards of 66,000 miles per hour–you stop and think about that for too long and you’ll start looking for seat belts on the La-Z-Boy.  You simply must accept some things at face value because there’s not a whole lot you can do about them anyway.  I remember spending a couple of sleepless nights in the fourth grade after learning the heart was an involuntary muscle, and because it kept flexing, we could enjoy the miracle of life.  For the next forty-eight hours, I couldn’t help worrying “but what if it stops?”

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Photograhy

Yesterday’s casual web surfing taught me how to do a great trick with a dollar bill that I can’t wait to get home and show to my ten year old, a collection of the ten best low-altitude fly bys by military aircraft, and an absolutely stunning set of the best forty examples of high-speed photography.  The way this photography technique literally stops time and provides a glimpse of a world our naked eyes could never process is nothing short of miraculous.  Water balloons pop, bullets pierce and water splashes, active moments in time literally stand still with heart-stopping visual clarity.

So take two minutes, follow this link, and enjoy the world we know in a way we never get to experience it.

Who knew?  Then again, that’s pretty much the point.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


A Currently Accurate Graph Regarding Monetizing Twitter

Dennis Ryan Element 79 Chicago Advertising

11Points.com (“Because Top Ten Lists are for cowards”) included this with a list of other funny charts about the micro-blogging platform.  Like all great satire, there’s more than a drop of truth to the commentary.

By the way, “Food Trucks” refers to street vendors or mobile mini restaurants in major cities.  Twitter is often their only marketing as they tweet their current location or specials for their fan followers.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Inspiration: A Plentiful, Inexhaustible, Natural Resource

After you’ve spent a few weeks grinding out clever thoughts on one topic, your creative output can grow a bit…narrow.  Anyone who’s known a deadline knows the feeling; every idea starts feeling so similar, so limited, so uninteresting.  That’s when you gotta get out and take a walk to see if something, anything, can help your imagination find the door to a new room where fresher ideas live.

It’s even better to take a vacation: to get out of town, change the scenery, and go where you’ve never been.  Element 79 GCD/digital imagineer Todd Crisman recently returned from a lo-fi vacation along Route 66.  Somewhere in Missouri, he and his wife and daughter came across Meramec Caverns, a sprawling saltpeter cave and putative one-time hideout of Jess James.  Maybe.

So let’s all take a quick Friday digital field trip with three photos from that adventure, along with Todd’s informed commentary.  It’ll be fun, and we might even learn something…

Dennis Ryan Element 79 Chicago Advertising

“Meramec Caverns was a hideout for Jesse James. That much is true. Maybe. But the first thing they tell you within 30 seconds of starting the tour is that he didn’t hideout in a tiny house like the one in the photo. Which is weird but kinda cool too. The tour guide said he wasn’t sure why the house was there. The tour is 1 hour and 20 minutes of underground freakout. Guess what? Injun Joe fell 10,000 feet to his death in the 1973 Tom Sawyer movie with Johnny Whittaker – filmed in here.”

Dennis Ryan Element 79 Chicago Advertising

“Meramec = Giger: dude musta got his inspiration from Meramec caverns man! Look for yourself!!”
This heavily-hyped local attraction features a funky little gift shop of the type that’s been steadily peddling overpriced trinkets for the past fifty years.  And there, amidst the shot glasses, bumper stickers and real, working bullwhips, Todd found a display of these Law Badges.

“Not a toy.  Really?  The “Sharp Points” aren’t sharp. Can you believe this ISN’T made in China?  I can’t and don’t.”

Chances are, you had one like it as a kid.  Or your Dad did.  Back then, the background art probably featured a stereotypical Native American and a cartoon depiction of gun violence.  But in those pre-litigious times, it probably did not disclaim that it had “Sharp Points.”  And no way would it claim it was “Not a Toy.”

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the trip.  Now back to your previously scheduled Friday.  And chins up–it’s the last day of Winter.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79