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

Indignant, Appalled, and Pig Biting Mad

Anger is an ugly emotion. Even when it’s totally justified, it’s naked expression can be repelling, or at least highly off-putting. Moments of my own unrestrained anger make me cringe at their recollection…

Which is why I wouldn’t think I’d find this clip so compelling, but I definitely do. This is Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army. He is outraged. And it is beautiful to see.

Morrison is furious about a scandal involving seventeen army men, some officers of considerable rank, who are being investigated for creating and sharing “explicit and profane” emails that are demeaning to women. These allegations center around the kind of behavior that begins to form a culture of intimidation–nothing anywhere nearly as serious as the endless string of assaults and systemic cultures of rape that have festered in a few ugly corners of our military. Yet he doesn’t softpedal or downplay the charges. He resets expectations, then demands they be met. “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” That’s so true it hurts.

Morrison’s unblinking, clenched-teeth delivery sounds nothing like our endless stream of prevaricating American political weasels or PR spindoctors–it sounds more like Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan.

And in times of great moral crisis, that’s beautiful.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


The Beauty of the Tool Itself

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonThis is Monet’s palette. These layers of time-worn colors represent the remnants of what led to canvases such as these…

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingIt’s curious how, simply as a tool, Monet’s palette carries the heft of true art. How the dint of wear and experience even shapes the way we perceive objects associated with the creation of work. Art is funny that way.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

International Symbol or Visual Puzzle at the Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

I missed two blog entries last week due to an annual golf trip to Ireland.  This year, we went to the West, in County Clare and the Galway area.  After playing a gorgeous round at Lahinch and before an unbelievable plate of stew at Gus O’Connor’s pub in Doolin, we stopped briefly at the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher.  Standing on O’Brien’s tower gives you a 700 foot vantage point on Galway Bay with the Aran Islands barely visible out in the Atlantic.  It’s a spectacular spot and thanks to both our tour guide Tim and Wikipedia, I learned that it served as a backdrop for The Princess Bride, the latest entry in the endless line of Harry Potter movies, and even the hazy cover art for U2’s recent album, No Line on the Horizon.


Sign #1

Along the walk up, the tourist bureau posted a series of warning signs.  It may be true that much like Scotland, Ireland and the United States are two cultures separated by a common language, but really, a few words may have been in order to help clarify the meaning of these imaginative, if over-reaching symbols.

They started simply enough with Sign #1: a triangular-shaped warning that sprinting along the edge may cause both damage to the cliffs and an ungainly posture.  Indeed, this simple visual messaging would easily translate for visitors from most any culture around the world.

Sign #2

Sign #2

Sign #2 however, began the descent into indecipherability.  It could mean ‘please don’t kick the oversized black piano keys’ or perhaps ‘no hurdling gravestones.’  Maybe it means that ‘climbing shipping boxes of framed paintings requires two hands’ or perhaps even something as prosaic as ‘no dancing too close to obstructions of any sort,’ but that seems unlikely given the Irish proclivity for enthusiastic if ungainly dancing.  No, Sign #2 remained something of a mystery to our group, but whatever it warned of, apparently we were able to walk away unscathed and apparently, without egregious violation.

Sign #3

Sign #3

Sign #3 though totally lost it with the implied intent.  ‘No hovering at altitudes higher than the local birds’?  ‘No walking on flaming coals while littering candy wrappers’?  ‘Beware of fire gulls’?  The possibilities for misinterpretation seem limitless and would require someone with expertise in a made up academic discipline like “Symbology”–that’s right, I’m talking to you Robert Langdon and you too Dan Brown–to interpret the meaning of the graphic artist here.

Then again, take another look at the top picture.  See all the non-cushioning layers of shale and sandstone that might provide only a harsh and temporary break in any unfortunate fall over the nearly vertical cliff face that ultimately ends in the frigid crashing sea hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet below?  Taking that perspective, it seems Nature already provides all the warning labels one might need to keep all but the most determined visitor from tumbling off.  That’s keeping it simple…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

86 Gourmet

Picture 1Conde Nast’s announcement that they were shuttering Gourmet magazine after nearly seven decades of glossy publication came as a shock to many.  I can’t pretend that I am so accomplished or interested a cook that it affects me directly any more than the simultaneous news that two of their two Bride titles—Modern and Elegant—were closing as well (I’m not sure that they put out a Hillbilly Bride but if so, that survived).  Still, one aspect of this announcement has a distinctly contemporary spin…

Conde Nast plans to continue the Gourmet brand.  While declining ad sales doomed the magazine, Gourmet-branded cookbooks will continue to appear in the market.  A new Gourmet TV show debuts on PBS on October 21.  And in a bit of grim irony, Gourmet recipes will even remain on, the very type of free recipe site that hastened it’s editorial demise.

So while sister publication Bon Appetit will probably fulfill the balances for Gourmet’s subscribers, the name itself will not disappear from popular—or at least foodie—culture.  That is a very smart decision—brands are powerful things: difficult and expensive to build, but resilient and enduring in the public mind.  That’s why a savvy holding company has been able to leverage the Pabst Blue Ribbon brand through contract brewing.  It’s why a similar strategy revived Indian Motorcycles.  And its why the Gourmet brand does have a future—just not in the format where it was built.

The world changes.  Brands that adapt to that reality can create a sustainable future, even if it’s one that their brand stewards never imagined.  Or candidly, particularly wanted.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Apple Moves Over Two Billion Apps In Eighteen Months

Picture 4According to a press release from Cupertino yesterday, Apple’s App Store delivers roughly 6.3 million downloads a day or a head spinning seventy-three apps per second.  You can now choose from over 85,000 programs, up over twenty thousand in the last two months alone.  All of this software serves the more than fifty million iPhones and iPod Touches in the market right now.  More importantly, it drives sales and differentiation for this smartphone platform.  The release quotes Steve Jobs as saying “The App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it.”

While this is clearly a bit of sales-driving commentary, those words rang incredibly true for referring to my iPhone as ‘a mobile handheld device.’  It is mobile, it is handheld, and it is one remarkable device.  Unfortunately, it’s also a lousy phone.  It drops calls, it stumbles for minutes at a time as it searches for a 3G connection…but it does have those wonderful, engaging apps.  I have a modest thirty-five on my phone and use maybe four everyday, the rest very sporadically.  That’s not particularly surprising; it’s not like anyone really needs to constantly check movie times.

Still, there’s undeniable genius in this model; create a platform and open it up so that independent programmers can supply it with an endless variety of new and fascinating content, which insures the platform remains differentiated and vital in the world of smart phones.  Mr. Jobs clearly learned some things by watching how software developers flooded the open PC market with choices that his closed Mac system could never have.  And he leveraged that to insure the iPhone’s long term success.

Now if he will just let us pick our own carrier.  I can’t wait for a Cricket iPhone.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Clouds Don't Come Free: What Twitter Costs You and Why You Might Want to Rethink That Bargain

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of American jurists has been reducing our vivid national tongue into an indecipherable mind-numbing wall of impenetrable boilerplate.  Which is a form of job-protection I guess but otherwise adds precious little in the way of common clarity and understanding.

A Question Regarding The Cloud

A Question Regarding The Cloud

I’ve been thinking about that ever since the improbably-named Twitter co-founder Biz Stone sent out a change of policy email to all account holders last week.  Given that it was couched in dense legalese, neither me nor you nor the overwhelming majority of account holders bothered to hack their way through that thicket of legal mumbo-jumbo detailing something as seemingly innocuous as a policy change.  So we don’t really know what we agreed to.

But happily, out amidst the vast resources of curious active minds brought together on the web, a few smart people have.  I am particularly grateful for this wonderfully-clarifying analysis and editorial from Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age.  It’s well worth a read.

Dumenco points out how amidst all the details and ‘whereby’s’, Stone buries the small but not insignificant fact that Twitter reserves the right to all of the content you generate on their service.  That’s right: ALL the content.

Those one-liners you send out everyday?  They’re yours, but Twitter can put them into a joke book and not owe you a penny.  That news you saw happening and described from your unique POV?  Twitter can aggregate it and sell it to any of the major news wires.  That novel you’ve been tweeting?  Those lyrics you’ve been half-crowdsourcing?  That witty bon mot about a current event?  Twitter owns them as much as you do, and can profit on them or resell them or license them to whomever they darn well please.

To most of us, the use of this service and the simple fact that we’re not likely to toss off too many intellectual pearls within 140 characters makes this a fair trade.  And given the sheer dunning weight of meaningless prattle on the service, that is not necessarily a reckless position.  It’s a stretch to consider “Man I need coffee” as Intellectual Property, let alone IP worth protecting.

Still, Twitter’s value lies in aggregation.  In aggregation of opinion, in aggregation of highly-defined target markets and perhaps soon, in aggregation of bite-sized content around themes or lifestyles or specific events.  Would anyone ever want to order a copy of The Twitter Guide To Exceptional Birthday Wishes from Amazon?

If it would come out and you did buy it, you might even find your ideas in it.  Whether you’d be credited, well, there are no guarantees about that…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79