The Internet Will Save Humanity. Well, Maybe Later, Right Now There’s This:

The latest Tumblr madness to make my day richer and more rewarding without bothering to balance that with any redeeming usefulness is this site: phones replaced with sandwiches.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Guess what they do there. Oh, you’re ahead of me already? Whoa, you must be one of those internet wizards. Good on you.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Billy Idol Got It Right: With This, and Essentially Every Blog Post, I Am Dancing With Myself

Check out this infographic, swiped from those innovative wags over at mbaonline.com.  It simply serves up widely-available data about our daily web interactions, but viewed in the collective–with pretty pictures–it’s staggering.  Three years ago, I used to blow clients minds with the simple fact that everyday, people upload 9,200 hours of video to YouTube, a figure made more staggering since there are only 8,760 hours in a year.

Today, that number stands at 864,000 hours of video.  Or damn near 100 years worth of kitties and bad karaoke uploaded every day.  The ease of posting from your cell phone makes this inevitable.

On the upside, I guess I don’t have to sweat my punctuation and word choice so much: with two million blog posts launching every day, who’s gonna notice?

Anyway, enjoy.  Or get very scared.  Or, far more likely, go find some other distraction.  The net’s lousy with them…

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson, Minneapolis, Chicago

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

 

Some Friday Video (Very) Awesome

God love the internet.  Seriously…

You might not have heard of Keenan Cahill but chances are, you’ll recognize him. This fifteen year old kid with the MacBook Pro in his Chicago bedroom has racked up nearly 70,000,000 hits on his YouTube channel, mostly by lip-synching to hits by Katy Perry, Bonnie Tyler and Michael Jackson.  And now, in a bit of meta, he’s featured in the video for Fifty Cent’s newest release “Down On Me.”

This is a kid with a rare genetic disorder called Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome.  But he’s not known for that.  He’s known for this.  Known for this enough that Fifty Cent sought him out for his latest video.

God love the internet.  Seriously…  Happy Friday.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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The Omnipresent Scourge of Creative Ennui

Maybe it’s the recession.  Maybe it’s the rampant fear among client organizations. But something has far too many agency creatives feeling listless, lifeless and dull.

I blame the internet.  Specifically: Web 2.0.

And no, that’s not because digital is such a confusing and specialized marketing platform: it’s not. The only people still clinging to that fairytale are the ever dwindling ranks of digital separatists.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79. Chicago AdvertisingNo, I blame the internet and the explosion of ideas it presents every minute of every day.  We are literally awash in new thoughts from all types of people in all sorts of places.  Today, when any kid with a cell phone camera can step up and jack a long ball over the Green Monster of cultural awareness, it’s pretty apparent that we agency types no longer have the stage to ourselves.

And speaking selfishly, that is a bummer.  We no longer enjoy the privilege of seeing our work presented in a tightly-controlled national public forum. There was a time not long ago when even a fifteen second spot for a toilet cleaner afforded you access to the rarified world of broadcasting, a chance for your thinking to be seen by tens–even hundreds–of millions of people.  The cost of production and the relative scarcity of media outlets afforded advertising an enviable third tier status in pop culture, behind movies and television.  It was a business, but it was also a creative enterprise friends and neighbors found mysterious and fascinating.

But now, when people upload 9,200 hours of original content to YouTube every single day (that’s well over a year’s worth every twenty-four hours)…when Facebook status updates can earn a sitcom option…and when comedians reference the Double Rainbow Guy instead of the Mentos fresh maker…broadcast advertising no longer enjoys any sort of exclusivity on idea presentation.  Everyone knows someone who’s a YouTube star, a kid who got his Tweet re-tweeted hundreds of times, or a blogger who earned a book deal.  Ideas are everywhere.

Today, unlike any other time in marketing history, attention can’t be bought: it must be earned.  And that can be a bitter pill to swallow…

But like all medicine, it’s best to just swallow hard and take it, so we can all move on to the clear water on the other side of this temporary lull.  Because if we’re fortunate to have a job in a creative department, that means someone thinks it’s still worthwhile to pay us for dreaming things up.  We still enjoy a job where we are employed not for the strength of our backs but the fertility of our minds.  And even if it’s tougher than it used to be, that’s still a really sweet deal.

Besides, in this economy, no one wants to hear it.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Digital Esperanto: The Internet As International Common Ground

Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis RyanIn the Book of Genesis, the ancients built the Tower of Babel in Babylon to a great height with the intent of touching the heavens and asserting the glory of man. This act offended God, who smacked the edifice down and scattered the people across the globe, creating a profusion of languages to further separate the people and insure they didn’t get uppity like that again.

Whether you take this story as fact or allegory, our division as a race stems from fundamentals like language, which inevitably rolls into culture and tradition and all the rest.  Go to dinner in Lisbon and try telling your waiter to hold the anchovies and put the dressing on the side and you’ll see just how fundamental a stumbling block language is.

I couldn’t help thinking about this as I scanned Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive’s new Digital Influence Index white paper.  With a focus on helping clients drive sales, they demonstrate that of all the media channels that drive consumer decisions, the Internet is far and away the most influential.  Further, they contend that marketers are not fully capitalizing on that influence.  Places like China, Germany, Japan and the UK even placed information found on the Internet above recommendations from friends and family.

Companies like to trot out research like this to sell the promise of new media and dance on the grave of radio, magazines and television, but that erroneously assumes that people view the internet as a sales medium in the same way they do television or print.  They don’t.  Commercial messages are readily identifiable by even the least sophisticated viewer in traditional media, with the notable exception of gray areas like branded content and sponsored placements.

By contrast, advertising messages on the web live predominantly in that gray area, as blogger advocacy, paid editorial and search results.  Of course there are the ubiquitous banners but no one would identify those as a source of information.  If advertisers follow Fleishman-Hillard’s advocated position, they will quickly devalue the conventional perception of the internet as an information source and cheapen it to just another ad platform.

As an industry, we need to take something of a preservationist approach to our efforts here.  Even as we seek to use the medium, we need to tread lightly to preserve this information and entertainment centric ecosystem. We must operate differently here than we do in traditional media, serving up our messages in a way that respects the unique perspective people bring to the platform.

Because if we do this right…  If we can drive widespread internet access to a worldwide information source, we might do something even more than sell more life insurance or offer a wider variety of pornographic video clips.  We might create a universal platform for far flung cultures to experience shared humanity.  We might create a technology that erases the separation of language and encourages the exchange of ideas, opinions and experience.  With any luck, we might erase the dehumanizing distance that allows one group to demean another with epithets, or a tinhorn warlord to convince a young woman to strap on an explosive suicide vest…

THAT would be freaking great.  Oh, and selling stuff would be awesome too.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Misconceptions, Half-Truths, and Lies, Lies, Lies

The internet is a rich source of unverified speculation, baseless rumors and agenda-serving fabrication: no surprise there.  Ever since the widespread of adoption of Web 2.0, commentary, blogs and microblogs reconfigured the web into a vast wiki: user-sourced and generated, largely on the honor system.  That’s rarely a good thing (BP’s offshore safety standards anyone?), particularly to anyone accustomed to accepting information at face value–which is also rarely a good thing.

This is where snopes.com comes in.  If you haven’t already bookmarked this site, do it now.  It began about fifteen years ago as ‘The Urban Legend Reference Pages’–a site developed by Barbara and David Mikkelson dedicated to dispelling myths and providing real information on all sorts of topics.  As the web grew, so did the demand for their curious and obsessive fact-finding.  Today, readers submit all sorts of conjecture: about Nigerian inheritances, the war records of Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers, the new Pepsi can that eliminates ‘under God’ from our National Anthem…

The only real reason I mention snopes is that I got an email this morning about the many uses of WD-40.  This particular message closes by claiming that remarkable product’s main ingredient is fish oil.  All in all, it was rather mindblowing.

After a quick check on Snopes, I was it was also not entirely true.  What is true, is that this remarkable petroleum-based spray lubricant can serve a mind-blowing amount of uses.  Those that have been confirmed as fact are:

  1. Protects silver from tarnishing.Element 79, Chicago Advertising, Dennis Ryan
  2. Removes road tar and grime from cars.
  3. Loosens stubborn zippers..
  4. Untangles jewelry chains..
  5. Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from oxidizing.
  6. Keeps scissors working smoothly.
  7. Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes.
  8. Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers.
  9. Rids kids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises.
  10. Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open.
  11. Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close.
  12. Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.
  13. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans.
  14. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy handling.
  15. Keeps rust from forming on saws, saw blades, and other tools.
  16. Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
  17. Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell)
  18. Removes all traces of duct tape.
  19. If you spray WD-40 on the distributor cap, it displaces moisture allowing cars to start.
  20. It removes blackscuff marks from t he kitchen floor!  UseWD-40 for those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring.  It doesn’t seem to harm the finish and you won’t have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off.  Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks.
  21. Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly! Use WD-40!

By the way, the email list was twice as long, but these are the only ones verified.  You’re welcome.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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re: Out of Touch TV Executives – Exhibit A

The whole Leno/Conan/Tonight Show sideshow of the past couple of weeks has inevitably started settling down.  Still, this clumsy episode provided the general public a glimpse of the decision-making and strategic skills of the braintrusts at network television.  Even a casual reading of the various stories revealed the corrosive aspect of huge profit margins on cogent business leadership.

I’m old enough to remember when Jay Leno truly was funny.  My wife and I saw him at the Park West in the mid-80’s and he was the Bruce Springsteen of comedy, working for three side-splitting hours.  His material wasn’t particularly dangerous and he didn’t work blue so he seemed a natural for national TV.  But Leno proved too apt a pupil; at the behest of the network, his style mutated into fawning sycophantism.  The result was too depressing to watch.

The same fate befell Conan during his short term on The Tonight Show.  His trademark silliness seemed muted somehow, his joyful good-natured anarchy toned down, at least until his final week when it reappeared brilliantly as he gleefully pretended to blow NBC’s money on silly comedy bits.

Why do network executives insist on putting condoms over their comedian’s material?  Why must they squelch the original voices that earned the big contracts in the first place?  Of course it has something to do with protecting the bottomline, of insulating the network against angry local affiliates and outraged sponsors, but there is definitely something more.

When you’ve spent years out in Burbank, sniffing your own exhaust (along with another six lane’s worth during your morning commute), you lose touch with reality.  Consider this mind-boggling quote from Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment.  In his bit of highly-published spin, he claimed Leno would be competitive immediately because his image wasn’t hurt much.  After all, “…Middle America doesn’t have any clue what’s going on behind the scenes.

Wow.  Really?

Could someone please tell “West Coast” Jeff that we Middle Americans have access to this odd little platform called the internet and that, like some kind of magical box, it delivers news and information to us almost instantly?  And the internet’s news is unhindered by the legal limitations of network news, so it’s far juicier, far more salacious and far more behind-the-scenes than even Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight.

Forget YouTube, forget illegal filesharing, forget pirated cable as the primary reasons network television is in trouble.  Those are merely symptoms.  The real source of the issue is far simpler.  TV network executives don’t respect their audience.  And as any advertising professional can tell you, the quickest way to lose a client is to demonstrate disrespect for them.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


I Know The Latest On US Durable-Goods Orders, Consumer Spending, and First Time Jobless Claims Yet Still Know Nothing

Picture 2Funny thing about this massive internet data engine we all plug into: I have access to more information than ever and still don’t really know anything.  At least regarding the US economy; I do know way too much about pop culture, beer and bourbon.

That’s the thing about data—it’s not actual knowledge, only its unrefined ore.  Before you can leverage a fact, you need to convert it into something actionable, something larger: an outcome or a conclusion.

The only reason I’m chasing this tangent on a Wednesday morning is that in rapid fire succession, three different data points popped up in my inbox this morning:

1.  U.S. consumer spending up in October

2.  U.S. durable-goods orders dip in October

3.  First-time U.S. jobless claims decline to 466,000; stock futures get lift from data

I’m not exactly sure how or why I started getting these Marketwatch headlines on my email.  I mean, I know why Land’s End and Amazon and Ebay clog my inbox every single morning with an endless supply of largely indistinguishable offers, but Marketwatch?  Where did that come from?

Still, it’s news, I scan it, and much like the level of intellectual engagement one gets from the Captivate elevator screen, I leave with a bite-sized intellectual nugget to idly chew for the rest of the day.

Data may be king in the new economy, but the true power still resides in knowledge.  Dag, I gotta get me some more of that…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

This just in: October new-home sales rise, paced by gains in southern states.  (man, this stuff never stops…)

WWHD? The Comic Virulence of the Hitler YouTube Meme

Knock-knock jokes…  Top Ten lists…  “That’s what she said”…  Over time, cultures build stockpiles of shared comic references.  Back when we all watched Saturday Night Live, everyone copped Dana Carvey’s “Isn’t that special?” complete with the Church Lady’s off-balance lip pursing.  More recently, Kanye West’s obnoxiousness led to a spate of  “Imma let you finish–” bits.  Sharing laughs around common reference points builds bonds between people, and simply makes the day pass more pleasantly…Picture 1

So it’s no surprise that this video popped up at the end of last week.  Mark Wegener, the man behind the consistently intelligent humor of ‘Local Paper’, passed along this latest version of Downfall, this time with Bruno Ganz’ Hitler screaming about the news media’s breathless over-coverage of the Balloon Boy hoax.

These days, you really are nowhere in the cultural landscape if you haven’t been referenced and had the piss taken out of you by ridiculous subtitles laid over this 2004 Oscar nominated film.  Type “Hitler Downfall” into YouTube’s search box and you’ll get 2,280 hits.  People have re-edited this clip to make Hitler rail on everything from Twitter’s server fail to Michael Bay’sTransformers to Tony Romo dumping Jessica Simpson.  It’s become such a common reference point it’s even gone meta, with Hitler losing it over his discovery of all the Hitler parodies.

It will take a far smarter person than me to explain our collective subconscious enjoyment of seeing history’s most notorious villain alternatively simper and explode over the banal topics of everyday life.  But the simpler truth is that the internet, originally designed to link brainiacs involved in military research and development, now serves a far more noble purpose: enabling distant people–often complete strangers–to satisfy our deeply human need for connection.  And laughter.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79