Monday, February 8, 2010

I’ll tell you what I thought of that Google commercial

The :60 spot takes place entirely in and around the Google search box. You see text being entered and search results. You see Google suggestions and typo corrections. You see Google services such as translation and airline info, services many people may not be aware are available. And by reading between the lines you see – or rather, infer – a love story unfold, with a happy ending (not that kind of happy ending you perverts).

On an emotional level it resonates, because without ever saying so, it reminds us of the importance – the power and pervasiveness – of search in our lives. And as a creative, I admire it – its simplicity, its understatedness, particularly in the big-budget shoutfest of self-importance that is the Super Bowl. Do any of the other companies – crassly strutting their stuff – have as much of an impact on so much of our lives as Google? So from that standpoint, it's far-and-away the winner of the ad bowl (though you gotta give props to Leno/Letterman/Oprah too).

Then I put on my strategy hat – it's a tweedy beige number – and asked myself: What's the point? Obviously Google has the cash to drop on this, but what were they accomplishing? Making us feel good about Google (generally already do)? Teaching us that the box does tricks beyond keyword searching (more effective means of education are available)? Reminding us (needlessly) that next time we search, try Google?

As I thought a bit more I realized it was in fact reminding us of one other thing: You can tell a lot about a person by looking at what he searches for. By tracking a person's searches – as Google does – you can essentially get a peek into that person's soul. I was imagining if the spot had ended with Google's famous motto: Don't be evil. It actually could have been interpreted as an anti-Google ad.

Did Google do the right thing running the spot? I think so, sure. I doubt most people will share my dark interpretation. And I feel no less good about the company and the brand than I did before. What's most interesting to me, as a communications professional, is noting how a message can have multiple interpretations as well as the larger question of what a brand with the stature of Google (or Coca-Cola or a handful of others) should do in advertising.

Now all we need to do is figure out an explanation for

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Too little to worry about?

Not enough on our minds, maybe?

A bit too relaxed on a Monday morning?

Need to be jolted awake?

Maybe. Else how can we explain the decision to fly a jet – oh, not just any jet, by the way: Air Force One – low over Wall Street without any advance notification. Chased by two warplanes. Because, really, what's a low-flying jumbo jet over Manhattan without a couple of warplanes on its tail.

The FAA and NYPD knew in advance, of course. And made the decision – issued by memo – not to spill the beans. That would've spoiled the surprise. And thousands of workers would have missed the much-needed exercise they got evacuating skyscrapers.

So to do a quick crisis inventory, we've got the financial crisis (in various flavors), the foreclosure crisis, the automotive crisis, the global warming crisis, the Afghanistan/Pakistan/Taliban crisis, the ongoing healthcare crisis, the Social Security crisis and I can't even remember the other crises. Obama's going to have to grow extra hands to keep plugging the dike. And on top of all that fun, people in positions of authority gave a thumbs up to a federal photo-op within crashing distance of Ground Zero.

Maybe they were right. Someone does need to be jolted awake.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Real Writers Need Not Apply

Actual posting on CraigsList:

Fictional Writer Wanted (Greenwich Village)

Reply to: see below
Date: 2009-02-08, 10:12AM EST

Looking for fictional writer with an MFA or finishing an MFA to revise/re-write novel. Don't have time, myself, to revise. Please submit two page writing sample to along with CV. Please include the following under subject of email: "Pamela Project" Thanks. Please only serious fictional writers with credentials respond.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Suck on THIS

Well folks, it's my sad duty to report another sports doping scandal – and this one involves regular dope. Yes, Olympic champion Michael Phelps is in hot bongwater. A fine, upstanding British newspaper, the News of the World, which exists primarily to make the New York Post look like responsible journalism, published a picture of Phelps diving headfirst into an encounter with a large marijuana facilitation apparatus. Phelps used the device right out in the open at a university party. Apparently he spends so much time underwater he was unaware that most college students today carry camera phones.

In a statement made after his mellow was harshed, Phelps acknowledged his "bad judgment" and "regrettable behavior." Regrettable indeed. Phelps has millions of dollars in endorsement deals and stands to lose some or all of that money. Why? Because apparently being unmasked as a "mary jane" addict makes him less credible as a spokesman for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. Really? I would argue the opposite – who knows more about sugary cereal than a stoner?

Now some will say Phelps is setting a poor example for children. Why's that? Because he's demonstrated that a person can partake of the ganja and also be an Olympic multiple gold medalist? In fact, there is a long, proud tradition in sports of athletic excellence coupled with substance use. Do the words "Mickey Mantle" mean anything to anyone? And it's not just sports: Kate Moss has shown that supermodeling is compatible with cocaine. And Jimi Hendrix … Well, let's get back to Michael Phelps.

Is Michael Phelps an example of how even a superstar athlete at the top of his game, with so much to lose, can make a tragic mistake? Or does he in fact represent evidence that possibly, for some people, maybe a lot of people, marijuana is not so different from alcohol, which last I checked continues to be on the list of legally abusable substances. You probably shouldn't smoke dope for breakfast, and you definitely shouldn't drive or for that matter go shopping under its influence, but for an adult it has now been shown that marijuana in moderation doesn't prevent you from being an Olympic gold-medal athlete, in fact, the best in the world, in fact, possibly the greatest ever in your sport. For all we know, marijuana is the single most important element of Phelps' training regimen, delivering the relaxation he needs to help him cope with the fact that for the last 15 years he's spent 10 hours a day wearing a Speedo and silly goggles and compulsively swimming laps like that polar bear in the Central Park Zoo. Maybe that redness is his eyes isn't just the chlorine.

If there's one thing I'd like to see our society quit cold turkey, it's forcing our so-called role models to disingenuously disavow doing things we know they as well as the rest of us are doing. Can we all enroll in a 12-step program to try to kick our addiction to hypocrisy, would that be possible, America? Or am I just high?


Monday, December 29, 2008

Smoking in the Bubble

Today's New York Times is the latest media outlet to note President-elect Obama's struggle with tobacco, a habit he has so far failed to kick.

At the same time, other sources, including CBS News, have reported Obama's chafing at "the bubble," the combination of Secret Service imposed restrictions and news media interest in his every move that make leading a normal life largely impossible. Obama can no longer casually go out for a meal or a haircut or, as he noted for an assembly of sixth graders a few weeks ago, go to a Walgreen's.

Which raises the question: Who is Obama's pusher?

Obviously he cannot simply pull over the motorcade at a convenience store or gas station and hop out for a pack of smokes. Someone else is buying and supplying. Is Obama providing that person cash or offering some sort of political consideration in return? Is Obama receiving an undocumented gift? Has the accomplice been caught on security cameras doing the evil deed? Is that person himself or herself a smoker? Does acting as Obama's mule lend smoking an added dash of glamour? Do Obama and his pusher have a code word they use, a street name for the drug?

Investigative journalists, go to work!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama's Popularity, McCain's Lack Thereof

The McCain campaign has rolled out a bold new tactic.

The latest charge they've leveled against Obama is this: He's the most popular celebrity in the world.

They put this accusation in a campaign ad. And to make sure the point wasn't missed, they held a conference call as well.

Could an exclusive with US Weekly be far behind?

So, let's get this straight. McCain and Obama are both candidates for this particular job that you win - apart from divine intervention by the Supreme Court - by being the more, well, popular.

Essentially, then, the McCain camp is charging Obama with ... positioning himself to win the election? Thank goodness he's brought this to our attention.

Since when has popularity been so unpopular with Republicans? Anybody remember this guy Ronald Reagan? Most popular president of my lifetime. Really, who'd want that kind of treatment?

By railing against popularity, McCain is once again aligning himself with the man whose job he hopes to assume, our current president, whose popularity ratings are so low the Gallup organization may need to recalibrate its metrics and come up with a polite synonym for "loathed."

McCain must be betting that he can tap into the collective American resentment of popular people, which most of us (the great silent unpopular majority) have harbored since junior high.

And who better than McCain to take a brave stand on behalf of all the unpopular people. Why, doing so might be just what his campaign needs to make McCain more, well, popular.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm a Keyword Now

It happened suddenly. One day I was just an average guy, writing marketing copy for a living.

Now, I’m famous – Internet famous. Well, keyword famous, anyway. I’m not just a copywriter. Apparently, I’m the copywriter. The proverbial gold standard. Here’s how I found out.

Every now and then I Google myself. Don’t act shocked. Everyone does it. The experts say it’s perfectly normal to Google yourself every few days.

Anyway, I Googled MARK SILBER and up popped an ad from the self-proclaimed “King of Copy.”

The headline said, “Outsell Mark Silber” and the rest of the text read, “Copywriting That Blows Your Mind & Sells Like Crazy: Not For Beginners.”

What did the King mean, “Not For Beginners”? And why did he insist on initial caps for every word, even prepositions?

Now curious, I Googled the name of my business, SILBERWARE. A different ad came up.

“Sell Like Mark Silber,” the headline offered. A mere parity claim this time. Perhaps my opponent had recognized the futility of trying to “Outsell Mark Silber” and was prepared to settle for a draw. The rest of the text, however, was somewhat disturbing: “No Sales-Hype Phony Mumbo-Jumbo, Just Real-Life Examples That Work.”

“Sales-Hype Phony Mumbo-Jumbo” – that wasn’t a reference to the work of Mark Silber, was it?

I clicked through to my challenger’s site, in so doing costing him a buck or two. The headline on the King of Copy’s homepage read, “Who Do Maverick Marketing Millionaires Consult With When They Need Expert Advice? Step inside and find out for yourself.”

I scanned the page. Cute pictures of his kid and their dogs. Unusually specific claims like “$51,525 Dollars worth of actual winning hard-hitting sales copy samples, loaded with every trick in the book!” and “Subscribe To Craig Garber's Daily eZine Right NOW - A $197 Value, Yours FREE!” In short, all kinds of statements that, were I not a charitable soul, I might have characterized as sales hype phony mumbo-jumbo.

But no further mention of Mark Silber. Frankly, I was a little let down.

Nonetheless, I reminded myself, I was still a keyword. How would my newfound fame change my life, I wondered. Would there be interviews? Product endorsements? Cameo appearances on reality programs?

I called my wife to tell her and immediately regretted the impulse. My wife, you see, is a lawyer. There will be “confusion in the marketplace,” she said. Prospective clients of mine would mistakenly think the King of Copy’s ad was actually my ad and conclude I’m “not serious.” Considering that my own homepage prominently features a laughing monkey seated at a typewriter, it was hard to see how the ad could somehow degrade my reputation.

I called my mother and told her. She immediately said how proud she was. Then she asked what a keyword was. Then she repeated the same questions she always does about the Internet – where it is, for example. Then she asked when I was coming over to fix her computer.

I’m tempted to contact the King of Copy. But what would I say? “Cease and desist!”? “Thanks!”? “Do you mind if I copyedit your site for grammar and usage?” Maybe any sort of acknowledgment would be beneath my dignity. I am, after all, a keyword now.

So in the end I chose to do nothing. But you better believe I’ll be Googling myself regularly.