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Archive for the ‘cynical pov’ Category

When someone introduces a useless idea (or one that is narrow in scope) on the Internet, it gets linked, picked, praised, talked about till the transformation from a phenomena to sheer bullshit is complete.

I am taking about Wolfram Alpha. Because among other places, it has been talked about here , here and here.

I have heard enough things about Wolfram already, including the awesomeness of narrow, focused search and a smarter alternative to Google. Isn’t it what is being said about Kosmix and Deep Peep. What, you didn’t know that? Have you been living under a rock? Oh. Sorry.

The first thing you have to understand is, that for the general internet population, Wolfram is fucking useless. When you truly look up something that is going to change your life in this website, drop me a line. And when that counter hits five figures, I will remove this post.

I have a simple test, quite childish but it has an unusually high success rate. I call it the Bird Sex Test. I started it when I was in seventh or eighth grade, when I asked my biology teacher question from the very back of the class – How do birds have sex? Amidst the laughter in class, she was not amused and threatened to take action against me if I didn’t behave. One girl told me birds don’t have sex since they lay eggs. I heard she is now living in a forest with a parakeet as her husband and her small but vibrant community includes Kevin Costner living with a Wolf, Mel Gibson living with a dog, Robert Redford living with a horse and Kanye West living with what is assumed to be a gay fish.

See where I am going with this? No? Sorry. If you suspect someone of being a bore, prude or just getting to know someone, ask the question – How do birds have sex? Usually I find it worth my while to stick with people who either give me a factual scientific answer or the ones who give a crazy funny answer (e.g In the same awkward manner like me, except without the alcohol…oh…that gives an idea I need to go to the pet store tomorrow).

Wolfram Alpha, of course, failed the test.

Wolfram Alpha birds 0

While Google aced it. (That’s 3 76 0000 results for you!)

google-birds-3 76 0000

That’s why nothing can replace Google, somewhere some kid is searching for shit like this and no one can satisfy quite like Google.

The second test I have is the verb test. Xerox has it. Google has it. For instance, no one finds it creepy anymore if you tell them that you Googled them. It’s assumed whatever you put online will be read by people whom you really don’t want to. Tell someone that you Wolfram Alpha’d them – they will run to the nearest cop. Or ask you what kind of sexual position is that and will their vital organs be functional after?

Seriously, Wolfram Alpha is a stupid name for a website claiming to ‘compute the world’s knowledge’. Not to mention the ultimate testament to the fucking ego of the guy who started this. This makes me wonder, how the hell did this useless idea get such free press? Did he hire Jesus as his publicist? No. Oh, it must be Scott Boras then.

Okay I admit, Wolfram Alpha is about numbers. And the saying usually goes that numbers don’t lie. This is the mantra spitted out in all MBA schools. I should know, I took classes in one. The ugly fact is nothing actually lies more persuasively than numbers. The current financial crises should be enough to prove that statement.

Still not convinced? The Goons will convince you what an exercise in futility this Wolfram Alpha thing is.

wolfram01Despite everything, this is still only the second worst thing to come out of Britain this year.

UPDATE: Microsoft has made a huge splash about Bing – their yet to be launched search engine. They are going for the verb thing but are somewhat behind because Urban Dictionary has already defined Bing for them. And the required plug-in, an NYT article ends with this priceless acronym for Bing – But It’s Not Google! Haha!

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The Australian Childhood Foundation has done a “creative” poster. I am assuming it’s from JWT Melbourne. And I’m also assuming this is not fake. Because I do want to live in a world, where the love of awards makes an advertising agency convince a Childhood Foundation to do this to a child.

aus-child-abuse-ad

Via

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Life has been difficult for WSJ for years now. It was taken over by a mongrel from Down Under, conservatism committed suicide, McCain chose Palin, Tax cuts suddenly stopped being the be-all end-all cure for economic messes and even the words on its mast head ‘Wall Street’ fell down a notch below ‘Crack Whore’ in society. So how does Crack Whore Journal react to the A-Rod steriod scandal….well check out the link address.

wsjsucksinsportscoverage1

The link is STILL ACTIVE

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Not sure if this is real, but this kick ass is awesome. Because Circuit City always sucked. And this is the funniest price war ad I have seen in a while. Via

best-buy-sarcasm

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Must you indulge in scam ads too, Amnesty? Apparently, the German arm of Amnesty International is very concerned about slave trade. So concerned that they did this in an airport, you know, to stop slave owners from picking up their slaves.

amnesty_afp466

Extra points for sending a photographer to document the guy who was documenting this.

Via

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This billboard won’t make any sense, since, if everyone knows the winning numbers, everyone will buy the same ticket and no one will be absolutely or absolutly happy about it.

absolutwinning3

Via

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Burger King has done some superb stuff with it’s King mascot and the whopper freak-out videos were priceless in terms of marketing excellence. So I was eagerly looking forward to their latest effort, which will be fully released later this week. But the preview of it leaves me just confused.

The premise is this – BK makes a documentary style video of people in different countries trying burgers for the first time and the choice they have is a Big Mac and a BK Whopper.  This is summed up, as BK says in the website Whopper virgins, as ‘If you want a real opinion about a burger, ask someone who doesn’t even have a word for burger.’

Really? What’s this? An anti-expert testimonial? Why does BK expect it’s audience to believe someone who knows next to nothing, not just about your brand but even the entire category? I guess I will hold judgment till the whole thing plays out.

Watch the preview here:

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Chalk Shadows

Artist Michael Neff goes around town when the sun is shining and does his thing – he outlines shadows with surprisingly beautiful results.

new_york_ny_2007_03

new_york_ny_2007_02

shoreline_wa_2007_07

You can find his entire chalk work HERE. And this is how he does it.

ViaVia.

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It’s the season for holiday adverts and so far none has done it better worse than J C Penny. Apparently, inappropriate gift giving is now a privilege only enjoyed by children, women, parents, friends – basically every fringe group except men, 18-49.

Just in the previous post, I was lamenting the inherent sexism in advertising of lore. The turnaround has been complete for the past 20 years or so when grown men act like boobs and is taught life-changing lessons by an all-knowing wife or a girlfriend. Yikes! It’s nauseating.

Cultural streotypes can be a deep-well for branding if the humor works. There really is no formula except that famous Potter Stewart quote ‘I know it when I see it’. He said that about pornography, but it works just as well for advertising.

Like this one…

and maybe, just maybe this one too…

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Gender Analyzer is a new web service that is annoying, pointless and useless. The premise is simple and has absolutely no value – you enter your blog or a website and it gives you the gender of its author. How or what goes into the analysis is not explained.

I decided to check two of the blogs from my feed, who’s author’s gender I know for a fact and see if this website at least does the only one thing it promises.

First, Jet Packs

jetpacksgirl

Okay, let’s try another one, Jane Sample

janeisamanThis is even worse…not only Jane maybe a man, she could be a sexless mysterious creature.

This should be a cautionary tale for anyone dabbling in the next big/interesting thing. The absolute golden rule should be this – if you are going to dabble in offering a service, you should at the very least make sure it works.

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Does God allow these people to lose their soul every time there is an election?

This priceless headline is from The Guardian.

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Hey! Say you are a multi-zillion lazy West Coast bank that for years ran a whole set of ads that threw stones at fat white banks and bankers that made no sense.

And say for years you messed up in money management buying toxic waste without realizing that if you buy an acid that can burn everything, you first need to think about the storage.

And hey! say, despite all your deposits covered by FDIC, your customers have no trust in you that they took all their money away.

What will you do?

Of course, you will sell yourself to the fattest cat in the east coast for a pittance, jump into his bear-hug bed and then have the gall to ask your ad agencies for a witty campaign!

Clients and agencies: For WaMu, TBWA LA and for JP Morgan Chase, it’s McGarryBowen NY.

Via.

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McCains veep, Sarah Palin, has attracted some media attention usually reserved for…well hypocritical social conservatives. Liberal bloggers are having a field day, ofcourse. While Palin’s own pregnancy is under scrutiny, she announced her teenage daughter is preggers too. As I saw this report of Huffington Post, I really wasn’t too interested in this issue, till I saw the advert below the article. If you are against abortion, then maybe these folks can help…

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Thanks Monster.

The bad banner ad trend continues.

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This ad makes me wish the Internet, computer, typography, English language, humans, earth, milky way and the entire fucking universe never existed.

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While I was drunk surfing, I came across this ad for Olay anti-ageing cream…

And this monstrosity…

Did it seriously take 11 people to create one ad? And this is not even a campaign, just a single photoshop horror. So, is this really the case? Or could it be that one junior creative came up with this and the whole senior team jumped on the poor dude thinking this could be the next ‘Tock, Tick’ ad.

And the worst part is…this is not even original. As one commenter points out, the exact same thing has been done just months back for another anti-ageing cream. Oh my, the ridiculousness that our industry tolerates is staggering.

Olay Via and Racco Cosmeticos Via

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Can you please explain this ad?

Do your customers have a hard time seeing a 4 ft. bottle? And if so, how can they read your headline?

Even though I wasn’t a fan, I could at least understand the earlier Ketel One ads where the campaign had an elitist tone and aimed for the upmarket clientele.  But this one is part of a new campaign that brings down the tone of the brand.

For godsake, how difficult is it to write cool adverts for vodka?

So…

Dear Ketel One Advertiser

Change the agency.

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How does it feel when you take your new Honda Accord for a drive? It feels like flying, of course. I am glad Honda doesn’t make passenger flights, then it would feel like you just have been shot into space.

By DraftFCB Melbourne. Via

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DDB Paris has a new tv spot, a two minute ad for Tiji children’s tv station. The spot looks beautiful. Trouble is…

…for an ad that talks about imagination, the script looks too ‘inspired’ by Le Ballon Rouge.

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Introducing billboards with hidden cameras that are equipped to , as this Times article reports “gather details about passers-by — their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database.”

Disturbing as it is, the whole article is less critical of this trend. I can understand why advertisers would want to see who and how many are looking at their ads, but from a societal perspective I hope this doesn’t become the hottest new thing.

Take this paragraph for instance…

“The goal, these companies say, is to tailor a digital display to the person standing in front of it — to show one advertisement to a middle-aged white woman, for example, and a different one to a teenage Asian boy.”

There is no way it would work. It’s a giant billboard and hundreds if not thousand of people walk by it everyday, at least here in New York. So the chances are a middle-aged white women, a rapture priest, and a teenage Asian boy will be standing in front of it at the same time. What would you show them?

Advertisers who think they can succeed by annoying and invading their target audience don’t deserve to be successful.

Related: A bloody battle to invade our little privacy.

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In an article titled ‘The Mother of All Privacy Battles‘, The New York Times talks about a new trend in online advertising. For long, Internet Service Providers were happy to provide the connection and collect a monthly charge.  And for long, they have gawked at companies like Google that has made billions by posting search-relevant ads. All of this is about to change, as the ISPs are getting into the advertising business by tracking the browsing history and search patterns, so they can display appropriate ads. As an previous article about three British ISPs adopting this approach explains…

“A marketer that wants to reach wealthy golfers, for instance, would not have to restrict itself to advertising on golf sites. Because the ad system would track golfers’ Web habits, it could follow them to other sites and show them golf-related ads there, too.”

Now I am not at all against following around wealthy golfers and piddling stuff to them. And one can argue that this practice already exists on the Internet, especially by Double Click and Ad Sense, but this gets tricker, as the case of Phorm shows

” Phorm’s pitch to these companies is that its software can give them a new stream of revenue from advertising. Using Phorm’s comprehensive views of individuals, the companies can help advertisers show different ads to people based on their interests.

‘As you browse, we’re able to categorize all of your Internet actions,” said Virasb Vahidi, the chief operating officer of Phorm. “We actually can see the entire Internet.'”

When a company promises it’s clients that they can SEE THE ENTIRE INTERNET…either they are lying or worse they actually can.

And this development is sure to leap ahead…

“This is just the beginning of what is becoming a serious debate. There is a strong incentive for Internet providers to sell data for companies. Eventually, cellphone companies will start to face the same choice. If there is a G.P.S. unit in your phone, it will be able to keep track of what stores you visit, among many other things. How much would Honda pay to be able to send ads to people who’ve been in Toyota dealerships lately?

As they have with all the other behavioral targeting systems, proponents of these new I.S.P. monitoring services, argue that the worst that will happen is people see advertising that is related to their interests. Of course, it’s not so simple. There is a real risk that personal data could leak out of these systems, just like credit card numbers sometimes are revealed by online stores, by means of theft or accident.

More broadly, how comfortable are we in allowing private companies to snoop on us so long as they promise to forget all the juicy bits?”

And if you are not comfortable with this, apparently the users can ‘opt-out’. Now anything with an opt-out option usually doesn’t bode well with me. Since you don’t opt-in, one can’t even know where they are and how to get out of this. Plus, there is always a catch.

“Customers of BT, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media can opt out of the new system when it is introduced next month. But they will be encouraged to stay by being given a higher level of protection against online fraud.”

See…if you opt-out of getting hammered with relevant advertising, we will let the hackers have a free shot at you.

But to be fair, this is such an early stage and this practice could end up being a boon to advertisers, since you know the old saying about where do we waste 50% of ad revenues. And it might even help consumers who will get branded messages that are relevant to them. So are we at last seeing the beginning of online advertising utopia?

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“A meme can be just about any form of non-genetic information transmitted from person to person: a word, a song, an attitude, a religious belief, a mealtime ritual, an engineering concept.” – Robert Wright, NONZERO – The Logic Of Human Destiny.

Ever since Britain’s World’s angriest atheist invented the idea/phrase meme in 1976 (Yes, it’s been that long!), many people have confused the hell out of me. But it really didn’t have much relevance to advertising till the Internet became home to the hoi polloi.

First amongst meme’s were usually odd stuff, funny photos and jokes that got forwarded endlessly. And some emails with a plea for help. All of which, I am sure, you can’t blame it on ad agencies or their clients. And then things started evolving changing. Lists like THIS can truly show you what it’s all about and also overwhelm you with loads of bullshit.

And that brings me to my main point. Which is, what’s the point of all this?

While adverts have been memes for a very long time, when it comes to Internet meme’s, it has been awful with rare exceptions, here’s looking at you Subservient Chicken and Gorilla Drummer. Every cliché has also been overused when it comes to Internet Online Interactive Viral Digital Web 2.0 Web Plus marketing and advertising and still I get a queasy feeling that we are still on the Interstate and the nearest town is miles away. How many of you are familiar (or even just heard of) with ALL the items on this list? And these are the phenomena.

I also think, memes are quite different from viral advertising. Like Richard Brodie, I consider memes to be building blocks and if brands can be that ‘basic building blocks of our minds and culture’ then we can see some boundaries pushed to a higher plane. This actually happens when it comes to spoofs…for instance:

It’s funny, thoughtful and ironical.

When was the last time we saw an ad signed off by a client that adopts a tone of its consumers? To be fair, it’s easier to throw stones than build a window. There have been instances when big corporations invite consumers to create adverts with some success. That I consider a positive first step, even if it’s a critic or a spoof.

I don’t presume to have any answers to the title questions, except that we do have a long way to go.

A good non advertising meme  is Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle.

Now imagine that being your brand!

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