Monday, November 26, 2007

Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?

So if you've been watching televised sports since around the World Series last month (and to a lesser extent whatever constitutes prime time network television sans writers), you must have been exposed to the latest slew of ads for Apple's newest breakthrough in portable MP3 field, the iPod Touch. It's youthful, hip, sexy, infinitely catchy, and of course unavoidably ubiquitous. On the surface it's essentially the same type of advertising that I condemned Apple Marketing for in my open letter concerning the iPod Nano a few months back. I should hate it, but for me it's actually an improvement over the iPod Nano commercials.

The main improvement with this new ad goes to really the crux of the problem I had with the old ad, frequency. I don't have any quantifiable data on the issue, nor have I done an official study but it seems that Apple got the message that repeating the same commercial, regardless of how cool and interesting and ascetically pleasing they feel it is, is a terrible, outdated way of marketing that may possibly hurt the product image in the long run. Granted, I am watching somewhat less TV than I was in late September due to the mediocre play of the Buffalo Bills and the lack of new Office episodes; but definitely not less enough for it to be a significant factor. I think the ad has reached that healthy medium where it's a frequent visitor to your home but isn't taxing your patience, a fine line to walk.

On a purely subjective level I just like the Touch ad better than the Nano ad. I was getting tired of the white background, kinda quirky, Apple ads. It's a great look, no doubt, but it just made the commercial seem sort of repetitive on the first viewing. It was a new ad but it went with whole general scheme of Apple ads; instead of Jeff Goldblum and stoned teenagers telling me to switch or Justin Long ragging on John Hodgman, it was the iPod Nano doing it's thing. The new commercial wasn't groundbreakingly innovative or spectacular but it was a refreshing difference from the norm that I noticed and appreciated. I also liked Cansei De Ser Sexy's "Music is my Hot Hot Sex" (title alone is superior) to Fiest's "1234". If the strength of marketing can propel "1234" to a peak of number freakin' 8 on the Hot 100, I'd like to see how far ad wizardry can propel an obscure Brazilian indie band. According to wikipedia the song has so far hit #63, the highest charting single by a Brazilian band in the history of the chart (what no Sergio Mendes?).

And just how did the highly paid marketing wizards at Apple manage to come up with this new and improved commercial? Simple, they just used the ideas of "unqualified" advertising minds like myself. The new direction, the great choice of song, the new presentation that was so noticeably different from the previous million dollar ads? It was basically a polished up version of a home video made by a teenager. What other industry is there in the world where a guy off the street can do just as good or better of a job than its most skilled and experienced specialists? And here I am in law school.

Interestingly enough, the real winner in all this may be Canadian singer/songwriter/Avril Lavigne clone Skye Sweetnam whose song "Music is My Boyfriend" has no doubt attracted the attention of many misguided searchers.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Being There

As with any individual of my generation who grew up watching the "Back to the Future" Trilogy I have a hypothetical list of dates and activities I would do if I somehow managed to get access to a time traveling Delorean in reality. Notable temporal activities would include: (1986) watch game 6 of the World Series at Shea, (2525) see how prophetic Zager and Evans were in their predictions all those years ago; (1618) witness the Second Defenestration of Prague; (1999) really party like it's 1999 instead of being distracted by Y2K and Pokemon; (1848) fulfill that literary dream of a threesome with the Bronte sisters (sans Anne) at the peak of their writing talents.

The most recent addition to that ever growing mental list would be to transport myself back 24 or so years right into the thick of the 1983-1984 NBC television season. It would be at this point that I could actually witness, and verify with my very own eyes and ears, quite possibly the worst prime time network television season in the history of the medium. For now I can only dig up artifacts, uncover second hand accounts, and hypothesize about things that once were and that time has mercifully forgotten. I can only accept the historical records of the season where every prime time show that premiered in the fall was canceled by the end of the season. I can only begin to imagine a season so poor that it would count mid-season replacement detective series "Riptide" as one of its major successes. I can only attempt to rationalize how network executives and producers could with a serious face greenlight certain shows with premises so bizarrely awful in concept and execution for a mass audience.

Here are some of the offerings the prime time NBC viewer was rewarded with circa 1983 for following NBC's request to "Be There!":

Jennifer Slept Here
Jennifer Farrell was a once popular actress who got run over by an ice cream truck and now haunts her Los Angeles home. Her lawyer's generic 80s TV sitcom family (complete with sassy generic 80s kids) moves in and hilarity ensues. The hilarity ensues to a critical level when it turns out that only the teenage son Joey can see and hear her (hearkening back to the "classic" Fred and the Great Gazoo era of the Flintstones). This constantly gets Joey into trouble and makes everyone think he's crazy. Oddly enough this was apparently one of the more popular offerings of the season and even cracked the top 20 once, although in the end it was dead on arrival. Also, the opening sequence seemed to visually give very little insight into what the show was about.

We Got It Made
Mickey Mackenzie is a hot young woman who applies to be the live in maid to two zany bachelors David and Tom who share a two bedroom apartment. They become smitten by her and she is hired. However, hilarity ensues as this causes tension between their two respective girlfriends Claudia and Beth who are suspicious of their boyfriends living with the beautiful Mickey. This seems sort of like a mix of the equally awful contemporary show "The Big Bang Theory" and the fake pilot to "Jerry" ("because he's my butler") on "Seinfeld". I can't imagine why this show petered out, the complex set up had legs to go for at least a decade. It must also have been a Herculean effort on the part of the show's producers not to change the "Made" to "Maid" in the title.

As the William Conrad narrated introduction explains, Dr. Johnathan Chase is a wealthy, young, handsome man who traveled the world, learning the ability to transform into any animal he wants, which he uses to fight evil! So it's basically like Batman except with transformation powers...and a limited special effects budget. Despite the myriad of animals he could have turned into, apparently hawk or panther was the choice most of the time. Also scenes where he needed to change into something more complicated (snake, dolphin) the change would occur off screen ("Wow, did you see that?! He turned into a snake! Here he comes now!"). In only three months of airing it gained a reputation as one of the worst science fiction shows ever aired and even an apparent cult following (I guess there might be worse cults to be a part of).

Mr. Smith
So here's the entire show in a line: Mr. Smith is a talking orangutan (played by Clyde from "Every Which Way But Loose", the Lawrence Olivier of orangutan actors) with an IQ of 256 who is a political adviser in Washington DC. Take that Reagan Era America! How did he get so smart you might ask? By drinking a bottle of an experimental formula of course! This is a show that flies in the face of conventional logic. It's one of those complete "what were they thinking?!" kind of shows that, while completely ridiculous in their execution, deserve special notice for even making it on to national television; from "My Mother the Car" to "Cop Rock" to "Caveman". Of course as the case with such high concept fare, "Mr. Smith" lasted all of 13 episodes.

There were many more failures but they just weren't as interesting or noted. Other lowlights included: "The Yellow Rose" (some sort of lame "Dallas" clone about a cattle ranching family with Sam Elliot), "Bay City Blues" (a series centering around a minor league baseball team that sounded like the forgotten 2004 CBS series "Clubhouse"), and "For Love or Honor", "The Rousters" and "Boone" which I couldn't really find any information on.

So I guess the moral of all this is, in the context of modern TV, Thanksgiving, and the on going writer's strike, that for every "Chuck" or "Carpoolers" or unnecessary "Bionic Woman" remake we should be thankful for what we've got and that things could be much, much worse.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Picture This!

Giants Quarterback Eli Manning after losing the game, and basically any chance at the division, to the Cowboys yesterday

uncannily similar to...

A bemused Jim Halpert