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The Big Idea
Can’t Wait Nation. Remember the good old days when stores didn’t start pushing the holiday stuff till October? Now it seems ‘back to school’ and Christmas stockings hit Target around the same time. And didn’t it seem like the Black Friday ‘Doorbusters’ this year started at midnight rather than 5am? Why sell later when you can sell it now seems to be the modus operandi at work here. And we saw it again this week as America braces its girdles for the Super Bowl. Dozens of Super Bowl ads were available to be seen by all over the Internet as brands desperately tried to emulate the buzz-stealing strategy employed by Volkswagen last year. Of course, VW enjoyed a first-mover advantage and had a genuinely good commercial, but nevertheless it seems that many brands were willing to break their spots early. I’m not sure I agree with this strategy. Apple’s 1984 ad is still (25+ years later) the gold standard for Super Bowl ads and it famously only ran once prior to the Big Game: At 1:00am in Twin Falls, Idaho on December 15.
Of course, if 1984 wasn’t like 1984, then 2012 certainly isn’t 1984 either. Today’s 24/7 news cycle means you’ve got to beat the competition and that means get your product (whatever it is) out there first. But as the week before the Super Bowl now becomes the new battleground, I wonder if the new, new strategy will be the old strategy: keep it under wraps and build anticipation. For a far more eloquent riff on this, go read James Othmer’s piece in Salon.
Graphic Novels (follow up)
In last’s weeks edition I touched on the expanding subject matter of graphic novels and the sophistication of the genre. Couple of interesting follow up points to that. Jeff Howe, the guy who coined (or at least popularized) the term “crowdsourcing” runs a Twitter bookclub for The Atlantic called 1Book140. For the month of February they are going to be reading some really great graphic novels, including Maus, V for Vendetta and The Sandman. I think it would be brilliant for a hotel chain, cruise line or car manufacturer to use the graphic novel format to tell an original story exclusively for guests, passengers or owners.
In other graphic novel news, DC – along with Marvel one of the two major comic publishing houses and home to Batman and Superman – announced that they would be releasing new titles that would act as a sort of prequel to the Watchmen graphic novel. Remember how everyone was really excited for the Star Wars prequels and then they came out and everyone hated them and hated George Lucas for killing their most special childhood memories? Well, that’s how comic fans are treating this news, except without the ‘really excited before they came out’ part. There are a handful of classic blunders in this world: Never get involved in a land war in Asia; never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line; and don’t mess with comic book fan boys and one of their most beloved treasures.
“How To Be Black” – The instruction manual you didn’t know you needed
This week saw the release of How to be Black, the satirical instruction manual from Baratunde Thurston, Director of Digital for The Onion. Here’s an interview Thurston did with NPR’s Fresh Air and you can check out the website for more great content. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m betting it’s going to be thought-provoking and funny.
Yes, deaths come in threes is a superstition and a cliche, but recently we saw the passing of three interesting footnotes of popular culture.
Don Cornelius brought America a glimpse at what was going on in African-American culture for 35 years (’71-’06) via his television show, Soul Train. In many ways a mirror reflection of American Bandstand, Soul Train introduced more musical acts to the mainstream than would be possible to mention. Since the Cultural Singularity in 1986, Hip Hop has become the dominant cultural source in America so it’s hard to remember or understand how important Soul Train was in the 70s and 80s.
Angelo Dundee was a witness to many of the seminal moments in sport as the cornerman for Muhammad Ali. In many aspects of life, one person becomes the physical manifestation of the profession. In the 1970s, when boxing was a significant part of our culture, Dundee was the one name you knew from that world who wasn’t actually a boxer. And since we’re talking Super Bowl spots, check out this Pizza Hut offering from 1997 featuring Dundee and Ali.
Finally we come to Ian Abercrombie. You may not know the name, but if you’ve ever eaten a candy bar with a fork and knife, or danced to Next Stop Pottersville, then you know I’m talking about Mr. Pitt. Of course his career went beyond that role, but like many character actors he’ll be remembered for one carerr-defining character.
Here’s an interesting little nugget from Hollywood Stock Exchange. The Top 10 trending star bonds were all foreign-born actors. Yes, this is a one-day snapshot, and a small sample size, but it does seem to say something interesting. A movie industry that is more culturally diverse? A dearth of U.S. source material? A weak U.S. talent pool? Cheaper labor? Perhaps it reflects something wider. In the last century, when America dictated global culture, stars from John Wayne to Robert Deniro to Harrison Ford, Sly Stallone and Tom Hanks were the standard bearers. Now, as America stands upon that global perch uneasily, our movie stars no longer reflect a global aspirational quality (Clooney and Pitt proving the exception to the rule). The two actors to star in the biggest young adult franchises of the last decade (Harry Potter and Twilight): Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson. Both from Blighty. For goodness sakes, even Batman is English.
Super Bowl and the Second Screen
A final Super Bowl note to let you know that on Monday we’ll be pushing out an executive summary of Super Bowl: Winner and Losers on the 2nd Screen. This report will look at how brands leveraged twitter on Super Bowl Sunday to extend their Big Game ad spend (or perhaps in lieu of one).
At the end of the month will have the full report. We’ll be sharing this throughout the agency and encourage you to share it with your clients if you find it interesting. And if you are interested in this sort of thing check out BrandBowl or this clever little thing from Brandwatch.
Something for the non-football fan this weekend (or for those who root for the Jets)
Can’t handle any more Super Bowl hype? Looking to hear commentary and ideas from someone not named Deion, Moose or The Bus? This Saturday is TEDxBigApple. The invitation only event is sold out, but they’re going to live stream this event on Saturday at 3pm. You can watch a clutch of great speakers by tuning in here. The event is described thusly:
Disruptive Ideas with Near-Term Impact in housing, biotech, local spaces, biomimicry, fashion, business and much more. It will focus on ideas that are likely to change the world in the near-term (~3-5 years) instead of those whose impact is in the past or the distant future. We have chosen this around-the-corner time horizon because we believe, in our quickly evolving world, it’ll enable the impressive roster of speakers to share a clearer vision from their learned “crystal ball.” These ideas are expected to change and even transform the lives of the world’s poorest, the disadvantaged, and the everyday lives of peoples. The program is designed to spark deep discussion and connection. We hope it will inspire you to propel positive change in your life and the world.
Have a great weekend, here are the Beastie Boys on Soul Train to play us out. Check out the Don Cornelius name drops.