18 February 2007

Rethinking (Shortly)

Something I wrote recently included some less-than-favorable comments about the Wilco album A Ghost Is Born.

Well, writing that prompted me to go back and listen to it again. More on this will be coming shortly...

Updated: the item is here.

12 February 2007

Share & Share Alike

To the best of my knowledge, it started with Secret brand deodorant – big ads in the subways and other prominent places, urging women to go share their secrets online. Initially, the urging did not focus as much on the product as the idea, just a site to share information, but now the deodorant component is fully out in the open. (How are the secrets? Not so exciting, and mostly about boy-trouble, with the occasional girl-trouble tossed in.)

Then Kleenex tissues got into the mix, with television ads featuring people crying on the street, sharing their stories – and an encouragement for viewers to go visit the web site and share their stories, too.

Recently, I heard an ad for Pepto-Bismol Max (with a catchy rock song about challenging diarrhea issues; very nice) which also concluded with a promotion for the product’s Great Pepto Max Moments web site.

There are probably others like this, but these are the three “share your stories” campaigns that seem most prominently promoted. (Two of these products are owned by Proctor & Gamble (Secret and Pepto), while Kleenex is a Kimberly-Clark brand.) As marketing campaigns go, I find the whole idea fascinating and odd.

Fascinating because to so explicitly seek out this kind of engagement, create the technology structures to sustain it, and put a lot of advertising dollars behind it, suggests that we the people – consumers – actually crave a chance to “share” directly with the makers of products we may or may not use. Except that in two of these three instances, the sharing is not focused on the quality of the product, but rather the quality of the consumer’s life. Only Pepto boldly went into the realm of asking explicitly for stories about intestinal problems and the product’s relief-providing capabilities – prompting me to ask: do I really need to know this stuff?

Odd because, in a world of blogs, blog comments, online chat rooms, MySpace pages, and even newspapers and other critical reviews that allow for user feedback and rankings, it is strange that consumers would want this kind of interactivity with, say, their deodorant-maker, but not actually about their deodorant. In an environment of 24/7 commentary and never-ending branding, we are apparently more isolated than ever.

10 February 2007

A review of "Good & Plenty"

Read my review of Tyler Cowen's book Good and Plenty: the Creative Successes of American Arts Funding (Princeton University Press, 2006), published in the February 2007 edition of The Art Newspaper, and reprinted here with their permission.

04 February 2007

The Shins

Over on The Other Side is my review of The Shins' new album Wincing The Night Away, along with thoughts on our experiences and first impressions of art and music. Looking for a quick summary on the album? Here you go, borrowed directly from my other post:

"Indeed, the band as a whole is terrific, and now, several years later, we have Wincing the Night Away. The disc represents the listener ideal, the right combination of evolution and consistency. There are a few new directions, with some songs more pop-sounding, lush and light (like “Sea Legs”), others that play with recording overlays that get your attention in the middle of a song (“Split Needles”), and then the odd-ball 56 seconds of subdued-but-driving guitar over a soft voice (“Pam Berry”). Consistency is there, too, in James Mercer’s vocals, and in an overall tonality that says “We are The Shins”; the day the album was released, but before I’d gotten my hands on it, I heard a song in a coffee shop – and just knew. Then there are the lyrics which, like past Shins albums, take time to digest (for those willing to invest) and, here too, Wincing the Night Away does not disappoint."

Thoughts? Post a comment.

02 February 2007

More on Atlanta

Over on the other side:

On my visit to The King Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site...

On public transportation (and related issues) in Atlanta...

And if you missed it, and are looking for some gifts for men...