My dad was a PC before being a PC meant being John Hodgman. I’ve worked on a Windows-based computer since I was playing Commander Keen as a three year old. We never had a Macintosh, but I do remember using iMacs in 4th and 5th grade. Even to a PC, losing the co-founder of Apple is a pretty big moment.
Yesterday, my generation’s visionary died, and we’re a little broken up about it. You can see it in the flurry of sincere tweets, obituaries, and blog posts from a normally-disaffected generation. He was our John Lennon, a dreamer who seemed to believe in himself and his own ideas on a supernatural level. I saw more than one tweet fly by into the ether last night about how losing Steve Jobs is my generation’s version of losing Walt Disney, someone else whose ideas were so brilliant and so new. People are actually laying flowers for Steve Jobs, a former executive at Apple stores he helped create. That is absolutely unheard of in an era whe
re our nation’s youth are protesting in front of Wall Street, an era where we distrust anyone wearing a suit and cast shame on executives across the country.
Steve Jobs showed us why we should Think Different. He hired the brightest people and expected them to make the best products. He pushed his employees to the edge because on the edge, legends are born. He proved to us that breaking the rules isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do. We learned from Steve that if you’re good enough, you make your own rules. Through his work, he taught us that simplicity in design trumps complexity every time. His products showed us that ease of use is a beautiful thing.
Steve Jobs taught us that sometimes, things break, and the world will crush you. He also taught us that there’s freedom in losing everything. After being fired from Apple in the 80’s, he could have sat on his couch, wallowing around with a bag of cheetos and daytime TV like the rest of us. He started Pixar instead. He taught a generation of underpaid, underemployed, and overworked people that life is too short to work in a job you don’t like. We learned from Steve that settling for a life we don’t want is far worse than feeling lost for a little while, and we each take that lesson with us well into our twenties.
The fact that the majority of my generation probably heard about his death via one of his products says more about the impact of Steve Jobs than words ever can. But Steve Jobs means more to us than the phones in our pockets, laptops in our backpacks and music in our ears. He showed us what we could be if we were brave enough and heard our inner voice in a clear and resonating tone. He was a genius, someone who changed the world, and he will always be an inspiration to each and every one of us.
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.
[This post ran on The Next Great Generation earlier today. You should check that site daily for awesome articles]
It’s Superbowl Sunday, I’m in Wisconsin, and I have a confession to make: I don’t care about football. This sort of statement is blasphemy to the Lambeau-loving Packer fans I’ve been lucky enough to call my friends, but it’s true. Fortunately, I like food, advertising, and alcohol, so they let me watch the game with them and I’m not cast into exile for my heretic beliefs. All is well in the land of cheese and beer.
See, the Superbowl is literally “the Superbowl” of advertising. What started out as a championship battle between the best football teams in the NFL has turned into the most-watched television show of the year, so it’s a very attractive event to brands. In today’s hyper-fragmented, ad-averse society, getting 90 million+ sets of eyeballs to actually want to watch an ad is nothing short of miraculous. Companies understand this, and are willing to pony up$100,000 per second to get the privilege of beaming its messages into the collective consciousness of America.
So in between the touchdowns, fumbles, and the Black Eyed Peas freaking out half of the country with its “Dirty Bits” during the halftime show, I watched the ads. In the spirit of the USA Today Ad Meter and TNGG-Daddy Mullen’s Brandbowl, I’ll try to do my own “Sentiment Analysis” by asking random drunk friends what they think. Here’s a semi-sober round-up of a few of my favorite ads of the evening.
Chrysler: This ad is probably my favorite of the night. While I’m sure a lot of people enjoy it just for the Eminem cameo, the copy is dynamite. It’s a long-form ode to Detroit, luxury, and American engineering. Detroit is a broken-down city, a desolate wasteland of former productivity and industry, and a casualty of outsourcing. But the city is also a testament to the ability to rebuild. It reminds me a lot of the Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign, and rightly so, as it’s another product of Portland powerhouse Wieden & Kennedy. This ad connects with many generations, from the Boomers who knew Motown as it once was to Millennials who appreciate Eminem’s gritty reality. This ad is a giant dare (“just try and buy a foreign car”), and I really dig that. The only potential downfall of the ad is that you had to hear the copy to understand it. If you were in the middle of a Superbowl party, you wouldn’t have been able to hear the words (I had to YouTube the ad to really enjoy it). Still, it gets you emotionally invested in this country in a far more organic way than the chintzy “America! Fuck yeah!” pre-kickoff segments.
VW: Well, this was pretty cute. A kid dressed as Darth Vader attempts to use “The Force” to do various things around the house. When he (she?) attempts to start a car with only the power of his/her mind, it actually works because of the magic remote start technology of the car. It worked for me, and everyone else in the room seemed to enjoy it.
Groupon: I think this one takes the cake as the most controversial ad of the night. It’s from CPB, so I would expect no less. Call it tasteless or call it entertaining, but it definitely has everyone talking. The ad makes light of the situation in Tibet in order to sell Groupon’s ability to find us cheap things. Given the reaction to Kenneth Cole’s tweet about the riots in Egypt, it certainly is timely. But I like that a Superbowl spot was controversial instead of low-brow (I counted two groin-shot ads before the beginning of the second quarter), and it definitely raises awareness about Tibet. Feel free to argue with me. Also, check out the Groupon CEO’s response to all the haters out there.
At this point, if I had a shorter word count I’d probably talk about how JJ Abrams is always able to create buzz around a movie by being very cryptic (Super 8 looks fantastic) and how Coke managed to stick to its brand identity, but I’ve spent enough words deconstructing a few of my favorites.
I’d love to hear what everyone else thought about the night’s best ads. What do you think?
On a particularly moving episode of Mad Men this season, Don Draper fell apart. The only woman who ever truly knew him (Spoiler alert! He’s not actually Don Draper) had died, and he was having a very hard time dealing with it. For the first time in the series’ run, Don Draper broke down and cried.
12 hours later, an image of Don Draper crying exploded across the internet. Within hours of its creation, Sad Don Draper was the internet flavor of the week. It became an internet meme.
What’s a meme?
According to the term’s originator, Richard Dawkins, you should think of a meme as a tiny bit of culture that gets passed along like a gene. A meme is a cultural virus. It is passed between humans in person, through word-of-mouth, and through various forms of media until it remixes itself or reaches extinction.
An “internet meme” spreads primarily from the ground up on the internet. This means that memes don’t usually originate from Google or Facebook, but rather 4Chan, the lawless, “international waters” of the internet. It then “infects” others through word-of-mouth, email, blogs and social media. Memes are all around us.
If you’re my age, you probably remember the Hamster Dance (and the mere mention of it probably brings back that horrible, horrible song). More recent memes you’re probably familiar with include The Rickroll (click the link, I DARE YOU), The Bed Intruder Song, Keyboard Cat and, of course, LOLcats.
Sounds quite a bit like going viral, right?
Yep. “Going viral” simply refers to a meme’s ability to infect culture online, often with a brand message. The most recent (and largely successful) viral campaign was the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa. While that campaign was the result of previous paid media (TV ads came before the viral phenomenon), Old Spice’s viral Youtube campaign will go down in advertising history.
Brands understand the power of viral videos; word-of-mouth spreads, and consumers trust other consumers more than advertisers. While most word-of-mouth is still spread offline (the proverbial “watercooler” is still alive and well), viral videos have a large impact on offline culture. This is why Tosh.0, a show devoted to viral videos and internet culture, often gets bigger ratings than The Daily Show. Internet culture has become our culture. Like it or not, we are Generation Meme.
Let’s use memes to sell stuff!
Naturally, brands are trying to capitalize on our love of memes. They’re trying to find out what makes something go viral so that they can create the newest viral masterpiece. Some advertisers are beginning to use viral stars in their ads; most recently, the The Double Rainbow Guy was featured in an ad for Microsoft. So, will we continue to see more and more memes show up in ads?
It really depends on how fast the advertisers can react to culture. Old Spice’s viral campaign was about as low-latency as it gets; people were sending out questions via social media to Old Spice, and within a day an ad had been made and aired on Youtube. However, this isn’t the norm. By the time a lot of advertisers will have devised a script, developed a budget, and produced the commercial, the meme would already be decreasing in popularity or extinct.
The cycle time for a meme (from initial discovery to extinction) is getting much shorter. As soon as one meme pops up, another will soon follow. Memes are popping up weekly. This means that advertisers are going to have to get the approval of clients and create an entire ad in very little time. This is not easy to do.
For advertisers, it’s really a race to see if they can put together a coherent ad before the meme loses its place in pop culture. If there’s one thing worse than not making an ad at all, it’s trying to capitalize on pop culture after the fad is over and looking uncool and out-of-date (though, sometimes that’s the point).
I guess the real question is whether or not memes will stay around in culture long term. Is Sad Keanu going to be our generation’s Mona Lisa? Absolutely not. But for now, they make us laugh. As long as the internet allows us to share all the strange and wonderful things we find, memes will have a place in our funny bones.
What do you think: Are memes now a part of pop culture or are they just odd spasms of internet weirdness? Can advertisers use them without “selling out?”
I love Bob Dylan’s music. I once tried to turn in a paper relating “Like a Rolling Stone” to colonialism (it didn’t go over so well). For most of college, I lived and breathed his story, his music, and his life. There’s something so hopeful, so invigorating about some kid from Minnesota moving to New York with nothing but a guitar and a head full of ideas and somehow succeeding. His music always spoke to a greater understanding about the world than one person could ever have; the melodies he creates and words he links together evoke the past, present, and future of America. Here are a few lessons about marketing that you can learn from Bob Dylan.
Sometimes, an ad on TV will make me stop what I’m doing and watch without interruption. About a year ago, a Levi’s spot made me do just that. It was mostly dark, the copy was some sort of poem, and I instantly LOVED it. That ad was the first part of Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign. The ads use Walt Whitman poems very well (on one ad, apparently it is his own voice). The copy of the poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” is supposed to evoke an emotional response from my generation, and I think it does. Here’s a snippet:
The first few ads (the other you can watch on YouTube) show young people running around interspersed with grim visions of Wall Street and America. “America” is literally half-underwater in one ad, which I think is supposed to symbolize the grim, hopeless recession-era we were in (and still are, to a degree). Some people loved it. Some thought it was too arty. Others mocked it (which usually means people are at least paying attention). Either way, it really struck a chord with me.
Every profession has jargon that is used as shorthand, and that’s great. Using jargon is necessary so a carpenter doesn’t have to say “that big metal doo-hickey” and so scientists don’t have to use long, boring explanations to explain what a uberthermodynamic enthropic reaction is (disclaimer: I don’t think that is real). These words and phrases are around to make their lives easier and less confusing. Buzzwords in business, however, seem to be around solely to make everyone a little more confused. I think they’re around so that you can convey meaning where none actually exists and so you can sound more important than you actually are. It’s the same reason some writers use the term “antediluvian” just to say “before the flood” or “really old.”
I’m not very fond of buzzwords. For the reasons I previously listed, they’re made fun of by a lot of people (present company included). This scene from 30 Rock is a great parody of using buzzwords. I went to B-School (Go Badgers) so I have a pretty good idea of what they actually mean (most of the time). I’ve seen more acronyms than I could ever remember, have heard of more “blue oceans”, and have explained the “hedgehog concept” (all it means is “do what you’re good at.” HOW IS “HEDGEHOG CONCEPT” EASIER?). Naturally, I’m a little jaded.
Here’s a layman’s dictionary of buzzwords you’ll hear in business, PR, and marketing from someone who is a little cynical about them. If this blog was a tabloid, I’d call this post “The Definitions THEY Don’t Want You to Know!!!” Check it out after the jump, and leave some more of your favorites in the comments.