Saturday, March 28, 2009

Smarter Marketing for the Military? The US Marine Corp. Brooklyn Bridge Workout.

You can go ahead and call me what you will, but I have a problem with many of the marketing efforts that the US Armed Forces use to market the opportunities they give to our nation's men and women. Whether it's an ad featuring the Navy Seals in action and Godsmack blasting in the background or the "Army Experience Video Game," I am always left a little unnerved at how they trivialize the commitment our soldiers make. With many friends in service right now and one cousin in Iraq, I can't help but worry for their safety, and these ads do nothing to assuage my fear.

Today, while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, I saw this.

A group of four or five Marines - some were wearing t-shirts that said US Marine Corp Workout - leading a workout on the bridge for a group of young men and women. At first, I felt that unease that usually comes from the marketing efforts of late, but that quickly faded when I realized that this was a slightly better introduction to the commitment our soldiers make. I cannot give this effort the full thumbs up, but it feels like it's a step in the right direction.

The Arcade Fire Sell Out

Well, not really. In fact, on this blog I have discussed poorly chosen music for advertisements and this spot for the upcoming live-action adaptation of "Where the Wild Things Are" features a snippet of their song "Wake Up" off of their record Funeral.

Here's the trailer:

For me, the combination of the song - which is a high point on a record about the maturation process and the realization of death as a part of human existence - and the images of story book that most Americans were exposed to as children strikes a raw nerve in the right way.

Of course, I am pretty damn sure that was not what the person at the film marketing company was thinking with the pairing. Odds are they thought, "Hmm Spike Jonze is hip and indie minded, let's see if we can get one of the biggest indie bands to lend us a song." I wish I could give them the benefit of the doubt, but after Third Eye Blind's "Semi Charmed Life" appearing in countless trailers including this (click here because I can't embed it) there's no way that I can assume there are people out there who pay attention to lyrics and themes of pop music used in ads.

(Yes, there is the amazing irony of Artie Lang's many drug problems that ensued but I am going to set that aside because Artie Lang is not the product they are sellling.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A New, Smart Move from a Major Label Band

More often than not, I criticize bands who are signed to major record labels almost as much as the labels themselves. However, some very big name artists are going out of their ways to remind the fans – who made them rich – that they appreciate taking their hard-earned dollars.

The latest and most interesting development comes from the band No Doubt. According to the most recent Sound Opinions broadcast, the band is planning a big reunion tour and with the purchase of a face value ticket that person can download every song that the band has ever recorded.

It’s rare for a band to make any money off of recordings even when you’re a multi-multi-platinum album band like No Doubt. In fact, they usually end up in debt to the record company and have to go on painfully long tours to try and recoup the expenses. Now that the band is the position of power in their relationship, they are basically saying, “Touring is where we make our money. So, please watch, enjoy, get all of our music on you way out the door and keep coming back.”

While this is definitely not the first tour with the consumer/fan in mind, it’s surely innovative.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My local AT&T store admits error and gives me a month of free service

Right before I finished graduate school, my Blackberry Pearl started acting up. The cursor ball would get jammed and send hundreds of emails and texts and call people at random if I left the phone unlocked. If the phone was locked, it would just drain the battery in about two hours. Either way, it was grossly inconvenient.

Luckily for me, my two year upgrade was coming up. So, all I had to do was wait a month – while looking for a job – with a highly unreliable phone. During that time, I lucked out and found a job, and right before I moved I decided to go to my local AT&T store in Evanston and get either the Blackberry Bold or an iphone. I ended up going with the iphone for a number of reasons that I’ll talk about some other time, but a downside (or maybe an upside) to purchasing the iphone is that you can’t buy an insurance policy for the phone but you can get Apple Care.

While they had run out of Apple Cares at the store, I paid for it along with the phone and was told to come back on Monday to pick it up. Long story short, they sold mine before I could get there. In fact, they did this two more times: they’d tell me the shipping days, I’d come in that afternoon, the Apple Cares would be gone. Two days before my move, I went in to the Apple store for a fourth time with no intention of raising hell. The manager recognized me from my multiple visits, went to look for the Apple Care himself, said – once again – that they were out of stock, and said he would ship the stuff to me the day it came in AND give me a month of free service.

Well, a month has now passed and AT&T of Evanston, IL kept up their end of the deal. My Apple Care was shipped and I didn’t have to pay my most recent bill. That’s some great customer service.

Note to all those cell phone providers with retail outlets near college campuses: Making sure individual customers are happy is always important. Making sure that your customer – who can spread word across an entire community in less than a day by using a university’s diverse communications networks – is imperative to the survival of your business.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Worst ad ever? Yeah, Probably.

Just when I thought that the 5 Hour Energy ads were terrible I saw this:

Apparently adding an hour of energy subtracts a few dozen brain cells, but what's sad is that this ad might work. My girlfriend, a seventh grade teacher, had to ban Axe body spray along with other foul smelling things from her classroom because these kids believe that it will attract the opposite sex. The last thing she needs is 30 hyper caffeinated, stinky children.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Artsy French Pop Rockers Come Up With A Good Idea For Major Labels

Phoenix - a good little French band - is about to release their new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix in May. Like any band hoping to sell some records, they have posted their first single "1901" on the internet as a free download. While this is nothing new, Phoenix is also offering a multitrack file for the world to remix and put intoGuitar Hero-esque programs.

What is most surprising is that the band is signed to V2 Records, which is a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group. Usually, the majors are big defenders of their "property." Are the major labels stepping closer to fair use? I can't say.

I can say that Phoenix, in giving music lovers and musicians an extra opportunity to appreciate and enjoy their work, is moving closer to shaping the idea of art in the age of media convergence. In fact, I might actually shell out $20 for a record if they provided the multitrack files as well.