Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Microsoft Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

clippy

“Hello! I’m Clippy. It looks like you’ve entered a Microsoft retail store. Do you want help buying a product?” –Ashlee Vance

I am both surprised… and not surprised to hear that Microsoft is opening its own retail stores. On February 12, Microsoft Corp. named David Porter as the vice president to the company’s retail stores. Porter will, “lead Microsoft’s efforts to create a better PC and Microsoft retail purchase experience for consumers worldwide through the development and opening of the company’s own retail stores.” If you haven’t already thought that this retail endeavor sounds familiar, then you probably haven’t seen a flashy Apple store yet. Indeed, Microsoft seems to be following suit yet again. Some question whether Microsoft retail stores will be as appealing as Apple retail stores, and I agree. Does Microsoft stand a chance while Apple stores radiate a magical glow that seems to naturally draw people like me into their shops?

I never go into an Apple store with the intention of buying a new MacBook Pro or iPod Touch, but the stores do let me play with expensive toys and allow me to imagine that I own the coolest phone in the universe: the iPhone 3G. Apple stores are visual eye candy as they seamlessly combine product design with architecture. They are a playground, a guilty pleasure, a tease. The Apple store is a destination for shoppers of all kinds at malls. It bring us together to feel, touch, and test the newest gadgets. Most importantly, the retail stores heighten the Apple experience, reinforcing the brand and its position as a leading innovator. As a former Dell user, I can attest that the brand actually convinced me to abandon my PC for a sleek Apple laptop.

Porter will need to create a unique vision for Microsoft’s own retail stores and offer something that Apple can’t deliver. Despite being faced with a fierce competitor and a troublesome retail market, this may be Microsoft’s time to step it up and engage customers they way Apple did with me. Who knows? Maybe they can make me a born-again PC user.

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Trojan Wishes You a Happy & Safe Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just another American commercial holiday that lures consumers to buy Hallmark cards, chocolate, flowers, and condoms! If you are sharing the love with someone this V-Day, remember to first and foremost love and protect yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Google Latitude: Going One Step Too Close?

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The latest Google application makes Facebook stalking seem tame. Google Latitude is a new feature on Google Maps and a new gadget on iGoogle that allows you to share your geographical location with your friends. You can access Google Latitude on your GPS-enabled cell phone or on your iGoogle account from your computer. That’s right. As a Latitude user, you will know where your friends are, and they will be able to see where you are. This means that not only can friends meet up easier knowing they are only blocks away from each other, but parents can keep tabs on their kids and spouses will be able to monitor their better half’s whereabouts.

On one hand, Latitude is certainly an impressive Google innovation that provides extraordinary opportunities to businesses. Imagine walking down the street and receiving a text in front of your local Whole Foods Market advertising a special promotion on avocados that are on sale. Or getting word that a showing of the recently released comedy, He’s Just Not That Into You, starts in 30 minutes at the movie theater down the road. This seems like a marketing goldmine, but the concept strikes me as invasive and overwhelming.

Of course, Google Latitude is entirely voluntary. No one can follow you unless you want them to. Users must accept any request in order to be followed. Users also control as much information they wish to share, and with whom. For now, Latitude is aimed at you and your friends (watch this video to learn more). It’s only a matter of time, though, that Dunkin’ Donuts and Gap will want to follow your every move.

Michael Phelps Wins Some and Loses Some

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“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.”-Mark Spitz

The breaking news story directly following the Super Bowl last Sunday centered on the release of an incriminating photo capturing beloved Olympic champion Micheal Phelps smoking cannabis. In my mind, Phelps screwed up. Of course, an element of bad luck had to play a part in this photo leak. He was probably with a bad crowd at the wrong time (It reminded me of a recent story I heard about a guy being dumped by his girlfriend after after she found him cheating in a picture posted on Facebook. He should’ve been more aware of his tagged photos). Nonetheless, I was worried Phelps would be another star that is praised one moment by the media and simply chewed out the next.

The issue here is not that he smoked marijuana, but rather that he smoked marijuana as Michael Phelps, mega-athlete and sports hero that he is. The “Olympic swimmer/man-dolphin” won 8 out of his 14 Olympic medals in last year’s games. He has 48 career medals and was titled Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year in 2008. This is a guy who captivated nearly 40 million American viewers during his final swim in the Olympics. Everyone watched and admired him as he made history winning the most Olympic medals ever. Phelps was the American idol.

“Michael Phelps” is a self-made brand name. I remember really marveling at the fact that his agent claimed the swimmer had the potential to make over $100 million in celebrity endorsements. It’s true-Nike, Speedo, PowerBar, Subway, Kellog’s, and Mazda have all tapped into his celebrity, and Phelps has made over $5 million in celebrity endorsements. As soon as I saw his defiled picture, though, I knew his contracts would fall through quicker than the time he set for the Olympic record in the 100 m butterfly event (51:25 s, in case you were wondering). I was interested in seeing how the companies would respond.

Here’s the scoop so far. Kellog’s announced that they are not renewing Phelps’ sponsorship deal, which ends in late February. Yesterday, though, Subway publicly admitted they will keep Phelps on as their endorser. However, his name was quickly removed from SubwayFreshBuzz website listing their top “Fresh Celebrities”, and the release of his new television ad campaign is postponed. The biggest blow yet might have been when USA Swimming suspended him for three months. That must have hurt.

While this story continues to enthrall the media, I am reminded that Phelps, the alleged man-dolphin, is essentially human. I’m hoping that he’ll do what he does best and swim. Then maybe he’ll eliminate the doubt his critics may harbor of him. I’m also hoping that the new Subway ad campaign will outperform the current lousy “5 Dollar Foot Long” commercial. At the very least, Phelps can still count on getting his 10,000 calories a day with free foot-long Italian BMT’s.

Will Hulu Kill Cable TV?

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Throughout college, watching television never fit into my packed schedule. I buried myself under my books while my friends religiously watched America’s Next Top Model and Gossip Girl. Despite the fact that I was a Film Studies major, my pop culture literacy actually suffered. I looked forward to graduation partly because I would be released from academia’s paralyzing grasp to enjoy freedom. To me, that freedom included the ability to watch whatever I wanted in my spare time. I was eager to catch up on the recently released television series and movies I had missed during the past four years.

That was until the “real world” greeted me with an unfriendly job market and recession. As a recent graduate faced to pay her own bills, I quickly discovered that cable was a luxury item beyond my reach. But when I moved to Boston a few months ago, giving up television was not something I had to do, but actually something I wanted to do. My roommate and I had ambitious plans to listen to radio programming, read books, and even reserve a plot of land in the Fens to garden. We were going to prove to ourselves that we did not need TV for entertainment. However, we soon fell along the wayside. We cheated…kind of. What happened? We found Hulu.com.

Hulu, the joint video venture between NBC Universal and News Corp., gives YouTube a run for its money. For my roommate and I, Hulu was the next best thing to cable TV. In some ways, Hulu was better than cable. The database, although somewhat limited, offered a realm of free shows and movies with minimal commercial interruptions. For the first time, I was willing to watch extended video on my tiny computer with another person. We actually enjoyed watching the full-screen, high-quality video on my 14” laptop screen. For better or for worse, I eventually caved into my roommate’s demand for live sports broadcasting, and yes, I am now a digital cable subscriber. Nonetheless, I remain an avid Hulu fan. At least I have the option to revert back to it if and when the recession gets worse.

Because I was able to watch the Super Bowl XLIII on my own TV, I had the good fortune of watching Hulu’s highly anticipated first television ad. The blockbuster “Alec in Huluwood” commercial features Alec Baldwin, star of NBC’s 30 Rock, as an alien explaining hulu’s plot to rot viewers’ brains. The take-away comes with the closing tagline, “Hulu. An evil plot to destroy the world. Enjoy.” I never imagined a more sinister, self-aware motto was possible. Hulu pushes the boundaries and subtly threatens cable television. I am officially scared.

The premiere of this nationally televised ad, along with Hulu’s one-year birthday that marks its public debut coming up on March 12, signals the beginning of the website’s success for 2009. Hulu is already the sixth most viewed video website, and I bet you would be hard pressed to find that video downloading will be more popular than instantaneous video streaming in the near future.

Hulu is the advent of something big (note the nod to my blog’s title). As the website continues to draw on network programming and build its advertising base, viewership will grow as the novelty of on-line video watching wears off and eventually becomes an established past-time. The humorous, menacing tagline is not far off the mark. Hulu may or may not destroy cable viewership, but it will certainly revolutionize the media world.

Hello World!

Today, February 5th, I am celebrating not only my 23rd birthday, but the birth of my new blog. Advent is a space for me to “vent” about and comment on current advertising and marketing trends. As an aspiring advertising and marketing professional transitioning from my Film Studies background, Advent will keep me actively searching for stories to inform curious readers about the latest and greatest in the industry. I welcome your opinions, raves, and rants, but please always be kind.