Saturday, December 12, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Aghast, I continued to read the Twitter scroll and discovered another ironic message, especially given that I am writing about the company's marketing missteps this morning:
Just shut up and listen? You no longer control the conversation about your company.LOL! No kidding!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
What a smart move. All the American car brands - with the exception of perhaps Ford - are black and blue after taking billions in stimulus dollars from the Red, White, and Blue. It will be years - even decades? - before these companies recover their business and their good names.
I applaud the wise GM marketing pros who made the wise decision to fold up the umbrella brand and wait until the rain has passed.
GM to Remove Its Logo From Cars, Stress Brands
By Kimberly S. Johnson
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
DETROIT, Aug. 25 -- General Motors will begin removing its "Mark of Excellence" logo from vehicles as the company places greater emphasis on its individual brands.
GM spokesman Terry Rhadigan said Tuesday that the company would phase out the placement of the GM logo on its cars and trucks, leaving just the GMC, Chevrolet, Cadillac or Buick logos on the vehicles.
"We really want to elevate the prominence of our four core brands," he said. GM is discontinuing or selling four brands: Hummer, Saab, Pontiac and Saturn.
The final decision to remove the silver square logo was made earlier this month, although executives had mentioned the possibility of such a move months ago. The company found that consumers had a greater affinity for GM's individual brands than the corporate name.
"What we're seeing is the GM brand gets dinged big-time in terms of considering a GM vehicle," Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, said during a monthly sales conference call in April. "But when you look at Chevrolet, Cadillac and our other brands, they haven't changed." The company began putting the logos on all its vehicles in North America in 2005.
Rhadigan said removing the logo -- which is generally placed on the lower section of the door panel -- will be more difficult on some models than on others. On vehicles where a specific indentation is made in the sheet metal for the logo, phasing it out will take longer. On models such as the Camaro or Equinox, removal is easier and will begin immediately, Rhadigan said.
Taking the logos off the vehicles will save GM a "nominal" amount of money, Rhadigan said.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
By James P. Othmer
In the 1960s Madison Avenue era, painstakingly re-created in the cult hit television show "Mad Men," which returns Sunday for its third season, advertisers could buy a fixed block of airtime on television and be guaranteed a captive audience. That's what Winston cigarettes did for the inaugural season of "The Flintstones" in 1960; cartoon-loving prospective smokers tuned in to see Fred and Barney gleefully puffing away, shilling the product.
But now if we don't like an ad, we can zap, TiVo and DVR it into consumer oblivion. If it truly offends -- say we discover it is fake or untruthful -- we can trash the brand on our blogs or write nasty comments under the spot on YouTube.
On the other hand, if we're entertained enough by something a brand does, we can do its job for it -- by becoming its social media champion. That's what millions of people do every day. They "elf" themselves for OfficeMax each holiday season, spreading the word about discount paper products while having online fun in Santa's workshop. They forward Cadbury's "gorilla playing drums" video to anyone who likes to see a primate jam. A few years ago, they had their way with a man in a chicken suit with Burger King's "subservient chicken," which had 25 million visitors during its first 48 hours online.
And in the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands -- including seemingly every ad person I know -- have been playing along with AMC's ramp-up for Sunday's premiere, joining a "Mad Men Casting Call" and flocking to the meta social-media promotion "Mad Men Yourself," which lets people swap their Facebook profile pics for hip "Mad Men" avatars.
Ads in the "Mad Men" day were about the art of persuasion. Advertising today is about the art of engagement.
Nowhere was this more apparent to me than at the epicenter of advertising yet-to-come, the Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. During a two-day visit there I never saw a single idea in the medium that had been advertising's delivery system of choice since the days of, well, Don Draper: the 30-second network television commercial.
Instead, I saw discreetly branded viral video shorts, graphic novels and performance art. I saw Facebook and Twitter campaigns for mega-brands, and real-world scavenger hunts and online interaction with fictional characters. It didn't seem like the industry in which I'd worked for more than 20 years. When I left advertising in 2005, every major campaign still revolved around the almighty TV spot.
And this isn't happening only at VCU. For two years I visited many of the most progressive idea factories for the $670 billion-a-year global industry. Everything revolved around viral, immersive, "360 degree" advertising, with nary a martini or a TV spot in sight.
On the surface this seems pretty good, this two-way digital transparency model that seemingly makes it incumbent upon advertisers to step up the truthfulness and entertainment value of their messages. Indeed, many smarter agency-guided brands already get this and have thrived because of it. At the very least, it's much less harmful than the loosely regulated, sex-in-the-ice-cubes booze and cigarette ads churned out by the chain-smoking, sublime persuaders of the 1950s and '60s, right?
Not quite. Because while we now have the ability to assert more control over advertising, we're unwillingly being bombarded by more messages than ever, infiltrating our lives in new and increasingly insidious ways.
The market research firm Yankelovich estimates that the average American living in a city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages a day. Today, estimates range from 5,000 to 20,000 ad impressions a day. To hone in on a more accurate number, one would have to determine what exactly constitutes an ad in today's ambiguous media environment. Print, radio, TV and online pop-up and banner ads are easy to tally. But what about Internet search results, recommendations on Amazon, subtle product placements in film, music and TV, and, of course, spam?
Then there's the blogosphere, where an entire cottage industry blurs the line between content and advertising, truth and spin.
This month, it was revealed that pharmaceutical companies had hired ghostwriters with no medical training to produce and disseminate "research papers" for online public consumption. Before the drug companies were the mommy bloggers -- parents writing about their children, and their children's favorite products, online. That scandal exposed an ethically tenuous relationship in which bloggers received corporate swag, and in some instances vacation junkets, in exchange for favorable, seemingly honest reviews and "content" mentions. And the brands are not shy about it. Jill Beraud, a marketing officer at PepsiCo, is on record saying that courting the mommy bloggers is a long-term effort.
The Federal Trade Commission has responded by proposing that all bloggers and the corporations that sponsor them be held accountable for the validity of the claims they make. The agency is updating its guidelines on endorsements and testimonials for first time since 1980. Good luck with that. And by that I mean assigning a task force to tackle First Amendment issues and police the entire digital universe to see if someone's passionate Huggies recommendation on MommyBloggest.com is on the up and up.
Meanwhile, members of Congress alarmed by the creeping ubiquity of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical marketing (the United States and New Zealand are the only developed nations to permit such ads) have taken steps to rein in the people who bombard us with ads that are often accompanied by 30 seconds of legal copy about side effects including death and blindness.
In 50 years we've gone from loosely regulated advertising based on the art of persuasion, to more regulated, perfectly legal and often spectacular ads based on the art of engagement, to anything goes.
As a result, it is increasingly difficult to determine what is authentic. It is impossible to tell if a cool video clip is just that or an ad for a car, sneaker or cellphone. Is that really an environmentally responsible vehicle, or is the message pure greenwash? Is that really an unaffiliated "concerned citizen" stepping up to speak at a town hall meeting with Rockwellian authenticity, or a paid party hack who heeded the call of a social media networking blitz?
I recently spoke about all of this with a former colleague and current advertising creative director. "Eventually," he said, "the Internet always reveals the truth." The question is, when the messages come at us at the speed of light, many thousands of times a day, can it or anyone reveal it fast enough?
At its core, advertising is a tension between art, commerce and ethics. With time, consumers, brands and the law make adjustments and the balances shift. Which brings us back to 1962, and Don Draper. Would his contemporary self approve of mommy bloggers and pharma spam? Or would the man who in one episode frowned with disapproval at Doyle Dane Bernbach's revolutionary "Think Small" print ad for Volkswagen evolve and become a proponent of ethical, engaging ads?
For an answer, cue the DVR to Season One, Episode Six -- skip the ads -- when a beatnik says to Draper: "You work in advertising. . . . How do you sleep at night?"
The Mad Man's response: "On a bed made of money."
James P. Othmer is a former advertising executive and the author of the forthcoming book "Adland: Searching for the Meaning of Life on a Branded Planet."
Monday, August 3, 2009
Long gone are the days of Mad Men where ad execs create campaigns that slither their ways into our hearts, minds, and wallets. Every consumer in America is now an expert on advertising - and we universally hate it. We listen to iPods and XM because we want to listen to music - not ads. We Tivo television shows so we can fast-forward through the commercials and reduce "The Office" down to 20 joyous, annoyance-free minutes. We universally enlisted in the Do-Not-Call list (even if we continue to get calls during dinner from charities and marketing research companies). And every morning, we're faced with an anemic Washington Post (or whatever daily you read/used to read) because the paper can't pay for journalism now that the advertisers vanished.
Why has this happened? For many reasons, which I'm going to write about over the coming weeks. But I'll start with Exhibit A: the Omega Watch television ad.
This dreadful piece of drek represents the worst of the worst. Why? Because it sells out all that is great and good about our country. For the sake of a buck, Omega Watches exploits our country, our dead president, our greatest scientific achievement of the past century, and worst of all, my childhood memories. IT IS JUST AWFUL. I wouldn't buy an Omega Watch ad now if it meant I could fly to the moon on its back.
(And whoever sold out JFK by allowing the use of that noble footage ought to be ashamed. Completely, utterly, and unabashedly ashamed.)
I don't object in general to Omega using its "first watch on the moon" status in its promotion. If they'd done a campy campaign with a cartoon moon and then shown a cartoon spaceman looking at an Omega watch, I'd have smiled and remembered the watch's unique status. This approach would have yielded a soft but powerful message rather than the overstated, overmarketed, absolutely nauseating patriotic 2x4 to our heads.
So this is Reason 1 why marketing is broken: because we've come to the place where everything is for sale - and we hate that fact. We all know better; we've heard about the evils of selling your soul to the devil - and the company store. Smart marketers need to recognize that some things remain above the almighty dollar - namely President Kennedy, Neil Armstrong, NASA, setting foot on the moon, and a very, very long list of other precious things.
Next time, the second reason marketing is broken: Veterinarians gone wild - or why marketing now matters more to them than my pets.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
You've probably seen it. The fish monger sees a decline in business, so they have less money to spend on upkeep and inventory, so they keep the fish a bit longer and don't clean up as often, so of course, business declines and then they have even less money... Eventually, you have an empty, smelly fish store that's out of business.
The doctor has fewer patients so he doesn't invest as much in training or staff and so some other patients choose to leave which means that there are even fewer patients...
The newspaper has fewer advertisers, so they can't invest as much in running stories, so people stop reading it, which means advertisers have less reason to advertise which leaves less money for stories...
As Tom Peters says, "You can't shrink your way to greatness," and yet that's what so many dying businesses try to do. They hunker down and wait for things to get better, but they don't. This isn't a dip, it's a cul de sac. It's over.
Right this minute, you still have some cash, some customers, some momentum... Instead of squandering it in a long, slow, death spiral, do something else. Buy a new platform. Move. Find new products for the customers that still trust you.
Change is a bear, but it's better than death.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Long-time client and good friend Peter Buchanan passed this cool optical illusion on to me today. You'll never believe it, but the green and the blue in this graphic are exactly the same. Surprising, huh?
Here's the visual proof:
Just goes to show you you can't always trust what you see! To learn more about this optical illusion, read the article on Discover.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Model village is made entirely of wool
A model village which took 23 years to create entirely from wool has gone on sale.
Many of the landmarks of Mersham near Ashford in Kent – population 1,022 – have been knitted by members of the village's Afternoon Club since 1986.
Creations include the local primary school, the church, both pubs, the local shop, residents playing cricket, and even some of the local teenagers smoking a cigarette outside the bus shelter.
Many of the houses have also been stitched, complete with flowers occupying the gardens and cars on the roads, to help capture a slice of everyday life of the village.
Thousands of hours of intricate handiwork have gone into creating the knitted village over the past 23 years by members of the 40-strong Afternoon Club.
The preparation involved taking pictures and mocking up cardboard templates of the properties and objects before the knitters wove their magic.
With at least 100 knitted objects now, the village has become so large that for the many elderly club members it has become increasingly difficult to transport to exhibitions.
Next month the knitted village will be publicly displayed to enable people to come and choose their favourite stitched object, with proceeds going to the local hall.
Afternoon Club member Joyce McDonagh, 82, a retired market researcher, said: "It will be a shame to see it all broken up but it has become something of an elephant.
"Most of the members are now of pensionable age and we haven't got the men to lift the stuff.
"It wouldn't be so bad if there were just two or three items but there are at least 100 now. It's massive and that's the problem."
Another club member, 80-year-old Margaret Goldup, a retired local shop assistant, said: "We've gained so much pleasure from it over the years, particularly from taking it round different places to exhibit.
"People all want to come up and take a look and they say things like, 'Oh, I live there. That's my house, but where's my cat'. Over the years we have raised £10,000 for the village hall through donations so it has been good for the village."
More photos are available in a London Daily mail article. But here is one of favorites. The ladies did a very nice job, all the way down to the pipecleaner television antennas!
Monday, April 6, 2009
Watch CBS Videos Online
My second video pick of the day comes courtesy of my friend, Ellen who sent me this story of a young couple who used duct tape to make their own dress and suit. You've got to see it; they did a wonderful job.
And here's an extra goody for you today: another prom date couple dressed in duct tape. They get an A+ for creativity, but my God, I don't even like wearing polyester because it doesn't breathe. Imagine dancing - and sweating - in that dress!
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
- Americans spend $36,000,000 at Wal-Mart every hour of every day.
- This works out to $20,928 profit every minute!
- Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St.Patrick's Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.
- Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.
- Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people and is the largest private employer. And most can't speak English.
- Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the World.
- Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger & Safeway combined, and keep in mind they did this in only 15 years.
- During this same period, 31 Supermarket chains sought bankruptcy (including Winn-Dixie).
- Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.
- Wal-Mart has approx 3,900 stores in the USA of which 1,906 are Super Centers; this is 1,000 more than it had 5 years ago.
- This year 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will occur at a Wal-Mart store. (Earth's population is approximately 6.5 billion.)
- 90% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart.
- Let Wal-Mart bail out Wall Street. Better yet... let them run the darn government.
Monday, March 23, 2009
There's a common misperception out there that all of the blogging, Twittering and Facebooking is being done by twenty and thirty-somethings. That, in fact, turns out not to be true. Baby Boomers (those born 1946-1964) are the fastest growing users of social networking sites and are also increasingly reading blogs too. Meanwhile, Gen Y interest in these services has plateaued. This all according to the latest Consumer Electronics Usage Survey from Accenture.
Read the full story
Friday, March 13, 2009
Name that Character!
Long before screen celebs and pro athletes were tapped as product spokespeople, the stars of TV ads were often animated characters, many of which have become endearing icons that transport us back to our childhoods. Test your food-icon memory. See if you can match these "celebs" with their companies and little-known facts.
- The product of a company brainstorm, this single image spoke to the consistent quality of the product - no matter what the weather.
- The first representation of this character had crazy hair and a fur wrap for clothing.
- The idea for this dapper chap came from a 1916 contest. The 13-year-old schoolboy winner took home $5 for his effort.
- In 1925, this company's owner snapped a photo of a handsome waiter at a Chicago restaurant. The waiter was paid $5; his name was never recorded. He remains the face of the brand to this day.
- By 1902, this treat was so popular that it was features in the Sears, Roebuck catalog with no description at all.
- It's suggested that this icon inspired the ubiquitous yellow "happy face" that grew popular in the 1970s.
- In 1928, artist Dorothy Hope Smith sent in a sketch she hoped this company's owners would use as their logo (they did). The original is now stored under glass in the company vault.
1. F - Morton Salt
2. C - Green Giant
3. E - Planters Peanuts
4. G - Cream of Wheat
5. A - Cracker Jack
6. D - KoolAid
7. B - Gerber Baby Food
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sadly, I don't have a clue how to make a snowflake. But scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of California at Davis do. David Griffeath and Janko Gravner have developed a complex algorithm that describes the snowmaking process. The model requires complex calculations, tremendous computing power, and an entire day to create a single virtual snowflake. Griffeath says the flakes feature "fern-life stars, long needles and chunky prisms, but also fine elements such as tiny ridges that run along the arms and weird, circular surface markings."
To view more of the scientists' beautiful creations, visit Gravner/Griffeath Snowfakes - yes, snowfakes, not snowflakes! If you want to learn more about the actual algorithm, check out
Modeling snow crystal growth: a three-dimensional mesoscopic approach.
In the meantime, perhaps Gravner and Griffeath could start work on creating forsythia and crocuses. I'm ready for spring!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Taking a Play From FDR, Obama Announces New Logo For Stimulus Projects
By Paul Sherman
Taking a play from the New Deal, President Obama announced on Tuesday that projects funded by the $787 billion stimulus plan will be marked with a special emblem (see logo on right from ABC News). "When you see them on projects that your tax dollars made possible, let it be a reminder that our government — your government — is doing its part to put the economy back on the road of recovery," said Obama during a speech before the Department of Transportation.
In 1933, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA) and created the blue eagle logo (see below) that became ubiquitous in shops throughout the country. The NRA aimed to set a floor for wages and prices. The Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 1935.
My take? The new logo sucks. Here's why:
- It looks clip art-y.
- It's bland.
- It's way too busy.
- Recovery.gov will never be able to be seen at small sizes.
- Where are the stripes from the flag?
- It looks like Recovery.gov is for environmental and industrial causes - not for the thousands of people who are losing their homes, or for the greedy and irresponsible bankers who sucked up recovery money and gave themselves big bonuses.
But the Recovery.gov logo is truly just awful. If it were up to me, I'd grab that great art deco NRA eagle and run with it. Fast. Because that logo can fly.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Blogs In, Badges Out as Girl Scouts Modernize
Long associated with images of dorky vests and singalongs around the campfire, the 97-year-old Girl Scouts of the USA is trying to become cool. Or at least cooler.
With enrollment dropping sharply, the organization is experimenting with a total makeover of the Girl Scout experience.
What's in: books and blogs written in girls' voices on topics such as environmental awareness and engineering; troops led by college students; videoconferencing with scouts in other countries.
What's out: textbook-style lessons on the value of helping others; shunning the Internet; moms as troop leaders for teenagers.
Thin Mints are not in jeopardy, but -- OMG! -- badges will be de-emphasized.
"We took a step back and asked, 'What do girls need from us right now?' " said Eileen Doyle, the Girl Scouts' senior vice president of program development. "There is consistency in our goals throughout our history, but we can maintain that while being fun, edgy and challenging for modern-day girls."
Last year, the Girl Scouts hired its first-ever brand manager, Laurel Richie, a former senior partner at advertising powerhouse Ogilvy & Mather who oversaw campaigns for Campbell's soup and American Express. Richie said the group's image was stuck in an earlier era, the main reason for a more than 8 percent decline in membership, to 2.5 million, during the past 10 years. The organization has faced a particular struggle attempting to attract urban and minority girls.
"It's no different from preparing an ad campaign for a classic brand that needs a bit of a facelift to show that it's still relevant," Richie said.The Girl Scouts is not alone among social groups with its declining membership trend. The Boy Scouts, which has lost members since its peak in the 1980s, has worked to balance traditional camping and knot-tying with robotics and other 21st-century pursuits. Adult organizations such as Rotary clubs and Elks lodges also have lost members.
But few have gone as far as the Girl Scouts in attempting to keep up with the times."The rise of a vibrant coed youth culture after World War II meant single-sex organizations felt a little old-fashioned even back then," said Susan A. Miller, a University of Pennsylvania historian who has written a book about the rise of girls' organizations. "It would be silly for them to try to run counter to the dominant culture that girls are embedded in.
"The biggest change is last year's debut of Journeys, a pilot curriculum that will mostly replace the system of earning badges on specific topics. Girls still will be able to earn badges if they want, but Journeys rarely mentions them, focusing instead on broader themes, including teamwork and healthy living. Rather than scouts earning a badge for cooking a single nutritious meal, for example, the books emphasize fruits and vegetables whenever food is mentioned.
Several girls said they appreciated that Journeys talks to them as a friend rather than as a teacher or parent. Washington Girl Scout Maritza Jones, 9, said her favorite fictional character in the books is one with a single mom and a little brother, like herself.
"It's not like a schoolbook, because there are fun games and they talk about people like me," Maritza said. "The girls talk like my friends and I do about movies and playing on the computer and animals and stuff."
Many lessons focus on changing the world in measurable, modern ways. Recycling is still an important part of lessons on helping the environment, but some troops also install solar panels and test water quality in rivers.In Boston last year, fourth- and fifth-grade scouts conducted an energy audit of the city's convention center using sophisticated engineering equipment and then offered recommendations on how to make the building more efficient.
At a gathering in Southern Maryland last week, 13- and 14-year-old girls stopped by six stations dedicated to financial literacy. At one, professionals taught financial discipline by using free T-shirts to lure girls into a credit card offer that was too good to be true. Nearby, girls drew up a budget for a hypothetical family based on its income and needs.
Increasingly, such discussions are taking place online. Once reluctant to direct scouts to chat rooms, the Girl Scouts now encourages girls to use the Web as a resource.
The Girl Scouts and Microsoft have just unveiled a student-driven Web site dedicated to blogs, videos and discussions on topics such as social networking and Internet safety. Called LMK, text-speak for "let me know," the Web site aims to capitalize on girls' love of all things Internet.
On a page about Internet predators, the site's authors emphasize that the risk isn't nearly as great as many parents think. But the next page shows that some seemingly innocent messages can carry hidden risks, using a story of a girl who thought she was invited to an exclusive party of movie stars but was actually being scammed.
Camping and singing will remain part of the scouting experience, and because the Girl Scouts organization has always given wide autonomy to individual troops, leaders and girls will be able to choose which of the new programs to embrace.
Troop autonomy is a major part of the sales pitch to immigrant parents and children, who, research shows, are looking for a different kind of benefit from the Girl Scouts. That research has resulted in several initiatives aimed at Hispanics, who represent more than 15 percent of the U.S. population but just 6 percent of Girl Scouts.
Focus groups showed that many immigrant parents didn't know what the Girl Scouts organization was, and if they did, they didn't consider it appropriate for their children.
"They associated us with the cookies and the camping, and those were both scary concepts," said Amelia de Dios Romero, the Girl Scouts' multicultural marketing manager. "Selling cookies, to them, meant going door-to-door to strangers, and camping was sleeping in the woods with danger there."
In response, Richie, the brand manager, hired Grupo Gallegos, a marketing firm that focuses on Hispanic Americans. Girl Scout leaders began meeting with mothers one-on-one to talk about how the program can help their children integrate into American culture.
Neither Jahaziel Rodriguez, 16, nor her mother, Nury Tamayo, had heard of the Girl Scouts when they moved to Fairfax County from Colombia three years ago, and Tamayo initially was nervous that the group would be more about partying than education or service. Now, she said, she thinks Girl Scouts helped her daughter acclimate to her new country more quickly.
"At first I came here and I didn't know the language or the people or how to do things like apply to college," Jahaziel said. "And they helped me learn."
Many of the Hispanic girls are involved in a new Girl Scouts program called "Twinning," which allows them to videoconference with troops in South America and then travel to meet their new friends. Jahaziel's troop partners with one in Ecuador, which they plan to visit next year."Just like taking programs online," Romero said, "now we're talking the language they're used to."
Photo: By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post
Monday, March 2, 2009
Same goes for advertising.
Why? Because we're visual beings for whom a "picture paints a thousand words" is genuinely true - and not just an old, sappy Bread song.
For your consideration, I present these three great poster ads from Israeli Goldstar Beer. I truly laughed out loud - I bet you get a smile from them, too. And they sure beat yet another tome about the biological and behavioral differences between women and men.
(Click on the images to see a larger version.)
Thursday, February 26, 2009
By George F. Will
Thursday, February 26, 2009; A19
Put down that cheeseburger and listen up: If food has become what sex was a generation ago -- the intimidatingly intelligent Mary Eberstadt says it has -- then a cheeseburger is akin to adultery, or worse. As eating has become highly charged with moral judgments, sex has become notably less so, and Eberstadt, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, thinks these trends involving two primal appetites are related.
In a Policy Review essay, "Is Food the New Sex?" -- it has a section titled "Broccoli, pornography, and Kant" -- she notes that for the first time ever, most people in advanced nations "are more or less free to have all the sex and food they want." One might think, she says, either that food and sex would both be pursued with an ardor heedless of consequences, or that both would be subjected to analogous codes constraining consumption. The opposite has happened -- mindful eating and mindless sex.
Imagine, says Eberstadt, a 30-year-old Betty in 1958, and her 30-year-old granddaughter Jennifer today. Betty's kitchen is replete with things -- red meat, dairy products, refined sugars, etc. -- that nutritionists now instruct us to minimize. She serves meat from her freezer, accompanied by this and that from jars. If she serves anything "fresh," it would be a potato. If she thinks about food, she thinks only about what she enjoys, not what she, and everyone else, ought to eat.
Jennifer pays close attention to food, about which she has strong opinions. She eats neither red meat nor endangered fish, buys "organic" meat and produce, fresh fruits and vegetables, and has only ice in her freezer. These choices are, for her, matters of right and wrong. Regarding food, writes Eberstadt, Jennifer exemplifies Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative: She acts according to rules she thinks are universally valid and should be universally embraced.
Betty would be baffled by draping moral abstractions over food, a mere matter of personal taste. Regarding sex, however, she had her Categorical Imperative -- the 1950s' encompassing sexual ethic that proscribed almost all sex outside of marriage. Jennifer is a Whole Foods Woman, an apostle of thoroughly thought-out eating. She bristles with judgments -- moral as well as nutritional -- about eating, but she is essentially laissez-faire about sex.
In 50 years, Eberstadt writes, for many people "the moral poles of sex and food have been reversed." Today, there is, concerning food, "a level of metaphysical attentiveness" previously invested in sex; there are more "schismatic differences" about food than about (other) religions.
If food is the new sex, Eberstadt asks, "where does that leave sex?" She says it leaves much of sex dumbed-down -- junk sex akin to junk food. It also leaves sexual attitudes poised for a reversal. Since Betty's era, abundant research has demonstrated that diet can have potent effects, beneficial or injurious. Now, says Eberstadt, an empirical record is being assembled about the societal costs of laissez-faire sex.
Eberstadt says two generations of "social science replete with studies, surveys and regression analyses galore" have produced clear findings: "The sexual revolution -- meaning the widespread extension of sex outside of marriage and frequently outside commitment of any kind -- has had negative effects on many people, chiefly the most vulnerable; and it has also had clear financial costs to society at large."
In 1965, the Moynihan Report sounded an alarm about 23.6 percent of African American children born out of wedlock. Today the figure for the entire American population is 38.5 percent, and 70.7 percent for African Americans. To that, add AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and the unquantifiable coarsening of the culture and devaluing of personal intimacy.
Today "the all-you-can-eat buffet" is stigmatized and the "sexual smorgasbord" is not. Eberstadt's surmise about a society "puritanical about food, and licentious about sex" is this: "The rules being drawn around food receive some force from the fact that people are uncomfortable with how far the sexual revolution has gone -- and not knowing what to do about it, they turn for increasing consolation to mining morality out of what they eat."
Perhaps. Stigmas are compasses, pointing toward society's sense of its prerequisites for self-protection. Furthermore, as increasing numbers of people are led to a materialist understanding of life -- who say not that "I have a body" but that "I am a body" -- society becomes more obsessive about the body's maintenance. Alas, expiration is written into the leases we have on our bodies, so bon appetit.
Monday, February 23, 2009
White House Lawyers Look to Limit Commercial Use of President
Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama’s popularity makes him a marketer’s dream. Now, the honeymoon may be over for those trying to profit from his appeal.
White House lawyers want to control the use of the president’s image, recognizing the worldwide fascination about Obama’s election, First Amendment free-speech rights and easy access to videos and photos on the Web.
“Our lawyers are working on developing a policy that will protect the presidential image while being careful not to squelch the overwhelming enthusiasm that the public has for the president,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Monday, February 16, 2009
In chronological order:
"The Little Drummer Boy"
A fixture of my youth. I thought "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by Jimmy Boyd appeared on this recording... very confused about the adulterous nature of this song, I was appalled that Santa would be making passes at this little boy's mom! But my brother in his most persistent, journalistic, and annoying manner has informed me that the Boyd song was on "First Christmas Record for Children," another record we listened to as kids.
Ubiquitous tunes of my early youth. I learned to play the piano with songs from "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music." My favorite? "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" which the movie reminds us is what we say when we don't know what to say. I adored Julie Andrews - after all, my name was Julie Matthews and we both had boy surnames and the same first name so we must be soulmates.
"The Association Greatest Hits!"
My parents bought this album but I know I listened to it 1000 more times than they did. I loved the harmonies in "Cherish" and "Along Comes Mary."
The Four Tops grooved their way through this stupendous album singing "Reach Out - I'll Be There," "Bernadette," and my favorite, "If I Were a Carpenter." At a very early age, this last song taught me a lot about loving what's important in a person rather than the surface horseshit that everyone else seems to care about.
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
This Beatles record featured the best and scariest album cover ever produced. Released just prior to the "Paul is dead" rumor, the cover sported more mysteries and clues than seven combined seasons of LOST. For a couple of months in 1967, I was terrified to walk through our rec room because I was sure that that demonic album cover was going to reach out and get me.
"Leaving on a Jet Plane"
This song came off of Peter, Paul and Mary's "Album 1700," which I never owned. But I listened to that song so many times in sixth grade, it takes a place on my list. It was the first 45 I ever owned.
By Carole King, of course. Tell me one woman over 45 who says she never owned this album and I'll call her a liar to her face. Everyone had this album. EVERYONE. I've bought at least six copies over the years. I still know the lyrics to every single song on the album, including "Smackwater Jack"! (Smackwater Jack had a shotgun...)
"Sweet Baby James"
By James Taylor...
"Mud Slide Slim"
Also by Taylor. I demolished at least a dozen diamond needles wearing these albums out. I especially liked "Mud Slide Slim" because it featured Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," probably the best song ever recorded. I've grown old with James Taylor and I love him today even more than yesterday. He has truly been a fixture in my life.
I picked this album, especially "Saturday in the Park," to honor Mary Jane Inglesby who remembers listening to this record in my bedroom in eighth grade. I remember the wood-cut album cover. Chicago always had the best jackets - and logo. I've studied that logo since I was 14 years old; it's one of the reasons I grew up to be a branding expert and logo designer.
"Tea for the Tillerman"
By Cat Stevens. One of my most favorite albums ever, I especially love "Father and Son," "Wild World," and "Into White."
"Teaser and the Firecat"
Another Cat Stevens album, this one with the classics "Morning Has Broken" and "Moonshadow." Both albums had spectacular jacket artwork that broke every unwritten rule about album covers of that era, instead providing simple, whimsical, hand-drawn images that look like they came from a children's book. Perfection.
By Steely Dan. Along with James Taylor's "Mud Slide Slim," I always take "Aja" on vacation with me because it always makes me feel at home. In 1977, this album played constantly - and I mean constantly - at Sutter's Mill, a great college bar off Syracuse University's famous Marshall Street. I can never hear "Deacon Blues" without remembering the good ole days at SU.
By Billy Joel. Another persistent Syracuse memory. All the Long Island kids raved about this piano player from where they grew up - but I'd never heard of Billy Joel in my life. However, it wasn't long before I, too, knew every word of "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." (Bottle of red, bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead...)
"Christmases Long Ago - Julie, Jill, and John's Christmas Music"
Compiled by my brother, John Edward Matthews II in the 1980s when he worked for WMAL. John created his masterpiece long before regular people could make their own cassette tapes or burn their own CDs. John's efforts simply boggled the mind because he found every cherished Christmas song of our youth and put it all on one tape. Brilliant! In the 1990s, I re-created the tape as a CD; it still provides the soundtrack for every holiday season.
I will now end where I began by telling you that "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" appears on John's compilation tape, too. But I now understand the irony inherent in this song - and love it just the same.