Posts tagged ‘television’

How Audi’s Super Bowl Spot Changed What Cars Stand For

Audi’s Super Bowl spot, in which the “Green Police” harass ordinary citizens who do not comply with the laws of authoritarian environmentalist state (one that bears some resemblance to every major metropolitan area in America), was a viewer favorite. In fact, it was one of the few spots during the game I found mildly entertaining. But what was most interesting about it was its radical redefinition of the semiotics of the automobile (I use “semiotics” in the sense that Roland Barthes did–i.e., the study of signs and symbols in language and systems of communication).

Mark Steyn explained the shift in today’s Orange County Register:

Not so long ago, car ads prioritized liberty. Your vehicle opened up new horizons: Gitcha motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure … . To sell dull automobiles to people who lived in suburban cul de sacs, manufacturers showed them roaring round hairpin bends, deep into forests, splashing through rivers, across the desert plain, invariably coming to rest on the edge of a spectacular promontory on the roof of the world offering a dizzying view of half the planet. Freedom! But now Audi flogs you its vehicles on the basis that it’s the most convenient way to submit to arbitrary state authority.

Just so we’re clear, I think conserving our natural resources is a splendid idea. I yield to no man in my admiration for Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. Yet a part of me–a deeply American part–weeps at the idea that  the traditional meaning of the automobile has slipped through our fingers. The meaning that was epitomized by driving 110 mph across West Texas, burning 100 octane, steering with your foot and not giving a damn what anyone thought about it.

If we’re to believe Audi–and a lot of people seem to–the days when your car was a symbol of liberty and independence are over. In the words of Mark Steyn: “Resistance is futile. You might as well get with the program.”


February 15, 2010 at 4:21 am Leave a comment

Apple has $29 billion in cash. Will it use $3 billion of it to buy internet rights to all TV shows?

steve_jobsRobert X. Cringley has written a fascinating article called “The Future of Internet TV (in America).” You can find it in its entirety on his blog. 

His argument is simple. Despite’s growth, it’s not making any money. It’s only growing because it doesn’t have to pay writers and actors, having received unprecedented concessions from their respective guilds. Since it can’t pay its own way, it’s destined to fail. When it does, who’s going to fill the vacuum? As always, the guys with the money. And in this case, almost no one has more money that our old pal Steve Jobs at Apple. Cringley writes:

Apple has at this moment just under $29 billion in cash and not many good ways to get a reasonable return on that money.  Only Microsoft has more cash than Apple and Microsoft is being pulled in a lot more directions so Microsoft doesn’t have Apple’s flexibility.

What will Apple do with that money?

Most of it will remain unspent is my prediction, but I’m guessing we’ll shortly see $3 billion or so per year go into buying Internet rights for TV shows — not old TV shows but NEW TV shows, shows of all types.

It seems all too plausible. Monetizing content is something Apple has already done brilliantly in the music business. Would anyone really be surprised if they figured out a way to do the same thing with television (to say nothing of the things we read)? Not me, brother. Always bet on the black mock turtleneck sweater.

May 13, 2009 at 12:03 am 1 comment

Clowns vs. Cops – A technical tour de force from Philips

picture-61Here’s some rather stunning work from Philips that you can view on your computer in HD (provided that you have a high-speed connection). And if your connection isn’t so good, you can see the same short film–”Carousel, directed by Adam Berg of Stink Digital–on trusty old YouTube.

While I suspect this may ultimately do more for Mr. Berg than it does for Philips (are we to believe that videos like this can only be truly enjoyed on Philips’s screens?) it’s worth a look if only to enjoy its technical prowess.

April 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm 2 comments

YouTube will lose $470 million in 2009 – even more than the New York Times


If you think Google is infallible–and frankly, very often they seem to be–take a moment to consider the hemorrhaging going on at one of its most high-profile investments, YouTube. Farhad Manjoo writes in Slate that analysts at Credit Suisse estimate that YouTube will lose $470 million this year. This would be considered a horrific number even in the newspaper business. (Still chump change if you’re running a car company or a bank, of course.) What’s more, monetizing some of the most popular content on YouTube is problematic, because a significant amount of it is pirated. And the creators of the content–often TV networks–are unlikely to agree that YouTube deserves advertising revenue generated by their content. Can’t say that I blame them. 

The only good news for Google is that they’re sitting on a pile of hundred-dollar bills roughly the size of the Great Pyramid at Giza, which means they will have more time to work on a solution that most other companies would. That being said, Google is caught in a trap of their own devising, and a lot of very smart people don’t see a good way out of it. If they can’t stop the bleeding, Larry and Sergey may even have to downgrade to a 767 and/or cut back on the Alaskan king crab legs in the employee cafeteria. And a pity that would be.

April 22, 2009 at 12:46 am Leave a comment

As we obsess about the third screen, the first screen tries to eat the second one whole.


The New York Times (which lost $74 million in Q1, for those of you who are keeping score) reports that Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen is planning to announce that televisions and set-top boxes that support Flash will be available later this year. As TVs become more and more optimized for online content, the natural question that comes to mind is will anyone need purchase a computer for his home in a few years? Dell, HP, Compaq and the like should be trembling. Flash-compatible TVs probably aren’t going to replace business computers, of course, but computer manufacturers could stand to lose a significant amount of market share to companies they didn’t consider competitors just a few years ago. 

In the meantime, Apple is down on Flash for the iPhone, saying it uses too much battery power and too much computing power. That may be true, but Flash, which is free, has a penetration rate well above 90%. I think it’s also true that ultimately very few people are going to be interested in watching Lawrence of Arabia on a screen the size of a credit card. As a result, Adobe will be tough to unhorse as we lurch towards convergence.

Read the full NYT report here. 

April 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

The television re-stakes its claim as the most important electronic device in the home.

Samsung has introduced a new television with an integrated Yahoo widget engine that will enable people to access the web while they watch TV. Similar products from Sony, LG Electronics and Vizio are on the way. It’s a great idea and one that Mark Cuban predicted would take the marketplace by storm quite some time ago.

Of course, the big losers in this could be computer manufacturers. It’s too early to say for certain, but a 52-inch HD screen that can access any kind of content you want–whether it’s live TV, video on demand, web sites or games–at any time is pretty stiff competition. Check out the full story from the Wall Street Journal Online here.

March 27, 2009 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

Why do we put up with scam ads?

When I say scam ads I do not mean the same thing the great Keith Reinhard means when he uses the term–i.e., fake ads that creatives put together to win awards. I mean ads that are designed to scam money from the weak-minded and gullible with demonstrably false or deceptive claims. You don’t have to think hard to come up with examples. Let’s start with Enzyte, a product that promoted “natural male enhancement.” Broadcast and TV networks gladly accepted millions of advertising dollars from Enzyte, even though they knew it was not approved by the FDA, and had no credible evidence demonstrating its effectiveness. Fast forward to February 22, 2008. Steven Warshak, the president and owner of Enzyte was convicted on 93 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was also fined $93,000 and his company, Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals was ordered to forfeit $500 million. I hope he has a 350-lb. cellmate named Otis.

The television networks that accepted the money for the media buy faced no penalty, nor did the NASCAR team that accepted millions of dollars create an Enzyte-painted car. According to the letter of the law in the United States, they were not culpable(though from a purely moral standpoint they do seem a bit lit accessories to a crime). The question is should that change? In countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, the content of advertising is subject to regulatory scrutiny and claims of fact must be proven. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing in light of the fact that media outlets and corporate sponsors have proven over and over again that they will gladly accept money from companies of which any thinking person must be deeply suspicious. This isn’t just about Enzyte. This is about countless unscrupulous companies selling miracle diets, get-rich-quick schemes, dietary supplements that claim to solve a host of medical problems though even their own fine print acknowledges the absence of any clinical trials or proof of effectiveness. The category can be summed up as all things too good to be true.

As advertising professionals, we have to realize that when we share the airwaves with scam ads, we are all diminished. The value of media and sponsorships are debased by the implicit possibility that the claims being made by an advertiser are demonstrably false. Despite roundly negative public perceptions about the advertising business, I have never met a good ad man or woman who thought that lying about a product was acceptable. If in the future a few “good” companies are required to prove the veracity of the claims in their advertising, it seems a small price to pay to protect millions of gullible consumers–to say nothing of our own reputations.

March 8, 2009 at 1:46 am 3 comments

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