Cutting out the middleman in ads – sort of

LG Electronics used to run separate advertisements in each country it did business in, and the ads focused on the products it sold: televisions, phones and home electronics. Now, it is introducing its first global campaign featuring a celebrity. And it was not a Madison Avenue agency that designed the ad, but that eminent wrangler of celebrities, Condé Nast…

The Condé Nast Media Group, which created the ads, earned almost $100 million in revenue from custom work like this in 2008. It has created campaigns for the department store chain Dillard’s, the vodka Grey Goose, and the luxury car brand Lexus, which have included in-store events, parties and television programs. The unit demands that all the advertising it creates run only in Condé Nast magazines and Web sites…

A.J.Storinge said he asked several media companies to devise ideas that refreshed LG’s existing slogan. “It started with, How could we add further depth to the equity already built behind the tagline ‘Life’s Good’?” Storinge said. “There is a need to start to give it more meaning.”

Condé Nast executives said they came up with the idea of “Life Looks Good” because it would be understood around the world and would not need to be adjusted to reflect different cultures, although the ads are translated.

It also meant they could suggest other ideas based on the senses to LG and Mindshare: “Life Tastes Good,” “Life Sounds Good,” and “Life Feels Good,” which would mean more revenue for Condé Nast in what looks to be a dismal advertising year. “At the end of 2009, we potentially will have spent more with Condé Nast versus a year ago,” Boden of LG said.

“There’s no celebrity fees per se for this. It’s in return for promotional consideration. The clever part of these integrated marketing programs is finding triangulation: Third party A needs something from third party B who needs something from us.” Zwick, for instance, is promoting his new movie, “Defiance.”

I sold to ad agency types for a short spell in early geek days; so, this gives me a special chuckle. Not that this isn’t a potentially successful campaign. Not that it can’t or won’t build into something qualitatively different within the trade. I just learned early on that you really can bullshit a bullshitter.

The article offers a discussion on the semantics of LG as “Life’s Good” and a segue into “Life Looks Good”. But, I wonder who was the original bright employee who thought of turning LG – which was “Lucky Goldstar” – into LG Electronics?

India may dry up as source of extra Catholic priests


Seminarians on a class outing in India

Young men willing to join the priesthood are plentiful in India, unlike in the United States and Europe. Within a few miles of this seminary, called Don Bosco College, are two much larger seminaries – each with more than 400 students.

As a result, bishops trek here from the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia looking for spare priests to fill their empty pulpits. Hundreds have been allowed to go, siphoning support from India’s widespread network of Catholic churches, schools, orphanages, missionary projects and social service programs.

At least 800 Indian priests are working in the United States alone.

But these days the Indian prelates have reason to reconsider their generosity. With India modernizing at breakneck speed, more young men are choosing financial gain over spiritual sacrifice.

“There is a great danger just now because the spirit of materialism is on the increase,” said Bishop Mar James Pazhayattil, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Irinjalakuda, as he sat barefoot at his desk, surrounded by bric-a-brac mementos of a lifetime of church service. “Faith and the life of sacrifice are becoming less.”

Some of the forces contributing to the lack of priests in Europe and the United States have begun to take shape here.

All of which are truly positive forces. India is moving into the 19th and 20th Centuries. And conscious of what the 21st Century has to offer. Why stay stuck in the 14th Century?

Continue reading

Democrats debate procedures to end stem cell ban


How about listening to scientists instead of 14th-Century mystics?
Daylife/AP Photo by Riccardo de Luca

Thwarted by President George W. Bush in their efforts to expand federal spending on embryonic stem cell research, Democrats are now debating whether to overturn federal restrictions through executive order or by legislation when they assume full control of the government this month.

Both President-elect Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have made repealing Bush administration restrictions announced in 2001 a top priority. But they have yet to determine if Obama should quickly put his stamp on the issue by way of presidential directive, or if Congress should write a permanent policy into statute.

The debate is not academic. Democrats who oppose abortion say such a legislative fight holds the potential to get the year off to a difficult beginning, even though the outcome is certain given solid majorities in both the House and the Senate for expanded embryonic stem cell research.

In addition, many of the Democratic gains in Congress, particularly in the House, have come in more conservative areas, with strategists estimating that up to 70 Democrats could find themselves in competitive races in 2010. Those potentially vulnerable lawmakers provide another consideration for leaders weighing whether to set an early test vote on what for some is a politically sensitive subject back home.

In other words, the same old crap reason – why I left the Republican Party when I was young. “The first task of an elected official is to be re-elected.” Bullshit!

Continue reading

Tel Aviv rally opposes Gaza invasion


Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

Amid cries of “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!” and banners reading, “Enough!” thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest against the country’s war on Gaza.

Organisers, a coalition of groups such as Gush Shalom, the Hadash party and the Coalition of Women for Peace, were encouraged by the turnout.

“We have experience from the last war, in Lebanon, and this time the public outcry is much quicker and much bigger,” said veteran Gush Shalom campaigner Uri Avnery.

It is a cynical war, for political reasons and people are very much aware of that.”

Palestinian-Israelis who demonstrated alongside Jewish co-nationalists waved the Palestinian flag, as police attempt to ban such a practice before the protest was overruled by the Israeli high court…

Some demonstrators were critical of the Hamas government in Gaza, but argued for a sense of balance.

“It is pathetic that Hamas provoked Israel,” said Ada Bilu, 46, from Jerusalem.

“But there is no proportion and no equality in the power relations, of what Israelis can do and what Palestinians can do. Gaza is a terrible place to live and Israel has a lot more responsibility for that than it would like to take.”

As Obama sits back and relies on his “one president at a time” mantra – the world realizes he’s unwilling to lead on a question critical to more of the world than American voters.

Burglar trapped – by a cookie and then his pants!


Something terribly wrong about this style

A woman in the area of Aspen and Hermosa NE told police Friday she was walking a friend to his car when she saw a suspicious person standing by a neighbor’s truck. The person then ran to a different vehicle, got in, and sped away. She thought it strange, and took down the vehicle’s license number.

The woman then turned around to check her Jeep and was surprised to find a man, later identified as George C. Sandoval, 27, of Albuquerque, inside, according to a criminal complaint filed in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. Sandoval ran, and the woman’s male friend gave chase.

“(The friend) ran after him and detained him after (Sandoval’s) pants fell to the ground, causing him to trip and fall,” the complaint states.

Sandoval told police he intended to steal items he could sell for drugs. He said the Jeep was unlocked. He opened it and began rummaging though it.

“He found a cookie on the passenger’s seat and began eating it,” the complaint reads.

“That was when he noticed (the woman and her friend) watching him, and he got out and started running.”

We truly specialize in dumb crooks in New Mexico.

Singapore’s last rural village is about to disappear

It is Singapore’s secret Eden, a miniature village hidden in trees among the massed apartment blocks, where a fresh breeze rustles the coconut palms and tropical birds whoop and whistle.

With just 28 houses in an area the size of three football fields, it is Singapore’s last rural hamlet, a forgotten straggler in the rush to modernize this high-rise, high-tech city-state.

But apparently not for much longer. The village, called Kampong Buangkok, is slated by the government for demolition and redevelopment, possibly in the near future. When it is gone, one of the world’s most extreme national makeovers will be complete.

Kampong is a local word for village, and also defines a traditional rural way of life that Singapore has left behind.

The big overhaul began in the early 1960s. As the decades passed, a clamorous tropical settlement reinvented itself as a spic-and-span outpost of the developed world. Now 90 percent of the population has been moved into government housing, and many people have moved at least once again as the city continues to change.

“Everything is up for redevelopment,” de Koninck said. “Even downtown, things that were developed in the 1960s and 1970s are already being torn down.”

Continue reading

How to control your sheep when you can’t afford a dog

Du Hebing, of Xi’an, told Huashang Daily that he shot this picture by chance.

“After visiting Qinling Wild Animal Park, on the way home I saw a group of sheep walking along the road with a man holding a picture following behind them,” he said.

Du said he burst out laughing when he realised it was a picture of a wolf.

The man was using the wolf picture to scare the sheep and drive them ahead – it was a really funny scene,” he said.

“Maybe he was just trying to save some money by not buying a sheepdog – but he is obviously a talented shepherd.”

Works for me. Even if it’s posed for the camera.

Incidentally, this is the least likely to be bogus of the several versions floating around the web. Though a few reference the name Du Hebing as the photographer – or the farmer driving the sheep – or a zoo worker, only this version notes a newspaper source in China. Which I have not been able to track down in English.

Bright new phone displays that don’t guzzle power

Consumers love the large, bright color displays on smartphones, but not the power-hungry way the screens drain the batteries.

Now Pixtronix, Qualcomm and other companies are developing technologies intended to conserve battery life on handhelds as people spend ever more time not just talking and texting on them, but also browsing the Web and watching TV.

A new color display in a prototype from Pixtronix uses energy-efficient LED bulbs, creating the image with thousands of tiny shutters that slide open and closed like digital pocket doors.

New technology by Qualcomm takes advantage of natural light, reflecting the short, blue waves of daylight, for instance, and combining them in the same process that lets bluebirds glow with iridescent color in the sun.

Energy efficiency is widely sought by manufacturers of mobile devices, said Paul Semenza, a senior vice president at DisplaySearch, a market research company in Austin, Tex. “Everybody is shooting for low-power color,” Mr. Semenza said.

RTFA. Interesting stuff – especially since some of this will actually be in our hands, this year. Or next.

Contemplating the Boobs We Were


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Yes, it’s been a miserable year.

Had Time waited a few days it might have decided to go with Bernard L. Madoff, the ultimate face of this annus horribilis, as its Person of the Year instead of Barack Obama.

But, when it comes to money, hope springs eternal. Just ask the financial magazines which are already full of advice about the better year to come. “Your Comeback Year — 2009,” announces Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. In Money it’s: “Get Your Money Back — A Six-Step Plan to Rebuild Your Savings.” BusinessWeek’s Investment Outlook promises: “Yes, Things Are Grim. But Here’s Your New Plan to Emerge Stronger.”

Maybe next year will be better. It can’t be much worse. But before we toss the latest unopened 401(k) statement into the trash, a year-end toast to us all — the boobs and easy marks who from time immemorial have mastered the art of buying high and selling low, investing in bubbles as transparent as an open window, making crashes and swindles as much a part of the human experience as love, vanity and bad breath.

“Insofar as there is a lesson in history,” said James Grant, editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, “it’s that human beings are not very good with large sums of money, anything over $136.”

Deregulation was supported by no regulation and accompanied by large doses of oversight with blinders. The people who are elected, paid and appointed to these tasks did nothing. Now, they’re in charge of the correction. Bullshit.

I’ve always done my good citizens number. I called the police and helped catch break-in gangbangers. I turn out voters on Election Day. And I saw the core crookedness at the base of sub-prime mortgages in action a dozen years ago.

I wrote to my congress-critter, the governor’s office, the SEC and anyone else I could think of. I watched a local trailer-park hustler selling a single-wide to a family of undocumentados. He set-up a guaranteed mortgage loan via a storefront hustle in the Big City 50 miles away. He happened to be one of my clients for a security system.

Want to guess how many responses I received? That’s right. Zero. Nada. Nuttin’ honey.