According to a number of reports the clock is ticking on the US economy and the dollar before it goes into meltdown.
The key factors for consideration according to the Asian Times article ‘Crisis towers over the dollar’:
- The total US public national debt now exceeds 7 trillion USD
- When Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military and government pensions are added in, the total national debt exceeds 51 trillion USD, according to Fortune magazine – that’s nearly five times the gross domestic product (GDP)
- The current year’s deficit alone approaches 1 trillion USD when you add the off-budget items
- Derivatives (highly leveraged and enormously risky instruments such as interest-rate futures, options and swaps) now total 180 trillion USD, 17 times the GDP. Even government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp) use derivatives heavily
- The total US consumer debt is more than 8 trillion USD
- The US government funding gap is some 54 trillion USD
A leading proponent of this bearish assessment is Morgan Stanley’s principle economist Stephen Roach. Roach is said by the Boston Herald of having given the US economy no more than a one in ten chance of avoiding a meltdown. You can read the article here.
In Morgan Stanley’s own Global Economic Forum digests, the thinking of their global team of economists is distilled for fund managers. The digest of November 26, 2004 highlights Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s belief that the world is not likely to continue to fund US debt.In a recent webcast Roach warned of a possible ‘disorderly’ correction to the imbalances in the dollar and a possible trade war with China.
IT company SCO is currently involved in a legal argument over allegedly copied software ending up in Linux. Kudos to The Inq for flagging up this subversive website hack. Makes a pleasant difference from the usual scrawlings on site defacements. At the time of writing this was still up on the SCO site, though this will change when the SCO webmaster gets into work.
My colleague Jonathan has some inside skinny on cheap alcohol this Christmas. According to his contacts Unwins the off licence chain is allegedly being bought out by Oddbins and so clearing its inventory by providing good prices on champagne. So if the white van man doesn’t do deliveries in your area Unwins may be worth a visit. To find your nearest branch start here.
As Britain`s largest family owned independent wine merchant, founded in 1843; with over 400 shops in the South of England, they pride themselves as one of the few remaining truly specialist wine merchants.
A while ago I did a back to basics entry on how I had moved from a perfectly good Nokia 6600 to a older, more elegant and better looking 8850. According to Josh Rubin’s Coolhunting blog I am not alone, in fact there is a website called Retrofone to cater for people like me.
Why? Because I believe that there is a sweet spot when technology has a certain level of sophistication and performance when it is at its most usable. As things become more complex and sophisticated they become less user friendly, go wrong more often and no longer provides an elegant solution to customer needs. It starts to lack quality. Don’t believe me? Think about this :
- I can write a letter as fast on my old 12 year old Mac desktop running Word 5.1 as I can using Office X on a much more powerful iBook
- I can only email as fast as I did when I used Netscape Communicator on the Mac back in ’98, yet my computer is at least eight times more powerful
- I am still only as organised using my Palm Tungsten 3 as I was when I had a Palm Vx, but the Vx really did fit in my pocket and caused me half as much grief
Now my broadband connection is up, I only use my phone for SMS text messages and to make calls, so I wanted to move back to a smaller phone with a big battery life
The iPod is currently in the sweet spot with the iTunes Music Store, Google is there with their search engine and Amazon with their e-commerce site.
Haaretz the liberal Israeli national newspaper has started publishing a weekly international edition online as a PDF. It can be found at Haaretz dotcom. The editors are Karen Kaufman and Robert Rosenberg.Caitlin Moran the television critic wrote this opinion piece in The Times about sex no longer working as an advertising tool, making our visual bombardment of sexual imagery adverts such as Wonderbra’s landmark 1994 ‘Hello Boys’ campaign impotent. She sees it as a sign that Britain is growing up, I’m not so sure.
Mobile, the UK newspaper for the mobile phone sales channel has interesting article called ‘Coming soon to a billboard near you’ in this weeks issue about how mobile operators are making the most of shrinking marketing budgets and the 3G rollout by looking to inventive regional campaigns led by hot shop advertising thinking including experiential marketing stunts and interactive bus stop adverts, supported by conventional consumer PR tactics of competitions and giveaways.
Jonathan who works with me obviously has too little to do because he came up with this interactive gem courtesy of online lads fanzine beer dotcom. (Tip: ask her to kiss her friend) That’s enough of that young man.
Spotted 0n the way to a client pitch, the picture just had to be taken. If you want to find it yourself try this link for a map. Ideal if you want to spend a day out going to see the Tate Modern on the South Bank.
Anybody young enough to remember what is was like being a child or has had children of their own knows that banning items or trying to disuade children from looking at materials is just going to pique their curiosity (think pornography, smoking in the school yard, experimentation wth drink and drugs). With this in mind the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility came up with some suggestions of games that kids will want to play this Christmas:
- Doom 3
- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
- Gunslinger Girls
- Halflife 2
- Halo 2
- Hitman: blood money
- Mortal Combat Deception
- Postal 2
- Shadow Heart
Special mention was given to America’s Army; a freely downloadable game from the US Army – children of all ages with access to the ‘net can download it with no restrictions. The couldn’t have done any better if Rockstar Games, Bungie and Eidos had done this as a joint spoof viral marketing campaign for the holiday season to promote their respective titles. Their press release can be found here and a streaming video of ‘objectionable’ violent clips here.
Out-Law.com carried news about the 309,000 GBP fine handed down to Carmine Caridi for leaking academy award ‘screener’ copies of Oscar nominated films to a friend who then uploaded them on to the internet. This is a high profile victory for the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) against online downloaders.
One of my ex-colleagues Jacqui forwarded to me links to work they had been doing online for World AIDS Day. AIDS as an issue has decreased in importance from the mid to late 1980s when hysteria gripped the western world and ad agencies got fat off contracts for public information films. Hard as it is to believe now, the red top media in the UK openly discussed concentration camps for the infected; don’t you miss Thatcher’s Britain? The Cubans facing an AIDS epidemic with hundreds of infected returning servicemen from the Angolan war actually went ahead with it.
AIDS deaths have declined in the UK due to treatment and the increase in medical knowledge but the number of instances of infection have increased. It is estimated that 50,000 people are infected in the UK.
Worldwide there about 38 million people infected. Anyway, Jacqui wants as many people to see her work as possible and is looking to have people put a button on their emails or websites to encourage visitors (I also expect that it will help crank up the Google page rank, but then I’m cynical).
Happy Thanksgiving to our American readership
What the hell is Thanksgiving anyway?
Thanksgiving is an extended weekend festival that was originally celebrated by the white puritans who first colonised America. It is now celebrated on the third Thursday of November. It is a family orientated festival that has its own food including turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for dessert. It is a family orientated holiday so people often travel huge distances to be with their family. Thanksgiving Thursday is followed by Black Friday: the second biggest day for US retail sales in the year, heralding the start of the Christmas shopping season. A number of major Ameican football games are played over the weekend taking centre stage in the TV schedule.
The festival is celebrated in major cities with a parade. More information on Wikipedia
The renaissance chambara guide to dealing with Americans during Thanksgiving
Generally business runs out of steam from lunch time on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Thursday. The Thursday and Friday are public holidays. It often takes until the following Tuesday for them to start getting back into the swing of things. Assume that they are unavailable and plan accordingly. Under no circumstances call them at home, your call will be about as welcome as a surprise tax audit by the IRS.
Digital natives is a generational term rather like generation x which is starting to hit the mainstream. A digital native is someone who has growth up in close contact with computers Mark Prensky hypothesised and found some proof to indicate that these people absorb and process information in a different manner to those of us old enough to remember the analogue world. The term digital native comes from Prensky’s view that these people are native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. This has implications for teaching, advertising and the media.
Just because someone has grown up with computer technology does not mean that they particularly want and like immersive experiences like video games. I am sure that there will be personality and learning types within the digital natives group as there are within the immigrants: some are better at learning by rote, others by doing.
Those of us that have adapted to this world are considered to be digital immigrants. Prensky then goes on to forecast the demise of printed materials amongst other items, but if thats the case why is Amazon so successful? Why are young people buying increasing amounts of vinyl?
To find out how good a digital immigrant you really are, try this quiz courtesy of AlwaysOn.
Wired has an article yet again on the death of print media because of technologically savvy young people based on the findings of these surveys here and here. News print has declined for years before the rise of the public internet and web browsers.
Finally Piper Jaffray have been hyping up the Apple share price with a target to hit 100 USD from 61 and change. This based on the results of a survey that they think indicates that the iPod will turn a significant number of iPod owning PC users into Mac users. Hmmm.
With the US holiday on us at the end of the week, the vinyl releases have declined. Just three recommendations this week:
- Herbie Hancock – Stars in their eyes (CBS) – classic soul funk record rereleased, this record is a favourite with trendy bar DJ’s and the nu-jazz kiddies
- Francois K – Enlightenment (Wave) – generally I not a great fan of Francois K’s material but this rocks the spot as a deep house cut
- DJ Sneak – Funky Rhythm (Robsoul) – does what it says on the tin
Today’s FT Creative Business has a good article on pitches here called The Art of Persuasion.
Top tips include:
Seating – try and control it. Where a table is straight try not to sit directly opposite
Listening well – Keep control with eye contact, use of the person’s name and jargon-free speech.
Attention breakdowns – repeat important points and USPs to your audience
- Personality types – identify them as best you can and adapt and mirror
Body language gestures – don’t ignore resistance – take action. For instance, if an arm-fold looks negative then perhaps pass the person something to read, and then try to ascertain the cause
Seen on telephone junction box
I noticed an fly poster on a telephone junction box near Mile End tube station for a recruitment firm looking for secretarial staff that works in the media sector. The headline of the copy was “Tell them where they can stick their advertising”