Steven Segal in good movie shocker

OK, I lied its actually a 30-second spot for hyper-hyper drink Mountain Dew, but really well done.Segal had the good sense to poke fun at himself in the clip, and the cojones to be seen in a US advert rather than all those scaredy-cats featured over on Japander.com.

The comedic action sequences are really well co-ordinated and Segal’s pony tail hairdo deserves an acting credit all of its own.

The folks at PepsiCo also managed to get in character roles for their snack brand portfolio. Let’s face it when young men drink brightly coloured caffiene-fuelled beverages, they are likely to have the munchies.

Check out the clip online

here courtesy of the nice people at Kontraband.

That was 2005

January
Bez won Celebrity Big Brother, London creative team Lee and Dan made an Al Qeada inspired calling card for Volkswagen that managed to leak out on to the web. Analysts at Credit Suisse First Boston won the monthly award for stating the bleeding obvious. We did a bit of homegrown analysis with the help of information from Popbitch to work out just how much News International made from the Prince Harry Nazi pictures. We also found that the Watchman character that the rc personality most resembled was The Comedian, more details on testing your Watchman Personality Inventory here.February
Words of the month were Mum Truck and KAGOY (kids get older, younger). Hunter S Thompson killed himself and half the media world pretended that they were avid readers of his work. The books of the month were Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (another pioneer of the gonzo school of journalism). The US Army released details around its successful word-of-mouth marketing campaign to attract recruits. America’s Army a realistic 3D game garnered interest in soldiering as a career and was far more fruitful than their television advertising campaigns. Bob Cringely highlighted how 25 billion USD needed to be invested by VC funds in the next 18 months or else they would lose their management fees. This of course wouldn’t have anything to do with the bubbling up of Web 2.0 would it? Carly Fiorina was finally ousted from H-P much to the relief of its employees. Sci-Fi London hosted a fantastic all-nighter of Shaw Brothers classics including Super Infra Man and Monkey Goes West.

March
renaissance chambara turned 1 years-old. Forrester mapped out trends in consumer electronics for 2005. March’s word was Search Arbitrage. Seymour Hersh highlighted the Pentagon’s plans for axis-of-evil club member Iran. Hersh’s pioneering journalistic approach contrasted with general media malaise. The Sony PSP picked up a lot of interest on the web with some hailing it as the new iPod, I don’t think so…. And most importantly the rc towers local pub got recognised as Pub of the Year by the Evening Standard.

April
PR gossip blog Spin Bunny was shut down for the first time as an unnamed PR agency called in the lawyers. Red Bull’s Art of Can exhibition brought a bit of culture to the Truman brewery. Word of the month is Kronenbourg. H-P manages to launch survey results that make them look foolish. There was less content overall as we were burning the midnight candle at work.

May
Flying Records, one of the UK’s foremost dance record shops finally closed its shutters after ten years at the forefront of the scene, however its spirit lives on as Andrew Baker now champions new tracks online working for distributor Goya Music. Palm launched the LifeDrive and it didn’t look that impressive compared to an iPod, retail therapy was thus avoided. Michelle Delio was found to have made up some of her stories that she contributed to Wired News. The word of the month was Sachet Marketing.

June
Country Music Television appoints a vice president of Dukes of Hazzard in a brilliantly executed PR campaign to promotes its re-runs of the original series. Omega releases its Planet Ocean watch – the watch that the Seamaster should be. WTF Apple goes Intel! Web 2.0 starts looking bubblicious. It was a few months since the Miami Winter Music festival and the Ibiza season was just starting to kick-off so a bumper month was had in the vinyl stakes. Michael Jackson is found not guilty, but the court of public opinion isn’t so sure. The word of the month is Mommy Consultant, Burson-Marsteller’s phrase e-fluential missed out because it was too close to effluent and we wouldn’t want you to be under the opinion that we thought all bloggers were full of sh!t now would we?

July
Cracks start to show in the eBay edifice. Fatigue for consumerism starts to set in. Coke rolls out their Love poster campaign, arguably the best piece of creative this year. The ongoing rising price of oil gives Hubbert’s Peak a mainstream audience as consumers wake up to the fact that oil isn’t going to get any cheaper or more plentiful. The New York Times celebrated the tenth birthday of e-commerce.

August
Wired issues its ten-year netrospective ‘celebrating’ the original of the bubble with the Netscape IPO. Citizen journalism sees its first cynical cash in with the launch of Scoopt, a picture agency for the general public and their camera phone. Paparazzi sleep easy though. Music industry bodies blame everybody but themselves for the continued under-performance of their industry. Bob Cringely launches his NerdTV series of interviews and Stussy’s 25th (XXV) anniversary collection is full swing. Towards the end of the month I managed to survive Silicon Valley. In Utah, the heavy mob is used to deal with kids listening to repetitive beats in an incident rather like the infamous police raid in Nelson near Blackburn back in the day. I am sure American’s everywhere feel safer already. The harvest of quality dance music on an acid house tip.

September
Chigger is the word. Nick Love’s film The Business reminds us why the 1980s were so good and so crap at the same time. Palm previews a Windows device, Dell stumbles and I try hard not to snigger, its especially hard when some bright spark calls Dell’s answer to the iPod Shuffle the Dell Ditty and styles it like a Ronson lighter. Apple launches the iPod Nano and gadgeteers recoil in horror from the Motorola ROKR. Nestle re-releases the Texan bar. Geek-in-chief at Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz, appeals to the troops to stop leaking confidential news via their blogs; via a blog!

October
Designers Burro shut up shop, while Criminal opens a Covent Garden boutique and Matmos see sense and re-release the Telstar lamp. Disgraced analyst Harry Blodgett starts his own blog. Super Southerner is the phrase of the moment. Spin Bunny gets shut down for the second time, this time it looks like its permanent as the entire site is removed from Typepad, speculation is that a South Bank based agency was responsible for letting loose the dogs of law. The tune of the moment is Tiger Stripes – Spirited Away. In a pre-Halloween push Burger King’s clumsy viral marketing efforts get unmasked by Slate.

November
Lynx launches a bespoke perfume in conjunction with Oki-Ni, research shows that music downloads have plateaued proving the proving the point that you can only buy so much crap. Talking of crap, Hypercolour looks like it may be making a come back. AOL makes its first interesting move in years by taking TV to the web and my even have a good business model. The word is Shorty (at least according to DJ Tim Westwood).

December
Christmas comes in with a whimper and Sony messes up a street marketing campaign for the PSP. rc floats the concept of a media bond and futures market to capitalise on the digitisation of content, the long tail and too much sloshing around waiting to be invested. Bootlegs mixes of Aretha Franklin and Pink Floyd move the feet so that the mind will follow. The word of the month is Uncanny Valley. Designers Terratag have some awesome gear in their latest fashion collection. Amazon take a Hermann Goring approach to email marketing in the final run-up to Christmas. A brief trip to Ireland left me with a number of contradictory observations about the state of the Celtic Tiger.

Image courtesy of Sanrio.

Columnist on the couch

David Pogue, tech author, mac guru and journalist for the New York Times was sent an essay by a high school student that analysed his writing style by looking at his newspaper columns. Pogues commentary on the findings in the NYTimes.com Circuits email newsletter (December 29, 2005) has some useful lessons for PR people looking to write press releases where the news isn’t weighed down by jargon-filled geekspeak: 1. From the Desk of David Pogue: On Being a Technology Writer

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Last week, my incoming e-mail included a surprising attachment: an advanced-placement English essay, by a high-schooler named Chris Diemba, on the subject of my writing style. Chris had analyzed several months’ worth of my columns, and identified a number of tricks and tics that tend to appear regularly.
Chris’s essay got me to thinking, once again, about the greatest chronic challenge for a tech writer: finding the right technological level for the broadest possible audience.

Take my dad, for example. He always introduces me with the same joke: “And this is my son David. I read his column in the Times every week. I don’t always understand it–but I read it!”

I always smile gamely, but inside, I wince. As you can probably imagine, it’s not easy to strike just the right tone for computer scientists and technophobes alike. Actually, it’s impossible; all you can do is aim for the mainstream.In general, I don’t sweat it when I receive protests from readers on the fringes. I figure they cancel each other out: on one hand, the novice who complained that I didn’t define “U.S.B. connector,” and, on the other, the engineer who asked why I don’t include MTBF data (mean time between failure) of the cameras I review.

If you’re truly geeky or truly technophobic, you should know about a couple of tricks I use routinely. As Chris Diemba put it: “A significant amount of Pogue’s exposition is found in the parenthesis, usually less important specifications.” Bingo. That is, I try to put the stuff that’s of interest primarily to geeks in parentheses.

I might write, for example, “When it comes to connectors, this TV is loaded (two S-video, one each DVI and HDMI, three sets of component inputs and a quartet of composite jacks).” That’s a coded way of telling people like my father: “You can ignore everything in the parentheses; that’s provided for people who care. My point is that there are plenty of connectors.”

I usually put pixel dimensions in parentheses, too, because plenty of readers don’t know what pixels are and have no idea whether, say, 1024 by 768 is good or bad.

Then there’s the little matter of techno-jargon. Avoiding it, in my book, is a freebie: it’s an effortless way to avoid confusing novices while taking nothing away from more advanced readers. You will never, ever catch me using terms like “price point” when I mean price, “content” when I mean TV shows, “RAM” when I mean memory, or “functionality” when I mean function.

(Want to know how out of hand this buzzword-itis has become? No joke–I found this sentence in a computer magazine: “This laptop case is a triumph of form over functionality.” ARRGGGHH!!! Now they’re actually retrofitting cliches with buzzwords!)

Nonetheless, despite all of these tricks and tactics, I occasionally make bad assumptions. Take, for example, the time I wrote about SanDisk’s folding SD memory card for digital cameras. You can take it out of your camera and insert it directly into your computer’s U.S.B. jacks (to transfer photos) instead of using a cable. Dozens of readers wrote to ask if this card is available in Memory Stick or Compact Flash formats. In other words, I shouldn’t have taken it for granted that people recognize SD as a memory-card format.

So there’s my New Year’s Resolution: to redouble my efforts along these lines. To make the columns easier to understand for novices, while adding more technological meat for the veterans.

And yours should be to write your friendly neighborhood tech writers to let them know how well they’re doing.

Plane speaking on good manners

At one time air travel was the height of sophistication, now it’s another piece of public transport. With this decline in perception has come a corresponding decline in good manners amongst passengers.

Thankfully the folks at WWNK (What We Now Know) email newsletter has come with some air travel ettiquette tips in time for the winter sun seekers and ski-bunnies:

  • Since 9/11, security checks have become more serious and time-intensive. Make it easier for all concerned by being prepared. For example, you may be asked to remove your shoes and coat, so wear shoes that slip on and off easily, take off your jacket ahead of time, and have your ID ready to show.

  • On the plane, don’t expect other passengers to help you lift your carry-on into the overhead bin. If you’re too weak to do it by yourself, it’s probably too heavy and should have been bag-checked in the first place.

  • When you are standing in the aisle, make sure that your buttocks are not in other people’s face… and don’t hit your fellow passengers in the head with a bag slung over your shoulder.

  • Don’t hang out in the aisle, talking loudly with your friends in other seats. Some passengers may want to sleep (or simply not be a witness of your exchange), and it is extremely annoying having to squeeze past someone blocking the aisle.

  • Try to be nice to parents of screaming infants and toddlers. It’s virtually guaranteed they’re already stressed out, so don’t punish them even more by giving them the evil eye.

  • Don’t wear perfume or after-shave on a plane. Our sense of smell is the highest-developed, and the close proximity to your fellow flyers makes matters worse.

  • Some people are overcome by a mysterious urgency to get off the plane as soon as it comes to a standstill. Don’t rush down the aisle, shoving and pushing the other passengers. Stay in your seat until the plane has emptied to some degree and then make an orderly exit. Your luggage won’t roll off the conveyor belt any earlier, just because you got there first.

RIAA=RICO

Bloomberg has a report on how politically-minded New York district attorney Eliot ‘The Enforcer’ Spitzer is investigating anti-trust behaviour by the major record companies surrounding price fixing of digital music. The news came out after a subpeona was served on Warners Music. In the todays climate this may be hard to prove, which is why rc recommends that he just goes for the big legal guns and puts them up on the RICO charges they so richly deserve. “We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue. We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only. We have to keep thinking how we are going to monetize our product for our shareholders. We are the arms supplier in the device wars between Samsung, Sony, Apple, and others.” – Edgar ‘We’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse’ Bronfman A bluffers guide to RICO – English readers can find out about the full power and wonder of RICO by reading

Howard Marks’ autobiography Mr Nice, however for those of you that can’t be bothered: Under RICO, a person or group who commits any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period and, in the opinion of the U. S. Attorney bringing the case, has committed those crimes with similar purpose or results can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” The act also contains a civil component that allows plaintiffs to sue for triple damages.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia) More information on RICO

here. Stolen, Stolen Stolen (as Steve Ballmer would say)

Meanwhile over the far side of the Atlantic

EMI is being sued by Apple Corp. for not paying The Beatles for all the music that they have sold; this is what is known as piracy or intellectual property theft on a grand scale. The case is over some 30 million GBP worth of material sold. Piracy is not only the preserve of organised crime and IT-literate teenagers, but also rapacious record companies. This is not a new phenomena, but endemic within the industry judging by exposés such as Autumn of the Moguls by Michael Wolf and White Powder, Black Vinyl by Simon Napier-Bell.For a bit of light relief we recommend this honest business clip-art collection from the merry pranksters at London design shop Now Wash Your Hands.