Monthly Archives: November 2006

just faster than, not better than

I read today of another camera store closing, up in Cambridge circa 1955. Ferranti-Dege called it quits last month, and I’ll resist the temptation to label the passing as another victim of the digital (now nearly complete) revolution.

What struck a chord was that this article caught me slap in the middle of cleaning out my collection of haven’t been used since I don’t know when roll film cameras. Both 35mm and 120 format have been dug out from an inch-deep layer of dust, originally destined for eBay (I kid myself) but more likely Hospice, where someone else will list the items on Planet Auction.

What a rush of memories. Anyone out there nostalgic for a 17mm f4.0 wide angle, or as we knew it then, fish eye? My favorite over the years was a 35mm f2.8, which eventually became an extension of my thoughts and seemed to know where the action would be coming from next.

Auto aperature was the big deal. Focus was manual. Exposure was calculated and set. F-stops and shutter speeds. Natural light or artificial. Tungsten or strobe. Shots were considered, though the guys with the Canon 8-frames a second motor drives and a 250-exposure bulk magazine didn’t suffer.

I don’t recall what got me started in photography. Maybe the Kodak Hawkeye my grandfather gave me when I was 10, but it wasn’t until college when the bug really bit. Coincidentally that’s when SLRs became the rage, quickly elbowing out rangefinders and sheet film users as 35mm expanded the photographer base well beyond the snapshot threshold.

A huge part of the magic was what happened in the darkroom. I enjoyed the mechanics of threading a roll of b&w onto a developing reel, working in the dark, feeling your way. I still have my darkroom equipment, including an eight-roll Nikor tank that could develop, what, nearly 300 images at once?

Agitate, invert, wait a minute, repeat. Pour out the developer, pour in the stop bath, then fixer, then a 20-minute wash before being hung to dry. My darkroom world was perpetual red light.

Once dry the negs were cut into strips, proofed, then stored. All very Zen. Not like today. Insert memory card. Insert fresh batteries. Shoot away. Photoshop. Post online.

The article contains several quotes that accurately relate the camaraderie of pre-digital photography to the very much individual pursuit it’s become. Today I use a do-it-all point and shoot with built in zoom, menu driven exposure compensation, lighting prefs, and perhaps my favorite extra, a not too bad video mode. I enjoy the convenience. And I miss the discipline.

women can ride? who knew?

New York Times ad critic Stuart Elliott’s November 13th column takes a look at Suzuki’s innovative car campaign, themed “It’s gonna be a great ride,” now running in print, on cable and over the web.

The campaign, which so far does the tongue-in-cheek thing with the road captain rider removing “his” helmet only to shake out a huge extension — didn’t know you could fit that much hair under a helmet — as she and her Rodeo Drive wild thing pack surround the previously threatened car driver to return his left behind cell phone. Great line, “You left this at the diner. It’s got a new number in it,” proves the point that women, even those who ride in packs, get all gooey for men in like branded cars.

I think the spots do a good job of getting across the idea that Suzuki makes both bikes and cars. Or is it because I already knew that? For the average consumer, it might make the point. Or just muddy the water.

As one of only three (Honda, BMW) bike builders who also make cars Suzuki makes good use of cross product pollination. And they are fun, continuing a rich tradition among advertisers of setting up any group of two or more riders as potentially hazardous until proven otherwise.

and the answer is…

Operating from the position that it’s always easier to show than explain, here’s a fascinating – and amusing – sub-3 minute YouTube anecdote on the creative theory behind packaging titled “Microsoft Re-designs the Ipod Packaging”.

The basis is Apple’s iPod. You’ve probably heard of it. The setup is a perfectly on target demonstration of how Microsoft would handle “shelf presence”. (I know, consumers now have a choice: iPod, or the weirdly branded new Zune. I can do almost everything a ‘pod can, but not as well.)

Take a minute or three to explore this perfectly simple example of why bean counters can’t sell. And why they shouldn’t be allowed near a box of crayons.

sema’s BIG show in the desert

SEMA 2006 -- it's this good everywhere you look

Just back from my first SEMA shuffle, and it was a huge eye-opener. More later over on the site, but between diamond encrusted Merc SLs, Tahitian hula dancers, enough booth chicks to open a club, audio that can bounce sound off the moon, and more customs and concept cars than I’ve seen in a lifetime all gathered under one roof, I came away a believer.

I didn’t get a big roller-coaster adrenaline rush from this powerful first impression. And my prefs are still for two wheels, not four. But for sheer spectacle and marketing horsepower, SEMA sure got my motor started.

I’m not the show’s audience — dealers are. I attend (most) trade events on behalf of clients and to run down the marketing efforts, new and old, that work, and that don’t work. How to tell? If the booth’s buzzin, something’s working.

This trip to the desert was worth the effort, and more. Organization, representation, depth and breadth. Something for everyone, and if your focus isn’t from the dealer perspective with attention given to a few areas of interest, it meant miles and miles of aisle hiking. And that still wasn’t enough.

But it was enough to have me looking forward to next year, and a better organized personal tour itinerary inside the walls and through the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

wal-mart swaps shops – wanna’ go for a ride?

“Always low prices” bites the dust. So how did the newly formed agency DraftFCB and partnering Carat win the nearly $600-mil plus account away from agency of 32-year record Bernstein Rein? According to Ad Age, agency head Howard Draft, up-to-date on Wal-Mart’s senior vp-mar com Julie Roehm’s penchant for really expensive cars, invited her for a spin around the block in his spiffy econo-car Aston Martin.

The expensive and cantankerous import wouldn’t light and had to be towed – towed! – but his spanking new shop gets the account anyway. Other behind the scenes strategies that apparantly paid off? Actual shopping trips to selected Wal-Marts by agency execs with, get this, real Wal-Mart shoppers! And they actually brought in one of their experience guides to run the focus group gauntlet.

So I guess if they’d been after Disney, it would have meant a walk down Main Street with a Disney obsessive adult in denial as their ersatz seeing eye dog metaphor. Anyway, it’s going to be clever campaign that convinces Target afficienados to switch allegence and park out by the RV patch for a less subtle selection in a less swell environment.

What’s the point? Nothing much. But the fact that Wal-Mart’s going through a rough patch on a couple of really sensative points, and that their core audience is pretty well defined, still has me stumped as to what in their previous behavior, brief that it is, gave DraftFCB a boost over the bar. Data management expertise is cited, but what does the car thing have to do with it, other than status? And if so, isn’t that rather oxymoronic for this ultimate anti-status behemoth?

Wal-Mart is what it is – huge, lumbering, and with a very narrowly defined sex appeal. One thing’s for certain, probably. “Always low prices” is history.