Friday, December 10, 2010

Fun with analytics!

Hello kids. Today we are going to touch on the funner points of analytics. Not finer points, funner points. Yes there are some.

I don't think I even uttered the word "analytics" before the web. In fact, it's not in my dictionary as a noun. It sounds pretty nerdy, like something the math/computing/biology/pollster guys would worry about, not me. I'm a creative, why would I want to analyze data? Sounds dry.  

Raise your hand if you think that I actually look forward to launching Google Analytics and checking on the websites I manage. Those of you with your hands down are wrong, sorry. If you never thought "fun" and "analytics" would be in the same sentence, think again.

Take my website,, for example. Hmm, I wonder what people are typing in to find me. Can you guess? How about "brainwashing design"? You didn't predict that? Okay, try "if Rip Van Winkle woke up today?" No? I didn't either. 

Okay boys and girls, let's look at another example. I design and manage Mara Rodriguez's blog, Wear in Ocala. It's an up and coming blog about fashion in Ocala, with some great advice and a spicy sense of humor. What would you guess people would have been typing in when they find it? Maybe, "can I wear velvet in puerto rico"? You didn't guess that either? What about, "lady gaga dress made from hair"? I never would have called that one. Meat, maybe, but hair? 

What can we learn from this? I'd love to say we have learned that staying on current topics is a good idea. As you can see from some of the other searches, there are some current event/famous people/on-trend searches. If your blog has content that applies, you'll be found more often. What about the others, though? How could you predict someone wants to know if they can wear velvet in Puerto Rico? You can't, but it's definitely fun to see! Never before on earth have we gotten such a peek into people's minds. This data is truly golden.

Alright. That's it for today's peek at analytics. As you can see kids, they can be fun! Kind of like a box of chocolates, if you know what I mean.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dusting-off notes: part 1

In a never-ending education process, I attend a lot of conferences and programs. I listen to a lot of speakers and watch a lot of presentations. I watch movies and videos (and commercials!). I play games, I participate outside of my circle. I read books, articles, blogs, tweets and white papers. There is a constant stream of information that I tap into on a regular basis because stagnation is death. 

I also take a lot of notes, which it seems I never go back to look at or do anything with. There is a wealth of pearls of wisdom and bursts of inspiration between the pages of closed notebooks and event booklets, lying in bags, shoved into piles, boxed or shelved. 

I thought I would go through some of those treasures and share them. Some of these are my own epiphanies, but most are quotes. I think they're still gems despite being out of context. Enjoy ...

The term "teenager" was coined in 1941 and wasn't used until the late 50's and early 60's.

The average first-time grandparent now is 46 years old. One third of the U.S. is invested in grandparenting.

"Social Media" and "Mobile" is so 5 years ago.

The year 2025 is always under construction.

Become collaborators in the creative process with your consumers.

Stop thinking about technology getting smaller and smaller, start thinking bigger. Think: where is the computing power going? Into tablets and televisions and cars.

Technology is heading into the background. You're just going to know it's going to heighten your experience.

So, there's a computer in your pocket. ~Mike Steib, Google

Start to think of the web as a thing that overlays your experiences in the regular world.

Social media is a place the consumer is looking for information they believe to be PURE. ~Neil Miller, Draft FCB

The truth of the matter is the customer is in control. ~Mike Boylson, JC Penney

There is a 17% drop in testosterone levels in men over the past 20 years.

Get more out there faster. It's a speed game. 

There are no bad creatives, only bad environments.

Will they want to see it again, play with it, share it?

Can we bring national quality advertising to any size market?

Creativity can solve anything.

70% rule = never go into the client and say it's 100% done.

Take chances or you're not even in the game! ~Ari Merkin, CPB

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WTFacebook Ads [part 2 of the continuing saga]

Okay, it's not really a saga, but it is an advertising travesty.

In [part 1: This blog could lower your interest], I broached this topic and thought in my idealistic way that the random, meaningless, attention-getting gimmicks would phase out in favor of clear and relevant content. I was wrong (big surprise!).

They're not getting much better, in fact they might be getting worse? Not sure if they can. Here are more from my growing collection of Facebook ads that either make no sense, are stealing from a celebrity, or are misleading along the lines of snake oil salespeople of old and modern day tabloids.

Yeah, I repeated the "Scholarships For Moms" because that guy is so NOT A MOM! Does anyone know what all this means? What does it say about society? What does it say about carrot feathers?


Friday, July 23, 2010

Peek-a-boo critiques: 5-seconds can speak volumes

Hi! Tell me about yourself, about your company, what you're all about, what you do and why I should give you my time and money. Just give me a quick impression so I have an idea. You've got 5 seconds. 

Sound unreasonable? Humans now have a 7-second attention span before they lose interest if they aren't engaged. I think that's being generous. I don't give some things a glance if I'm not interested in a blink.

I play peek-a-boo with my monitor. I've been doing it for years because it's difficult to get a fresh perspective. I sit  in front of my design and cover my eyes with my hands, then I open my hands quickly and repeat as many times as needed. 

I went onto fivesecondtest last night – a website for web design feedback. You've got 5 seconds to view the art before giving your brief report. I started doing the memory-based and click-based tests and began to get a peek-a-boo fresh perspective on web design and first reactions. So I submitted the little black mask home page design as it appears here:

Feedback started within minutes, which is great because I like instant gratification. You know, short attention span and all. This morning my feedback page was full. 

The good news: I am pleased to report that the little black mask name and logo were immediately memorable, the comic-book theme is well-conveyed, my saving-the-world philosophy comes across and the design seems to be liked. 

The neutral news: my face really stands out and looks beautiful. This is flattering and does have some recognition, but doesn't sell me unless you know who I am. 

The bad news: The word "home" stands out - and that's just navigational even though decorative. Also, "mona lisa," "faces," and "b&w photos" came up a lot - which again are decorative and have an underlying meaning but on first impression don't help the brand.

The truth is, if someone goes to my site they probably do so for a reason that will keep them for more than 5 seconds, but it doesn't mean they'll ponder the meaning of it all and go in to read every page before calling me and offering me loads of money. Peek-a-boo impressions count. A change is in order.

Immediately, I changed the word "Home" to "Branding." Since that word stands out so much and it's right under "little black mask marketing" then I've fixed that association. A website "massage" has been on my to-do list anyway, so I'm going to submit it to other feedback sites for more information first instead of just plowing forward on my own. Research is good.

I'd love to hear what kind of feedback you get, share on the little black mask Facebook page.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thanks, original idea men!

Independence Day is, on the literal surface, about the brave men and women who founded our country and the life of freedom they gave us. As our society rapidly progresses and changes, the world of our founding fathers seems farther and farther away. It's hard to relate, I can only wonder about what it was like. I imagine the US's original creatives – brilliant and progressive thinkers who came together to create a government for an ideal society, knowing in their hearts and souls that they would NOT live any other way. 

Today we whine about how our clients want huge logos and too much copy in their ads, about how we can't get the really great ideas approved because someone's secretaries' kid doesn't get it, or about how we can't get investment for that big idea that will change the world if only it had the proper chance. The obstacles we face in the modern world can own us, making us feel anything but independent. 

Imagine these guys in the late 1700's... no electricity or bifocals yet, no cars or airplanes, no faxes, emails or cell phones. What they had was an idea. You know the one – all men are created equal, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They had to pitch this idea to not just one client, but to all "the people" - and they didn't need the people to simply approve this idea, they needed the people to give everything they had including their lives to ensure that this idea was realized.  

This July 4th, 2010, I challenge you to think about something you believe in so deeply that you would give your life for it. No, I'm not suggesting you commit hari-kari if you don't get your next best idea approved, but I am suggesting you chose some ideas you really believe in and you don't stop until you've made them happen. 

What are you doing that you are really passionate about? What do you really believe in? Let's take today as an inspiration. With gratitude for the freedom and opportunity we have, let's fight a little harder for our dreams.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Photoshop then and now: what would Rip Van Winkle think?

20 years ago, when Apple's Macintosh and the Windows OS were just gaining prevalence in the workplace, when the internet was still in diapers, when retouchers wielded real airbrushes and cell phones were as big as bricks, a shiny new program called Photoshop hit the market. Let’s also say that Rip Van Winkle dozed off in 1990.

A year later, I enrolled at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale to get my degree in Advertising Design. There were a couple of computer courses which might have included a little Photoshop, but I only remember learning Corel Draw and Aldus Pagemaker. My studies were comprised of topics like "mechanicals" (I'm not even going to explain what a mechanical is, you either already know or it will never matter to you), life drawing, anatomy, typesetting formulas, psychology, perspective, art history, advertising theory, color theory, photography, marker comps, and so on, giving us the skills necessary to go out into the 1990's world and earn a living in the field of advertising. At that time, an Associates Degree was worth much more than the paper it was printed on.
I set off with a portfolio, a serving of talent, a degree and some advice. “Don’t set your type on a computer, the kerning is never right,” one of my instructors had told me. He was already behind the times. “Press type” (rub-off letters) and hand-lettering were fine for school pieces, but the digital revolution had begun. 
I started my career in the days of film, color keys and match prints. Very expensive to fix mistakes. Photography was still shot with film and transparencies, imaging was done by pricey drum scans and “sytech machines.” Even though the “computer workstation” had become the official seat for a designer, it would be years before everything we output was digital. 

Photoshop quickly infiltrated the creative workplace, I can’t remember working a day without it. It was super cool but you only had ONE undo and no layers, so you had to work very carefully and save lots of versions. Oh, and was it ever a memory hog! It used up all of your available RAM (as much as 4 megabytes!) and would crash your Mac (as indicated by a bomb on your screen) unless you had allocated the right amount of memory each program could use. Sound complicated? It was. It wasn’t enough to have talent, a good designer needed to be a little bit techie, too.

The details are fun to hash over, like an old man who had to walk up-hill both ways in the snow to get to the electronics shop to buy a pack of syquest cartridges. Life has changed dramatically since then. If Rip Van Winkle woke up today, he might be surprised that he wouldn’t have to explain to anyone what a “graphic designer” does and he might marvel at the number of designers out there who have an education centered purely around the software on a computer. I think old Rip would feel like a magician at the least, maybe even Godlike, if he sat down at the computer and fired up Photoshop today. 

Thank you, Photoshop, for being an indispensable assistant during the past 20 years. I can only imagine what’s in store for the next 20.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brainwashing 101: Graphic Design, or Logo Parody Fun!

Graphic design shapes the world so much more than most people realize. Think visual communication. Think propaganda. Think of symbols and the archetypal images and meaning we attach to them. We're being brainwashed constantly.

When BP unveiled their new logo in 2000, I was impressed and dumbfounded. I was impressed because they used such powerfully clear imagery to evoke an image of "Green."  I was dumbfounded because the image was almost the opposite of what the company actually is. 

Graphic designers are powerful commentators, too. The current oil spill nightmare in the Gulf inspired an AdFed-mate of mine, Joe Vinson, to create this logo parody:

Here are some other logo parodies lurking around the net. Poignant , humorous, whatever emotion the designer is after, isn't it amazing what one single image can do?


Friday, April 23, 2010

Brilliant Undiscovered Idea (in no particular order) #1

Hold on to your hats, I have decided to go public with many of my brilliant ideas that could someone rich. We all have them, but keep them to ourselves as if one day when we get the time (yeah right) and the money (yeah righter) then we will invent that hydro-car, open that chartreuse organic vodka bar, or solve world hunger with the cunning use of hologram bees, and strike fame and fortune doing it.          

You know how it goes, "Someone should invent such and such, then we would never have to trip over our shoe laces again!" You might have even gone so far as to research your brilliant idea online, thinking up lots of catchy url's that are already taken by some obscure literary group or web squatters, before letting it settle into a folder on your hard drive, waiting patiently for resurrection when the "right time" comes.

Being honest with myself, I'm probably not going to execute most of my brilliant ideas. Many of them, in fact, I don't even want to, I just want someone else to do it so I can take advantage of whatever it is. Oh yeah, and I'd like to brand it, please! So please, Mr. or Ms. Investor/Entrepreneur, I'll be your Creative Director if you get the idea going into a business. The idea is free! Just hire Little Black Mask Marketing to bring out your inner super-hero image!

Without further rambling, here is brilliant, undiscovered idea (in no particular order) #1:

"It's Nacho Restaurant"

I believe the nacho is highly underutilized. We are totally missing the breadth of the nacho's potential by limiting them to the Americanized-Mexican toppings. I propose a restaurant with an international menu comprised entirely of nachos. 

Think of just the nacho chip itself. It can be made from corn, flour, wheat, it could be herbed, cheesed, spiced. Now combine those with an endless selection of toppings. Filet mignon tidbits, julienne roasted veggies, salad, crumbled meatloaf, shredded buffalo chicken or shrimp, spinach and ricotta, roasted garlic and brie, the options are infinite. Breakfast? Eggs Benedict Nacho. Dessert? It's Nacho Tiramisu, Cinnamon nachos drizzled with I don't know what because I'm not a Chef, but I imagine this could go on and on given that the nacho is a sturdy and versatile vehicle you can enjoy with our without flatware.  

It's Nacho Restaurant offers sampling orders (three nachos) up to heaping party plates, and boasts a drink menu with equally endless choices to match with your nacho selections.

Viva la nacho! 


Monday, April 12, 2010

Seeing the world through advertising-colored glasses

There are some of us on whom the innocent perspective of the mainstream consumer is long lost. When a Chef is out to eat, he won't see or taste food in the same way the average diner does. We in advertising don't see anything commercial through mainstream eyes either. We analyze what goes into things; the design, who paid for it, who might have created it, what font they used, how much money the photography cost, whether the production was in or out of town, and on and on. It might not all be conscious, but that's what we're thinking.

This makes life a little less magical, if a little more interesting, depending on one's point of view. What at first seems like a simple, scenic drive on the Florida Turnpike can turn into a veritable ad buffet. Billboards, trucking companies, vehicle wraps, license plates, toll metrics, road signs, it goes on and on. Opportunities are everywhere for the innovative advertiser to get in front of the unassuming consumer. 

Take the "your logo here" on the Adopt-a-Highway sign. Put your logo on a sign and agree to keep a 2-mile stretch of highway clean. Pick your stretch of Turnpike, even. "I'll take the really busy one by Orlando, please!" Passers-by will associate your company with being environmentally responsible, and more importantly, they will see, read, think your name every time they drive by it. 

It gets better. State Farm Insurance, in partnership with the FL Turnpike (and several U.S. highway authorities) operates a service providing free roadside assistance. Signs are everywhere letting you know. "Wow," a driver might think, "State Farm gives free roadside assistance! They are a caring and responsible company who is involved with our government. How trustworthy and official they must be." It might not be conscious, but that's what they're thinking.

What this really is, is smart advertising. It's sponsorship. According to Wikipedia, the free roadside assistance only covers stranded motorists on participating highways, if they call the designated telephone number (umm, that's not on the sign) and they respond to the following services: fuel refills, radiator refills, engine oil refills. What about flat tires? Engine trouble? Accidents? It probably doesn't matter because no one knows the number to call. State Farm gets a good deal out of this. They get a gagillion impressions per day and their expense is minimal, comparatively.

So next time you're driving or walking around, keep your eye out for the opportunity that isn't already taken. Where can you do some good publicly to raise your visibility, your reputation and your humanity-brownie-points? 


Monday, April 5, 2010

Blog as I say, not as I do.

It's easy to to teach, preach, explain and blog about best practices. But just like the cobbler whose children have no shoes, often the blogger and social marketer isn't being very consistent with their own content. 

I've been busy, busy enough that somehow blogging has gone undone for ... omg! Seven weeks? Can it be? How embarrassing. Good people, do not do try this at home. Do not wait seven weeks to pick up a barely-weekly blog again. It's just not done. You'll lose readers' interest, they expect consistency. Keep their trust, blog onward, blog faithfully.

I know this very well, yet I slipped. I have failed to do as I say. Getting back on track, I will employ a method that I preach. For consistent blogging, rain or shine, one word: stockpile. Constantly make notes and compile topics. When you think of something new to blog about, write down as much of it as possible as soon as you get a chance. Where ever you are, send yourself a note on your phone, or keep a notebook within reach at all times.

On those weeks when you're short on time or when current news is not worth commenting on, draw from your arsenal. Have blogs ready to post within minutes. Review and update to make sure they are current, and post. Clickitty-split.

Blog to you next week, over and out!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Buzz on Google Buzz Getz Big Buzzer

If you had a cruise ship with no passengers, it wouldn't matter how decked out with luxurious and useful amenities, fantastic movies, art and music it was, or if it had a great cruise director to organize the guests and activities. With social media, just like with like parties, having the ship all to yourself is not a good thing. 

For two days now the buzzers have been buzzing about Google Buzz. The Google gaggle clammered, "Google's got a Facebook. It's Google's new Twitter. It's got update streams, comments and media sharing, right in your email!" My first reaction was, "Oh, like Yahoo?" 

Note the "buzz up" button at the bottom of this blog. It's not for Google Buzz, it's for Y! buzz. That's Yahoo. Yahoo has had it's own social network for years now, since Facebook was an infant. The Yahoo 360 Beta, which was great like MySpace in the beginning, finally closed in 2009 because not enough people were on it. Yahoo integrated much of the 360 info right into their regular profiles. I can blog, update, comment, connect to other people, media sites, apps, get feeds and news, and so on right from my Yahoo email or home page.

Here's a look at my barely populated Yahoo stuff...

... and here's a look at my barely populated Google Buzz stuff:


I know Google is big, I know they're everywhere, they even ran my favorite Super Bowl commercial. But sober up techies, another social network is just another social network, no matter who owns it and this is sort of a knock off of Yahoo anyway. So it's not benefits we're comparing, it's location. Where do you spend your time? Do you feel like relocating everyone you know and all of your information? If you already use gmail as your hub, it will be great for you. If not, it's just another added feature that lives there. I don't see all the bees buzzing away from Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter or whatever hive they've already built, I see it as simply a benefit to gmail users.

PS: click the "buzz up" & Digg buttons, please and thank you!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Your Mom's not judging the 2010 ADDYS

How many of you still have a ribbon you received for a painting, a clay pot or maybe the long jump in elementary school? Or a medal for gymnastics or ballet? How about those bowling and wrestling trophies? Special awards for achievement in college? Plaques and certificates from professional organizations? 

We are an award-crazed culture, and while some of them seem bought or gratuitous, the good ones help keep us in line, help good creative thrive, inspire innovation and yes, make us feel all warm and fuzzy if we win.

We have loved reward, recognition and attention since we were infants, when just a smile from our mother meant ultimate success. It's part of our basic human need for significance, and sometimes I think creatives in the advertising/marketing field (along with those in entertainment) got more than our share of that craving. 

We're all grown up and in the cold, hard, competitive world now and our successes don't happen by virtue of existence and a smile alone. Our mothers were much more liberal with the "good boy/girl" praise than the ADDY judges are, which contributes to the coveted National ADDY ranking within a few steps of the holy grail. Professionally speaking, of course. 

What's so great about the ADDYS?  

First of all, it's hard. If you win a National ADDY Award, that means your work has made it through three rigorous competitions, three different sets of qualified judges from all over the country, with three different sets of competitors at each stage. Local. District. National. Over 60,000 ADDY entries are judged each year for their creative excellence – first in an entrant's local area, then at a larger regional level (in my case it's the 4th District which includes all of Florida and the Caribbean), and finally at the national level where the big dogs run. Win at national, and your compadres are the biggest agencies in the world. "Hello BBDO, DDB and Satchi & Satchi, nice to stand on the same stage with you today!"

Second of all, it's hard. Every year I marvel at the magnitude of it. Imagine if you will, the people-power it takes to run 200 competitions locally before moving up to the larger districts then national. Imagine how many judges are traveling during ADDY season, how many entries are being shipped, opened, displayed, put away, shipped, opened, displayed and put away again. Imagine how many showbooks are being produced, how many winner reels for galas are being made, how many party themes are being dreamed up, and just how grueling it all can be. Now imagine that it is all done by volunteers. Maintaining the highest standard of integrity, fairness and quality takes a lot of knowledge and experience... and passion. Thousands of people enthusiastically spend time away from their families and jobs, pouring their energy into running top-notch competitions across the country.

Third of all, respect. I just took Sally Hogshead's fascination test and "prestige" came up as my top fascination trigger. That means I really value awards (at least those that are really worth having, only the prestigious ones)! If your first thought is that it's about vanity, think again. In life we all are salespeople, we've got to wave our own flag high or no one will see it. Professionally we spend most of our time showing or telling people how great we are so they will give us their trust and money. I can run around all day and night saying that I'm good, but an ADDY says it for me. Let's face it, even a great portfolio isn't always proof enough to a client who doesn't understand the power and reason behind visual communication. An ADDY says "award-winning," and that means respect. 

I stand on both sides of the ADDY competition process. I judged two different competitions in Florida this year, have judged others in the past, have been local ADDY Chair and and district  ADDY Judging Chair, and I enter my work. No matter how much I am involved behind the scenes, I still never know how my work will be judged. The Ocala ADDY Gala is February 18th, wish me luck, I won't know until then how I fared this year!

Good luck to all of you entrants out there, of ADDY and other competitions. Keep reaching high and stepping up your creative, and keep supporting other winners around you. They deserve a smile, some applause, an "atta boy," an award... some validation and respect for their good and hard work.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pants-down, the best top 10 list this year so far!

Listen Kanye, I'm real happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but "Pants on the Ground" is the best act to parody, EVER!
If you have some musical or comedic talent, you'd better get your pants on the ground because it's rocket-viral. Cover General Larry Platt's heartfelt, catchy ditty from American Idol, and you could get your 15 minutes. Don't worry you don't have to clean your room - in fact, I think laundry helps with the acoustics. You just can't buy this kind of coverage.

I'll save the long blog and get right to the meat. Here are ....

Little Black Mask's Top 10 "Pants on the Ground" Parodies (as of today):

Jimmy Fallon is a master at imitating rockers. This is beautiful.

WOW, this came as a surprise!

Dark, moody sensitive-rock and hip glasses.

He's sensitive and emotional, hey, it's a passionate song.

This guy has a downloadable version, in case you want to play it while you jog in the morning.

Malaysian Punkish Rock version, I dig it.

Sock monkey hat and a blue guitar, folk girl gets in the game.

Is he one of the Bens?

IF "Pants on the ground" was filipino remix.

Last but not least...

Drunk Lady Remix *hic.