August 2006
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Jul   Sep »

Month August 2006

Hi there. I'm a Partner at Undercurrent, where I lead a team focused on helping ambitious organizations operate in ways that are beneficial to all their users.

Today In… New Site

Hey, look out. New site coming your way!

I’m a long way from home. My parents send me a daily email with a picture that shows me what they’re up to on the Lost Coast of California (specifically, Arcata). So every day there’s an email waiting for me called TIA (Today In Arcata). I love it. But what’s the point of email if you can put it on a blog?

So now there’s “Today In…” The ellipsis is there because I’ve given each member of my family author privileges so they can post. The 5 cousins are spread out across the country, so it’ll be a great way for our parents to keep tabs.

Anyway, it’s a look inside the life of my family. Today In…

Officemax and TUL pens

Today I received my October issue of Dwell. Pretty magazine. Lots of ads. Interesting articles. Whatever.

Usually the worst part of reading the more ad-intensive pubs is the stiff cards that make the magazine almost impossible to keep open at the right spot. They do their job (they get noticed) but usually receive a god dammit and a swift razor to the spine.

But today, Officemax and TUL pens ( gave me a reason to participate.

Damn cards

There’s the card on the right. Takes up most of the page.

HEADLINE: “Share your handwriting with me and discover who you really are.”

(The “Me” is Dr. Gerard Ackerman who doesn’t show up in many places on the web. Real person?)

The card then provides a space, a line, and an X. We’re prodded to, “Please write the phrase, “I truly need a new pen.” in the space below.”

Then we’re supposed to give our email and check a box that says they can send a “promotional Graphological Analysis from Officemax. We promise not to send you a tidal wave of crap.” Funny, but what defines a tidal wave? Whatever… moving on. The back of the card gives an entree into Graphology and gives a sample of what’s to come.

Here’s my entry:


Wonder what they’ll say about it. I hope I get a free pen. I hope there aren’t tidal waves of crap in my inbox. I’ll report back on both. It’s going in the mail tonight.

UPDATE 1: They have a microsite for this at You can do a rudimentary, slightly custom version of the analysis. And it’s actually really funny. Really funny. They wait until the VERY end of the video to make their sales pitch, which is nice. Apparently, my handwriting suggests that I need a TUL rollerball pen. I like rollerballs, so it can’t be all that off-base. The unfortunate thing is that the video suggests that you Google Dr. Ackerman. Which doesn’t give you much yet. Ohh well.

If any of y’all at TUL are reading this, be a friend and send me some additional information on your pens. The blog community will be testing you on this one, so don’t mess up.

Hater-ade. But why?

What a buncha' haters

With the U.S. Open starting (pending weather interruptions) soon, ESPN is running a little sidebar poll on the best American male tennis player in the Open era. 70% of the world thinks it’s Mr. Pete Sampras, followed by 14% in Agassi’s camp, with McEnroe (8 %) and Ashe/Connors (tied at 4%) trailing behind.

That makes sense to me. But here’s an interesting wrinkle in the “data” … New Mexicans like Pete much less than any other state. I wonder why… I thought Agassi’s home state of Nevada would be the biggest sippers of the Sampras Hater-Ade, but they were right on course with the rest of the Union.

Alaska: 84% pro-Pete.

A completely meaningless post. Ohh well.

Ben Harper

Ben Harper

Ben Harper & Damien Marley on Northerly Island. You should have seen the view! Great place for a concert.

Cafepress. Wow.

What's the haps on the yaps

Just tried out… opened up my very own “shop” there with some cool stuff that you might want. I doubt that you will, but I put my very own line of “Young Ad People” merchandise along with some stuff that probably only my mom will buy. I’ll buy some too, but just because I dig my designs.

Both YAP shirts are by American Apparel.

Find the store here:

Funny Stuff for Monday AM

yo momma

Web 2.0 logo creator by Alex P. Click!

Oil & Advertising: Lots of hot gas

I just finished reading a piece in the NYT by John Kenney called, “Beyond Propaganda“. It’s all about the process of creating the man-on-the street interview ads that made BP seem like it was “Beyond Petroleum”. Get it? B-P? Ha. Anyway…

It’s a great little exposition about something that’s tough to get around in advertising. We (the people on the inside) can be big suckers for a good message just like anyone else. This guy, John, who seems to be a copywriter but I’m not sure, developed the idea behind the ads. I have to admit that I loved them…the whole “carbon footprint” thing was great, and all in all, I’d rather go to a BP station than Shell, given the choice.

But like many of us, John got wrapped up in the mystery and the magic of the brand he was working on. He became obsessed with the enormity of the industry, the power that it possessed. He references the fact that people would actually stop’n'chat about oil companies (an activity which almost everyone finds unpleasant) because they’re actually interested.

The idea that John loved was that BP was actually invested in making the environment better. He drank the Kool-Aid, and he says it best in the following quote:

“Advertising is a funny business. You get to help shape the personalities of huge companies. Most often it’s for cellphone service or credit cards or fast food or paper towels. Rarely are you faced with whether you “believe” in a product or service. This was different. This was serious. I believed wholeheartedly in BP’s message, that we could go — or at least work toward going — beyond petroleum.”

John’s fantasy came crashing down recently when he came to grips with the realities of the oil industry as a whole. He realized that nobody’s doing much to change our habits, to help us push beyond petrol. And he realized that his campaign was sadly just advertising.

This is tough, and it really stuck with me because I’m really, really optimisitic about the brands that I work with. I believe that the companies I work with actually want to live up to the personalities that we create for them. And it’s tough when you have to compare the reality of the company with the fantasy of what you want that company to be.

How much authenticity is too much? Just enough?

How much fantastic “reality” is OK to pump into brands and their ads?

I have no idea if there are answers to these problems. But that’s the fun of it, right?

The “M” Brand

That's a nice family

Above: a line-up of all the M5s through history. Some might say that the earlier M5s were more “authentic”, but I’d say they really hit their stride in Generation 3 (2nd from the right). It’s still the one that I’d want most. It’s a little more sedate than the current (with a V8 as opposed to a V10…seriously?) model and I love the little details (like the rear valence with the quad pipes).

I’d say, though, that the M brand is one of the strongest in auto-land. The “M” (Motorsport) division of BMW was founded in 1972, and has been turning out a limited number of selectively modified versions of BMW street cars. Every M car is a ground-up, fully realized version of the BMW “Ultimate Driving Machine” vision.

Side note: did they really scrap that tagline?

Their biggest strength is their trueness to their original purpose. They are a division of BMW dedicated to the advancement of Motorsport. They don’t exist to plus-up normal cars, or to provide a halo for the rest of the brand. M is about function, performance and great design. It certainly doesn’t stand for Marketing, even though it’s a great tool to have at one’s disposal. After all, I can’t think of any negative opinions about BMW M. In the automotive press, they can do no wrong. And it’s my feeling that it’s the same way with drivers.

Another one of their strengths is their strong association with a driver’s identity. BMW M is 100% about driving, and if you’re a “real” driver, and you love “driver’s cars”, then you must for authenticity’s sake drive an M. And this is in stark contrast to Mercedes’ AMG. AMG, today, is about enormous engines and nice wheels, but not much else. It’s about flash and conspicuous consumption. It’s about my AMG SL65 being that much more powerful than your SL 600. And think of all the other brands in this category. Jaguar’s R? Toyota TRD? Mazdaspeed? STi? Cadillac and their -V cars? None command the same authority.

Wouldn’t that be a nice position?

Image © BMW AG

Alize, an homage

I heard it's the bomb

Just an homage to a delicious beverage. Mixed in equal portions with sparkling wine or champagne, it’s the perfect summer evening cocktail. Popularized by the late Tupac Shakur.

Google Analytics Fun

Google Analytics is great. I love it. Thanks, Google. Even though your stats are WAY, WAY lower than what my host company provides, I love the detail. Keep it up, Google.

Where people live:

Geo location

Where they work:

I know where you are

What they’re searching for:

And how you got here

Link and search love:

And who sent you

Couple things I thought were funny:

  1. Someone actually searched for “every californian owns”
  2. I have a reader in Iran
  3. I visit my site less than other people do (this is a shock). I’m “Urban Innovations”