Friday, December 4, 2015

Is this really the end?

As my first term back in school after 9 years away draws to a close, it is time to look back and reflect on the class. It is safe to say that the Media and Society class was the most fun I have had in school in as far back as I can remember. I was able to learn a lot about a variety of media platforms and learned to question the motives of the industries I see and use daily. I appreciated that we were able to spend time talking about the history of music/radio, television/movies, and newspapers/books/magazines. It is important for future students in this class to learn where these industries came from, in order to understand where they are headed in the future. If I were to try to add anything to this class (with as much as we cover, I don't know how it would fit!!) I would suggest spending a little bit more time talking about what certain big companies are currently in the process of changing or adapting to in our ever evolving society. It was great to talk about where they COULD go, or reading in the What Would Google Do? book about where they SHOULD go, but I would be very interested to see what they ARE doing. I'm not sure I would take out anything that we talked about this term. It seemed like each piece came together to form a clear picture of what media is available currently and how it came to be, and I'm not sure it would flow as well or be as comprehensibly whole if anything were missing.

So, now I would like to take the opportunity to thank my teacher, Rob Priewe, for giving me a great opportunity to learn about media and society this term, and to thank my classmates for generally being awesome and having amazing discussions in class and on their blogs as well. Even though I am not in the journalism major, I do hope I get to see you in more classes as we continue on at LBCC. You guys rock!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Music Holds A Power Over Me

Gangster's Paradise - SAVE THE CHILDREN!
In August of 1995, rapper Coolio released a new single that immediately became popular. At the time, my mom worked as a DJ at the local skating rink and people were requesting the song like crazy. Since Coolio's songs typically had a lot of profanity in them, and the skating rink was a family environment, my mom wanted to make sure the lyrics were ok for all ages. There were no lyrics released with the single, and the internet wasn't nearly as helpful as it is now, so I remember almost wearing out our cassette tape of the song as we tried desperately to transcribe the words. After several hours of rewinding and playing it back, we decided that there were no swears, but the content of the song was probably not appropriate for children, and the rink owner agreed. My family tended to stray away from rap and hip hop music anyway, so I barely even noticed the ban on the song after that. I wasn't one of the kids to go hide in my closet with my walkman to listen to music my parents didn't approve of, so my brother and I promptly forgot the song existed and went along with our lives in ignorant bliss. Later that year, Weird Al did a parody "Amish Paradise" and we happily traded for the Coolio song talking about the life of a gangster for the goofy one about an amish man. Good times.

I appreciated that our parents let us be involved in the process of deciding if the song was appropriate or not. Since we got to listen to it carefully, tearing it apart line by line, we got a deeper understanding of what the song was about and why we shouldn't be listening to it. Not many of our friends parents at the time would have done the same thing.

Music is something that has greatly influenced me even from a young age. I started taking piano lessons when I was four years old and added a new instrument every few years until my first years in college. I played cello in the orchestra starting in 3rd grade, clarinet in band from 5th grade on, piano and electric bass in jazz band during middle school and picked up the tenor sax for jazz in high school. My first year in college, I was a music ed major, and my friends convinced me to pick up the trumpet to play in the pep band for basketball. I loved every second of it, and still pick up an instrument once in a while to keep my chops up. I have listened to nearly every genre of music out there and most of them I have at least a small appreciation for. What I listen to the most now is country or rock, though I will gladly listen to some big band jazz or classical too (1812 Overture still makes me smile when the cannons go off). I'd say my favorite artists at the moment are Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood (even though she married someone on the Nashville Predators, I still love her), Imagine Dragons, Owl City and Starset. Transmissions is the only album Starset has released so far, but it has been playing on repeat in my car since the beginning of the fall term and I haven't gotten sick of it yet!

I love the idea of LBCC getting their own radio station. Not only does it give students a voice in the larger community, but it would allow students interested in radio broadcasting to get some real world experience in running a station/program of their own without the pressure of a popular local station. I fully believe that starting a radio station on campus is possible. Especially now that technology is so readily available to broadcast for cheap or free, I see no reason that our school shouldn't have a station. During my freshman year in high school, I was part of a small group of students trying to start a station for our school. Since we would have needed a lot of expensive broadcasting equipment that the St. Charles public school district couldn't afford, WSTC only played music and announcements as far as the school cafeteria that our booth was situated in, but now that the internet made more things possible, it would be possible for students to broadcast online from the same small booth we started with. All the LBCC students need is a faculty adviser willing to spend the time to teach the basics of broadcasting and the opportunity to grow.

Like any good radio station, I would love to see the station at LBCC offer a variety of music programs throughout the day. They could even coordinate their programming with a website to allow special requests/polls as well to ensure that the majority of listeners are hearing what they like. Utilizing social media is an amazing way to help them learn to manage their programs. As far as programs or services offered, I would love to be able to tune into the station at a set time and hear announcements about events on campus/school closings etc in addition to news sports and weather updates throughout the day as well.

The easiest way to come up with funds now is to crowdsource via gofundme, kickstarter, or indiegogo. Using social media, students interested in starting the station can share the fundraising campains across many different platforms and reach a much larger donor list that I was ever able to 15 years ago. As we talked about in class, the greater Albany area has a lot of local stations already in place. They may have extra or slightly outdated equipment they no longer have need of, and donations of that kind may help take the financial burden of starting a station down a notch or two.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I can say what I want: it's my right!

1st amendment covers a lot more than I thought
After taking the 1st amendment challenge, I realized that I forgot way too much information that I was taught in high school. The 1st amendment has been cited in protests against school policies a lot lately and I was amazed to see the broad array of topics that it protects. I also didn't know that copyright laws were extended due to Disney's lobbyists wanting to keep all rights to Mickey to themselves. I am interested to see what happens in a few years, once Walt Disney has been dead for the required 70 year waiting period, if they try to extend copyright again.

Celebrities are constantly having their privacy invaded by paparazzi, and it seems to be taken too far on an increasing number of occasions. The most famous example I can remember is when Princess Diana's driver was run off the road in a tunnel while attempting to run away from photographers, leading to her death. Since I was young and living in the United States at the time, I wasn't as affected by it as adults or people living in England, but I could still see just how horrible the event was. It caused widespread grief across the world as everyone came together to mourn her. She had done so much good in her life and had the potential to do so much more, and suddenly she was gone. I couldn't believe that someone would be so callous to push her driver to the point where he no longer has control of the vehicle, and for what? A photograph of the princess sitting in the back seat of a car? I didn't understand why then and I still don't now. In a perfect world, the paparazzi would be satisfied with taking pictures during approved photo ops and leave celebrities and royalty alone at all other times. Generally speaking (there are exceptions to every rule) those people just want to live their lives and be able to spend time out and about with friends and family without being hounded by photographers and ultimately chased back to their homes where people with cameras are camped out waiting for them. Every once in a while someone will lash out at the paparazzi and they are then labeled as a violent person, when if they'd been left alone, that situation never would have escalated. I wonder where the right to privacy gets lost in relation to how famous one becomes.

I was surprised to see just how far individuals and companies alike are willing to go to protect a copyrighted product or idea. The whole situation with Disney's lawsuit against someone using an old unused version of Mickey Mouse in their own cartoon series just blew me away. I realize that the context that Mickey was used in was not in line with the Disney line of thinking and I can see how they might have been upset by it. On the other hand, they were no longer using that particular model of Mickey anymore, and as Mickey evolved, people started to forget what he used to look like. The drawing being used illegally, yes looked like Mickey, but at the same time, he took on a life of his own and was no longer Mickey Mouse from Disney. He was something similar, but new. The fact that Disney then went back to the older drawing of Mickey in their cartoons just reminded me of a toddler who no longer cared about a toy they had been playing with, until someone else tried to play with it. Then it was suddenly their favorite toy they'd ever had and how DARE you try to take it from me?!

Ben went and found out what I had wondered for months

A few weeks ago (yes I know I'm a little late on the uptake here) Ben stopped by the lockout site for the steelworkers at ATI in Albany, OR. I had wondered ever since August why they'd been locked out, but never had the time or courage to stop and talk to them. Life seems to get in the way more and more these days. But Ben made time, and for that I thank him. It was great to finally learn what the lockout was about. After looking at Ben's post, I went looking for any updated news articles, as I hadn't seen any since shortly after the lockout began. The Corvallis Gazette Times has a new article detailing the process of their current negotiations and also talks about financial problems and solutions the union are trying to find.

I drive past these people every day on my way to and from classes. I wave every time and my heart breaks for them. Their numbers have not dwindled since the lockout began. They are there in all weather, sun, wind and rain. There are individuals and families sometimes huddled around a small fire in the rain sometimes. You can see in their faces in the quick glimpse you get driving by that they really would rather be working than standing out holding signs, but I am proud of them for standing up for what they need in order to support their families! Thank you for posting this so we can see what is happening in our community and get a better look at why they are there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Anyone out there read Jump Ship To Freedom? Probably not, it was banned in the 90s...

Why ban books? It'll just make kids want to read it to rebel!
Most of the books on the ALA list of banned or challenged books I have not even heard of. I had to go back a few years before I saw some that were familiar, though I will admit, I hardly remember what they were about. I remember my class reading Of Mice And Men, The Catcher In The Rye and Go Ask Alice. I honestly couldn't tell you any major plot points of any of them. Clearly I didn't pay enough attention in my Language Arts classes in high school... I have read the entire Harry Potter series, along with The Hunger Games and saw the movie version of Perks of Being A Wallflower. On the list, I had to laugh at the reasons for banning the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series' as they just seemed ridiculous. Harry Potter is at no point "anti-family" and is not pointing children toward the occult or Satanism. It is a fictional story about the personal development of a child, who was emotionally abused by his blood relatives, as he forms a new "family" of friends and advisors who love and support him. Sure, there is magic in there too, but that really isn't the focus of the series, if you really take the time to read it. For Perks of Being A Wallflower, I would have to know what age group had been reading it when it was challenged/banned. I realize that depression and suicide are taboo topics, but really, if kids can relate to the story and learn that there is hope, that people will always care about you and want to help you, then why would you NOT want your child to read it? It may not be right for elementary aged students to read it, but that is not the intended age group for the book anyway. Once they get into middle school and especially high school, students deal with a lot more bullying and the statistics for suicide for those ages is incredibly disheartening. There is one book that I really remember reading as a child that was banned in our school district while we were in the middle of reading it. It was Jump Ship To Freedom by James Collier and Christopher Collier. It was an amazing story of bravery and fighting injustice, but was taken from us mid-lesson because some parents thought the language was offensive and that we as 5th graders shouldn't be exposed to it. As this was a story about a boy trying to escape slavery, the "N-word" was used an awful lot throughout the story, not particularly to be offensive and controversial, but because the time period that this story was supposed to take place in allowed that word to be said often. Even as 9 and 10 year olds, we understood that this was a word that was not nice and should not be used today. Honestly, it wasn't until our teacher informed us that we had to turn in our copies of the book and wouldn't be continuing the lesson (and why) that most of us even realized how often the word was used. Most of us begged and pleaded to finish the story anyway even if it wasn't part of our curriculum anymore, just to know what happened to the characters! Because of this, I remember this book far more than any of the others we read in school. If the parents had just let it go, I probably would have completely forgotten about it, just as I did any of the others.
This book has traveled with me ever since
5th grade. It's still on my bookshelf today.

Instead of hiding controversial books and avoiding touchy topics, we should be doing the exact opposite. I understand that some parents would rather address certain things at home rather than in a public school setting, but taking books out of public schools and local libraries seems rather petty to me. I feel like this should fall under the 1st amendment laws, but instead of it protecting what you say and print yourself, you should be free to read what you want. If the school doesn't cover a book or topic in class, I don't see why that book should be taken completely out of the public eye and not even made available in the library. If it is a book written for young adults, but possibly could offend some, so what? So many people are offended by so many different things that if we banned a book every time someone disagreed with some of the language or topics used, there would be no books left for anyone to read. In the article talking about the book parents were trying to ban in Sweet Home, one of the parents' argument was that if a student had worn a passage of the book on a T-shirt, he would be sent home to change as it is in direct conflict with the school's code of conduct rules. I loved how teacher Chelsea Gagner refuted the point by saying "Mark Twain and John Steinbeck are celebrated authors, but a lot of material they write about would not be endorsed on a T-shirt."

My bookshelf is a random collection of genres that might confuse people who actually stopped to read the titles. I have the entire series of Harry Potter, The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I have several mystery novels including a handful by Sue Grafton and a copy of The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly that I got to keep after someone left it behind at a restaurant I worked at. There are also several Manga books and some old text books I never bothered to sell back. I'm not sure what other people would take away from my book collection, but I would hope that they see that I enjoy good storytelling and don't really care what genre it falls under. I tend to lean a little more toward the fantasy side and love the "what if" questions that come from reading about magic and what it would be like if the world we live in suddenly had it.

Who needs universities anyway?
I really enjoyed how when Jeff Jarvis mentions the socialization aspect in schools, he talked about how he would rather see students nurtured and challenged, rather than pandering education to the lowest common denominator. This is something I have strongly believed in ever since the No Child Left Behind policy was enacted. By teaching to the slowest learner and taking their time, schools aren't challenging students to push their own limits and creativity, but are instead expected to slow down the learning process until everyone understands. Jarvis mentions that research would be hardest to nurture in the distributed architecture of "Google-U". I never thought about the concept and how it really would be necessary to have organized classrooms and labs to further develop ideas, even though with online resources we would be able to have more worldwide collaboration.

If I could change something about universities, it would definitely be the cost. I find it ridiculous how expensive a quality college education has become. I won't claim to have the answer on how to do it, but with so many other countries offering free higher learning, I can't believe that there is no way for it to happen in the United States as well. By making education free, or at the very least, more affordable, it makes it accessible to everyone without needing to be rich or drowning in student loan debts.

The other thing I would like to see changed isn't necessarily related to the university experience, but more with what happens in the real world. So many jobs require a college degree for employment. That alone is not a problem, except where they only require that you have the diploma and not that the diploma has anything to do with the job you are applying for. When I worked at the Target distribution center, our managers needed, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in order to run a department. It didn't have to have anything to do with warehouses, management or business. If they had a degree in underwater basket weaving, they were deemed worthy of the responsibility of managing a group of people doing a job they know nothing about. There were many entry level workers who were better leaders and had a higher understanding of how the warehouse functioned than most of the managers, but since they weren't up to their eyeballs in student loan debt and in possession of that highly coveted piece of paper, they weren't qualified. I feel that businesses, like Target, need to place a higher emphasis on the quality of their employees than the amount of formal education they've had. Too often, experience and knowledge are pushed aside in preference of a degree that has nothing to do with the position to be filled, and I just don't understand why.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Castle - Media Blog Project #1

Monday nights at 10pm on ABC is home to a great crime drama, Castle. This week's episode, The Nose, featured a witness with hyperosmia, or a super heightened sense of smell, who had a brush with the man who killed someone transporting a priceless oil painting. Due to the fact that she has the ability to smell absolutely everything, Mia Laszlo (guest star Stephnie Weir of MADTv fame) tries to avoid human contact by not giving the police all of the information she has, but Richard Castle, the show's male lead played by Nathan Fillion, convinces her to help. Another part of the story follows detective partners Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito (played by Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas respectively) who after anxiously awaiting results from their Seargants exam, learn that Esposito passed, but Ryan didn't. During a chase with a suspect shortly after finding out, Ryan accidentally shoots Esposito in the rear. The last important story line is that Captain Kate Beckett, Castle's wife played by Stana Katic, cleaned her clothes out of his apartment, but left one of her shirts behind for him. This is incredibly meaningful, as Beckett is only leaving so she can pursue a dangerous lead that could get Castle, and anyone else she cares about, killed; not because she doesn't love him anymore. As all good murder drama's do, the episode ends when the police, with the help of hyperosmia suffering Mia and Castle, catch the killer and recover the painting.

In my research into the lives of the actors beyond what we see every day, I was shocked to learn that Susan Sullivan, who plays Castle's mother on the show, used to be a playboy bunny in her 20's. She even joked in an interview, "I had been a waitress before and I felt I would rather show my legs and make sixty dollars a night instead of twenty." She has had a full acting career, keeping her busy since the mid 1960's, has been on and off Broadway and even had recurring roles in several other TV shows before Castle including a 9 year run on Falcon Crest. A bit of a surprise was finding out that the majority of the filming for the show is done in Los Angeles, California, not in New York City where the show is set.

The following is a breakdown of each of the five commercial breaks during the broadcast of the episode:

1st break:
Alive - adult multivitamin
Keurig coffee
Surface Book - laptop by Microsoft
Maybelline 24 hr lip color
Humira - prescription medication for Colitis
Wicked City on ABC

2nd break:
It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on ABC
Subaru Impreza - car
Samsung Galaxy for AT&T
Victoza - prescription medication for Type 2 Diabetes
Agents of Shield on ABC

3rd break:
Disney vacations
Love the Cooper's movie
TGIT (Thursday night primetime) on ABC
KATU news at 11
Lexus GS - car
Unleashed - pet food by PetCo
Subway's autumn carved turkey sandwich
Nissan Altima - car

4th break:
United Healthcare insurance through AARP
Red Robin
Lexus LS and LX - car - Hepatitis C support
Quantico on ABC
Toyota Rav4 - car
Les Schwab tire center

5th break:
KATU news at 11
Ford Fusion - car
Ford Focus - car
InDeed job hunting
Movantic - prescription medication for OIC (Opioid Induced Constipation)
Edward Jones financial planning
Wicked City on ABC
Jimmy Kimmel on ABC

The overall style of the show is generally very classy and somewhat sophisticated. The main characters are always very smartly dressed. Beckett closely follows current fashion trends and updates her hair styles each season as well. Castle and the detectives can often be found in dress slacks and a fitted button down shirt. Everything is exactly what you would expect to see on the Upper East side of Manhattan (a high fashion/wealthy area) with one exception: Martha Rogers, Castle's over-the-top theatrical mother, who wears the type of outfits that would perfectly fit the stereotypical aging diva. The show is incredibly well scripted, and panders to a more intelligent audience than a typical prime-time show. The characters use advanced vocabulary and often don't slow down to explain a new concept, assuming their viewers can pick up the meaning from the context of the case. Castle is split between set and location shooting. Main sets have included the police precinct, Medical Examiner's office, Beckett's apartment and Castle's loft where he lives with his daughter, Alexis, and his mother. During the 7th season they added a new set for Castle's private investigator's office which they finished "construction" on for the start of season 8. The majority of the murder scenes and investigation happen out on location. The crew finds places in downtown LA that look like they are straight out of Manhattan.

There have been several shows since Law and Order first came out that all follow the same basic storyline: someone gets murdered, detectives investigate, get thrown off the trail of the killer, find new evidence and someone gets their eureka! moment, the murderer/serial killer is caught and arrested. Some of the ones I've actually seen are the Law and Order spinoffs (S.V.U and Criminal Intent were my favorites) CSI:NY and Miami, Bones (a personal favorite) NCIS (and I suppose JAG was similar too, but a bit earlier) and Castle. One thing that sets Castle apart from the rest of the crime dramas is their ability to make a light situation out of murder. While the majority of the cast takes each case seriously, Castle, who is a mystery writer and not a cop, has a more childlike sense of wonder around the cases when the series begins. He is so enamored with following Beckett in her investigations that he almost forgets that murder is supposed to be a serious event impacting real people. As the series has progressed, he has matured to a point, but is still able to bring the humor element. He comes up with crazy theories about the murderers that seem more off the wall with each episode.

Castle's writers do a decent job at avoiding stereotyping their characters. Each individual has a unique personality and it is rare that you find yourself saying something like "of course he'd say that - he's Mexican". The cast is racially diverse, but you can only tell by their skin color and their characters' name. Castle's mother is the closest character I can think of to being stereotyped, and she is just a theater diva who has passed her acting prime but isn't willing to admit it. The police precinct that Castle assists has had two African-American Captains; Beckett has now taken over as the third Captain of t he series. Both were educated and well dressed, excellent leaders. The stereotypical female police officer is a humorless automaton out to prove that she is just as powerful as her male counterparts. That is the exact opposite from Kate Beckett. She has the wit to rival Castle, often sparring verbally with the professional writer, and is able to think outside the box when it comes to solving her cases. While there is a certain hardness needed when you're dealing with murder day in and day out, Beckett is able to maintain a healthy level of emotion, which does spill out from time to time.

The advertisements during commercial breaks are spot on for the target demographics of the show. They strongly feature reasonably priced vehicles, medications for prescription drugs that adults of varying ages may find intriguing, and also other shows on ABC that if you enjoy Castle, you might like as well. With the rest of the commercials being widely technology based, and job hunting resources, it seems like they are targeting the younger adult crowd somewhere in their 20's or 30's. They aren't targeting the extremely wealthy, by using high end car ads, or using much snob appeal (aside from the cell phone ads), instead opting for a more inclusive audience. By having commercials for financial planning and the upcoming news program, they are targeting the older audience members, and also those who are more responsible and socially aware. This helps to show just how wide of an audience advertisers assume watch Castle. With such a widely varying range of demographics in their advertisements, they are giving a little bit to each type of person you might find watching the show.

Someone who is watching Castle to get an idea of US life, might actually assume that we as a whole are smarter than the general population really is. They will get to see a variety of cultures, proving just how diverse our population is. You can see just about any kind of subculture out there, from models to pop stars, the Irish mob to corrupt politicians and even goths and steampunks. If there is a group of people who share a commonality, Castle just might do an episode about it.

While the show does use a lot of satire, it is mainly an accurate representation of our cultural society. The murderers and victims may be fictional, but the relationships between characters have been made so well, you feel as though they are real people you could befriend. Throughout the series they have tackled many different topics that you can relate to. One episode that stood out to me was a Christmas episode, where a family who had lost the father had fallen on hard times and were struggling to keep themselves afloat. At the end of the episode, Detective Esposito had gone to their apartment to return a priceless family heirloom thought lost, and was invited in to stay for Christmas dinner. Just like we hear of more and more he, like many other police officers, chose to stay and make a positive impact on a family in his community.

The on screen chemistry of the cast is one of the show's greatest strengths. You can see if in the final edit just how well they get along, and really play well off of one another. The only real weakness I see is new to this season and had previously been a strength - the main story line has taken a very confusing turn, and I just can't understand why. Throughout the series, the relationship between Castle and Beckett has been at the forfront, evolving from Beckett hating Castle and being annoyed by him to a greatly anticipated marriage between the two. However, the writers decided to have Beckett leave Castle and not be living with him, though she clearly still loves him. The reason given was for his, and his family's, safety while she looks into who the partner of Sen. Braken (former bad guy of the show who had Beckett's mother murdered in the past). Showrunner Alexi Hawley said in an interview with US Weekly after the season premier, "We're using this to actually put the spark back in, and the stakes back in, which give us the fun and the juice... Obviously there's some heartbreak in it as well, but it makes it much more emotionally impactful every week, because there are stakes now." My main problem with this is that they are trying to take the relationship between Castle and Beckett back to how it was at the beginning of the show, when it can't go there if they want it to survive, just like a married couple who believes the spark may be going out long for the days when they first met, they have been through too much together to start over and have the same impact. I was really enjoying the evolution of their relationship and didn't see a reason to try to change it so drastically.

I really love this show and have only allowed myself to get a couple weeks behind since I was introduced to it during the second season. I was incredibly surprised to find out that my brother is just as addicted to Castle as I am, as our tastes in TV programming are usually miles apart, and I have several friends who I can talk to after each new episode airs. I follow Castle on Facebook and Twitter, though I try to avoid social media if I have to wait to watch the new episode. On Twitter, the PR department live tweets during the East Coast broadcast of the show, putting up screen caps with quotes that are funny, important or memorable. Nathan Fillion goes crazy on Twitter, usually answering fan questions on Mondays and generally having a good time with it. The conversation grows as people watching the show chime in with their theory of whodunit as new clues are introduced.

I've been more aware of a lot of the thought process is behind story changes while I've done my research. What seemed like a rash decision on behalf of the show's writers was actually a carefully crafted attempt to bring back what initially brought the fans into the Castleverse, and that so many of the actors are very much like their characters on the show. While watching some other similar shows, I noticed that Castle doesn't let their characters fall into stereotypes nearly as much as their competition. I now have a much greater appreciation for all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes to create a cohesive show for people of all ages to love. So, next time you're free with nothing else to watch on Monday night before bed, turn on ABC and laugh along with me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Does advertising really work?

If You're Trying To Get New Customers, You Advertise On Social Media. It's What You Do.

Everyone instantly recognizes a GEICO commercial when they see their spokesgecko, but they have a whole series of commercials without him as well. Their "It's what you do" set of advertisements are very funny. A quick search for GEICO on YouTube will put more of these ads than you knew existed right in front of your eyes. GEICO even has an official Twitter account! Since they joined Twitter in early 2009, GEICO has amassed a following of over 45 thousand people, and tweeted more than 5 thousand times. They have a separate account specifically focused on customer service, and direct you to tweet at that handle if you're having any issues. In addition to those, GEICO also has twitter accounts for their racing and powersport teams, and whether official or not, the GEICO Gecko and Caveman also have their own accounts as well.
While I'm sure GEICO's target audience would be the giant umbrella category of "anyone who drives a car", the new ads featuring silly situations seem to be more tuned toward gen X and gen Y (do gen Z kids drive yet?) drivers who would be more susceptible to humor. I feel like their campaign is working, though I haven't seen the data from drivers who insure with GEICO from before and after their new ads. I do know that GEICO is well known, and most people I know can quote at least a half dozen of their commercials. The only downside I see is that I don't think of GEICO as a respectable insurance company. Sure they have lots of commercials on tv, and I like the gecko, but when it came time for me to spread my wings and leave the comfort of my parent's insurance, GEICO was not even on my radar as an option. I know I'm just one consumer and not everyone shares my views. GEICO has been around for over 75 years, so clearly at least one of their marketing campaigns has worked to keep them going.
Jeff Jarvis talks about several ways in which advertising needs to change. My favorite proposal he had was that "competitors who learn to target customers-by relevance, not by content or demographics-will increase effectiveness and efficiency and lower their cost." One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to crochet. I don't really ever see many advertisements for yarn or tools or patterns, and sometimes I really would like to! The biggest problem I have is that when I finally do see an ad for something related to my craft, it seems that they are all targeted toward the grandmotherly types - the blue haired generation with arthritis. I'm even more likely to NOT buy a product if I only see older people using it. I love when I can go on Pinterest and see other people my age sharing pattern ideas or blogs about different products. It's free advertising for the companies, but I think it would be fantastic to see more ads that are not targeted at the older generations. Crocheting has somehow become fairly popular with the younger crowd lately and it would be great if the yarn/hook companies targeted us as well.

OK, So What Works and What Doesn't?
I'm a sucker for a food commercial. Especially one that is shown when my tummy is already screaming to be fed. I also love commercials that are not what you would expect. One of my favorite commercials that I've seen recently on TV is for Burger King Chicken Fries. The best one shows a daughter chicken with her french fry boyfriend telling her chicken parents that she is pregnant and is going to have chicken fries. The hen mother freaks out and starts flapping around and the father rooster yells for eveyrone to calm down. This is definitally a humor technique, bringing chickens to life and putting them in a situation that is the nightmare of every parent. They are targeting people who haven't been to Burger King for a while as they are bringing back an old favorite, and also targeting younger people who are easily swayed by commercials about food. I would say this commercial definitally works, as the first time I saw it, I laughed out loud and then sent my husband right out to get some.
There is a series of commercials out there that use plain-folks approches to their advertisements, and also throw in some really bad animated graphics. I'm sure just about anyone with a TV set has seen the commercials for The General Insurance. They show everyday people at home, work and sometimes at play on the tennis courts or softball field. The newer ads show people wearing green army helmets as they go about their daily life, and when asked about it, the response is "oh, I just insured my car through The General" like that is an acceptable response as to why you're wearing a helmet at your office job or to lounge around the house. They are targeting people with low incomes who want to save as much money as possible by finding the cheapest insurance option around. While they may have low prices on their insurance plans, I would go out of my way to avoid using their company based on their commercials. I just can't take them seriously when they use such bad actors in weird situations like that.
It's like they're trying to tell potential customers, "look how ridiculous you can look if you use our insurance!" 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wait ... Twitter, WHAT?

I have barely twit. Twitted? Oh, right! Tweeted.

I didn't see the point in using Twitter when it first got popular. It seemed to me more like talking to yourself in a room full of people, unless you had a large enough following to be noticed, and I had no real desire to try for that. If I had something to say, I would say it on Facebook, and that was that. Then I discovered that the Chicago Blackhawks had an official account! I signed up and followed the team to keep up with the game scores when I couldn't watch live. Through my time reading tweets about and from the Hawks, I found what I believe is one of the best people on Twitter to follow, but first a little background. The coach of the Hawks for the past eight seasons, including their most recent three Stanley Cup Championships, has been Joel Quenville, affectionately called "Coach Q" by the masses. He is known, physically, by one major defining characteristic. His mustache!
Just look at that handsome fella!
Now, you might be wondering how this all ties in to the best person to follow on Twitter, and rightfully so! One of the first people I ever followed on Twitter was @CoachQsMustache. How does a mustache tweet? Very well! The person behind this Twitter handle has got facial hair humor down to a sweet science, regularly taunting the beards of opposing players, or congratulating a Hawk with fantastically growing sideburns. Especially active on gamedays, this one is sure to make you laugh.

Ever since my high school days, I have loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer. During one of the later seasons, a character was introduced who immediately became one of my favorites. It was an evil priest played by the one and only Rick Castle. No wait, that isn't his real name, that's the character he plays now. Captain Mal Reynolds! No, no that's not it either. That was his name on Firefly - easily the best sci-fi show of it's time. Captain Hammer? Nah. In all seriousness, his name is @NathanFillion and he is so funny on Twitter! He regularly responds to fan questions in as hilarious a manner as possible. He really seems to love engaging with the public and using his fame for fun, rather than power.

One of the few other people I follow, who is not a hockey player, is @jimmyfallon. I don't really make a point to read all of his tweets, but I do love how he uses hashtags to get people involved with The Tonight Show. Every week, he tweets out a hashtag and asks people to use it to respond. The next night, he shares some of his favorite responses. It always ends up as a trending topic withing a half hour! I will throw out my own short story when I feel so inclined, but I know everyone else's stories are always so much better than my own.

My favorite tweet that I've seen recently was this once right here. It was the last in a countdown series by @NHLBlackhawks showing captain Jonathan Toews (pronounced kinda like Tay-v's - call him Toes and we're gonna have problems) holding up a single finger indicating just one day left until the season's home opener at the United Center in Chicago. The Hawks hoisted their championship banner, and then played host to the New York Rangers. Even though they lost tonight, I am so excited for this season to start and can't wait to see how they do without the players they lost to retirement and trades, and their new recruits as well.

There is no question in my mind that social media empowers the people! Whether they use that power for good or evil is entirely up for debate. It is heartening to see people come together to support a cause (or individual) to make a change for the better. My brother introduced me to theChive a few years ago, and if you don't know what that is, you should really go check it out. They post collections of photos that are funny, serious, painful, and informative. They also have what they call Chive Charities, as well, where the Chive community comes together to make donations to worthy causes. Last year they raised enough money to build an entire sports center specifically designed for children with disabilities in Texas! The story was absolutely incredible and the community response was immediate and amazing. It all starts when theChive asks for donations from the community and sets a goal. It has become a regular occurrence for the donations to surpass the goal (sometimes by two, three or even four times the amount!) Talk about power!

As far as strengthening democracy, that's where I get a little fuzzy. I know that the internet allows for people to access information and points of view they wouldn't necessarily agree with. By taking that into account, they can make an informed opinion about candidates or policies. They can then take to social media and broadcast their thoughts to the world and possibly influence other people to vote a certain way on an issue. However, I feel as though lately, I've been seeing more posts and articles about how our government is failing the people. I'm not sure if having so many opinions just a click away has strengthened democracy or just made people argue more with each other. I am often dumbfounded by the comments on politically charged articles on Facebook. It seems that they all start out as a good conversation, but by the time you get about twenty to thirty comments in, every thread has been reduced to name calling, bad grammar and swear words. Hmm.

So, was 'What Would Google Do?' written by Tony Stark's butler?

No, but Jeff Jarvis does seem to know his stuff! He talks about businesses needing to become a platform, where your service enables your customers to do more than they would be able to on their own. I never really thought about this concept as I used the internet. It makes sense once it is written out in front of me, that each website I use becomes a means to an end for me. Although I don't have many posts yet, I do use Blogger to connect with the world. I am able to use their platform to post crochet patterns that I have created, and anyone can access them at any given moment. I used to just think of Blogger as a stationary location that plays host to my blog, but now I can see it as its own entity, molded by what its users (myself included) are looking for. It allows me to personalize my blog so that it is a direct reflection of what I want, instead of only offering a one size fits all, cookie cutter approach to the blogging world. It is amazing what a little perspective can do.

In the video, Jeff Jarvis addresses the argument that people being rude on the internet make it a bad thing, saying that while that may be true, people can be rude anywhere, not just the internet. I fully agree! Anywhere you go, people are able to say anything they want, and the things they say are not always pleasant. When someone can get behind a screen name or avatar, they feel that they are anonymous and might be more apt to say meaner things than they would if they knew a name or face was associated with the words. Rude people don't make the internet a bad thing, though. You can choose to be offended and start arguing or just ignore the comments and move on. In World of Warcraft, you can form a group with random people to beat a dungeon (small group) or raid (large group). When you're in a group, you get a text chat channel devoted to your group and can type back and forth to each other. After running a few dungeons, you're very likely to run into a troll, or someone who says rude/mean things just to get a reaction out of the rest of the group. In these cases, it is best to remember "DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!" The best way to deal with someone who is being mean is to ignore them, just as in real life or on the internet. Once they realize their goal will not be met, they end up being quieter for the rest of the dungeon and you can happily get through it. Even if they don't stop, and continue being rude, you can try to kick them out of the group or ignore your chat channel. While they can be irritating and frustrating, they don't make the game (or the internet in general) a bad place to be. It's just something you have to deal with when humans are involved. Some are nice and some are not. It's just the way things are; the location, whether real or virtual, is irrelevant.
Just remember: