Monthly Archives: January 2012

Tablets, E-Readers, and iPhones Take Over the World!

Your content MUST be mobile-optimized or appified. A Pew Internet Research survey and Apple Q1 sales announcement paint a picture of a tablet, e-reader, and iPhone future filled with innovation, pain, or frustration––depending on how you proceed TODAY.

The numbers don’t lie––they suggest a trend and market preference for consumption. The tech world did not see the same game-changing flock of users adopt netbooks, and now this subcategory of laptop computers is essentially dead. The Kindles and iPads of the world have carved out a tablet niche for themselves because their form factor and technology allow for ideal consumption of much of the content available on the Internet. Get on board! Let’s clear up one small point––sorry to be a little nitpicky here, but the difference between an e-reader and a tablet is important. The title of the latest Pew report, “Tablet and E-book reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period,” makes clear that there is a difference. “Tablet” and “E-book reader” are two distinct devices: a tablet is an e-reader with additional features, whereas an e-reader is primarily for reading content only, with fewer of the app- and Internet access-driven functions found on tablets.

By the way, in case you missed the news, Apple sold 37,000,000 iPhones in the first quarter of fiscal 2012. That is thirty-seven with six zeros. That is approximately 4.6 iPhones per New Yorker, but the thought of that many devices on the network in NYC is terrifying. One more time, iPhone sales accounted for 53% of Apple’s revenue for that quarter. Hello, iPhone––welcome to control of Apple sales and eventually everything. Fine, a little hyperbolic, but realize this: sales of iPhones mean users experiencing iOS. That experience will drive device use and preference in the future.

If your company’s primary offering can be consumed, purchased, or used online, make sure it is consumable via mobile device (tablet and smartphone) and offers an amazing user experience. Adequate, everyday, functional use of content on a mobile device will not differentiate your product in the marketplace.

If your company’s primary offering can be consumed via an app on iOS, for example, make it happen and spread the news as much as possible. Face it, the users who are buying iPhones, tablets, and e-readers now are not the early adopters––they are closer to the end of the early majority at this point. These are the users who can swing the adoption of the technology and push innovation in all aspects of the field further than we can even imagine at this point.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

So are you ready for a mobile, smartphone/tablet-driven world? Is your content ready?

Author: John Carew

AdForum’s Top 5 Commercials for This Week

Check out AdForum’s top five commercials for this week. Judging from these picks, it seems agencies are feeling the funny in all their special areas. All five ads have a dollop or more of humor to them—making this week’s Utterly Orange selection all that more challenging. Even the typically not-so-exciting Cheetos spot has a funnier-than-usual feel to it.

The ad by BMF Sydney, “Delivery Girls,” gets mad credit for a great tagline: Not as sweet as you think. It reminds me of the Mike’s Hard Lemonade campaign that tries to imply Mike’s is not just a girly, sweet drink.

I also loved the Wheat Thins ad whose script, when listened to carefully, is just the words Wheat Thins over and over again. Brilliant copywriting? Just maybe.

All that being said, the clear winner here is mcgarrybowen and its campaign for Crystal Light. Mcgarrybowen has been the agency to watch these past few years, winning awards (and accounts!) left and right. In the past 365 days or so, it has taken on Advil, United Airlines, and Reebok. And those are just the accounts I’m aware of. The Crystal Light ad is funny with a dash of clever. Although it appeals to women primarily (I assume part of the brief), it’s still funny to all. It’s no wonder mcgarrybowen has been so successful these days. You can’t fake great advertising.

Feel different? Cast your vote!

1. Cheetos – “Party” – Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

2. Crystal Light – “Beach” – mcgarrybowen

3. LG – “Cheerleader” – DOJO

4. Toohey’s – “Delivery Girls” – BMF Sydney

5. Wheat Thins – “WHheat Thins” – BEING

Author: Eric Swenson

Staffing in an Ever-Changing Communications Industry

I came across a very interesting article on Print Buyers International a few days ago about staffing in our industry, or more specifically, print buying. While I totally agree with author Margie Dana’s statement that we need to have “seasoned” employees who know the equipment lists of our manufacturing partners, they in no means have to be “older”! The argument is that the “older,” more “seasoned” print buyers are in a better position to handle the complex specifications of any print project. But can’t you replace the seasoning with education?

Of course, some may say that I am biased, I’m an outlier. I grew up in the industry; I’m a fourth-generation “printer.” I’m cursed, right? No, I love what I do! And today it’s even better than it ever was. The injection of technology into this industry has made the impossible possible. I would argue that what I see as a normal print job would be a near impossibility to the “seasoned veteran.” Do I learn things every day from the “seasoned” employees whom I work with? Yes, of course! But, they also learn from the younger, more technologically inclined staff as well. The perfect answer is not new or old; it’s having a healthy mix of the two.

There are more people out there like me––people who grew up in the industry––but there are a whole lot more who are looking for work and can be taught. Why not hire the college grads who majored in marketing and teach them the down and dirty of printing?  You may just learn something from them! Set up a training program at your organization to educate your staff. Have the seasoned employees teach print and the newer ones technology. Better yet, look into universities that still offer majors with a print background. I guarantee they don’t have a Print Management major anymore. But they have very intriguing majors like these: Communication and Media Technologies, Media Arts and Technology, and New Media Marketing. Click on those links in the previous sentence to see the curriculum––it almost makes me want to go back to college just to learn!

So what’s the point? The point is that when the industry is changing so rapidly, we can’t staff ourselves out of the market by keeping only seasoned employees. Nor can we hire only young college grads to service our most important clients. With such a diverse market, we will need a diverse staff. Keep the wisdom while encouraging the youth––together they are both our future.

What are your sources for new hires?

Author: T. John Mehl

When Is It OK to Say No to a Client?

Are you insane? This goes against everything anyone in sales or customer service has ever been taught! The customer is always right, right? No! Is it right to promise what you can’t deliver? Is it right to tell the customer the job will be delivered in a short amount of time when you know it physically can’t be done? Is it right to tell a customer you have the capability to produce what you know your equipment or software isn’t capable of?

We always want to give customers what they want, even though we know we can’t always do that. But sometimes we need to say no if the client demands services that are prohibited, dishonest, or damaging to their brand, or if the client has extreme expectations. Consider this: Is it wise to say yes, work like a fiend, push your equipment beyond its limit, or spend all night writing a new program? No. This almost always results in an exhausted and frustrated employee, broken equipment, and a program that still doesn’t please the client. Disappointment is felt all around. It’s important to note that saying no doesn’t mean that you are ending your company’s relationship with a client. So, how do you say “no” without disappointing your most valued asset? When a client wants something that you can’t achieve, the best answer is to explain the reasoning behind the “no” and offer an alternative solution. People like being treated fairly. All the leading customer service and sales experts tell us to replace the word “no” with the statement, “Here’s what I can do for you.”

If you constantly give excellent customer service and your client is 99% satisfied with all that you do, it is always the better choice to say no when something cannot be done. Promise your absolute best, promise you will do everything “within reason” that you can, but remember that there is no shame in admitting defeat. And the most important lesson here is to admit defeat before you see “the whites of their eyes,” which will actually be the client seeing red if you constantly promise what you cannot deliver.

Bottom line: If you must say no, say it with empathy and clearness. Present an alternative solution so that the client doesn’t feel a loss of power. I personally dislike hearing “I understand how you feel.” Try to avoid that phrase. Everyone and everything has its limitations, which can often be overcome eventually. But for now, say no when you know deep down it’s the right answer.

Have you ever said no to a client? If so, want to share any stories that would help us all learn how to cope best with the situation?

Project manager Rob Mills offers great insight on when to say no to clients in this article.

Author: Doreen Doyle & Marina Kaljaj

Batteries of the Future

It seems that ever since I was a child, I have been looking for longer-lasting batteries. As an adult, the toys I play with have become more sophisticated, and certainly more expensive, but I continue to want more battery life. Luckily, I am not alone, and there are several companies that are trying to extend battery life while keeping the size small. Here are some of the more interesting ideas:

Sony recently introduced a bio-cell battery that uses paper to create power. It is an interesting process. The battery has an enzyme that breaks the paper down into glucose. This currently produces enough power to operate a small fan, but if Sony can perfect this, I predict junk mail will become popular.

It seems that Apple’s bane is the battery, from ones that explode  to others that just don’t last as promised. Apple is hoping to develop a battery that is powered by hydrogen. The hope is that by using this light, common element, Apple will have an eco-friendly battery that will last weeks without a recharge.

Stanford University has created a battery that is see-through and flexible. The battery is made of a grid-like mesh that is coated with silicon. The trenches of the mesh are filled with a gel electrolyte. The resulting battery is not only transparent but also extremely thin. Researchers are currently struggling with the same issue that most battery manufacturers have: the life of the battery is not long enough.

With all these battery options on our horizon, hopefully our future will be shiny and bright.

Author: Susan Hallinan

What Would the Holidays Be Without Advertising?

Nary a day goes by when we don’t see an ad reminding us of an up-and-coming holiday. With Christmas just barely in our rearview mirror, our drugstore shopping lanes are already filled with Valentine delights. And it seems like only yesterday we were clearing off our pumpkin-littered mantles to make room for menorahs and SpongeBob nativity scenes.

Stepping outside, we see department store after department store brimming with ads promoting whatever Hallmark holiday is in season. I can’t even imagine what Macy’s must spend on its Christmas decor, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 4th of July fireworks, and other holiday festivities.

On TV, our commercials play familiar jingles often remade to sync with the product—sort of like this:

The 4th of July reminds us that we should celebrate not only our freedom from British tyranny, but also the fact that our forefathers knew how to party:

In other ads, Santa argues with Best Buy employees, converses with M&M’s, and even dresses in disguise as a car salesman.

We’ve grown so accustomed to these ads that we almost feel as though “Black Friday” and the “Summer Back-to-School Sale” are legitimate calendar holidays.

The word saturation comes to mind.

But what would we do without these ads? What would life really be like if corporations didn’t tie in their products and services with the holidays? How would we prepare? How would we know they were coming? Would the big holidays become more like Arbor Day? Would they be blips on the calendar, forgotten until the week before?

Just think of all the hype that’d be missed! If anticipation is the spice of life, holidays might just be stale bread. Croutons. That’s what I’m saying. I’m saying that if our complaints and frustrations with the seemingly endless supply of capitalistic holiday ads—indeed a complaint box of size—resulted in their absence, our holidays would be croutons.

All right, so maybe I’m not defending the vomit-inducing spots like the T-Mobile commercial above. I’d rather shoot myself in the face than hear that spot again. But it’s just so engrained in us—it’s become the “holiday spirit” we rely on every year. To imagine a life without TJ Maxx dancers, pitter-pattering through our malls and our hearts, is no life at all.

I consider myself incredibly out of touch with new products, widgets, and services. I’m as anti-consumerist/anti-commercialism-y as they come. And yet, I don’t know a world without holidays expressed in this particularly American manner. And quite frankly, I don’t want to.

One hundred days until Arbor Day. Let the countdown begin.

Author: Eric Swenson

Taking a Vision into a Community: The Ringing Ear

I met with Paul McIntosh in the early spring of 2011 to discuss the possibility of designing and printing a poetry book––The Ringing Ear––for his school, Wadleigh Secondary School. We met and discussed what he envisioned with Vanguard’s Graphic Production Supervisor, Antonio Lopez. We worked diligently through the spring and summer to create a book the students and community members would be proud of. This project was being funded by a grant from the New York City Council, Office of Inez E. Dickens. The expectations were high.

After several rounds of revisions, we were finally able to get something that was print-ready. Paul was kind enough to include a special thank-you to both Antonio and me for helping to get this book printed. We ran 200 copies digitally. The final product looked beautiful and exceeded all expectations. Antonio and I were invited to their special “publishing party.” We travelled up to the Harlem to the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 163 West 125th Street. When we got there, Paul excitedly greeted us and requested that I speak, much to my surprise. We entered the small auditorium, helped ourselves to the refreshments, and watched the activities in the room from a back corner. The community leaders, teachers, family members, and students were excitedly buzzing around the room. I noticed in front of us a beautiful young woman in red glasses, happily chatting to an elderly woman. A call to order, and the young woman joined her fellow students in the front two rows. Community leaders, teachers, Paul, and then I spoke. I talked about the process but focused on congratulating the students on their achievements and saying what an honor it was to help them and be invited to their event. The students all took turns reading their poems. Some of the poems were rapped, some rhythmically spoken, and some just simply read. Even a parent and a teacher were represented in the book. It was amazing to hear them spoken after just reading them for so long. I was so impressed with the beauty and excitement they all displayed with their readings.

Finally, Miss Red Glasses got up and started to rhythmically read her poem about a cancer survivor. The woman in front of me started to sob. I reached out, with tears in my eyes, to say her daughter was doing a great job. She turned to me and said, “ That’s my granddaughter, and I raised her. I didn’t even know she wrote a poem about me.” I was really teary by then. It was so touching. Her son and grandson joined her, and she turned and introduced them to me. The event concluded on such a high note––everyone was just thrilled with the book, and the students were even autographing their poems!

We learned that creating and printing a project––something we do every day and take for granted––can have such an impact on the end users. For me, this project was deeply personal after attending the reading. It had a voice and meant something more than ink on paper to a small group of people. I happily watched it come to full bloom. It was a celebration for everyone, and we are excitedly anticipating the start of the new Ringing Ear 2012. We certainly have a tough act to follow!

Author: Diane Waldman