Taking a Hike Plaque and Keeping up with the Jones’

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 5.46.23 PMAs it does occasionally, The New York Times in a recent article asked twenty questions about advertising, the media, and popular culture. Here are two questions about ads in 2012 that caught my attention:

  • Do any of the copywriters who crafted the ads for the Crest Pro-Health Clinical Line of oral-care products sold by Procter & Gamble realize that the way they punctuated the headlines, which read “Take a hike plaque, and don’t hurry back,” suggests that consumers ought to get their hands on a “hike plaque,” whatever the heck that might be?

  • Will any English teachers who wear the Jones New York clothing sold by the Jones Group scold the copywriters who came up with the headline “Keeping up with the Jones’ ” for the brand’s ads?

Clearly, the Crest ad is missing an important comma after “hike,” a comma necessitated by the fact that the sentence is addressing plaque, telling it to take a hike. The comma is necessary here just as it would be in a sentence such as, “Go to the office, Bob.” Since this mistake is frequently made in advertising, my guess is that even in an example like this, the writers would not have known that they needed a comma.

The Jones ad leaves one asking, “Keeping up with the Jones’ what?” Clearly the writers meant to say “Joneses,” meaning to not fall behind in the competition to own as many possessions as your neighbors, whose last name is Jones. But by adding the apostrophe instead of the “es,” they made the name possessive, and so it requires an object, such as car, which is, perhaps, speeding down the road, and you are trying to catch up with it. Or maybe it could refer to lifestyle, which would be appropriate in this case, but even then “lifestyle” would have to be added to the sentence, so the reader does not have to guest what it means.

You can read the other 18 questions from the article at http://ow.ly/gJP2A .

01/26/13: Communications Stories from Here & There

Below are five noteworthy communications stories published during the week ending January 26, 2013.

“Saying What Matters in 701 Words,” by Ronald C. White, Jr., in The New York Times, Sunday, January 20.

White, author of Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, writes in this article about what many consider to be the best inaugural address ever written.

In his short speech of only 701 words—taking him perhaps about five minutes to deliver—Lincoln chose not to give his audience what they expected but instead to surprise them in a number of ways.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h2B7v .

“Don’t Write off Print Ads Just Yet,” by Michael Wolff, in USA Today, Monday, January 21.

Wolff makes the argument that print ads still work (look at those by Apple Google, IKEA, Lego, Ray-Ban, Old Spice, Harley-Davidson, for example) and they should not be overlooked by ad agencies and their clients, who often do so because agencies can make more money from TV and digital ads, and the clients find these media more exciting than print.

He also points out that many of the young agency people hired today create ads for TV and digital because, in part, they have trouble mastering language skills. “They live in an unwritten world and cannot, practically speaking, produce a written ad,” he says.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h2AYt .

“10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Firm” by Jane Porter, in Entrepreneur, Tuesday, January 22.

These are ten very good questions that every business should ask before deciding which PR agency to hire. Large businesses have most likely been through this exercise a number of times and so know what questions to ask, but small companies need to be especially diligent in making sure they ask these questions and get the answers that will be best for them.

All the questions are asked of the PR agencies being considered. And I would add that the initial question—How are you going to measure your success?—should first be asked of the company itself (and answered carefully) because the way the agency measures success must align with the way the company wants the agency’s success measured. Counting media mentions might be nice but may not be useful to the company that really wants to know how PR will increase sales.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h2zQA.

“Pope Benedict on Social Networking: The Virtual is Real” by Nicole Winfield, on The Huffington Post, Thursday, January 24.

Winfield writes in this story that the Pope, who, at 85, tweets in nine languages and has 2.5 million followers, said this week that the Catholic Church must use social media to better engage young people and to attract new members.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h8lxq.

“Inside Forbes: A New Wave of Digital Journalist Is Showing a Profession the Way Forward” by Lewis DVorkin on Forbes.com, Friday, January 25.

In this interesting piece, DVorkin, a Forbes staff member, writes about the way the publication’s digital journalists go about doing their jobs and how their approach differs from that of traditional journalists. The article, which includes a video with interviews of some Forbes digital writers, lays out a model for the future of journalism.

Read the story here: http://ow.ly/h8jWo.

Choosing between a Printed and an Electronic Book

IMG_0404Last Saturday, The Wall Street Journal published an article with a title that caught my eye as being both strange and obvious: “Don’t Burn Your Books—Paper Is Here to Stay.”

It seems strange to me because I can’t, for the life of me, see why anyone would burn his/her books if paper were going away. In fact, if we woke up tomorrow morning and there were no more paper to be found anywhere, I would suspect that one of the last things people would do would be to burn their books.

What would be the purpose of that Fahrenheit 451 experience? If paper disappeared, would people say to themselves and their friends, “We can’t have any more new paper books, so let’s get rid of the ones we already own. No reason to keep these old relics around.” Instead, wouldn’t we treasure those paperback and hardbound books even more than we do already?

This headline also seems obvious to me because paper is here to stay, including paper books, which was the real subject of this article with the headline that made the reader guess what the story was going to cover.

The first sentence of the article stated without any sense of humor or satire: “Ever since Amazon introduced its popular Kindle e-reader five years ago, pundits have assumed that the future of book publishing is digital.” And the first paragraph concludes with: “By 2015, one media maven predicted a few years back, traditional books would be gone.”

Really? I wonder who these poorly informed pundits and this media maven are and why they made such a large leap from reality because aScreen Shot 2013-01-09 at 5.20.05 PM
company introduced another electronic device on which people could read books—as they could already on computers and smartphones.

I wonder if they ever looked at history to see how correct the “experts” of the day were when they pronounced, for example:

  • The end of radio when television was introduced. I bet most of us still listen to the radio a few times a week, especially when we’re in the car;
  • The end of vinyl when CDs came out. Those who cherish the pure sound of music on vinyl never switched to the new format and now are responsible for a growing number of albums becoming available in that format;
  • The end of CDs when digital downloads were introduced. Today downloaded music accounts for only about half of all music purchased in the United States;
  • The end of newspapers when it became cheaper and easier to publish the news online. A quick look at the driveways on any early morning reveals that the residents of almost every home in the neighborhood subscribe to anywhere from one to three newspapers a day.

The apparent reasons for this article is that after several years of increasing e-book sales, the growth has slowed considerably, and the sale of e-book readers has actually declined, while the number people reading their books electronically seems to have stalled: Only about 30 percent ofScreen Shot 2013-01-09 at 5.36.46 PM those who regularly read books read at least one e-book in 2012, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Clearly what’s happening here is that the printed book is not going to be totally replaced by its electronic cousin anytime soon, if ever. Instead, these two ways for people to satisfy their desire to read will live side-by-side well into the future, as some people prefer to read their books on paper, and others choose to do so on an e-reader, tablet or other device.

Our household represents this split between paper and electronic readers. I fall into the first category; my wife into the second.

Of the many books I read in 2012, none was electronic. I have nothing against the e-book and, in fact, find the experience to be okay, neither really good nor bad. But somehow, when I think about getting a book to read, it always seems preferable to get a book printed on paper—whether it’s a new one, (heavens, no) a used one, or one from the library. The numerous books I read last year, including those by and about E.B. White, those about pioneer airmail pilots, and the books of essays by William H. Gass, all seemed to want to be read on paper.

On the other hand, Jane never considers reading a paper book. Every book—and there have been many of them—she’s read for the past two years have been electronic.

And now at the beginning of the new year, we are continuing to stick to our reading patterns. My first book this year, was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which was given to me by a friend as a Christmas present. (By the way, I doubt that she ever thought about giving me an electronic copy of this book.) I liked the book so much that I recommended it to Jane. But she had no desire to read it on paper. Instead, she spent $9.99 to buy an electronic version that she can read on her newest e-reader and her iPad.

The two of us—like many others—will long support both the printed and the electronic book.