Top of mind

Nothing deep, just things on movies, advertising, tech and games

I have moved..

Posted by topofmind on October 28, 2006

Thank you for checking in. You can now find my new site at Top Of Mind Blog.

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Did the Sci-Fi Network mini-series get lost in – The Triangle?

Posted by topofmind on September 21, 2006

b000e5n6b601_ss500_sclzzzzzzz_v1138082546_.jpg More than a few movies both on and off the big screen have tried to tackle the Bermuda Triangle. The results so far have been predictably bad, until Bryan Singer of the X-Men fame and Dean Devlin of the Star Gate and Independence fame decided to do their version of it.

Last night I watched The Triangle marathon on cable. Originally produced for the Sci-Fi Network, it lasts over 225 minutes and was shown in 3 parts. It features several well known faces from TV and some from the Movies.

The premise of the series is that a eccentric billionaire (we were told he was eccentric OK?), played by Sam Neil, who has lost several ships in the Triangle puts together a team of misfits OK, not so misfits to investigate why and how his ships were lost. The incentive was an-offer-you-cant-refuse five million dollars each.

We are thus introduced to the Eric Stolz character, formerly of New York Times, but now is writing for The Observer (kinda like the Enquiere) to feed his family. Then we are introduced to Catherine Bell of JAG fame, yummm, who got fired from her job, don’t ask. Her specialty; deep seas something or the other. After, we are introduced to the Bruce Davidson character who played Senator Kelly from the X-Men movies, who plays a Psychic of dubious background and lastly to Michael Rodgers of, I dont know where this guy comes from, he speaks in an Australian accent and plays a adventurous weather scientist.

And not to forget the Lou Diamond Phillips character, who plays a Greenpeace activitist who survives the Triangle and now begins to have strange episodes.

The mini series is well researched and tries to touch all the lore surrounding it from Christopher Columbus reports to the missing flight of Avengers to the USS Cyclops.

It starts off promisingly with a series of mysteries, obligatory introduction to the five characters, their background, their issues etc.. While not the greatest of introductions it gets the job done, makes the characters more multi dimensional. But that is where they pretty much stayed until the end.

Personally I don’t think there is enough material in it to be a 225 minute presentation, it could have easily been done in 90 to 120 minutes, and it would have been a tighter and more entertaining experience. Sadly as genre fare goes, this is not a bad mini-series, in fact it is quite good – kinda like the Hallmark mini-series; but the problem I have is why do genre fans have to put up with such half-hearted attempts at mini-series. Compare this to – Battlestar Galactica from the same network and you see a big difference.

It tries to wrap up the whole Bermuda Triangle Mystery of the how and the why; while it manages to do that – quite neatly I might add, it leaves one wondering what it was all about at the end of 225 minutes with the strangely anti-climatic ending. Maybe that is one of the mysteries of The Triangle. I am fan of most of the people who are involved here – from the writers to the actors, but better to have re-watched the Battlestar Galactica or gone to see Snakes On A Plane.

Verdict : If you are a fan of genre sci-fi and have a few odd hours, do see it. But whatever you do, don’t buy the DVD.

Posted in Cool, Misc, News, TV | 2 Comments »

Zune and Wii Launch Warning!! Exciting times ahead for Consumer Tech.

Posted by topofmind on September 15, 2006

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In the last couple of months, the upcoming launch of Wii and Zune have received a lot of attention from tech fans like me. I neither have a PS2 or an iPOD but as a matter of interest am keen to see what happens to these two new consumer electronic brands. I am also interested to see how each will turn out – considering the fact that both are from well known companies in their own field. I have written about the Wii and Zune previously, separately, but now is a good time to review it together.

ZUNE

Microsoft recently released news on the detailed specs of the Zune and the consumer offering. Despite the rumors that it will retail around 250 US$ (most likely less), Microsoft hasn’t confirmed or denied it. Additionally it will most likely be released for the upcoming holiday season. Whether it is in 06 or07 remains to be seen.

So the big question on every ones mind is that, will Zune be the iPod killer?

I for one think that the term – iPOD killer is overused and almost a cliché. No one can be the iPOD killer, but based on what Microsoft did with XBOX, we can be sure that it will literally dump a lot of R&D and A&P (advertising and promotion) budget behind it.

But can advertising hype alone sustain the Zune? I doubt it. The feature sets included in the release version of the Zune needs to appeal to a certain amount of consumers. This will buy Microsoft the necessary market share into the Media Player category. In the long run Microsoft stands to profit from this investment.

How long is long enough? That remains to be seen, but it would be foolish of Microsoft to ignore the fast growing consumer segment – especially in the Media Player segment. Invest well Microsoft and try not to piss off the relatively minor but highly vocal tech fans – especially the ones with Blogs, and you will have a XBOX in your hand sin a couple of years.

Nintendo Wii

Despite the relatively low tech specifications of the Nintendo Wii, the fan-boys are excited about this. In any other circumstance, launching a less technically spec’ed product would be suicide. In the case of Nintendo Wii, it is an asset… well almost.

The price is almost about 250 US$ and it will launch two days after PS3. Is that a good thing or not. I don’t know. But one thing I am sure about is that it’s underdog status is what will sell the product to the fan-boys who felt betrayed by PS3. That and the innovative Wiimote and the games that it is expected to release. Note my emphasis on the word expected.

It is clear that Nintendo Wii is trying to appeal to a bigger audience of non-hardcore gamers – which is most likely a wise strategy, considering the fact that XBOX 360 and PS3 are more or less fighting for the same, but limited audience.

Ultimately the hardcore fan-boys could be disappointed by the Wii – as their expectations are probably too high, and they will probably go back to their default gaming console. But either way Wii will carve out a more than decent market share from the non-hardcore, causal gaming audience. If I was Microsoft or Sony, Wii can pose a big threat and I would watch it – closely.

So what does this all mean to the average pro-sumer out there? Well, exciting things are afoot and I for one am excited to see how this will all turn out. Heck, maybe I will even buy myself one of them things.

Posted in Cool, Games, Tech | Leave a Comment »

Google Down : Yahooing Google

Posted by topofmind on September 9, 2006

google-down.jpg A funny thing happened last night. Google was down and I had to use Yahoo search.

Google went down, google.com, gmail.com, google analytics – but not google news. I noticed it as I was searching for something. At first I thought it was my screwy connection and tried again and again. But that didn’t work. Then I had to check my gmail and that was down too. So I thought that was a temporary thing too and tried again in a minute or two and that didn’t work.

While for search it was OK to find an alternative for search engines, but not for mail on gmail. Whatever the reason for the downage – it is still down 14 hours after I first noticed it, it shows that just like Windows, just like IE from Miscrosoft, Google is becoming a target of hackers.

Perhaps there is something about size that attracts hackers on the internet. Either way is this a sign of things to come? Google has almost become an Internet utility – just like water and electricity that when it goes down (for whatever reason) it effects a lot of things.

The funnier thing of course was I had to search for “Google Down,” on Yahoo Search to find out what was going on.

Posted in News, Tech | Leave a Comment »

Beers, Free Content and Tattoos : Building brands on the Internet

Posted by topofmind on September 8, 2006

Painful Viral Infection

I have recently been writing about Virals, especially how companies are desperately trying out new ways to be relevant to their target consumers. Ways to reach consumers have been changing, and advertisers are slow to catch on, but some are figuring that they gotta to something, anything. So what do you get? Well you get a whole lot of crud and you get some that just make you go “huh?”

My focus is mainly on the consumer goods and not on the Internet brands like Google or eBay or Newsvine.

Television, as we know it, is dying – oh it’s going to be painful, it’s going to be long and it’s going to be filled with false hopes. At one point, someone will have to redefine Television, but until that time, it will be bleeding viewers daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. It is losing the young viewers, and this is where the companies feel where the future of their business is.

The Internet : A series of tubes,

Tubes or not, advertisers chase where the young ones are going, and research is telling them that the young ones are going to this thing called the Internet, with all the social-what-you-might-call-it and that nasty myspace.com. So what do they do? Crate “Content.” and there is this thing called “user created content.”

Well, here are two examples of it.

Make It a Bud.

bud-tv.jpgThose in the industry have known for a while, but Budweiser is launching “A NEW GENERATION OF ENTERTAINMENT” here at Bud.tv in or around Feb 2007. 30 million US$ in investment, Bud.tv will feature “humorous” content created by their in-house studio. Read more details here.

Now, the thing is not even launched, and I have no crystal ball, but the popularity of recent “social websites,” is mainly because novelty of the new medium that allows people to connect with each other. Advertiser created content can be attractive, but isn’t that what Television was all about, don’t they call it soap operas because soap companies used to sponsor the lame content?

If what Bud.tv is planning to do is to bring Television onto the Internet, then that is 30 million down the tube (excuse me). If I want to watch TV, I can watch it on my 50 inch Plasma sitting on the couch with a Heineken, not crouched in front of a key board, watching grainy footage. Besides, if I don’t like Budweiser, just because I saw something funny on Bud.tv will not make me change my mind and that watered down excuse of a beer.

Can Tattoos help sell games?

crusty-demons.jpgThis is for a Video game called “Crusty Demon.” for the PS2. If you know what that game is all about great, you are part of the target audience. If you don’t know what that is, just take my word that it is a video game. If you absolutely must, visit the site here.

Sufficient to say the main target audience is male teens, or so the makers of the game think so. This is semi-user-created content – the kind of thing you will share with your buddies. There is a portion of the site where you can put tattoos icons and text on various parts of a women’s body. You can try it yourself or check out my .. er efforts here .

Ahh, interactivity. I am sure the site will get decent hits, but will it help sell the video game? Not so sure, but it is certainly a way to attract attention, I only hope that the game is worth it.

The Internet certainly is changing the way companies reach their consumers, it is a high risk game, but the stakes are high and their traditional-media ship is sinking fast. They are jumping ship, but are they doing the right thing to “build,” their brands?

Or can brands still be “built,” by the manufactures anymore?

Posted in Advertising, Business | Leave a Comment »

Coke sues Coke Zero : The Viral

Posted by topofmind on September 6, 2006

Coke sues Coke ZeroAt a time when building web-creds is getting more and more important in connecting with their target audience, Coke Zero launches this website that they hope will go viral, and hope bloggers like me write about it and give free exposure and buzz.

The website has videos where they bring in several lawyers and ask for their opinion if Coke can sue Coke Zero for “taste infringement.” Apparently some are real lawyers and others are actors, playing a lawyer. The reaction on some of them are priceless.

And some of them corporate lawers are plain scary, except for the bewildered immigration lawyer who got lost and ended up in a viral…

While many will undoubtedly dismiss this as a lame attempt, Coke Zero will get the coverage, they will get the buzz and they will get a free link here because this is indeed the type of thing that a web-surfing, short attention spanned, instant gratification, cool hunting pro-sumers are looking for. On top of that, they get the message out in a clear and convincing way – that Coke Zero, unlike Diet Coke, doesn’t suck. That is of course, if you are a Coke regular.

While the website has some issues – the color (yeah, I know it is based on the Coke Zero colors) and the flash heavy interface (sigh), it is worth congratulation the team who came up with the idea, and the clients who had the guts to approve such an execution. Tip; get a new web-designer for the next project.

Oh, and the TV ads they have on the site? Not half bad, but the fake calls to the supposedly “real” Coke customer service line are hilarious.

Posted in Advertising, Cool | Leave a Comment »

When Internet Virals go astray and ways to avoid it.

Posted by topofmind on August 26, 2006

subway.jpgVirals are called Viral because they take a life of their own and either mutate into something cool or something really really nasty. Early in August I posted the misadventures of how agency.com’s Subway pitch Viral gone bad and how that it generated unwanted publicity for agency.com as well as the client Subway.

In an article posted on industry publication AdWeek it seems that agency.com is pulling out of the pitch for the Subway business, citing conflict of interest, although they would not name what that conflict of interest is. Whatever the real reason of the pullout, here are four very important things to remember about Virals – well, there are more, but if you know these basics, you are pretty well covered.

Virals cannot be made

Duh. One thing that advertisers and marketers, locked in their air-conditioned ivory towers with their Starbucks Fraps, seem to forget is that you cannot “make” a Viral. This is Web 2.0 in action, it is all about the Internet user deciding what is cool, or newsworthy or not, this is the mob in action baby. Ever heard of Digg.com, Deli.cio.us, Newsvine.com anyone?

If an in-experienced agency or client did a Viral and get it wrong, other than getting laughed at their efforts on-line, it wouldn’t be so bad. For a well known on-line agency to make that mistake – that would explain why they got mobbed in the blogosphear.

There is a conceit that agencies can indeed make real virals. Well, they can, but success stories are few and far between. In fact it was quite come up with good examples. But here is one from Budweiser, which I think is the original or the early Whassup that started it all – although the whole thing didn’t start out as a Viral until people picked it up and passed it around..

Virals mutate

Yes, that is why they are called Virals. Once released they take on a life of their own. You cannot control it, you can only do damage control – but then it would be too late.

If you want control, run a print ad or a TVC or print a leaflet and hand it out yourself. If you are running a Viral, be prepared to relinquish complete control.

Worse, you end up with are spoofs of your Viral by some wise-ass fifteen year old kid or rivals from another agency. Believe me, they will more than yank your chain.

Virals got to have some value

Virals become Viral because there is something worthwhile for the target audience to share. Even a good laugh is of value and most of the early Virals got spread this way. Star Wars Kids , Numa Numa guy anyone? Content is king here. If you have something of value to your target audience, and they do actually find it useful, then they will spread it… or not. But it is important to be relevant and of value to your target audience.

Not all exposure is good

There is a old belief that any and all exposure is good, it’s up to you how you spin it. Well I disagree, not all exposure is good. Perfect example comes from the music industry. Did your perception of Michael Jackson change before and after the scandal? This type of thing cannot be spinned any other way and on one will want to touch it with a 10 foot pole.

I came across this video from goviral.com that does a way better job of explaining how and what is necessary for a good viral campaign, from Cannes 2006. Check it out here.

Posted in Advertising, Blogs | 1 Comment »

Movie Review : Snakes on a plane – Believe it, it’s all true.

Posted by topofmind on August 25, 2006

snakes.jpg

If you believe everything you have heard of this movie, then don’t go see it, because what you have heard and believed second-hand will be confirmed. Don’t wast your $ 12 or whatever you pay for movies in your area. Go see Lake House or an art house movie, you will probably enjoy it more.

But if you are interested in seeing a movie that makes no bones about what it is all about, then maybe, maybe this movie is for you. From the laughable simplistic and honest title, you already know what there is to know about the movie.

You don’t need to know any other character than Samuel L Jackson’s FBI agent Nelville Flynn, you don’t need to know about the guy who witnessed a crime implicating a dangerous criminal, you don’t need to know about the “your booty goes twang,” rapper and his two bodyguards, the two honeymooners, the obnoxious business traveller or the two little kids travelling on their own. You don’t need to know about anyone, OK maybe Julianna Margulies because, she is Julianna Margulies.

And you definitely don’t have to know about the plot.

But what you will see are lots and lots of snakes, and how these lots and lots of snakes will gruesomely kill these passengers. There are big snakes, black snakes, black and red snakes, small snakes, snakes that fight with each other, snakes that kill a cat, snakes that bite the breasts, snakes that bite the heavily made up fat women, snakes that bite a guys dick, snakes that spit venom, snakes that bite the lips of a women, snakes that come out of the toilet, snakes that come out of the oxygen mask containers, snakes that fall down from the light fixtures, snakes that come out of a hand bag, snakes that jump out of an airsickness bag, snakes that bite a little boy, snakes that bite the fat ass of a man, snakes that eat the ugly little dog, snakes that eat the fat obnoxious business man – well I hope I am not giving too much away, but you get the idea. Naming the movie, anything other than Snakes on a plane would have been a mistake.

As for the oft repeated line about mofo snakes and mofo planes, I expected the movie to be laced with swear words, but there was only one other instance of the F word. For a movie that is totally unrestrained, it was almost shocking in it’s lack of swear words. Anyone remember David Fincher’s Alien 3?

I have not had the creeps in a movie since I last watched “Nightmare on Elms Street,” but this movie made me cringe and gave me goosebumps during the extended, extremely graphic sequence that you could call the Snake Attack. For that, it was worth it and I was extremely entertained in a sick sort of way.

You walk into Taco Bell and order a $ 2.99 Burrito, you know what you gonna get. Same here, go see the movie, knowing full well what you gonna get, and you just might be entertained. Oh and by the way, don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.

Now here is an honest look at the movie. Samuel Jackson on the Daily Show.

Posted in Movies | 2 Comments »

Lights, cameras, sex and advertising

Posted by topofmind on August 24, 2006

Sooner or later you are bound to find all four in the same place. Using sex to sell stuff from softdrinks to home entertainment systems is as old as advertising, so why not use it to sell cameras. Sex, digital cameras .. now somehow that seems to have a very natural fit. Cameras and sex.. a match made in ad heaven.

Here are two executions from the great minds of advertising. One is from Olympus Camera, and the other for Canon. Both use sex to somehow sell their brands. Call me old fashioned, but I feel that advertising has to have at least some form of message – how the brand is different, or better or even a obnoxious “Buy Now” call to action would do.

Just like the women in the old Wendy’s ads says; Where is the message??

The Canon TVC seems to say that with a Canon Digital Camera, you can make your ugly wife look better or even sexier. And is the way the dorky guy reacts supposed to be funny? Yes, there is a line at the end of the TVC that says that “With Cannon, You Can”. Aside from the cheesy line and bad acting, nothing comes out about Canon. If anything, it did more damage to the brand than anything.
A bit of advice for Canon, you need a new storyboard, new production house and new actors. Oh, yes, while you are at it, a new advertising agency would also help. Either that or probably too many Marketing MBAs stirring the pot.

Olympus TVC. Firstly, even with the grainy video from You Tube, the production values come through, and it does look great in black and white. While the branding is somewhat subtle at the end it does seem to say that Olympus is cool, trendy and sexy. But it all ends there; other than the coolness message, nothing else seems to come through about the brand Olympus. As far as getting the viewer attention, the TVC worked, but now that the viewer is somewhat paying attention, why not say something interesting about your brand? Better yet, say something that will get him interested in the product. Unless of course they want to say that the whole artsy thing was actually shot by an Olympus (riiiiight) and so can you if you use an Olympus. The thing is that they doesn’t even bother to say that. A wasted opportunity.

Did Olympus actually pay several hundred thousand dollars or a couple of billion won for this TVC? Guess they must have, what with a celebrity like Jeon Ji Hyun in it. Come on guys, image helps, but not if the message is missing about your brand.

I don’t know if those two ads worked, but both Canon and Olympus should ask for a refund from their respective agencies or fire whomever approved storyboards. And by the way, by now you should know that sex will most likely get you the attention you want for your brand, but you also got to have a worthwhile message.

Thanks to http://www.sillycorner.com where I first came across the TVCs.

EDIT : Upon further investigation, looks lilke there are 2 versions of the TVC. Here is the properly branded version. Can’t embed, so click here.

Posted in Advertising, Tech | 4 Comments »

Movie Review : My visit to “The Lake House.”

Posted by topofmind on August 19, 2006

505138the-lake-house-posters.jpg Reeves and Bullock had good chemistry in Speed, and that more than anything made me go. Of course the premise was interesting as well.

The plot is classic; it is all about two lonely people desperately trying to connect in a world that they cannot control, and there are external forces that are keeping them apart. You cannot get a more angst ridden, oft-used love-story than that. But the twist here is that Kate is in 2006 while Alex is in 2004 – and the only thing that connects them is the post box at the said Lake House.

I got to say upfront that, if the possibility of time-travel/connection bothers you , don’t see this movie because it will continue to bug you as you go deeper into the movie, not that they make a big deal out of it. My suggestion is just to go with the flow, accept that reality, then you will enjoy the movie.

Loneliness as a theme runs throughout the movie. The two key locations, the Lake House and Chicago are beautiful in their own way, yet lonely places. Both Kate and Alex form relationship with their colleagues, boyfriends, brothers, fathers yet they are all somewhat distant, never really connecting.

But somehow, as Alex asks early on in the movie “Could this be happening?,” they manage to get in touch with each other through the post box at the Lake House and somehow they connect. They start exchanging mail about what their favorite thing to do to the sharing of their daily routines – a dialog of sort forms through time.

Through coincidence they somehow manage to meet, Kate not knowing who Alex was, while Alex, who knew who he was talking to, couldn’t bring himself to tell her of their future connection. “Coward,” she called him as they have their first fight, and in trying to make amends, Alex asks her to meet her at a place. A date. Tomorrow for Kate, two years in the future for Alex.

So Kate goes and waits, and waits and waits, yet Alex never really shows up, and since we are going into spoiler territory I will stop here.

While both have aged somewhat since we last saw them together, both Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock play their roles well, Christopher Plummer makes an appearance as Reeves estranged father. The dialog, is also just right – never really over or under.

It is a still movie, things move slow, but the plot engages straight from the beginning. But slow is fine here because you know that you have entered a magical realm of sorts and you don’t want the magic to end. In other ways it is quite a suspenseful movie because you want these two lonely characters to come together, to meet, to connect with each other.

Then ultimately you want to know if they will somehow manage to be together; which brings me to the ending. I guess that it has to end somehow, but I felt that they took the easy way out of the whole thing. The impact could have been greater if they had ended it the other way. But then that is just me.

Other than the quibble I have with the way this beautiful movie ended, I have to say that I enjoyed the movie. It is not necessarily a date movie, but for those who have lived on their own for some time, the movie will resonate.

Posted in Movies | 3 Comments »

 
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