MK 354 Spring 2010

April 26, 2010

The End of the Bully

Filed under: blog #10, Uncategorized — pmitch1 @ 4:41 am

Following up on a the recent news story in which a South Hadley teen committed suicide after being continually bullied at school, Massachusetts has passed legislation designed to prevent bullying altogether.  The bill received bipartisan support, passing unanimously, 148-0.  The law bans bullying completely and calls for schools to create bullying prevention programs.  There is an opportunity here for the Cooperative Artists Institute to create a program specifically designed to help schools follow this legislature.  The CAI’s unique style of using art to form interpersonal connections between students is an ideal way to educate students about the dangers of bullying in a way that will stick with them better than a teacher simply lecturing them.  This government mandated education creates a need that the CAI fills very aptly and can certainly lead to more business for the organization if played correctly.  The CAI should be actively contacting local schools offering its services.

In conjunction with a new program, why not start an anti-bullying day?  The CAI already works within schools to prevent bullying so the idea fits in perfectly with the organization’s mission of creating a unified community.  Plus, it would be a great way to gain free publicity.  The CAI could even hold an event honoring the occasion.  An anti-bullying day would call awareness to both the increasingly prominent issue of bullying and also to the CAI itself.  The CAI can, like the state of Massachusetts, send a very clear message; bullying is wrong and has no place in civilized society.

http://wbztv.com/local/bully.bill.antibullying.2.1573704.html

April 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — pmitch1 @ 7:40 pm

Unfortunately, it seems as if police brutality has become an accepted part of our criminal system.  That’s why it was shocking to me to find that a police officer had been fired for assaulting a local teen.  Although the exact details of the case are a bit unspecified, allegedly the victim suffered from bruising, a bloody nose and a black eye after an officer attacked him for kicking a garbage can.  After the teen was found not guilty of assaulting a police officer, the victim filed a lawsuit that eventually lead to the officer’s firing.  These kind of violent incidents create and perpetuate the anti-authority sentiments that are widespread among poor, inner city youths.

A recent Gallup poll has shown that 38% of people believe that police brutality exists in their area.  With incidents such as this one, it’s easy to see why so many Americans mistrust police officers.  If the only authoritative figure you know beats the crap out of you for something as minor as kicking a trashcan, you would be wary of  society too.  This leads to the formation of communities and gangs based upon a mutual hatred for “the man”.

The Cooperative Artists Institute aims promote community in healthy, beneficial way in order to keep disenfranchised youths from turning to gangs and criminal organizations. The CAI tries to create relationships based in friendship and genuine interpersonal connection rather than anger or violence.  However this kind of irresponsible, destructive police work makes this task much easier said than done. The Somerville Police Department is taking a step in the right direction by refusing to tolerate unprovoked police violence, but the issue of police brutality still runs rampant in many cities.  Violence is now just part of the criminal system, especially in areas with high crime rates.  And while Somerville is certainly no ghetto, the sentiment is true nonetheless; it’s difficult to buy into a sense of community when you can’t even rely on the police for protection.

http://www.wickedlocal.com/somerville/features/x863092431/Somerville-cop-fired-after-allegations-of-assaulting-teen

http://www.gallup.com/poll/4003/One-Third-Americans-Believe-Police-Brutality-Exists-Their-Area.aspx

April 4, 2010

Filed under: blog #8 — pmitch1 @ 11:27 pm

A recent (well semi-recent) news story out of South Hadley, Mass brings to light how important strong, supportive school environments are and how helpful organization such as The Cooperative Artists Institute can be.  Phoebe Prince,  a freshman at South Hadley High School hanged herself in January following unrelenting bullying from various classmates (http://wbztv.com/local/bully.victim.attorney.2.1609804.html).

The CAI is specifically designed to prevent situations like this one. Bullies such as these are insecure and make fun of other people to prevent themselves from being targets.  They are afraid that they will not be accepted for who they are (as cliché as that sounds) and push people away before they can form a relationship with them.  The CAI aims to build supportive communities that would not only support the children being bullied, but would prevent the harassment from happening in the first place by creating a sense of togetherness and unity.  With this kind of community, bullies would have no fear of rejection from their peers.  While bullying is often the result of a tumultuous home situations (http://www.education.com/reference/article/home-environment-impacts-bullying/), school can a place were children feel welcomed rather than and outlet for them to vocalize their anguish and rage.  If the school these children attended had employed one of the CAI’s programs, this entire situation would have been avoided.

March 29, 2010

Confidentiality?

Filed under: blog #7 — pmitch1 @ 12:20 am

The Cooperative Artists Institute prides itself on being the only organization that promotes unity through the arts, so much so that they actually made me sign a confidentiality agreement so that I would not be able to imitate their program.  Apparently, one of the former workers set up a similar organization in California with many of the same ideas and goals as the CAI. While I had little problem with signing considering I am not particularly interested in non-profit work, let alone starting up my own individual organization, it still struck me as being a bit strange.  Isn’t the fact that competitors copy each other an accepted fact?  Whenever Coke comes out with a new flavored soda (such as Vanilla Coke) their chief competitor, Pepsi, is quick to respond with their take on the flavor (Pepsi Vanilla).  While I can understand wanting to protect your ideas, how would our capitalistic economy evolve at all if business information was self-contained?  If employees could never use the knowledge they learned from the corporation outside of that business, half the companies around today wouldn’t exist.

Also, as a non-profit organization isn’t your goal to serve others? If people are being helped, does it really make a difference whether or not you profit or received notoriety from it? Isn’t part of the philosophy behind the non-profit sector to help people irrespective of yourself?  While the CAI is a great and immensely helpful organization, I think they may have the wrong idea here.

March 1, 2010

Filed under: blog #5 — pmitch1 @ 3:42 am

The following spot for Thai Life Insurance is one of my favorite commercials and perhaps the only advertisement ever to make me genuinely sad after watching.

The depth of emotion that this commercial conveys is astonishing.  Thai Life could have found some statistics about how much coverage they offer or how low their rates are, but that would cause people to think analytically.  According to authors Dan and Chip Heath’s book “Made to Stick”, “When people think analytically, they’re less likely to think emotionally.” (p.167).  Emotion is invariably more powerful than analytics; I guarantee this commercial will stick with you longer than some Allstate spot that compares their rates to their competitors.  Inclusion of these statistics would have softened the emotional reaction to the tragedy in the advertisement.

The creators of this advertisement tapped into something very relatable, a son longing for his father’s recognition and acceptance.  Everyone has had a person that they looked up to or tried to impress and we all known the pain of that person rejecting us.  The hurt from this rejection is so strong and relatable that as soon as we are presented it in the advertisement, even with limited context, we empathize with the son and truly wish that his father would accept him.  The Heath brothers cite the creation of empathy for individuals as one of the key ways to establish an emotional connection, and this commercial does that beautifully (p.203).

It is truly a masterpiece of direction and exposition when in under a minute the viewer has a strong enough connection with a character to actually feel depressed upon learning his fate.  This is another reason why this commercial stands out; the viewer feels genuine anguish.  Rarely does an ad evoke any real emotion, let alone something as profound and affecting as sadness.  In an advertising environment where so much emphasis is put on repetition and getting people to remember inane slogans, poignant, well-made spots such as this one are a breath of fresh air.

February 21, 2010

Filed under: blog #4 — Tags: , , — pmitch1 @ 9:44 pm

Deciding what brand of battery to buy is probably one of the most ambivalent and indifferent purchases of your entire life. Nobody proudly declares himself an Energizer enthusiast or a Duracell fanboy; purchasing batteries is a necessary evil. Plus, there is almost no easy way to tangibly assess how a well a battery is performing. Therefore, the two major battery manufacturers, Energizer and Duracell, have almost no reliable, concrete evidence that one lasts longer or performs better than another. I’m sure one side has provided some cooked statistic citing an “objective” study where one is definitively superior to the other, but the other side could simply respond with a study of their own that proves the opposite.

So with the concept of concreteness out the window, Energizer turned to an annoying pink rabbit to move product. This may have worked if their target audiences were toddlers and illiterate troglodytes, but adults are the ones buy batteries. The average adult is much more persuaded by a credible source rather than some unstoppable stuffed animal beating a drum. Duracell wisely decided to tap into the consumer’s trust of credibility to give their brand the edge.

In these ads, Duracell utilizes the idea of the “Sinatra Test” to establish credibility as the most effective and reliable on the market. According to Dan and Chip Heath’s book, “Made to Stick”, this concept alludes to the famous Frank Sinatra song ”New York, New York” in which the singer declares, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” The authors profess, ”An example passes the Sinatra Test when one example alone is enough to establish credibility in a given domain. “ (p.151).

"I didn't write my own songs."

As the commercials shows, many credible companies who protect human life rely on Duracell batteries. This is a ringing endorsement because when put in a life or death situation, these people trust Duracell over any other brand. Duracell is hoping that the viewer of the commercial will see that their battery is being used in these extreme conditions and then recognize Duracell as the premier battery . If you can use their batteries in life-saving equipment, they’ll certainly work fine to power your remote.

Of course if Duracell actually believed that any singular endorsement for their batteries would solidify and expand their market share, they wouldn’t have to run multiple spots, each with different endorsements…

February 15, 2010

Norbitz

Filed under: blog #3 — Tags: , , — pmitch1 @ 7:42 pm

It’s one thing to promise your customers to beat the price of your competitors, but by actually sending a check to your consumer, you are providing them with tangible, concrete proof of your guarantee. Orbitz has introduced the idea of sending a check to their patrons if the price of their flight/vacation package depreciates. They have coined this service, “price assurance”.

It’s hard not to have a positive response to a company when they physically send you money. For many consumers, something gets lost in translation with electronic transactions, but an actual check is a physical manifestation of Orbitz’s promise to deliver low prices. The concrete idea that Orbitz is trying to get across is that they will save you money. Although this point is communicated by their advertisements and website deals, it becomes much easier to visualize when you are physically holding money (in a form of check) in your hands.

According to Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick”, the effectiveness of concreteness lies in the nature of our memories (p. 109). While a consumer may remember the fact that Orbitz reimbursed them for their vacation when the price was lowered, the message resonates more through the concreteness of receiving a check. Orbitz also labels this service “price assurance”. By naming the abstract concept of comparing and compiling competitive travel rates by way of a succinct phrase such as “price assurance”, it not only makes the service identifiable, it allows for the consumer to better understand and visualize the benefits of using Orbitz.

February 8, 2010

Michael Bay, Super Bowl Prove Disappointing

Filed under: blog #2 — Tags: , , — pmitch1 @ 2:49 am

Originally, I held off on writing this post because I had hoped that the Super Bowl would be filled with humorous, unexpected advertisements-I was wrong.  Apparently, slapstick comedy is on the rise because literally half the commercials aired last Sunday involved some kind of physical violence, usually and old woman getting tackled.  Sure, it’s funny to see an old lady get hit by a football player or win a boxing match against Mike Tyson but at this point, it’s almost become a cop-out.  If you have to rely on the gimmick of “the old woman” to be funny, you’re basically pulling a Michael Bay: “I guess I could try to work in some more character development so viewers actually care what’s happening to the people on screen or I could develop the plot so that the viewers are still interested even when things aren’t blowing up… Nah, I’ll just toss in some more explosions and special effects, it’ll look so cool.”  These kinds of spots, like Michael Bay movies, have little substance and therefore the average viewer will not even recall what was being advertised, let alone go out of their way to purchase it.

Ironically, it’s kind of a cop-out to make fun of Michael Bay, he’s a pretty easy target.

This is the kind of problem that many “unexpected” advertisements run in to.  While it may be funny to see 300-pound silverback gorilla roundhouse kick a midget, what could such a thing possibly have to do with buying a Hyundai or eating Doritos?  These kinds of commercials are entertaining in their own right, but that doesn’t make them successful pieces of advertising.  Yes the commercial is unexpected, but does its surprise make sense within the context of what the spot is advertising?  According to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Made to Stick, in order to create an effective unexpected message you must identify the central message, find what is counterintuitive about that message, and then break your audience’s guessing machines along that counterintuitive dimension (p.72). The following ad for Avista Language School is aligned with these ideas and is a good example of an effective message that uses unexpectedness.

Unlike many commercials that use random, over-the-top surprises for shock value, this commercial’s surprise is actually relevant to the product.  The fact that the fish uses another “language” to avoid danger highlights the core of the message; learning another language is useful.  The advertisement proves to be unexpected not just because a barking fish is surprising, but also because it introduces the idea of safety as an impetus for learning a new language.  The average person on the street doesn’t think,” I should learn Spanish because it may save my life one day,” although it is a very real possibility.  While the viewer may have speculated that the fish would not be eaten, few could have guessed it would produce a vicious bark to save itself.  Because this is so unexpected, it breaks the audience’s guessing machine. The fish’s unanticipated use of another language suggests that there are many unforeseen benefits to being multi-lingual.


January 31, 2010

Diamonds

Filed under: blog #1 — pmitch1 @ 9:23 pm

I have never purchased a diamond. I don’t plan on buying one anytime soon. I couldn’t tell a fake diamond from a real one. Everything I know about diamonds I learned from “Blood Diamond”.  However, I am familiar with the slogan “a diamond is forever”. This short axiom has been used since 1947 in De Beers diamond advertisements and was recently named the best advertising slogan of the twentieth century by Advertising Age magazine.

I know more about Neil Diamond than actual diamonds

For all their ethical and political issues, De Beers can certainly create effective advertising. The slogan, “a diamond is forever” is entrenched into the fabric of our society, spanning across many different media and cultures worldwide. This short, simple adage has helped transformed the diamond from a simple rock to an iconic status symbol.

The message of the slogan is clear: a diamond is an everlasting symbol of affection, one that will persist beyond the scope of a relationship or even a lifetime. It is the pinnacle of romantic affection and is essentially the most expensive gift you can give. A diamond is an embodiment of love; it is strong, sumptuous and everlasting. All of this can be condensed into the one phrase: “a diamond is forever.”

Sure there are other factors that contribute to the diamond’s longevity and opulent perception (such as the fact that De Beers essentially dictates the price of diamonds and that they essentially have a monopoly on them), but the slogan of “a diamond is forever” is often among the first things that the average person thinks of when someone mentions diamonds. The notion that this simple phrase has such universal recall speaks volumes about how effective the idea of simplicity can be. If you asked every person who buys a diamond what company produces it, chances are not everyone will know the name De Beers. However each one of these consumers is probably familiar with the phrase “a diamond is forever.” It is an advertisement so effective, that it has superseded the brand it advertises (not that it really matters considering their aforementioned monopoly).

Many companies dream of finding a slogan so effective that it has found its way into a James Bond movie, a Kanye West song, and been referenced in countless other art forms. Its longevity is a testament to how effective simplicity can be.

(Never try to sell James Bond a diamond)

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