Friday, May 30, 2008

In-text Advertising

Has anyone noticed these advertisements within articles? Look at this:

I was reading an article about Radiohead on MSNBC, one of the sites that is using this, and noticed these links within the article. This link, particularly, for "concert," was what I expected to be a link to a previous article regarding that particular concert (as most in-line links do). When I scrolled over the word, however, this advertisement popped up for HP. Clicking on "concert" leads you to the HP site. First of all, what does printer ink have to do with a concert? Fortunately, the other few of these "in-text advertisements" were loosely relevant to the words that were linked, but is this kosher?

I think it's a decent idea in moderation, as long as the advertisements are relevant. Linking what the writer described Radiohead's songs as (beauty) to skin-care products is not relevant. When I'm reading about "beautiful" music, I don't think, "man, I wish I was beautiful like this music," nor does any right-minded person, so the advertisement is ineffective aside from the person who gets tricked into immediately clicking on the word and just happens to get hooked in. I was kind of annoyed that this particular "concert" link deceived me into thinking that I could find out more information about a concert, but fortunately I am atleast weary enough to scroll over a link before immediately clicking. After experiencing this, I'll probably become even more weary.

Keep it relevant. If the writer is talking about Radiohead's first album, "Pablo Honey," link that to Amazon or some other site that sells the album. That could be an effective advertisement. Don't crowd articles with useless trickery. You won't have to worry about my blog participating, even if I supported it - apparently it's for sites with atleast 500,000 pageviews/month...I don't think I'm quite there yet.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Odd Brews

Part of my love for beer is its versatility - it can be made so many ways with so many different ingredients. I love to seek out and try unique brews - Dogfish Head is responsible for many of my discoveries, such as (in what I think to be ascending oddness):
  • Fort - brewed with "a ridiculous amount" of pureed raspberries

  • Black & Blue - fermented with blackberries and blueberries

  • Red & White - belgian-style Wit beer brewed with coriander and orange peel, fermented with pinot noir juice; after fermentation, a large portion of the brew is aged in pinot noir barrels, while a smaller portion is aged in oak barrels, and then they are then combined

  • Midas Touch Golden Elixir - inspired by the discovery of King Tut's tomb, apparently molecular archaeologists discovered what is thought to be the recipe to the oldest fermented beverage in the world - it is brewed with white muscat grapes, honey, and...wait for it...saffron!

There are a couple of brews that I have stumbled upon, but have not had the pleasure of trying yet, that blow those out of the water. The first one was inspired by the realization that...what goes best with a hot pizza? Beer of course! What's great to eat when drinking beer? Pizza of course! Well why not combine them? A couple of home brewers in Illinois developed their Mamma Mia Pizza Beer. This is great considering a recent climb in prices of both beer and pizza due to shortages of ingredients to both. Apparently it gives off a strong aroma of herbs and pizza topping when a bottle is opened, considering it's brewing process is quite literal: it's made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, oregano and basil - what, no cheese?? I'm going to try to dodge shipping laws and search for it through e-beer-tailers (I just made that word up I think).

The other brew that I just read about is literally out of this world. As part of a biological study, Japanese scientists sent a portion of barley to a space station for about 6 months to test environmental and space travel impact on plants. Japanese brewer Sapporo has taken a portion of that barley, planted it, and is planning to brew a "SPACE BEER"!!!!!!! (You can only say that with a dramatic, loud voice) This won't be bottled until November and it will be a short supply that they are not even sure will be distributed, so chances are I will not be able to gain any special powers that it might hold. But cool nonetheless!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


If you listen closely to most of the lyrics to hip hop songs today, you probably will not have any moments of intellectual inspiration. I'll admit some of them have catchy beats and are fun to listen to when you're out at the bar, but I usually shy away from downloading these songs or even listening to the radio stations that play them on repeat. I wouldn't even really consider these songs "hip hop"...they should be grouped with "pop" along with Britney and Madonna and all of them. I'll give Lil Jon some props for creating his own wine label, but his songs are mostly just different combinations of "what," "yea," and "ok." I have more respect for the talented, true hip hop artists such as Jurassic 5, De La Soul, The Roots, and of course Wu-Tang Clan.

Rza from the Wu-Tang Clan just started a website called WuChess, in hopes of promoting chess among the hip hop community. The site will have live chess tournaments, etc. and proceeds will benefit the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, which probably has the best mission statement ever: "Using chess, music and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and non-violence." The founders of this organization recognize that chess can develop life skills such as patience, focus, and thinking before doing.

Personally, Rza has inspired me to start playing chess. If I adopt it as a hobby, my goal will be to someday meet Rza face-to-face in a match. And I'll bring the ruckus.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Follow-up to Wikipedia Beer Pong Picture...

Ok, I picked up on some slight sarcasm in response to my comment about how the picture of beer pong on Wikipedia looked like it could have been my sophomore year roommate and me (considering there were no faces). I may not have a strong argument, especially considering I had to cut from 2 different pictures, but see for yourself...

Wikipedia Picture:

Me (left); Steve-O (right):

Not shocking, I know, but you can see the resemblance in attire at the very least, thus my feeling of eeriness.

Friday, May 16, 2008

CollegeHumor vs. Facebook in...

Beer Pong. For those not familiar with the game, it has become a staple of the college party. Normally, it's played between 2 teams of two, but 1 v. 1 games sometimes occur as well. The standard rules are that each team claims one side of a long table, often decorated by the owners, and the ends of the tables have a diamond formation of 10 cups (amount of cups can vary), about 1/4-1/3rd full of beer. Teams take turns tossing ping pong balls at the opposing formation and sinking a cup results in the opposing team drinking that beer. That cup is then taken away from the formation and the team that sinks all of the cups wins.

There are many variations on the game and usually the house having the party will set out their distinct rules, often on a large sign hung on the wall. Some people dispute that the proper name is Beirut, because apparently the game was derived from another game in which actual ping pong paddles were used. Chances are that the people who are so adamant about calling it Beirut have never played the game with ping pong paddles, so their argument is fact, in 4 years of college, I only saw this supposed "true" beer pong played when watching the movie Beerfest.

Anyway, that said, apparently there were plans for a beer pong match between staff of CollegeHumor and staff of Facebook (thanks to David at Marketing Pilgrim for the story). Facebook wussed out due to concern from their legal and PR departments. I've lost respect for the Facebook staff...that's weak. It'd be one thing if they did play and got shut out (in some instances, getting shut out means the losing team has to streak through the house...not like I know from experience or anything though)...they'd be shamed but atleast they would have taken on the challenge. Boo facebook...I'll keep using you...but boo!

Side Note: It's eerie that when I wikipedia-ed "beer pong," the picture that they use looks just like it could be my sophomore-year roommate (Steve-O) and me...I'll have to find a comparison picture. Also, they claim game time to be "20 minutes or less"? I've played games that have been sent into double overtime that have taken well over twice that long. So there!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I write this post after being informed this morning that today is "Free Iced Coffee Day" at Dunkin Donuts (May 15th, 10 am-10 pm) go get your caffeine fix if you'd like.

I've come across a lot of free stuff in the past couple of weeks. I'll probably go get an iced coffee after work, if not sooner. I got a couple of free movie rentals last week. I got some free music a couple weeks ago too (legal free music, that is). So what's the deal? I thought nothing in life was free.

Well, why do businesses offer products for free? It seems a bit counter-intuitive to the whole, "making a profit" model, right? Well, people love free stuff. Getting something for free that you would normally have to pay for can create awareness and lead to adopting whatever it is at a price.

Take the iced coffee for example. As warm weather hits our area, many people transition from their warm cup of coffee to an iced cup...or add an afternoon iced cup of coffee to their routine. On the first warm day of the year, there's nothing better than a quality cup of iced coffee...and that's when you're paying for it. Somehow it tastes better when it's free though. DD's will create iced refreshing joy for many people today...and many of those people will remember that iced refreshing joy and try to replicate it all summer long. One free cup can lead to a summer full of paid ones. Also, they're not delivering the iced coffee to have to go to the Dunkin Donuts yourself. They'll probably see a boost in foot traffic today, but not everyone will restrict themselves to what's free - people will give in to paying for the donuts they see behind the counter.

Free movie rentals. Many people don't even leave the house to get their movies nowadays...whether it's watching something on the 50 movie channels that they subscribe to, getting something through Netflix in the mail, ordering a new release through Amazon, or even watching a streaming or downloaded movie on their computer, the days of going down the street to Blockbuster are quickly declining. Then there's RedBox...the movie-rental vending machine. Many people are unaware of these machines, but they probably walk by them as they leave the supermarket. They offer one-night rentals for $1. They're also fairly liberal in offering free "promo-codes" that you can enter on certain days for free rentals. My brother and I were mentioning it's effect though. These machines are often located in supermarkets...if you're going to the supermarket just to get a free rental, you may think, "oh well I guess while I'm here, I should get some snacks to eat while I watch the movie," or something similar. The free rental is the bait. Also, you get a free rental on Monday, but you have to go back to the machine on Tuesday to return it...many people may just decide to pay for another rental while they're there.

Offering music for free online has been a trend that I have discussed before. I like Coldplay's latest strategy though. They offered their new single online for free. They're also having a contest for free tickets to one of their two shows - one in the UK, one in NYC. They're creating a lot of buzz over this, and it seems like they're giving away a lot, but they're definitely not going to completely lose out. They only gave away their single...people will still buy the album. Plus, if people enter the contest for free concert tickets, but lose, they will probably try to buy tickets to one of their other shows on their tour.

So, be a smart consumer...take advantage of what's free - but be weary of the purpose.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Speed Racer Gets Horrible Reviews

I don't know how I feel about reading movie reviews. Sometimes I like to avoid them and make my own conclusions on a film. Sometimes I get pumped about something coming out and then decide not to because it gets horrible reviews. Sometimes I read horrible reviews and insist that they are wrong. My last defiance was unwarranted though - 10,000 BC was a disappointment. But...did reading the reviews before seeing it shape my opinion of it in any way?

Generally, metacritic is the way to go for skeptics though. It compiles a (weighted) average rating (out of 100) based on 30-40+ reviews from all over the country. It's easy to disagree with one person's review - it's hard to disagree with 40 of them.

It's definitely tricky to be a film critic though. The big releases started last weekend with Iron Man. It got fantastic reviews. This weekend brought Speed Racer. Next weekend will bring the new Chronicles of Narnia film. The following weekend will bring the new Indiana Jones film. I'm upset that coming off of the 78 that Iron Man achieved last weekend, Speed Racer got a 36! Look at the differences from the Wall Street Journal** (by Joe Morgenstern):

Last week's review on Iron Man: 100 - The gadgetry is absolutely dazzling, the action is mostly exhilarating, the comedy is scintillating and the whole enormous enterprise, spawned by Marvel comics, throbs with dramatic energy because the man inside the shiny red robotic rig is a daring choice for an action hero, and an inspired one.

This week's review on Speed Racer: 0 - This toxic admixture of computer-generated frenzy and live-action torpor succeeds in being, almost simultaneously, genuinely painful -- the esthetic equivalent of needles in eyeballs -- and weirdly benumbing, like eye candy laced with lidocaine.

Can he be completely subjective from one week to the next? Can he erase the buzz of Iron Man from his mind and view Speed Racer with the same mindset that he had going into Iron Man? What if the release dates were switched around? Also, can these critics ignore all other reviews before putting their own out? What if this critic's girlfriend broke up with him between the releases? Can he have the same exact mood going into every release? Plus...this was one of the films that was hyped up for IMAX...did the critics view it in IMAX or not? I'm not saying it's completely flawed, but the movie review process is definitely not a perfect system.

Regardless, it's hard to ignore a score that's in the red (rated 0-39). I may be a skeptic, but I'm also aware of movie ticket prices...I'll probably pass on Speed Racer.

**Side Note: You may remember my disappointment in how the online edition of WSJ changed the Media & Marketing section from free to subscription-based (post here). I stated that I would e-mail my frustrations to them, to which I got no response. I realize my e-mail probably had no impact whatsoever, however, the section is once again free!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

PA Beverage Laws Suck!

I mentioned yesterday the problem that exists with the beverage laws that exist in the state of Pennsylvania. Here's the deal for those who are not familiar with it:

Beverages (beer) are sold in their own stores. Liquor and wine are sold separate from beer in other types of stores. Ok...kinda weird...but I can deal with that. The problem is that PA law requires these beverage stores to pose the minimum purchase of a case of beer (normally 24 12-ounce beers...sometimes 12 24-ounce beers or something similar). Even if the distribution works so that a brewery only puts out a 12-pack of a certain type or types of beer, beverage stores will group 2 12-packs together that must be purchased together.

If it were strictly the amount that the law restricted, I would be fine with purchasing 24 single bottles of different kinds of beer. Unfortunately, that's not the case. I love beer because there are so many breweries brewing so many different types of beer. I like to experiment. Accustomed to NJ and CT laws, I've easily been able to go about with experimentation by buying single bottles or maybe 4-packs, 6-packs, or if I'm adventurous, 12-packs. Experimentation can get rather expensive when you have to buy an entire case of every beer that you're going to try. It's a stretch to think that I would meet a beer that I absolutely did not like, but if it did happen, I'd be stuck with a whole case of it!

Now there are other establishments that sell in lower quantities - most of them are restaurants or eateries. However, they hike up the prices so if you're going that route to save money, you're losing.

Obviously you can tell that I am not a fan of these laws. I don't think I'm alone. If I had more friends in the area that shared a passion for beer, I would resort to planning field trips with them to the beverage store to divvy up our purchases. But unfortunately I don't...and I shouldn't have to. Fortunately, I often travel on weekends to the states of CT and NJ and take advantage while I am, but something should be done about these horrendous laws!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Iron Man Cameos

So apparently they released a movie this past weekend called Iron Man?

Seriously though...I saw it on Saturday and it was pretty awesome. But you obviously haven't looked at the entertainment section of anywhere if you don't know that yet. News has already been released regarding its sequel, due out in 2010, again directed by the one and only Jon Favreau, who truly is money and doesn't even know it (watch Swingers immediately if you didn't get that one).

Anyway, as I waited through the credits to see the little 10 second teaser at the very end, involving a very notable actor, I noticed that Tom Morello was in the credits as "additional electric guitar," or something similar. Turns out he had a cameo as a terrorist!! (See: "Insurgent #5") I wish I had known that going into the movie, because I definitely did not catch that. Also, Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan, who I did not notice in the credits but apparently contributed music to the film as well, had a cameo filmed but it was edited out. Too bad that it got cut out, but it was a cool idea considering one of his aliases is Tony Starks.

Illinois Man Gets His Coffin Made

Wow. So many things running through my head right now (God Bless America, for one) after seeing this story...

67-year old Bill Bramanti went through the arduous task of taking strides toward the arrangements for his getting a coffin designed to look like a can of the good ol' Pabst Blue Ribbon. I remember buying some PBR at school once because it was on sale...the staff at the liquor store were practically begging people to buy it. I wondered to myself, "Why the hell do they still brew this stuff? Who seriously drinks it?" Well my question has now been laid to rest.

Best part of the story is Bill threw a party over the weekend, stocking the coffin with ice and what must be his all-time favorite beverage. I'm hoping Bill lives many more years...but man what a funeral that will be. Party hard Bill.

Cinco de Mayo - Marketing a Holiday

Certain holidays call for certain types of products because of many years of tradition. Christmas time - toys, Thanksgiving - turkeys. But have people created these standards for the holidays or have marketers? I think it's a combination, key point being that marketers will latch onto any possibility of a tradition and run away with it. Is that ethical? In some instances, maybe not so much. Is it capitalism at its best? Pretty much.

Most people with a functioning brain can see through marketing ploys. Personally, I try to avoid them. Call me cheap, but why should I pay $50 for some roses on February 14th when they cost $10 the rest of the year? Notice I prefaced with "Call me cheap," because that's what 9 out of 10 people would think about that comment. The demand that exists for roses on Valentine's Day severely outweighs the fact that there's a markup on them - that's how businesses get away with it.

As a beer drinker, there are a handful of holidays in which beer is emphasized. I buy beer year round regardless of a holiday so the marketing surrounding these holidays affects other people more [Yes, I bought a case of Guinness and Harp a week before St. Pat's this year, but I could just as easily do that a week after St. Pat's too...important thing is there was no markup].

You are probably aware that today is Cinco de Mayo...what is your immediate thought? Mexican beer and salsa & chips? I think most people would jump at consuming those types of products without even knowing what Cinco de Mayo is (I admit I looked it up myself). It "celebrates" the victory by Mexican forces over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not Mexico's Independence Day. As far as celebration in Mexico goes, it's mostly limited to the region of Puebla. Here, I think, is the extreme case of how marketing has created a holiday in the U.S. by heavily advertising for Corona, tequila, and chips & salsa. Budweiser released "Bud Lime," somewhat recently, in response to what Miller did with "Miller Chill." I don't think the timing of this release was unintentional.

Listening to the radio every morning (94.1 WYSP Kid Chris show) has been where it's hit me the most. Every morning for the last couple of weeks there has been a radio ad for Corona and one for Jose Cuervo (sometimes for Dos Equis). The Cuervo ad exemplifies my point the best: it's a white guy with a horrible Spanish accent hyping up Cuervo margaritas, "the most popular cocktail in the world." There's no humor in the horrible Spanish's as if they are trying to pass it off as genuine.

I'm all for celebrating holidays. I'll sometimes give into tradition even if I think it's artificial by buying whatever is advertised, as long as the prices are not hiked up. But I think you should try to know what the holiday is about first. Personally, I would even consider picking up a 6-pack of Dos Equis after work...but PA beverage laws prohibit me from doing so without overpaying or buying an entire case. But that's another blog post altogether.

P.S. Alfredo, who I think is Mexican, was just wished a happy Cinco de Mayo by Dave. His response: hesitation and "oh yea! that's today"