Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why Energizer's new tagline might be a bit weak

It keeps going. And going. And going.

The tag line with the pink-Terminator-isqe Energizer bunny has stuck with us for as long as we can remember. From Darth Vader, to Elvis, to alien abductions, these spots all ended with the pink bunny and the famous tag line, "It keeps going.". I even remember being teased by friends in middle school because I ran longer on the track than most kids in gym class, "Does he eat Energizer batteries for breakfast? He keeps going!". (Outrunning Counter-Strike playing gurus wasn't difficult, I should add.)

"Nothing outlasts the Energizer battery", proclaims the 1994 Energizer/Darth Vader spot. Well, except for the tag line, I guess. After twenty years, Energizer Battery Co. (with the help of TBWA Canada) has changed its tag line from "Keep going" to "Now that's positivenergy", which is part of a new initiative including "pay it forward" - an online pledge that encourages consumers to perform random acts of kindness ("Do something little. Help something big."). Ever since Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" went Hollywood in 2006, companies from across all industries have been trying to re-brand themselves as "green". You see, branding yourself as environmentally friendly becomes more than just reducing carbon dioxide emissions, so we won't all die in xyz years. It's a message to us that we can change the world, but more importantly - we can become better people by doing these things. And isn't saving the world so much more sexier than just surviving?

However, with so many brands claiming to be "green" and claiming that you can do good for the planet by using their products, this "green" aspect is becoming a commodity amongst every company, and the message is getting a bit old (much like how a company can't get excited about having a website now... who doesn't?).

Although the consumer attention on global warming has faded a little with time, I don't believe that we don't care about "saving the planet" anymore. A lot of decisions we make do consider the environment (for example, we've stepped away from gas guzzling vehicles and turned off our computers overnight). A more effective campaign that encouraged social action is of course the Pepsi Refresh Everything Project. For the first time 23 years, Pepsi took a pass on a Superbowl spot in 2010, and instead, used their $20 million dollar Superbowl budget as grants ($5,000 to $250,000 per grant) for consumer initiated ideas that impact the world in a positive way. This accomplished a couple of things. In an interview with Rob Schwartz (CCO at TBWA\Chiat Day\L.A.) by Teressa Iezzi (former editor of Creativity Magazine), Schwartz stated, "The original idea was kept intact: Every Pepsi Refreshes The World, not just a slogan, but as real action. Oh, and give people a concrete reason to choose Pepsi over Coke." It was about real action. And it worked. (Just a small example, this past semester, my Entrepreneurship professor even spent time pitching some of his former student's product to the class so we would go to and vote. Talk about a project that scales...)

Is Energizer's new tag line just another brand jumping on to the "green" bandwagon, that's quite frankly getting a bit full? Is the message a bit weak? In Friday's article by the Financial Post, Alan Middleton of York University stated, "'positive energy' is a much softer, mushier message...This is a more abstract, cerebral concept. And those don't usually work in advertising -they either get dramatically misunderstood or ignored."

I think it's a little too early to tell what type of response and buzz that Energizer's call to action will create, and if the message will stick with consumers. Who knows, maybe mushy works now. Let's give it more time. Let's keep going.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sloan: 20th Anniversary

Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, and Andrew Scott of Sloan perform at Sonic Boom on May 14th, 2011.

Twenty years ago, Brian Mulroney was the Prime Minister of Canada, James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgement Day was the highest grossing film, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA Championship, the GST was introduced in Canada, and the price of gas was about 29 cents per litre. Twenty years was a long time ago, but don't tell that to Canadian rock band, Sloan.

Starting in an era where Nirvana was taking the world by storm with grunge music (along with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains), Sloan has since "survived" many musical eras and have made their mark in the Canadian music scene as Canada's rock band. Their music never went mainstream, and they never really tried to break into America's music scene either, but perhaps they never needed to. With twenty years in the music industry, the Halifax-based band (now re-located to Toronto) has produced twelve studio albums (two EPs), including Juno award winning album One Chord to Another (Best Alternative Album in 1997). Sloan's popular hits include Everything You've Done Wrong, Money City Maniacs, The Good in Everyone, Underwhelmed, and Coax Me - among many others.

As part of their 20th anniversary celebration and the release of their new album, The Double Cross, Sloan played a free live show at Sonic Boom, in front of a packed basement. Tres sweaty, but it was definitely fun. They played many songs from their new album, as well as some classics. (They also played three songs for their encore!)

In a recent interview on CBC Radio Q, Sloan discussed their comments in a magazine stating, "Twenty years was notable for a band barely making a living". Patrick Pentland commented, "We could be touring more, potentially bringing in a lot more money... three of us have young kids, we have other priorities as well." And Chris Murphy added, "All of my friends and peers are broke. None of the people came up making music with us are making any money, not much... but we hung together." Also asked if they see themselves around in ten years, for a 30th anniversary - and in short, affirmative.

Twenty years. All possible only because of the love for music.

A few songs I filmed while balancing and dancing on one leg on the staircase. Good times.

I first caught Sloan live at CBC Culture Days last September, and I'm glad I did.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Q Live: A morning of arts and culture

CBC Q host, Jian Ghomeshi, talks to the audience before going on air.

Well hi there. And happy Sunday.

The suspenseful sound effect leading into the opening essay, the background music during the opening essay, and the opening essay itself, has become an addicting piece that I will never get tired of. Oh, and how can I forget the Q Theme song? These features of CBC's radio program, Q, have become a bit of a symbol to my daily fix for arts and culture, and this past Friday, I (finally) saw it live - in front row seats style. It was a very interesting experience to see what happens behind the scenes, and the live show itself is a bit of a different concept than the regular in-studio program. I'll talk briefly about the highlights of the show for me, and some behind-the-scenes things (including Q&A) but there's a link at the end of this post to hear the episode in its entirety.

Note: I wasn't sure how strict they were with recording devices, so I only had the camera on my mobile device to use.

Live Music

Israeli singer-songwriter, Yael Naim, performs live off her new album, "She was a Boy", at Q Live at Glenn Gould Studio on May 6, 2011.

I absolutely enjoyed guest, Yael Naim (picture above). Born in Paris and raised in Israel, her debut album, In a Man's Womb, was released in 2001, followed by her self-titled album in 2007 which went on to win "Best World Music Album" at Victoires de la Musique (France's top music award). To this point, I've actually never come across her or her music, but I'm glad I did on Friday - it's a very up-beat/relaxing and acoustic sound. If I had to compare her to other arists, it would probably be a bit of Feist, Regina Spektor, and Corinne Bailey Rae. You may have also heard her music in 2008, in Apple's MacBook Air commercial:

Her music and interview on Q starts at the 52:43 minute mark.

Of course, there was Sam Roberts Band, who debuted many of their singles off their new album, Collider, to be released next week.

Sam Roberts Band performs at Q Live at Glenn Gould Studio on May 6, 2011.

Discussion on world issues and politics
I won't spoil the show for you, but I thought the Q media panel brought up some really interesting points on both the Canadian election and the death of Osama bin Laden.

First, on the Canadian election, they talked about how the media has focused a lot of their attention on the collapse of the Liberals, the surge of the NDP, the stories in Quebec - but there hasn't been much attention on what the future implications of a Conservative Majority would be.

On Osama bin Laden, Margaret Wente discussed how many Canadians felt uneasy watching the triumphant celebration in the streets of the United States, because "we don't do that, that's not our way. Except for hockey games... We don't understand the profound wounds that were inflicted by 9/11...", she goes on to say, "Can anybody really doubt that the world is better off without this guy? Can you? But that's not the question, the world would be better off without a lot of people, but that doesn't justify killing them. Extrajudicial assassinations like this used to be something the Americans did covertly, which they tried to get Castro, who they also vilified in the same way that they vilify bin Laden now... they should have captured him and have a trial, and then there would be justice."

The Comedy
Friday's live comedy was brought to you by Mio Adilman and Elvira Kurt, and both guests entered the stage busting some wicked dance moves (pre-requisites to being humorous, I'm guessing). Two topics of discussion: Mio Adilman analyzes the art of the beard (and specifically, Monkey Tail) and the Elvira Kurt discusses her pick for this week's "Hall of Shame": Badminton World Federation. I'll leave it at that. (Elvira Kurt is wicked cool, by the way.)

Other Guests
Other guests included Stephen Silver (director of "Big Bang Club") and Anthony Baxter (of "You've Been Trumped").

So that was my first experience of watching Q Live, and it was definitely a great live production. A morning packed with incredible live music, discussion on politics/world issues, discussion on arts and culture, and comedy - can we do this every Friday?

Bad photo, but awesome at the same time.

P.S. Of course, I asked him after the show if he would ever interview Lights on the program (he's her manager as well).

Listen to the full episode of Q Live at Glenn Gould Studio - May 6, 2011:

CBC Q is broadcasted every weekday, 10am and 10pm, and is also available on iTunes (free) and on their website.

Behind the scenes
During the breaks, and after the recorded show was over, Ghomeshi did Q&A's with the audience, and there were a lot of interesting things that were discussed:

- The Donald Trump Interview: On the March 21st show, Q did an in-person interview with Donald Trump on the 26th floor boardroom of Trump Tower (yes, that boardroom - as Ghomeshi would say), and here are some of the behind the scenes information on how that meeting went: first of all, the CBC Q team went through three levels of security, and were accompanied by body guards during the interview. There was a few seconds of technical difficulties at first, and Donald Trump said, "I don't have time for this" and left - Ghomeshi had to run after him to ask him to come back. During the interview, Trump would use his hand to signal a "next question" kind of gesture when he didn't like the question. At one point, if you listen to the interview, you'll hear him say, "we could have done this over the phone". Finally, after the interview, Trump asked for statistics regarding the show and found out that Q reached millions of people all over North America through live broadcasts and podcast. He was all of a sudden friendlier and took interest in Ghomeshi and the program. Like Seth Meyers said, "Donald Trump has been saying he will run for President as a Republican, which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke". Zing!

- Opening essay and podcast: To those who do listen regularly to the program on podcast, know that the opening essays are seldom included. The reason behind this, he explains, are the copyright music that can be played on the radio, but not redistributed through outlets such as iTunes (the same with the portions of the show where Kanye West's "Heard em Say" music is used). He said that they recognize that so many people are listening to the podcast now, that they are working on a way to solve this problem.

- Who writes the introduction pieces of interviewees: The Q team does a ton of research and writes all of the introduction pieces to the guests. They then pass it on to Jian Ghomeshi, who then "Jianizes" it. Their introductions are purposely detailed and long, as they feel it gives the impression to guests that this is a serious program. Opening essays are written by Ghomeshi.

- Direction of Q: It was interesting when I heard Ghomeshi mention that Q aims to be similar to The New Yorker, but with Canadian content. In addition, when asked about whether or not Q will steer away from Canadian content because of an increasing audience in the United States, he said the content will always be what it has been and that the United States don't get enough credit for being interested in what happens outside of their country (I'm paraphrasing here).

- Will there be more live shows? This is new to the Q team, and they're still learning everything. He mentioned that the the Q team is already small as it is, and having a live show just makes it crazier as they do everything themselves. In addition, live shows are different from the regular in-studio ones as it doesn't allow them to do things they usually do. For example, having guests over the phone, having long and in-depth conversations with guests, and the list of available guests shrinks because of their availability. However, they are looking to definitely have more.