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Trends, commentary, and insightful rants from the bleeding edge of advertising, content & branding.

Hemingway and the Cocktail.

Ernest Hemingway (21 Jul 1899 – 2 July 1961) was, among other things, a war correspondant, bullfighting aficionado, American expatriate, novelist, cat-fancier, fisherman, sub-chaser, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner and, for our purposes here, a rather serious drinker. Ernest, or Papa, began drinking as a teenager in his cub reporter days and continued, unabated, throughout his life. Toward the end of his life he was reportedly drinking the equivalent of a quart of whiskey a day.

Over the years Hemingway drank pretty much anything and everything, and so did the characters of his novels. In fact it would be easily possible to write an entire bar tending guide just from the descriptions in his novels.1 (Click for recipes and to read on)

Filed under: super genius inc., , ,

Papa Says, Sit Down at a Typewriter and Bleed.

INTERVIEWER

Could you say something of this process? When do you work? Do you keep to a strict schedule?

HEMINGWAY

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through. (read the full story here at the Paris Review)

Filed under: super genius inc., , , ,

America’s Most Awesome Car.

America F Yeah!

If you’ve never driven on the salt flats of Utah and Nevada, you may not know that it’s exactly like driving on the surface of the moon. I personally managed to drive my poky little Saturn on the salt flats, taking an ill-advised shortcut, and managed to drive in a straight line, as fast as I could, for hours, in absolute silence. It is an incredible feeling of spacelessness. Nothing moves. There are no signs. You have no sense of place. You could be anywhere.

Eighty years ago, someone did the same thing, and fell in love with the feeling. In the 1930’s, automobile racing was the Wild West. Anyone could do it, anywhere, anytime. And one man, living in Utah, drove his race car out in the middle of nowhere for days at a time, which gave him time to dream.

No sudden movements.

Out of this nothingness, this unknowable void, came one of the greatest cars in history, establishing the salt flats as the world standard for land speed records. One man designed a car with a car engine powerful enough to compete against airplane engines, which most people were using at the time. One man designed a body that was aerodynamic, so that the flow of air would help it achieve his dream.
This car would become known as the Mormon Meteor, and it is one of the most important cars still in existence. It defeated cars the world over. It put Utah on the map for land-speed enthusiasts. Epic films could be written about this car. Brad Pitt could play the lead.

Ab Jenkins

But you can find out about it on Tuesday night, on the world premiere of the “Mormon Meteor” on the new show, One of a Kind: Cars. It’s a show we created and developed ourselves. It’s the untold story about the most unique automobiles on the planet.

But it’s also about the people crazy enough to build and restore them, and hunt for them the world over. Please join us.
One of a Kind: Cars
9:30 Eastern, 6:30 Pacific

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of A Kind Cars

One of A Kind Cars. Only on Velocity Chanel.

The premiere episodes of OOAK aired last night on Velocity.  SG had an amazing amount of fun filming these unique cars and developing these OOAK stories. Watch this space, we’ll be bringing more “behind the scenes” content and an inside look at the production process.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

In Defense of Content Farms

"I"m a pickin' and I'm a grinnin'"

Over the last two years, there has been a universal backlash against farmed content. Demand Media and Associated Content, among others, are generating millions of articles every month, swamping search results, driving traffic to their content so they can sell ads against it. Smart strategy. Might be killing the web. You never know.

As writers, content farms are just one more herald of the end of civilization. Being a writer is already a lowly, underpaid, under-respected profession to begin with. Now we’re swamped by literally everyone with a computer and an internet connection who knows how to put two words together. There is now so much information online that to compete for any eyeballs is like slogging into a mud wrestling tournament. You hate yourself, you’re unlikely to win, and you’re just going to get slimy.

Much of the derision directed at the content farms react to the low quality of said content. Associated Content has a three-page writeup on How to Turn On Your Computer, which seems mean-spirited, taunting the people who have a doorstop with a Dell logo and can’t get online to figure this out. Google has started fighting back, lowering the page rankings of the content farms, but it’s a losing battle.

What’s getting lost in the shuffle here is that content farms provide a useful function. We’ve wandered through the assignment pages at Demand Studios, curious as to what kinds of writing topics were available. And you know what? These assignments are typically geared toward the specific and mundane, stuff that ordinary humans will never think to write about. “How to Hook Up Gauges in a Ford Super Power Stroke.” “How to Obtain Power of Attorney for the State of Mississippi.” “Passive Solar Dwellings of the Anasazi Indians.” Weird, specific, arcane, and not terribly useful. Unless you need to hook up gauges to your Ford in order to drive to Mississippi and get power of attorney for your solar-dwelling Anasazi aunt. Then, this becomes the most valuable information on Earth.

Which is, after all, the point of writing. Writers, especially, always forget that. We have been living in an age where the amount of information we had was limited enough that we could spend time making it pretty. Poetry has been steadily dying for a hundred years for a reason: words are functional creatures. We’ve been making them pretty simply because they were available, universal tools that everyone could understand. Now, you can cut a video on your iPad and stream it to millions in seconds. Old tools die. New tools emerge. I’m sure someone loved hieroglyphics, too.

We toss around the phrase “information age” like we pretend to understand it, but one thing is clear: the winners of this era are going to be the ones who process data more quickly than anyone else. We don’t have time to make it pretty. And content farms are doing the grunt work in transforming data into information we can absorb and implement. As writers, we hate the content farms. As media experts, we realize the value of what is happening. And we are paying strict attention.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,

Amazon Studios: Welcome Your New Entertainment Overlords

Recently, Amazon announced the formation of Amazon Studios, a new arm of Amazon that will solicit submissions for film and screenplays. Amazon Studios may produce these projects as feature films through a “first-look” agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures.

Response to this information in the screenwriting and film-making community has been histrionic. Many prominent industry bloggers, having read the fine print, think that Amazon’s 18-month free exclusive option on the film or screenplay is like indentured servitude. They’re freaking out about the “crowdsourcing” of the screenplays, which will encourage anyone to make a script better without the original author’s consent, in exchange for half the payday or more. And they are correct.

Yes, the terms are unlikely to make you rich. Yes, Amazon seems not to care about author’s rights, or intellectual property, or anything the Writers Guild of America has ever tried to fight for.

So what?

This is an open casting call for anyone who has ever tried to write a screenplay. Most of the scripts submitted using this process are going to be terrible. Typically, those who have the ability to make money writing movies are actually making money writing movies. So Amazon is banking on the few writers out there who can tell a coherent story  in 110 pages, and hoping that the lure of a $200,000 payday is enough to lure a story worth producing. That’s fair. That’s more than fair.

America is built on exploiting people. We started doing it the moment the first sucker from the Wampanoag tribe decided to teach the Pilgrims how not to starve, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Without exploitation, you wouldn’t have the cities of San Francisco, built on the dreams of people seeking California gold, or Seattle, based on the dreams of people seeking Alaskan gold. Without exploitation, we wouldn’t have railroads, cheap clothes, or reality television.

This is not exploiting people. This is taking a new approach to the insular world of filmmaking and placing a bet that someone can tell a story just as well. Most of these stories will be terrible, but can they be worse than Land of the Lost or Year One?

Sure, Amazon Studios isn’t paying WGA minimum, and they’re disrespecting the author by letting anyone improve on their work. But they’re giving writers and filmmakers a shot they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

If you really want to do the hard work to become a screenwriter, write a great script and find an agent. If you really want to do the hard work to become a director, make a film. Nobody’s stopping you. You can make one from your phone, if you want.

But if you want a free and easy way to get your ideas in front of people who might like them, and you’re not going to quit your job and go to Los Angeles to make it happen, then this is a gift. Six months from now, when the Amazon hype machine makes some writer’s dreams come true, you have no right to be envious. And when the walls of Hollywood continue to erode — and they are absolutely eroding — then Amazon Studios may someday be one of the defining moments in leveling the playing field. They’ll be the guys who recognized there were a nation of people who had gold in their eyes, and they decided to put up a storefront to start selling pickaxes.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Don’t Hate the Players. Hate the Games.

Add me!: dearleader

There are two kinds of trends. The first kind of trend is the kind you know are going to burn out pretty quickly, and so you ignore and/or mock them until they go away. Instances of these trends: Crocs, dot-com millionaires, Blockbuster Video stores. All annoying in their own way, but retrospectively we’ll all look back on them and say, “Remember when we walked to Blockbuster in our Crocs to rent The Boondock Saints right before our second round of venture capital funding? Good times, good times.”

The second kind of trend is more insidious. These trends are more permanent, and reflect a tectonic shift in our attitudes toward life and technology. These you cannot ignore, and you must find a way to embrace or make peace with them. Otherwise, you become that guy in the corner of the room who scoffs at iPads and vows to write his new novel with pad and paper, “like nature intended.” Examples of these trends include the MP3, cargo shorts, and the Palin Brood. For better or worse, they’re not going anywhere, no matter how intense the desire to destroy or replace them.

Social gaming is a tricky little bitch. It looks like the first kind of trend, mostly because of FarmVille, which has singlehandedly taught most Facebook users how to hide their friends’ updates. Aside: Somebody has to tell these companies that automatic Facebook updates are killing their brands. Same with unearned re-tweets: if it isn’t funny, disgusting, or transcendent, you’re a corporate shill with a secret agenda and I’m automatically unfollowing you. /Aside.

Social gaming smells like bullshit, right? Somehow Zynga has convinced America that mindlessly clicking on stuff on your screen is somehow better than your actual job, which usually includes mindlessly clicking stuff on your screen. Now, Zynga’s not wrong. FarmVille is probably better than 90% of most of our jobs. Nobody yells at you, you reap the direct result of your clicks, and you get to keep all of what you produce. It’s probably the most fulfilling part of someone’s day right now, and if that keeps them from killing a random stranger, well God bless Zynga.

But let’s be honest. FarmVille sucks. It’s like earning frequent flyer miles in real time. And the worst part about it is that it’s spawned a thousand imitators, each of which is trying to pretend they didn’t just rip off the FarmVille code and plaster it into their fantasy/sci-fi/pornstar worlds. Playing social gaming right now is like voluntarily checking into a Thai sweatshop.

Look, as a group of recovering Dungeons and Dragons players, we understand the appeal of “leveling up.” It gives you the illusion of forward progress in a life that usually just waves you forward in the inevitable slouch toward death. It’s great to feel that you’re succeeding at something, even if it is poking your phone with your index finger six hundred times a day.

But we’re trapped here, as a culture. We’ve been “leveling up” since we developed loyalty programs. We can’t move beyond it. And social gaming is bigger than this. Social gaming puts a fun veneer on the tedious parts of life that make us want to blow our brains out. The pieces are starting to form with location-based services, and they’re only going to get better from here.

Social gaming is a trend that’s not going away. We love to compete. It’s going to take over every aspect of our lives until we can’t remember a time we didn’t race to find the easter egg in the 7-Eleven, or when we weren’t mayor of our favorite bar.

But we’re begging someone to come up with a new paradigm for social gaming that doesn’t involve leveling up and/or building some sort of quaint business in an industry that doesn’t exist anymore because, you know, capitalism. Something that actually makes you want to go spend money instead of actively hating the brands involved. Something distracting, immersive, increasingly challenging and ultimately rewarding, in a way that doesn’t make us wonder what we did with all the time we wasted when we were young.

Not that we’re against wasting time, mind you. We just want to remember it.

Filed under: social media,

SHOPPING THE SOCIAL: BEYOND THE “LIKE” BUTTON

Is it just us, or does the “like” button (despite its recent release into the wild) seem so 2008.  Yeah, that was cute….two years ago.  Yes, “liking” something, even off site, will continue to be popular in a lazy man’s reflexive action kind of way.  The reality is that socially influenced shopping has been around for a long time. Today’s war, however, is shaping up to be about location (as in check-ins) and tomorrow’s war precedes from there to the fussily named – internet of things (whereby we check into our can of Pringles).

What’s interesting about the congregation of all of these closely (annoyingly) related services is how they might integrate to breathe life into the social shopping meme.  “Ha!,” you say, “That’s not interesting at all.” In our line of work and with our types of clients (i.e. retail, fashion, goods you can buy etc.) it could turn out be kind of interesting. With foursquare and Gowalla gaining momentum and facebook on the verge of launching their own location service it’s weird and kind of cool to see how folks have gone from “Twitter, that’s stupid” to “checking in” at every Taqueria and corn field airport.  There’s something about the ease and specificity of broadcasting your location that makes it more frictionless that having to create a 140 character haiku every time.  Its just here I am. And btw I’m at the restaurant you couldn’t get into. In fact, if you’re a mass-market retailer or in the event business you are very quickly going to be missing out on something potentially sticky if you’re not testing a location angle.  This is the first leg of where we think social shopping is actually going – especially if you’re a high volume retailer. It’s not about tweeting your $ spent.  It’s about adding interest value to retail or shopping stops you make all the time.  Right now the only people actually activating this bandwagon seem to be bars and the occasional restaurant.  That’s going to change.

The second sandbox is the Internet of things action.  Bear with us; we’re going to reduce a big, huge mountain of many different opportunities down to the one angle that fits our thesis.  The IOT comes in a few flavors – one is a product that acts (i.e. tweet their location) and interacts with other products; and another is a consumer responding directly to products (versus a fb post about the new Green Tea Smoothie you love, you actually check into that Smoothie as if you’re foursquaring a Starbucks).  I’m sure there are lots of other angles but we’re the kind of people that need to keep things simple.  As a social shopping thought experiment if you combine the social mechanic of checking into a location and then checking into a product you buy at that location – and there’s a reward for that – and then you turbo charge it with a frictionless/seamless payment option.  There’s a game play aspect that’s cool and a new kind of interest added to mundane activity that’s exciting and oh by the way you’re spending real money (meaning more than micro-payments for livestock in Farmville – not that there’s anything wrong with that).

And so that third piece becomes the seamless payment piece. Beyond simply broadcasting a purchase it’s the ability to effortlessly make the purchase as part of the social shopping mechanic.  And then, what the heck, that purchase is broadcast and then your friends can “like” it (it’s not going away) and the world spins madly on J.

Of course, facebook, would like all of that activity to stay in house and they might have a leg up based on low barrier to usage. I currently access: facebook, foursquare, Gowalla, GetGlue and…oh yea, Twitter. It’s not a huge pain but something has got to give to gain widespread and commonplace adoption for the kind of social shopping dynamic described above.  My wife, for instance, is not going through multiple services to do any of that (unless the reward are huge).  Despite their ubiquity its’ not a guarantee that facebook would win that bet,  foursquare with enough consumer acceptance could easily close that distance – they own geography.  Frankly, Apple could win that war (or some combination of these actors), it’s the phone that owns all that activity on the go anyway and with a seamless payment system in place, next stop world domination.

Stay tuned for a follow up post around “the return of the brand community.” Remember that meme? We’re talking shopping here though, and not just Gilt style bargain driven flash mobs. That’s the kind of soil seeding that would really make some of these local social trends catch fire.

Filed under: facebook, Retail, social media, Trend Spotting, , ,

The Great Recession is Over. Now What?

 

ass kickin' time

I know you probably don’t remember this, but a year ago, you were sweating bullets. The end was nigh, this was the big one, the economic cataclysm that would consume a generation. You saw your life flashing before your eyes.

And then? Well, things got bad for a while. But somehow armageddon was averted. The ship righted. The blood stopped flowing. And you opened your eyes and realized that you weren’t going to die this time.

Every few years or so, a turning point pivots this little roller coaster called the economy. You don’t realize it at the time. You only see it in retrospect. When Netscape went public. When Google launched. Seismic events that redefine the economy and change the rules of the game.

This is that moment.

We’re at the bottom of one of the biggest recessions in American history. All the deadwood has been cleared out, the money is starting to flow again, and the 2010’s are going to be defined by what you do right now. The tendency is going to be to sit back and be cautious, because people got burned by this thing and they’re not going back into the fire.

More playground for us.

Because the next decade is going to be defined by those of us who recognize the signs. Who realize that media isn’t dead, it’s just fractalizing. Who know that people don’t change habits just because they’re moving more and more of their life online. Who know that whenever something dies in an ecosystem, there is nothing but daylight for the sure and the strong.

Recoveries are made by those who invent them.

If you wait for others to see how warm the water is, you’ve already lost. Pretty soon the whole pool will be packed with people. You’ve got six months, tops, to try to do the things you’ve wanted to do, and help shape what the next phase will look like. After that, you’re locked into whatever shape the economy will take. You’ll be a spectator, not a driver.

Stop reading blogs. Go reinvent the economy.

Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

Filed under: mobile, recession, skateboarding cats, supergenius llc, , , ,

DUMB WORDS! BANNED WORDS & PHRASES 2010

 

Her words are witchcraft and heresy. The very tools of the Devil!

 

Although by no means exact, rough web based estimates of the number of words in the English language put the total at somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million.  By any civilized standard this is too many! A million words! That has the sulfuric stench of the devil.  Here at super genius we’d wager that at least 40% of that is pure waste, and we’d like to do our part to cut that waste. On the heels of the infamous memo put out by Tribune CEO Randy Michaels (a memo we support by the way); we’ve decided to begin publishing our own list of words we’re banning in 2010 and invite crowdsourced (uh oh! spoiler alert on that one!) additions.  Now, a millions words is a lot for us to go through so as THE BANNENING continues and we add new words we’ll publish them in our twitter feed (there’s another one!) under #dumbwords. The real goal here, is to avoid using words that make you sound like a jargon drunk simpleton. By not using these words you enhance your reputation as a human being. And so:

BRAND PROMISE (yes we know, two words, but it’s combination that kills)

CROWDSOURCE (CROWDSOURCED)

TWEET

THE “CLOUD”

VAMPIRE

ALCOPOP (this was actually on the 2007 list but we didn’t publish that year)

BLOG (the term micro-blog has been added to our 2011 watchlist)

SOCCER

AKIMBO

Additional words will be published via the 140 character service known as Twitter under the hash #dumbwords. If you have words to add to the list please do the same. Cheers!

Filed under: advertising, Bad Ads, Self Help, skateboarding cats, Uncategorized, Vampires, , , , , , ,

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Super Genius LLC is a digital media and creative incubator that excels at bringing fresh, new thinking to existing strategy as well as blank-page strategic development. Our mission is to open up unique and exciting ways of connecting brands and consumers.

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." William Gibson

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