Notes Off the Napkin: Random Notes

Notes-Off-the-Napkin-logo1By Andrew Frame

Sometimes the cocktail-napkin copy notes required two or three napkins.

Sometimes it barely covered one side of one napkin. A good multi-drink lunch would involve more than one prospective client, and I’d end up with several alcohol and ink-smeared papers. This is one of those times.

Literally.

Somebody in my producers group said it, but for the life of me I can’t remember who. To paraphrase, “I hate it when someone uses the word literally, figuratively.”

We were watching the local FOX affiliates 10pm “news,” and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said they used the word “literally” a half dozen times before they broke for weather.

It seemed that everything that happened that day, happened “literally.”

The car “literally” flipped over…

The drug dealer was busted with crack “literally” in his pockets… The County “literally” spent a million dollars on a new public park.

Well, duh. These things sure as heck didn’t “figuratively” happen. Just ask the car owner, the crack dealer, or the taxpayers.

We figure it’s this stations attempt to address their viewers in a more casual, street-friendly, and conversational approach. Their whole thing -- it appears -- is to give the appearance of not being the highbrow network affiliate. Rather, they’re the “station next door.” Electronic voyeurs to say the least, but the kind you’d invite over for NASCAR and to watch video of nudie-booty on Bowman’s Beach that they “just happened” to shoot covering a turtle that literally crawled up out of the water.

They don’t call police, police. They’re cops. The Florida Department of Transportation is F-Dot. (Although everyone we’ve known for the last half-century has always just called ‘em the D-O-T. Dee-oh-tee.) In their endeavor to be cool, they have become stupid, dumbed-down, select-your-favorite-description. We flip over to them for the story leads because they’re the 10pm dog-and-pony show at bedtime. The other 10pm show is the CW affiliate. They pilfer the 11pm news from their highbrow network affiliate they’re co-owned with.

It doesn’t mean they do any better. They may not use the word “literally,” or “cops,” or ‘F-Dot,” but at least the propellerheads at FOX can roll the right package when the anchor calls for it. We’ve lost track of how many times the CBS-cum-CW anchors have had to bail on a story because of the wrong video being cued up. Or, someone’s microphone wasn’t turned on. (Don’t get me started on the lousy HD audio.) Let’s face it, not much happens that’s truly newsworthy in a metro of a million people. Daily life is mundane. If the anchors pull a national story in the first three minutes, then the rest of the infotainment-hour is going to be a wash.

FOX tries to cover the lack of anything viable by having the most involved graphics packages I’ve ever seen. Everything has an intro animation, and for some of their repetitive pieces, you’ll see that bloody thing over and over and over before they hit the first commercial break. It’s like visual Top-40 radio.

You can -- like a soap opera -- catch the “news” three times a week and pretty much be in the know on where the latest goings-on are going on, and what the weather-that-never-really-changes will be tomorrow. I almost pity weather people. I remember doing weather on the radio and reading the same forecast for days and weeks straight. I figure this is why stations spend dollars on all the latest graphical toys to display what few clouds actually show up. The weather-wonks must get sweaty palms when there’s a cool front on the way.

And just how many adjectives do you really need to hang on to the name of your Doppler radar? Super Mega Range Hyper Viper Street Level Upskirt Downpants Triple Redundant I Can See My House From Here Doppler?

And… Team Coverage? Breaking News? What’s next in the Cliché-O-Rama? A friendly and knowledgeable staff conveniently located with a $50,000 camera and a field reporter with a kollege-degree, speech impediment and 12-inch waist?

Oh, wait, speech impediments are the domain of the local “public” radio station, except of course, when they’re voicing something for the “public” TV station, or doing a package being sent to NPR.

But, I digress.

FOX is badly written, poorly presented, and grammatically in need of a spanking.

Maybe we’ll have them over for the Daytona 500 if they bring the beer.

New Media. Not.

I’ll make a wide generalization here: “new media” is anything other than radio, television, newspaper, magazine, billboard, bus bench, flyers, posters… in short, anything in use prior to about Y2K.

In short, anything that didn’t originate with the internet generation.

But is it “new”?

No.

“New media” is still delivered audibly or visually as has been done for millennia. Adverts in podcasts are the same as adverts in a television talk show. Video pre-rolls? Been around since videotape. SMS (text-message) advertising? Pah. Back in the day we’d throw away all kinds of “messages” that ended up in the mailbox courtesy of the Post Office. Now we just hit “delete.” Craigslist? Newspaper classified ads.

There are more delivery methods than ever, but it still comes down to the two most widely used: visual and audible.

I’ve seen a couple so-called “paradigm shifts” in advertising over the last thirty years, and in reality, there’s no shift. Where marketers are placing their buys have changed due to more options available, but the sales message hasn’t.

At the most fundamental level, the goal in any advertising is to create awareness in the consumer of a product or service they may be in the market for procuring. Any sales message is going to have to be designed to be effective depending on the delivery medium.

The core fundamentals of advertising have not changed. Even the core media itself hasn’t changed -- visual and audible -- there are just more choices.

Using multiple platforms to reach, engage, and create awareness in consumers isn’t new, either. How many advertisers still do radio/print, radio/TV, TV/print, radio/web combinations? I mean, Sears Roebuck had WLS, a catalogue, and regular newspaper ninety years ago. So, as a creative, if someone brings you a “new media” job, don’t hesitate to consider taking it. Remember your basics and work to develop a sales message that will be consistent from one delivery platform to another.

Nothing new about that, either.

In Closing.

You know on the packages of diapers where it says “ages 12-24 months, up to 20 pounds?” Don’t believe either claim. You don’t want a diaper aging that long, and it will not hold twenty pounds. Trust me on this one. As God as my witness, I can’t figure out the bio-chemistry of a toddler that turns carrots, string beans, tofu, and fruit juice into an all-adhesive, room-clearing, mass of... of... of whatever the hell it is that’s in her diaper. Her pediatrician says she’s the picture of health. I pity the parent that has a kid with a biology that’s skewed a few degrees off course. Maybe those are the ones I see at the bulk store buying Lysol in the three-packs.

I had this dream last night that one of my cats was enamored with a cute little skunk. The skunk was not enamored with him, so she lifted her little tail and sprayed these pretty little fire-fly bright droplets of skunk-spray all over the yard. The dog of course ran straight through it to see if was edible.

Right at that point, waking me up out of deep REM sleep, Her Majesty decides to jump on top of me (Hop On Pop) demanding her “juice!” I know some of you might think it’s a bad thing, but I’m beginning to believe coughing up blood in the morning is a normal byproduct of having a toddler.

She knows a few new words, now, including “help.” This came in handy when all four smoke alarms in the house went off last week. She ran down to my office, points to the kitchen, and says “help!” I thought it was just adorable, until I smelled the smoke. Mommy was doing her cooking homework, and we have a very old stove.

This afternoon she was using an oddly shaped and oddly sounding “rock” to draw on the patio. Petrified pine cone? No. Sidewalk chalk? No.

Dried dog poo? Si.

Yeah, we just live that wild and crazy life here in the urban sprawl.