:::renaissance chambara:::

Posts on quality, life, culture, the media, news & tech with a twist & a slice of Limey. I moved my blog to http://renaissancehambara.jp in December 2006, go there for the latest content.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

 

Steven Segal in good movie shocker


OK, I lied its actually a 30-second spot for hyper-hyper drink Mountain Dew, but really well done.

Segal had the good sense to poke fun at himself in the clip, and the cojones to be seen in a US advert rather than all those scaredy-cats featured over on Japander.com.

The comedic action sequences are really well co-ordinated and Segal's pony tail hairdo deserves an acting credit all of its own.

The folks at PepsiCo also managed to get in character roles for their snack brand portfolio. Let's face it when young men drink brightly coloured caffiene-fuelled beverages, they are likely to have the munchies.

Check out the clip online
here courtesy of the nice people at Kontraband.


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That was 2005


January
Bez won Celebrity Big Brother, London creative team Lee and Dan made an Al Qeada inspired calling card for Volkswagen that managed to leak out on to the web. Analysts at Credit Suisse First Boston won the monthly award for stating the bleeding obvious. We did a bit of homegrown analysis with the help of information from Popbitch to work out just how much News International made from the Prince Harry Nazi pictures. We also found that the Watchman character that the rc personality most resembled was The Comedian, more details on testing your Watchman Personality Inventory here.

February
Words of the month were Mum Truck and KAGOY (kids get older, younger). Hunter S Thompson killed himself and half the media world pretended that they were avid readers of his work. The books of the month were Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (another pioneer of the gonzo school of journalism). The US Army released details around its successful word-of-mouth marketing campaign to attract recruits. America's Army a realistic 3D game garnered interest in soldiering as a career and was far more fruitful than their television advertising campaigns. Bob Cringely highlighted how 25 billion USD needed to be invested by VC funds in the next 18 months or else they would lose their management fees. This of course wouldn't have anything to do with the bubbling up of Web 2.0 would it? Carly Fiorina was finally ousted from H-P much to the relief of its employees. Sci-Fi London hosted a fantastic all-nighter of Shaw Brothers classics including Super Infra Man and Monkey Goes West.

March
renaissance chambara turned 1 years-old. Forrester mapped out trends in consumer electronics for 2005. March's word was Search Arbitrage. Seymour Hersh highlighted the Pentagon's plans for axis-of-evil club member Iran. Hersh's pioneering journalistic approach contrasted with general media malaise. The Sony PSP picked up a lot of interest on the web with some hailing it as the new iPod, I don't think so.... And most importantly the rc towers local pub got recognised as Pub of the Year by the Evening Standard.

April
PR gossip blog Spin Bunny was shut down for the first time as an unnamed PR agency called in the lawyers. Red Bull's Art of Can exhibition brought a bit of culture to the Truman brewery. Word of the month is Kronenbourg. H-P manages to launch survey results that make them look foolish. There was less content overall as we were burning the midnight candle at work.

May
Flying Records, one of the UK's foremost dance record shops finally closed its shutters after ten years at the forefront of the scene, however its spirit lives on as Andrew Baker now champions new tracks online working for distributor Goya Music. Palm launched the LifeDrive and it didn't look that impressive compared to an iPod, retail therapy was thus avoided. Michelle Delio was found to have made up some of her stories that she contributed to Wired News. The word of the month was Sachet Marketing.

June
Country Music Television appoints a vice president of Dukes of Hazzard in a brilliantly executed PR campaign to promotes its re-runs of the original series. Omega releases its Planet Ocean watch - the watch that the Seamaster should be. WTF Apple goes Intel! Web 2.0 starts looking bubblicious. It was a few months since the Miami Winter Music festival and the Ibiza season was just starting to kick-off so a bumper month was had in the vinyl stakes. Michael Jackson is found not guilty, but the court of public opinion isn't so sure. The word of the month is Mommy Consultant, Burson-Marsteller's phrase e-fluential missed out because it was too close to effluent and we wouldn't want you to be under the opinion that we thought all bloggers were full of sh!t now would we?

July
Cracks start to show in the eBay edifice. Fatigue for consumerism starts to set in. Coke rolls out their Love poster campaign, arguably the best piece of creative this year. The ongoing rising price of oil gives Hubbert's Peak a mainstream audience as consumers wake up to the fact that oil isn't going to get any cheaper or more plentiful. The New York Times celebrated the tenth birthday of e-commerce.

August
Wired issues its ten-year netrospective 'celebrating' the original of the bubble with the Netscape IPO. Citizen journalism sees its first cynical cash in with the launch of Scoopt, a picture agency for the general public and their camera phone. Paparazzi sleep easy though. Music industry bodies blame everybody but themselves for the continued under-performance of their industry. Bob Cringely launches his NerdTV series of interviews and Stussy's 25th (XXV) anniversary collection is full swing. Towards the end of the month I managed to survive Silicon Valley. In Utah, the heavy mob is used to deal with kids listening to repetitive beats in an incident rather like the infamous police raid in Nelson near Blackburn back in the day. I am sure American's everywhere feel safer already. The harvest of quality dance music on an acid house tip.

September
Chigger is the word. Nick Love's film The Business reminds us why the 1980s were so good and so crap at the same time. Palm previews a Windows device, Dell stumbles and I try hard not to snigger, its especially hard when some bright spark calls Dell's answer to the iPod Shuffle the Dell Ditty and styles it like a Ronson lighter. Apple launches the iPod Nano and gadgeteers recoil in horror from the Motorola ROKR. Nestle re-releases the Texan bar. Geek-in-chief at Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz, appeals to the troops to stop leaking confidential news via their blogs; via a blog!

October
Designers Burro shut up shop, while Criminal opens a Covent Garden boutique and Matmos see sense and re-release the Telstar lamp. Disgraced analyst Harry Blodgett starts his own blog. Super Southerner is the phrase of the moment. Spin Bunny gets shut down for the second time, this time it looks like its permanent as the entire site is removed from Typepad, speculation is that a South Bank based agency was responsible for letting loose the dogs of law. The tune of the moment is Tiger Stripes - Spirited Away. In a pre-Halloween push Burger King's clumsy viral marketing efforts get unmasked by Slate.

November
Lynx launches a bespoke perfume in conjunction with Oki-Ni, research shows that music downloads have plateaued proving the proving the point that you can only buy so much crap. Talking of crap, Hypercolour looks like it may be making a come back. AOL makes its first interesting move in years by taking TV to the web and my even have a good business model. The word is Shorty (at least according to DJ Tim Westwood).

December
Christmas comes in with a whimper and Sony messes up a street marketing campaign for the PSP. rc floats the concept of a media bond and futures market to capitalise on the digitisation of content, the long tail and too much sloshing around waiting to be invested. Bootlegs mixes of Aretha Franklin and Pink Floyd move the feet so that the mind will follow. The word of the month is Uncanny Valley. Designers Terratag have some awesome gear in their latest fashion collection. Amazon take a Hermann Goring approach to email marketing in the final run-up to Christmas. A brief trip to Ireland left me with a number of contradictory observations about the state of the Celtic Tiger.

Image courtesy of Sanrio.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

 

Columnist on the couch


David Pogue, tech author, mac guru and journalist for the New York Times was sent an essay by a high school student that analysed his writing style by looking at his newspaper columns. Pogues commentary on the findings in the NYTimes.com Circuits email newsletter (December 29, 2005) has some useful lessons for PR people looking to write press releases where the news isn't weighed down by jargon-filled geekspeak:

1. From the Desk of David Pogue: On Being a Technology Writer
=============================================================
Last week, my incoming e-mail included a surprising attachment: an advanced-placement English essay, by a high-schooler named Chris Diemba, on the subject of my writing style. Chris had analyzed several months' worth of my columns, and identified a number of tricks and tics that tend to appear regularly.


Chris's essay got me to thinking, once again, about the greatest chronic challenge for a tech writer: finding the right technological level for the broadest possible audience.


Take my dad, for example. He always introduces me with the same joke: "And this is my son David. I read his column in the Times every week. I don't always understand it--but I read it!"


I always smile gamely, but inside, I wince. As you can probably imagine, it's not easy to strike just the right tone for computer scientists and technophobes alike. Actually, it's impossible; all you can do is aim for the mainstream.In general, I don't sweat it when I receive protests from readers on the fringes. I figure they cancel each other out: on one hand, the novice who complained that I didn't define "U.S.B. connector," and, on the other, the engineer who asked why I don't include MTBF data (mean time between failure) of the cameras I review.

If you're truly geeky or truly technophobic, you should know about a couple of tricks I use routinely. As Chris Diemba put it: "A significant amount of Pogue's exposition is found in
the parenthesis, usually less important specifications." Bingo. That is, I try to put the stuff that's of interest primarily to geeks in parentheses.

I might write, for example, "When it comes to connectors, this TV is loaded (two S-video, one each DVI and HDMI, three sets of component inputs and a quartet of composite jacks)." That's a coded way of telling people like my father: "You can ignore everything in the parentheses; that's provided for people who care. My point is that there are plenty of connectors."

I usually put pixel dimensions in parentheses, too, because plenty of readers don't know what pixels are and have no idea whether, say, 1024 by 768 is good or bad.

Then there's the little matter of techno-jargon. Avoiding it, in my book, is a freebie: it's an effortless way to avoid confusing novices while taking nothing away from more advanced readers. You will never, ever catch me using terms like "price point" when I mean price, "content" when I mean TV shows, "RAM" when I mean memory, or "functionality" when I mean function.


(Want to know how out of hand this buzzword-itis has become? No joke--I found this sentence in a computer magazine: "This laptop case is a triumph of form over functionality." ARRGGGHH!!! Now they're actually retrofitting cliches with buzzwords!)


Nonetheless, despite all of these tricks and tactics, I occasionally make bad assumptions. Take, for example, the time I wrote about SanDisk's folding SD memory card for digital cameras. You can take it out of your camera and insert it directly into your computer's U.S.B. jacks (to transfer photos) instead of using a cable. Dozens of readers wrote to ask if this card is available in Memory Stick or Compact Flash formats. In other words, I shouldn't have taken it for granted that people recognize SD as a memory-card format.


So there's my New Year's Resolution: to redouble my efforts along these lines. To make the columns easier to understand for novices, while adding more technological meat for the veterans.


And yours should be to write your friendly neighborhood tech writers to let them know how well they're doing.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

 

Plane speaking on good manners


At one time air travel was the height of sophistication, now it's another piece of public transport. With this decline in perception has come a corresponding decline in good manners amongst passengers.
Thankfully the folks at WWNK (What We Now Know) email newsletter has come with some air travel ettiquette tips in time for the winter sun seekers and ski-bunnies:
  • Since 9/11, security checks have become more serious and time-intensive. Make it easier for all concerned by being prepared. For example, you may be asked to remove your shoes and coat, so wear shoes that slip on and off easily, take off your jacket ahead of time, and have your ID ready to show.

  • On the plane, don't expect other passengers to help you lift your carry-on into the overhead bin. If you're too weak to do it by yourself, it's probably too heavy and should have been bag-checked in the first place.

  • When you are standing in the aisle, make sure that your buttocks are not in other people's face... and don't hit your fellow passengers in the head with a bag slung over your shoulder.

  • Don't hang out in the aisle, talking loudly with your friends in other seats. Some passengers may want to sleep (or simply not be a witness of your exchange), and it is extremely annoying having to squeeze past someone blocking the aisle.

  • Try to be nice to parents of screaming infants and toddlers. It's virtually guaranteed they're already stressed out, so don't punish them even more by giving them the evil eye.

  • Don't wear perfume or after-shave on a plane. Our sense of smell is the highest-developed, and the close proximity to your fellow flyers makes matters worse.

  • Some people are overcome by a mysterious urgency to get off the plane as soon as it comes to a standstill. Don't rush down the aisle, shoving and pushing the other passengers. Stay in your seat until the plane has emptied to some degree and then make an orderly exit. Your luggage won't roll off the conveyor belt any earlier, just because you got there first.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

 

RIAA=RICO


Bloomberg has a report on how politically-minded New York district attorney Eliot 'The Enforcer' Spitzer is investigating anti-trust behaviour by the major record companies surrounding price fixing of digital music. The news came out after a subpeona was served on Warners Music. In the todays climate this may be hard to prove, which is why rc recommends that he just goes for the big legal guns and puts them up on the RICO charges they so richly deserve.

"We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don't have a share of iPod's revenue. We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only. We have to keep thinking how we are going to monetize our product for our shareholders. We are the arms supplier in the device wars between Samsung, Sony, Apple, and others." - Edgar 'We'll make them an offer they can't refuse' Bronfman

A bluffers guide to RICO - English readers can find out about the full power and wonder of RICO by reading
Howard Marks' autobiography Mr Nice, however for those of you that can't be bothered:

Under RICO, a person or group who commits any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period and, in the opinion of the U. S. Attorney bringing the case, has committed those crimes with similar purpose or results can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of "racketeering activity." The act also contains a civil component that allows plaintiffs to sue for triple damages.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

More information on RICO
here.

Stolen, Stolen Stolen (as Steve Ballmer would say)


Meanwhile over the far side of the Atlantic
EMI is being sued by Apple Corp. for not paying The Beatles for all the music that they have sold; this is what is known as piracy or intellectual property theft on a grand scale. The case is over some 30 million GBP worth of material sold. Piracy is not only the preserve of organised crime and IT-literate teenagers, but also rapacious record companies. This is not a new phenomena, but endemic within the industry judging by exposés such as Autumn of the Moguls by Michael Wolf and White Powder, Black Vinyl by Simon Napier-Bell.

For a bit of light relief we recommend this honest business clip-art collection from the merry pranksters at London design shop Now Wash Your Hands.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

 

Aunty Gonzo


The BBC tries out some gonzo journalism online. Nicky Taylor played the role of Raoul Duke admirably as she investigated the perils of binge drinking. Nicky managed to consume a chav-tastic 519 units of alcohol. More details in Through a Glass Very Darkly. Good to see that the TV licence money is being well spent....

The picture? Well we just loved Meat Beat Manifesto borrowing the essence of the IBM logo design. Let the revolution commence.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

 

Jargon Watch


macro doughnut!
Originally uploaded by black_siren.
Hyperconsumption - Consumption for one's own pleasure rather to enhance social status. From Hypermodern Times written by philosophers Gilles Lipovetsky and Sabastien Charles.

His concept of hypermodernity is post post-modernism; a society characterised by change (fluidity, flexibility and movement). The hypermodern individual is focused on their own pleasure, tempered with tension and anxiety from a lack of traditional structures, no belief systems (both of which provide an assurance) and an unknown future.

Hmmm doughnuts....

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Retail Therapy (the directors cut)





Tis the season to hammer your MasterCard, I thought that this American TV spot directed by Spike Jonze for Gap was particularly appropriate. Its the most fun I've seen people having in a shopping centre (mall for all you Americans out there) since Jackie Chan's Police Story (and it could be argued that this advert owes an artistic debt to Chan's Police Story and George Miller's Mad Max 2). Go here to see the directors cut and here to see Gap's version. Personally I think Spike's version is much better. Its good to see Gap trying to get its mojo back, now if they would up the quality to match their 'premium' prices in the UK we might be cooking on gas.

Kudos to Stylebiter

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

 

Seasons greetings


Merry Christmas

President of Ireland's Christmas message (thanks to Liam and the team at the Irish Emigrant)


Teachtaireacht na Nollag o Uachtaran na hEireann Ag am seo na Nollag cuirim beannacht om' chroi chugaibh as Aras an Uachtarain. Spreagann spiorad na Nollag muid chun ceiliuradh a dheanamh ar gach rud ata maith agus fonta inar saol, go hairithe sa bhaile, sa phobal agus sa chomharsanacht ina maireann muid. Cuireann daoine stro orthu fein chun teacht le cheile i ngrupai teaghlaigh agus cairde ag an am seo den bhliain, ach is ann doibh siud nach feidir leo. Is mor an togail croi e an oiread sin daoine a fheiceail ag obair go deonach chun solas agus sochas a thabhairt do dhaoine ar an ghannchuid no ar bheagan misnigh. Tharla tubaisti go leor ar fud an domhain i rith na bliana ata direach caite, agus idir iad agus chogadh agus anachain fagadh moran daoine briste bocht. Ach ni raibh muintir na hEireann ar chul lena gcuidiu i gcas ar bith. Ba mhor an chuis mhortais agus mhisnigh e flaithiulacht na nGael i ndiaidh achan tragoide, ba chuma ce chomh mor no ce chomh beag. Smaoinimid anois ar na daoine bochta sin a raibh ar gcuidiu chomh mor sin de dhith orthu i rith na bliana; agus smaoinimid fosta orthu siud a thainig i gcabhair orthu ar bhForsai Cosanta agus ar n-oibrithe deonacha ina measc. Murab ionann agus go leor aiteanna eile ar chlar na cruinne, ta Oilean na hEireann ag eiri nios rathula agus nios suaimhni i rith an ama. Ba mhor an cuidiu e fogra dichoimisiunaithe an IRA Mean Fomhair seo caite chun sochai siochana a chruthu agus a chothu. Mo mhile buiochas le gach uile dhuine agaibh a d'oibrigh ar son na siochana. Go mbaine sibh uilig sult agus su as a bhfuil cruthaithe agaibh. Anois agus muid ag cur smear mhullaigh ar a bhfuil le reiteach againn fa choinne na Nollag, iarraim oraibh a bheith curamach agus tuisceanach ar na boithre agus ar na sraideanna, chun go mbeidh seans ag gach duine sult a bhaint as seasur na siochana. Guim Nollaig mhor mhaith ar gach uile dhuine agaibh, agus bliain ur faoi rath agus faoi bhlath. Maire Mhic Ghiolla Iosa Uachtaran na hEireann _________________

Christmas Greetings from the President of Ireland
At this Christmas time, I send you warmest greetings and good wishes from Aras an Uachtarain. The spirit of this Yuletide season inspires us to celebrate everything that is good in our lives and in particular in our homes, communities and neighbourhoods. Families and friends make a special effort to gather together to show their care for one another and it is very heartening to see that there are many who make it their business to bring hope and comfort to the poor and the vulnerable for whom this can be a particularly difficult time. In the past year we witnessed the awful suffering caused by natural disasters, conflict and poverty in many parts of the world and we saw how generously Irish people of all ages responded to the suffering of strangers. Their greatness of heart and their solidarity with those in need are a source of considerable pride and reassurance. The people of those tragic countries are in our thoughts and prayers this Christmas time, as are all those working courageously on their behalf, among them our own Defence Forces and aid workers. If peace and prosperity are elusive dreams for too many people across the globe, they are now, at last, a precious reality for those who share this island. Last September's historic announcement of IRA decommissioning was a crucial step towards creating a climate in which trust and friendship can flourish and grow as never before. I thank everyone who has worked for peace and I pray that your work will be rewarded by the fullest use of the hard-earned opportunities that now exist to build a future for all to be part of and proud of. As the wrapping goes around the last of the presents and the countdown starts to Santa's arrival, please keep each other safe on the roads and on our streets so that this Christmas will bring only happiness and joy into every home. I wish each one of you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful, contented and prosperous New Year. Mary McAleese President of Ireland

Finally, spare a thought for those that aren't able to enjoy Christmas this year, such as the hard-pressed lawyers of east coast law firm Burns & Levinson who will be chained to their desk via a BorgBerry device. More details of their inhumane treatment courtesy of the
Boston Globe. You can send your bah humbug emails to managing partner and modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge David Rosenblatt.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

 

London's loss is Gotham's gain and other media mutterings

Yinka Adegoke is joining Reuters in New York to write about new media stuff. NMA are apparently shuffling the cards and the role of deputy news editor is likely to be filled by an internal candidate.

From: Yinka Adegoke [mailto:yinka.adegoke@centaur.co.uk]
Sent: 23 December 2005 12:02
To: PR...
Subject: Leaving...

Good people,

This is a short note to let you know I'm leaving NMA early January after six exciting years chronicling the digital media industry.

I will still be covering the area with Reuters in New York from mid-January as part of the technology, media and telecoms team.

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for your help over the last few years. It's been a pleasure working with you in London and I expect we might be working together again in the near future one way or another.

A leaving do date will soon be confirmed as well as any new contacts at NMA.

I'll also soon confirm my new email address.

Many thanks again.

Best
Yinka
P.S: Oh yes, Merry Xmas and best of luck in 2006!

Yinka Adegoke
Deputy Editor, New Media Age
Dir Line: +44 (0) 207 970 4845/Mobile: +44(0)7730 426 761
50 Poland Street, London
W1F 7AX

A snippet in the media section of the Evening Standard a few weeks ago mentioned that Today (Eddie Shah's homage to USA Today) is to be revived by News International in a bid to go head-to-head with The Express. I wonder how much fury pornographer-in-chief Richard Desmond will vent if this proves to be the case.

Don't worry Richard if the newspaper business fails you can take your one-man reenactment of the Nuremberg Rally to the Edinburgh Fringe.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

 

Some links for y'all


Chicano rap group Delinquent Habits have a great website here with some choice cuts with some of the best DJ and production skills I have heard in years.

Their album Here Come the Horns is a staple on my iPod.

Poke London's creative director Iain Tait has his blog here, it makes interesting reading on the whole web shiznitz.

Picture courtesy of Pit Bull Rescue Central.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

 

My Ten Films of 2005


Its that time again, over at the Rosemont Loving Johnny has posted his personal top-ten films of 2k5 in no particular order.

Heres ours:
  • Assault on Precinct 13 - a great action film and Drea DeMatteo in a short skirt, it doesn't get much better
  • Night Watch - Russian, mad and great
  • The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - ok, so not a cinema release, but MGM's revamping of the Sergio Leone classic put back in deleted footage featuring redubbed dialogue by Eli Wallach added more depth to the film
  • Good Night and Good Luck - my favourite film from the London Film Festival, directed by George Clooney
  • Team America: World Police - shot in a supermarionation-type style but with all the rude bits that The Thunderbirds missed out and political satire as well
  • Crash - Great narrative kind of like Magnolia that told interconnecting stories in an entertaining way
  • Kung Fu Hustle - this film took elements of Western and Eastern cinema to laugh at itself, like a mash-up of Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain meets the Matrix
  • The Constant Gardener - John LeCarre's book was given a sympathetic film treatment and looks spectacular, I did come out feeling cheated: I was supposed to be shocked and surprised by the content but I wasn't
  • Kingdom of Heaven - Ridley Scott made Orlando Bloom seem like a credible action figure. Much of the film was supposed to be commentary on the West's mistreatment of the house of Islam. In reality it was an entertaining adaption of Beau Geste in chain mail.
  • Batman Begins - Christian Bale as the dark knight of Gotham and Liam Neeson as a bad guy were very impressive but Cillian Murphy as the scarecrow was the real showstopper

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

 

Santa Claus endorses sportswear brand shocker


Clever marketing by the adidas boutique on Newburgh Street. Their Christmas card is based on the old adidas endorsed tongue design featuring Santa Claus. I liked it because of the brand association and the humour.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

 

It's late and I am tired...


It's late and I am tired so I am going to keep this brief. The folks over at Silicon.com demonstrated this piece which is a way of telling PR to stop sending them more of the same 'non-stories' over and over again. Not too sure it will do any good though.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

 

Shamrocks and shenanigans


I couple of weeks ago, I went back to see the family in Ireland. It was an interesting trip of contrasts. The country was full of contradictions:
  • The country is growing at an unpredented rate,and the industrial estates look as if they haven't been finished yet, but that hides the fact that the manufacturing plants in the country are closing up shop and moving to Eastern Europe where there is cheaper labour
  • Jobs are plentiful, but over 100,000 were protesting on the streets at moves by Irish Ferries to employ foreign workers. Ryanair is alleged to be considering a similar move
  • Property is a bigger boom industry than it was in the UK during the late 1990s, yet to quote my source "you can get whatever planning permission you can afford"
  • A ban on smoking in public places was designed to improve the health of the people, yet the only side-affects seen have been, a drop off in tourism with the loss of 48,000 jobs, a decline in pubs and bars and an explosion in off-licences as people smoke and drink at home instead
  • A vibrant media industry, yet everywhere that I went the television was tuned to Sky Sports or Sky News
  • The country is one of the worlds leading exporters of software, yet it is very hard to get a broadband connection
  • For a young tech savvy population e-commerce is still not very well developed. Business still seems to be transacted by phone.
  • For a country that has benefited most from the EU, the union is also being blamed for a lot of pain. Like the fact that from 2008, Irish people will not be able to cut turf in their own land; they will be still allowed to burn turf as a solid fuel

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So Far, So Good....


I hadn't checked in on Richard Edelman's Speak Up blog for an indecently long time. His blog entry I am even more certain that now is our time made some interesting reading, I suspect for different reasons to what Richard would have expected.

Key Take Out Points
  • Deflation in the media industry - the same amount of advertising inventory is being sold, but for less money (two per cent less, I don't know if this is an absolute number or if it factors in inflation as well)
  • Media companies are experimenting to find ways of increasing the monetisation of content by providing niche content: podcasts, a la carte articles without advertisements. These efforts seem to be focused on the consumer, whereas the run of thumb was that some 70 per cent of the medias revenue came for advertisers
  • Move from push to pull for marketing information: consumers under 30 do not want to be advertised to (who does?), but want to seek out information for themselves.
  • WOM - word-of-mouth marketing is the new nirvana for marketers (has the delicious promise of eyeballs for nothing - music to the ears of a cash-strapped PowerPoint monkey). PR is considered by P&G as the key tool in the armoury for this; Wachovia Bank puts PR second behind internet advertising
  • Consumer is a mis-leading label, let the people make their own content a la Flickr, Digg etc rather than being feed from the media trough
  • Journalistic values giving way to Gonzo approach - There is no single or simple truth--the dialectical tension should be understood. Authority of media brands is no longer a given--convenience and what's cool may be more important to news brands. Authenticity is at a premium. Note the benefit to CNN and Anderson Cooper from Hurricane Katrina coverage, which was an honest voice reporting, with all of its raw emotion and advocacy. Another first for the counter-culture and the adult entertainment industry which has for years provided content with a participant PoV from Tom Wolfe and Hunter S Thompson to Seymour Butts
  • Traditional media companies cannot survive on the advertising from their new media versions--they must get a piece of the eventual transaction. Pay-per-click or some equivalent mechanism?
  • Europe is 6-18 months behind the US in move toward new environment, with France and the UK ahead of Germany, Italy and Spain.
Richard recognised a number of things that his business needed to do:
  • Answer the question of how PR is relevant to this new environment, PR historically has had a symbiotic relationship with traditional media as a shaper of content and story provider
  • Move the tone from selling to factual: to be honest this is the way I have been doing PR for years
  • Try and tap into prosumers and use client employees as evangelists a la Microsoft and Sun's blog charm offensive
  • Social networks are important - he admits he doesn't have the answer on dealing with them.
Some things I felt Richard missed out:

  • How will PR be affected by the downturn in the media?
  • How will the blogosphere handle the downturn of the media? A lot of the content that it links to comes from traditional media companies that happen to use blogs to publish their content.
  • Broadcast media still has an advantage for high interest content: news headlines or big sports events. Much of the UK web took a hammering during the July 7 bombings, but broadcast television and radio kept on trucking.
  • How will PR answer the essential question, why should I invest in PR when I can invest in a more transparent media like Adsense?
  • Is offshoring the best way of bringing PR to bear on the myriad of social networks?
  • How long is it before consumers become blog-savvy and reject this content looking for more authenticity? How invasive is PR prepared to become?
Why the title of this posting?

An old joke that seemed strangely appropriate: A banker who lost everything in the Wall Street Crash jumps out of his office window, on his way down he kept saying "So far, so good; so far, so good; so far, so g."

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I don't want a retraction, I want some retribution


Since the beginning of my PR career, when I when I was media relations grunt in my agency days, if the client wasn't keen on what a journalist had written about their announcement, or taken out of an interview they would ask me to get a retraction.

Usually, the best course of action would be to let the waters cover over the story and move on because journalists always had the last word and it damaged relationships in the longer term.

With blogs, this power balance may have changed, and not for the better.

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban was unhappy with a piece that ran in the New York Times business section: Is Mark Cuban Missing The Big Picture that questioned the wisdom of investing in a cinema chain.

Cuban came back with some blog postings of his own here and here.

From a PR perspective, this concerns me as it means that executives may shoot off a blog entry first and only worry about the corporate reputation once their ego has been put back in the box. At worst, they could tie themselves up in a debased slagging match.

It will then be PR's job to try and clean up the mess. In a few months after, PRs will then be beat up for not doing their job because said executives aren't getting the volume of coverage they want.

What do you think? (Feel free to post a comment below)

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

 

E-Commerce Paradox of Marketing Versus Fulfillment


I am signed up the mailing list of Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de (mainly because the Germans have cheaper DVDs).

I have noticed over the past few days as the cut-off date for Christmas looms I am being mailed every day by Amazon.co.uk encouraging me to purchase goods from them.

What does this mean?

  • Is this well thought out? (As it brings extra strain on their delivery system just when they don't want it, surely it would have made more sense to create the demand earlier?)
  • Does this mean that they the are in a panic to try and hit their target numbers? (Incidentially The Business has an article about how the Office for National Statistics has no idea of how well or badly online sales are doing, while industry group Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) claims 50 per cent year-on-year growth for November.)
  • How many customers will be prompted to order too late and receive a dissatisfactory experience?

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The Long Tail

There are arguments for-and-against Chris Anderson's concept of the long tail and discussions have gone back-and-forth on some of the data points that he has used.

Its one of them ideas that will be trotted out as a cliche, so that strategic thinkers in a business and, or its consultants can avoid having to think for themselves.

It is being shamelessly overused by marketers and business people 'empowered' with PowerPoint as 'The Tipping Point' and 'Crossing the Chasm' have been.

However, I found this sweet interface (pictured) at Last.fm where you can run a slider up and down the tale getting popular to really obscure musical recommendations out of the system. The long tail metaphor provides a really intuitive way of communicating how to use the slider.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

 

Kanji Selecta

British designers Terratag have got some new funky threads for all you folks mourning the departure of Burro. Their work draws on a number of influences including anime, manga, technology including giant robots and graffiti.

The picture is one of their hooded top designs using a mixture of Kanji script and traditional Japanese imagery with a thoroughly thugged-out cut of a sweatshirt in Crips blue for all y'all 'bangers out there that want to roll in style.

Also check out their wall hangings that mix graffiti and traditional Japanese calligraphy.

Whilst we are on the subject of giant robots and other non-human cultural artifacts there is an interesting article over at Slate.com that talks about how increased realism in games has reduced user enjoyment and character empathy and created gamer discontent.

Jargon Watch

Uncanny Valley - Empathy with gaming characters drops off as they come to a point were they look as if they are close to being real. Our perception of them moves from character to something more disturbing like the undead, and can be become repelled or disgusted. The dip in postive consumer attitude as the character better mimics human life is the Uncanny Valley. The term was originally used to describe a similar human reaction to robots in 1978 by Dr Masahiro Mori.

Paradox of Realism - after a certain point, the closer to reality that the gaming experience gets in terms of graphics and player experience; the harder it is for the game to seem real. This inability to believe makes it harder for the players to fully engage in the game.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

 

Share the Digital Booty

Interesting academic report from Harvard University that talks about how important sharing (as opposed to piracy) will be a key driver for online music services.

In order for online music to fulfil its potential it will rely on online playlists and allowing podcasters or bloggers to be its ambassadors and evangelists by including music in their efforts.


"Sharing isn't equivalent to stealing," said Michael McGuire, research director at Gartner Inc., and a co-author of the report.

The study claims that soon 25 per cent of online music store transactions will be driven by "consumer-to-consumer taste-sharing applications, such as playlist publishing and ranking tools built into online music stores and external sites with links to stores."

Sounds Web 2.0 and the music industry are heading for the kind of crash that an express train would be proud of. Its going to get messy before it gets better and the music industry will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the future, despite the fact that sharing music in this way is just the digital equivalent of promotions and record plugging.

Kudos to Marketwatch.

Picture courtesy of Toner.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

 

Brand Deadpool

I was reading a discussion on Soflow.com (registration required) about brands in decline and it reminded me of the Dirty Harry film where celebrities keep getting asassinated and Harry traces it back to a dead pool competiton run by a couple of film industry insiders.

What was interesting was that all the brands named were American , there was no European brands touched by the list.

Weird or these brands are not seen to count by the dozens of marketers on the list?

Danone, Cadburys or McCains could be considered big food too. Unilever has been decimating its brands and selling off many of its iconic businesses in order to provide shareholder value at the expense of the longer term.

Brands marked for death by the group included:
  • McDonalds - due to its obesity credentials
  • Ford Motor Company - because its business is taking a beating
  • General Motors - for performing even worse than Ford
  • Marlboro - what's the point of having a brand that you can't advertise
  • KFC - greasy licking fingers make fat kids and associations with bird flu
  • AT&T - old school telco not fairing too well in a new school world
  • Kodak - digital keeps trumping the analogue world
  • Budweiser - health concerns and it isn't a particularly good beer
  • The Gap - finger is off the pulse of young people
  • Coca-Cola - big food concerns
  • NBA (National Basketball Assoc.) - Player conduct, no Michael Jordan
  • Blockbuster - as technology changes the movie rental model away from bricks-and-mortar stores
  • Virgin - because Branson is the brand
  • H-P - because it has been lost in the wilderness for such a long, long time
The design folks at Wanadoo have an interesting read of a blog called Pixelbox (suitable for a bunch of bit shifters). Anyway check it out here.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

 

Nike steals Adidas' clothes

Nike has finally woke up to the fact that there is more to exploiting its heritage than trying to make Nike Cortez the new Reebok Classic and selling them in JD Sports.

It has taken its iconic Air Max design that fits in as well in the gym as the dancefloor and come up with some striking colour ways. It is selling these limited edition shoes through specialist retailer Size? and launching them with a graffiti exhibition.

In essence the company is trying to steal the clothes of Adidas' Originals range.

The key problems that Nike have is that they don't have a visual identifier like Adidas Originals have with the trefoil. Instead Nike has made its difference by taking a leaf from Sun Tzu's concept of void and actuality; Nike's approach has been understated with greys and blacks contrasting with accents of acid green. Now if they would stop making those god-awful buck rogers designs and bring back their skills that would be progress. Maybe people wouldn't worry about all the children that labour in dangerous factories cranking these out.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

 

Brief set of Links

I have been away in Ireland on family business and haven't had time to really digest these, but thought I would share some interesting links that had been kicking around my inbox.

The New York Times
has an interesting story
Military's information war is vast and often secretive by Jeff Gerth (December 11th, 2005) that talks about the complex Pentagon/private contractor efforts to wage the hearts and minds war on terror. The article covers a wide range of activity by companies including the Rendon Group and the Lincoln Group.

ZDNet
claims that Apple is going to kill the FireWire standard that it created and worked so hard with consumer electronics companies to implement on video equipment and being used in pro-music circles. Whilst I can understand why Apple wants to use open standards and have the likes of Intel foot the development costs, the company also needs to maintain its innovative edge in hardware design and implementation.




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Thursday, December 08, 2005

 

Deep thinking

McKinsey the management consultancy has polled a large number of business executives worldwide to find out about what they thought about inflation and pricing changes on their businesses in the next 12 months.

First of all there was a large consensus on price inflation of about one per cent over the next year. This is going to be driven by higher fuel prices. Interestingly the executives felt that their businesses could not pass on these price increases to their customers. Businesses will be coming under pressure with increased competition particularly prenounced in the most profitable marketplaces. The fear of competition in the global marketplace means that businesses are afraid of passing on the price increases to the competition.

Folks over on the Digg discussion boards have found a pretty fundemental weakness in Google Books, try it here.

Chris Charron of Forrester Research came up with some interesting ideas on converged gadgets. DEVICES, MEDIA, & MARKETING FIRST LOOK (December 6, 2005). Chris thinks that the mobile phone could replace the iPod, but that the Blackberry will not replace the laptop of a roadwarrior.

Chris and his colleagues have come up with some sensible i thoughts about multi-function devices. It is insightful to me that many of these things have to be articulated for these manufacturers in the 21st century, given the vast library of mistakes that can be learned from in the technology arena :

No. 1. Don't obfuscate the core function of the device. Learn from the mistakes of the iPod photo -- focus on your device's primary function and market additional capabilities to consumers who are already sold on the core purpose. Although the iPod retained its photo-viewing capability, the return to the simpler iPod name restores the device to its true intention: music.

No. 2. Only add functions that don't detract from the core application. Although they don't detract from voice functions, camera phones -- with their low resolution, hard-to-focus lenses, and small screens -- won't replace consumers' standalone digital cameras. But there are distinct times when consumers will opt for their camera phone: when they want to quickly share a photo with friends (26%) or when it's the only camera they have with them (37%).

No. 3. Price multitasking devices based on primary markets. Smartphones -- those handy devices that allow consumers to combine a portable voice device with productivity functions -- appeal to a wide range of consumer segments. Audiovox's SMT 5600 might appeal to a more mainstream voice consumer who desires a richer mobile experience enabled by a familiar Windows OS. However, Palm's Treo 650 -- with its QWERTY keyboard and proprietary Palm software -- appeals to businesspeople who wish to be constantly in touch via email and SMS. These devices are priced accordingly: The SMT 5600 targets the average consumer at $150; the Treo goes for the business market, priced at $299 and up.

No. 4. Watch users carefully. In his book Democratizing Innovation, Eric von Hippel cites that depending on industry, 10% to 40% of customers modify products for their own use. Keeping a close eye on the habits of these "lead users" is critical to innovating quickly and avoiding the risk of multifunction overload. One interesting example is the iPod shuffle. After seeing that lead users of the iPod were using the shuffle feature with great regularity, Apple decided to actually strip down features to better serve these users at a lower price point. This is a great example of consumer-driven innovation -- going against the multifunction device tide -- with great success, by keeping a close eye on users.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

Blackberry Jam


Blackberries
Originally uploaded by megpickard.
Research in Motion, the manufacturer of so-so smart phone, PDA things and overpriced mobile connectivity solutions (have people not heard of IMAP?) seem to have a bit of a communications problem on their hands.

RIM is on the receiving end of a court case from a company called NTP for allegedly violating five separate patents. While RIM has stated publicly that the case will not impact on them as they have a software update ready that goes around the disputed patents, media and market sentiment seem to be against them.

On November 16, RIM, announced that the update was available and received coverage on Reuters but there is still speculation that rivals like Palm, Nokia and Microsoft will gain at the expense of RIM. In addition, the messages coming out of the company are not reassuring for Blackberry users outside the US. RIM seems to be losing the communications battle, if not its court battle with NTP.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

 

Lessons to be learned by Fony

Last weekend we posted about the crap guerrilla marketing campaign that Sony Computer Entertainment had done to promote the PSP. The marketers should look with envy at this Kiwi wall of gen-u-ine graffiti.

The iPod has become so iconic that young New Zealanders (at least those of them that aren't serving behind a bar in London) are spraying walls in an artless attempt to communicate about their lives with the public-at-large.
UPDATE: Apparently the graffiti is supposed to be ironic, some sort of protest against globalisation and child labour, probably also explains its artlessness and thanks to hmmmm who pointed out the picture attribution wasn't appearing on their browser, I have increased the size on the Flickr HTML. I had originally published this page directly from the Flickr site, so there is a lesson there for me to check how it comes out.

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Fiction as a PR tool


TYPEWRITER23
Originally uploaded by gecko1999.
Let's get all the jokes out of the way first about how PRs already create short works of fiction called press releases.

Slate had an interesting article about how the pharmaceutical industry in the USA tried to get a novel written about the 'dangers' of Canadian imported drugs as a way of maintaining their artificially high profit margins on US sales.

Truth is Stranger than Phiction lifts the lid on the whole hamfisted story. It was an interesting approach, with appalling execution. Where where the NDAs (non-disclosure agreements)?


Expect other industry bodies such as the MPAA and the RIAA to attempt similar Tom Clancy-esque novels about Al Queda plots financed by pirated CDs of Britney Spears and Asian import DVDs being used to fund a coup d'etat against the president by dissident members of the armed forces (everyone knows the movie industry movers and shakers are a bunch of card carrying liberals).

But remember readers: one novel, does not a PR campaign make.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

 

UK PR Blog List

This site has made it on to a list of UK PR blogs. I don't know whether to be happy about the recognition and the improvement it will have on my page ranking in search engines, or whether it is a sign of how untrustworthy or dubious the content is?

I have always thought of this as a blog that happens to be written by a PR person, rather than a blog about PR..... If that's what your expecting you may be disappointed, but feel free to stay and have a poke around, and make yourself at home anyway.

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Web Services - OS for life


Richard Holway of Ovum and The Holway Report fame sent through the text of his annual presentation to the great and good of the ICT world in aid of the Prince's Trust technology leadership group. Holway recognised and highlighted the role of consumers in driving technology adoption.

Whilst he didn't break out in Web 2.0 zealotry, Holway did discuss how software applications are being replaced by web services, not only for generation Y but aging boomers like Holway himself. He also cites the mobile phone, not only as a post-PC platform but also as a universal RF-ID device for identity and payment.

I was most interested in his attitude to mobile devices, whilst this has been dealt with experiments in Finland and seen great results, I would be concerned about the high level of device loss and handing over so much power in the infrastructure to mobile carriers? As a voice for reason, Holway talks of the change in more muted tones and more gradual change than the likes of Tim O'Reilly. Anyway read it for yourself here.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

 

One for the 'thank f*ck I hadn't had my name on the bottom of this release' category


Sometimes press releases are written by PRs for political reasons (if you're an inhouse person) or because its billable time (if you're in consultancy).

We know that they are shocking, we know that the journalists are not interested in them and that they probably don't make sense.

I'll put my hand up and admit that my name is on the bottom of some truly shocking releases, but I wanted to share and celebrate this
Disney release around Disney's new adaption of the CS Lewis fantasy series.

I personally love the reference in the second paragraph to "highest theatre quality possible" about content playable on a PC or an iPod.

Kudos to the
interesting people email list group for flagging up this beauty and KMC Partners Public Relations of Cambridge Massachusetts for crafting the release and providing me with a modicum of amusement.

Disney Uses Broadband Video Software From Maven Networks to Better Reach Consumers Online, Drive Ticket Sales, Reinforce the Disney Brand

BURBANK, Calif., Dec. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, a unit of the Walt Disney Studios, today announced the availability of full- screen, theatrical-quality video content from Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" directly to the PCs and video-enabled iPods of movie fans.
Using a broadband video software platform from Maven Networks, Disney today launched "The Narnia Full-Screen Experience."

The Internet channel, available on the film's official website, narnia.com, allows broadband consumers to receive trailers, clips, behind-the-scenes segments, interviews, and other film content to their laptops or PCs in unmatched theatrical quality. For consumers who enjoy "on the go" viewing options, the Maven software allows them to receive trailers and clips that are automatically downloaded and synchronized directly to their video-enabled iPods.


With this initiative, Disney becomes the first film studio to publish promotional campaigns to video-enabled iPods. With video consumption rapidly on the rise online and through Internet-enabled devices, Maven's software allows Disney to deliver and manage its video content in a single package, optimally encoded and formatted for iPod, PC and TV viewing. Other video solutions only provide video optimized for a single device or require content owners to pre-select formats and download content independently and multiple times.


"The Narnia Full-Screen Experience' ushers in an exciting, cutting-edge way of delivering movie materials to audiences," said Dennis Rice, senior vice president of publicity for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. "The Maven application allows movie fans at home to see trailers and clips the way they should be seen, in the highest theatrical quality possible. With the tremendous amount of interest we've already seen for 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' we felt this was the perfect opportunity to partner with Maven, as there is no better application to showcase the scope and grandeur of the movie."


"Consumers are watching videos online anywhere, anytime they want, and want access to the same content on all of their entertainment devices," said Hilmi Ozguc, CEO of Maven Networks. "We're proud to partner with Disney in making highest-quality content available to video-enabled iPods and PCs, and in helping them market their film content to meet changing consumer viewing habits."

Maven Networks' broadband video software platform powers the online experience of film studios, media companies and leading marketers who seek an exceptionally rich user experience in an era when consumers spend more of their media time online. Once installed, the Narnia channel automatically checks for content updates, and will also offer a range of interactive options, including the ability to send to a friend, check for movie times and purchase tickets.

Directed by Andrew Adamson ("Shrek," "Shrek 2") and produced by Academy Award(R)-winning producer Mark Johnson ("Rain Man"), "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" is one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, and is scheduled to arrive in theatres everywhere on December 9th.

About Maven Networks

Maven Networks provides broadband video technologies that unite the visual impact of television with the interactivity and measurability of the Internet. Maven's end-to-end video publishing, delivery and management platform generates new revenue streams for content providers and builds deeper customer relationships for marketers.
The company's products, the Maven Media System and Maven Intelligent Delivery System (IDS), are used by world-class customers, including 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Atom Films, Clear Channel Communications' Premiere Radio unit, Nordstrom, EMI Virgin Records, General Motors, Pepsi and A&E Television Networks International, to deliver more engaging HD video experiences. More information about Maven can be found at www.maven.net .

SOURCE Walt Disney Studios

12/02/2005


CONTACT: Dennis Rice, Senior Vice President, Publicity, Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, +1-818-560-5610; or Jack Pan of Disney, +1-818-560-6318, jack.pan@disney.com;

or

Kristen Collins, +1-617-758-4193, Kristen@kmcpartners.com, or Mary Kae Marinac,
+1-978-685-3136, mkmarinac@comcast.net, both for Maven Networks Web site: http://www.maven.net/ Web site: http://narnia.com

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On heavy rotation
  • Streetchoir featuring Aretha Franklin - Rock Steady. Quality bootleg remix crew cranked out this reworking of the Aretha Franklin standard making it an essential track to drop on a dance floor
  • Pink Floyd - Welcome to the Machine - Dirty Funker remix. Prog rock monster gets dancefloor friendly
  • Paradise Soul - Spirit of the Turning Tables - Kinky Vinyl. DJ Rolando-style epic tracks - three mixes all really good

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