Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An interesting turn in ads

I noticed a few interesting trends with ads recently. Unfortunately I don't have any visual or recorded samples for you so you'll just have to close your eyes and use your imagination.

First up, the new Lotto 649 billboard ads caught my eye recently. In the past, they have always pushed a "Can you imagine?" mindset with their ads, making people think about how nice it would be to win. You could bully people that were mean to you, spend it on frivolous things, or just celebrate like crazy.

The new ads, however, moves away from a "Oh that would be nice" mood to a "I need this!" train of thought. The ad that I noticed had the word "RENT" written in a large water streak with the 649 logo on a yellow sponge wiping it away. Essentially, the image they're trying to portray here is that winning the lottery will take care of all of life's necessary bills, like rent.

It's a smart move made in the wake of the recession. People are penny pinching and may not want to spend those $2-3 on wishful thinking tickets. So, instead, the brilliant advertisers working with the national lotto opted instead for a campaign that makes the lottery look like something necessary to survive.

The other ads that got my attention were a couple of radio ads for Chrysler cars. I believe they were Columbia Chrysler and Maple Ridge Chrysler. Both ads were done using old-school ideas, similar to how the King of Floors work:

The difference was that one ad really worked while the other did not. (The King of Floors mostly work, IMHO). Naturally, with the decline in car sales in general and drastically for all American cars, adverts are necessary to reel in the buying frenzy.

The Columbia Chrysler ads uses the "We're so Crazy!" styled ads, complete with random sound effects to drive home the fact that they're "stark raving mad" and selling cars for low low prices. This ad works. The sound effects and the timing of the ad really makes it stand out from the other ads and connects the message with the consumer in a strong and definite manner.

The Maple Ridge Chrysler ads, on the other hand, fail epically. The announcer is mono-tone and drones on and on. It took immense effort for me to even remember the name of the car dealer. So much, in fact, that I cannot even recall what the selling point of the ad was, except that it had something to do with low prices and you should be excited about it. This ad fails to stand out and fails to make an impact, representing everything you can do wrong with a radio ad.

Budget advertising is something that we can look forward to for at least another year. Hopefully, more people will learn from mistakes of others in the past and do something interesting with that knowledge.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Freudian Hearing

I might have talk about this before, but it's still pretty neat and funny.

I have a tendency to mishear things. More often than not, especially with actual conversation, I twist people's words around on purpose. So something like "I like it" can become "I like tits". It's not always crass, but it's always fun and serves as a great mental training for puns, which in turn is a great way to practice thinking about things from different perspectives.

However, there is just something about song lyrics that just seems to beg to be misheard. Some singers really don't know how to anunciate and it makes learning lyrics off tracks very difficult. Without printed lyrics, it would be impossible to learn a song. I can't find it now, but there was a TV commercial for a radio station once where they showed people mis-singing various pop songs.

Take a look at this song:

The line "There ain't no motive for this crime" could easily be heard as "There ain't no love before this time" which could also fit the rest of the lyrics just as well and, in fact, I prefer singing along to this song using this refrain for the first chorus and the proper lyrics for the second one.

I'm not the only one that does this. Now, it may be a bit of my playful personality rubbing off on other people, but my wonderful fiancee misheard something really hilarious in this song:

"Gotta get 'cha off my sister"
"Gotta get 'cha off my sister"


Thursday, July 16, 2009

How I did it

I once read somewhere that a proposal should reflect the person that is doing the proposing. That way, not only do you express your sincere feelings to the person being proposed to, that person also gets one last good look at the things that define you as a suitor. This is something that I had taken to heart.

Naturally, I'm not going to do something ridiculous that would more likely get me dumped than hitched. One must highlight their good traits, and unique ones, throughout the process. Immediately, I tossed out any notions of a big public proposal. No sports arena, no huge crowd-attracting announcement in a busy public space, no tightly choreographed musical and dance sequence:

No matter how badly I wanted to.

I had to respect the preferences of my dearest love and also create something that is well suited for her as well as myself. Jasmine had already mentioned in the past that, though sweet and nice, such public displays were not for her.

Instead, I settled for somewhat of a compromise. My idea would involve a good handful of our closest friends who would be a part of the process, but ultimately out of the way during the actual proposal.

The idea was a puzzle trail, sort of like the one that Robert Langdon follows around European cities in Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Both Jasmine and I nurture romantic notions like messages in bottles and secret rooms hidden behind bookshelves. That sort of thing.

I've create puzzle trails for Jasmine in the past for various occassions. These usually consist of no more than five steps and I typically plan them to be completed within an hour. In the past, Jasmine had surprised me with her quick wit and have even surpassed what I thought to be a hard trail in a quarter of the time expected.

Given that, I plotted another five clue trail that would retell the story of how my relationship with Jasmine started, complete with small narration along with the clues. The trail went something like this:

-- Set up --
First, I had to get Jas started on the trail. I had previously written out all the clues and simply copy and pasted the email from the master copy and sent it. Then I called Jas and told her to check her email while I had to go and "run some errands"

I suppose this is technically the first clue, but it was an easy one. I wrote a simple riddle that would guide her to the high school where we first met (it was in grade nine math if you were wondering). One of the hardest things to do for these clues was to make the answer obvious, but just barely so. This was the first puzzle trail that required Jasmine to leave her house and, since she was driving herself, I did not want to risk her driving aimlessly around town, which is a surefire way to incur her wrath instead of invoking passion.

-- First Stop: High School --
Jasmine's work involves school and I arranged to have some of her occupationally appropriate friends wait for her at the school to hand her the clue. The clue itself was coded and Jas had to decipher it in order to know where to go next. The code is my own unique one, but it is one that Jas and I share and I had included the key in the previously mentioned email in case she forgot it. Turns out she didn't really need it.

Solving the cipher took around 10 minutes, which was within my calculations. What I didn't figure was that her friends would ask her "skill testing questions" prior to forking over the clue! This, and the conversations that followed afterwards, would delay Jas for about half an hour in total, throwing my guesstimate of one hour total for the puzzle trail out the window. Whoops!

-- Second Stop: Mutual friend's house --
Although Jasmine and I met in high school, we did not start dating until after we graduated. A major event that led to that was a chance meeting at a friend's party (a mutual friend that we didn't know was a mutual friend). This house was the second stop and other mutual friends had the next clue.

This clue had a list of co-ordinates that was meant for Jas's Go board. After meeting again at the mutual friend's house, we arranged to meet again for a game or two of Go, a game as ancient and popular as Chess. When a go stone is placed on all the co-ordinates, it would spell out the next location, which was a McDonald's, where we first ate together.

The clue was written so to almost give away the next location. I figured the go puzzle was a bit too much and had instructed the clue bearers to just give Jas the answer if she guessed correctly right then and there, saving her a trip home. However, she never guessed aloud and opted to head home to whip out the ol' Go board. Oh well, in total this clue only took 15 minutes.

-- Third Stop: McDonald's --
Jasmine's best friends were waiting here (another was back at station two) with the third clue. This clue was a cinch. All it contained was an address that she had to punch into her GPS system.

The next location was far away and I didn't want her stressed out before driving. In fact, at this point, all the clues become easier as I did not want Jas to get annoyed with the whole she-bang. If the solving time got shorter as the trail progressed, she was more likely to complete it in a speedy manner. It was approximately one hour since I called her at the start of the trail when Jasmine started making her way to Burnaby.

-- Fourth Stop: Burnaby --
I lived in Burnaby when Jas and I first started dating, which was about a 20 minute drive from Vancouver. On the day that I asked Jasmine out, she was visiting SFU, a university that was close to Burnaby and we had arranged for her to visit me at home. The first stop in Burnaby was the bus stop was the rendezvous point wherefrom Jas and I walked back to my house.

Waiting in Burnaby was my two best friends. We left pretty early on, around after Jasmine solved the first clue, in order to get a head start. We waited together at a McDonald's of our own and, after we got the call from the third station, we all went to our respective spots to wait for Jas.

The clue at the first Burnaby stop was simply a picture of us dining at Pizza Hut, where we officially had our first dinner together. All Jasmine had to do was recognize the location and head there. From the bus stop, it was only 5 blocks to the restaurant.

-- Fifth Stop: Pizza Hut --
At this point, Jas was getting a bit displeased as we were an hour and a half into the trail. The last clue handed to her here was a hand-drawn map with a route and instruction marked leading her to the final destination, the look-out point behind my old house.

-- Last Stop: The Look-out Point --
The lookout point was the place where I had originally wanted to ask Jasmine out six years ago. Instead, I got tongue-tied and ended up doing it later on that same evening in the past. We had regularly visited the location several times in the past for various occassions and, for that reason and more, I wanted it to be the place where we got engaged.

The map was fairly easy to follow. Burnaby is full of huge hills and my old house was near the top of one. From the look-out point, I could easily look down three block and see when Jas was coming up. I saw her, made sure she saw me, and went over to prepare the stereo and flowers.

When I turned around, imagine my surprise when I saw that Jasmine's car had disappeared! I had expected her to follow the route and my instructions and park in the dead-end alleyway that no one uses but she instead decided to try and circle around the lookout point in search of a parking spot. I quickly called her on the cellphone, she sounded quite grumpy on the phone, and guided her back to where I wanted her to be.

When Jas stepped out, the music played and she began to smile. I whispered my short proposal speech and brought out a temporary ring that was to serve as our engagement ring until we went out and shopped for the real one.

She said "yes", by the way.

After that, we had lunch at the Pizza Hut and I drove her car back to her house, where my car was parked just a block away. We grabbed our luggage and headed up to Whistler for the weekend to celebrate.

I had all my friends and mutual friends to thank for their patience and co-operation throughout the whole process. I originally planned to proposal a few months earlier, in April, but the timing wasn't quite right, so I waited until our sixth year anniversary to do it.

Overall it was a success. The total time it took for me to propose since the phone call at the start was two hours, about twice as long as I anticipated. Jasmine did get a bit hot under the collar, but she forgave me and I promised that I would never do it again :)

Now that this complicated plan is done, it's time for the next one to start.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alienating Diamonds

Since I got engaged this month, part of my weekends have been spent with my fiancee shopping for an engagement ring. We finally decided on one with a neat design from Spence Diamonds. It looked something like this:

I like the three stone look and Jasmine likes the hearts in the setting (which you cannot see in the image). We picked a 18K yellow gold ring and rocks that added up to exactly 1.5 carats.

Whenever people think of Spence Diamonds, they recall those annoying radio ads that everybody seems to hate. People often wonder aloud "What were they thinking?". These ads are certainly an unorthodox way of branding yourself.

However, insofar, only a small handful of people have been completely turned off from Spence so much that they do not even want to step into one of their stores. Rather, the ads are extremely effective in being retained in people's mind. When they think diamonds, they think of Spence and all the benefits and offers they have. While the ads are dodgey, the stores are utterly brilliant and professional in contrast and, along with the staff and products, are designed to impress.

It really is just a simple practice in being stand-out-unique. If they went with traditional ads, they would just blend in with all other jewellers regardless of how good their offers are. However, the annoying guy's voice just cuts through the white noise and what he says is heard and embedded in your mind.

On top of that, the awfulness of the ads have picked up a viral mode of transportation, spread by word of mouth as people share their mutual dislike of the commercials and positive impressions of the product itself.

It isn't something that can be pulled off easily or consistently. You always run the risk of alienating your customers. Therein lies the ingenuity of the Spence Diamond radio commercials. Not only did they pull it off, but they did it with great and continued success.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


This tauntaun sleeping bag is utterly amazing! The lightsaber zipper is a very nice detail that makes my inner geek explode with giddiness. I absolutely hope that they'll be able to produce these.

Oh, in other news, I got engaged last weekend. I suppose I should make a blog about a later time!