Saturday, July 5, 2003

The Best Thing Since Color

If you've been paying attention to the subtleties and innuendos latent in Fight.Boredom's topics over the past year and a half than you've probably read about how much we love TiVo.

It's not a crude or vulgar love. It's the love one might have for air or food. It's the love of something so necessary, now that you've found it, that you're not sure how you ever lived without it.

Do we sound obsessed yet? Maybe a little. If this surprises you than you've obviously never used TiVo.

TiVo is a service that automatically records your favorite television shows every time they air, even if the time slot changes. You watch what you want, when you can. There's no more aimless channel surfing, no more rigid network schedules, no more interruptions like phone calls, and no more missing out on great programming you're paying for. And you can use your TV more efficiently. With TiVo's ability to fast-forward through recorded or buffered TV, you can watch more TV in less time (we dare you to watch 24 without commercials...that's an adrenaline rush...)

Through the use of Season Passes and advance schedules, you can queue up what you want to see and then go about your life. Like Saturday Night Live but want to go out Saturday night? TiVo it and watch it later (SNL lasts only about 40 minutes without commercials and musical guests, incidentally). TiVo buffers live TV, too, so you can pause, rewind, and fast forward and never miss a thing.

And new TiVo recorders come with 35 to 80 hours of hard drive space. TiVo can also connect with your computer, wirelessly, so you can access PC-based MP3s and photos on your entertainment center.

We watch less TV now than we ever did before, though we watch more, and better, programs. No more sitting through commercials. No more adjusting our lives to suit network schedules.

Just think: Sunday nights use to be spent trapped indoors waiting for the Simpsons and X-files. With TiVo, the evening is free and the Simpsons will be there for me to watch when I will.

Thanks, TiVo!

Freedom is a wonderful thing. You just have to love it. fb

The National Do Not Call Registry

How the Government Ruined My Inbox

Don't get me wrong – I love the National Do Not Call Registry. It's one of those rare and inspired examples of Federal consumer protection. It works great and it's free! Hot damn!

But there is a dark awful consequence of my home telephone's silence: the insidious chirp of my email client. (I think if I had to listen to that AOL voice tell me I had mail every fifteen minutes of everyday I'd have lost it long it is, the bouncing Outlook/Entourage "E" – which just started as I write this – is pushing me over the edge.)

In case you've been in a hole for the last few months (or buried under mountains of spam), the National Do Not Call Registry is a free service, intended to block most telemarketing calls, launched and managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The nationwide-registry grew to more than 10 million phone numbers in the first four days following its launch in late June. At the height of the registration surge – the first day – 158 phone numbers were signed up every second. About 85 percent of the numbers have been registered online, at; the remainder by calling toll-free at 1-888-382-1222.

The FTC expects that, of the 166 million residential phone numbers in the United States, up to 60 million will be registered in just the first year. Registries who sign up by August 31 should see an 80 percent decrease in telemarketing calls after FTC enforcement begins on Oct. 1, 2003.

Of course, the telemarketing industry estimates the National Do Not Call Registry could cut its business in half – costing it up to $50 billion in sales each year. Hold back the tears. I think I felt worse when the Fed "crippled" the crack industry.

And it's been great. We were already on the Georgia No Call List and now, with the Federal list to boot, the phones are silent. But those mass marketers, the same people who brought us the auto dialer and the recorded telemarketer, have (of course) other ways into our homes: Namely, spam.

That's not to say that you shouldn't expect an increase in your snail mailbox, too, but spam is where it really hurts. Already marketing and Internet watchdogs have reported an increase in spam volume online. It may strike you as strange – and it will likely shock email marketers – but I don't need a new mortgage, my own online casino, Human Growth Hormone, Viagra, penis enlargement, mini spy cameras, prescription drugs, hardcore pornography, or (the coup de grace, here) the ability to send my own mass emails.

Spam is such a hated medium for unsolicited marketing, though, that even The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) doesn't like it. According to a poll by Harris International, 96 percent of Internet users find spam "annoying," 80 percent consider it "very annoying," and 74 percent find it "so objectionable that they would like to see it outlawed." The Wall Street Journal reports that spam now comprises 41 percent of all e-mail, and the torrent of this useless data costs corporations $8.9 billion a year.

This all begs the critical questions: Where the hell is the National Do Not Spam Registry? The government freed my phone – it's time for Spam-Free America!

Our hopes may very well rest in the 108th Congress. Anti-spam legislation is going to be debated, including the "Ban on Deceptive Unsolicited Bulk Electronic Mail Act of 2003," the "Criminal Spam Act of 2003," and the creatively named "Anti-Spam Act of 2003."

The Anti-Spam Act of 2003 would require all commercial e-mail messages to be identified as such (but not with a standard label , except for sexually explicit messages), and to include the sender's physical street address and an opt-out mechanism. Messages relating to a specific transaction and consented to by the recipient would be exempt from those requirements. The bill would prohibit commercial e-mail messages with false or misleading message headers or misleading subject lines and it would be illegal to send commercial e-mail messages to addresses generated by an automated dictionary attack.

But when you consider that the National Do Not Call Registry took three years of focus group and survey research to execute, the hopes for immediate Spam protection fade quickly. And while efforts such as the Anti-Spam Act look to regulate the offensive media, they are not without opposition. The DMA, for one, is opposed to what is likely the most obvious and reasonable legislative request: the mandatory opt-out mechanism.

In the mean time, I'm anxiously waiting for the chance to report an fraudulent violation of the National Registry (the telemarketer gets a nice fat fine) and biding my time until the National Do Not Spam Registry becomes a reality. Precedent has been set...

We won't be holding our breath, but we will be filtering our email. fb

The Cog

Over the last month a great deal of email traffic has been devoted to an unconventional British car commercial.

"The Cog," an Honda UK commercial featuring a two-minute automotive Rube Goldberg chain-reaction, has been heralded by critics as one of the best car commercials ever made. NBC's Today Show spotlighted the ad on American TV and much was made of the commercial's Grand Prix chances at the 50th Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

A commercial for the extended Honda Accord, the film is designed to demonstrate "the beauty and precision of the pieces and the ingenuity of the engineers who built it." Starting with a solitary cog, the elaborate chain reaction ends with a rolling car and dropping marquee to a voice over saying "Isn't it nice when things just work?"

And, were patience and cost the standards for measuring advertising greatness, "The Cog" would have little competition. Take two-minutes to watch the "The Cog" and consider the following: The ad is completely real – no interruption, no editing, no computers, no special effects. It took 606 takes (all previous ones had failed), and reportedly cost $6 million to make (though no exact figure has been released for public scrutiny).

"The Cog" was considered a popular favorite going into the 50th Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, the only annual get together of the world's advertising and marketing communities. This seven-day June event encompasses major facets of the industry: film, outdoor, press, cyber, media, and direct marketing media.

Close to 8,000 key industry players, from 40 countries, congregate at the festival to view the best in advertising and creativity. During the festival week, competitions showcase over 5000 commercials, 3500 outdoor ads, 6000 print ads, 1300 websites and online ads, 800 media solutions and 1200 direct marketing entries. Winning ads are awarded the highly coveted Gold, Silver, and Bronze Lions, and the Grand Prix – reserved for the most outstanding creative work.

But the judges at Cannes reserved the Grand prix award for another ad and bestowed upon Wieden + Kennedy / Partizan Midi Minuit team a Gold Lion, the highest non-exclusive rank in their category.

The Grand Prix winning film – "The Lamp," executed by Crispin Porter + Bogusky / Morton Jankel Zander – is the tear jerking story of a discarded lamp advertising Ikea furniture. And, while this brilliantly conceived mock-dramatic presentation strikes a more emotional, and humorous, chord, it lacks the awesome originality of "The Cog."

And don't think that American firms were left entirely out in the cold. Nike and Reebok each scored significant wins in the Gold Lion for film categories (Rebook's amazing campaign, "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker," has revolutionized inner-studio relations and humor here at Cloudjammer).

But don't get your hopes up that "The Cog" will play anytime soon on American TV. The Accord model advertised isn't available – nor are there any plans to make it available – to US consumers. fb