Mid-Week Music: Deltron Event 2

This week’s installment of #MidWeekMusic comes from one of my favorite hip-hop artists of all time: the incomparable Deltron 3030, and their new album Deltron Event 2.

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Deltron 3030 is the supergroup of hip-hop legends Del The Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala.   Their first album, Deltron 3030, released in 2000, remains one of my favorite albums of all time.  Full of bold rhymes and sci-fi references, it embodied a love of wordplay and intelligent writing that I hadn’t thought possible in hip-hop.

After a thirteen year hiatus, and who knows how many false starts, I wasn’t sure we’d ever get the long-promised follow-up album.  Event 2 builds off the same characters (Deltron Osiris/ Deltron Zero) and brilliant word play (“Turbolasers will do more than subdue them fools”) found in the first album, while expanding upon the unique Deltron sound.

Event 2 continues to rail against corporate excess and abuses of power, but never feels preachy, largely thanks to stellar production and inventive wordplay (Everywhere I smell the place stink/And I told him man, “Seems like y’all gotta think big.”/I said introduce deeper concepts/He told me “Hell nah fool, it wouldn’t profit”).  

Featuring guest appearances from what feels like the world (Zach De La Rocha, Damon Albarn, and David Cross to name a few), Event 2 pushes the boundaries of hip-hop in ways Drake or Kanye couldn’t begin to comprehend.  Just when I had all but given up hope, Deltron has created another near-perfect example of hip-hop music.  

-CB

Advertising Week 2013 Round-up

In an obviously lazy effort to keep you all in the loop with this year’s Advertising Week (and in an attempt to live vicariously through the journalists who are there), here are some of the most interesting stories to come from New York this week.   Some feature rather obvious topics (the rise of video, convergence of online and traditional retail) while others dig a little deeper (Spotify welcoming competition).    What’s been your favorite this week?   Tweet @USCBall and let me know!

Spotify Welcomes Competition

Amazon Debuts Native Video Ad Units

Gilt’s Mobile Accounts for Almost 50% of Revenue

To Win Mobile, Put Consumers First

Facebook’s Mobile Problem

Facebook has been under serious pressure to deliver for investors, and it finally seems to be doing so - the stock is up almost 50% in the past three months.   Wall Street’s new-found confidence is the result of Facebook’s advertising performance - specifically, its mobile ads.  While there’s no doubt that users are seeing more mobile ads (kudos to the sales team), ad targeting (or the lack thereof) has become a significant problem.

Facebook’s targeting engines for mobile ads are ineffective at best.   While I don’t pretend to know what the algorithms consider when targeting, I can say they’re not working for myself or my peers.  Let’s take this morning for example: out of the four ads I saw in my newsfeed on my iPhone, two were in spanish (I don’t speak spanish), one was for a gym in Houston (I live in LA), and one was for a beauty product (I’m not female).   Obviously this is a tiny sample size, but it’s indicative of the trend I’ve experienced over the past year.  Everyone I’ve spoken with feels similarly - Facebook’s mobile ads simply aren’t relevant.

This then, brings us to the biggest problem: user engagement.  By constantly serving irrelevant mobile ads, Facebook is negatively impacting user engagement. Irrelevant ads are ignored, and ignored ads are bad for business.  Although most users are used to tuning out traditional display, many have not yet developed the same habits for mobile.  It is imperative that Facebook fix its mobile targeting engines quickly, before its users learn to ignore them.

So how to start?  First and foremost: ensure ads are in users’ native language!  Second, be sure that local ads stay local - even if remnant space is being filled.  Finally, add more criteria based on user profile data.   Facebook may very well be the largest database of personal information on the planet (outside of the NSA) - it’s time to monetize that asset in a minimally-intrusive manner.

Performance Hybrids: Toyota Tries Something New

Performance Hybrid.   No, that’s not an oxymoron.  While most think of hybrids as dull, jellybean-shaped transportation appliances driven by complete idiots people who suck at driving inattentive assholes (see: Prius), that is no longer the case.   Over the past five years, Porsche, Audi, and Toyota have begun campaigning hybrid race cars.   Utilizing super capacitors in place of heavy batteries, these cars have been quite successful on the track track, with Audi’s R18 e-tron Quattro having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans the past two years.

imageDon’t pretend you don’t want this

Although Toyota is the clear leader in production hybrid cars, they have been soundly beaten on the racetrack by both Audi and Porsche.   This week, as Porsche officially unveiled the 918 Spyder (a hybrid, and the fastest street-legal car at the Nordeschlief), Toyota introduced an interesting concept: the Yaris Hybrid-R.

imageHot Hybrid Hatch. Say that five times fast.

Toyota has done an excellent job of marketing to the mass market, and selling a hell of a lot of cars in the process.  The introduction of the Yaris Hybrid-R shows a new approach: going after the taste makers (in this case, the enthusiast market)  who tend to think of “hybrid” as a four-letter word.

Assuming Toyota can successfully translate the concept car Hybrid-R technology (derived from their Le Mans program) to a production vehicle soon, this will be a major win.   While there will inevitably be some enthusiasts who will never come around, the majority would welcome increased performance and fuel economy together.   By focusing on the direct translation of racing technology to a production vehicle, Toyota will employ a tried and true automotive marketing strategy.

The only question that remains is what car will be the first to carry the Hybrid-R technology into the showroom.   The upcoming Toyota/BMW sport scar seems like a forgone conclusion, but shouldn’t be the first.

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Toyota, add this to the GT86/FR-S.  Keep the weight under 2900lbs, the 6-speed manual, and the price under 30k.   That’s where you’ll win the battle.

-CB

Mid-Week Music: Zero 7

For anyone who grew up in the early 00s, Zero 7 is one of the groups that you’ve heard the music, but probably didn’t know who it was.   Their song “In the Waiting Line”, featured prominently on the Garden State soundtrack, was a staple of adolescent playlists in high schools and colleges across the country.

At it’s core, Zero 7 is the British duo of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker.    What makes Zero 7 so remarkable is the talented and ever-changing array of musicians these two surround themselves with (Sia Furler and José González are two of the more recognizable names).

Zero 7 is perhaps best categorized as ambient or downtempo that draws elements of jazz, electronica, hip hop, world, indie, folk and rock together to create a wall of sound that even Phil would be proud of.  I can safely say they’re one of my favorite chill-out groups, perfect after a long day of work, or while eating dinner. 

Unfortunately, they have been away from the scene for the past four years.   That is, until a few days ago, when they posted two new songs on their Soundcloud.   Give them a listen, and let me know what you think.

Zero 7 - On My Own

Zero 7 - Don’t Call It Love


-CB

Mid-Week Music: Oliver

This week’s Mid-Week Music comes to us from Oliver, the LA-based Electro-disco project of U-Tern and Oligee.

These two have produced some absolutely stellar disco music over the past few years.  ”Night Is On My Mind”, a single from their latest EP, Mechanical, offers a glimpse into what I can only assume happens in the DTLA arts district late at night.    

Not only is Oliver responsible for one of the best most entertaining videos I’ve seen this year, but they’re fantastic live.   Check our their tour dates, and catch a show you near.   Just be sure to bring some comfortable shoes - there’s no way you will be standing still.

Ad Analysis: Kia - Totally Transformed

Today’s analysis focuses on the new spot for the 2014 Kia Soul.  Totally Transformed, made by Kia’s agency David & Goliath, features the hamsters we’ve seen in Soul ads since the car was released in 2010.

Focusing on the Soul’s 2014 re-design, the spot shows the hamsters undergoing a total transformation, from running on the beach and swimming laps to having their hair done, they undergo an LA-level image overhaul.   Throughout this montage we see a few shots of a man apparently doing the same to the Soul, using only a tablet device.

imageSeriously?  Engineers everywhere are pissed embarrassed 

While no one can argue with the efficacy of the Hamster campaign to date, I can’t help but feel this ad misses the mark, though not because of the creative.  The whole message of the commercial is how the Soul has been completely transformed, yet it has undergone only a minor mid-cycle refresh.    Similarly, the spot feels this way: while the hamsters have a new look, it is the same basic concept that people know and like. 

I’m curious to see how this plays out for Kia.  While there’s no doubt that people like the hamsters, they overplayed their hand on this one.

Grade: B-

-CB

So BP ran this ad today in the Wall Street Journal.   I understand they’ve been getting fleeced, but doesn’t like they’ll be making any friends with this one…

So BP ran this ad today in the Wall Street Journal.   I understand they’ve been getting fleeced, but doesn’t like they’ll be making any friends with this one…

As my regular readers may have noticed (all three of you - love you guys!), I have a new logo, thanks to my esteemed colleague, Jason Mueller.   Jason has worked with me on a number of projects over the years (most of them utterly pointless), but who has nevertheless always done great work.  If you happen to need some high quality design work done, give him a shout at triggrhaapi (at) gmail.com.   Thanks Jason!/shamelessproductplacement

As my regular readers may have noticed (all three of you - love you guys!), I have a new logo, thanks to my esteemed colleague, Jason Mueller.   Jason has worked with me on a number of projects over the years (most of them utterly pointless), but who has nevertheless always done great work.  If you happen to need some high quality design work done, give him a shout at triggrhaapi (at) gmail.com.   Thanks Jason!
/shamelessproductplacement

Model S: Safest Car Ever

This just in: the Model S is officially the safest car ever tested by the NHTSA.   Needless to say, I’m thoroughly impressed.    The best bit of the release? 

"While the exact number is uncertain due to Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner’s car without the roof caving in."

There’s no way I’m the only one who thinks this would make one hell of an ad.  Elon, I’m waiting…

What do you think it is going to take to get the car buying public to wake up to the obvious packaging advantages provided by electric power trains? 

-CB