Posts filed under ‘Media’

Have You Had Your “McGangBang” Today?

mcgangbang-flickr42

It’s a simple recipe for a thoroughly unwholesome meal: one McChicken sandwich placed between a Double Cheeseburger’s two patties, both ordered off McDonald’s popular Dollar Menu for a grand total of $2.16. Crudely christened the “McGangBang” by Daytona Beach customers in 2006, the sandwich has steadily earned a voracious following. Today, McDonald’s diners consume the McGangBang both online and off, ordering the absurd sandwich from befuddled employees, while documenting their experiences via Flickr, YouTube and, dare I say, even Twitter. And yet, the way McDonald’s opts to address this public relations pickle will prove to be even more interesting than how their customers are customizing the dollar sandwiches.

To date, the company has issued a single statement on the McGangBang, using a typical smile, deflect and evade approach:

“McDonald’s loves to hear from our valued guests, especially when they customize and create meal combinations to fit their personal taste preferences – no matter how unique! Whether it’s requesting an Egg McMuffin without cheese or a Big Mac with extra secret sauce, McDonald’s is proud to satisfy our customers’ requests and provide them with a variety of great-tasting meals every time they visit our restaurants.”

Is it just me or is ordering a sandwich named after a group sex act slightly different than asking for “an Egg McMuffin without cheese?” (Unless I’m unaware of some naughty new move!)

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March 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm 2 comments

Battle Of The (Randomly Generated) Bands

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Before checking out for the weekend, we thought we’d share something silly and wonderful with you. A Flickr user going by the name of “Bishopia” has sparked a new viral trend with his “CD Cover Meme,” a challenge to create your own randomly generated album cover. Don’t have a drop of musical talent? Who cares!

First, click the random article button on Wikipedia. Voila! There’s your band’s name. Second, select the last line of the last quote on QuotationPage’s random option. Bam! There’s your album title. Finally, choose the third picture off Flickr’s “Explore the Last Seven Days” page. Ta da! You have a (fake) band, a (fake) album and (fake) cover art.

This meme immediately reminded me of my colleague Kat’s recent “random delight” post, only now, by inviting people to design and submit original artwork, the randomness phenomena has matured into something new: a call to creative action. Judging from the thousands of impressive submissions, people are taking this silly challenge quite seriously.

– Johnny

Click through for People Are Amazing’s CD art… (more…)

February 20, 2009 at 8:22 pm Leave a comment

TV On Our Own Terms

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Once upon a time, in an age before TiVo and Netflix, colleagues would gather around the watercooler to chat about the previous night’s popular TV shows. The shared experience of critiquing the latest episodes was a social blessing–or for those unable to tune in, a recurring curse. Whether watched or discussed, TV shows were immoveable objects around which lives were expected to revolve. Over time, however, the opposite became true.

Today, the very questions we ask each other about televison have changed. As programs break free from their allotted timeslots and onto Hulu, iPhones and Xboxes, the question “did you watch _____?” has become “are you watching _____?” Fixed broadcast content is on its way out, with viewers instead watching shows whenever, wherever they want. Take AMC’s breakout hit Mad Men. Judging purely by its weekly viewership, one wouldn’t necessarily deem the show a tremendous success. And yet in the past six months it seems as if the Don Draper and his misogynist creatives are on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Did your friends watch last night’s episode of Mad Men? Not necessarily. But are they watching Mad Men? Damn right they are! Only now, it’s on their own terms, their own schedule, their own pace and their own devices.

As a result, weekly watercooler conversations have all but evaporated. Barring the Superbowl, the Oscars and certain major political events, today’s audience no longer experiences TV en masse. Unbound to a prescribed way of watching, viewers have turned online to discuss shows, where they can sort and sift through specifically what’s relevant to them. But god forbid they catch up to real-time! Fan websites, for instance, must now post “spoiler alerts” when discussing up-to-date episodes in order to prevent their readers from learning untimely plot points.

Our clever culture will no doubt adjust to these time-shifting technologies, but not without a heavy dose of nostalgic protest. “I remember when my friends used to watch the same shows, at the same time, and talk about them afterwards,” they’ll say. With any hope, the same technologies behind our liberation from broadcast TV will rekindle the faded joys of tuning in together.

– Johnny

January 27, 2009 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment

Inauguration Unites New And Old Media

Inauguration

This coming Tuesday, millions of Americans will come together to watch our nation swear in its first ever African-American President. Evidently, the spirit of unity is spreading beyond the crowds. Several interesting media partnerships have emerged to make the inauguration available to those eager to watch, but unable to attend.

The most newsworthy of the lot is MSNBC’s deal with Starbucks to simulcast the event in 650 coffeeshops in three cities. But the list goes on, with particular attention paid to making the ceremony available online. Fox News is expanding their existing partnership with Internet TV provider Hulu to provide free live coverage from noon to 2PM. Hulu’s competitor Joost, on the other hand, will stream CBS’s broadcast of the event. Other networks have opted to team up with popular social networking sites. User-produced CurrentTV will air viewers’ reactions in realtime via micro-blogging site Twitter. Elsewhere, powerhouses have united; CNN.com has integrated its site such that Facebook users can watch the Senator turn President along with their friends. Well, sort of.

While most people rushed home on election night to watch “regular” TV, the workday timing of this heavily anticipated inauguration seems to have led the big networks to rush online. I’m hopeful that the creative partnerships spurred by this historic day will encourage television networks to further embrace this type of cross-platform, deformated content. But on Tuesday, that’s not all I’ll be hopeful about!

– Johnny

January 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

The Amazing Year That Was

Obama crowd

2008 was an unforgettable year for us at People Are Amazing. Aside from Kat getting married, and me getting typhus, we launched this very blog and (despite our best efforts), it is still up and running! Since then, we’ve been privileged to interview a number of amazing people from Kalliopi Kohas, owner of Greek pine sap purveyor Mastiha to Tony Dusko, 5th grade teacher by day, whimsical web animator by night. A personal highpoint was hearing the wise words of 90 year-old Dave Crawford on growing up during the Great Depression and how best to navigate a crumbling economy.

But the recession didn’t keep us from visiting some intriguing places. John took a trip to Brooklyn’s own Fine and Raw for a taste of artisanal, dairy/sugar/preservative-free chocolate. He brought back some perishable, refrigerated samples and we made sure they never reached room temperature! Kat found herself in the Mid-West wandering the aisles of Cincinatti’s own supermarket/amusement park Jungle Jim’s. Food, it seems, is a minor obsession at P.A.A.. Kat’s post about local panini-makers S’Wich found its way onto foodie blog Eater in May. I wrote about an awful new bottled tap water I came across at a bodega; in turn, that company curiously linked to our post, “Tap’NY Must Think You’re Stupid,” in their press section.

Surprisingly, our most popular post ended up being about a miscolored canine. In early May, I was experimenting with ways to boost traffic and I noticed that the search term “green puppy” was “volcanic” in popularity on Google Trends. Apparently, a Labrador with a pea-colored coat had been born in New Orleans and really people wanted to see the pictures. I posted the two images available at the time, unaware that moments later the popular site Buzzfeed would link to our post. Within a matter of minutes, we had thousands of viewers visiting our humble little blog. Thus, the “Green Puppy Effect” was born.

Obviously, you never quite know where a year will take you. This time last year, People Are Amazing didn’t even exist. But between blogging about diabetic rappers and Colorado grease thieves, we were thrilled to ride the ups and downs of 2008. Luckily for us, amazing things are always on the horizon and 2009 is sure to provide hearty fodder for the blog. Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

– Johnny

January 12, 2009 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

This Election, I Haven’t The Foggiest Idea

While I may be a fiend for my daily campaign fix, we rarely touch upon politics here at People Are Amazing. But political journalist Adam Nagourney’s take on the “media fog” enveloping the election in yesterday’s Times raised certain apolitical implications worth discussing here. Concerning the Obama campaign’s repeated attempts to recapture the public’s attention following a week of headline-grabbing, less-than-honest shots from his opponent, Nagourney writes:

“That episode reflects what has emerged as one of the most frustrating challenges that Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama are facing going into the final weeks of this campaign: the ways in which the proliferation of communications channels, the fracturing of mass media and the relentless political competition to own each news cycle are combining to reorder the way voters follow campaigns and decide how to vote. It has reached a point where senior campaign aides say they are no longer sure what works, as they stumble through what has become a daily campaign fog, struggling to figure out what voters are paying attention to and, not incidentally, what they are even believing.”

Surely, campaign managers aren’t the only ones stumbling around. Far from isolated to politics, this disorienting fog of misinformation confounds us all, blanketing every piece of news spread via the major media, the Internet, our mobile devices, and even the kitchen table. (more…)

September 16, 2008 at 5:10 pm 2 comments

The New Trendspotter: You

A long time ago, in the 90s, some savvy entrepreneurs figured out that big companies like Coca-Cola and Nike wanted desperately to know what was cool with the kids in order to stay one step ahead of a culture increasingly at odds with mainstream marketing. Thus the trendspotting revolution launched to prominence companies like Look Look, the Zandl Group, Trendcentral, and many others all dedicated to acting as middlemen between street culture and the marketing departments of corporate America.

In the interest of parity, most trend consultancies invited the youth and cultural niches they ‘represented’ to speak on their own behalves, addressing the movements of culture in their own words. For example, Look Look’s eponymous magazine promised aspiring young photographers and artists an opportunity to publish their work— ostensibly for their peers—which could then be repackaged as a value-added consulting offering for Look Look’s clients. Or the Intelligence Group’s Trend School showcased young early-adopters speaking on panels about their hyper-connected lives. In essence, trendspotters offered a clever bargain; a platform for youth expression in exchange for youth’s bloodhound sense for the next big thing.

But fast forward a decade and a funny thing has happened: in offering such a bargain, trendspotters have largely made themselves obsolete. (more…)

September 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Pattern-finding and Random Delight

It’s well-documented that we are in an age of unsurpassed information and data. Luckily, technology has not only created the swirling mess, it has also made sense of it, resulting in everything from Google Earth to Newsmap. Dynamic duo Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar have emerged as thought leaders in the field, and making a splash with their “We Feel Fine” project (pictured above left), which aggregates and maps how the blogosphere is “feeling” at any one time.

Given the rising importance of “pattern-finding,” I was initially surprised when my friend Paul Ratliff shared with me the concept of “Random Delight.” His theory is that there is a counter trend to pattern-finding — technology is also helping to push completely arbitrary bits of information that we seem to enjoy on a playful and instinctive level. Great examples are: the Beacon project, that projects real-time websearch terms on the wall; Urban Spoon’s iPhone restaurant finder application, which has a “slot machine” function (pictured above right) that selects a restaurant based on how hard you shake your phone.

The more I thought about it, the more it makes perfect sense. Pattern-finding helps to feed our desire for logic and order, while randomness feeds the side that delights in human ingenuity, deviations, and providence. We turn to technology to do exactly what we want… can we now trust technology to do exactly what we least expect? –Kat

August 21, 2008 at 9:52 am 1 comment

Discover Card’s “Nation of Consumers”

“We are a nation of consumers, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” So begins “Brighter” the latest TV spot from Discover Card, the credit card company with its head in the clouds. “What if instead of encouraging us to spend more, (a credit card company) actually helped us spend smarter?” Now I’ll admit, I enjoy watching commercials, if only for the opportunity to skewer the bad ones. But watching this particular ad last night made me more sad than anything.

Despite its grandiose statements, Discover merely encourages the same charge-forward culture that has people struggling more than ever to pay their credit card bills. The ad is in support of their new Paydown Planner, a basic tool that helps you organize your debt repayment more efficiently. But this barely treats the symptom, nevermind the disease. You don’t have to be a Marxist to think there is something actually wrong with a plastic economy based on fulfilling your immediate whims rather than your long-term needs. And with advertisers and financial institutions pushing a “don’t worry, spend more” message during a recession, it certainly is “easy to get carried away” into significant debt. If credit card companies show no responsibility in helping our nation out of debt, it may be up to consumers to discover their own way.

– Johnny

After the jump check out another horrible ad, this time from Visa. It tries to paint a cash-paying customer as the world’s biggest inconvenience.

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August 11, 2008 at 3:59 pm 3 comments

Remember Hypercolors? American Apparel Does

Last week, NOTCOT alerted me to the fact that American Apparel has recently launched a line of ‘Thermochromatic T-shirts’ that change color when exposed to heat or cold. The site went on to point out that this is essentially the same technology used by those unrelentingly awesome Hypercolors t-shirts that were all the rage in the early 90s. And lest you forget just how awesome it was, the official American Apparel site has a nice little video of a model microwaving a shirt and then wearing it into a freezer. But my initial excitement gave way to cynicism when a few days later I read this article in the LA Times, saying essentially: hypercolor is back from the grave, so start counting backwards from 15 minutes again.

Here’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with Hypercolors coming back. I lived through the trend the first time around and still think it’s amazing in a 12-year-old boy sort of way. But this isn’t an isolated incident. (more…)

July 11, 2008 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

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