politics • pop culture • pints
"The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding…" Unless that New Yorker is 34 with a newly pregnant wife, and is looking for the next big adventure.
From moving into Washington Heights in 2002 with nothing more than a dance belt and a tube of chapstick in pursuit of theater glory to transitioning into thrilling work with the nontraditional marketing company, the michael alan group, and all the insanity in between, I can state unequivocally that moving to New York was one of the best things I’ve ever done. That said, after over a decade in The City, my wife Salli and I decided that it was time for a change, and so naturally we headed to our nation’s capital.
On April 14th, I took a job as the Director of Events at POLITICO, working to create live extensions of their unparalleled editorial content. We’re positively thrilled by the chance to learn a new city, new folks and have new discoveries. While New York will always be home, we’re incredibly excited to see what else the future has in store.
Well, this just made my day. The President landed smack between Zach Galifianakis’s two ferns and emerged on the other side.
This show is consistently hilarious, and this exchange is no exception. To give credit where credit is due, Obama nailed this appearance. Not only does he successfully manage to plug Healthcare.gov, he fully understands the premise, and nails a few digs of his own. Take a look.
Unimaginable that Truman, Ike, JFK, Reagan would appear on Between Two Ferns. They carefully protected majesty of their office.— David Gergen (@David_Gergen)March 12, 2014
Say what you will, the appearance worked. According to the Washington Post, the video is now the #1 source of referrals to Healthcare.gov. You may now begin making jokes about the “Young Invincibles" being susceptible to LOLZ. Actually, on second thought, don’t.
Working in marketing, I get tasked daily with RFP’s that earnestly instruct me to “cut through the clutter,” “think outside the box,” and the most loathsome of all, “connect with Millennials.” Faddishly buzzy as these instructions may seem to the brief writer, the direction should simply be, “how do we make people care?”
An emerging trend adopted by many non-profits has been to shy away from the surprise & delight tactic in favor of shock & awe. Shock at what we’re seeing and awe - or perhaps more appropriately, shame - regarding how far-reaching the problem is, and how little is being done to help it.
The first ad of this kind I encountered a little while back, and was created by the Swedish Fund for UNICEF.
In it, a youngster deadpans into the camera about the struggles he and his family are currently enduring, but concedes “it’ll be alright” because the Fund is on track to score 200K Likes on Facebook. The clip is buttoned by the tag, “Like’s don’t save lives,” and it is simply fantastic. It’s short, it has three acts, and it effortlessly dashes absurdity that social “Likes” translate into anything but self-satisfied bursts of serotonin. I love it.
Another one that I stumbled upon yesterday was for International Women’s Day (which incidentally is today):
This video gives you a first person view of a day in the life of a young woman as she goes about her business while using Google Glass to film her friends and neighbors without their permission (but that’s a post for another day…). The video concludes with the woman shockingly becoming the victim of domestic violence. It’s a bit grisly.
This video is much less successful, because it isn’t a fair dealer. It’s a tad long by viral video standards and the abrupt twist feels unkind to the sympathetic viewer who followed along for the 2:20 to get to the point. All-in-all the message is not lost on me, but the execution seems a tad ham-handed. Undeniably, this is very serious issue, and as such it should be handled with sympathy not sensationalism. All the same, it’s made it into this post and many others like it (for better or for worse), so the argument could be made they reached their goal.
The most exceptional one I’ve seen to date was created by Save the Children UK. Since being posted on Wednesday it has amassed 16.5MM views. The ad takes advantage of the popular “Second a Day” motif to make the tragedy in Syria personal:
This video is 1:34, but it feels like you watched Children of Men and then 4 hours CNN International. The video captures 1 year of a young girl from birthday to birthday, and over the course of the year, some nondescript British city becomes a war zone. The video closes with something of a perfect tag: “Just because it isn’t happening here, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”
The execution is sweeping and cinematic, it stokes empathy, and takes the viewer on a meaningful journey that puts people in the shoes of Syrians’ circumstances. Sure, it’s a tad cynical by implying that the only way we get people to care about this crisis is to make the victim(s) white middle-class Europeans, but the message that, no matter where you’re from having to live under such horrifying circumstances is unacceptable, wins out.
It’s an interesting trend. I think the most exciting thing about these videos is the risks that these groups are willing to take - as cringeworthy as it may be to say - thinking outside the box, challenging consumers to engage with the message. At the end of the day, the big question for these groups whether or not this sort of messaging translates to fundraising dollars. Given the limited resources of many of these organizations, that will likely be the biggest indicator of whether or not you’ll see more ads of this sort in the near future.
The undeniable winner during this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi has been none other than the Russian Police Choir.
They’re like watching The Hunt for Red October, but with a better soundtrack.
Their triumph got me thinking about the power of the arts as a foreign policy tool.
What’s that you say? Russia is a repressive, authoritarian state? That can’t be possible! Why, these fine chaps just seem like they’re up all night ‘til the sun / up all night to get some / up all night for good fun / up all night to get lucky! What could possibly be wrong with that?
When I viewed their performance at the Opening Ceremonies and then the encore presentation on the Today Show, I was rather surprised by how quickly I was willing forget that this ensemble wasn’t just a finely tuned instrument (oh, those tenors!), but also an instrument of power.
Oh, you know, the sort of instrument that will beebop to the sounds of Daft Punk one minute, and then dutifully cart peaceful gay rights supporters off to jail the next.
While Vlad & Co. may have scored some PR points with this finely-tuned precinct, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of people in Russia who definitely aren’t getting lucky.
On Sunday, during the Bruno Mars concert, America’s resident wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, #FLOAR, #FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD-er took to the Twitter and posted the following:
It’s so much more fun to watch FOX when it’s someone else being blitzed & sacked! #SuperBowl— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 3, 2014
…and this is important.
This little humdinger spread through the internet like wildfire garnering over 57,000 retweets, half of which occurred in real-time during the the Super Bowl! For those not up on all things twittery that’s like telling one person a joke and then 57,000 people suddenly tell that same joke to anywhere between 5 and 50,000,000 of their closest friends (depending on whether or not you’re Katy Perry) at the same time!
Then there’s the matter of the Cult of Hillary. When I looked at my phone - and I did a lot because I do not have a firm grasp on the most basic rules of football - and I saw that Hillary Clinton had posted a tweet, without even reading, I instantly retweeted it. Why? Because I’m a Hillary Zombie. But I’m not alone, there are at least 57K other Hillary Zombies out there, just like me.
Do you hear that? That is the chatter of people talking about you, Hillary. Let’s be honest, the joke isn’t really that funny and yet, the fact that it existed at all became a story unto itself and everyone from FOX to CNN, from Jezebel to Bleacher Report gave their own take on it. They may not all have had nice things to say about it, but as the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me.”
Does this mean Hillary is running for president? Not directly, but when you consider how something so innocuous and relatively unfunny went viral, you can’t help but think that there’s a nascent pop culture movement swelling behind her. A movement that I’ll bet she sure wished she had back in 2008…
Then again, it could just be that the Broncos sucked and we needed some entertainment.
9:00PM, Tuesday: The State of the Union is one of those silly things that get in the way of the Bachelor or whatever that show is where the people light roses on fire and stop being polite…and start acting…real…really real (with realness).
If you didn’t watch the #SOTU, and you probably didn’t, here’s your recap:
JOE BIDEN STILL CAN’T MAKE IT THROUGH ONE OF THESE THINGS WITHOUT DOING SOMETHING PAINFULLY INAPPROPRIATE:
— Ashley Codianni (@AshleyCodianni)January 29, 2014
Two years from now in “Game Change 3: Back in the Habit” Mark Halpern will reveal that Joe could totally see Ginsberg’s boney clavicle peeking through the top of her robe, and it was hysterical!
WE’RE GONNA RETIRE, SON!
401K’s suck, amiright??? So Obama revealed we’re all getting myRA’s which will be awesome because - look over there! Scrooge McDuck is jumping into a vault of gold coins!!! Also, income inequality.
Yes, yes, all was quite festive!
…AND THEN WE MET THIS MAN
This is U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, who was severely injured in Afghanistan on his 10th deployment and fought is way back from nearly dying, to land a ticket to the view the festivities from the First Lady’s box.
In quick, sharp focus, he embodied the fact that for all the pomp of events like this, the choices made by the people collected in that Great Hall - folks we elected - result in people going to fight and sacrifice over conflicts that we don’t understand and frankly may not affect us, given that this substantial burden is placed on such an honorable few.
At that point, I decided it may be a good idea to put the pithy tweets to bed. At that point, the frivolity of it all wasn’t nearly as funny as I thought it was at 9:00PM.