In a Modern-Day World Controlled by International Mass Media, One Brave Blogger Unleashes a Terrible Secret...

Does it ever seem like every single Hollywood movie trailer uses the same voiceover? Well, it pretty much does. Don LaFontaine is probably the guy you’re thinking of: he’s only got a few major competitors, and you’d recognise each of them too. They all got together in a limo one day (video here). So, any suggestions for what to do about this obvious oligopoly? Let’s hope the FTC get straight on it, anyway.

The Sales Ain't Heavy; That's My Chevy

For those who don’t keep up with such things, the American car industry is in big trouble. Detroit’s sales have been declining for some time, hurt by high costs, and Japan is stepping in to take their place. Some Americans, of course, will only buy American, but many seem to be taking the more pragmatic approach. High gas prices and a preference for marketing big cars and vans among America’s car markers haven’t helped.

Chevy seems to be upping the ante with a controversial new advert for their Silverado truck - with an admittedly catchy tune (video; I’m not sure what Stephen Colbert has to do with it). A recent Slate podcast deconstructs this in detail; suffice to say that images of Katrina and Vietnam are hardly likely to avoid heated discussion. A slightly blunt and clumsy parody is already doing the rounds.

This is all particularly interesting at a time when alternatives to petrol-guzzling SUVs finally seem to be becoming viable. David (site down at the time of writing) recently discussed an In Business podcast that looked at the Tesla Roadster, the first electric car that seems to actually have both a realistic marketing and engineering story. Tesla claim a 135 mpg equivalent energy consumption and 0-60mph in 4 seconds: not a bad combination. The car is currently being marketed only in California due to EU regulatory problems (please, government, get out of the way of the entrepreneurs saving the world). But it looks like it might finally herald the start of a more sustainable future.

I don’t think it’s an unreasonable prediction to say that the car industry will be one to watch closely over the next decade.

Wedding Crashers

  • 5 / 10.

  • Medium.

  • OKish.

  • Reasonable.

  • Not too bad; not too good.

All of these phrases describe Wedding Crashers.

One of the more infamous moments from Top Gear has Jeremy Clarkson drumming his fingers on the top of a (notoriously bland) Vectra for an entire minute, unable to think of anything to say. This film elicits the same lack of reaction from me. As I watch films these days I tend to take notes so I can write up reviews afterward. With this incoherent set of scenes I struggled to think of much to write.

Wedding Crashers is mild entertainment, and there some amusing scenes. But there aren’t any really funny ones. Vince Vaughan falls into the trap (as he has before) of being so deadpan you’re not sure if he’s trying to be humorous. But there aren’t any punchlines for him to carry it off anyway. The production values are hit-and-miss: some sequences are tightly edited, but in others the story just rambles. No favours are won with the first montage, which essentially introduces the wedding crashing concept, and just doesn’t flow. The football scene early in the film is bizarrely accompanied by Dave Brubeck’s ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ - that’s just weird. The cinematography is reasonable, but the script is hardly witty.

There are some nice moments - the ending is better than average for a romantic comedy, despite the mostly formulaic plot up to that point. There is a fuzzy feeling of completion as the pretty girls get the cheeky guys, and the bad guy gets his comeuppance. But I felt the same way about this film as I did about Dodgeball - we’ve seen it all before. Ultimately, it was a disappointment.

Marketing Beat Me Black and Green

Marketing doesn’t have to be subtle. I was recently sent a DVD from Lovefilm that contained a small complimentary bar of Green & Black’s chocolate (5p at cost price?). Being the greedy man I am, I knew this bar wouldn’t be enough once I’d started it, but even the thought of eating it got me salivating. Cursing the marketers involved for being so cunning, I immediately hastened to Sainsbury’s to stock up (in my defence, I bought some other stuff too).

This is clear and obvious - they know what they want you to do, you know what they want you to do. But it still works, because the product is good - the ‘ad’ just acts as a reminder at the right time (when I’m settling down for the evening). Seth Godin talks about this notion a lot - having a good product and marketing it in the right context. See this presentation he gave at Google for more.

Woolwich from Winchester

Just before a trip to London a few days ago, I inserted my Woolwich card in an ATM near Winchester Station. I hit the ‘balance on screen’ button, and saw ‘your card issuer has declined your request’. A bit mysterious. I don’t normally keep much money in that account, but obviously I still wanted to make sure that someone wasn’t in the process of stealing it. So I phoned up the ‘lost and stolen’ line on the back of the card and explained the problem. I was told that, because I wasn’t an Openplan account holder (whatever that is), it wasn’t possible to do any telephone banking past 5.30pm. Although my security details could be verified, I was told that no further information could be given. The card could be cancelled, and a new one sent out, but I didn’t want to go through the hassle for the risk attached to such a small sum of money.

My worries were further compounded when I phoned during office hours the next morning to check again. They could find no record of the card being declined, or an explanation as to why it was. The only suggestion I was offered was: ‘try it in another ATM’. Well, duh.

I’ve no doubt my card will probably work again next time I try it, and this was a one-off glitch. It’s not entirely reassuring that the problem doesn’t seem to have been recorded, but what is surprising is the illogical service I was offered by the Woolwich. This isn’t price discrimination, this is just stupidity: with 24-hour callcentres and computerised records, there is no excuse.

This type of problem in the past has been one of the things that has encouraged me to keep multiple accounts with different banks (so I can get at money when I need it). I suspect the Woolwich might soon lose its place in my portfolio, though. Any recommendations for a replacement?

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