"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Tuesday, September 23, 2008,7:02 AM
The Mining of Hip-Hop’s Golden Age
DURING a show at the Knitting Factory in TriBeCa this summer, the Cool Kids took the stage dressed like extras in “Do the Right Thing.” Mikey Rocks, 20, and the duo’s main rapper, wore a baggy, bright red tank top with silver lettering, and Chuck Inglish, 23, sported a striped Polo shirt; both wore fitted baseball caps with brims flying high. Midshow, the two slid into the signature song “88,” a carefully constructed burst of reminiscence with spare, crisp drums backing a fusillade of era-appropriate references: Cuban-link gold chains, Cazal eyeglass frames, stone-washed Guess jeans. In the crowd, some fans waved gold ropes and vintage sneakers, and a young woman in a floral-print dress did the high-stepping Kid ’n Play dance from the 1990 film “House Party.”

Released in May, the Cool Kids’ debut EP, “The Bake Sale” (C.A.K.E./Chocolate Industries), is a vivid and unusually potent revisiting of what is commonly referred to as hip-hop’s golden age (spanning the late 1980s and early ’90s), both in its spare, drum-heavy production values and in its neatly structured rhyme patterns. Never mind that the two performers aren’t old enough to have experienced the scene firsthand.

“That’s what we sound like; I can’t help it,” said Chuck Inglish, who produces the Cool Kids’ music with a meticulous ear. “But I’m into emulation, not imitation.”

Increasingly, the Cool Kids are not alone. They are part of a small but newly influential hip-hop subculture — call it meta-rap — created by a generation of artists raised wholly within hip-hop culture, making music that is a commentary on what came before it. In hip-hop, which can be ruthlessly forward-looking, this is a novel development, and it has made for compelling and diverse music from acts like the Cool Kids, Pacific Division, the Knux, Kidz in the Hall and Plastic Little.

Not all these artists are as committed to a specific sound as the Cool Kids are, but they express their nostalgia in other ways: in lyrical references and rhyme patterns, in the selection of drum sounds, in their choice of clothes. While much current mainstream rap tends toward street-life fantasias and thug-love odes, these meta-rap artists are far less ostentatious, preoccupied with authenticity and topically narrow. As a result most of their music exists at the margins, little acknowledged by radio or television but extremely popular on the Internet.

Musically, this may be the most promising underground hip-hop movement in a decade, feted by old-school loyalists and genre outsiders entranced by its obsessive commitment to style. But even as the movement creeps toward broader recognition, it has already generated its share of backlash. These artists are often dismissed as “hipster rap,” as if they’re wearing their old-school references as nothing more than fashion. The result is a hip-hop generation gap.

“It’s the instant gratification aspect,” said Eskay, proprietor of the hip-hop blog NahRight.com, which has prominently featured many of these artists. “You can be an expert in anything in about a week now. The backlash is, these kids are young; why are they trying to recreate something they didn’t experience?”

Rap has had its countercultures before, of course. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, New York’s Native Tongues crew, which included De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, presented a bohemian alternative to the growing gangster rap scene. In the ’90s, Los Angeles and the Bay Area were home to independent scenes interested in rewriting the rules of lyricism.

But while intragenre nostalgia figures regularly in other styles of pop — rock has a long history of sifting through its past for new inspiration — it has never had a place in hip-hop. It’s not that rap never looks backward. Thanks to its innovations in sampling, it has helped keep various other styles prominent in the collective pop memory. But borrowing from other rappers has traditionally been considered taboo. And largely it still is, so many of these artists use elements of the past as building blocks, which they then reconfigure to their own ends. Though the music shares many characteristics with hip-hop from decades past, “in the climate of the industry right now, it’s considered experimental,” said Be Young, 22, of Southern California’s Pacific Division.

“People are students of the game,” said Double O of the Chicago duo Kidz in the Hall. “The late ’80s and early ’90s was hip-hop’s Harlem Renaissance. You can find traces of that in all of these new artists.”

With two full-length albums to their credit, Kidz in the Hall, who met while students at the University of Pennsylvania, qualify as veterans of the new movement. On their latest album, “The In Crowd” (Duck Down), they even enlist golden-age artists like Camp Lo, Buckshot and Masta Ace for cameos. “I’m an academic at heart,” Double O said. “Even when it comes to music, I’m going to take pieces out and reinject them on an academically creative level.”

The New Orleans-via-Los Angeles duo the Knux also takes its bona fides seriously. “I am very schooled on what happened in the ’80s,” said Krispy Kream, 25, half of the duo. “Some of these cats wasn’t even born till the ’90s.”

How they translate those influences is unique, though. The duo’s debut, “Remind Me in 3 Days,” to be released in October on Interscope, is self-produced — the Knux has performed often at songwriters’ nights at Largo, the Los Angeles club spearheaded by the producer Jon Brion, who has worked with Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann — and recalls in places early OutKast, the Clash and the Police. The texture, though, is unmistakably from the golden age, with fast-rap cadences and raw, almost haphazard-sounding drums.

“We recorded songs in the worst way possible,” Krispy Kream said, “so you get a certain feel from it, like an old hip-hop record from 1990 or whenever.”

His brother and band mate, Rah Almillio, 23, considers it “a punk approach, hip-hop as it used to be — not perfected, not overpolished.”

In a sense these meta-rappers have become keepers of the flame for the genre’s old guard: neo-traditionalists in eccentrics’ clothing. “There’s always nostalgia; it’s a byproduct of capitalism,” said Jayson Musson, 30, the frontman for the Philadelphia rap satirists Plastic Little. “Especially for the kids who weren’t really there, that era becomes hypercool, like the ’50s and the Beats.”

Mr. Musson described his music as “rap, but almost an investigation of rap, very aware of the genre and its structural elements.” Plastic Little has released two albums, the self-released “Thug Paradise” and “She’s Mature” (Tonearm), both packed with hip-hop in-jokes. This inquisitiveness also comes out in Mr. Musson’s writing and art. For a time last year, he was a columnist for Philadelphia Weekly, and in 2002 he put out “Too Black for BET,” a collection of posters that poked vicious fun at hip-hop orthodoxies (the most memorable of which speculated on the sexuality of Jay-Z).

“The music is like the writing,” Mr. Musson said. “It’s got to be funny or deconstructive.”

In recent years there has been no shortage of deconstructionists in rap’s mainstream, the most noteworthy being Kanye West, André 3000 of OutKast and Lupe Fiasco. And this is a particularly fertile moment for alternative hip-hop styles: the electro-influenced club-rap of Spank Rock and Kid Sister, the liberal-minded college raps of Asher Roth, the surf-rock hip-hop of Shwayze, Wale’s hybrid of go-go and rap, and the stream-of-consciousness fantasies of Charles Hamilton.

These so-called hipster rappers have been successful at carving out their own niches, finding audiences in unexpected places. The Knux had a song featured on an episode of the HBO series “Entourage” last season. Plastic Little recently toured Europe with Mark Ronson. And the Cool Kids have been prominently featured in a national television ad for Rhapsody, Microsoft’s online music service.

There may well be a ceiling for this movement, though. “The music is just not mass appeal,” said Cipha Sounds, a mixshow D.J. on New York’s Hot 97 (WQHT-FM) and a host on MTV. “I enjoy some of it very much, but it’s nothing I can really play on the radio or in the club.”

And sales of these artists have been modest, though none have yet released an album with a major-label push like the Knux will receive, according to Steve Berman, president of sales and marketing at Interscope Geffen A&M. But he warned that “their success may not be measured in the old-school commercial ways we used in the past.”

Apart from Kidz in the Hall and Plastic Little, none of these groups have even released proper full-length albums; blog hype has gotten ahead of them, forcing them to hone, and perhaps calcify, a sound very early in their careers. “Everyone’s looking at them before they’re ready,” said Kidz in the Hall’s Double O of his peers. “They’re going to have to put out a product before their time.”

Or, perhaps, to suffer the indignity of having their style copied before they get a chance to truly capitalize on it. “We’ve got a lot of friends at record labels that got inside scoop on what’s happening,” said the Cool Kids’ Mikey Rocks. “It’s been said they’re trying to create their own Cool Kids. There’s going to be clones and Cool Kids Juniors all over the place.”

If the Cool Kids have their way, though, they will have evolved by then. In between tour dates, the group has been working on its debut album, tentatively titled “When Fish Ride Bicycles.” And there is always more history to mine.

“After this LP,” Chuck Inglish said, “I’m thinking about recording everything to tape like it’s 1991 and seeing how that sounds.”

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posted by R J Noriega
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Monday, September 22, 2008,5:16 AM
48 Laws of Obama: An Interview with Strategy Expert Robert Greene
On May 20, 2008, Barack Obama won the state of Oregon. No matter what opinion people made about Obama "not being ready to lead" a bi-racial man with a Muslim father and a Christan mother had taken one more step toward entering the Oval Office. The mauling he gave Senator Clinton in several predominantly White states in massive numbers seemed unthinkable.
Or was it?

In 2000 author Robert Greene penned the 48 Laws of Power. His groundbreaking bestseller gives a modern twist to classical war strategy. Greene's in depth discussion on the effects of mastering of one's emotions can easily be seen in the Clinton vs. Obama skirmishes.
Greene expanded his unique approach to observing warfare in The Art of Seduction and The 33 Strategies of war.
He is arguably the foremost sought after strategist in business, politics and war - our Prince Machiavelli of modern warfare, if you will.

In watching Barack Obama's rise, it is hard to not see a pattern of his victories closely connected with the 48 Laws of Power and the 33 Strategies of War.
At times Obama appears to have been playing a magnificent game of political chess from the start of his bid for the Oval Office. I sat down with Robert Greene to discuss Senator Obama's tactical and strategic movements in his campaign. While everyone seems to have their site locked into the DNC convention, Robert Greene advises that we all prepare ourselves for a protracted political battle.

AB: Lets start with Law 24: The Perfect Courtier. You say that individual "thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court.

RG: I never thought about it before, but it does make perfect sense. If you wanted to psychoanalyze it a little bit. With his background, in being bi-racial and having to navigate in different worlds...If you look at his Kenyan father, then you look at the White side in Kansas and Hawaii- he's been towing a line between the two worlds. And if you read his book, he's asking "Where do I fit"? It's a really interesting story, I like his books. He's always had to learn how to be the courtier. He's always had to be diplomatic. How not to offend this person or that. These two sides had very different sensibilities, while he's trying too figure out who he is. So, I think its in his nature. Its not a fake thing. Some people learn to be the courtier later in life. Its a nice quality, but some people can feel like its a little bit manipulative. But I think its very deep in his identity, from his multiracial background. I'm not sure, I can only speculate.

Its very nice. He's very graceful. He does not get angry. I thought the one moment where he blew it a little was in a debate with Clinton. It was in January I believe. He kinda lost his cool. He got a little bit angry and testy. I supported him early on. He was my first pick. For while I felt a little bit alienated from him. I did not think he was tough enough. I wanted to see him fighting back. But I understood later on that that's very hard for him to do. It does not play well. For the position that he is in, trying to be the first Black President. For him to show anger at a White woman was strategically not gonna play. So, he lost it a little bit in this one debate. But he never repeated it. I mean, its not really a strategy on his part, but its very effective.

I was just reading before you called about him speaking in Florida. He was meeting with Jewish voters. It was kind of interesting to see him charming them again, winning them over. I can make references to Jewish people and Jewish culture that are very appropriate. So there he is being the courtier.Its a quality hat will serve very well in his campaign. Bill Clinton was a master at it. He could talk to Hollywood liberals and then he could go to a factory in Ohio.

Now, some people don't think he has the common touch. I think there is a bit of truth to that. Maybe he is not comfortable with the White steel worker in Pennsylvania. But he has a different kind of power. A different kind of charm. I think he'll actually get over some of these supposed weaknesses that he has with White voters. I think he is very much a courter.

AB: The first law I think I openly recognized with Barack is Law 32: Play to Peoples Fantasies. There you say "The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes for disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

Now, I do not mean to imply that he is fraudulent in spirit, or an actor. But, I don't think I have seen someone in my lifetime who has been able to mentally and emotionally move masses the way he does. I can only compare it to watching old footage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Maybe Malcolm X.


AB: Perfect example in JFK. It looks like his change theme has drawn millions of people into what they want to see in America. It seems like he creates this dream for you of what America can be, but leaves room for you to impose your dream on top.

RG: I think you're right. We don't like to bring sophisticated psychology when discussing these things. The fantasy always kind of plays a line between a vague hope with a little bit of reality thrown in. If you put too much reality in it obscures. If you put too much hope there is nothing we can really connect to. So, throughout the ages the people who have been able to master this know how to make the perfect illusionary quality. Its like watching a good writer writing a novel.

Barack makes change inspiring. But he does not fill in too many details. Strategically that's very smart. The problem with America in the 21st century is that the country is so splintered. It's cracking up into smaller and smaller niche markets and groups. By region, by ethnicity and all these things. So that makes it hard to connect the whole country together. Its hard to get over all that and bring people together with a message. The only way you can do that is to be very inspiring and not being too concrete with what you are offering.

I can refer to John Kennedy in 1960 when he ran for President. He kinda drove the Republicans crazy with his vagueness. He never really said what he was going to do on a whole score of issues. But he talked about the new frontier and bringing back a certain spirit in America. It really connected in that moment. I think the people around him, like David Axelrod who have backgrounds in marketing an advertising are crafting a story. They are trying to do more of a JFK, or even Regan type campaign. They know that this is the moment for that. Because Americans are very disillusioned with probably the worst President we've ever had. Things look very bleak.

AB: The fantasy law connects directly to Law 45: Preach the Need for change, but never reform too much at once. I think he's hitting law 45 right on the nail.

RG: How so?

AB: Because he keeps the discussion of change very nebulous. Mainly though Obama keeps you believing that A) that change can happen, and B) that he is the agent for the change you want to see in America. One of his best qualities, and something I think Senator Clinton should have embraced was Law 46: Never Appear Too Perfect. He never lets you forget that he's got a wife and kids and that he has his own struggles with cigarettes or whatever. I think 46 keeps people listening to him.

RG: You and I may feel that way. But I'm wondering if other people don't see that in him. I saw him yesterday in his speech after he won Oregon and he said "I'm not perfect, I've made mistakes". I think that kind of humility is very endearing. But I think there are a lot of people that he doesn't connect to. They see him as kind of arrogant and over educated person who is looking down on them. Its funny how its subjective. So to you and I we think he does embody law 46. Other people think that he doesn't do it enough.

It's all fake though really in the end. Because Hillary is eating hot dogs and drinking beer acting like shes one of the yokels. They made one hundred million dollars last year. She comes from a wealthy background. Certainly more elite than he is. Its all fake in the end. But I think that part is subjective in the end. He's going to have to work a bit on his image. He's gonna have to connect with that NASCAR crowd a little bit.

AB: Moving beyond Hillary and looking toward McCain, are we moving from power to the war? If you could tell him to study only 3 of the 33 Strategies of War what would they be?

RG: The one he should study, and has actually done pretty well so far is Strategy 20: Maneuver Them Into Weakness. Its a Chinese concept. I struggled my hardest to bring this to the Western audience, because its not easy to explain. In the East, its the position you take that matters. Everything is related to something else- nothing is isolated. What you want in war or strategy is to take positions that put your rival in a corner and have less options than you.

The Western approach is not like that at all. The Western approach is to go straight in at the enemy and kill as many as you can.

In politics you want to get to a position that allows you to go here or there. Obama did that brilliantly from day one and Hillary messed it up. Here he is moving toward the general election. How can he move John McCain into positions that are untenable? That's the game. You can already see the position he's trying to put McCain in is, "He's Bush" But how do you make that case? Its one thing to say. Its another thing to make people feel it. If he can make people in Kentucky and Pennsylvania feel that McCain will make us live through four more years of the hell we've been living through it will be very effective.

But it can't be just with words. You have to do and show- its interesting to watch. Now, very fortunately, the Democrats control Congress. For instance the vote to the GI bill that just occurred. It will force McCains hand to show that he supports Bush. If he doesn't, he'll alienate his right wing base. In the Power book we call that putting your enemy on the horns of a dilemma. You go right, you are screwed. You go left, you are screwed. If he votes for the GI bill, he looks like a Democrat. If he votes against it, he looks like he's Bush again.

Obama has to keep his options fluid. You don't wanna commit to anything that's gonna screw you in the end. Any kind of position for instance on the economy. He did that in one debate but I don't think that's going to come back to hurt him. Don't say exactly that you'll never raise taxes on this. Keep it a little bit vague. Give yourself room to put McCain in very uncomfortable positions.

Another law from the war book is Strategy 28: Give Your Rivals Enough Rope to Hang Themselves. You never stop a man who's killing himself. McCain has a temper. Its the old Bob Dole thing. Love him or hate him, he's got a temper and its legendary. So he's got to frustrate him and bait him into things. Seeing John McCain lose his temper. It does not look so good. He looks like a cranky old man.

I talk about this in my book in regards to Lee Atwater. He's kind of a satanic figure in politics. He did that very same thing in 1988 with Bob Dole. But I'm afraid its a very powerful tactic and could be very effective on John McCain. I already saw, with the GI bill he got very testy.

War Strategy number 12: Grand Strategy. Its the most important in the book. Its that you plan, and that you do it looking far ahead into the future. You don't want to be someone that's attacking into the wind everything something new comes into the election cycle. Politicians muck this up again and again. Because its not an election that takes place every week. Its in November. One day. There are going to be setbacks. There are going to be things that you did not plan for happening. I mean, Democrats are really bad at this. I mean pathetic bad. If you have a grand strategy, it makes you consistent. It keeps you going in that line, when it seems everything around you not.

So much of the bad stuff happening, with Clinton losing this state or that state- it could have pushed him off course. But it didn't. He stayed pretty consistent on message there. If he follows those, it'll be a slam dunk.

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posted by R J Noriega
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008,10:48 PM
Top Lawyer Preps March on Mad Ave
Man Who Beat Coke and NFL Starts to Study Diversity in Ad Agencies

By Ken Wheaton

Cyrus Mehri, one of the nation's top civil-rights attorneys and a man who has been dubbed one of Washington's most feared lawyers, has turned his attention to the ad industry's woeful diversity record.

Mr. Mehri declined to discuss whether a lawsuit was in the works but said his firm was behind the preliminary results of a study obtained by Ad Age. Any way you look at it, the fact that a top civil-rights attorney has commissioned a survey of diversity in ad agencies does not bode well for the agencies whose ranks are still overwhelmingly white.

The study, which isn't complete yet, is being conducted by economist Marc Bendick Jr. on behalf of the firm. According to the summary, Mr. Bendick looked at census data and figures for similar "persuasion" industries (media, law, philanthropy, high-end sales) and came up with benchmark percentages of minorities one could expect in an industry such as advertising. Whereas, according to the benchmarks, African-Americans would be expected to make up 9.5% of the professionals in advertising (a number even lower than the 13% in the general population), it turns out they make up only 5.8%. On the executive and managerial side, African-Americans make up only 3.2% compared with an expected 7.2%.

That amounts to a 39% shortfall in African-American representation among the industry's staff and a 56% shortfall among managerial employees. Unlike previous efforts, this study takes into account the entire ad industry, not just a handful of agencies operating out of New York. The figures include employees and managers at African-American-owned shops; Mr. Mehri said he expects the numbers to be even worse when those agencies are not factored in.

'Purposeful discrimination'

"If this was 1970 and they had this shortfall, I could be sympathetic," he said. But, he added, "the preliminary results [of this study] are showing shortfalls that are rare to have in this magnitude in this modern day and indicate purposeful discrimination." He went on to say that the industry won't resolve this issue until it stops focusing on a false "supply" argument (not enough African-American candidates) and starts focusing on the people in charge.

Nancy Hill, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, declined to comment on the matter.

Mr. Mehri, a partner at Mehri and Skalet, wouldn't disclose the firm's long-term plans in relation to the ad industry, but he made it clear he is not working with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. He did attend a forum held by the commission earlier this year on behalf of ad-industry employees who'd contacted him.

A look at Mr. Mehri's case history should worry the industry. His firm was behind suits against Texaco and Coca-Cola Co. that resulted in the largest discrimination settlements in history -- $176 million in the Texaco case and $192.5 million in the Coke case -- as well as dramatic reforms in both companies' employment practices. His firm was also behind recent gender-discrimination suits in the financial-services sector. The so-called Women on Wall Street Project has resulted in, among other things, a $46 million settlement against Morgan Stanley and a $33 million settlement from Smith Barney. Even when lawsuits aren't filed, Mr. Mehri leaves his mark. He, along with Johnnie Cochran, released the report "Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities." That report, backed up with the threat of a major lawsuit, led to the hiring of numerous African-American coaches.

"We're serious players," Mr. Mehri said. "We're going to do our homework. We're going to interview everybody who contacts us. We're going to build this up step by step. This is a world of difference compared to anything [the industry has] faced before."

Economist's perspective

Mr. Bendick, who's conducting the study, is an economist who specializes in employment and human-resource management at Bendick and Eagan Economic Consultants. He's done work for both employers and employees, the departments of Justice and Labor, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Most of his work doesn't involve litigation.

Mr. Bendick wouldn't comment for this story, but in previous studies -- such as "Changing Workplace Cultures to Reduce Employment Discrimination" -- he's touched on types of discrimination that may sound familiar to those toiling in the ad world. "They often derive from social relationships that informally limit access to information about job opportunities. They may reflect issues of 'social comfort' and personal style that affect whose comments get listened to, who is perceived as competent and who gets credit for accomplishments."

On the other hand, he told The Washington Post in January of this year, "If you ask what is the impact of diversity training today, you have to say 75% is junk and will have little impact or no impact or negative impact."

According to Mr. Mehri, the study won't be ready for several weeks. "I want to be clear that our firm has commissioned this study because we do our homework before we come in with guns blazing," he said. The study is meant to offer raw data, a look at causes behind the lack of diversity and, hopefully, remedies.

Leadership problem?

While Mr. Mehri wouldn't disclose what shapes those remedies might take, he was clear that the answer isn't more internships, scholarship programs and diversity initiatives -- which he sees as "rope-a-dope" schemes designed mostly to make it look like the industry is doing something about the problem.

"It's not a matter of forming affinity groups among the excluded," he said. "What needs fixing isn't the African-Americans; it's the white guy running the agency. We want to relentlessly focus on not the excluded groups but the excluding groups, the people who control the power and make the decisions. That's where people are running into barriers. The leadership has to come from the top."

He went on: "We know the industry has had various diversity efforts over the years. However, these efforts are going to continue to fall short until they understand they're operating under a false premise -- that the problem is the supply of African-American talent -- when the real problem is the lack of leadership at the top and their exclusionary policies and practices."

Mr. Mehri countered the argument that the problem is a lack of interest in the industry among African-Americans or a simple lack of candidates. "Supply is important. But you also have to shift the focus to a level playing field. So you can applaud the work that they're doing, but there's still going to be this revolving door unless there's this tenacious focus on a level playing field."

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,10:23 PM
Why Blockbusters Still Rule The World
By Steve Maich

We like the idea of endless choice, but most of us don't venture past the bestsellers

In October 2004, Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson published an article entitled "The Long Tail," in which he argued a novel hypothesis: the Internet had forever altered the way that businesses operate. Tiny niche audiences could now be serviced as efficiently as mass markets, and could generate prodigious profits.

The title referred to the normal distribution of sales on a graph: a short tall head (where a very few products generate the bulk of sales) that quickly drops away to a long and narrow tail of thousands of products that barely sell at all. Anderson argued that thanks to the Internet, with its limitless choice and easy searchability, people will start flocking into the long tail. Millions of consumers who used to opt for the most popular products, artists, films and brands will now be free to search out the obscure little gems that they always really wanted. The head gets shorter and the tail gets fatter.

The implications for business were potentially enormous. It meant that an online bookstore, for example, could do just as well by offering 10,000 books -- all of which sell just five copies -- as a traditional store selling 1,000 books 50 times each. In practical terms, Anderson argued, it meant that the age of blockbusters is over. Henceforth, he said, smart businesses would stop trying to build one or two massive hits in hopes of catching the hurricane wind of mass popularity. Instead, they would produce a broad range of products to exploit the widest possible array of niche interests and the limitless shelf space available on the Web. When Anderson expanded his article into a book in 2006, he summed it up in the subtitle: "The future of business is selling less of more."

Ironically (or is it paradoxically?), Anderson's book became one of the biggest blockbusters in business publishing. The author became a minor celebrity as a Web guru and a hot ticket on the speaking circuit. The book's title entered the modern business lexicon, casually slipped into conversation by everyone from CEOs on down. The mainstream is dying, they said. Ain't it cool?

Well, as you may have noticed, the era of the blockbuster has stubbornly refused to play along. Last weekend, The Dark Knight, a heavily promoted, big-studio blockbuster, smashed records with the biggest opening weekend for any movie, ever. A few days ago it became the fastest movie ever to break the US$200-million barrier in ticket sales, and it now seems certain that it will eventually haul in more than US$1 billion worldwide. That would make it only the fourth movie ever to do so -- and two of them have come in the past three years. In fact, of the 10 biggest opening movie weekends of all time, nine of them have come in the four years since The Long Tail put blockbusters on death watch.

But anecdotal evidence only gets you so far. To truly evaluate the usefulness of the theory you have to dive into the numbers, and recently Anita Elberse, associate professor of business administration at Harvard, did just that. Elberse pored over data from two services: Rhapsody, the online music store cited by Anderson in his book, and Quickflix online movie rentals. Turns out The Long Tail isn't flattered by close scrutiny.

Elberse found that although sales of obscure titles have risen, there are far more titles in the library that never sell at all. So, rather than the long tail getting fatter, it is getting longer and skinnier. More importantly, sales of those obscure movies and songs aren't coming at the expense of hits. In fact, more money is being channelled into the select few mega-blockbusters. As Elberse says: "The importance of individual bestsellers is not diminishing over time, it is growing."

It's also important to know a bit about who is buying those obscure movies and albums. They are a niche unto themselves -- people who watch a lot of films and listen to a ton of music. Elberse's study shows that if you're watching obscure movies, you are almost certainly a huge movie buff. You aren't watching art house films instead of Iron Man. You're watching those movies because you've already seen the blockbusters. Perhaps most surprisingly, those heavy users tended to rate the blockbusters highest. The more low-budget art films you watch, it seems, the more you appreciate The Dark Knight.

Frankly, Elberse's research feels like common sense to most consumers. Sure we all have a few unknown bands in our iPod, but by and large, things are popular because they're better than the alternatives. The explosion of options and choice doesn't change that. In fact, Elberse's conclusions wouldn't even be noteworthy if not for the enormous popularity of The Long Tail.

So why did Anderson's thesis take off like wildfire? First, because it promised a radical shift. We're attracted to any compelling argument that promises a fundamental change in the way we view the world, and history is littered with examples of revolutionary ideas that turned out to be wrong.

But perhaps most importantly, it pandered to our egos. It appealed to our inner snob -- the one that believes we're above the banal mainstream, and that the Internet will set us free to indulge our unique and sophisticated tastes. The truth is less flattering. We like to think we are, at heart, connoisseurs of Ingmar Bergman films. But most of us never get around to watching Smiles of a Summer Night because we were busy seeing Pirates of the Caribbean for the fourth time.

We all wanted to believe in The Long Tail, but we couldn't stay away from the blockbusters. While we all like the idea of endless choice, most of us are never going to venture far beyond the bestsellers list. Contrary to Anderson's advice, the future of business is doing pretty much what you've always done. But the emergence of the Web means there may be a way to wring a few bucks from the flops you previously wrote off as useless.

In Anderson's defence, that probably would not have fit on a book jacket.

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posted by R J Noriega
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,10:22 PM
Beyond Integration
By David hattenbach

How to make the whole brand greater than its parts

Here's a thought: The branding game has changed so much that the concept of brand integration is no longer a useful way to approach branding, at least with regard to media selection. In today's new-media landscape, bland integration is just a far too-simple, old-school concept.

It's time to rethink things.

I'm not suggesting we abandon integration principles. I'm suggesting we replace the concept of brand integration with a more contemporary concept I call "brand holism."

It's true that the emergence of new media has provided more opportunities to deliver a brand message in new and interesting places. On the surface, this is a good thing. (It's hard to argue that consistency and ubiquity are bad things.) But all we're doing with new media is adding boxes to the same old-media flow chart. We can do better.

We have the opportunity to do much more for our brands. We can be smarter about the opportunities inherent in each medium and their ability to add dimension to brands and intensify the relationships with consumers. It's no longer good enough to simply align the different parts of the media mix around one objective; we should ask the parts to work toward different objectives that support the whole. We should not be looking to make everything match. We should be looking at how the different parts complement one another anti create a greater whole.

Yes, it is still important to be single-minded, but single-minded doesn't mean we have to be narrow-minded. Today we have the ability to think wide and deep at the same time. As traditional media planning gives way to connections planning, we can see that there are many things we can do for our brands to make them more "whole"; things that were difficult or impossible to do just a short time ago. For example, today we can:

Narrowcast messages to targets that could not be reached effectively before.

Thanks in large part to the Internet, we can now create more complex communication strategies and narrowcast them to multiple target audiences at once.

Create engaging media experiences that help form brand expectations. If it's true that the medium is the message, then it follows that the media experience is the bland. We should use new-media opportunities in ways that convey or contribute to the overall brand experience and define who we are through actions rather than just words.

Connect users and develop communities that will create and propagate brand advocates. We are all hardwired to want to connect with people and belong to something. Today, we can easily connect with our most passionate fans and give them elevated access to the brand via privileged information, special offers, VIP status, etc. Through these communities, we can turn users into loyalists and loyalists into advocates.

Foster real-time conversations with consumers. We can use social media to establish mutually respectful and transparent two-way dialog with our customers. The rewards will be deeper consumer insights that could lead to more relevant products and services, enhanced credibility and greater satisfaction among consumers.

Provide new and interesting context that heightens brand relevancy and deepens brand meaning. We can use new-media opportunities such as branded content to help brands become more culturally relevant and flush with cultural capital. Consumers can come to know our brands not only by the messages we send, but by the places we've been.

The point of brand holism is to no longer look at media as simply a way to deliver messages. We should use media in a complementary way that delivers greater value to the brand and to the consumer. In other words, use media to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. That's the kind of ROI I'd like to see.

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posted by R J Noriega
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,10:16 PM
War of the Ages
By Noreen O'Leary

How a host of new agency realities are pushing boomers out before their time

Earlier this month, a judge set a December trial date for a $30 million age-discrimination suit by a Universal McCann media exec, George Hayes, against the agency and its corporate parent, Interpublic Group. Hayes says he was fired by a younger boss who believed young people at the agency "got it" when it came to new media in a way that older staffers did not. In addition, Hayes claims, his former boss viewed "age and experience as a hindrance, rather than a benefit."

The two sides seem ready to go public with the private concerns of a generation of industry execs fearing displacement at a time they should be in their peak earning years.

Valid or not, the contentions of Hayes-a former evp, client services let go at age 53--ring true for a large number of other executives on the street who are arguing their relevance.

Even within the youth-obsessive traditions of the ad industry, there's a new sense of gloom about the career prospects for mid- to upper-level employees. Creative executives, who have obviously always felt the need to. exude a hipness born of cutting-edge culture, now feel it tenfold thanks to the fast pace of digital technologies and emerging delivery channels. Now others are feeling youthful pressures in a media world and larger consumer society informed by technological change. But the issues are more complicated; they're as much about compensation and changing skill sets as they are about tenure. Factor in the current economic downturn and client budget cuts that create an incentive to lose higher-salaried employees, and it's no wonder some in the industry see an overt ageism taking hold that could make a new minority: those over 50.

"Baby boomers always say that 40 is the new 30 [and] 50 is the new 40. In advertising, 50 is the new 65. As soon as you hit that barrier, you're considered old," says Dorothy Higgins, 54, who is consulting after being laid off earlier this year from one of the industry's media companies.

That barrier, in fact, may be dipping even lower. Says one of Higgins' peers: "It's now starting at 40 or 45. Unless you've gotten to a certain stage in your career where you have one of those bullet-proof jobs--where you are extremely key to a client--you're vulnerable."

Not to be discounted in all of this is the fact that with "CMOs getting younger, you have a casting issue," says Nancy McNally, 53, a former top executive at agencies like Ammirati & Puffs and clients like American Express.

Industry observer Rick Kurnit, a partner at law firm Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz, agrees that client-casting issues play a role and points out that it cuts two ways. While younger CMOs may relate better to agency staffers in their peer group, he says, older ones look for the agency perspective on new media creative they themselves may lack. There may also be an element of being in the wrong career place at the wrong time. Boomers climbed their careers ranks in a different agency world. Amid new unbundled economic realities, CFOs, demanding that 75 percent of payroll come from client income, can attain cost savings more readily by cutting higher-salaried staffers. The newly empowered client-procurement people look to buy agency hours at cost and young staffers are obviously cheaper. "None of these factors reflect the merits of these [older] people, unfortunately," Kurnit says.

One industry HR exec acknowledges there's a shortage of opportunities for senior people. "The industry's existing bias toward youth and hipness has become more extreme now because of the digital transformation," he says. "The recruiting priority is to find people who are becoming more proficient in digital communications, and the basic assumption is that anyone 50-plus is not going to be that. There's a deep-seated feeling that people of a certain age have a bias toward traditional media--and it can be hard to put them in front of clients for that reason."

The other new reality: The larger contraction within the ad industry. Martin" Kohli, a regional economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, says that from May 2007 to May 2008 advertising and related industries lost 11,900 jobs, or 2.5 percent of its employment. Job losses were concentrated in three industry segments: ad agencies, ad distribution and direct mail. (In contrast, public relations and media-buying agencies both managed to increase employment over the year.)

"Looking back, one of the striking things about advertising employment is that after falling from 2000 through 2004 and then growing through 2007, the industry did not get back to its May 2000 level," Kohli observes.

Says Susan Friedman, head of her eponymous recruitment firm: "There are so few job openings anywhere, it's painful. This slowdown is deeper than the one in 1991. It's more like in 1981 and it's going to get worse."

To put that into perspective, during that recession, U.S. unemployment levels, around 11 percent, were higher than any other time in the post-WWII era.

Friedman notes that another challenge in the current job market is relocation. Older execs, with more expensive homes, may not be able to sell their residencies in this real estate downturn.

Some say the industry is merely undergoing a realistic correction in compensation, giving people what they're worth in today's digitally focused market. "I was talking to someone recently who was making $350,000 and now she's willing to make $225,000-250,000," says Friedman. "Five years ago, there were no salary concessions. Your salary was tied to your ego. Now, it's, 'How low can you go?' Creative people with only a traditional background will not get another job in this business, period. But if that person embraces all the new forms of advertising, they'll be worth a lot."

How much more? "If you have 'interactive' or 'digital' in front of your title, you'll be paid 10-15 percent more in compensation," says Amy Hoover, evp at the industry's largest recruitment firm, Talent Zoo. "Traditional shops don't have much of that and they're building expertise."

Recruiters expect creative job candidates for interactive positions to have Web sites with online portfolios or to send links to digital work they've produced. "If someone sends over PDFs or their books for a digital position, you discount them immediately," says Hoover.

And again, it's not just creative execs who may need to recalibrate their compensation demands. "There are an awful lot of people of a certain age out of work right now," says one industry leader. "I don't think it's solely the fault of agencies. [These unemployed execs] need to reconfigure their expectations."

Indeed, among out-of-work execs who spoke to Adweek, one was willing to take a 50 percent reduction from a peak earnings period in order to land a job. Another was willing to be more flexible on terms, opting to take a 20 percent pay cut, work four days a week for less pay or take a lower wage, with bonus.

Nonetheless, there's concern about a devaluation of experience. One senior-level media exec, let go during a downsizing, describes a current opening for a leader of global media strategy for Visa--a top-level job requiring considerable coordination within the client organization as well as management of outside agencies, The salary base is $150,000, with experience requirements of seven to 10 years. Previously, a job like that would have a base of $185,000-195,000 and require 10 years of hard-core media experience, the exec argues. One Manhattan headhunter concurs, sniffing at the compensation package: "The base and experience for that will work in Kansas, not New York."

Recruiters also say that employers often pick staffers with less experience than they requested. "People say they want someone with 15 years experience and then they pick a person with six years," says one. "I suspect they just wanted the younger people all along, but it would be illegal to say that."

Indeed, recruiters say there's a new employer shorthand for candidate requests, with terms like "rising star" and "up-and-coming" used to skirt legal issues.

"They mask it by saying they want someone with a lot of energy, a lot of technology or digital, but I know what they mean," says one source.

While creative and media execs of a certain age are bearing the brunt of the industry's digital change, the game has changed in account management as well.

"It used to be a lot simpler: So and so grew up at Y&R or O&M, has telecom experience, lots of client skills. That's a thing of the past," says one industry recruiter. "Five, 10 years ago, if you were the perfect car guy, P&G woman, you had a resume everyone wanted. It's different now; that consistency, and loyalty is not rewarded any more.

"It's a big problem. If you're 45-plus and worked your entire career in an ad agency, you're going to struggle if you don't change," she continues. "You must become an early adopter… We want diverse work experience, people [who are] digitally fluent or open to becoming so, and that's where people 30 or younger may have the advantage.… If you're not willing to change now, you'll be extinct in five years."

But that reinvention may not be so easy. Jeri Dack, a 58-year-old media exec who has worked at agencies like DMB&B, MediaVest and MPG, got her first real taste of digital while serving as director, digital media at TargetCast and is now refocusing her career in that direction. With a diverse industry background, Dack is not used to being held back when trying something new.

"I've never felt discrimination before, gender or age," she says. "Now I feel resume discrimination. You either have to be young and working in digital or to have had your start in digital. People like me go out and are interviewed by a person who is 30, with their feet on the desk, who says, 'You've only been doing this for 18 months.'"

Dack sounds more frustrated than bitter, as did others interviewed for this article. That's not to say there have not been humiliations. Some have been let go by younger bosses only to have their former positions slightly changed and filled with younger, cheaper staffers. Another tells of receiving a call from a contract freelance company for a last-minute new-business pitch and being offered $40 an hour--about a quarter of what she gets on the open market. Others describe freelancing in new-business pitches with the knowledge they're good enough to win the account, but not likely to be hired after the agency lands the business.

Many digital practitioners, however, lack the integrated vision and skills of those more traditional media execs.

"My big frustration is that digital agencies that do creative barely have any understanding of digital media and no understanding of marketing," observes Dack.

Says another unemployed media veteran about her last job: "I said to a [younger, digital] colleague, 'I'd like to work across clients and build a much more robust program across media.' He said, 'That's fine, as long as you understand the purpose is to drive traffic to the Web site.'"

Within digital shops, some more-senior execs have found it a difficult cultural mix with aft office full of predominately younger staffers. One exec, let go from her job earlier this year, said at age 39 she felt it was frowned upon when she left at 6:30 p.m. to go home to her family. Her colleagues, many of them living with roommates in Manhattan apartments co-signed by parents, would hang around the office and then head out to a local bar and do shots together.

"When you have kids, you learn to be efficient," she says. ''You get into the office early, eat lunch at your desk and not go out to two-hour media lunches or spend two hours on Facebook. I'm in the suburbs with a mortgage and kids. We didn't have much in common and I felt like an outsider."

After being laid off, the exec interviewed at some other digital shops and encountered more of the same: bosses and colleagues in "Teva sandals, tattoos and piercings. That's not me, not my culture," she says. She's now in the process of setting up her own consultancy. (Other laid-off media execs say they're focusing their job searches outside the industry to content providers who appreciate their experience and background.)

The exec, realistic about why she thinks she was let go, says agencies are gambling with young people of limited client experience: "OK, you can change the job title or description and get one of them for $50,000 less and they're OK if everything is going well. But when there's a problem, you need someone with experience to face it and say, 'This is how we fix it.'"

Adds Dack: "The easy part in this industry is learning a discipline. The hard things are client management, collaboration, strategy, mentoring and teaching."

Bob Greenberg, the 60-year-old founder of interactive agency R/GA, understands the frustrations of his more-traditional industry peers. He admires their skills in client management, creative and strategy, all of which, he says, is as relevant to R/GA as it is elsewhere. But he notes that companies like his can only take on so many of those execs and retool their skill sets.

"There's a lot of agency musical chairs happening right now and there are more and more people 40-plus left without a chair when the music stops," he says. "They. can't retire, but they're not trained for digital and their salary range is high. We're competitive with traditional agencies when it comes to pay, but it also means when we hire them it takes a year to train them from an investment perspective. A younger person aged 25-32 already knows what we do. They live a digital, multi-channel life already and you don't have to train them."

Former Ogilvy & Mather North American CCO Rick Boyko, 59, now the head of the VCU Brandcenter, says he left the business five years ago after his frustration at not seeing it change quickly enough. Agency execs that have fallen out of step with its transformation, he says, may have only themselves to blame.

"I don't think there's a new kind of ageism in our business today," Boyko says. "It's always been, and always will be, a young person's business. We help shape and create culture. To do that you have to be in tune with the culture of the time. Culture almost always comes from the streets and clubs of inner cities, yet most agency execs move to the 'burbs and do not stay in touch with what's going on. They become comfortable and complacent. They stay in the same job for too long. To stay current in this business, you have to kick yourself in the ass and challenge yourself."


New casting issues are arising with clients who assume agency executives of a certain age harbor a bias toward traditional media.

A compensation correction is under way: Traditional execs will have to be more realistic about what they're worth, while hybrid thinkers and digital staffers are in big demand.

Employers are finding new ways to mask age bias as they select candidates with less experience than is required for the position.

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,10:15 PM
Rethinking the User Experience
By Benjamin Palmer

Web designers should consider how using a site reflects upon the brand

In the interactive world, we have a discipline called User Experience, or UX for short. We've got a whole department of people that thinks about it. It's the first phase of many online projects and it's a part of every interactive RFP that any company receives. It's kind of a big deal in the online universe.

You may have heard of this. Or perhaps you've heard of Information Architecture (IA), Experience Design (XD) and/or User Interface Design (UI), terms sometimes used interchangeably with UX. Regardless of what you call it, the key is understanding what the discipline is and what it does.

The first thing to understand when getting your head around UX is that it's an umbrella term for different disciplines that have been converging and co-evolving for the past couple of decades. These include User Interface Design, Information Design, Usability, Interaction Design, Graphic Design, Information Architecture and Human-Computer Interaction. (How's that for a lot of jargon?)

Less important than intimately understanding each subdiscipline is the idea that at the center of all of this is the user. (In the true fashion of the UX community, even the usage of the word "user" is heavily debated.) Ultimately, UX is about fostering a deep understanding of the people who use your Web site, how it fits into their lives, and the empathy necessary to create design solutions that lead to great experiences.

Talking in strictly digital terms, UX is that amorphous middle ground where it's not really graphic design per se, or the art direction, but it's how we structure and craft a person's interactions with the stuff we create. Where does the navigation go? Do we put this on the main page or on a secondary page? Will anyone care about that thing if they have to click twice to get there? Is this interface as easy to use as it could be?

On the surface this just seems like a trendy way of saying "making a Web site." And that's definitely a part of it. But for us, there's more. We've been thinking that the process that goes into thinking about UX should apply more holistically to a brand's overall behavior, so you can make some user-centered marketing.

I like to start with the notion that the audience actually cares about what we're doing. This isn't always a flawless starting point, but it works most of the time, and is at least fairly true if you're talking about a Web site. Whatever the circumstances, if someone ends up on your site, they're there on purpose. Something caught their eye and led them there, and they want the experience to be a good one.

So, giving a crap, check. This actually puts you in a good place to do your job, because you get to think about being nice to your audience. What do they want or need? How can you help them? How can you make this work for them? You get to think about them as individuals who want to have a nice moment with your brand, find out some exciting information and/or do something new.

In more traditional advertising, the thought might be people actually want whatever product or service you're marketing, and what you're doing is less about convincing them or interrupting them, and more about announcing and making available to them in the most interesting way possible. It's getting them super amped about a decision they kind of want to make anyhow.

Let's use the darling of UX people everywhere as an example: the iPhone. Looking at Apple.com's product marketing site for the iPhone you may wonder, how hard does this site really have to work? IPhones sell themselves. But after spending some time with the content on Apple.com/iphone, it's hard not to want to run out and get one even if your spouse wants you to make the overdue trip to Ikea. And what is it that's exciting you? The features? Yes. The industrial design? Yes, of course. But also, the way those icons move around and wobble. The way the camera rotates when you rotate. The way you can pinch in on a Safari page. The user experience.

Looking at it through the eyes of Apple it's almost blindingly obvious: a quality user experience can drive sales and adoption, and it can become an advocate for your product or brand--just like marketing.

As the owner of a digital marketing company, this becomes very interesting. The UX gang is charged with thinking of the user first when designing a site. Coincidentally, so are our marketing guys. But in many shops, despite the "user-centered" nature of both these groups, they're often at odds. The marketing guys might be thinking of the user in terms of, "Will this initiative emotionally move the user enough to think about this brand more often?" And the UX guys might be thinking about, "Will the user feel like clicking on that button or would they prefer it be a link?"

What if we added more to the UX designer's plate? What if we not only charged them with thinking about the interface, but also how that interface reflected upon the brand?

It's glaringly apparent, but it's only now entering into the UX conversation. When looking at Vista or Mac OS X, it seems obvious. But it goes deeper. Even now, I can think of three to four brands I feel negatively toward because their sites are so hard to use. There are companies I'll work to avoid just because their sites have given me grief. Wouldn't their marketers want to know that? Shouldn't the UX people be considering this possible impact on the company's operations?

UX and marketing a brand on the Web are inextricably related. Again, perhaps not the deepest insight, but it's time we recognize it and account for it in a methodical way.

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,10:14 PM
Live Nation Strikes Deals With Jay-Z, U2; Shakes Biz
Aggressive moves build new model for music industry

By Brian Hiatt

WHILE THE MUSIC business as we know it collapses, one company is sweeping in to pick up the pieces: Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter, made another set of aggressive moves beyond its core business in recent weeks, striking broad deals with U2 and Jay-Z. "Live Nation is growing very, very fast," says U2 manager Paul McGuinness. "It's going to emerge as one of the centers of the music industry, if not the center of the music industry."

The U2 pact guarantees that Live Nation will promote tours by the band for twelve years, as well as handle the band's merchandising, run its Website and sell its tickets (financial terms were kept under wraps). The $150 million, ten-year Jay-Z deal (which was not finalized at press time) is even broader, much like the $120 million deal Live Nation made with Madonna in October: The company will release his future albums, promote his tours, handle his merch and partner with him on various entrepreneurial ventures under the name Roc Nation.

After a series of acquisitions and other moves, Live Nation is becoming a company like no other in the history of the music business, with tentacles extending into ticketing, recorded music, merchandising, fan clubs and artist Websites. By committing to releasing albums by Jay-Z and Madonna, it is taking on roles traditionally performed by major labels. But more important to its bottom line, Live Nation is also treading on Ticketmaster's territory. The company — which books more than 150 venues worldwide — will dump Ticketmaster beginning next year, instead offering tickets through its own system, which will allow sites such as U2.com to sell directly to fans.

In the past two years, Live Nation also bought Musictoday, which runs artists' fan clubs, and Signatures Network, a leading music-merchandise company.

"There are a whole bunch of products that are based around live concerts that we've never participated in, where we didn't have the infrastructure," says Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino. "We really just moved into that infrastructure and became a vertically integrated music company." Ever-decreasing sales for recorded music give Live Nation an advantage. "For us, it happens to be great news because the live show is becoming the center of the wheel for artists. [Most] of their revenues are coming from the road, which is a very different economic model. We say to artists, 'If we're going to do your tour, what else can we do around that show to maximize our revenue and do a great job for you?'"

It also helps that, unlike record companies, Live Nation will deal directly with consumers online, allowing it to offer, say, Madonna or Jay-Z MP3s to fans who just bought tickets to their shows. In this scenario, albums become just another form of merchandise.

Some in the music industry question whether Live Nation is overpaying for artists: They doubt that Jay-Z and Madonna have the longevity to justify the multiyear pacts, and they challenge why the company paid U2 a presumably huge advance for the right to promote tours it would have likely promoted anyway. "With Jay-Z, no one in the record industry would have made that deal," argues Randy Phillips, CEO of AEG Live, Live Nation's biggest concert-promotion competitor, pointing out that Jay-Z has never been a U2-level force on the road. "Too much money. If you're looking for a rationale for what Live Nation is doing, you're not going to find it in a business model that makes sense."

He adds, "They're trying to figure out how to move the needle on their stock price, or they're looking for a buyer. And they feel having all these big names and assets will help." Live Nation lost nearly $12 million last year, and its stock price has been trending downward.

Rapino insists that Live Nation will sign very few Madonna- and Jay-Z-style deals. "It's hardly a scalable proposition," he says. He notes that Jay-Z's current arena tour with Mary J. Blige is expected to gross $30 million, likely making it the most successful of the rapper's career. And he says the U2 deal, which partners Live Nation with a band that has earned $706 million on the road over the last twelve years, is a no-brainer: "When you've got one of a handful of bands that can sell out stadiums worldwide, you don't want to leave that one to 'Oh, we've got a great relationship — let's not worry about them,'" he says. "And now we're in a true partnership with the greatest band in the world."

Overall, Rapino adds, all of the new businesses Live Nation is entering — from T-shirt sales to recorded music — have far better profit margins than live concerts: "We have learned that if you have a longer relationship with the artist and you have more revenue streams with the artist, your model is much more robust."

"Live Nation is going to emerge as one of the centers of the music industry — if not the center."

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,9:53 PM
This is Your Nation on White Privilege
This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

White privilege is, in short, the problem.


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posted by R J Noriega
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Friday, September 12, 2008,11:59 PM
Slumsploitation – The Favela on Film and TV
ByMelanie Gilligan
Brazil has long sold its sunny side to holiday makers, but since the blockbuster film City of God a flood of movies and TV shows have capitalised on the narrative potential of the country’s plentiful favelas, adolescent drug soldiers and ultraviolence.

Melanie Gilligan explores the cinema of slums and asks is representation the answer to ‘social exclusion’ or one of the mechanisms of its reproduction?

The Brazilian documentary Bus 174 by José Padhila opens as we swoop over Rio de Janeiro’s favela covered hills. Dramatic aerial shots of Brazil’s vast slum cities are a common gambit in the country’s burgeoning output of films depicting its favelas, crime and poverty. These top-down vistas economically communicate an incalculably vast scale of privation. Bus 174 chronicles the hijacking of a public bus in Rio in 2000 by one ill-fated resident of the slums. Broadcast live on TV, the hijacking achieved record viewing figures and ended when the police murdered its protagonist. This incident constituted the intersection of two major forces of daily life for Brazil’s working and wageless classes: television and state violence.

The hijacker, Sandro, was a former street kid, and had survived the infamous Candelaria massacre in 1993 when police fired on 70 children sleeping rough in front of a church, killing eight. Throughout the hijacking, Sandro shouted at the police and media, reproaching them for the Candelaria massacre and the violent oppression in the favelas. The film presents the hijacking as Sandro’s desperate plea for recognition from ‘Brazilian society’, a desire supposedly felt by the whole of the so-called invisible class living in the favelas and streets of Brazil.

The alleged renaissance of Brazilian cinema seems dedicated to answering Bus 174’s plea that the country’s disenfranchised be represented. Brazil’s favelas have enjoyed ‘increased visibility’ with films like City of God and have played a lead role in the ‘sudden stardom’ of Third World slums in First World cinemas.[1] With its nearly unrivalled economic inequality and 51.[7] million favela inhabitants, the nation has ample material to feed a growing market for depictions of its poverty, crime and economic polarisation.[2]

While a decade ago Brazil’s government rented New York museums and private galleries for exhibitions of Brazilian art in an effort to improve its international image, today Brazil’s corporate media mine the entertainment value of its ‘social problems’ to produce popular film and television commodities for the domestic and global market.[3] Film and TV unabashedly portray the brutal results of the country’s extreme disparities in wealth, sometimes indicting this situation through the mouths of their characters. However, they ‘raise awareness’ only to support the underlying economic conditions. At the same time Brazilian President Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva’s culture minister, Gilberto Gil, promises to foster the creative industries, calling them the new motor for Brazil’s ‘developing’ economy, and places the movie business atop his list of creative messiahs.

The internationally distributed Brazilian films we see today are products of increasingly commercial imperatives. All government-funded programmes supporting the Brazilian film industry were cut in 1991. Subsequently, the ‘Audiovisual law’ was created in 1993 to subsidise private investment in the film industry by granting Brazil’s immensely wealthy corporations the right to invest up to 70 percent of their yearly income tax in film. The intention was to foster private investment in the film industry so that, when this initiative was phased out in 2003, corporations would continue financing films. The credits of internationally exported Brazilian film such as Lower City or City of God list some of Brazil’s biggest multinationals, for example Petrobras, many banks, and of course the monolithic Globo, who run 60 percent of national media. Unsurprisingly, the pressure to deliver high returns on investments ushered in an era of increasingly mainstream Americanised film-making in Brazil.

City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Kátia Lund (2002), epitomises the manner in which Brazil’s urban poverty is currently being projected. The film employs a style of fast cutting, abbreviated exposition, tinted colour palettes and perpetually moving handheld photography; techniques which have undeniably become a reified visual ‘pre-set’ for representing Latin American experience below subsistence level. City of God restages epochal class conflicts as a series of personal narratives, beginning in the 1960s when the military dictatorship ‘cleaned up the city’ for the rich by means of slum evictions and real estate development.[4] Adapting the technique of first person voice-over commentary deployed in Scorsese’s crime epics Casino and Goodfellas, the film’s narrator, Rocket, is a young (and like most favela residents, black) slum dweller relocated to the City of God, obscures the political significance of his eviction by giving the cause as flooding and ‘acts of arson in the slums’. Passing over this primordial act of state violence, the film jumps forward to the spectacular gang warfare between the narco-traficantes who gained control of Rio’s favelas in the ‘70s.

While City of God renders most of the substantive history in quick strokes, more detail about the political formation of Rio’s gangs is given in the documentary that accompanies the DVD version of the film. Widespread arrests of political dissidents during the military dictatorship of the Medici administration 1969-74, landed insurgents in a maximum-security prison with so-called ‘common criminals’.[5] According to popular legend, educated middle class political prisoners radicalised the working class inmates who then began a movement to self-organise against the systemic violence and deprivation imposed by the state, giving birth to Rio’s powerful drug gang Comando Vermelho (Red Command).[6]

William da Silva Lima, one of Comando Vermelho’s founders, said the group ‘was not an organisation but, above all, a kind of behavior, a way of surviving in times of adversity.’7 Comando Vermelho, initially known as o colectivo, spread an ethos of collective organisation. This laid the basis for the contemporary gangs, which today form ‘parallel polities’ in the favelas and prisons, supplying people with essential resources withheld by the state. Soup kitchens, daycare centres, and money for medicines, as well as brutally enforced security, form part of this alternative welfare and justice system adopted by populations disdained and abused by the official state. By some accounts, the drug gangs are businesses, providing services in return for the support of the favela communities, ‘accomplices of the bourgeois state’ that couch their endeavours in politicised rhetoric while obstructing the possibility of organised working class political action.[8] It may be that gang strikes on the middle class areas of Rio have replaced, and contained, what previously manifested as direct working class antagonism – for instance the riots of the late 1980s in which residents of the slum Rocinha attacked a nearby wealthy district.[9] Furthermore, the Brazilian state is known to cooperate with the drug gangs which operate like mini-states within the borders of the larger nation. The police, for example, sell weapons to the gangs and engage in transactions involving contraband, though of course they’re ostensibly fighting trafficking. This symbiotic relationship goes far beyond individual police corruption and says a great deal about the dependence of the state and ruling classes on the continuation of the drug trade.

City of God’s popularity in Brazil lead to a TV drama spin-off called City of Men, attempting the same handheld documentary ‘gritty realism’ in a modern-day Rio favela. The first TV drama set in the favelas, it was shot in slums like Rocinha, Rio’s largest, and watched by 35 million people in Brazil, spawning several other favela soaps. The protagonists amaze audiences with their resourcefulness and entrepreneurial zeal, getting themselves out of the tight spots and near death experiences that living in a community regulated by arbitrary police and gang violence creates. In other words, it celebrates the slum as a dangerous but creative place where people improvise solutions.

Critical moments do occur intermittently in City of Men. A protagonist leaves the favela, telling us he is crossing the frontier between two countries and the police are the border guards. Later he says, ‘the playboys [i.e. middle class] watch the slums on TV and think it’s better to live where they are. They only come here to buy drugs or make documentaries and films. They need drugs to live there with all the cameras and bars.’ Yet one is struck by the way the programme mitigates the force of its own content. After focusing on the lives of favela kids for a few episodes, a middle class character is introduced as point of identification and reemployed in increasingly unlikely scenarios. Ostensibly focused on the lives of favela dwellers, the show incessantly revisits their relationship to the middle class. A day at the beach is loaded with race and class tensions, while another episode compares the lives of a young ‘playboy’ and the working class protagonist, finding the former gets a bit depressed, the latter starves, but the moral is that they both share the same existential angst.

In the guise of offering ‘positive representation’ to ‘socially excluded’ residents of the favelas, exposing the economic and racial segregation they experience, the show transparently attempts to manage class tensions and assuage middle class guilt. (One candidly propagandistic episode narrates the legend of Lula’s working-class childhood, offering a ‘working class’ hero as point of identification for those viewers not feeling sufficiently ‘represented’ already). If any viewer doubts the importance of being portrayed on the channels of nation’s most powerful TV monopoly, Globo, the recurrent shots of densely clustered satellite dishes atop favela shacks drive the point home.

City of God contains similar nods to the power and comlicity of the Brazilian media. Gang members compete to get their photos in the newspapers, TV and news journalism intensify the conflict they chronicle. During the 1960s and ‘70s Brazil’s military dictatorship fostered a powerful television dominated ‘culture industry’ as a means to cohere national identity, promoting consumerism and controlling the political sphere. Globo governed official public discourse in Brazil until the end of the dictatorship in 1984, and has been influencing political outcomes, electoral and otherwise, ever since. City of Men supplements its documentary aesthetic with mock TV news interviews, while a media circus is Bus 174’s starting point for discussing life on the streets and in prison. The fascination with mediation in these films reflects more than just the spectacularisation of daily life. It indexes the self-consciousness of an industry that has long exploited the frisson of favela culture and violence. However, placing the interdependence of Brazil’s official ‘cultural’ and ‘informal’ or illegitimate economies in plain sight could seem to cynically reinforce and normalise its inevitability.[10]

The monolithic media of Brazil presents a means for liberal audiences to reconcile themselves with the brutality of state repression against the working class. Despite the intention of exposing state violence which informs films like Bus 174 and Hector Babenco’s Carandiru (2000), these films’ critical challenge to the brutality of the present order is blunted into a kind of empathic supplement to it. Carandiru tells the story of the infamous 1992 massacre in a Sao Paulo prison. Police, called to quell a riot, killed 111 unarmed prisoners. Numerous inmates were murdered execution-style, some several hours after the riot was suppressed. This extermination returned to haunt the gated ‘communities’ of Sao Paulo this May. The Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) gang, formed in response to the massacre and sworn to avenge it, declared war on the state, starting 75 separate prison riots and attacking the stations, cars and homes of the police.[11]

Like the Comando Vermelho, the PCC constitute a parallel state controlling 90 percent of the prison system in the state of Sao Paulo and even funding their own electoral candidates. Each member swears to a manifesto-like list of statutes which pledge unceasing struggle against the injustices and oppression inside prisons, solidarity with all members, and to be the ‘Terror of the Powerful oppressors’ who run the prisons. The gang has ‘reduced the level of violence (in prisons) … won better visiting rights … [and] defense lawyers for their members’. Although Comando Vermelho have been responsible for prison bloodbaths of their own, the PCC has now allied with them to strengthen their influence on the nation’s prison system.12 Rio gangs have conducted many similar attacks, but the scale of the PCC’s actions this year and their unequivocal demands for prison reform suggest a more developed political agenda. When the PCC shut down the country’s richest city, killing 40 police officers and threatening the heavily guarded safety of the ruling elite, the police responded as they had at Carandiru: by sending death squads through the favelas and assassinating random slum-dwellers. Suspiciously, the police revised the total civilian body count down from 109 to 79, of whom 34 are acknowledged to have been killed by death squads.[13]

Bus 174 also presents images of the prisons and the appalling conditions endured by the likes of Sandro, who was interned many times in the years prior to the hijacking. One of his cells was 40º C and so overcrowded that half the inmates had to stand so the other half could sit. In the documentary, prisoners in cramped cells denounce the state for its negligence, corruption and injustice. Once again the assumption is that Brazil’s street kids and favela inhabitants want desperately to be represented and recognised in Brazilian society. This view is explicitly stated by Luis Eduardo Soares, Rio’s former subsecretary of public security, in an interview that is interspersed throughout the film. Audaciously, Soares asserts that this need for acknowledgement is the biggest problem facing street kids today (not hunger or getting shot or brained with rocks while asleep). This position resonates with the strategy of City of Men and indeed, on a macro level, with Brazil’s attempted conversion to a culture economy. In other words, represent the working class in the media and hopefully demands for economic parity will decrease.

The director claims that the film reopened debate about the hijacking, this time creating discussion about the reasons for Sandro’s action, instead of vilifying him as a drugged-up hoodlum. However, without addressing the basic material needs of the population and curbing the murderous domination of the police-gang state repressive apparatus such debate is likely to remain sterile.

Brazilian culture minister Gilberto Gil points to the 1 trillion 300 billion US dollars in revenue generated by global ‘creative industries’ this year and proposes that increased production of cultural exports is the key to prosperity for Brazil.[14] Culture in the favelas has long been profitable. For instance, samba, once a central part of favela life, was turned into a mainstream commodity and official national culture. Today, samba’s social function in the favelas is mostly fulfilled by ‘Baile Funk’, itself an increasingly popular cultural export. A recent investor-oriented Financial Times article spoke of the atmosphere in Rocinha as ‘like stepping into the tempting chaos of a rock concert’ indicating that Rio’s favelas are gaining a reputation for edgy culture that could attract many more such capitalisations. Gil encourages Brazilians to become cultural producers. We hear the same message in Favela Rising, a documentary by American filmmakers Matt Mochary and Jeff Zimbalist, which zealously deploys the now formulaic MTV-povera aesthetic of City of God (etc). Once again, a collective story about community music group Afro Reggae becomes the tale of one man, Anderson Sá, and his fight to improve life in the favelas. Interviews with Sá carry a clear message – he preaches the salvation of cultural work as the way to pull oneself out of the slums. Artists have long been able to transgress class barriers, but it is unlikely that all the kids Sá would like to save from the trenches of the drug wars can become middle class creative workers. The economic situation in Brazil would not allow for it. Incidentally, the message of City of God is quite similar – Rocket ‘gets out’ precisely because he is lucky enough to land a job as a photographer on the basis that he can get close to the gang action in the favelas. Thus the hypothetical lucky ones become cultural workers that subsist by documenting the lot or selling the culture of the unlucky.

Despite the creative economy line being fed by the Lula administration and the production of new rags-to-cultural-work-riches films (such as recent release 2 Filhos de Francisco, the biggest hit at Brazilian box offices in 20 years), those living in favelas will continue to be portrayed in cultural commodities but are unlikely to benefit from their production. Furthermore, the box office and broadcast hits bringing favela life to middle class Brazilian and western audiences are taking place in a context of growing economic disparity and a ‘drastic diminution of the intersections between the lives of the rich and the poor’.[15] Sao Paulo’s 300 hundred gated communities, serviced by the world’s highest volume of civilian helicopter traffic, and the Rio government’s plan to build a 7 foot wall around several favelas, push the working class further out of sight.[16] As material segregations proliferate in the cities of Brazil, it seems unlikely that the new market for consumer-friendly representations of the favelas will lead to anything more than profits off the backs of those who are, so to speak, providing the content.

[1] Rana Dasgupta, ‘The Sudden Stardom of the Third-World City’, http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0603/msg00031.html

[2] The richest 10% of Brazil owns between 48% to over 50% of the nation’s wealth while the poorest 10% own 1%.

[3] Barry Schwabsky, ‘Art from Brazil in New York’, Artforum, Summer, 1995, http://linkme2.net/9j

[4] ‘Evoking the threat of a tiny urban foco of Marxist guerillas, the military razed 80 favelas and evicted almost 140,000 poor people from the hills overlooking Rio. With financial support from USAID, other favelas were later demolished to clear the way for industrial expansion or to “beautify” the borders of upper income areas. Although the authorities failed in their goal of eliminating all “slums within Rio within a decade”, the dictatorships ignited conflicts between bourgeois neighbourhoods and the favelas, and between the police and slum youth, which continue to rage three decades later.’ Mike Davis, Planet of Slums, Verso, London, p. 108.

[5] In Brazil today ‘98% of prison inmates lived in poor or modest economic conditions prior to their arrest’. Marie-Eve Sylvestre, ‘Crime, Law & Society – Exploring the Relationship Between Crime, Punitive Practices, Poverty and Social Exclusion in Contemporary Societies’, Harvard Law School, http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/graduate/sjd_candidates/marie-evesylvestre/syllabus.doc

[6] ‘Conditions in the prisons included systematic torture and no basic amenities (mattresses, linens, blankets, soap)’, Elizabeth Leeds, ‘Cocaine and Parallel Polities in the Brazilian Urban Periphery: Constraints on Local-Level Democratization’, Latin American Research Review, Vol. 31, 1996, p.54.

Comando Vermelho orchestrated a series of attacks on Rio’s middle class neighbourhoods during the same week that City of God won the BAFTA for best editing. The gang told the press they were retaliating against ‘oppressive and cowardly’ policing in the slums and politicians’ violence against the poor.Would this also qualify as a plea for recognition? ‘Rio gangs cast violent shadow over carnival’, The Guardian, http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/2-25-2003-36272.asp

[7] Elizabeth Leeds, op. cit., p.54.

[8] Hector Benoit, ‘Brazil: The social contradictions underlying the violent eruption in Sao Paulo’, World Socialist Web Site, May 2006, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/may2006/braz-m18_prn.shtml

[9] Elizabeth Leeds, op. cit., p. 48-49.

[10] The treasure trove of eye-witness reports from the favela front lines have recently proven dangerous business. In 2002, celebrity reporter Tim Lopes, renowned for his undercover work, often in disguise, was dismembered with a samurai sword and burned during a favelaBrazzil Magazine, June 2005, http://www.brazzil.com/content/view/9297/79/ reconnaissance. Tom Phillips, ‘Justice for One. In Brazil, Drug War Goes On’,

[11] Gibby Zobel, ‘Mayhem That left Sao Paolo in Shock’, Al Jazeera,

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/B0DB410F-55C4-4A73-8EAF-41475DD8CF7B.htm and Pepe Escobar ‘The accumulation of the wretched, a review of Planet of Slums by Mike Davis’, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HE20Aa01.html

[12] Tom Phillips, ‘Jail riots kill up to 80 as gangs rebel’, Sunday Herald, June 2004, http://www.sundayherald.com/42704

[13] ‘Brazil: Death tally reaches 400 in the wake of attacks in Sao Paulo State’, Coav Newsroom, http://www.coav.org.br/publique/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=1956&tpl=printerview&sid=114Al Jazeera, http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/F418DB9E-5DEE-4B18-A9FE-F11A9FA76863.htm and ‘Brazil probes police role in gang riots’,

[14] Tiffany Linton Page, ‘Building a Creative Utopia in Brazil’, Center for Latin American Studies, February 2005, http://www.clas.berkeley.edu:7001/Events/spring2005/02-17-05-gil/index.html and Washington Post,


[15] Mike Davis, Planet of Slums, Verso, London, p. 119.

[16] Anthony Faiola, ‘Brazil’s Elites Fly Above Their Fears

Rich Try to Wall Off Urban Violence’, Washington Post, May 31st 2002, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A42332-2002May31 and Daniel Howden, ‘Bitter Divide over Plan to Wall in Rio’s Slums’, Independent, June 23, 2005, http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2005/06/bitter_divide_o.php

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Sunday, September 07, 2008,12:25 AM
Thinking Outside the Marketing Box

HE "secret weapon" of the Omnicom Group, Peter Arnell, has done it again. His Arnell Group has landed an important project from a company that regularly works with an Omnicom competitor.

The Arnell Group, based in New York, planned to announce today that it is being awarded a global assignment from Electrolux, the world's biggest maker of home and outdoor appliances, which uses as its global agency of record Lowe & Partners Worldwide, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

Mr. Arnell, the chairman and chief executive of the Arnell Group, is to oversee a broad effort - everything from product design to in-store marketing to traditional advertising - to help Electrolux introduce a line of small domestic appliances, tentatively scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2005.

Mr. Arnell, who sold the Arnell Group to Omnicom in June 2001, is known for wooing chief executives and other senior managers of large advertisers, who assign his agency projects and consulting chores; current clients include DaimlerChrysler, Diageo, Mars, Reebok International and Unilever. Often his strategic advice leads the advertisers to hire the Arnell Group or other Omnicom agencies. Hence, the recent description of Mr. Arnell by the trade publication Advertising Age as the secret weapon of John D. Wren, the Omnicom president and chief executive.

Needless to say, Mr. Arnell is not infallible. His most-publicized flop involved an extensive, and expensive, campaign for Chrysler that was centered on the singer Celine Dion. The campaign, originally scheduled to run three years, lasted not much more than one, and its failure contributed to the resignation last year of its most ardent fan, James C. Schroer, executive vice president for global sales, marketing and service at the Chrysler Group division of DaimlerChrysler.

But it is a different matter when Mr. Arnell can do the voodoo that he does so well. For instance, last month Unilever shifted the account of its Lipton tea products in the United States to an Omnicom agency, DDB Worldwide in New York, from an agency owned by the WPP Group, J. Walter Thompson in New York. Mr. Arnell has been providing Unilever with ideas on reintroducing the Lipton brand to American consumers in 2005, Advertising Age reported.

Lars Goran Johansson, senior vice president for corporate communications at Electrolux in Stockholm, said Electrolux was attracted to Mr. Arnell by his reputation for thinking beyond the boundaries of conventional advertising and venturing into realms like graphic design, retail marketing and branded entertainment.

For example, for a previous client, Samsung, Mr. Arnell recognized the appeal to young adult consumers of photographs of a shirtless man holding a Samsung microwave oven, which were originally shot for print ads. The images were subsequently used on oversized outdoor signs in big cities and the cardboard boxes in which the ovens were packaged. Some buyers even displayed the empty boxes on their kitchen shelves, above the ovens.

"This is a different kind of business, an interesting mixture of design, creativity and technology," Mr. Johansson said.

The experience consumers have with brands, in stores and at home, is becoming just as important in shaping their perceptions of those brands as traditional ads, if not more so, Mr. Johansson said. So Mr. Arnell's reputation for "doing something different, something cool," he added, played a large part in awarding the Arnell Group the assignment, for which spending has not been determined.

Mr. Arnell said he welcomed the assignment because "the brand positioning and strategy will be embedded in the product development and design."

"In this iPod economy, clearly design has become one of the most important differentiating tools for brands," Mr. Arnell said. "It's a powerful place to be these days."

Mr. Arnell said he was also designing a store being opened in Midtown Manhattan by Jacob the Jeweler, the purveyor to the stars of diamond-encrusted watches and other jewelry, so that it evokes the interior of a gem mine, as well as a store in Philadelphia that will serve as a showcase for the Rbk line of clothing and footwear sold by Reebok.

Also on the Arnell Group's list of tasks, Mr. Arnell said, is the introduction of a line of fire extinguishers and other home-safety products for a company called Home Hero, owned by Thomas Von Essen, the former New York City fire commissioner.

The typical fire extinguisher could stand to be redesigned because "it's so ugly, nobody wants to leave it on a counter," Mr. Arnell said. "We need a product like what Braun did with coffee makers."

Mr. Arnell described the products he will help design and develop for Electrolux as "small-task domestic appliances," like coffee makers, toasters and blenders. Mr. Johansson described them as "an entry point for consumers to our bigger products," like ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers and vacuums.

The new Electrolux line, still unnamed, will be branded differently from Electrolux floor-care products and other brands the company sells under names like Eureka and Frigidaire.

This week Electrolux is introducing a campaign by Lowe in the United States to promote a new, higher-priced line of major appliances, called Electrolux Icon, which were first sold in Europe. The campaign, with a budget estimated at $70 million over the next three years, is separate from ads for the regularly priced line of Electrolux appliances.

Electrolux hired the London, New York and Stockholm offices of Lowe in January 2003 to develop brand campaigns. Asked what effect the hiring of the Arnell Group and Mr. Arnell would have on Lowe, Mr. Johansson replied, "I don't see this as competition," adding that Lowe remained the company's global agency of record.

The new line is "a way to show Electrolux is interesting," Mr. Johansson said, by having the products be "different in function and design" from what is now sold in the small-appliance market.

"We want consumers to say, 'Wow, I didn't know I needed that,' " he added.

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