Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I was traveling.
Something new: I am going to judge advertising while watching football on Sunday.
I got this post started yesterday - by judging Geico and Progressive's insurance advertising.
Geico and Progressive use humor to establish branding. And as always, marketing involves either selling dreams and/or life rafts. Insurance sells both.
Geico. If you are going to use humor it has to be funny. And Geico usually always delivers. But more importantly, it uses humorous animals interfacing with people that are within a demographic they are trying to sell to. With a great tag line: "save you up to 15%".
Progressive. Their ads are not funny. In fact, they are just plain irritating. They have one "mascot" named Flo. And she doesn't share time well with others. She dominates the "space" so much; that the demographic and product are eclipsed. I guess they are trying to sell "price"; but the savings are not explicit. Just who watches Flo and jumps on their phone to switch insurance anyways?
Sunday Football - Winners and Losers -
Winners. Soda Stream, Dodge and Fedex.
Soda Stream. Their commercial hit all the right buttons. The commercial shows a young couple with a family. They don't waste anytime explaining the product. It's all about something affordable and free: water. Kids are seen swimming in a pool full of it. And a parent is making "soda" right out of the tap; while everyone is happy and life it good. Their target market is a young family trying to make ends meet. They are selling a dream. Buy something renewable, instead of store-bought cans, and you too can be happy, And perhaps save enough for a pool. Brilliant.
Dodge. I have always hated Dodge commercials. They are usually loud, obnoxious, and make their vehicles look like over-sized robots. But their latest commercial theme was a winner on Sunday. The commercial shows the founding of Dodge out of Ford, and subtly harkens back to the bootleg prohibition days. Besides taking a subtle shot at Ford; the commerical got their message across: Dodge is a muscle car. They are selling a dream to young adults. If you buy a Dodge, you can be independent and appear to be "naughty" or a "bad boy".
Fedex. One of the best - selling of a dream commercial - I have ever scene. They show a guy, who is young and powerful, with his background looking like a window overlooking high rises in a big city. Then bam. The window goes up, and it is just a picture on his garage door. He is running his own "fortune" right out of his garage. Fedex enables this American dream. The best messaging is simple, concrete and unexpected. Fedex was a winner on Sunday and was the best of the bunch.
Losers. Pizza Hut. BMW and Kay Jewelers.
Pizza Hut. Long commercial. Most of it is non-Americans, dissing Pizza Hut, as not being authentic in various foreign languages. So I am thinking during the commercial ... is Pizza Hut saying "buy their pizza because it is American and foreign people don't know that they are talking about"? If so, that's a long and complicated way to communicate. But at the end, an old foreign guy, who dissed Pizza Hut earlier, is caught taking a bite. So 99% negative foreign opinion and 1% favorable? I can't for the life of me, figure out why Pizza Hut produced such an expensive and non-impactful ad, and why it wasn't consistent. Still stunned.
BMW. "We only make one thing - a great driving machine". Commercial just shows one black BMW car, no markings, driven around in a laboratory-looking virtual place. People don't buy cars for a driving machine; they buy cars because they help people project the image they want. That's why most high-end car commercials show the targeted demographic in the car, where they are driving and where they are parking. Nothing says high end, more than a good looking person driving in a hip city and then parking their car next to a a high-end home with a brick driveway. BMW? Selling cars like washing machines.
Kay Jewelers. Worst of the day. Male penguin getting a rock for a female penguin ("rock" get it, Ha ha). Announcer says Antarctica. And then flashes to a necklace. Someone needs to tell Kay Jewelers, that if you are going to play around with the Christmas idea, Santa Claus lives in the North Pole and not the South Pole.
November 22, 2014
The war on Obama comes from two forces: (a) a self-inflicted Nixonian lack of congressional outreach and bunker mentality and (b) a new GOP electoral strategy, that attacks a new ideological white space, and all but has completed the cleansing of the last vestiges of the GOP establishment. - November 17, 2014
The danger for the aspirations of the GOP for 2016, are on a dangerous path, due to be blinded by political opposition from Obama.
1. Immigration. As noted by this blog, on November 11th; immigration is nothing but a tempest in a teapot. Fact: Obama - a Democrat - has initiated more deportation proceedings than his predecessor Bush 43 - a Republican. Obama is not so much seeking immigration reform than codifying immigration law. GOP congressional intragedence is forcing Obama to issue an executive order. The irony is both parties have little differences on immigration policy. And it shows the failure of a GOP congressional majority to lead.
2. Congressional Appropriation Bills. The GOP-lead congressional majority is headed toward continuing to not fund national budgets by the use of congressional appropriation bills. Instead using stop-gap CRs (congressional resolutions). CR is short-hand for a continuing shutdown of the government. The result of which, is to make it appear, that the GOP can't govern. It also cuts their noses despite their face. Fact: The GOP is the party of national defense. But when adjusted for inflation, the 2015 cap on defense appropriations is already well below what Bush enjoyed at the end of his presidency six years ago.
One is reminded of the boy whose father hated him and the mother who loved him. When his mother died, the boy, try as he might, couldn't shed a tear. When the father later died, the boy sobbed and was inconsolable.
The lesson, within this story, is the child was driven, all his life, by the hatred of his father. When his father died, he didn't have anything to live for.
The GOP today is the child and Obama is the father. The GOP has to stop being blinded by Obama hatred; less they lack any an alternative vision for the future.
November 20, 2014
The Federal Reserve is publishing the minutes of their last FOMC meeting. While recent testimony has been "hawkish" - guarding against inflation - the chart above leads one to believe that some FOMC members are more concerned with deflation. That's why the minutes are so important.
In the US, our central bank, has two mandates: inflation control and economic growth. Over the last 30 years, the US Federal Reserve has perfected inflation control and economic growth.
But now both mandates seem to have been compromised. Near zero % inter-banking rates have not led to 2% inflation targets since the banking crisis as expected. And with Congress unwilling to fiscally stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve can't insure economic growth through their monetary policies alone.
Except for 1936-37 (when the FED tightened money supply, the economy moved backward and it quickly reversed course), the Great Depression was fought by both monetary and fiscal stimulus. Before Pearl Harbor the US economy was booming contrary to popular myth and conspiracies. While the Great Recession - sans a tiny fiscal economic stimulus in 2009 (you can see its affects on inflation during 2010 and 2011 - which was when the money was actually spent) - has actually cut federal spending. Leaving the Federal Reserve's actions neutered.
If Congress doesn't reverse course - and there seems to be no way it will - the next US president will be fighting the toughest war yet: a war on deflation that no country (think Japan) nor any economist has figured out how to win.
November 19, 2014
Zacarias Moussaoui - serving time in a maximum security prison and suffering from mental illness - is implicating a Saudi prince and princess that gave him money and provided funding for 9/11 hijackers.
It's easy to dismiss his claims because he is a prisoner looking for better jail conditions and suffers from mental illness. But his story reminds us that on 9/11, 15 of 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. And 9/11 led to the failed and expensive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Saudi Arabia was never implicated and received no military reprisals.
So why would Saudi Arabia have been behind 9/11? That's a difficult question, and without certainty. But there is a possible reason that is plausible.
And that's because Saudi Arabia was suffering blow back from supporting al Qaeda during the 1980s. The 1991 Gulf War - specifically letting the Americans use Saudi Arabia as a base for military operations - radicalized al Qaeda. Al Qaeda considered the occupation of an Islamic holy-land by infidels unacceptable and a breach of trust by the Saudi kingdom.
By 2000, the Clinton administration didn't do enough to degrade al Qaeda. A campaign of insurgency in Saudi Arabia had started in November 2000 when car bombings were carried out targeting and killing individual expatriates in Riyadh and other cities.
Saudi Arabia was under siege by al Qaeda at the time of 9/11. After 9/11, the US went to war against al Qaeda, and that benefited Saudi Arabia. Perhaps most telling, was al Qaeda's reaction, after the US went to war against them. They didn't have the logistical ability to attack the US; but they did have the logistical ability to attack Saudi Arabia.
Two major al Qaeda bombings took place in residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2003. On May 12, 2003, 39 people were killed, and over 160 wounded when bombs went off at at three compounds in Riyadh—Dorrat Al Jadawel, Al Hamra Oasis Village, and the Vinnel Corporation Compound. On November 8, 2003, a bomb was detonated outside the Al-Mohaya housing compound west of Riyadh, killing at least 17 people and wounding 122.
The crazy truthers are always looking for who had the most to gain by 9/11. Fair enough. But the US suffered over 3,000 deaths and the US government had the least to gain.
If it is a fair question to ask who had the most to gain by 9/11, perhaps their attention should focus on Saudi Arabia. It's not as conspiratorial as a US government plot - that's the sizzle that allows them to sell the steak. But if there was a conspiracy - and I am not saying there was - Saudi Arabia, while less controversial, is at least plausible.
November 18, 2014
21st Century hyper-partisanship, paradoxically, began when the Democrats moved to the center. The party today has more in common with the older established GOP. That in turn, has driven the Republican party farther to the right. Cases in point -
1. The ACA (Obamacare) is a copy of the GOP's response to Hillary Clinton's universal health care initiative of the 1990s.
2. Immigration reform is a tempest in a teapot. Between 2000 and 2009 - mostly under the Bush administration - 32.2 million immigrants were legalized. From 2010 to 2013 10.0 million immigrants were legalized.
3. The war on terror - in the form drone strikes - has only increased under Obama. The Patriot Act was renewed by Obama and it is common knowledge the Obama administration's track record on civil liberties has only regressed.
4. Under Obama, TBTF banks, have enjoyed a free pass. Obama's pick of Tim Geithner for treasury - ex-president of the NY Fed - the most powerful member of the FMOC by definition, was the first sign of Obama being Wall Street friendly. Add in Rahm Emanuel, an ex-partner at an investment banking firm and Bill Daley, another banker and corporate board member, and Wall Street has had a friend in Obama.
5. Net-neutrality comes straight from the bible of the GOP's free market ideology.
Now in fairness, the delay of the Keystone pipeline and recent agreements on CO2 emissions sound liberal. But consider it was Nixon, of the older GOP establishment, that formed the EPA in the first place.
The war on Obama comes from two forces: (a) a self-inflicted Nixonian lack of congressional outreach and bunker mentality and (b) a new GOP electoral strategy, that attacks a new ideological white space, and all but has completed the cleansing of the last vestiges of the GOP establishment.
November 17, 2014
I have been watching presidential primaries for a long time. Interesting and fresh gets weeded out pretty quickly, like the reality show Survivor. Rand is also like a new company, that seeks out white space to stand out, only to see political reality erode his original brand.
As to the former, Rand Paul has been running for president since he became the junior senator of Kentucky in 2010. He is as over-exposed as Michele Bachmann - just a more intelligent version. Using another reality show metaphor, he has already been competing for American Idol for a long-time. And in doing so too early and often, his flaws have come to the surface too quickly.
As the the latter, he comes off as kooky as his father, sans a codified political ideology.
Finally there is a fact, less noted, that Rand Paul will have to defend his senate seat in 2016. That might not have been a problem if he was a long-term senator and PAC money was still illegal. So he will most likely face PAC money against him in Senate primary. And the PAC money will come from the donor backers of more established and winnable GOP presidential candidates.
More than likely, this whole picture of Rand Paul, probably ends like the less intelligent Bachmann. Flaming out in the 2016 primaries and becoming weakened/defeated after the 2016 senate race.
The only person who believes in Rand Paul is Rand Paul. And that's because, for him, it's always been about him.
And as an aside, is it just me, or haven't hair perms been out of style since the 1980s?
November 16, 2014
Some of my 1800+ blogs over the last five years have come from my own experience and knowledge. But a fair amount are inspired by my own curiosity. And the source of my interest is sometimes as interesting as what I find out.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were getting some takeout food from our local pub . The pub is filled with regulars. And I mean people that go there every day. While we may go only once a month; picture Cheers and everyone shouting out our name. The pub regulars come from all walks of life. Professionals, blue collar and owners of construction companies. It's what we like and why we raise our children in the town we live in. Common ground within diversity beats common ground with a lack of diversity.
One of the regulars - a wife and her husband - were wearing Alabama hoodies a couple of weeks ago to the pub. It turns out their daughter enrolled at Alabama. We thought that was unusual. The couple enlightened us by telling us that 50% of the University of Alabama's enrollment is made up of other states. And Illinois was in the top 5. This is not what we expected. And hence it raised my curiosity.
Migration to the Sun Belt is commonly thought as a movement of baby-boomers. But it turns out that the US Census Bureau has projected that 88% of the U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2030 will occur in the Sun Belt. And that population growth is certainly not coming from snowbirds or baby boomers. So it has to be coming from today's child-bearing young adults.
Why? I don't exactly know. But I do have a place in southern Florida. When we or our children visit our place in Florida, the most striking aspect of culture, is influenced by the consistency of weather.
In Chicago, weather forecasts are news. They influence the planning of a day or future day whether to be inside or outside. In Florida, at least in the most southern part, weather isn't news. In the winter it doesn't rain and the average temperature is around seventy degrees and feels warmer due to the strength of the sun.
More interesting is the weather in the summer. People know the weather repeats. Sunny mornings are when people go outside and exercise. At noon, the heat and humidity, are spent indoors. By 3 to 4 PM - every day - the humidity is squeezed from the air and it rains in buckets and cools the weather outside. Then everyone goes back outside to cook outdoors or to dine outside at restaurants.
Weather consistency requires no cultural planning. It takes weather out of the equation. No one watches weather reports. And no one talks about it. Weather is detached from daily planning. Just the opposite of living in the north.
With the advent of central air conditioning, and weather consistency, the quality of life is greatly enhanced. Because of the Great Sun Belt Migration, people identify themselves from where they come from in the north; like people in the north do when they identify themselves by their ethnicity.
With the advent of cable, satellite, the internet and radio apps, southern migrants are able to live a virtual life still enmeshed with where they come from. They just do it in nicer weather.
What is clearly a occasional treat to people of my age, with vacation homes, leaves our children with opportunities, the means and the technology to live there full-time. And marry and raise children.
That is a powerful force that likely accounts why young adults attend southern universities. find employment nearby and why a large portion of the expected 88% (the other is immigration) of US population growth occurs will occur in the Sun Belt.
Anyways, my curiosity was satiated. Perhaps the reader already was aware of these facts. But my guess is some readers will find this blog interesting and illuminating.
November 15, 2014
What is really driving Putin's aggression? Why would he be so bold to fly military jets close to US airspace in the Arctic and now the Caribbean?
In a word, fear.
Under Vladimir Putin, the free market mechanisms set up after the fall of the Soviet Union, have steadily been stripped away.
The free market mechanisms that were set up after the fall of the Soviet Union - essential to free market success - were (a) world-wide currency participation, (b) international trading, (c) property rights, (d) public incorporation, and (e) the free flow of foreign investment.
International trading was the largest shock to the economy of Russia. The Soviet Union was a self-contained economy. Goods were produced according to plans and consumption - while rarely being accurate - still provided the average citizen with enough goods to survive. Once Russia ended planned good production and entered into international trade, the average citizen's subsidence needs were not met. Exacerbating the average citizen's growing anger, was the fire sale of assets to Russia insiders (the "oligarchs") and foreign capital/corporations.
Enter Putin. The Russian state broke up the oligarchs (with the survivors fleeing to the West with dollars) and the state took over ownership of production assets. In particular, energy assets, were used to collect rubles to support the Russian populous. In addition, all forms of democracy and free press were destroyed. The people protested; but they protested with full bellies.
When oil was trading at over $110 a barrel, Russia maintained enough foreign dollars to maintain the ruble's worth, a trade surplus and the ability to feed its people. At $80 a barrel, the trade surplus has been erased, the ruble has depreciated 25%, and - despite Russia's central bank raising interest rates to almost 10% (under normal circumstances higher interest rates should increase the value of the ruble), the ruble has all but crumbled, with its more wealthy citizens (the vast majority are not affected by economic sanctions) hoarding dollars abroad and the less fortunate hoarding dollars in safety deposit boxes.
With limited dollars, and the dependence on the West for goods, inflation has skyrocketed (again under normal circumstances a rise in interest rates would lower inflation). So now the Russian people are not just politically oppressed; but their belly's are grumbling.
It is within this context, that Putin's foreign policy has changed. The Russian people - rightfully so - are highly nationalistic. Particularly so, due to the vestiges of sacrifice to win World War II against dire odds. They still remain close to the heart.
Putin knows this and is using the time honored tradition of nations rallying around the flag as a diversion to their own economic and personal troubles.
I highly doubt Putin wants to wage a new cold war. He can't afford it. More likely he is playing for time and hoping oil returns to historic levels. Hoping the ruble will bounce back and hoping the dollar will not continue to be so strong.
If that doesn't happen, Putin is less-likely contemplating he can continue to be more military aggressive; and more likely fears instead of being deposed.
November 13, 2014
Now the new keystone to the chaos in the Middle East is various dreams of a new caliphate?
It goes something like this .... a de facto Shia caliphate in Iran, Syria, Lebanon (through Hezbollah controlled Beriut) and coming to Yemen. And Turkey is not helping with ISIS/ISIL because it want's to restore a Sunni caliphate in the image of the Ottoman empire everywhere else.
As always, this and other keystones of the Middle East, mistake cause and effect.
Dreams of caliphates, just like pluralistic democracies, are not driving the Middle East into chaos.
The more likely culprit, is the lack of economic hope, vestiges of imperialism, the corruption that comes with it and the concentration of wealth among the few affecting the many.
It's a fact, that people turn to religion, when they suffer from human bondage. And it's a growing fact, that some significant minority of the disenfranchised - from the poverty of the Middle East, to the less-poor of the Caucasuses and to the middle-class of Europe - turn to religious radicalism for some alternative to a life without personal distinction, that is blamed on the status quo.
Or in other words, the chaos of the Middle East, comes from people seeking glory by lashing out against perceived enemies. Be that artificial nation-states, wealthy monarchies, western imperialism or Sunni/Shia imbalances of power.
Of course, these forces have been there for a long time. But greater access to television and social media, starkly presents the haves from the have nots with viable potential revolutionary alternatives. All the haves and have nots see it. But some are willing to act upon it.
The end of Middle East chaos runs through a road of economic development and the changing of the status quo of power. It's a long road - one that each individual knows they will not live to see - that leads to a vicious cycle where short-term answers exacerbate and delay longer-term solutions.
Sadly ensuring that the cure is many generations away; if at all.
November 12, 2014
Both the Democratic and Republican parties are debating immigration reform. Obama is saying he will stop deportations by executive order. Republicans are balking.
But this banter belies the actual data. And the data wasn't easy to find. I finally found it buried at www.dhs.gov.
Key findings in the data -
In 1990, Bush 41 signed the Immigration Act of 1990, with Bush commenting -
“Today I am pleased to sign S. 358, the "Immigration Act of 1990"—the most comprehensive reform of our immigration laws in 66 years.”
“Immigration reform began in 1986 with an effort to close the "back door" on illegal immigration through enactment of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Now, as we open the "front door" to increased legal immigration, I am pleased that this Act also provides needed enforcement authority.”
The data shows that this law substantially increased legal immigration though the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations. And two years into the Obama administration.
No new immigration legislation has been introduced up to this writing. Immigration has slowed but remains historically high. Most experts believe the "slowing of immigration" is due to demand and not supply. With the US economy and new housing slowdown to blame.
Immigration reform - be it legislation or executive order - is nothing but a political rhetoric football; and a tempest in a teapot.
November 11, 2014