Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wi-Fi in Downtown Portsmouth an Oasis in the Storm

My friend Laurie's Facebook status earlier today said: "Thank you eCoast for the wifi hotspot! power still out. not sure for how many more days. long weekend..."

I had meant to check our wi-fi when I was out and about yesterday taking pictures.  Glad to hear it's up, running, and being useful to people.  I can't say I imagined this scenario when we set it up 6 years ago, but with apocalyptic weather becoming the norm nowadays, the case for free public wi-fi just seems to get stronger and stronger.  (Don't forget your public libraries have free Internet access too... Provided they have power, of course.) 

Meanwhile, The Portsmouth Herald's Rachel Forrest, their restaurant correspondent, submitted this piece today:  Wi-Fi lures crowds to coffee shops.  No mention of our free wi-fi, even though it hits BNG, Starbucks, and Popovers.  

Kudos, by the way, to the Portsmouth employees at City Hall.  By sharing juice from the Police Department's generator, they were able to say open on Friday, albeit with minimal emergency lighting, and operate one (1) computer so people (including me) could register their cars on the last day of the month. 

And now, some pictures: 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

SwANH Swallowed by NHHTC


Got a Mass High Tech news alert in my inbox the other day: N.H. High Tech Council merges with Software Association of NH.  (Thanks for the scoop Rodney!)  According to NHHTC president Fred Kocher, the group had 220 members and is now folding in 64 from SwANH.  (I note that SwANH also has 306 members on its LinkedIn group.)

The news of the merger came as no surprise to me; I have actually been expecting something like this for years.  Actually, I was more surprised by the fact that SwANH had been around for 16 years!  And despite what my pal David Brooks thinks, I always thought the SwANH acronym seemed forced at best, so I won't miss the moniker. 

Interestingly, SwANH lives on, albeit as a sub-group of the High Tech Council.  In the MHT article, Kocher says that "creating SwANH as a special interest group would make it the first such sub-category within the council, but it may not be the last."  Frankly, I've always thought that having an eCoast arm (or "SIG") in the NHHTC would make sense.  Whereas SwANH has co-hosted eBrews and such in the past, NHHTC has been and continues to be a very Manchester-Nashua-centric entity and could certainly benefit from some fresh perspectives from the Portsmouth area.  (Just sayin'...)

In any event, I think this merger makes sense and hope it spurs cooperation and growth across the state.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Retrotech Tweet-Up on Thursday

Despite my stubborn resistance to become a Twitterer (or Tweeter? Or Twit?!), I'm really looking forward to this Thursday night's RetroTech Tweet-Up.  Of course, I'm not the only stubborn Yankee around here; I heard there are only 5,000 people on Twitter in all of NH, although try as I might, I can't substantiate that (or any) number.  The "retro-tech" theme is a really neat hook, IMO.  Can't wait to see what people bring in for show-and-tell!  The sponsors look good, the beer at Red Hook is excellent (ESB for me please), and the guest list so far is rockin.'  I'm counting this as a bonus eBrew, so I hope to see you there!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Which Super Bowl Ad Did You Like Best?

Having slept on it, and reviewed some of the reviews this morning, here are my top 3 (and why):

3.  Coca-Cola's Simpsons "Hard Times."

I understand the ad itself wasn't all that great.  But the pairing of these two beloved brands really made me sit up from my chips and dip.  I loved that it was 60 seconds long -- "go big or go home" is never more true than it is for a Super Bowl commercial.  I loved that it teased us for the first 30 seconds, not showing us who the commercial was for.  I loved how it captured the zeitgeist of the current economy -- we want evil moguls like Mr. Burns to go broke like this in real life, *then* we can buy them a Coke!  The tagline "Open Happiness" is pretty lame, but Milhouse saves the day when he bumps his box kite into the bottle and says, "Sorry Coke."  In the blitz of Super Bowl ads, standing out is really the goal, and Coke scores here thanks to the good yellow people of Springfield, USA.   

2.  Dodge Charger "Man's Last Stand"

The Dodge Charger, a retro-inspired muscle car, appeals to its main demographic and the Super Bowl's main audience: Men.  So the ad is a good fit, first.  (Please note that although there are plenty of female football fans, you do not see ads for... ahem... "feminine products" during the Super Bowl... Although I'm sure that is coming, some day.)  The thing I liked best about the Charger ad is how unapologetically masculine it is.  It says, look, I do all this stuff that my wife, or my boss, or society in general says I should do.  So dammit, I want a little something for myself.  Namely, a hot, fast car that sounds like a pissed off T-Rex when I rev it!  While many TV commercials (and TV shows for that matter) depict emasculated men getting kicked figuratively (and all too often, literally) in the balls, this commercial demonstrates that men still have them.  The concept is great, and the execution is great, which is why it makes my top 3. 
1.  FloTV "My Generation"

For some reason, YouTube doesn't seem to have a legit clip of this ad, but I found it on  It aired just after the 2nd quarter ended and before the halftime show started, so I'm afraid many people might have missed it.  Check it out.  **Update** AOL's embed video code sucks, but we're saved because it's finally up on YouTube:

In a word, "wow."  Depicting defining moments in American history in a clip montage starting from the advent of TV, it features The Who, who of course performed the halftime show, and asks simply "Where were you then?"  You know damn well that you remember where you were when you saw these events on TV, from the lunar landing to OJ's white Bronco.  Then it asks, "Where will you be?" because Flo TV is the TV you can carry in your pocket wherever you go.  The product's usability concept is a potential game-changer, and it was perhaps better demonstrated in their other SB ad "Spineless," but this ad is simply art in 1:01.  I could watch it over and over again... And I have.  

For another (and admittedly more expert) opinion, Bob Garfield of Advertising Age rates the ads here. He liked Audi's "Green Police," "Man's Last Stand" Dodge Charger, and FloTV's spot where the guy is stuck shopping for women's clothes.  A very agreeable top 3, although he takes quite a bit of flack in the comments for not even reviewing Google's ad.

USA Today's focus group have the Snickers Betty White/Abe Vigoda #1, which I can see.  Then it's Doritos dog shock collar at #2 followed by Bud Light's house of beer.  They're all amusing enough, I suppose, but they are certainly unspoiled by art or subtlety.  Even worse, I went through and rated the commercials, finding to my horror that I am apparently in Opposite Land... Far too many spots I put at 5 stars got one, and vice versa.

Meanwhile, AOL/Sports Illustrated has the top three as:
  1. E-Trade: Jealous Girlfriend
  2. NFL: Lift Off
  3. Anheuser Busch: Clydesdale Friend
So all this goes to show, unlike the game itself, there was no clear winner.  What do you think?  I know the field wasn't particularly deep this year, but there were a few gems if you watched for them.  Which one was your favorite?  Comment below or on my Facebook page.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Live Blogging the Super Bowl Ads

Snickers with Betty White and Abe Vigoda playing football and getting tackled into the mud?  = Win!

"Holy crap I want a Hyundai" -- The Boy.  "I don't think that's ever been said before."  -- The Mom. 

Tebow ad -- that was it?  That was the big deal?  It was so uncontroversial I almost missed it. 

Boost Mobile - Super Bowl Shuffle redux. - LOLs from the 42 and 31 yr olds. Kids clueless. 

Doritos dog collar - kids laughing.  Melanie "Yawn, we've seen this commercial for a week."

Robin Hood trailer -- Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe?  This aint no Kevin Costner movie.  "I wanna see it!" -- The Boy.

Doritos - "hands off my mom, hands off my doritos."  kids laughing again

Bud Light meteor - yawn

NCIS head slaps getting laughs.

Simpsons commercial... Eventually gives itself away as a Coke ad, much to the delight of the room.  (Interesting take on the zeitgeist with Burns going broke, BTW.)

GoDaddy's yearly tantalizing ad... not so tantalizing.  Danica is Danica, though, so that's good. 

Doritos - Melanie tells me this yet another "user-generated" ad... It's a miracle?  Yes, it's a miracle they've got any money left as this is their 3rd commercial and we're not even out of the first quarter yet.  She also tells me Portsmouth-local filmmaker Lars Trodson submitted one... I'll have to check that out. 

Bud Light - T-Pain - certainly different.  - Fiddle-playing beaver?  That's a win. 

Bridgestone - killer whale "Now that was a bachelor party!"   Pretty good.

BTW, I'm also watching the Wall Street Journal's live blog:

Joe Montana for Skechers Shape-ups... meh.  And I love both Skechers and Joe! - heroic everyman still nervous about buying a car... Great production values... Excellent extension of the long-running ad theme.

Budweiser "bridge out" -- interesting and entertaining, but still not up to what budweiser commercials used to be. "We used to wait for the Budweiser ads."

Mark Sanchez women's heart health ad:  Melanie "Good I guess."

Letterman/Oprah/Leno - LOVE IT! - Giving new meaning to "Casual Fridays."  Outstanding ad. 
Dockers - "I wear no pants!"  OK, what are the odds of two pantless-theme ads running back to back?  Melanie: "I wonder if Dockers is pissed their ad ran right after CareerBuilder's, which was better?" 

Bret Favre in 2020 - Another great Hyundai Sonata ad.  Hyundai has really come to play today. 

Bud Light "Lost" -  Melanie: "That's their best one so far."  "That's not saying much."

Dove Men - "Be comfortable in your own skin" -- Hmm... I think I liked it.  Melanie liked it, too.  But she's not a man.

Dodge Charger - Mans Last Stand.  Can I get a Hell ya?  HELL YA!  Very impressive effort from Dodge.

Teleflora - flowers in a box.  Ummm... What?  Who cares, I'm still buzzin' off that Dodge commercial!

Kiss - Dr. Pepper -  The "little kiss" part makes no sense to me.  But it is Gene Simmons and the gang, so that's good.  I mean, c'mon, it's KISS! 

Punxsutawney Polamalu  -  Got LOL from Melanie.  I don't get it.  And what's with the midget Kiss followed by midget football player?  Did CBS actually put these back to back on purpose, like the no-pants thing?  Weird. 

Flo TV -  That gets a whistle and a wow out of me!  Melanie LOL'd at the spine-removal joke.  "Mmmm lavender." 

Intel - Robot gets insulted by the praise heaped on the new core processor.  Very cute.

Flo TV - My Generation "where were you, where will you be?"  This. Is. Fabulous.  Touchdown!  This is a brilliant ad, tying the half-time performers with a montage of great moments in history.  This beautifully demonstrates the 'value' of the Flo TV, beyond the simple wow-factor of live-TV streaming to your pocket.  Melanie, never one to shy away from hyperbole, says "This is my pick for best commercial EVER, and also best of the Super Bowl."  I don't know about THAT, but it's five stars for sure.  

MetroPCS - Indian call-in show.  LOLs from both of us.  "You will be milked at regular intervals!"

VW Punch Dub -- Fantastic and star-studded!  How does Stevie Wonder do it???

Free Grand Slam Breakfast from Denny's is back!  YAY! -- Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprise their roles from National Lampoon's Vacation, with hilarious results.  Special cameo by the Family Truckster, resplendent in wood grain, was a great touch. 

Bridgestone - Sorry, they're just not bringing it this year. 

KGB text service - LOL moment there.  Probably better than the one they were going to run but didn't.

Coca-Cola - Sleepwalking man on safari.  Great production values, but they probably should've quit while they were ahead with the Simpsons ad.

E*Trade - New baby, same great results.  Outstanding as usual.

Census - Snapshot of America - That's a nice tagline for the Census.  Commercial itself was pretty good, too.  Melanie thought it was "confusing but mildly amusing."

Google ad -- I thought it was pretty awesome, Melanie said it wasn't really doing it for her.  I think it is effective in that it simply demonstrates how pervasive and integrated Google is in our lives. 

Kia - Sock Monkey and friends.  Robot doing the robot!  Excellent.

Bud Select 55 - Using ELO song Don't Bring Me Down means that's an automatic win in my book.

Acura ZDX - This one was on earlier, but I didn't comment on it.  Gorgeous French-looking woman watches Acura go by.  This must be the Acura upgrade of the new Honda Crosstour that looks so good.
Vizio Internet Apps - Impressive production.  Love David at the Dentist making a cameo. 

Pop Secret + Emerald.  They said it's awesome + awesome = awesomer.  Uh, where's my does not equal sign on this keyboard???

My worthy counterparts at WSJ are waning.  "I have to admit I’m starting to lose the will to live. One spot is seeming to merge into another at the moment. And I’m looking out for them."  LOL!  Personally I feel better now than I did at the beginning, when I felt I couldn't keep up with the pace.  Now the game has settled in and so have I.

Dante's Inferno - Neat looking video game with awesome fx and Bill Withers layin down the "Ain't No Sunshine." Nice!

Budweiser - Clydesdale makes friends with calf.  Sweet, touching spot with a message "Nothing comes between friends."  Melanie: "FINALLY, Budweiser shows up!  Loved it and made it made me cry a little!" For me, however, I was confused.... didn't they do this ad before?  Maybe last year?  Seemed like deja vu to me, which I guess isn't all bad. 
Honda Crosstour -- Love the car, love the squirrel, but most importantly, I love how it looks so different from everything else.  Very cool, very distinctive animation. 

NCIS -- This baffles me.  Why does CBS feel the need to fill this space, this super valuable TV real estate, promoting their #1 show?  I mean, if I'm not watching NCIS by now (and I'm not) then what is their point?  93 million viewers?  How many more do they need?

Audi Clean Diesel - "Green Police" spoofing Cheap Trick's Dream Police.  Outstanding.  Nice car, too.

Taco Bell -- Charles Barkley does some... thing.  Like a rap, spoken word poem... This is not good. Melanie: "Charles Barkley should stop doing things of any kind."

Doritos - at the gym.  Another bizarre entry.  Got a chuckle out of Melanie but I'm as baffled now as i was 4 Doritos commercials ago.

Bud Light - bookclub.  Guy crashes the gal's bookclub.  I like it.

Hyundai Sonata - "Think about it."  I think a lot of people who had never considered Hyundai before... are. 

E*Trade - This 2nd entry not feeling it so much.  They introduced girl babies earlier... Why not go back to them now and build on it. 

Denny's - screaming chickens making many appearances here toward the end.  We'll allow it.


E*Trade - Babies on a plane.  Very good variation on the theme.  You know these fourth-quarter ad-buyers are sweating it out, hoping for a close game.  And they got one.

I'm going to wrap it up here and wait for the so-called experts to deconstruct some of these ads.

Go here if you want to review and rate the ads.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Crowdsourcing + Cause Marketing = Next Big Thing?

Coke is still it, still the real thing, and still the market leader.  But that pesky Pepsi is really innovating with their marketing lately.  I recently saw the TV ad for the retro Pepsi Throwback product.  You know, the "new" soda that eschews high-fructose corn syrup sweetener for real actual sugar.  Take a look:

The throwback beverage in and of itself is brilliant, given the well-deserved beating HFCS is getting these days.  And although we've seen the retro football theme before (e.g., Gatorade, Coors Light), and despite the fact that Pepsi has already played Dylan's "Forever Young" (with to good effect in other commercials, the ad is effective in its execution.  So bully for Pepsi.  

In fact, the ad above is a perfect fit for next week's Super Bowl, right?

Hold on to your helmet there, sport!  This morning I see Demi Moore (who at 47, looks impossibly good) on MSNBC telling us that Pepsi will not (repeat NOT) be advertising during the Super Bowl.  Instead, PepsiCo, which reportedly dropped $33 mil last year on the big game and had advertised there for the past 23 years, will spend $20 mil on an ongoing philanthropic campaign called Refresh Everything

This, ladies and gents, is another great example in cause marketing.  Why would Pepsi choose to punt on the Super Bowl in favor of cause marketing? 
  • Long-term impact.  In this case, trading a 30-second ad or two for a months-long campaign.
  • Good will.  Any time a big corporation "gives back," it adds to its brand equity.
  • Interactivity.  Allowing customers to vote online engages them and leverages social media.
Of course, Refresh Everything is on Facebook, Twitter, and there's an iPhone app, as is de rigueur. 

Another highly visible example of cause marketing is the Chase Community Giving Project on Facebook, where fans can vote cash (totaling $5 mil) to their favorite charities.  Closer to home here, Irving Oil recently ran its "New England Neighbor" campaign where customers could nominate local non-profits to receive grants.  But let's give credit where credit is due.  Stoneyfield Farms, a New Hampshire company, was doing this back as early as 2004!  They pick three non-profits, then let yogurt-eaters "bid with their lids" on which should win a grant from the delectable diary company.

All these are variations on a theme of crowdsourcing, i.e., letting the collective wisdom of the masses direct your initiatives.

So combine the feel-good philanthropy of cause marketing with Web 2.0-ready "Ask the Audience" style crowdsourcing, and you could have the beginnings of a major sea change in marketing over the long term.