Friday, August 10, 2012

Heading Home

It was a gorgeous day in Oxford today.  Sunny AND dry.  Unfortunately, it was the day that most of us had to head to the airport. Hope you will keep some of the posts coming.  Here are some parting shots for you.
Since we talked about it in class, thought I would pass along ESPN's list of the Top 10 Athletes of the 20th Century:

1. Michael Jordan
2. Babe Ruth
3. Muhammad Ali
4. Jim Brown
5. Wayne Gretzky
6. Jesse Owens
7. Jim Thorpe
8. Willie Mays
9. Jack Nicklaus
10. Babe Didrikson

You will note that Babe Didrikson was the only female.  Check out her bio and perhaps you will see why she earned a place on this list.  It is particularly impressive since she died young and in the mid-1950s.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

United Blingdom

It seems like a lot of people on here are starting to get irked about Britain's cheesy obsession with Team GB. But we can't blame them! Hosting the Olympics and racking up medals (after a slow start) is reason enough to get a little overboard with their excitement. Ask yourself, when you have a chance to represent USA in some sort of match, event, or even the 4th, let's get real, how tacky do you get? Pretty tacky to where it's almost an embarrassment. But you don't care because you're proud to show of your citizenship and pride for the greatest country on the planet! Back to Britain, it surely is cheesy and cute the way they're excited for their winning team. It seems that every commentator would rather focus on that than the scandal that could have just happened in the sport they're working - like gymnastics. I think I see the excitement more in the newspapers though. During these past two weeks, the only headline/photo I've seen on every front page is winning results/athletes from the day before - or even HOURS before. Yesterday, a friend was reading one of these papers, and it was interesting because it didn't have an athlete on the front - it was just numerous gold medals with the cheesiest line of all: "United Blingdom." Yeah, I guess we can make our own judgements on that one. Congrats Team GB, thanks for a great Olympics and GO TEAM USA!

Olympics Experience

I attended the bronze medal women's soccer match in Coventry this afternoon. This is the closest I will ever get to "going to" the Olympics since I have negative athletic ability. It was definitely a fantastic experience to see other women who do have talent representing their countries and playing to win them a medal. And they sure were playing to win; my blood pressure was spiking each time one of the teams almost scored a goal and came so close, but not close enough.

The experience was great besides just the game. The Olympics staff members and volunteers were extremely nice, and were helpful and friendly at the rail station. There were people everywhere at the stadium directing fans and contributing to a sense of safety and control despite it being in something of a secluded spot in the middle of the day.

Going to the game meant a lot to me--the 1996 Olympics happened before I lived in Georgia, so this was a truly special experience for me. It's not something I ever thought I would get to do, but I am so glad I had the opportunity. I haven't been able to watch the Olympics coverage much, so I am glad I got to experience it in person!

Has anyone who remembers the Atlanta Olympics gone to the London Olympics and had any similar (or different) experiences? Do you think the venue contributes to the experience, or that the Games are mostly the same no matter where they're held?

All Good Things Must Come To an End...Or Do They?

Saying I'm a procrastinator is an understatement. So it's no surprise that I've waited until the last day to compose my final blog post. But whereas I normally put things off because I'm a tad lazy, this time it's different-- I waited until the last minute because I just don't think I want to acknowledge the fact that our time here at Oxford has come to an end.

I knew I would have a wonderful experience here; I knew I would learn a lot and enjoy the subject matter. But I think I underestimated the impact that our Grady class would have on me.

Before taking this class, my experience in Grady was mostly confined to PR and news writing classes. I found other majors such as advertising and broadcast journalism interesting, but I didn't know much about them. Being in this class allowed me to understand the perspectives of students with different majors and let me learn more about them. I really enjoyed hearing everyone's experiences with their career pursuits and what attracted them to their major. What was especially remarkable was that this class showed me how interconnected our professions are-- whether you're in PR, advertising, photojournalism, magazines, the theories of mass communication still affect your lives. Our careers are all influenced by the mass media and the growing age of social media. Even if you aren't in Grady or aren't majoring in the field of communications, what we learned in class was still relevant to our lives and really changed the way I'll look at the mass media. I'll be more aware of advertisements, how news stories are framed, whether or not ads and commercials perpetuate negative stereotypes or break them, and other issues such as these. I think, if nothing else, this is what we were supposed to have taken away from this class-- to be more cognizant of the world around us and understand how the media affects us and how we can adapt to it. We can all take what we've learned and apply it to each of our professions, and I can tell by seeing my peers' final presentations that this will definitely be the result.

This probably won't be my last post, because I think this blog has been a fantastic way for us to not only document our journeys, but to view the progress that we've made-- so I'll keep composing to show how much this class has really affected me. I know it's a bittersweet ending, because Oxford has stolen most of our hearts and it's very sad to leave, but I can't wait to get back to Athens and continue to experience more of what UGA and Grady have to offer me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Britain's Gold Rush

This year's Olympics stands as a milestone for Team GB. They currently rank third overall and hold an impressive 22 gold medals. Considering that less than 20 years ago, they only won 1 gold medal in the Atlanta Olympics, Team GB has come a long way. Newspaper front covers have reflected a growing sense of pride and patriotism, particularly after the past weekend's "Super Saturday" when Britain celebrated its greatest single Olympic day in over a century. I suppose I have been lucky enough to pull for a country that has continued to dominate the Olympic stage (or podium) and have therefore been slightly desensitized towards our collection of medals. I constantly update the medal count; sometimes after only 3 hours of not checking, we will have collected multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals. It's hard to image America not being ranked in the top 3 most decorated countries, nevertheless bringing home medals in the single digits.
For Britain, I think the excitement of hosting the Olympics on their own turf and other recent international attentions (the jubilee and the royal wedding) has definitely given the country the boost that it needed.

American Wives Versus Army Wives

American Wives (called Army Wives in the USA)

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the show Army Wives. While I was in France this past weekend, I recognized the characters from it in a teaser on French TV. I was at first surprised to see that they broadcast the show in France, but I got over that initial shock pretty quickly when I saw how they were broadcasting it. Instead of calling it Army Wives, it is simply labeled American Wives. I found this to be quite troubling. I don't know if a lot of French people watch the show, but given that it's centered solely around Army wives and the dramatized struggles they go through, I take issue with simply calling it American Wives. The Army represents a fairly small segment of our population when considered in the context of the variety of other women who are married and living in the States. What do you think is the reasoning behind the title of this show in France? Can you think of any other examples either in our culture or in another culture where a television show is re-branded and ends up incorrectly depicting an entire population?

NBC is greater than BBC. At Least When it Comes to Sports Coverage.

I hate watching the Olympics in Great Britain. Some obvious reasons exist for this spite, particularly the fact that I am American and am less interested in British athletes than American athletes. This reason, however, can't really be justified because, hey, we're in Great Britain. They should be following their athletes. The reason I hate watching Olympic sports in Great Britain is because don't know how to cover sports.
America is so good at covering sports. We do it all the time. Fall to Winter to Spring to Summer. You'd be hard pressed to turn on a television in America and not be able to surf to a sports program. This constant sports coverage certainly translates to coverage of the most hectic and largest sporting event in the world: the Olympics. In Great Britain, the BBC edit instant replays with slow motion zoom in cuts of high fives. In America, NBC actually shows the play that merited the instant replay in the first place. BBC showcases British swimmers finishing last. BBC misses the emotional impact of the Olympics as well. I haven't even heard that iconic Olympic jingle that always sends chills down my spine of excitement.
NBC does backstories of athletes. BBC does exposes of their boring Equestrian bronze medalists. I know I'm biased. But watching the Olympics here in Oxford has been increasingly frustrating. Thats something I would have never expected. But it makes a lot of sense. America is just better at sports coverage and editing. As far as I'm concerned, its that simple.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

PR On Every Level

Our last weekend trip was spent in Barcelona, and although the city was unbelievably beautiful, we hit a few snafus. The biggest came when one of the members in our group lost her tourist bus ticket while we were off the bus. When we "hopped on" again, we tried to explain to the situation to the ticket woman. Even though our “lost-ticket” friend showed the ticket woman her book of discounts and map that they hand to you, and we all showed her our tickets that we all bought together, she still would not let her ride without buying another ticket. She did show us the rulebook however, which explicitly states that without a ticket, you cannot ride. I guess that is fair enough. But what really bothered us was that the bus driver turned around and spoke to the ticket woman in Spanish. Little did he know a member of our group speaks fluent Spanish. He made comments like "Someone needs to tell them that if you lose your movie ticket they do not let you back in the movie" and after we opted to buy another ticket, he said, "oh look how calm they are now". It was really rude and offensive. Just because we're American doesn't mean we are ignorant. And if you're in the business where tourists are your main source of income, maybe you should hold back on your offensive comments and appreciate that we traveled so far to visit you're beautiful city. This goes to show that there is PR at every level, even with tourist relations.

After this experience, I wrote the bus company quite the scathing review on trip advisor. It might be one review out of millions, but it is still a warning to the public. Due to “Barcelona Bus Turistic’s” bad PR, they had some bad PR handed back to them. 

Always on Sale

Having a sale is an easy way for an advertiser to catch the attention of prospective buyers. Here in Oxford, it seems like every store or restaurant is in a constant state of discount. While this may be a result of the many tourists who frequent Oxford streets in the daytime, it does lead me to think about why stores would be constantly selling items as part of a sale. The rise of the online marketplace certainly has something to do with this, but discounts can be seen everywhere.

One restaurant on George Street actually offers half off of pizza at all times. Why wouldn't the restaurant just have lower prices instead of constantly being discounted? It seems like a marketing ploy to just always be giving the customer a "good" deal.  Is it unethical of an establishment to promote an item as on sale if the price is consistently the same?

Laws In Ireland

A few weeks ago I went to Dublin on a weekend getaway with some friends.  In our efforts to do as many things as we could in a short amount of time, we went two places that really got me thinking.  The first was a little street market where people were selling their crafts.  I came upon a table where two Irish women were selling the jewelry they had made.  I wanted to purchase my Mom a bracelet, so I asked what kinds of materials the bracelets were made out of.  I always do this in the United States to make sure I do not purchase any jewelry containing Nickel or Lead.  The woman said they were made out of silver and not to worry because it was illegal in Ireland to make jewelry containing harmful or irritating metals such as Nickel or Lead.  This struck me because I could not believe there was actually a law in place for something so small.  Later on, for dinner, my friends and I attended a nice little restaurant across from the theater we were attending.  In an effort to have "American" food, I ordered a Burger.  I asked for it to be cooked medium well and the server replied, "You don't have to tell us how you want it cooked because it is illegal in Ireland to serve meat undercooked.”  Here I was again, shocked at the second small law I had learned about that day.  These laws did not anger me; I actually thought they were great.  They really showed how the government in Ireland wants to protect their people.  I think the United States should adopt more laws like this.  Maybe then the problems people have in the U.S. would lessen just a little bit.  Do you think the United States would ever allow laws like this to be created or does it infringe too much on our Democratic ideals?  How do you think the media would respond to creation of such laws in the United States?

There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

The phrase is common—there is no such thing as a free lunch. A free lunch might not exist, but apparently there is such a thing as free dinner and unlimited drinks, if you have a Visa Chase card that is. Last Thursday night I was in London. The guys I went to visit had heard about a VIP lounge for Visa Chase Card holders. One Visa Chase card provided entry for the holder and five guests. One of the boys I was with is a Visa Chase card holder so we all walked toward Trafalgar Square to the hotel hosting the lounge. Inside this VIP lounge, one had access to wifi, multiple TV screens airing the Olympics, an open bar and a gourmet style dinner. We all kept asking each other, “what is the catch?” But there was no catch! What surprised me the most was the fact that this was not a one night deal. This VIP lounge was open July 27 to August 12. In other words, it was open for the entire duration of the 2012 London Olympics. On their website Visa says, “Join us at Visa's VIP Lounge, exclusively for Visa Chase cardmembers. It's your private retreat during the London 2012 Olympic Games.” Visa suggests that this VIP lounge is set up as an appreciation for their customers, but this lounge serves another purpose as well. By allowing the cardholder to bring five guests, Visa is ensuring that people outside of their current clientele are exposed to Visa in a very positive light. Attending this VIP lounge definitely made me want to be a Visa Chase cardmember! However, Visa is spending A LOT of money to sustain this VIP lounge. Seventeen days of free food and unlimited drinks for a couple hundred people a night is worth a very large sum of money. By hosting this type of reception during the Olympics, Visa is able to promote their product very positively to a global audience; however, I would be curious to know if this positive advertising offsets the extreme cost incurred over the course of those seventeen days. 

Picture obtained from:

Decent vs Spectacular

In Dublin this weekend I spotted this promotional ad for a new store. It really stuck out to me because in the upper left and right hand corner was a sign for "The Decent Cigar Emporium," the store right next door that was still open. The contrast between the "Spectacular New Shop" and "The Decent Cigar Emporium" made me laugh. Then it made me think why anyone would name their store as "decent." Possibly decent has a better connotation in Dublin than it does in America. I doubt that however, since the other store was called "spectacular." Perhaps the store is telling the truth, as Sue Unerman suggested. I cannot be sure as I did not go into the Cigar Emporium nor do I smoke cigars to know the difference between a decent and great cigar. This was just an interesting advertisement to me due to the juxtaposition of the contrasting adjectives.

A Typical Sunday in Oxford

This past Sunday, my roommate and I decided to go out for the famous "Sunday Lunch" at The Eagle and Child Pub. Just by chance, we happened to sit in a room where two other American guys were already eating. Once they heard our southern Georgia accents, they asked us where we were from, excited to meet some fellow Americans. After the small talk was finished, they informed us that they were in London for the month working for one of the largest and most successful advertising agencies in the States, DDB.

 Their job for these next few weeks is to go around London and find fun, creative ideas for their videos promoting McDonald's. McDonald's is a huge sponsor for the London Olympics, but they have to overcome the obstacle of selling an American business in a foreign country. Their challenge is to make videos that can relate to a wide range of people who may not already identify with Mcdonald's or America. Click the link below to watch three of the videos they have already made (my favorite is the second one with the guy in the purple shirt) and check back again for a new one being posted on August 8th. They've incorporated people of different nationalities, various olympic sports, and the love of McDonald's food all into one video, making them very successful as well as fun to watch!

Absolutely Curious...

My trip to Dublin, this weekend, served as a great source for fodder and blog content.  While waiting at a bus stop, this advertisement for Absolut vodka passed by, and I couldn’t help but notice it.  The ad reads:  “It all starts with an Absolut blank.” 

The advertisement is simple.  The limited use of color makes the patterned bottle stand out, and the starkness of the white background certainly popped against the overly vibrant yellow of the bus (compare this ad to the Coca Cola ad on the bus next to it, and the difference is clear).  The typeface is easily readable, in all caps, and the gray and white color combination allows the text to exist without taking away from the greater message—Absolut is a versatile drink (a blank canvas, if you will), and this provides endless possibilities for the drink and the situation in which it is consumed.  These seven words provide a powerful and somewhat uninhibited message, without the use of sexual content or violence.

The refreshing nature of this ad made me look twice, but do you think this ad is effective?

I’m sure much of this depends on the target audience.  Given the forum in which it is displayed (public transit in a prime tourist destination--Temple Bar), this ad may be meant for tourists, not the citizens of Dublin.  That would be my first guess, as the ad is relatively culture neutral (at least in comparison to the Jameson ad posted earlier), but what are your thoughts?  Who do you think the intended target audience is for this advertisement, and is it effective?

Olympic Rings

Of the countless Olympic-themed advertisements I've come across in London over the past 6 weeks, this may be my favorite. Despite its obvious creative brilliance, this European ad also addresses the very serious, (but American-taboo) topic of safe sex. During my time in London and Paris, I encountered numerous advertisements stressing the importance of condoms and other precautionary measures in terms of mediating the consequences of coitus. Now, I have mixed feelings about these ads and unfortunately the situation is really a catch 22. I do not think these blatant exhibitions on public streets are ideal for the eyes of the children that are likely to be strolling along. However, I do think Europe has the right idea in educating its people on the importance of being wary of sexual repercussions. Which do you think is more important-protection or education?

On a side note, I recently read an article that suggests this ad may not be for Londoners as much for their visiting foreign friends.

Interesting...It makes you wonder which of the games is really generating the most competition.

Opening Ceremonies Concert

This past weekend I was lucky enough to witness the opening ceremonies as a small, foreign speck in a massive crowd of UK folks.  I attended the BT London Live concert, which was the “official Opening Ceremonies concert” in London. In the middle of the concert, they paused to show the Opening Ceremonies live.  The amount of excitement that enveloped the crowd during the Opening Ceremony was remarkable.  As a tourist standing amongst them, I felt a little bit out of place; it was almost as if I was impeding on a moment of nationalism for the Londoners witnessing the event together.  Although I loved that the Opening Ceremonies played so much into Great Britain’s personal history, I also thought it was interesting that London decided to go with a show that was so specific to the nation itself.  When hosting an international event, I would have expected them to be a little more international in scope.  The route they chose wasn’t distasteful by any means, but I just would have never thought to take it in such a local direction.  It was very cleverly crafted, because while I laughed along with the jokes and was equally in awe at the ceremony itself, the “locals” seemed even more enthralled.  There were definitely some elements that I just didn’t get, but they did.  This was most true when it came to the music.  Most of the people at the concert could sing along with all the songs played during the Opening Ceremony, while I had never even heard of a lot of them. 

The whole time I was watching the ceremonies, I was pretty surprised at how much media played a role in the overarching theme of the Opening Ceremony.  The whole show was basically a showcase of some of the UK’s biggest icons and “claims to fame” of all time.  They had fun with elements of their own culture, like the royal family for example, as well as with UK pop culture icons such as David Beckham.  Witnessing the reactions from the crowd was unbeatable.  There was this one guy standing right behind me who had the best reactions!  The most hilarious moment was when the Queen showed up in the ceremony.  All he could say was “No way, no way! Ah that’s so cool!” over and over again. 
This is what made me think of the media’s role in cultivating that deep sense of nationalism that was clear in the reactions of all the locals surrounding me.  

Health Food, there is lots of it

To advertise a food product or to even have it on the shelf in the supermarket, I have found there to be an extensive appeal to vegetarians.  It seems, that here in the United Kingdom they are more conscientious about staying true to what vegetarian food is, and have more of it then in the United States.  There is also typically more of a use of the calorie count on the products in comparison to the United States as well.  Even in McDonalds, the calorie counts for each and every product is shown, even if it is 645 calories.  In the United States, if one desires this type of labeling on their products that caters to vegans and vegetarians, and is explicit with labeling their calorie count; they oftentimes have to venture over to a health store supermarket.  The

Why is this labeling so much more prevalent in the United Kingdom? Are British people as a culture more health conscientious than Americans?  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Team GB

While the Olympics bring excitement and a sense of national pride to America, they did bring some controversy to Great Britain. Besides the fact that the Olympic games were being held in London, the issue of how Team Great Britain would compete was heavily argued about.

It seems that many British have the opinion that Team GB should be split up and athletes should compete for their respective lands (England, Scotland, or Wales) instead. In all FIFA soccer events these countries compete individually from each other, yet they play as one in the Olympics. Now this does bring Great Britain more recognition, since their medal count is much higher, but is it worth it for these countries to give up their pride and heritage for more acclaim?

Southern or British?

The longer I have been in England and the more British people I have met, the more I have realized them saying what in America people would consider "southern" words and phrases.  For example, I have heard many British people say "reckon", which in America is used primarily by very Southern people.
While walking around looking for somewhere to eat with my friend I saw a sign outside a restaurant called Zizzis that said "ZIZZIS IN THE HOUSE, YALL".  Seeing that, I wasn't sure if the restaurant was making fun of Americans or if it was ever used ove here.
At a pub a few nights ago, I was speaking with some newly acquired British friends and the word y'all slipped from my mouth.  They started busting out laughing saying how "cute" it was to hear someone say y'all.  This lead me to realize the sign outside of Zizzis had to mean something else.  It is just very interesting that although both countries speak English, how different it really can be.

British Newspaper and TV Relationship

In the past week, most of us have tried to watch the Olympic Games, but only to find that we are limited to the UK provider of Olympic content - the BBC. I've caught a few sports, listened to some commentary, but did not get the same feel as I do in the US when I watch the Olympics, or sports in general. I've found the commentaries very interesting, and sometimes quite funny, but I feel like the commentators take to their job as more of an entertainment aspect than an actual sport aspect. For example, after every swim match, the commentators talk about what just happened for a few seconds, and then go off topic into some other aspect of the Olympics (most of the time it's Team GB). I'm not sure who's who in the reporting and news world in the UK, but it seems to me that the reporters and commentators have a higher status here than in the US.

While browsing through a British newspaper today, (which is all focused on the Olympics, of course), I noticed an article about people crying at the Olympics. This is not what caught my eye. What caught my eye was what was under the picture of a crying athlete. It said "From the TV chair of Rachel Johnson." This stood out to me because it did a major crossover - it merged TV and print together, working harmoniously. It was really cool to see the bigger role and multi-talented role that British reporters held. It shows that someone who is always at the action of the Olympics, who's main job is to report on television, is also giving the world something in print. It makes sense because here I've noticed that newspapers have a bigger presence. All in all, it seems that as a journalist, you can do anything in GB.

Ted Talks and the future of humans

Here's the link to the Ted Talk I mentioned in class on Friday. The parts that have the greatest implications for communication go from 11:11 onward.

He talks about evolution in real time- seeing rapid changes of the brain and the idea that we are
“processing more information in a day than people used to in a lifetime” - this is an effect of the media and an effect of the internet.
By having a world of information readily available at our fingertips, we have the potential to change the way that our brains operate and potentially become more cognitively advanced. Do you think this is a bit of a stretch or that it’s entirely possible?

A little Modesty

Throughout my course here in the United Kingdom, I have noticed a significant difference in the sexuality of this country. I noticed it first when I went to London. I am very big into broadway musicals and have seen many in New York. I saw Mama Mia a couple years ago on Broadway. When we went to London we decided to find tickets and go to Mama Mia. The script was the same, but the modesty was not. The actors and actresses seemed to be much more sexual than the version I saw in New York.

That same weekend I also saw a large difference in the British word choice. There were several occasions when I heard people speaking on the phone using the f bomb every other word. We then met some older men in a pub one night and their language was extremely vulgar. They had no filter. It seemed strange to me the terms and phrases they were talking about in general, but the fact that they had no problem using them in front of 3 girls was very strange.

Finally I actually met a group of Oxford students at a bar one night. We chatted about school and compared and contrasted Oxford and UGA. The list of things to do before you graduate differed pretty drastically from the UGA's list. Most of it entailed having sex in various places and drinking. I found this to be quite amusing. Lastly he showed me the rugby team picture. This picture took me by surprise to say the least. This would not fly with the UGA athletics.
It's as if they don't have any taboo topics. They do and say what they want no matter how vulgar it is.

Pouring in Dublin

There has been a trend in the discussion of stereotypes on this blog, or rather, the negative connotation of stereotypes, but what I think we have yet to consider is positive stereotypes (or cultural acceptance of stereotypes, particularly in advertisements).

This weekend, I was able to make the trek to Dublin with some friends, and coming out of customs in the Dublin airport, we ran into this advertisement: 

The Irish are known for showing favor to the drink, and this advertisement embraces this sentiment, shedding a more positive spin on the stereotype and embracing it as a source of revenue.

I thought this was creative, to say the least (or as the Irish would say, “Brilliant Craic!”), but I would love to hear other thoughts on the subject.  

Is embracing a stereotype, even a negative one, an ingenious use of resources, or is it detrimental, as it reinforces a “negative” sentiment?  If this ad is negative, do you think there is a positive way to use stereotyping in product promotion?

Got Me Begging You For Merci

In traditional blogger fashion, I’m going to attempt to incorporate some form of cultural insight and theory into this post which has the primary function of providing me a platform to vent.
                In Paris this weekend, my friends and I experienced a culture shock perfectly crafted out of stereotypes and hearsay.  At our hotel, when prompted to pay for a three persons’ stay, we were still accommodated with a two person room. We were charged for what the website promised was a complimentary breakfast. When I asked the hotel attendant to confirm this, she feigned an inability to understand my questions. (I later heard her converse with two other guests in perfect English.) Finally upon checking out, the clerk attempted to charge me a second time for our reservation. He apologized with a smile only after I politely leaned over the counter to point out my signature on a receipt of payment he had printed out and stapled to our entire bill.
                While enjoying a picnic dinner on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, we were approached by a group of French students who decided to sit down next to us without any kind of greeting. One of the girls was literally rubbing thighs with Rachael for minutes until she introduced herself. The conversation that ensued consisted of weird flirting and insulting that culminated in one guy’s declaration that we had “brooms up our asses” and we’d be better to “look beautiful and not speak.”
                Our entire time in Paris, (which we did enjoy immensely despite these occurrences) we’d attempted to be as friendly and cooperative as possible, but our American status seemed to automatically label us na├»ve, stingy, privileged, and conceited. It really hurt my heart; the French have us pegged so wrong. I also found this evidenced in their translation of the new Step Up movie set to premier this summer.

                Now, I’m not denying that sexuality is a prevalent aspect of this film and much of its appeal probably comes from the sexiness of its main characters. However, the film is supposed to be about a group of dancers “stepping up” to the challenge of using physical movement to inspire change and express themselves-not simply to look hot. This ad makes me feel that America has been overly simplified into a culture of shallow materialism in the eyes of the French. This sentiment was only augmented by my personal experiences with the Parisians. Has anyone else encountered American culture that seems distorted or lost in translation?
                I guess I couldn’t consider myself fully cultured unless I experienced at least one instance of the negative connotation that sometimes accompanies my nationality. I do hope to visit Paris again one day, but hopefully I’ll be doing so with a better accent and a stronger spine. Merci very much.

Buvez Coca-Cola

While traveling through Paris this weekend, I started craving something familiar and American, so I decided to buy a classic Coca-Cola.  I was shocked to see that the price was over four euro for one bottle! In fact, I noticed that Coke products in general were overpriced throughout Paris.  I never saw one that was pried under 3.50 euro.  Of course, I bought the coke anyway, and it was totally worth it. However, I was still curious to know why the prices were so high.  After doing a little research, I discovered that the French government recently approved soda tax legislation that became effective in January 2012.  The tax works out to be one euro cent per container, which doesn’t sound like much.  The actual reason that the Coke products are so expensive is because most companies are raising the tax money by increasing their price per drink. I don’t know how effective this tax has been, but I still saw an abundance of people drinking Coke products everywhere that we went.

Do you think a tax like this could ever be enacted in America?  If so do you think it would be effective?

Advertisements in Barcelona

I have spent this past weekend in Barcelona, and I have been shocked by the inappropriate nature of some of their advertising.  There is an extensive use of nudity used to advertise for clubs, beaches, restaurants, tourist companies, etc.  These advertisements range from billboards, to flyers, to pamphlets given out to the public, and conclusively anyone can see these advertisements.  Oftentimes, because of the competition among all these places to get the attention of tourists they have good-looking girls walking around for promotion of their company, wearing close to no clothing.  It’s honestly sad. To what extent should this type of advertising and promotion be used? Children, as well as people who don’t care to see that type of advertising are exposed to it at a higher rate then anywhere I have previously been.  It comes down to the fact that this type of advertising is just so integrated into their society that it is of the norm for companies to take this approach to try and get tourist attention.  

Smaller Newspapers?

For 20p, one can pick up a copy of the "newspaper of the year." Known as "the i: The essential daily briefing." It is a smaller, spin off from The Independent. It is labeled as a concise, quality paper. It was launched in the fall of 2010 and is now available in print or on the iPad. 

So how do you feel about a large, important paper launching a smaller subsidiary? I have never seen this before, but I kind of like it. If it wasn't for the student discout, I know I would not be subscribed to the New York Times. But if I was offered a condensed version of the Times paper, daily, for roughly $0.30, I would be more than willing to pay that. 

I think it is a brilliant marketing scheme. It not only increased circulation, but also is a great way to get more people to pick up a paper. 

If you could pick up a smaller paper, from a quality publisher, that just contained the biggest news, would you? Would you feel more compled to read the news if the stories are shorter? A physical copy of the Times can seem overwhelming, but some simpler packaging could make all the difference. 

I see this as a great way to help save the print newspapers. Possibly have it where you would pay a yearly subscription for a physical paper, but still have access to the full, in depth coverage online.

I know just reading a small paper, you will only get the surface story, but it is better than not being informed at all. 

Olympic Swimming coverage

It has been fun following news reports and Tweets from our first Skype guest speaker of the summer, journalist Vicki Michaelis. We were lucky to have her join us before the Olympics started to get her insights on covering  sports on a national and international level. Now we were able to follow along as she reported the stories of the Olympic games.

Vicki  is currently a freelance reporter at the London Olympic Games.  She just recently left a post as the lead Olympics reporter and Denver bureau sports reporter for USA Today which gave her a national and international profile in sports journalism and the sports industry overall.

Here is one of her recent reports from the Olympic swimming events last night:

Ms. Michaelis is soon to be Professor Michjaelis as she joins us at Grady in the fall as the chairperson and president of the Association for Women in Sports Media.  

Minding the Cultural Gap

Conrad Persons, Director at Mash Strategy Ltd and Director at Askstone Publishing in London, joined the class via Skype this week. He has expertise in brands, trends and futures and is a blogger for the New York Times and an online contributor to The Guardian. He shared his experiences working in advertising and branding internationally in the Japan and the U.K. as well as in the New York. Persons' insights into reaching diverse target audiences as an "expat" were particularly helpful and entertaining. So glad he could join us!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Forward. Full Stop.

I recently read an online article titled, "Punctuation Nerds Stopped by Obama Slogan, 'Forward.'" from the Wall Street Journal. Apparently there is a confusion over the message of the president's newest campaign slogan. As we saw in 2008, Obama is once again narrowing his campaign to a single word. This time, however, his campaign staff have added punctuation to the end of his slogan.
First off, is it really necessary to have punctuation? My first thoughts were that a period was added to present a stronger and more forceful statement, like Forward. BOOM. I feel like campaigns slogans like this are very similar to advertisements. They are simple, easy to remember, and when heard, are often recognized with the person or company. I know after 2008, whenever I heard "change" I pretty much immediately thought of Barack Obama. But now that it's four years later, is this the change America wanted to see? Of those who say yes, his current slogan "Forward." would probably be seen as positive because it suggests that he is moving forward with his change. On the other hand however, for those who disagree with his "change," they would most likely associate "Forward." with the continuance of such change. While my assumptions may not be true, I hope that this year's voters (regardless of their political views) will not place a heavy influence on one.simple.word.
Furthermore, the article suggests that the "Forward." slogan in itself is a contradiction. While it suggests that Obama will forward America's progress (I guess in any sense of the word), it is at the time suggesting that a vote for Mitt Romney will set the nation in reverse. However, the momentum that the slogan is supposed to elicit is abruptly stopped by a period.
Is it grammatically incorrect? Yes. But does it catch your attention? I think so, regardless of your interpretation of its overall message. Interestingly enough, however, the punctuation mark has been dropped in some of his recent ads.

"Social Interactions in a Wireless Era"

On Thursday our class discussed the effects of mobile communication and how technological advents such as smartphones have affected our culture and our interpersonal communication skills. One of the supplemental articles we read for our seminar was titled "Cellphones in Public: Social Interactions in a Wireless era." An aspect of the article I found interesting was the researchers’ distinction between people in public who are deemed ‘Singles’ and ‘Withs.’ Obviously a ‘Single’ is somebody in public who is alone, and ‘Withs’ are those who are in groups or two or more. The researchers stated that ‘Singles’ often feel vulnerable and are compelled to establish a sort of purpose for themselves: they read a newspaper, drink coffee, or seem occupied so they avoid appearing as if they don’t belong in the public space. These observations on social behavior are more interesting when put into the context of mobile technology; how many times have you been with a friend or a group of people, aka a ‘With,’ but then are left alone for a few minutes? Don’t you feel a tad self-conscious, or think that others are judging you for being alone in public? It’s ludicrous when we think about it, that we should feel embarrassed at these times—our loneliness is only temporary until our friends return, and even if we are alone in public, so what? That doesn’t mean we’re undesirable people. But most of us still feel awkward, and usually turn to that one thing that insinuates we’re not social pariahs: our smartphones.

How many of you do that? When your friend goes to the bathroom or buys another coffee and leaves you by your lonesome, do you sit there and observe your surroundings? Or do you quickly pick up your iPhone or Android and scroll through your Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr feeds to make it seem like you’re busy? Or maybe you do it to avoid the eyes of others’ who you swear are judging you for being by yourself. I’d like to think that maybe I just use my phone to entertain myself when I’m by myself for a few minutes, but truth is I probably do it because of the previously stated reasons. Which makes me wonder, what did I do before I had a smart phone? Was I content to just sit around and people-watch until my friend(s) returned? Has the rise of social media made it so that we feel we can’t ever be alone?

Tonight at dinner, I was excited to find an example of a restaurant utilizing mobile media to promote their business.  The restaurant printed on their dinner napkins “Check in at Foc on Facebook and get your free Foc shot.”  I thought this was a clever way to promote their restaurant.  It touched on the idea of consumer product promotion that was mentioned on our trip to MediaCom. I love seeing the abstract concepts become concrete in the real world!  I wonder how effective “checking in” at places is at promoting businesses.  I don’t think I personally have ever been swayed to visit a place simply because a Facebook friend had previously “checked in” there. 

Is this allowed?

This doesn't quite relate to journalism, but I had a distinctly British-education experience this week that surprised me. I visited the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford on Tuesday with my religion class and was interested to see that in the Ancient Egypt section, some of the artifacts on display were completely available to the public. I’ve been to similar historical museums before in the States, and it seems like all of the items are always contained within glass cases unless it’s a large sculpture or painting.

In this section, there were some stones with hieroglyphics on them mounted on the wall, with information cards in front of them. No glass, no ropes blocking them off. Even more intriguing: there were no signs or anything saying not to touch them. I didn’t, because as a 21-year-old university student, I would rather not get yelled at for touching things I’m not supposed to in a museum. (Just in case it’s some well-known bit of English manners to just not touch it, without them having to warn you.)

I really liked this, though, because it made the artifacts and all of the information really accessible. I read about the stones and then was able to look at them up-close, in detail. Being inches away from a piece of history like that and getting to study it so easily was an amazing experience.

Has anyone else noticed this in other museums they've been to? Are there places in the States that are like this, too? 

 Okay, I might have touched this other one when no one was around. Don't tell on me!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And The Winner Is...

This is a great article that discusses some of the nuances of broadcasting the Olympics. It focuses mainly on the stories we don’t get to see, like the upsetting downfall of gymnast Jordyn Wieber who fell just a little short of perfect. What I found most interesting about the article is a short couple-sentence mention on how NBC deals with the tape delay of the events in the US. Because the games are happening five hours in advance, US TV viewers could find out all the news from the Internet before they watch NBC coverage. I don’t remember too much from watching NBC at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008, but I like to think that NBC does not give spoilers. They article quotes, “Wieber was such the favorite that though the Olympics are on hours and hours of tape delay, the NBC announcers didn’t even begin to alert the viewing audience that something might be amiss with her chances until soon before the final element, the floor exercise”. Imagine if NBC had reported the outcome before the Americans had seen the program. Would we be glad to know, or feel cheated out of getting to experience the outcome ourselves by watching it on TV? Is a journalist’s job to report news immediately, or convey news in order for the audience to make their own personal connections? 


BBC Olympics

While watching the swimming events yesterday, I was struck by the coverage done by the BBC. Every single time there was an athlete from Great Britain competing in any race, the commentators focused almost all of their attention on that athlete. This would not be completely out of the ordinary, except for the fact that most of the time the Great Britain athlete was in fifth place or worse. Even after losing, the commentators would not focus on the winners, only commenting on how the Great Britain athlete "tried hard." And when Michael Jamieson, a British athlete, won silver in the 200m backstroke, announcers stated that coverage would turn to the "silver medal ceremony."I do not completely remember NBC coverage from the last olympics, but I do not remember only focusing on the Americans. And I definitely do not remember announcers ever calling a medal ceremony as if only one person is receiving a medal and not all three.

The incredibly biased coverage struck me as odd because of the BBC's reputation for unbiased coverage. I understand that this is the olympics and every country focuses on their athletes, but when the commentators are not even discussing the person who wins the event, something seems wrong.

Who is Eating Who?

In light of our discussion today, I have decided to cater my post towards effects of the Internet. But don't worry, I'll return to our main theme of the differences between American and English media next week.

"Many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution… Qualified software engineers, managers, marketers and salespeople in Silicon Valley can rack up dozens of high-paying, high-upside job offers any time they want, while national unemployment and underemployment is sky high. This problem is even worse than it looks because many workers in existing industries will be stranded on the wrong side of software-based disruption and may never be able to work in their fields again. There's no way through this problem other than education, and we have a long way to go."
 Marc Andreessen, "Why Software is Eating the World"

       What do Farmville, Wells Fargo, the Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Netflix, and Skype all have in common? They are thiefs. Thiefs of industries. One decade ago, people were online. 50 million people used broadband Internet. Now that number is over 2 billion and counting. Ten years from now, 5 billion people may have smart phones. In the words of Marc Andreessen, founder of the world's first web browser Mosaic, "software is eating the world." But maybe its the other way around: the world is eating software.

        In 1995, Nintendo Systems delivered millions of N64 systems to American households. Mom and Dad wrote checks to pay for everyday meals, groceries, clothes, or services. People went to the bookstore to purchase a book. Or maybe the library to rent one. Record companies not only recorded music, but sold it. Blockbuster gave people hard copies of movies and expected them to return them three days later, or else suffer the detrimental "late fee." People paid telecom companies for the use of home phone services and, if you wanted to talk face to face with your buddy in Oxford, you'd either have to fly across the ocean or record a video cassette, seal it in an envelope and let the postman deliver the video message.

        Now, Farmville and gaming sites are taking over the gaming world. Wells Fargo uses software to help users manage finances. The Amazon Kindle is replacing printed type with software. iTunes controls the music industry, along with other software music programs like Spotify and Pandora. Almost everyone uses Netflix. If you don't, then they probably don't watch many movies. Skype may be the fastest growing alternative telecommunications company in America. How does this new age of software affect the physical industries of which they have successfully usurped the thrones?

        Digital means more efficient. Computers will never replace humans. Computers can't create content. But computers can do one thing: render the "Professional" in existing industries obsolete. Software doesn't make the user a professional. Software is the professional. And when physical industry succumbs to the digital takeover, what will those who lack skill and education in this new field do for a living? Jobs are disappearing with the widespread dominance of software. Where will new ones come from?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Ads of the Irish

While in Dublin, Ireland this weekend I came across various images that challenged, encouraged and perplexed me.
This was an Abercrombie and Fitch ad located on one of the main streets in central Dublin. Sex in advertising is a hot topic; however, the object of sexual enticement is most often a woman. Conversely, in this ad, the male is the one being objectified. Men portrayed as sex symbols have been a topic of our class conversation with regard to Ryan Lochte. Lochte gained a large amount of national fame by being portrayed in the media as a sex symbol; however, as we found out this weekend, he is far more than just a smoking hot body. This advertisement challenged me because I realized that when I think of the negative components of sex in advertising I immediately think of the exploitation of women. The exploitation of males in advertising gets overshadowed by the objectification of women; nevertheless, I think the concept is something to which attention should be paid.
The second image I saw was encouraging. This was painted on the side of one of the buildings in a highly trafficked area in Dublin. This directly ties into our discussions about stereotypes. Way to go Dublin providing discouragement with regard to labeling. This picture definitely draws awareness to an important issue; however, I am unsure as to the advertisement purpose of this picture. Is this an ad for Heinz or is this simply the benevolent act of some harmony-seeking citizen?
The last image perplexed me immensely. I saw a couple of these spray painted phrases around the city of Dublin. I tried to rack my brain in an attempt to contrive an explanation for these; however, I was unable to think of any explanation to prove their existence significant. Any thoughts?

Bad PR for London Olympics Already?

In just the first week of the London Olympic Games, LOCOG, the organizers of the games are already receiving ridicule and complaints from fans who were denied access to purchasing tickets to events such as football and swimming. If you turned on the TV at any time this week to watch any of those events, you surely would have noticed the abundance of empty seats. For an Olympics that was said to have sold all of their tickets, they sure have a lot of people not showing up.

LOCOG claims that the empty seats belong to family members and Olympic sponsors, the total being over 1.1 million seats in all. After all of the complaints, LOCOG announced that they would be releasing 3000 more tickets on Monday, July 30. However, I've been watching the past two days and I'm still seeing many more open seats than I ever remember from an Olympic game, and yet I am still unable to find tickets to anything! Now, not only are the fans becoming upset, but the athletes are outraged as well. They are disappointed with their apparent lack of fans. How is this going to affect the reputation of the London Olympics after the games are over. Can LOCOG still solve this problem and salvage their reputation?

Being from Atlanta and having attended the games when they were hosted there, I know how one mistake can cloud the world's opinion on the games as a whole after the bombings that occurred that killed two people. It was a tragic incident that lowered people's opinions on whether a city like Atlanta was fit to handle such a huge event. If these stands don't fill up soon, will the London Olympics forever be known as the games that had no fans in their stands?

Information from this article:

Cool Graphic Novels in England

I know there are lots of graphic novels back in the States, but I haven't been led to buy one until today.
First of all, I'm a sucker for the punny title, but more importantly the actual premise of the story is very enticing. It interweaves the childhoods of the author, who is the daughter of a Joycean scholar, with the childhood of James Joyce's daughter Lucia. After reading the first two pages I shrugged and took it to the cash register. I can already tell that it has a very interesting take on storytelling and if there is a graphic novel to read, I may as well start with this one.

I'm fascinated by this kind of story form. It seems that there are a lot of tropes and nuances to be explored with an adult picture book such as this one. It may very well express a story in a more pronounced way than a traditional book can. I think there is a lot of potential for combining art and story to make a really powerful book experience.

What effect do you think this kind of visual storytelling will have on books and possibly articles in the future? Do you think it's a powerful storytelling device or that it's just a gimmick? -Joanna 

Here is a video about the novel: