Brilliant HBO Ad Urging All to Vote in November

Sometimes it's what you don't say that's most powerful. This new spot, created with a number of HBO stars, does not offer up any political endorsements nor take a particular stand on a divisive issue.

The message is simple and straightforward: VOTE this November. It is the one thing all adults can and should do, regardless of who or what they vote for.

READ more at Adweek.com (article written by By Lindsay Rittenhouse)

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Nike 'Just Did It' with Calculated Kaepernick PR Campaign

In a period of just 24 hours following the announcement that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the face of Nike's 30th anniversary 'Just Do It' campaign, the brand had received $43 million worth of media exposure.

That's not to say it was all positive. Nike stock fell Tuesday and Twitter lit up with angry detractors threatening to burn their sneakers and never buy the brand again.

 

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Colin Kaepernick is one face of Nike's 30th anniversary 'Just Do It' campaign.

From a purely PR standpoint, though, Nike's decision to step into the fray was calculated and well thought out. As pointed out by financial commentator Josh Brown (CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management), in this great piece by Sports Insight writer Bob McGee: "Nike is marketing to their customer of the next 30 years, not the last 30 years. That new customer base will be highly educated and be able to draw a distinction between protesting the American flag vs. protesting institutionalized racial violence.”

Kaepernick created controversy when, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, he took a knee during the playing of the national anthem in order to protest racism and police brutality in the U.S. He's been a Nike client since 2011 and the footwear giant has supported him ever since. 

It's obvious that the polarization between those who feel the player is disrespecting the flag with those who see it as an issue about social injustice will not go away anytime soon. But, this campaign sure has lit a fire. The winner in all this?

Nike. They Just Did It. 

 

Aretha Franklin: Vivid Memories of a Soul Awakening

The Sultan, The King, and the Queen all share in common the same date of August 16. Babe Ruth, Elvis Presley, and now Aretha Franklin all passed on the same day, in 1948, 1977 and 2018 respectively.

 Photo by richard avedon - ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORKER

Photo by richard avedon - ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORKER

 

Ruth (Sultan of Swat) was arguably the greatest baseball player of all time. Elvis was the King of Rock ‘n Roll while the inspirational Franklin was, without question, the original Queen of Soul. Although widely expected, Aretha’s passing today at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer was nonetheless a shock to the system, knowing that the most powerful and soulful voice of a generation was silenced.

I recall vivid memories of first watching gospel singer Mahalia Jackson belt out songs Sunday mornings on NBC and being mesmerized  by the incredibly soulful sounds of songs like “Didn’t it Rain”. But that was just a warm-up for what happened next. Jackson was a gifted singer, but it was Franklin who transcended gospel and became a pop music icon. She was a game changer.

Over the course of two albums and two years (1967-68) Aretha and her gospel-trained talents shattered popular radio and awakened the souls of millions who had never heard such an incredible artist. As eloquently written by L.A. Times music critic Richard Cromelin: “When Franklin’s clarion voice hit the airwaves in 1967, she seemed a force of nature, a voice with the force of a horn section that claimed full attention, whether lamenting love gone wrong or demanding “ree-ree-ree-ree-spect.”

The songs were instant classics - they sound as fresh and life-affirming today as they did 50 years ago: You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman), Respect, Do Right Woman, I Never Loved a Man, Soul Serenade, A Change is Gonna Come, You Send Me, Chain of Fools and my very favorite – Since You’ve Been Gone.

Aretha opened the floodgates and paved the way for such big female voices as Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston and Beyoncé. There’s a bit of Aretha bubbling to the surface on a number of songs by the British pop star, Adele. They all owe a big debt of gratitude to the Queen of Soul.

I hear all the tributes and understand the imprint Aretha had on society. For that, I am grateful. But what I am truly grateful for is what she brought to the music world. There was an energy, passion and brilliance to Aretha Franklin that came through loud and clear every time one of her songs came on the radio.

As a shy young kid, I was learning how to dance and meet girls when Respect and Since You’ve Been Gone graced the airwaves. Aretha Franklin helped me get there a lot quicker than I ever imagined. I had discovered soul. And, it was good.

Tom Wolfe: New Journalism at its finest

 It was known as the “New Journalism.” It came from three of the best writers I have ever read, all of whom stand tall as the kingpins of their craft: Hunter S. Thompson, Gay Talese and the recently departed Tom Wolfe.  Wolfe served as an inspiration when I majored in journalism at the University of Missouri. His passing this week at age 88 reminded me of just how special a writer he was and how he changed the face of journalism with his use of literary techniques. Best-selling author of  The Right Stuff  and  The Bonfire of the Vanities,  Wolfe’s way with words was unlike any other writer.

It was known as the “New Journalism.” It came from three of the best writers I have ever read, all of whom stand tall as the kingpins of their craft: Hunter S. Thompson, Gay Talese and the recently departed Tom Wolfe.

Wolfe served as an inspiration when I majored in journalism at the University of Missouri. His passing this week at age 88 reminded me of just how special a writer he was and how he changed the face of journalism with his use of literary techniques. Best-selling author of The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe’s way with words was unlike any other writer.

READ WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE HERE

 

High-Skilled White-Collar Work? Machines Can Do That, Too

Originally appeared in New York Times

By Noam Scheiber

  • July 7, 2018

One of the best-selling T-shirts for the Indian e-commerce site Myntra is an olive, blue and yellow colorblocked design. It was conceived not by a human but by a computer algorithm — or rather two algorithms.

The first algorithm generated random images that it tried to pass off as clothing. The second had to distinguish between those images and clothes in Myntra’s inventory. Through a long game of one-upmanship, the first algorithm got better at producing images that resembled clothing, and the second got better at determining whether they were like — but not identical to — actual products.

 A Stitch Fix warehouse in San Francisco. The company relies on algorithms to help personalize shipments to customers.  CreditChristie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

A Stitch Fix warehouse in San Francisco. The company relies on algorithms to help personalize shipments to customers.

CreditChristie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

This back and forth, an example of artificial intelligence at work, created designs whose sales are now “growing at 100 percent,” said Ananth Narayanan, the company’s chief executive. “It’s working.”

Clothing design is only the leading edge of the way algorithms are transforming the fashion and retail industries. Companies now routinely use artificial intelligence to decide which clothes to stock and what to recommend to customers.

And fashion, which has long shed blue-collar jobs in the United States, is in turn a leading example of how artificial intelligence is affecting a range of white-collar work as well. That’s especially true of jobs that place a premium on spotting patterns, from picking stocks to diagnosing cancer.

A popular T-shirt sold on the Indian e-commerce site Myntra was conceived by two algorithms. One generated random images; the other identified those that resembled existing designs without duplicating them.

“A much broader set of tasks will be automated or augmented by machines over the coming years,” Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tom Mitchell, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist, wrote in the journal Science last year. They argued that most of the jobs affected would become partly automated rather than disappear altogether.

The fashion industry illustrates how machines can intrude even on workers known more for their creativity than for cold empirical judgments. Among those directly affected will be the buyers and merchandise planners who decide which dresses, tops and pants should populate their stores’ inventory.

A key part of a buyer’s job is to anticipate what customers will want using a well-honed sense of where fashion trends are headed. “Based on the fact that you sold 500 pairs of platform shoes last month, maybe you could sell 1,000 next month,” said Kristina Shiroka, who spent several years as a buyer for the Outnet, an online retailer. “But people might be over it by then, so you cut the buy.”

Merchandise planners then use the buyer’s input to figure out what mix of clothing — say, how many sandals, pumps and flats — will help the company reach its sales goals.

In the small but growing precincts of the industry where high-powered algorithms roam free, however, it is the machine — and not the buyer’s gut — that often anticipates what customers will want.

Stitch Fix’s business would probably not exist without the use of algorithms. Among other things, they project how many clients will be in a certain situation, or “state,” several months in the future, and what volume of clothes people buy in each situation.CreditChristie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

That’s the case at Stitch Fix, an online styling service that sends customers boxes of clothing whose contents they can keep or return, and maintains detailed profiles of customers to personalize their shipments.

Stitch Fix relies heavily on algorithms to guide its buying decisions — in fact, its business probably could not exist without them. Those algorithms project how many clients will be in a given situation, or “state,” several months into the future (like expanding their wardrobe after, say, starting a new job), and what volume of clothes people tend to buy in each situation. The algorithms also know which styles people with different profiles tend to favor — say, a petite nurse with children who lives in Texas.

Myntra, the Indian online retailer, arms its buyers with algorithms that calculate the probability that an item will sell well based on how clothes with similar attributes — sleeves, colors, fabric — have sold in the past. (The buyers are free to ignore the projection.)

All of this has clouded the future of buyers and merchandise planners, high-status workers whose annual earnings can exceed $100,000.

At more conventional retailers, a team of buyers and support workers is assigned to each type of clothing (like designer, contemporary or casual) or each apparel category, like dresses or tops. Some retailers have separate teams for knit tops and woven tops. A parallel merchandise-planning group could employ nearly as many people.

Bombfell, which is similar to Stitch Fix but caters specifically to men, relies on a single buyer for its tops and accessories. The company’s data and algorithmic tools help the buyer project clothing demand.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

Buyers say this specialization helps them intuitively understand trends in styles and colors. “You’re so immersed in it, you almost get a feeling,” said Helena Levin, a longtime buyer at retailers like Charlotte Russe and ModCloth.

Ms. Levin cited mint-green dresses, a top seller earlier this decade. “One day it just died,” she said. “It stopped. ‘O.K., everything mint, get out.’ Right after, it looked old. You could feel it.”

But retailers adept at using algorithms and big data tend to employ fewer buyers and assign each a wider range of categories, partly because they rely less on intuition.

At Le Tote, an online rental and retail service for women’s clothing that does hundreds of millions of dollars in business each year, a six-person team handles buying for all branded apparel — dresses, tops, pants, jackets.

March is Madness: Buffalo Busts Bracket Big Time

If you’re a student or alumni from the University at Buffalo (UB) or happen to live in Western New York and love college basketball, your March Madness bracket may still be intact today. For the other 92.8 percent of you Bracket Experts – myself included – your bracket has surely been busted big time.

UB (a 13 seed) not only upset the fourth-seeded Arizona Wildcats on a neutral court in Boise, Idaho, they dismantled the Pac-12 powerhouse and ran away with a 21 point, 89-68 blowout victory that moved the Bulls into the next round and a date against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.

I wholeheartedly agreed with what the CBS announcers said last night about the difference in style between the Pac-12 conference and many of the East Coast teams. Granted, they don't regularly cover the games there, and would certainly get an earful from former UCLA great Bill Walton; BUT there is a theory in some circles that the Pac-12 produces great athletes and future NBA stars, with a reputation for a more “stylish” form of play.  Translation: they don't play "hungry." Sean Miller's Wildcats were starving Thursday night.

Teams from the East and Midwest tend to play a more gritty style, filled with passion, heart and do-or-die attitude. Winners of the Mid-Atlantic Conference, UB played with a collective chip on their shoulders and were never intimidated by Arizona, a team featuring 7-1 super freshman DeAndre Ayton, who most certainly will be a top 5 NBA lottery pick this June.

UB is a team that could derail Kentucky on Saturday and advance to the Sweet 16. They played with poise, drive, passion and heart. They were the better team on Thursday. No two ways about it.

The game story by longtime Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan made the front page of this morning’s paper.

Soak it up Buffalo. Drink it in and come back thirsty tomorrow. Winning in March can be addicting!

TV and the Dodgers: some things never change

originally posted two years ago on LinkedIn - it is unfortunately just as relevant today

Talk about a PR disaster: The Los Angeles Dodgers should be ashamed of themselves for making an astronomically huge $8.35 billion, 25-year deal with Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) in February 2014, essentially shutting out the majority of TV viewers from watching their beloved franchise.

Barring a miracle, April will mark the third (now fifth) consecutive season where more than 80 percent of households in the L.A. area are shut out from watching the Dodgers perform on television. Make no mistake, Time Warner Cable is equally culpable for agreeing to this sour deal, thinking they’d recoup money by charging other carriers $4-5 per subscriber to carry the new SportsNet LA cable channel as part of a bundled Sports Tier package. Satellite provider DirecTV and other cable carriers balked, leaving forlorn fans out in the cold. And not very happy.

This has gone on now for 5 seasons with no settlement in sight. Read how one long-time Dodgers fan outlived his love for the team. (March 2, 2018, Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers and owner Mark Walter are not legally bound to do anything with regards to televising the team’s games. But, the longer they mishandle a sensitive PR situation that is alienating thousands, the harder it becomes to pull that fan base back into the fold.

Sad to say, the Dodgers are no longer LA's team. They are popular enough, with a big enough fan base, to fill the seats at Chavez Ravine on a regular basis. But, they no longer feel like the team of the people.

The Dodgers are fielding a top-notch winner on the field. It is off the field where they come across as a AA minor league franchise.