The Sports Utility Bike

August 27, 2007


So this all starts last Wednesday when I’m getting my haircut.  I always have interesting conversations with the woman who cuts my hair (Tsofia at Gary Manuel Salon).  On this day in particular, we were comparing the kind of mileage we each get on our Prius. She averages 53mpg, my wife and I average 38 or 39 (what are we doing wrong)?  Anyway, she tells me about this way you can modify your bike so you can carry these huge loads.  It’s called the Xtracycle.  I am intrigued.

Basically, the Xtracycle is a frame extension that moves the rear wheel back 15 inches or so.  With the packing system, you can carry some truly amazing loads.  The folks at Xtracycle figure that if they make it easier for people to cart stuff around, people will use their bikes that much more.  And in poorer countries where used bikes are often plentiful, increasing the utility of a bike can also dramatically increase productivity.

I’m psyched about getting up and riding with my Xtracycle.  I’m putting it all together tonight.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Why’d you do it, Barry?

August 8, 2007

bonds 756I just saw the news account that Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run to pass Hank Aaron as the all-time home run leader.

So my wish is now blown.  Here’s what I hoped: I wanted Bonds to hit his 754th home run and then retire  immediately.  It would have been a total class move in a career sorely lacking class moves.  He would have honored Hank Aaron by not surpassing his record home runs and we all would still have known he could hit plenty more.

Wouldn’t that have said a lot about the man?  Wouldn’t he have had the best of both worlds?  What would it have meant to his legacy?

We’ll never know.

Why is it so hard to be green?

August 7, 2007

My wife and I are contemplating building a new house.  One of the bigger allures for us is to try to build a green home.

Well, it turns out it’s not very simple.  Just like the age-old “paper or plastic” question, nothing seems very clear when it comes to being green.

There are competing certifications for just how green you go (LEED and, in Washington, Built Green).  You essentially earn points for the choices you make in materials and building methods.  For example, you get more points for using certain kinds of carpets over others.  But what do you get for not putting carpet in at all?  No points, as far as I can tell (how’s that for counter-intuitive?)  Should you install solar panels when it takes more than a decade to recoup the costs in your electricity bill?  Should you use a highly green siding material that needs to be shipped halfway around the world, or should you use a less sustainable material that is produced relatively locally?  Nothing is clear or an easy answer.  Some choices are more clear if you are wealthy enough to do things on principle without regard to the economics of the decision.

Which, I suppose, brings me to a point.  I think most people get that we must be more responsible to our planet.  But commercially, we’re not making it clear or simple for consumers or businesses.  Adweek ran a cover story about a year ago called “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  In it they cited a study that said 64% of the general population can’t name a green brand.  That’s pretty stunning.  But even more worrisome, 51% of those who consider themselves to be “enviromentally conscious” couldn’t even name <strong>one</strong> green brand.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

There is a market out there and it’s growing rapidly.  As marketers, are we responding to that marketplace demand quickly and concisely enough?  I don’t think so. That’s a problem, for sure.  The time to act is now.  There’s great opportunity for those companies that make these dilemmas easier to navigate.

Ruminations on Creativity

August 6, 2007

Not long ago, I was at a gathering with a bunch of creative directors.  Trying, just for a moment, to not talk about work, we discovered that we all had outside creative outlets.

At our table, we found a variety of passions — painting, fiction writing, photography, screen printing and drawing.  Each of these passions was, at most, obliquely related to what we do everyday as creative directors.

This all got me thinking.  I think it’s critical that creatives — and indeed anyone in this business — have a creative outlet outside work.  Without this outlet you lose perspective.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as committed to great creative solutions as anyone — and we’ve been amassing an enviable collection of awards to prove it.  But when advertising is your “art,” it’s very hard to be clear about your motivations.

We have one job, really.  It’s to drive forward the success of our clients whether they are businesses or causes.  It’s all about effectiveness.  Make no mistake, I (and we) believe that the most creative solutions are often also the most effective solutions.  But when your whole artistic being is tied up in your solution for your client, and then they question or kill it, the loss can be unbearable.

So, creatives, get a hobby.  It’ll give you some perspective.