So WordPress Was Down Yesterday…

Not that I noticed.  And yet, the outage apparently affected 10.2 million blogs, depriving them of an estimated 5.5 million pageviews, give or take. WordPress notified me about it later, linking through to this very concise and forthright explanation on their own blog.  Long story short, the disruption came  “when an unscheduled change to a core router by one of our datacenter providers…broke the site.  It also broke all the mechanisms for failover between our locations in San Antonio and Chicago…

Admittedly, I’m not a tech geek, so I read that twice.  I don’t know a core router from a flux capacitator and I had no idea you even needed mechanisms for failover, let alone which aisle at RadioShack you’d find them in.

As a culture, we are growing increasingly web dependent.  Like so many everyday objects in our modern world–cell phones, televisions, fuel injection engines–the technology that drives them may as well be elfen magic.  The language of silicone chips and circuit boards remains largely curious and hidden to the ordinary eye.  When confronted with any tool more complicated than a hammer, I am powerless in any role aside from user, and that’s a decidedly disadvantageous position to hold.

Which is why this Spring, I’m planting a garden.  Everyone needs something to fall back on…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

So Apparently There’s This CGI Film In Theaters. And It’s Rather Popular.

Fact: Avatar’s first weekend worldwide box office was $242.5 million.

Fact: Avatar grossed $1.3 billion worldwide in less than a month.

Prevalent Speculation: Including marketing, the project represented a nearly $450 million bet.

Tactic: In this week’s Advertising Age, a cover story discusses the way 20th Century Fox marketed the movie: traditionally, with a $150 million ad spend, and big promotional partners.

Conclusion:  Don’t dismiss mass marketing yet.

Krakow, Poland

Yes, we live in radically altered times.  Opinion enjoys new mass channels as consumers actively dis-integrate old mass channels.  And yet, given a good story that piques our interest, raises some classic themes, and gets everyone talking, a compelling mass market message can still drive outrageous success.  It’s just now, when that advertising gets the whole world talking, individuals have places to further the discussion: Twitter, e-mail, even self-important blogs like this one.  When a story captures peoples’ imaginations, they pick up and pass it along for you, expanding the coverage and radically extending the media buy.  Today, if you generate good word of mouth, you get something mass marketing can rarely buy: sustainability.

People who’ve seen the movie, rave about it.  And that drives more sales, as positive word of mouth sways people who were considering seeing it, particularly in the pricier IMAX 3-D.

So Avatar’s wildly successful initial weekend box office results were not driven by social: there was no official Twitter account to follow.  And there was no viral digital experience (those lost favor when the Snakes on a Plane hysteria failed to drive audiences to theaters).

Just a lot of TV–including long format buys and major sponsor support–and some really strong PR.  Clearly, Avatar is a mass brand.  And it advertises that way.  Pepsi meanwhile, has loudly announced its decision to shun the Super Bowl.  Hmm…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Collected-Thinking: Now In Handy E-Form

Actually, You Haven't Exactly Read These Before

Actually, You Haven't Exactly Read These Before

Back in 1983, Peter Gabriel released his “Plays Live” double album and as an avid fan, I bought it and spent hours poring over the liner notes.   Actually, what I mostly remember about those notes was how he cheekily copped to ‘cheating’; the majority of the tracks featured overdubs and other sonic clean up and tightening work he performed later in a studio.  So while it was an audio record of his live performances, they were dolled up a bit to make them slightly more presentable.

I think that’s entirely reasonable.  I’m wrapping up a wonderful two-week Wisconsin vacation by traveling to Minneapolis this morning to make a presentation on social networking.  As part of that, I pulled together an e-Booklet called “Collected Thinking” which assembles twenty representative posts from this blog.  As I edited them, I did a good deal of revising and rewriting, reordering and reconfiguring.  Hopefully, the result is more coherence and focus.  Of course, if you’d prefer, you can take the opposing view and say I cheated.  I won’t hold that against anybody.

You can download a .pdf of it here: CollectedThinkingEBook .  Or you can go to and buy it, but that would be rather needlessly extravagant, wouldn’t it?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The Modern Cost of a Really Bad Day

Yesterday, the rigging for Madonna’s new concert tour collapsed during construction in Marseilles, killing two workers.  By any measure, that’s a tragedy.  However, given Madonna’s lightning rod persona, that horrific accident has become an excuse to deem her solely responsible by bloggers and commenters who intensely dislike her.

This is an ugly downside of our intensely interconnected modern world.  Opinion has a mass channel, and that can work against you with sudden and feverish intensity.  On a far less tragic scale, that’s what happened yesterday to Andy Azula of the Martin Agency.

Andy had a really bad day back on June 18th as he tried to fly with his family from Richmond to Atlanta.  And it truly was really, really bad: forced to wait all day at the airport with seven year old twins, their luggage held hostage on a broken plane so they couldn’t leave or change flights, making him ultimately miss both a paid speaking gig and a family gathering with the grandparents.  It sounded awful.  And quite rightly, Andy wrote a letter to Delta angrily recounting his miseries.

ups-china-to-us1But things turned really awful when he posted that letter to his personal blog (he’s since taken it down).   In short order, people noticed it and passed it along, eventually to a gossipy insider advertising site with a reputation for fanning the flames of outrage amongst the marketing set.  Suddenly, everyone had an opportunity to assess Andy’s complaints and again, those inclined to negativity had a field day, excoriating him for among other things, trying to get the airline’s attention by identifying himself as ‘the UPS whiteboard actor.’  Twice.

It was not Andy’s finest hour.  Our most frustrated moments rarely are.  And yet, his industry reputation is pretty good; by all accounts, Andy’s long been considered a pretty good guy.  Given the legendary Mike Hughes’ low tolerance for jerks, he wouldn’t have his position if that weren’t the case.  But Andy had a bad day.  And in a fit of pique, made a couple of bad decisions.  I’m sure he is currently amazed at just how many people there are in this world and how closely they read his words.

Conventional wisdom says to wait ten minutes and breathe deeply before sending an inflammatory e-mail.  We should probably change ‘minutes’ to ‘months’ when it comes to posting anything similar on the web (those drinking photos on Facebook, that outraged review on Amazon, etc.).

If you wouldn’t want your Mom or boss to see it, don’t post it.  Because they will.  And so will everyone else.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79