Today I Saw An Incredible Ad for a Golf Ball

No, I didn’t see it on TV. Or in a magazine. Or online, exactly.

This amazingly compelling ad came in an email from my father-in-law Jim, who passes along all sorts of random things to friends and relatives on his massive email list.

The e-mail’s subject line read “How Hard Is A Golf Ball” and contained a link to a piece of ultra highspeed photography I’d seen before; specifically, a golf ball smashing into a steel plate while filmed at 70,000 frames per second. For the non-technical, that’s really, really, really high-speed photography; all this action happens in less than 1/1000th of a second.

The differentiating point about the e-mail containing the link this time was this little bit of information…

1 –  The Pro V-1 golf ball by Titleist is actually a three part ball, but you have to have a club head speed of at least 100 mph or more to be able to compress all three stages. If you don’t the ball never fully compresses and you don’t get the distance out of it that the pro’s do.
2 –  *WE* will get more distance out of a ball that only has two stages of compression…like the Titleist NX Tour. It is more suited to *OUR* swing speed and we can compress it upon impact and can hit it further than the Pro V-1 ball.
3 –  So the secret is not to buy the most expensive balls out there, because we are actually decreasing the distance we can hit the ball, unless your club head speed is over 100 mph  —  which unless you are 21 to 50 years old, isn’t going to happen!!!

This ball is not a Titleist NX tour. In fact, it well might be a significantly softer practice ball. But with this new information about two vs three part ball construction and amateur levels of swing speed, this footage takes on all new meaning. I know my club speed is not particularly fast. And it makes sense that two stage compression would work better than three for a duffer like me. So hopeful golf wannabe that I am, next time I pick up a box of balls, I’ll look for NX Tours, even if the ball in this video clearly isn’t one.

Because we bad golfers live on hope. And this little email of recycled footage and clever suggestion just re-ingnited mine. Nicely done, anonymous Titleist golf creatives, nicely done.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON


Young at Heart is Nice, But Marketers Must Stay Young at Mind

Ever hear of Beloit College?  It’s a small liberal arts college with roughly 1400 undergrads just North of the Illinois/Wisconsin border above Rockford.  Among other notable facts, it’s the oldest continuously operated college in Wisconsin, counts among its alumni the jewelry designer Robert Lee Morris and Gunsmoke’s James Arness, and for the past thirteen years, it has released an annual Mindset List: a compilation of the realities shaping the lives of incoming freshmen.

If you consider the notion of a Generation Gap to be overblown, it might be worth reviewing some of the latest findings of what has “always” or “never” been true for this year’s batch of eighteen year olds.  Your awareness reset will start by realizing that this generation, born mostly in 1992, thinks of Clint Eastwood as a director of sensitive films more than Dirty Harry Callaghan.  They’ve also always been hip to the dangers of second hand smoke, and expected toothpaste tubes to stand on their caps.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingAmong things they never experienced?  Corded phones. Cursive handwriting. Czechoslovakia.  On the upside, they’ve never worried about a Russian military strike on the United States.  On the downside for those slow to embrace the digital world, they consider e-mail to be way too slow.  Not that they know that by checking their watches–they rarely bother with those since their cellphones display the time.

All of which drives home, with the clarity of that steel-driving man John Henry (a reference they will not get), that culture never stops.  Societies never tread water, never stay put, never pause in a state of suspended animation.  Like a shark, our world moves forward 24/7/365, constantly changing and evolving as Madonna bows to Brittany who cedes to Lady Gaga who will inevitably cave to a player to be named later.  Sure, we all subscribe to ‘our time’–those halcyon 18-21 college years–as a sort of cultural roadmark.  I believe my personal experience is somehow more relevant, more transcendent, due to my first person perspective. But then I remember things like this and this and this, and that POV crumbles.

It’s not easy to stay current.  As we get more jaded by the marketing forces that create today’s pop sensations or the general cheesiness of what constitutes modern culture, it’s easy to dismiss the current and the vogue.  And to fall into unquestioning old habits and routines.

But in a business that eats its young, that’s incredibly dangerous.  We can’t afford to write off what’s current, even if it is only a rehash of what’s come before.  We do that, and we risk losing relevance.

So…who wants to listen to the latest Katy Perry single?


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


I Know The Latest On US Durable-Goods Orders, Consumer Spending, and First Time Jobless Claims Yet Still Know Nothing

Picture 2Funny thing about this massive internet data engine we all plug into: I have access to more information than ever and still don’t really know anything.  At least regarding the US economy; I do know way too much about pop culture, beer and bourbon.

That’s the thing about data—it’s not actual knowledge, only its unrefined ore.  Before you can leverage a fact, you need to convert it into something actionable, something larger: an outcome or a conclusion.

The only reason I’m chasing this tangent on a Wednesday morning is that in rapid fire succession, three different data points popped up in my inbox this morning:

1.  U.S. consumer spending up in October

2.  U.S. durable-goods orders dip in October

3.  First-time U.S. jobless claims decline to 466,000; stock futures get lift from data

I’m not exactly sure how or why I started getting these Marketwatch headlines on my email.  I mean, I know why Land’s End and Amazon and Ebay clog my inbox every single morning with an endless supply of largely indistinguishable offers, but Marketwatch?  Where did that come from?

Still, it’s news, I scan it, and much like the level of intellectual engagement one gets from the Captivate elevator screen, I leave with a bite-sized intellectual nugget to idly chew for the rest of the day.

Data may be king in the new economy, but the true power still resides in knowledge.  Dag, I gotta get me some more of that…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

This just in: October new-home sales rise, paced by gains in southern states.  (man, this stuff never stops…)

Note To e-Marketers: You Can Automate Surprise Too

Mr. Roboto?  A Bit More Creativity Please

Mr. Roboto? A Bit More Creativity Please

Every weekday morning when I first switch on my computer, I’m reminded of every purchase I’ve ever made online.  Because every morning, among various other things, my email inbox contains something from West Elm (Christmas, 2007–a serving platter), something from Joseph A. Bank (Fall 2008, a black watch tux jacket on super closeout), and another bottle from Wine Legend with at least a 92 pt. ranking for less than $15 (Summer, 2008, a very accessible case of French Rose).  Later in the day, I’ll also hear from Overton’s (waterskis and towables), Brooks Brothers (17 1/2 x 38 dress shirts) and Amazon.

The pitches come with steady, reliable precision.  The time of day, the lead-in lines, the layout of the pitches themselves very rarely varies and certainly that’s because my name and contact information has been fed into some automated system that purports to know my buying habits and thus sends a steady stream of offers to me at an astonishingly low cost to the retailer.

Obviously, I could set the spam filters and make all of these go away.  And if I felt really motivated, I could contact the retailer and ask to be taken off their mailing list.  But much like the rain-forest clearing deluge of catalogs that clog our mailbox, its easier just to dump them into the trash or recycling bin and get on with the day.

And yet, one of the great delights of humanity and something that the best, most welcome sales pitches frequently tap into is the joy of surprise.   Our world’s can quickly become rote–a repeat cycle of wake, commute, work, commute, drink, dinner, whatever–and so anything that upends the ordinary stands out like a snowman on a black sand beach.

Could someone remind the automated marketers of that?  Could someone influence these engineers or accountants posing as creative salespeople that their pitches–while statistically profitable no doubt from a CPM perspective–could generate better returns if they added something good advertising pitches always include?

A little creativity would be nice.  Or at least a small surprise.  That’s all it would take for me to stop equating your brand with ‘crap to throw away every morning.’

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The Web Won’t Wait: Why Teaser Campaigns Online Create More Annoyance Than Anticipation

Picture 1

The Original E-mail from Dyson US

Monday morning, I received an email from Dyson US entitled “What has Dyson invented now?”  I usually delete sales messages right away but having owned three Dyson vacuums over the years and spent some time poking around the website that celebrates his charmingly curious mind, I opened it up.

The headline inside read “We did away with bags.  Now we’ve got rid of ___ in ____.” The copy went on to stress the familiar Dyson themes of re-imagining old technology, ultimately ending in a link to learn more.  So I clicked that.

The link led to a slightly-overlong video of people staring, mouth agape, at some remarkable object just below camera.  They couldn’t identify it but loved the object’s look.  Clearly, it resembled nothing they’d ever seen.  By the time I finished the video, Dyson had engaged me for three and a half minutes.  But then they dropped the meat in the dirt…

They simply supered “October 2009” and ended the video.  After investing all that time they gave me nothing, not even a glimpse of the unidentified object to pique my curiosity about what it might be.  Frustrated, I combed the rest of their website but found nothing.

Suddenly, I kinda hated James Dyson.  I hated his plastic contraptions, his British accent which I had long found intellectually appealing now rang twee, and the blueprints of other objects just looked like so much self indulgence.

The man had wasted my time.  And I deeply, deeply resented it.  Advocates tout the advantages of digital technology largely along the lines of engagement, user experience and information.  Web users have come to expect that anything they need to know is just a few clicks away, and often more comprehensive than they need.  But this tactic, which began with a simple, well-written email, dishonored those expectations.  It treated this medium like TV, where I might see a teaser ad on “Family Guy” one week then see the corresponding explanatory ad the next week, since I watch that show regularly.

But there are no appointments with the web.  It is always on, always available, and always presents an entirely fresh experience with little sense of prior history and absolutely no narrative arc.  What had started as an awesome advertising launch tactic ultimately backfired, alienating an engaged user.

Happily, there’s something else unique to the web: you can adjust and edit your content in real time.  So this morning, when I sat down to write about this madding experience, I clicked the link again and landed on a whole new page.  Perhaps they received complaints, perhaps they noticed people left the site pretty quickly, or perhaps they embedded cookies so that anytime someone revisited the site they would receive an answer; whatever they did, they corrected the problem.  And I was engaged once more.

His new item truly looks wildly original.  Suddenly, I like James Dyson again.  Good design and good will amongst men: both good things in this world.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Think Again: Digital Natives Adopted Early, But No Longer Dominate Internet Use

The Web Is Growing Up   

The Web Is Growing Up

Today’s 19-32 year olds may be the Net Generation, but surveys by the Pew Internet and American Life Project show a surge in net use by Boomers in their fifties and sixties, and even those in their seventies, to the point where the Seniors’ proportion to the total US population nearly matches their proportion of total internet usage. People of all ages download video these days and engage in internet commerce.  Even e-banking has begun to reach equilibrium among the various age groups.  In fact, now that social networks have become the chosen communication tool for younger generations, those sixty plus dominate the email sector.

All of this makes sense.   Technological advances don’t drive mainstream adoption, usefulness does.   The ever increasing integration of web use into daily life springs directly from its practical value.  Email beats looking for stamps, Google beats running to the library, beats CNN the channel because you only skim what interests you.

The kids might always be first, they might do more and flashier things online, but to assume that gives them sole providence over the internet would be foolish.  The numbers tell a far different story.  Unfortunately, the advertising and entertainment world ignores this far too often.  That’s why Hollywood makes more violent movies than proven box office-friendly family fare, though Kevin James is laughing all the way to the bank as Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  And Angela Landsbury commanded a million dollars an episode by the end of twelve seasons of Murder, She Wrote.  Look, the kids do neat things and they certainly look better…

But never underestimate the value of experience.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Don’t Underestimate Old Dogs…

Experience Generates Perspective...and Discernment

Experience Generates Perspective...and Discernment

A Consumer Electronics Study reports that people from their fifties to their seventies are nearly as tech savvy as their younger counterparts.  For all practical purposes, this demographic will use a hi-def TV, a cell phone or a search engine just as often as an eighteen to thirty-four year old.  In fact, the only real difference was that the older generations prefer a more personal touch; while they research online, they like to talk to a sales associate before buying.

Frankly, this comes as no surprise.  All the nonsense about people under thirty being digital natives disregards the basic reality that older consumers are far more discerning and demanding.  They only use tools that make sense to them; they don’t just try something because it’s new.  They don’t Twitter?  That’s not because they don’t get it; it’s because micro-blogging makes no sense to them.  Instead, they e-mail, because it fits their notion of community.  I can’t be the only guy with a seventy-ish father-in-law who way over-indexes on forwarding funny–or allegedly funny–clips and jokes, albeit without ever erasing the long legacy strings of duplications and e-mail address headers…

Underestimating, or far worse–disrespecting, your market is an inexcusable professional sin for any marketer.  To be a top practitioner of this craft, one must possess genuine empathy.  Just plain liking people helps too.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79