Timing Is Everything…Just Ask Channel 9

Fortune can be so painfully fickle.  If you happen to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and do exactly the right thing, you can achieve something truly extraordinary.

On the other hand, it’s a lot more common to miss.  This new ad for Chicago Superstation WGN openly showcases one of their recent and rather staggering FAILS: cutting away from a live implosion of a bridge in Joliet due to the producer’s impatience and thus totally missing the money shot.

Good for them for being able to laugh at themselves.  If you’ve ever watched their ramshackle, free-wheeling morning news program, this promo spot feels totally on brand.

Oh, and one more thing; by being so authentic and transparent, this footage went viral and garnered over 8.6 million views in less than two weeks on YouTube.  Good for them.  Really good for them.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Friday Video Awesome: Pick Your Flavor

One of Carlos Castaneda’s better known quotes reads:

“The trick is what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy.  The amount of work is the same.”

So for those that emphasize the miserable, enjoy (if that’s the right word) this compilation of FAIL.  And know that if these videos get any more widespread, Congress and some hyper-litigious lawyers will soon move to outlaw BMX biking, skateboarding and rope swinging.  Those Jackass guys well represent a nation that’s long on video cameras and short on common sense…

On the other hand, if you accentuate the positive, you might prefer this compilation of WIN: close calls where bystanders, or actively foolish candidates for the Darwin Awards, somehow cheat tragedy by mere fractions of an inch…

Either way, Happy Friday.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Could Somebody Please Explain Moire Patterns to the J. Crew Art Directors

Back in the day, anyone working in video knew not to dress on-camera performers in striped shirts: when the talent moved, the resolution of the camera combined with narrow shirt stripes often created a distracting moire pattern.

But times change, technology advances and with the dawn of HD, such primitive concerns fade away…  Except a lot of internet graphics still operate at a pretty low dots-per-inch ratio.  Which may explain this little bit of FAIL on the J. Crew website.  Surf here and type “Lace Tights” into the search field.  You will find one of two images.  One of them is very innocuous: ‘hey, whaddya know, lace tights…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

The other image however, is a bit more problematic.  Because the lacy pattern on the tights creates a moire, and the end result is, well, kind of hairy.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79Like, really hairy…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79I don’t pretend to know fashion, but I’m pretty sure, no one at J. Crew actually believes offering women legs that look like mine will ring the register.  At least, God I hope not…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


The Challenge of Content: Captivate Network, Exhibit A

Dennis Ryan Element 79 Chicago Advertising

This morning, March 25th and day nine of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, I noticed this on the Captivate screen in the office elevators.  Let’s see: Villanova went down to St. Mary’s and Northern Iowa shocked Kansas five days ago.  In fairness, Duke is still in it and faces a compromised Purdue so indeed, they are ‘medium risk.’  But the sure thing and the longshot are both out.

Bad content.  Dated content.  Irrelevant content.  These will increasingly challenge emerging platforms that replace editors with AI and bots.  For most of these outlets, automation is the only financially-viable answer; smaller, fragmented audiences can’t warrant an investment in human talent to collate and curate content.

The issue then, boils down to sustainability.  Putting out a good product–something pointed and interesting and revealing–can be a Herculean task.  Today’s media consumes content with an unprecedented voraciousness.  But how long will these ‘always on’ times last, these days where immediacy and controversy seems to count more than knowledge and assessment?  For some platforms, they are sustainable.  If you want gossip and funny photos and Fails, the supply is steady and inexhaustible.

But if you want real information–actionable insight and considered viewpoints–your outlets seem to shrink daily.

Not sure that amounts to actual progress…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Memo to Twitter Users re: What The Bing Announcement Really Means–Prepare To See The Whale More Often


Microsoft’s announcement that they signed both Facebook and Twitter to bring real-time updates to their Bing search engine has many posters aflutter over the possibility that their one-liners could find a huge audience far beyond their own friend lists.  And the news that Bing will expand contracted URL’s to more clearly reflect Tweet content is both critical and technologically impressive.

But from that same perspective, the tech demands on Twitter’s API could cause its already wobbly stability to overload and crash even more frequently.  On the upside, Bing isn’t particularly huge yet and the market for social search remains an unknown, but any additional back-end service call volume on their database threatens a system that already delivers a breathtaking volume of data.

Interestingly, the deal is non-exclusive, which means the behemoth Google may be taking a wait-and-see policy before jumping into the fray.

If that happens, get ready for a Shamu-fest of whales.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

On Memes: the By-Products of Our Participatory Culture

“Meme” is one of those words I’ve long viewed skeptically.  It sounds egg-heady and vaguely French.  And I always have a nagging sense I’m pronouncing it wrong (it rhymes with ‘dream’).  Still, like Web 2.0, once I actually learned what it meant, it wasn’t particularly intimidating.  There’s a lot of egg-heady, vaguely Greek background information, but a meme basically amounts to to a self-replicating idea; think of it as copy-catting gone viral.  Or think of it as a very high percentage of what you like on YouTube.

Play Them Off, Keyboard Cat

Play Them Off, Keyboard Cat

Actually, don’t think about it too much; just enjoy this recent one; the play them off keyboard cat.  This is not a topic solely of interest to cat people.  Hardly.  This kimono-sporting feline does nothing more than move his paws over a synthesizer keyboard in an entirely unconvincing manner to a simple, ear-catching tune.  This is clearly not about the production value, which–aside from the well-tailored silk garb–is non-existent.  It’s about the idea; whenever someone or something produces a video FAIL (yet another meme), some amateur video editor takes that footage and intercuts this increasingly degrading clip into the situation at the end–literally playing him off ala Doc Severinsen on the old Tonight Show or Paul Shaffer on Letterman.  These video clips often takes on meta status as they add this keyboard cat meme onto already popular video clips like this, this, and my far and away favorite–this

When everyone can participate in the media, when technology makes it easy to make simple edits on a laptop, and when any video that captures the public attention can be forwarded with a few keystrokes, memes like the play-them-off-keyboard-cat will continually pop up like so many smile-inducing mayflies.  Perhaps dancing babies and grape stomp lady and where the hell is Matt? don’t add to the intellectual advancement of the culture, but they add undeniable fun to a Friday morning.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79