Library Card

Allow me a short rant ...

Relative to the general Chicago population, my children want for nothing. 

The disposable income to provide them with the finest education, access to any cultural or learning experience we deem worthy, and as many books as their little minds can consume.

And man, our four year old, Henry, consumes a lot.  His thirst for knowledge is never-ending.  It's awesome.

But while Barnes and Noble is a regular stop for us, we've also asked our babysitter to take him to the library to start checking out books rather than spending money on things he'll read once or twice and then shove in a pile somewhere.

Last week she came home with a form for us to fill out so he could get his own library card, rather than checking out books on hers.  We dutifully filled it out, and sent them on their way this morning.

Unfortunately, the Chicago Public Library has some tough standards.  His "application" was denied because he couldn't neatly spell his first and last name on the form. Mind you, he's four.

Not only was I livid, but I felt terrible for Henry.  How humiliating to be told you're essentially unqualified to learn.  It's fortunate I wasn't there - it would have been an ugly scene.  I'm fiercly protective of my boys.

So let's recap ... We activley encourage our children to learn. We thought the library would be a good facilitator of that.  But the library didn't think our child was what, smart enough, to play in their sandbox?  Or what, he'd never return the books?  Chicago should be so lucky that kids are stealing books - it's a good problem to have.

At the end of the day, it means nothing to us.  Again, we are fortunate to have the means to teach him everything.

But imagine this happening to a child with no means.  A child who has the deck stacked against him.  It makes me cringe.

Then Secretary of Education, Bill Bennet, once called Chicago's public school system the worst in the country.  I'm sure it's improved since the 1980s, but certainly not so much that children of any age should be denied access to knowledge.

Shame on you Chicago.  Mayor Rahm - this needs to be fixed, now. 

Dear Politicians: It's All In The Follow Through

I've never seen an ad from a politician AFTER winning an election. We get bombarded with TV, print, OOH and robocalls leading up to a moment in time, and then poof - gone.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel spent about $11 million on his successful campaign.  And Emanuel has about $2.1 million left in the war chest.  What will he do with that?  According to the Huffington Post:

Some of it is likely to be spent influencing the make-up of the City Council. Fourteen aldermanic races will go to runoffs on April 5, and Emanuel has openly said that he would be willing to back reform-minded candidates who sought his help ...

Emanuel could use the funds to build alliances on the future Council,which he'll need to advance his ambitious agenda.

Rahm won in what some consider a landslide, but he's still very much a polarizing figure.  I'd love to see Ken-griffey-mar2 Rahm take a few dollars and run a series of TV spots between now and when he takes office.

Thank those who voted for you.

Build bridges with those who voted against you. 

And rally those who didn't vote at all.

Remember, Rahm, election day was just the beginning.  Not the end.  It's all in the follow through.  Just ask Jr.


NFL Labor Dispute - First of the Social Media Era

Cross posted from Ogilvy's Fresh Influence blog.

Disclaimer:  Due to several conflicts (including children, work, wife, The Office, Jersey Shore and sleep) I had to  schedule this post 12 hours in advance of it going live; meaning I might not have the latest information on the talks between the concerned parties.  However, that has no material impact on my main points.  Trust me, I’m a journalist.

With that out of the way …

By the time you read this the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) will most likely (see disclaimer; and even if there is a 24-hour extension of the CBA, as reported Thursday afternoon, this thing will eventually come to blows) have expired, leaving the two sides without a labor agreement and the 2011 football season - or at least part of it -  in serious jeopardy.

As a sports fan, I’m totally turned off.  As many people will tell you, this is billionaires fighting with millionaires over sums of money unfathomable to the vast majority of fans (Charlie Sheen excluded, of course #winning!).

As a marketer, and one who currently focuses on social media, I’m keen to keep a close eye on how the dispute plays out in public, particularly in social media.  This is the first pro-sports labor dispute of the social media era (the last being the National Hockey League during the 2004-5 season, when MySpace was hardly a hotbed of sports discussion and Facebook was just blooming as a place for Zuckerberg to exact revenge on a girl who slighted him - at least that’s how the movie goes).

It’s 2011 (you’re welcome for that nugget) and I can’t help but imagine the stream of opinions flowing effortlessly from the Twitter feeds of NFL players, owners, media and fans as the dispute moves into the grind-it-out-let’s-pretend-we’re-all-working-towards-the-same-goal-when-really-we’re-just-interested-in-protecting-no-actually-growing-our-pile-of-money phase.   In fact my crack research staff tells me that between February 15-28 there were 11,000 Tweets mentioning “NFL and lockout.”  Just since March 1 there have been the same amount.

The NFL is a public relations juggernaut, second only (in my opinion) to the NBA.  And it’s worth noting that basketball faces this very same situation next year; though as many sports writers have noted, the NBA actually needs a battle like this to realign a really broken compensation scheme; whereas football seems to be in pretty good shape.  In any case, I’m sure commissioner Stern is paying very close attention to the public sentiment as owners prep for battle with the NBA players union.  In fact I bet this post makes his morning clip pack (#DavidStern #Stern #DStern #NBA #TallAndRich #TheDecision #GoBulls).

But while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has proven to be a disciplined voice for the league, he can’t control what has already been, and will continue to be, said on the social web.

But he can influence it.

See what I did there?  Can’t control.  Can influence.

Below are a few tactics I would expect the league to employ, as I would any brand heading into a very public battle.  As a marketer or fan (or fanketer - helloooo Urban Dictionary), what have I missed?

Paid Search
Using Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool I took a look at the competition against the search term “NFL Lockout” and found it surprisingly low.  What if the NFL launched a SEM campaign against terms related to the lockout, driving people to either an FAQ on the domain or even a Facebook page?  Seems simple enough, and moderately effective at delivering a message to people actively seeking out information.

Live Listening
I’d be shocked if the NFL doesn’t already have in place an incredibly robust real-time monitoring solution.  The challenges, I suspect, are twofold:  (1) How are they filtering the signal from the noise and (2) What are they doing with the intelligence gleaned from the monitoring.  Which leads me to my next point …

Response Protocol
All the listening in the world won’t do you much good if you aren’t analyzing, looking for opportunities and disciplined about how you do/don’t engage with supporters and detractors alike.  At Ogilvy we often develop bespoke response protocols based on the issue, the client, the nature of the discussion and other factors.  The NFL must be really clear and consistent in their response protocol about what they say, when they say it, to whom they speak and what tone they take.

Conversation Management
Whether it’s to the 2.6 million fans on their Facebook page or their 1.9 million Twitter followers, the league must carefully map out what they are going to say publicly on the matter, where they’re going to say it and how, if at all, they are going to react when publicly challenged (or lauded).  Effective conversation management, very much tied to the response protocol, is kind of the backbone of everything the league is going to do (on social media) during this time.  They must get this right.

Content Creation
You better believe the players are pumping out content to tell their side of the story.  Check out the video below from the NFLPA’s YouTube channel, which has garnered 152K views.

What’s troubling, from the league’s standpoint, is that a pretty sophisticated YouTube user (me - don’t laugh) can’t seem to find the NFL’s official YouTube page after about 30 seconds of searching.  And guess what - I give up.  So the message here is that not only do they have to consider a content creation strategy, but just as important a distribution and optimization one as well.  By the way, not just video but also photos, written content, etc. - anything that can be indexed by The Google and helps the league put forth their perspective.


This entire episode will be interesting to watch play out.  As a fan I truly hope they resolve it sooner than later so we can get on with a great 2011 season. 


If you've been around me long enough you'll know I maintain a healthy suspicion for things like the perfect tie knot, overly shined leather goods or consistently flawless grammar.  That's not to say I don't appreciate the effort it takes to achieve all three but frankly I think they can be boring and affected. 

I've struggled to articulate this but recently came across a word that helps.  Baldassare Castiglione, in The Book of the Courtier, discusses Sprezzatura ...

I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all other, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all thing a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.

It's not that I don't appreciate effort.  In fact my interpretation of sprezzatura is that it requires quite a bit of effort [more so than normal].  What I don't like is when someone reeks of effort.  

This photo from The Sartorialist visually sums it up:


The immediate example that comes to mind is Jon Kerry vs. Bill Clinton.  Clearly Bubba's got it, and Kerry never did.

Any good examples you can think of?

John McCain: A Long Day's Journey into Vietnam

This is part one of a fantastic fictional NPR-like piece my friend Michael wrote,produced and voiced.  The story takes place a few days before McCain ships out to Vietnam.  The full 30-minute program should be coming soon.  I've heard the entire thing - it's great.  I will post the full steam when it's available. 

John McCain: A Long Day's Journey into Vietnam

Some language NSFW.

Obama's Speechwriter

Interesting article [here] about Jon Favreau, Barack Obama's 26 year old head speechwriter. 

The campaign staff has started teasing Mr. Favreau about hisnewfound celebrity. Not that it’s any great pickup line. Mr. Favreau, who said he doesn’t have a girlfriend, observed somewhat dryly that “the rigors of this campaign have prevented any sort of serious relationship.”

“There’s been a few times when people have said, ‘I don’t believe you, that you’re Barack Obama’s speechwriter,’ ” he went on. “To which I reply, ‘If I really wanted to hit on you, don’t you think I’d make up something more outlandish?’ ”


Nicholas Antongiavanni: Curtains for the Necktie?

Thanks to my friend, Troy, for sending this along today.  My regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I find this all a bit sad.  I guess I am old fashioned ... I want my President to wear a tie.  Every day.

Curtains for the Necktie? - "[N]either shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together." --Leviticus 19:19

Thus was born, somewhere in the Sinai desert over 3,000 years ago, the sumptuary law. Ironically, politics and clothing have mingled ever since.

Generally speaking, American politicians are the dullest dressers on the planet. But, three or four times a century, our presidential contests have a direct effect on the sartorial life of the nation. The last such occasion was when the rakish Ronald Reagan replaced the cloddish Jimmy Carter and helped usher in a new era of formality.

Another revolution is now upon us -- though of a decidedly different character. Barack Obama -- unquestionably the hippest candidate for the presidency since John F. Kennedy -- may do to the tie what Kennedy helped do to the hat. It's a myth that JFK killed the hat simply by not wearing one to his inauguration -- actually, that was the one instance when he did wear one. But by ostentatiously eschewing a hat everywhere else, at a time when the hat's place in the male wardrobe needed all the high-level support it could get, a very public "nay" vote from that suave, young, handsome patrician helped tip the balance against it.

Today, the tie is in similarly dire straits. Sales are way down. Its status as the sartorial signifier par excellence of business, seriousness and ceremony is in jeopardy. California abandoned it at about the same time, and for many of the same reasons, that the Golden State jettisoned Reaganism. The effete East held out longer, but when Wall Street and the law firms went "business casual" during the last boom, the necktie went on life-support.

There it lingers, kept breathing largely by the unwavering, if unthinking, allegiance of high-ranking politicians. But that too may soon pass away.

It's one thing for a politician, in the thick of a campaign, to rally the faithful in all his shirtsleeved, open-necked, down-home glory. "I'm one of you" the look is supposed to say -- accurately or not. But there are, or used to be, occasions when the people don't want their leaders to look like one of them -- at least not what they look like when they are out washing the car.

Mr. Obama breaks tradition on both counts. He skips the tie at major indoor events, not just outdoor rallies and Rock the Vote concerts sponsored by MTV. He goes tieless not merely in his shirtsleeves, or even with a blazer. He carries the open-necked look into a realm it was never meant to go: with the two-piece, dark business suit.

This heresy earns the young senator praise from today's keepers of the style tablets. The Washington Post's Robin Givhan -- the acid-penned Madame Blackwell of the Beltway -- could hardly contain herself. "[Obama's] tieless suit," she gushed, "[is] a cross between the style of a 1950s home-from-the-office dad and a 1990s GQ man about town. It is warmly, safely, nostalgically . . . cool."

Others have noticed something else. Take the impeccably liberal Jeff Greenfield. "Ask yourself," he challenged his CNN audience, "is there any other major public figure who dresses the way he does? Why, yes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, unlike most of his predecessors, seems to have skipped through enough copies of GQ to find the jacket-and-no-tie look agreeable."

We can thank Mr. Greenfield for being reckless enough to say what many were thinking. But he mistakes Mr. Ahmadinejad's source. Mr. Obama may have gotten the idea from GQ, but the Iranian President got it from the Ayatollah Khomeini.

One of the lesser-known outcomes of the 1979 Iranian revolution was the stigmatization of the tie as a tool of Western Imperialism. The Ayatollah even denounced some of his perceived enemies as "tie-wearing cronies of the West." Today in much of the Islamist world, the tie is seen as not merely pro-Western but anti-Islamic, even though no prohibition of the garment can be found in Islamic law. There is a stricture against men wearing silk, but Muslim dandies can get around that by wearing cashmere or linen ties -- and many do.

It's hard to think of anything less hip -- or less intended to be hip -- than Islamist dogma on personal grooming. Yet despite traveling radically different routes along the way, Messrs. Obama and Ahmadinejad somehow manage to wind up in the same sartorial spot. Sort of like the way Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich share virtually identical foreign policies.

We should hope that the tie survives. It is too noble a garment to let go for light and transient, or dark and sinister, causes. The good news is that Mr. Obama's foray into tielessness does not stem from deeply held ideology. When it really counts, he does the right thing. No doubt, should he make it to the end, his neck will be covered on inauguration day. Just like JFK's head.

Nicholas Antongiavanni is the pen name of Michael Anton. He is author of The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men's Style (Collins, 2006).

Pearl Jam Controversy ... Censorship?

For those of you who missed this story, it's worth checking out.  Long story short ... Pearl Jam played a live show recently, which was webcast on ATT's Blue Room.  During the song "Daughter" someone (see the blame game below) omitted lyrics criticizing George Bush.  ATT blames the webcast company.  Pearl Jam blames ATT.  I blame them all - ATT should have never sponsored a Pearl Jam concert if they couldn't stomach the inevitable political commentary.  And what the heck does Pearl Jam need ATT for at this point in their careers?


Closed Venezuelan TV Station Goes to You Tube

This is not breaking news, but in case you haven't read about this [courtesy of Tribune News Services]...

Forced off the air by President HugoChavez, an opposition-aligned Venezuelan TV channel has begun taking its news shows to the Web through the popular video-sharing site YouTube.

Since it went off the airwaves Sunday, Radio Caracas Television is uploading its news show each day to YouTube, RCTV Vice President Maribel Morales said Friday. YouTube listed the program as its most-subscribed feed of the week.

Click here for You Tube videos.