Digital Media

Zombies in San Diego Mayoral Bid

White House correspondent John Gizzi weighs in on San Diego Zombie ad:

Democrat David Alvarez unexpectedly placed second in Tuesday’s mayoral contest, knocking out a candidate long considered a cinch to be one of the top vote-getters, and will join Republican Kevin Faulconer in a run-off early next year.

Although many point to Alvarez’s support from key union leaders for his advancing past former state legislator Nathan Fletcher, who had placed second in nearly every poll, other observers in San Diego credit anti-Fletcher TV spots that featured zombies.

That’s right. Zombies.

The mindless creatures featured in horror productions, from George Romero’s 1968 cult classic “Night of the Living Dead” to the current hit AMC TV series “Walking Dead,” were unleashed in independent commercials underscoring Fletcher’s change of positions as he continually changed party affiliations, switching in earlier races from Republican to independent to Democrat.

“Nathan Fletcher courted the tea party with anti-immigrant rhetoric, but then he switched his principles when he ran for mayor,” said the narration to the ad, as a hoard of zombies lumber Frankenstein-style at dusk.

“He bashed labor unions and supported pension reform, but then he switched his principles again. Now he’s against pension reform and supports spending billions – but wait! He’s switching again!”

Finally, an exasperated zombie declares: “This guy keeps switching his principles – on every issue! I can’t keep mindlessly following Nathan Fletcher! And I’m mindless!”

The commercials were paid for by an independent expenditure known as “Zombies for Responsible Government.” They began airing online on, appropriately, on Halloween.

“We only spent $1,800 on pre-roll ads on Youtube to launch it, but once Twitter lit it up, the paid media was practically irrelevant,” explained veteran California media maestro Wayne Johnson. “The real definition of virality […]

Coming This Friday: TV That Watches You

How Xbox One Beat Cable to the Punch and Will Change Political Advertising Forever.
The new generation of Kinect technology in Xbox One can distinguish up to six voices in a room, respond to voice commands, read skeletal movement, muscle force, whether people are looking at or away from the TV and even their heart rates, Mehdi said. The latter happens as the camera detects slight changes in skin tone related to dilation of a blood vessel in the eyeball that responds to heart rate, Mr. Mehdi said.

                                                                                                                Advertising Age

                                                                                                                10/5/2013                           
Seven years ago, I was invited to address the executives of one of the nation’s largest cable companies.  I challenged them to abandon their focus on competing with broadcast, and to exploit their natural advantage – set-box targeting.  At the time, they were drilling yet another dry hole in the frozen tundra of cluster group marketing, the erroneous notion that people who live near one another think alike.  Oh sure, there may be more Republicans than Democrats, or more liberals than conservatives in a given geographic pocket, but that’s descriptive, not prescriptive information.  Targeting based on such assumptions is highly dangerous in a political campaign, where voter behavior is as likely to be influenced by a negative perception as a positive one.   Show the wrong ad to the wrong people and it’s not just a waste.  You actually lose votes.  Elections are a zero sum game.  Those you alienate matter, because, in politics, 49% market share is called losing.

Let me put it another way.  Which mailing would have the greater impact, sending a National Right to Life endorsement of a candidate to a list of pro-life […]

Campaign Tech Kerouac

It’s taken a day to decide if the venue for Campaign Tech West was tawdry, ineffable or inspired.  I’m leaning to ineffable.  Across the street from the Naked Lunch restaurant, near the triangle of Broadway, Columbus and Grant.  Nearby, what the Chinese call “Ahdalah Hong” the short walkway that formerly bore the name “Adler Place”.  In recent years, it has been dubbed “Kerouac Alley”, in honor of the beat denizen who frequented the City Lights Bookstore on the corner.

One wonders what Kerouac would have thought of the gathering of political techies on the street where he composed his “spontaneous prose.”  He thought editing robbed prose of being in the moment, and thus somehow dishonest.  Had he been around to witness the billions of “moments” enshrined in tweets and posts today, perhaps, he would have been less opposed to such dishonesty.

Kerouac’s spontaneity was arresting in his time, and not always appreciated (“That’s not writing, that’s typing,” said Capote).  Yet, Kerouac thought before he wrote, which immediately distinguishes him from our own often too-connected world.   I thought about his roman à clef style and tried to imagine Kerouac blogging.  I suppressed the impulse to raise that question among Tuesday’s gifted tech panelists, or when visiting Google and Facebook’s respective HQ’s on Monday.

It would have been hard to watch Kerouac die, 144 characters at a time. From Rome to Zen and back to Rome again.  From leftie beat poet to cantankerous conspiracy theorist, one suspects the journey would have been difficult to watch, if only in one’s newsfeed.   Spurning the “communists” who stole the beat’s movement, Kerouac would die surrounded by a stack of old National Review magazines.  Once visited by some young neo-Nazis, he ran them […]

iTunes Radio vs Pandora: Let the Battle Begin

Tuesday was Apple’s annual October launch event, which includes the introduction of the new iPad Air, retina iPad Mini, OS X Mavericks, updated Macbook Pros and a newly designed cylindrical Mac Pro. Although I was excited to hear about all the new and updated products coming from Apple, I was most interested in discovering how iTunes Radio had performed in its first month on the market.  Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook revealed that 20 million users have played 1 billion songs in iTunes Radio’s debut month.  This is quite an accomplishment, but still pales in comparison to Pandora’s 72 million monthly active users. (Pandora has recently surpassed 200 million overall users.) The question on everyone’s mind is whether iTunes Radio is a threat to Pandora’s market share.

iTunes’ entry into the predictive playlist market pits their 27 million songs under license to the hand-crafted 1 million song library of Pandora, whose “music genome project” involves one or more music technicians rating the song against a matrix of attributes, so that each song has its own genetic code, so to speak.  An individual song may have as many as 4-500 “genes”, which are used to categorize the song and weigh its similarity to other songs.  The results are then fed into a listener’s queue, with each song “liked” by the listener further improving the queue.

iTunes has the advantage of starting with their customers personal song libraries, which in my case would be several thousand.  While Pandora takes the boutique approach of weighing and analyzing each individual song, iTunes Genius appears to be largely driven by algorithms, and one suspects a similar algorithmic approach is at work here.  iTunes Genius (and presumably iTunes Radio) tracks volume and crowd […]