Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Voice of the People

I was surprised, that day in class, when my accounting professor said he felt the most important function in a company is marketing.

This was significant for two reasons. The prof, Ram Ramanan (winner of the 2004 "Best of MPF" award for Best Class), had been known to take good-natured shots at marketing as a discipline, razzing it for being all overlapping circles and pryamids and touchy feely concepts like "brand." The second is that it's uncommon for one member of a team to acknowledge that a different division of the team is more important, or the most important. Of course, all departments have to work in synch for the organization to be successful. But how often do you hear, for example, the running backs coach or the linebackers coach of a college football team admit a different unit is the most crucial to success? (It's the offensive line.)

But over time I've come to realize Ram is right. The core of the company is understanding what the customer wants, and then giving it to them. Finance, accounting, R&D, operations ... they are all important pieces, and the business would fall apart without them. But they are all supporting the mechanism of delivering the goods to the person with the dough (the customer). Even your sales force, often assumed to be the key department, is merely the external-facing group that communicates or delivers the firm's value proposition: not defines and refines it.

This primacy of marketing came to mind when thinking about two incredibly stupid ads recently, and how smart companies will listen to the customer, even after a mistake.

The first is the evocative image of orange drapery falling over icons of the American landscape like the Hoover Dam and the Gateway Arch, to the moody music of Nick Drake.

If you lived in New York City last decade, or if you have a vague awareness of the art world, you probably know of the artist Christo, famous for hanging brightly colored drapery off large things. His "Gates" exhibit in Central Park was by all accounts a smashing success, adding bursts of color to a drab winter cityscape.

Not part of this essay, but I should point out that living in New York City sucks 12 months per year, but moreso in the winter. I can only imagine how this brightened people's shitty days.

You've probably seen before today the ad in question, from AT&T. Many art lovers (and intellectual-property lawyers, probably) asked themselves if Christo had been consulted or compensated.

It appears that AT&T made no effort to reach out to the artist before the ad was filmed. While this was narrow-minded of AT&T, they at least had the sense to add a disclaimer at the end of the ad. The credit to the original artist was added eventually, but not until after the outcry.

A more direct feedback can be seen in the case of the smarmy State Farm guy. What can possibly compete with ducks, lizards and the guy who was the black president on TV before Obama was the black president in real life? How about an obnoxious Tom Cruise lookalike who wanders through cafes and interrupts people?

I can only hope that State Farm read the Slate article, or otherwise heard consumer feeback to create this reponse, where she interrupts him:

Your lesson, Corporate America: Listen to your audience. If you make a dumb ad, pull it and make amends.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pick Six, Week Eight: Meet the New Boss

Today's (fricking awesome) soundtrack:

You'll figure out why in a minute. Or maybe you already got it figured out.

And with that, here's your Pick Six update.

Big winners: Mizzou got a huge win over over No. 3 Oklahoma, and jumped ahead accordingly. Sadandbritish, as the only player with Mizzou, was poised to take advantange of this, except she also has Oklahoma. Net gain for Sabandbritish: +1.

Big losers: Everyone with the Sooners, Iowa and LSU. All three lost nationally televised games. Larry Sparks had both Oklahoma and LSU, so as mentioned above, he took a hit. Not even Wisconsin's jump could offset those losses. Mo also had the Sooner-Tiger combo, but without any gainers. Both guys dropped 11 points. If you makes any feel any better, last week's average score was 67.5, and 63.5 this week, so collectively, we all kinda bit it.

Wait, what was that about last week's leader? Yeah, Larry took a big hit, opening the door for you-know-who:
"Door" in this case being a flap invented by Isaac Newton.

Larry's one point lead became a commanding 16-point lead for Mr. Q. Go ahead, take a look at the Top 4 ranked teams: Oregon, Boise, Auburn, TCU. Those four share all the No.1 votes cast in the AP Poll ... and yeah, that's two-thirds of the cat's pickset.

As always, the numbers are here. Check out your standings after eight weeks of football.

Other things to note: I predicted that my vanity would kick me in the cosmic ass. And yeah, sure enough, it did. You would think I would have learned my lesson the first time. You know, there’s an old saying in Tennessee——I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee——that says, fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.

So no more pick 'em talk for me, only Pick Six.

Looking ahead: Sadandbritish (Mizzou) faces off against all those Huskers: Du, Fan and Larry. Iowa/Michigan State will be watched closely throughout the Midwest, and also by the six players with the Hawkeyes. Florida and Georgia face off in the World's Largest Cocktail Party, probably the most entertaining matchup of non-ranked teams. Oregon should get a strong test from Southern Cal. Meanwhile, everyone with Boise sits back and watches the points roll in. (You all should feel dirty.)

And if you can't wait til Saturday, remember that this week you've got football on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Enjoy the games everyone!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pick Six, Week Seven: A Crack in the Armor

This was a full weekend, but not of college football. So here's an update heavy on the Pick Sixing impact, and light on the national analysis.

And let me just add a clarification: I might have made it sound last week that Ohio does not have technology. That is not true. Ohio has running water, landline telephones and cable TV. They even got the Internets in the Great Internet Boom of the 1990s. I just was at an obligation in a specific place without TV or radio.

Sorry, Ohio.

Big droppers: Lots of Husker fans were hurt by Nebraska laying an egg against Texas. Other teams to bite it, and take the accompanying hit: Ohio State an unreasonable -10, South Carolina -9, Arkansas -9, Florida -4 and out of the poll.

Big winners: Wisconsin, obviously, for toppling #1 Ohio State. Way to go for the six of you. Also, three of the four new entrants to this week's poll are Pick Sixers who started the season ranked. And the fourth, would you believe it, is a Pick Sixth from a dog. A dog picked Mississippi State, because, I assume, they are the Bulldogs. A team picked LAST in the SEC West by Phil Steele. Not that I'm bitter. (On a totally unrelated note, thanks for nothing UConn.)

Enough jibber jabber, is that cat still winning? As you're painfully aware, a housecat has been leading the game almost from the beginning. It's enough to make any person or panda ask "what the fuck."

However, the answer to the all-important question is:

No! I don't have a picture of entrant "Larry Sparks," at least not with his permission (yet). Back in the late 1990s, Larry and I walked on the playing field of Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. I'd love to tell you we were starting players on the team, but in reality we were just visiting town and discovered to our luck that the stadium was unlocked. Not sure where those pictures are today, but just envision Larry on the 50-yard line, cause he's your leader at the halfway point.

He rode the success of Wisky and Utah (his Pick Sixth, now ranked 9th) to jump 17 points and into first place. Meanwhile, the cat paid for the South Carolina and Arkansas losses, dropping 14 points and into second. Your "top dog" is still Piece of Cheese, and probably will be all year, so no more canine updates unless warranted.

And just in case he never sees first place this season, here is a pic of last week's human leader:
Finley. There, you finally made my blog. Now send a pic of Mitzu please.

Okay, one piece of analysis. Coming into the Iowa-Michigan game, the make-or-break matchup seemed to be Iowa's stiff defense (ranked fourth nationally) against Michigan's runaway train offense (ranked third nationally). Iowa was allowing 242.2 yards per game; Meech gaining 533.7 per game.

Their grammar sucks like their defense.

By contrast, Iowa's offense gained 426.4ypg, good for 33rd nationally, and the sieve masquerading as a Big Ten defense allowed 450.7 per game, 112th best in the nation. Against Big Ten-caliber offenses, the sieve gave up 535 (Notre Dame), 568 (Indiana) and 536 yards (Little Brother, aka Mitten State). So you knew Iowa would get their yards. But would Michigan get theirs?

Spelling sucks too.

Short answer: yes. Follow those links today and you'll see the Mitten actually jumped up to third against that vaunted Hawkeye defense. After facing the Denard Robinson (and Tate Forcier) Experience, Iowa's D dropped to 13th. So what does all that mean? When a poorly coached team makes numerous mental and physical mistakes, statistics don't mean spit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pick Six, Week Six: Scores and Analysis

The week in football. I have to say it was a pretty good Saturday: Notre Dame won, Michigan lost, Ohio won, and Iowa didn't lose (bye week). So yeah, a pretty good d-- oh crap, now I have that Luce song stuck in my head.

In other news, Alabama lost for the first time in forever. (QB Greg McElroy lost for the first time as a starter since the EIGHTH GRADE.) LSU continued to pull games out of Les Miles' ass. Minnesota lost yet again, and Just Northwestern finally lost for the first time, against a team missing its #1 QB, #1 WR, #1 RB and another WR for good measure.

Onto the Pick Six game!

Florida State dominated yet again. For the non-believers, their four games since the Oklahoma debacle have been 34-10, 31-0, 34-14 and 45-17. Now that's a defense. Ohio State and Oregon also won, and Oklahoma bye'd.


Georgia finally won, but I know my chances with them have disappeared like the other half of Drew Carey.

Have you seen this guy lately? Holy shit.

With all that I moved up nine points and four slots--nice, to be sure, but moot as you'll see in a moment.

Around the Top 25: Adios to two of the most hated programs in college football: Real Miami and Meeechigan. The father-daughter team of Sidney and QBKatt are the only two who picked that's family togetherness. Sidney is further punished for having any faith in Rich "DickRod" Rodriguez by losing 8 points when the Mitten falls out of the poll.

An oldie but goodie, and totally appropriate after Saturday's beatdown.

Welcome back to two schools: Oregon State (no one has them, so nobody cares, except me, cause Oregon State beat Arizona and I hold a grudge) and West Virginia (3 players gain one point).

Enough jibber jabber. Who's winning? I can just cut and paste this from last week:

In the original Pick Six game, the BGS guys at some point would list the "perfect" pickset, consisting of the highest rankers from each quintile, plus the highest performer from the originally unranked group. Using that as a metric, let's review Quigley's picks again:

A: Boise, 23 (best is Ohio State, 25)
B: TCU, 22 (best)
C: Oregon, 24 (best)
D: Arkansas, 14 (best)
E: Auburn, 19 (best)
F: South Carolina, 16 (best)

Not only did he increase his lead from 11 to 18 points, but his picks, for this week at least, are NEARLY PERFECT. If you're looking for the tequila to drown your sorrows, it's on the top shelf, left side.

"Or behind my butt....just like you in the standings, hah hah!!"

If it matters, your leaders in the other divisions are Finley (Human) and Piece of Cheese (Canine). Remember, that link should be good all year, so go ahead and bookmark it.

This week: Big game for the Hawkeyes as they face Michigan. ND should cruise over MAC-rifice Directional Mitten. Quigley will FINALLY lose some points as Arkansas plays Auburn. (Frrrr is similarly conflicted here.) Finley has both Ohio State and Wisconsin, who play each other. Nebraska plays Texas in a game that sounds better on paper than in reality.

We'll be in Ohio and away from technology, so if you've got a score update, feel free to text me. Enjoy the games!

Quigley's Picks Explained

Part of the fun of adding pets to the Pick Six game is seeing the curious ways our animals choose teams. Sometimes that means wadded up pieces of paper ...

...sometimes it means doing research online ...

"Boise is gonna be good again, right? I'll take Boise."

...or sometimes it means just pounding away at the keyboard randomly.

Sometimes they call a friend for advice...

...and some years, you swear the cat has been drinking.

But this year, it appears ACTUAL FELINE THOUGHT went into the pickset that is leading the 2010 game. I shall now reveal the reasoning behind Quigley's picks, with the help of cat-channeler TinaMarie.

When Quigley submitted his six, his human Tina wrote this comment:

To help promote peace between different groups (be it ethnic factions, religious factions etc.) Mr. Q. (aka Quigley) has decided to prove that animals CAN play nicely in the wilds of college football.

Without further ado, the 2010 Mr. Q all animal team:

1. Boise State Broncos (aka big ass horses)
2. TCU Horned Frogs (aka Kermit's favorite team)
3. Oregon Ducks (Quack!)
4. Arkansas Razorbacks (aka big ass pigs)
5. Auburn Tigers (Grrr... Tigers rule)
6. South Carolina Gamecocks (I guess if you are going to pick two birds a rooster and a duck ain't too bad...)
So there you go. By trying to promote peace in the animal kingdom, he's kicking all the humans' asses. Thanks a lot, Mr. Q.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Pick Six: Week Five Update

A great Week 5, in my opinion. Iowa, Notre Dame and Ohio all won ("and Maryland!!" pipes up my co-author). But enough about the non-Pick Six stuff*. What happened in this week's AP poll?

Big movers: Arizona (way to go Tippy, although I'm sure you are a nice cat I take no joy at your profitting on a team that beat Iowa), Arkansas (nine players have the Hogs), Sparty (no one has them in the game so who cares) and Nevada (ditto).

Going down: Tough conference losses hurt Stanford, Florida and Wisconsin. For Penn State, Texas and USC, ugly losses meant eviction from the poll. That is particularly tough on Boonster, who had both Texas and Penn State.

Moving ... on down in the point totals.

Newcomers: Welcome back Florida State! That's three big points for Larry Sparks and me. And welcome to the poll, Mizzou (sabandbritish).

Enough jibber jabber. Who's winning? Your undisputed leader Week 5 is:

Stanford's loss hurt last week's co-leader Hüskers Dü (I actually went and got those umlauts for you Kelly, instead of just a lazy copy-and-paste), allowing Quigley to open up an 11-point lead. He's got 5 of the top 11 teams. His worst team is South Carolina at No. 19. Only two other players have all six teams ranked (Finley in third place and Larry Sparks in fourth).

Let that sink in for a moment, people: We Are All Losing. To a suburban housecat.

Here's the spreadsheet with the scores. For those of who are you interwebs-savvy, I've changed the filename to "2010p6Standings" and this URL should be consistent for the rest of the game. Feel free to bookmark it or RSS it or "like" it or twit it or whatever the hell your cell phone does.

* -- Okay, one more thing. In my pick 'em game where you pick against the spread, I went 16-5. Keep in mind that Vegas sets the spread to ensure the wagering public will be split 50-50, so anything even slightly above .500 is a good week. I know I am tempting fate but I'm pretty excited. Who else picked Illinois AND Minnesota to cover their spreads?