The Consequences of Sloppy Copy and Demise of Chippendales

I saw a piece on the national news about the Miami Police Department and Jay-Z. According to the report, the Miami PD updated their website focusing on gang prevention and how the community should get involved. Good idea … horrible execution however. Whoever was working on the site had laid in an illustration placeholder they had found on Google depicting a group of supposed gang-bangers.

Well, two of the undesirables in the image happened to look a whole lot like hip-hop mogul, Jay-Z.  Apparently nobody proofed the site before it went live. Opps!

This is kind of ironic since Jay-Z just appeared on the cover of Forbes with Warren Buffett. And you thought you had stereotype problems.

This got me thinking about an old friend of mine, Eric Gilbert. Eric worked with me on a printing directory I published in Los Angeles twenty years ago. Eric told me about a situation he ran into in his next position as marketing director at Chippendales.

For those of you not familiar with Chippendales, let me fill you in.  They were a male stripper revue that became huge in the ’90s.  The majority of their revenue came from their annual calendar which sold millions and was only eclipsed in numbers by the Sports Illustration Swimsuit calendar.

To print a project like this required a cooperative agreement with their printer George Rice and Sons in Los Angeles. Because of the size of the print run and enormous cost involved – George Rice agreed to carry the print costs up front in turn for half the revenue. Again, in theory, this sounds like a good deal for both parties. Not so quick though.

Chippendales was responsible for the calendar layout and content, and in turn the press checking. For all of you who have press checked, you know your eye focuses on matching the color of the printed piece to that of the proof provided. Once they match – the client, Chippendales, signs off and the presses run.

One year in the mid ’90s, Chippendales and George Rice went through their annual routine and the calendar was printed. Several million calendars were printed and George Rice started shipping. While packing the boxes to be sent worldwide, one of the shipping clerks on the dock decided to take a look at the calendar. He didn’t make too far however.

As he turned the page to February, he noticed something.  February had thirty-one days, or at least according to the Chippendales calendar. Opps! The color was great, the printing was great … but February had thirty-one days – and the calendars, all of them, were worthless.

Somehow everyone involved in the proofing process missed this. And since it was Chippendales that had signed off, they were on the hook. And it was a hook that became fatal.

After a lengthy legal battle, Chippendales was significantly wounded and eventually ended up selling out. All because of a simple proofing oversight. In fact one of the partners was accused of murder and ended up committing suicide.

Stories like this were not common back then. There wasn’t the rush to have everything done and out immediately.  Today it’s all about needing it yesterday … often to the detriment of quality and accuracy.  And because the use of the internet and digital printing, errors and their ramifications aren’t nearly as drastic.

We see it everywhere, especially with the news media and unsubstantiated stories.  And we see it in our basic conversation. Our emails often lack proper grammar and punctuation. And don’t me get me started on texting. I suppose all this is pretty much harmless. But like any action we do … the more we do it, the more it becomes habit.

Let’s just hope this habit doesn’t turn into your own personal Chippendales.


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No … it’s our fault!

Back a year and half ago, Fargo, North Dakota (my home state) was going through a potentially devastating flood.  Associated Press reported a story about Fargo’s mayor,  Dennis Walaker – the hero of the Fargo flood.  Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“When an 8-year-old girl died after the car she was riding in spun out of control and was struck by another car, Walaker blamed the crash on a rut that the city failed to fix.  He thought it was important to let the driver — the victim’s 15-year-old sister — know it wasn’t her fault, and he wasn’t worried that it could open up the city to a lawsuit.”

When is the last time you or anyone else in your firm acted like this?


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Myron Rolle … and why you don’t see him in the NFL

Well tonight is the first Monday Night Football game of the 2010 season.  So far this week I saw my beloved Minnesota Vikings look pitiful, and a game in Jacksonville put on hold because of heat.  Never saw that before, not the Vikings but the heat.

Myrone Rolle - Florida State

One thing I didn’t see was Myron Rolle.  That’s because he didn’t play.  If you don’t count the practice squad … he didn’t make it to the NFL.

For those who don’t know the who Myron Rolle is, let me tell you.  Myron is a defensive back from Florida State.  As a junior, after the 2008 season he was considered one of top defensive backs in all of college football.  If he would have came out for the draft that year he would have been a first or second round pick.  But he went back to school.  He didn’t go back to Florida State, however.  He went to Oxford in England.  See Myron is a Rhodes scholar, one only twenty or thirty in 2008 in the world.  No he was just in top twenty of his class or even in the country.  He was in the top twenty in the whole world.

Myron came back home after his year at Oxford and entered the draft this last year.  He fell to the sixth round, pick 207.  No, he wasn’t hurt, he wasn’t out shape.

He fell in the draft because the “braintrusts” throughout the NFL questioned his commitment.  Who was this person … somebody who actually believed there was life outside the high and mighty NFL.  You see Myron wants to be neurosurgeon someday.

I guess all the NFL teams thought there was no room for someone like Myron on their team beyond a sixth round pick.  After all they thought he lacked commitment.

Obviously being committed enough to be a Rhodes scholar is nothing compared to how to “stop the run” or “blitz on second and long.”


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The Baby Boomer, Gen Y communications gap and social media … the solution or the problem?

I got up this morning at 4:30am – and as I do every morning, I attacked my “1st thing To Do in the morning task.”  Today it was clean out the people I follow on Twitter.  I was getting to the point where I couldn’t even delve into the links because there was too much stuff – stuff I had no room in my brain for.

One thing I found myself doing today was taking a look at the age demographics of the people I followed.  I’m a generational analysis freak, so I got off on this.  Out of the 100 or so people I follow, I found that they were pretty much equally distributed after taking out my industry related stuff.  I have about the same amount of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Gen Y tweeters.  As a reference point:  I’m fifty-one, on the cusp of the Boomers and Gen X.

This got me thinking:  Is this a normal distribution?  After looking into who the people who I followed, I looked to who they followed.  I surmised that I wasn’t the norm.  Humans have a tendency to gravitate towards comfort.  And comfort normally lies with those of similar age.  My observations backed this up.

Now this bring us to this post.

As we all know, the mechanics of communication and socialization have changed greatly with the advent of social media.  God, Facebook has 500 million members, Twitter has almost 100 million and LinkedIn has 80 million.  Countless people all over the world spend countless hours tweeting, following, connecting and friending.

The generation gap

Social media has been touted as bringing the world together – connecting people from disparate cultures and enabling them to get to know each other.  But how much “bringing together” is actually actually going on.  From a geographic sense, sure.  But other than that … is social media bridging a communication gap – or is it creating one.

As I mentioned above, according to my informal research, people are spending more time with others in their own age group due to the time they spend on social media sites.  In “the old days,” we made contact with people of all ages because … well, because we just physically ran into them.  When we were teenagers, if we went to our friends’ houses – we saw and talked to their parents.  With no social media, any contact we would have would have to be either on the phone (normally limited because of only having one house phone) or in person.  If you didn’t get out in the real world, you didn’t socialize.  Remember the term “homebody?”

Seldom do the younger people have contact with the people my age, and vice versa.  On the surface this might not seem like a big deal.  There’s always been generation gaps.  But never has there been an opportunity like this with the ubiquity of social media and the connection and communication possibilities it brings.

And not only are we not taking advantage of it … we’re using it to our disadvantage.

The young need mentoring.  They need to hear stories about what happens if they do stupid things.  The need to know that life is not a straight line, but rather a series of ups and downs and cycles.  And the Baby Boomers like me need the nieve optimism that we once had but has now been replaced by risk aversion.  We need the energy.  We need to know that we may be 50 or 60, but we sure as hell don’t have to feel and act like that.  Satchel Paige once posed the question, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

I participate in four social media venues:  LinkedIn, Facebook, Brazen Careerists and Twitter.  Let me tell you how I see these four shaking out from a generational perspective.

  1. LinkedIn: As my twenty year old daughter says – LinkedIn is Facebook for old people.  That kind says it all.  Since it’s broken down primarily by professions, I associate with those within profession, digital printing and database marketing.  I would guess the average age is just about my age or maybe a year or two older, within little age diversity.  I also belong to a social media group.  Average here is about fifteen to twenty years younger – and again with little generational crossover.  In summary … I talk to people may age.
  2. Facebook: I don’t really spend much time here.  My only contacts are mainly those people I went to high school with – my age.  And because of the requirement to approve any “friends,” you circle is probably pretty closed and limited to your real world friends.   Any chance meeting with somebody of another age group is small.
  3. Brazen Careerists: This is a site populated mainly by Gen Yers.  Most of them are go getters and I joined to get the “younger” perspective on things.  A lot of the conversation centers around careers (thus the name) and how to move ahead.  My question is, how can a bunch of twenty somethings give career advice when they’re in the middle of the process themselves.  There’s a resume forum which drives me crazy.  “Employers don’t hire resumes … they hire people.”  I know this may sound trite but the focus should be on making contact with those people in the hiring positions (not human resources).  And these people are my age, 50+, or at the least Gen Xers in their late 30s and 40s.
  4. Twitter: This is my favorite – and until this morning I really didn’t know why.  Now I do.  I can follow and listen to whoever I want to.  And anybody can follow me and listen to what I say.  There are blocking features, but who actually uses them.  As I said at the beginning of this post, my Twittering is “equal opportunity across all age groups.”  I like this.

As you can see, with the exception of Twitter, social media (at least the ones I use) restricts intellectual diversity as much if not more than they accommodate it.

OK, enough of the problem.  Let’s fix the game. Together we can all find a phone booth and put on our capes.  Here’s my solution on using social media to bridge the gap.

First for us old people.

  1. Get on Twitter.  Forage around and open your mind to things that you wouldn’t normally.  Follow young people.  Especially for motivation.  Start with @marsdorian and @jennifer_good.  If you can’t make it happen after reading their stuff – go back to bed and start over.  If you find somebody you like, see who they’re following and get their inspiration from.  Try to follow people across the age spectrum equally.
  2. For all you LinkedIn and Facebook people and followers of other permission based sites:  Find people in the real world and on Twitter and invite them to be your friend and /or connection.  Now I’m talking about people of other generations.  Because of the viral nature of social media, people you bring into your circle will automatically be exposed to your existing group and your existing group to them – and your efforts will be leveraged.
  3. This isn’t really a social media thing but I’m including it anyway.  Listen to music outside your comfort zone, i.e. the stuff the kids are listening too.  “It’s the best way to bridge the communication chasm.”

Now to all you Gen Yers, yes Alexandria – you too … you’re not off the hook.  You have to meet us half way.

  1. Join LinkedIn.  Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  Maybe if you expose some “parent types” to your rambling  machinations, you’ll clean things up a bit.  Just maybe. The more the “old people” (the people who will make your career) are exposed to you the more opportunities you will have.
  2. Get on Twitter.  Again Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  See above for my reasons.
  3. And finally … phones still work.  You can still text your friends till your fingers fall off, but don’t let your vocal skill set totally petrify.  Us “old people” still use the phone.  And at last notice, I don’t think texting has evolved into an mainstream interview tool.

I don’t know much protection these suggestions are going to have against the kryptonite of the social media segregation … but it’s better than just continuing down the road of the status quo.

Enough of my ramblings … I have to get back to Eminem.


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We need fewer chiefs … and more Indians

Read an article today in the Harvard Business Review, “How the green revolution needs less thinkers and more grunts.” I haven’t written anything about alternative energy in a long time, so this interested me … maybe even a creative spark.

The article talks about how we idolize the creative thinkers, Einstein and the such, but don’t really give the actual “grunts,” the people doing the lifting their due credit.

But let’s look at the most prolific  inventor in history, Thomas Edison.  He not only was brilliant, of course, but he created a factory of innovation.  A factory of trial and error based on correction of failures … and many of them.  Andy Warhol did the same thing, and he created the art mass reproduction industry – amongst other things.  In fact Lady Gaga equates her creative company, Haus of Gaga, to that of Warhol’s Factory forty plus years ago.

Our future!

Now what does this have to do with the “green revolution” or alternative energy (i.e. wind, solar)?  The technology is there … it’s economically feasible and with the disaster in the gulf – it’s sure timely.

What’s the problem?

There’s no grunts.  Nobody is out there putting photovoltaic cells everywhere instead of running wires everywhere.  For some reason, a lot of people seem to think that wind generators are ugly … get over it – how about the aftermath of strip mining.  Lovely isn’t it!

The biggest growth industry in this country in alternative energy (God, we need solar and wind).  And there is nothing happening … for the most part.   We need “grunts.”  Grunts that pressure our so-called government leaders (Barak you included), put pressure on the utilities (paying somebody only once a year for sending electricity back into the grid is outright criminal) and pressure these NIMBY freaks back into there basements where they belong (then they can’t see the wind generators).

If I may vent some more … it’s my blog so let me get on with my “bad self.” The has been an enormous amount of money and attention put towards the housing industry.  “We need bailouts,” whether it’s legislation or lending reform.  What you need is smart building and smart buying.  I don’t see much of either of the two.  Why isn’t an on-demand water heater mandatory?

This recession, as I’m sure has, created polarizing factions.  “We’re coming out of it (government data – but nobody talks about underemployment), or we’re not (I guess they have never heard of Apple or Google or still thinks the steel industry is dominant in Ohio).”

The American industry has changed …

As it always has in the brief history of our country.

We’ve always been the country of invention, the country to embrace change.  We’re doing it with the on-line stuff (I could be more articulate but why when we are know what I’m talking about).

But we have also been the country of implementation – the country of “grunts.”

Now it’s time to all of us “work together in the trenches” and … create the new bridge to our next internet revolution (remember where the internet started).


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Why Should We Keep Print Alive?

I’ve been following a group on Twitter called #helpprintthrive.  It’s a discussion about how can the printing industry can, well – thrive.

I’ve spent the last 20+ years in the printing industry … and I’m as much for keeping the industry viable as much as the next person, but I’m starting to have second thoughts.

In discussions I’ve had with many people in the industry – I haven’t really heard many good reasons why the industry deserves my support.  “You have to support print – just because it’s print.”  That’s not good enough for me.  And I don’t think it’s good enough for most people.

Every morning, I go outside and pick my newspaper only to have ten circulars fall out on the ground, or these days, in the snow.  These are generic ads trying to get me to buy something I have no interest in buying or even looking at.  And today took the cake … an empty paper grocery bag with just a logo on it.  I’m about ready to cancel my print subscription and just read the online version.


And the sad thing is, I’m a customer of most of these advertisers and they know what I buy – but obviously they just don’t care.  “Don’t push ‘everything under the sun’ to me just because you are too lazy or inconsiderate to care about my time and attention … and the garbage cans I’m filling up.”

And I’m going to add printers to this rant too.  The print industry can’t expect their clients to know all the great 1 to 1 customization options available – options that focus on effective communication, not print spam.  It’s the industry’s job to educate – not just be an order taker.  And if they don’t offer these options … get with the program.

In fact, I believe a good portion of the blame lies with the print industry.  It seems like too many of the reasons to “keep print alive” come out of tradition.  Print has been around for some 600 years and by gosh we have to keep it going another 600.  We bought equipment for hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions and we have to make the payments and pay for the people to run it … so buy our print. It doesn’t make any difference that maybe we didn’t really think it through when we bought all this stuff.

After all:  “Don’t they come if we build it?”  Unless you have Kevin Costner on staff – NO!

I want to hear some good reasons why I should buy and consume print.  If I’m an advertiser, I want to know why I should spend what little money I have on print, rather on this cool internet stuff that everyone’s into.  As a consumer – why should I go through mountains of paper … and waste my time and mind space on all this junk I don’t care about?  Granted print is better for reading and I like the idea of sitting on my couch and going through the Sunday paper … but that’s just one day, and just one or two papers.

And I’m not even talking about the environmental issues.  And I don’t want to hear about “more print means more trees planted” or the environmental effects of data centers.  I don’t buy it.  You can twist the statistics all you want.  Neither I nor the vast majority of the world buys this argument – true or false.

Well – since I’m not getting any good reasons … I’m going to give you my own.

  1. As an advertiser, I think it would be great to be able to make sure my customers know about things I had to offer, the things that are relevant to their lives.  And I want to make sure it gets to them at a time when they could use it most.  This would be great since I wouldn’t have pay for so much print and postage sending useless advertising to people who aren’t going to buy from me anyway.  Answer me why should I be sending a teenage boy an advertisement for discounted diapers.
  2. As a consumer, I’d like to receive something from the companies I shop at (or even just have visited), to show me that they have actually spent the time to realize I’m an individual – not like my next door neighbor or even my wife or my daughter. And if it was a printed piece that would be cool too, maybe even with a stamp on it – that would be even be best since it’s a lot harder to do and more expensive than just sending out an email or a text.  It’ll show me you care about me and my business.
  3. As a consumer, I’d like to get something on quality paper – paper that feels nice and memorable when I touch it … something I’ll want to keep and not just throw away.  I can’t get that with my screen or my mouse.  In fact it doesn’t even have to be paper, it could be plastic or any interesting substrate with message on it that I can use.
  4. And as an advertiser, I want my printer to realize that just because I want to try new media options, doesn’t mean I don’t still love them and want them part of my life.  And if they even add some of these new exciting options to their ‘bag of tricks’ – I’d be more than happy to give them the first shot. But, just because they don’t want to grow, doesn’t mean I don’t, and in fact I have to – to survive.

I’ve been through the ups and downs of the print industry as much as anyone has.  As an electronic prepress recruiter I saw my open job orders go from forty to zero in just two months time a few years ago.  Yes – zero, as in zero dollars.  Not a five or ten percent decline … but a hundred percent.  But that just the way it goes – life changes and you move on.  Having a business isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.  A privilege that has a finite life.  That life may span over several generations – but it’s still finite.

The world is in a constant state of change.  Our success as business people lies in our ability to navigate these changes and find ways to continually make ourselves and our businesses relevant.  All to often it’s easy just to coast and think we are above it all … but we’re not.

Now I believe that the #helpprintthrive discussion has a lot of merit.  At least it recognizes that the industry’s future needs be to addressed.  But we just need to get past the “wave the flag” mentality and really look at the issues and solutions.  You don’t see the online industry touting itself, just because it’s online.  Why do we?

If we really want to help the print industry, we need to look past – our past.  The print industry has every bit as good of a chance to thrive as any other.  We just can’t keep looking at our business and it’s value to our customers, and their customers – as being the same as it was yesterday and the day before that.

But that doesn’t mean its value can’t be worth even more.


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Passing Uphill – version 2010

How do you react when things are difficult.

We’ve been hearing about how we are coming out of the recession we’re in.  Overall this may be true.  Certain industries are expanding but it’s still very hard out there.  We’re not all Apple.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them.

Passing Uphill

When I was in high school I ran cross country.  We had a great team and great coach.  One thing he drilled into us was “pass uphill.”  On the flats everyone gets into their groove and its hard to make up any ground and get around them.  That’s why “pass uphill.”  Uphill is when most runners (not the great ones) relax and just wait to get to the top to regain their “groove.”  We were taught to sprint up the hills – and pass people when they least expect it.  This is a big reason why our team won three state championships in four years.

Doing business in recession is like running uphill.  Most firms get conservative.  They cut back … especially with advertising and marketing.  After all, it’s a recession and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.  You just have wait out the hill until you hit the flat ground again … right.

WRONG!  This is exactly the time to spend more.  Whether it’s on marketing, research or just hiring top talent that has been kicked to the curb because of company ineptitude. Do something – gain market share.

When the economy turns you will have clients that you helped in the downturn.  These clients will remember that and be loyal.

We’re on a hill.  Pass or get passed.


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