First the Hummer, now three-ply toilet paper

Did you know that there is a three-ply toilet paper on the market? Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is the first TP on the shelves to go triple-ply. Maybe those of you who demand a lot from your toilet tissue already knew that, but it was news to me. Sad news at that.

According to environmentalists, toilet paper is usually made from trees that are a few decadesor perhaps even a centuryold. The reason? Apparently, each sheet of TP is a web of wood fibers and quite simply put, the fibers from old growth trees are longer and produce a smoother web. Toilet paper made from recycled paper (e.g. newspaper, magazines, etc.) has shorter fibers, which are likely to be a bit coarser.

Now, some people may counter with the fact that toilet paper represents only a small percentage of products that are derived from trees in the forest. Frankly, I don't care. Do we really need to contribute to deforestation for an extra ply?

Then, there's the ripple effect. Wood pulp that comes from natural forests destroys ecosystems that wild animals and birds depend upon for their survival. And, pulp from wood farms takes up land that would otherwise be left in its natural state.

Europe is ahead of the U.S. in so many ways. Its citizens have been using toilet paper made from recycled paper goods for quite some time. But, here in America, we continue to be a society that makes purchases based on wants instead of needs. Consumer demands drive new products and until Americans truly embrace a lifestyle based on social responsibility, there is no real hope for the green movement in this country.

Soapbox derbies give you wings

If there's one company that does a killer job of sponsoring high-voltage events, it's Red Bull. From flugtag races and urban boulder climbing to b-boy dance contests and freestyle skiing competitions, Red Bull knows how to bring energy and excitement to the people.

This weekend, Red Bull is hosting one of its popular Soapbox Race events. For four years, it has organized races across the globe, including stops in Jamaica, Italy, Australia, South Africa, Finland, and of course, America. This Saturday's free event boasts 40 hand-made, non-motorized soapboxes. Some of the fun designs include a time-traveling DeLorean, a giant nose, a bunk bed, and an Aztec temple. The races are free to spectate and feature celebrity judges, including the popular Eric Estrada.

I love it when companies find smart ways to bring events into their marketing efforts. The Red Bull brand is all about silliness, action, energy, and fun. So, a soapbox derby with high speed action and whimsically decorated racecars is a perfect way to reinforce Red Bull's irreverent style and love for the outrageous.

If you happen to be in the L.A. area this Saturday, why not spend a day at the races? It promises to be a fun afternoon with lots of action. And, if the heat makes you sleepy, I'm sure there will be plenty of Red Bull on hand to give you that second wind.

Puma brings stripping to its new iPhone app

Puma unveiled a new iPhone app this week that is a bit unusual. No, it doesn't have a thing to do with running shoes or athletics. It's about the Dow Jones Index. No, folks, I'm not kidding. And this isn't even the odd part.

So, in a nutshell, here's how the app works (click on the player below to see the promotional video with the scantily clad hotties). If the Index (e.g. Dow, S&P, Dax) goes down, a bunch of jiggling beauties dance around on your iPhone and take off their clothes. If the Index goes up, the gals bundle up. During lulls in trading, the buxom babes do other things like wash cars or jump on trampolines (in whatever state of undress they were in last).

Yes, I realize this is meant to be a fun way to make a bad situation a bit more bearable, but c'mon. Really, women wiggling out of the jeans if the Dow takes a hit?

Obviously this free app isn't targeted at me, even though I do have the option of selecting a hot, half-naked, firefighter-type guy with a bulldog puppy to dance around for me to make my financial losses a bit easier to bear (or is that bare?). Yes, I know sex sells. But is Puma so desperate for attention that this is how they want to show off their new line of underwear?

Personally, I think the whole thing is incredibly distasteful. But, I'm not the type of gal who frequents strip joints. What's your take? Will you get the new Puma Index app?

New York Lottery uses animals in PJs to sell tickets

The new commercial from the New York Lottery's Sweet Millions drawing is so adorable that I defy even the crankiest person not to smile. Yes, at first you'll click on the player below to watch the video and think it's some cutesy animal video, but it really is from the NY Lottery Commission. And the sweet part is that multiple people can each win $1 million bucks (the details are here if you want to know how it works).

Now, tell me this ad won't stick in people's mind. Heck yes, it will! I'm sure it'll be fodder at N.Y. water coolers for quite some time.

The death of cursive writing

Today, I read an interesting article about an eighth grader who couldn't sign her name in cursive. The piece went on to discuss how many schools are skipping "old school" skills like penmanship, in favor of new technology. I completely support the idea of kids learning valuable skills that they need in today's tech-savvy world, but to overlook basic literacy skills concerns me.

Are we really so consumed with technology that we can't communicate with one another unless there's a keyboard in front of us? Are handwritten birthday cards and love letters all destined to be typed and emailed? Will students no longer pass notes or sign each other's yearbooks because they can't write? Or will they do so in a cryptic print style that looks like a six-year-old taking his first stab at spelling the alphabet?

Imagine if all our historical documents were created in Word and saved in a PDF. The Gettysburg Address, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Declaration of Independence all written on computers? No emotion conveyed through an extra loopy "y" or "g" and no personality. Without cursive, John Hancock would just be one of the many men who signed the Declaration of Independenceand not a household name that's become a synonym for signature.

A world without handwriting. Is that really where we're headed? If so, I think that's sad.

Let the tweets fly in LA

For those who are interested in maximizing their Twitter experience, there is a two-day Twitter seminar in Los Angeles on September 22-23. Dubbed 140: The Twitter Conference, the gathering will bring together nearly 50 speakers and panelists. From social media experts like Biz Stone (Twitter co-founder), Guy Kawasaki (Alltop co-founder), and Noah Everett (Twitpic founder) to an odd hodge-podge of celebrities, the conference has a track for ordinary folks and one for developers.

At this point, the early bird discounts have expired and the registration fee is pretty steep at $429. However, if you want to mix and mingle with some of the industry's movers and shakers, this is an excellent opportunity. You can also view the attendee roster so you can see who you might want to network with while you're there.

If you go, have fun and soak it all in. There is also an open bar the first night which might help you feel better about the high registration price (although I doubt anyone can drink enough to break even on the $429 fee!).

Nominate your military hero

Chevy has started a new promotion to honor our country's military heroes (the nomination form says servicemen, but I'm sure that's just bad copyediting). People are encouraged to nominate a friend or family member who is in the armed forces and exemplifies the military spirit. Entries can only be 200 words in length, or you may submit a video.

Nominations will be accepted until September 28, with the five finalists named on October 5. At that point, the public will be invited to vote for their favorite. The ultimate winner (and his/her family) will be sent to the Country Music Awards to enjoy the show and meet some superstar singers. He/she will also receive a 2010 Chevy Equinox. And, a randomly selected winner will get a free trip to next year's NASCAR race.

Do you know someone who has inspired others, overcome insurmountable obstacles, or demonstrated amazing character? Nominate them and share their story.

Our military has made such sacrifices on behalf of our country that a night out on the town and a car seem like paltry acknowledgment. However, I applaud Chevy for doing something to acknowledge these fine people. Wouldn't it be great if every American company did?

Microsoft employee lacks common sense yet CEO gets mocked

This weekend a story was circulating around the net about Steve Ballmer lambasting an employee for taking his picture with an iPhone. Ballmer is, of course, the CEO of Microsoft, Apple's biggest competitor. And, the photo was snapped at a private meeting for Microsoft employees.

The comments flying back and forth on this topic range from people arguing which company is better, Microsoft or Apple, to people berating Ballmer's antics. However, I find it odd that very few people seem to question the lack of common sense this employee displayed.

Employee X brings a competitor's product into a staff meeting meant to pump up employees and uses that product to take a picture of the CEO? Are you kidding me? Who in their right mind would do that? Especially considering we're talking about Apple and Microsoft here.
That would be the equivalent of a General Motors employee picking up the CEO in a BMW.

Really, am I missing something on this one?

A nice twist on the bus bench ad

As I was taking my dogs on a walk this morning, I happened to pass a new bus bench ad. I don't know about your neighborhood, but in mine the realtors seem to have the monopoly on these benches. They all follow the same formula, too, with a huge mug shot prominently plastered across the ad. These folks must not have a fear of extreme close-ups.

In any case, I looked at the bench to see what local real estate agent got the space this time, and apparently Courtney Cox Arquette is now in the biz. Well, sort of. Courtney must play a realtor in her new show, Cougar Town. And, in a very clever ad campaign by ABC, they're doing the bus bench ads just like real realtors do.

If you check out the url, it goes to ABC. Nothing thrilling there. However, if you dial the number, it does provide a more authentic voice message from Jules Cobb (Courtney's character). The ad looks pretty legit. If you didn't recognize Courtney, you probably wouldn't even realize the ad was a spoof. At least not at first glance.

I like these kinds of ads. They're not in-your-face, but they do a great job of gettingand keepingyour attention. And now that I know I live in the greater Cougar Town area (I had no idea!), maybe my neck of the woods will become a bit more trendy.

99¢ weddings

This week (on 9/9/09 to be exact), nine couples received a discount wedding, priced at the unbelievably low price of 99 cents. The weddings, underwritten by the 99¢ Only Stores, were part of a promotion to wed nine couples and provide them with their wedding day essentials (e.g. flowers, dinner, photos, and a hotel for their honeymoon night). Nearly 3,000 couples entered the contest and the nine winning couples were married on Aisle 9 between 8:09 a.m. and 9:09 a.m. at the chain's Hollywood location.

Now you couldn't pay me enough money to get married at the 99¢ Only Store (not even $99 million would do it), but I have to hand it to the marketing folks over there. They do a great job of getting media exposure. This story was covered across the country and millions of people saw the products that are available at the 99¢ Only Stores, from decorations to food items.

As for the people who participated in the contest, I'm at a loss for words. If my fiance ever suggested such an idea, I'm afraid that would be grounds for an immediate break-up.

Long live the tweet-peat

The new season of Glee starts today. As you may know, it aired just one episode last season and nabbed the prime spot following the season finale of American Idol. However, that was four months ago and Fox obviously needed to re-air that episode before today's premiere. So, it was shown again a few days ago. But this wasn't just your ordinary repeatit was a tweet-peat!

What's a tweet-peat, you ask? At first glance, you might just think it's pop up video (a.k.a. culture notes) that show small, on-screen boxes with bits of trivia. However, it is much, much more.

Here's how the Glee tweet-peat worked. Fans were invited to tweet with three actors from Glee during the East Coast feed and three different actors during the West Coast show. The boxes that popped up on the TV screen during the show were tweets from those actors (including @replies to fans on Twitter). Again, in real time, both on TV and on Twitter.

As a pop culture junkie with a healthy curiosity about new marketing tactics, I had to participate. For an hour I watched the on-screen tweets and scampered back to my computer during the commercials to look at the tweets on Twitter. And, might I add, my tweet was answered by @MsAmberRiley (Merceded Jones on the show) and shown on TV at 9:46 p.m. (PST), complete with my Twitter username. Very cool.

I have to say, I think this new spin on an old gimmick is a really smart way to engage viewers. It was fun, it was real, it was live, and it gave unprecedented access to the actors.

I give a big thumbs up to Fox on this one.

I know this post might seem weird, but bear with me

The other day one of my male Facebook friends posted something on his wall that got my attention. Without going into too much graphic detail, it was about a new product that helps "on-the-go" women urinate while standing up. You can watch the YouTube video to get the full explanation of how it works and who might find it handy (nothing inappropriate here, I promise).

My first thought was "Ew, what is this and why is Paul (a guy!) telling me about it?" As I started to type up my comment that I was concerned about how Paul was spending his time, I saw his explanation in the comments that projected sales were high and this company, Go Girl, had a solid social media presense. I deleted my sarcastic comment and checked out the company on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

I have to say, after looking at their stuff, it does look like an amazingly useful product. Especially in certain circumstances. However, there's just something in me that won't allow me to interact with this product in the social media space. I'm sorry, but I can't be "friends" with a urinary accessory. I'm just old-fashioned that way.

But, ladies, do check out Go Girl. Once you get passed the "ewwww" factor and can be a bit more objective, it really is an innovative product that I'm sure will gain traction in the marketplace.

Product placement reaches new lows

As the new TV season approaches, I can't help but to wonder how many products will be "integrated" into my programs this fall. It used to be that product placement was fairly subtle. A box of Cheerios in the background as a mom prepared breakfast on a sitcom. A guy sitting on the couch holding a bag of Doritos before a killer snuck in the window during a crime drama. But, last season the product placement went up about eight notches on a scale of one to ten.

Off the top of my head, I can remember a few priceless moments where products should have received "guest star" credit.

1) On Desperate Housewives, Bree leads us on a four-minute tour of her new Lexus. She gushes about the features ad nauseum, even leaning in to demonstrate them for her neighbors. The scene ends, of course, with a tight shot of the Lexus logo.

2) On 90210, Annie and Dixon go on a road trip and have to bring Dr. Pepper because it's "not a road trip" without it. Many lingering close-ups on the can, the can in the cooler, the can in their hands, the can with a shirt on that says "I went to Arizona and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" (okay, I jest about that last part).

3) On Smallville, Chloe goes out of her way to mention in a conversation. In the same episode, Jimmy utters a forced reference to Yes, they added the ".com" to their conversations. C'mon, writers don't really write like that unless, of course, they are told to do so.

4) On 30 Rock, there was an actual plot line where Jack and Elisa are obsessed with the McFlurry that's served at McDonald's. They show them smacking on their ice cream treats several times during the show, with the grand finale landing them at a McDonalds. (Tina Fey denies this was outright product placement, but NBC did manage to land a McDonald's commercial for that particular McShow. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.)

As for production placement in the new TV season, who knows what's in store for us. I can't help but to fear that The Office will have a story line where it's bought out by a major office supply retailer and renamed "The Office" Depot. Hey, it could happen.
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