Friday, August 14, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

(These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary show on WFRA-LP Jamestown)

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Wow, I never thought I'd see the day when I'd report this story. But here it is and it even makes an awful lot of sense. Coffee shops are cracking down on laptop users. In fact some are even giving the laptop brigade the old heave ho. That's hard for me to imagine. Let's face it coffee shops and computers have an almost primal link. There's a local place here in Jamestown that will RENT you a laptop if you'd like to surf while you eat even! Here's what's going on:

With the economic downturn folks have more time on their hands and they're spending it looking for jobs, networking, just trying to stay up with their lives. And let's face it, it's pretty boring being at home all the time. So you go down to your favorite coffee shop. But where you used to only spend an hour or so there before, because you had to get back to work, now you can spend HOURS there. Of course since you're out of work you're not going to be spending a lot of money. So you're going to nurse that cup for as long as you can. That, needless to say, is where the rub is. Coffee shops are businesses, very often small businesses. The lunch hour is especially vital for the survival of most of these businesses. The last thing they need is a lot of low spending squatters taking up all the retail customer real estate.

So several small coffee shops in New York City and a couple in San Francisco have laptop free times during the day now. 11 AM to 2 PM weekdays and 10 A to 3 P on weekends you need to do your surfing somewhere else. Other places are also limiting use during prime evening hours. In addition some places are increasingly worried about the electrical usage from these long term users. Outlets are being covered over to keep laptop users from plugging in. In at least two coffee shops in the Big Apple laptops are just verboten at any time.

How the backlash is going to develop will be an interesting development. But one person notes there's also an interesting sidelight to suddenly having to go elsewhere for your wifi (oh, let me suggest the public library is a great place to get some work done). What can develop out of this is the return of one of the greatest of all communications mediums. Remember when you went to the coffee shop - for some great conversation?


I know for a lot of older folks there are few things more annoying than watching the younger generation typing away furiously on their phones. There's something about the absorption into the process of sending text messages that just makes some people crazy. Of course we're also watching people do it while walking and sadly we've seen recently in Buffalo two young people killed apparently while the driver was texting. Never the less I think we need to acknowledge that whether we like it or not texting, in all its various forms, is here to stay. And here's the proof.

Item number the first - Black Hawk County in Iowa is now set up to receive text messages on its 9-1-1 service. At the start it's only on one service provider but you can expect to see that change (who wants to be known as the cellular service that won't let you call for help?). At first my reaction was "Come On!" but even a quick look shows that's this not a bad idea at all. If you are hearing or speech impaired being able to text emergency services will be a huge advantage. You're no longer tied down to specialty equipment in order to make the call. There are added advantages for situations when talking to the operator could endanger your life (think hiding in a closet while an abuser or even worse may be searching the house for you then add in kidnap victims and hostages). Plus this is a simple and quick means for the younger generation to communicate. I can only look in awe at the speed my younger friends can type out a text message. In emergencies speed IS of the essence.

Item the second is even more interesting. Twitter, the text message based micro blog service, seems to have found a new arena - religion. I'm sure there's been lots of religious tweeters before but there are two very interesting ideas under way. If you're Jewish saying a prayer at the Western Wall of the remains of the Temple in Jerusalem has always had a special place. But not everyone can get there. No worries! Now you can tweet your prayer, it will be printed out for you and placed in the wall! Meanwhile the Roman Catholic church seems to have its eye on the future as well. Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland recently endorsed the idea of sharing prayers on a daily basis via either text or Twitter.

So be careful the next time you get grumpy with a young person texting near you. They might be chatting with a higher power.


Periodically while I'm watching TV a commercial will really grab my attention. Sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. If they really grab me I share them with you. Today it's the new Ford campaign that has grabbed me.

Before I get started let me make something clear. What follows is NOT a criticism of Ford's cars and Trucks. In fact as the son of a car guy (and former Ford employee) I'm very impressed with the current and coming models from the Blue Oval Boys. I just wish I could say the same about their current ad campaign.

Let's begin with a quick review – the automotive industry in the US has been getting hammered over the last several years. Within in the last year two of the big three have gone through bankruptcy and had to go hat in hand to the federal government for money to keep them alive. The exception to this was Ford. With some better management and product design they were in better shape to weather the storm and come out the other side ready to roll.

Which is why the current ad campaign puzzles me. It's the tag line that is the true source of my discomfort. “Why Ford? Why Not?”. Why Not? Really? Why Not is something I usually say when I agree to do something that I'll regret having done the next morning (Again this is NOT a comment about the product just the ad campaign people. Do NOT write me letters claiming I'm slagging Ford cars and trucks) A car company that has managed to do what Ford has done in the last year deserves a better ad campaign than one that say's “Hey, we're better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”. Why Ford? Cause we're not as bad as THOSE guys.

The reality is that I think they're really close to a much better ad campaign. Let's keep everything else about the campaign, the look, the spokespeople, everything except the tag line. How about we use the ad time to tout all the great things about the new Ford products – styling, options, fuel efficiency. Then at the end it's “Why Ford? That's Why”. Positive and assertive rather than negative and insecure. It would be a campaign that aggressively pushes Ford forward as a winner, as an innovator and as a product you want in your life. Not something you're willing to accept until something better comes along.

Why should Ford change their ad campaign? That's why.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

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