What should we give St. Louis for its 250th birthday?

As we all trudge along, doing whatever it is we do, few people are aware that St. Louis has a 250th birthday celebration coming our way next year.

Whether the official founding date is February 14, 1764 or February 15, most historians are sure about the year.

1764. That’s the date when Pierre Laclede and August Chouteau founded this city, named after King Louis IX of France. Founded on the banks of the Mississippi, St. Louis was a riverboat town which experienced a huge population growth after the Civil War and at one point in the late 19th century, St. Louis was the 4th largest city in the United States.

In March of 1877, St. Louis seceded from St. Louis County, allowing it to become an independent city and limiting its political boundaries. I’m not going to say that’s when all our problems began but that city-county split never quite worked out and I wish I knew more of the reasoning behind it back in the day. Who was it that had that great vision to cause that split and what was their thinking. Was it the first St. Louis NIMBY sighting?

“The county is wild territory and no one will live there. Only vagabonds and scoundrels would live in the county and I certainly don’t want them living in my back yard. Let them fend for themselves.”

Who knows? The St. Louis city population peaked in 1950, reaching a high of 856,796 and it’s been all downhill from there – 2011 population figures list 318,069 St. Louisans – yet that’s not right, because I certainly consider myself a St. Louisan.¬† But I’m one of those in the surrounding county area, which, depending upon which counties you want to count, includes more than 2.9 million (including our 318,000+ city inhabitants).

So here we all are, the 19th largest metropolitan area in the country and as we head into 2014 and we all get ready to put on our party hats and celebrate 250 years, I think we’re kind of at a crossroads as to which way this region goes.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I’m a huge proponent of fixing that mistake that was made back in 1877. I think we should merge the city with the county because divided, we will continue to have that NIMBY attitude. Alas, I don’t think that’s going to be done in my lifetime or perhaps in anyone’s lifetime. There are too many fiefdoms in this metropolitan area of ours, too many special interests at work. And so we have good school districts and bad school districts. There are areas of the city and county that are not just struggling, they’re on the verge of economic collapse while other areas flourish.

This city and this metropolitan area is so segmented – and as a rule, most St. Louisans don’t venture into other areas all that often. We are a city divided. We are pockets of communities where many of us are as likely to visit Delaware as we are Dellwood (and I’m not trying to pick on Dellwood, I just liked the alliteration).

Downtown is still not structured to be a place where people live. It’s gotten better but it has a long, long way to go but when there are very few places to shop for groceries and get the normal necessities to carry on everyday life, you’re destined to fail. A city should be a living, breathing organism, alive 24 hours a day. St. Louis is 9-to-5 and alive on sports weekends and turns into somewhat of a ghost town in the evening.

We need more urban pioneers. We need people to stop moving further and further out and start moving closer and closer in. We need visionaries who are ready to re-boot and re-vitalize areas of both the city and the county that were once great places to live but now have people who are afraid to drive in some areas at night.

I am proud to be a lifelong St. Louisan. I love Forest Park, the Cardinals, the West End and so many other places that are too numerous to mention. I hate hearing about gun violence and shootings every single time I turn on the local news. I’m dismayed that school districts are suffering so much that people in those communities are opting to send their kids to other schools across town. That simply doesn’t seem like a logical way to fix a problem to me. Instead, that seems like a downward spiral and downward spirals do not result in happy endings.

Maybe with this 250th birthday celebration coming up, the city and county can rally like never before.

250 years is a major milestone. Let’s make it something way more significant than that.

Doubting The World’s Most Refreshing Can

I’m glad that A-B InBev is going after Coors Light for their claim of having the world’s most refreshing can.

I recently sampled a Coors Light in one of their refreshing cans. Best I could tell, it tasted like Coors Light. Granted, the can is capable of telling you when the beer is cold – when the can dips to a certain degree, the mountains turn more blue.

That’s not exactly a revelation, though. I’ve always been able to tell if a beer is frozen, ice cold, cold or just off a store shelf by holding the can. As for its double vented wide mouth, it does allow you to drink the beer more easily – so if you’re really thirsty, I guess that qualifies as more refreshing than a normal can.

Perhaps the only way to see if it is truly the world’s most refreshing can would be to put Bud Light (or any other beer for that matter) into a Coors Light can and if it made that beer taste better, then it would truly be deserving of the world’s most refreshing can claim.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Jonathan Stern, Miller Coors director of media relations claims that the A-B InBev allegations are a waste of the FTC’s and the National Advertising Division’s time, stating that the claim of the “World’s Most Refreshing Can” meets the standard for acceptable marketing puffery or that the claims are literally truthful.

One claim is that the cans “lock in frost brewed taste”. Yes, and when you open the can, that taste is unlocked. Brilliant.

The can also contains a “Frost Brew Liner”. I looked at the inside of the can and can’t tell exactly what liner they are referring to but I didn’t actually dissect the can to reveal its inner contents. If there is a “Frost Brew Liner”, I guess that’s also helping with this refreshing claim to fame.

A-B InBev has worked hard to make its claims for Bud Light as innocuous as possible. “Drinkability” would be a tough claim to topple. Yes, the beer is drinkable. There’s no puffery there.

When they began selling their “Bow-tie” cans, they didn’t claim that the cans did anything to the taste. They were just different. And different can lead to an occasional blip on the sales radar. These days, all the mainstream beers are thirsting for more blips as micro-brews and kiddie cocktails have left a lot of cans on the shelf for both MillerCoors and A-B InBev.

So now, the two beer behemoths have gone back to battling each other, protecting us gullible consumers from being duped into purchasing something that isn’t totally true. I’m glad they’re watching out for our best interests.

So, ¬†“Here we go.” Let’s see how this one unfolds and remember, it’s what inside that counts.

 

 

 

Where have all the good commercials gone?

When was the last time you saw a commercial that moved you? Stopped you in your tracks? Made you think or laugh or say, “I wish I had done that”?

I was thinking that this weekend.¬† Granted, my TV watching isn’t what it used to be and I know that you’re not going to be blown away by creativity when all you watch is Cardinals games on Fox Sports Midwest, mixed in with a dose of the evening network news and capped off with the local news wrap-up.

Still, I do manage to see some TV beyond that and when my favorite commercials are the AT&T guy bantering with the little kids and an occasional Under Armour or Dick’s spot that tell me that every pitch, every swing, every catch, etc. starts with Dick’s, I find myself wondering, “Where have all the good commercials gone?”

Most of them don’t live on TV anymore – :60, :90 and even 3-minute versions of commercials now stream on the internet but you need to know where to find them.

St. Louis, in general, is not that place.

I went seeking inspiration this evening and I found a bit via this blog http://www.creativebloq.com/3d/top-tv-commercials-12121024

Most of the commercials on here were not done in the states and not every commercial here is available. But if you like creativity, and you’ve been not only missing it, but craving it like I often do, I recommend you set aside 15 minutes or so and enjoy some of the amazing creativity on here.

There’s one spot for Ikea that is extremely enjoyable. There’s another for a baby food that is a joy to watch. There are some amazing special effects on display, great story-telling, great humor – and it makes you wonder, where did it all go?

Especially with local TV advertising. Please, someone out there, tell me three good local commercials that have been done in St. Louis over the last year. Can you even name two? I think Toky did the recent Panera’s campaign and those are fun to watch unfold and tell a good story. Those are the only local commercials I can think of that I would even think of saying, “I wish I had done that.”

Is it that local advertisers are afraid to take risks? If you’re going to spend money on TV advertising these days, that in itself is a risk with the fractured audiences that you get. Have budgets been chopped down so badly and media dollars spread so thin that we can’t afford to spend the production dollars on TV commercials anymore – the cost just doesn’t justify the return? Has St. Louis turned into such a digital driven market agency-wise that we simply don’t know how to do great broadcast anymore?

These are the things I wonder. These are the things I ask.

I’d love to get some opinions on this.

In the meantime, visit the link and see what you’ve been missing.

In-between the Rams and the Cardinals

The dog days of August are upon us and already it’s tough to figure out if the brunt of my sports-following should shift from the Cardinals to the Rams.

I’m worried about the Cardinals. And I’m not nearly as optimistic about the coming season for the Rams as most media types seem to be right now.

The Cardinals are no longer the best team in baseball. In fact, if tonight’s current score ends up with the Cards on the losing end again against the Dodgers, they will slip to the 6th best overall record. In July and August, they’ve been treading water, barely able to stay above .500.

I went to last night’s game and it essentially ended on the second pitch of the evening when Shelby had a line drive careen off his elbow and turn into a double. The Redbirds escaped that inning with no runs scored but you could just sense it was going to be a long night and indeed it was – so long that I bailed before the 8th inning arrived which I normally hate to do – but in this case, it proved to be a wise move as the Dodgers added on four more runs before the shellacking was complete.

Wainwright seems on the verge of having a tired arm. Westbrook seems to have forgotten how to induce ground ball outs which is where he thrives. There’s no telling how the outcome of Shelby’s elbow will turn out and when your two most reliable pitchers are Lance Lynn and Clark Kent (I mean Joe Kelly), you have to worry just a bit about the pitching staff through the end of the year.

Still, even if the Cardinals finish third in their division, they still might qualify as a wild card come playoff time which just doesn’t seem right.

Hockey is made to have third place teams qualify for the playoffs. Baseball shouldn’t be that way.

So then there’s the Rams. The Steven Jackson-less Rams. The Sam Bradford-led Rams. The same old Rams?

I don’t know.

I’d like to believe that Tavon Austin will be a human lightning bug, flitting around and generating electricity everywhere he goes. I want to believe in Sam ‘Big Play’ Bradford – but I don’t. I’d like to think the starting line will give Sam the time to throw and open holes for our Steven Jackson replacement backs. But I’m doubtful. I’d like to think the defense will be able to continue the progress they made last year when they by far out-shined the offense and were actually capable of keeping teams from scoring on almost every possession. But who knows?

You can’t really tell anything from the preseason except who gets hurt and knocked out of future games. A few years ago they went 4-0 in the preseason and then proceeded to completely collapse in one of their all-time seasons for ineptitude.

As I wrap this up, the Cardinals are currently losing 4-1 in the seventh and the Rams are losing 20-13 in the 4th.

The Cardinals need to get back to their winning ways and hopefully the Cubs will help them in that cause this weekend. And the Rams need to survive the preseason without having any major catastrophic injuries.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to try and follow both. But it sure would help if they would make themselves a little more worth following.

Go Rams. Go Cards.

Let’s get through this month. Then the real fun begins.

California Dreamin’ Part 2

One week removed from our California vacation, it’s already a distant memory, fogged over much like the Golden Gate bridge is every time the warm air blows in from Sacramento.

San Francisco is a great city in its own unique way. It certainly has its ups and downs, not just with the hills that make up the heart of the city but in the literal melting pot of humanity that gives the city its unique character.

We stayed downtown for three days and as far as tourists go, we more than played the part. We took an open air tour bus that took us on a four-hour adventure around the city, across the Golden Gate bridge and into Sausalito. Yes, we looked like tourists, staring at every little thing that our guide mentioned. Still, having been to the city twice before, I learned and saw things that I never knew about San Francisco and I’m glad we went on it.

The tour dropped us off near Pier 28 where we then climbed aboard another tourist attraction and set out for Alcatraz, doing the entire walking audio tour of the prison which I thought did a strong theater-of-the mind presentation  Рit was actually unnerving at times, imagining the prisoners on the island and the conditions they faced. After it was over, I was glad to escape the island and get back into the city.

Next, we took a cab to Chinatown, driven there by a driver who we could barely understand. We enjoyed a Chinese dinner and then strolled from store to store doing some occasional shopping. We walked back to our hotel in Union Square, sunburnt, exhausted and still taking in the sights and sounds of the city.

That’s the thing that is so different about San Francisco compared to St. Louis. St. Louis has a downtown that some people go there during the day to work, then go home. The city simply isn’t living and breathing 24 hours a day. Chicago is like that as is New York and I know we’ve made efforts to make St. Louis come alive a bit more – but the city planners never really planned on having our downtown be a place where you live and work.

Granted, we didn’t experience the underbelly of San Francisco – though we felt that where we were staying was right on the edge of it.

We saw a lot of homeless people. Two of them still stick in my memory bank a week after our visit. The first was a relatively elegantly dressed older man. We were near the edge of Chinatown, getting some breakfast at a Greek sidewalk cafe. While we were ordering, this man was screaming at people as they walked by, though I had no idea what he was saying. Another customer said to pay him no attention, that’s just what he did each day. Everyone seemed to know him. He was a part of the fabric of that particular area.

The morning we were leaving, we were on our way to get some morning breakfast when a homeless woman pushing her shopping cart full of her belongings appeared in front of us and then stopped at the same cafe where we were headed. She looked like she was maybe in her early 30s though it was hard to tell. The combination of her youth and the fact that she was female startled me for some reason. She ordered coffee and a croissant, wolfed it down, stepped outside the cafe and screamed at some passers-by.

That image stayed with me.

Of course, that could happen in any big city across the U.S. There is a huge disparity in our country between the haves and have-nots. This is the land of opportunity. But not for everyone.

People flocked to California back in the Gold Rush Days and it still has a magical pull. The beauty and diversity of the state is incredible. Mountains, beaches, panoramic views. Our drive up the California coastline is something I always wanted to do and I’m glad we did it. If you can put up with the traffic and the cost-of-living, I’m sure it’s a great place to live.

Still, I’m a bit like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz in one simple belief – there’s no place like home.