City-County divide helps kick MLS out of St. Louis

It was an artist's rendering and that's as far as it will get.

It was an artist’s rendering and that’s as far as it will get.

Today’s lead story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch blamed the failure of the MLS stadium proposal on a large voter turnout in the City of St. Louis. That may be the case. But what really doomed the proposal is the same thing that continues to work against the St. Louis region as a whole – the separation of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

We’ll never know for sure what would have happened had the two entities been one on this particular matter. So this is purely speculation on my part. Yet I’m convinced that had  St. Louis County been a part of this vote and had it been a single voting block of St. Louis County and St. Louis City instead of two separate entities, we’d be looking at a new stadium going up just west of Union Station.

As it was, passing two props was too much to ask of St. Louis City voters. With all that the City needs, putting the additional funding strictly on their shoulders was going to be a very tough sell. Helping to fund yet another stadium with a league that has been on shaky ground was a big enough leap of faith as it was.

Had the County been involved in the vote, even then, I’m not sure it would have passed and despite what St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said about looking for ways to collaborate, something tells me that the city location of the stadium would have been its downfall with a County vote added to the mix.

Only when the City and County join forces will we truly see regional cooperation. Alas, I don’t think that’s going to happen in my lifetime. The divide is too deep. There are way too many kingdoms in the County that will continue to look out strictly for themselves at the expense of the rest of the region.

I know it’s not that simple.

I was bummed when the Rams left but we sealed our own fate when somebody created that lovely little opt-out in the lease. Now I’m bummed that there won’t be an MLS team to root for during the spring, summer and fall. MLS soccer would have been a fun alternative and addition to the Cardinals and with the soccer-rich tradition of St. Louis, I think the team would have caught on very quickly.

The plan would have gotten my vote.

I hope that someday, another plan will.

 

 

 

Blogging takes a back seat

Maybe this was inevitable. My blogging rate has been on a steady decline the past two years. Though I have vowed to blog more in earlier posts, I’ve done the exact opposite.

I don’t want to talk about politics. There’s more than enough negativity out there as it is and I’m not interested in stirring things up.

I don’t have that much to say about sports right now. The Cardinals are already on a ledge with the loss of Reyes. The Blues are doing their usual thing of stirring up hope when in reality, they probably won’t get past the first round of the playoffs. Stan Kroenke and his endless greed is old news. April 4th will determine if we get an MLS team or not and I’d probably lean not though I wish it would go the other way.

I’d like to talk about the great progress St. Louis has been making recently. At least we’re staying out of the national spotlight and I know there are great things going on in this metro area but it seems like it’s always one step forward and two steps back or maybe a little side shuffle instead.

I could talk about the work I’ve been doing – lots of video production, some new broadcast campaigns I’m working on in sync with an agency and a few new business pitches here and there – but I haven’t really created anything earth-shattering.

Then there’s my art which I continue to pursue and I’m gearing up for my first solo show since 1994. Opening night is set for Friday, March 3rd at 1900 Park – Creative Space and Gallery. It’s now less than two weeks away and there’s still lots to do.

Every day that goes by without posting something makes it that much harder to do the next. It’s so easy to just say no.

This blog post was like a Seinfeld episode. If you read it all the way through, you realize you’ve just read something about nothing.

I’ll try and do better on the next one but if you made it this far, thanks for coming along for the ride.

 

All in a day’s work – augmented reality, vehicle signage and video script writing

I don’t often post about the work I’ve been doing for BloodLines Creative – which is probably bad for business. Yet I’ve been so busy doing things, including continuing to paint in the evening hours, that I just haven’t found the time – or the energy to tout some of the recent projects I’ve been involved in.

That’s okay because business continues to roll along – never at the volume that I would prefer which would be 40+ billable hours a week – but at the end of each workday, I often wonder where did the time go.

These past few weeks I’ve been working on a new business pitch and part of our proposal involved using augmented reality. In case you’re wondering, Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

In case you’d like to see it in action, here’s a little demo you can view – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaO5tXzj58U

I won’t go into the actual applications that we were proposing but suffice it to say, it has the potential to be pretty cool – if we actually get the business.

I’ve also been involved in creating new vehicle graphics for an electrical contractor we’ve been working with via The Epstein Group. Recently, we got the opportunity to see some of the new graphics put into place on a variety of vehicles in their fleet – vans, bucket trucks, pickups and even a trailer where we wrapped the entire vehicle in graphics.

What’s really exciting is this is part of a comprehensive re-branding effort that will include a new website, print and collateral materials along with new videos.

Speaking of new videos, I’ve written a number of them recently. One for a construction company, another for a new product launch along with a series of internal award videos recognizing the collective efforts of groups or individuals.

No, I’m not naming names or showing the work as some of the projects are confidential in nature or haven’t been approved for public release.

But the work has been both fun and rewarding. And I continue to learn new things and new tactics to utilize in the ever-changing world of advertising and marketing communications.

Regardless of the tactic, they still take smart, strategic thinking in order to stand out, get noticed and acted upon.

Big Ideas Start Here.

BloodLines Creative provides Big Idea Thinking to a wide variety of consumer, B2B and government-related and not-for-profit accounts. The work we do ranges from individual projects to full-scale advertising and marketing communications across all media. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-ordinary, then resist the ordinary. Give us a call at 314.973.9197 today.

Drunk on America

When I first heard that A-B InBev was renaming its flagship brand, Budweiser to America for the summer and right on through to the election in November, I thought it was a joke.

I honestly can’t believe that here I am blogging again about Budweiser. Just a few posts ago, I was writing about how angry their ads had gotten, taking an in-your-face attitude to new extremes.

Now, this Belgian-owned company is doing the ultimate act of American commercialism, jumping on the patriotic bandwagon in their effort to sell more beer.

America beer.

Talk about a brand that has lost its way.

You can’t say that the folks at A-B-InBev are doing this to get us all to rally ’round the flag. Putting the Star Spangled banner on a can isn’t exactly a fitting tribute to Francis Scott Key. Sadly, in this day and age, I’ll bet the majority of Americans don’t even know what “E Pluribus Unum” even means or where it originated. Perhaps a few bar conversations might elicit the answer but I’m betting it doesn’t begin a new age of enlightenment about American history.

It’s all about selling beer and Budweiser, or, starting May 23rd, America, is fighting a losing battle. According to Market Watch, “In 1988, Budweiser sold 50 million barrels on its own, making up 25% of all beer sold in the U.S. It has lost more than 70% of its sales since that time and, back in 2011, was knocked into third place among beer brands by Coors Light. It now accounts for just 7% of the U.S. market.”

Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – but this brand of America is on the decline, getting kicked around by the same craft beers that Budweiser has bashed in recent commercials.

I don’t think the in-your-face attitude is going to fly in their efforts to sell America. Instead, I’m expecting some syrupy, idyllic slice-of-life showing the great times had by all consuming America at backyard bar-b-ques, 4th of July celebrations and sporting events from baseball games to the Olympics. All in an effort to sell more beer.

Maybe they’re hoping that everyone will buy a six pack of America just so we can sit it on the shelf as a collector’s item and shake our heads at the audacity that Carlos Brito is now allowing to be launched from sea to shining sea.

First he does a hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch. Then he comes in, cuts costs, jobs and puts pressure on suppliers – from rice grain to beechwood to the printing and packaging industry, forcing companies to accept 90-day and in some cases 120-day payments for services rendered. Ah, that’s the American way.

No, it’s not.

I know a lot of people who still work for the brewery. I know a lot of other people who have lost a lot of business ever since the Belgian takeover took place.

Maybe America will be a marketing success.

I’m sure it’s been focus group tested and when quizzed, people still respond that they love America.

I just find it wrong for a company that is now foreign-owned to try and sell beer by putting our country’s name, founding thoughts, and heritage onto a label.

When Chevrolet did it with their, “America loves baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” it was kind of cute and iconic. When other brands salute the Olympics and play on Americana, it’s to be expected – particularly since many of those companies are helping through sponsorships. But no company (especially a foreign-owned one) has ever done anything quite as blatant as this.

America. I’m not buying it.

 

 

 

 

 

Powerball dreams and reality – circa 2016

My soon-to-be winning Powerball ticket.

My soon-to-be winning Powerball ticket.

Back in November of 2012, I posted the following on my blog. The odds have changed. There are more numbers now – which is how it has grown to more than a billion. We live in magical times, don’t we – where you can get millions of Americans to drop $10, $20 some people even way more than that – for a roughly 1 in 292.2 million to one chance that you’ll end up with the winning ticket.

There are Powerball dreams and there is reality. It’s 2016. If you change the amount of the drawing, your odds of winning and the topics of the day to missed field goals, El Chapo and David Bowie leaving ground control then everything else is still fairly pertinent.

November 27, 2012 … With no hurricanes bearing down on the east coast and lacking any current national disasters or tragedies, the media has momentarily shifted its attention to Wednesday’s upcoming $425 million Powerball drawing. http://www.powerball.com/pb_home.asp

All across the country, reporters are heading out to remote gas stations and convenience stores and interviewing people who are now waiting in line to purchase their Powerball tickets. Fresh after Black Friday, they’re now ready to plunk down a few dollars to give them something to dream about, at least until they wake up Thursday morning and find out they didn’t win.

After all, you can’t win if you don’t play, right?

Of course, odds are extremely good that you won’t win even if you do play. The official odds say the chances of winning are 1 in 175,223,510. I read elsewhere that it’s actually closer to 1 in 195,200,000 when you factor in that there isn’t always a winner – but hey, what’s an extra 20 million or so really matter?

Americans don’t really care that Powerball is one of the worst investments on the planet. Some people play every week, others wait for the jackpot to go over $100 million before purchasing a ticket. And when the numbers reach above $200 million, the media comes out to feed the frenzy.

With all that in mind, I thought I’d do my part by passing on a little knowledge I gleamed in my 15 minutes worth of research. All of the following info comes from an article I read based off of Gail Howard’s Lotto Strategy Book, Lottery Master Guide. http://www.smartluck.com/lottery-master-guide.htm

So before you go out and purchase your lottery ticket, you may want to keep the following thoughts in mind.

First off, if you’re doing Quick Picks, you have just as good a chance at winning as you do if you’re picking your own numbers. So purchase away. If you’re going to make your own picks, here’s Gail’s advice.

Choosing all odd numbers or all even numbers rarely happens – only about 4% of the time. Your best mix is 3 odds and 2 evens or 2 odds and 3 evens and then toss in the PowerBall number to balance them out.

All high numbers or all low numbers are also rarely drawn – again, only about 4% of the time. So don’t do that.

Avoid betting five consecutive numbers – it’s never happened. Four consecutive numbers has only happened a handful of times since the drawing began. Even three consecutive numbers is a rarity.

Avoid betting one lotto group – like picking all numbers in the teens. Probably not gonna happen.

Avoid pattern betting – like forming a cross with your picks or picking the four corners and the middle – even if they do win, hundreds, perhaps thousands of clever individuals will have had the same thought.

Avoid number multiples – 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 – again, you won’t be the only one with this brilliant idea so you’ll be sharing the riches.

Avoid all same last digits – 7, 17, 27, 37, 47 – same reason as above.

Some people like to pick birthdays and that’s fine but don’t forget to toss in one or two numbers above 31 just to make sure you’re covered.

Gail has one other guiding rule that makes sense to me: That which is most possible happens MOST OFTEN. That which is least possible happens LEAST OFTEN.

With that in mind, here’s a list of Powerball numbers that have won the most since last January:

guide.htmhttp://www.powerball.com/powerball/pb_frequency.asp

If you’re going to buy tickets in a group, ask everyone if they feel lucky. If the individual says, “I never win anything,” ask him or her to get out of the group – those negative vibes will drag you all down.

With all that in mind, I’m going to take a 45-minute trip to the outskirts of St. Louis, find some hole-in-the wall liquor store and purchase my winning ticket based on my carefully chosen criteria for number selection.

On second thought, I never win anything so I’m automatically disqualified.

Good luck and if you win based on any of the above advice, please pass on some of your winnings to me and I’ll make sure Gail gets a cut, too!

Okay, Stan, you win

(Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com)

(Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com)

As a long-time St. Louis Rams season ticket holder, I have seen a lot of lows over the past decade. Dropped passes. Offsides after offsides. Interceptions, fumbles, missed tackles, games that were over before half time – the list goes on and on.

The futility never seems to end. Our draft picks, as a rule, are generally a bust. Free agency signings have been awful. Trades go south. Players get concussions and stay in to give away games. Other players get concussions, get sent back in and then get removed again, concussed by their own teammates.

St. Louis is guaranteed, once again, that we will not have a winning football season.

It’s all a broken record. It’s David Byrne, singing, “Same as it ever was” over and over and over.

This weekend, walking in to the fabulous Edward Jones Dome, it felt more like we were on our way to a funeral than an NFL game. And in a way we were.

The Rams days here in St. Louis are numbered. Coach Fisher says if you think the players have given up, “you can kiss my ass”.

Bottoms up, Jeff. They’ve given up.

Firing your offensive coordinator is only going to lead to more penalties, more botched plays, more offsides.

It’s all playing out exactly how Rams owner Stan Kroenke hoped it would.

Hire a lifetime under .500 coach. Stop all communication with the city and refuse to speak to any reporters. Make the fan base loathe you.

Congrats. You win.

We loathe you.

We’re tired of watching this sad sack of a team.

When they put up the “Make some noise” message on that pathetic scoreboard that has to be among the worst in the NFL, it’s all a joke. There is no reason to make any noise.

I was bummed when we went for it on 4th and 2 from the whatever yard line we were on in the 4th quarter. I knew there was no way the Rams would get a first down. I wanted to cheer another 3 points, watching the team double its output for the day.

They failed.

It’s all so unfair.

Stan Kroenke should be docked pay. He should be penalized for mismanagement. Instead, he’s going to make out like a bandit, earning millions upon millions when he moves this sorry franchise back to Los Angeles. And we’re going to be stuck with a dome, trying to book tractor pulls and indoor rodeos while we wait for spring training to roll around.

Stan wins. We lose.

And I’ll say it again. It’s just not fair.

My not so unique selling proposition

Big Idea Thinking is why I get up in the morning.

Big Idea Thinking is why I get up in the morning.

 

Big Ideas Start Here.

That’s been the theme line of BloodLines Creative ever since I began this business and it’s true – they really do start here.

Of course, I don’t have a monopoly on the creation of big ideas. They can come from anywhere and there are all sorts of agencies and design firms here in St. Louis and around the world that could say the same thing. Expand that to all sorts of businesses and companies and these days, you have to include the power of the individual to be a walking, talking think tank as well. So is this a unique selling proposition? Probably not.

Still, ideas are what I sell and I truly believe in the power of the big idea – something that connects with the individuals you’re targeting.

There are so many ways to connect with people these days. Which also means there are so many ways you can completely miss connecting with them. Tweets and posts come and go. Commercials are easily ignored or never even seen – completely tuned out or turned off because there is simply too much information.

How do you cut through it all?

You have to know your customer – more so now, than perhaps ever before. That’s no easy task, especially to clients that don’t have vast sums of money to spend.

It takes big idea thinking. And it takes a client who is willing to take that flying leap of faith to do something out of the ordinary.

I have been fortunate to be engaged with a wide assortment of clients who not only are expecting me to deliver big ideas, they are demanding it. I’ve been even more fortunate to continue working with some truly talented individuals who do amazing work and have joined forces with a brand new network of talent, not just here but across the pond in London as well.

We’re all working as one to find innovative ways to get our client’s message out and in some cases, almost completely build their audience, as we seek to turn them from mere customers into brand advocates.

So though the theme line of BloodLines Creative may not be the most original line ever crafted, it’s still on point.

If your business or organization could benefit from some big idea thinking I offer two words of advice: start here.

 

 

To blog or not to blog?

 

I was amazed when I searched images to find that this headline had been done about 500 times before.

I was amazed when I searched images to find that this headline had been done about 500 times before.

When I originally began this blog more than 300 posts and nearly 100,000 viewers ago, I was fired up and pronounced that I was ready to do great things.

I still am.

I’ve written about a wide variety of topics, focusing primarily on advertising and marketing communications which is how I earn my living. Yet the most readership I’ve gotten through the many posts I’ve done has generally not had anything to do with those topics.

The potential merger of St. Louis city and county has drawn the most interest. That’s good, I guess.

I remain a firm believer that there should be a merger, that the current divide is harming our region and that we’ll never really capitalize on our true potential unless we join forces to address the variety of issues that need to be dealt with and eliminate the needless bureaucracy, fiefdoms and petty politics that continue to put a slow stranglehold on this region.

Other posts I’ve written that have drawn many views and elicited quite a few comments range from the glory days of Kenrick Advertising to the Rams leaving town to the loss of my dad this past December.

I’ve tried to position myself as a thought leader in the wonderful world of advertising and marketing communications.

But I’d be the first to admit that I’ve been playing catch-up to the ever-expanding digital and social media whirlwind that has hit traditional means of communications and knocked them down for a ten-count. Though I’ve made great strides in my knowledge base, new technologies and user platforms emerge on a daily basis. If you think you’re on top of something one day, you’re behind the next.

But one thing remains unchanged no matter how it’s being delivered: the simple ability to communicate.

These days, it’s more important than ever to develop your brand personality and connect with your audience in ways that are honest and true to what you’re all about.

I love to write.

I love to tell stories.

I have tried to assess the amount of business I’ve gotten through writing these blog posts. Directly, I know it led to one piece of business that has long since come and gone.

But people know I’m out there. Those who have read these posts know that I am capable of putting together a sentence or two that somehow leads you from Point A to Point B though I have a strong tendency to take detours and on occasion, run directly into roadblocks.

I’ll keep writing.

Business has been very good recently. I don’t think there’s any correlation to the work I’ve been doing and the blog posts I’ve been posting (or more recently, not posting).

If you’re still reading, you’re the reason that the answer to the initial question is this: blog.

 

 

We’ve heard this Monsanto story before

Monsanto isn’t going anywhere. Right?

How are we to know?

Quite frankly, we don’t. Maybe the recent news of their effort to purchase Swiss-based Syngenta AG won’t result in them going any further than their new Chesterfield campus. They have, after all, committed to spend more than $1 billion to their Chesterfield location and that certainly doesn’t sound like a company that’s going to up and leave the region.

Still, it makes you wonder.

According to an article in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is, “looking at this with optimism.”

What else can you do other than try and be optimistic?

Sure, Monsanto has been a part of the St. Louis business community since 1901. That may pale next to Anheuser-Busch and their 1852 beginnings but it’s still some pretty serious roots in St. Louis.

And if there’s any company that should have an understanding of roots, you’d think it would be Monsanto.

Fortunately, Monsanto is the one seeking to do the buying, expanding their ability to focus on issues facing farmers challenged with feeding the world’s growing population.The company supplies approximately 90% of the world’s GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds. I’m not sure how Syngenta fits into that plan – they also are a biotech company that conducts genomic research. And genetically modified crops have certainly been under fire.

Geoff Whittington, of Next StL writes, “GMO technology is highly controversial and has many detractors. A major 2008 UN /World Bank-sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists and endorsed by 58 countries concluded that genetically modified crops have little to offer to the challenges of poverty, hunger, and climate change. The report recommended organic farming as the sustainable way forward for developing countries. Additionally, the United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have mandatory GMO labeling laws.”

World population growth continues to expand. Conditions for growing crops don’t appear to be improving. Something’s got to be done and the solution is far from simple.

If Monsanto wants to change their name to Mongenta or SynSanto, that’s fine by me. If they want to move from their Creve Coeur campus a little further west to Chesterfield, that’s still good for the St. Louis region and perhaps the Creve Coeur campus could become a new hub for more biotechnology and research-based companies.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin thinks the whole potential Syngenta acquisition is all about Monsanto incorporating overseas in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know if he’d be saying such a thing if Monsanto were based out of Peoria.

For now, they’re based out of St. Louis – Creve Coeur/Chestefield – it doesn’t matter.

As long as they don’t end up in Switzerland.

Ameren’s plan to thwart terrorism in Des Peres

Instead of admitting that they’re tired of being in the tree trimming business, Ameren has instead cited stopping terrorist attacks on one of their transmission towers as a reason for tearing down any and all trees that happen to fall within their easement in Des Peres, Missouri.

We have a bit of a personal interest in this matter because many of the trees they want to completely remove are right in front of our house. The ones shown in the above picture are in our neighbor’s yard. The tower has been around for more than 50 years. The trees have peacefully co-existed with the tower for more than 30 years and on occasion, Ameren has trimmed them back. Now they want them gone. That includes any trees over 10-feet tall that happen to be under the power lines, too, even though their anti-terrorist stance makes zero sense in that regard.

Here’s a shot of some of the other trees that Ameren will soon be chopping down.

Ameren calls this ‘vegetation management’. Sorry, but complete tree removal isn’t exactly management. It’s ‘vegetation eradication’.

The City of Des Peres volunteered to take over the tree trimming for Ameren. All Ameren would have to do would be make a simple phone call asking for branches that potentially might some day infringe on the power line space to be trimmed back. That might happen every five years or so. But no. Ameren wants all the trees gone from around the tower and underneath the power lines.

The trees must go and there will be no compromise. The mighty utility giant has spoken and the Ameren tree removal will soon be underway in Des Peres.

In an April 4, 2014 article written by Linda Jarrett in the Webster-Kirkwood Times, UE spokesman Jeffrey Hackman, Ameren senior director of transmission operations, said that Congress and Homeland Security has become cognizant of sabotage and terrorism around the towers.

“The best practice is to see your tower so you’ll know if someone is taking the bolts off,” he said. “There was a case in Arkansas about six months ago where a homegrown terrorist removed several of the bolts strategically so the tower would stay upright until the wind blew and then create a cascading event. If you can’t see the towers because the trees are in the way, you can’t see the bolt integrity.”

Sorry, Jeffrey, but I’ve never seen anyone hiding behind the trees – maybe Twiggy could manage to hide behind one but the average human being isn’t going to be obscured by a tree trunk. Besides, I have never seen anyone from Ameren standing guard, watching over this particular tower (or any tower for that matter) to assure that some lunatic wasn’t undoing the bolts. Nor have I ever seen anyone from Ameren out checking on the bolt integrity of their tower. Maybe in place of the trees they can erect a guard station to assure the tower’s safety.

This reminds me of the story of the little old lady who lived in the house who refused to move when the big developers came in. So they built their building around her house and that was the happy ending.

This story does not have a happy ending.

Soon, the trees will be cut to the ground, leaving the utility tower standing by itself in all its glory, surrounded by stumps. What was once the tree-lined front of our house on our tree-lined street will now be home to five large stumps.

We are grateful for our electricity and know that Ameren works hard to keep the power running.

But please, Ameren, admit to the fact that the real enemy in this story isn’t potential terrorists.

The enemy is trees and you want them eliminated.