February 2008

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Obesity is an epidemic. Americans and many Europeans continue to over-eat even though they know it’s not good for them. Like the experimental rats that continue to ingest cocaine until they die, many people continue to eat until they are the butt of jokes at school, or their arteries clog in middle age, or other major health issues like diabetes occur late in life.

 
In England, a very large percent of the population is clinically labeled obese and the government has decided to do something about it. They’ve earmarked millions of pounds and enlisted a number of ad agencies to help create a media campaign that will highlight the problem and work to deter it. 
 
Like the “Truth” campaign in America which has had great success helping to squelch cigarette smoking by kids, let’s hope the Brits with this campaign makes a difference in healthy eating. Then maybe we’ll bring the same program to the states. 
 
Advertising can change opinion. It won’t be easy to change this addition to over-eating, but it has to start somewhere.
 

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Danger, the maker of the coolest of the cool in mobile handhelds, has just agreed to be purchased by Microsoft. Microsoft played it quietly throughout the negotiations making sure not to look too eager, but it was a very strategic purchase. Should the Yahoo deal go through look out for Microsoft to kick into high gear in the mobile category. I don’t know Yahoo’s full mobile offering but bet there is more in it than meets the eye. I smell something going on, perhaps with an already secret Microsoft initiative, which could put Microsoft in the middle of a mobile, social, messaging, internet, advertising play of market-changing proportion.

 

And not to be too paranoid (hee hee) but do you think Research In Motion’s (RIM) messaging outage yesterday – the second major service disruption in 12 month — could have had anything to do with this deal? Hacker nation?

 

Stay Tuned. (Does anyone under 30 know what that means?)

 

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Bostock or Nostock

There was an item in the Wall Street Journal today about Roy Bostock, Yahoo’s new Chairman of the Board, and how he will be instrumental in managing Yahoo’s response to Microsoft’s hostile takeover bid.

 

The article ends “As directors absorbed the offer that day, someone in the room joked that Mr. Bostock has been chairman for only half an hour and had already increased the company’s value more than 60%.”  This is the type of hero worship that can really cloud the picture. 

 

Mr. Bostock is 67 years old. He is a career ad guy. Yes, he played roles in the a number of high-level mergers of ad companies and knows his way around ad holding companies.  But these activities, though they may have been big, were certainly not market-changing. Some were with networks on the downswing. Mr. Bostock may be a great one to help facilitate merger activity and he may be a good intermediary between buyers and sellers of advertising, but I wonder about his Silicon Valley chops and ability to see the future of social media.

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Okay, well maybe dabble isn’t a good word, but Wal-Mart has been allowing medical clinics on premise to dispense minor healthcare for a while.  And now it is ramping up this business practice with plans to have 400 store clinics up and running by 2010.
 
This is a very interesting notion, but one that makes me a little uncomfortable and I suspect will make shoppers as well.  If someone is shot in the parking lot, where will they go? To the clinic. Want less drama? How about a parade of sniffling, sneezing, cold-soar be-spotted people wait in on line to get into the clinic. Or shopping in the store while they await their number to be called. “Attention, sick Wal-Mart shoppers?” How about insurance-less people who just need a little aspirin and warmth in the middle of winter?
 
Then of course, there is always the litigation associated with dispensing healthcare. Wal-Mart doesn’t need this type of headache. Retail medicine’s time may have come thanks to the overcrowding of hospital emergency departments, but selling lawnmowers, tires and clothing under the same roof as in-patient care is a little scary.
 
Hillary? Help please.
 

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Google has been drawn in to the “Microsoft is buying Yahoo” fray and it may just be what Microsoft is bargaining for. Were I Microsoft, I’d want to create as many side skirmishes as possible for Google to keep it distracted.  And Google’s Eric E. Schmidt, with all that Microsoft scar tissue on his back, has taken the bait.

Google’s strength — its brand strength — is in search. During earlier centuries when exploration was the next frontier being the “map” company was the winning proposition. In today’s internet society being the “search” company is where the gold is. That said, Google has in many respects forgotten its product mission, becoming greedy and marketed spreadsheets and word processing software, video, and myriad other off-mission technologies. It is diluting its meaning as a search company. And slowed revenue in its latest quarter has perhaps validated this observation.  (Search certainly hasn’t slowed.) 

Once Google loses its core business value, it may become Yahoo. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer may be a smarter dude 

 

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This morning in Los Angeles we conducted a Satellite Media Tour promoting the launch of Anna Nalick and Hayden Panettiere’s new music sites on Zude.  We broadcast and taped 22 interviews with TV stations around the country and in Canada and offered up a glimpse at what makes these two very special young ladies tick. More on this later but suffice it to say, with ladies like these as role models and artistic beacons for the current generation, teens, tweens and millenials are in very good hands.
 
America, stop fixating on Paris, Britney and company.  It’s Hayden and Anna time.  

 

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Motorola has always been a perplexing brand. Like Lucent and AT&T before it, Motorola has operated for decades in the telecommunications hardware business. Makers of big network phone switches, tiny alphanumeric pagers and cell phones, Moto became most famous for its “gotta have” Razr phone. 

 

Moto with frequent highs and lows in all of its hardware businesses has for some reason not been able to consistently fire on all cylinders. Just when they’ve had a strong run, they go soft. And the Street blames management. Carl Icahn has an answer, and it’s a good one. Split off the mobile devices company (read cell phones) and create two separate businesses.   

 

Though Nokia and Apple will be strong competitors of the handset business, and I’m sure there’s a Chinese company on the horizon, Moto has the people, pride and market power to go back on top. With renewed focus and leadership we may all be speaking into Moto phones in a year or two. (And please don’t listen to any branding companies and change the name of the business. Fight the urge.)  

 
 

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