TopGear’s MyFirstCar contest

You may know by now that I’ve been a huge Top Gear UK fan for about 7 years now. I discovered the show when I was on a quest for Eddie Izzard comedy performances and saw that he was a guest on the show. This slightly crazy show really caught my interest. I almost immediately found the Top Gear episode where they take 3 supercars through France and get them stuck in a parking garage and I was hooked because it reminded me exactly of the stuff that my brother and I were into back in High School and college.

When I heard about the #MyFirstCar contest from BBC America I thought, we had a good story to tell. And although it is a cost saving move to ask your fans to do your advertising for you, I was still hooked.

For the contest I set out to figure out how one makes a video with the very limited tools I had available. I did not want to talk in front of a webcam, it felt too awkward, and I’m not exactly a glamour model at this point in time. Plus I’m never going to be as interesting on camera as Jeremy Clarkson without some training.

I was looking for the “ken burns” slow zoom effect on some photos because that is mostly what I had to work with, 1990’s advantix camera photos. I thought I might be able to do a voice over narration and possibly talk Scott into it too, but it ended up just as me in the end. 

We did find that Scott had one vhs tape with some stuff a guy Paul had taped and given copies to the guys. It was fun to watch and see some of the racing stuff I had not seen them do but most wasn’t fit for broadcasting due to my flip camera video of the TV and the nature of the comedy on screen.

I ended taking a few shots with the Flip camera I got from work for Christmas and used them at the end with the car in the garage and we pooled photos from my house, his and my parents. Scanning them in and finding the software wasn’t that hard. (I found Muvee and it wasn’t hard to learn to use, although some people may find it too automated)

Writing the story was the most difficult part. I wrote out a few versions, Scott edited them and then we realized the photos and content were nowhere near as long as the written piece. And I could not read it and watch the pictures to keep up at the same time. So I was winging it, and I say “Um, So, Yea” a lot as I’m thinking of what to say next. We also found we didn’t have photos of crucial parts of the story that were funny so they were cut. We also tend to be funniest when we play off eachother and make fun of eachother and he wouldn’t take part because he’s shy or something.

The end result isn’t a funny video like I had hoped, but like I said most of the funny content wasn’t suitable for publishing. We ended up with a more sentimental documentary piece. It doesn’t have the views to really be a contender in the competition. It was fun though to do something new and try and think about the story in a video creation like what they do on TG all the time. I have even more respect for what they do and the high level of quality in their work.

UPDATE: it is now 2/8/2011, a week into this contest and my video has received a whole 62 views. This is in comparison to the other people’s videos who had really old falling apart cars as their first car and weird stories as to how horrible they were are all 1,000 views and such.

I guess my video isn’t the intended story they wanted to tell. And I admit my storytelling wasn’t great considering my editing ability is limited and the story had to fit what the software and photos provided. And I can’t exactly get on camera and talk about this right now. And I’m just more low key than the guys jumping around on their cars in the videos.

I suppose that I should have expected this. I haven’t been to an improv class in far too long. Best of luck to the rest of the crowd, I applaud your ability to get the BBC people to put your videos on TV.

UPDATE: 2/8/2011 As I was lamenting that the video has not performed very well with views, I got an email from BBCA. Plot twist…

Update: 2.28.2011 – So, they did email us a release form to use the video in their promotional process for TG UK (America). We did see that they did post our video to the Top Gear My First Car Tumblr feed, of which drove about 400 views to the video. I’m guessing that is where our story ends. We haven’t heard anything since and although I asked if our video would be included in snippets used to advertise the contest on TV, and they said yes, we never saw it there. Granted, it has been a pretty busy few weeks so I could have missed it. .

This was fun and all, but considering that Rutledge Wood posted on FB today that he was flying to the UK to meet Hammond for the first time today, and he’s the host of the USA show, I’m not going to hold out thinking that the general public will have any way of enjoying Top Gear in person anytime soon.

I kind of wish I did re-record the voice over since I think I sound like a dork in it, but I’m not going to have time at the moment. Maybe at a later time I will be able to spend more time on car related videos.

Update 3.1.2011 – I finally had time to go through the episodes on BBC America tonight and look for the 1 commercial spot they use the #myfirstcar clips in, which is usually somewhere in the 2nd half. I saw a one second glimpse of a  photo from my video used, so they did indeed use something after sending me all kinds of forms to sign. It wasn’t actually a picture of the car we had as our first car though. (possibly the assignment had a bit of scope creep adding the history like that) So the Electra – Park Avenue gets its brief moment to shine instead of the IROC camaro. I think they had to use this picture because it had people in it and they seem to want someone’s face involved in the video. I’m not wild about my appearance these days so I thought I’d spare people the pain, and keep the focus on the cars but I guess that wasn’t outlined in the guidelines, but it was still important.  I kind of want to reshoot it and start over, but time is fleeting and the contest is almost over.

Update: March 2011. I ended up with about 400 views on the video and have taken it down now since the contest is over and things have moved on.

Campbells Soup in Smaller Cans With No Soup? Sucks

Ok, this marketing blog has turned into the marketing and product rant blog as I find more and more companies making boneheaded decisions about their marketing and products. This week’s winner is Campbell’s Soups. I bought a bunch of Campbell’s soup a few weeks ago because in Chicago winter starts in late October and ends in June. Canned condensed Campbell’s soup is an easy and not-going-to-kill-you type microwave dinner I keep around all winter in case of a lack of groceries. (or any brand for that matter)

This new batch of cans though is either smaller or they have decided to cram so many more noodles, vegetables and pasta into the can so that there is now no room at all for the actual soup. The vegetable soup I opened last week was solid when I opened it. It would not pour at all. I had to scoop it out in large chunks and even after I added the can of water the condensed soup solids inside the noodles would not dissolve. It was like water with floating soup chunks in it. Gross.

Today was worse, peas and ham soup was solid as a rock and the water did not blend well here either. All the solid peas sat at the bottom of a soup that used to be puree style. WTF? Is gas that expensive that you can’t include water or actual soup in your cans anymore? Is space that much of a premium? Did an MBA tell you this would work? I thought so. Assholes.

IT DOESN’T WORK!

This sucks, the soup comes out gross every time and I will have to switch brands again to get back to actual soup broth in a can. This just goes to show you can never trust an MBA to actually give you suggestions that will work. They always F up the product with lower quality everything and take away important features that the customer values in the name of saving a few pennies and paying their 150K per year salary.

I buy this kind of Campbell’s soup because it is easy to make and is edible right out of the can with minimal changes. Now I end up microwaving it until it is boiling and the soup solids still won’t dissolve. Well, I guess that is enough for this rant. Campbell’s has lost my money, we will see how long it takes them to figure it out before they loose a lot more people too. Hello Progresso.

Google Search Box on the Search Results Page Sucks – Site Search

google search box, web results sucksI noticed this search box on the Google search results page beneath the Amazon.com listing a few weeks ago and thought, cool. Lets see if it gets me past the home page amazon and to the search results page on Amazon.com. It would take me one step closer to what I am looking for on this site if it worked.

But instead it just brought me a list of pages on Amazon while still being in Google’s search results. YUCK! That sucks. I don’t want to stay on Google longer, I want to get to the book/dvd/whatever I am looking for and it’s on Amazon. This added another step in my process and I hate when sites do that for profit. It’s like a big interstitial ad that interrupts your log-in process on Monster or those stupid interstitial on Forbes articles. It is bad usability and bad user experience and people should complain about it so they remove this feature. (and of course don’t use the feature because if they see usage numbers in their stats they will think people like it and keep it)

It doesn’t surprise me that Google would want to keep you on their site longer so they can serve adwords against the results and possibly distract you away from what you originally intended to do or find but what I was surprised about  was that they thought they were better about finding products/pages on amazon than amazon itself. And that is a self centered conceited view to think you know Amazon’s business better than they do and to use that as justification to poach their traffic and users. Ouch.

I think Google also may be looking at this new search box in the search results as a way to get more into vertical search using their main search box as a starting point for picking your vertical and then the second search box to search within the site or specific vertical you choose. Google probably thinks they are prime for this kind of use because they already index everything and just need to figure out a hierarchical interface to display it all and make the difference in level of detail in the results visual. Then they can conquer the world…muhahaha…The only problem with that idea is that I don’t know an real live humans that like or look for vertical search. The sites that create content around a vertical are brands and have a real product that cost money to produce so they aren’t just web companies that crawl, slurp, scrape and steal other people’s original content and display it with advertising along site like Google.

So, overall I give this search box in the search results change a thumbs down, grade F for bad user experience keeping people away from what they want longer while displaying more ads and bad traffic poaching from genuine product sites. Google should remove this feature as it does no one any good and will deteriorate their relationship with real publishing and product sites over time. And if Google thinks they can play hardball and corner companies into accepting this, think again. I am sure there are some legal eagles out there that will be happy to bring this to court.

Why ATT High Speed DSL Sucks

Apparently this is turning into a rant blog this week. I am trying to get my parents set up with DSL service within the Chicago metropolitan area and AT&T came back with the message that the service is not available in the area. How nuts is that? ATT sends us a million direct mail offers for DSL and then tell us it’s not available in our area? Its a suburb with 50,000 people and a subdivision with 250 homes and they say DSL is not available in the area. Ugh. It’s like they don’t even want our money.

So, after that first call from some guy saying it just isn’t available in the area I called the 800 number and got someone who also said it is not available in our area (big suprise) and I asked who I had to talk to about finding out why. She had to call 3 other people before anyone knew anything other than what their computer screen told them to say, and then finally we found the denial of service was because of a “shortage of facilities” meaning that we were the last ones to sign up and the bandwith was all taken. So, we put in an engineering ticket to see if they can fix this or if it still gets denied. Then I will have to call back again and get someone to submit more tickets to see if they can get this resolved. It would be ridiculous to have dial up when you want DSL and we can’t get cable because the line was cut accidentally during some yard work many years ago.

You would think that if service wasn’t available because of a shortage of facilities they wouldn’t deny it, they would put it on hold until they could build out the system to accommodate it. I don’t mind waiting a few weeks for them to add more capacity I just don’t believe that no is the appropriate answer when customers are there with money in hand ready to buy. And when I have to work this hard to get something this basic, why is their customer service system so inept at getting orders complete? It’s turning away revenue. Why is this an ok business practice when it pisses off the company and the customer?

TopGear is Pissing me off! (BBC America Edits a Lot Out)

topgear, BBC AmericaOk TopGear and company, I thought you had finally come to your senses and finally decided to broadcast TopGear to the United States via BBC America. I was glad the US Pilot was scrapped (because there was no open audition for it) and people would stop uploading your videos to YouTube because they would be able to tune in and see it on TV like 350 million other people around the world do every week. But NO, I saw it for the first time this weekend and I am sorry to report that it’s screwed up again. Here’s why:

1. The season is off for broadcasting to America. They show season 9 on BBC America and Season 10 is airing now. Why do they make the US wait 6 months behind everyone else? See reason 2.

2. They cut out 1/3 of the program!! WTF!!!@!>? I know the BBC America’s monetization format is from subscriber fees AND commercials but jesus, why can’t you just leave all 60 minutes of the show intact for just this one show? Or extend it to be an hour and a half? Putting 20 minutes of commercials in and taking out 20 minutes of content ruins it. It is no where near as good if you chop it up and put commercials for razors and beer every 5 minutes.

3. WTF is up with the promos showing the big funny moments before each commercial break?? You’re spoiling it. It’s not supposed to work like US TV where you bait someone along for 3 hours for a payoff after you have monetized them to death. Just let it run for 60 minutes and then play commercials for a 1/2 hr before or after.

Seriously. This is awful. And it’s not really TopGear. You can’t ‘get” TopGear in bite size pieces. You don’t get the relationships or the references that are particularly UK or European unless you sit and watch the whole thing and then think about it for a while and watch it again. And duh, that is why we LIKE it. We want to learn about how things are over there, and see what they have to say. It’s entertaining because it’s worldly and different.

Please, I beg you to just sell the full format shows in a DVD box set that is in it’s complete 60 minute format.  Start releasing season 1 now and roll out the rest over the next 2 years. Seriously it is the only way you will ever really win over the Americans, by showing us the same program the same way you show it to the rest of the world. Jipping us by selling a 1/2 assed version just sucks.

At this point I recommend only watching the full versions on YouTube and not watching it on BBC America at all.

Fight WalMart Killing America

I am pretty anti-walmart. I never shop there, and the few times I have been there I have been pretty dissapointed in the store. But what is more dissapointing is how they hurt the American Economy by putting small businesses out of business, killing the economy in small towns, underpaying and underinsuring their workers while over working them, and buying the vast majority of their goods from China. I realize now that this is not just a WalMart phenomenon. Even the well liked Target buys a lot from China. So does every store you can think of. If I tried to not buy anything from china, I wouldn’t have anything to buy. I have been looking at labels more and putting stuff back that has the made in China mark on it, but it is hard. Its cheap and affordable and WalMart knows that this is the drug that americans are addicted to; Cheap Stuff. So in favor of our own economy and job in the USA, we should try and buy less form China and reduce the urge to buy lots of stuff. And here is a good site about the walmart fight: http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/ Check it out and sign up on their email list for updates.