Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Trend: Bankrupt!: Bank of Mom+Dad

NY Times recently published an article on the growing financial dependency of young adults and college grads still sucking on the financial teet of Moms+Pops. The article offers some interesting stats submitted by Bob Schoeni, an asociate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, and author of the study "On the Frontier of Adulthood".

Middle income parents who earn less than $72,600 a year can expect to spend $190,980 on kids through age 17, according to 2005 government statistics. AND parents can PLAN ON CONTINUING TO PAY ALMOST 25 PERCENT OF THAT AMOUNT AGAIN OVER THE NEXT 17 YEARS, OR $42,280 IN 2005 DOLLARS. THIS SUM INCLUDES HIGHER EDUCATION, BUT ALSO MUCH MORE.

•Parents pay $2,323 a year to help support children 25 and 26 years old, and $1,556 annually for offspring aged 33 and 34. (All amounts are in 2001 dollars and reflect support to children living both independently and at home).
•Youth who receive financial help from parents, whether living with them or not, receive, on average, $3,400 a year. Those who are living with their parents receive between $4,500 and $5,000 a year.
•Since the 1970s, there has been a 50% increase in the number of young adults in their 20s living at home, which alone has led to a 13% increase in parental shared housing costs.
•Children in the top one-fourth of income categories receive at least 70% more in material assistance than do children in the bottom one-fourth. This occurs even though higher-income youth are only 10–15% more likely to attend college than low-income youth. Both low-income and high-income parents spend almost identical amounts of time helping their children, at 3,864 and 3,869 hours, per year, respectively.
•Although slightly more than half of men and nearly two-thirds of women had left their parents’ home by age 22, 16% of both returned home at some point before age 35.

SOURCE: On the Frontier of Adulthood: Theory, Research, and Public Policy, edited by Richard Settersten, Jr., Frank Furstenberg, Jr., and Ruben Rumbaut. >

But here comes the real catch - THE BANK OF MOM+DAD IS RUNNING OUT!

Stagnating real wages, rising expenses, increasing debts, Boomers fast-approaching retirement...More parents are increasingly putting the kid's financial debts back onto the kids - and enjoying what little they have left themselves and not not feeling particularly guilty about it, either! Financial aid officers testify to seeing these rises in parental push-back. Many parents are worried about affording retirement and say their fixed costs eat up their income. Others have not saved enough, or are helping pay for care for their own aging parents.

Consider some quotes from another article in the NY Times:

"What I've really seen in the last 10 years is a generational shifting of the responsibility" to pay for college, said Ellen Frishberg, director of student financial services at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Our parents helped us pay for school. These parents are not as willing to help their children pay for school."

There are no data directly measuring shifts in who bears the cost of college. But financial aid officers at institutions from Johns Hopkins to the University of California, Los Angeles, to Carleton College say they have observed a shift in recent years.

Financial aid officers also say some middle- and upper-middle class families may not have saved enough in part because they thought, incorrectly, that financial aid would compensate. But financial aid calculations focus on assets (other than a home) and past, present and future income, and while such calculations allow for living expenses, the assumed lifestyle may be more austere than what many families have enjoyed or are willing to accept.

Consider these stats:

•The nation’s savings rate was a negative 0.5% in February. Personal savings average 2.3% of disposable income. These numbers have been negative or at zero for the last 11 months.
(Retirement Confidence Survey 2006, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), American Savings Education Council (ASEC), and Mathew Greenwald & Associates)
•97% of US adults with children under 18 expect their oldest child to attend college, and nearly 79% expect to pay some or all of their child’s college education…However 25% of parents who said they are expecting to pay for kid’s college education say they have actually saved less than $5,000 and 32% haven’t saved anything specifically for this purpose.
(Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive Personal Finance Poll 2006)
•The percentage of respondents who are saving for retirement has increased from 57% in 1994 to 70% in 2006...However, the amount of money they are setting aside is small. Overall, 53% have saved less than $25,000. More importantly, 43% of respondents 45 or older have saved less than $25,000.
(Retirement Confidence Survey 2006, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), American Savings Education Council (ASEC), and Mathew Greenwald & Associates)

Expect increases in bratty and indignant reactions to this burgeoning trend like this amusing blog post - by a woman who got the news bomb that her still-working (and debt-ridden) 70-year old parents ain't footing a dime on her wedding. Shock! Betrayal! The vast degrees of difference in the opinion commentary give us a bigger clue as to the depth of this conflict.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Observation: Lets Confuse / Tease People More Often - They'll love it, honest.

I found myself wasting time on youtube again today... laughing out loud as usual at some great MTV (Finland?!) footage from decades past...

The song, and dance choreography is a marvel in itself of course. (And I highly recommend it)

But what made me think was the guy you see oh-so briefly at the start and end...

Captivating as the video it's self is, I want to know HIS story. He is the most interesting thing about the clip and I wish they'd left more of him in.... Or do I?

Perhaps that would have been a let down compared to what my own imagination fills in about his commentary, his mannerisms, his whole career and background....

And this is my slightly random point. This is an issue we often face in marketing... how clear and complete do we have to be? Most of the time caution on the part of either agency, client or face-value consumer research makes us clear things up to be brain-damagingly clear.... Make it obvious, make it simple, leave no room for ambiguity.

Now one might concede that this is possibly a good idea for most TV advertising. Although I would point to marvels like Dunlop's classic "Tested for the unexpected" (referenced below) as counter-argument to that.

However as we increasingly start to create things beyond TV for our clients, I think we could do much worse than to copy "What/who/why the hell??!?!" principle from fiction.

I don't mean style salience ads, but something more like Lost or the X-Files secrets of success... never really giving the whole game away and playing fast and loose with reason and follow-through.

So, sure it could be a mess if done badly (erm..check out a prime time ad break as it is!), but lets give it a go more often in marketing. Lets leave things untold, leave random hooks and questions. Let's have more weird head-banded MTV hosts in our work, and lets fire researchers who want consumers to understand everything first pass.

If for no other reason than simply to get people saying "What the fuck?!" and coming back for more.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Inbox of Immaturity

I'm out tomorrow. Plus it's been too long since the last one. If you weren't convinced the content was living up the title in the past, this should do the trick. A sign that it's getting warmer (even on the internet where temperature doesn't change!... I don't think). I've included my buddies' comments, so you know I didn't send them all (though I'm sure guilt by association applies). Please be advised this post is Rated I. Or R, if you're more familiar with that rating system, for Strong language, Violence and Brief nudity. That said, betta not bring yo' kids. Enjoy.

7. We humans sure love a guy that can pretend to be a robot while music is playing -
6. I love that this is described as a 'graphic novel' -
5. Click on her picture to see what a miracle of modern science looks like -
4. If we can help that dude out with the 3some we should help this fella bed a hot blonde -
3. In the name of Jesus... biatch! -
2. This guy is an absolute genius. his counter is going up almost 1000 hits a minute. this baby is airborn, its like ebola and the black death had a viral child and it was this site -
1. Ghetto, you've got 4 more years to do #3, tbov -#14, paul - #15, jake - #44. #18 is classic -

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Trend: Information Aesthetics: Visual Complexity

Again, the keys to the future of design are not in extraneous ornament, it is in graphically cataloging and orgazining the wealth of information around us.

A friend just linked me to this guy's site: Visual Complexity. Dude is ninja with the interface libraries, lotsa good links on there to check out.

Go here to get lost in the details.

Trend: Fashion: Leggings

That's really it. I got an email from Bloomingdales this morning with subject, "Trend Alert: Leggings" and thought I let you all in on it. (Damn they're getting good at CRM.) Today Show did a segment on it last week, though unlike in the pic, they said mid-calf was the hot style. Decide for yourself, but know this: I'm doing full length with red boots. Call me unoriginal. I don't care... cause I can wear them for bball too!

Trend: Conscious Consumption: (Product)RED Redux

We posted over a month ago here about Bono's (Product)RED, a co-brand of cause-related products (including an Amex card) which put portions of your purchases towards doing a greater good beyond boosting shareholder value.

This fellow blogger at IdLand details some of the fine print:

Make no mistake about it, the donation is from you, not from American Express. Every credit card offer has some kind of deal where you get free things or money back, and a good way to choose a credit card is to calculate the exact percentage cash back that you are getting. For example, if you get one Air Mile for every dollar you spend, and it costs 25,000 Air Miles to buy a domestic flight in the United States (say, $400-500 max), then you're effectively getting between 1.6% and 2.0% off of your purchases. ($400/$25000)

Most credit cards offer effective discounts of 2-3%. The RED card gives 1-1.25% of your purchase value to the Global Fund, and there are no other discounts. Two things are eminently clear: (1) American Express is not hurting at all from this, as they are offering a lower implicit discount than that on their other cards; and (2) Your donation is real, since that 1% going to the Global Fund would eventually be cash in your pocket if you used any other card.

You are making a donation to the Global Fund every time you use the RED card. So why don't you get a receipt for a tax deductible charitable donation? Because American Express is getting it. Which makes the RED card little more than a way for American Express to get money out of you, foolish consumer.

An example should make it clear. Suppose you put $25,000 on your credit card in a given year. Should you use the RED card or should you use an Air Miles card and then give the savings to the Global Fund? Let's see what happens:

The Global Fund got a similar amount of money in each case - but using the American Express card has cost you the value of the tax refund!

See Red at

AKI COMMENT: While this is hardly the worst example of credit card consumer abuse, it is clever marketing, and cleverer math considering that Amex isn't even matching your donation or paying anything whatsoever to grease your consumption and use. AND still getting the tax credit and goodwill value, to boot! Brilliant, really.

As that great pimp/philosopher Bishop Don "Magic" Juan once said: "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

And Elle Macpherson looks very cute spending the very first Amex Red pound at Harvey Nichols! Her shirt reads "Empower(red)". Life is funny sometimes.

Chess: Microsoft buys videogame advertising company

Microsoft, trying to anticipate and block Google's and/or Sony's next move, has announced a plan to buy Massive a videogame advertising company. Massive along with DoubleFusion are the Clear Channel's of in videogame advertising, a market that is predicted to explode. According to this ClickZ article, the Yankee group estimates it will be worth $732 million by 2010. Will this pave the way for free games, that are completely advertiser supported?

This news has so many other implications, will Microsoft or Google buy an advertising agency or create a strategic alliance with one of the holding companies? Google's entire strategy appears to be creating new media vehicles, why wouldn't they vertically integrate and control content creation as well. These announcements are always more interesting as parts of a hidden strategy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Trend: Pollution Penance

Paying to Pollute
I posted some time ago about a guy trying to persuade Euro nations to use CARBON TRADING CREDITS that represent our individual yearly allotment of carbon emissions, whether it be plane trips, car trips, or reduced expenditures on public transport. Impossible to coordinate and implement nationally, you say?

Well, to people who take the threat of global warming personally, driving a car that spews heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere can be a real guilt trip.

So to help atone for that environmental sin, some drivers are turning to groups on the Internet that offer pain-free ways to assuage their guilt while promoting clean energy.

It involves buying something known as a carbon offset: a relatively inexpensive way to stimulate the production of clean electricity. Just go to one of several carbon-offset Web sites, such as TerraPass and Hinkle Charitable Foundation and calculate the amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive, fly or otherwise burn fossil fuels, and then buy an offset that pays for an equivalent amount of clean energy.

Say a few Hail Marys and you're forgiven my child.

The money you donate is then given by proxy to organizations such as, which supports renewable energy projects;, which supports solar electrification projects in developing countries, reducing the use of dirty diesel and kerosene for lighting; and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project,, which restores northern forests.

See a recent video report on the phenomenon here at NY Times.

via NY Times Drive Times

Trend: Information Aesthetics: iTunes Signature Maker

To Mark Nelson's point the explosion of information is dense. We need shortcuts to display lots with less.

Everyone always asks, "what kind of music do you like?" This site develops a condensed audio "Signature" that blends snippets from all your iTunes library to create a one-minute sound montage (it ends up sounding like the secret song at the end of Beatles' White Album).

So now you don't have to stammer and try to describe your sound, just play 'em your signature! Hear others in the gallery link.

Get your personal iTunes Signature analyzed at

Monday, April 24, 2006

Industry: Ad Agency Deathwatch VI: Stake in the Business

Haggar Clothing Makes Crispin Porter an Equity Partner

Miami Shop Gets Minority Stake; CEO Hails Agency-Client 'Convergence Model'

The Haggar Clothing Co., a department-store pants supplier bent on becoming a lifestyle brand, has hired Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, in what it describes as an "unconventional partnership" that includes Crispin taking a minority equity position in the newly private Haggar.

Crispin CEO Jeff Hicks described the relationship as an "agency-client convergence model" that "eliminates the noise which can exist between clients and agencies."

"As an agency, our model is not really one that works well with one-off projects," he said. "Our best results have come when we have empowered products to market themselves beyond paid media."

get morehere

via Ad Age

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dylan to DJ on XM Radio

I think this move is genius. Apparently it took 3 years to convince him to do it but in my book it's well worth it. When I heard about this I got that, wow that doesn't fit feeling but in a good way (not like when I saw his Victoria Secret ad).

Dylan joins David Byrne crossing over from musician tob DJ in musician's revenge trend for all the DJs crossing over to beccome musicians.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Trend: Gas Watch

The price of crude oil climbed higher into record territory Wednesday, topping $72 a barrel. The high cost of crude oil, along with seasonal refinery outages, is driving up prices at the gas pump (or so "they" say, as accountability on this issue seems fuzzy as hell to most everybody, including ourpresident!).

The Energy Department’s weekly report on petroleum carried a headline Wednesday, asking "$3 per gallon?" That question has already been answered in Los Angeles and some other parts of the country, where gasoline prices hit the $3 mark this week.

"The bad news is the numbers are going to keep going up. We expect that gasoline over the next few weeks could go, on average, to $3.10, $3.20 a gallon," says spokeswoman Carol Thorpe of the American Automobile Association.

check out to keep up with the neighborhood and national price trends.

Freeloader: Free Cone Day

Cheapskates unite! Check out Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day on Tuesday April 25th, from noon to 8p.

In today's financial pinch, Free is the new black. Particularly, TRUE FREE, no strings attached, no coupons and trade-offs and catches. Starbucks had a succesful free coffee day a few months ago, I understand Free Cone Day is an annual event for B&J.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Trend: Smug Alert: Hybrid Haters

I posted a few weeks ago about the conflicting mathematics of Hyrid's economy value and their production impacts on the environment...I also noted an amusing aside to a recent South Park episode which highlighted a growing backlash of the increased "Smug" from high-and-mighty Prius drivers who think they are so much better than others.

Now noting an article highlighting the growing numbers of hybrid drivers who are becoming victims of road rage! They are calling it the "Prius Backlash" as the political debate over the environment seems to be moving to the carpool lanes.

Hybrid drivers, particularly in California and Virginia where solo occupants of hybrid cars are eligible to drive in the carpool lanes, are feeling a new form of commuter road rage.

Some carpoolers accuse the hybrids driving too slowly in order to maximize their fuel economy and they claim that the slower hybrids are beginning to cause traffic jams in lanes that were once clear.

"People are a lot less friendly than when I drove a Mercedes," one Prius owner confessed.

As the political debate over the environment heats up inside the HOV lanes, the "Prius Backlash" is giving rise to a group of self declared "hybrid haters" cruising chat rooms on automotive websites. The chatter can be bitter. "These idiot hybrids are clogging the car-pool lane," is typical of the views expressed on many of the anti-hybrid sites.

AKI COMMENT: Judging from the venom over at sites like and now in the HOV lanes, I predict a civil war as Hybrids and SUV Hogs take the matter face-to-face with bottles and bats, Wrestlemania-style! Look to YouTube to showcase the footage.


Trend: Citizen Journalism: People Paparazzi Redux

In Jan we posted about a growing list of mobile services such as Scoopt, which sells pictures taken by any mobile phone user to tabloids and celebrity magazines.

Lately, Scoopt announced it will sign a deal to install its software into 10 million mobile phones, according to founder Kyle MacRae, reports Scotland's The Sunday Herald.

"The company, is also considering a relocation to Silicon Valley." MacRae says: “One of the biggest challenges is how do we get people to know about us to send in their pictures. We are about to sign a deal which puts Scoopt software on 10 million handsets going into every market in the world except China. That is a pretty big deal for us, it will make a major difference.”

In related People Paparazzi developments...

Gawker Stalker was recently launched which allows users to post live, up-to-the second celeb sightings, cell photos, and even detailed Google maps to chart the goings-on of the famous.

Turning an airline into a communications network

Ryanair CEO says someday all his passengers will fly for free, that's no money folks. It's not so far fetched as this CNN Money story points out. Right now about 25% of their passengers already fly for free. His secret is a ruthless pursual of cost cutting, charging customers for everything including drinks, checking bags, etc, selling ad space anywhere and everywhere, and functioning as a portal to drive traffic to other related services like car rentals and hotels.

It's genius and it works, they have a lower average fare than Southwest ($53) and a higher profit margin.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Trend: Hactivism: FUH2

Hactivists who share a hatred of HUMMER H2's gather BY THE MANY THOUSANDS at to post their amusing photo salutations.

And you thought Chevy Tahoe had it bad...

Trend: Tech Etiquette

We have previously pointed out the growing conflicts of gadgets on social decorum - and we've given it a new name each time.

Continuous Partial Attention here and here. Gadgets and Antisocial Behavior here. Gadget Isolationism and Podding Out here

I rather like this nomenclature provided by Christian Science Monitor on TECH ETIQUETTE, here. I suppose the Macro-Trend of TECH ETIQUETTE may still house Micro-Trends such as Podding Out and CPA (but we do get a bit name-happy sometimes, don't we?).

From the perspective of executives polled by Robert Half Technology, some stat-bites:

*Two-thirds say that breaches in tech-etiquette are increasing
*Nearly 90 percent think it is inappropriate to leave a cellphone ringer on during a business meeting
*80 percent say sending instant messages or e-mail in meetings is a definite "don't"
*Two-thirds consider it poor etiquette to use personal computers during these sessions.

Commercial Interruption: Smoking and Kids

Found these oldies-but-goodies which show the complete shift in societal thinking on smoking.

Flintstones for Winston

Trend: Bankrupt!

Americans in massive debt prob ain't no new revelation...but the idea that getting out of debt may have become the New American Dream may be!

•Average households carry some $8000 in credit card debt (

•1/4 of credit card users say they use plastic to buy things when they don’t have the money (AP-Ipsos Debt Poll)

•Personal bankruptcies have doubled in the past decade (Federal Reserve/ American Bankruptcy Insititute)

•About 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year (Federal Reserve)

Source: AP-Ipsos Debt Poll Dec 2004, Federal Reserve/American Bankruptcy Insititute

Source: AP-Ipsos Debt Poll Dec 2004, Federal Reserve/American Bankruptcy Insititute

Goals have turned from keeping ahead of creditors towards achieving financial independence

Financial independence indexes at 45% - up 18 from 1995, while traditional goals like saving for college or retirement decline

Source: Debt’s Double Edge, Roper Reports December 2005

Source: 29, Mar 2006

I've noticed radio stations (particularly the "urban" formats) increasingly host contests where listeners may get their credit bills paid off. Freedom from debt is the new "prize" for saying the 'phrase that pays'!


Bankruptcy Blogs
Below is a listing of interesting bankruptcy blogs. Most are directed to bankruptcy lawyers, but a few appear to be for consumers. Some appear to be hosted by law firms, others by bankruptcy product vendors, and some by official bar organizations. All have a different slant on the topic and all have something to offer.













Trend: Bankrupt!: Maxed Out

"...back in the '60s and '70s ... a lot of bankers objected to credit cards and said they were not going to give consumers the noose from which to hang themselves--that was immoral, that was unethical ... They understood that people would abuse credit if given too much of it, and the banker had to fill this role of regulator. That philosophy doesn't exist any more."

That's a comment from documentary filmmaker James Scurlock in a recent Newsweek interview about his film Maxed Out, which traveled around the country interviewing people who were victims of predatory lending practices, greed, and ignorance.

Brief Synopsis:
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged America's Gulf Coast, it laid bare an uncomfortable reality—America is not only far from the world's wealthiest nation; it is crumbling beneath a staggering burden of individual and government debt. Maxed Out takes us on a journey deep inside the American debt-style, where everything seems okay as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. Sure, most of us may have that sinking feeling that something isn't quite right, but we're told not to worry. After all, there's always more credit!

Maxed Out shows how the modern financial industry really works, explains the true definition of "preferred customer" and tells us why the poor are getting poorer and the rich getting richer. By turns hilarious and profoundly disturbing, Maxed Out paints a picture of a national nightmare which is all too real for most of us.

Get more at

via Consumerist