Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beating Hollywood Sexism Makes Money

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Despite The Hunger Games’ box office domination and the incredible drawing power of Disney’s Frozen – both starring strong, lead female characters – there is still an underlying belief in America that audiences prefer male-anchored films.

The typical thinking is that when you’ve got a strong male lead (think Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise) – and the plot revolves around them, cash registers will sing. This Hollywood wisdom also suggests hat that international markets don’t want to see women in film.

The reality of women in movies has been mapped in a 2013 study by Stacy Smith, an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California: the top 100 grossing films of 2012, women accounted for 4.1 percent of directors, 12.2 percent of writers and 20 percent of producers, according to. Of 4,475 speaking roles in those films, 28.4 percent were women.

Using the Bechdel Test which measures gender equality in film-making, Walt Hickey of ESPN’s blog FiveThirtyEight analyzed 1,615 films released between 1990 and 2013. For a movie to pass the test, it must feature at least two named women having a conversation with each other about something or somebody other than a man. (Multi Oscar-winning sensation Gravity failed the test because Sandra Bullock could only talk to herself while lost in space).

Hickey reports that contrary to conventional Hollywood school of thought, movies that passed the Bechdel test were found to be just as likely to be profitable than those that didn’t, and also appeared to outperform expectations.

“We found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t.

“It’s another case of tired, institutionalized thinking that has no basis in reality. In this case, because men dominate movie studios and have done so for decades. But maybe, just maybe, seeing the dollars will help them see sense.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wellbeing Index

Define. Measure. Act. Those are the three words used to describe the city of Santa Monica’s latest Wellbeing Project. The project aims to define wellbeing as it relates to the roughly 92,000 person community and monitor various aspects of this wellbeing. The aim? Create a Local Wellbeing Index which will be used to get a sense of the communities’ strengths and challenges, and to use this information to guide city policies and allocate resources to improve conditions needed for the city to thrive.

The project defines ‘wellbeing’ as personal satisfaction with life, influenced by social connections, economic stability, safety, surroundings, employment fulfillment, civic engagement and health. It will use quantitative and qualitative information, such as crime statistics and school attendance rates, as well as personal surveys and behavioral analytics.

Santa Monica hopes that its Wellbeing Index will be adopted around the US to help direct local government policy; policy that is driven by evolving citizen need and desire rather than political whim.

A city that understands the needs of its people will be better able to serve them. When cities can better address need, desire and wellbeing, citizens will in turn be willing to invest in their communities and environment. Improving wellbeing for all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Free Advice

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We may be from different sides of the pond, but Tom Friedman and I are on the same side on the idea of the future – Average is over. There is no room now and ever again for being okay. Be the best or start looking somewhere else.

Saatchi S CEO Annie Longsworth recently had the chance to see Friedman speak. And these are the five pieces of wisdom she took away from the experience. They certainly kick-start the brain into thinking.

1. Be like an immigrant – a paranoid optimist. i.e. pursue opportunities more energetically, persistently and creatively than anybody else.

2. Be like an artist – full of pride for your work with complete commitment to your craft.

3. Always be in beta – be willing (and eager) to learn, relearn and relearn again (further to this, always question how you can improve, improve, improve).

4. Remember that PQ (passion quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient) are greater than IQ. (To this point I would add that you need to always consider your EQ (emotion quotient), your TQ (technological quotient) and your BQ (your body quotient be bloody quick!)

5. Be like the waitress from Perkins Pancake House – know what you control and how be entrepreneurial with it. To illustrate this point, Friedman describes an experience he had at the pancake house in his hometown. The waitress didn’t control much, but she did control the fruit ladle. She demonstrated her entrepreneurial instinct and brought Friedman and his friend extra fruit, earning herself a 50% tip!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reading the News Receipt

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While we live in the screen-age and tend to be surgically attached to some device at any given time, restaurants The Old Ebbitt Grill and its sister, The Hamilton, both in the heart of Washington D.C, are proving that there’s still an appetite for news well done and printed.

The Grill has introduced news receipts courtesy of editor Leland Schwartz, whose brainchild is Print Signal. On one side reads a breakdown of the customer’s order and on the other is an update from the top dozen AP news stories, including the weather and stocks. Print Signal’s feed from the AP refreshes every two minutes. Customers, apparently, find the updates “compelling”.

It's also not totally a new idea: 23 years ago, Schwartz introduced "The Latest News" as a newspaper printed every hour and handed out to airline passengers. On April 22nd The Latest News launches at The Palm restaurants in DC is a pre-cursor to take the news updates to New York, Boston, Chicago and all the 28 Palm locations, including Denver, Dallas, Houston, LA, San Diego and Miami. Also look for The Latest News at all 14 Clyde’s restaurants in DC. The plan is to move into the 50 state capitals and into the top 50 foreign capitals—or, as Schwartz puts it, a movement that would turn restaurant receipt machines into a “worldwide printing press.”

Frank Mankiewicz, former press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy, was one of the Washington journalists behind the idea. Despite print media naysayers, Mankiewicz held to his conviction that the news receipts would take off. He maintains a lifelong belief in the human connectivity to paper. The touch and feel is unique. It can’t be replicated.

As Steve Jobs said, creativity is all about connecting things. Connecting news and restaurant receipts sounds like a Lovemark to me.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back On Bloomberg

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This week I was invited back to Bloomberg Surveillance with Tom Keene, Scarlet Fu and Erik Schatzker. We covered a wide range of subjects including American banking, nuclear power, the Bull Market and the All Blacks playing in the USA (1.11.13 – 1.13.34).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mass Mob

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Pope Francis is stimulating a resurgence in Catholicism worldwide. I have written before about his early moves to break down the walls of the Papacy, and the “Francis Effect” continues as he has started: declaring himself to be ‘ordinary’, saying “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gays, uttering the f*** word, making his confession to an rank-and-file priest, and even taking a meeting with Noah star Russell Crowe. He also had a major swipe at the Italian Mafia – just last week reputed to have a turnover bigger than the entire budget of the European Union – by saying “Repent or end up in hell”.

A new movement called “Mass Mobs” – unrelated to his targeting of the Mafia – has sprung up in Buffalo New York. As reported by local news channel, they are intended to draw large congregations via social media to experience some of Buffalo’s great Catholic churches that many residents have forgotten about in recent years.

A week ago the third and largest mass mob in Buffalo focused on St. John Kanty Church in east Buffalo’s Polonia neighborhood. This historic church is only about one-eighth full on most typical Sundays, but on March 23 about 800 people came to the congregation.

Gregory Witul, one of the event organizers, explained the goal of a Mass mob, “We thought, hey, wouldn’t it be great to get people to come out to some of these neglected Catholic churches, check out some of the wonderful architecture, the beautiful stained glass, the mural work.”

Father Bob Pecoraro of St. John Kanty Church said that “To get up to the altar and turn around and see the church filled to capacity, it brings an energy.”

The parish, established in 1892, also can see a renewed energy to the collection plate. “These parishes were built by Catholics who really had pennies. They practically had no money at all and they built these grand structures to show their love for their religion,” Witul said.

It’s a movement that is now spreading across the country. The New York Times reports that Mass mobs have formed in Rochester, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and near New Orleans.