National Beaver Day — Igor draft

Frank and Gordon, the two animated beavers who first appeared as “spokesanimals” for Bell Canada in a series of tv spots during the Super Bowl, and more recently during the Winter Olympics, are just the latest anthropomorphic characters used in advertising by Canadian telecom companies.

FIDO: Brand began in 1996 with dogs from the outset, under the theme, You are the Master. Most popular ad campaign was ’97-’98 dog and owner look-alikes. Current campaign features mammoth pawprints in the snow and a giant canine, reminiscent of King Kong. Ad agency originating the campaign is Bos of Montreal.

TELUS: Started with a nature campaign in 1997 under the ClearNet wireless brand, which Telus acquired in 2000. A series of animals, insects, flowers and plants have been featured under the theme of The Future is Friendly. Call their animals “spokescritters.” Ad agency that originally developed the campaign is Taxi of Toronto. Current campaign handled by Taxi and DDB of Vancouver.

BELL: First used cartoon beavers Frank and Gordon this year during the Super Bowl. Bell now has a series of ads linked to the Olympics, with a storyline of Bell searching for new spokesanimals. Ad agency that developed the campaign is Cossette of Montreal.

A recent article in the Edmonton Journal discusses this trend in Canadian advertising, and the success of Frank and Gordon.

For its part, Bell is chortling all the way to the bank. The company has gone from zero to 60 in just 21/2 weeks, from a brand that had limited recognition with consumers to the cool guys with Frank and Gordon, now the talk of the water-cooler crowd and beyond.

Jim Little, senior vice-president of marketing and communications for Bell Canada, can hardly contain his glee at the brand recognition that the company has enjoyed since the Frank and Gordon campaign launched at Super Bowl.

“It’s going in a fun direction,” says Little.

“We think it’s time to set aside a national day for Canada’s national animal,” say Frank and Gordon on their website, imploring fellow Canadians to get on the brandwagon and sign a petition.

What do you think? Is Joe Canadian likely to get all patriotic about a beaver?

A word with ways

Beyond sharing a loft with Patrick McGrath (he is still wincing ), my only other brush with literary greatness was closing down Joe’s Bar on East Sixth in NYC on many occasions with one time drinking buddy Yannick Murphy. She’s since turned her life around and no longer runs with riff-raff.

In fact, Yannick’s got a new book out, “Here They Come”, published by Mc Sweeney’s:

Splitting time between a garbage-strewn apartment and an overly affectionate hot dog vendor, the observant thirteen-year-old who stands steadily at the center of Here They Come gives lyrical voice to an unforgettable instant—1970s New York, stifling, violent, and full of life. Balanced between her enigmatic siblings, borderline parents, and a quiet sense of the surreal, she recounts a year of vivid, mundane moments with dark humor and deadpan resilience. By Yannick Murphy, author of the New York Times Notable Book Sea of Trees .

“This is a hell of a book. You might not be able to finish Here They Come in one sitting, but it will haunt you till you do. What detail! What characters! I can imagine both Jane Austen and Raymond Carver pouring over this masterly novel.”

—Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes

“Yannick Murphy is a uniquely talented writer who manages to turn everything on its head and make dark, funny, shocking and beautiful prose out of the detritus of growing up poor, fatherless, and cockeyed. She is fearless.”

—Lily Tuck, winner of the 2004 National Book Award

“Yannick Murphy’s long-awaited Here They Come is a unique combination of rare linguistic lyricism with brutal and brilliant prose. It is an unrelenting portrait of family, terrifying for its honesty, its willingness to be ugly and elegant. Haunting.”

—A.M. Homes, author of The Safety of Objects and The End of Alice

She’s scooped up her share of writing awards, but this week Yannick Murphy leaps beyond the intelligencia and literati and lands smack in the pulp of People magazine tomorrow, or so she says. Not sure if it’s the one with Brad and Angelina on the cover or Angelina and Brad.

Anyway, do yourself a favor and do the unthinkable — go pick up and read this actual hardcover book, and stop reading this electronic drivel.

Following the paper entrail

In the continuing saga of great product code names being ditched in favor of the banal, Microsoft folds Origami:

Formerly known as “Origami,” the “UltraMobile PC” is Microsoft’s new name for a smaller version of its Tablet PC, but redesigned as a more multimedia-oriented device. Although the concept was launched together with a mysterious Web campaign and other secrecy, partner Intel had a version of “Origami” on display at the WinHEC 2005 showcase, minus the hype.

The first wave of devices are part of an extensive family of products envisioned by Microsoft. In a FAQ distributed to the press, Microsoft claimed that “UMPCs will eventually become as indispensable and ubiquitous as mobile phones are today.”

Handheld, smartphone, personal digital assistant, notebook, laptop, hiptop, mobile manager, ultralight, sub-notebook, pocket PC, tablet, tablet-mini PC, mini-PC, mobile media companion, and now ultramobile PC.

They should have let Origami define the category on its own rather than creating yet another confusing sub-sub category. BlackBerry defines itself as a BlackBerry, nothing else. iPod’s refusal to create a subcategory descriptor has allowed the name to become a brand that has transcended the original device, and the name is now used on full-blown home stereo equipment. When the iPod device evolves and becomes more and more multifunctional, it will still be an iPod. BlackBerry’s passing on categorizing itself has allowed it to both define and defy the category, offering all combination of functionality across multiple product lines.

Microsoft ditched Origami and embraced Ultramobile PC in a lust to own the category by defining it, hoping the name for the device would become synonymous with the category. Unfortunately, the descriptive Ultramobile PC joins a sea of other sub-category descriptors that are attempting to slice and dice mindshare with every miniscule evolutionary step in product development. The result is yet another pointless subdivision that brings confusion, not clarity, to the forefront. Origami at least had a shot of becoming a category defining name and then morphing into a brand name that transcends the category, a la BlackBerry and iPod. Ultramobile PC has no shot at either goal.

It’s too bad, Origami is an interesting twist on the paper (pun intended) naming theme already in place, denoted by notebook, notepad and tablet.

And by the bye, “entrail”as in fold, not the other one.

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