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A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin
Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends, news from the world of puppets and ventriloquism, bits of humor and other interesting but useless information. I post every Tuesday and Friday.
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May 2008 - Posts

Movie Ticket Prices Are Going Up ... A Lot

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Puppet (Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends plus bits of humor and interesting but useless information.)

Thanking Members of Our Military
Have you ever seen one of our military walking past you and wanted to convey to them your thanks, but weren't sure how? Take a moment to watch "The Gratitude Campaign," and then forward it to your friends! Click on: http://www.gratitudecampaign.org/shortmovie.php 

Charitable eBay Auctions Forced to be Pulled

Some use eBay for evil, like selling one's wife. But one charitable and well-intentioned soul finds himself battling two great forces at once: cancer and DC Comics.

Superman fan Thomas Denton, blogger and charitable eBayer, was so grateful for the help his family received from Candlelighters during his young nephew's bout with cancer, that he enlisted a team of comic artists willing to donate their artwork, some of which featured depictions of Superman. Denton set up auctions via eBay's charitable auction channel to sell the artwork, all proceeds, minus eBay's fees, to be forwarded to Candlelighters.

But all was not well. A team of WB lawyers (WB owns DC Comics) crashed through the skylight and forced eBay to pull the auctions, citing copyright and trademark violations.  Denton acknowledged his mistake. Despite being "heartbroken," he refused to play the victim and instead asked that concerned citizens simply make donations to Candlelighters.

DC wasn't completely devoid of sympathy and "made an exemption" for one of the listed items-you know, just to show they're not complete jerks. Denton will still have to foot the fees for the auctions that were not reinstated.

Go, "Speed Racer," go! Please? Please, go?  
  

Sadly, no amount of coaxing could fire up Warner Bros.' blockbuster gone bust.  

"Speed Racer" was meant to be one of the summer's brightest vehicles and was to have been another perfect marketing venue for some big players including McDonald's, Target, General Mills, Lego, Yokohama Tires, Esurance and Puma - which all paid to tie promotions to the movie.

But "Racer" crashed badly, right out of the gate. A week after its opening weekend, the $120 million film had barely crossed $21 million in domestic grosses.

Before it hit the screen the film generated about $80 million in promotional partnerships. But luckily it had few discernible product-placement deals. Instead, most of the marketing partners had promotions leading up to the movie. So despite being a box-office disaster, "Racer" was actually quite lucky on that front, because companies that had deals tied to product placements will probably be asking for some money back.

Ethanol and Rising Costs of Paper Will Mean 30% Rise in Movie Ticket Prices ... Why? Because of Popcorn, of Course
Speaking of movies, thanks to the inflating cost of popcorn, the price of movie tickets is expected to skyrocket by as much as 30% this year. Movie goers can expect to see a one- to two-dollar increase in the price of a movie ticket, according to industry experts. 

Here's why.

Roughly 25% of the price of a movie ticket is subsidized by popcorn, soda and candy sales. And, according to an Agriculture Department report, next year's corn stocks are expected to plunge to a 13-year low and, as a result, corn-futures contracts have soared to an all-time high. This can be attributed to the demand for ethanol, which will claim 40% of next year's corn crop, munching away at the margins of theaters that rely on concession sales for as much as 45% of their revenue. Plus, in the past 18 months, the cost of coconut oil used for popping corn has risen 24%. And the price of the paper pulp to produce popcorn tubs has jumped 40% in the past 36 months, making the tub more expensive than the corn inside it. 

Ticket sales had been insulated for the past 30 years from both inflation and recession. (Adjusted for inflation, tickets today cost less than they did in 1977, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.)
 
In an interview with Mike Campbell, CEO of Regal Entertainment, the nation's largest theater chain, said, "If we didn't charge as much for concessions as we do, the tickets to the movies would cost $20." (According to the MPAA, last year's average movie-ticket price was $6.88.)

WI Speed Trap Worth Noting

Last year, the Fond du Lac County village of Rosendale, WI, population 923, issued 1,581 speeding tickets. That's almost four times that of the city of Fond du Lac's total of 404 tickets.  Rosendale collected a total of $72,036 from all citations issued last year.

Not surprisingly, the village is marked as a speed trap on multiple web sites and a comment about Rosendale at http://www.speedtrap.org/, talks about an unfair speeding ticket written as far back as 1958.

So many tickets are given out that it's benefiting other businesses in the community.  For instance, motorists who stop in at Bluemke's, Westphal's gas station and convenience store located at the intersection of Highways 23 and 26 in the heart of the community, can purchase T-shirts that read: "Rosendale - Just the Ticket." Displayed on the shirt is a squad car.

A word to the wise ... don't believe the mayor, city attorney or police chief who claim tickets are only given to motorists who exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph. The number of documented tickets given for just 5 mph over makes this town worth a wide berth.

If you'd like to read both sides of the story, including motorists who feel victimized by the town's "enforcement" of speed laws, click here.

Thank You
A short "thank you," to all of you who took the time to send congratulatory emails to Dale or me, following my post about Lauren Brown's college graduation. Dale and I were slightly stunned by the quantity of emails we received. More importantly, many of you took advantage of the opportunity to take shots at Dale. I really enjoyed that. The most common type of remark was "Who is Lauren's real dad? She's too good looking to be Dale's daughter and the fact that she graduated Cum Laude completely rules out the possibility of any of his DNA." 


Are You Looking for an English Teacher?

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Puppet (Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends plus bits of humor and interesting but useless information.)

Now This is Funny!

CareerBuilder (the company that uses monkeys in its TV ads) has launched a four part video series called "Office Worker Survival Series" which aims to "humorously instruct disgruntled workers how to navigate the treacherous waters of corporate America."  Trust me, it's funny. Every scene will remind you of yourself, your office environment or your co-workers. 
    In the first video, "Gauging Your Workplace Worth," your worth as an employee is examined based on how elaborately your birthday gets celebrated in the office. From the time of day to location to attendance to food to whether or not your co-workers sing Happy Birthday to You, the "CareerBuilder Birthday Celebration Observational System" gauges the likelihood you'll be considered for a promotion in the future.

It's worth a look and a chuckle. Click here to see the 3 minute video. Come on ... it's clean, it'll make you laugh out loud and you'll want to forward it to others.

Remembering Jim Henson
 

I was remiss in not recognizing the anniversary of Jim Henson's death earlier this month. He died on May 16, 1990.  

Although he was not a ventriloquist, his successful and creative use of puppets as sophisticated entertainment tools enabled ventriloquists to regain a legitimate position in the entertainment industry. Ventriloquists were able to modernize their acts, create new kinds of vent characters and play on a more level playing field with other entertainers. In short, he helped revise the image of ventriloquists from that of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy to Jeff Dunham and Peanut. Ventriloquists owe Jim Henson a lot. 

It seems like the more time passes the more people miss Jim Henson and the contributions he made. He was taken from this earth much too soon, but when you consider the new Muppet and Fraggle Rock movies going into production, a ventriloquist headlining Vegas, puppets on Broadway, the most popular stand-up comedian being a ventriloquist and a whole new generation of puppeteers' podcasts popping up everywhere on the internet, you realize that through both the people he trained directly and those that grew up entertained and inspired by his work, his artistic legacy continues to grow.

If a Robot Can Do it, So Can I

Honda's ASIMO robot this week conducted the Detroit Symphony in a performance of "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha. I know what you're thinking: "Detroit has a symphony orchestra?" I was shocked too.  But the clip is sort of fun to watch.

Personally, robots freak me out. They're like puppets, but without the "human" factor. But Honda puts its robot to good marketing use in this ASIMO commercial. Still, it's a bit creepy. Not warm and fuzzy like a Mannequin American.

Congratulations to Lauren Brown
I lost a bet to Dale, so I have to include the following announcement.

Last week Dale's daughter, Lauren, graduated Cum Laude from UW-Whitewater with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She majored in English and minored in Journalism. I bet her dad, who was a high school teacher and journalist, and remains a writer of sorts, wishes he had set a better example.
 

I was around when Lauren was born. In the photo above she is probably about 5 years old. Those were the days when she was "proud" to have a ventriloquist for a father. That opinion changed drastically as she grew older and more sophisticated.
 

Lauren has worked off and on in our office as a receptionist and administrative assistant since she was in high school. That experience, combined with her exceptional writing skills, means she could easily take over Brown & Martin, Inc. if she wanted to. (Believe me, she would be an improvement over our existing management crew.) But instead she is seeking employment as a teacher. (Send any leads you have to me and I'll split the finder's fee with you.)

I was at Lauren's graduation. I didn't stick out because there were so many faculty members there. As she walked across the stage to receive her diploma a flood of memories washed over me. Although the memories were sweet, I struggled with the emotions they brought on. I think Dale must have had a lump in his throat, because I couldn't speak. 

Everyone who has been part of Lauren's life is proud of her and proud of the person she has become. I'm proud just to know her. And in truth, although she has become an intelligent, winsome, caring adult, to me she will always be that 5 year-old girl who thought her dad and I were cool.

 


Meet Our Friends

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Puppet (Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends plus bits of humor and interesting but useless information.)

Is There a Doctor in the House?
There's not enough room on this blog or any blog to list what Adelia and Clinton Detweiler have achieved as ambassadors for the art of ventriloquism. Through the Maher Home Study Course they have helped teach and encourage thousands of people to become ventriloquists. (The guy who puts his hand in my back attributes his career as a ventriloquist to the Detweilers. So you can blame them.) More importantly, the Maher Course and Maher Studios were conduits that allowed thousands of people to become acquainted with, and more-than-likely, become friends with Clinton and Adelia. (Although Adelia usually worked behind the scenes, it's impossible to reflect on Maher Studios without thinking of both her and Clinton.)

Clinton "retired" a few years ago ... (he really didn't; but he says he did). He is still incredibly busy creating unique puppets, building figures, repairing figures, and continuing to teach and support those who take the Maher Home Study Course.

Leslie, Dale and I recently celebrated Leslie's birthday by flying to Denver and visiting the Detweilers. No matter where on the globe you are from, if you have the opportunity to be invited to the Detweiler's house, I guarantee that you will be made to feel at "home," ... that is if you are a "person." If you're a puppet ... watch out! 

We weren't in Clinton's workshop two minutes before Dale handed me over for surgery and refurbishing. Although it was a traumatic experience for me, I have to admit that with his deft skills and years of experience, it didn't take Clinton long to make me look and function better. I actually feel fortunate to have been in his hands.  Let me tell you, it's way better than being in Dale's hands.


Dale, Leslie, Adelia and Clinton inside the famous, El Rancho restaurant. Moments after this photo was taken, the panther pounced on Clinton's head.

Anyway, the Detweilers took us on a beautiful tour of the historic gold mining areas in the mountains above Denver. We stopped at the famous El Rancho restaurant where some of the party partook of rabbit and rattlesnake sausage ... which, as Clinton pointed out, proves you can make sausage out of anything if you use enough spices.

Our visit was way too short ... but it was a blessing. You couldn't ask for better friends, or imagine nicer people.  

If you've ever wondered what the inside of a dummy's head looks like ... you'll have to knock Dale out and cut him open. But this photo shows Clinton performing some minor surgery and restringing some of my "vital components." (I was afraid to ask what happened to the puppet whose arm is hanging in the background.)

After surgery the three of us shared a smile ... I was still a little high from the anesthesia.

Terry Fator Signs $100 Million Dollar Deal

Terry Fator, winner of NBC's "America's Got Talent," and The Mirage have announced that Terry has signed a five-year deal, worth $100 million with an option for an additional five years, which makes the entire deal worth over $200 million. That's two hundred million dollars! Not too shabby for a puppeteer who not so long ago was playing to half-empty theatres and at county fairs. (At least Dale and I have that in common with him.) For more information on Terry and the new contract click here. 

Fator will perform five shows a week in the 1,265-seat Terry Fator Theatre (currently the Danny Gans Theatre) beginning in February 2009. Tickets will go on sale later this year. Terry is currently appearing at the Las Vegas Hilton. He recently appeared on Oprah with Simon Cowell, who called him "two of the most talented people on the planet. He also appeared as a guest on David Letterman last week.

I'm waiting for the "trickle down" ventriloquist popularity to kick in so that Dale and I can start getting more banquet and theatre work.  Frankly, I think Dale is holding me back. (I know he's holding something...)

Would You Vote to Replace Implants?
Common workers' comp claims probably include wrenched backs, torn ligaments, pulled muscles, etc. Here's one you may not have heard before. Implants.

Penny Richardson was in an on-the-job accident that ruptured her right *** implant. The plastic surgeon said the left one showed signs of rippling, so he replaced both. The North Carolina Workers' Comp Commission awarded Penny compensation for both ... so her employer had to pay. But the company, Maxim Healthcare (no, I didn't make that up) appealed, claiming the "rippling in the left implant most likely happened because it was under filled." How would you vote?

The state appeals court said, "Pay for the ruptured implant, but not for the rippled one." A dissenting opinion said, "Both needed to be replaced to ensure the implants were symmetrical and evenly matched."

Sprayed and Neutered
I ran across the following product on http://www.stunninginnovations.com/. It's ring bling with a sting. (I should send them that idea for a tag line.) The rings contain tiny replaceable canisters of the strongest pepper spray available. A thumb-operated safety prevents accidental pepperings. Can a ring stun gun be far behind?

 


Racing to Success

A Dummy's Puppet's Ramblings - from Chip Martin, Puppet (Mannequin American views and guidelines on marketing/PR trends plus bits of humor and interesting but useless information.)

Racing to Bigger ... Endorsements
(My other title was, "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines," ... but it seemed too chauvinistic.)

 

Get ready to see a lot of Danica Patrick during this weekend's Indy 500. When Danica became the first woman driver to win in the IndyCar Series, her already marketable-self, nearly doubled in value.

Danica's existing alliances with Motorola, AirTran, Honda, Peak, GoDaddy, Tisso and others are estimated to be worth between $5-7 million annually. Her victory will probably raise that amount to around $10 million before the end of the year.


Even a Mannequin American like me can figure out why marketers want to hitch a ride with Danica. 
Click here to see more of her swim suit photos from Sports Illustrated.

The $10 million mark is significant as only four women athletes have hit that plateau. They are Maria Sharapova, Michelle Wie, Venus Williams and Serena Williams.  As a side note, Tiger Woods clears $110 million in annual endorsements and a bevy of male athletes exceed $10 million including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, David Beckham, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Peyton Manning and Dwayne Wade.

Danica's victory also lifted the "Anna Kournikova monkey" off her back.  (Anna has not won a single title since turning pro in 1995. Talk about making it on looks alone ... which is fine by me.) By successfully competing in the same field as men, Danica has become a one-of-a-kind marketing icon. Marketers are already lining up to take advantage of the extended coverage she's scheduled to receive at this month's Indianapolis 500.

Bringing Your Rear Out Front

    
If you think toilet-tissue companies have become more "direct" with their messages lately ... you're right. While Mr. Whipple used to talked about "squeezable soft" today's Charmin commercials say the product "leaves fewer pieces" behind than competing brands.

Charmin's once innocent animated bears are now doing shocking things in the woods and using an Ultra Strong version of the product ... using a vacuum to clean scraps of toilet paper off their rear ends, for a "new kind of clean."  Click here to view some of the commercials.

Cottonelle's puppy is still around, but now he's spending a lot of time looking at people's rear ends in ads that feature ... people's behinds. "We found that if you communicate the benefits of your product in a lighthearted and tasteful manner, you can talk a little more directly about what the product does," said Stu Schneider, marketing director for Cottonelle and Scott bath tissue. "Coming from the puppy, we're able to talk about kindness to your behinds. Not only are people enjoying the humor, but they're relating to the benefits we're portraying."

And it works. Charmin and Cottonelle have seen their market shares rise double digits since making their ads "more direct."  The moral? Being direct and entertaining sells.

10 Most Powerful People in TV News
Television Week recently unveiled its annual list of the 10 Most Powerful People in TV News. The list includes familiar names like Tim Russert, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann and other anchors and executives.

But three newcomers tied for #10 on the list. They are Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, and Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. They were chosen for "their consistent ability to undo politics and politicians and the ‘real' journalists who cover them."

In short, "fake journalists" are becoming as influential and sometime more influential, than "real" journalists.  Often times more people watch these imposters than watch legitimate journalists. Why? Because the "fake" journalists bring entertainment, common sense and honesty to the news.  Marketers of products and services should take note. Entertainment, common sense and honesty out sell dry puffery every time.

10 Hardest Jobs to Fill
Employers across the country are experiencing a mismatch between the talents their businesses need and the skills employees possess. Here is a list of the "10 Hardest Jobs to Fill" as reported by U.S. employers for 2008.

  1. Engineers
  2. Machinists/Machine Operators
  3. Skilled Trades
  4. Technicians
  5. Sales Reps
  6. Accounting and Finance Staff
  7. Mechanics
  8. Laborers
  9. IT Staff
  10. Production Operators

As a result, employers are encouraging current employees to re-skill and up-skill to ensure they can meet growing workload demands. In addition, companies are putting more emphasis on finding employees with "soft work skills" and a strong work ethic. Good luck with that.


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