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The best and worst Olympic ads [Olympics]

Now that the Olympics are officially over, (we won! Go USA!) it is time to take a look at won the advertizing contest. Cutting an ad for the Olympics is kind of hard.  NBC insists on presenting the Olympics as a sort of kumbaya, brotherhood-of-man event instead of the epic content between nations that it is.

So advertisers try to focus on producing something upbeat by not jingoistic. Needless to say, not everyone pulls it off.

The honor for the worst ads of the Olympics goes to VISA. Their “GO WORLD” campaign consisted of about 20 different ad spots, each of which tried desperately to be sentimental or inspiring. None of them succeeded. Ever ad concluded with the tagline “GO WORLD.” Go world? These aren’t the intergalactic games. Cheering for everyone is about the least interesting thing possible. What happened to the old badass VISA who used to taunt American Express at every opportunity?

The second best ad campaign definitely goes to McDonald’s. They did bit of the Olympic brothood stuff in their McNuggests ads, but at least they pulled it off. Besides, any ad campaign that features a bobsled going through the drive-thru gets my vote.

By far the best ad spot of the Olympics was for Coca-Cola. Their “Ceremony” commercial managed to take the entire feel-good mood of the Olympics and make me feel like I made it possible—just by drinking Coke. Pure advertizing genius.

USA wins Olympics!

Child Saluting American FlagThere is one more day of games, but for all intents and purposes the Olympics are over. We won! We are officially the Greatest Country in the World.

It is the first time we have won the Winter Olympics since 1932 (we tied Germany in 2002).

As of this morning, Team USA had already amassed an insurmountable lead in the medal race. There are a few more contests tomorrow, including an epic showdown between Team USA and Canada for the hockey medal. Hopefully we will triumph again. Defeating Canada a second time at their national sport after already thwarting their “Own The Podium” efforts would make the perfect coup de grâce.


Canadians talking smack [Olympics]

We are dominating the medal count and even beat them at their national sport. About the only thing we could do to complete the humiliation would be for McDonald’s to buy Tim Horton’s, and then close it.  So it is understandable that some Canadians want to lash out at the USA. But I’ve got to say, this one is below the belt.

We’ll see who is laughing when the US Hockey Team wins again tonight!


Russians raise the bar for Canada bashing [Olympics]

Nothing brings Americans together like a good joke about Canada. Making fun of our neighbors to the north runs in our blood. Their “Eh?”s, their Maple Leaves, their bizarre fixation with Curling. Everything about Canada is just so mockable.

When two Americans meet each other for the first time, a good anecdote about those kooky Canadians will break the ice as well as anything. Mocking Canada is essentially a national sport (at least for those of us north of the Mason-Dixon Line). We’ve even made movies entirely devoted to the cause.

So it came as a bit of a shock to a to someone like myself who grew up on the US-Canada border to see an article in the Russian Newspaper Pravda that blows American Canada-bashing out of the water. Being a Russian publication, the article is a bit more vitriolic than the Canada jokes we tell here in America. But wow, is it worth a read.

Some of the highlights:

… the utter incapacity of this county to host a major international event, due to its inferiority complex , born of a trauma being the skinny and weakling bro to a beefy United States and a colonial outpost to the United Kingdom, whose Queen smiles happily from Canadian postage stamps.

…Vancouver is mutton dressed as lamb…

Oh, and lets not forget the bizarre assertion of widespread Canadian war crimes.

The abject cruelty shown by Canadian soldiers in international conflicts is scantily referred to…

Those crazy Russians… Always good for a laugh.

German Blitzkrieg closing medal gap [Olympics]

America was never supposed to be a contender in these Olympics. The pundits all said it would be Canada v. Germany out in front in the medals race.

But Team USA had a strong first week, and now we need to hang on to our lead.

This has been tough the last few days as the Germans have made quite the charge and are now within 2 medals of Team USA. Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight has the latest medal projects. It is going to be close.

But if we win, it will the first American Winter Olympic victory since 1932.

So root for Team USA, but also cheer on anyone who is not wearing a German flag (except, perhaps for the Canadians, we still need to teach them a lesson for that whole “Own The Podium” thing).

NBC thinks Canada is 51st State [Olympics]

NBC is pretty excited about Ice Dancing this year. They’ve been using Lady Gaga music to hype it and are even running a contest where you can judge the Ice Dancing costumes.

But what has them particularly thrilled is the prospect that either the US or Canada will likely walk away with the gold. As they put it: “No North American team has ever won the gold medal in Ice Dancing.”

North American team?

Since when do continents compete in the Olympics? Did NAFTA start fielding Olympic Teams and I missed it? Or did NBC just overlook the fact that Canada is *technically* an independent country?

Olympic link roundup [Schadenfreude edition]

Pimp My ZamboniCanada’s ‘Own the Podium’ Plan Falls Short So Far as the U.S. Dominates [WSJ]

Big Push From Canada Is Not Panning Out [NYT]

Waking Its Neighbors, U.S. Upsets Canada [NYT]

Canadians Cave, Bring In American-Made Zamboni For Olympics [Jalopnik]

Nate Silver has an analysis of where Canada’s Olympic dreams are falling short, and how poorly targeted its “Own The Podium” funding was [FiveThiryEight]

The medal count at the end of day 10

USA: 24

Germany:  18

Norway: 12

South Korea: 9

Canada: 9


Team USA is kicking ass, taking names [Olympics]

USA cheering sectionThis was supposed to be Canada’s games. Ever since Vancouver was selected to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, Canada has been fixated on taking home the most medals. The Government poured more than $118 million dollars into a special program called Own The Podium that recruited and trained potential athletes and is even offering $20,000 cash-prizes to athletes who medal.

Pretty much everyone believed the hype. Going into the games, Canada was widely favored by bookies and sports experts to win both the most gold medals and most medals overall.

But  thus far, Canada’s massive effort seems to have come to naught.

Nearly halfway thought the games, Canada has steadily slipped in the medals standings.  Going into day 8, Canada is in 5th place after falling behind Finland and Korea.

At the front of the pack is Team USA, which has been unexpectedly dominating the games thus far. The USA has traditionally been weak in the winter games, which have been dominated by Germany for the last two decades. But that seems to have changed. What was supposed to be Canada’s year is turning into America’s. Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight now projects the USA to win the medal count (just two days ago we were neck-and-neck with Canada and Germany), though Canada is still favored to take home the most gold medals. If Team USA can hold on to its lead, it will be the first Winter Olympics America has won since 1932 (we only managed to tie Germany in the 2002 Salt Lake City games).


The 1968 Detroit Olympics [video]

Do Vancouver’s gleaming towers and vibrant waterfront that they keep showing during NBC’s Olympic coverage remind you of Detroit? No. Me neither.

But back in the day, just before the city entered its downward spiral, Detroit too made a bid for the Olympics.  It was America’s candidate city for the 1968 summer games. They were eventually awarded to Mexico City, but Detroit put together a pretty snazzy presentation to market itself. Thanks to the interwebs we can still see those promo videos.

The videos, narrated by Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh, show the city circa 1965 and its (kind of creepy) modernist vision for itself. As someone who grew up in Metro Detroit, I found these videos amazing. They are a little long, but worth watching, particularly if your mental image of Detroit looks like this.

Here are some more videos of Detroit’s presentation to the IOC that detail the proposed venues and Olympic Village.

And remember, “the city on the straights welcomes you to share that vision as it continues to plan, to build and yes, to dream.”

[the D spot]

Memo to NBC: Improving Olympic Coverage

NBC BuildingThe Olympics are an important event. They are how, in a relatively peaceful world, we determine what the best country in the world is.  They are not about boring personal stories, inspirational voiceovers or some greater international “Olympic Dream.” They are about which county wins and which loses. As such, I have a few recommendations about how to enhance your coverage.


How do we know what county is winning if you only show us the medal count at the end of the night? You need to slap that baby up there every time you come back from commercial, just to remind those of us with a short attention span where things stand.


Economists, bookies and sports analysts all have projections on how many (and which) medals every county is projected to win. Let us know about them and keep us up to date on whether or not team USA is keeping pace with expectations. In short, cover this like you would an election.


No one will remember who these athletes are in a week, so why are you wasting our time with their (not very compelling) bio spots. We already know that they train hard every day and lead bizarre lives devoted to mastering niche sports. So you can stop wasting our time with sentimental bio spots. Spend the time saved explaining the rules, development or technology behind the game instead. I’m sure the story of how they mixed skinning and shooting is more compelling than most of these bios anyway.


When I’m watching skiing or snowboard races, I want to know who the good guys are. You need to have a key on the screen up at all times that shows who’s who so that I know whom to root for. The flag overlays you do during Speed Skating or Summer Olympic Swimming are good models for what needs to happen.


You paid $2 billion for the rights to broadcast the next two Olympics in America. The least you can do is invest a few bucks to translate these meaningless metric measurements for the viewers back home. I’d like to know how fast lugers are going, but some figure displayed in KM/H is meaningless to me. Put that in the good old MPH that we all understand.

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