Don't cry for me, Cyprus

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Really, are we now supposed to start feeling sorry for offshore banking havens?

It is not just about rich Russians and Cypriot retirees. Also vitally at stake in this island country’s banking crisis is Cyprus’s credibility as a place for international companies to continue doing business....

Now, Mr. Biderman and Mr. Lalonde are wondering whether to pull up stakes. If that happened on a large scale, Cyprus, which has evolved into one of Europe’s most important financial centers in the past decade, would face a blow to the cornerstone of its economy. Other than mom-and-pop shops, most businesses in Cyprus have foreign owners.

Sorry, Cyprus. You and a bunch of other parasite island-nations have built your economies for decades by legitimizing tax cheats, degrading our (and other countries') national revenues, and empowering the new global super-rich to leave the rest of the world's economy behind.

No tears here.

Warning: Extreme use of industry jargon

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From a recent Adweek article:

“Advertisers are increasingly willing to look at non-click metrics, such as brand lift. We’re migrating away from what we call ‘swim lane’ metrics and moving more toward the portfolio’s impact and its result so you can adjust in a meaningful way.  If your not looking at cross-channel influence, you’re shot-gunning investment across a bunch of digital channels.  Brands need to get past digital impressions and into richer, predictive analytics.”  

Digital branding, advertising, content marketers, and creative technologists of the world, you’re not helping anyone by talking this way. 

I know, every industry has its buzzwords and corporate speak, but in the branding and marketing world we’re always telling clients to keep messages simple and avoid jargon.

So let’s start following our own advice and stop creating phrases like “brand lift” and speaking in weird metaphors.

By the way, “brand lift” is measuring the effectiveness of an ad campaign.

The Best Law Firm Holiday Card of 2010 is...

We try to help our clients stand out from the competition. And earlier today, we found out that one of our legal clients - Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips - was recognized in a big way. The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog calls the holiday eCard we created for Manatt the "the best law firm holiday card of 2010."

As the WSJ describes it:

It’s clever and a bit meta and, we’re best off not describing it anymore, but just linking to it, here.

Everyone talks about being different, but Manatt worked with us to creatively push their holiday message to a place that many firms would have shied away from. This kind of collaboration is something to look forward to in 2011.

Usability comes first - especially when death rays are involved

This story about a new Las Vegas hotel got a lot of mileage last week on Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere. In case you missed it, guests lounging at the pool at the Vdara hotel

reportedly are getting burned by concentrated sun rays strong enough to melt plastic drink cups and plastic newspaper bags.

Obviously, the big story here is cost-cutting. Had the Vdara Hotel spent more money on a reflective film for sun-facing windows, the "death-ray" wouldn't exist. But an underlying issue is putting a priority on form, rather than function. The building's placement in the path of the sun, and the concave facade, combined to produce the death-ray effect. So even though the design is aesthetically pleasing, the hotel has an ugly usability problem: a swimming pool area that is more of a danger than a luxury.

 

Vdara Hotel

 

It's a funny story. But there's also a valuable lesson here. We've learned, particularly on digital projects, that a great design is wasted if the application doesn't work. As Barack Obama might say, that's just putting lipstick on a pig. But the point is that design decisions have real-world consequences, whether you're talking about a digital space, brick-and-mortar or, in this case, glass and steel.

More breathless reporting from the WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has taken a lot of heat lately for pumping up the news, spinning headline-grabbing stories out of the barest of threads. One of the most egregious examples came last week when it breathlessly reported about how farmers are threatened by new derivatives regulations -- but couldn't find a farmer who was affected.

Last weekend, the lead story in Personal Finance was "Congress Overhauls Your Portfolio." This alarming headline was followed by a blurb sure to attract the attention of those who may already be wary of the Obama administration's regulatory efforts:

Overlooked amid the thousands of pages that comprise the Dodd-Frank bill are major changes affecting mutual funds, retirement plans, single-stock investments and other holdings.

So what are these "major changes"? Do they really justify these scary alarums? Let's take a look inside...

Continue Reading

Steinbrenner goes out with a grand slam

During his lifetime, George Steinbrenner left the actual hitting of home runs to his players. But by passing away in 2010, he hit a financial grand slam. As Investment News reports:

Mr. Steinbrenner's family looks set to inherit his estate practically tax-free, thanks to the expiration of the federal estate tax in 2010 and the light tax regime of the Boss's home state, Florida....

If Mr. Steinbrenner had passed away in 2009, when the [estate] tax rate was 45%, he might have left his heirs a tax bill of some $500 million. Next year, the estate tax is slated to return, with a whopping 55% rate.

This crazy situation stems from a budget gimmick in the early 2000s. The Bush Administration wanted to completely eliminate the estate tax, but the long-term budget impact was too large. So it compromised with a temporary repeal that reinstated the tax in the final year of the ten-year budget evaluation period, reducing the projected shortfall to acceptable levels. Basically, it was betting that future Congresses wouldn't have the guts to allow the tax to be restored. But ever since, Republicans and Democrats haven't been able to come together and agree on a fix, so the current absurdity persists.

Whatever you think of Steinbrenner -- and opinions may differ -- he certainly displayed as much business savvy in his death as in his life.

Welcome to Bagel Tuesday

About 15 years ago, Wechsler started serving bagels every Tuesday morning so we could take a moment to sit and schmooze instead of launching right into the day's affairs.

Bagel Tuesday, our new blog, will extend that impulse to a digital setting. Wechsler is a diverse group of people with diverse interests and points of view. Our professional lives touch a variety of worlds that rarely intersect: Design. Investments. Technology. Marketing. Law. Art. Writing. Whatever.

We hope you'll find it a tasty mix. Enjoy!