Monday, August 31, 2009

Canoeing the Yukon River

Colleen and I set off on our trip down the Yukon River two weeks ago. We flew into Whitehorse on the Friday evening, did some last minute shopping at the local Canadian Tire, where we picked up bear spray, fuel, bear bangers, flares and other things that they don't like you to carry on the plane. We then spent the evening with our friends Jeff and Jenn.

The next morning we went grocery shopping and added to our camping food. We also picked up a couple of last minute things like a toque for me and a safety knife for paddling. Then we went down to Kanoe People, where we picked up our boat. They had answered all my trip questions for the past couple of weeks, they had set up transport to Carmacks, where we w
ere to start our trip, and they were helpful on that Saturday morning, providing us with new gear, a bear cache, maps and lots of good safety stuff.

Next we got a ride from a gentleman Harris from Whitehorse to Carmacks. On the way we stopped off at the Braeburn Lodge, home of the Yukon's giant cinnamon buns. I was shocked at the price, $8.50 for a bun, but it served as lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning for the two of us. Sorry I didn't get a photo of the bun. They really are huge and really rather delicious.

Harris dropped us off in Carmacks, where we were able to get one last fabulous meal before our trip. Cheeseburgers, onion rings and milkshakes. Yes, we were eating terribly, but we felt we deserved it if we were going to be on the water for six to eight days.

We went down to the dock, loaded up the canoe, strapped it all in with bungies. And we were ready to go. It was after 4:00 by the time we hit the water, much later than I'd hoped for.

The first few hours on the water were pretty uneventful. The forest fires in the area at that time were pretty terrible, so there was a haze covering the water and you couldn't see that much. One canoeist who had arrived at Carmacks when we had been leaving said that he'd seen fire on both sides of the river shortly before getting there. All the same it was a nice start to our trip, regardless of the limited visibility.

Our goal for the first day was to make it to the Five Finger rapids and the Rink rapids. These are the only two rapids to speak of on the trip and, as a pretty novice paddler, I had been stressing about them. I'd watched videos on YouTube and I'd done all the research I could to learn how to tackle these rapids. I'd had sleepless nights worrying about them. All I know was that it was critical to stay river right when we went through them.

After about four hours of paddling and tracking our progress on our map we knew we were getting close. We finally rounded the bend and there they were, five basalt pillars in the middle of the river, just waiting for us. It was now or never, although we had no choice really, since the river was flowing pretty fast at this point. So Colleen and I got our nerve up and charged ahead.

We hit the first gap in the rocks at just the right spot. We paddled for the left hand side of the opening. We bounced around a bit, rode a swell or two, and that was it. No drama, no capsizing. It was fun and somewhat exciting, but for all the stress that they had caused the Five Finger rapids were quite a disappointment. More than anything, they were really pretty.

Next up were the Rink Rapids, about an hour later. Nowhere near as dramatic as the Five Finger rapids, we still didn't want to mess with them. But by staying river right again, we were able to avoid them pretty much altogether. You can see them here, just ahead of us.

Having survived the main challenges of the day, we were beat. It was time to find an island and make camp. We had to paddle some distance still to find just the right, relatively bear free, location. While we paddled the sun was beautiful as it poked through the smoky haze.

It took quite awhile for us to find a location that we liked. We ended up settling for something less perfect than we wanted, but it was getting late and we needed sleep. We set up camp, at some more of our cinnamon bun, and called it a night.

This is our friend Pig, who likes to travel with us.

The night was eventful, with lots of deeply disturbing noises. But we'd survived day one, and we'd made it through the rapids, so things were good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm so depressed.

Thanks to Stan Lee of Brand DNA for pointing this out.

Last year Queensland Tourism ran the hugely successful Best Job in the World contest. I loved this idea. People around the world entered. It got massive PR coverage. In my opinion it was a huge success, as I'd never even considered travelling to Queensland before, and now it was on my mental map. The agency that did the work, Cummins, won loads of awards, including a gold Lion.

We've spoken about this campaign several times with our Tourism Yukon clients. I'd kill to do a campaign this successful for them.

What happened next? Well, Cumming got fired and replaced with a new agency.

And then the new agency put out this:

What a load of advertising drivel. What crap. Now, the only way anyone's going to pay attention to this campaign is through rants such as this.

Maybe there was a good reason why they fired their agency. Maybe they felt that the ROI on the Worlds Best Job campaign wasn't good enough. Maybe the agency was expensive. Maybe they were difficult and didn't want to do a TV campaign. (That one seems possible.) But there's no way that they should have moved to this.

Versace or D&G

I'm curious. Who do you think the designers are who have decided to take on the oft overlooked sweatshirt market?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A reminder for fighters

They had these antlers on display in the Dawson City visitors information centre.

It's two sets of antlers, intertwined. Apparently two moose decided to butt heads to determine who would get to mate. The bigger moose won and likely killed the smaller moose in battle. However, as a result of the fight the antlers got stuck together, meaning that the winner ended up having the loser moose attached to his head until he starved or was taken down by opportunistic predators.

The moral of the story - Be careful of which fights you get into. Even when you win, you might lose.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Only in the North. (Or the South)

I saw this sign outside a government office in Dawson City.

I love it. One stop shopping for your liquor, driver's license and shooting license. The only thing that would make this better would be if they also sold ammo and motorbikes.

I suspect that the other places you might find a sign like this would be Texas and Alabama. (Both states that I'd like to visit some time.) Something tells me that the people might be rather similar too. Very friendly but fiercely independent.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Poor kid.

Colleen and I did a canoe trip down the Yukon River the other day. We started in Carmacks and ended up in Dawson City. It took us 5 days to do the trip. I'll probably do a few blog posts about our little adventure, because it was quite a different experience for me.

After the trip we had a couple of days to spend in Dawson City prior to flying back to Whitehorse, where we spent the weekend. I noticed this sign on a street corner in Dawson.

I love this sign. It's so retro. I wonder what year they phased this sign out. If any kid today wore tight little shorts like that to school he'd get killed by the other kids. Plus, that hair and those tiny little shoes are kind of adorable.

And what is that kid doing with that ball? He's flat out dribbling it like #23 on a breakaway. Run kid, run!

Nailing the coin toss.

I have an admittedly very geeky side. I also enjoy a bit of gambling.

Someone pointed me to a cool blog today where they have done a summary of a 31-page document titled "Dynamical Bias in the Coin Toss", which shows how coin tosses are not completely random. Have a read here.

This reminds me of a rather successful night a few years ago with the guys from NewAd at Chambar, where I took a lot of money off of people based on coin spinning. If anyone that lost money to me that night is reading this - I promise I was not aware of these facts before today.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A pure rant. - Kia Forte ads

Most of the "bad" advertising out there really isn't that bad. It's pretty innocuous and ineffective, but it actually causes no harm to anyone other than the advertiser, who paid money and will see no results from it.

But there's a special category of bad advertising that is actually so bad, so annoying, so devoid of any positives, that it makes me angry. And the current Kia Forte campaign falls in that court.

I've been complaining about this campaign for months, but I wondered if it was just because I'm a pretentious ad hack. So when my sister started complaining about it the other day I realized that this was one bad ad that transcended boundaries.

Interestingly, I can't find the spot on YouTube or anywhere else, so I can't link to it. But if you've watched Canadian TV over the past 6 months, I'm sure you've seen it. And I expect that you hate it like me.

First of all, what's the point of these spots? The only thing that they accomplish is to get me to associate the word Forte with Kia cars and remember that there is a vehicle called the Kia Forte. So, if their sole objective was to drive awareness, then their job is done. However, if any of my team ever brings me a brief whose communications objective is to drive awareness, they know that they're going back to the drawing board. Awareness is never an objective. It's one part of the equation. What do you want people to be aware of? That's the far more important and challenging issue.

But what do these spots make me aware of? I don't know. Perhaps they make me aware that people who drive the Forte aren't good at anything else. (And I'm not sure if driving the Forte makes them good at anything either, except for buying a crap car.) Or maybe it just reinforces the fact that anyone driving the Forte is a massive dork, since that's what they've made all of the drivers in the spots. And, at this time, I would have to agree that anyone that drives a Forte is a dork, 'cause I wouldn't be caught dead in one after that campaign.

Those are the only two possible messages that I can take away from this campaign. There's nothing about the car, about the kind of person who drives it, or even the kind of experience you might have in driving one. There's nothing else. The entire message is about the name of the car. They couldn't come up with anything other than the name as a feature? Does the freakin' car have an engine? A fifth cup-holder? A bilingual manual? Anything?

Maybe, heaven forbid, this has been a successful campaign for Kia and sales have gone up. I have a hard time imagining that, but it happens from time to time. And there's no doubt that they put some serious support behing the campaign, because I saw the spots dozens of time. So maybe they've sold a few cars, but this has to be bad not just for the Forte, but for the overall Kia brand, which had a nice little niche and I suspect has now killed that niche.

I'm tempted to rant more about the agency that did this. But there are a lot of factors that go into creating something this bad. And the truth is that you can see how something like this would happen. Someone came up with a little idea about the name and thought it was a fun little joke. The agency pushed hard and found a way to sell it in. Someone made a joke at the start of the meeting about "presentations are not my forte" and everyone laughed and the thing took on a life of its own. Maybe the client felt unsure, but the agency talked him into it and assured him that "not my forte" will become part of the vernacular. So the client dropped his million dollar production budget into a few spots, showed it to his bosses who decided to trust him that day, and it just happened.

Good lord. I love this business. But sometimes it just baffles me. Back to it now.