Handy web tools for men: For some reason, I always pick up men's magazines when I'm flying. Though its "Sexiest Woman Alive" feature is slightly embarrassing for all concerned, Esquire is one of my fave plane reads. So I was pleased to discover the mag's website, which has a nice mix of "brand utility," entertainment and easily digestible magazine-type bits. The new Esquire TV features amusing yet enlightening tutorials on such basic skills as shaving and ironing a shirt. There aren't many videos in the archive yet but the possibilities seem endless. The "Best Bars in America" feature is itself worth a trip to the site -- it allows users to find what someone has deemed a great bar by area code. Obvious? Simple? Yep. But try finding such a useful thing elsewhere.
Speaking of brand utility: Goodby's web effort for Sprint, Waitless.org. The idea here is that there's less waiting for off-hours to make calls. Whatever, bring on the time-saving tips. Among them: an eye-popping trick for extracting a boiled egg from its shell. The site also serves up a handy if slightly depressing dead-time calculator so you can figure out how much time in your life is sucked away by things like picking your nose. If you're already plagued by the nagging feeling that life is just a string of meaningless actions, you may want to skip this one.
Wiimote-controlled creativity: The wonders of the Wii, it seems, are only just dawning. While Nintendo's tiny entry into the console wars has already proved a game killer, the groundbreaking Wii controller likely will give rise to a new category and a new means of people-friendly interactivity. The gadget's capabilities have been showcased in an expanding range of off-console applications since the system launched. It's been seen online controlling desktop computers, and more recently the controller has emerged in a range of art and music applications. Interactive-media artist Eric Loyer presents one delightful exercise in Wiiativity with an animated-type creation called "Swing," where Loyer uses the controller to make text on a computer screen dance. Loyer talks about the Wiimote's true genius of making interactive entertainment more accessible and, well, entertaining to regular folk.
Design matters: The Industrial Designers Society recently announced its annual International Design Excellence Awards. Of course Nike Plus was among the honorees, but there were other neato highlights that provided an inspirational re-examinination of everyday items. Among them: the Palm Peeler, which repositions the heretofore dicey business of peeling; the Universal Toilet, a student winner which offers a more accessible loo experience for the physically challenged and able-bodied alike; and the soon to be celebrity ride of choice, the electric Tesla Roadster sports car.
Skittles "Touch": That's right, it's a TV commercial. Sort of. This darker yet laugh-out-loud-funny installment of the always-excellent Skittles campaign brings us Tim, a simple man with a certain Skittles-related affliction. The Skittles oeuvre has moved beyond a discussion of effectiveness or strategy. And like any good piece of brand communication, the campaign has a cultural life outside of its original TV delivery vehicle. Yes, much of the creative energy in the industry has, rightly, shifted to the "other" realm. But great bits of film/video content only get more relevant. When will that change? When our human selves, having evolved into heads in jars, outgrow screen-based ads and instead just have brand preferences encoded on our genes at birth (the six major advertisers having bought rights to DNA brand-stamping, renewable every generation).
For now, the Skittles campaign is a great example of brand creativity circa 2007's seasonal roundup.