Changing times lead to changing gimmicks

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Google's going low-tech, expanding its reach into the print world. No, we're not talking about the search gigantor selling magazine ads with its auction-style model. We're talking about the company's debut of Gmail Paper. As Gmail's Web site says, "Everyone loves Gmail. But not everyone loves e-mail, or the digital era. Whatever happened to stamps, filing cabinets and the mailman?" Appealing to the Luddites in the crowd, and in line with Google's give-the-people-what-they-want philosophy, Gmail will let users easily request that a physical copy of any message be sent to them in the mail. Postal mail, that is. Google said it gives the user "total control." According to the Web site: "A stack of Gmail Paper arrives in a box at your doorstep, and it's yours to keep forever. You can read it, sort it, search it, touch it. Or even move it to the trash—the real trash." Frankly, the new service is trash-worthy. It's all a bit of garbage foisted on users in the name of—you guessed it—April Fools' Day. The introduction of Gmail Paper was all part of an elaborate, good-natured April Fools' joke on the user community. You gotta give Google its props: The set-up for the joke is elaborate, with several links and landing pages—and even beta user-testimonials—devoted to the hoax. —Carol Krol

This is not your grandfather's marketing textbook. Or your dad's. Or even your older brother's for that matter. MKTG, which Thomson Higher Education introduced last month, is the first student-tested, faculty-approved textbook that provides students with the most evolved marketing materials, according to Thomson. The textbook was designed according to how students like to learn these days; that is to say, quickly. It has only 350 pages—half the size of a typical textbook—and a glossy front that resembles US Weekly. The multimedia text uses the most recent and pertinent examples, such as Howard Stern, Wal-Mart and innovative store designs from Levi Straus, to educate students on how to get a handle on the ongoing upheaval throughout marketing and media precincts. Need any more convincing that MKTG is significant departure from old-school marketing textbooks? MKTG includes online and cell phone quizzes, audio/MPS downloads and printable flash cards. "Traditionally, we begin with the professors and use their ideas to shape the textbook, but with MKTG, we turned that model around and began with students," said Neil Marquardt, publisher, in a news release. Randy Russ, a professor at Belhaven College, added, "As a practitioner for more than 20 years, I have been very dissatisfied with the current `encyclopedic' nature of marketing textbooks. MKTG represents a refreshing new approach for both students and faculty." —Matthew Schwartz

The Aflac spokesduck has gotten to be pretty well-known and fairly popular, whether hanging out with the legendary Yogi Berra in a barber shop or cringing at the mention of Chinese take-out (Peking duck anyone?). The feathered little guy has put Aflac on the radar in its appealing commercials. That's why there has been a fair deal of grousing in the media world when the latest character from the animal kingdom was introduced in the insurance provider's new commercials in March. The spot, from Kaplan Thaler Group, called "There's Only One Aflac," introduces a goat into the picture. In it, two corporate Joes are standing around chatting about insurance (it could happen). When one asks the other if the unnamed insurance covers the same things Aflac does, we hear the "Naaaaaah" of the goat positioned nearby, making a meal of copier paper and shaking its head. The goat is much less engaging and—hard to believe—way more annoying than the screeching voice behind the Aflac duck, the inimitable comedian Gilbert Gottfried. According to the ad agency, and much to the relief of media types, neither the duck nor Gilbert is going anywhere anytime soon. The golden-egg-laying goose is staying put.

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