ross martin

October 11th, 2014 • Ross Martin

Underground Poems On A Rainy Day

It's a rainy Saturday and The Best American Poetry blog features a story on Boston introducing poetry into its mass transit system.

Subway poetry isn't new.  From the PERverse to the SUBverse, graffiti poetry has always lit up the underground.  Here in New York, "Poetry In Motion" is the formal approach powered by the Poetry Society of America, resuscitated by the MTA in 2012.  The Poetry Society thoughtfully (if not carefully) surfaces bright lines from classic poems and clever turns from poets whose subjects reflect the rich diversity of the city.

However, probably to conform with the MTA's mission to offend no one, poems are presented in benign rectangles with a "safe" visual aesthetic, certain to add nothing.  Its designs are often childishly reductive or unnecessarily obvious.

(The worst offense of NYC's subway program, by far, is that it often publishes poems by Billy Collins.)

Boston is improving the model.  Its interpretive design approach serves to enhance, add dimension and attract commuters who might otherwise have their heads stuck in the same device they've been staring at all day.  Even when sad or contemplative, like this one from Amy Lowell, they fit perfectly into today's wet doldrums:

 

Boston is risking more than other cities because its poems often lean head first into the city's most raw and vulnerable spaces. Like this one, called "Marathon," by Nick Flynn:

The ambition behind both efforts and their corresponding websites feels good to just about any urban dweller open to a little something different in the cracks of the day.  Why not?

A chance to stop and consider, in the dark wifi-less patches, more train traffic ahead of us.

 

September 19th, 2014 • Ross Martin

A Brisk Morning & A Morning Risk

If you told me when I was a graduate student in poetry that, 20 years later, I'd be addressing someone called a "Chief Risk Officer" and his executive leadership team at one of the largest financial services institutions in the world, sharing strategies and insights on innovation and risk management… I would have told you to please not interrupt me when I'm playing NHL Hockey on my Sega Genesis.

Quite a risk, this executive took in handing me the mic for an hour this morning!

So there I was, bright and early, kicking off my talk by offering common ground between the risks a big bank takes and the risks media companies (like the one I work for) take. I led with a clip from Comedy Central's incredible series "Nathan For You," now wrapping up its second season.

If you haven't seen the show, it's so worth checking out here. In the meantime, here's a segment from the show's already famous "Dumb Starbucks" episode, in which Nathan attempts to mitigate risk by implicating a befuddled "attorney" in his scheme.

Comedy Central's programming, lauded recently in this great piece on Vox, is filled with examples of a network taking risks — and winning because of it.  From Key & Peele to Drunk History, not to mention the daily fearlessness of Jon Stewart, "the channel always has something worth watching," says Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff.
Yes.  And that's because there's nearly always something it bets on, something at stake, something not exactly safe.Like putting a poetry major in front of a bank's risk management team.

September 18th, 2014 • Ross Martin

Congratulations To Viacom's MBY Graduates

I had a super fun time today celebrating the 151 graduates of Viacom's "Maximizing Brand You," a peer counseling and career development program that helps assistant- to director-level employees define and strengthen their own personal brand.  The year-long program has participants define their career goals and gives them the mentoring and skills they need to achieve them.

Congratulations to all of this year's graduates.  Your selfie sticks are on their way.  In the meantime, here's the shot I just took with you!


DCIM101GOPRO

August 19th, 2014 • Ross Martin

Research You Can Walk Through

For years, Scratch has studied the compression of time and space between, say, a good idea and a better one; a thriving company and a dead one; instant success and precipitous failure and then (often in a reality show?) premeditated redemption.

"Time's moving faster than ever," right?  Sure it is, or at least if feels like that, depending on how much (food, content, stimulus, etc) you consume in a given period of time.  But those who stop right there and land on "we've just got to move faster to keep up" — are missing the point and will face extinction.

The winners of the 21st century, so far, are those who obsessively pursue a deeper understanding of the ways in which Millennial consumers are calibrating their speed at every turn.  Slow food and binge viewing; nap pods and Adderall; apps to consume more in less time and apps to fight distraction, the quantified self and the self #unplugged.

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Yesterday, Viacom's blog featured a post by Tiffany Knighten about CADENCE, a project Scratch kicked off last month to present new perspectives on the speed of life in 2014:

"Open to teams across the company, as well as select partners and clients, the month-long installation – part research presentation, part museum exhibit, part art gallery – brought Viacom’s consumer insights to life in a new way. Cadence was designed to help visitors experience the unique approaches programmers, content creators, marketers and brands are taking to calibrate their moves in a culture that’s compressing time and space in more and more complicated ways."

I've been excited about this for a while, for a few reasons:

  •  It's impossible to perform at a high level in the media business without a nuanced understanding of the velocities of culture.  That sounds like a media executive taking himself too seriously on his own blog, but it's true.  Most of us get it wrong, most of the time — we're either ahead of the game, patting ourselves on the back prematurely, or we're behind it, fighting irrelevance.  Stepping back to measure the distance gives us all a chance to catch our breath and look at things with colleagues and partners in a new way.  Then apply what we learn to our daily work, whether we're writers, programmers, developers, marketers, designers, strategists, planners or anything in between.

 

  • Speaking of a new way… it's exciting to see research served up to make participants feel the information as they move through it.  Anne Hubert, Senior Vice President at Scratch, describes CADENCE as "truly immersive, a chance to experience life at Millennial speed, and to apply that understanding to everything we do.”  Watching participants take it all in, explore the subject and raise new questions, I could see the need and the potential for bringing more subjects to light in new and exciting ways.

 

  • An enterprising team of people from Scratch made this happen…from scratch.  It's what can happen when provocative material doesn't want to live locked up in a PowerPoint deck in a conference room.  The content itself inspired innovation in the way it could be manifest.

 

You can read more about the CADENCE project on the Viacom blog.  And for more information, email scratch@viacom.com.

 

 

July 20th, 2014 • Ross Martin

To The Next Person Who Tells You "Settle Down"

Tell us impossible.  Tell us we can't.  That thing we see in our heads — that thing that hasn't been done.

He can't, she won't, we've never.  Tell us settle down, settle down.

Ok now listen close: We.  Never.  Settle.

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We never give up, we never give in, we will Never.  Settle.  Down.

Bring on the roadblocks, build up the walls and stand the armies between us and what we imagine.

Then go away.  Leave us be.  Leave us alone with our gang.

Leave me with bandits and leave me the freaks, the makers and the crazy believers. The ones who can't sleep, the ones who can't stop, the ones who can never sit still.  Who burn and yearn and feed on the doubt and fear.

Leave me alone with the ones who have been here and the ones who never have.

The ones who don't know how but believe they can.  The ones who have everything to lose.

The ones who've seen us and want to know what it feels like.  The ones who've earned their shot.

The ones who stare and the ones who dare.

Look us in the face and say it again, say "Settle down, (your name here), you will never get that done."

July 19th, 2014 • Ross Martin

Can't Sit, Must Run (Nike)

2 years old and still works:

Smart New Nike Running 'Park Bench' Campaign