Tag Archives: Reiko Waisglass

Minerva competition: coffee houses vs. food trucks, please explain

Coffee houses: the line in blue.

Food trucks: the line in red.  

One is falling gently (according to this picture from Google Trends).

The other rising sharply.  

The question: why?  

This is an official Minerva competition.  


One thousand words.

Point form ok.

Be imaginative, concise and interesting. Find your assumptions. Show off your knowledge and mastery of popular culture.

Winner gets a Minerva (as pictured) and a place in our Hall of Fame.


one month from today, i.e., September 19.

Submit to grant27[ATsign]gmail.com.

Judges for this contest:

Martin Weigel, head of planning, W+K, Amsterdam.

Linda Ong, President, Truth Consulting.

Piers Fawkes, Founder, Editor-in-Chief, PSFK.com.

Sam Ford, editor/author, Spreadable Media, Director of Digital Strategy, Peppercom.

Eric Nehrlich, Google, and author, The Unrepentant Generalist.

Cheryl Swanson, founder, managing director, toniq.  

Leora Kornfeld, Research Associate, Harvard Business School


The Minervas were created to encourage people to ask cultural questions and craft cultural answers.

Winners so far:

Juri Saar (for the “Who’s a good doggie woggie?” contest)
Reiko Waisglass (for the “Who’s a good doggie woggie?” contest)
Brent Shelkey (for the “Who’s a good doggie woggie?” contest)
Daniel Saunders (for the “JJ Abrams vs. Joss Whedon” contest)
Tim Sullivan (for the “Karen Black vs. Betty White” contest)
Lauren LaCascia (for the “Showtime vs. USA Networks” contest)
Diandra Mintz (for the “Showtime vs. USA Networks” contest)
Mark Boles (for the “Antique Roadshow vs. Pawn stars” contest)
Indy Neogy (for the “Nordic Noir” contest)

Judges so far:

Debbie Millman

Pamela DeCesare

Dan Formosa

Tom Guarriello

Scott Lerman

Richard Shear

All of the above are from the SVA branding program.


Rick Boyko, Director and Professor, VCU Brandcenter

Schuyler Brown, Skylab

Bryan Castaneda, Attorney At Law

Ana Domb, C3, MIT

Mark Earls, author, Herd

Brad Grossman, Grossman and Partners

Christine W. Huang, PSFK, Huffington Post and Global Hue

Steve Postrel

Minerva Contest

Squint your eyes, and the two shows look virtually identical.

In both, a stranger arrives bearing an object of uncertain provenance and, with cameras rolling, an expert offers an assessment of value.

Stop squinting, and the differences flourish.

One show is the Antiques Roadshow, the pride of the PBS system.

The eight-time Emmy® Award-nominated ANTIQUES ROADSHOW marks its 14th season in 2010. PBS’s highest-rated series, ROADSHOW is seen by almost 10 million viewers each week. In each episode, specialists from the country’s leading auction houses — Bonhams and Butterfields, Christie’s, Doyle New York, Skinner and Sotheby’s — and independent dealers from across the nation offer free appraisals of antiques and collectibles. ANTIQUES ROADSHOW cameras capture tales of family heirlooms, yard sale bargains and long-lost items salvaged from attics and basements, while experts reveal the fascinating truths about these finds.

The other is Pawn Stars,

At the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop on the outskirts of Las Vegas, three generations of the Harrison family–grandfather Richard, son Rick and grandson Corey–jointly run the family business… The three men use their sharp eyes and skills to assess the value of items from the commonplace to the truly historic, including a 16th-century samurai sword, a Super Bowl ring, a Picasso painting and a 17th-century stay of execution. It’s up to them to determine what’s real and what’s fake, as they reveal the often surprising answer to the questions on everyone’s mind, "What’s the story behind it"? and "What’s it worth?"

Your assignment: to write an essay of 1000 words or less that captures the culture similarities and differences between these two shows.  Be exhaustive.  Be exacting.  Be brief.  Point form is perfectly ok.

Your essays will be judged by a panel of experts (and value will be assessed, no cameras rolling).  The winner will get a Minerva (as pictured).  One hint: what are the cultural worlds from which these variations come?  Another: what is value and how is it being assessed in each case? A third: Please examine stylistic differences.

Deadline: December 15.

Previous Winners

Juri Saar (for the "Who’s a good doggie woggie?" contest)

Reiko Waisglass (for the "Who’s a good doggie woggie?" contest)

Brent Shelkey (for the "Who’s a good doggie woggie?" contest)

Daniel Saunders (for the "JJ Abrams vs. Joss Whedon" contest)

Tim Sullivan (for the "Karen Black vs. Betty White" contest)

Lauren LaCascia (for the "Showtime vs. USA Networks" contest)

Diandra Mintz (for the "Showtime vs. USA Networks" contest)


Members of the faculty of the SVA (School of Visual Arts) ‘masters in branding’ program, including Debbie Millman, Pamela DeCesare, Dan Formosa, Tom Guarriello, Scott Lerman, and Richard Shear.   

JJ Abrams versus Joss Whedon, your CCO assignment

Here’s your assignment.

JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon, compare and contrast.

One way to study our culture is to compare the roughly comparable.  Nothing comes of the wildly different.  It’s all contrast, no shades of grey.  

No, what we want is a common ground from which Instructive contrasts can then emerge.  

JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon are roughly comparable. Both were born in the middle 60s.  And in the world of popular culture, both were well born.  Abrams’ mother and father were TV producers. Whedon is a third generation TV writer.  Both have changed the face of television, Abrams with… well, now I’m doing your work for you.

What I want is a brief essay, no more than 1000 words.  Let’s stick to their TV work.  Point out the similarities between these two fellas, and then their differences.  Show what they mean to popular culture.  Compare Felicity and Buffy.  Or Lost and Dollhouse.  It’s up to you.  Tell us how their TV has changed our culture.

Keep it short, crisp, intelligent and illuminating.  The winner will receive the winged bird you see above.  I like to think of her as the Owl of Minerva from Greek mythology.  We have been searching for the right statuette for years now.  Ana Domb found this one in a museum catalog. (Thank you, Ana.) Officially, this is the Chief Culture Officer Award.  Unofficially, we will call her the Minerva. 

The Minerva is really heavy.  (I have held an Oscar and I’d say they are about the same weight. It was Julie Christie’s Oscar if you must know.)  It will look good on your desk or bookcase.  When friends and strangers say, "what’s that?"  You can say, ever so distractedly, "Oh, that’s my Minerva.  I won it for something I wrote."  There will be a small pause as your friend recalculates your standing in the world and considers now whether reverence should perhaps replace the impatience with which they now generally regard you. 

Our last contest, Betty White versus Karen Black, has a winner.  It’s Tim Sullivan.  See his excellent answer below.  Congratulations, Tim.


McCracken, Grant.  2010.  Betty White versus Karen Black, your CCO assignment.  This Blog.  May 11.  here.

McCracken, Grant.  2009.  Chief Culture Officer.  New York: Basic Books.  Available on Amazon here.  (Citing this book in your essay will curry no favor with the judges.  But really, if you haven’t bought a copy, please do so now.)

Previous Minerva winners (now immortal)

Juri Saar

Brent Shelkey

Tim Sullivan

Reiko Waisglass

Tim Sullivan’s answer to the Betty While versus Karen Black assignment

Betty White v. Karen Black

This is a story of generations and media and sex, and the nostalgic value we place on them.

White: born 1922, lived through the Depression—actually arrived in California because of it, and started her career in radio in 1939, followed by TV in the 40s.
Black: born 1939, on the verge of being a Boomer. Trained in theater in college, moved to off-Broadway productions, and then to movies.

White: Since the ‘50s—with her show Life with Elizabeth—she’s had a devilish glint in her eye. She’s played against type: the pretty, sweet, slightly befuddled “girl” who secretly knew exactly what’s going on.
Black: Her first big hit is Easy Rider, 1969, a generational touchstone, cementing her place as a Boomer touchstone. In Five Easy Pieces, she’s plays the easy-to-dupe and pregnant girlfriend—no glint in her eye there. Myrtle Wilson, a variation on a theme, follows in The Great Gatsby.

White: Her medium is TV, in our living rooms every day, especially since her hit shows went into syndication. Some of us ate snacks with her after school or after work. Comforting, familiar.
Black: Lives on the Silver Screen. We visit her once in a while, and we usually don’t much like her—even when she’s determined and focused. By the late 70s and beyond, she had moved on to schlocky sci-fi and horror combined with art house pics.

White: Comedy (i.e., hard work) made to look easy. Sweet, smart, and sexy in our living rooms every day.
Black: Drama that feels hard, a little overwrought, spilling over into a genre that gets no respect.

White: She persists, she’s controlled her own destiny. In fact, with Life with Elizabeth, she was the first woman to have complete creative control over her own show,
Black: The characters she’s best known for were not people we would want to spend time with. Her affect is forced and demanding.

White: Another blow to Christopher Hitchens, who told us, infamously, in the pages of Vanity Fair “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” The reaction to that article, and the respect that female comedians have garnered before and since, culminate in the current celebration of Betty as a model for the current crop of successful women.
Black: Celebrated by the fanboy horror community, but b-grade horror flicks have little chance of breaking out into the mainstream. She’s painted herself into a corner. We can’t be nostalgic for her because her early career represents something about relationships between the sexes that we now eschew: the testosterone driven man chewing the scenery while Black’s character tries to create space for herself. She’s pre-Title IX.

Looking forward: A continued move away from and against the Boomers, as we as a society look for icons who create a foundation for Boomers, X, and Y alike through shared media.

Betty White versus Karen Black: your CCO assignment

As everyone saw, Betty White underwent her pop culture apotheosis Saturday Night when she served as host of Saturday Night Live.

No doubt Lorne Michaels thought this was a good idea, but the first mover in Ms. White’s ascent was a Facebook campaign. Well, that and a Snickers ad (eyes right).

It’s up to the Chief Culture Officer to decide what Betty White tells us about the state of contemporary culture.

One possibility is that she signals a willingness to rethink the way we portray people of age. Paul Thomas Anderson, the film director, seemed to me to signal the possibility of a change. The Dos Equis "most interesting man in the world" spot might (I repeat might) be more data on point.  Modernista did an ad for Cadillac a couple of years that could also qualify.  

Well, there are lots of possibilities.  I leave these to you.  The point of this post is to get a clearer idea of who Betty White is as a cultural artifact.  Before we figure out the significance of Betty’s SNL appearance, that is to say, we need to know the significance of Betty White. 

And that’s your CCO assignment.  I suggest we scrutinize Betty White by contrasting her to another star.  For your own purposes, you may choose any comparison that suits your fancy: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kim Kardashian, or Diane Sawyer.  But for this assignment, the comparison is Betty White and Karen Black.  

The assignment: Compare and contrast Betty White and Karen Black.  Use point form.  No more than 500 words.  Scale up from the descriptive differences to the cultural ones. Submit to grant27ATgmail.com in the next week or so.

The prize: $100, a copy of Chief Culture Officer, and a VOWEL award.  (The last stands for the Account Planner, Anthropologist, Ethnographer, Insight and Observation Award [AEIOU]) (This award is highly coveted and immediately take a job application to the top of the heap.) You will also get a place on the VOWEL Winner Hall of Fame on the CCO Ning network.  Previous winners: Juri Saar, Reiko Waisglass, and Brent Shelkey.

You may pick up your pencils…now!


Betty White Snickers’ Ad here.

Stevenson, Seth.  2009.  The Most Interesting Man in the World: The star of Dos Equis’ New Ad Campaign is Too Cool to Shill Beer.  Slate.  May 25.  here.


BBDO New York 
(I can’t find names for the creative and production team responsible for the Snickers ad. I would be grateful to hear from anyone who knows them.)

Carole Walker, head of integrated marketing communication at Mars.