Flashback MMM: Beetlejuice

beetlejuice-posterBeetlejuice wasn’t Tim Burton’s first big-screen directorial effort. That would be Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure three years prior. But it was the first that could be legitimately called “A Tim Burton movie” and bear what would come to be recognized as the director’s signature style of gothic looks and dark humor.

The story, as everyone knows, involves the Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), a couple that moves into a house in the country and promptly dies in a car crash. They are stuck in their house as ghosts, which isn’t great when a new high-fashion Yuppie couple (Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara) with their daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder), who’s an anti-social young woman who just wants to take photographs and be left alone. To get the Deetzs out of their house, the Maitlands enlist the help of a big-personality spook named Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), but that deal turns out to have unintended consequences.

In 1988 Burton’s name and reputation wasn’t what it would become just year later with the release of Batman. But it did have Keaton, who was an established and well-liked comedic actor at the time, and a cast full of solid other players that most people would recognize. So the marketing had a few hooks to hang on but nothing huge. This wasn’t based on a book or other established property, so the marketing worked with what it had.

The poster is selling the movie as an outrageous comedy. Davis and Baldwin as the Maitlands are standing above the house where most all of the movie’s action takes place, with Keaton as the title character standing between them. They loom large, while the rest of the characters are standing on the sidewalk, in scale with the house, looking up at the monstrous happenings going on in front of them. All kinds of spooks and specters are coming out of the house’s doors and windows and peaking around the side.

Keaton’s name is the only one above the title, showing his stature in the industry at the time. Two taglines are featured. The one at the top is kind of clunky, saying “In this house…If you’ve seen one ghost…you haven’t seen them all.” The one below the title treatment tags the Beetlejuice (both the character and the movie) as “The name in laughter from the hereafter.” So you can see the one-sheet designers are trying to play up the unique look of the movie, largely drawn from Burton’s imagination, as well as promising the audience a rollicking good time with an actor – Keaton – that they already find hilarious.

The theatrical trailer takes a similar approach, though it obviously has more to work with. It starts out by tagging it as coming from the director of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, so there must have been some cache attached to Burton’s work at that point. From there it gets almost immediately into the mayhem caused by Beetlejuice’s presence, with much of the footage coming from the chaos he brings with him, either during his initial interactions with the Maitlands or during the finale as he’s wreaking vengeance on everyone in the house.

What comes across pretty clearly here is the director’s style and the look and feel of the movie. Everything is dark gray and purple and outrageously cartoonish with the skeletons working data entry and the elongated faces the Maitlands put on to try and scare the Deetzs. The voiceover gives the audience only a brief synopsis of the story at the beginning, helping to explain that Adam and Barbara are ghosts who are unhappy about a new family moving in and that Beetlejuice is the solution they seek to their problem. But things quickly devolve as he goes rogue and out of control.

That’s a surprising amount of the story that’s on display. No, it’s not everything, but it’s quite a bit and offers the audience at least a solid expectation as to the story they’re being asked to sign up for. That’s pretty true of the campaign as a whole, which sells Keaton as the main draw but then puts Burton’s visuals in the context of his actions, helping to make all that reasonable for the audience. Essentially it used the existing love of Keaton’s comedy as the easy entry point for what would be the wide, imaginative world of Tim Burton, selling the audience a lighthearted paranormal romp that had what at the time was a fairly dark edge.

After the Campaign: Moonwalkers

Moonwalkers presents a hypothetical story. It’s rooted in reality but in no way (that we know of) represents or is even loosely inspired by real events. The idea is that in 1969 Kidman (Ron Perlman) has been sent to London by the CIA to contract Stanley Kubrick to film fake footage of a moon landing on the off chance Apollo 11 can’t actually do it themselves. But through a series of misunderstandings and scams, he winds up giving the money to Jonny (Rupert Grint), a low-level band manager who sees the cash as the solution to his problems. Trippy hilarity ensues as Kidman has to navigate the London underworld, drug-addled filmmakers and other impediments to getting the job done.

moonwalkers pic 1

When the movie got a marketing campaign in advance of its on-demand and limited theatrical run the focus was heavy on the psychedelic nature of the story’s setting. But that’s not so much a part of the movie itself, at least not to the extent it was represented in the campaign.

If you believed the campaign you might have thought this was going to be an entirely drug-fueled trip through 1960s London. That’s true to a degree, but that’s not all that’s going on here. What the campaign was missing in large part were the backstories and motivations for both Kidman and Jonny, but those form the most interesting parts of the movie. The “Why” behind Jonny fooling Kidman into thinking he represents Kubrick and the “Why” behind Kidman’s actions in the quest to secure Kubrick’s involvement are what drives the story. The campaign, though, focused only on the results of those actions, providing only the barest of outlines as to what sets the story in motion.

Let me be clear, it’s not a great movie by any means. But is entertaining and a decent watch on Netflix, which is where I finally caught up with it.

Twitter Opens Up Moments to Everyone

As we’ve been expecting for the last couple months, Twitter has opened up the creation of Moments to everyone. Or at least it’s in the process of doing so. Moments, which collect a series of Tweets and Vine videos into themed collections, were at first only the purview of Twitter’s unseen and mysterious editorial process. Then in August it was made available to select influencers and others. Now it will be available to all, beginning with the Twitter.com web experience and coming soon to the mobile apps.


Moments have a lot of potential to create more sticky experiences for fans. If people can curate their own Moments they can create interesting, self-branded collections of what *they* think is interesting. That can be around major news or cultural moments or around events that are more personal. Think of how so many weddings these days have their own hashtags and how people could then create Moments that bring together all the updates around that.

It almost comes across as a version of Snapchat’s or Instagram’s Stories feature, which is the new model everyone is trying to adopt and copy.

Whether or not this will catch on remains to be seen. There hasn’t, at least not in my experience, been a groundswell of clamoring to get access to this by the common Twitter population. And how it will work in practice remains to be seen. Twitter doesn’t have a super-great reputation for seamless user experiences with add-on features like this. But if it’s executed well it could be a cool new tool that brings self-curated media that’s a bit more long-lived to a platform that’s traditionally been all about being in the moment.

Movie Marketing Madness: Masterminds

masterminds-posterDavid Ghant (Zach Galifianakis) is pretty content with his life as a security guard for an armored car company. It’s not thrilling, but it works for him. That is, it works for him until Kelly (Kristen Wiig), a coworker he has a crush on and has been flirting with, proposes to him that they steal some of the money they transport on a daily basis. So they put into motion a plan that results, against all odds, in them successfully making off with about $17 million and that’s the plot of the new movie Masterminds.

That’s only the beginning, though. They make the unwise decision to leave the money with a co-conspirator named Steve (Owen Wilson) who’s not exactly the most trustworthy cat. In fact he almost immediately begins blowing the money on himself, drawing attention to this sudden influx of cash. Setting David up to take the fall, Steve also sends a hit man (Jason Sudeikis) after him to take him out and tie up any loose ends. Of course this all goes hilariously wrong, as you might expect. Let’s look at the movie’s campaign.

The Posters

A series of character posters showed off the impressive comedic cast, with extreme close ups of their faces along with their character trait. So Galifianakis is “The Pawn,” Wiig is “The Bait” and so on. Nothing visually impressive here, just an attempt to make sure the audience knows some big name stars are in the movie.

The theatrical one-sheet just combines all those character images into a single poster, creating two rows of photos separated by the title treatment. Again, nothing overly original or interesting on this, it’s just meant to sell the movie’s most basic value proposition, that you probably like most of these actors. There isn’t even any tagline or other copy that hints at the plot, which you’re left having to infer from the descriptions of the characters on display.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer starts out with news footage and commentary telling us about the criminal masterminds who just pulled off the largest bank heist in U.S. history, making them sound like stone cold thugs. It gets the laugh, then, when we see Ghantt almost shoot himself in the buttocks. From there it’s all kinds of antics as we see Ghantt both before and after the heist getting in all kinds of outrageous situations.


It’s not bad but it’s basically selling a premise and a few laughs, not anything that resembles a coherent story. This one is all about “scenes,” which is fine but don’t expect anything great here.

The first full trailer does a better job at selling the story, taking us from Ghantt’s introduction through him being talked into and then committing the robbery and the fallout, including a betrayal by the people who convinced him to do it in the first place. It’s much funnier than the teaser because it allows the premise a little extra time and space to breath, which helps greatly.


It was over a year before we got a second trailer (more on that below) and it hits most of the same points as the first. We’re introduced to Ghantt, who’s got big dreams but not an abundance of skill or brains. We see him meet Nancy and get talked into a scheme to rob a bank, which he does and which leads to a manhunt for him. He’s betrayed by the mastermind and basically keeps outwitting everyone because he’s not that bright and so doesn’t do what he’s expected by anyone to do.


Like I said, it’s not that different from the first trailer but is still moderately funny, depending on your tolerance for Galifianakis and his shtick. What’s notable, of course, is that this came out post-Ghostbusters and so features not just Wiig but also Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. The former was completely absent from previous trailers and the latter’s presence is significantly expanded, thanks largely to the both of them being pegged as breakouts in that other movie.  

Online and Social

The movie’s official website loads and lets you into a bank vault. The main part of the site (I had to view it on my phone since it kept crashing Chrome, which isn’t the greatest user experience) lets you scroll through some GIFs of scenes from the movie with dialogue over them.

“Videos” seems to be the first section and it has the latest trailer along with a number of clips and TV spots. “Photos” has a number of stills you can scroll through. There’s an alright plot synopsis in the “About” section. Interspersed in the site navigation are motion versions of the character posters that, when you click on them, play a short clip featuring that character.


There was also a Facebook page that shared the usual promotional videos and images. Nothing special there, but what I did notice is that the page is very responsive to comments, often responding with some sort of hand-drawn picture or a note written on notebook paper. That’s something you don’t often see on movie pages, so kudos to the team on this.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Various TV spots like this one tried to cram as much hilarity as possible into 30 seconds. They provide the barest possible outline of the story of a planned bank heist but it’s all an excuse to get to some of the bigger and broader jokes from the movie. That and the spots want to show off as much of the ensemble cast as possible.

At least some online ads were run as well, often using the key art of all the main cast laid out horizontally.

Media and Publicity

After the first wave of marketing – a poster and a trailer – hit, the movie went silent for a long time. That’s because it fell victim to the bankruptcy proceedings of Relativity, which financed and was set to distribute the movie. So it made a splash and then disappeared from the narrative for about a year, meaning any momentum it had all but disappeared.

Not a whole lot of activity followed until the movie’s premiere, where the cast talked about meeting the real-life Ghantt, how hard it was to not break character during filming, bringing the real life story to the screen and more.


It’s honestly hard to get a feel for this campaign, something that’s exacerbated by the big gaps in activity. The trailers and TV spots aren’t particularly hilarious, but the movie as a whole may feature a dry sense of humor that doesn’t come through well in a campaign that’s trying to just play for the biggest laughs possible. That’s likely given Hess’s love of understated material, but it doesn’t translate to what the audience is being sold via this campaign.

What’s on display is a mild-mannered, kind of amusing comedy that, as I mentioned above, relies greatly on our existing affinity for Galifianakis, Wiig and the rest of the impressive cast. There’s no distinctive or memorable style to the campaign, so it works overtime to put them front and center and hope that brings in the audience. Given the overall lack of promotion, though, it may be hard for the movie to cut through the rest of the weekend theatrical and overall media clutter.

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Jelly Finally Gets Needed Twitter Integration

Jelly has long been an app I’ve been interested in, but at the same time I’ve questioned its viability as a stand-alone service since Twitter especially is already the network people turn to when they have questions needing answers. Now it looks like the team is working to bring value to both.


A new integration with Twitter allows questions to be ported directly over to Jelly when you use #askjelly in the Tweet containing the question you’re looking to have answered. So “What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? #askjelly” will be pulled automatically over to Jelly including pictures, where the community there can see and answer the question. And when they reply, the answer will come back to you as an @ reply on Twitter.

That makes a ton more sense than trying to sustain Jelly as its own network, where user adoption and monetization are the ultimate priorities. This way, Jelly can be a valueable add-on to Twitter while also kind of its own thing off to the side, with a core user base that sees unique value in it being there (particularly the anonymous nature of asking a question, making it a safe space for difficult topics) while still showing off what it can do to the mass audience.

Of course getting people to add “#askjelly” to their Tweets to derive any of that value is still a substantial bridge to cross. But this is a step in the right direction, I think.

Movie Marketing Madness – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

miss peregrine postJacob is just discovering he’s not like other teenagers, notably that he has unusual powers and abilities. As he uncovers more and more about his past and his skills he comes to find Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a special refuge and home for people like him. He comes to find out there are many more like him and that his role is particularly unique in that society. That’s going to be especially important as not only does society as a whole fear them but there are dark forces who have much more malevolent intentions toward them.

The movie is the latest from director Tim Burton and is based on the popular book, the first of a series. Asa Butterfield stars as Jake, with Eva Green playing the titular headmistress of the sanctuary. Samuel L. Jackson plays the seemingly evil Mr. Barron, the head of the mysterious and dangerous Wights that are coming after the home and its residents. Ella Purcell plays Emma, the young girl who helps Jake acclimate to his new surroundings. Let’s take a look at how Fox has been selling it.

The Posters

miss_peregrines_home_for_peculiar_children_ver2The first poster introduced us to the peculiar cast of characters. So all the children are arrayed behind Miss Peregrine herself with the house they live in in the background. We can see what each kid’s gift is as one girl is floating while another holds fire in her hands and another lifts a boulder over her head and so on. At the top of the poster are some of Burton’s previous credits, which lean heavily on other movies about either odd characters or just recent popular entries in his filmography. It’s very colorful and whimsical and even without Burton’s name there you’d likely be able to peg it as coming from him.

The next poster shows Jake walking with Emma along the beach in their own way, by him holding a rope that’s wrapped around her as she floats in the air like a kite. “Stay peculiar,” the copy at the top of the one-sheet says.

A series of posters showed off all the main characters, usually with some visual demonstration of what their unusual powers are. The character names aren’t used here, so we can’t get a really good sense of who they are or connect with them, but we see what they can do and that, apparently, is supposed to be enough to spark the audience’s interest.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with a boy and girl out on a small boat on a lake. The girl tells the boy to follow her down and even provides him an air bubble so he can keep going and join her in a sunken ship, which she quickly clears the water out of. So it’s clear she has abilities. We then go back to Jake coming to the house and start to meet the rest of the residents of the house that’s a sanctuary for people like them. But it’s soon revealed that Jake is there to protect the rest of the kids from some threat, which we see only glimpses of toward the end.

As with the first poster, it would be easy to identify this as coming from Burton even if he weren’t name dropped (as “visionary”) toward the beginning. The visual style alone is clearly from his mind. It does a decent job of initial introductions to the cast and the basic premise without going too deep into the full story, which is fine for this first entry. Yeah, it’s slightly unusual that all these peculiar children are white, but let’s not go too far in that direction.

The second trailer starts off with X showing Jake around the grounds before she floats up in the air, introducing us to a world of unique characters. It’s explained that the house exists in a time loop that keeps it safe from harm, but there’s a group of bad guys who have been hunting peculiar people and Jake has to promise to protect everyone who lives there.

It looks like we’ve hit peak quirk here. I like that this one explains a bit more of the story and hey, I’m always on board for weird Tim Burton stories. It just remains to be seen if the quirk overshadows the actual characters, which is a real fear in a movie like this.

Online and Social

The main call-to action on the official website is to buy tickets, with a big prompt on the front page to either get individual tickets or make it a group event through Atom Tickets, the first time I’ve seen that given such prominent placement. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

The “Videos” section has the trailers as well as a featurette interview with Burton and a selection of clips. “About” has the same synopsis you can find on IMDb and elsewhere along with the cast and crew list.


There’s a big call to action after that asking you to “Join Miss Peregrine’s flock” but what that entails isn’t explained here. It prompts you to enter your email address but there’s no value proposition here as to why you should do so. That seems like a big oversight since it amounts to signing up blind for something you have little to no context here.

“Gallery” has a handful of pictures for you to scroll through. Then you can download and view all the “Posters,” a section that’s followed by a series of “Motion Posters” featuring highly stylized artwork showing off the main cast of peculiar children and other characters.

Finally, there’s a list of “Partners” that shows off the companies who helped promote the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot debuted during the Teen Choice Awards. It works a lot like the first trailer, setting up the fact that Jake is our surrogate in the movie, experiencing the world of the peculiar along with us and trying to figure out where he fits in. That role, it’s explained, is as the one who will protect the children who live in the home from the monsters who are hunting them. The spot is focused on the imaginative visuals with only a little dash of story sneaking in here and there, firmly settled on selling the movie as a spectacle more than anything else.

There were plenty of outdoor and online ads run as well that used the key art as well as other character-centric artwork.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Polaroid
  • HSN
  • Visa Signature
  • Sta Travel
  • Hot Topic

It was, unfortunately, hard to find many details about what many of these companies were doing in their promotional efforts.

Media and Publicity

The very first piece of promotion for the movie was a video that appeared on YouTube titled “Happy Loop Day.”

For anyone who’s not familiar with the source material this may have been a bit confusing, sending them to The Google to figure out what was going on. But for those who were already fans, this was likely right up their alley, playing to that fanbase well with a nod to the knowledge they had currently.

One of the first substantive pieces of publicity for the movie came in the form of a feature including first look photos and a brief interview with Burton about shooting the movie. It was soon announced the movie would have its official debut at Fantastic Fest, which is a smart target market for it.

How Burton got involved and why the producers picked him were covered in this story, which focused on the director’s ability to play in fantasy worlds while still retaining the heart and emotions of the characters. Much of the publicity was along the lines of this story, where Burton talked about getting involved with the movie, how he sketched the look of the characters and created the overall vision and so on.


So much of what’s here relies on your personal opinion of and taste for Burton’s brand of filmmaking and characters. His look and feel and his unique vision is all over the marketing, particularly in the trailers and publicity. So if you’re not onboard with Buron as a director and designer then much of this campaign will likely have a hard time resonating with you. If you’re more of a fan, even if it’s just of his later work like Alice in Wonderland, then there’s more here to latch on to.

Because it’s coming from a director with such a unique vision and sense of focus, there’s a really good brand consistency that’s evident across the campaign. The same look and feel and appeal is being made across all the individual elements, with it all coming together in the paid campaign. The audience is being sold a story about teenage feelings of being an outsider until you discover family is who you choose to hang out with and be around, all brought into focus through Burton’s visual aesthetic.

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After the Campaign: The Angry Birds Movie

The story of The Angry Birds Movie really wants you to think it’s sweet and sentimental. It’s dressed up in the trappings of the kind of story that’s supposed to be emotional and teach everyone a little something about accepting people for who they are since you never know where help will come from. Despite that intention, it just can’t help from being a superficial comedy that’s focused largely around fart jokes and other low-hanging fruit. It’s funny at times, but it’s also not nearly as profound as it seems to want to make you think it is.

To recap, the residents of Bird Island live a pretty tranquil life, with the exception of Red (Jason Sudeikis), who has anger issues that have gotten in his way throughout his life and caused rifts with much of the rest of the community. When a strange group of Pigs arrived on the island’s shorts presenting themselves as friends, Red is the only one who’s skeptical of their intentions. He’s proven right when the pigs steal all the birds’ eggs and so it’s up to Red to rally the birds to go across the sea and get them all back.

The campaign a few months ago sold this largely to the under-13 audience, with plenty of jokes involving bodily functions and characters getting hit in the face and other parts of the body. And that’s pretty much the movie that was delivered. There are a half-dozen, it seems, jokes that are repeated over and over again throughout the movie just to make sure the punchline is underlined as thickly and obviously as possible. And I don’t think more than five minutes go buy without someone getting hit by something heavy. That’s not a bad thing – it’s the basis of much of the Looney Tunes catalog, after all – but all good things come in moderation and that’s the one thing that’s in short supply here.

One element of the movie that went unmentioned in the campaign is Red’s backstory. There are at least a couple flashbacks to his younger days where it’s explained why he’s so angry at everything and everyone. Those play to some extent like the origin story laid out in Ron Howard’s live-action The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and to similar effect. It doesn’t so much explain his motivations and personality as give the character an easy out for his anti-social actions and that may not be the best message to send to the kids who were attracted by the poop jokes in the trailers or just by their love of the source game.

There wasn’t much about the campaign that was inaccurate in light of the finished movie. Some plot points like what I mentioned above are missing and obviously some scenes and dialogue are presented out of context and out of order because they made for a snappier trailer edit. In terms of overall tone and message, though, this one was pretty square in the strike zone,

The Hotel Desk User Experience

Matthew Hughes at The Next Web is here with an update on the most important issue of our time: The placement of desks in hotel rooms as a way to cater to Millennials. The Marriott chain, Hughes reports, is reversing course after previously removing fixed desks from their rooms because young people weren’t using them and preferred to work on their tablets or laptops from couches or chairs or the bed in the room. Turns out that maybe wasn’t completely true and so Marriott will put rolling, movable desks in the rooms to allow for people to work from wherever they want to.



I’ve logged plenty of time in hotel rooms. More than some, less than many. I’ve always found, though, that the desk was the worst part of the overall experience. It’s usually at an odd height and accompanied by an uncomfortable chair, the adjustable levels of which aren’t always compatible with the desk. More than that, the desk is often against the same wall as the TV, and when I’m in that environment I like to work with something on in the background, even if it’s just a generic episode of “NCIS” or “Law & Order.” So I wind up working from a separate chair or the bed, even though I’m certainly not a member of the Millennial cohort.

More than the desk issue, hotels need to do more to address the power issue. That’s where the real point of contention usually is in the hotel experience. There are large hotels in major metropolitan markets I’ve stayed at that have three outlets in the entire room, one on or near the desk and one each hidden behind the heavy, hard to move side-tables on either sides of the bed. That doesn’t make for a great environment when someone is charging a laptop and hoping to take it anywhere in the room and charging their phone and still wanting to use the lights that are plugged in and taking up all or most of the available outlet space.

This is a bit of ranting, but what we’re talking about is how the user experience is often very different than what it’s assumed to be by designers. More than that, it evolves over time. That’s what Marriott was going for, it seems, with the announcement it was taking out desks. That was big and flashy, largely because it involved Millennials, which is a great hook to get everyone to write up your minor news. The bigger change, though, and one that would have appealed to a broader cohort (and therefore been less attention-grabbing) would be to renovate rooms to make outlets much more accessible wherever you go.

Snap’s Spectacles Are the World’s First Native Ad-Only Technology

Here’s what strikes me about the new Spectacles that Snap – formerly Snapchat and now the name of the company behind that app as well as the new video-shooting eyewear – just introduced: There doesn’t seem to be the potential to actually insert ads into the user experience. Instead, it seems the only advertising potential is in how content can be created by the people wearing Spectacles. That feeling is apparently supported by this Adweek story.


What I mean is that ads won’t – at least what I’ve read – be displayed to Spectacles wearers. The person with the Spectacles on won’t have ads appear in their line of sight. That’s because, unlike the Google Glass being used by everyone as a point of comparison, it’s not a consumption platform. Instead it’s solely, at least at the moment, a creation tool. You can’t view other people’s Snaps through Spectacles but you can create your own videos. So there’s nothing to display ads against.

That’s a sizable and notable shift in consumer technology, at least in recent history. Phones and other mobile devices  – oh, and computers as a whole – allow you to both create and consume content, with the consumption element almost always ad-supported in some way or another. So having uni-directional device is actually kind of a throwback and it will be interesting to see if a new generation who’s always had a bi-directional experience.

For advertisers, as the Adweek story starts to mention but doesn’t go all-in on, that means the primary way they will get their message inserted in the experience is through “influencer” marketing. They will have to contract with people who have substantial Snapchat followings and get them to create videos promoting their wares. Those videos, though, will still be consumed through the mobile device Snapchat app, not through the Spectacles themselves. There’s no native Spectacles consumption experience.

It’s incredibly likely that this will change over time, with Spectacles evolving to be more full-service and including both consumption and creation. When that happens it’s easy to expect that ads will become a big element, likely with sponsored filters that can automatically be placed over what the person is watching. There are all sorts of concerns about that, many of which are similar to what were brought up when Google Glass debuted about distracted driving or walking and more. And the privacy concerns are substantial, though at least because Spectacles are single-use it’s safe to assume when someone is wearing them that they’re recording.

For now, though, Spectacles are a device that only sends content in one direction and which has no native ad experience. In order to really thrive, that will need to evolve quickly.

Today in How Comma Placement Changes Meaning

Earlier this morning I read a short sentence in a story about last night’s Presidential debate, the one where a woman was yelled at by a sentient circus peanut for 90 minutes. Here’s a passage from the story that includes the sentence in question, with that specific one bolded.

The debate was a collision between Donald Trump’s politics of dominance and Hillary Clinton’s politics of preparation.

Clinton’s politics of preparation won.

Trump did his best to be fair. He interrupted Clinton 25 times in the debate’s first 26 minutes. He talked over both her and moderator Lester Holt with ease. But the show of dominance quickly ran into a problem: Trump would shout over his interlocutors only to prove he had nothing to say.

What the writer was meaning to say was that Trump did his best in the debate, meaning he played to his strengths as a bully with no real policy thoughts of his own, only the internal conviction that he could do better, like the guy who looks at a Jackson Pollack and says “Hell, I could do that” with no real supporting evidence. But in order to make that point there needs to be a comma between “best” and “to.” So the sentence should read:

“Trump did his best, to be fair.”

By writing “Donald Trump did his best to be fair” what the writer is instead saying – unintentionally, given the surrounding context of the story – that Trump emphasized fairness and did his best to rise to a standard of being fair during the debate. Adding the comma, though, would have made it clear that the “to be fair” is a modifying clause, changing or clarifying the meaning of the subject of the sentence.

I have a reputation for being hard on commas. Without getting into the whole Oxford Comma debate, they’re too often used (including by me) anytime the writer would take a breath if they were speaking. That creates a choppy reading experience. In many cases, though, they serve important roles in the sentence. I’m not meaning to beat up on Ezra Klein, who’s a fantastic political writer, just pointing out that it’s the kind of mistake anyone can make, especially if your tendency already is to try to minimize overall comma usage.