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8 Ad Taglines that Sneakily Ding the Competition

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Companies naturally want to convince people that their products are better than the competition, but when it comes to advertisements, making direct comparisons between competing products can be tricky. Ad campaigns must step lightly around potential issues with the verifiability of claims, liability, and trademark laws. For example, while it’s OK to say your product is the “best,” it’s not OK to say it’s “better” than a specific competitor unless you have clear evidence on exactly what makes it better. Attempts to play on trademarked phrases can also backfire. McDonald’s once sued Burger King over an ad for the Whopper that read “It’s not just Big, Mac” and won by showing that some people were confused by the ad into thinking that they could get a Big Mac at Burger King. To get in a good jab at the competition, you’ve got to be indirect, but not so indirect that your audience won’t pick up on it at all. Here are eight ad taglines that found a way to sneakily ding the competition

1. Sweet’N Low: "For millions of people, there’s just no equal"

When artificial sweetener rival Equal came along, Sweet’N Low started using this subtle dig in their commercials. When Splenda entered the market and started gunning for the number 1 spot, they dropped it in favor of a tagline from the pre-Equal days, “Wherever you go, Sweet’N Low.”

2. DHL: "Yellow. It’s the new brown."

Ashby Parsons

No need to mention UPS directly. DHL is merely talking about the benefits of its vibrant banana color scheme and how much better it is than that muddier, blander other one. Right?

3. Dunkin’ Donuts: "Delicious lattes from Dunkin' Donuts. You order them in English."

Why wouldn’t you order them in English? That would be crazy. But according to this commercial, there do exist some places that do make you order your coffee in a bizarre, made-up language. Wonder who they could be talking about? (Side note: I guess this commercial marks the moment when “latte” acquired full English-word status.)

4. Virgin Atlantic: "Keep Discovering – Until You Find the Best."

When Virgin Atlantic started service from London to Dubai they advertised it with the slogan “Keep Discovering – Until You Find the Best.” That’s not sneaky at all—until you realize that “Keep Discovering” is the slogan for Emirates Airlines.

5. Samsung: "It doesn’t take a genius."

CNET

Samsung chose the indirect way to claim the Galaxy phone was better than an iPhone by turning Apple’s Genius Bar concept around on them.

6. Verizon: "There’s a map for that."

Verizon also took a swing at Apple, who has a trademark on “there’s an app for that,” back in the days when you could only get iPhone service through AT&T. In this commercial they tout the superior broad coverage of their network with a twist on one of Apple’s taglines.

7. Audi vs. BMW: "Your move/Checkmate/Your pawn is no match for our king/Game over."

When you do decide to take on your competitors by name, you’d better be ready to keep upping your game. When Audi erected a billboard in L.A. with the cheeky tagline “Your move, BMW,” BMW responded with a confident “Checkmate” on its own billboard. Not ready to give up yet, Audi replied with “Your pawn is no match for our king” over a picture of their most exotic model. BMW’s response was to attach a zeppelin to the billboard on which was printed a photo of one of their Formula 1 racecars and the words “Game Over,” which pretty much put the matter to bed, without them ever deigning to print the word “Audi.”

8. Nintendo: "Why did the hedgehog cross the road? To get to Super Mario Land 2."

Twitter

In the '90s ad battle between game companies Sega and Nintendo, Sega used the more aggressive approach, calling out its competitor by name with the inelegant “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” Nintendo used the subtle approach here, not mentioning its competitor’s name or even the name of its game character (just a generic hedgehog…), but still getting the message across.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

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