Washington, DC’s Snow-Covered Sidewalks

Moving to Washington, DC, unlocked countless doors for me – in terms of my career, friendships and more. So far, this personal revolution constantly delivers new opportunities to experience life in different lights.

The cold and snow, however, need to go.

On that sunny Sunday last weekend that seems so long ago, I managed to escape the confines of my room to explore my neighborhood. Why? The thermometer (just kidding, my iPhone) read 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and nothing could stop me from catching some splendorous sun in the unexpectedly “warm” weather. Breathing in fresh yet frigid air invigorated my lungs, which strangely enough warmed me up enough to enjoy life beyond my front door.

Throughout my journey to Union Station, I learned that the NoMa district (short for “north of Massachusetts Avenue”) offers plenty of visual stimulation – from colorful characters to the less jolly, but ever-inspiring, symbols of urban decay. Take a look at some of my photos capturing the moment when snow holds on to its last few minutes of glory before melting into simple, plain water.

Until next time,

Jonathan Ochart

Why did “The Interview” Win Top Marketing Campaign?

Yes, tonight’s the night – the night where all of Hollywood’s stars align as one in Los Angeles. I’m not going to talk about their red carpet ensembles today, though. Rather, let’s take a look at something a little more scandalous…the PR/marketing aspect of cinema. How else can we understand how movies attract attention to soar above noisy competition?

The International Cinematographers Guild granted “The Interview” the Maxwell Weinberg Publicists Showmanship Motion Picture Award for Top Marketing Campaign Feb. 20. In simpler terms, Sony Pictures’ “The Interview,” a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, garnered the most attention and buzz last year.

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A promotional poster for “The Interview.” Aesthetically, I fancy its fiery color scheme and symmetrical layout.

How could a movie pulled from cinemas nationwide win such an award, while competitors like “Selma”, “The Fault in our Stars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” were blockbuster hits? When you throw in threats from a communist North Korean leader and cyber hacks obliterating countless emails and communication methods, it becomes clear.

Sony’s marketing/PR team “rose above the ashes,” per se, and continued publicizing the film no matter how many threats it received.  Even theater chains on the home front contributed to the film’s potential failure by refusing to release it (in all honesty, I wouldn’t risk my life to watch a film in a theater threatened by terrorists). Spinning a negative situation into a powerful marketing opportunity, however, shows a publicist’s prowess.

Releasing “The Interview” on popular video-on-demand outlets saved the film from sinking into oblivion. Truly understanding your target audience is the foundation for any campaign. VOD users’ demographics constantly expand (from age ranges to education levels), and Sony smartly tapped into this growing market. The platform’s audience provided Sony gross profits of $31 million from online and video-on-demand revenues – just in its first week and a half!

Publicists demonstrated their aptitude by revisiting their campaigns from scratch and relying on novel communication methods that cyber attackers couldn’t hack. Choosing a theatrical release method that didn’t jeopardize audiences from potential terrorist attacks helped as well. Tons of news and entertainment TV programs, newspapers, magazines and blogs covered the film’s unfortunate situation, and tracked its success despite numerous obstacles.

Although “The Interview” isn’t nominated for an Oscar tonight, its marketing campaign shines brighter than any 24-karat gold statue. Bravo!

Enjoy your Oscar-watching parties, friends!

-Jonathan

Starbucks Vs. Mr. Coffee

If I could visit Starbucks every morning and pick up a lovely dark roast coffee to jolt my senses, I would. Nothing fancy like a skinny triple foam vanilla latte – just a $2 grande dark roast, with room for cream. I truly admire the company’s branding, member rewards program and its employee benefits (offering to pay for tuition at Arizona State University is just one way to build a stronger workforce through education…read more on their site). Caressing a cup bearing a mysterious green (no, Starbucks green) siren means more than holding simple coffee – it symbolizes someone’s dream of becoming an international coffee house come true.

Moreover, Starbucks’ campaigns constantly strike me with a sweet note. Its emphasis on providing smartly-sourced, high-quality coffee and sharing beverages with friends anywhere, anytime, turns the product into a stellar service. A service where you can catch up with anyone, rediscover the past and build your future – all in the comfort of a Starbucks and your personalized drink. It’s more than just coffee – it’s a community builder. Just take a look at their “Meet Me at Starbucks” campaign released September 2014.

Nonetheless, as we all know, little coffees purchased here and there add up in no time, no matter what makes up an intern’s dream.

So, I resort to brewing coffee at home most days whenever I feel like treating myself to a cup of joe. Throughout college, I used my roommate’s Mr. Coffee coffeemaker (DW Series 12-Cup Switch Coffeemaker, Black). The appliance brewed fantastic coffee I could rely on whenever preparing myself for the day, tests, essays, etc.

And then I moved to Washington, DC, and purchased the same Mr. Coffee coffeemaker for my new residence. I followed my trusted routine: I placed a filter in the basket, filled the machine with cold water, dropped a few tablespoons of my favorite french roast coffee, and pressed the “On” switch.

The house began to smell like a nuclear power plant.

Unfortunately, I decided to sip on the lighter-than-usual brown liquid, and I can proudly say I now know what plastic tastes like. Perhaps I was going insane – but alas, after searching “plastic tasting coffee from new coffeemaker” on Google, I discovered that most all new coffeemakers brew plastic-tasting coffee during its first few trials. View a thread on the topic here.

The trick? Brewing a simple solution of 1/4 vinegar to every cup of water in your new coffeemaker supposedly cleanses the machine from its chemicals leftover from production.

My new Mr. Coffee coffeemaker brewing the anti-chemical solution - vinegar and water.

My new Mr. Coffee coffeemaker brewing the anti-chemical solution – vinegar and water.

According to one website, these chemicals are toxic, and will continue finding their way into your elixir.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue using my coffeemaker even though it finally let go of its plastic taste – perhaps a french press will do. After all, bad coffee makes for a bad morning. Throw in a few chemicals, and your entire day goes haywire!

What coffeemakers do you use? Or, what alternative methods do you depend on for making coffee?

Talk to you soon,

Jonathan