Showing posts with label license plates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label license plates. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Counting our license plate blessings

Nebraska is getting new license plates next year!

Well, scratch the exclamation point. Nebraskans generally are underwhelmed with their new license plates. And this one is kind of vanilla, come to think of it.

But we Nebraskans are beer-can-half-full people, so we're counting our blessings. After all, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert could have insisted that her public-works department design its own plates for local vehicles.

IN THAT CASE, ya got atrocity, folks, right here in River City.

Atrocity with a capital A and that rhymes with J and that stands for Jean.

 Pass the beer can. Make sure it's full.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Good enough for government work

And the final score in the Great Plate Debate this week is Old-School Newspaper Legwork 27, Nebraska's Design Community 0.

That's because it wasn't "the design community" or its arrested-development behavior, in the wake of a faulty contest to choose ugly license plates, that ultimately saved Nebraskans from six years of hideous tin on their bumpers. Instead, it was something as simple as the unhip "old media" asking the right questions at the right time and holding state officials up to public scrutiny.

BASICALLY, somebody had to be the "grown-up" here, and the Omaha World-Herald stepped into the void. This was the result:
State officials said Friday that the original selection was based on a public Internet vote that, a new review shows, had been skewed by a web site's prank.

The review of the voting results was prompted by a request from The World-Herald for the raw data to see if the humor web site had succeeded in hijacking the vote.

Thursday night, Beverly Neth, the state's motor vehicles director, said the voting patterns raised "some real questions and real concern."

At a press conference Friday, Neth said: "I now have new evidence that shows it is clear that the site's malicious intent was realized. I am taking responsibility for this situation, and I am here today to make this right."

State officials said the state's webmaster, Nebraska Interactive, was able to pinpoint the votes that came through and Neth disqualified those votes.

The humor web site encouraged people to vote for what it called the most boring design. That design, which was black, white and red with the Web address, was announced by Gov. Dave Heineman as the winner Tuesday.

In the face of new information, administration officials backed off previous statements that the votes linking off the site were "spread evenly'' among the four plate options, thus rendering the prank moot.

That information had come from an employee of Nebraska Interactive, the private company that manages, the state Web site, Neth said.
IN THE END, the state's press and the state's executive branch behaved like actual adults to rectify an increasingly embarrassing situation. Credit goes to Heineman and Neth for admitting the vote was a mess and promptly fixing it, despite the embarrassment that had to involve.

In this case, it seems "government work" ended up being good enough . . . considering. If I were Heineman, though, there'd be a new webmaster tout de suite.

Unfortunately, you can't say much for the state's "design community," which launched some of the earliest and loudest complaints about the prospective 2011 Nebraska plates but, when the going got rough, picked up its MacBook and went home.

Because, as always, bull**** walks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

W8! ST8 SK8S ON PL8S' F8!

Nothing can be done, wrote a member of the "design community," defending its eschewal of a serious public-relations strategy . . . and its descent into juvenile parodies and hissy fits over the "winning" design for Nebraska's new license plates.

AHEM. I, uh, told you so.

Nebraska's great license plate flap may not be over after all.

In a sudden turn Thursday night, a top state official said raw data showing voting patterns raise "some real questions and real concern" that the online vote for the state's next plate was compromised.

Beverly Neth, the state's motor vehicles director, looked at the information after it was requested by The World-Herald, which was seeking to determine whether a college humor Web site had succeeded in hijacking the vote. Neth said what she saw in an initial review of the data Thursday evening was "troubling."

Left unsaid, but hanging over Neth's words, was the possibility of dumping the black-and-white plate that Gov. Dave Heineman announced as the winner Tuesday and reopening the plate design selection process. Neth said only that she needed to look through the data more before commenting further.


On Tuesday, Heineman announced the black-and-white plate as the winner. State officials said they were confident that's effort did not skew the outcome.

Neth and Hein both said the votes coming from the humor Web site had been "spread evenly" among the four plate options.

But the story began to change Thursday as state officials were questioned in more detail by The World-Herald.

Hein acknowledged that the state had not been able to track the votes. But she continued to maintain that, based on the consistent pattern of votes for the four plates and the volume of votes coming from the comedy site, the hijacking effort had "no significant impact" on the vote.

But after the newspaper requested detailed information on those voting patterns, Neth looked at the data and expressed concerns.

In the end, Hein blamed the earlier misinformation on Nebraska Interactive, the private company that manages the state's Web site.

Nebraska Interactive is a subsidiary of NIC USA, based in Olathe, Kan. Brent Hoffman, general manager for the Nebraska site, was out of town and did not return a message.
FORTUNATELY, the Omaha World-Herald was on the ball and didn't need any PR lobbying to start digging -- which ended up making the state look foolish enough to start backtracking on those ugly, ugly plates.

After all, even "Bluto" Blutarsky knew that it was far from "over" when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. (Note: Some "R"-rated language.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The trouble with 'creatives'

Isaac Newton understood physics.

For instance, his Third Law of Motion: "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Isaac Newton also understood public relations. He didn't know it, but he did.

Take Newton's law, apply it to human nature and you get the First Law of Public Relations: "To every moronic action, there is an equal and opposite moronic reaction. Only more so."

I just made that up, but it's true. Look, I can even provide sociological proofs:

THAT'S RIGHT, the proprietor of a blog dedicated to making fun of Nebraska's new license-plate design (top of post) thought it would be a fine thing to run some nimrod's idea (above) of social commentary.

"Duuuuude! I just put the new Nebraska license plate on a picture of a car mowing down a bunch of bicyclists! Bitchin'! Heh! heheheh! Heh heh heheheheh!"

And let's not show the Photoshop creation of a cow blowtorching the new plate with an acetylene fart, OK?

I don't know about you, but juvenile buffoonery by the state's "creatives" is making that proposed cold sore for Nebraska bumpers start to grow on me a little. I guess the
Official Nebraska License Plate Reactions Website is producing yet another equal and opposite reaction by causing me to have sympathy for people mucking up our automobiles with a truly wretched piece of tin.

NEBRASKA'S "design community" has made much hay . . . I'm sorry, does that choice of words go too much against the hip, now, happening and progressive image we're supposed to be projecting as Nebraskans? We mustn't embrace our inner hick, now.

Let's try this. The state's "design community" has protested vociferously the poor choices put before the readers Nebraskans, and have cited such mediocrity as why license-plate design never should be left to amateurs.

Of course, the winning design was a "professional" product, but that's not important now. Move along, nothing to see here. Thank you, come again!

No, what's important now is for outraged designers to follow their own advice. If they want to overturn a bad decision by the Department of Motor Vehicles, they need to hire a professional. Public-relations amateurs like themselves will just screw it up.

They may know design, but that doesn't mean they know squat about A) writing, or B) how to make friends and influence people. I'm not a PR professional, but I can tell them the first step for free -- quit promoting juvenile idiocy like the Official Nebraska License Plate Reactions Website, then quickly shove to the margins all those "creatives" with far more time on their hands than common sense . . . or good taste.

Despite evidence to the contrary, I don't think "creative" and "grown-ups" have to be mutually exclusive concepts.

There seems to be some good information -- at least at a glance -- on the site, where the creator contends there's no way the DMV could know pranksters didn't punk the vote. A PR professional could find independent computer scientists to test that hypothesis and then, if correct, ram it down the state's throat.

Complete with press releases, interview opportunities, a press conference and a slick website.

PR professionals would get straight information to the press, then help reporters help "the design community" yell "rat."

Or, the state's "creatives" could just continue to throw a hissy fit for free. But in that case, they'd better zip it about the horrors of amateurism as they drive around with those ugly-ass license plates.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Morons . . . or evil geniuses?

This is not the new Nebraska license plate.

A blob of stylized cow patties would be much less embarrassing than what the state's "contest" gave us. That would be this:

Let it be known that -- for all the uproar from the "design community" over the state turning over license plates to the amateurs -- the above monstrosity is a "professional" product. Says the Omaha World-Herald, "The winning choice was professionally designed by the state’s license plate material vendor."

If that's what "professionals" are capable of, give me some chimpanzees and a box of Crayolas.

I DON'T KNOW about you, but the "winning" license plate is not going to be defacing my automobile. The poor car has enough problems, the biggest of which is whether or not it's going to be orphaned in the near future. (SAVE GM!!!)

And that's when it occurred to me I might have been wrong in believing Gov. Dave Heineman and Department of Motor Vehicles chief Beverly Neth to be morons. In fact, they both may be evil geniuses.

It goes something like this: I know I'm not alone in regarding the chosen design as a steaming pile of organic fertilizer. I think I have plenty of company in my refusal to put the thing on my car. I don't put decals on my car of Bart Simpson lookalikes pissing on a Brand X logo, and I'm not putting state-issued crudities on it, either.

Meantime, the real-estate market is in the crapper right along with the economy, so there's no likelihood we can move across the river to Iowa . . . where the influx of gays seeking to be married will do nothing to harm the state's license-plate aesthetic.

SO I'M STUCK, RIGHT? Not exactly, but it'll cost me.

There is one remaining option for Nebraskans who refuse to put the coming lame-ass 2011 plates on their vehicles. That would be the "Husker Spirit" plate, which celebrates University of Nebraska athletics, looks kind of snazzy . . . and will set you back an extra $70.

You can't pack up and move to Iowa for $70. Genius! The state could make tens of millions of extra dollars -- scores of extra millions if people are desperate enough.

Abso-freakin-lutely brilliant. In a Dr. Evil kind of way.

Almost as brilliant was how Heineman and Neth played it dumb for the media, even going so far as to pretend they weren't the ones behind's attempt to stuff the DMV's electronic ballot box in favor of the ugly-ass plate.

The World-Herald might be so gullible, but not me. I'm from Louisiana. I know shenanigans.
But an unknown number of those votes came from devotees of, a Web site that regularly encourages viewers to "ruin a poll." The site also has an area devoted to "license plate stuff."

CollegeHumor combined the two features May 7, asking people to "Ruin a Nebraska" poll by voting for the black, white and red design.

"Everyone vote design 2 so Nebraskans get boring license plates," the website said. "This poll doesn’t display the current results, but we’ll know we won when all their cars have boring gray license plates."

Jen Rae Hein, the governor’s spokeswoman, said that Beverly Neth, Nebraska’s motor vehicle director, had alerted state officials to CollegeHumor’s attempt to interfere with the vote. Officials were then able to monitor hits coming through the link on that Web site, she said.

Hein said votes through that link were spread evenly among the four designs. She said votes through the CollegeHumor link dropped off this last weekend, when the winning plate pulled ahead in overall voting.


Heineman gave a nod to the controversy that the license plate options stirred up.

"While no single plate will appeal to every driver, they are first and foremost a critical asset for enforcement officers across our state," he said. "It was beneficial to both the state and citizens to have the opportunity to vote for their favorite design and offer feedback."

The governor’s announcement culminates two weeks of online voting — and two weeks of griping and complaining about the four options.

Letters to the editor and calls and e-mails to state officials made it clear that some Nebraskans disliked the choices offered.

A leading Nebraska advertising executive even volunteered the state’s top marketing firms to create different designs at no charge to the state. Jim Lauerman, chief executive officer of Bailey Lauerman of Omaha and Lincoln, called the four designs "embarrassing."
OF COURSE the designs were embarrassing. That was Heineman's and Neth's evil plan. Regular plate sucks; $70 "Husker Spirit" plate doesn't.

Get it?

I know I'll be getting mine. And I'll tip my hat to my gubna's evil genius as I shell out the extra cash.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nebraska's great plate debate (again)

The great plate debate rages on in the Great State.

This, as reported by the Omaha World-Herald, is the latest salvo . . . on behalf of Nebraska's slighted professional graphic-design pros:
A leading Nebraska advertising executive is urging a design do-over for the new state license plate.

Jim Lauerman, chief executive officer of Bailey Lauerman of Omaha and Lincoln, said the four "embarrassing" designs now being considered should be scrapped as not bumper-worthy.

Instead, Lauerman offered to enlist graphic artists from the state's top marketing firms to, at no charge, design a new plate that would convey a sharper image for the state.

"This is an opportunity for millions and millions of exposures to express your (state) brand. Why wouldn't you take that opportunity?" said Lauerman, who grew up in the farm town of Stromsburg, Neb.

His offer - the latest criticism of the license plate designs - landed with a thud on the doorstep of Gov. Dave Heineman, who was out of his Capitol office on Thursday.

"The governor has made his comments on this issue," said his spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein.

Translation: He likes the four designs submitted, as he's said before. He's sticking to his license-plate-picking-guns, even though naysayers have sent a wave of critical letters and e-mails to The World-Herald and other newspapers.
YES, YOU COULD turn matters over to the professionals, and somebody might decide that Nebraska's modern branding needs require something hip, now, happening and symbolically avant garde. (See above.)

That's my abstract statement about the state's unity through diversity. And, being that the '70s are hot once again, it has that certain funky, earth-toned sumpin' sumpin' going for it.

Actually, it's supposed to be a joke . . . but I've seen weirder things that weren't.

OF COURSE, vee haff veys of settling such license plate disputes here -- ways that are pretty straightforward. OK, really straightforward. This was the not-so-elegant 1984 solution:

COME TO THINK OF IT, though, that would be an improvement over some of the contest choices.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

OK, if you didn't like that one . . .

How about these license plates?

Even I can do better than that

If you're going to have a contest for your state's new license plate, is it really too much to ask that most of the choices don't suck?

Well, yes. It is too much to ask if you live in Nebraska, where state government -- taking political correctness and inclusiveness to new heights -- apparently had students from the (deep breath) Nebraska Center for the Education of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired (ain't THAT a name and a half?) choose the license-plate finalists.

I mean, this (at right) is a finalist. For the love of God, stuff like this is what keeps Rush Limbaugh in business railing about the evil and incompetence of government.

Come on, what state official's brother-in-law did this? If the state wants to get into the graphic-design bidness, it should start by restricting the sale of Adobe software and making owners pay a yearly license fee.

Give the money to arts in the schools.

ANYWAY, I'm not the only one dismayed. Advertising and graphics-arts types in the Great State are livid the state opened up license-plate design to legislators' brothers-in-law instead of just awarding a contract to a Nebraska design firm.

From the NE Creative blog:
Here we go again... We went down this road already so you don't want to see my vent but this pisses me off. Bland license plates that will reflect our state as we drive to other states and others drive through our state. Spend some money, help a small design business out.
NE CREATIVE'S Zach Origitano then quotes from the Archrival youth-marketing agency's Facebook page:
The State of Nebraska is missing a huge opportunity. The license plate is more than just a functional sheet of metal, it's a branding opportunity. As the state tries to grow its tourism and change the perception of being a boring piece of flat land, it should think about all its touch points. The license plate could have been a big one. Instead of creating an image that enhances Nebraska, the four designs presented as our options do us one worse: it maintains and reinforces the status quo.

It's hard to critique the amateur designers--- they did the best they could and took part. In many ways we applaud them for making the effort to get involved. Rather, we have to look at the final designs as a result of the process. With an image opportunity so big, how could the State think it's even a semi-good idea to have an open-ended design contest? This would have been worth the time, effort and money to pay for the best talent the state has to offer. Nebraska has some incredible design talent. But you won't get them through a non-paid open call for entries. Instead, you'll get the amateur works you see with our final four. You get what you pay for.
OH, I DON'T KNOW. Yes, the amateur designs selected by the state stink. Well, that's not entirely true . . . a couple are competently done, if not exactly inspired or original. But I keep thinking professionals -- high-priced professionals, no less -- came up with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution redesign.

Face it, pros can suck as bad as anyone.

So, I think the problem we have here is one of suckage and not of amateurism. I mean, I'm an amateur designer, and my first reaction
to the story today in the Omaha World-Herald was "I can do better than any of these."

So I figured I'd try. It took me about an hour or so from conception to finish. The result is at the top of this post.

I thought I'd go for a blend of simplicity, Nebraska tradition and breaking the mold.

The "NEB" on the plate is an adaptation of the state identifier on this 1933 Nebraska plate:

MEANWHILE, the whimsical artwork of the crusty old "cornhusker" is taken from the pre-1962 logo for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers:

THEN, I just brought back Nebraska's traditional license-plate slogan, "The Cornhusker State."

It was as simple as that. I don't think it sucks, and I think it injects an element of whimsy that laughs at how folks on the coasts try to stereotype Nebraskans. Of course, what do I know about "branding"?

Then again, you get what you pay for. The designers all said.