First, the curiosity, when you see a gaggle of characters and then notice they all have “tip purses” in some form with their respective costumes, beware. In a visit with a media company in Times Square (Viacom specifically) we had to pass a few of these characters who were looking to have their photo taken with you.

The less than explicit part was the tip required after you snapped your shots. And, by the way, it is odd to watch Woody from the Toy Story count his tip in the awkward way required in a large costume. Do these characters pay a commission back to the rather large media companies who own these characters? Doubt it. If they were there promoting these characters and their movies, I doubt the media giants would have equipped them with tip sacks. So, just take a moment to look around Times Square in your head, all the media dollars being spent to build larger brands and right down on the street there’s a bandit gang peddling photographic moments to unsuspecting tourists. Opportunity exists all around us, we just have to find it. These characters found something to earn themselves a modest income right under the preverbal nose of the trademark owners.

Second, the funny, is a mixed message story. You may have heard about the bed bug problem in the big city last year [see link if you’ve conveniently forgotten as I had]. The issue was obviously impacting travel and tourism which is big business and when it drops sharply the behaviors of the businesses might become a bit irrational. This is best exemplified by a photo taken in my hotel elevator on the way to my room. The issue had, as previously stated, escaped my memory.  So when I saw this ad telling me how clean the bed is I became a bit perplexed.

That’s like saying this room will have a door and a bathroom. Really? The promise is a clean bed? Which, of course, brought back the memory of the bed bugs and made me wonder, how bad was it? Should I be concerned? So, the lesson here is this. You can’t advertise your way out of a mess. Clean up the mess, tell people you did so and quickly stop talking about it. Never, and I mean never put up a sign promoting something that should be expected as a basic standard. Ick.

Third, the question. We have clients in NY and agency friends in all forms. We often visit with them when we’re there and talk about the culture of New York. On almost every trip we hear this message, “the really good creative ideas don’t come from inside this city, they come from somewhere else and are refined here, then distributed to the world.” Which has perplexed me, because there are so many good firms in all forms in the city. And, there are so many interesting restaurant concepts, art exhibits, products, retailers, and innovations of all sorts. But, when you ask around you hear the real origin was somewhere else, and they became large in the city of New York.

So, the question, is New York a content distribution or content creation city?  My belief now is New York is a content distribution city.

Anyone else have a thought on this subject, I’d like to hear it?

Aaron Keller is an author of two books on design, Design Matters: Logos and Packaging.  He founded Capsule design in 1999 and continues to write for a variety of publications and blogs from his office in Minneapolis, Minnesota.