Nothing could be finer … than a zombie diner


Anyone who ever said there’s no such thing as a bad idea has never worked with me. I’m full of bad ideas. Even when I’m asleep.

Case in point: I had an extremely vivid dream the other night that I was pitching a proposal for a zombie-themed diner. We would name it Apocolypto. All of the waitresses, dishwashers and cooks would be made up like zombies, and we would encourage customers to do the same.

"And the best part is," I said excitedly in my dream, "is that nobody will bother to complain about the food or service. What do you expect from dead people?"

OK, it’s probably a bad idea. Who wants to order food from a waiter whose forehead looks like roadkill? And the health inspectors’ heads would be spinning, so to speak.

But in this business it’s important to keep the ideas coming. How would this work? Why would that be good? Who would respond favorably? What could go wrong? Tomorrow could be the day I come up with a really, really outstanding idea.

Meanwhile, if someone wants to open a zombie diner, they’re welcome to name it Apocolypto.

- Dan

Writing for others; a cautionary tale

Today, it’s no secret that important people’s words are often written by others and scrutinized by many more before they are ever available for general consumption. From pop musicians to politicians to global brands, each word or lyric is a finely crafted for a specific purpose. And, even though most people are familiar with ghostwriters, it’s important that the ghost part hold true.

That was not the case for one Montana-based ad agency who was working on behalf of their State Tourism office.

As you can see, this ad agency employee mistakenly posted a very personal Facebook message on behalf of Montana Tourism. Once the mistake was realized, the post was quickly deleted. However, as with anything posted on the internet, it will surely live on in internet fame. At least, until the next cat meme goes viral.

Moral of the story? If you have multiple administrative privileges on Facebook, make sure to check your settings before posting anything.



Google’s Start to the Day: Bad News, Everyone!

Google Apps logo

Google quietly pulled an anti-Farnsworth this morning and began the day with a round of bad news: they’re pulling the plug on free use of Google Apps for Business, their suite of tools for cloud-based e-mail, calendar and document sharing.  

When we work with small business clients that don’t have an existing solution for these things (or they have one that works poorly), we’ve often recommended Google Apps. It’s a great productivity suite, it’s easy for our web team to setup and support, and the price point couldn’t be beat - at least until this morning. Of course, it’s still a great tool. Clients will just need to budget for $50 per user per year for the privilege of using it.  

Perhaps more interesting (from the PR perspective, anyway) was John Koetsier’s analysis of the Google announcement over on VentureBeat. His dissection of the blog post reveals Google’s tried-and-true formula for announcing the bad news: 

  • First Graph: How we got here.
  • Second Graph: Identify the problem.
  • Third Graph: The change. Good first, bad second. No apologies. 
  • Fourth Graph: Why this is actually good news.
  • Fifth Graph: One last sugary-sweet point about how we’re saving the world together. (Optional.)

Google’s not alone, of course - this formula is pretty common in corporate blog posts and press releases that deal with bad news for customers. 


Old House Journal likes our new Smart Phone project

OK, I’ve been in the print media a long time, and mostly what I do now is electronic. But I still get a kick out of seeing my name in print. And when it’s in a national magazine, it’s a really big kick.

Today a copy of Old House Journal showed up at the office. On page 12 there’s a story about technology and historic preservation — featuring our “Picture Deadwood’s Past” and “Picture Rapid City’s Past” projects. The story deals with using new tools to experience our historic past.

Working with the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce and the Rapid City Historic Preservation Commission, we created a system of QR coded stickers that let people scan the codes with their smart phones and then see historic pictures taken of the same buildings they see before them.

Hats off to the Deadwood Chamber and Rapid City Historic Preservation. They really understand that our past can come alive through new technology. Destination Rapid City and South Dakota State Historical Society also deserve credit. They helped get the Rapid City project going.

If you see a window sticker like the one above in Deadwood or Rapid City, give it a scan.


Creating the right mood

When designing a website, it’s important to make it visually appealing. And well-organized. And extremely functional. But to make the site truly engaging, you need to create the right mood.

Our crack web team at TDG recently launched a site for our friends at the Blackhawk Waterways CVB in Illinois. And there’s no doubting the mood on this page.

Several of the cities in northwest Illinois put on a number of haunted happenings during the Halloween season, along with the harvest festivals and other events. The haunted happenings have become popular; in fact you can make the rounds to several of them on a single visit to the region.

Thus: the Trail of Terror, a users guide to all the scary, whacky, fun places to see during the Halloween season. Nearly every pixel on these pages — the cat eyes, the ghostly shadows, the cobwebs, the dead tree branches — reinforce that sense of foreboding. Even the warm photos, such as the pumpkin patches, seem somehow ominous.

Good job, guys.


Tyler too: no hat, no cattle — good instincts

We got a lucky break recently when we were trying to find a new creative. We needed a graphic designer with the instincts of a webhead …. or is it a webhead with the instincts of a graphic designer? Anyway, meet Tyler Restvedt, our go-to guy on both sides of the digital divide.Tyler

Born and raised in Belgrade, Mont., just outside of Bozeman, Tyler admits to being a country boy, but he’s quick to point out that he’s no cowboy. He loves hunting, fishing and camping. Even rides a horse once in awhile. He’s definitely no hat and no cattle.

However, when Tyler wraps a design project around his knuckles, you’re in for a visual rodeo. He earned his BFA at Montana State University in 2007, and ever since he’s been on a mission to bring a designer’s sensibility to the world of web development.

Often, it seems, clients must choose between a functional-but-boring website or a pretty online picture that doesn’t do anything. Tyler, a self-taught web designer, insists you can have the best of both worlds. The principles of print — readability, organization and visual appeal — can  make a good, useful website pop right off the page … er, screen.


Great Scott! … Scott Bruce, that is

We have a couple of new faces around the office here at TDG. Scott Bruce is the new Director of Business Development and Client Services. Tyler Restvedt joined the team as Web Developer and Graphic Designer.

It’s been a lot of fun getting to know Scott and Tyler, and seeing the new enthusiasm they bring to our little shop on Sherman Street. I think introductions are in order. Let’s start with Scott.

Scott Harley Bruce — yes, Harley really is his middle name — was born to sell. He has fond memories of childhood trips across the Midwest with his dad, a traveling salesman for grocery wholesaler Nash Finch. He grew up in Rapid City and did a stint in the Navy as a communications radioman and ship’s swimmer. (His job was to jump in the water and save people when the sea was too rough for rescue boats.)

He has a Black Hills State degree in business management, emphasis in marketing and advertising. He’s co-owned retail companies and done business consulting. But his true love is marketing. Scott has 22 years in broadcast and newspaper advertising in South Dakota, Colorado, Montana and Nebraska. As Director of Business Development, he’s looking for clients who need the kind of marketing muscle that only a full-service agency like TDG can offer.


Tags: TDG News,

Chubby Chipmunk’s new website: Sweet!

We’ve been busy building websites this summer. Haven’t had time to toot our own horns. But this one, for Chubby Chipmunk Hand-Dipped Chocolates, still makes my mouth water just looking at it.

Chip Tautkus — who, by the way, is not chubby at all — was a lot of fun to work with. She’s creative (obviously) and passionate about the subtle tastes and senses that come from the finest chocolates. This site blends well with her less-is-more aesthetic.

We’re especially happy about the photo work. Shooting pictures of food is not as easy as it looks. But the Chubby Chipmunk truffles on these pages look so good you can almost taste them …. which we did, right after the shoot.



Picture Rapid City’s Past is up!

TDG has been working the Rapid City Historic Preservation Commission on a very cool project that uses QR codes to let people stand on a downtown Rapid City  sidewalk and see historic photos of the same buildings before them.

Commissioners put 20 QR codes, in the form of window stickers, in various downtown storefronts. To see a photo, you just scan the code with your smartphone, tablet computer or iPad. The photo pops up, along with a small story about the picture.

We unveiled the project yesterday, and Picture Rapid City’s Past got some great press, including Derek Olson’s nice piece on KELO-TV. Give it a watch. He does a great job of explaining it.


Freud: "Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog."

Gotta hand it to Trojan. Great idea to promote its newest product.

Mobile Mythology

Very good story about mobile web myths. My favorite: you need to have a mobile app, rather than a good mobile website. A lot of businesses who believe that are spending a lot of money on apps, but then what? How do you persuade a mobile user to download that app? Especially true in tourism.

Very cool way to market Stockholm. Mixed technology, old-fashioned magic and a solid message.

Joomla - 30 Million Strong and Growing

When you do one thing day in and day out (building kick ass websites, in my case) you can sometimes loose some perspective. Of course when that perspective involves the Internet it’s pretty easy to lose. 

In April, the folks at Joomla (IMHO the worlds best website platform and the software we use at TDG) laid down some statistics that stopped me in my tracks. Joomla runs 2.7% of ALL WEBSITES ON THE INTERNET. That translates into over 1.6 million websites worldwide. The software has been downloaded 30 million times. 9,500 extension or plugins have been written for Joomla to give it added super powers. Not bad for a software project that’s less than 7 years old and has a name that’s hard to spell.


Without getting too nerdy, Joomla allows a web geek like me to build any kind of website I can think of. It’s the “Swiss Army Knife” of content management system websites. Flexible, powerful and easy to use. That’s why 99.9% of all websites TDG builds now are built using Joomla. 

Another key factor in Joomla’s growth is that a significant number of government agencies are turning to Joomla for their websites, blogs and intranets. The new Joomla 2.5 allows us to affordably build out large, content driven websites without killing their budgets. 

With Joomla running 2.7% of the Internet with everything from small personal blogs to uber-large enterprise websites, here are some companies and organizations that rely on Joomla. 

  • Citibank
  • eBay
  • General Electric 
  • Harvard University
  • Ikea
  • McDonald’s
  • Sony
  • MTV
  • Mexico City
  • Government of Greece
  • Barnes & Noble
  • U.K. Ministry of Defense
  • High Court of Australia
  • Pizza Hut
  • United Nations
  • European Union
  • Holiday Inn
  • Kelloggs
  • Orange
  • Jaguar

- Jack

What the ‘L’? It’s a very important letter

There’s an old saying — OK, I just made it up — Anything that is printed can be misprinted. One letter in a word can change its meaning. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not funny … when it’s your mistake. Case in point: this printed piece from the University of Texas School of Public Affairs — not Pubic Affairs.


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