Wednesday, December 22, 2010

About a girl.

On the way home from a work dinner yesterday, I discovered that there comes a point in a young woman's life where nights, real nights, look like this.

Nights where you find yourself stepping lightly into a shiny towncar at 51st and 7th, handing the driver your ticket and confidently spouting directions. As you sink into the warm leather, eyes bright and cheeks rosy from a night of feasting and toasting with colleagues, now called friends, you close your eyes and the car pulls away, off into the darkness of the greatest city in the world.

A moment later, you open your eyes to the traffic surrounding Radio City Music Hall. Outside, Broadway bustles, but the inside of the car is still and you're enveloped by an achingly soulful rendition of Silent Night. Performed by a lone street artist with a saxophone and a hat full of dollar bills, the carol has never sounded quite like that before.

You look up again the next time the car slows and realize you're stopped at Rockefeller Plaza. The sparkling Christmas tree towers over hoardes of people, laughing and snapping pictures, taking in the season. Skaters swirl in drones on the infamous ice rink below. How bizarre, to watch the cacauphony of New York City from the silence of a box, like a Christmas movie on mute.

The car picks up speed and you fly downtown on Park Avenue - the Palace, the Waldorf-Astoria, Grand Central Station. Midtown melts into NoLita, SoHo, and Chinatown in the blink of an eye, and suddenly you're floating above the city, the glittering metropolis growing smaller and smaller behind you.

On the other side of the bridge, a tiny gray building is nestled in a small, quiet neighborhood next to the river. Inside the building is a cozy apartment where a burly gentleman waits with a small gray cat, a knight in shining plaid armor who fiercely loves your very guts. A gentleman you love more than you knew you could.

Sitting in the silence of a warm towncar headed home on the Manhattan bridge, your eyes well up as you realize that just like that, you're a New Yorker with a burgeoning career and a blossoming love story.

Just like that, your life story is about a girl who got everything she ever wanted.

The tears start to fall as you realize that for the first time in your life, at the quiet end of a long, terrifying, leap-before-you-look sort of year, you have no idea what's next. And for the first time in your life, you're content with not knowing.

And then you brush that shit off before the driver can see. New Yorkers don't cry.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sir Ian McKitten, Esquire.

Disclaimer: This is a post about my cat. But the internet seems to like cats. So.

For my 25th birthday, I asked for the same thing that I had asked for at ages 5 and 11: a kitten, please.

My wish came true, just as it did back then. Daisy Doodle (may she rest in peace), a dainty calico with a keen eye for hunting and a bit of a nasty streak, and Sneakers called Butch, an extremely vocal and comfortably rotund white ball of fuzz. Mr. Butch is an old man now, relishing his senior years in my parents' house in IL.

I loved them both, Butch very much so, but nothing like Sir Ian.

Ian came to us in the middle of a downpour on a (fittingly) gray August day from the Humane Society on 59th and 1st. I had met him the day before and brought Sir back to approve; one look in the eyes of the tiny beast and my stoic Sir was a puddle of butter. He was ours.

He's a dreamy little guy, Sir Ian, silky-soft, good-natured and always snuggly. Fierce in protecting us from his fake mice and bits of dust, he's always sliding around our hardwood floors, his ridiculous 6-toed furry mitts providing little to no traction. Skidding into walls, crashing into furniture, all stumbly and rumply and hilarious and adorable.

Something about him, I just feel so much for the little dude. Maybe because we rescued him from a noisy, frightening, confusing place like a shelter. Maybe because I shared previous cats with my family of five and several dogs. Maybe because I'm (almost) solely responsible for him, I don't know. He's just mine, and Sir feels the same. Ours.

We learned this week after bringing him to the vet for an upset stomach that he has a heart murmur. No vet had heard it before - progressive heart failure at seven months old. Yes, it's possible that previous vets had just missed the murmur. It's possible that it doesn't mean anything at all, and he will have a long, funny, fuzzy life, just as we'd planned. But we don't know. It scared the hell out of me, to hear that. My own heart went totally numb, alone at the vet's office. My little man.

For now we're keeping an eye on him; he seems totally fine, but honestly, mothers, I don't know how you do it. Being a cat-mom has aged me this week.

Please hang in there, Little Sir. We need you, if only to show us how to use the computer.

Hearts for your heart, Sir Ian.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon: My wrap-up post.

This Sunday morning, I'm still in bed, enjoying the silence. Two Sundays ago, I ran a marathon. My first marathon.

My dear friend Chuck and I, along with 36,159 other finishers, ran a 26.2 mile loop around the glittering city of Chicago.

With Chuck in the start corral, blissfully unaware of our impending fate.

It seems physically impossible at this point that 26.2 miles actually came out of me just 14 days ago, but they did. Sometimes triumphantly, but mostly in a greatly labored, painstaking fashion. Despite following my training schedule almost exactly to the letter, running 310 miles over 12 weeks, peaking at 21.4 miles -- allow me to be the first to say that running a marathon is difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

I was planning on being overprepared, training on the hills of Prospect Park in 95+ degrees and crazy humidity all summer. Chicago is famous for being an 'easy' beginner marathon, known for a fast, flat course and relatively cool temperatures. I had hit overtraining points at various instances in my training schedule, experiencing dead legs, frustration, and declining motivation. But I had rested it out, recovered and finished my schedule strong, running my last 10-miler on a mountain in Aspen. Strong legs, strong lungs. I felt ready.

October 10, 2010: my personal day of atonement. The marathon started off brilliantly - 60 degrees, a breezy beautiful day in Chicago. Chuck and I laughed at the people who stopped to walk as we easily peeled off the first 10 miles, waving at our DFCB comrades at the 6.5.

It got harder, and much hotter, from there. I remember looking longingly at the 13.1 mile marker, remembering how fun it was to run the Phoenix RnR half and realizing that I was going to have to double that distance before I could rest today. Oof.

By 15 miles, Chuck and I both realized that the wheels were falling off. It was a mental game from there on out.

I honestly don't know how we got through the rest of it, but we did. Playing the alphabet game along the way definitely helped. Seeing my wonderful parents at the 17-mile marker gave me a crucial boost. Having my amazing boyfriend cruise on the sidewalk across from us on a bike in the final miles was more or less necessary. Also, having one of my best friends struggling alongside me was a HUGE help - we've both said we didn't know how we would have finished without the other.

But we did. Finish, that is. That was all I had set out to do - finish, preferably without walking. Aside from walking through the water/aid stations and two bathroom stops (one with an agonizingly frustrating 20-minute wait), I ran the whole. Damn. Thing. The wimpy girl who could never once run the mile in high school without walking, the clumsy girl who was always picked last for every team, ever, the bookish girl whose 4.0 was marred by A-minuses in gym - I ran a marathon, in five hours and 45 minutes.

And that is pretty cool.

That may have been my last marathon - the jury's still out.  The whole thing was really hard on my body, my knees - it's a rough undertaking, to train for something like this. Really gratifying in the end, though. I'm so glad that I was able to participate, thrilled that my body allowed me to be part of such an incredible, life-altering event.

It took me a long time to write this wrap-up post, partly because it's planning season at work and things have been a little nutty, and partly because it took me that long to come to terms with what I had really accomplished. I missed my goal time by more than an hour. My runner friends were tweeting about their terrible finish times, people who had beat me by more than two hours. I was mortified. It took me this long to realize that I didn't need to be embarrassed, that my incredibly slow time didn't make me a failure.

It makes me a marathoner.

A hug from my runner father, post-race.

Fancy hardware.

My three key marathon take-aways:

1. Unless you're an amazing natural athlete, and even then, do NOT disregard your training schedule. A marathon is a big freaking deal. Your body deserves to be prepared for it.

2. Support system, seriously. I don't know how I would have finished the thing without Chuck, Clay and my parents supporting me the whole way. Also, be sure to write your name on your arms. Random people cheer for you the whole way and it's completely amazing. And entirely necessary, in my case.

3. Be proud. Even if your time is a completely mortifying five hours and 45 minutes, be proud. You've done something that the majority of people will never be able to do, and that's pretty remarkable.

Next, I seriously gotta nail that triathlon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Making fresh pasta, gluten-free.

Sir and I purchased a pasta-maker today. Meaning we're basically Italian now (boopa-da-bee-bo!).

We're hosting our first family dinner tomorrow night, a tradition he started with his two cousins and their ladies when he first moved out to NYC. A delicious, delicious little tradition - we love family dinner. We've been holding off on hosting - a shameful admission - because honestly, we only had four plates. We hoofed it to Bed Bath and Beyond (a nice little Saturday) and bought some more plates, and now we're ready to entertain.

Tomorrow, we're going to attempt a pumpkin ravioli, spurred on by a confidence I've mustered up after seeing all the food-bloggers rave over the Gluten-free Girl's fresh pasta recipe. Tonight, we wanted to give the new pasta-maker a shot.

It turned. Out. Awesome.

We made linguine using Shauna's blend of gluten-free flours, including a red quinoa flour that lent a delightful color and texture to the pasta. The recipe is from her latest cookbook - available for purchase here. It was my first time blending gluten-free flours - a little intimidating in theory, exceptionally easy in practice once I got my hands in the bowl. After a quick boil in salted water, we tossed the pasta in a brown-butter-fresh sage reduction, shaved some parmesan on the top, and boom. Tender, chewy, salty, buttery, sagey hot goodness. It had a zippy freshness that we couldn't quite put our finger on - srsly amazing flavors. Truly delicious eats.

Have no fear in the kitchen, and don't be precious. You can always, ALWAYS make amazing food gluten-free. Thank goodness for that. Definitely looking forward to pumpkin ravioli, hosting family dinner, and all the steaming piles of gluten-free pastas to come.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spotted: Gossip Girl on location in DUMBO.

"Who's that traipsing about Brooklyn Bridge Park? Looks like Little J is back with a vengeance and leaving poor Dad in the dust..."

 Taylor Momsen on the set of Gossip Girl in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

'Twas the Friday before the marathon, bright and early on a cool morning in my quiet neighborhood.

Aside: Despite all the "city that never sleeps" lore, people in NYC don't seem to be up to much prior to 8 am. Not that I've noticed anyhow, which, given my soundproof apartment and reputation as a heavy sleeper, isn't saying much.

I had planned on spending the morning resting up for the race. Looking back, I'm not entirely sure it would have done me much good.

Instead, I was sitting cross-legged on the gravel in the park, chilly paws wrapped around a steaming cup of coffee, watching starry-eyed as my favorite TV show played out before me. Some of my favorites delivering drama on repeat right in my little neighborhood - pretty awesome, for my first NYC celeb encounter.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't totally freaking out. Sue me.

Alas, awe gave way to disgust as a horde of photographers swarmed on and started snapping away at Taylor, calling at her to turn around while she prepped the scene with the director (Tate Donovan! Jimmy Cooper! Double awesome!). It was my first time witnessing a paparazzi ambush - do not like. Our little J greeted the photographers politely and asked for them to kindly cease fire while she was filming. They screamed at her about photographer's rights in return, calling her names and tightening their circle around the set. Security shooed them away and filming resumed, but the whole thing definitely cast a dark shadow on my glitzy view of the entertainment industry (and perhaps a more forgiving glow upon the likes of Lindsay Lohan).

I put away my camera, embarrassed for humanity.

Luckily, before the paparazzi shenanigans went down, I was able to snap a few shots of the whole thing. Here's a little snippet of my time on the set of Gossip Girl, below.

Cast and crew trailers on Front Street.

Taylor Momsen and Matthew Settle as Jenny and Rufus Humphrey.

Taylor Momsen talking turkey with Tate Donovan.

Tate Donovan prepping to film at Pete's.

Setting up outside Pete's on Water Street.

Obligatory shot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Full set here. XOXO!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Future of Media in 100 Words.

My friend / Draftfcb compatriot Andrew Eifler has been doing some thinking around the future of media, gathering short-form thoughts from media professionals with the aim to publish as a collaborative post on several forums. When he approached me about contributing to his project, The Future of Media in 100 Words, I was more than happy to throw some thoughts his way, for three main reasons:
  1. It seems to me that the media community is largely underrepresented in the social sphere. I'm not talking about "social media experts." I'm talking about media folks: spreadsheet-making, calculator-touting, hardcore-negotiating, rep-hobnobbing media planners. For whatever reason we don't seem to be a big blogging bunch, so it will be nice to hear from a few people in my line of work.
  2. Cross-publishing is fun. I did a cross-publishing project with Adam Kmiec (also the DFCB blog) a while back, and it was awesome. Cool to get perspective from commenters that don't normally read my pith. Collaboration! Sharing of ideas! America!
  3. 100 words = yes. Appreciate the effort to keep things concise. Good thinking.
Andrew kicked things off yesterday with his 100-word thesis, below. It's exactly 100 words, which is awesome. Count 'em.

Five years from now – Data will be King.

New complex tracking and data capture techniques will allow for all advertising, regardless of media channel, to be purchased based on audience demographics and lifestyle variables. Reach, Average Frequency, and GRPs will give way to much more precise metrics and – not without a touch of irony – the media industry will no longer find importance in the channel of media distribution, there will only be content and audience.

The kind of data-driven quantitative analysis that has revolutionized Wall Street over the past 10 years will soon make its way uptown to Madison Ave.

Here are my thoughts. Not to be outdone, this is, of course, exactly 100 words.

Five years from now, I’m hoping we’ll be of the mindset that providing relevant information to information-seekers yields greater returns than screaming our messages at the masses.

I’m sure we’ll still be buying SuperBowl spots and wallpapering Times Square with glittering, high-def awareness messaging. I hope we’ll also be continuing to use the internet to do more refined listening to consumers, to active information-seekers, and carefully and respectfully distributing relevant content as such. With major media channels becoming less passive, we need to proactively step away from old-timey objectives and instead provide interested consumers with the information they actually need.

I think we're kind of saying the same thing, which is interesting.

Andrew and I have a list of DFCBers that we'd like to contribute to the project, but if you're a media assistant / planner / supervisor / director / guru out there in the interwebs and would like to contribute your two cents, drop a line in the comments and we'll be happy to add you to the list. And, tune in to Andrew's blog and the DRAFTFCBlog for updates.

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shack attack.

Radio Shack, I'm not 100% sure what you sell (radios?) or why you feel it makes sense for your brand to align with the Tour, but I capital-A Adore these spots. Can good writing and a celebrity spokesperson redeem a seemingly obsolete brand? Sometimes. I think chubby sidekick Alphonse is the hero in these spots, but Lance is pretty good, too.

"They're raising French babies and throwing soft cheeses, as is the custom here."

Dead. Tell me more about radios, and shacks. I'm listening.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pancake heaven: King Arthur Gluten-Free Mix

I've had celiac disease for as long as I can remember. I haven't always eaten gluten-free. Per doctors' suggestions at lack of symptoms, I'm glad to have had fifteen or so (mostly) symptom-free years with which to experience some of the finer things in life: pizza, bagels, cupcakes, and craft beers, to name a few. I always knew it couldn't last. When I turned 21 and the symptoms came roaring back, I was left with an extremely unappealing choice to make: give up gluten forever, knowing exactly how delicious and chewy and satisfying and wonderful the food it inhabits is, or deal with being sick for the rest of my life.

I chose to go gluten-free. The point being, although I am very happy to be well, I know what a pancake is supposed to taste like. And I know it well enough to have a good solid craving.

Gluten is a protein that resides in wheat, barley, and rye. It's the honeycomb structure of gluten that helps build air pockets and gives bread and pasta its springy texture and form. Gluten-y goods are complex in structure; ergo, delicious. It follows that it tends to be somewhat difficult to find gluten-free products that aren't incredibly dense. A pancake, for example, should be almost crisp on the outside, light and fluffy inside; a hockey-puck pancake simply will not do. Much to my delight, in the years spent sampling gluten-y eats, the gluten substitution industry has really come quite a ways.

I came across this review of King Arthurs' Gluten-Free pancake mix in my reader in conjunction with a serious pancake craving early last week. Fate? I think so. I've tried several decent, even good gluten-free pancake mixes in the past three years, but nothing that really blew my socks off.

So I bought online.

My set-up.

Combination of different types of flours; rice, potato, and tapioca, with xanthan gum.

Started off kind of soupy... concerning.

But then started to thicken

until it coated the back of a wooden spoon; a standard batter consistency.

They held together nicely for the flip. Voila! Pancakes!

I made slightly larger pancakes than recommended, and the batch yielded 11 instead of 16. Plenty for two, plus leftovers.

These blew my socks off. They were rich and tasty, light, chewy and even fluffy. They also tugged at the socks of my somewhat picky gluten-eating compatriot, who so generously agreed to go gluten-free for the morning and pronounced them "delicious" and "just as good as real pancakes." Hooray!

It's taken a few years to stop seeing my gluten-intolerance as a prison sentence, and start viewing it as a way to be able to live and be healthy, while still enjoying simple pleasures like a pancake breakfast. Fancy things, too. We made gluten-free tiramisu the other night using gluten-free cake as a ladyfinger stand-in. Our friends agreed, it was delightful.

I've been looking for a new creative outlet, and think I may have found one in attempting to understand and improve upon gluten-free cooking. I'm hoping that doing my research and trying new things will open new doors in regards to cooking delicious gluten-free substitutes for myself and my friends and family. In the meantime, try King Arthurs. Delish!

I'm also going to be working on my photography skills. Clearly, they could use a bit of spit-shining as well.

Monday, June 7, 2010

NYC: Week 1 Overview.

I've been a New Yorker for one whole week now. Pretty excellent, yes? I've been crazy busy trying to sort out a new apartment, get rolling with my new job, test-ride my new commuter bike-cycle and figure out where I'm going and how to get there. But, now that I'm established and cool as a cucumber, I thought I'd throw out a few things that I've found noteworthy in my first week in the Big Apple.

Top four items of note thus far:

First and foremost, there are ice cream trucks everywhere here, like beautiful mirages in the waves of summer heat. It's amazing. I am developing a srs ice cream habit - not good. OM NOM NOM sprinkles.

I borrowed this photo from the internet.

Secondly, there are a TON of options everywhere when it comes to craft beer - awesome. I found RedBridge (gluten-free!) this weekend at a tiny convenience store, right next to the Miller Lites. My friends confirmed that it is awful, but at least it's readily accessible. It's super cool to be able to find cider in non-specialty stores, and even cooler to find g-free beer. High five, NY.

Third, oy. If I thought I was bad with directions in Chicago, I'm seriously awful with them here. I don't think the city planners were trying to help me, either. It took most, if not all of week one to determine that 6th Ave, Broadway, and Ave of the Americas are all the same street, at least down here in Herald Square.

View Larger Map

Funny joke. Also ran into some issues with trains not running on weekends - thank goodness the cabs here are credit-card equipped, even if they don't seem to like to take me to DUMBO.

My fourth and final note relates to the incredible awesomeness that is the Brooklyn Bridge. A slow and painful way to die on a bike on weekends, but on an early morning run, it's like this incredible glorious gateway to all things New York City. This photograph, borrowed from Flickr, is about right. The apartment is just a few blocks from the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge pedway path, so lucky me. Totally amazing, totally note-worthy.

I'm so stoked to have landed, albeit still waiting for my moving truck to arrive. My friend Ian wrote a lovely post about moving to NYC as a young pup - "it's like swinging with a doughnut. A beautiful and complicated city." I love it. I'm hoping to expand my bloggery to include thoughts, recommendations, and analyses of the city as I get to know her a little better.

I've been truly awful about taking and posting pictures, but I will try to remember to take more once the apartment is set up and I'm feeling less hectic about everything. Here's a view of lower Manhattan from our rooftop, in the meantime.

And, since I'm in hipster territory now, the tilt-shifted version: (tech via @clayparkerjones)


Running and writing in NYC.

I'm  a runner and a writer. I like to think that I am, anyway. I've always thought these two descriptors to be independent of one another. But, perhaps not.

I've moved running to the back burner as of late, exhausted by weeks of trying to tie up loose ends on one life and organize/coordinate/jump-start another. I didn't really write anything during that time either, save for this post announcing my transition, for presumably the same reasons - exhaustion, stress, lack of free time. Despite my prior conclusion about mental and physical training being two distinct faculties, I'm starting to hypothesize that it was the lack of running that lead to lack of writing. It makes sense - there is no better facilitator for writing than a long, steady run, where I am my own captive audience. No alone time in my head, no space to ponder the universe, no place to organize my thoughts. Which leads me to:

Bogus Transitive Property of Running and Writing: If A = B, and B = C, then A = C, where A is running, B is time for organization of thought, and C is writing. So, no running leads to disorganized thought, and disorganized thought leads to not writing. Therefore, not running leads to not writing. Or something like that.

Side note: I'm quite sure that making time for running (and therefore writing) would have eased some of the moving and job-shifting stress. Too late for that now, I suppose.

Now that I'm comfortably set up in my new DUMBO digs, I've jumped back on the pavement-pounding bandwagon with a series of short jaunts on the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The first was godawful, fueled by 90-degree heat and swarms of tourists (not to mention I hadn't been training for a few weeks, fail). The second was a cool, tourist-free early morning run, and was a little, if not a lot easier. Since my iPod armband has yet to be unpacked, it was a very quiet run, interrupted only by drumming heartbeat, my own cadence and early-morning city sounds. And wouldn't you know it, I'm writing. And hypothesizing. Saints be praised!

Moral: figure out what it is that allows you time to think, and prioritize it. This city is amazing, and I'm so excited to be running and writing here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Empire state of mind.

I bought a one-way plane ticket yesterday. With any luck, and if I don't get detained for suspicious one-way activity, I'll be arriving in New York City on May 27, 2010.

I am so thrilled to announce that I'll be joining the Draftfcb NYC media team on June 1, a group of folks who have taken to chewing gum and winning Media Plan of the Year awards. And they're all out of gum.

New York is in my blood; my great-grandfather Veisel (son of) Beio arrived on Ellis Island from Albania, paving the way for my my paternal grandparents, who grew up on the Lower East Side. My maternal grandfather went to high school in Williamsburg. Both of my parents grew up on Long Island. Currently, I have various assorted cousins, aunt, uncles, and grandparents all over Brooklyn, Long Island, the Catskills and Buffalo. It only feels right that I give New York a whirl.

I'll be living in Dumbo and working in Herald Square - I'm always down for a drink and a chat, so please don't be shy.

I'm a very lucky so-and-so to be starting a new chapter of my life in another great city and couldn't be more excited about it. I'll miss you, Chicago. Hello, New York!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do something: KFC and cause marketing.

Disclaimer: KFC is a client of Draftfcb. I do not currently work on KFC, nor do I have any insider information about the Pink Bucket (or any other) campaign. These are my opinions only.

If a tree falls in the forest and you don't particularly support the tree or the way in which it was taken down, is the wood useless? Should you throw it away? Or should you use it to build something anyway?

That was ridiculous. My apologies.

On that vein, Seth Godin's blog recently offered up a little something that made me think.

"You can spend your marketing money in more ways than ever, live in more places while still working electronically, contact different people, launch different initiatives, hire different freelancers... You can post your ideas in dozens of ways, interact with millions of people, launch any sort of product or service without a permit or factory.

But no matter what, don't do nothing."

Do something. 

I've been conducting a bit of personal research lately about the ethics of cause marketing. Nothing official, just kind of... listening. I've noticed that there is a lot, a LOT of discussion around whether cause marketing is abhorrent. Yes, cause marketing happens when brands align with good causes and probably aim to boost their brand metrics in the process. Yes, that smells like exploitation. What I'm wondering is, in the case of a cause, does it matter? Isn't doing something better than doing nothing?

There's a lot of dissent around the KFC Pink Bucket campaign for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. You buy the pink bucket of chicken at KFC, and fifty cents on your purchase goes to Susan G. Komen for the cure. On Twitter, in the blogosphere, kind of all over, people are really pissed about this. They're furious that a brand that can be linked to obesity, which increases one's chances of contracting cancer, would purport to care about an anti-cancer message. And, they're furious with Komen for agreeing to align with it.

What exactly are the dissenters condemning? There is nothing illegal going on here. People are purchasing chicken of their own free will, and part of the proceeds are going to something better.

Sure, KFC sells a whole bunch of really fattening awful stuff. But, they wouldn't sell it if we weren't buying it. And yes, people could skip the pink bucket and donate their entire chicken dinner fund to cancer research, circumventing the entire program. But would we? We don't seem to be doing so currently.

Consider this chart. KFC, I'd say, sits squarely in the 'evil, but beneficial to society' quadrant with the rest of corporate America. Sure, corporate America is evil. It's malicious, it's vicious, and it looks out for itself above all others. But it also creates jobs for Americans and provides a means for us to sustain ourselves as a country, at least for the time being. So, beneficial to society. The vast majority of industry, the real moneymakers out there, sit somewhere in this quadrant. Should we force them to stay there?

Does being pegged in an evil quadrant disallow KFC from being able to dabble in the good? As far as I know, the money they donate is worth just as much regardless of whether they are hoping to boost brand favorability ratings in the process. No, I would never say that KFC is an agent for goodwill. That said, should Komen have turned them down? Should KFC be excused to do nothing?

Nay-sayers, I urge you to take your judgy eyes off the means and focus on the end.

Per Daily Finance, if KFC donates the $8.5 million that they've hinted at, that would be the largest single donation in the history of the Komen foundation. My boobs and I agree that if chicken money finds a cure for breast cancer, we are okay with that. I am also okay with chicken money saving my mom's life, my grandmother's lives, my friends' lives and the lives of every woman (and man!) that has ever and will ever be threatened by breast cancer. My boobs and I will take your chicken money, KFC. Thanks for offering.

All of this says something really hypocritical about society. The American dream dictates we be doers, yet we seem to get to pick and choose who's allowed to do. If we condemn cause marketing because it's not pure, where do we draw the line in terms of trying to do good? Are hybrid cars okay? NASA? Livestrong? Hybrid cars aren't going to save the planet, NASA rockets burn a serious amount of fossil fuels, and some people say Lance Armstrong is kind of a jerk. None of these entities are free of flaws. But we see merit in working to do something, and we excuse the flaws of these organizations to allow them to do so. There is no merit in sitting on your ass, and yet this is what society is prescribing for brands rather than allowing them to leave to play in the cause marketing arena.

I guess I just don't understand what is so awful about trying to do something, regardless of your flaws.

Doing something is better than doing nothing. 

To the people who argue against cause marketing: there is no pleasing you, so I'm not going to try. But I will encourage you to take some initiative to change your quadrant, like our evil friends at KFC. The poorly-felled wood in the forest deserves a shot at construction, don't you think?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Butterfly effect.

Earlier this month, Spirit Airlines announced that it would begin charging $45 per carry-on item on all flights. It is my hypothesis that this decision, like all decisions, is not an independent event and will have an effect on other industries.

Click here to enlarge.

Call me a fashion blogger - I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this decision will have an effect on the fashion industry, causing people to seek out other methods of storage. Cargo pants (gasp) will make a resurgence, and all hell will break loose.

My contribution for #makeachartday, my new favorite Friday tradition.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A print ad for the people (?), by the people.

This spread ad, in the May 2010 issue of Real Simple, blew my little media-planner mind.

"We surf the internet.
We swim in magazines.

The Internet is exhilarating. Magazines are enveloping.
The Internet grabs you. Magazines embrace you. The Internet is impulsive. Magazines are immersive. And both media are growing.

Barely noticed amidst the thunderous Internet clamor is the simple fact that magazine readership has risen over the past five years. Even in the age of the Internet, even among groups one would assume are most singularly hooked on digital media, the appeal of magazines is growing.

Think of it this way: during the 12-year life of Google, magazine readership actually increased 11 percent.

What it proves, once again, is that a new medium doesn't necessarily displace an old one. Just as movies didn't kill radio. Just as TV didn't kill movies. An established medium can continue to flourish so long as it continues to offer a unique experience. And, as reader loyalty and growth demonstrate, magazines do.

Which is why people aren't giving up swimming, just because they also enjoy surfing."

To whom are they speaking? To me, the marketer? It certainly seems that way. And, who are "they"?

Taking a closer look at the logo, I see the M from TIME, the G from Rolling Stone, the Z from Harper's Bazaar, and the Es from Esquire. Time Inc, Wenner Media, Hearst and Hearst. [I'm a little embarrassed that I don't recognize the others offhand. Shame on me.]

As it turns out, "they" are the Magazine Publishers of America, including five of the largest publishers in the US - add Conde Nast and Meredith to my list above.

This print campaign will be rolling out in 100 magazines over the next few months.

I totally agree with the message, definitely. But, this campaign feels a little weird to me.

It's a little defensive, no? If the magazine industry is really doing so well, which I believe that it is, why do you need a campaign about it?

You're preaching to the choir. Putting an ad for reading magazines in a magazine seems a little redundant. Plus, the language sounds like you're pitching to media planners, what with the statistics and using words like "readership". Are you going for general public with this? Has the general public even thought about it, and should you be alerting them to the fact that the industry might be in trouble, even though it's not? Seems a little fuddled.

Definitely an eye-catching ad, and an interesting initiative. I'm interested in seeing what kind of impact it has on the industry, if at all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fan love is the best love.

I caught an article today on Mashable highlighting Virgin America's decision to add another airport to their exclusive list of hubs. I found it to be overwhelmingly awesome that they chose to announce this major addition via Twitter, as opposed to going a mainstream news route. Not surprising, seeing as Virgin has always been pretty on top of their social media game, but cool nonetheless. Virgin's fans are important to them, and their engagement matters most.

Oddly enough, the next article in my reader was also about handing the power of the brand over to the fans. Lady Gaga (a total nut-job and completely brilliant, IMHO) is currently holding reign as purveyor of fan loyalty in the music business. She may be really odd, but her fans worship her, perhaps literally.

The article touches on what she has done as a brand to respect the fan relationship and build a powerhouse of Gaga-crazed fans, from calling her fanbase by name ("Little Monsters") to allowing them to film and spread her content instead of relying on professional photographers and videographers.

As a purveyor of traditional media, it seems sacrilegious, but if you can respect your consumers by speaking to them where they engage with you instead of screaming from soapboxes, I say gopher it. You're in the business of cultivating your fanbase - it matters what they think of you. To recognize that the fan conversation is The Conversation is pretty cool.

A long, long time ago, I found myself flipping through this presentation that Bud put together regarding fandom. Bud has covered fandom up, down, and sideways, but this presentation really kind of captures the importance of the fan relationship in a simple, concise nutshell. Please note that on slide 26, he gave a nod to Virgin, who in 2008 was already implementing awesome internet-social-fan stuff IN THE AIR. Get your act together, brands who only need to be concerned with the ground.

Fans are important. And now in 2010, brands and marketers seem to be starting to get the hang of that, which is cool.

The problem with the rising importance of fandom is that we seem to still be having issues wrapping our budget-focused heads around how to measure it. I suppose it makes sense; if we're going to be assigning costs to fan acquisition, you'd like to also be able to assign a value. This is especially true in environments like Facebook, where being a fan requires almost no effort and does not indicate any follow-up whatsoever. Clay penned this bit of brilliance in regards to some holes in a recently-born impression-based fan-value equation, and I have to agree with him. A true fan has love for your brand. Or, as Bud said, a fan will fight for your survival. An impression does not a fan make. And therefore, crafting the fan-value equation seems to get rather slippery.

As a media planner and Guardian of Budgets, my questions are thus: without a sturdy value equation, will positive case studies ever be enough to convince wary, non-savvy brands to throw caution to the wind and put significant budgets behind supporting their fans? Can a fan economy survive where budgets are bleeding and big-name advertisers are clinging to old advertising strategy? Or will the fan economy prosper, and leave the old-timey marketers in the dust?

I have no idea. The way of the future doesn't always disregard the past. I would love to hear your thoughts, if you have them.

Thanks, Bud and Clay, for always producing thought-provoking content. It's safe to say you make me a little smarter. I'm happy to be fans of you both.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Michelob intern project.

From my walk to work today, a stupid ad! This transit poster annoys me every morning.

Drink Michelob, which is a superior light beer, and you can run as fast as Lance, who generally is found on a bike, but whatever, and faster than these random people. And, did Nike give the okay on this one? They are also peddling light beers?

Is this supposed to be satirical? Where are the talking puppies? I'm fairly certain I'm in the target, as a running, Lance-loving, 21+ concerned with calorie intake, but I don't get it.

Creative fail.

Monday, April 12, 2010

AT&T, tugging at heart-strings.

Who says people who DVR don't watch the commercials? This spot made me look up from intensely-furrowed-brow-writing-mode and rewind.


Using an incredibly poignant song from one of my all-time favorite childhood movies to grab my hand and ask me to reminisce - I've never felt so targeted. And, I don't hate it. Your 3G network might not be so great, but this spot made my heart go pitter-pat. Some nice work out of BBDO.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Purex, keeping it fresh.

I was mid-laundry when I saw a TV spot for Purex 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets - yep, you caught me in my laundry moment, Purex. Nice work. These things are detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheet in one little piece - no messy detergent, and it minimizes your laundry supplies. I like it.

When I Googled, I found this adorable little video.

Love the concept - expand on the spot, demo the product, be funny/real for your audience. Nice. Could use a click-through to the website, where they're giving away coupons, but pretty good otherwise.

What I love the most about this stuff, though, is that Purex is rethinking the problem, not the solution. They're not offering a better laundry detergent, they're offering a better way to do laundry. And that's pretty cool. You know, relatively speaking. It's still laundry.

Even laundry deserves a bit of innovative thinking every now and then. Love it!


Tina Fey, adorably funny lady, is on SNL tonight. And, she's on the cover of my April Esquire. Wrestling with a bit of writer's block, I looked to the thick stack of magazines on my coffee table for inspiration, and found some. I stared at this quote for a good long while, taking it in.

Says Tina, on writing:

"Don't be too precious or attached to anything you write. Let things be malleable."

Adorably funny and smart. Tina, you're awesome. I'm planning on throwing out the stupid posts I've been struggling with and starting fresh. Thanks a million. Oh, and, good to see you back on Weekend Update. Missed you. XO.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Tiger Woods Economy.

Tiger Woods, and his affect on the worth of the golfing industry. Sponsorships: not always so boring!

Love this. From Len by way of Mint.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

1-800 Contacts.

I adore this spot. It's ridiculous, and it made me feel foolish.

I've never used 1-800 Contacts. I've always ordered over-priced contacts from my eye doctor, because they have me convinced that they're premium lenses, and I'm hesitant to buy from anyone else.

Focusing messaging on addressing the largest elephant in the room, giving hesitant non-triers a reason to play. IT'S SO SIMPLE. Brilliant!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How (not) to set up your SEM campaign.

Ever since Bud pointed out that no 2010 Super Bowl ads had utilized a custom SEM strategy for the event, I've had some serious longing for smart search strategy in a TV spot. Something inspiring, a la Converse's web of paid search and microsites of 2008. I've come across nothing so far, despite the fact that search and TV are said to work in tandem. Last night, however, a curious bit of voice-over in a spot for DreamWorks' "How To Train Your Dragon" made my ears perk up - would tonight be the night? I wondered.

Watch this trailer, a typical spot promoting the film.

Fairly normal stuff. There are four or so more like it, various cuts and edits, but mostly the same.

Now take a look at this, the cut I saw tonight.

Did you catch it?

Now, I've seen plenty of trailers for this movie, and I probably have a heightened awareness to these spots because I never outgrew kids movies, animation or dragons. Right when it started to roll, I knew it was an ad for "How to Train Your Dragon." I started to pay attention in a 'man! I'm really looking forward to this movie!' sort of way. So, I definitely noticed when I got to the title screen

...and the movie-preview-voice-guy bust out with "DreamWorks' Dragons!"

Nobody in a million years, I decided, would pay millions of dollars to produce and advertise a film and get the name wrong in one cut of the trailer. A clever ruse, to see who's paying attention? I hoped so. It had to be deliberate.

So I Googled, first "how to train your dragon", and saw some pretty standard results,

and then, "dreamworks dragons", hoping for something clever and awe-inspiring.

Disappointingly, nothing was remarkable about the latter. So, I tried a YouTube search.


I Bing-ed, I Yahoo!-ed, I even Asked. Standard results across the board, and no apparent cleverness at play. As it were, the voice-over-guy was just saying the name wrong, and tonight was not the night.

I apologize for leading you down this path, only to dash your hopes for SEM greatness at the end of the road. Trust me, I'm just as disappointed as you are. I do, however, have a few takeaways from this little wild goose-chase. They are threefold.

1. Unless it's deliberately incorrect for a higher purpose, don't be cute about the name of your product in your marketing efforts. Or, if you're going to do so, be consistent. The name of your product is a mainstay of your brand equity. It is important. Calling your product by a different name in just one of a series of ads, that's just bad branding. And it's confusing, especially in an environment where people often multitask, listening and not really watching. Bad idea.

2. Never forget that you always, ALWAYS have the opportunity to do cool things with search. Search can be custom-built to fit literally any campaign, so don't say you can't do it. Cap your budgets at five bucks a day, if you're low on cash. But by all means, utilize this space. It's your playground. People are searching for you - television and search build upon each other, there's no doubt about it. Use this to your advantage.

3. There is always a geek out there somewhere paying attention to your ad, your product, your campaign. Every campaign you put out has the opportunity to be great, even if it's just a movie trailer. Try to produce campaigns worthy of greatness, worthy of scrutiny, wherever possible.

And finally, if your inner child really is a child, like mine is, go see this movie. It looks awesome, whatever it's called.