Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

20 December 2007

Angela's Industry Predictions for '08

At one of the publications I write for, the staff put together a list of industry predictions for 2008.

This was my list. If I am lucky and the rest of the team is as unhinged as I am, some of my forecasts will be published in a consolidated list.

Here goes:

  1. Microsoft offers VMware unparalleled success and lack of competition in the virtualization front, in exchange for its soul.

    VMware accepts. In February it unexpectedly releases a hypervisor called Metatron that empowers remote collaboration (including intercourse, as well as gardening) among cogs across sectors. It is available for a weekly subscription of $2500. All bow down -- and finally trash their white iPod earbuds, just for the hell of it.

  2. The rationale behind all of Six Apart's problems is revealed: it is run by Al Gore, who is using its financing as a front to fund his various inconvenient truths.

  3. Moleskine is purchased by Google, which uses its notebook technology as a platform for a new line of tablets that auto-populate syndicated content -- including email, calendars and blogs of choice -- in a quaint "moving paper" format. In Q3 of 2008, it will open to third-party developers.

  4. Steve Jobs begins sporting a white robe and tasteless Nikes. 2/3 of the world population follows suit. Around April, 1/3 of the latter will follow him into the mouth of a mountain and wait for the aliens. They will wait six weeks before a group of them go, "Screw this!" and go back down, bringing with them stories of Dionysic delights and animal sacrifices -- all to the sound of individual soundtracks.

  5. EU approves the Google/Doubleclick merger. The universe folds in on itself, a little like a teenager curling up into the fetal position, and we all die.
Happy holidays!

On Ensuring Social Networks Benefit, Rather than Harm, the Enterprise

MessageLabs has released a white paper called Online Social Networking: The Employer's Dilemma.

Its purpose is to distill the rift between social networking's popularity, and UK employers' attempts to yank it out of the workplace.

Social Networking Casualties

According to the white paper, social networking isn't the miracle of productivity some would have you believe it is.

Last we heard, the average active Facebooker logs onto the site about seven times a day. That's a lot of poking. "Social networking sites can be both addictive and time-consuming, damaging employee productivity," the paper reads. "Employees may spend an excessive amount of time on these sites."

No, we're not referring to the "social networking" implementation in your latest enterprise CMS.

Your employees network, all right -- on Facebook, MySpace and any of the hundreds of thousands of blogs of which they might be big fans. And productivity isn't the only thing that suffers; one fell (and totally traceable) comment made on your IP, or one irresponsible photo found on some intern's profile, and your company's image can be hurt, too.

"Employers may be identified and there is always the possibility of derogatory comments or disclosure of commercially sensitive information being made by an employee, which then becomes a permanent feature online," the paper preaches.

Damage Control

While an employer's within his rights to ban social networking from the workplace entirely (indeed, at least 43 percent of UK-based employers have), said employer is probably in for a morale backlash of epic proportions.

There are cases in which social networking is beneficial:
  • It is easy to maintain casual, friendly contact with valuable affiliates
  • It gives you insight on popular trends amongst those in your network (Facebook Newsfeed, anyone?)
  • Loose information on social networks, like user-generated reviews, can prove valuable -- even crucial -- to making product purchasing decisions
  • Strangely enough, appearing on a social network may construe a sign of legitimacy. Check out this story in which Steve Webb, a parliament member and one of the UK's Liberal Democrats, was kicked off Facebook on suspicion that he wasn't the genuine Steve Webb. Havoc ensued!
In other words, it isn't social networks that are bad; it's lack of education about the pitfalls and the possibilities.

Get it together!
  • Educate your employees about the merits -- and dangers -- of social networking
  • Consider compiling an enforceable and clear Acceptable Use Policy
  • Make sure social networking behavior observes any regulatory policies that apply to you. eDiscovery may prove especially sticky for Stateside companies. Under eDiscovery, any digital information they convey -- even on their blogs -- during office time falls under jurisdiction of the company. It can be used against the enterprise in a lawsuit, in some cases. And employers have the right to track all of it. With that said...
  • Use your best discretion to track employees' social networking behavior
Whatever you do, don't ignore the phenomenon.

"Given the ever-growing popularity of such sites and the potential consequences for employers of employee misuse, simply ignoring the issue can only lead to problems for the unwary employer," MessageLabs warns.

Download the MessageLabs social networking white paper, or check out what they've got on tap. (Did I mention they're a web security firm?)

17 December 2007


Q: Why do businesses still use phone numbers with words in them?

Once upon a time, this used to be a great promotional tool. But who still owns a landline with letters printed on the digit buttons?

This could be one of my "d'oh!" moments, but it's becoming increasingly frustrating to have to remember where all the letters should be when I need to call the bank (1-800-TO-WELLS) or some other people I must call for reasons that have nothing to do with pleasure (888-PEST-CTRL).

Then there's the Q and Z factor.

Whose idea was it to omit Q and Z?

And whose idea was it to decide those letters were OK to print on phones, just shy of the cell phone boom?

*throws imaginary landline across the room in Hulk-like rage*

13 December 2007

Disabilities (Can) Yield Competitive Advantages

Dyslexics make great entrepreneurs, says BusinessWeek. (Eh?)

Charles Schwab is cited as one example.

Well, while we're on the topic, don't even get me started on the benefits of Asperger's for engineers and technicians-to-be.

Okay, "benefits" is a strong word. But being possessed of a "healthy" mind lends us the luxury of cognitive laziness. I don't know much about living with dyslexia, but I do know that having to live with a sense of distrust for the way your mind works forces you to examine things more closely than most people would.

And learning to communicate with a person with Asperger's is an useful exercise in discovering how heavily people rely on semantic shortcuts, body language and restricted code in order to deal with each other.

A person with Asperger's will not comprehend the rationale for doing something unless you're able to clearly explain the methodology and its connection to the end result. For this reason, a number of them tend to excel in math or other "logical" pursuits.

12 December 2007

Adrants Hits Top of the AdAge Power 150

Back on top. Now, excuse me while I dance around the room in my underpants. (Thanks Bill for telling us.)

07 December 2007

The Father of the 'Information Age'

Here is an interesting video about Claude Shannon, the founder of information theory.

The work he did on how much information you could transmit, and how quickly you could do it without diluting the integrity of that information, paved the way for our digital renaissance.

Thanks Benj for pointing it out.

05 December 2007

Recent Editorial Observations

The lines of scrimmage in technology, content and consumer engagement are in an ongoing state of flux. What constitutes as legitimate "word of mouth" advertising, for example, is enjoying a reworking.

When BzzAgent was formed, the industry (and by implicit consent, consumers) agreed it was okay for a company to provide brand "evangelists" with promotional material if those people were forthcoming about what they were doing.

But Facebook's Beacon (now with reduced wattage!) was a tentative step in a new direction: can we air the purchasing activities of passive consumers and still call it word of mouth? (Or do we have to give it a new name -- "social advertising"?)

We can ask similar questions about the ongoing writers strike. What happens to proprietary work when it is repurposed for the internet? More importantly, how should creative minds be compensated when concerns loom that the internet may one day replace television and DVD sales?

Some say we should wait until it happens. Writers clearly feel this is an issue that must be addressed now.

Faced with a similar conundrum, the marketing and advertising communities, however, did wait until it happened. When eyeballs wandered away from television and print, old-school ad agencies floundered to keep in step without missing a beat, or a dollar.

In the new school of technology, content is repeatedly repurposed for use across multiple forms of media. As a result, audiences have become more critical of what we give them.

The results of the struggle to renegotiate ad space are promising, like some viral or pre-roll ad efforts, but occasionally dubious, such as the PayPerPost business model or "Free iPod!" lead generation tactics.

2008 yawns before us. What's next in the content platform shuffle?

It remains at your discretion.

01 December 2007

Are You There, God? It's Me, Angela

It's a sad day when your most gnawing concern about death is whether you can charge an iPod in hell.

28 November 2007

Wise Words from Anton Ego

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.

Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core.

In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

-A. Ego, "Ratatouille"

27 November 2007

We've Got Thumbs Now. Why Are They Still Using X's?

Facebook adds Digg-inspired feature to News Feed.

Benj (the boyfriend): "You like the feature because it gives you something to do when you log in, don't you?"

Yes. I do.

20 November 2007

On Driving an Axe Through 'the Next Step'

We learned in college that the "teenager" is an invention of the early 20th century -- the Hallmark holiday of social development, if you will.

Considering teenhood is something we take for granted and chock off to biology, wrapping my mind around its artifice is an amazing mental leap. And yet in the the last handful of years, we actually got to witness the process by which marketers do, in fact, create, label and adorn a proud new developmental segment: the tween (formerly known as the pre-teen).

The other night I was having this moody quarterlife funk and it occurred to me that "adulthood" is probably as much a construction as teen and tweenhood.

It's more opaque, granted, because you can't really give it a beginning and end (13-19 or 8-12). And because of that, I have this abiding worry that unless we realize there's no placeholder for "adulthood" because there is no adulthood, most of us are going to be groping blindly for it for a very long time.

That's too bad, because so many of us need adulthood to exist so badly: Once you've taken all the prescribed steps -- pre-school, gradeschool, puberty, college -- and are launched out into that wide, wide world, onto what safe ground can you measure your next move?

We fall back on marketing, media and pop culture, which generously distributes guidelines grafted onto us in part by our institutions.

College taught us how to watch the news, question religion, suspect authority figures and have existential conversation. But jobs teach you that's kid shit. Life's about being jaded.

With time, and in the exact same way you and your ilk learned how to smoke pot, date and fuck, you will learn how to hate your inevitable office life, that you'll eventually lose count of your sexual partners (and it will be okay!), that you'll get cheated on or will cheat. You'll get married, have kids, suffer from a midlife crisis and buy too many cars. You'll divorce and go on some tortured quest for your high school sweetheart.

Maybe you'll find religion again. Or better yet, go to grad school.

Bills are inevitable, friends are few, and to unwind, everybody goes drinking on Friday. You'll make cliched statements: I've never felt this way in my life. I want to have your baby. Please love me.

And amidst all of this, every once in awhile, that question without an answer will surface in your mind: Is this adulthood?

Sometimes it'll come out as a statement: Behave like an adult!

Inanely: I'm a grown-ass man.

Or in a more childlike way, amid defeat: Grown-ups don't do this to each other.

On a quest for secure ground where there really isn't any, my generation has found a convenient shelf, courtesy of your local marketer: We're Quarterlifers. And we're having a crisis. Our debts are high, we're going home to mom and dad, no job is good enough for us, and we've been victimized by the murky indefiniteness of "adulthood."

According to the associated data, we'll be here from age 21 to age 29 -- after which we can coast safely into mid-life, a world we understand because, like teenhood, it has been so lovingly documented for us.

How hard would it be to say fuck all of this?

It is surprisingly much harder to leave a world safely accorded us by pop culture than any of us is willing to believe. And that's too bad. Maybe if we admitted we're addicted to a constellation of spoonfed -- occasionally bleak or beautiful -- images, we could learn to pick and choose which ones we actually want to live out and which ones to relegate to the heap.

And amidst all that personal sifting, perhaps then we could do the truly impossible -- indeed, that very antithesis of early adulthood: locate what makes us happy, and do it bravely, and do it now instead of seeking a prescribed "next step" that will earn nods of approval all around. (Granted, playing the martyr is also something we've learned along the way.)

But oh, many of us won't allow ourselves to shake all this off until after the long struggle toward retirement. Sagacity is part of the blueprint, but only near the end.

16 November 2007

Snow Comes to Ithaca and I Finally Get a Bolshevik Hat

Dewey leaves on the bushes last night:

This morning it began to snow. I investigate, wearing the rabbit-skin Bolshevik hat I bought yesterday:

A magical moment: "It's burning my hands!"

That hat is the coolest piece of headgear I have ever owned. It's formally branded "Mad Bomber." Here is the story from the tag:

Raised in the flatlands of Virginia, our demented Figurehead migrated to Utah where he became an Unstable ski jumper known as The Mad Bomber.

He continued on to infamy trading in Manchuria for these original hats. When the Siberian winds blow, whether you're traveling the steppes of Manchuria or skiing the Tetons, be cool and keep warm with Mad Bomber.
"Because it's Cool out There."

I am crazy about it. And on that cheery note, here's a story about a little boy with an equally amazing hat. I give you Adventure Time (the best thing to hit Nickelodeon since Inside-Out Boy!), courtesy of this guy.

12 November 2007

'Baked a Lot of Bread and Carried Off the Books'

Paul: "You know the dollar's in trouble when Jay-Z's flashing Euros."

We needed to wait for Jay-Z to tell us our economy was in trouble? This is the kind of news that makes my figurative Baby Jesus cry.

09 November 2007

Get Down with the Homies with the ad:tech NY Ad-Jive Dictionary

You can't call yourself a new media advertiser if you're not hip to the jive, and ad:tech is a great place to brush up on this crucial skill-set.

But it can be tough to keep up. With that, I give you the 2007 edition of the Official ad:tech New York Ad-Jive Dictionary. Use this knowledge well, and you're sure to be the life of the break room.

Better still, you'll confirm your CEO's conviction that burning $5K to send you to an ad conference was a very intelligent idea.

Agnostic. adj. Connotation: positive. Used in reference to an application that plays nicely on any OS or browser, or in reference to a marketing campaign theme flexible enough to perform on any media platform. The Hulu video player is browser agnostic, and thank heavens, because I will kill somebody if I have to download IE7.

Ajax. n. Connotation: positive. An acronym that stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, "Ajax" is now a parlor term for a site that updates content without a user having to "refresh" the page. If we add Ajax to the site, our pageviews will get all screwed up!

It can also be used as a verb, allowing for some mental play between Ajax as it is referred to here, and Ajax the household cleaning product. We need to Ajax the forums. Nobody's going to stick around if they have to refresh during a burn war.

CGA. n. "Consumer-generated advertising." See CGM.

CGM. n. Connotation: hysterical, particularly at ad:tech. "Consumer-generated marketing." Refers to "amateurs" (read: non-advertisers) building brand messages, for subversive, evangelical or monetary reasons. Dude, forget about hiring the agency. Why don't we just launch a CGM contest and give away an iPod? I think my cousin has a camera at home.

Collaboration. n. Connotation: euphemistic. The dreamy thing vendors say will happen between marketers and consumers, or between IT and upper management, when their "online solution" includes a messaging feature, a Twitter function or a news feed. State-of-the-art digital technology encourages seamless real-time collaboration between the enterprise and the end user.

Dovetail. v. Connotation: euphemistic. Used when small companies get absorbed or otherwise hopelessly eclipsed by a larger entity. Paths between Wee Guppie, LLC and Big-Ass Sharks, Conglomerated began to dovetail in '03; a collaboration was the next logical step.

Iconistan. n. Connotation: negative. Coined by Sphere CEO Tony Conrad, it refers to the untidy collection of icons, usually found at the bottom of a blog post or article, that enable readers to disseminate the post on a social news medium like Digg or Newsvine.

We see less of this clutter now because social news leaders, such as Digg and Reddit, have emerged in the field. As a result, "Iconistan" has fallen into antiquity -- which is too bad, because it was strangely charming. Dude, your blog looks like a virtual Iconistan. Why don't you delete all that crap? Nobody ever Diggs you anyway.

Intermediate marketers. n. Connotation: nebulous - probably negative. Hails from the dust jacket of a marketing strategy book called The Eyes Have It: How to Market in an Age of Divergent Consumers, Media Chaos and Advertising Anarchy.

The precise meaning of the label remains unclear. Based on its original context, where it was paired with a less nebulous demo, "Advanced digital marketers in the C-level suite," we can assume it is at least slightly pejorative. That shit looks like Crayon on cardboard. Clearly it was disseminated by an intermediate marketer.

Meatball sundae. n. Connotation: negative, but using the expression will reflect positively on the user because it is still fresh. Coined by Seth Godin for his heavily-promoted publication of the same name. Refers to what happens when you put together two great ideas (like meatballs and ice cream) that produce something unfortunate. Rich media ads on a widget? I don't know, Rick. We don't want a meatball sundae on our hands.

The expression may unseat last year's book-title-cum-buzzword, "the tipping point."

New media. n. Connotation: positive. Refers to any number of the socially "democratizing" applications or services -- usually ad-supported or AJAX-heavy -- that have appeared on old media (the online and mobile platforms) over the last several years, bringing said media back into vogue.

Platform. n. Connotation: neutral. May refer to the means by which content is delivered (e.g. the mobile platform), the technology on which applications are built (Google's open source mobile platform), or any other foundation -- figurative or literal -- upon which something else can be built. The platform of Lisa's sanity was piled high with new jargon.

In the tech realm, "solution" and "offering" can be used interchangeably with "platform" when referring to a new means by which advertising or other content can be conveyed. Jerry thinks Facebook's Social Ads solution is the ultimate collaborative platform for advertisers and consumers.

Social advertising, Social seeding, user marketing. n. Connotation: positive or used in jest, depending on who you're talking to (a client versus a colleague, respectively). Refers to astroturf WOM: When advertisers and marketers attempt to harness word of mouth as an ad campaign in and of itself. Attempts to generate inorganic WOM have very rarely worked, and backlash can be uncomfortable. Jesus created a resonant dialogue after implementing an aggressive social seeding approach.

UGC. n. "User-generated content." See CGA.

UGR. n. "User-generated revolution." See UGC.

Viral. adj. Connotation: positive. Refers to when an effort, usually online video-based, gets passed from user to user until the offering becomes part of a larger cultural discourse.

A unit cannot "go viral" until after this has occurred. Marketers that call freshly-released efforts "viral" commit a serious faux-pas in this regard. Did you see that Hitler viral where he's all pissed-off about his Xbox gaming score? You have to. I'll send it to you.

Wikinomicon (not to be confused with HP Lovecraft's The Necronomicon). n. Connotation: expected to weigh in as "positive" when more people know what it means. Refers to the mindset that new communications technologies are democratizing the creation of value. I'm just here to brush up on my intermediate understanding of the wikinomicon. What? You haven't heard of it? Here, take my card.

The working affluent. n. Connotation: neutral. Refers to members of the labor force bearing a net worth between one million and 9.9 million dollars. It is unclear why there is a cap. One may surmise that if you still come to work after breaching the $10 million mark, you likely suffer from Marie Antoinette syndrome -- which, while admirable to the subject, is loathsome to observers. It has not been determined what percentage of Nalts watchers consist of the working affluent, but a fair estimate is anywhere between five and 90.

08 November 2007

How Many Ads Can Talk You into Eating Chocolate Plastic?

In the press room at ad:tech I met a guy called Frank Nein of OrionsWave, who observed the ad and marketing sectors are falling into turmoil -- spinning uncontrollably into hell, sifting through the din in search of equilibrium in a world gone self-publish and multi-platform.

And I can't stop thinking about Chris Franklin of Big Sky Editorial, who laughed at the idea of a viral ad. "All ads are viral!" he'd said. The point he made was that in order for an ad to succeed, it should be watchable again and again.

How many of our frenetic new manifestos are ideas that have always been there, or at least should have been?

With that, and as a kind of tribute to the future, I give you the Tootsie Roll ad. I couldn't count on my fingers and toes how often in childhood I saw this spot.

What's awesome about it is, most everyone I've met who's roughly my age still knows all the words to the song. We enjoyed watching it then; a lot of us still do.

And in our lifetimes, we ate a hell of a lot of Tootsie Rolls.

07 November 2007

Multi-Platform Advertising: An Out-of-Body Experience?


First ad:tech session of the week: Media & Entertainment: Programming, Distribution and Advertising in a Multi-Platform World.

Moderator Ira Rubenstein kicked things off by cutting to the chase. Observing that the "old media model" revolved around scarcity, he asked how panelists make media buying and planning decisions for a show like Heroes when you can watch it on NBC, Hulu and Joost.

What followed were a bunch of really good-sounding quotes if you happen to be a fan of Seth Godin's literary masterpieces: Understand your audience! Follow the good content! What is your consumer looking for?

But then the wind changed. And the boys ran with it!

Drew Reifenberger, Senior VP and GM, Superdeluxe, Turner: "Generally consumers are OK with advertising and accept it as a reality. We should just try a lot of [different ad models]."

He emphasized sponsorship models versus CPM-based models. Good examples - in my opinion - include tasteful product placement, online web dramas (like what Tide did with Crescent Heights, only watchable), and maybe episode-spanning ad buys for feature shows on sites like NBC, ABC or Hulu.

I'm a big online TV watcher, and I don't generally mind repeated ad messages too much if they're good. (Strangely, Australia's tourism department does this quite well.)

What won me was when Ted McConnell, director of interactive relations for P&G, remarked, "Brand equity is expensive to build, and it builds over time. It's sacrosanct."

Sacrosanct. For six seconds, I believed again. But he went on!

"The content of your message reflects on your equity. It gets harder every day as content gets slung around -- who knows where it's going to land? That's an issue."

No, that's a takeaway if I ever heard one.

In every panel there's always one super-quotable person. In this case, that person was McConnell.

McConnell went on to say channels have different levels of intimacy. If you want to succeed in the digital era, you have to learn to balance the intrusiveness of your message against the intimacy of the channel.

He elaborated by observing you can say what you want in an outdoor ad without hurting a user's experience of "outside" (unless you live in Sao Paolo), but you oughtn't ruin a private dinner party by knocking on the host's door and trying to sell Tupperware.

A good illustration always wins the day.

Not to say McConnell was the only star. EVP and CDO Curt Hecht of GM Planworks/Starcom Mediavest Group had his moments in the sun, too.

"Don't get fooled by shiny, blinky things!" he admonished. "They're just tactics looking for a home that are not really being driven by the consumer at the end of the day."

But to save us all from the slippery slope of fundamentalism, he added, "It's really easy to get excited by half the stuff that comes across my desk in a given day."

How do you know when the hype train is going to conceive a super star? At ad:tech in particular, you hear a lot of noise. (Just ask Craig Peters.) But hey, you have to sympathize with the "shiny blinky things" vendors. It's tough to get even a winning product to a catalystic point.

McConnell sent us home happy with a little philosophy (always a great closer): "In a world of infinite niches, I think there's going to have to be something that's more structural that's introduced. One example of that is widgets. What's a widget, really?"

I held my breath. Was he going rhetorical on our asses? No. As we've learned to expect from our P&G homie, he kept right on going.

"[A widget's] just a container."

And before we could go flying into speculation, he rapidly illustrated his point with a FedEx comparison: FedEx has done an excellent job of taking the emphasis off the interior and placing it on the container itself.


But here's to hoping that whatever we use to stock our widgets, Facebook apps or direct mailing envelopes are just as compelling as the shiny blinky brands on the outside.

Why Take Sides When You Can Roll with the Punches?

Overheard on the ad:tech NY press room floor:

"The whole point is to remain agnostic."

Digital advertising and spirituality: two sides of the same coin?

Rehashing the Blur: ad:tech's Monday Party Scene

ad:tech NY is packed. Is every New Yorker in advertising?

I'm not going into huge detail about last night's shenanigans since Steve already bared our souls (curse you, AIM!). This is more like a moody play-by-play of stuff worth noting.

For reasons not worth discussing, listening to Like a Prayer always puts me in a state of religious ecstasy and self-loathing. These aren't feelings you want to have over breakfast while hung over. Which leads to the question: who buys the Muzak for hotel dining halls?

Flash back to Monday evening, the reason for said hangover. As Audrey said in Breakfast at Tiffany's, "Quelle night!"

Last night I checked in at the Paramount. My room is matchstick-size and features a gigantic tapestry of a man sitting over my bed. I'm scared of it. Paramount is otherwise cool if you don't mind the Eastern European Alice in Wonderland aesthetic which, when you're slightly tipsy, is kind of nice.

First stop of the night: Soho House for the Old Timer's party, where I found a couple of members of our OG ad:tech party crew: Adrants co-editor Steve Hall, and John Engler.

I felt disoriented by the musical selection (The Train by Quad City DJs?) and decor -- wallpaper with bookshelves printed on it. (Titles included Stupid White Men, a Roget's Thesaurus, and a book about orchids.)

While snapping shots of the wallpaper I met Peter Shankman of Geek Factory. We shared complementary views about vice, ad people that double as porn stars, and pogs (the best marketing platform that never happened), then debated what books were worthy of converting into wallpaper. He chose The Art of War. I picked the complete Oxford English Dictionary.

Perceiving the growing sense of lameness in our midst, Steve and John whisked us to the Datran party, where Brian Ambrose and I did a pseudo-twist to Dancing Queen.

Then the crew hit Pascha, where we all lost each other. In my blind quest for the loo, a security guard asked if I was Asian and said we should get married.

Affirmative action in action.

Later another security guard took my arm and asked if I wanted to party with some dudes in a VIP lounge. I said okay and he introduced me to the CEO of a start-up I've never heard of but that is apparently "very forward-thinking," someone said. The CEO had a big bouffant and kept throwing cigarettes and drinks and glasses over his shoulder. I guess that's how you roll in the VIP.

He kissed the back of my hand and said if I wanted to hang out there I should be "very sweet to everyone," then he kissed the serveuse's face. (The VIP lounge had its own bartender.) I said, "Awesome." Later he and I put our arms around each other and sang "We will, we will ROCK YOU" into one another's faces.

A Senior VP of Microsoft was there too, apparently because the up-and-coming startup wanted to recruit him. He was kind of like Patrick Bateman except maybe not as tall, and he appeared to be in the world's worst mood. I avoided him after he failed to laugh at any of my Super Awesome Jokes.

I half-heartedly danced with the serveuse and got to talking with a few media guys who told me the internet is where it's at and mobile is the future: out-of-the-box thinking. I suggested we look further out of the box and try bringing digital video technology to gravestones, which was dismissed as "possible, but not in the next five years."

They did, however, like my idea that people should make nostalgia montages of old ads at clubs and raves, which was validating.

The intellectual parrying lasted until 2 AM, then inhibitions dissolved and we brought back dances from the '80s until 2:30 in the morning.

Nothing fills you with both religious ecstasy and self-loathing like a string of ad parties will. With the exception of Like a Prayer.

29 October 2007

'Hulu' May Be the Last Sound Joost Ever Hears

With virtually no load or lag time whatsoever, I'm currently watching the feature film Sideways.

And I didn't need to pay for it, or illegally download it, or sacrifice any precious computer space for it. When I'm done, I might watch Arrested Development, or Heroes, or -- get this! -- Doogie Howser, MD. My whole day is officially down the drain.

And while the occasional :15 or :30 ad cuts through my experience, I'm willing to deal with it. The content is worth the wait.

This is all part and parcel of Hulu beta, a valiant joint effort between News Corp. and NBC Universal.

I was hesitant to pin Joost a YouTube killer, but I'm fast inclined to dub Hulu, and similar business models (think the ABC and NBC online sitcom players), Joost killers. It's all the convenience of Joost with better shows, better ads and no software downloads.

For someone who doesn't own a television but loves the sitcom -- and also happens to own a good-sized monitor -- this is very exciting. Brand me a Hulu addict.

Hulu avails you to:
  • Popular shows and clips
  • Current shows and clips (the two are not necessarily mutually inclusive)
  • Netflix-worthy feature films
  • Somewhat appealing advertising (no ballpark franks here -- I'm mainly seeing Axe Vice spots)
  • (Apparent) universal platform friendliness. Unlike the Netflix player, Hulu doesn't seem to mind whether you operate on a Mac or a PC. (Not sure about Linux.)
  • An "embed" and "share" feature
  • A "lower lights" feature. If for some strange reason you don't want to watch your show in full-screen, you can opt to dim the website offerings (film information, related videos) above and below the player
  • Pretty sophisticated toggling. You can check out film information, full-screen the feature, pop it out of its window, rewind or fast-forward, or opt to embed it somewhere without losing your place or having to stream the whole thing again. Most of the time, whatever you're watching just pauses and waits for you to push play again
Granted, Hulu isn't perfect, either. Some cons:
  • I wouldn't call it laggage but every one in awhile the picture pauses. It probably has more to do with my RAM than Hulu, though. (I'm streaming a feature film while doing three other things at once, including writing this blog.)
  • The ad breaks could be a little more graceful. Hulu hasn't quite mastered the art of easing into advertising without disturbing its audience. Sometimes breaks occur while feature characters are mid-sentence. o_O And after each spot, there's this jarring moment of silence and black screen. It's a little WTF?!-ish.
  • No uploads onto iTunes, no episode-saving or downloading onto your hard drive
  • Films cut to accommodate time slots and content restrictions. A scene in which Maya exclaims, "You wanted to fuck me first!" has been tastefully dubbed to a more morose "You wanted to fool me first." And when Miles sneaks into the trucker's house while he's in bed with his wife? No idea what's going on there. You get loud rock music and a stray bedsheet. First-time watchers of Sideways will have no idea why a naked trucker chases him back to his car.
In any event, congrats to a couple of old-timers for stealing the limelight from the new kid on the block -- and actually improving the value proposition (for the most part). How often do you see that happen?

Check out Sideways, courtesy of Hulu:

26 October 2007

Vancity Accommodates Unlikely (or Plain Unsympathetic) Lifestyles

To make sure no one gets left behind as society tumbles forward (both morally and environmentally), Vancity has released these three spots to advertise a few contemporary must-haves.

The spots were created by TBWA\Vancouver and give intimate insight on lifestyles we don't know much about. They generated rakish grins all around.

Get to know the enviro VISA, the climate change mortgage and -- my favourite -- the mixer mortgage.

But the climate change spot got a couple of extra spins too. I love it when the disgruntled eskimo goes, "I thought that whole thing was a hoax."

25 October 2007

Microsoft Takes Bird-Sized Bite Of Facebook

Competition makes you greedy.

22 October 2007

Chicken Soup for the Id

It's the last weekend of Ithaca's Friends of the Library book sale and in the next few days, you can make a killing. Saturday and Sunday, nothing costs more than $0.50. And on Tuesday -- the last day until Spring! -- it's a bagful for a dollar!

The weekend's spoils:
  • Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
  • eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work, by Randall E. Stross -- a pre-published manuscript!
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Fowler's second edition Dictionary of Modern English Usage
  • Logic and Language by Huppé and Kaminsky
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall by Gayelord Hauser -- a detailed and totally elitist beauty guide from a beauty consultant (à la Kevyn Aucoin) in the '60s
  • The Shackle by Colette
  • Retreat from Love by Colette -- the fourth installment of her Claudine series, allegedly written while her husband locked her in a room for hours daily to pen books he had published under his name
  • Peyton Place by Grace Metalious -- an oft-mentioned piece of pop culture, hopefully worth the read, but I imagine it's going to be a lot like Valley of the Dolls, which is a lot like The House of Mirth for 21st-century Nicos
  • The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance by Grace Margaret Morton -- a grooming book from the '40s, full of useful tidbits like fighting "masculine" personality traits with the right outfit and make-up, and exercises on proper college girl or wife-of-executive attire on a budget
Total cost: $5. What an amazing place.

I also finished Malcolm Gladwell's Blink yesterday. Definitely worth the read. It ends better than it begins, a rare quality, I think.

An interesting anecdote: seeds of the book were sown after Gladwell decided to grow out his hair and started getting unwanted attention from cops. This got him thinking about the power of first impressions. Can we avoid the hold snap judgments have on us? Not always. Can we refine our own? Yeah, when we know how they're formed and how they operate. (Comforting.)

Now I'm working my way through Tulipomania, a detailed account of the tulip craze that began to take hold of the Dutch in the late 16th century.

Their obsession with tulip bulbs was so great that the flowers commanded a futures exchange. One rare bloom could cost over 10 times what a rich merchant was paid in a year.

It's good so far. Right now I'm learning about how the Turks razed through hordes of villages and planted opulent gardens in their wake.

The Turkish word for tulip is lale, reverentially close to the letters used to write out Allah. The term tulipan may have been brought to the West in association with the bulbs because of the flowers' similarity in form to turbans.

For awhile, it seemed that tulips were going to rival gold and other precious metals in terms of raw value. Then the crash came and ruined plenty of fortunes and plenty of lives.

Way to build a house on sand. Then again...

Dot-com déjà-vu, anybody?

17 October 2007

Productivity, Here We Come

Do you know what will change your life? An ergy Microsoft keyboard and a 22-inch LG monitor. As I write this, I'm reading the Vox homepage and my email at the same time. This is incredible.

If I could bring this set-up with me during conferences, I'd be tip-top.

In other news, today Watershed Publishing -- the company that owns MarketingVox -- took a minority stake in Adrants. The deal is expected to finalize at November's end.

Because Adrants took me on last year and MarketingVox took me on earlier this year, it's a little like my universe has come full-circle.

Next year's going to be an exciting one.

03 October 2007

YPulse: Closing Up with the Coveted Words of (REAL!!!) Tweens

If you followed my Advertising Week adventure at all, you probably know I hit YPulse on Friday. In the late afternoon, a bunch of kids were corralled onto the stage to give us one last shot at learning their inner-workings before hitting the road.

Like the minds of the demographic it hopes to distill, the one-room YPulse Tween Mashup conference hall is a different world.

Upon entering, you're accosted by Michael Jackson's ABC (this is before Hanson's Mmmbop was spun about 6 different times) -- and with so much pink SWAG just waiting to be snapped up, you feel roughly the same emotional tug that only Lisa Frank's overpriced unicorn-shaped pencil sharpeners could conjure.

With all this going on, the YPulse atmosphere serves to make marketers feel pre-adolescent and out-of-touch, all at the same time.

While waiting for the feature -- a panel consisting of children who seem worlds smaller than I remember being at age 12 -- I hung out with Maura of WeeWorld and a girl named Allison from Fleishman-Hillard.

From what I could gather, FH is a data aggregating firm for youth.

"So what exactly do you guys do?" I asked. "Is it a TRU kind of deal, where you take streams of information and paint pictures of Queen Bees and goths...?"

Allison gave me a look that actually made me feel like a member of the demo we came to see. She has a very expressive face. "No," she replied. "Actually, we make forecasts about upcoming trends."

"Cool," I said. "How do you do that? Like, do you take previous data and..."

Before I could finish, Allison interrupted in a manner most factual. "Our founder just knows things," she said. "He really has a good grasp on what's going on."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand." Seriously. I was confused.

Allison replied, "Well, he's made a lot of predictions that turned out to be true," she explained, broadening her hands for emphasis.

"Oh, he's clairvoyant," I said. After this she seemed to think I was some species of lizard, so she stopped talking to me for the most part, but I hung out near her anyway because that's where all the computer outlets were.

Somehow, it seemed fitting to close up a week-long ad conference orgy with a panel consisting of eight 10-12-year-olds.

Each of the kids gave their names and ages. They started out shy, with personalities that developed once they realized every marketer in the room was falling all over himself to field a question. And not even just for general opinions, either. On actual products. From what I recall, a woman from a major technology company actually asked whether they like the special features on her firm's DVDs.

"I like playing the games," a 10-year-old (who's teaching himself how to CODE!) answered nonchalantly. "But I hate it when you send me to websites. I like doing everything from my remote control."

Most of the panel members already owned a cell phone, though I can't remember having possessed one until I was 14 - and even then I was considered ahead of the curve. Talk about being dated. The kids also said they prefer to IM rather than text their friends, though one girl said the idea of texting was appealing, mainly because she didn't have a mobile phone and all her friends did.

A few young members of the cult of Apple expressed their preference for instant messaging because they could video chat.

The oldest of the group, a 12-year-old girl, kept emphasizing how technology gets boring after awhile, and sometimes she wants to go out and play, or see her friends face to face. Other panel members echoed her view - the 'net could get boring, it helps to get some fresh air. These opinions seemed largely overlooked.

Who plays outside anymore? That was so, like, mid-'80s (remember those branded basketballs that McD's used to give away?).

More importantly, the wee gen-Y reps admitted that when an ad appeals to them, they make the coveted click. Ads with little games are popular, but the most favored of all are ads that don't redirect them to another website. In fact, it's "really annoying" to get sent to a page they don't want to be on. Tell it like it is, baby.

Sometimes, they show an ad to their parents if it features something they really, really want.

This is a tendency that's not new to kids, but is largely overlooked by marketers in the digital era - unless you're Virgin (Parental Enlightenment, anyone?), which pretty much never overlooks any opportunity that involves desperate feats for attention.

In the early '90s, Nickelodeon leveraged kids' willingness to bring parents to ads by giving them examples of how they could actually nag adults into buying them a subscription to Nickelodeon Magazine. I wish I could find the example I remember. In any case, here's a classic in which kiddies are encouraged to tell their parents about some weird experiment involving herring, and give their parents the phone number for the Nick mag.

"Just give them the number, heh-heh." Even while awash in pleasant nostalgia like this, that guy still creeps me out.

Never underestimate the power of "gimme."

Advertising Week: Getting Behind Big Ads with the Editors

Mainly for personal conceits, Advertising Week's Why Editors Matter panel was by far our favourite.

The panel consisted of Chris Franklin, Big Sky Editorial, NY; Paul Gowan, Rogue Editorial, Toronto; and Neil Gust, Outside Editorial, NY. Check out the link to the panel information to see the work they've done; notably, Paul Gowan is known for having edited that Dove Evolution piece that people keep subjecting us to.

Each of adland's Geoff Emerick's had an opportunity to speak, which we'll go ahead and synopsize here:

Paul Gowan

At the outset, Gowan observed that you "just can't get enough of" any of the three spots for which these editors are particularly known. And he's right. A resilient, infectious piece isn't just prerequisite of great art; it's critical to an ad's success (for, um, obvious reasons).

If you can't watch them over and over, what makes you think you're going to push product?

Onto Dove Evolution. Contrary to rumors we've heard, the girl's metamorphosis took three hours - not 10. To address still other rumors, the agency did a making-of video to, we suppose, distill the finehanded work implicit in whittling down a long process in a way that still captures a watcher's attention.

"It does get tiring," Gowan admitted of both editing an hours-long tape and watching it.

And while Dove Evolution seeks primarily to cut into the deception inherent to advertising, it's not without its own smoke and mirrors. The model used in the film was chosen specifically for her relatability to "average" women.

And that Photoshop-esque series of functions at the end, where a mouse widens her eyes and lengthens her neck? Complete invention. If shit were that easy, there'd be no excuse for Condy Rice to look the way she does half the time.

All told, the spot took a whoppin' three weeks and 15-17 hours.

Neil Gust

Gust has got to be the most touchy-feely of his cohorts in terms of talking editing. His work seems to be less about smoothing technical rough-edges than taking unrelated snippets to convey a feeling, a non-narrative that flows like it tells a story.

The object, Gust explains, is to capture a chemistry associated with feelings that clients hope to associate with their product - like "sexy" or "gorgeous."

"They tell me how they want it to feel," he says, and his job is to create relationships from shot to shot that best convey that sensation. Good shortcuts include building formal relationships between themes that leap from cut to cut: streaky imagery throughout, consistent shapes and logical flow.

In the case of the Jaguar ad, the client wanted a "really long car shot," which didn't quite fit into the existing "hyperkinetic visual." To make it work, they stuck in a scene where the car skids to an abrupt stop, the music halts, and an airport voice is dubbed over the long shot of the vehicle. Then the pace speeds up again.

Chris Franklin

Franklin probably reminds us the most of the electives professor with promise that we all encountered in high school. He compares showing off an editor's back-end work to airing your underpants for all the public to see - it's clearly uncomfortable for him, but there's a tinge of exhibitionist pride at the same time.

He calls editing a series of mistakes that work eventually; mainly, it's a painfully solitary and long process.

"You just try to find variations that keep you going, keep you thinking," he says. Sometimes you have to go off and stare at a wall, or buy a flower, just to keep the ideas flowing.

The Ellen spot for American Express consisted of seven hours of footage, and the actress was never shot in the same room as the animals. In fact, each animal in the boardroom scene was shot one at a time.

90 percent of the spot was composite-driven, and each animal (and actress') performance had to be elegantly orchestrated to appear like they were all moving together.

A particular point of pride is the moment in which Ellen and an ostrich nod downward (um, toward a kangaroo) at the same time.

Franklin also scoffs at the notion of a "viral ad."

"All advertising is viral, period," he says. "Any advertising is viral." When you really think about it, that makes sense.

As a final thought, Franklin admonishes editors-to-be against attending the shoots that produce the images you'll work with. "AVOID the shoot at all costs!" - the politics behind the cuts will always affect your unadulterated view of the final footage, and that's a shot in the foot.

Overall, editing is described as as much emotive and sensory as it is logical. And music, dubbed "spiritual glue" by Franklin, is a big factor for casting the feel of a spot. The audience can't be expected to see what you're seeing if you don't provide them with the right background noise.

The Ellen/American Express ad has a distinctive Dick Van Dyke feel that hits you the moment you start watching it, and you're not even really sure why. It's cast in black and white, and the vintage music was produced to give it a "timeless" quality. This early sensation is part of the bouquet of emotions you're intended to feel over the life of an ad.

One of the editors observed that without an appropriate soundtrack, this stuff just doesn't work - and it's all too easy to aim for a popular pop song, because those types of tracks can make nearly any series of images likable, which can lead to lazy editing.

In fact, Gowan calls the use of popular music "Irresponsible [...] unless you're Microsoft." It's considered part of the job to stockpile obscure, interesting and affordable music.

Thankfully, indy artists will meet you halfway in this regard. Now, plenty of records get "made" on the strength of an ad. (Consider the popularity of Telepopmusik's "Breathe" after Mitsubishi eased it into that one ad where that raver dude is dancing around in the car.)

At this point in the game, Franklin notes that great ads can leverage equally good -- but otherwise obscure -- indy work "because RADIO SUCKS, but that's a different story."

So much for Emerick.

27 September 2007

How to Leverage a Hostel Stay During a Business Trip

When this entry was posted on Adrants, Steve saw fit to give it a preamble. I'm just mentioning it (yeah, preluding the prelude) so you don't wonder why I'm referring to myself in the third-person - in italics, no less.

Believe it our not, everyone that writes for Adrants does not, contrary to popular belief, live in New York. So revel, herewith, in the story of Angela as she masters the art of traveling on an Adrants budget as opposed to an Advertising Age budget which, for Adrants readers, is a very good thing.

After all, do you want the highly-edited, overly-tame version of Advertising Week - or do you want the gritty reality of life in the big city as seen by someone like you: People without huge expense budgets who go from glitzy hotel to cab to advertising conference and back again without reveling in everything New York has to offer? Read on

You never know when you'll need the skills necessary to support your survival (and cool factor) if you happen to find yourself at a youth hostel during Advertising Week on a (trendy) Bohemian budget. And after three days doing it, I'm a PhD. Read on to glean the fruits of my loving labors:

1. Buy a map. This serves two purposes: locating all the 1 Line stations in Manhattan, and all the shot-in-the-dark buildings the Advertising Week people chose for the seminars (couldn't one location have done the job?).

If colleagues ask why you never take a cab home, say nonchalantly that you know the Subway like the veins on the back of your writing hand. They'll be impressed. Or at least they'll look like they are.

2. Debate, fairly seriously, the merits of leaving the hostel in one set of clothes and changing into another at the conference. You feel like an jerk frequenting a hostel in your working pinstripe. It's probably the only time in your life you'll feel excruciating lust for a pair of flip-flops and a wife beater. Besides college.

3. Actually pretend to be a starry-eyed tourist when hostel-mates catch you taking pictures of ads or bringing home Anheuser-Busch paraphernalia. The problem with hostels is all your neighbors want to talk to you. What are you going to do, ignore them? That's not an option when you share living quarters or a loo.

4. Invent a reason (besides Advertising Week) for being there. Being an ad guy - even a blogging ad guy - is not exactly sexy amongst youth traveling-kind, particularly if they're from Socialist countries or still in college.

People usually invent a reason for you, so this isn't such a big deal: "You're on vacation? How nice." Yeah, if by vacation you mean distilling the social importance of the Green Giant.

5. If you smoke, carry both rolled cigarettes and ready-mades. You'll look trendier if you roll cigs at a youth hostel, but you'll look like a fringe pot dealer if you carry the habit back to Advertising Week. (Be extra cool: bring Parliaments* to the ad parties. This shows you're fringey in a "cultured" way.)

6. Consider foregoing the extra suit in your luggage for spare towels (trust me).

7. Get up at six. This provides you with two-for-one perks: you'll awe colleagues with your fresh-faced early appearances, and you beat your hostelmates to the shower. The early bird doesn't just get the worm; it gets the hot water too.

It's worth noting that staying at a youth hostel has plenty of merits, besides the fact that you'll save $700/night that probably would have gone to a Doubletree. The bonuses are listed below:
  • They sometimes have $1 beers.
  • They enable you to slip out of working-mode once you've left the frenetic world of Advertising Week and Times Square.
  • They have wall clocks that tell the time all over the world. I cannot describe the social dividends you rack up when you're able to recount, off the top of your head, what time it is in London for the homesick Saatchi & Saatchi guy. You will look like a genius.

*I'm actually a little confused about the significance of Parliaments as a trendy social tool, but from experience I know its power can't be denied. My best guess is that it vaguely associates the user with being Soviet.

Advertising Week: Getting Deep Over WeeMeetinis, and Why Priceline is Tricky

Tell me how to nail cheap two-star accommodations in NY the day before Advertising Week, and I'll call you a liar and tell you how you - yes, you - can survive in a youth hostel during a business trip.

Because after (reeeeally) bad planning on my part, that's where I ended up.

At the end of yesterday's Saving Darfur session, which ran a half hour over time, I wandered the streets of New York in desperate pursuit of the 1 Subway line.

After accidentally interrupting the filming of a movie called "Fighting," I located this crucial urban vein, hopped on and trekked to my hotel. has this cool option where you can "name your price!" on a hotel. The setback is, if they find you a place at "your price!", you're married to it - no refunds, no takebacks.

So it was with surprise, some chagrin and a sudden craving for croissants that I discovered my hotel, attractively dubbed West End Studios, was not a hotel at all but a youth hostel.

The world spun. I'd gone from from Underdressed Amongst Ad Execs to Overdressed to Kill. Flippin' amazing.

I was there long enough to drop my gigantic duffel in a room - a dorm-style accommodation with a shared loo - then I changed clothes and headed back downtown for the WeeWorld Cocktail Party.

The launchpad for the fete was decorated very much like the WeeWorld universe, complete with human-sized cardboard props representing the miniature playland (ironic). Some guy took an awkward Polaroid of me (eyes closed!) and later handed me a bag of goodies, which included a framed Angela WeeMee.

This is how people see me? was my first thought, but I couldn't ruminate for long because a smiling girl with an oversized belt came and handed me a WeeMeetini - ice-blue suicide, baby - and I later stumbled off to a series of laptops, where a bunch of women were making WeeMees and talking about WeeMees and showing me all the supercool aspects of WeeWorld.

I bit the hype hard and consequently tried convincing everyone around me of how awesome it would be to build a WeeMee Facebook app that mimics WeeWorld's interactive comments feature.

Have you ever made a WeeMee? You really need to. The beauty of this deceptively simplistic business model is it does little more than leverage our fetish for individualism. I wasted at least half an hour, high on my last WeeMeetini, looking for an eyepatch for my virtual persona.

"And look!" cried a WeeMee exec. "You can try on Bratz gear and paint your face in the colors of your flag!"

No kidding.

Anyway, I burned a good three hours hanging out at the WeeWorld Cocktail party - and not just because it had little fried chicken tenders on potato chips. It's a good party when you keep slipping off to a corner to pen the epiphanies you're sponging up in conversation, hopelessly convinced that you are the voice of the Next Great Conference Bash Epic.

My frenzied scrawl faithfully records the following literary deal-breakers:
Advertising - as function of addiction. Addiction reflects personal values.

Attractiveness of American Dream - NOT opportunity but low cost of failure. Ability to erase history, start anew. What are we BETRAYING?

Resilience of the "baseball legend" (e.g. American Dream) will transcend superficiality of steroids.

With all that profundity left to stew, I bid adieu to my cohorts - including the whole WeeMee team, which I'm just in love with; a sales exec at Brickfish; and a man who claims to have spawned an infamous podcast called It's "Much Worse than We Thought" - and hit the Subway to return to my shoebox hostel quarters.

26 September 2007

What Does it Take to Define 'Just Do It'?

The answer: Five execs, a poetic moderator, and two hours.

I'm sitting at a panel called Want to start an AD Agency?!. To my right sits a dude whose name I shall not mention. He expresses sincere, almost meddling interest in the GelaSkin on my MacBook. So I ask why he's here and he says, "Technically I represent BBDO, but really I am here for my own self-interest."

Tell it like it is, yo. "Lots of self-interest stewing around," I say vaguely.

The BBDO guy agrees. "I'm guessing that's why everybody's here," he observes.

This is a covert little world.

Onto the session (streamed on*, for your reference). It's an atmosphere in which you expect the moderator - in this case, Jerry Shereshewsky of - to cite Leo Burnett's "When to Take My Name Off the Door." And he actually does.

"My name is Jerry and I've been an ad-aholic for 38 years," Shereshewsky begins. (Laughter.) "There is no business more amazing than this." Way to start a conversation - deprecation followed by zeal. I'm on an emotional roller coaster, man.

He notes how personal the business is, calls companies "families," and channels visions of your burgeoning agency sitting around you on the floor of your living room. You know, like Josephine Baker's rainbow tribe.

How The Execs Got Where They Are

"I was 26 years old..." begins the first panelist, Richard Kirshenbaum of kirshenbaum bond + partners. He recounts the tale of a younger, more naive Richard, comfy-cozy at JWT, preparing to leap into the Great Beyond.

One day he nailed the Kenneth Cole account and produced a great print. The head of JWT said, "Why can't you produce ads like that?"

"I did," Kirshenbaum said, then he quit.

Zan Ng of Admerasia describes his dire American beginning: No money, no English skills. He started out a commercial photographer with little technical understanding. Every morning he woke up and said, "What's the next thing I want to do?"

Now, imagine the sound of string chords as Asian landscapes flit by. This moment represents how, on the backburner, Ng witnessed opportunities bloom for the Asian-American population - not just in terms of hireability, but in terms of their attractiveness as a target market. This could only culminate in one result.

"Nobody was going to hire me - no education, no experience - so I started my own agency," he said simply.

Linda Kaplan Thaler of The Kaplan Thaler Group hails, like Kirshenbaum, from JWT. She took the jump for independence, earned Herbal Essences (the orgasmic-tastic "Yes! Yes!" campaign was her work), and actually commented to the client that "only an orgasm could save this brand."

Michael Gray of G&G Advertising said he was hanging out with David Kennedy of W+K, expressing righteous indignation about the portrayal of Indian-American products in advertising, when David (of course) asked, "So what do you want to do?"

"Change this," Gray decided. So he pursued the creation of an Indian-American ad agency.

Misc. Observations

The room is infested with pipe dreams and romanticized war tales. It's like Ad Land or Mad Men in the flesh. And I think somebody spat out "Just do it!" at least six times.

To fully grasp the inescapability of Nike's marketing-savvy, an audience member mentioned he wants to bring his London-based firm JDI to New York. "[The firm's name] stands for 'Just do it'," he added happily.

The only thing used more than "Just do it" is the word "passion."

On Financing

Thaler admits that early on, clients would book shoots and not pay. When they pitched AFLAC - which thought using a duck to sell insurance was horribly tasteless - her agency shelled out $35,000 to support the research (funded by Clairol, which "finally paid their bill," Thaler quips).

"It was really scary in the beginning," admits the exec.

Kirshenbaum admits it took 10 years to get "competent" help in billing. He wrote his first invoice and said it was "like magic" when it was sent out and money came back.

Ng describes dealing with creditors. "There's no perfect picture. When you do well," put money away, he says.

Aside from that there are lots of sad stories about bootstrapping and more talk about passion which leads to "winning more accounts" - you are left to do the math.

On Hiring the "Right" People

Gray: "I had the only one-story building in Albuquerque with a revolving door." He realized in the first handful of years that you can't just have a dream; you had to share the dream with your team and keep them informed. (Helps with the passion, I guess.)

Thaler says the little things count. She also notes, "A village stops being a village after about 200 people." She bemoans not knowing everybody by name anymore at her agency, but adds that a resilient business has to keep standing without you.

Kirshenbaum**, referring to the personalities of hirees: "I'll take 'smart and mean' or 'dumb and nice' but I won't take 'dumb and mean.'" He also observes that there aren't enough personalities in the business anymore.

McGarry: "In this land of magic, the people you surround yourself with - advisors, banks, talent - is the holding. You could be at the top of the world but go right out of business." This guy needs to write a book. He says similarly Earl Nightengalish stuff like this all afternoon.

Some time later he adds, "Environment is really critical in the world of creativity."

Don't I know it. That's why I do all my work from a yacht, baby.

The Takeaway

Ogilvy got into the agency game at the age of 38. The people at this panel are proof that anybody can be Ogilvy, or Leo Burnett, or half of Saatchi & Saatchi.

I'll try derailing the cliche train in my head (there's one in particular that comes to mind) with a frank appeal. Got a dream? Got big ideas?

Want to start an AD Agency?!

Just leap. To consider: the uglier the situation looks, the better your romantic war story will be when you're a raging exec.

I'll conclude with a flashback to the audience member with the agency called JDI. "How should I start [building a brand in New York]?" he asked the panelists.

(Long pause, awkward hesitation, furtive giggling.)

Ng finally takes the torch: "Don't rent space," he says. "The rent will kill you."


* Worth the listen.
** Korshenbaum makes me laugh. He's like David Spade, except with flair.

If 'Darfur' Sounds Familiar, Thank Heaven for Saint Advert

It bears mentioning Advertising Week's Panasonic Ideas for Life - Saving Darfur panel was as much about advertisers' power to set global agendas as it was about the actual plight of Darfur. Call it a conceit, but there's method to the madness.

Advertising played a pivotal role in raising awareness about genocide in Darfur. Some members of the panel expressed having been inspired into their current professions after seeing ads about famine or others' suffering.

Early on in the panel, a member of the Save Darfur Coalition referred to driving "mass education" about genocide via "mass advertising."

That sets the brain afire: do we want to take up the mantle of "educator"? If not or if so, what does that imply for ad firms that specialize in wrapping emotional experience around things?

Should we embrace social responsibility, or is this a slippery slope?

Policymaking is described as a supply and demand operation: there needs to be a demand, a citizen outcry, about injustices, in order to drive political change. Who better than advertisers to wield sentiment like a sword, eh?

A speaker described the marriage of marketing and movements thus: "One of the most important missing ingredients in the fight against genocide and famine and war in Africa is, strangely, marketing and advertising. Talk about strange bedfellows." Indeed.

And Advertising Week's Julie Thompson noted efforts like this "remind people of the good advertising and marketing can do; it's not just about Super Bowl ads, it's about moving people into action."

That's a warm, fuzzy takeaway.

Work for the Save Darfur Coalition was created by GMMB (an "issue agency"), which swelled the number of e-activists for the non-profit to over 1 million just last July.

David Mitchell of the Save Darfur Coalition shared some rules he discovered over the course of the campaign:

  • People want to see evidence: dead bodies, masked raids, murders. Unfortunately, "Despots don't call in the photographers when they're about to execute mass numbers of people," says Mitchell.
  • You can't make genocide ads that look like other ads about issues in Africa (like Save the Children ads, par exemple). People don't pay attention to them.
  • People want to know who the bad guy is. That's not easy. Who do you blame? Investment houses? Omar al-Bashir? George-fucking-Bush?
  • There are standards for taste and appropriateness: If you want something to appear in The New York Times, you can't throw in the dead bodies people want to see. There are also specifications for Pan-Arabic publications regarding issues like rape and murder.

Campaign foci:

  • Prior to the campaign, most people didn't know what or where Darfur was. First-person accounts about rape, torture, murder, various horrors were used, and often read out loud by American suburbanites in the ad work, to make the issue more personal.
  • Most muslims didn't know this was muslim on muslim violence. Had to demonstrate this in a culturally sensitive way.
  • Darfur was compared to Palestine, Lebanon - this struck the agency as off-center, but research indicated it would drive the point home.
  • Divestment efforts - the campaign waged war against Fidelity, which ended up selling over 90 percent of its petro China interests.

In one campaign, satellite imagery was used to "show people a place that was otherwise an abstraction." This effect was pretty awesome: "Google Earth" technology let users see "before attack" and "after attack" images of the grounds.

The session closed with words from Mira Sorvino, who made a few great points that rose like cream over a sea of emo.

The actress started working with Amnesty Int'l in March '04 as a Stop Violence Against Women Goodwill Ambassador. The use of rape as a tool of war in Sudan affected her a great deal.

As a kid, she had nightmares of being a Jew in the Holocaust (Sorvino is Christian) - she blames Anne Frank for the fixation.

One thing that stuck out for me: In her elaborate fit of passion, she described wondering whether she would have been a brave enough Jewess to suicide-bomb Hitler.

I could imagine her PR guy going, "Oh fuck."

But Sorvino's testimony shed light on an interesting point: advertising has power, not merely to encourage children to admire movie stars and beautiful women, but to appeal to their sense of sympathy - and indignation - on injustice and human sufferings.

This can make a huge impact on what they choose to do with their lives.

Sorvino points out that if we can inflame people, veritably intoxicate them with an idea or a notion, why not use it to save Darfur?

25 September 2007

Advertising Week: An Awkward Prologue

After a 4:00 AM dash through the dark, followed by a five-hour bus ride, followed by an eight-block trek with a Streetwise Manhattan map, I've crossed the threshold of the Paley Center and made it to the Promised Land: Advertising Week 2007 in NYC.

Paley's squeak-shined glass windows have become giant YouTube stations. Beyond the lobby, thoughts about marketing by great men and civilians line the walls. The whole set-up fills my eyes with De Beers quality tears. (This may be less of an emotional reaction than exhaustion resulting from insomnia, and the fact that I haven't eaten.)

Apparently members of the press were only able to pick up their passes yesterday morning. This is disappointing. I call Blake the press pass guy. Blake is warm, pleasant and, in fact, female. "I'll bring you your pass around 1:00," she says.

Bummer. It's 10:00 AM, my first session's at 2:30, and I've still got a gigantic duffel bag with me. In a sea of suits I am the one jean jacket. And I'm sweaty and gross, and did I mention I've got a gigantic duffel bag with me?

I look, quite frankly, like an asshole. It's like a scene from Pretty Woman but 10 times worse.

An AdWeek director takes notice of me - possibly to throw me out - but goes the motions of asking who I'm with. I tell her the whole sad story, then I decide to head to my hotel until my press pass arrives.

"That doesn't make any sense," she says. And in a fit of unexpected kindness (or worship - or pity?) she adds, "Have a seat, I'll find you a workstation where you can set up and put down your belongings."

I take a seat beside one of the AdWeek volunteers, who has been charged with guarding the door and handing out programs. He's a happy-enough-looking dude. I turn to him, introduce myself and say, "So, you're volunteering for AdWeek?"

Hesitation. "I am here to ensure your every need is met," he says mechanically. His eyes dart around furtively. He presses the tips of his fingers together. "I'm new," he adds slowly.

"Um, awesome," I say. "So are you with AdWeek or are you doing this for school or...?"

"I've heard there are volunteer opportunities," he steamrolls loudly. "I don't know about unpaid ones. I don't know anything about that."

"Cool." I pause to work out where in fuck-all I went wrong. Are we even speaking English? "So what's it been like so far, are you enjoying--"

"Look." This is the first hard statement he's made since we shook hands. "If you're going to do a story on me, I'd appreciate if you tell me."

"I'm sorry...?" I'm appalled, genuinely hurt and confused, but he cannot admire his handiwork because he's already turned away. "Sir, I don't know what I did to make you feel like..."

He starts to whistle. He won't look at me.

We've reverted back to the sandbox. With that, I decide I'm going to do a story on him. This is that.

"Do you mind if I plug in my computer?" I say to no one in particular.

"I'll have to ask my manager," he says icily. The manager is a woman named Erin, who has been talking with the AdWeek director about where to station me.

"Sure, do what you want," Erin says, waving her hand in my direction.

I open my laptop and start screwing around on the 'net. The spazzed volunteer keeps looking for excuses to walk behind me and glance hard at what I'm doing while appearing nonchalant.

Later the AdWeek director returns and invites me into the Darfur session at noon.

"It really doesn't make sense for you to go back to your hotel and come here again anyway," she says with a warm smile. I love her. I would pledge my allegiance to her.

I ask her if she's sure, and she says everything will be fine.

Saving Darfur. SCORE!

That's how I currently find myself sitting in a large theatre below the camera guy (Richie; he likes photography), watching pictures of George Clooney and hungry-looking children dart by on a gigantic projector, at the very beginning of the Saving Darfur session.

I'll tell you how it goes.