30 July 2006

the world is flat

I wrote a piece for my portfolio about my respect for technology and how it's changing the way we interact with the world. Things happen to me every day that support the "flattening of the world" thing.

Today I am meeting a girl named Christie for lunch at PF Chang's. She recently moved to a town about an hour north of me, to become a nanny. She knows nobody in this area, and there apparently isn't much to do in Spotsylvania, VA. So, she's driving down and we're having lunch. Her employers (I can't think of a cuddlier word for "the kids she nannies for's parents") were so happy that she was meeting people that they gave her their credit card, and lunch for the two of us is on them.

I wouldn't be having lunch with her if it weren't for the way the Internet brings people together. I've been friends with her sister, Blair, for about three years on LiveJournal (we met in a music band's community). Blair, knowing that I lived in Richmond, asked me if I wouldn't mind e-mailing her sister Christie with some suggestions of fun things to do in Richmond /this general area. And now we are having lunch today. This might sound weird to some, but not me - I've been meeting people off the Internet since early high school (no creeps (well, maybe one) - my parents closely monitored all of this).

I will end this post now, because it would become too fuzzy & squishy.


something I need. when I make food at home. something Tucker Shaw has.

I'm halfway through reading the following book, which Janine so graciously bought for me off of my wish list for my 23rd birthday -

I've been a fan of Tucker Shaw's since I read the article about this book's progress, in March of 2004. It's what inspired my constant foodiefoto.

I love noticing his habits. It's a really honest look into someone's life. You can see the seasons change, based on what he's eating. You can see the celebrations, the deaths, the traveling. He likes oatmeal for breakfast a lot. When he is in a spending mood - brioche and coffee. He also likes smoothies /shakes from Elixir and Equinox. He has a bowl of cereal before bed almost every night. He went through a Haagen Dazs kick in May, instead of cereal.

the creativity... sometimes he puts a poached egg into a bowl of soup. Once, he put scrambled eggs and spinach into a bowl with chicken stock. He eats white beans with tuna. I saw him make part of an EBCB (minus the bacon)! He puts honey on Greek yogurt. He makes PBJ sometimes in hot dog buns (I suspect this might be because he ran out of sliced bread - more support for the theory that you are more creative when you have less to work with).

He's not a picky eater, either. He pretty much loves food, from what I can tell. He recently (in my reading) had jellyfish.

Anyway, I recommend this book highly. It's the only one on my summer reading list so far that I have given 10 out of 10.

28 July 2006

a Nico voice

I've been listening to this song "Dogs in Baskets" for over a year... sung by The Geranium Pond. I got the file from either Indie MP3 or Little Hits (both of which you should check out - MP3 blogs - great artists in Europe).

Anyway, I always thought that the singer in this band sounded exactly like Nico. I did some research, because I don't know anything about Nico aside from what she did with The Velvet Underground, but I just found that she died 18 years ago. creepy.


When I attended Piers Fawkes's talk at the AAAA Account Planning Conference last week, I was reminded to write an entry on Flavorpill. I've been a devout subscriber for over a year (I'm probably way behind on things, according to Piers).

I first visited the site when I saw a print ad in Surface Magazine. I noticed that they had a weekly New York edition (Flavorpill e-mails you every Tuesday, letting you know of cultural happenings in your city), so I signed up the day I moved to Brooklyn for the summer. It kept me in tune to concerts (they helped me see Enon and Puffy Amiyumi), art exhibits (they let me know this summer about the MoMA's Dada exhibit), films and more. It really helps you get the most out of your city and fill your time with richness. Not soon after, I had subscribed to all of their e-magazines - Artkrush (art), Earplug (electronic music), JC Report (global fashion trends) and Boldtype (books). Reading all of them makes me wish I had 48 hours in every day, so I could experience even half of the wonderful things they talk about. It's a great exercise in prioritizing.

Flavorpill recently came out with Activate, which I recommend to everybody. Maybe it's a good example of planning... seeing as how many of us are so busy with our jobs /blogging /lives that we don't have as much time to keep up with the world as we'd like. Activate e-mails you every Friday with the most important news headlines of the week. They stick in some humorous stories and bits of culture as well. It's wonderful, has made my life easier, and makes me feel not as guilty about missing some of what passes me by.

Going back to my first paragraph, everyone should also put Piers Fawkes's blog, PSFK on their RSS. He is a brilliant guy who is more up on what is happening all over the world than anybody else I know /have heard of. He, like Activate, also condenses it down for us all, making it easier to feel as cool as he is.

26 July 2006

China inspiring the world

Nick Barham (TBWA China) spoke today on inspiration in China and how it's going to help the country grow, probably surpassing the U.S. soon.

As per Nick's talk, part of the strength lies in China's pursuit of tangible material wealth + the sense of limitless possibilities. Because the 1960s and 1970s were somewhat of the Dark Ages in China, with no life and energy, the current swell of energy and optimism is immense and unstoppable now. Another cool thing about this is that the youth in China has no back catalogue of inspiration. So everything is new. There is curiosity. Hunger. Enthusiasm.

What does this mean for us? Because China is hungry for inspiration and they don't care where it comes from, they love brands. Brands are a visible sign that one is actively part of the new visionary, successful China.

The talk was a very interesting short lesson in global branding and the need for the best planners to be cognizant of the vast differences between cultures. Examples Nick gave included Apple and Nike. Apple's U.S. music strategy wouldn't really work in China - there is no mentality of collecting and hoarding songs, because they don't even have millions of songs to hoard yet. The legacy of famous inspirational athletes doesn't resonate with the Chinese youth, because "old is bad and new is good" - a reason for why Adidas might have an advantage over Nike in China.

There was so much optimism and energy about the topic of the Chinese youth; how they can help propel brands and the economy in the future was very inspiring in itself. It made me want to start looking into agencies in Shanghai or Hong Kong.

Nick closed with his favorite definition of inspiration : the act of inhaling, the drawing in of air... as in breathing. Inspiration shouldn't be a luxury, he said - you need to constantly breathing this stuff in. If you aren't constantly inspiring yourself, you'll die.

25 July 2006

AAAA Account Planning Conference

I just finished with the second day of the AAAA Account Planning Conference. I knew I would be too inspired to sleep. This post is long, so here is what I covered, and you can scroll through the bolded paragraphs to read what you'd like. pick and choose, create your own experience (har har har), if you will : small [planning] world, sparking inspiration, media, people, fear, memorable quotes, personal congratulations.

SMALL [planning] WORLD
I have seen dozens of people that I know. Many of them are VCU Adcenter alumni. Three of them were planners I worked with last summer at Euro RSCG Worldwide NY. One guy I studied psychology with in undergrad, one guy I went to high school with, my mentor, Brooke Lynn (who is also an Adcenter alumnus), people I have e-mailed or phone-interviewed with but never met, people that I knew /heard the name of through other people. People weren't kidding when they said that the planning network was small.

The theme of the conference is inspiration. How it's sparked in ourselves, where we find it, how we bring it out of other people. It was recognized that different things spark creativity in different people, and a lot of the focus of the conference has been on where different people get their inspiration. I've personally been most inspired by Richard Tait, the founder of Cranium (he had me jumping up and down in my seat); Dr. Bob Deutsch, the founder of Brain Sells; Russell Davies (obviously); and Piers Fawkes, the founder of PSFK.

One thing that was worrying was the focus on media. Here is the thing - there wasn't really one. One hour in the entire three days was dedicated to a panel on media. Less than a quarter of the 750 people (from 11 countries) at this conference demonstrated that they showed an interest in what was said prior to today (meaning, they practiced some kind of planning /media blend at their own agencies).

Someone in the panel said that agencies are still so shortsighted as to go for "TV comma radio comma print." I don't entirely agree... I think progress has been made, but don't really think that "bus wraps graffiti parking meters pizza boxes" is much better - there has to be a reason for different kinds of connections made with people, not an eagerness to fill up every single empty space that is available. On my flight here, I noticed every single seat back table to be wrapped with an ad for some television show. Not just an ad - a TERRIBLY art directed ad. I couldn't even read it to see if some of the copy was okay.

Paul Hindle of OMD said that media companies are the only guys really doing things right. I don't know if I entirely agree. What about Naked Communications? They get to the heart of people and when they interact with the world around them.

All in all, I was a little disappointed because I thought we as planners would be farther along than this, but it also gave me optimism to help get things going. With the VCU Adcenter merging the strategic planning and creative media planning tracks, their embracing and leading of change in our industry is apparent. It gives me hope for the future Adcenter graduates helping to reshape how we connect with people.

I have used the term "people" instead of "consumers" for a while, but never realized that I had. Dr. Bob Deutsch's talk today was all built on changing the lexicon of the industry by one word - consumers people. He calls himself a cognitive anthropologist, which is a pretty good way of describing planning (or one part of it). He touched on experiential structures, discovering the texture of human life, and the artistic nature of planners ("Art inspires us to look more attentively and authentically at people and how the world works," he said... which is exactly what planners aspire to do).

When we applauded Dr. Deutsch, he told me that he appreciated our applause, but that we all already knew all of this stuff, and he just put words to it. The most inspiring people to me have always been the most humble. Russell Davies, Mike Hughes, Richard Tait and Charlie Kouns are at the top of my list. all brilliant, all humble as hell.

a popular topic with all of us, as evidenced by the latest issue of SIXTY Magazine. George Scribner of Digitas told us all "Scare yourself once a week. It'll keep you alive." I have practiced this since the fall of 2005, and it is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

"thank you for not booing me off the stage in my nice blazer." - Chris Mumford (account management), The Martin Agency

"Enthusiasm gets you to good and productive places. It's attractive and compelling." - George Scribner, Digitas

"A great planner is collaborative and very intelligent... but also a fantastic playmate." - Mark Earls, Ogilvy & Mather

"Miami bums dress like Williamsburg hipsters." - Piers Fawkes, PSFK

"Figure out the motivations of the client as well as the consumer. They're your advocate, and they can make you a hero" - I don't know! I promise I would credit you if I remembered who said this. I was writing like a madwoman, sometimes forgetting to scribble names next to quotes.

"If you're at that point where what you do is the same as who you are, there is no better job. You're in the guts of what it means to be human." - Dr. Bob Deutsch, Brain Sells

[ There were many more yesterday (Monday) as well, but absent-minded me left my notebook at the hotel last night, and it got swept away. alas. ]

Alexis, Barrie and Joanna - three of my former classmates, who were part of the planning team that won the gold Chiat award for TLC Life Lessons

Lee Maschmeyer, a friend at McKinney, who was in the team that won another gold Chiat award for Audi's Art of the H3ist

David Terry, brilliant planner at BBH in New York, who was in the team that won a silver Chiat award for Axe's Spring Break

To top it all off, I think I'll be at coffee with Russell Davies in the morning. I can finally thank him for putting me at the top of the "hire these people" list.

[ I just reread this, and the writing is not so good. I apologize. I was typing furiously and too excited to word things in a better way. I might come back later (when I have more than one stupid bar of wireless) and fix things around. ]

23 July 2006

a mini vacation

I am sitting at my parents' kitchenette in Miami. I took a few days off from the job hunt to go to this:

I couldn't be more excited. Whenever the board meeting happened at Adcenter, I would be inspired for days and days afterwards, barely sleeping. I would stay up until all hours, writing, taking photos, web designing, creating something, anything. And this will be three whole days of nothing but what I love. Not to mention there will literally be dozens of people I know (and respect /admire) there. hoppity hop hop.

17 July 2006

nostalgia leading to sales

There has been talk of 1980s toys being brought back due to the nostalgia factor in those of us who are now becoming parents. We see the toys we adored so much as a child, and something happens. Our eyes light up, the memories flood back, and then we spend over $100 on Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Ponies, Pound Puppies and Lite Brites for our children, among others. Positive associations with brands from happy times in our lives lead to loyalty beyond reason (a term I love that was coined by Kevin Roberts in Lovemarks) and money out of our pockets.

The same thing happened to me tonight at 7 Eleven. I don't know if anybody else remembers these, but in the mid 90s, they sold these brainfreeze straws... thick, colorful straws, with a plastic colorful brain encased in an icecube towards the top. When one drank a Slurpee, the color of the straw changed color. They came in four or five different colors, and I had to have every single one. I bet they're still in the cupboards of my parents' house in Florida. These straws probably came out at around the same time that 7 Eleven put out those Brain Freeze TV spots that aired alongside those kaleidoscopic Fruitopia commercials during My So-Called Life.

Well, I went in just now, 3.30am, looking for cookie dough ice cream for the boy and some frozen stir fry for myself. At the register, there they were. My beloved brainfreeze straws. They weren't packaged in any special way - just in one of those long plastic bags reserved for plastic flatware. It brightened my entire night, though. I'm going to call my parents to make sure these aren't new colors as well. If yes, they will be mine, even though I never drink anything frozen.

one of my favorite brands.

Sriracha. simple, no frills hot sauce. It has a more pleasing taste to me than Tabasco, Texas Pete or any of the others. This one has a better texture as well. Or, maybe the taste just compliments food better, whereas I feel a competition between the tastes other hot sauces on food. Is it's popularity a regional thing, or is it a cult favorite all over the place?

the strength of cognitive associations

I may have made up that term ("cognitive associations"), but I don't have access to my college cognition books to find something similar.

Hearing a loud and long sound of screeching tires just reminded me of how strong certain associations are in one's mind. I had a brilliant professor in college who grew up in Israel. I heard her mention once that even years later, seeing an abandoned backpack or bag laying around made her nervous and jittery. It was because an abandoned bag in her home town meant that there was probably a bomb planted in it. I shared a similar association - the sound of screeching tires in Puerto Rico (when I lived there - 1984 through 1992) usually meant that somebody was about to be held up. see a victim, screech to a halt, jump out with your three partners, wearing eye masks and holding those short-barreled machine guns. get what you want, screech away again. For years and years, I would feel a split second of panic when I heard screeching tires - a panic quite different from the fear that someone was about to get hurt in a car wreck. The difference for me was always basic human error vs. bad intentions.

But just now, hearing the screech of tires from my 10th floor window, I pictured a car plummeting into the James River. a change. I wonder when this happened.

written 12 June

Speaking of New York (see previous post), I reread this entry in my Moleskine this morning -

I spent 2 hours in the JFK airport today - layover to fly to Florida. I know, it makes no sense to fly an hour in the opposite direction. I just wanted to be close to Manhattan for a little while. And have a good bagel for breakfast. I got to have my favorite coffee too - Dunkin Donuts' toasted almond.

My memories of last summer in NY are so strong. Every time I had time to kill or didn't want to go to Bay Ridge straight from Euro, I'd take the 1 to 14th and transfer to the NR and go to 8th /Astor Place. I would walk around, go into stores, walk up and down St. Mark's tirelessly. looking at the rows of brightly-colored plastic jewelry, the tattoo parlors, gutter punks everywhere. the always very slight beginning of gentrification creeping in, starting with Chipotle.

Or, I would walk up and down Prince Street, looking into Kid Robot and all the other great stores. Or I would find my way to Union Square by walking through the NYU area, Washington Square Park and down 5th Avenue.

The albums of the summer included Gorillaz, Mice Parade and Franz Ferdinand. Every day on the subway. with Sideways, that was such a wonderful book that I miss so much. I would walk the streets with Jay, eating sushi and firecrackers through Central Park, seeing Tegan & Sara and staring at the skyline from his roof in Park Slope. The sun was setting and reflecting off the buildings. bright blinding golden rectangles.


I had a dream last night in which locations were the main characters.

One part took place in Manhattan. My boy and I were walking barefoot along the shore of a lake in Central Park. We rented a room adjacent to the Diesel store on... 57th? The rent was really low because of the noise of the store, and people going to the stock room walking back and forth through the room.

Another part took place in London. My birthday was approaching, and I decided to have three or four separate tiny get-togethers, instead of one big one. I don't know what made me think that I had that many friends in such a short time (my birthday is in September). Each miniparty was to be color coded. one turquoise party, one yellow party, one lilac party. corresponding colored lights. corresponding colors in the clothing. in the food. in the drinks. in the wrapping paper.

There was a time when I dreamt of London day and night. And, well, we all know that I dream of New York day and night.

I wonder what it all means?

Speaking of, I head off to New York tomorrow afternoon. I am taking a bus, which is the smartest option for someone who is unemployed. Wouldn't it be great if I returned to Richmond with a job offer?

Then I have a day of a break, after which I fly to Florida for the planning conference.

12 July 2006

Project Runway premier

Oh, so that explains the huge media buy I noticed that Macy*s did for this premier. They have an "accessories wall" on the show now. It hasn't always been there, has it? Wasn't it Banana Republic before? I wonder why they backed out.

What do you think about that - mentioning the TreSemme hair salon, L'Oreal makeup room, Macy*s accessories wall? Smart to keep the name of the brand top-of-mind constantly, or annoying, which would lead to the opposite of the desired effect?
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