show & tell

There are definitely some advantages to working for a smaller agency. One, you’re not pigeon-holed into a singular role of only working on one brand, or in one creative capacity. As a hybrid AE/copywriter, the opportunity arises to wear multiple hats on a regular basis. And I’m not talking about a “say something hat day” in a fashion sense.

We recently launched a new campaign for our local health care system’s cancer program. I’m thrilled to say that I had the opportunity to not only concept these, but also write them, be involved with the production and editing, and also directed the voice talent. (Side note: another opportunity of working on a smaller crew, is sometimes they need a body on a table. Check out the “healthiest looking cancer patient” in the green striped shirt….yours truly.)

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power play

Sure, I believe some of the stuff I’ve written over the years has played a role in a purchase decision or two. But I never imagined I could have this much power. (cue wringing hands and sinister laugh)

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dual personalities

After spending umpteen years working solely as an ad writer, I find myself in an evolving market where it’s not as easy to define oneself with a single title. My current role is as an Account Executive with a regional agency in the Land of Enchantment. But this is a land of role playing, and often I find myself being asked to pull a headline out of, well, thin air (we are at a mile’s altitude after all). And usually, it happens when I’m neck-deep in some client-related request.

One thing I’ve noticed of late, is the non-frosted side of me (read: AE) has a strangle hold on my more creative side. I find it’s more common to stare at a spreadsheet than a blank “page” of either this blog, or a copy doc, or something else that used to sit and beckon my creative side to come out and play.

And quite frankly, I think it’s time that the writer in me gets a grip, and forces the AE side to take a back seat on things for awhile.

Don’t take this “rant” to mean that I don’t like my job. I love this job. I love the group I work with. And for the most part, most of the clients. I thank the universe every day that I have a steady gig to report to that pushes me intellectually, and makes me think about things in a completely different way.

It sure beats hitting the streets constantly looking for the next freelance project. Then again, that’s maybe what I need…a freelance project or two where I get to dust off my frosted side and sweeten up someone’s copy. There are a few on the horizon that need to be explored. And perhaps a few others that need to be uncovered.

My nose isn’t outta whack. It just needs to reach out and work its way into someone’s business to stir up something.

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flights of inspiration

Coming back from Phoenix this week, I had the pleasure (read: luck) of meeting an actual published author, Judith Avila. She happened to take the middle seat between our new client contact and me. She was vibrating with excitement, which I learned was all derived from having an advanced copy of her new book, Code Talker, which she co-wrote with the last remaining code talker, Chester Nez.

The hour flight went quickly as I got to hear – and be inspired by – Judy’s quest to make her writing dreams a reality. And this never-give-up attitude has really struck a nerve with me, because lately I haven’t had much of one to do much writing. And that’s just wrong.

So here I am, shaking the dust off this blog (as well as needing to do the same to a couple others I have going) and began to start writing something, anything, that I want to write and not what is dictated by my day job.

Here goes nothing…..

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somewhere, lady bird is applauding

It was only a matter of time I suppose, for seemingly spontaneous crowdsourcing to begin doing something with more of a social conscious. Sure, there has been Hallelujah outbreaks and dance numbers in food courts and train stations (or, frankly, anywhere there are people in mass that allow for anonymous hordes to blend in before randomly joining in the fun). But now social media is bringing attention to societal nuisances using a flash mob.

I guess the unique aspect to this social experiment that took place in our neighbor to the North was that this particular flash mob involved an unsuspecting heroine. Seeing her surprise at merely “doing the right thing” (after so many ignored/stepped over/went around the “problem” that is really starting to bury the landscape or, in this instance, a mall corridor) was refreshing. I know I’ve been guilty of seeing trash and walking right by it because “I didn’t put it there.”

Seeing this anti-litter message on YouTube made me think back to my days of living in the Lone Star State and the whole “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign (that I’ve just discovered is now been around for 25 years).


Back in 1985, Texas had a big problem. A litter problem. To battle this big, expensive roadside mess, the Texas Highway Commission launched an extensive public education campaign. Using research, we identified the state’s worst offenders and how best to reach them, and with that — the legend was born. And we’ve been reminding Texans to keep litter off the roads ever since.

Of course, to really show my age, I find it rather ironic in the fact that the whole “DMWT” campaign initially relied on outdoor boards to deliver its message goes completely against another famous Texan’s efforts to beautify the nations roadways: Lady Bird Johnson. Her whole campaign to make driving a much more pleasant experience faced stiff opposition from none other than….you guessed it, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

“In a nutshell, her program is, ‘masses of flowers where masses pass.’ Water, lights and color-mass of flowers-those things spell beautification to her,” Lady Bird wrote in her diary after a meeting.

What it all comes around to is that now, some 40+ years after Lady Bird planted the seed of thought to plant flowers along our states’ highways, anti-litter programs are embracing new technology (and one that only clogs up the information highway) to broadcast the message that still falls on deaf ears (and obviously out of sightlines, too)…..

Clean up yer friggin’ mess!

 

 

 

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the difference between marketing in US and other markets

There’s no question that, when it comes to advertising, the US market is much more…prudish.

Take a look at this M&M’s campaign Down Under…..

The sly innuendos. The fact that we’re watching “nude” M&M candies interact, including mixed company. (You never know what to expect when you mix crispy, peanut and plain. Whoa!)

But no matter how great the animation, as a writer, it gets very distracting to see typos.

Or maybe I just need to “confont” my own demons…..stripping away at my shell and face that even I’ve made typographical errors when writing copy. It is easy to “read” into what has been written and overlook very obvious errors.

Live and learn….

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The difference between building traffic, and building trust.

These days it seems companies are jumping on the Facebook and Twitter wagons like lemmings. And usually with the same disastrous outcome. (Can we really keep referring to such dated things as a wagon? Maybe it’s time to start calling it the band-hovercraft??)

Building community through online technology isn’t as simple as “hey, I think I’ll throw a party for my 500 closest friends.” Sometimes you have to step back and assess what it is you’re really trying to accomplish.

Are you trying to convert 500 strangers into friends of the brand? Can you really pull off something that will compel and entertain everyone equally? Maybe it would be wiser to start smaller. Perhaps a dinner party where you can try out your recipes successfully before booking that assembly hall or stadium.

Sure, every business wants to open its doors (brick & mortar, web, even social networking) and see throngs of customers clamoring to get in. But what kind of relationship are you trying to build? Do you want thousands who might come through the doors in the first week, most of whom only browse? Or would you rather have fewer clients that not only purchase, they come back for more? Sure, it’s not an either/or situation. But so often, businesses put so much effort into getting a relationship off the ground they forget that, to create loyalty, you have to put in just as much effort to cultivate your tribe. If you don’t, your loyal followers can quickly become strangers, or worse, enemies.

Technology can definitely help build an audience. But it can’t always build trust. Take, for example, the buzz created by “Jenny” who posted her resignation online using a dry erase board. People were so amazed by her chutzpah and technique that mentions (and tweets) were flying all over the web. In a matter of days, this story was everywhere. What most of us caught up the frenzy didn’t realize initially — it was all a publicity stunt. Imagine if a company launched a new product with as much buzz and fanfare, only to have consumers realize it was all a hoax? Is that the kind of exploitation of technology you think works for your brand?

Sure, it’s easy to become intoxicated by a sudden onslaught of traffic. But when you rely on a stunt rather than a well-thought out plan (social or otherwise), where will you be when the masses pull a mass exodus because they no longer trust you or your products? Go this route and you’ll spend more time doing damage control than more productive things like, oh, cultivating brand evangelists.

Unfortunately, some businesses think they need to do something so buzz-worthy to generate interest that they don’t realize the best results are nurtured over time. It’s important to remember that you’re not just putting your brand into the hands of your consumers, you’re also building trust. And sometimes, technology like Facebook and Twitter might not be the best way to do it.

What it takes is a thorough assessment of communication goals, and then determining the best course of action to take. You have to first know whom you’re trying to reach, and then figuring out the best way to get your message out to the right audience using the right outlet. Even if that outlet is Facebook. Or a dry erase board.

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losing my freedom. finding myself.

yesterday was my first day back to FT work. it feels odd — but also great — to be getting back into a regular routine and regular paycheck. but it’s going to be more than that. it’s going to be an awesome opportunity to grow/learn/push myself. i’ll miss not being the “boss” of my day, but i’m grateful to be back earning a regular paycheck.

the group welcomed me with open arms. it’s like being back with family in a way (i’ve been freelancing for them for the past year). at the risk of sounding…old…i’m happy to be working with a group that is mostly my age (40s). they’re a talented group, and my initial reaction is that i will be happy here for quite awhile.

speaking of family….had the pleasure of actually getting to celebrate my mom’s birthday with more than a card in the mail and a phone call. first time in probably 20 years that i actually got to be with her on her birthday. definitely solidifies the decision we made months ago to relocate closer to them.

i’m ready for some normalcy (well, as much as that’s possible with my life), some roots. the past couple of years were dominated by a feeling of restlessness. i guess part of that can be attributed to losing two jobs in a 9 month period. the other dominant factor was the period i wondered in my own darkness. it’s interesting how we can be living in what we think is brightness, only to finally discover (through self- and other guided observation) that i was lost. thankfully i had awesome support at home. i also found support through a series of random endeavors.

now that i’ve found the light (carol ann!), i’ve ventured back into things that brought me joy. i’m playing tennis more regularly. i’ve joined a choral group. i’m getting more social. now to have a real kitchen back so i can get back to real cooking, i’ll be, well, more satisfied. And full.

now, back to work (it still feels “odd” to say that….or type it). guess 15 months of “freedom” can’t be changed overnight…or after one day on the job.

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kiss my unemployed ass

I should know better than to watch the Rachel Maddow show. (Actually, I love her, and her show. She is one of the brightest — and most intelligent — people on TV, news or otherwise.)

But listening to her report on the GOP snubbing of the unemployment extension really hit home, and quite literally. I’ve been receiving an unemployment check (full or partial, depending on my freelance work…what little that has been) for the past 15 months. During this whole time, I have been on many interviews, sent out a ton of feelers, responded to gawd knows how many job postings. The majority of my efforts were met with nothing. A few warranted phone conversations. Even fewer turned into actual meet-and-greets. But none came with job offers.

There were times that it appeared the job market in SoCal was starting to pick up a bit. Jobs were popping up on the boards. Recruiters were calling. But the majority of the jobs would have required hellish commuting (granted, I would have to actually land the gig first). And by this point, we had set the ball in motion to relocate to a much more affordable area that also was pointing to a possible FT job.

So we up and moved. We put our house on the market. We began the process of uprooting our lives to a place that was calling us, and seemed to be calling itself “home.”

I maintained my unemployment while continuing to reach out to prospective employers. I joined Ad Clubs and networked my ass off. I even applied for a government job that would only allow 25 hours/week for the first year. And for the first 4 months after relocating, I’ve gotten a few small freelance projects, but mostly relied on the unemployment checks to live and pay for my COBRA benefits.

Last week’s unemployment stub stated that I was down to my last $900 in benefits for this claim. I kept telling myself that I was eligible until at least November. And after what happened today, I wonder if that would be the case. Seems the Republican Senators managed to squash any hopes of passing the jobs bill, including an extension of weekly unemployment benefits for millions of people out of work more than six months…just like me.

I can stomach some of the election-year posturing. What I can’t stand are the comments like “unemployment benefits are the reason why people don’t want to go back to work” and “we don’t want to give checks to people who only want to use it to buy drugs” and “unemployment encourages people to breed.” Well, fuck you very much! I have been busting my ass looking for work. I have NOT been sitting around, eating bonbons that I bought with the money I received for unemployment. It has helped keep a roof over my head, food on my table, and health insurance in case of an emergency.

Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about whether or not my benefits will be extended. Thankfully, a relationship I’ve been cultivating for the last 12 months has finally resulted in an actual FT job offer.

Thankfully, I start a new job on Monday.

But, thankfully, I won’t forget what these pompous assholes in Washington (and I mean on BOTH sides of the table) are doing. They spend more time and effort protecting the have’s from the have not’s. Protecting their piece of the pie that seems to keep getting bigger while the “little people” watch theirs shrink.

I’ll also make sure to keep my ass employed with everything I’ve got. I don’t want to endure this long of an employment drought again if I can help it. But maybe it’s time that some of these naysayers in Washington find themselves on the unemployment line. There are elections coming in a few months.

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putting myself back out there

My life is about to no longer be my own. It’s nothing morose or overly dramatic, but really about the fact that next week I go back to full-time employment.

I know…in this market, tough problem to have.

But it’s been 15 months since I last “punched a time clock” and worked 40 hours a week on someone else’s schedule. Who’s going to run to the grocery store when we need bread or veggies? How can I run by Costco just to walk around and dream? I know those things are still possibilities. Only now, they’ll be more of a “stop by on the way home from the office” or “I’ll be right back, gotta run an errand on my lunch break.”

Just typing that feels….weird. But I’ll get used to it. And in reality, I’m VERY excited to get back out there. I’m ready to interact with smart, talented, creative people. I’m ready to slay any creative project that crosses my path. I’m ready to see a regular paycheck (beyond unemployment) get deposited into my bank account and hopefully stop the bleeding.

But most important, I’m ready to start challenging myself to grow in a new direction, picking up new (marketable) skills that will extend my creative writing experience into a whole new realm. I’m ready to be a sponge, and take advantage of every encounter, every new scenario, and stockpile this newfound skill set into something that will put me in an advantageous position should I ever find myself on the receiving end of a pink slip again. (It only happened twice within 9 months…..15 months ago.)

This time is going to be different. Unlike my last job, where I had to spend countless hours convincing myself that the position I was offered was “right” and “good” and “marketable.” This job is one that I’ve been cultivating for the past year. I just didn’t know it. It took the wisdom (and different point of view) of my partner in life and crime to recognize it. And the results just show that it was meant to be. It really feels right…..right down to my core.

At least for now. And that’s just what I’m holding onto….the now. I have to focus my energy on making today great. Even if I don’t have the flexibility or freedom to do whatever whim the now presents.

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