Monday 31, 2006
Friday 28, 2006
I'm not a big fan of BlogHer as a learning experience. I guess you can say I'm not a big fan of conferences as learning experiences period. They are great opportunities to meet and bond with people who share your profession and/or interests, or to discover subjects that you can look into further when you get home, or to find some inspiration, but true learning is not a fair expectation of conferences. That's what multi-day intensive seminars are for.
This is why I didn't expect much out of BlogHer. For me, it was more of chance to take a road trip with the girls and see Jen partake in her first panel. In this respect, it was very successful.
Day 1 - Thursday
The Gray Ghost is washed, its oil is changed, and it is ready for its first big road trip. Four girls (me, Jen, Erika, and Megan) load their luggage, their laptops, a cooler and a hat into the trunk with ease. The first test is passed.
We pile into the car and begin the drive North with little traffic and Jen choosing the soundtrack for our journey. Some Kasabian, The Clash, The White Stripes, and a few other bands play in the background and we chow on burritos and potato tacos from El Camino and chat about women in technology and the professional world in general (but mostly technology).
What it came down to is this - As a gender, we're not used to blowing our own horn and pushing our weight around. Jen cited a study that a colleague of hers did on women bloggers. It showed that a woman with the same tech skills as a man would almost always rate her expertise as lower in comparison to a man with the same skill set. This didn't surprise me considering that I often underestimate my own skills and am unconfident and overly modest in interviews which I don't believe helps me in the least.
I don't think we as women have a special "role" in the professional world. I believe every individual has a unique skill set and personal offering to any project and/or organization, but to say that women have a specific workplace role that is different from men is overly general and has no consideration towards true equity.
Okay, time to step off the soapbox - we arrive in Gilroy and stop at the same fresh fruit stand that we stopped at last year. Ah, the cherries. Yum.
We make our way to the hotel in San Jose, check in, see Jen off to her speakers' dinner, and get back into the car to find dinner for us non-speakers. Sometimes, nothing beats Indian food from a strip mall.
Wanda and Liz arrive later that night to partake in the next day's festivities.
Day 2 - Friday
Wake up to a semi-coherent, hypoglycemic Jen rattling on about needing my car to go to Whole Foods for some food that she can actually eat. I love Jen. I trust Jen, but there is no way in Hell that I am giving her the keys to my semi-new car so that she can take it Lord-Only-Knows-Where in a state of muddled brain function.
So we went off to Whole Foods together with Wanda for provisions. A basket filled with four bottles of wine, some cheese, crackers, and gluten-free bread products later we are ready for a weekend of estrogen.
Came back to the conference in time to the later part of the morning tech sessions and lunch keynote with Caterina Fake and Meg Hourihan. Interesting that their products, which are now known for being fantastically innovative and completely changing the game when it comes to content production, were started almost by accident.
More sessions and then its time to party by the pool. The food was horrible, but the wine was free and MommyBloggers was giving away free temporary tattoos. (I still have extras if anyone wants some.)
Off to Japan Town to get some real food. We found one of those sushi places on a conveyor belt that was pretty good and uber cheap, Sushi Maru. The six of us got away with sushi, edemame, sake, and tempura for $60. Hooray!
We came back to the room, grabbed the wine and cheese from the cooler, and called Jenny and Jen to come party with us. We mostly stuck to wine because the truffle cheese was so stinky it killed our appetite.
Day 3 - Saturday
More sessions. Dry burgers for lunch. Time for Jen's speaking gig - Is Your Blog a Gallery or a Canvas?. She did well. She even rolled with it when a caterpillar tried to commit suicide by jumping from the ceiling onto her table. In times such as that, what can you do but laugh and blog.
Key note with Grace and Arianna Huffington. I couldn't understand half of what Arianna said, but what I could make out was interesting and formidable. She knew blogging was powerful from the very beginning and fully accepted the criticism of her peers early in the process, which made her ability to accept the praise for the blog that much more credible. It must be scary to try and prove something on it's own merits when the outcome is so uncertain.
Party by the pool again. This time with weak martinis courtesy of Yahoo. Run into Mhyla and invite her to join us for cheap sushi at Maru again. (I remember that I was supposed to email her about something, but I completely forget what.)
After dinner, Mhyla drops us off at the hotel and our original group heads back to the room to polish off the last of the wine and the cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and head off to bed.
Day 4 - Sunday
The next morning we split up. Megan took a plane back to LA to finish packing for her move to St. Louis. Wanda and Liz got an early start on their ride back to LA. Erika went off to have brunch with a childhood friend. Jen and I drove up to San Francisco to visit with Mea and her new baby.
After we have had our fill of cuteness I drag Jen away from the house of Mea to meet Erika back in San Jose to begin our journey home. But not before we stop in Cupertino for dim sum.
The ride home is more about the music that the conversation. We're all spent and Jen is enjoying the Zen of a long drive. By the time we reach the Grapevine we're famished. We need food, but we made a pact to not settle for anything less than In-N-Out, which was another hour away in Valencia. We finally get there, we park and waste no time ordering food.
Mmmm.... burger bliss. We make it home in one piece and go our separate ways to bed. Satisfied that the trip was exactly what we expected, a fun time among friends.
Thursday 27, 2006
Yesterday Hadashi, Megan and I were talking about our extreme radio crush on Ira Glass and how wonderfully geeky and smart he is, and how we just love listening to him talk.
Me: I'm so lucky. My boyfriend has this fantastic deep and resonate voice. I can just lay my head on his chest and feel his every word. (sigh)
Megan: That's nice.
Hadashi: I have you beat.
Hadashi: My husband has an accent. [smirk]
Me: Oh yes. An accent does beat them all, doesn't it?
Me: My boyfriend says "Eh." Does that count?
Friday 21, 2006
One of the things I love about the internet, is that it is above all a tool for learning. Whatever you want to find out about, learn how to do, increase your knowledge of, etc. there is a website only a few search terms away, that can help you do just that.
Lately I have been feeling as though my mentorship for Account Planning, especially on the branding and strategy side has been weak at best. If you want an qualitative or quantitative analysis, I'm your gal. A point of view on a new technology, look no further. A true insight into a marketing trend or brand position, you may want to try that other guy. The trick was, that I didn't know how to get any better in that area.
Enter my savior, the internet. I was cruising through Marktd and found Russell Davies reflections on being an Account Planner for Wieden + Kennedy. I read more of his entries and discovered an interesting category called, "Account Planning School of the Web." As someone who has been looking for strong guidance on how to be a good (hopefully great) Planner this was heaven sent.
On Russell's Squidoo and blog he offers resources, suggested reading, and assignments, which are critiqued, judged, and sent back to the student at no charge. Wow. I'm not sure about Russell's motivations for doing this other than just being really nice, but I am awfully appreciative. This represents the most generous and globally beneficial aspects of the web. To share, educate, and learn.
I have submitted my first assignment, a creative brief for the 2010 World Cup, and plan to post it back to this site, warts and all, once I get it back from the judges.
Thanks Russell. This is exactly what I needed. I'm sure there is a special place in Advertiser/Marketer Heaven for you!
Friday 14, 2006
"Well," I always say, "I'm an Account Planner."
This statement is always countered with the following question, "What's an 'Account Planner?'" As though I had made it up or it doesn't really exist and I'm really just a 'Sanitation Engineer' trying to pass as something more socially acceptable, and by that I mean something virtually unheard of.
It's okay, I get it. Unless you work in advertising or the marketing department of a very large company, there is no reason for to have ever heard of an 'Account Planner," and even then there are no guarantees. If I had a nickel for every time a recruiter, who specializes in staffing for the advertising industry, called me about a Media Planning position with such-and-such company only to be confused when I would correct said recruiter and explain that I don't do media.
"But you're a Planner...."
"An Account Planner, not a Media Planner."
The poor person must have hung up thinking I was some glorified version of an Account Coordinator (entry level Account Executive with no experience).
I get it. It's not an obvious title. It's not like 'Neurosurgeon,' which you can immediately tie to medicine and surgery and that Patrick Dempsey character on Grey's Anatomy who never has anything better to do than hang about, sleep with interns, and be referred to as "McDreamy." Yeah, Account Planner is a bit obscure and on top of that they haven't made a TV show about a character in my profession yet. Not that a show like that would ever get green lighted, but that's another post.
An Account Planner is many things. They are Consumer Behaviorists, Market Researchers, Marketers, Marketing Strategists, Creative Thinkers, and Analysts. Their main job is to take a bunch of data, analyze it to death until they get stories or insights that can attribute to a either a minute or greater trend regarding the clients product and then present this in a meaningful way to the client or creative team so that an effective ad campaign can be created. Making it helpful that a Planner has both of their left and right brains fully functional.
Once the campaign is concepted, or sometimes even fully formed, it is then the Planner's job to test the concept among potential consumers. This is where we have the reputation of killing perfectly great creative and turning it into something bland and accessible that even a retarded seven year old will cheer. We prefer to avoid this kind of outcome.
But that doesn't explain everything....
Here are a few links from a planner in Northern England which provide a few rules on being a successful planner, which may (or may not) give you a better insight into my career of choice:
Northern Planner on working with Account Executives.
Northern Planner on working with Creatives.
My favorite rule is concerning humility and usefulness, "Planners are not essential. Creatives and account people did fine before planners came along. Planners need to persuade people to want them there. For creatives, being useful means two things: i) Getting their work through research and clients ii) Useful stuff, inspiration and guidance."
A lot of the web designers I met at SXSW weren't sure how someone like myself could be useful or necessary. For the most part, it's a correct impression. I know I'm not necessary. Designers and copywriters can probably do a perfectly good job without me. But, I'm really nice to have. Imagine having someone in house who's job it is to do all the consumer and competitive research so that creatives can get back to what they do best - being creative and coming up with brilliant ideas; and then Account Executives can concentrate on just keeping their clients happy and generating new business. Wouldn’t that be marvelous?
I'm not a necessity for any advertising or design firm, I realize this, but I can be really nice to have around.
Monday 10, 2006
Sometimes, if you are extremely close to a project, it's good to get an objective opinion before you do something somewhat irreversible, like buy a domain name and spend money promoting it.
Case in point, our sister agency wanted us to buy the following url:
See anything amiss. Our agency couldn't stop laughing when we got back to the office.
Here's a few more examples of good names that don't go well together. It's like peaches and cream cheese. Peaches are good. Cream cheese is good. Peach flavored cream cheese is NASTY. You'll just have to trust me on that one.
Friday 7, 2006
Most of my friends know that I'm not the most kid-friendly person on the planet. I have friends who love kids, have kids, speak their strange language, find their antics amusing, have their maternal instinct pre-wired and ready to go, but not me. I don't know what do with them besides stare at them as though they are about to explode, ask them how their day is going, and point to the bathroom when they tell me they have to go potty.
Today I found these shots and shared them with the Zen Master....
ZM: Oh wow.
Me: My ovaries are shriveling like raisins.
ZM: No doubt.
Me: I'm officially sterile.
ZM: There's this marvelous invention, maybe you've heard of it, it's called "child-proof cabinets."
Me: They have ways.
ZM: Little bastards.
Friday 7, 2006
Baby plans revenge on mother. News at 11.
During a visit to Lauren's college roommate in the boonies of Seattle, a baby was thrust into her arms. The expected results of hives, withering ovaries, and spontaneous combustion were not experienced. Extreme cuteness and laughter at the expense of Lauren's obvious lack of maternal instinct we're recorded at all time highs.
Guinness and Lauren's mother will be notified shortly.
Now that Mentos and Diet Coke Geysers have become as ubiquitous in the geek entertainment world as Star Trek and ComicCons, Mentos has finally jumped on the consumer generated media bandwagon and launched a contest for the best soda geyser videos.
The Coca-Cola Company is still ignoring the existence of this phenomenon. I guess they are spending too much money building fake happiness to capitalize on real fun. But that's an old school bureaucratic corporation for you. Hello Coke! Can we say "the 21st century version of the classic volcano science fair project?" Doesn't aligning the Diet Coke brand with supporting education and making science fun, interesting, and participatory again sound like a great idea?
Hello? Anybody there? Put down the request form and think! React! Respond! Listen to your consumers, they’re practically shouting at you!
Ah hell with it….
Good luck Hadashi and TT! I hope all that Diet Coke doesn't ruin your lawn or void your security deposit, because you have some work ahead of you if you're going to beat EepyBird.