Say What?

04Apr09

‘Beyond a certain age, sincerity ceases to feel pornographic.’ DOUGLAS COUPLAND

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GOOD Magazine always has great stuff, but occasionally the greatness even surpasses my high expectations. There all this talk about your carbon footprint this and that, but rarely do we look at our overall effect on any the other resources. A couple weeks ago, GOOD did us all a favor and figured out our water footprints for common activities and consumables. After sharing this with a couple coworkers, we had a long discussion about becoming a vegetarian – and some seriously considered it.

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In addition to the uber-helpful information, I love the graphic. Makes me wonder if there’s an opportunity to do more visual presentations/infographics for our clients [kinda like another GOOD project, Starbucks’ GOOD sheets]. After all, this is 100x moreĀ  compelling than several paragraphs written about the same subject. What a great way to represent lots of numbers in a visually appealling way.


I used to be a big fan of Yelp, posting immediately after eating at every restaurant, cafe and bistro I visited. But for the past nine months or so, I’ve been a little ‘meh’ about the whole Review or Die craze. Originally, the site itself was a helpful resource for finding thoughtful, honest reviews about local places. Sometime in between then and now, it became a dumping ground for lame and damning one-line reviews from unhappy customers – or, just as bad, 5-star reviews for everything. And when you add in the recent news about Yelp’s corporate office not playing nice with business owners, I called it quits.

So, naturally, when I saw this article in PSFK, I laughed my ass off.

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Apparently, Pizzeria Delfina in San Fransisco took advantage of Yelp’s ‘thoughtful’ reviews and made shirts out of the best of the worst. Now, their staff proudly wears the 1-star reviewed words of their least satisfied customers. HA!


So I went to my second Pecha Kucha Night tonight. [For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.] And while I really liked all of the presentations, there was one that stood out from the rest.

Jesse Seay started a website called FavoriteChicagoSounds.com. And it’s exactly what you’d think it is: your favorite sounds from Chicago. Genius! So, during her presentation, I wrote it down and promptly pulled up the site when I got home.

Many people attempt to capture the culture, architecture, ego, legend, politics, cuisine and people of Chicago. But never have I seen – or rather, heard – the sounds of Chicago. This site is simply golden. Listening to sounds I’d heard a thousand times before made me smile – and hearing others for the first time made me smile even bigger.

Thank you for this unexpected walk down memory lane and journey into the yet-to-be-discovered.


If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a political junkie. So when I found out that Bill Maher was coming to Chicago as part of the 2009 Speakers Series, I simply had to buy a ticket. He’s going up against Ann Coulter, which should be…interesting, to say the least.

Next up…

  • Al Gore ‘Change of Climate’ – April 1
  • Chris Matthews interviewing Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala and Arianna Huffington ‘Free Speech and the Power of the Press’ – April 22
  • Charlie Rose interviewing James Carville and Karl Rove ‘Strategies, Alliances and Policies’ – May 28

Check out what’s on the agenda in New York and Boston. And when you buy your tickets, try promotion code ‘SPIN’ to save $10.


Killed Ideas

27Feb09

Steve Hall and the folks over at Blurb have launched killedideas.com, a sanctuary for all ideas that went before their time. All entries will be evaluated based on the ‘greatness’ of the idea, and the best of the worst will be published in Killed Ideas Volume 1.

Kudos to Blurb on this one. I love the concept of ideas living on, in solidarity, despite the challenges they once faced.


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I spent all day today at the 27th Annual Chicago Advertising Federation Career Day – and the better part of the past three months planning for it. Career Day, for those of you who don’t know, is an opportunity for college students to interact with advertising professionals and get a taste of what it’s like to work in this crazy business. Having attended the event as a college senior, I have volunteered ever since and keep it as one of my top extracurricular priorities in the ad world.

Spending a day with the enthusiastic, bright-eyed students reminds me why I love this business. Despite the bleak outlook for jobs, agencies and the overall economy, the students I met today seemed overwhelmingly positive. Sure, everyone’s burning question centered somewhere around: ‘Are you guys hiring?’ And I’d bet my allowance they heard a resounding ‘No’ from everyone they asked. Even so, I wanted to get them a little something to latch on to.

So, I dug into the archives of bad decisions I have made in the past for a lesson or two I could share. I didn’t have someone willing to share the blunders and ‘huh?!’ moments that are so common during the awkward stage between the safe confines of Academia and the cold, harsh reality of The Real World. If I couldn’t offer a job, I could at least offer some good advice, right?

Here goes…

  • Internships, internships, internships. The task to secure an internship may seem daunting at first, but remember to broaden your horizons to other cities, not just the one you’re closest to. Internships are basically really long job interviews. And there’s nothing quite like them after college, so go for it. And when you do get one, work your ass off. It’s your chance to knock the socks off the team, and show them every single day why they should hire you.
  • Make friends. You never know where your first ‘break’ is going to come from, so meet as many people as you can and foster relationships with every single one of them. One good way to get face time in an agency if you don’t have an internship is through informational interviews. Ask someone if you can have 15 minutes of their time – and I’d be willing to bet they would be happy to help you. Yes, we’re all busy, but we also all know what it’s like to need a little guidance when you’re just starting out. And after the interview, don’t let it fall off from there. Keep in touch with your new contact. Send her an article that reminds you of your conversation, her client, her agency or even one of her competitors. Not only does that make you smarter, it shows her you’re interested in fostering a relationship and you’re serious about the company.
  • Stand out from the crowd. It’s sort of a cliche, but it’s really important to be memorable. With hundreds of candidates passing through the agency, you want them to remember you. While it’s not the easiest task, it’s also far from hard. You know yourself best. Find a strength, a unique characteristic or something special you can offer the agency. And think of yourself in their shoes. If you’re looking at resume all day, what’s going to make you do a double take?
  • Never say never. When I first graduated, I was all starry-eyed about the big agencies, with the fancy names, fancy locations and fancy offices. And while all of the above is nice, it’s not required for a first job or any job for that matter. I was so focused on working at one of the ‘top’ agencies on my list, I didn’t even give the hundreds of others out there a chance. Who knows where I would have ended up in my career or geographically speaking if I wasn’t so close-minded. Remember, once you’re through the front doors, the work inside is much the same no matter where you’re at. And most times, you have the opportunity to take a larger role on projects in smaller- and mid-sized agencies. All that glitters is not gold.
  • School doesn’t end at graduation. Keep asking questions and keep that curiosity peaked. Ask people in the industry what they read. Check out some blogs – or start your own. Advertising and marketing is constantly changing, and if you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind.
  • Know your shit. I kind of figured this went without saying, but after a few recent interviews at the office, I feel the need to reiterate. When you go in for an interview, be prepared. There’s nothing that’s more of a turnoff in an interview than 1) not having a real knowledge of or interest in the agency and/or 2) not having a single question. For heaven’s sake humor me, if you don’t have any new questions, ask the same question you asked the last guy, just don’t sit there in silence without a single inquiry.
  • Keep on, keepin’ on. Last but not least, if you’re not having any luck right off the bat, don’t fret. It took me nine months to find my first job out of school. At times, I thought it was never going to happen. My mom even tried to talk me out of going into advertising for the sake of my own sanity. But it’s where I really wanted to be – and where I still want to be. Whatever you do, do something. Volunteer with a local non-profit, and offer to help with their marketing efforts. Or, start that blog I mentioned earlier. Keep refining your skills in any way you see fit – your initiative, perseverance and entrepreneurial spirit will be recognized.

And finally, great luck to all of you!


Right around a year ago, Stephen Dubner, the author of the wildly popular Freakonomics book and corresponding blog, called for suggestions of a six-word motto for the United States of America. As you might expect, with the primaries just starting to heat up, the contest got really heated. And to make a long story short, they finally landed on ‘Our Critics Prefer to Stay.’

Anyway, Dubner and Levitt have decided to do it again. So, all you patriots, get a pencil and a pad of paper – and get crackin’. Time is a-tickin’ and there are some pretty good ones already. Free Freakonomics schwag goes to the winner.


I’ve mentioned TED.com before, but every time I come across an extraordinary video, I feel compelled to post it. So, here goes…

Every week at the office, my team gets together to watch one TEDtalk and then discuss the content. Last week we watched Hans Rosling talk about the third world. Based on that poor description, it should have been a snooze fest. But rather, his presentation of the information was so engaging, so fascinating and so applicable to my job, I was nearly jumping out of my seat.

He brings life to the data like no one else I’ve ever seen. Although I loved every minute of the talk, there were two major ‘lessons’ I took away: segmentation is important, and there is a ‘right’ way to tell a story with numbers.

Ok, so in all honesty I knew the first one. I probably wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. But Rosling’s talk could be a great tool to convince someone else, a non-believer, that segmentation is imperative to smart marketing. What I love about this example is that it’s completely out of the context of advertising or marketing. The lessons still ring true, it’s not just totally in your face.

But the second – there’s a ‘right’ way to tell a story with numbers – is something I’m still trying to wrap my head around. When I see it done, it’s obvious. But when I try to do it myself, it’s a little overwhelming and never as good as I want it to be. In this business, numbers can either be the selling point – or the napping point in a meeting. And I don’t think anyone wants to present the latter.

So, be a better storyteller – and think just a little bit harder the next time you define your target audience. And enjoy the talk!


About two weeks ago, I killed my tv. Not literally, of course. I simply canceled my cable subscription, and since I don’t have an antenna, I also don’t receive the local channels. For some, this may seem rather un-newsworthy. But for the self-proclaimed couch potato that I am, this was a really big deal. I had been considering it for a while, but there was always something that stopped me – I have to watch every Cubs game, the new season of Flight of the Conchords is starting, and so on.

But finally, I just decided that there’s never going to be a ‘good time’ and that I’d give a television void life a try. And heck, if it turned out that I was miserable, the cable company is but a phone call away.

To my surprise – and to the surprise of my closest friends and family – I love not having tv. Turns out, having all the options and channels was more of a burden. I always felt like I’d be missing something if the tv wasn’t on. And in reality, I’ve come to find out that the only thing I was missing was a meaningful and productive day. Go figure.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, there are still a couple shows I seek out online (Lost, being the most important). But watching them is more of a break in the my day, rather than the focus, like it used to be.

Who knows if this will last. But for now, I can honestly say that I don’t miss it, and don’t see it coming back any time soon.