Friday, July 30, 2010

I Moved

I have my own website now; it's You can also still catch me on Twitter and Tumblr.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why You Should Watch "Mad Men"

Don Draper and his rag-tag team of advertising misfits at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce come back to the small screen today, and that’s a good enough reason to write about it. You should give the show a try. Unless you’ve been living under a culture-proof rock for the last 4 or so years, “Mad Men” is an award-winning show on AMC about advertisers in the 60’s. That’s the abbreviated version. If you watch the show religiously, you know it’s really about the existential crisis of a man who never is quite sure of who he is or who he wants to be, set in a 1960’s Ad Agency. It’s a time machine to an era full of drinking, smoking, and philandering, but also an era full of change and empowerment. I could continue the pretentious drivel for a while, but I figured it’d probably be easier to persuade you to watch the show through quotes and videos, and a little commentary in between.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Go Forth, Get to Work, and Be A Pioneer

 | Why Levi's "Go Forth" Campaign Resonates With My Generation |

About a year ago, I was watching TV commercials, and one came on that piqued my interest. It was mostly dark, the copy was some sort of poem, and I instantly LOVED it. That ad was the first part of Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign. The ads use Walt Whitman poems very well (on one ad, apparently it is his own voice). The copy of the poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” is supposed to evoke an emotional response from my generation, and I think it does. Here’s a snippet:

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers
(Rest of poem here. Highly Recommended)

The first few ads (one embedded above, the other you can just watch on YouTube) show young people running around interspersed with grim visions of Wall Street and America. “America” is literally half-underwater in one ad, which I think is supposed to symbolize the grim, hopeless recession-era we were in (and still are, to a degree). Some people loved it. Some thought it was too arty. Others mocked it (which usually means people are at least paying attention). Either way, it really struck a chord with me, and I assume other millenials were at least intrigued.

Fast-forward a year, and Wieden & Kennedy comes back with new ads for Levi’s. W&K, out in Portland, is this year’s hot ad agency. Remember the Nike “Write the Future” ad right before the World Cup? Ever heard of the Old Spice Guy? We know that campaign resonates with the millennial generation. W&K is behind both.

Anyways, they come out with this new part of the campaign based on a dingy old town called Braddock, Pennsylvania. This town is desecrated. Dead. Like Detroit and countless other cities on the Rust Belt, this town used to be a powerful industrial city, a steel-creating powerhouse, but then jobs faded away and so did the city. Braddock is a stand-in for our broken country, and Levi’s is here to rebuild it. Levi’s is even sponsoring workshops, teaching valuable skills, so we can work.Watch the ad:

“A long time ago, things got broken here. People got sad and left. Maybe the world breaks on purpose, so we can have work to do. People think there aren’t frontiers anymore. They can’t see how frontiers are all around us.”

The ad is all about rebuilding. We know about rebuilding and repairing. Fixing New Orleans. Fixing the Gulf. Fixing the banks, and fixing health care. We’ve been left with a country in ruins. We’re here to build, to work, to find new frontiers. It’d be easy to think the only frontiers are in new tech, but we have a lot more than that to create. The new ad shows people getting ready to work. The older generations think we don’t want to work, but we do. We’re an entrepreneurial generation, ready to find these new frontiers. We’re trying to work, but for ages 20-24, the unemployment rate is somewhere around 18%. My friends and I graduated from a great university (On Wisconsin!), yet most of us are still unemployed and looking. It’s time for us to get to work.

This whole campaign is, in my mind, pretty brilliant. A year ago, when the country was even more financially broken than today, Levi’s showed us that America was broken, but we still had our youth and we could still be pioneers. Today, it’s giving us a call to action. The ad is saying that the future is in our hands, and we can rebuild. We need to rebuild. It’s up to us to fix the country.

Look, I know these ads are just here to sell jeans. They’re ads, so the main goal is to increase sales, so the effectiveness of the campaign is based around how many jeans they can sell (I’m not exactly racing to the stores). But I think good ads can resonate with the zeitgeist and create culture. Great ads become art. I think W&;K did a great job finding a basic truth about our current situation, finding a message that would resonate with our generation (the target), and boiling it down into great copy and art direction to convey that message. That's all you need: a great insight, a message from that insight, and a way to communicate that message to the right people.

What does everyone else think about the campaign? Do older generations “get it?” Am I missing anything? Let me know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Five Ways You Can Use Social Media to Get Hired

As one of my loyal readers (all fourteen of you, and that’s being optimistic), you probably know that I like Twitter. Quite a bit. I’ve written about it before. Twitter is a portal to the collective thoughts of the world. I recently commented about it on a post about why I love Twitter:

I think Twitter can fundamentally change the way those with little industry experience look for work. Connecting with the right people, posting high-quality information, and making insightful observations on Twitter could potentially catch the eye of employers. It’s an interesting new way to think about job hunting for my generation.

Twitter can change how you find a job. See, I spent a good chunk of my senior year in college sending in resumes, writing cover letter after cover letter, attending job fairs, and occasionally landing an interview because of it. This method I’m going to call the “push” method of job hunting. This is how those with little-to-no experience have been doing it for quite some time. In my case, this was (and continues to be) like shoving a boulder up a hill or getting Zooey Deschanel to marry me. 
Already Married? Rats.

But here we are in the digital age, where mere mortals like me can have real conversations with C-Level employees and thought leaders in the industry using Twitter. This is enough to make me think that perhaps there is a better way to find a job. I’m going to call it the “pull” method.

The pull method is simple in theory and difficult in execution. Basically, you get other people to want you. It’s easy if you’re LeBron James, not so easy if you’re Applicant #4000. This is where our pal social media comes in to save the day. Social media won’t get you “pulled” through to a new career on its own, but it will definitely make pushing that boulder a little easier. Using social media isn’t a direct means to employment, but it can definitely help. Here are five ways you can use social media to (help) get hired:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Spice"-ing Up Advertising

Why the "I'm On a Horse" guy is a cultural phenomenon

By this point, you’d have to be under a very large rock for a very long time to have missed the Old Spice ads. The campaign went viral when it began and continues to garner a lot of attention with each new ad. The campaign managed to get star Isaiah Mustafa a deal with NBC. It also won the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, which is sort of like the Best Picture Oscar. Additionally, the ad was recently nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial, and will most likely win (with their momentum, none of the others can really compare). So, what makes this ad campaign so special? Why does it connect with us, and why did it go viral?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Jaded Gen-Y Guide to Business Buzzwords

Every profession has jargon that is used as shorthand, and that’s great. Using jargon is necessary so a carpenter doesn’t have to say “that big metal doo-hickey” and so scientists don’t have to use long, boring explanations to explain what a uberthermodynamic enthropic reaction is (disclaimer: I don’t think that is real). These words and phrases are around to make their lives easier and less confusing. Buzzwords in business, however, seem to be around solely to make everyone a little more confused. I think they’re around so that you can convey meaning where none actually exists and so you can sound more important than you actually are. It’s the same reason some writers use the term “antediluvian” just to say “before the flood” or “really old.”

I’m not very fond of buzzwords. For the reasons I previously listed, they’re made fun of by a lot of people (present company included). This scene from 30 Rock is a great parody of using buzzwords. I went to B-School (Go Badgers) so I have a pretty good idea of what they actually mean (most of the time). I’ve seen more acronyms than I could ever remember, have heard of more “blue oceans”, and have explained the “hedgehog concept” (all it means is “do what you’re good at.” HOW IS “HEDGEHOG CONCEPT” EASIER?). Naturally, I’m a little jaded.

I’m currently in the middle of creating a fake press release using “The Most Overused Buzzwords in PR” as a satire of the industry for The Black Sheep Agency. Somewhere in the middle of using 75+ of the buzziest buzzwords in the industry, I started to realize that there are very few people who know what any of these words actually mean. Therefore, here’s a layman’s dictionary of buzzwords you’ll hear in business, PR, and marketing from someone who is a little cynical about them. If this blog was a tabloid, I’d call this post “The Definitions THEY Don’t Want You to Know!!!” Check it out after the jump, and leave some more of your favorites in the comments.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Millenial Dilemma: Trying to Find a (Work/Life) Balance

My generation is a lot of things. We have a lot of great traits: we’re tech-savvy, we’re mobile, we’re driven (albeit in a different way than the other generations), and we’re always trying to be better. We’re also viewed very negatively by “them.” They say we have a high sense of entitlement without having earned it and have no attention span, but that’s for a different post. We tackle work differently too.

The 9 to 5 work schedule is crumbling because of technology. Smartphones are keeping us connected and able to answer emails all day and night, but they’re also allowing us to access our Facebook and Twitter accounts while we’re “working” (a lot of companies are very worried about this). We can stay connected to both worlds all day very easily. More than any previous generation, we’re seeing a merger of professional and personal life.

In the past, it was easier to keep work at work. If you were someone like Don Draper (Mad Men is back on July 25th!), you didn’t bring work home and definitely didn’t have the wife and kids on your mind at work. You’d go to work, flip on the “work mode” switch in your brain, and get working (admittedly, “work mode” in Mad Men sounds pretty great). Then, you’d come home (or the home of a mistress, or a bar, in Draper's case) and flip that switch off. Now, we’re never completely “off” and never completely “on,” which is restructuring how we spend our time. So the real question is this: How do we separate work and our personal lives? Here are a few ideas.

Set Clear Boundaries: Because of the speed at which information is passed these days, it’s hard not to be connected. We get emails, notifications from Facebook, text messages, and Twitter updates all day, and it is frustrating when we can’t answer them in real-time. We’re hooked on technology because it literally affects our brain like love and cocaine. But in reality, is it really life or death to answer email while you’re out at a baseball game or a bar? Most of the time, everything will still be OK in the morning. Give yourself some time off.

Separate Social Media Accounts: Some people have a personal and a professional twitter account. By keeping your personal contacts and friends on one Twitter account and then an occupation-specific account, you can make sure your lives don’t bleed into each other. This is something I don’t personally believe in. A lot of people think that you should keep separate ones, but I don’t see the point. I’m not about to whitewash myself just so employers think I’m someone else; I see it as inauthentic. Our generation is pretty into authenticity.

You know, the more and more I try to think of ways to separate life and work, the more I stop believing it’s possible. It’s not really an “on” or “off” life anymore, it’s more of a dimmer switch. This means that we’re going to need to adapt. Employers are going to have to learn how to deal with workers who are making plans and communicating with their friends over various channels while at work. Families will have to learn to cope with other family members who are always checking their email, never completely disconnected from their job. Some people going to learn how to balance these things, but I fear a lot won’t be up for the change. That’s too bad. We’ll move forward without them.