Wednesday, December 23, 2009

let's be friends

ok, everyone's on facebook these days.

from school kids to grandmother's sharing pictures of the grandkids to MI5 agents (they've been taken off) to corporations, production companies and brands.

amongst the successes, brands that appeal to young people, that are also young, playful and spontaneous

like avon's mark

so here's the question - can you be friends with a luxury brand?

i asked a couple of people what they expect from their facebook "friends"

they all said the same thing, they want to see what their friends are doing, want to see if their friends are interested in the same things, they want a window into their friends' lives.

for a luxury brand, they want some "secrets" - inside information on what really happened at the shoot, the items that people are REALLY buying, the most exciting trend predictions, maybe secret sales or info on how to get on the waiting list for the latest "it" bag - they want to feel like they are part of the brand story.

they want all that stuff that's "just between friends" - they want to feel part of something special.

what they don't want is recycled press releases and advertisements.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Revolution will not televised

gil-scott heron had it right.

every 5 minutes (it feels like), someone asks me to work on a project, be part of a team or tells me about a "revolutionary" new way to approach advertising and marketing.

there's the incredible new car app - that resulted in an interactive billboard in times square that you could draw on from your iphone if you downloaded their app.

cute. and really fun. but it's a party trick. does it bring you closer to buying that car? does it speak to the car's benefits and your desires?

it seems like most of the earth-shattering new product development ideas are like that. gimmicks, party tricks or attention-grabbers, but unrelated to the the key - the reason you wanted anti-cold medicine or vitamin-enhanced energy bars to begin with. or they are personalizations - just a step ahead of the old nike id - you can choose the color, the laces and the logo - but it's still the same shoe. you can't turn it into a hiking sandal, a boot or gloves. and, of course, the big brother corporation will still limit how far your "individuality" can go. thus they are not customization, just variations.

the point is - breaking the mold isn't just changing the shape of the mold - it doesn't mean putting your print ads online and/or making them interactive. it's not enough to just keep bombarding consumers with the same stuff with slight variations, in slightly different formats.

as consumers, we're fed up. we're no longer willing to drop our dollars on novelty items that are not much better than what we had before.

so what is new?

1. start with product development - try and think like a start-up - what is missing in people's lives? where's the hole? what do people really want? what do you really want?

if you're stuck, think BIG. think macro.

what do we all need? food, shelter, water, air. and then work your way backwards until you arrive at the beautiful, insulated teapot that pours perfectly, keeps your tea warm for hours and has a leaf strainer so efficient that you will never go back to tea bags. price it fairly. package it enticingly.

but re-bottling an old product you have and then trying to make your target market love it is sneaky, unless you really can fulfill a need. try and solve a problem beautifully and elegantly.

ask yourself WHY DO WE EXIST? why is this product necessary?

if you're interested in longevity, design AND substance matter.

2. think about new ways to talk to people. think about how you respond yourself. think of ways in which to bring the consumer into the story, to speak to them respectfully, to really listen to their desires. it's no longer tv commercials or tv commercials on youtube.

it's communication that adds richness and density to their lives.

it's more than just a packaged, sponsored sale pitch, it's something that allows you to feel the fingerprints of the maker still smudged into the surface.

it's something that makes you feel connected to something bigger and more important.

or something that makes you see the incredible beauty in minute detail perfected. come on, zen buddhists know all about this.

it's not about your methods of communication, it's about your ability to reach into people's souls. and really speak to them. honestly. with love, intelligence and caring.

it's not shiny and plastic.

it's deep and complicated and very pleasurable. but also trustworthy.

that is the revolution.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

american muslim consumer conference

this saturday, oct 31 - admittedly, halloween - is the first american-muslim consumer conference.

even the fact that it exists in itself, is a thrilling event.

given the current vagaries of the economy, when you discover an entire affluent group of consumers who are literally LONGING to be targeted - why would you ignore them?

here's the thing - muslim-americans spend money - our value as consumers is estimated as $179 billion to $200 billion - and we are educated, tolerant, open to marketing and desperate to see ourselves well-portrayed in the media.

even the discreet, small-scale advertising targeted toward muslim-american consumers has been incredibly effective - we come out in force when we see ourselves recognized. resulting sales have been proven to increase 2-400%. on a larger scale, imagine the possibilities...

and here's the thing - targeting muslim-americans needn't be just selling halal food - the quran exhorts humans to look after the earth, perfectly synchronicitous with the green movement in marketing.

the quran also asks that we treat workers fairly, that we give charity, that we help people with our consumption - a perfect segue into fair trade products, products that help struggling people succeed, products that give back in so many ways.

muslim-friendly financial products could involve a share in profits and losses, a responsibility for social and environmental effects.

muslim-friendly clothing is not only modest, it's organic, it's fair-trade, it's attractive and it doesn't overtax our resources.

muslim-friendly books aren't just based on islam - they are books that espouse values that help us to be better, healthier, kinder and more well-adjusted people...

all right, corporations, we're practically putting this in your laps. on your marks, get set, sell!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

let's get retarded in here

feeling uneasy & anxious today. something's got to change.

admittedly, i have the patience of a fruit fly.

but post-pilates yesterday, we were all sitting around discussing the economy, the way the super-rich are manipulating the poor - through technology, drug testing, money, precious metals, etc - and all the current scams.

and i was drained.

i just wanted to go shopping. i want to see bright colors and shiny objects. i want sparkling party dresses and high-heeled shoes. i want a week in disneyworld where absolutely everything is clean and happy and insignificant.

suddenly, after a year, i was desperate to go into a department store, a huge, glistening emporium of gifts and pleasure. i want to be distracted and entertained on a scale so large and insincere it brightens up all the dark, depressing corners of my mind. even it's only temporary.

this is why, if you're a retailer, it's so important to say, "oh look, we've got all this fun stuff! come see!" it's important to be the retail equivalent of a movie like "knocked-up" or "pineapple express" - so incredibly amusing and silly and smiling that you brighten everyone's mood - without leaving them with the sour feeling of having been scammed or driven into debt in the aftermath. (because then they won't come back).

that's the rising appeal of places like topshop or designer collaborations with target, wal-mart & kohl's - it's a carnival, it's ethereal, immediate and fabulous - but you always feel you've had value for your limited funds.

that's what i want right now.

a cheap thrill.

Monday, October 5, 2009

let me in!

been thinking about high-end luxury brands especially after reading that jimmy choo is going to come out with a total lifestyle brand.

and wondering (like pam danziger's astute readings) whether it is really necessary.

we are all - even shopping addicts like myself - shopping differently. we think twice, even on impulse purchases. every penny saved is really a penny saved. i find myself only parting with cash when i feel something is absolutely necessary, even when i can afford it.

or one-time only rare and remarkable. i am drawn to temporary pop-up shops, to ethereal and immediate collaborations between low and high - vera wang for kohl's, norma kamali for wal-mart, alexander wang for gap, mcqueen for target and christopher kane for topshop... years ago, i stood in line in the pouring rain for HOURS to get the anya hindmarch bags for wholefoods - i would still do that today.

there is the thrill of the chase, the idea that something is only available for a minute, the sense that i am clever for recognizing a historical event and becoming a part of it.

but there is the other thing - something that was previously out of my reach - either economically or psychology, just offered me a step up.

suddenly, as a brand, it is no longer cold, it is both re-invigorated, fresh and friendly.

as a consumer, i felt i had a personal invitation to come inside.

when an otherwise unapproachable luxury house like gucci, prada, louis vuitton or chanel creates an affordable and totally surprising collaboration, we'll feel like the door is open.

now they are speaking to ME.

and next time i have a bit more money to invest - i'll walk through the heavy glass doors into the icy showroom and feel the heat of desire because the brand has turned its perfect gaze to us...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ethereal story, pedestrian conclusion

it's so strange that a beautiful vision can transport you - take you out of your own reality into someone else's, transform your moment into a dream - and a bad tagline can send you crashing back down into reality.

the wrong words can turn the whole thing into an obvious cliche or a bad joke.

is anyone listening?

Monday, April 27, 2009


having trouble getting my blog on there. Technorati Profile

let's see if this works.

swap claim code

please excuse the technical malfuctions.


i spent this weekend up at columbia at an event called Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow.

apart from being floored by the sheer talent, credentials, education, skills and clout of the young muslims in the attendance - i was also blown away by what we learned.

our first lecture was by two PR companies (Fenton and Auburn communications, respectively) - who reminded us how to deal with the press effectively, how to become the go-to person for press outlets, how to keep control of an interview and how to make sure that what you're doing and saying is newsworthy.

which led perfectly into my second part - the op-ed project - we took part in an incredible program that attempts to level the field in policy-making and influence by increasing the number of women writing op-eds. currently, editorial writers are 90% white male. this is partly because only 1 in 10 op-ed submissions comes from a woman.

however, for me, the most interesting part of both programs was a question from catherine orenstein, one of the founders of the op-ed project:

do you understand your knowledge, experience and power in terms of its value to others?

in other words, why does what you want to say matter?

in other words, SO WHAT?

this is a question i tend to ask clients i am working for - and it usually gets them angry and irritated - but it is incredibly useful in getting them to appeal to their audiences more effectively.

think about your message. is it internal or designed for your target?

for instance, Google's mission - do not do evil - is internal. it's for the people inside google.

if your mission is "artistic excellence" - that's for you to strive for - not for audiences who want a story, an emotional connection, who want to be moved, distracted and entertained.

when you think about what you do - always ask yourself - WHO CARES?

not from the pov, that's "it's good for them" - because no one wants to take their medicine.

but how does what you do/create/communicate add positive value to someone's life in a way that he/she will seek you out?

how do you become the object of desire?

by asking yourself again and again the hard question - WHO CARES?

Technorati Profile

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Muslims for Peace!

yes, advertising CAN make changes.

hurray! queen rania has favorited our video on her youtube channel - it's just the beginning. time to start shooting more...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

in the beginning, there was the word

back when i was a freelance writer/copywriter, this biblical verse (john) was on my business card.

and the point is, the words matter.

quite often, ideas begin with the right words. finding them takes time.

and the wrong ones - or too many words - can kill an idea in its infancy.

i remember i did a job for japanese client and my agent called me all distressed, she said, the client said, why should i pay so much money for only three words?

i was laughing my head off.

let's think - how much would you pay for three seminal words like "just do it" or two like "think different"?

yes, the build-up to the nike line was brilliant. and now it's dogging them a bit.

and images matched with the apple ad really made a huge difference. but the words brought the brand front and center in people's minds.

so while i LOVE that elevator pitch thing from the harvard business school, the missing element is the word-finder.

because the choice of words make all the difference between predictable and inspiring.

if you're talking about something fun, you want the words to be bright, enthusiastic and punchy.

if you're talking about luxury or banks, you want the words to have weight, importance, history, a sense of responsibility and care.

fragrance and cosmetics? the words are generally sensual, indulgent, romantic - but they are also light and transparent - they inspire dreams.

fashion? they should be bold, unexpected and definitive. they should speak to the way the wearer identifies him/herself. unless it's a brand based on tradition or investment, fashion is playful and exciting, it's a chance to reinvent yourself.

art and dance? the words should dance or splash colors on the page, the thrill should come from the immediacy, the ability to move your emotions and touch your soul. (the right words might even cause stendhal syndrome!)

just been asked to work on an american fashion brand who wants to be playful fresh and, of course, american. and i had to ask for a lot more details.

because what's american? ernest hemingway or william faulkner? mark twain? hunter s. thompson? willa cather?

what's more american - tommy hilfiger, ralph lauren, donna karan, calvin klein - or is the gap? coach, cole haan, ann taylor, american apparel, kate spade?

we're in a recession. differentiation is more and more important. what separates all those pretty pictures on billboards and websites?

lucky me. otherwise the hbs elevator pitch tool would make me irrelevant.

the words are key.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

let this be a lesson to you

this has to be one of the most brilliant tools out there.

get out your thesaurus and let the harvard business school help you:

the idea is to take your pitch/your existing business/your idea and like twitter - edit it to the most salient, exciting points delivered with passion and faith -

oh yes, i could use that often myself. i LOVE adjectives.

just imagine if EVERYONE used this...

that said, a thesaurus is key because the word choices hbs gives you are so cliche and predictable, you will sound like a venerable old bank (and we know how much everyone adores banks these days) if you use them.

oh gosh, if people do this properly, i may soon be unnecessary!

Friday, April 17, 2009

come on, get happy

at least in the beauty/fashion industry, everyone is operating in panic mode.

people who don't have jobs are leaping and jumping every time someone calls them for something - even if they want to pay you in dreamsicles.

people who DO have jobs are having panic attacks, taking valium, doing yoga classes obsessively and not answering anyone unnecessary - whether it's on the phone, by email or seeing them in the street.

people spend days and days trying to make decisions.

and then they change their minds.

or the budgets get cut because someone else changed his mind.

or they get laid off because someone said it was the smart thing to do in this economy.

wandered around the shops on wednesday and noted that in henri bendel, bergdorf goodman and saks - the only people on the selling floors were salespeople. it felt like a mauseoleum.

no wonder no one wants to go to shops.

instead of retail therapy, they've become fear-inducing places trying to deplete your financial insulation against the onslaught of the economy.

we need to figure out a new way to sell stuff.

a fluttery silk-shift printed with enormous flowers and beading on the neck can still stop me dead in my tracks.

and those metallic high-heeled prada gladiators. the chanel black hightops. a cool, multicolored FLIP camera.

a bottle of hampton privet hedge fragrance.

i want them...

we just need to change how we buy. i don't want to buy in a suffocating, windowless edifice where everything feels artificial and manipulated.

i want fresh natural salespeople. i want to feel like i'm getting something customized for me, something special and original. maybe handmade.

i want daylight and air.

i want to feel like i've got my friends around.

and i want to feel like i'm paying a fair price and not mortgaging my kids' future - no bad plastic, no bottles that can't be recycled, no horrific chemical ingredients or treatments, nothing made by child labor or political prisoners.

come on,

we all need stuff.

you can't really get EVERYTHING at wholefoods.

the way to a man's heart might be through his stomach but a woman still falls for something pretty.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Re-Think Beauty

i'm not talking about freckles here.

i'm talking about why the big retouched picture with the celebrity will not move mascara. or skin cream.

or anything else attached to the logo on the lower righthand corner.

we are not buying formulas any more.

we want trust and intimacy.

and some fun.

2 weeks' ago, i was interviewing for a job as creative director of major cosmetic company in europe.

before i met with the person at the company, i dragged my huge portfolio up and met with the headhunter. then i was given 4-pages of questions to answer:
which celebrities have i worked with,
how comfortable am i in the world of celebrities,
how many top photographers have i worked with,
how comfortable am i managing their talent,
what are the budgets of the ad campaigns i have worked on, etc. etc.

(needless to say, i cleverly forgot that it was st. patrick's day & the interview took place on 5th ave & 57th st - had to climb police barricades, etc. thus arrived sweaty, disheveled& 15 minutes' late). i rushed through my portfolio like a chipmunk on speed.

i ended my interview by saying, i think the brand has great potential but it is currently dead in the water. no one cares.

on top of that

traditional advertising is not compelling any more.

if you're a big company, you have to do it a little bit - from time to time - so you get to have fun at the shoot and feel glamorous.

but traditional advertising does not get women in the door of shops.

the cosmetics sales floor at bergdorf goodman, saks 5th ave, bloomingdale's, nordstrom are mausoleums.

everyone knows now that if you throw enough money at her, any celebrity or top model will put her face on your product. that doesn't mean she is putting your product on her face.

all those top photographers are learning to churn out the least offensive (or exciting) stuff and no one believes it any more.

i told her i had read a ton of blogs and no one was even talking about her brand, except to say that they were doing nothing.

their last big product breakthrough was a packaging gimmick not a real innovation. and it wasn't reviewed well.

on top of everything else - their communication lacked love and passion.

i said, you need to speak like you LOVE your consumer. you have to love women.

and you need a real PASSION and excitement for your product - it needs to be palpable and electric - it has to INSPIRE.

you have to be offering a woman a bit of fun, an escape, a laugh

and you also have to speak with honesty and accountability.

i've spoken to tons of women about why they are buying beauty products today and the answer is the same. it's word-of-mouth. if a friend tells them the product is incredible, really does what it says it does, they will scrimp and save and go without (and climb barricades) to get it.

i said, look, i'm not a rock star. i'm not interested in going to celebrity parties or hanging out in clubs with photographers.

i'm a real woman, a single mum with three kids who worries about paying her bills, pacifying her exhusbands, getting to work on time, setting a good example for my daughters and buying products that are worth the money i sacrifice.

i'm interested in giving other women a great product, starting a conversation with them, listening to them and making them happy.

we need to stop trying to get the women to come to us.

we have to go to them.

we have to give them something wonderful.

and then they might come back again.

oh - needless to say, i did not get the job.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


marketing with love

i adore this article from ad age

kentucky fried chicken is filling potholes in their community - and branding them.

four or five years ago, i was working on a christmas catalogue an african-american beauty brand called carol's daughter. and the woman in charge of the project, clarisa, was someone i had worked with previously on an african-american haircolor brand called mizani.

both projects were really exciting for me because imho the african-american audience is underserved by marketing and communication. despite the fact that they ARE buyers of prestige products, the advertising geared specifically to the "ethnic market" is cheap and cheerful.

maybe not even so cheerful.

it assumes that they've got no money and even less taste.

ethnic hair products are generally embarassingly cheaply-packaged and full of questionable ingredients.

so i was excited about creating beautiful, sophisticated communication that spoke to an african-american woman's aspirations as well as her needs. work that was respectful and exciting. something that didn't speak down to her.

but in both cases, i suggested to clarisa that she reduce her advertising budget and instead do something that spoke the the community.

for mizani - how about helping women who've lost their hair to too much lye and haircolor? how about teaching them how to use products more effectively and how to protect their hair?

in the case of carol's daughter, it would have been the first christmas post-katrina. rather than an ad or even a printed catalogue i suggested they create a series of "travel kits" and deliver them to homeless families all over the american south.

they would gain the goodwill of the african-american community and they would also gain a lot of loyal users (because the products are great) who would purchase the products in the future.

needless to say, they ignored my suggestion.

i still believe that if you love your audience, you can always find a way to give them something to help them love you back.

because selling stuff is kind of like dating - and if you don't love the person you're trying to seduce - then sooner or later, they'll see right through it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

free or slavery?

when it comes to helping your friends, there is always a place where you have to ask yourself, "what is this worth?"

there's always a point when, because you're doing something for nothing, they run you round in circles "getting it perfect."

their answer is they are so personally-invested in the product, they are so close to it, that they have to call you at 3am with a BRILLIANT idea that disregards everything you've said to them so far.

everything that you've spent 15 or 20 years learning and perfecting and getting well-paid for doing.

here's where the problem starts.

most people don't respect what they get for free. (and if they get it for even half-price, somewhere in their minds, they are thinking that if they REALLY HAD THE MONEY they'd go to the expensive guy.)

perceived value. sadly.

i was talking to a lawyer the other day and i really liked her. so i said, "could i hire you?"

and she said, "you can't afford me."

and then of course, i was desperate to figure out how to get the money to pay for her services. she referred me to another lawyer who charges a very fair price and, of course, i secretly believed the other person was substandard.

that's why when your friend (or your mum's friend or a friend of a friend) asks you to help rather than hiring someone to design her logo or write her tagline, she is never totally happy with any of your work.

in the end, after you've worked like a dog, she takes your design/tagline - the style of which has been good enough for several multimillion corporations - and futzes with it in appleworks or something and decides that she could have just done it herself all along.

and when (if) she becomes really successful, she will hire fabien baron or doug lloyd or something.


i suggest that - unless you are helping a friend with a not-for-profit charity and maybe even then - you should charge them. even more if they are a family friend.

if they don't have cash, charge a percentage of profits or sales or something that equals what you would charge in real life.

you can have a contract that shows a donation of services to a not-for-profit

and/or one that requires them to mention you in any PR or press materials.

because not being appreciated when you're working for nothing is just slavery.

Friday, March 13, 2009

money for nothing

i go to a brilliant young acupuncturist called mona chopra who is just beginning to build her practice.

and since work is quiet these days, i asked if she wanted to do a trade - branding, copywriting, design, marketing strategy - for treatments. three days work at $500 a day - though of course it would be well more than 3 days for someone just starting out, but that was my cap.

she said, oh no, i don't think i can afford to invest that much in my business!

so i said, you will have to invest in your business whether it's in time or money, but i suggest you start some supercheap, viral marketing.

step one: sit and figure out your strength/point of difference. describe your practice in one sentence. and see why that makes you better or different than any other acupuncturist (or magazine or dance company or rainforest organization).

if it helps to brainstorm with someone, do it. but make sure they know a bit about the field and the competition across categories.

also, make sure they are going to brave enough to help you cut back on all your adjectives and long explanations.

last of all, make sure you make your description simple, short and clear.

make your name fun and friendly.

people want to be able to categorize you. that makes them understand you and have a platform to engage with you. otherwise, you are a hazy cloud.

if you seem to be something incomprehensible, undefinable - it's too much work - people will just walk past. especially right now. when the world feels so strange and scary.

so you need to give yourself a position that doesn't just make sense to you, but that makes sense to people who've never experienced - or even thought about what you do.

my friend mona worried that if she defined herself too much, she'd limit her audience.

i had to explain that the more you draw your lines, the more space there is to grow. it's a structure. and, right now, niche branding is appealing.

you know what you'll get.

and that's what you want.

step two: set up a facebook and a twitter account, a basic website and a blog. use your new positioning to describe yourself. put up a couple of posts so there's something for people to discover.

build a facebook group for acupuncture or join one and write a lot of comments.

make your website an informational site on acupuncture itself.

this is also your platform to describe yourself more fully. like a newspaper article - put the immediate stuff upfront, your position, your who-what-where-when-how and then slowly descend through the whys and back up to expand on the hows.

this allows the reader to learn about you at their own pace. or level of engagement.

step three: get out on the street. for instance, if you're an acupuncturist, you should go to spas, hair salons, vitamin shops, the whole body section at whole foods, juice bars. and hang out and talk to the people who work there.

tell them why you're so great. why acupuncture is so great. offer them a free treatment. give them your card and - if they enjoyed it or found it effective - tell them to pass it on.

put up your flyers and cards in gyms and yoga and pilates studios. take a class and make an effort to talk to the teacher afterwards.

and the thing is - if you really believe in your product - so will everyone you tell.

step four: take your needles out on the street. if you go to a party, take a small travel case and offer to show people quick remedies. or use acupressure to explain.

if you're sitting in the park on a nice day, have a friend sit on a folding chair and do a live acupuncture performance. explain to people who are watching what you are doing. give them a card. or a free mini-treatment. offer to talk at any events that need experts on chinese medicine or acupuncture.

step five: get online and look for blogs and websites that discuss acupunture and chinese medicine, then post comments. and make sure it includes your contact information.

the point being there are a lot of cheap pricks.

simply paying for advertising is too easy.

plus, no one believes it any more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

girl power

i'm getting ready to do a presentation on advertising to a whole bunch of 13 year-olds at the United Nations International School tomorrow morning.

and i'm nervous.

because their teachers dig out those old subliminal seduction books from the 70s and then they show them ads and point out "hidden" sexual organs or secret psychological manipulations that convince them to buy stuff.

or how we make girls feel bad about themselves.

and as usual, i am (like aaron eckhart in thank you for smoking) the evil empire.

i once had to do it opposite naomi wolf who was whooping up the girls and saying, "you need to hold advertising agencies accountable!"

so i said, "you need to hold YOURSELVES accountable."

there's a lot of victim mentality in complaining that images of women make you feel bad or manipulated.

first of all, when you're going down the highway and you see a huge billboard for a big mac or a whopper and fries - and you're older than 5 - do you really think that when you go through the drivethru, your order will look like that?


we are selling an ideal. we are indeed convincing you to buy something by making it look as good as possible. it's a dream. it is not reality.

and the truth is - no one wants to buy reality. not least because we've already got lots of it.

but if you really don't like the advertising, get rid of it.

consumers don't seem to realize how much power they have.

how many creatives have made a beautiful socially-conscious ad for a client and had it get killed in focus groups because the consumers just don't care?

the number of times i've fought to have a woman without heavy make-up and/or retouching and had focus groups complain that she looks tired, ugly or like she just hasn't put herself together.

or shown a woman with a normal body and had her killed (not really just the picture) because "her thighs are fat."

or the number of times a line of copy gets removed or re-written because a consumer writes a letter saying that it insulted or offended him or her in one way or another.

i always say, "if you don't like the advertising - or the way women are portrayed, write a letter to the company. call them or tell them. ask your friends to do the same."

and i remind them, when they complain about britney spears or paris hilton, that they actually have the ultimate power:

"if you don't like britney spears or paris hilton or miley cyrus - don't buy their stuff. consumers control what is sold.

hate it?

don't buy it."

by the way, people are not buying Dove products.

> Study: Skinny Women Better for Bottom Line
> Researchers Find Thin Models Make Viewers Like Brands More, but Themselves
> Less
> Quote: "The really interesting result we're seeing across multiple studies
> is that these thin models make women feel bad, but they like it," Mr. Kees
> said. "They have higher evaluation of the brands. With the more regular-size
> models, they don't feel bad. Their body image doesn't change. But in terms
> of evaluations of the brands, those are actually lower."
> By Jack Neff
> Published: July 30, 2008
> BATAVIA, Ohio ( -- Thin is still in for advertising, new research
> suggests, unless you're trying to sell cookies or self-esteem.
> Women who had just seen thin models were nearly four times more likelyto
> turn down a snack pack of Oreo cookies offered as thanks for their
> participation in the study than women who hadn't.
> A study by business professors at Villanova University and the College of
> New Jersey, inspired by Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty," shows that ads
> featuring thin models made women feel worse about themselves but better
> about the brands featured.
> Seeing thin models also made college-age women far more likely to turn down
> a snack pack of Oreo cookies offered as thanks for their participation in
> the study, or to opt for a reduced-fat version. Women who had just seen thin
> models were nearly four times more likely to say no to Oreos than women who
> hadn't, and 42% more likely to opt for reduced-fat cookies if they did
> indulge.
> Women in a sample of 194 college students aged 18-24 expressed more negative
> feelings about their sexual attractiveness, weight and physical condition
> after seeing thin models than before. So-called high self-monitoring women,
> or those more concerned about what others think of their appearance, were
> the most negatively affected by seeing the thin models in the study.
> More likely to buy
> The professors are still preparing a written report on results from a second
> phase of the research, which found that despite the negative effect on their
> body image, women preferred ads showing thin models and said they were more
> likely to buy products featured in those ads than in ones showing
> "regular-size models," said Jeremy Kees, a business professor at Villanova.
> "The really interesting result we're seeing across multiple studies is that
> these thin models make women feel bad, but they like it," Mr. Kees said.
> "They have higher evaluation of the brands. With the more regular-size
> models, they don't feel bad. Their body image doesn't change. But in terms
> of evaluations of the brands, those are actually lower."
> Mr. Kees acknowledged the findings create something of a quandary for
> marketers, who might have a positive effect on young women's self-esteem by
> showing more typical women in ads, but suffer in the marketplace as a
> result.
> "I'd tend to be cautious about using models in advertising that wouldn't
> maximize the attitudes and evaluations of the advertising and the brands,"
> he said. "Certainly [Dove is] getting a lot of publicity, and it's a great,
> innovative campaign. But in terms of the bottom line of how that might be
> impacting ... purchase behavior, I'm not sure."
> Appetite suppressant
> Mr. Kees said the professors landed on the Oreo tactic, in which study
> participants didn't know their post-ad-exposure cookie-eating would be
> monitored, as a way of studying real behavioral impact in addition to the
> usual survey responses regarding ads.
> The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, backed by its Campaign for Real Beauty, has
> exceeded its original goal of reaching 1 million young girls by this year
> and expanded its target to 5 million by 2010.
> The data shows a definite, if short-term, link between thin models in ads
> and eating behavior, but Mr. Kees said he wasn't comfortable making the leap
> that seeing thin models could cause eating disorders.
> Dove and its agency, Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto, weren't reluctant to connect
> those dots in their "Onslaught" viral video released last year, splicing
> scenes of yo-yo dieting and bulimia into a montage of beauty advertising.
> "That's a far stretch to infer an eating disorder from a one-time choice,"
> Mr. Kees said, but added, "That's certainly a scenario that would be rich
> for future research."
> The new study in part concurs with and in part diverges from some prior
> research on the impact of thin models. Research reported in 2005 and 2006
> from psychology professors at University of Sussex and University of West
> England in the U.K. concluded that ads featuring ultra-thin models do make
> women feel worse about their looks, but aren't any better at selling
> products than ads featuring more typically proportioned women.
> The Lower Chamber of France's Parliament earlier this year passed a law that
> would ban the use of ultra-thin models in ads, and authorities in Spain last
> year banned ultra-thin models from runways. Unilever also vowed to not use
> size-zero models in any of its advertising.
> Unilever stays the course
> In a statement, a spokesman for Unilever said the company believes its
> approach works. "Unilever is confident in the effectiveness of its
> advertising," he said. "We believe women have the right to feel comfortable
> with their bodies and not suffer from lack of self-esteem brought on by
> images of excessive slimness."
> Dove's campaign, he said, has "penetrated society and started a dialog about
> real beauty," adding that "we are thrilled by the overwhelming positive
> responses we have received from women (and men) as a result of the
> campaign."
> The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, backed by the campaign, has exceeded its original
> goal of reaching 1 million young girls by this year and expanded its target
> to 5 million by 2010., he said, already has
> reached 4.5 million people.
> Despite those efforts, he said, "There is no question that women and young
> girls are being bombarded with unrealistic messages and images of beauty
> that impact their self-esteem." But, he said, "We are excited to see now
> (and have seen in the past couple of years) a growing trend towards more
> realistic and healthy looking women in advertising and in the media."

here's what we suggested to AVON in terms of their positioning:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is this EVIL?

every six months or so, my well-educated, visionary brother (ash meer, who also works in advertising) and i have this argument about the evils of marketing.

he says we are making people obese, debt-ridden, greedy and malcontent.

i say we're giving people hope and optimism. even if just for a second.

then i have lunch with my marketing guru friend, kim vernon - just to play devil's advocate, i take my brother's point that we are leading people astray - and she says, "people aren't so stupid that they believe us. and if they are, that can't be our fault."

that's why i was so thrilled to see seth godin's blogpost this morning:

is marketing evil?>

not an NRA supporter myself - but i do agree with the thought - it's not guns, it's the people holding them.

i started take-out media, my advertising agency, as an idea:

advertising is a powerful voice that can be used for GOOD.

we can deliver respect, beauty and love with a greater reach than art and literature (because we've got funding and we keep it simple).

i believe great marketing can save the world.

we started with the project:

my goal is to add some "big-picture" thinking to every project i work on, whether it's a new fragrance or fashion line, lipstick, skincare or a homeless organization or a diabetes foundation.

how does everything you consume make you feel more part of the whole? the community of human beings? the community of life on the planet?

how can you feel better about yourself as well as others? how can you give something back even in some small way?

as a muslim, it's easy for me to see how the power of the pulpit can be misappropriated and cause terrible suffering.

as a sufi, i can see how wide open the spirit is and how the magic of advertising can make flowers grow in very unlikely places.

today, i am going to work with veronique choa on her acai seed bracelets whose profits have already begun to re-forest parts of the amazon that were almost barren.

they are beautiful, cheap, magical and they are for sale at

BUY A LOT OF BRACELETS so they can keep up with kleenex.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ecobracelets and the opposite of Fear

monday, i plan to work with veronique choa on getting her eco-bracelets out & recognized in the world in the nick of time for earth day. a big pr blast.

but i am wondering, in this moment of money meltdown, how to get people to pay attention.

fear is such a terrible thing. makes you grip your chair. your tiny pot of money. hold your breath.
it's like crunching up your shoulders when you walk in the rain, you don't get less wet. but you do get a cramped neck.

the counterintuitive answer is to loosen your grip. give more. talk more. breathe more.

turn into the direction of the skid.

the more you open up, the more the world opens up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

derma wand

so far, i am totally in love with this thing.

here i am totally broke with a bunch of sick kids. and i am obsessing about a small electrical device that sends pulsing energy to my face.

here's what it seems to do

de-puff my eyes
reduce and sometime erase the lines from my nose to my mouth (nasolabial folds)
reduce my jowls
smooth my forehead

and makes my cheeks rosy.

mary schook of the famed face machine does it better, with much more dramatic results, but this seems to offer instant (at home) gratification way more effective than strivectin, freeze 24-7 or almost any other grease you can put on your face.

i am finding it somewhat confusing as there are a number of sites selling them, some saying they work at 114,000 cycles per second, some at 168,000 and i am not sure which is which. also, all the packages more or less look the same, but some are derma wand, some are dermawand, and some are 2LOOKYOUNG dermawand...

available on ebay. and also for about $75-145.00

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

psycho, founder's syndrome and letting go

working with a couple of arts organizations - in an ad hoc way - looking at their branding and trying to help them create a more compelling presence and more effective communication.

in this economy, it’s obviously crucial to find ways to drum up money to stay alive - whether it's from ad revenue or audience size.

what’s really interesting (and frustrating) is how much harder it is to inspire change in a loosey-goosey art magazine or dance company or gallery.

a focus group participant sneered, “the problem is founder’s syndrome! they think they got the formula down right from the start and now they’re choking out their audiences.”

when i first came to nyc, one of my first jobs was as a copyeditor and eventually, managing editor of BOMB magazine - then 6 or 7 years old - run out of betsy sussler (the founder and publisher)’s loft.

it was a seething hotbed of artistic inquiry and experimentation. back in the prehistoric times, we used hot wax to glue typeset words and images to boards which then went to the printer to be copied turned into pages. artists manipulated the boards themselves. in our pages, emerging writers, performance artists, architects, filmmakers questioned authority. it was exactly what people want right now.

today, BOMB has real offices in brooklyn, it’s printed on heavy art-gallery-worthy paperstock, with neat, orderly pages. the vanguard is now the old guard. betsy sussler is a legend. she and BOMB magazine are synonymous.

the Battery Dance Company started 34 years ago in tribeca back when it was a land of outlaw artists. jonathan hollander, the founder and choreographer, started the downtown dance festival, helped found the indian-american arts council and was known for his cross-cultural, multiracial exchanges and collaborations. it's breathing and unexpected and exactly what people want to see. but they don't. not enough.

today, Battery Dance Company is fighting to stay visible in the cultural landscape of tribeca (all right, most of the landscape is real estate and restaurants now).

last tuesday, i had breakfast with a bright young swiss woman who oversees the marketing and communication for a swiss fashion brand called AKRIS. AKRIS is the swiss banker of fashion. quietly luxurious. understated, clean and precise. exactly what people who bring home their hermes stuff in plain brown paperbags need. discreet indulgence.

but AKRIS has been owned and run by the same swiss family forever. and almost everyone who works there, from the accountant to the graphic designer is related somehow.

so she’s facing similar digging-in-the-heels because they’ve been successful and always had buyers. (but now those buyers are getting old). and young buyers have never even heard of them.

and the problem is the same – none of the three had to ask the hard cut-to-the-chase, why-is-this-relevant? why-are-we-here? questions that most business people are forced to answer.

so how do you stay alive in your mindshare?

these brands were their founders’ babies.

now they are kicking and screaming teenagers. they’ve got a lot of icons to smash.

in order to stay exciting and compelling and perpetually fresh to new audiences, they will have to question and justify and announce their existence over and over again. in new ways.

if the founders hold on to them, stick to the tried-and-true, keep them safe, it’ll turn into Psycho.

they’ll kill their parents. and extinguish themselves.

teenagers have to take all (or most of)same the insane risks and explosive actions, they have to keep questioning authority and paying attention to what’s current.

all three of the brands have exactly WHAT PEOPLE WANT NOW.

they just need to let them go - set them free.
that's the chance. and the joy.

please, i have human teenagers myself. i know.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

work like hell

i've always loved ted turner's quote - when asked for his secret to success - he said:

"early to bed,
early to rise,
work like hell,
and advertise..."

it's amazing to me that ad budgets are being cut all over the place when it's been proven, again & again, that companies that continue to advertise during downturns are the ones that stay afloat - and shoot to the top when the recovery begins.

so i'm pleased to see loreal swimming against the tide.

plus people are short of money these days so they'll go back to coloring their hair at home. and that's what made loreal to begin with.

now, if they manage to sort out the not liking women issue...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

loreal & love

i had a brief (all of 8-weeks) stint with mccann erickson working on loreal - loreal the mass market cosmetic/hair color brand, not one of their other brands  - and reading the current news about them, it seems obvious that their problem is the same one i thought i was hired to address. 
i met with a woman called carol hamilton who lives and breathes the loreal brand. 
and i told her the problem i saw (and who am i?) was that the brand was too cold. it was shiny, glam and slick looking but it didn't seem to love women.
or even really like them.
i thought that the on-a-pedestal idealized glossy view of a woman was great for haircolor. but it wasn't for skincare. because there you wanted love. you wanted intimacy, closeness, you wanted to believe it cared about you before you put it on your face.

if the brand cared about you, it had to act like it. 
like moving towards recycled or recyclable packaging, like being more transparent about the ingredients, like speaking to you in a way that was simple, comprehensible and said it believed you could have a more beautiful future.

and she said, "yes, you're right. i'd love to talk more about it."
my boss - or colleague - at mccann, the jagged and wired executive senior vp super-important account guy who hired me, agreed. for about 5 minutes.

in reality, no one was the least bit interested in what i thought. or in anything green. or in questioning the overall meaning and message of the brand. 

no time for big picture thinking - internal politics and strategy sapped everyone's energy.

in action, loreal had no love.

i adore kevin roberts and his lovemarks theory.
absolutely brilliant.
there are brands that inspire devotion by using stories, emotion and magic.
and loreal once had that. 
sometimes it still does.

but i think there is one missing piece. you love brands that love you back.

the funny thing is that as this economy gets worse, that core truth becomes more apparent. if you've only got one dollar in your pocket - who gets it? whoever actually likes you and cares about you even when your dollar is in their wallet.
so there are tons of brands that are lotharios and will tell you all kinds of pretty stories just to get into your pants' pockets. and if they are gorgeous enough, you will go along for the ride.
but only if you've got time and money to spare.
like teenage girls becoming women, we are starting to realize our power and value as consumers.

back again to loreal, when i started working for them, i did my research. loreal was started by a chemist called eugene schueller - by most accounts, he was a fascist supporter and an all round nasty guy. (read bitter scent by michael bar-zohar, amongst others). eugene made hair-dye that didn't harm your hair and reportedly turned in people to the nazis. 
since i believe the birth of a business infuses its soul, i was horrified.
a cute, young jewish copywriter working there, said, "but we're good people, right?"
at least, he seemed to love hair.

not a lot of love to start.

then i started working on the antiageing platform. 
and another bright young woman said, "oh it's so digusting this ad, trying to insinuate that a 60 year-old woman has sex! at that age, she shouldn't be thinking about men and sex."
i also noticed that there were no women over 50 around. (except for carol hamilton. if she is over 50. ) they talked about older models dismissively, "she has wrinkles ON her wrinkles."
i tried to say something about old being beautiful and was immediately shut up for even mentioning the "o-word"
no love lost for the ageing set.

we were presented with an intelligent approach to skincare. by the WRONG person. politically, that is. it was shot down. and everyone seemed to be doing everything in their power to make it go away.

no love for each other.

i asked about getting rid of external packaging. and using recycled and recyclable bottles.  i was politely told, "no."

no love for the planet. or our future.

i'd been moved by the story of the incredibly empowering line, "because i'm worth it," written by a recently-divorced young woman standing up for herself. almost like the secretary become copywriter in madmen, she reinvents herself.


but in today's world, the meaning goes from inspiring to self-centered and egotistical. 

and "because we're worth it" is just not believable.

even if the "we" refers to the brand.

the question is - can we bring back the LOVE? 
because without it, we're more unnecessary plastic on the shelf. 

and if we can't LOVE the consumer, our products and our future - do we deserve to exist?


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the meaning of life

or at least the meaning of your own life.
i met a very nice guy called mike rogers who runs an ad agency called ml rogers. 
i guess i was there to be interviewed. and i pathetically didn't even really bring a portfolio because i am so used to being hired by word of mouth. which i said, which must have sounded incredibly arrogant. 
i also stupidly said, i always win pitches. all but 3. in my lifetime of advertising. 
which again, i didn't mean as arrogant, i just was stating a fact. but it must have come across as pretty full of myself.
but what blew me away was, when i asked him, why did you start an agency?
and he looked totally confused and said, what do you mean, why? to have a  job, of course.
so i said, well, you had a job.
and he said, yes but it's nice to be boss.
and i said, well what's the point of the agency?
and he said, to make good advertising.

i was starting to sound bitchy so i thought i'd better stop belaboring it. and i packed up to go. but then i said, what is your agency's strength?

and he said, really smart strategy. we're not just funny to be funny. we really think about the brand and what it means and we go really deep. and then we make great ads.

which made me think the point was an agency run by strategic planners. an interesting idea because they are always the smartest, best-read people in an agency. but...

i am not sure that that would get me out of bed in the morning. 

and i am not sure that in this day and age, anyone has the luxury of starting a venture without a purpose. 

i mean, good for mike, that was his time. and he seems to be doing well.

but today, if you didn't have a totally brilliant reason to exist - why would you start an agency? or anything else? there are tons of advertising agencies. and tons of restaurants. and shops. and clothing designers.  there are more shoe stores and shoe brands than we can possibly imagine.

basically, the world - esp the first world - is overrun by crap. advertising being one of the things. so why make more?

this may sound self-righteous and it's not meant to. it is a totally personal opinion. but why do anything if it doesn't add a layer of meaning to your life? or strengthen your beliefs somehow.


i like to play off that i am so low-maintenance and don't care about all this beauty stuff. and now i am rushing out to buy beauty treatments like a madwoman. even though i am broker than broke.

yesterday i had a nasty shock that almost drove me to plastic surgery. 
my beauty guru mary schook has this incredible camera that photographs your face and penetrates several layers beneath the skin to show you the sun damage and the ageing. 

i've got ugly sun damage on my cheeks and forehead and dappling my nose. but not that bad. it turns out i am a 3. which means that, in terms of sun damage, my skin is 3 times older than it would have been if i had stayed out of the sun.

i thank my mum for this.  i have olive green skin that doesn't burn. my mum looks quite young. but also my mum hates the beach. she hates hot weather. she likes shady places, she likes walks through the mountains. 

she cannot stand wearing a bathing suit and lying beside the sea.

so from my childhood, i can count our beach holidays on one hand. 
in fact, on 2 fingers.  this isn't to say we never went to the beach, but it was generally an afternoon trip, a swim and a picnic.

anyway, we did not sunbathe.

so that gives me a 3.

the unlucky part? the age of the skin around my mouth and chin is 57! 

my forehead is 38. my cheeks are 41. my actual years on this planet are 45.

more bizarrely, there is no blood flow to my mouth. the skin around my mouth and chin is totally white and devoid of blood vessels. 

AUGH. it's only going to get WORSE.

mary schook suggests the derma wand. a mild electrical current that stimulates the oxygen. $134.00 online. i've got to do it everyday to wake up the bottom of my face.

also, the muscles in my cheeks are atrophied.  i need facial exercises. she recommends flex effect. ok. $89.99 at 

now for my eyelashes. yup. as you get older, they fall out. i was using a product called revitalash but the f.d.a changed the formula. now it's not working as well. product 3 $150.00 plus tax, shipping & handling.

yup. that's right. i am a slave now. hardcore. 

no botox, fillers or plastic surgery. but don't let my subversive version of it fool you. i am chasing the anti-ageing mob as hard as the rest of them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

for all those people who say the beauty/fashion mores give young girls bad body image, look at bratz!
Michelle Obama is wearing sunflower yellow Isabel Toledo to the inauguration! YES! AM so happy for Isabel!

Friday, January 16, 2009

whatever does one wear 2 look chic & stay warm? in cozy lint-covered polar fleece again. Y do i only see cute guys when i look like a marshmellow?
still wearing pjs under my polarfleece. rara wants to go to school now. back in2the cold.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

kids harrassed me 4 wearing lehnga 2 opening. but also wore lipstick red boots. i like to look different& overdressed.
working the used toy sale at UNIS. dug out a slouchy alaia sweater & skinny skirt from '88. shaggy boots but feeling pretty supermom.
am (generally) dressed 2 advantage but fall apart in the cold. buried head2toe in polarfleece w/lint sticking to it & puffer & big boots.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

but "another way to die" is brilliant. the bizarre juxtaposition of jack white & alicia keys is deliciously compelling.
listening to "the diary of alicia keyes." disappointing. she has incredible potential to unearth powerful emotions w/her voice.

Monday, January 12, 2009

growing respect for the superficial world of fashion & beauty. bc politicians academics & intellectuals complicate issues. it's simple-act human.
product recco: joico agedefy haircare. shiseido collaboration. re:nu serum:hair looks 70s faye dunaway sexy & shiny.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

ceasefire ends. killing begins again. and the congo. and somalia. where is LOVE?

Monday, January 5, 2009

home: dishes. beds. bills. re: mahathir mohd's letter to obama. why haven't we signed kyoto treaty?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

time for US to stand for peace. obama's given us back our hope. check out or @gazamom