Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let's Keep Facebook Fun, People

(Written as a guest blog for

You’ve seen it before.

You’re a little bored, you log into Facebook and your social networking buzz is quickly killed by the inevitable bad news update. Some examples:

Molly Jenkinson is hoping her hubby has better luck this week on the job hunt. Can’t take much more of him being home.

John Quimby
is hello Monday. You sure look a lot like Saturday and Sunday.

Paul Hatfield
is sad.

I’ve changed the names to protect the pathetic, but these are real posts I’ve seen along with countless other layoff laden updates that practically beg you for a condolence, or even to pry for more information.

That may be what’s on their mind, as Facebook so politely asks its users with every log in. But that query should be treated like someone asking how you’re doing. They don’t really want to know how you’re doing. It’s a courtesy. And the courteous response should be, “fine thanks,” or in the case of a Facebook status update, some witty variation thereof (I can even live with the non-witty updates, which are aplenty – those people just don’t know any better).

I understand that what I am witnessing is a sign of the times. In real time. I can even imagine these downtrodden folks thinking, “hey, I have a lot of friends in here. Maybe one of them can get me a job.” But nothing is less attractive than desperation. And nothing sounds more desperate to a potential employer, or several hundred of the people you’ve come to know throughout your life, than bemoaning your out-of-work status on Facebook.

As someone who recently lost their job, if only temporarily, I can tell you that the last thing I wanted all 356 of my “friends” to know is that I was laid off. Most of those people don’t even know what I do. It would be like putting on 60 pounds before my high school reunion and telling everyone I still live in my parents’ basement. "So, ah, if you want to come over and hang out later…"

Facebook is where I go to look up old girlfriends (or more accurately, girls I wished were girlfriends but they just wanted to be “friends”). It’s where I go to relive bad college haircuts, which may be why I could never get those girls. And occasionally, it’s where I go to see the odd status update from someone who never struck me as all that odd.

Facebook is also a great resource. And it should be used to your advantage when times are tough. But be tactic
al about it. Find the folks in your network who are in a similar field. Find out what they’re up to, who they know or what they can suggest. Better yet, sign up for LinkedIn where everyone’s looking for a new job.

And for the love of all that’s sacred, most especially your own personal dignity, please don’t tell me your troubles if we haven’t spoken in 15 years. I just don’t want to know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tropicana’s Strangely Arousing Redesign

**UPDATE** Tropicana has reversed streams and is back to the old package. NPR caught on to the story. At least they're gonna use the little boob caps.

I promised myself I would never post on the topic of marketing/advertising/media. It’s a pretty crowded space and frankly I get enough of it during the day. But my connection to this particular piece of communication is bigger than that. This isn’t a relationship built on a brand seducing me with enticing images. This long-standing relationship has been built on pure, unadulterated taste.

r the better part of my life, I’ve been a daily drinker of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice – I became partial to the “Some Pulp” variety shortly after it was introduced. There was a dark period in the late 70s when my mother and I opted for Minute Maid. It was purely experimental. Not only does Tropicana taste far superior to Minute Maid, Tropicana always had a much more appealing package (I can’t find any record of the old black Minute Maid cartons online, but to a near-sighted 8-year-old at seven in the morning, that thing was an ominous sight on the top shelf of your fridge).

Like every giant brand, Tropicana worries that if they don’t update their image every so often, they're gonna go the way of aging Gen-Xers who die off from excessive tattoo-ing, losing all market share to some synthetic liquid that screams energy and gen
etic enhancements. This is a hip, bold new world we live in. No time for oranges pierced with candy-striped straws. Tropicana needed something that said… “oh, well.”

I get the whole m
inimalist thing. At first, I actually kind of liked it. But upon further inspection, this thing stands off the shelf like a package of Fleets Enemas.

But here’s the best part. I’ve been getting the new cartons for the last couple weeks, with the same old, flat orange twisty cap as before. But this week’s carton featured a bulbous, boob-like* twisty cap, meant to represent a real orange. Somebody in marketing screwed up and didn’t have his little plastic boobs ready in time for the big redesign launch. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that meeting...

“Johnson! Where are my 12 million little orange boobies?”

“Um, they were supposed to be shipped two months ago sir. I don-“

“How the hell can we launch a major new redesign that would lull a screaming child to sleep, without our little plastic boobie caps!?”

“Um, I don-“

“You’re fired Johnson!”

Despite all that, I’ll keep suckling at the newly introduced Tropicana teet. Everyday.

*The wife thought the new cap resembled more of the tip of a penis. Gender thing?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Weird Week That Was

It all started with jury duty. 8 am. Tuesday morning.

Never done it, so I really had no idea what to expect. But since I have been on city buses, in public libraries and to the DMV, I should have known. I was in for a cross-section of humanity that explains just how someone like George W. Bush gets elected, twice, and the Home Shopping Network is perennially a ratings bonanza.

Somehow I was whittled down
from a jury pool of about 300 to a presiding jury of six - I owe this to my not being a public racist and my never having been involved in a domestic violence case. Throughout the selection process, I was amazed to learn just how many of my fellow Multnomah-countyians have no formal education beyond high-school, currently have no job and were involved in domestic violence cases. And willing to discuss it all with perfect strangers.

The gist of the case was that the accused, a woman of about 55, allegedly hurled a piggy bank, which was really more of a clown bank, at her biological daughter - a woman who had been absent from her life for 30-some years - hitting her in the face. Seems like an extreme reunion, but I am leaving out some details.

The real drama happened in the cozy confines of our jury room, where we were routinely sent while the attorneys tried to get their shit together. Back there, the six of us got to know each other real well over the day and a half of proceedings. It was kinda like the Breakfast Club, but everyone was some variation of the freaky Ally Sheedy character.

We had the recent college grad. who works with special needs kids, the 40-something ex-Nike shoe modeler who's been out of work for three years, the 50-something bull-dyke with a haircut that could stab you to death, the preppy housewife who brought her side-job stuffing envelops into our jury room, a small Turkish man who's name could not be pronounced no matter how hard you tried, and me.

It was back in this tiny room that I learned more than I ever would want to know about the small Turkish man. He moved to the U.S. for a woman he loved. They got married, he got a good job, and together they had a child. Wife leaves the man. He loses his job. And he has no family or friends anywhere in this country. But since he still has partial custody of his kid, he can't go anywhere.

The man began crying. I shit you not. Right there, in the jury room. As we tried to determine the fate of some Jerry Springer cast-offs (what the hell happened to that show), I had to watch a grown man cry about his broken heart. So fucking brutal.

The evening after my first day in court, my boss asked me to meet her for a drink. That was strange but since I was already fired, rehired temporarily, and had an end date coming soon, I figured whatever she had to tell me couldn't possibly bring me down. She informed me, that despite the five layoffs we saw last week, all of which took effect immediately, I was being offered my job back.

The only sense I can make of it all, is that my agency was on a parrallel path with the stock market. Lots of panic. Everybody selling off everything they had. Then we reached a point that was so low, you couldn't afford not to buy in. And now, anyone left treading water, is getting rescued by a big, slow-moving barge called Recovery.

Speaking of the market, the interview with Jim Madden (correction - Jim Cramer. Thanks anonymous. Not sure where I got Madden.) on the Daily Show last Thursday was pure genius. I urge you to watch all three parts. And thank you, John Stewart for having the brass set you have to castigate these people in front of millions. They truly deserve it.

This weird week came to a close straight out of Seinfeld's bizzaro-world, where the complete opposite of what should happen, happens.

We've been working feverishly for a client who seems to show no appreciation and instead, talks to us as if we are trained monkeys. I took offense and stood up for myself during one late afternoon meeting. In most cases of this nature, I reflect on my behavior and while I'm happy I said what I did, I offer a written apology to friends, coworkers, the wife, or whoever fell victim to my latest offense. This seemed like it was gonna be another one of those times. And then something totally crazy happened. Something bizarro. The client sent me an apology for her behavior. Totally unprecedented.

I only hope the week that starts in a few short hours is equally entertaining.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bad Idea Advertising

What could be dumber than quitting your job and starting an ad agency in this wretched economy?

And yet, I am embarking on just such a pipe dream. The only difference being, I may soon have no job, and my partner doesn't have to quit his, so we figured, what the hell. Starting an ad agency right now just may be the smartest thing we ever do.

Maybe a little independent shop with low overhead, a big rolodex, smart, strategic thinking, a fresh take on how marketers can use social media for good, not mediocrity and an outside roster of award-winning creative talent, hand-picked for each specific job is just what this wretched economy needs. Specifically, this partner of mine and I propose the creation of an agency based largely on the ideals I've recently spoken about in this blog - keeping things simple. Perhaps, all of us, even marketers, can live more productively if we strip away the unnecessary elements that only seem to add time, costs and confusion.

Then again, maybe not.

But we're going for it, damnit. We just haven't settled on a name, yet. A few contenders, but nothing set in letterhead. And so, in the spirit of embracing social media, I invite you, my readers to contribute any names or thoughts you think best represent this type venture in the comments section below.

And just remember, there are plenty of bad ideas. We're open to all of them.