Category Archives: Career

BrandBowl Studs (and as always, a few duds)

Last night, the hubs and I planted ourselves on the couch for a good five hours to watch the Ravens beat the 49ers watch big-name brands attempt to make us laugh or cry or in the case of Go Daddy — dry heave.

Analyzing the commercials is a ritual for me. That’s why we’ve always declined invitations to SuperBowl parties. I prefer to watch the commercials in peace and quiet. But rest assured, the spread of food is never lacking. The minutes I spend glued to the TV are also spent stuffing my face with chili, nachos and this amazing caramelized onion, gruyere and bacon spread.

caramelized onion spread

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the showing of commercials this year. I remember not being wowed by any of them last year. Not that I was really wowed by anything this year, but I’m pretty confident in saying that there were some that really struck a chord.

No. 1 Budweiser “The Clydesdales: Brotherhood”

Part of me wonders if the reason why I loved this one so much is because I’m such a sap when it comes to animals. But clearly, the critics and the average consumer were fans of this too. Superb storytelling. Great music choice. And excellent job of tapping into the emotional side of well, selling beer. This is the kind of stuff SuperBowl commercials are made of, and Budweiser has consistently delivered that time and time again. While my next beer probably won’t be a Budweiser, I appreciate the brand, its storied history and its ability to make a lip or two tremble in a mere 60 seconds (1 minute, 12 seconds if you’re counting).

No. 2 Ram Trucks “Farmer”


I love the fact that this commercial doesn’t read like a sell sheet. There is nothing about torque or horsepower or that Hemi V8 engine mumbo jumbo. Yes, that’s important if you’re seriously considering buying a Ram truck. But if that’s the case, then visit their website. In this spot, Ram decided to celebrate a longtime consumer of their brand, the farmer. And it’s that celebration and appreciation of the hard-working American farmer that will remind their audience to think of Ram the next time they want to buy a truck. Spotlighting the farmer was a pretty unexpected approach, but it’s one that I liked. In a category where everyone is spewing product attributes, it’s nice to see a truck brand stand for something. And all that farm imagery? Beautifully art directed.

No. 3 Taco Bell “Forever Young”

This being my third year of analyzing SuperBowl commercials on the blog, I’ve realized that I’m partial to the deep, serious, emotional TV spots. I personally find them to be the most memorable. But this year, there were a couple humorous ones that I thought were pretty darn good. Taco Bell’s is one of them. Let’s face it. Old people doing funny sh*t is hilarious, and the whole concept seamlessly laddered up to their “Live Mas” tagline. And okay, another huge reason why Mikey and I loved this one is because Mikey is a HUGE Taco Bell enthusiast. As in, he’s on a first-name basis with the woman at the drive-thru enthusiast.

No. 4 Oreo “Power Outage” Tweet

Oreo did have a commercial during the SuperBowl this year, but the stunt they pulled in social media overshadowed the millions they spent on their TV spot. During the infamous power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Oreo made a move that proved they were quick, witty, relevant and modern. They posted this photo to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.


You may be thinking, So what? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that in this fast-paced world that we live in today, Oreo can keep up. They recognized that timing is everything, and they found a way to deliver a brand message at a specific moment in time when people were twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the lights to make a comeback. Well done, Oreo. Nicely played.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have the patience to recap every SuperBowl commercial, but as is my tradition every year, I tweeted a lot of my 140-character criticisms during the game. Take a gander. Enjoy. And see you next year, BrandBowl.

Twitter feed 1


Twitter feed 2


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Two days after we returned from our Seattle/Vancouver trip, I was off again to another out-of-state destination — to the city of Austin, Texas. Work sent me there for the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival, a mecca for uber web geeks. Not that I’m claiming to be the ultimate web geek or anything, but I certainly felt at home among the multitude of nerd glasses and plaid.

Much of my time was spent attending seminars all day and schlepping through the non-stop rain that bombarded Austin for four out of the five days I was there. But the good thing was that I did get to squeeze in my fair share of great eating. And when great eating is involved, it’s bound to be a decent trip, no matter if you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

In typical business travel tradition, here are a few Instgrams/iPhone photos I snapped in Austin. Maybe one of these days I’ll get back there for pleasure.

{Photo Captions}

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Chevy concept car, which by the way, I would like for myself thankyouverymuch.
  2. SXSW festival logo, in case I forget the whole reason why I was there.
  3. Enjoying a brew or two. Shiner Bock is the Texas favorite.
  4. Weiner dog at Frank Restaurant. Appropriate for a hot dog joint.
  5. Fancy vanilla latte at Frank Restaurant.
  6. Nike branded building.
  7. Good old fashioned Texas BBQ at Green Mesquite.
  8. In the parking lot of Green Mesquite. About to get our BBQ on.
  9. Google took over a dive bar called Lustre Pearl. And by “took over”, I mean turning it into what looked like a college spring break party town.
  10. First lunch in Austin at a cafe and bar called Annie’s.
  11. Conducting cat interviews at the Friskies You vs. Cat party.

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I wish I could say that the four days I was in Orlando last week were spent soaking up the sun and frolicking in Mickey Mouse land. What I can say is that in between work, I did get a little bit of sun, courtesy of quick 15-minute walks around Lake Eola around lunchtime. And instead of escaping off to Disney World, my client and I escaped to a much better place known as the Orlando outlet mall. (More on those fun purchases later.)

Anyway, no out-of-town travel is complete without a few photographs, courtesy of my iPhone and Instagram.

{Instagrams from top to bottom}

  1. Getting a much-needed dose of Vitamin D with a walk around Lake Eola. Complete with pretty views of downtown Orlando.
  2. Swans are everywhere at Lake Eola. Including giant swan boats that you can take on a romantic ride around the lake.
  3. We stayed at the Grand Bohemian Hotel, and the pool was in plain sight from my room window. With all the work we were there to do, the view was nothing but a low-down, dirty tease.
  4. Business travel over Valentine’s Day results in Valentine’s Day dinner without your valentine. But the food and wine at Kres Chophouse were a nice treat.
  5. Wining and dining at Kres Chophouse comes free with rose on Valentine’s Day. Kinda sweet with a side of corny.

Now if only I could’ve brought that sunny, 70-degree weather with me back to St. Louis. No such luck.

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BrandBowl XLVI: The Good & The Gripes

So should I start out with the good or the gripes? Because last night’s BrandBowl brought a lot more gripes than it did good in my book. Which is a low down dirty shame when you consider the ridiculously ridiculous amounts of money marketers spend on these TV spots. We’re talking upwards of $3.5 million for seconds of airtime. I can’t even fathom how many Jimmy Choo’s that could buy.

I guess I’ll start with the good – with a caveat that none of the spots this year wowed me. I’ll get to why later. But the two commercials that rose to the top for me were Budweiser’s “Return of the King” and Chrysler’s “Halftime”.

Budweiser “Return of the King”

I live in St. Louis and the Anheuser Busch heritage is a concept that I’m very familiar with. It’s something that people here have long admired and appreciated. But after the Belgian beer giant, In-Bev, took hold of the company reigns a few years ago, you could easily say that Anheuser Busch’s reputation had swiftly become tainted.

That said, you still can’t deny the history and the legacy that a brand like Budweiser has built. And “Return of the King” celebrates that legacy by telling a story that was a real part of Budweiser history.

I’ll admit I’ve been entranced by the craft beer boom and haven’t cracked a can of Budweiser (err, let’s be honest, Natty Light) since my college days. But there was a heavy dose of nostalgia that washed over me when I saw that commercial. Because no matter how many of these hot new modern microbreweries pop up, their stories will never be the same as Budweiser’s. Telling a story that’s uniquely yours is what separates you from the competition. And the more that Budweiser can share and celebrate their real-life stories, the better off I think their advertising will be.

Chrysler “It’s Halftime in America”

If you read my BrandBowl recap from last year, you’ll remember how I raved about Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit”. Well, this year’s follow-up, “It’s Halftime in America”, featuring Clint Eastwood, was pretty good, too. It’s a raw reflection of what our country is going through right now. But more importantly, it’s a raw call to action that our country has, can and will endure.

What’s so commendable about this commercial is that Chrysler is being a thought leader, a lighthouse. They’re becoming the brand that represents Detroit and is positioning it as a city to look up to because of its struggle and hardships and lessons learned. Making the connection that America is in the same boat is actually really smart. And so is the copy. This is the kind of copy that copywriters dream about!

So why wasn’t I wowed?

Maybe my expectations are too high, but when I see a SuperBowl commercial that costs more than your average arm and leg, I don’t just want to laugh or be entertained. Commercials that cost that amount of money have to mean something. They have to say something about your brand that’s not only memorable, but meaningful to your audience. A chuckle isn’t enough to get someone to buy your product.

That may be why I tend to lean towards the more serious SuperBowl spots. They evoke feeling and have a message that I find relevant. And those are characteristics that are often lacking in spots like Bud Light’s “Rescue Dog” or Doritos’ “Sling Baby” or the scum of all SuperBowl commercials, Go Daddy.

As much as we criticize these ads though, it must be said that this line of business is incredibly hard to do. That’s why not everyone can do it. And as easy as it is for us to say how bad they sucked this year, it’s a million times more difficult to be the creators behind the commercials.

Oh well, better luck next year.


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The Job That Jobs Did

America is buzzing right now with the breaking news that Steve Jobs of Apple has passed away at the age of 56 after a hard battle with pancreatic cancer. CNN is interviewing tech leaders right and left, discussing the impact he’s had on our generation. He’s set the bar for what it means to be innovative and creative. And he’s mastered the art of seeing technology for what it could be and making “it” happen.

Being the advertising junkie that I am, I immediately started thinking about some of Apple’s advertising. It goes without saying that Apple’s “1984” TV spot is arguably (and in my mind, definitely) the best advertising in advertising history.

Even after “1984”, there was the “Think Different” campaign (pictured below). Another bold, daring collection of powerful words, built on a belief — not a product. Something that more and more brands are trying to do today.

All this can’t be credited to Jobs. He wasn’t the mind behind the campaigns. The praise goes to TBWA/Chiat/Day, the ad agency behind “1984” and “Think Different”.

But what can be credited to Jobs is his ability to live up to both of these campaigns. How often does your company employ a CEO that’s as bold and daring as the advertising it puts out? How often do you come across a CEO that challenges the status quo as aggressively as Jobs did? How often do you hire a CEO who not only embraces change, but welcomes it? How often do you work for a CEO with the business savvy and creative genius to not only change the world but BE the change that changes the world? That’s the job that Jobs did.

What I find most ironic about the “Think Different” campaign is that everyone and their mom is thinking different these days. To be unique and to push boundaries and to get as far outside the box as you can has become something to be valued. But no matter how different we all try to get, there will always be those who escape the same. The beauty of Apple’s “1984” and “Think Different” campaign, is that as the years go by and the campaigns age, there will always be those who think different. And as Jobs exemplified, that’s exactly what our world needs and will greatly miss.

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Love Notes from The Bear

Have you ever had one of those weeks (or months) where you work your tail off but can’t seem to get anything accomplished at work? I know you have. Everyone has. Well, it seems to have hit Mikey a lot these past few weeks. For someone who really thrives on setting goals and meeting them on his own timeline, there are a lot of days when it just doesn’t happen — no matter how hard or far you try to push. Some races require smaller steps to get to the finish line.

After a couple weeks of seeing him come home, wearing work all over his face, I started to think of silly little things I could do to cheer him up or take his mind off work — if only for a second or two. Something simple but thoughtful. Funny but heartfelt. And so I looked to my four-legged partner in crime, The Bear, for help, and we came up with… love notes. A Post-It a day that I secretly hang above Mikey’s valet stand. It displays a message and photo cut-out from The Bear himself. (I transcribe, of course.) They look like this:


Wednesday. Message is in response to Mikey being away for four hours at a fantasy football draft with his friends.

Thursday. Yes, this really did happen.

Friday. He'll see this one tomorrow morning. Hopefully it'll get him excited about the long weekend.

Anyway, I think the love notes have been working their magic this week. He can’t help but smile or chuckle when I ask him if he’s seen the day’s message. Who knows how long I’ll keep it up, but I have kind of enjoyed writing them this week. Just goes to show how I’m one of those eccentric pet owners who tries to humanize their dog and show affection through the feelings of a bacon-loving, squirrel-chasing, sock-stealing Yellow Lab. But you already knew that about me.

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The Newly-Emerging Quest for Creativity

Me in Mr. Saber's 5th grade class. Circa 1995.

I’ve never given too much thought to school. I mean, yes, I was pushed to study hard, get good grades, graduate from high school and go to college. But these days, I’ve been thinking about school in a different way. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the way I was schooled.

You see, I attended a business creativity conference, called Play at Work, over the past two days. And much of the conversation touched on the way our culture values perfection, places so much weight on being right or wrong and leaves little room for anything in between. Growing up as kids in school, we are so rarely encouraged to try things out just to try them. We’ve become accustomed to thinking mistakes are horrible, no good, very bad things — instead of seeing mistakes as a natural stepping stone to arriving at the right answer.

Fact of the matter is, that sort of exploratory style of finding solutions by trial and error manifests into a big word — creativity. And creativity is what companies in this day and age desperately want and neeeeeed. But aside from art and music class (which are also low on the value totem pole), students aren’t typically pushed in the area of the arts and creative problem solving.

So enough about the business talk and onto my real life reflection. I feel like this concept of creativity in school is something I — and many others — missed out on.

In 3rd grade, my teacher, Ms. Witham, thought I did an exceptional job on an assignment where we had to visualize and draw out a key image from a story we had written. Even at that young age, my strengths were in reading, writing and drawing — subjects that were subjective. Unlike math and science where there’s always a clear and finite answer. Those subjects I literally sucked at. (And by the way, I still do!)

Anyway, Ms. Witham submitted my work of art to the Gifted and Talented Education Program (GATE), a program that provides creative, accelerated cognitive enrichment to further students in reading, writing and math. Students who were a part of GATE left their regular classroom for a few hours once or every other week to focus on more advanced lessons in the aforementioned areas. And in order to become a part of the program, you had to be nominated and you had to pass a test.

Thanks to Ms. Witham, the nomination part was taken care of — but it was the test I had to pass. And to save me the pain of having to retell the student-to-teacher, face-to-face test I was forced to endure (kidding, it really wasn’t a traumatic experience), I’ll tell you that I didn’t pass the test. There were math and science problems I specifically remember not being able to solve in the time allotted. So to put it bluntly, my scores weren’t high enough and I was REJECTED from the Gifted and Talented Education Program.

Now, I don’t know if it was my math and science scores that sent my overall score six feet under. But it does make me wonder… if there had been equal or greater weight on the creativity side of the test, would I have nailed it? I may never know. And it didn’t really matter anyway, because I was accepted into a Gifted and Talented program in 5th grade when we moved to Las Vegas. So there!

But I am a firm believer that creativity is an asset to any organization and that it’s the little ones still being schooled that have a ton of it. Creativity has to begin in schools and flourish into adulthood. And as adults, some of us are finally understanding that.

At the end of the day, I realize I am lucky enough to be in a position where I have to use creativity every day at work. Because when the creativity gets really good, it doesn’t feel like work. And that’s how you know that exactly where you are in the working world, is exactly where you’re supposed to be. (Although you wouldn’t mind getting promoted either.)

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I may have an exclamation point complex.

Is it just me or is the exclamation point getting a lot of flack lately? Maybe it’s just me. As a writer, I have to pay attention to things like punctuation. So the difference between ending a sentence with enthusiasm (!) or stateliness (.) is important. But I have encountered a few people in my life who are staunchly against the exclamation point. I’ve heard some say it implies that you’re yelling at your audience. I’ve heard some say it makes your sentences sound like they’re trying too hard (i.e. if your sentence is really that impactful, you don’t need an exclamation point to over-deliver on your already super-impactful sentence.)

So the thing that got me really thinking about exclamation point usage most recently was an article I read online at Feministe. (And for the record, no, I am not a feminist. I’m just female and have opinions. Don’t get it twisted.) The article read:

In a study titled, “Gender and the Use of Exclamation Points in Computer Mediated Communication,” (for reals!) Carol Waseleski (EXCLAMATION POINT) deciphered that women use exclamation points 45% more often than men in e-communication. But it’s not because we’re more excited than men. Women use exclamation points online as indicators of a “friendly interaction.” We’ve been socialized to try to make people feel comfortable and to keep the peace. Hence sentences like, “Bill, I can’t wait to see the 4th quarter EMBO Report on the new 12-gauge ball bearings!”

She’s not excited to see that report. No one is excited to see that report. She’s letting Bill know that she’s not angry that it’s late yet. When she’s angry, she’ll use a period.

Absolute truth. We need a new punctuation mark — a friendly period — to indicate a friendly and nice conclusion to a sentence. Come on, punctuation people, do it [FRIENDLY PERIOD].

This is SO true. In my experience, women do use exclamation points more than men when it comes to emails in the workplace. And honestly, when I use them in e-mails, I do so to demonstrate my eager appreciation for something. Or, I use it to simply avoid sounding like a nazi. And if I ended everything in a period, would that make me sound dull, boring and seriously lacking in the personality department? These are things I truly do think about.

I also think there’s a lot of truth to the idea that women are constantly trying to make people feel comfortable and keep the peace. So it makes sense why I would insert an exclamation point here or there to communicate the fact that I’m not mad. I’m stating something politely, but pointedly. And the same goes for face-to-face conversations. Why is it that I always feel the need to fill the silence somehow? It makes sense that it’s my unknowing desire to make the conversation feel comfortable. But damn, it’s exhausting!

And lastly, we definitely need the friendly period to be the new punctuation mark. Can someone call up the keeper of the punctuation bible and submit a formal request for this? If said keeper is a she, she will surely understand.

I have a feeling the correct usage of this long-standing punctuation mark will never get resolved. Which is why I will probably keep fretting over it, despite the fact the average person really couldn’t give a monkey’s bum about how I end my sentences. Now excuse me, while I read through this blog post 28 times to make sure I’ve properly used my exclamation points in all the right places.


Filed under Career

Superbowl Spots that Scored

The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers battled it out last night for the title of Superbowl champs. The Packers won.

And that pretty much sums up the big game. (Hey, don’t laugh. You’re lucky I got the team names right. I did get them right… right?)

Moving on to what I consider the most important part of the Superbowl — the commercials. This big little business of trying to captivate audiences, change consumer perceptions and make people feel something for the brands they buy is the exact type of business I’m in. And I do it through words. That’s why they call me copywriter. So it’s only natural that I get a kick out of these ridiculously expensive TV spots. I’m the kind of writer nerd that lives for the BrandBowl.

I wasn’t overly impressed with a majority of the spots. There are only so many times you can do the whole soda can to the crotch thing and do it well. And Go Daddy, please. Just give it up. Oh wait, the so-called women in your spots are already giving it up. Never mind. But beneath all the clutter, there were two really well-done spots that broke through the barrier and rose to the top for me.

Top Pick: Chrysler “Imported from Detroit”

Let me start off by saying that the writing here is just plain poetic. And a heckuva way to tell a story that’s not even really about the product, but about the city, the people, the foundation of the product. It’s the untold story of the Motor City. The grit and grime that makes Detroit, Detroit. Not Chicago or New York or some fancy schmancy city that overwhelms with all its glitz and glamour. Just a very real personification of Detroit that makes you want to rally for the city. Way to make broken down buildings, gray city streets and factory-ridden skylines beautiful. And as for the Eminem cameo, cheers to him for redeeming himself from the Lipton Brisk spot.

Runner Up: Volkswagen “The Force”

Note: This is the 60-second spot. It did not air during the Superbowl; the 30-second spot did. But the 60-second spot is actually better, in my opinion.

Deutsch, the ad agency behind “The Force”, pulled a smart card by opening this spot up to the public before Superbowl Sunday. So the first time I saw it was on the Today Show, and I immediately gave it two thumbs up. And my two thumbs stayed up all through the Bowl. I think the people behind this spot did a fantastic job of marrying humor and childlike wonder to make a commercial that really pulled at your heart strings. And that’s hard to do when you’re trying to sell automobiles. And to top that off, there were no words! So simple and so endearing. They didn’t use a lot of bells and whistles, and frankly, they didn’t need to. A classic example of letting the consumers feel for themselves.

And on a side note, “The Force” really connected with me on a personal level. It hit me on the childlike wonder element because when I was little (scratch that, I’m still little). When I was younger, around the age of 5 or 6, I experienced a “Force” moment of my own. You see, when I would ride in the backseat of the car, my dad would always wow me from the driver’s seat by magically opening the garage door with two words, “open sesame”. That’s right. We’d pull up into the driveway and come to a complete stop. My dad would say “open sesame” and the garage door would open! It was out of this world! I was amazed and dumb-founded and thought it was so cool. Just like Mini Darth Vader. My dad later let me in on his magic trick. He called it… the garage door opener.

There you have it. That’s my BrandBowl story, and I’m sticking to it. But I’m curious… What were your BrandBowl favorites?


Filed under Advertising, Career

Just say no to crackberries on a belt.

Yesterday morning, Mikey came out of the bedroom wearing this:

THIS, my friends, is what we call a crackberry on a belt. Okay, this is not entirely for real. He came out wearing it as a joke. But crackberry (for those of you not down with the lingo) is a common term for a Blackberry. It’s based on the idea that a lot of people who have Blackberries are addicted to them. Hence, the name “crackberry”.

Mikey recently got a new position at work (yay, so proud of him!), and apparently, a crackberry comes along with the job. Now, I don’t know if a crackberry is a symbol of success or something. But wearing it on your belt is a symbol of something awful. And I proceeded to tell him that after we both had a good laugh at his major fashion faux pas.

The good news is he’s now carrying his crackberry in his pocket. But really, how does one fashionably carry a crackberry? Hmm… maybe he needs a satchel. I mean, come on, Indiana Jones has one!


Filed under Career, Fashion