FFWD Advertising and Marketing Week Toronto: Hello 2015!



If you’re anything like me getting into a work-ready state of mind after the holiday break takes a while. Though the break was only a couple weeks, cold wether makes the mornings rough and commute particularly painful. 

Maybe we all just need a little push of inspiration…

I find conferences to be an excellent point of motivation. Aside from the potential of new learnings the ongoing discussion stimulates the mind and awakens creativity – and yes, whichever title you might hold in the industry ideation kick starts a healthy progress forward.

In Toronto the year always starts with FFWD Advertising and Marketing Week (January 26-30), a full week conference featuring talks by global thought leaders, luncheons, and evening events.

The Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA) has curated an excellent line up of over 40 talks, half-day events, and evening activities on topics ranging from big data and Internet to branding, design, start-ups and tech giants, social media and education. There is something from everyone regardless of the niche and more than a handful of reasons to attend.

Here are my top 3 picks for each day and you can see the full schedule/register for events here.

January 26, 2015

8-10AM Opening Breakfast: Kevin Newman, Correspondent and Co-Host, W5/fill-in Anchor, CTV NATIONAL NEWS, reflects on storytelling in a digital world.

12-2PM Opening Lunch: Is the Internet the Answer? Debating its Future Influence on Marketing and our Lives.

4-5:30PM Yahoo Canada Speaker Series: From selfies to cinemagraphs: The new content marketing (Yahoo + Tumblr) run by Justin Scott, VP of Brand Strategy at Tumblr AND #Special1s Campaign Case Study run by Richard Stanley, Director, Head of Marketing Services and Creative Services.

January 27, 2015

8-1PM 2015 Change Makers Conference: half day event showcasing innovative social marketing and public sector campaigns. Stephen Dubner, author of Freakonomics and Think Like a Freak, is the keynote speaker.

9-10AM Morning Master Series: Brand Concepts as Representations of Human Values presented by Sergio W. Carvalho, Associate Professor of Marketing Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University.

11:30-12:30PM Applied Arts Session: Going Steady: Successful Client- Creative Agency Relationships. Moderated by Will Novosedlik from Applied Arts, panelists: – Aaron Starkman, Creative Director of Rethink and Molsons, Matt Hassell, Chief Creative Officer of kbs+ Toronto and The Keg, Diti Katona, Chief Creative Officer & Founding Partner of Concrete Design Communication.

January 28, 2015

9-10AM Morning Master Series: Building Brands in a world of Customer Centricity

Partnership Group Session presented by Alan Middleton, Executive Director, Executive Education Centre, and Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Business, York University.

12:30-1:30PM Mintel Session: The Millennial Consumer: Understanding How Brands and Media Can Connect, an interactive session presented by Jason Praw, Head of Canadian Research at Mintel.

1-2PM Twitter Canada Session: 140 Characters and Beyond: Exploring the Power of a Tweet featuring case studies from Target, Rogers and Mondelēz.

January 29, 2015

9-10AM Morning Master Series: Mining Consumer-Generated Product Reviews to Automate Market Structure Analysis hosted by Xin “Shane” Wang is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Ivey Business School, Western University.

2:30-3:30 Sharethrough Session: Native Advertising: Is it the Answer to Driving Engagement on Mobile? – a look at the various ways for monitoring content.

4-5PM Google Speaker Series: How to Delight Users and Drive Business with Mobile presented by Adam Green from Google Canada’s Agency team.

BONUS: 8-12AM Ad Ball: Graffiti themed Ad Ball hosted by Yahoo Canada who will transform Uniun nightclub into vibrant urban space mixing traditional elements with the unexpected.

January 30, 2015

9-10AM Morning Master Series: Starting A StartUp: Theory and Practice moderated by Prof. Ken Wong, panelists: David Kincaid, Founder, Level 5 Strategy Group and Bram Warshafsky, Founder and Partner, 5Crowd.

10:30-11:30AM Visible Measures Session: Mastering Adaptive Marketing addressing the issues surrounding adoptive marketing.

12-2PM The Globe and Mail Closing Lunch: Susan Krashinsky, advertising and marketing reporter for The Globe and Mail, in conversation with Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather, New York – enough said.

See you all there!

AWSC: Is the New Veet Ad Really Sexist or Have We Lost Our Sense of Humor?

Everyone has that brief they dread getting.

But there is one in particular no one wants to work on: female products. It doesn’t matter what the product is. It could be tampons or soda water. What makes this brief particularly dreadful is the target market.

She is concerned with her weight, she diets, or does not diet, she counts calories but loves chocolate and sweet flavored everything, she is concerned with how others perceive her, she has a dream jean size, a dream man and so on and so on. You get the point.

All of these briefs are the same.

Despite the fact that women, just like men, pets and exotic animals, come in different shapes and sizes with an avid range of interests, the advertising industry tends to put them/us into a very small box as a single group.

The scary part is many of these briefs are written by women, keeping us in that same box watching the same ad over and over: “be original, be you, be comfortable with your weight,” and so on and so on.

What happened to our other likes, hobbies and sense of humor?

Why are there so few ads that appeal to women in a none generic way?

I have been pondering the issue for a long time but the solution never seemed clear enough. Today, however, I think I finally got it.

While browsing the web for entertainment and creative inspiration, I came across the new Veet ad “Don’t Risk Dudeness.”

Immediately, I thought to myself: “this is some funny stuff.” While the concept isn’t all that original, the idea approaches female waxing products with a humorous perspective.

But, sadly, the concept will not live on. Veet’s marketing team had to make a public apology to the angered women of North America who immediately begun furiously accusing the brand of sexism and encouraging stereotypical gender constructs. Admittedly it’s not the most amazing concept but to say that this idea reinforces stereotypical gender constructs more than all of the women doing laundry in detergent ads is a bit aggressive.

We, as women, have fought so long for freedom of speech and opinion, the right to vote, and equal wage opportunities (still fighting that one), that we seem to have lost a sense of humor.

Men don’t get up in arms when their counterparts turn into Betty White when hungry. It’s funny. But no, not when it is women turning into bushy men. Women felt insulted, infuriated, misrepresented and swore off buying Veet ever again all because the agency pushed the idea of feeling a little less like a woman when unshaved into the funny park.

The stream of comments on the Veet Facebook page is astonishing:

“I’ll never buy Veet if this is how you think women should be portrayed in the media.”

“You intended to be funny, but what you ended up being was sexist, homophobic, body-shaming and transphobic.”

“You have no right to shame a woman who doesn’t follow what’s considered the norm.”

“I’m headed to Shoppers Drugmart right now. I’m going to write a short note explaining this event and post it on the Veet section of the store in the hopes that people will reconsider buying it.”

I know for a fact that I am not a particularly unique person. Like most people, I surround myself with alike individuals and while there are things that offend my female circle as women, this is not one of them so  find it hard to wrap my head around how many women felt offended by this ad.

Women often complain about how bad ads targeted at them are but it’s now clear to me that it is all their own fault.

Not all of us are alike. Some women exhibit a rather generous sense of humor (just read the comments for the BIC Pen for Her). But if this is a mass response it’s no wonder the industry is afraid to reach the edge of the box towards creative and funny.

So here is my question: how is it that in a world fueled by creativity, much of which comes from women, we tend to rise against everything that’s funny under the guise of feminism?

A majority of the comments on this ad were in regards to cosmetics ads telling women what they should look like and what the norm is, comments like: “Do you know why women hate themselves? It’s because you, the cosmetic companies, TELL US TO.”

But ladies, you know that saying: guns don’t kill people, people do? The point is we all have a mind of our own, you are all free to make your own decisions, you can chose to shave, or not shave, no one will stop you from going natural year round (and yes, there really is someone for everyone). No ad out there, in the 21st century, said “shame, shame, you forgot to shave!”

The real norm is what majority of the people do, not what the ads show. It’s no secret models are not “regular” people (but if you look closely they too have scars, stretch marks, cellulite, and all of those other same things we “regular” women do).

If we are going to be upset about this ad should we be upset about make up companies telling us to have longer eyelashes or plumper lips and to smell like tropical fruits and vanilla. Shouldn’t we than be also upset about women eating mostly salad and yogurt in ads? Why aren’t we this equally outraged about it being mostly women in capris and cardigans doing laundry on TV – I don’t see anyone taking their rage out on the Purex or Maybelline Facebook Walls.

Men may already know all of our dirty secrets and this is simply an exaggerated joke based on an insight that I am sure the agency, and some research organization, invested a lot of time in, talking to women like us.

They don’t go around complaining about the ads where they are shown fat, whipped, tired, feminine, or dumb because they see the humour in them, they can take a joke.

So why can’t we do the same?


Originally published on theawsc.com here.

AWSC: Setting Priorities is Half of the Battle

If I was to be the queen of anything it will have to be distraction. My biggest problem is that I have way more ideas than I can physically handle so learning how to prioritize is an ongoing issue. When I was in university I was able to concentrate on a stack of 10 books and sit without a break typing for 10 hours.

And then social media happened.

But looking back I think the ADD really kicked in when I started working in Advertising. I’m not sure if it was the advertising part or working full time but finally knowing how to execute projects combined with the desire to share and learn life became overwhelming and I did not even notice. While doing research for this column I was reading an article by Tomasz Tunguz titled “Startup Best Practices #5: Effectiveness, Not Productivity” and in it was a “Priority Matrix.”



What a great idea! I thought to myself and immediately proceeded to draw my own version of the illustration to put up above the desk. Whilst coloring in the circles the irony of the situation dawned on me. But I’m not a quitter, so I finished the drawing.

The internet is full of advice on how to stay on point and how to be productive but the important part is that not all of those methods will work for you. We are all different, no snowflake is the same so you can read all you want but it is important to pay attention to what works for you. Here are the things that work for me:

Lists: having a list gives you a visual reminder of what you have to do, sometimes it looks terrifying but I found that crossing off things off that list with a thick marker is more satisfying than it is terrifying to look at it.

Calendars: For two reasons: to avoid double booking and to remind myself of the urgency of a certain task like doing the taxes.

Worst things comes first: Brian Tracy calls this process Eating The Frog, he wrote a book about it. There are 21 different ways to stop procrastinating in this book but my favorite is finishing things you are least excited about first thing in the morning. The logic is basic, once they are done your sky is clear blue for the day.

Web and Social blackouts: Staying on tasks is only possible when there are no distractions and I think we can all agree that the Internet is the biggest distraction of them all. For me the easiest way to black out and lock in is music, different kinds for different tasks, but it gives me a concentrated distraction from everything else in the room and on the web enough to look in one direction.

Draw a finish line: during her panel at Advertising Week last year Arianna Huffington held a panel on work-life balance and one of my favorite take aways from that was realizing our desire for conclusion. Whatever you are doing imagine a finish line, it might not be fully finishing the project, it could just be deciding to work till turn of the hour, even deciding not to finish a task is a conclusion and conclusions help us sleep at night.

Organization: whatever organization method works for you, stacks, flow charts, folders, find it and stick to it. You shouldn’t waste your time looking for things and phone numbers. I have all of those things and can find anything I need in no time, unless it was written on a bar napkin, though some of those are in folders too. The important and challenging thing in this case is putting things in the right place right away but that step eliminates future mess and once it becomes a habit it stops being a pain in the ass.

What helps you stay concentrated?

Originally published on theawsc.com

Lack of Social Engagement Can Damage Your Brand Image and Your Profit

I would like to think that by now most people who work in the communication industry are aware of the value of social media. I would also like to think that most business owners, marketing managers, and directors have some sort of basic understanding for why they need to spend payroll dollars on a community manager.

But let’s be realistic. That type of knowledge is not common. It is also something really easy to ignore and miss.

So I narrow down my wishful thinking to hoping that community managers, especially for bigger brands, definitely know what they are doing. But even there, in the pull of the new found profession, people are still learning the ropes. Things go by unnoticed, forgotten, and never taken care of, leaving dissatisfied customers to pout in silence.

Most people who share their dissatisfaction, or satisfaction, with the brand don’t see a response. The rage has nowhere to go but stew on their Twitter feed to be seen by everyone, unresolved.

Entrepreneur magazine posted an article about a study titled “Brands Simply Aren’t Replying on Twitter.” The report stated that “54% of [socially active] companies send less than one @-reply per day.”

Now here’s why this is a problem:

Social media is a platform for building relationships and as it stands relationship is a two-way conversation. You can share relevant, useful information all day long but if you ignore engagement you automatically create a foundation for problems.

Social media is great for PR resolutions because you can address issues in real time. But if you don’t people will notice. If you don’t acknowledge people’s compliments or complaints you put yourself at risk of losing business. For example, three years ago I had purchased a rather expensive pair of shoes, people on the streets stopped to comment on the shoes. Within two weeks both heels broke in half while I was at a TIFF party. I shared my concern with the brand on Twitter but never got a response. I haven’t purchased a pair of shoes from them since, nor did anyone in my close social circle, in fact most of us are now anti-ambassadors for this particular brand. So think about this: a million is made up of ones, how many ones are you willing to lose by not responding to a tweet?

Social ROI is calculated through engagement and what is engagement if not people talking to your brand. The math is simple, if you respond you are likely to get more mentions, if you get more mentions you have higher engagement rates, more people see what a great brand you are (increased reach) and become interested in your product (raised awareness). A simpler math is this: by responding to an @-mention you are likely to get at least another mention, which already has a potential of doubling your engagement.

The important thing, however, is to not only respond to negative mentions and comments but positive too. If people voluntarily share their love for your product they deserve an acknowledgment – that is, after all, one of the easiest ways to gain brand ambassadors. The least you can do is say “Thanks!” You can fuel the conversation by simply responding and re-tweeting.

So look at your brand’s social feed, now look at the mentions. How many of those are left unresolved?


Originally published on Advertising Week Social Club here.