Monday, January 30, 2012

I Have Lousy Work Habits

Maybe it's life in the digital culture that’s ruining my rigorous work habits. I’m all over the place. The age of distraction is getting to me.

This is the year I face the facts. I must change my work habits or join a convent where nothing will matter so much as my morning prayers.

Okay, so I’ll change the work habits. After all, I suspect celibacy would kill me.

I came across this letter written by the original ad man, David Ogilvy, describing his work habits as a copy writer.

I found it fascinating. And it served as yet another distraction from addressing a real deadline. Ugh…I promise to do better in future. For now, I’m sharing Ogilvy’s take on things.

April 19, 1955

Dear Mr. Calt:

On March 22nd you wrote to me asking for some notes on my work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:

1. I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.

2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.

3. I am helpless without research material—and the more "motivational" the better.

4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.

5. Before actually writing the copy, I write down every concievable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organized and relate them to research and the copy platform.

6. Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.

7. At this point I can no longer postpone the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)

8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.

9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.

10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.

11. Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)

12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.

Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility.

Yours sincerely,


Friday, January 27, 2012

Where Vision Meets Action

I love this! Watch a group of passionate artists revitalize a gritty Oakland block in 6 weeks.

Check out PopUpHood

POPUPHOOD from Eva Kolenko on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Checking Out Self-Reliance Technologies

Photo by yanyanyanyanyan
Ever wonder why people wait in line at the grocery store check-out or the public library when self-check-out is available? I’d like to argue that in a digital culture, we get emotional support from live human transactions. The neuroscience proves that the more social our technologies become, the more human contact we‘ll crave: hi-tech/hi-touch. So it’s not about efficiency.

Transacting at check-out is all about having a plush human exchange. This is where brand personality shines. For example, at my library there are a couple of librarians who lavish patrons with eye contact and smiles. People will cue up to have their books checked out by these librarians, while self-check-out is idle nearby.

In grocery stores, self-check-out is a bust. The process is clunky and riddled with errors that cause delays. Invariably the customer is forced to seek help anyway as the robot voice scolds them about unscanned items. It’s a downright punitive customer experience.

The trouble with some self-reliance technologies is that they are replacing something that people value more and more - positive human connections. More importantly, technologies that attempt to fix the problem of lousy customer service using the fig leaf of hip technology is an infuriating idea. When I saw this video about a mobile app for shoppers, I couldn’t help but wonder: what problem is this solving? Efficiency? Self-reliance? User freedom?

Or is it a techno-fix for bad customer service at check-out? The latter doesn’t need an app. It needs leadership.

See for yourself. Would you adopt this mobile app for your shopping trip?

Monday, January 23, 2012

A New Story

Photo by pic fix
It's sunrise in New York. I am writing this from my hotel room, hours before the curtain goes up on TEDx Broadway.

Last night, I snagged last minute tickets to The Book of Mormon. Terrific show! It lived up to every Tony it won.

I couldn't help feeling uplifted by its deeper themes about America: even when the chips are down, even when we are lost and have no idea what to do next, we are always able to tell ourselves a new story. It keeps us hopeful. And hope is always magnetic.

I am thrilled to be a part of TEDx Broadway. And I thank Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conference, for being hopeful enough about the future of ideas to dedicate a business to it.

And look where that has taken him. And taken all of us.

Wish me luck...oops, I mean "break a leg."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Show Don’t Tell - Communicating for Impact

My children were cursed, they said, with a mother who loves words. I used to fuss at them about their school essays, “Show don’t tell.”

My son is a now a poet. His bio reads: “…and his mother inquired of his second grade teacher: 'How is his prose?'" My face reddens to recall that memory.

Words are powerful when they paint pictures. Take this poem by the talented Matt Rohrer. It reads like Exhibit A from Strunk & White’s Elements of Style under the section: “Show, Don’t Tell” which advises on the use of imagery.

I’m tweeting this to Dan Pink, who is equally afflicted by a language infatuation, although his rapture is signage.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Your Kid’s Too Fat: Changing the Culture of Obesity

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is taking the heat for its brazen campaign against childhood obesity. I applaud their approach. In fact, it’s way overdue.

Back in 1997, we spotted evidence that the obesity issue would balloon into an epidemic when we helped a yogurt brand get adopted into school lunchrooms. At the time, carbonated beverages and sugar-laden snacks were the norm.

Our research uncovered a sentimental belief among adults that kids were impervious to obesity. Parents believed their kids were so active, they’d naturally burn off the calories. Turns out the reality was very different. The one-two punch of a refined sugar diet and less outdoor play left an entire generation of kids dangerously obese.

Check out these attack ads running in Georgia to fight obesity. They are stimulating a lot of debate. I’ll be curious to see if they will indeed change the culture of child-rearing around food, snacks and exercise. The fully-integrated ad campaign includes outdoor, digital and television.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mega Brands Do Social Media

To write Tipping the Culture, I interviewed social media gurus at big brands such as Red Bull, Ford Fiesta, Google and more. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated to watch mega brands wade into the social web.

People underestimate what it takes to deftly wield social media as an expression of brand personality when you are a giant. Thanks to Scott Monty, head of Social Media at Ford Motor, here’s a cool infographic about which brands are rockin' it lately with social and why. (Disclosure: Unisys is on the list and we were retained during the launch of its LocalLife community-helper portal.)

Created by Voltier Digital for

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday: Do We Live in Two Worlds?

Mondays are always slow to unfold. My ambition arouses more slowly as I shake off the dreamy weekend world. Weekend and work week can seem like two different worlds. That notion inspired me to post this Monday meditation.

I came across this trailer for Upside Down, a new movie set in a universe with two earths. Lower Earth is poor. Upper Earth is, well, the upper crust. Contact between the two worlds is forbidden. Two star-crossed lovers find each other and, despite coming from opposite worlds, fall in love (Romeo and Juliet reprise). The film has no release date. Producers are marketing it early to seed interest and crank up the marketing churn.

When I found the trailer over at Digital Trends, I was struck by a phrase of dialogue I couldn’t shake. Her love gives me hope, the man explains.

Simple enough. Love is hope.

It’s a wild world. It’s Monday. I’m stepping off my week with this little gem in mind: love is hope.

Ponder that and have a great week.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Infographic: Social Media Makes Attention Deficit Disorder the New Common Cold

As you will see, my love for infographics persists into 2012. Here’s a recent one from Assisted Living Today about SMADD (social media attention deficit disorder).

I’m afflicted. I came down with it back in 2004 when I started this blog. I haven’t been able to shake it. I have the attention span of a toy poodle. But I’m doing everything I can to fight back. I’ve even returned to practices I learned in Catholic grade school, like preparing lovely handwritten notes with painstakingly neat penmanship. But it’s blowing my time management regimen, let me tell you.

There are some eye-popping findings in the infographic. Like the one about how social media leaches oxytocin into our blood streams. Yowzer! Anyone who has ever been in love knows that resistance is futile in the face of oxytocin, especially if you are female, since it’s widely accepted that oxytocin does for women what testosterone does for men, sans the chest-beating.

Have a look and see how social media is changing us:
Infographic sponsored by AssistedLivingToday

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cracking the Code on the 3 Most Difficult Habits to Break

If you’re like most people, you’ve made a list of resolutions for 2012. I have. And this week, I plan to embark.

My top resolutions for 2012:
1. Join a new gym and become my most fit self in 2012.
2. Improve eating habits so I have more energy.
3. Manage time better. (hmmmm…where to begin?)

Seems like a pretty simple list, except that the odds for success are stacked against me. If you saw the cover story about weight loss in The New York Times Magazine, you know about how our bodies retaliate when we change what we eat or how we exercise. It’s an uphill battle.

As for time management, I’ve identified a few culprits that eat away at my time: email and distraction.

The research on email shows how much it interrupts our day and eats time. The trouble is, changing our email behavior is also notoriously difficult. For me, it’s a thoughtless reflex. So I am re-wiring my email habits by spotting patterns I can retool using this app.

And I’m letting go of things that corrupt my concept of time by being truthful with myself about the root cause of these energy-sucking behaviors. I consider it my own behavior mod program. I’m attempting to retrain myself using negative associations:

1. Multi-tasking is a guilt trip when I feel I can't keep up. I’m not talking about typing out instant messages while waiting in line at the Whole Foods. I mean that frenzied ADD flurry of unrelated little problems and emails and interactions that slowly drain away our focus. Multi-tasking is bad for us. Kathy Sierra turned me onto to mindfulness as an antidote for multitasking.

2. Daily to-do lists with over 10 things are for psychos. I learned this first-hand during a recent move. I kept these crazy lists of 20 or 30 items a day. One day, I laid out my week in review on the kitchen counter and saw the pattern. Truthfully, I accomplished about 10 items a day and carried the others over. I went to bed each night feeling under-accomplished. Starting each day with a Top 10 is more efficient, if not more realistic. You don’t waste time feeling bad about having left so much undone. Besides, happy people are focused, as Gretchen Rubin believes.

3. Email addiction is bad for my soul. Long ago I gave up checking email on my iPhone. It’s clunky and unsatisfying. I actually like email as a medium, but I have come to appreciate that like “slow food”, it’s best savored in 3 e-meals a day. When I moved, I went for a week without Wi-Fi at my house when Comcast not only dropped the ball, but kept kicking it from Help Desk to Help Desk. Without wireless at home, I set aside time segments at my local coffee shop to check email and surf the web. It was efficient. People got more thoughtful responses from me, and I felt more complete and more serene.

If you haven’t made your list of resolutions, here’s a good place to start.

I chose some tough nuts to crack in 2012. But I’m giving myself a little credit for keeping it to 3 things in 2012. Not 10...not 20...just three.

Wish me luck.