Monday, October 12, 2009

Social Media: The Mystery

I'm going to be perfectly honest. I jumped into this "social media" thing face first; naturally it was me because I'm already the resident Google Gal. I had no idea what I was doing or what exactly I was trying to accomplish for our agency.

Every week I'd announce at the top of my lungs how many followers we have on Twitter. The Creative Director parroted back, "yeah but, where are all the clients?"

The obvious answer is: they aren't coming from Twitter. Am I following the wrong Tweeters? I follow people who post content I'm interested in - since I have TweetDeck... what the heck, might as well make it interesting and even learn something.

Another thing: there is no way I'm going to spend all day saying in 140 characters, "We are the absolute best advertising agency. You must immediately give us a shot". That would seem weird to me. I Tweet things I'd like to see. Of course it would be super if someone out there thought we have it going on and asked for a consultation. We ARE great!

Then there is Facebook. No matter what I do,, TweetDeck - I cannot make Twitter and Facebook come together. The Facebook "pages" thing is SO limited.

So there. I have confessed. I'm no expert despite having sat through 8-10 "Getting Started with Social Media" webinars. I do what I do. I must keep up with this blog. Someone will read it, right?

I wonder if anyone else feels the same way?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Shopping Is SOOO Last Year

Confession: I am guilty. I am a serial shopper. My closets are full of clothes I HAD TO HAVE yet I never wear them. When I'm bored, I purge.

Confession: I love Pennsylvania German Folk Art. Whenever I find a good piece that I can actually afford (because I am not a DuPont) I pick it up for my museum, I mean my home. Not many pieces come to market for 8.99 so I have *gasp* purchased repros! These are Made In China, resin; the shameful Black Face of Pennsylvania Folk Art. I give them away, throw them away, hide them....

I'm not doing it anymore. I've kicked the habit; kicked the useless crap to the curb.

Tomorrow my friend needs to go shopping, AT THE MALL. Please refer to previous (April?) post if you need a refresher on my opinion of THE MALL. I find them ghastly.

That and Going Shopping has become shameful. If I do need to make a purchase, I feel like Ruth Madoff slinking down Park Avenue with Birkin hand bags in plain white wrapping - as if she has a load of clothes from Forever 21 in there!

So what to do? My friend honestly does need clothes. My wardrobe is obscene. But I'm a junkie. I have no doubt that I'll buy something tomorrow, if for no other reason than shear boredom. I could "Pull A Dad" and sit on a bench with a book. But I'm a junkie.

Last weekend a bunch of us went to Musikfest. If you are ever in Pennsylvania for this week in August, do not, I mean DO NOT miss this event. It's great; a sea of people drinking beer and dancing. And there is shopping.

Always the shopping. What's a junkie to do? I'll tell you. Duck into the tent with the long hippie dresses, love one, have the artist hold the dress over your head while you slip off your t shirt and shorts - and you're on your way! In a new outfit! Then head on over to the dedicated vendor area and support the independent artists. Hey man, we all need to make a living, right?

It wasn't as if this was Shadfest where the artists are selling the same necklaces every year (see another April post). Speaking of necklaces, there is one on Freepeople.

It's called the, "Painted Rosary". I love it, even for $288.00. There was a time, like last year, that I would have charged the necklace without a second thought. Not now. Why aren't the Shadfest necklace artists making THIS necklace for $60.00? I couldn't get my wallet out fast enough!

So anyway, support the independent artists at Musikfest is just what I did. I got some very cool stuff: a glass necklace on a cord, a tiny glass vase for my desk, a lotion stick. Things I will use, love and enjoy - along with the dress.

My husband was giving me the hairiest of eyeballs the entire time. And I felt ASHAMED. I was spending hard-earned cash in the midst of a Depression.

Next week I'll let you know what happens at the mall. I'm planning on a buffet of Bloody Mary's before I leave the house - and no, I won't be driving :~).

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Cult Of The Dolls

the midst of the Downturn, Recession, Depression, Calamity - call it what you will: the collectors of wildly expensive dolls have not missed a beat (or ostensibly a paycheck).

I used to be one of these collectors. Is one still a collector if one has stopped adding to the collection? Once upon a time I would spend more a "mommy-made" doll ensemble for my Madame Alexander Cissy than I would on an outfit for myself. Then there are the dolls themselves; not inexpensive by any means. Well, then, the Doll Community moved on to ball jointed dolls or BJD. And so did I.

Enter the Japanese made Pullip doll I simply could not live without this doll. That is until I got her, de-wigged her and started dressing her in custom clothing. Her head is SO heavy in comparison to the rest of her body that I could not get her to stand up or sit down without FALLING OVER. That was enough of that. I sold her on Ebay.

Which brings me (finally) to the point of this post. Ebay. I used to sell dolls on Ebay so perhaps I was on the site more than the average person. However, I didn't have to spend much time poking around and following doll-related links to discover more and more dolls I couldn't live without. I was spending serious money. A new Cissy outfit in the mail was a cause for celebration!

Sometimes I bought dolls on Ebay from brick and mortar stores, such as The Valley of the Dolls above. There are some superb entrepreneurs on Ebay who sell the most incredible "home-made" doll clothes you can imagine. And shoes too! This is the sort of stuff you just can't find in a mall. Beautiful things. I have 3 trunks full of Madame Alexander Cissy clothes, shoes, jewelry, hats, purses... you name it. My favorite Cissy "couturier", Mary Lois, quit sewing for Cissy and I nearly had a nervous breakdown.

Ebay is an excellent marketing tool for the very small to micro business. Believe me, if you look at an auction for one doll dress, you'll be in the seller's store, falling in love with other dolls in a matter of minutes.

These people are SERIOUS about their dolls! I have a new doll, Wilde Imagination's Ellowyne Wilde I bought her, of course, on Ebay and she is a re-paint - just beautiful! I really want Evangeline Ghastly but WHO is going to spend money on that right now? This brings me to point #2: people are still buying these dolls in massive quantities... and clothes and shoes and wigs to fit them. There are Yahoo! groups dedicated to the different "girls". I have joined one, but I can't really participate because my girls are one emergency car repair away from being sold on Ebay.

I miss being a part of The Cult of the Dolls. I too once de-wigged, re-wigged, re-strung.... I tried sewing but that is a lost cause. I also tried the beloved "re-paint" and I think with practice I could become quite good. It is time consuming. My time is already consumed. That, and I am loathe to remove the paint from a perfectly good, expensive doll's face, with nail polish remover, only to make her look like a bad parody of a horror story.

If you can sew tiny, or knit , or crochet.... buy yourself an Ellowyne Wilde doll, make a few inspired ensembles - and you will have made up the cost of the doll with 4-5 outfits... after that it's pure profit! The Ellowyne people will pay more for her outfits than the Cissy people will pay for Cissy outfits; I suppose it's the size of the dolls, 16 inches V. 21 inches. Heck, my sewing for Cissy always came out WAY too small. I should try sewing for Cissy again so I can have Ellowyne outfits. Can anyone make shoes for Ellowyne? I'd spring for a really cute pair!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Relationships Are Everything

We've always had this new business mantra at LMI about Building Relationships with Our Clients. I never noticed for the most part - so busy crunching numbers - but yeah, most of our clients AND vendors end up becoming personal friends. How cool is that?

We're also close to each other in that we are super aware of each other's circumstances. How can we not be? We spend more time at work than with our families. Here's a good one, my Mom passed away a year and a half ago. It was expected, I guess... STILL, ugh. I was trying to orient myself to reality at Mom's viewing while wearing heels that didn't fit (who can reliably buy shoes while grief stricken?). I glanced down the line to see who else was coming in case I had to jog my memory for a name and there were the OWNER'S of LMI! They drove 3 hours on a school night to be there. They also sent one of the largest sprays - in green - because my Mom was ½ Irish. They were the only ones to do the Irish thing.

We're always sending flowers to clients and vendors who are ill. What can we do for you?? We love everyone, including the lost souls who walk in here needing directions and a rest room. Some folks bug us, but they're comic relief.

Let's not not talk shop. Let's talk about relationships. Object and Subject. It's about Respect: note to self, look up etymology of the suffix "ect". Respect. I respect you as a valid, worthy human. In what respect can we connect? How can we help each other, make each other laugh, enhance each other?

That goes for professional relationships as well as personal. We all have boundaries. DO NOT change the settings on my desk chair! Someone did that once and I completely came unglued! I hadn't the foggiest how to fix it and the whole agency was in a tizz until our IT Dude jiggled some levers so I could sit down and quit bitching. It's funny NOW.

I don't generally like BOUNDARIES. OOOHHHH I have a boundary, I do not accept, yak, yak, yak. Please. I have taken so many bites of the Shit Sandwich, I'm positive I finished the whole thing this week - so none of you need to worry about having to take a bite again. I ate it.

Most "boundaries" go without saying: don't cheat on me, don't use physical violence on me, don't lie to me, don't steal from me. I think the Ten Commandments basically covers it.

Has anyone else noticed that all of a sudden, everyone has these crazy boundaries? For instance, I shot an old friend one of those canned spam emails. I delete most of them - some of them are quaint or funny... She replied that she does not accept that sort of email. I may email her a personal note and we can have a nice conversation. Um, get over yourself! Guess your humorless self wouldn't enjoy this

If you can view the above link and are a sensible human being, you realize we all have warts and idiosyncrasies in addition to our wonderful qualities. If a canned email is going to cause you to erect a fence, well, I think you're hopeless.

Bottom line: why are so many people taking themselves so seriously? What is it getting them? For God's sake laugh! Appreciate! Have a freakin' cookie! By all means, why bother getting yourself worked up over cooked up boundaries? Where's the fun in that?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

If our agency has a niche it is health care marketing. Our clients are the best of the best. Together we painstakingly design campaigns in order to emphasize the QUALITY of the care offered. They mean it and we mean it.

I have had a most absurd experience in the health care market place over the past month. I should'nt call it absurd, because in reality it is kind of frightening.

I knew I had a problem that required a physician's attention. My family doctor is the very best doctor in the world. He ordered the necessary tests and referred me to the proper surgeon. That's the end of anything going according to any sort of plan that one would expect.

I had my testing done at a hospital that I assumed was the same quality as any other hospital. I must say, the personnel could not have been any friendlier. That counts; however, they do not have "courier service" with any other hospitals or physicians in the area - meaning I had to go there to pick up my test results and haul them around with me. Great. I don't know how to properly care for an x ray film! What if I ruined them in my hot car? Do you have to feed them? If so, what???

Then there was the surgeon. I hauled my test results to his office, expecting an expert - I mean, that's what a surgeon is right? Oh my. There was a disc with my test results. HE COULD NOT READ IT. He was literally unable to decipher the information on the disc.... but thought I shouldn't worry. Waiting 6 months would be fine.

WHAT!? Excuse me, but I have a field of expertise as well. If I am unable to obtain good data, I am unable to make a good decision. To me, waiting 6 months based on NO DATA is unacceptable and I threw a little hissy fit, complete with tears to prove it. I was sent immediately (with my new companion, the test results) to another hospital for further testing.

That's when everything stopped making sense. The hospital I was referred to the second time is a "magnet hospital", a "top 100 hospital". I cannot imagine what would have happened to me at a bottom 100 hospital. Where are they - they should be shut down at once. No one deserves that kind of care.

Things went smoothly to begin with. My appointment was scheduled a month out - and I took it like a big girl. At least I was taking charge of my health.... right???

The morning of the procedure as I was walking out the door, the "magnet hospital" called to tell me they had sent the test results back to the original hospital. Could I stop and PICK THEM UP? I guess the magnet hospital has courier service. How nice.

Hissy fit number 2! I was SCREAMING at the unlucky person who called me. NO. I was not picking up the test results! What possessed them to send them back in the first place? She asked me if I wanted her to call to see if she could get them. Did that need to be asked???

The radiologist was great. There ends the praise for the "magnet hospital". It isn't her fault she works there.

The day after the procedure I called to ask if I could expect my results at the follow-up appointment 2 days hence. I thought I remembered them telling me that - but the procedure was rather unsettling and I was foggy.

They had no idea. How hard is it to put something under a microscope? I told them I wasn't coming to the appointment if there were no test results. Why bill my insurance (that I am fortunate to have) if all we were doing was looking for signs of infection? I can do that at home.

Now comes the time where I admit that I take no grief from anyone. I tried to submit an online form to the "magnet hospital" to tell them about needing to pick up the first batch of test results on the day of the procedure. The form was not functioning so I called and was put through to the "patient advocate". He was a nasty cuss but promised to call me back. He didn't. Now I'm scared and MAD.

By this time I am in an all out panic. Waiting on a cancer diagnosis is a horrible, horrible time. The day of the follow up appointment someone from the "magnet hospital" called me at work and said, "your test results have come through. You can come to the appointment this afternoon". Then she hung up. Nice. I thought the worst.

As it happens everything is perfectly fine.

That's great news. The bad news is The Health Care System. A SURGEON who is not able to use an ostensibly standard (?) program on his laptop in order to read diagnostic tests ought to either get some training or retire.

A division of a "magnet hospital" that is hand-delivered diagnostic images and an order for a biopsy ought to be able to keep track of their stuff. I failed to mention that they were able to schedule my appointment based on the surgeon's order - then subsequently lost the order and called me 3 times for it! Hi, you must have had it since you scheduled my appointment - can you LOOK FOR IT?

I hope not all facilities are like this. I have a feeling some are much worse - thus the "magnet hospital". Here is their Mission Statement: To Create An Extraordinary Experience Every Time.

My experience certainly was extraordinary! So extraordinary I'll avoid the place like the plague!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Recesiion Depression or Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

The above referenced article is a must read for anyone who is remotely interested in fashion, trends, creativity, business, merchandising, and the Recession.

I am part of a boutique advertising agency. My primary role is Controller, thus I eat, sleep, breathe and dream about revenue and expenses; accruals and reversals.

Our product is creativity. Much like the fashion industry. It takes time, brain power, and a certain je ne sais quoi to produce something unique and fabulous.

The question - now more than ever is the valuation of quality creativity. I'll venture to say that this Recession has brought into question the value of everything. I do mean EVERYTHING.

To paraphrase a portion of the above referenced article, 'we can't have sales like this again, ever'.

I concur.

The fashion/retail industry may have been an early victim of "this" (what exactly happened anyway?) but they are by no means alone. Sales have fallen off a cliff.

The consumer, whether it be a business or a household seems to have pinched their noses and dove right off a cliff into a water-filled quarry/abyss. I can't even begin to understand the macro-economic magic that created "this" situation. Let's be honest - does anyone really understand? If they do, they're not telling. I have a feeling it's all but sinister.

So then, valuation. As a consumer of fashion and many other things, the recession has provided me with the rare opportunity to exercise my champagne taste on a beer budget. Thankfully no one in my household of two has been laid off yet.

To paraphrase a retailer in the article: 'you do the math. Yeah, I just sold your 800.00 shoes for 50.00'. So what is the REAL value of the shoes? Assuming they are handmade of fine materials - they're intrinsically "worth" more than a pair of pleather pumps from Payless. I think. This brings us back to the previous blog post: You Can Ask Whatever You Want. That doesn't mean I'm paying it. The 800.00 shoes DID cost a fixed amount to produce and the 800.00 shoes HAVE to have a profit margin or business wouldn't be business.

So what immediately comes to mind is my deserted fascination with owning a pair of Manolo Blahniks. I'm a woman of means by no means. I wasn't walking into a Nieman Marcus for a brand new pair. I was shopping on Ebay for my Manolos. The sole criteria was that they be "gently worn".

Let's face it. The shoes are beautiful. A shoe that beautiful has got to be "worth" more than Anne Kleins or Steve Maddens. Right?

It took me months to find a suitable pair in my size. OH how I impatiently awaited their arrival - making sure I had clothing to match the shoe color.

They were awful. They looked very lovely. If they had been intended as a shelf or coffee table accent piece, I would have been well pleased. As things stood (the puns are just understood from now on!) I could barely walk in them and they looked terrible on my feet. I re-sold them on Ebay.

I own beautiful shoes that compliment the foot and leg and are "worth it" for that fact. Some of them are not inexpensive. None of them are cheap. None of them originally retailed for 800.00.

So what is the "value" of a pair of Manolo's? There are materials, labor, and an overhead factor. I don't know if they are "worth" 800.00 intrinsically. They aren't worth 800.00 to me.

Monetary value, then, is logically subjective. Which finally brings me to my point.

'Sales like this can never happen again'. That goes for this business too. However, I must admit, I have picked up a few stellar bargains due to the Recession. Referencing Shad Fest a few posts back, I saw a gorgeous wooden bench/chaise longue at

I loved it. I needed it. It was 150.00. My husband said, "no". HMMPHH. I looked it up online, prepared to have the thing shipped to me. I was having that bench. I was not prepared to nearly have a coronary. The bench is listed on the web site for more than 750.00. I was on the phone to the store before you could say, "holy bargains Batman". By the way... my husband drove there to pick it up. Don't tell me no!

Then I felt bad. Really bad. The shop is a small business, just like we are. They have to pay for materials, labor and and an overhead factor. The business climate is less than healthy. Every business except Wal Mart is fighting for survival. What reasoning could there be for my bench to be 80% off? Quite possibly there is a good reason. It was very dirty and the finish was rough on the seat. Was it the floor model? Was it in a forgotten corner of the warehouse? I don't WANT to know. I'm happy to have it. I would not have it at full price. 'Sales like this cannot continue'. Or can they? And HOW?

The Recession has not changed my buying habits. I've always been a bargain shopper by necessity. It is true that I have one or two pieces that I would not otherwise have if not for the Magical Recession. I believe the Magical Recession has changed buying habits for a great number of people for a very long time.

I think Intrinsic Value has become a factor - and not just an overhead factor, but a force to be reckoned with. Honestly. I loves me a Barefoot Dreams hoodie like almost nothing else. I bought ONE (my first) of three at full price. They cannot be worth 80.00. Maybe they can. If 80.00 is going to keep a company in business with full employment - it's worth 80.00.

But, then, as with the "gently worn" Manolo's - they were truly "gently worn".... and "worth" less than ¼ of the original price. Depreciation on the wearables is worse than that of a new car!

The business climate is frightening. After reading the article at the top of the page... well, what am I supposed to do? Offer to pay more? Maybe.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sometimes during the dead of winter the weather will turn temporarily, uncharacteristically, eerily warm. The transient Ladies' Mantle that squats in the garden will, with great victorious hope, emerge from the layer of fallen pine needles and present itself as the Harbinger of Spring.

The unanticipated appearance of the Ladies' Mantle makes me both happy and sad; happy to see new green life in the midst of the shriveled brown detritus that was last summer's garden; sad because her victory is not so much a victory as an act of defiance. Alone among the sleeping promises of spring, she awakes, as if to say, "I will never be defeated."

Now that it really is spring and raining as if Pennsylvania is the Pacific Northwest - the Ladies' Mantle is nowhere to be found. Perhaps she has moved on to a more sheltered garden. The Meadow Tea, however, which in years past has been scant, has taken over every molecule of spare soil. The Meadow Tea we once coveted and consoled has become a common weed! It doesn't even smell minty.

The Meadow Tea and The Ladies' Mantle sort of remind me of Social Media. First there was MySpace. What a great good time that was. I particularly enjoyed the blogging feature. You could keep an ersatz journal and share it with people - lots of people. You could potentially make hundreds of "friends" with a great "journal" alone.

All of the "social" people I know were on MySpace. It was the virtual place to be. You could hardly be considered cool without it. I'd sneak a peak at work, just to make certain I wasn't missing anything.

Whither MySpace? For me, it kind of cannibalized itself. You know how it gets with too many cooks in the kitchen - or too many people trying to dominate the conversation. Arguments and petty differences arise that OFTEN escalate into full blown wars. I deleted my account and never looked back.

With the advent of pay-per-click advertising came the concomitant marketing peep show ( I mean insight) that web 2.0, 3.0, social networking - were the brand tool waves of the future.

I tried to dip a toe into Facebook in the interest of a client. Within 20 minutes I was soaked from head to toe! I was leapt upon immediately by kids I went to elementary school with. It was, I must admit, crazy exhilarating. There is no blogging feature though. I like to write. It's just as well, sometimes inner thoughts should be kept just where they are.

The defiant yet victorious Ladies' Mantle of MySpace has become the pernicious Meadow Tea of Facebook, Twitter, Digg,, LinkedIn and all the other ones I can't think of. Now instead of asking ourselves, as an agency, IF we should embrace social networking - we ask ourselves which platforms are a good fit for us, which are a good fit for our clients.

I don't think advertising has gone through so many changes in such a short time span as it has within the past ten years. I have been in advertising in a financial role for nine years; with the advent of social networking I had to embrace the digital, data driven culture, as well as integrate its many components, into our agency "line up".... and keep them all organized and effective. Well, I don't know if any agency or brand really knows how these tools are effective - but we all know that they are necessary.

It is my opinion that, as with the Meadow Tea, some of these platforms will take over the lilies and the roses; they will not smell minty - so we can't even make tea. They'll need to be pulled out so that the victorious Ladies' Mantle can emerge in the uncharacteristic cold and then into its proper place in the full springtime of advertising 21st Century Style.