Monday, April 27, 2009


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let's see if this works.

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please excuse the technical malfuctions.


i spent this weekend up at columbia at an event called Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow.

apart from being floored by the sheer talent, credentials, education, skills and clout of the young muslims in the attendance - i was also blown away by what we learned.

our first lecture was by two PR companies (Fenton and Auburn communications, respectively) - who reminded us how to deal with the press effectively, how to become the go-to person for press outlets, how to keep control of an interview and how to make sure that what you're doing and saying is newsworthy.

which led perfectly into my second part - the op-ed project - we took part in an incredible program that attempts to level the field in policy-making and influence by increasing the number of women writing op-eds. currently, editorial writers are 90% white male. this is partly because only 1 in 10 op-ed submissions comes from a woman.

however, for me, the most interesting part of both programs was a question from catherine orenstein, one of the founders of the op-ed project:

do you understand your knowledge, experience and power in terms of its value to others?

in other words, why does what you want to say matter?

in other words, SO WHAT?

this is a question i tend to ask clients i am working for - and it usually gets them angry and irritated - but it is incredibly useful in getting them to appeal to their audiences more effectively.

think about your message. is it internal or designed for your target?

for instance, Google's mission - do not do evil - is internal. it's for the people inside google.

if your mission is "artistic excellence" - that's for you to strive for - not for audiences who want a story, an emotional connection, who want to be moved, distracted and entertained.

when you think about what you do - always ask yourself - WHO CARES?

not from the pov, that's "it's good for them" - because no one wants to take their medicine.

but how does what you do/create/communicate add positive value to someone's life in a way that he/she will seek you out?

how do you become the object of desire?

by asking yourself again and again the hard question - WHO CARES?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Muslims for Peace!

yes, advertising CAN make changes.

hurray! queen rania has favorited our video on her youtube channel - it's just the beginning. time to start shooting more...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

in the beginning, there was the word

back when i was a freelance writer/copywriter, this biblical verse (john) was on my business card.

and the point is, the words matter.

quite often, ideas begin with the right words. finding them takes time.

and the wrong ones - or too many words - can kill an idea in its infancy.

i remember i did a job for japanese client and my agent called me all distressed, she said, the client said, why should i pay so much money for only three words?

i was laughing my head off.

let's think - how much would you pay for three seminal words like "just do it" or two like "think different"?

yes, the build-up to the nike line was brilliant. and now it's dogging them a bit.

and images matched with the apple ad really made a huge difference. but the words brought the brand front and center in people's minds.

so while i LOVE that elevator pitch thing from the harvard business school, the missing element is the word-finder.

because the choice of words make all the difference between predictable and inspiring.

if you're talking about something fun, you want the words to be bright, enthusiastic and punchy.

if you're talking about luxury or banks, you want the words to have weight, importance, history, a sense of responsibility and care.

fragrance and cosmetics? the words are generally sensual, indulgent, romantic - but they are also light and transparent - they inspire dreams.

fashion? they should be bold, unexpected and definitive. they should speak to the way the wearer identifies him/herself. unless it's a brand based on tradition or investment, fashion is playful and exciting, it's a chance to reinvent yourself.

art and dance? the words should dance or splash colors on the page, the thrill should come from the immediacy, the ability to move your emotions and touch your soul. (the right words might even cause stendhal syndrome!)

just been asked to work on an american fashion brand who wants to be playful fresh and, of course, american. and i had to ask for a lot more details.

because what's american? ernest hemingway or william faulkner? mark twain? hunter s. thompson? willa cather?

what's more american - tommy hilfiger, ralph lauren, donna karan, calvin klein - or is the gap? coach, cole haan, ann taylor, american apparel, kate spade?

we're in a recession. differentiation is more and more important. what separates all those pretty pictures on billboards and websites?

lucky me. otherwise the hbs elevator pitch tool would make me irrelevant.

the words are key.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

let this be a lesson to you

this has to be one of the most brilliant tools out there.

get out your thesaurus and let the harvard business school help you:

the idea is to take your pitch/your existing business/your idea and like twitter - edit it to the most salient, exciting points delivered with passion and faith -

oh yes, i could use that often myself. i LOVE adjectives.

just imagine if EVERYONE used this...

that said, a thesaurus is key because the word choices hbs gives you are so cliche and predictable, you will sound like a venerable old bank (and we know how much everyone adores banks these days) if you use them.

oh gosh, if people do this properly, i may soon be unnecessary!

Friday, April 17, 2009

come on, get happy

at least in the beauty/fashion industry, everyone is operating in panic mode.

people who don't have jobs are leaping and jumping every time someone calls them for something - even if they want to pay you in dreamsicles.

people who DO have jobs are having panic attacks, taking valium, doing yoga classes obsessively and not answering anyone unnecessary - whether it's on the phone, by email or seeing them in the street.

people spend days and days trying to make decisions.

and then they change their minds.

or the budgets get cut because someone else changed his mind.

or they get laid off because someone said it was the smart thing to do in this economy.

wandered around the shops on wednesday and noted that in henri bendel, bergdorf goodman and saks - the only people on the selling floors were salespeople. it felt like a mauseoleum.

no wonder no one wants to go to shops.

instead of retail therapy, they've become fear-inducing places trying to deplete your financial insulation against the onslaught of the economy.

we need to figure out a new way to sell stuff.

a fluttery silk-shift printed with enormous flowers and beading on the neck can still stop me dead in my tracks.

and those metallic high-heeled prada gladiators. the chanel black hightops. a cool, multicolored FLIP camera.

a bottle of hampton privet hedge fragrance.

i want them...

we just need to change how we buy. i don't want to buy in a suffocating, windowless edifice where everything feels artificial and manipulated.

i want fresh natural salespeople. i want to feel like i'm getting something customized for me, something special and original. maybe handmade.

i want daylight and air.

i want to feel like i've got my friends around.

and i want to feel like i'm paying a fair price and not mortgaging my kids' future - no bad plastic, no bottles that can't be recycled, no horrific chemical ingredients or treatments, nothing made by child labor or political prisoners.

come on,

we all need stuff.

you can't really get EVERYTHING at wholefoods.

the way to a man's heart might be through his stomach but a woman still falls for something pretty.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Re-Think Beauty

i'm not talking about freckles here.

i'm talking about why the big retouched picture with the celebrity will not move mascara. or skin cream.

or anything else attached to the logo on the lower righthand corner.

we are not buying formulas any more.

we want trust and intimacy.

and some fun.

2 weeks' ago, i was interviewing for a job as creative director of major cosmetic company in europe.

before i met with the person at the company, i dragged my huge portfolio up and met with the headhunter. then i was given 4-pages of questions to answer:
which celebrities have i worked with,
how comfortable am i in the world of celebrities,
how many top photographers have i worked with,
how comfortable am i managing their talent,
what are the budgets of the ad campaigns i have worked on, etc. etc.

(needless to say, i cleverly forgot that it was st. patrick's day & the interview took place on 5th ave & 57th st - had to climb police barricades, etc. thus arrived sweaty, disheveled& 15 minutes' late). i rushed through my portfolio like a chipmunk on speed.

i ended my interview by saying, i think the brand has great potential but it is currently dead in the water. no one cares.

on top of that

traditional advertising is not compelling any more.

if you're a big company, you have to do it a little bit - from time to time - so you get to have fun at the shoot and feel glamorous.

but traditional advertising does not get women in the door of shops.

the cosmetics sales floor at bergdorf goodman, saks 5th ave, bloomingdale's, nordstrom are mausoleums.

everyone knows now that if you throw enough money at her, any celebrity or top model will put her face on your product. that doesn't mean she is putting your product on her face.

all those top photographers are learning to churn out the least offensive (or exciting) stuff and no one believes it any more.

i told her i had read a ton of blogs and no one was even talking about her brand, except to say that they were doing nothing.

their last big product breakthrough was a packaging gimmick not a real innovation. and it wasn't reviewed well.

on top of everything else - their communication lacked love and passion.

i said, you need to speak like you LOVE your consumer. you have to love women.

and you need a real PASSION and excitement for your product - it needs to be palpable and electric - it has to INSPIRE.

you have to be offering a woman a bit of fun, an escape, a laugh

and you also have to speak with honesty and accountability.

i've spoken to tons of women about why they are buying beauty products today and the answer is the same. it's word-of-mouth. if a friend tells them the product is incredible, really does what it says it does, they will scrimp and save and go without (and climb barricades) to get it.

i said, look, i'm not a rock star. i'm not interested in going to celebrity parties or hanging out in clubs with photographers.

i'm a real woman, a single mum with three kids who worries about paying her bills, pacifying her exhusbands, getting to work on time, setting a good example for my daughters and buying products that are worth the money i sacrifice.

i'm interested in giving other women a great product, starting a conversation with them, listening to them and making them happy.

we need to stop trying to get the women to come to us.

we have to go to them.

we have to give them something wonderful.

and then they might come back again.

oh - needless to say, i did not get the job.