To say that it’s been awhile since my last post would be an understatement. It was never my intention to neglect this little blog for so long, but this summer other projects have taken over every last second of my spare time.
Like my new logo? I was so excited to get to work with Maria Pastore again when the time came to design the logo for the new site & venture – I love that it contains many of same the design elements as my logo on this site and keeps my “brand” consistent!
And just in case health and fitness isn’t your thing, don’t worry, I’ll continue to post here on this site occasionally, but I do hope that you’ll support me in my other ventures as well. Thanks for reading!
:: Share or discuss :: 2011-08-17 :: michellegmason
I should probably be ashamed to admit this, but I am a tad bit obsessed with Bethenny Frankel. I was bummed when she left the Real Housewives of New York City, but I’ve grown to like her own spin-offs (Bethenny Getting Married? and Bethenny Ever After) even more. I know she’s a reality TV star, so feel free to judge away if you’re so inclined, but what really draws me to her is seeing what a successful entrepreneur she is. I like getting sucked into her life, seeing how she manages her successful television career, family and Skinnygirl business all at once. And let’s face it, she’s downright entertaining; she always manages to say exactly the quip you wished you’d been able to think of fast enough.
If there’s another reality TV personality that could compete with Ms. Frankel for my attention, it would be Jillian Michaels. People have strong opinions about her, but again, I think it’s a fascinating life that she’s been able to build for herself, and I find her success inspiring.
All this is, of course, leading up to the point of this post, which is to say that I was pretty excited that both of these women had books come out around the same time earlier this spring. I’m not gonna lie, I was also pretty thankful for my Kindle around this time – anyone else think that the best part about the Kindle is the fact that you can download books you would otherwise be embarrassed to carry around on the subway? C’mon, I know I’m not the only one out there downloading guilty pleasure books from time to time!
Both Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life and A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life deal with similar subject matter: a self-help how-to for releasing yourself from your past, your fears and insecurities, and moving towards your best life and ultimate potential. I’m no self-help expert, but I did think that both offered decent advice and were well-written, easy to digest and offered tools to help you put the lessons of each of the books into practice. Even with the stigma that comes with being a star on reality television, personally, I didn’t have an issue with either woman’s credibility in writing this type of book. I think they’ve both proven themselves capable of success, and if they want to empower other women to lead happy and fulfilling lives, then I think that’s great. I thought I would give a few quick thoughts on these books here:
- Bethenny’s book is much more inwardly focused, revealing how the celebrity/entrepreneur got from her oft-talked about painful past to where she is today. Any fan of Bethenny’s should pick up this book if for no other reason than the glimpse it gives you into her personal life, which she tells you, warts and all. Her steps to come from a place of yes are straight-forward, and even though it’s a personal story, she goes out of her way to show you how each of these “rules” can be applicable to many scenarios in your own life.
- Jillian’s book is more straight-up therapy; while there are some personal anecdotes, most of the stories that Jillian shares are related to Biggest Loser contestants or other friends and clients. This book is not as quick of a read as Bethenny’s, mostly because it features several “Work it Out” exercises at the end of each chapter, which are intended to get you thinking about your own fears and limitations, and starting to work through them by journaling on them as you go along.
- Neither one of these books is going to change your life, unless you’re willing to do the work to change it yourself. Sorry guys, no easy fixes here, so if you’re looking for “look at the glass half-full” or other happy-go-lucky mantras typical of self-help fare, you won’t find it in either of these books. I appreciated that both books were more down-to-earth and realistic, and limited in terms of hokey jargon.
I thought that both books were worth my time, but I’m definitely ready to get back into fiction now. And for your sake, I promise it will be something more high-brow next time – you know, something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to read on the subway.
Have you read A Place of Yes or Unlimited? If so, what did you think? Are you a fan of Jillian and/or Bethenny’s? As always, feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter.
These two stories have been floating around online this week and generating some discussions, so I thought they’d make for an interesting Links That Make You Go Hmm… post. Both of these stories focus on how advertising can shape and enforce gender roles, specifically when it comes to children:
What do you think? Is this harmless, playful fun, or should J. Crew have thought twice before running this ad? However you feel about this ad, you have to admit that, for a company known for its preppy, yet classic, clothing, by including it in the catalog they had to know that they’d be creating a buzz with this. Do you think that it will pay off for the company or anger their chino-loving customers?
List of most popular terms used in advertising for girls, as illustrated by Wordle:
List of most popular terms in advertising for boys, as demonstrated by Wordle:
Boys will be boys, and girls will be girls…or will they? How influential do you think children’s toy advertisements are in shaping gender identity and stereotypes? Is this problematic and/or outdated? How could advertisers start marketing to children differently?
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you come across any interesting links that you’d like to share, post them here or send them to me on Twitter.
One of the best lessons that I’ve taken away from traveling is that a trip is always a learning experience, even if the only think you think you learned was the best possible position to angle your book so you don’t end up with a weird tan line across your stomach. Whether the journey is near or far, you always need to utilize skills that may not come up otherwise in your daily life, whether it’s recalling vocabulary from your ninth grade Spanish class, exercising patience and self-restraint when you’re stuck on the tarmac – motionless – for three hours, or navigating your way through another city’s streets with a map in your hand.
I just spent the last week in Puerto Rico with my husband on our first anniversary trip, and I learned a couple of lessons that I wanted to share:
Always wear more sunscreen than you think you need.
Unfortunately, this is a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way many times over, but here’s to hoping that one of these times it will stick.
Try things you’re afraid of, but once you do it, it’s okay to decide you hate it and never want to do it again. Just don’t let fear stop you in the first place.
I don’t have a picture to accompany this experience, mostly because it was dark and it involved water (and the possibility of falling into said water), so I didn’t want to ruin my camera. In retrospect, I’m also glad that there is no documentation of this experience, because it was pretty traumatizing.
Fun fact: I have a huge fear of open water. I knew this going into the night kayaking experience to view Puerto Rico’s infamous bioluminescent bays, but I was determined to push my fear aside in order to try what everyone and their brother had been raving about since we booked our trip. Before this fateful night, I had been in a kayak exactly one time before, and it was not a good experience. It involved me having a panic attack as soon as I determined that our kayak was headed out into the open Atlantic (it wasn’t; we were in a calm bay in St. Thomas, 30 feet away from the beach and were in no danger whatsoever of being lost at sea in the choppy waves I was picturing in my mind), and my sister had to jump out of the kayak (and into a school of jellyfish) in order to switch places with me and steer us back to safety. But not before we hit some rocks, obviously.
I expressed my fear to Rob, and told him to be patient with me if I started having another freak out in the water. I tried to calm down as I watched six-year-olds hop into a kayak with their mom or dad, telling myself that I wasn’t going to let a toddler show me up. Our group took off, and the first leg of the trip involved navigating our way across a bay where many boats were parked. Aside from a few moments where I started yelling that I thought we were going to hit a boat, or run over a buoy (in reality, we probably weren’t even close), Rob kept me pretty calm, and I actually did okay, just focusing on paddling and getting this portion of the trip over with as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, it was a little windy that night, and the rough water had me feeling a little nauseous by this point. I get motion sick, so here I was, 20 minutes into this “experience of a lifetime,” already wishing it were over. By the time we entered the channel, which was completely pitch-black, surrounded by low-hanging trees, and was pretty much exactly as dangerous as it sounds, I had to stop paddling altogether, and just concentrate on hanging onto my stomach contents for dear life. As everyone around me was screaming as they bumped into branches and other kayaks, I just sat there motionless, begging Rob to paddle faster. When we finally reached the bioluminescent bay 30 minutes later (!!!), everyone was so mesmerized by microscopic plankton that would light up and make the water sparkle when you touched it, but I think I probably stuck my hand in there just once before I started praying that we would just turn around and go home already. At this exact moment, as if I was in the middle of John Cusack movie, the well-timed rain started pouring down on us, soaking me to the bone. So now I’m not only in a kayak, which I’ve decided by this point that I still hate, but I’m also nauseous and soaking wet at this point. After what felt like eternity (but in reality was five minutes) we turned around and headed back the way we came, which was an even worse trip, if you can imagine that. I’ll spare you the gory details.
That being said, do I regret going? Absolutely not. I needed to face that fear, and I wasn’t about to miss out on something that I didn’t know if I’d have the opportunity to see again. I can’t say that it was 100% worth it, but I wouldn’t want to deter anyone else from going, because everyone we were with seemed to enjoy it. Rob probably would have enjoyed it more if he didn’t spend 80% of the trip rowing by himself, but in general, the whole experience for us was pretty lackluster. And now I know that I still hate kayaking in open water, and so I won’t feel bad never doing it again.
Enjoy the scenery and explore as much as possible, and you will be rewarded with breathtaking sights and new perspective or point of view you may have otherwise missed.
Eat (and drink) as the locals do.
Especially if it’s a subpar, watered down local beer in an adorable tiny bottle. What can I say, even on vacation, I’m a sucker for cute packaging.
Nothing will ever make you appreciate your own bed like going on a trip.
As sad as it is when a good vacation comes to a close, sometimes the very best part is getting back home.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned while traveling? Any hilarious/horrible/great travel stories you have to share? Comment here or follow me on Twitter.
:: Share or discuss :: 2011-04-10 :: michellegmason
I’ve been in advertising for six years now, and what I do on a day-to-day basis is work with the broadcast standards’ departments at the major television networks to make sure that claims are substantiated and regulations are adhered to. In six years, I’ve seen it all in terms of the ads that have crossed my desk, and no matter what the category is, almost every ad falls victim to the same trap: inserting a powerful claim in order to stand out from the competition and differentiate whatever Brand X is from the rest. You’ve seen it on TV: “X product is preferred by 9 out of 10 doctors,” “Nothing gets your whites whiter,” “Reverse aging in just one step,” etc.
I may be the last person you would expect to advise advertisers against making claims in commercials – frankly, I think I would actually miss poring over pages of questionnaires, research methodology and other supporting documents – but I’m going to do just that, and here’s why. We know that audiences are getting more fragmented as content is consumed online, which, coupled with the ease of fast-forwarding through commercials when you do watch TV on your actual TV, thanks to DVR, means that getting eyeballs on your ads is harder than ever. We also know that most advertisers are spending at least some of their ad dollars on online, mobile and social media, which is important since these tools can create more authentic and powerful consumer engagement as people interact with brands through blogs, apps, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But since the television commercial isn’t dead yet, in order for advertisers to get the most out of the television ad budget, a few things need to be kept in mind:
Show, Don’t Tell
Any Creative Writing major will wince upon reading those words, but cliché or not, the phrase applies here. I did a research paper on the Impact of DVR on Advertising a few years ago, and one of the things I found was that, after using their DVR remote to skip through a commercial break, people were still able to recall brands that had a well-placed logo. Not only that, but they could still comprehend a simple but funny or cute commercial plot in fast-forward.
Knowing that the percentages of DVR owners are rising, the question remains, why are advertisers still making big claims if they know that very few people are actually going to be listening to them? Some of the best commercials are the ones that are tweaking their formula and focusing on being effective by being visually appealing. Show me why I should buy your product, or evoke a certain emotion from me, but don’t worry about cramming in a lot of facts, because I can’t listen anyway when I’m zipping through your ad.
A great example of this is the Nike Free ad that debuted earlier this year. Seeing this ad makes me fired up. It makes me want to run…directly to the nearest Nike store to buy these shoes. They don’t need to tell me that 9 out of 10 professional athletes prefer running in Nikes to get me to buy them; seeing these fit people and feeling the kinetic energy the ad exudes are enough for me. Plus, when I’m fast-forwarding through ads with my remote and see this one come on, I actually stop and watch it.
Make Me Laugh
Certainly not a novel idea, but one that I still think gets lost when advertisers forget that they’re competing also with the internet, iPads, etc. for a viewer’s attention. But if you can make me laugh, then chances are I will not only watch your ad again and again (I’m looking at you Logitech/Kevin Bacon ad), but I will also talk about it on Facebook, Twitter and here on my blog. Even if you think your brand is too serious for using humor as a tool in advertising, think again. You should still try to make me smile; I don’t care if you’re a hemorrhoid cream, a mascara or an NSAID pain reliever, even then you can use humorous everyday occurrences in order to make your brand relatable and make me remember you when it matters. And the easier to convey onscreen, the better; again, keep it simple for those of us who are watching it at 4 times the regular speed, while texting on our iPhones simultaneously.
Put Claims Where They Matter
Just because I don’t think claims necessarily belong in commercials doesn’t mean I don’t think they belong in your advertising at all. This is where the web comes in handy; you know, when someone is actually looking for more information about you. And, when used sparingly, claims can even occasionally be used in your commercials, too, as long as they’re not b.s. and even then only if it’s truly relevant. In today’s age of transparency and stricter FTC crackdowns, it’s best to be honest, establish a trusting relationship with your consumer across the various advertising platforms, and don’t forget about making us smile once in awhile.
*This blog post was approved by 2 out of 3 readers. Totally kidding. All 3 of them loved it.
:: Share or discuss :: 2011-03-14 :: michellegmason
Tuesday 15 February 2011 - Filed under Media
I stumbled upon this today, which is guaranteed to make literature nerds and nostalgic Nintendo fans smile. You can also visit the website, The Great Gatsby for NES, to play the game, since I can’t embed it here.
Besides occasionally playing Wii Sports and Guitar Hero with friends, and operating the PS3 controller only to access my Instant Netflix queue, I haven’t played video games since we owned the original Nintendo and I had to blow into the cartridge until I was blue in the face if I wanted to play Super Mario Brothers. Playing online isn’t as fun, but it is cool to look back at this lost relic and see how far video games have come since then.
And because it’s impossible to play this Great Gatsby game without noticing the obvious structural similarities to Mario, I wanted to share this post I came across, which notes some not-so-obvious parallels between the two.
:: Share or discuss :: 2011-02-15 :: michellegmason
I finally got around to reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2009 meat industry manifesto Eating Animals last month. As a fan of his writing, I remember being initially intrigued when it came out, but at the time I don’t think I was willing to accept the changes that I knew reading it would force me to consider making regarding the way I ate. So I avoided the book for as long as possible, until finally I felt ready to accept the inevitable changes that I assumed would come with reading it.
Funny enough, I had already seen movies like Fast Food Nation and Food Inc., and so I knew that Foer wasn’t covering unfamiliar territory here (I also knew about Michael Pollen’s work). And while those things have certainly opened my eyes to the inner-workings of the food industry, I had resigned myself to being an omnivore with a dilemma, who tried to buy organic whenever possible, and I went about my way, never fully stopping to consider the V word. Vegetarian. Vegan, even. Can you imagine? I consider myself open-minded and enlightened in many ways, but – as is the case with most of us – food represents the last bastion of our refusal to relinquish control, and I like my animal protein, dammit. What’s ironic about this paradox, of course, as Foer and others have pointed out, is how little control we really have over the food we eat, from how it’s raised, to how it’s treated, to how the people who process our food are treated, to where it comes from and the impact that has on our environment and our wallets. The control we feel we have have over what goes in our shopping cart is all a carefully-manufactured illusion.
So what was the impetus that finally led me to read Eating Animals? Don’t laugh, but it was giving up Diet Coke (and all of its artificial glory) last fall. This was a monumental decision for me, and one that was a huge challenge. Over the years, as I’ve learned more about food, health and fitness, I’ve made so many decisions that have led be to become the (far healthier) eater I am today, so it’s not like I didn’t know the stuff wasn’t good for me, but I hadn’t tasted a meal without it in years, and so I convinced myself that it wasn’t affecting me in the ways that I had read about. I was addicted. When I gave up the crack in a can, I was finally able to realize the effect it had had on me, my waistline and my tastebuds all these years, and now I can’t imagine drinking the stuff. It was a big lightbulb moment for me, and it also made me realize that I am capable of eating something, or not, for a better reason than “I feel like it” or “it tastes good.”
The point Foer makes about why we insist on eating animals because of the taste was certainly not lost on me. I understand that taste is not necessarily a good reason to continue to eat meat, and I’ve made a conscious effort since not to eat it very often, because I think that’s a very good point. But while I certainly think that going full-time vegetarian is a noble choice, it’s not the conclusion that I came to after reading this book…at least not yet, anyway. Knowing myself and how my brain works, I know it’s a topic that I’ll continue to research and I’ll play out multiple arguments in my head, and so maybe someday I’ll come to a different conclusion, but for now I’m comfortable being a very, very selective, occasional meat eater.
It’s not the decision I anticipated coming to (I alternated between crying and feeling angry and disgusted about the treatment of animals and people, and the products we’re being served, throughout the book), but after everything else I’ve read on the topic since picking up Eating Animals, it’s what feels right for me now. That’s not to say that this book didn’t change the way I think about food – it definitely did – and I appreciate the painstaking care that he went to to do his homework on the subject and include all points of view. As a resource for learning more about the subject, I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. But I think what bothered me about Foer’s book was the comparison of not eating meat to morality, and I’m not sure that I feel comfortable with that. I understand where he’s coming from, and I don’t think he meant it in a way to put down other people, but in my opinion, I don’t think the families who have to hunt to put dinner on their kids’ plates, or people who don’t have the money to not eat meat are “immoral” for doing so. It’s his book, so it is his morality that is being presented here, but I think we all have to live by our own individual moral standards. At the end of the day, we have to live with ourselves and what we’re comfortable with.
I think there’s a lot more that’s wrong with our food industry than the factory-farmed meat we’re being served, not least of which is the fact that this meat is often cheaper than most produce. And while I’m disheartened by the recent vote to approve the planting of even more genetically-modified crops (GMOs), I’m equally hopeful about such movements as this one, Whole Foods 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating System, which, while it may not be a perfect solution for everyone, I think it is a step in the right direction in terms of putting some control back in the consumer’s hands.
So when I say that I’m now a very selective meat-eater, I mean that I try to stick to mostly vegetarian meals, and occasionally will buy meat from sources like Whole Foods and my local butcher, The Meat Hook, when I can afford it. I don’t need it, but I also don’t feel like I’m compromising my morals when I buy from a local source, or one that takes the ethical treatment of animals and humans seriously. I’m certainly not perfect, nor do I think I won’t occasionally slip up at a restaurant or dinner party, but at least I’m making progress and educating myself in the process.
I know that this is a deeply personal stance, and one that a lot of people would find fault with, but I also think it’s important to continue to raise awareness and keep contributing to the dialogue on the subject. Last week’s Oprah episode, where the staff went vegan for a week, is an excellent example of this – who better to reach the masses and open up a discussion on a controversial topic than Oprah? Every staffer came out of the vegan challenge with a different opinion, but from that experience came knowledge, and with that comes an impact on each particpant’s thinking moving forward. None of us are perfect, and eating meat, or not, is not something that can be applied us as a whole, because it’s up to every individual to make that choice. But the food we put in our mouths is important, and so it’s equally important to continue taking steps to educate ourselves about it.
This year’s Super Bowl was one of the worst-produced in years. First, Christina Aguilera mangled the lyrics of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and then we had to suffer through a halftime performance by the Black Eyed Peas, which was only made more painful thanks to both wardrobe sound and lighting malfunctions. Oof.
But, hey, at least the Packers won, right? For once, the football being played on the field was the best part of the Super Bowl. The commercials, for the most part, were a total snoozefest. Here are a few of my hits and misses.
Doritos, “House Sitting.” One of the three finalists for the Doritos/Pepsi Max Crash the Super Bowl contest, this one actually made me chuckle out loud. Which is more than I can say for their other spots this year (I still have nightmares dating back to the grade school lunch table, where I sat across from a girl who brought Doritos for lunch every single day. She would lick the cheese off of her fingers and talk to you with cheese stuck between her braces…needless to say, twenty years later and I am still repulsed by Dorito crumbs, so I hated the spot where that was the focus). Doritos is one of the few brands that probably isn’t wasting their money by paying for Super Bowl airtime, and it was refreshing to see something a bit different from their standard frat humor fare.
Chrysler, “Imported from Detroit.” This Wieden+Kennedy spot struck a nerve; it was emotional, it was creative, and most importantly, it was memorable. At two minutes in length, this ode to the Motor City was one of the best of the night in terms of capturing my attention, and I would venture to guess that across America no one was visiting the appetizer buffet or cracking open a beer during this commercial. Will it sell Chrysler vehicles? It’s hard to tell, but my guess is that this was money well-spent in terms of sparking an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer.
Volkswagon, “The Force.” Deutsch’s ad was cute, but nothing more than a flash in the pan. Sure, it’s garnered lots of YouTube hits, but the shelf life on this one won’t last very long, and Ad Age critics note that more viewers are remembering the kid than the product itself. Hopefully VW got some money from George Lucas for this one, because I think it’s going to result in a lot more family bonding over Star Wars viewings than Passat purchases. Still, amidst all of the tired and violent behavior exhibited in many of the spots, this one – showing a dad who wants to instill a sense of wonder and happiness in his kid - strikes the right emotional and funny chord.
Motorola, “Empower the People.” Initially I was really impressed by this ad from Anomaly. I might have even uttered the word “brilliant” under my breath when I saw it. A commercial that flips the Apple 1984 commercial with a wink and a nudge? Well-played. But the problem was, seconds after I saw it, I forgot what brand the commercial was actually for. It became that great Not-Apple commercial, not a Motorola commercial, and I would say that makes it a miss.
Groupon, “Tibet.” Wow. Just wow. I found this spot to be so offensive, and it looks like I’m not alone. The whole concept of this Crispin, Porter & Bogusky ad made me uncomfortable, and poking fun at a political struggle made the brand seem unaffected and glib, which I’m sure is not the impression the company hoped to leave with it’s first foray into television advertising. But while it may have left a bad taste in my mouth, people have a tendency to look the other way for the sake of a good deal, and so luckily for Groupon, this attention (however negative it may be) will probably help growth of their brand. So from a business standpoint it may be a hit, but it still misses the mark in terms of creativity and establishing positive brand vibes. Of all the places they could have gone with this ad, did they have to go there? Of course not.
Budweiser/Bud Light. These were all terrible, and not worth the time to discuss one by one. Just like their beer, these spots were watered down and tasteless.
:: Share or discuss :: 2011-02-07 :: michellegmason