All thumbs and no brains

I'm so sick of media pundits who summarily dismiss social media as mindless drivel. The latest is Neil Gabler's article in the LATimes, Zuckerberg speeds our decline into narcissism and triviality. In it, he argues that social media in general, and Facebook in particular, is undoing all the progress society made during and after the Gutenberg Revolution.

You see, Gutenberg created the printing press, which is here credited with having created the modern mind:

Print’s uniformity, its immutability, its rigidity, its logic led to a number of social transformations, among which were the rise of rationalism and of the scientific method. In facilitating reason, print also facilitated complex ideas. It was no accident that it coincided with the Renaissance. Print made us think better or, at least, with greater discipline. In effect, the printing press created the modern mind.

Gabler counters that instead of building upon this intellectual progress, social media has just created "new ways of minimizing how we communicate with each other." He writes:

The sites, and the information on them, billboard our personal blathering, the effluvium of our lives, and they wind up not expanding the world but shrinking it to our own dimensions...Gutenberg’s Revolution left us with a world that was intellectually rich. Zuckerberg’s portends one that is all thumbs and no brains.

With all due respect to Marshall McLuhan, I don't think the casual, short-hand nature of social media means that we will become incapable of developing and sharing complex ideas. If these critics spent more time using these channels they would see them for what they reall are: a treasure trove of information including business updates, global news, local events, fundraising efforts, fashion, food, and travel tips. They also serve as a quick connection to friends and family...and what's wrong with wanting to connect? Yes, there's garbage out there. But there's garbage everywhere (have you flipped through your television stations lately?). 

I do think that ongoing studies of the impact of new media & technology on our thinking and behavior are fascinating and attention-worthy. I, myself, am trying to multitask less in favor of giving activities my full attention. But that doesn't mean I can't find valuable, entertaining, and inspiring content in the social media realm. I do so nearly every day.

And for the record, I just ate a ham sandwich and it was delicious.


Infinite Family

In a recent email from VolunteerMatch (a match-making service for volunteers and people who need their help), I learned of a remarkable organization called Infinite Family, which uses the Internet to connect adults and families with parentless children in southern Africa.

In the wake of the AIDS epidemic, thousands of African children are orphaned every year, leaving the ratio of children to adults in many areas at 12:1. Infinite Family has made it easy for people to become virtual mentors to these kids, using video conferencing, email, and a secure Internet platform to span the physical distance.

Infinite Family

The VolunteerMatch newsletter tells the store of the Benedict family from Pennsylvania, who discovered Infinite Family's Video Mentor program and now regularly connects with an orphaned teenager at a computer lab in sub-Saharan Africa. Not only does this youth get much-needed attention and guidance from the adult parents of the family, but she also enjoys camaraderie (and help with homework!) from the Benedict children. And they, of course, get the chance to learn about a very different culture and make a life-long friend.

What a fantastic way to use technology.

Think you want to be a virtual mentor? Check out the Infinite Family page on VolunteerMatch. Mentors must be 21+ years old, have a high-speed Internet connection, and be approved through an application process. Once approved, they undergo an online training program to help understand the culture, the technology, and the children.

To learn more, visit the Infinite Family website and Youtube channel, or follow them on Twitter.

Don Draper and Jax Teller

Two of my favorite shows on television right now are Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy; I've been a fan of both since the beginning.

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Mad Men chronicles the wild and wooly days of a 1960s Madison Avenue ad agency; it's won numerous awards for its lead actors, writing, and spectacular costume and set design.

Sons, in contrast, is more of a sleeper hit. It follows the rough-and-tumble lives of a gun-running motorcycle club, and it's a great gangster show in same vein as The Sopranos and The Wire.

On the surface, these shows seem wildly different, but plot twists in both this week highlight how similar they actually are.

You see, they both have these wonderfully-complicated, brooding leading men (the dashing Don Draper and the rough-hewn Jax Teller, respectively).

Don draper Jax teller
And they both have equally-complicated, career-driven leading ladies who put up with all their partners' foibles (research director Faye, left, and surgeon Tara, right).

Faye Tara

And in both shows last week, the men betrayed their leading ladies by hooking up with younger, simpler, adoring girls. Don - in a singularly impulsive but not entirely unexpected move - proposed to his secretary (ick), and Jax turned to a stripper (double ick).

New York Magazine did a wonderful job analyzing what happened in Mad Men, noting that "Faye has so much to offer: smarts, sympathy, insight, lamp-rattling sex, genuine self-sacrifice." But in the end, she is "selling everyman comfort to a man who’s always craved his own unique drama." In the end, both men fulfilled their cliche, escapist fantasies, choosing uncomplicated, doe-eyed youth and admiration over pragmatic, mature love. What would Gloria Steinem say??

Mad Men critiques are quick to dismiss this as representative of the fate of women in 1965, but with SOA set in present-day California, it's a behavior that's all too familiar to modern women as well.

Maggie siff Interesting side note: before her turn as Dr. Tara Knowles on SOA, actress Maggie Siff played another career-oriented woman in Season 1 of Mad Men - department store owner Rachel Menken.





Another thing caught my eye on our recent trip to Toronto: the AddMirror.

It all started with a trip to the restroom at a downtown brunch spot. Take a look:

That's right - as you're standing in front of the mirror, words and phrases fade in and out, resolving into an ad. Brilliant! It's clever and attention getting, and certainly caters to a captive audience. 

According to AddMirror, there are about 1,500 mirror placements in the UK and over 3,000 worldwide, which have yielded impressive ad effectiveness measures:

RECALL 69% unaided recall of actual brands
WORD OF MOUTH 25% discussed the campaign with friends in the restaurant/bar
POST CAMPAIGN RECALL 45% recall…6 weeks after the campaign ran
AUDIENCE APPROVAL 84% rate AddMirror very good to excellent

Think of the fun you could have playing around with different executions - like including an SMS-based call to action, or even a QR code. And what about use in fitting rooms?

I haven't seen this anywhere in the States; have you?

Retail Therapy

Have you heard about PopSugar's Retail Therapy game?. It's sort of like Farmville, but instead of tending to livestock, you manage your very own fashion boutique - stocking your shelves with brand-name merchandise and selling items for points. It's mildly entertaining, if you're into that sort of thing.

I myself like real-world retail therapy, but that can be costly. So today, we're just going to window shop. Here are the items that caught my eye this week (but not my wallet):

I love these slip-on wine coasters, spotted in the August issue of Real Simple. So practical! And would make for a great hostess gift.

Wine coasters

I have a thing for birds (both decorative and in the wild), so I think these love birds decorative pillow from Grandin Road are charming:

Love birds

Similarly, I'm drawn to this comforter from Dwell Studio


Laslty, check out Badgley Mischka's over-the-top Diamond Reef Sea Life Necklace. A bit much for me, but certainly fun to look at:

Screen shot 2010-07-20 at 1.52.36 PM

Happy shopping!

What I learned at #adclubedge - Part 2

Note: this post originally appeared on the PARTNERS+simons blog.

Earlier this week, I posted Part 1 of my recap of The AdClub EDGE Conference, the industry organization's event to celebrate some of the people and brands that are driving innovation in Boston. It was a great affair, and there was simply too much to cover in one blog post alone. So here, I give you Part 2 of what I learned at #adclubedge (again, in no particular order):

Continue reading "What I learned at #adclubedge - Part 2" »

What I learned at #adclubedge - Part 1

EdgeNote: this post originally appeared on the PARTNERS+simons blog.

Last week's Ad Club EDGE Conference: Branded in Boston was a smashing success, judging by the sold-out crowd in attendance at the Westin Boston Waterfront. The day-long event brought together people from all aspects of advertising, marketing, public relations, production, design, and academia to learn more about - and celebrate - brands that were born and raised in our own back yard. Here's what I learned there (in no particular order):

Continue reading "What I learned at #adclubedge - Part 1" »

iPad Advertising: The Jury’s Still Out

On the heels the iPad achieving one million sales in just 28 days (considerably faster than the iPhone, which took 74 days in 2007 to reach this milestone), the frenzy over how this device will change the face of content distribution and consumption reached an all-time high.

The iPad has been touted as a “savior” for print publishers who have seen declines in circulation and ad revenue, and a “game changer” for advertisers desperate to find the next new way to connect with buyers.

But is it really either of those things?

Head on over to the PARTNERS+simons blog to read my take.