If anyone still checks here,

I post daily (sometimes multiple times daily) on my Tumblr blog – squarestodiamonds.

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So that’s what “Logistics” means…

A few brands have been going retro with their campaigns. I’m talking song or a jingle retro. Nationwide Insurance is by my side. Like a good neighbour, State Farm is here. The scene is getting pretty crowded if you ask me! UPS stands out thanks to its excellent cinematography and the great insight that went into the ad – no one knows or cares about whatever the hell “logistics” means. With this commercial, UPS defines it for you in an emotional way, and hence now owns that word in your dictionary. Pretty brilliant! Unfortunately they don’t seem to be maximizing the potential of this strategic idea. I see so much more that can be done to turn this into a social campaign and build more hype around the services! Here are a few keywords to work off of: simplifying life, cross-border relationships, support for small businesses, stories, stories, stories…

Ah well, I guess great campaigns with missing pieces just make you want to stay tuned for more?

I still love you Nikon, but…

I’m researching an agency in preparation for an interview and one of the case study videos is really sticking with me. Presenting today’s installment (also the first in its series) of Ideas That Give Me Goosebumps But In A Good Way:

Such a simple idea but also immensely powerful. There are a few human truths the campaign taps into that I think are the reasons why it’s so successful:

  • The inherent desire to become part of a community. Case in point: Besides the obvious observation that Photochains has become a social networking platform for photographers, consider that a third of the participants are users of competitor brands! I am a loyal Nikon user myself but even then, I’m compelled to join in this new social experiment simply because I see the buzz-potential in it.
  • The internet as a platform for the meeting of this community is a crucial and appropriate choice. It’s arguably the most undiscriminating medium. Nobody feels the need to present a credentials book before they can upload a picture on the World Wide Web, and that’s why Photochains caught on so easily. Now that I am a photographer myself, this is something that I can relate to… This virtual space is pretty much the only place my photos have an equal chance to be seen by others as that of say a VII photographer.
  • We are all grown kids, and we enjoy a good playground challenge even now. ‘Nuff said.

So kudos to Canon for taking on an idea this big. Also for focusing on the photographer over the camera, and hence providing us with a respite from the perennially dichotomizing battles of Canon v. Nikon. Because being embroiled in Droid v. iPhone is exhausting enough.

I work better under pressure.

Hate how when I’m on the last page of a paper and know that I’ve got in the bag, I ALWAYS take like a 2 hour social media/buzzfeed/dance party break before wrapping things up. Apparently I am at my most productive only when I feel like the deadline is looming overhead. So usually after the break I’m under pressure again and will produce better work… Well you need to have a strong conclusion anyway!

In other news, I have started a photoblog over at severalthousandwords.wordpress.com. Hop on over if you get a chance, I update that a lot more regularly. Something about photographer’s pride… not that I’m claiming to be a pro yet but I just always feel like I’ve gotta share the day’s take before it gets stale!

Kodak moments in history

Today, instead of a rant, I bring you this amazing clip of one of the earliest colour motion pictures. These Kodachrome test shots were taken in 1922, a full 13 years before the first colour feature film was publicly released…

I am most touched by the ethereal quality of the colours.

Simply mesmerizing.

Lovemarks : Inception : Mad Men

So I finally watched Inception the other day, only about a month and a half after everyone else had already done so…

It’s a great movie, I rank it up there with Infernal Affairs (the Hong Kong movie that inspired The Departed) in terms of the level of mental gymnastics one needs to perform to follow the plot. But I loved it for another reason – it reminded me of advertising. A lot.

The link comes across particularly strongly when a dreamscape is being strategically constructed, like in this scene:

Cobb: “I will split up my father’s empire.” Now this is obviously an idea that Robert Fischer will choose to reject – which is why we need to plant it deep in his subconscious. Subconscious is fueled by emotion, right? Not reason. We need a find a way to translate this into an emotional concept.
Arthur: How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?
Cobb: Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out, right? Now Fischer’s relationship with his father is stressed, to say the least…
Eames: Well, can we run with that? Suggest splitting up the empire as a “screw-you” to the old man?
Cobb: No, cause I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. We all crave reconciliation – we’re catharsis. We need Robert Fischer to have a positive emotional reaction to all this.
Eames: Alright, well try this. My father accepts that I want to create for myself, not follow in his footsteps.
Cobb: That might work.
Arthur: Might? We’re gonna need to do a little better than might.
Eames: Oh, thank you for your contribution, Arthur!
Arthur: Forgive me for wanting a little specificity.
[Eames appears confused at the word]
Arthur: Specificity?
Cobb: Inception is not about being specific. When we get inside his mind we’re going to have to work with what we find.
Eames: On the top level we open up his relationshp with his father. Say “I will not follow in my father’s footsteps”. Then the next level down feed him, “I will create something for myself.” Then by the time we hit the bottom level we bring out the big guns.
Cobb: “My father doesn’t want me to be him.”
Eames: Exactly.

Now picture Arthur in a crisp suit and he becomes the Accounts person on the team. Picture Cobb with bad shoes and he becomes the Strategic Planner. Eames… he can wear whatever the hell he pleases, because he’s the Creative.

Now read the scene above again. Here, I’ll even throw in a screen capture to help with the visualization:


Cobb: “I will split up my father’s empire.” [Objective] Now this is obviously an idea that Robert Fischer [Target] will choose to reject – which is why we need to plant it deep in his subconscious. [Issue] Subconscious is fueled by emotion, right? Not reason. We need a find a way to translate this into an emotional concept. […Lurvemarks, anyone?]
Arthur: How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?
Cobb: Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out, right? Now Fischer’s relationship with his father is stressed, to say the least… [Insight]
Eames: Well, can we run with that? Suggest splitting up the empire as a “screw-you” to the old man?
Cobb: No, cause I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. We all crave reconciliation – we’re catharsis. We need Robert Fischer to have a positive emotional reaction to all this. [Challenge]
Eames: Alright, well try this. My father accepts that I want to create for myself, not follow in his footsteps. [Copywriting]
Cobb: That might work.
Arthur: Might? We’re gonna need to do a little better than might.
Eames: Oh, thank you for your contribution, Arthur! [Sarcasm, AKA language of the Creatives]
Arthur: Forgive me for wanting a little specificity. [Accounts language]
[Eames appears confused at the word]
Arthur: Specificity?
Cobb: Inception is not about being specific. When we get inside his mind we’re going to have to work with what we find.
Eames: On the top level we open up his relationshp with his father. Say “I will not follow in my father’s footsteps”. Then the next level down feed him, “I will create something for myself.” Then by the time we hit the bottom level we bring out the big guns.
Cobb: “My father doesn’t want me to be him.” [Strategic idea]
Eames: Exactly.

Et voilà, everything makes so much sense now!

… Right?!

Also, was I alone in giggling at the window-leaping scene between Marion Cortillard and Leonardo DiCaprio? I don’t pretend to know anything about Christopher Nolan and whether he was a Titanic fan but it almost felt like a tribute to the famous “You jump, I jump” scene.

Just planting ideas in your head… ; )

Disclaimer: I considered having spoiler alerts at the top of the post but if everyone in the world has seen this movie, surely that is unnecessary?

The Internship Chronicles, Chapter 2

It’s time again for updates on my internship adventures! But first, Happy Independence Day to my second adopted home*!

Over the past couple weeks, I continued to work on the newsletter assignment except that now we’ve progressed to the design stage. Two creatives have been roped in to design the publication’s logo and template. That takes me to a new learning experience: briefing and communicating with creatives, and this time I have to do it all by myself. The dynamics could be tricky if it weren’t for the fact that I hold them in high regard. During briefings, I do my best to convey the message, tone and purpose of the work and then give them free reign over the ideation. There’s still some back-and-forth upon receiving feedback on their designs from my supervisors but it’s all done very amicably.

Unlike the ongoing challenge of the newsletter, I was able to see another project from start to finish within the short span of a week. The purpose of it was to understand what consumers are like when they are in the “Discovery” phase of their life cycles. (See this study for more information: Consumption and Self-schema Changes throughout the Identity Project Life Cycle) This assignment opened my eyes to the concept of Xploring, which is Saatchi’s unique way of getting in touch with consumers. The aim is to meet the people where they are, and through observation and dialogue arrive at insights into what makes them tick. With the newsletter, I had approached the research with a single focus on digital ethnography but would run into the problem of finding it hard to understand certain trends. Xploring is the perfect antidote to this because I get to clarify any areas of curiosity promptly. Through a number of Xplorations, I was able to profile the ideal “bridge person.” This is the character who becomes an example to the discovering consumer, demonstrating the behaviours and consumption patterns associated with an identity. I was also able to apply the findings laterally to our client’s brand and suggest potential brand images/ messages. The presentation my team of 3 put up went really well. It was a major morale booster for sure!

Another facet of agency life I got to experience this past week was the frenzy that ensues before a new business pitch. Coincidentally the client is a restaurant I have always been fascinated with. Upon further research however, it seems like this is a common sentiment only amongst fellow foreigners. Most locals have become immune to its charms despite having good memories dining there as a child. Me, on the other hand, just want to dip anything within my reach in butter whenever their mouth-watering commercials come on TV. Anyway, I got to go on an Xploration with another planner for the pitch. We went out to dinner at Legal Sea Foods with a family to learn what they love about eating out. It was interesting to observe how a planner would weave her questions into the dialogue as seamlessly as possible, I definitely picked up a few tricks. Above all, give up as much as you take in. Don’t be afraid to share personal anecdotes so that the people you’re Xploring with knows that you trust them. Perhaps then they would feel compelled to reciprocate.

I’ve been hoping to apply everything I learn about Xploring to the Gen Y project. It’s tough when your scope of Xploration has already been limited get-go. (They had last year’s interns work on the same assignment and we’ve been tasked to uncover only new learnings) We’re all getting somewhat frustrated and have been second-guessing ideas… No fear though, I have faith in my team to get through this eventually!

In other news, the count of states I’ve been to is now up to 4! NY, FL (for Big Break at Panama City Beach), IL (for transit at O’Hare) and only recently, MA! I went to Boston last weekend with some friends from school and it was a blast. The city was clean, young and small, more like what I’m used to. I’ll end this post with a diptych I took of an escape artist at the Quincy Market:

*This term is used very loosely.

The Internship Chronicles, Chapter 1

Over the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to get involved in various projects at Saatchi NY. Initially, I was just assigned the task of writing a newsletter on trends that are unique to Gen Y through observing popular topics of discussion on social media. The goal is to give our client a better understanding of this demographic since they have yet to seriously target it in their campaigns. It was exciting yet somewhat daunting to know that what I come up with will become the inaugural issue to a regularly published newsletter. The first draft of the newsletter was well received but I am working on making it the “gold standard” with advice from my supervisor and other planning directors.

The second project I have taken on has to do with promoting Saatchi’s own sustainability initiative to its employees. Called True Blue, the initiative has lost momentum in recent times due to factors both social and personal. Since this is an intern project, we have free rein over everything from developing a strategy to the campaign message. Upon learning of why past intern True Blue projects were ineffective in leaving the agency with an impactful, sustainable message, I am even more convinced of the importance of research and planning. It seems that the main issue has been how to connect with the employees in a way that inspires them. Good thing this time we’re off to a great start with an agency-wide study of the employees’ attitude towards being True Blue. The results should give us insights into how to craft a message that will resonate with our audience.

Finally, the interns also received a challenge that is mandatory to participate in and which will culminate in a competitive pitch. The question was posed by the Youth Connection unit of Saatchi, and has to do with profiling Gen Y. Eventually we are to identify an insight into this generation that can be applied to the General Mills account each team represents. My team got Lucky Charms. Admittedly the brand is not really looking to market itself to Gen Y but we are all excited to demonstrate how it can be a valuable secondary target.

So it looks like the theme of my summer is to study my own generation. But hey, at least I get to surf social media sites like it’s my job! ; )

At other times I get to tag along with my supervisor for meetings. I learn a lot about the relations between planners and other people in the agency through these. #1 on the list? When briefing creatives on how clients received their work, never give them any ideas on how to do things. No matter how much their work inspires you and how much you like it. Haha, guess how I found out! ‘Twas a mortifying experience but thank God everyone was so nice about it! : )

In other news, my name continues to be butchered by the Starbucks baristas across the street.

I got several tall Caramel Macchiatos over the past weeks and and each time it’s addressed to a different person whom I am supposed to understand is me. Yahn, Yeng, etc. But here’s the one that really made my day, Yawn. Still upset I didn’t take a picture of that one!

In the spirit of trying to be True Blue, I’ve also taken to packing my own lunch to work. Salads, wraps or even bentos when I’m feeling particularly creative, and I bring my own cutleries to wash and reuse. Unfortunately the cost savings have been going towards impromptu shopping trips in SOHO after work. Oops! Baby steps, baby steps is key…

Looking forward to another great day at work!

Y

“TGIF” no longer

…because there’s so much to learn at my internship that I wish there were 7 days to a work week!

As most of my friends know, this Monday marked the start of my first foray into big agency world at Saatchi & Saatchi NY. It’s an opportunity I am deeply thankful for. In fact, sometimes I still can’t believe I’ve been so blessed! It would almost be like an out-of-body experience, just sitting in a meeting or taking the 16F express elevator, and being so inspired by the environment that my heart starts racing.

20 interns in total from all over the country (and world ; ) ) are dispatched across the agency. Haven’t heard of anyone who’s been told to fetch coffee yet, and probably never will. (Fingers crossed!) Right from the orientation, we see how serious and real this experience is to be. I’m not just talking about filling out ‘grown up’ documents like tax forms (even if my heart did quiver at the thought of how independent I am now), but the fact that we all had to sign off on confidentiality documents with P&G, the world’s largest advertiser. On the other hand, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise since the agency handles 8 of the company’s top 10 brands. I am lucky enough to have been assigned to the strategic planning team  for one of these brands.

First, a brief introduction of roles within the agency for my curious but uninitiated friends. Bear in mind that I am by no means the authority on this and can only try to paint as complete a picture as possible with textbook knowledge and the little experience I have so far!

An agency tends to be organised into “accounts”, “planners”, and “creatives.” “Accounts” is also the term we use to refer to clients and their brands, therefore people in “accounts” are the agencies’ main liaisons with the client side. “Creatives” are the people who create (but not necessarily produce) the ads. They include art directors and copywriters. “Planners” are multi-functional. They research, formulate strategies and even mediate between the creatives and the client. For planners, all this work is done with the consumer at the forefront of their mind.

Note these other possible roles: Some agencies have the luxury (debatable point actually) of having their own in-house media planning and buying departments, or production crews (directors, editors, etc).

Now that I’ve briefly outlined the roles, hopefully everyone will have a good idea of what I am talking about when I inevitably go into rants about awesome learning experiences. I will try to explain all other jargon out of magnanimity… haha, just kidding!!

Unfortunately, it’s already past work day bedtime so I will end here today. Expect another post at the end of the week with more details on my involvements so far in the internship!

Love-marked,

Y

Summer & the City


Yes,  I have officially landed in Brooklyn, NY!

It’s been a hectic start to the summer, involving much packing, moving, and running around fussing over paperwork. Nevertheless I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, what with the enriching experiences and acquiring of many valuable acquaintances. One acquaintance in particular was a source of great inspiration. Hers is a bittersweet story of how life can change as quickly as the tides. It’s also a story for another time – I’ve drafted some thoughts but they aren’t tribute material yet.

So back to Brooklyn. The apartment I’m living in now is P.E.R.F.E.C.T. Another testament to God’s faultless plans! And um, guess what’s a few blocks away and free?

Regular shuttle buses to Ikea!

It’s like I’ve ascended to the heights of Swedish meatball heaven. 0:-)

Brooklyn Heights (My neighbourhood. Yes, MINE.) is also the chillest place ever. AND There’s some kind of waterbody close by (… Oh, Wiki tells me it’s the Upper New York Bay.) which means I am eagerly anticipating my first outdoor jog! Wonder when that will be because I do have a pretty exciting week coming up:

  • Monday – MoMA to see Marina Abramovic/ Meet up with friends from home!
  • Tuesday – Brooklyn Heights Scavenger Hunt?
  • Wednesday – Meet the President… of Singapore!
  • Thursday – IDK, probably still starstruck
  • Firday – Ditto.
  • Weekend – Whatever New Yorkers do on weekends.
  • Monday – Start of Kick Ass Internship!!!

Anyroads, I’ll be blogging pretty frequently over the summer. (On the condition that Cheryl over at whomovedmysambal does the same.) So stay tuned : )

XOXO,

City Girl