Tag Archives: advertising

New York City, starring Chicken Delicious

18 Jan

I just completed a week in New York City and I’m writing this from the American Airlines Admiral’s Club at LaGuardia – a place where I’ve spent countless hours over my career.  A fun and interesting week for sure.  I arrived on Sunday as I had three days of meetings with one of our clients here from Monday through Wednesday, as well as two meetings with Google, and then yesterday and today, participated in the iProspect Senior Leadership Team “SLT” meetings at Aegis Media’s HQ office on 42nd street near Grand Central.

I’ve been coming to NYC fairly steadily for work for at least 15 years, and prior to that on an occasional basis (except for a 2 year period where I more I less lived here).  So, The Big Apple is familiar territory for me.  I generally know where I am at any given point, and even do “New Yorker” things like use the subway to get around.

There is no place like NYC.  If you think you’ve seen it all, wait less than two minutes and then you haven’t.  What continually, always amazes me is the pure size and scale and density of Manhattan.  As a place on earth, Manhattan isn’t a particularly large place – an island about 2 1/2 miles across at its wide point, and about 10-12 miles long.  The city of Chicago, by comparison, is tremendously larger.  Of course, NYC isn’t JUST Manhattan – it consists of the five boroughs of Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn – each of which is as big as or bigger than most other cities in the US in population.  But, my focus, as usual is on Manhattan.

If you’ve never visited it, well, you just can’t appreciate it until you do.  It is one solid “business district” from end to end, edge to edge, with people living everywhere among the businesses.  Yes, once you get out of midtown and especially on the upper east and west sides, it does get residential, but only in the NY sense – rowhouse an apartment building standing wall to wall, block after block, and no where, anywhere, are you more than a few steps from a grocer, a dry cleaner, a bar, a pizza place, a chinese restaurant, more restaurants, a drug store, etc. etc etc.  For this small town boy from the cornfields of Iowa, it never, ever ceases to amaze me.

I like to joke that I’d love to pull up stakes and move to NYC for just one year.  It would be great – I’d live like a New Yorker, outsource my entire life (including laundry!), live in an apartment the size of my current master bedroom, with a kitchen that you can cook an entire meal in without moving your feet more than two steps, and a bathroom that you can shave, shit and shower also without moving your feet more than two steps.  I’d walk everywhere, ride the subway everywhere, have NYC pizza and eat it while walking down 6th avenue, folding it in half of course, Robin and I would go walking Sprite in Central Park on the weekends, have dinners in a different restaurant every time we ate out, have amazing bagels for breakfast on the weekend, and more and more.

And then I find out what people pay for rent – $4000 or more for a tiny one-bedroom.  The sheer costs of New York and especially Manhattan, sort of put that idea aside.  I can visit. And see the sites.

Monday evening was fun – we were out with our Google sales team that serves our NY client for dinner at a place in the Chelsea/Flatiron district called ABC Kitchen – a huge place where two restaurants are joined with a huge home store – what would occur if IKEA sold upscale goods and turned half of their space into high-end restaurants.  As we were leaving the restaurant, this VERY tall guy with a very 1980s-looking, dyed black haircut walks in with a beautiful woman.  I turn and do a double take – it’s Ric Ocasic from the 80s New Wave/Pop band, The Cars, with his wife, Paulina Poriskova.  The guy looks like a tragic beanpole with a punk rock mullet.

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So, it’s an official NY trip – a celeb sighting was had.  In the last two trips I’ve taken here with Robin, we saw Jesse Eisenberg, who was right at the peak of his stardom from the movie The Social Network.  He came into a little sushi place with an older woman that we guessed was his publicist and sat down literally right next to Robin at the next table.  And this past fall, right here at this very bar in this very Admiral’s Club, none other than quintessential New Yorker and star of Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, Matthew Broderick was sitting here having a beer.

Wednesday morning I had the interesting experience of visiting Google’s NYC offices at 111 8th Street – 8th and 16th.  While not allowed to take pictures in there, among other things they had:

  • A huge cafeteria with hot food served three times a day – and a tremendous selection as well, all generally very healthy
  • Multiple “mini cafeterias” with coffee bars, additional food and drinks, open 24×7
  • A full-on barista-manned coffee shop in yet another of the cafeterias
  • A hallway with at least 15 machines capable of playing a variety of 1980s video games including every variant of Pac-Man, plus Galaga, Galaxian and more
  • a huge space just devoted to games – pool, pingpong, board games, jumbo jenga, and much more
  • Most of the mini cafes had a theme – for example, on the 5th floor, there is a Lego-themed cafe with a huge play area with a wall covered in bins of Lego bricks, and work tables where you can build your creations and shelves to display them.
  • Many, many signs with “Googler’s only from this point forward” – clearly plotting the world’s takeover
  • and scads and scads of ridiculously happy people that work there

The one thing I could take a picture of was the immense neon Google logo rendition on the wall of the reception area:

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Wednesday evening was my “night off” from doing client and company-related stuff.  I started out with a couple of beers with Robin’s cousin “Doc Craig”.  We met up at one of Midtown’s ubiquitous Irish Pubs, this one being “The Long Room” on 44th Street.  We had a few good laughs for an hour and then I headed off to go to my dinner.  Here’s the shot I took of the Doc enjoying his first beer of the evening:

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After I left the Doc, I headed to the upper east side and I met up with my long-time pal, fellow MadMan, career mentor and all around great guy, Professor Troutstream.  The Prof works for “another big ad agency” in NYC and commutes from Chicago to NY for work each week, staying in his little pad he calls The Treehouse.  He’s earned his nickname because even though he’s been an ad man for more than 30 years, we all know he’d rather be teaching marketing part time at some university in a western state somewhere, and spending the rest of his time in waders, waist deep in a trout stream, going all catch and release on the local rainbows.

The Prof has been doing the NYC thing for a lot of years, and has some favorites.  He shares my love of funky, off the beaten path places, and so he recommended a choice of either Donohue’s Steakhouse on Lexington at 65th street, or an Italian joint called Mimi’s on 2nd Ave in the 50s.  He was selling Mimi’s on the information that it has a piano bar featuring one guy who “look’s like Eddie Money’s love child and can’t sing for siccum” and the next guy who “no shit, goes by ‘Chicken Delicious’ and plays a mean piano”.

We didn’t set out to go to both places – we made a reservation at Donohue’s at 7:00.  Donohue’s, if it were in Wisconsin, would be called the local “Supper Club”.  It is like 1968 arrived and the clock stopped in there.  Except for the aging of the patrons, who all looked like they might have been in their 40s in 1968 but, father time marches on.  I walked in, every head at the bar swiveled to take me in, I said “Hello!” to the bartender, which was greeted by a “harumph!”  The two 20-something waitresses were also appropriately rude to the new comer, although when I started asking about the food, and started talking cocktails with the bartender, he warmed up.

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The Prof arrived, we took a booth and he and I both ordered the same thing – filets medium rare, salad with blue cheese dressing, baked potato and sautéed spinach.  The food is outstanding and a huge value – where  in NYC can you get a prime steak dinner with all that stuff for about $40.  Of course the bar bill ran up the tab a wee bit, but the value there was stunning.  This place is definitely a “must do” for anyone wanting a delicious meal in NYC in a funky atmosphere with interesting people watching.

After some great conversation and getting a kick out of watching the local/regulars cycle in and out, we decided to walk back to our respective abodes, and as we approached Lex and 54th, the Prof said “hell Stew, let’s play two.  We can get to Mimi’s just in time for the second show.”  Hey … you all know me, I’m always all in on more fun.

Let’s play two indeed!

Now mind you, when the Prof was selling the idea of Eddie Money’s Love Child and a piano player named Chicken Delicious, well, I figured this was all “good copy”.  He is an ad man after all.  But NOOOO.  Truth in advertising baby.  We arrived just as Eddie Money’s Love Child was giving up the piano and Mr. Delicious himself was taking over.  Chicken Delicious is about 75, EXTREMELY flamboyantly gay and positively hilarious.  At the same time, he’s also a virtuoso piano player with hundreds and hundreds of songs committed to memory.  One of his especially interesting things he does is get into costume for various songs … he put on a two-piece Billy Joel mask to sing Piano Man, put on a stocking cap with long braids coming out of it for “You are always on my mind” by Willy Nelson, and etc.  Awesome.  And he tells stories and interacts with the crowd and will rubber band his iPhone to his forehead with a message on it and more.  Truly a great entertainer.  He said he grew up in Mississippi and by my guess, being as flamboyant as he was, well, had a rough time of it growing up.  But now, he makes his living entertaining tourists and regulars at a place called Mimi’s in NYC.  Here’s a couple of shots of Chicken Delicious himself:

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The best thing about New York is stuff like this.  You can find things that you just can’t make up, everywhere you turn.

The last two days of my trip were filled with two straight days of meetings with the senior leadership team of my company, iProspect. Ordinarily I’d look at two straight days of time spent in a conference room, looking at power points and listening to speakers with the same amount of excitement I’d give to having a colonoscopy – but not at all in this case.  Meetings like this are why I joined this company – it’s an extremely well-run organization and the senior leadership team are a great bunch of really bright folks.  We had a great finish to 2013 which has put us in a place to have an amazing 2014, we’ve got a bunch of work to do in 2014 to put initiatives in place that began developing in 2013 that will drive the business even higher.

So, is there a point to all this?  Yes, a small one.  But an important one – you find the bits of amazing when you go off the beaten path.  One of the big themes of our leadership meeting was “going outside of our comfort zone” … and it’s true.  Outside the comfort zone is where great stuff, great fun, great memories, great adventures and more happen.

I say it to anyone I talk to who has never been to New York City.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a small town person or a big city person.  If you haven’t enjoyed a few days in New York City, then your life’s adventures are seriously missing something.

As you were,

Stew

The times, they are a changin’

24 Jun

Well, as usual, I’ve had a Stew’s Brew blog drought, but I think with pretty damn good reason.  You see, I’ve been a bit busy making some big and little changes, and then dealing with a minor mess as well.  Roll all that together, and that equals “no time for the blog.”  Now that most of it has settled down, time to write.

As you well know, I do spend a lot of time observing others and then writing about it.  Pretty much my favorite subject on this blog.  Today’s subject is me.  Thankfully there’s no big health issue to write about, other than all this gyration has me off the diet and exercise wagon and that has me up about 8-10 lbs since last December.  You’ve heard of “muscle memory”?  My body has “fat memory” … it goes right back to its original “pear” shape the first chance it gets.  So, back to the gym, watching what I eat and drink, etc.  All’s good with the ‘ol ticker though and that’s what I think about.

So, what’s got me so busy, you must be asking?  Well, let’s start with a major shift in the career front.  I changed jobs three weeks ago – moving from big, awesome digital agency iCrossing, to just-as-big digital agency iProspect, which is part of the Aegis Media/Dentsu network of ad agencies.  They reached out to me with a recruitment pitch at the end of January, and my first interviews with them were in February.  I guess when you get to a certain level, this takes awhile.

Making the fairly long process into a short story, we had a series of meetings and interviews through March and into April, and then I was given an offer the last week in April and it took us another 3 weeks or so to finalize the deal.  I left iCrossing on May 31, started at Aegis/iProspect on June 3.

The new job is pretty varied, which is why I was excited about it. Quite frankly, at iCrossing, I felt very underutilized.  I had been running large accounts, and that’s all fine, but that’s work I’ve done for years and years, and while good at it, I needed more challenge.  I continually asked for it but never got what I wanted.  I’ve lead agency offices, agency teams and business units before, and that’s where I wanted to go.  Additionally, even though I did find a ton of value in iCrossing’s ownership situation, being owned by Hearst, a big publishing entity, I was also looking to go back to working for an agency that was part of a big network, like I had experienced when working for Ketchum and LiveTechnology, both being a part of the Omnicom Group holding company.

So, the new gig has a variety of responsibilities:  First, I’m responsible for the client services teams in three offices – Chicago, San Francisco and Detroit.  I’ve got seven “ace” account directors reporting to me across those offices, and have responsibility for a large chunk of the iProspect client portfolio including clients such as Estee Lauder, Ameritrade, GM, Sony Playstation and Entertainment, The Limited and more. Secondly, I’m actively responsible for organic growth of my three offices plus assisting the rest of the company in integration across the Aegis/Dentsu network.  This is all within the “wheelhouse” of what I love to do and am good at, and I’m really going to enjoy this challenge.

While this is a soft item, the new office is in such an amazing spot in downtown Chicago – right at the north edge of the Chicago River on Michigan Avenue.  We’re in what used to be called the Equitable Building, now just “401”, with Pioneer Court in front of the building – a huge paved place where there are constantly things going on, right next door to the beautiful, Tribune Tower and across the street from the iconic Wrigley Building.  This really is about the most incredible spot for Chicago architecture that there is.   My office looks east out onto Lake Michigan, and the Chicago River.  To say I feel fortunate is to understate things immensely.

So, that’s that.

Other things that had me really busy were two home improvement projects – one I chose and one that chose me.  The one I chose was replacing the old, dingy, almond-colored (which always looks dirty white to me) formica countertops with black granite countertops – which of course I did myself.  The product I used was a tile-like product – big 24” x 24” granite slabs that you laid like giant tiles.  The process is much like tile only bigger, and then you attach trim pieces around them.  Overall, it took me about six weeks to do the project and the results are stunning. We combined that with a new kitchen sink and faucet setup and it just all looks outstanding.  Very satisfying project!

Every time I do a project though, it takes over the house – stuff winds up all over the place and well, it’s a big pain in the butt.  The countertop project was no exception.  The living room turned into the materials staging area, the garage was the saw and cutting workshop, and there was always something out of place in the kitchen for a six-week period.  We finally got it all cleaned up and put away though around April 15th.  And just three days after it was all done and the cars were back in the garage, tools returned, etc., we had two days of torrential rain and our basement flooded. Not with just a little water but about a half-foot.  Thankfully it was just clean rain water that came up through the sump pump hole (the pump float switch got stuck) and we were able to pump it out within 45 minutes of getting home, but the damage was done.  $11,500 worth to be exact, of which the insurance company covered $10,000.

The good news here is that we’re getting a nicely remodeled basement as a result.  We’ve taken the insurance settlement, added a bit of investment of our own, and are changing from a paneled basement with a tile floor to a drywall-finished basement with carpeting, and instead of a “kid zone” like it has been for ages, it is becoming an adult zone, with a home theater set up.  Should be amazing, actually.  I guess into every life, some rain should fall, huh?  At least it forced us to toss out a bunch of crap that should have been tossed years before.   The drywall and paint was completed two weeks ago, and the carpet was installed this past weekend.  Construction is now all done – just need to order the furniture (All the electronics are in, and in a temporary setup), go through and toss out a few more things, install the electronics permanently and we are done.

So, that’s what’s been up, my friends.  We’re finally heading into warmer weather here in Chicago, so that’s got us thinking summer.  Our first summer concert of the year, Sting, was two weeks ago at Ravinia, next up is Jimmy Buffett, and more to come.  I’ll have much to share with you as the summer rolls along.

As you were,

Stew

Social Networking 101

20 Feb

So, it’s been several weeks since I’ve written anything. Part of it is the pressure to be funny and witty and interesting, part of it is that I’ve been busy as hell at work and haven’t had much time to think of anything to write about, and part of it is the “winter doldrums”. Whatever. I’m writing today!

I thought I’d take up the subject of social networking from the perspective of someone who works in the business. Because of my chosen profession, and because I’m a very active participant in it, I gete a lot of questions about things like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. What are they, why should I use them, what’s the point of them, how do they make money, etc. etc. So, without much more conversation, here’s sort of a “social networking for dummies” that you can use when someone says to you “I just don’t understand Twitter” or “Why does Facebook mess with the experience all the time?” I’m also going to do this in the form of Q&A – trying to cover the questions I get from people. So, onwards:

  1. “Why does Facebook keep messing with the experience? I hate timeline, hate that my news feed isn’t what I want it to be, etc. Why do they do that to their customers?”
    Well … you see, dear Facebook user, you ARE NOT THE CUSTOMER. Repeat it, you are not the customer. Here’s how you can tell? How much money do you send to Facebook each month for the privilege of using it? None? Hmm. So here’s the deal, Facebook’s PRODUCT is you – very simple. And their customers are both advertisers and people who buy their data. The data is made up of information that you and your friends generate as you interact online. YOU are the product because it is you using Facebook. When you meet with a Facebook advertising rep, the first thing they tell you is that Facebook has nearly a billion subscribers worldwide, and something like 200 million in just the US alone. You are the product that Facebook monetizes. And they get you to stay and interact not because of their experiences but despite them. You stay because that’s where your friends are.Here’s my prediction: I do think Facebook’s influence and growth has pretty much peaked – I think everyone that is inclined to use it is using it. I do think that they are not going away anytime soon, and their revenue will continue to grow as they get better with their ad products, but in terms of user growth, the curve has flattened a lot in the last year, and I think is about at it’s peak.
  2. “What’s Twitter? Why twitter? How do I use Twitter? Etc.”
    I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a Twitter fan nor much of a Twitter user. I do “tweet” (the act of posting a 144 character post on Twitter), but I don’t use it that much. Basically Twitter is Facebook but in a shorter form. You are limited to 144 characters for each post – whether a tweet (original post), a reply, a retweet (when you share something someone else tweeted), etc. Where Twitter loses me is wading through all the tweets to find things that are interesting (see the next topic, Hashtags). There’s just too much traffic. The typical power-user of Twitter has the whole thing linked to their cell phone through texting. Outgoing Tweets, incoming tweets, etc., all deliver to your text messaging. If you choose to receive, you better have unlimited texting, I’m just saying. I can’t imagine getting that all in my phone. I visit Twitter once a day, scroll through Tweets from people I care about, search hashtags that interest me and that’s about it. I Tweet primarily to share articles, promote my blog, etc. I’m not one of those “eating dinner” “on the bus” Tweeters.
  3. “What’s a hashtag? I think that’s a Twitter thing but I see them on Facebook now. What are they and what’s the point?”
    A hashtag is a word, preceded with the # symbol that is designed to improve the searchability of your Tweet and to organize Tweets by topic. It has been adopted by Facebook users as well, although the searchability of those posts is still really early stage. That said, it’s generally used as a way to follow a trending topic. During a big event, like the Russian meteor event from last week, people will start hashtagging their posts with something like “#meteorshower” or “#russianmeteor” or “#armageddon” or whatever, and the more people that use that hash tag, the more content that Twitter has to categorize into a common thread. If you go into Twitter’s site or mobile app and type in a keyword preceded by a hashtag, you’ll see posts by that topic. It’s that simple.
  4. “What is a ‘trending topic’ on Twitter and Facebook?”
    Pretty much anything that is a hot topic on Facebook or Twitter – and on Twitter, it is generally denoted by a hashtag. So for example, when Marco Rubio got cotton mouth last week (humorously so for anyone other than a Republican), immediately, there was a whole bunch of humorous tweets with the hashtag of “#rubiothirsty”. During the Superbowl, when the blackout occurred, there were tons of posts (many funny) with the hashtag “#superbowlblackout” (among others). Hashtags are how Twitter has become useful/meaningful for me – it allows me to categorize all the noise that’s on Twitter.
  5. “What’s Pinterest and why should I use it?”
    Like Twitter, I’m not a Pinterest expert, but it’s basically a version of Facebook or Twitter where sharing things you like or are interested in happens, but in this case, it’s all about images. You can be online, see an image in a story, a catalog, etc., and “pin” that image on your Pinterest “pinboards” (and you can have different ones for different topics), and those are shared with friends who are following your activity.  You pin them through a utility that you install on your browser.  I have a Pinterest account but have to admit to not using it much, if ever. It is actively used by companies and brands though to promote their products, and I know a lot of foodie friends who use it for recipe sharing and such.
  6. “What’s Instagram and why should I use it?”
    Instagram is basically a social network based on photos you take or upload to the site. It differs from Pinterest in that Pinterest is more about sharing images you see elsewhere online, whereas Instagram is more about what you create yourself. I think Instagram is one of the most creative spaces on the web. It allows you a huge leeway in how you process and modify images, and there’s some amazing creativity going on within it. I dabble with it – I love taking pictures, and do so a lot with my iPhone 4S (which has a great camera in it) and enjoy sharing them on Instagram. Now then, Instagram was bought by Facebook and Facebook has integrated a lot of Instagram’s functionality into it, but … Instagram on it’s own is a pretty cool thing, If you’re interested in photography and art, I definitely recommend it.
  7. “What’s LinkedIn and why should I use it?”
    LinkedIn is the social network for professionals – you put LinkedIn and Facebook together and it’s the social networking equivalent of a mullet – business in the front, party in the rear!  Seriously though, it’s an unbelievably powerful networking tool.  I literally got my job through networking on LinkedIn and probably get five job opportunity solicitations per week.  If you’re in business, it is absolutely essential.  And if you’re not, it’s not.  Your LinkedIn profile is basically your resume, people can endorse you with skills and capabilities and write recommendations for you, you can post articles, comments, status updates etc. just like Facebook, and you can link your profile to friends and network contacts.  The critical thing about LinkedIn IS your profile – having a powerfully-written profile is what puts the wings under you – and by powerfully-written, I mean “search friendly”.  I literally have an entire paragraph, that while written in plain english, is jammed full of keywords for searching to find me.  I manage and curate my LinkedIn profile constantly.  It is an absolute essential for my career. You can look at my profile here, and of course if you’re a LinkedIn user, well, let’s connect!

There are plenty more social network products and experiences out there of course – Tumblr, Reddit, etc. etc. and there will be more to come. But above are the most common questions I get from folks about social networking.

Hope you find this interesting and useful!

As you were,

Stew

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