The Information Interview: A Crash Course in Networking

You know the old saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” While this saying has been around for a long time, I think it is relevant now more than ever. In an age where companies can head hunt prospective employees at the click of a few buttons, getting your name out there is extremely important. Making connections in your chosen industry is perhaps the most important skill that’s often not being taught in classrooms today.

Fortunately, in our Placement and Career Readiness class we’re taught how to properly network and shown the value of doing so. This culminates in an “information interview” with an industry professional who holds a position similar to one we would one day like to hold, or someone who works at a company we think is interesting.

For my information interview I was fortunate to have a meeting with Rob Howard, a Senior Strategist at Cult Collective LTD, located in Kingston. I initially chose Cult as my target because I heard about them at a Kingston mixer. After learning more about them I was interested in how they approach helping brands redefine themselves.

So I wrote to Rob and explained that I was a student at St. Lawrence College in the Advertising & Marketing Communications program and I was interested in learning more about the industry, exploring a potential placement opportunity and developing my local network. This process was pretty smooth for me; Rob graciously agreed to meet with me.

I met with Rob at the Cult office here in Kingston the following week. I showed up armed with questions about the advertising industry, about Cult in particular and about Rob’s career path. While we did eventually cover all of these topics, the conversation was much more natural than me reading a question and Rob answering. We actually had a conversation that went in many different directions and gave me more insight than I could have hoped for with my five questions alone. It was great, and I learned a lot about Cult and Rob’s position as a Senior Strategist there.

The unexpected part was when Rob started asking me questions about my interests and what type of career I’d like to explore. I answered to the best of my ability and Rob offered insightful advice about which companies to look up and follow.

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For me, there were two key takeaways from my meeting with Rob. One, which is the basis of this post, is that who you know is very important. Many times, people who are able to get their name out there and create a large professional network are able to find employment without even applying for jobs. This is something we have been told many times from all of our teachers, but hearing from professionals in the industry just seemed to drive it home even more.

The second takeaway that I got from my meeting with Rob is this: keep reading and keep learning. The advertising industry such an interesting industry and there’s so much out there. It is important for us to continue to learn about the topics that interest in order for us to grow professionally. The advertising industry is constantly evolving these days, and so too must our skill set. In 20 years the skills I’ve learned in college will not be enough. It is important for us to continue to evolve alongside the industry, to continue to grow our knowledge base. Not only is this great for personal development, but this will also make us an asset to a company. If I have taken the time to learn and understand something that a colleague has not, then I will have more value to a company.

Of course when the interview was over I thanked Rob for his time and the valuable insight he had given me. Now, when I am reading an article about something industry related I always think back to my meeting with Rob and the advice he gave me. Perhaps when I find something particularly relevant I will tweet at him and maintain our connection, because you never know, he may be a valuable resource to me in the future.

The value of my conversation with Rob is not lost on me. I have already taken his advice and started reading about industry trends much more than I used to. I’ve started following companies on Twitter which post regularly about major trends and news in the advertising world. I’ve also continued to grow my professional network through LinkedIn and other sources. I think the information interview process is a great way for students to explore career and placement options.

At first I was hesitant to be contacting an industry professional, as were many of my classmates, but this process has helped us all grow as individuals and realize that they are human just like us and not so intimidating as we had thought. It forces us out of our comfort zone and we’re all the better for it.

USTA Serves Up an Ace

If you asked 100 teens what their favorite sport is, I bet less than 5 of them would answer tennis. As popular as tennis is world-wide, it’s just not as attractive to the younger generation as professional hockey or baseball.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) wants to change that. According to this post by Tim Nudd on Adweek.com, the USTA has commissioned a new campaign aimed at millennials which works to highlight the many benefits of playing tennis. The agency in charge of the campaign is DDB New York.

The theme of the campaign is “Tennis Makes You,” and according to the spots, tennis can make you “smarter, stronger, invincible, happier, and attractive.”

Here’s the five short online spots all put together in one video:

Personally my favourite spot is “invincible.”

The spots were directed by Jared Hess, perhaps best known for his cult classic Napoleon Dynamitewhich helps to explain the “offbeat” style of the messages.

Personally I think these spots are great. They reel viewers in with claims such as “Tennis makes you invincible,” and show a funny little skit which I think really appeals to the target audience.

After capturing our attention they then provide actual information about the benefits of tennis, and physical activity in general. The ending of the “invincible” ad says, “Research shows people who play tennis regularly cut their risk of death by any cause in half.”

So what do you think, is the USTA on the right path to increasing awareness and involvement in their game among the younger generation?

Feedly: Your One-stop Shop for Everything You Need to Know

feedlylogo

Recently I was introduced to Feedly.com by one of my professors, Ricardo Guiliani. Feedly compiles news sources from various topics that interest the user and organizes them all into a newsfeed.

To get started all you need to do is type in topics to the search bar that interest you and the search provides a list of suggested websites. For example, I typed in topics such as design tools, advertising, social media, etc. and compiled a feed of over 20 websites.

Some of the topics in my Feedly

Some of the topics and websites in my Feedly

My Feedly Websites

Another part of this assignment, apart from getting setup on Feedly, was to find two advertisements and analyse them based on some of the elements we’ve been learning in Digital Publishing. So, without further ado, here they are:

Lotto Max: Using Colour to Catch Your Attention

This ad is for Lotto Max, designed by MacLaren McCann.

This ad is for Lotto Max, designed by MacLaren McCann.

Hierarchy

The first thing that I notice when I see this ad is the big red price tag, and I’m sure that was the designers’ intention. The designers’ use of colours and font weight draws the eyes first to the image and the big red price tag, and then secondly to the text at the bottom of the ad.

Balance & Alignment

In terms of balance and alignment I feel that this ad could be improved. I don’t think the balance is horribly off, but I know when I’m looking at this ad my eyes are consistently being drawn towards the big red price tag on the right side on the ad, which is an indicator that something is unbalanced. It’s not overbearing to the point of ruining the ad, but it’s definitely noticeable, to me at least.

Typography

For the typography of this ad, there’s not really much to talk about because there’s not a lot of copy. There’s the large sans-serif “PRICE” on the price tag, and some much smaller sans-serif in the slogan. The typography in this ad is pretty basic, but that’s okay for Lotto Max and this ad because it relies more so on the image to get its point across, rather than using copy.

Colour

That said, let’s look at the use of color in the ad. As you’ll notice, there is a large amount of blue used in this ad. The sky and the pool are both a nice serene blue. Traditionally blue evokes a sense of security and calmness in viewers. I think the use of blue here works to that effect because it implies security and no worries for the winner of the Lotto Max.

The other colour which stands out in this ad, as mentioned before, is a bright red. Red is often used to grab viewers’ attention and raise blood pressure, and is often associated with impulse purchases. Lottery tickets usually fall under the category of impulse purchases, so I think this use here works perfectly.

Overall Impression

Overall I think this ad is pretty well done. The image grabs viewers’ attention and the slogan “What would you do if your ticket won?” evokes a sense of wonder and curiosity in viewers’ that should result in a purchase. As mentioned the balance is a little off, but I don’t think it really takes away from the effectiveness of the ad.

Polk Audio: A Lesson in Minimalism

polkaudio

This ad is for Polk Audio and was designed at the Miami Ad School in San Francisco, USA.

Hierarchy

The image in the middle of the ad is at the top of the hierarchy for this ad, followed by the text right below it and then the brand and slogan at the bottom of the page. I think it’s at the top of the hierarchy because it is the largest component of the ad and also the first thing a viewer sees when looking down the page.

The text directly below it is used to help understand the message of the image, and finally the slogan at the bottom of the page reinforces the message from above.

Balance & Alignment

In terms of balance and alignment this ad is pretty good. All three elements of the ad are centered in the middle of the page, so there is no heaviness on the left or right size. There is a slight unbalance with the brand image and slogan at the bottom of the page, where there is nothing to balance it at the top of the ad, but I don’t think this is detrimental to the ad as a whole.

Typography

This ad has some interesting copy which is a very important part of understanding the message of ad. The body copy is written in all capital letters, which helps to further emphasize it’s importance. The designers use a sans-serif font which is easy on the eyes,which makes sense given the minimalist design.

The second half of the copy “Infant in 28E Remix” is written in reverse type which even further emphasizes this part, which is good because it is supposed to add some humour to the ad. In the slogan at the bottom of the ad “noise” is written in reverse type, which again adds emphasis, this time to help point out that Polk Audio headphones cancel out outside noise.

Colour

The colour scheme of this ad is very simple. It has a teal green background and the image and copy are done in black. Green is often a colour that is associated with tranquility and harmony, which works well with noise cancelling headphones; users can enjoy their music in peace.

Overall Impression

Overall I like this ad. It is done in a very minimalist style, but I think it is really effective. There is a good use of humour in this ad that many people can relate to. How many times have loud outside noises ruined your listening experience with headphones?

Expedia Escapes

Everyone’s got one. I’ve got about a dozen. I know you’ve got one.

I’m talking about that one commercial that you just can’t stand for one reason or another. The one that makes you run out of the room any time it comes on. The one that makes you want to throw your television out the window. Oh, that’s only me? Okay, well still, you know the type of commercial I’m talking about. Keep your most hated commercial in mind while reading.

Now there are many reasons commercials become so hated, whether it is simply a poorly designed commercial or it’s just over-played. The reasons aren’t so important. What’s important is whether or not the company listens to viewers and how it responds to criticism about the commercial.

One example that has been featured on MarketingMag.ca recently is the Expedia “Escape Winter” commercial. Here’s the commercial that started this ordeal:

Now I don’t think this ad is inherently bad, but I can certainly understand why people would be frustrated after seeing it over and over again.

Some viewers were so annoyed by the shrill violin noise in the commercial that they wrote to Expedia on social media to express their displeasure. One viewer said, “I need a vacation from your commercial.” This article by Michelle DiPardo delves into the situation a little bit deeper.

Instead of continuing to run the ad, Grip Limited, Expedia’s creative agency, decided to have a little bit of fun with it. They produced three more commercials, (#2 & #3), which featured the father from the original ad throwing the violin outside and eventually smashing it.

To top it off Expedia dedicated the violin smashing commercial to everyone who complained about the commercial by showing their screen names and comments on screen.

expedia

Expedia could show some companies a thing or two about listening to its audience.

This type of reaction from companies and advertising agencies is rare. Sure, they may pull the ad off the air or throw in some minor tweaks, but to go as far as to produce three new commercials poking fun at themselves and even involve the viewers is unheard of.

I think by doing this Expedia and Grip Limited avoided a PR nightmare and made the best of what could have been a messy situation. If only all companies were this responsive to complaints.

Now think again about the commercial you hate the most. Would hate this commercial slightly less, or perhaps even laugh at it now if the company had handled the situation the way Expedia did? I know it would help me.

The Importance of Good Communication

The key to any successful team, whether it is a football team or a marketing team, is good communication.

This article from Marketing Magazine, written by Shelley Pringle, examines the importance of good communication between Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Social Media Marketers (SMMs) in a business and offers six questions that can be used to start a dialogue.

Marketing Magazine publishes articles with topics ranging from media planning and buying, digital marketing, and television to reports on multicultural marketing and agency rankings.

Marketing Magazine publishes articles with topics ranging from media planning and buying, digital marketing, and television to reports on multicultural marketing and agency rankings.

First of all, let’s look at why communication is important. Pringle says that because social media is merely one aspect of a business (albeit an increasingly important one), proper communication can ensure social media goals are in line with and complimentary to the business’ overall goals.

This makes sense; you’re not going to launch a TV campaign that conflicts with the business’ image and goals, so why would you do it on social media?

Another reason good communication is important is because the CMO usually controls resources and funding. If the CMO is unaware of what the SMM is doing and why, then the necessary time and/or funding may not be allocated to social media. This just produces poor efforts that certainly don’t benefit the business.

There are many social media platforms that businesses can use to engage customers.

There are many social media platforms that businesses can use to engage customers.

So why does this lack of communication and understanding happen in the first place? I think part of it is because social media is relatively new and constantly changing. This constant change can be intimidating for businesses.

Pringle writes that because CMOs may not be as familiar with social media, they may not see the purpose or value that a SMM sees. This is another reason good communication between the two parties is important.

Without further ado, let’s look at Pringle’s six questions that need to be asked. The first three are pretty straight forward:

  • Which social media platform(s) are you using?
  • Why did you pick these ones?
  • How are you using them?

Again, pretty basic questions, but they can certainly start a very useful dialogue.

The next three questions are a bit more in-depth and can really turn a CMO on or off social media.

  • How are you measuring results?
  • Have results met expectations?
  • What are you doing to improve and correct efforts?

These questions can really help the CMO to understand that the SMM knows his or her role, that social media is important to the business and that it is being used correctly.

So next time you see a company poorly using social media, you’ll know that there must have been a communication breakdown somewhere.

Lexus “Moments” Commercial: An Ad Report Card

The Spot
The commercial begins with the narrator saying “A moment, if you please,” while “A MOMENT” is displayed in white letters on a black background. The narrator then describes various types of moments while they are displayed on-screen. Some examples include: “Moments can be long,” while showing a depressed man; “Moments of joy,” while a soldier reunites with his wife; “Moments of passion,” while a couple dances; “Moments you’ll never forget, moments you’ve already forgotten,” while showing a man being lifted by an elephant and then a boring, dull lunch.

A moment, if you please.

A moment, if you please.

Eventually the narrator says, “If all the stars align at just the right moment, that moment can be perfect,” while a surfer is shown riding a huge wave. Finally a Lexus car is shown driving along a rode as the narrator says, “Moments can change your life, so here’s to the moment, and squeezing all you can out of every last single one of them. Pursue the moment. Lexus: the pursuit of perfection.” The Lexus logo is then shown in white on a black background. This commercial can be viewed here

The Challenge
A typical car commercial is something that we all know so well. A driver is shown swerving in and our of sharp turns through a sleek city or picturesque landscape with the car slowing down or coming to a stop somewhere in the focus of the camera. These commercials are so common I’m you’re having no trouble picturing it in your head right now (but just in case, here’s one).

The point I’m trying to make here is that we’re so used to these types of commercials that they’re hardly effective in reaching us, and often, because we’ve seen them so much, we’re so zoned out that we don’t even notice the brand of the car.

That said, I think the challenge Lexus faced was making a commercial that could stand out, while still portraying the luxury that is associated with Lexus cars.

The Idea
The idea that Lexus is trying to portray here is that life is made up of a variety of moments. Some are good, some are bad, and occasionally when everything comes together we all have a moment that is just perfect. Lexus cars embody and can provide these perfect moments.Lexus Logo 3

The Execution
This Lexus commercial displays many different types of moments, good and bad, that most people have experienced on some level.

The ad plays with our emotions by bringing us up and down with the good and bad moments before coming to an ultimate high with “the perfect moment” that can “change your life” and showing the Lexus car.

By focusing on the moments and emotions that go along with them this ad effectively strays away from the typical car commercial mentioned above.

What Works
This is the first commercial I can remember enjoying and truly being moved by. The emotional roller coaster that it takes viewers on really works to generate interest in the commercial and in Lexus. The Lexus car isn’t even shown until the :36 second mark and the Lexus logo isn’t shown until :44 seconds. By this time viewers are so drawn in that they can’t help but watch.

Not showing that it is a car commercial right away is effective because had Lexus done so, viewers likely would not be as interested in the commercial, no matter how great it may be.

I think the videos used to illustrate different moments work very well. I have already mentioned several examples in the spot so I will refrain from listing them again. I will say; however, that I think the video of the surfer on the huge wave is a really powerful image of everything coming together for the perfect moment right before introducing the Lexus car.surfing

Like a surfer, a driver needs perfect conditions, control, timing, and a sense of adventure. With all of these things driving on an open road can be a perfect moment.

Creatively, I think this commercial is very well done. Most of the videos used seem to be homemade footage. This can really help viewers identify with the emotions in the moments.

What Doesn’t Work
Honestly, I can’t think of anything that doesn’t work in this commercial. It fits together very nicely, the creative work is excellent, and it’s not a typical car commercial. If you have any issues with this commercial please comment on this post, I’m interested to know what you think.

Final Grade
I give this commercial 10 out of 10 perfect moments. As detailed above, I think this commercial works really well as a whole and stands out among other car commercials. In effect, the Lexus brand stands out as well. This commercial is one of those rare moments that Lexus mentioned where everything comes together just perfectly.

#TrendsTalk13

Well, it’s December now and the first semester of 2013-14 is winding down at St. Lawrence College. Students are busy with final projects and presentations and teachers are equally busy with marking and calculating grades. Still, the learning has not stopped at St. Lawrence College.

On Wednesday, December 11, I had the pleasure of attending a St. Lawrence College exclusive event called TrendsTalk. TrendsTalk is a conference that focuses on the newest trends in social, mobile and interactive marketing. It is a free event that has been held for three years now at St. Lawrence College.

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The audience includes a large number of students and faculty from the School of Business, St. Lawrence alumni, Kingston business owners and many other professionals from the Kingston community and beyond.

One neat feature of TrendsTalk is that, unlike much of the semester, the Integrated Marketing Communication students are the ones teaching and leading seminars. The IMC faculty, while offering assistance and guidance in preparation for the event, really emphasize the role of students as the leaders of the event.

Free swag that I won during TrendsTalk!

Free swag that I won during TrendsTalk!

This certainly is one of the strengths of TrendsTalk as it really helps to highlight the great work done at St. Lawrence College, and specifically in the IMC program. Students get a chance to display their ideas, knowledge and professionalism in front of many of Kingston’s business professionals; potential employers.

Another strength of TrendsTalk is the audience interaction. At the end of each seminar there is a question period where guests can continue the discussion and explore the ideas that were presented. As well, the hashtag #TrendsTalk13 was used throughout the day as another avenue for discussion and even for live tweeting of the event. This hashtag also allowed strangers in the audience to connect and share ideas.

Without further ado, I’d like to highlight some of the seminars I attended and the students behind them.

“Blogging for Business” was hosted by Synde Smythe & Taylor Young and focused on how a blog can be a great way for businesses, especially small businesses, to connect with customers and the community. A blog will not stand on its own, they warned, and must be integrated with other communication strategies to be effective.

The Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa

The Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa

“The Fortune Cookie Principle” was a presentation by Shaun Withers & Kristen Deyo. Their presentation was based on the book by Bernadette Jiwa and focused on creating content that is fresh, shareable and engaging, as well as connecting with customers through a good story. (Plus, there was actual fortune cookies, mmmm).

The third presentation I attended was “Multi-Platform Social Media Marketing,” hosted by Hollie Knapp-Fisher & Joshua Hartson. They explained the values and benefits of several different social medias, but emphasized the importance of selecting which platform(s) would be most effective for one’s business and doing them really well.

The final presentation that I attended was “Websites as Your Hub” by Kyle Carr and James Potts. This presentation discussed the benefits of having a main website that links to all of a business’ online presence. Their analogy of a main train station with inbound and outbound tracks was really effective.hqdefault

There were several other seminars which I did not list here or was not able to attend, but I’ve been told they were equally as great as the ones mentioned here. Some of the Powerpoints and Prezis used are available on the TrendsTalk website and more will be up soon (I believe).

I’m sure all who participated in TrendsTalk 2013 will agree that it was an overwhelming success for the IMC students and for St. Lawrence College, perhaps even the best yet.

I am sure that TrendsTalk will continue to be a staple at St. Lawrence College for years to come and I look forward to the day when I have to opportunity to be a contributing part of it.