Hug an advertiser

There are tough elements in everyone's job, which means we all need help along the way. Here are three examples of help given.

1. Inherent risk
I worked for a roofing company for four years. Roofing was, as they joked, "second from the bottom on the job up from shark bait." It was hard work, especially the industrial roof "cold tar tear-offs" which took place at night. No skin could be exposed to the tar dust, or else the sun at daybreak would heat it and melt it into your pores, sending you to the ER with your skin burning and your eyes swelling shut.

Gross, I know, but I've seen it happen. It was a real risk. Yet there was a veteran employee who always remembered to bring extra rolls of duct tape for newbies to dust-proof their outfits.

2. Fatigue
In my early twenties, I taught in an inner-city high school. The previous teacher had a breakdown from the high stress and walked out in October, and then the classes suffered further strain with over a month of day-to-day subs. When I finally entered the scene in December, it was chaos. Every day I wanted to throw up because I wasn't sure about anything beyond survival - and there were times when even that was in question.

One morning an old man drove past me before I entered the school. Like an angel in my time of need, he hollered from the car window, "Keep going...We need you...Our kids need you...." His voice trailed off down the street, but his words did not.

3. Compromise
I was talking with a friend about graphic design. He's very talented and able to "coolify" just about anything, like dirt if he wanted to. But this presents a temptation for him. Coolifying a product, and finding the inherent cool in a product, are two different matters. The latter is genuinely cool, while the former adds pizazz which may have nothing to do with the product. It's the pizazz, unfortunately, that entices when deadlines pinch because it's such an easy solution.

I encouraged him to keep bringing out the inherent cool. This is much harder than coolifying, but it's the honest approach that will not only pay off for him in the long run, but also do a great service to his projects now.

This week: Help somebody in their work.

Like the tape-carrying veteran roofer, the school angel, and the anti-coolifyer, we can help somebody in the their work. If you need a place to start, find someone in the advertising world this week. (All employees can benefit, but I'm mostly concerned with these folks.) Perhaps you work with or for a copywriter, photographer, graphic designer, media planner, or creative director. Or you know somebody who does. Or you know a student preparing to enter this field.

Give that somebody a hug. Take him out to lunch. Encourage her to continue serving God and loving neighbors as she faces constant temptations and pressures.

Like the man who hollered from his window, you never know what a blessing you might be.


How NOT to be seen

There's a funny thing about this vignette from Monty Python's Flying Circus: When it comes to being seen by marketers, we're willing to stand up, too.

The question is whether it will turn out as badly. We know that marketing is increasingly pervasive and invasive, finding its way into everything from Nokias to noses. We're also aware that marketing is increasingly adept at targeting. For instance, marketing technology reads my Gmail note to a friend about summer camp and immediately provides a list of sponsored links, including "Summer Whale Camp," "Wakeboard Summer Camp," "Girl's 2-Week Summer Camp," and "Camp Caribou for Boys."

How does it know what I wrote? And do I mind that it's targeting my interests with related advertisements? At first I was weirded out but not anymore, regardless of the personal nature of my e-mails. Technology is learning how to find us and follow us, and I'm not sure that we mind.

In a recent interview with Kerry Langstaff, VP of marketing at Quova, she says the following about their specialty, "dynamic geo-location":

Basically we go and map the infrastructure of Web servers set up all over the world and map where IP Addresses have been allocated.... We identify where a user is connecting from through their IP address.... So, as an example, say a customer is searching for shoes. By using IP geo-location data to situate exactly where they are, a shoe retailer can localize its landing page for each incoming visitor. Another customer example is a newspaper which uses reader location to customize their news and ad content. If you log in from Massachusetts, you'll get the Red Sox score first -- not the Yankees score. And news, weather, and the store locations of advertisers can be localized based on where a particular person is logged in from.

(Read the rest of the article here: "Knowing Where The Consumer Is")

These are child's play examples and I like the idea of finding my favorite team listed before others. I like the idea of going to a news page and finding the top stories to be my kind of stories. I'll be seen for that. But what kind of targeting could eventually get me shot? I don't really mean shot, of course, but harmed, or controlled. At what point could privacy leave my control? From a Forbes article called "Scary Stuff":

Michael G. Michael, a theologian and technology historian at the University of Wollongong, in New South Wales, Aus­tralia, says that he originated the term uberveillance to describe the new environment. The stem "uber" means "over" or "super" in German. He thinks the pervasive monitoring will lead to increased cases of insanity and mental distress. "Mental illness will become an increasingly confronting factor as these issues develop," he frowned.

This is just one of myriad problems you could imagine in a world of uberveillance if you let your mind go there. Being the independent people that we are, I hope we'll only give away so much, but who knows? Maybe the Monty Python skit isn't too big of a stretch after all.


Personal Brand Insecurity

I have a branding dilemma and I'm not sure if it's something minor or a symptom of something major. Ready for this?

Should I use caps or lower-case?

You can roll your eyes all you want, but it's a question that's starting to bother me. Stay with me for a minute. The internet has plenty of presentation norms and I know what most of them are. At the very least I know that web pages for business executives have significantly different norms than chat messages between teens.

case for lower
but i don't want to use capital letters. lower-case is more relaxed; more personal. it's how i want you to feel when you come over for dinner. you might think it's the finest table and tastiest food, but i want you to wander around the house if you'd like, get something from the fridge, or laugh out loud. lower-case is more my style.

lower-case is also easier, which means it's what i'd rather do. same point, less time.

Case for Upper
But I don't want to use lower-case either - at least not for writing. When I read through a dozen comments on a blog and one is written in lower-case, I skip that one or else put a lower value on it. I can't help thinking the writer is less educated. How arrogant, you say. Well I'll add hypocritical, too, since I e-mail almost exclusively in lower-case!

Caps are also more professional and readable. I can imagine my second-grader trying to read a chapter book with no capital letters. Talk about run-ons.

A diagnosis
For you non-analyzing types, you can't believe this is anything but a joke. But for me, a writer and speaker who mixes with a variety of audiences, this is only partly funny. I don't toss and turn or seek counseling over it, but it crosses my mind subtly every time I log on and start to type.

This constant e-wareness of whether to use caps or lower-case is why I think it is a symptom of something more serious. See, I'm the guy who reads Henri Nouwen's books, like Reaching Out or The Genesee Diary, and says, "Henri knows me." I'm the guy who reads Brennan Manning's Abba's Child and passes it on to all my friends. (Notice the link? I'm passing it along. Check out the others while you're at it.) I think I'm suffering from a case of Personal Brand Insecurity and I'm sure it's affecting my work.

PBI isn't just about what letter forms I should use. It is about searching for who I am, trying to find my voice, and wanting to care less about people's impressions and more about what matters. In C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, the demon uncle gives the following advice to his apprenticing demon nephew:

"The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the 'best' people, the 'right' food, the 'important' books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions."

As I think about branding, advertising and all aspects of marketing, I wonder how someone like me could do it consistently and honestly while suffering from PBI. I applaud all of you who can.

Any advice? (About caps or lower-case, I mean, although PBI counsel is welcomed, too.)


Art, haloes not included

Got this from the good folks over at *culture is not optional:

"What is Christian in art does not lie in the theme, but in the spirit of it, in its wisdom and the understanding of reality it reflects. Just as being a Christian does not mean going round singing hallelujah all day, but showing the renewal of one's life by Christ through true creativity, so a Christian painting is not one in which all the figures have haloes and (if we put our ears to the canvas) can be heard singing hallelujahs."

H.R. Rookmaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture


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