Advertising – not just a reason for TiVo

Over the last three months, whenever anyone asks me where I work, I’ve been very definitive in saying, “I work for an integrated marketing agency.” While I use “integrated marketing” to make sure people know we do advertising, public relations, digital, etc., I find most people have no idea what I’m talking about. However, I’ve found other people in my office say they work for an advertising agency. Since a good chunk of our business is advertising, that’s pretty accurate. For some reason, though – even though I like the advertising we do – saying I work for an advertising agency makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.

Maybe it’s from all my relatives who profess the joy of TiVo so they don’t have to watch the commercials. Who knows?

In any case, at the suggestion of a co-worker, I watched the documentary Art & Copy this evening. As said co-worker described, it’s a lot of creative directors, art directors and copywriters patting themselves on the back for a job well done. It’s also more than that. It was a good reminder to me that advertising, when done well and when meaningful, can have a lasting impact on society and become an embedded part of popular culture.

As a member of the account team, I’m not the one developing advertising, per say. However, I get to be a part of the process of working with both the clients and creative team to develop something special. I’m not expecting that we’ll create the next “Got Milk?” or “Where’s the beef?” campaign, but at least now I have a little more respect for the advertising work we’re doing and can approach future projects with a greater perspective on what we can achieve.

Below are some of my favorite ads mentioned in Art & Copy. What are some of your favorite advertisements or advertising campaigns?

And, because everyone loves a good “Got Milk?” commercial…

How much of a dialogue was it?

Like what seemed like everyone else in the agriculture world, I watched the Food Dialogues conversations both online and in person last Thursday. In addition to tuning in for the Washington DC panel, I was on the St. Paul campus at the University of Minnesota for a viewing party. I’m not sure whether my expectations for the event/day were high or low. The only thing I knew was that the day would pave a path for the future of USFRA (who organized Food Dialogues) — whether that path was challenging or smooth was what needed to be determined.

I’m not going to recap the whole conversation, because I think that’s been done and you can find recap videos on What I will do is add to the collection of observations, hoping that input from throughout the farming and non-farming community will continue to stretch our ability to interact.

Words matter. If we’re not using the right ones, we’re not having an inclusive dialogue.

I had a friend once tell me that they hated the phrase “need to be educated.” To her, educating someone is a one-way street. You don’t know something, and by darn, the other person is going to tell you exactly what you should think. It’s not interactive.

On the same token, the term “consumer” is one that automatically separates groups into an “us versus them” mentality. This is especially true in agriculture. Consumers are “those people” who consume goods (in our case, food products) without knowing or caring where they came from. “They” know nothing about farming.

Throughout the entire Food Dialogues conversation – both across the country and in the room where I sat in St. Paul – these words and phrases were abundant. We need to educate consumers. The answer to our problems is consumer education about modern farming methods. If we just talk with consumers and share our stories, we can educate consumers about what they don’t understand.

This drives me nuts.

If we don’t place priorities on using language that is interactive and inclusive, we’ve missed the whole point of a dialogue. We haven’t listened. We haven’t learned from each other. And we won’t change anything. Words matter. As the Food Dialogues movement moves on, we have to remember that or we’re wasting our time.

Reach beyond the choir. Did we do it?

There was a great push to have farmer involvement in the USFRA dialogues, both online and in person. I think this is great. However, from my observations, what was missing throughout the entire day was those on the other side of the conversation. Farmers were in abundance both in the audience, online and on panels, but I feel like the voice of the typical, everyday food purchaser was missing. Where’s the college student who has no money, but is trying to eat more than mac and cheese? Where’s the mom who dreads taking three kids into the grocery store, but knows it needs to be done? While we had a panel of experts who were friendly to agriculture, there was a noticeably absent voice from everyday America. In my opinion, if we just continue to talk to ourselves, this “movement” is not a movement at all. Rather, it’s just us taking four hours out of our day to make ourselves feel better.

A step in the right direction, but miles to go.

Overall, I thought the Food Dialogues were a step in the right direction. The agricultural community opened themselves up to a wider audience and, I think, genuinely wants to be a part of the conversation. However, if we don’t open ourselves up to the hard topics and genuinely have a dialogue about those, we’re not going to build any bridges. Someone described coverage of controversial topics on Thursday as infomercial-like. I’d say that’s pretty accurate. The same old talking points were covered multiple times. Only once did I hear someone say, “I’m going to talk about this on a personal level…”. I’m not saying we have to have an “I’m right in using _______ (fill in the blank with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, etc.)” answer – in fact, I’d rather we didn’t. I’m saying that we need to be able to to converse about those issues without throwing up the defensive wall and genuinely ask people why they hold the beliefs they do.

In order to continue having successful dialogues, conversations need to be filled with inclusive language and people on all sides of the food system. We also all need to have the understanding that every single one of us won’t have the same opinion — two small farmers have different ideas, two large farmers, two organic farmers, two butchers, two professors, two moms. We all come to the table with different beliefs and experiences. That’s why the root of conversations needs to be, “Why to you believe that _________?” and the question needs to be followed by genuine listening from all participants.

These are just my thoughts, though, and I know lots of people have already blogged about their feelings. Check out Michele’s and Jeff’s posts for some different opinions. What did you think about the Food Dialogues? Was it a step in the right direction? Was it the same old, same old? I’d love to hear others thoughts and keep the conversation flowing.

Growing up in a shadow

There are some moments in time that you remember vividly for the rest of your life. I think September 11, 2001 was one of those days for many Americans and others around the world. Like remembering where you were the day Kennedy was shot, Elvis died and when the Challenger exploded, that day is one that will be embedded in your brain for years and decades to come.

On September 11, 2001, I was an eighth grader at Brown City Junior High School. I walked into my second-hour history class, taught by Mrs. Johnson, to find the television on and turned to the news. It was common to watch films in that class, but watching normal TV was definitely out of the ordinary. We had missed the first plane hitting the towers, but within 10 minutes of class starting, we saw the second one hit. I remember feeling more amazed than anything, without a real handle on or understanding of what was going on.

We would be watching a lot of news that day. No assignments were given out, no one talked much and, in band, no music was played. At the time, our band room was in the elementary school building with no television. Instead of rehearsing, we walked down to the high school and sat with another class. It’s funny the little things like that which stick in your brain, but in every class, during lunch and when I got home that afternoon, the news was the one constant thing I remember like it was yesterday.

Since that day, a lot of things have changed. I graduated from high school and college. I got a job and moved to the big city on my own. I went from being a kid to an adult, growing up in the shadow of September 11, 2001. I hardly remember flying before full body scans, “terrorism” has been a major part of my world view vocabulary for nearly half of my life, and, for the first time this year, I have a family member in the military who could be deployed to the Middle East.

September 11, 2001 played a big role in shaping my generation. We will never forget, because we can’t. To quote President Roosevelt, that moment in time is “a day that will live in infamy” — not only for millennials, but for the world.

DIY Coasters

Now, for anyone who knows me, it’s pretty clear that I’m not really crafty. While my mom can sew and quilt and my grandma was a very talented crochet-er, I was never really interested in any of that when I was younger. Now that I’m living by myself, however, with some free time on the weekends, I’ve decided that I need something to keep myself entertained. Although I won’t be making my own clothes or knitting an afghan any time soon, I figured there were some easier things that I could start with.

Baby steps.

So, the other day while surfing Pinterest (of which I am now mildly addicted), I found these cute easy-to-do coasters. With just a few materials, I could stop leaving Coke rings on my tables!

You will need scrapbook paper (or wallpaper leftovers or photos or anything else you’d like on your coaster!), 4×4 white bathroom tiles ($0.16 at Home Depot), spray adhesive, felt pads (like what you put on the bottom of table legs) and clear spray paint.

Step 1

Cut out pieces of scrapbook paper slightly smaller than the 4×4 tile. By making them a little smaller, you don’t have to worry about over-hang or the paper peeling off later.

Step 2

Spray the back of the paper square and adhere to the tile. Smooth out any bubbles and let dry for a few seconds.

Step 3

Spray a layer of clear spray paint over the top. This will help protect the paper from water/condensation from your drinks and help keep the paper from peeling. Let dry according to spray paint can directions.

Step 4

Stick felt pads on the bottom corners of your coaster.

I found these little plastic dot things at Home Depot and they worked just as well as the felt pads. They also lift the coaster a little off the surface of your table for extra scratch-proof-ness.

Step 5

You’re done! See, super easy!

The coasters I made!

Since I found scrapbook paper on sale at Joann Fabrics 4 for $1.00 and the tiles were only $0.16, I could have easily made a ton more of these. But, since I’m living single, I didn’t really have a reason to go beyond 6 (even at that, I’m thinking of taking one or two to work).

If you’re looking for a fun and easy weekend project, I’d encourage you to give this a shot. They’re great for yourself or as a gift. Have fun picking out scrapbook paper that fits your personality and dive right in!

Missing Spartan football

While I loved my time at Michigan State (most of the time), there’s not a lot about college that I miss. Homework, exams, getting up early to go to class. All my college friends can keep those and I’ll keep my salary 🙂

However, one thing I do miss is the atmosphere surrounding college football season.

Tonight is the first MSU game of the season and I’m kind of sad that I’m not on campus to enjoy it. I miss the crowds that flock to East Lansing, the random shouts of “Go Green! Go White!” and the camaraderie you feel with people you don’t even know – just because they’re fellow Spartans. There’s something about college football – especially Big 10 football – that can’t be replaced.

So, I will be wearing my ‘Michigan State Agriculture’ T-shirt to work, decorating my desk with some Spartan stuff and finding a sports bar with Big 10 Network so I can catch at least part of the game. I may not be home, but I can still show my pride in being a Spartan during football season.

Go Green! Go White!