Archive for Life in the big city
Or in this case, Lexington Avenue.
After almost three amazing years at Electric Artists, I’ve decided to take a new opportunity with a company that I’ve admired for long. Later this month, I will be starting my first day as Digital Strategist with JWT New York. I’ve joined a niche and unique group at JWT called JWT Experience charged with putting digital at the forefront of all the client businesses. From a recent press release, “Positioned as a peer to the Creative, Planning and Account departments, the Experience department is geared to ideate and develop digital experiences that enhance the other online skill sets within the business.”
I don’t think JWT needs any introduction – but for those that are not in the advertising/ marketing business, check out the Wikipedia page for high-level highlights.
Why this move? After spending the last years in 100% digital environments and doing some amazing work for a range of clients, I wanted a different challenge. And my decision to join a traditional agency is based on these thoughts:
1. Driving change on a large scale is impossible to achieve by a purely digital agency. I believe that a marketing concept has to be medium neutral – and the brands that will achieve the most success will be the ones that use all platforms in synch. As a Digital Strategist, I will always be partial towards the role of digital in business, but I want to acknowledge and understand how all the spokes of the wheel fit together. I want to put my money where my mouth is and instead of being one of those digital know-it-all’s that sit from the sidelines and criticize brands and traditional agencies for ‘not getting it,’ – I wanted to join one and be a part of this change internally.
2. The role of Digital Strategists in 2011 and beyond will be to inspire a shift in how digital is perceived. The ones that will have the strongest impact on the future of digital will be the ones that are thinking beyond tactical applications on digital platforms and tools. Imagine the volume and quality of work that can be done if there isn’t just one but a million digital evangelists, both on the agency side and the client side? Shifting this mindset and helping others embrace digital (while learning from them) will elevate the industry on the whole and enable us to collectively do amazing things in the future. It’s probably not going to be easy or quick, but the ability to influence change and see it through is perhaps the most important skill-set I will cultivate as a business leader – and this stage in my career, that’s more exciting to me than launching yet another digital doodad.
As excited (and I’ll admit, a tad bit nervous) I am about this role, it is also with bittersweet memories that I leave EA. I found a mentor and a teacher in my boss here and couldn’t have asked for a more motley, fun and brilliant crew of colleagues to work with. Wish me luck
October 5th, 2010 • Life in the big city
I’m not the first to chance upon this story – but when I read it this morning, it warmed my heart. Meet Fabio Peralta, a taxi driver in New York. Peralta has been driving a cab for the last 40 years but since the last 3 1/2 years or so, he carries a sketchbook and a pen in his cab and asks his passengers to “Draw me a painting – any painting.” Peralta has assembled over 7000 sketches – if you are lucky enough to sit in his cab, he may even offer you a book of passenger sketches for a price of your choosing. It sounds like a happier version of post-secrets, on the move!
So last night I had the opportunity to go to an exclusive (oh, I feel special!)screening of Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” So here’s the strange and in hindsight, a very Banksy-ish thing about the movie that he made – it’s not about him. Yep. And if you think that you might actually be disappointed that the movie isn’t about him, you are wrong. Because the character that the film is about is an extraordinary metaphor for what’s possible when you are…. sort of winging it.
Enter Thierry Guetta or (circa 2008) Mr. Brainwash. But let me rewind for a bit and, to the uninitiated, tell you why this movie is a big deal and why you should watch it.
You’ve probably heard of Banksy – if you haven’t heard of him, you certainly have at some point come across his work. When I think of how best to describe him, I can only say that he is a dichotomy, in that, he is one of the world’s most famous street-artists, but ironically he is also entirely anonymous. A total mystery. His true identity is shrouded in mystery and there are probably ten people in the world who know of it. I suppose his meticulously orchestrated anonymity has played a large part in creating his intriguing identity as a street-artist. His work is amazing and if you aren’t familiar, I highly recommend to get on top of your cultural education and learn about him.
For the last two years, I’ve been clued into street-art phenomena because of my boss, Marc Schiller. Marc, like Banksy, leads a dichotomous life. By day, he is a prolific strategic thinker and a marketer and outside work, he is a street-art connoisseur and the founder of Wooster Collective. It is inevitable that his passion for street-art rubs off on the team and at the very least, we’ve become more attuned to this esoteric world.
So that’s the spiel. Think of Banksy as the Brad Pitt or the Obama the street-art world. So when he makes a movie, it’s guaranteed to become an art piece as Marc says. So what’s the film about – and I quote Banksy, when I say, “The film is the story of what happens when this guy tried to make a documentary about me but he was a lot more interesting than I am, so the film is now kinda about him.”
That’s just it. And the guy in question is Thierry Guetta.
He is a character. Multi-dimensional, funny, slightly over-the-top and mostly unbelievable. The film traces Thierry’s story from an untalented video-film maker to an overnight commercial street-artist. (Yes, notice the irony?) It begins in France when Thierry stumbles upon his cousin (who eventually picks up the pseudonym Space Invader) creating Space Invader inspired art-pieces. Intrigued, he films his cousin placing the art strategically across various nooks and streets of Paris and thereby, igniting his own interest in street-art.
Thierry’s path leads him to Shepard Fairey and eventually to Banksy who inspires Theirry to find his own artistic calling. (Because film-making definitely wasn’t it!) Not one to let Banksy down, Theirry soon finds his distinctive style (Andy Warhol reborn) and goes on to become an art sensation literally overnight, selling over $1 million in art.
In my opinion, this paradoxical nature of Thierry’s rise to fame and success is really the essence of the film. What’s more important for an artist? Commercial success of respect of his peers? Because while Thierry rakes in millions, it’s not clear whether his peers (Shepard Fairey, Banksy) believe that Theirry earned the success.
Also, how does this lens change when the artist in question is a street-artist? The footage leading up to Guetta’s seminal and first show “Life is Beautiful,” tells a story of a man who in his naivete decides he has every right to be and deserves to be an artist as big and famous as Banksy. It makes the audience question the integrity of his intentions but also hopelessly making them fall in love with this outlandish, clown-like character. “But that’s how Banksy did it…” was his response when someone questioned him about the practical and logistical details of his art show. It at once, sounds so silly and yet, so endearing that the only appropriate response is to laugh and go along with Banksy and Guetta for the ride.
Personally, I walked away feeling a little bit foolish. In one particular scene, as a marketing and PR stunt Geutta promises exclusive limited edition one-of-a-kind prints of his work to the first 200 people that enter his show. To make each print unique, he lines them up in one long row and like a child playing with color, he sits in his wheelchair (with a broken foot) and as he rolls down the line, he spray-paints a red and yellow squiggles across all 200 prints, making each print a (moronically) unique representation of pure bullshit.
Oh and guess what? I’ve actually paid for similar “exclusive one-of-a-kind, limited edition” artist prints.
If anything, this movie will give you an entirely new perspective and appreciation for street-art. And you might just walk out a little bit smarter.
In full disclosure – My company is handling the marketing of this film. Only because Marc is one of the few people Banksy trusts.
Watch the short video clip here:
March 11th, 2010 • Life in the big city
I made a very interesting discovery last night.
My MoleSkine ran out of pages and I desperately needed a new one. So I walked to Strand. (FYI – They always have a terrific collection of Moleskine’s for atleast $3-$4 less than traditional venues)
I’m pretty loyal to the black hard-covered ruled notebook. It retailed at Strand for $14. As I was buying it, I noticed a fatter, thicker version of a ruled notebook and I picked it up to discover it wasn’t a notebook but a 2010 Daily Planner. And it was on sale at Strand for $7.95!!
I quickly scanned through a open copy of the Planer and noticed that it was just like the regular notebook! (Only with dates and times on every single page – but who cares?!)I’m only concerned with writing and anyways my Moleskine, by the time I finish it, is barely recognizable. I liked the idea of having more pages to write and doodle on.
For $8, I not only ended up getting twice the amount of pages, but also a cool little telephone booklet and all these fancy features like a calendar, travel planning page and such.
So yea – a little known secret of the publishing industry. Yearly Daily Planners become quite worthless after December and come January, you’ll find most of these in sale racks. The logic is that most people do their planner/ calendar shopping before the new year begins and they don’t quite enjoy the idea of starting a new planner a few months into the new year.
Works for me though And if your concern is the pages and the writing, it should work for you too.
This is one of the most interesting things I’ve done in New York – last night I attended an Introduction to Perfumery class last night at Meet. Hosted by the beautiful and amazing Anne McClain, I walked out of the class with a completely new appreciation and understanding of fragrance.
Let me tell you a little about Anne McClain first. Anne is currently a student a school of perfumery in Grasse, France. In Sept 09, Anne will travel to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and spend one week volunteering at the Casa de los Angeles, teaching art at a local day care center for children of single mothers. After this trip, Anne will return to Grasse to create the ‘Humanity’ scent, inspired from her experience in Mexico and the idea of compasion. In Spring 2010, this scent will be made available to the public by way of a fountain of perfumed water in Brooklyn, where Anne lives. It is an experiment, she says, in trying to bring a personal experience to a public space by means of fragrance.
Now if that is not inspiring, what is?!
I’ve always thought of perfumery to be an art that you get a more refined and sophisticated understanding of with more exposure and training….just like wine, cheese or cigars. In my own case I have graduated from wearing the more commercial, simpler fragrances to appreciating and wearing more complex scents or layering unusual combinations. Fragrance, also, as we all know has the power to evoke incredibly strong memories and transport you back to forgotten worlds. Last night was something like that.
What I love about Anne is her efforts and faith in making perfumery an accessible art. It is like painting or dancing, she says. You start with the basics and you can understand and learn enough to experiment on your own. I can tell you one thing: once you take this class with Anne, you will realize that all this while you had been staring at the world of perfumery from behind an opaque curtain. And now, it is transparent.
We started by sniffing Jasmine Grandiflorum, a type of Jasmine grown in India. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of jasmine because it reminds me of sticky, greasy hair oil that my mom would insist on rubbing on my scalp when I was a kid. I hated hair oil and this particular Jasmine variety smells just like it. But it was interesting to me to hear other’s experiences and memories associated with this Jasmin.
After Indol (a synthetic ingredient that smells like mothballs!), we sniffed yet another Jasmine Sambac. This one – was much lighter on the nose and reminded me of the scent of ‘gajras-’ little flower garlands that Indian women use as adornment for their hair. A few other raw ingredients we sniffed last night are Geranium, Citronella (a synthetic ingredient used in rose-based fragrances to give it more bullk) Patchouli (cool fact: patchouli oil is made of 144 chemicals and hence, near impossible to replicate) Sandalwood, Bacdanol (the synthetic equivalent of sandalwood) Adoxal (a synthetic ingredient that is used to create the marine smell. This ingredient had a very salty smell) Essential Rose Oil (It was disgusting! Which is so surprising considering most of my perfumes have rose top notes)
My favorite part was the later half of the ingredients – the warmer, woodsy ones used mostly in men’s fragrances. I enjoy mixing my feminine fragrances with just a dash of my fiance’s colognes. I feel like men’s fragrances add a litlte more substance and perhaps just a little bit of darkness and mystery that I enjoy. We started with sniffing Ambroxan, a synthetic equivalent of Amber. I had never questioned where Amber came from… for some reason assuming the scent came from a stone, but yesterday I was shocked and a little grossed out to learn that amber actually comes from whales. I will spare you exactly how it is produced – click on the link to learn that. Thankfully, most fragrances use the synthetic equivalent of amber. Whew.
Anyways, Ambroxan smelled heavenly…it smelled secure, sexy and like an aphrodisac. Another lovely ingredient we sniffed as Cashmeron. I think Anne described it beautifully when she said that Cashmeron smells of a handsome man walking in the woods, with a scarf around his neck. In my version of the scent, it is Hugh Jackman in his sexy greek god-like demeanor. Sigh. Just the thought.
I also learned that contrary to Sephora, coffee is not the best smell to sniff to clear your nose. Just fresh air. So if you are out perfume shopping, walk out of the store to clear your nose memory and walk back in a few minutes later. Another intereting fact – the best place to wear perfume is your hair! It stays the longest there and not on your pulse as you might beleive it.
So anyways – THANK YOU Anne. You have found a lifelong student in me! And if any of you are interested in hosting a perfume workshop for your girl-friends, get in touch with Anne!
June 4th, 2009 • Life in the big city
I had a very Enid Blyton-esque weekend trip to Storm King over the long weekend. It’s a five-hundred acre open-air art museum just outside of New York. We picked a good day to visit because it wasn’t very crowded. At one point, we even wondered if we were the only ones there. The entire landscape is punctuated by modern sculptures that I really struggled to understand. Art is subjective – and I don’t yet have a very refined sense of it.
But we did have a wonderful picnic of fresh mangoes, Comte cheese, bread and plum tomatoes! Also, we walked right through Maya Lin’s Bodies of Water exhibit which was, simply put, brilliant. Lin’s exhibit reminded me of the pastoral, flowing hills of Tuscany. This might as well be a tiny Tuscan replica. Although it did look better from a distance.
Sculptures make me think. Most of time, I wonder about what was going through the artists mind and what this piece signifies. It is important to me that art stands for something – that it makes a statement. I suppose, it is also important to me that ordinary folks should be able to understand it and the metaphor it represents. It doesn’t have to be world-changing, but at the very least – its gotta have substance and make me think or feel something intense. And Maya Lin’s Bodies of Work was intense, for me.
I’ve been thinking a lot of about art and especially the phrase, “A picture paints a thousand words.” – or however it is that the saying goes. I attended a Pecha Kucha a few months ago where my favorite-st artist, Jonathan Harris, presented his work, “Whale Hunt” I had seen this project before online and it’s been passed around and written about quite a lot. But I’d never heard him actually present it, explain it or tell the story around it.
I listened with rapt attention as he narrated his experience with the aid of the photographs. As he spoke about the cold, as he told us how it takes the entire village to pull out the whale and how the certain parts of the whale are more prized than the rest. His words, his storytelling actually gave the project a lot more perspective and depth than simply exploring the photographs. Not sure if anyone else felt that way, but I did.
Anyways, back to StormKing – it was comforting to be away fro the city and surrounded by a carpet of green. I’m also sharing a few pictures – with people in them. (I don’t know how many people actually enjoy photos of scenery without people in them – I don’t!) Be kind though. I’d be very upset if these photos turned up photo-shopped somewhere else on the net. Jk.
Last night, before falling asleep I asked myself, when did writing become a chore? These days, I’ve been spending my evenings and down-time just consuming. Consuming content, ideas, thoughts, words, images – without processing, sharing or even commenting about them. Working in the digital industry sometimes robs me of my appreciation of it. So many voices, so many ideas – why bother sharing mine only to have it drown out? Thus, I become a victim of my own creation.
Let me share with you what I’ve been doing the last few weeks. On a recent visit to Target, I stumbled upon a book called, “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” in the Young Adults section. Over the next five nights, I lost myself in Trenton Lee Stewart world.
The story is of four unusually talented children who embark upon mysterious and super-secretive adventures. The storytelling, aided with the help of puzzles, is different and unlike something I’ve read in a long time. When I’m so entrenched in a world created by a book, it disappoints me when it ends. I find myself continuing to savor the moods, colors and the feel of that world for a few days after. As a marketer, I wonder why content producers and publishers don’t make an effort to cash in on this afterglow. The Mysterious Benedict Society though, did create a lovely website.
Another YA book that reminiscent of Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes) is ‘The Diary of A Wimpy Kid.” It’s a quick, wholesome read and I laughed through most of the book. The book is written in the voice of a over-exuberant 11 year old kid (who knows exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are!) His pithy comments and observations about his family, school and friends are remarkably and brutally honest. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid or an adult, I promise you will enjoy this book series.
Why my interest in YA books, you may ask. Well, for one, its summer and my brain takes a vacation. So right now, while my physical self is on a loft on Bond Street furiously typing away and doing some very important life-changing work, my brain, is actually happily romping through the tulip fields of Amsterdam and gorging on brownies. And I really, should not disturb it.
On a more serious note, I prefer YA books because I admire authors who can create interesting worlds, characters and stories for children. Children’s books are so blessedly free of complex emotions. They are simple, often innocent, make you laugh and how can you not like that?
If my choices in books and movies finds you questioning my IQ, let me assure that I also watched the Oscar-nominated ‘In Bruges’ with the delicious Colin Farrel. (who plays a dumb hit-man in the movie!) Loved it. I’m quite fond of movies that mock morality and fate. I swear, I’ve laughed, cried, been amused and even cringed while watching this movie. When a movie can make you feel all those emotions – it bloody well be nominated for an Oscar.
I promise to now update more regularly. Not just my musings about the digital cultures, branding and marketing. My life, I guess, is more interesting that I give myself credit
I was warned about the pollution. The traffic. The noises. Malaria. Culture Shock. But I wasn’t warned enough about the blissful state of contentment and joy that would envelop me. Everytime I return back to Bombay, my city and I instantly recognize each other and without exchanging a single word or gesture, we become one again.
Old habits resurfaced naturally: bargaining, yelling at the ricksahwalla who tried to cheat me, conversing in marathi with my neigbors and ignoring the smut-faced innocent eyed children who follow you around begging for one rupee. It took me less than a day to re-introduce myself to *my* Bombay. (My version of Bombay which begins and ends at the peripheries of Andheri to Bandra/ Mahim. Thats the Bombay I know and love.)
Cultural and structural changes aside, I was most struck by the amount of free-flowing disposable income everyone has in Bombay now. A night out at Blue Frog and we (6 of us) easily spent in excess of 10,000 rupees. And the next morning, I visited my fathers factory where Shivaji, who has been with my father’s firm for over 16 years still makes only 6,000 rupees a month. This sort of irnoy bothered me throughout my time there.
The salesguy at a silk store in Bombay showed me over 100 dresses, one after another, in colors, fabrics, cuts and styles that I requested. Tired and famished, when I finally asked him to stop he replied, “But Madam, I am not tired yet! Let me show you more.!” My total bill amounted to some 15,000 rupees – a paltry sum for me, but his salary for 3 months.
I suppose you could call me the rosy-eyed phoren return girl who acted, felt and behaved in a fashion that is very predictable of such folks. But that is not true. These juxtapositions have always been ingrained in the fabric of Bombay. What Bombay didn’t have before in such surplus quantities were the financially and culturally progressive youth. My middle-class society has not spent money with so much abandon before and that took me in by surprise.
I am back now. Energized. Happy and excited for the new year. My priorities are foccussed and what I want to do this year is finely aligned with the kind of person I want to be by the end of this year. And here’s hoping the same for you.
Today my co-conspirator Mansi broke the news that she is back on the market looking for a new job. The tough Detriot advertising/marketing market finally took toll on her company and in a major exodus, majority of her department are jobless now. Classy, that she is – she’s taken it in her stride and as we were chatting online, she said to me, “I’ve never felt more dsplaced before.”
This week has been especially bitter-sweet. A few friends at work are leaving for better opportunities while a few friends at other places have been asked to leave because of the bleak markets. This has got me wondering about an entire new facet to dsplacement.
What we do, defines us. Makes us who we are. Without a job, a title – I am a nobody. Personality-less, color-less. As dear the idea of home and moving around is – in some respects, the idea of a job is far more grounding. Job, work, dream – they are different words but symbolic for what they represent. We leave home, undergo one form of dsplacement, for a better job, to follow our dreams or just to get work. No?
Trading one for another.
I’ve been amazed at some of the stories that have been coming in on Dsplaced. I’m so glad that this project has touched a chord with most of us who have been through this Dsplacement. I want to reach out and say – keep them coming. Don’t hesitate. Write in. Whether you’ve lost homes, jobs or significant others – let Dsplaced become your home for your story. We are eagerly waiting for the next story.
As for Mansi, she’s spirited and smart. I’m confident she’ll find her new home soon – but in the meantime, if you have a lead for her or know anyone’s who looking for a kickass account planner – she’s your girl.
There is something about digital narratives. I spend countless hours on facebook everyday and marvel at the dazzling digiscape of human emotions, dreams and aspirations that paints and re-paints itself in form of text, visuals and videos within the Facebook confines each day. If the emotions expressed on facebook were visualized, it would quite beautifully capture a facet of humanity. Also, projects like a A thousand journals, PostSecret and We Feel Fine have inspired me tremendously to imagine further and think about how to capture and create a mosaic of human emotions online. And so, what better emotion to explore than Dsplacement?
Dsplacement is a word I associate with people who out of choice or force keep their concept of home fluid. I have been in love with the idea of exploring our relationships with cities, countries and the very idea of home. Personally for me, all three have changed several times and I expect them to continue changing for the next several years. I feel like, all this dsplacement has defined my sense of self and my identity. But I am curious to know how, if at all, it has impacted other people. And so, dsplaced.com
It is in a way an experiment in storytelling. The brevity and the levity of messages on Twitter and stories in 6-words amaze me and I wanted to bring in a similar element to dsplaced.com. Because sometimes, less is more. Especially in this case.
So I teamed up with Mansi, a kindred soul like me, who I have never met in person yet and together, we launched Dsplaced. Thankfully for me, she shared the same frustrations and curiosities of being a digitally connected yet dsplaced.
I urge you to spread the word, to visit the site and submit your own story. I don’ t know how it will shape or how long it will stay alive on the web – but its almost meditative and healing to do this. To catalog these digital snippets of people’s minds that ultimately, in different words, tell teh same story.
I’m a little shy of self-promotion, but come watch me and a bunch of other smart, incredibly clever women speak at this month’s She Says Event. The theme this month is: three reasons that makes a killer idea successful. Confirmed Speakers thus far include: Allison Mooney of Fleishman-Hillard and Gill Linton of The Joneses
See the invite below for deets and RSVP info. (Its free!!)
September 5th, 2008 • Life in the big city
I chanced upon the coolest little gem of a store today – one of those New York things that you wouldn’t know existed without happenstance.
The Ink Pad is a tiny, rusty little store near Meatpacking District (22 West 12th Street) that is solely a collection of lovely, ancient little ink and letterpress stamps and all kinds of colored and textured ink pads. I was at the store to pick up something for work, but I couldn’t resist buying a few stamps for myself. I bought a little “J” adorned in a classic Victorian script, and the words “dream” and “imagine.” How perfect!
Maybe I should order blank Moo cards and just stamp these words on the front… But I know I shall be returning to the store soon.
Oh and the next weekend, Sept 13th, marks their 10 year anniversary (can you believe this store has been in NYC for that long!) and they are celebrating it with a full day of make-n-take classes. If I wasn’t at Interesting NYC, I would have most certainly been here.
I’m going to go play with my new stamps !
…….then come to Interesting New York! I’m helping the cool folks at Open Intelligence Agency (David Nottoli) organize Interesting New York and we’ve got an amazing line-up of speakers who are talking about everything from fan fiction to New Orleans to ping-pong.
It is very un-conference like – the speakers are everyday people and each “talk” will be short, succinct and involve no marketing speak at all. What more could ya ask for ?
I’d love to have talked about something interesting – but what can I say -I am more interesting behind-the-scenes than infront of it! (right now atleast)
The tickets are super cheap: $35 only! So you should most certainly come. Buy yours here.
Well, one of its kind really.
A few months back, my paths crossed with All Day Buffet and I joined them in their efforts to make social innovation mainstream. You probably know of All Day Buffet from its ridiculously successful Cause for Drinks event. If you haven’t been to one yet – you should.
Mike, Jerri and I have been fervently at work in creating a one-of-a-kind conference on social innovation aptly titled “The Feast.” It is on October 16th at the Scandinavia House here in NYC. What is the point of another conference you may ask. And I agree. Like you, we are pretty much tired of the same kind of conferences, that bring together the same speakers and the attendees and do not achieve much.
That is precisely why The Feast is so different. Our speakers are evocative and have each harnessed the power of creativity to propel social change in their respective industries. Dr. Despommier of the Vertical Farming fame, Dale Jones of PlayPumps and Tom Szaky of TerraCycle are just a sampling of the great minds we have bought together for the day.
The conference is less about ideas and more about actions. In gathering the world’s leading creative mavericks, entrepreneurs, revolutionaries, radicals, and innovators together we intend to inspire action to change the world. Our hope is to leave you high on possibilities with a new menu of connections to get it all done.
I hope you will support our vision and buy a ticket or two and come to the conference. I promise you that it will be money and time well spent. And totally worth it.
Please email me/ leave a comment if you are a member of the press and want a press pass. I look forward to seeing you there.