Tag Archives: advertising

The Devil Wears Pixels

(Originally a Facebook Note, posted August 2009 – but I have been thinking about it recently.)

I watched a deliciously girly movie tonight on FX – and amid the pomp and circumstance of the fashion and fuss, I was reminded of some amazing lessons I’ve learned in my career.

I’m not one of those people who is overly critical of movies. I consider films great if I laugh or cry and absolutely phenomenal if I get to do both. Beneath the gilded tapestry of lines in the Devil Wears Prada are some wholly un-materialistic value messages.

There’s a scene where Andy and Miranda are in a town car in Paris. Andy says “I could never do what you did” and Miranda retorts “You already did.”

If you’ve seen this scene you know exactly how cutting this exchange is. If not, it is like your mother holding a mirror up to your face the morning after an all-nighter.

You feel shame and disgust and guilt even if you didn’t do anything.

I am so fascinated by the way women treat each other in life and in business. One of my favorite sayings is that ‘only ugly girls are catty’. If one looks okay on the outside and is still obsessed with cutting and undermining, well… that ugliness lives somewhere.

I remember in my teens and early twenties, I proudly pitched myself as a guys’ girl. I simply didn’t have anything in common with other women. They were idiots or bimbos or superficial or prissy or backstabbing or bobbleheads. And then I realized I was simply hanging out with the wrong women.

In addition to a few, key teammates and some artistic types, I credit my friend Martina with helping me embrace my universal sisterhood. As a transplanted woman, she focused exclusively on cultivating friendships with strong, smart, fun women. Since we’re still friends, I’m going to assert that she was wildly successful in her venture.

It took me a long time to figure out how to navigate the treacherous and often treasonous world of female friendships. Admittedly, I sometimes still get it wrong. But for all of the mistakes I’ve made (too often when I felt my most awful and insecure), I have done some things right.

  • I believe in giving women compliments. I give them all the time. I give them to people I know and to total strangers. I don’t care if anyone knows or hears except for the recipient. Women don’t know enough good things about themselves. Women NEVER hear enough good things about themselves. There is nothing like a spontaneous compliment to plug the leak in the self-esteem drain.
  • I also believe in honesty. False support/friendship is a weakness and should be banished from our gender’s repertoire.
  • I promote the idea that two wrongs do not make a right. And a shallow, caustic comment should not inspire an equally biting retort.

This goes for work environments as well.

In advertising, I was privileged to work with a lot of women. I mean that. Privileged.

That doesn’t mean that I liked or respected all of them. And that doesn’t mean that my first impression was right all the time.

But here’s the thing…

It is a mistake to stab people in the back, or the front.

Anytime.

No matter what.

(SIDE NOTE: Have you seen the great speech Robyn Williams delivers to Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Patch Adams” about being a dick?  He says that it is a mistake of youth to think that one has to be a dick to get ahead in life and naiveté to think that it is a new concept. It is a brilliant statement to me. Simply brilliant. Because for all of our striving and struggling and studying and suffering… what, in effect, will our legacy be?)

In the movie, Andy goes to Paris instead of Emily. She says she had no choice – it was to preserve her future.

pumpsMiranda scoffs at Andy’s repugnance with the comment “Everyone wants this. Everyone wants to be us.”

I

think

not.

For me, I am laying down once and for all any feelings of betrayal or indignation or rage. People make choices that we cannot understand or explain or accept. But that is really, in the end, only their problem. It becomes ours when we hold onto it.

As for me, I plan to love and be loved. I plan to teach and to learn. I plan to hope and to laugh.

And to wear fabulous shoes.

IMNSHO

I love Opinions.

I love hearing them, expressing them, and debating them. 

I once read an article about leadership that opined (and I’m paraphrasing here) that women fail often because they fail to assert an opinion.  Right or wrong, men take a stand and keep moving.  Women dance around putting a stake in the ground until it’s too late or someone else steps in. 

Now this is a grotesque generalization and every woman worth her weight in testosterone will rally against it.  In practice, however, I’ve seen it bear out more often than I care to. 

Another saying that has always stuck with me is that “NOT making a decision, is a decision.”  It is actively choosing to be passive.  For the life of me, I just cannot BEAR to be PASSIVE!

I know I mortify some.  I’m sure there are more than a few who think I’m a dramatic nutjob.  I have absolutely no doubt that I would have achieved more in my career if I had just kept my big pie-hole shut.

But I can’t.

Never could.

If I listen to that darling, Marcus Buckingham, I really just need to get over this and focus on what I do well. 

But expressing my opinion is something I think I DO do well (don’t say “do do”).  I like being around others who express theirs.  I prefer those whose opinions are at least slightly different to mine or I feel like there’s really no point in talking at all.  I’ve already examined my own thoughts.  If you’ve reached exactly the same conclusions then how absurd of us to sit around congratulating ourselves on how f*cking brilliant we are.  I mean really!

That’s why I love it when Facebook asks me why I click ads closed.  They do a decent job at targeting their “Fan” ads based on what is in my profile but occasionally, they deliver something that is just not my cuppa.  I close the ad, usually to see what else is next, and they respond with a single question:  “Why didn’t you like this ad?” 

This is genius.  Revolutionary!  A complete departure from the maddening, pop-up surveys that have annoyed Internet users for more than a decade with their invasiveness, their soporific length, and their indefinitely post-poned payoff.

Tell me, WHY!?!?!?!?! isn’t ALL advertising accompanied by such simple, impactful inquiries as the Facebook ones?

I want to be able to click on my TV ads and tell them, guess again you idiot spray-and-pray ‘artists’, I am not suffering from Erectile Dysfunction! 

If I see an ad that makes me laugh out loud, I want a QR code in the corner that I can post to my FB and abbreviate from @SCHugarmama to show my other nerdy friends who like advertising how thrilling it can be when someone gets it right.

You know what else?  I want my ads, wherever I am, to recognize me and customize to my lifestage, interests, and purchasing cycle.  Why?  Because as one former boss said, “People don’t hate advertising.  They hate irrelevant advertising.” 

Whether on politics, advertising, or motherhood, I’m not humble or apologetic about my opinions. 

Saying “in my humble opinion” or “IMHO” is a spurious admission.  If you were honestly humble, you wouldn’t bother making a statement in the first place. 

No, I’m not going to participate in your survey.  I’m not going to join a focus group or sign up for your community or even open your email.  And I’ll probably opt-out of said email because you never bothered to ask me how often you’d like me to receive notes from you or if the notes you’re sending are even remotely meeting my expectations.

While I’m at it, I’m also not going to clip your damn coupon and carry it around with me in my already cluttered wallet hoping that I have it with me when and if I need to buy your product.  WHY don’t you just give me a coupon on site?  And what are you thinking with putting expiration dates on them?  (Besides helping our military.)

Could you BE any more demanding? 

I’m the one buying your product… how about a little appreciation?!?

Advertisers think they know us.  They have all manner of opinions about us.  And they’re certainly entitled to them.

Having opinions doesn’t make you an ass… not examining them does.