Bons mots

Slips of my tongue

Is that a sandwich in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

When I was in university, I took a few feminist-driven courses. In one of the classes, we were shown a presentation on sexism and misogyny in advertising. Open up any fashion magazine, we were told, and really LOOK at each image. Why is that women naked and surrounded by fully clothed, menacing men?  Why is that model on her knees? It was also around the time when Marc Lepine murdered 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. I began to look at the world differently, and filtered all images, no matter how harmless they seemed, through strong, feminist rhetoric.

I’ve loosened up since then and fashioned my own view of what it means to be a woman and my place in society. Ads that got my back up so many years ago are now met with smirks or shrugs. But when I saw this print ad for Burger King, I nearly blew my tea through my nose.

BKsevenincher

With the popularity of blogs and websites like Adrants.com, nary a sexist ad goes by without its imagery being noticed and commented on. Given the reality of the consumer being  so in tune to what’s going on, most advertisements no longer hide their intent behind their images because, really, what’s the point? They’ll be called out on it anyways. In fact, ads these days seem to give you a wink and a nod, as if to say, “Yes, our ad is racy but we know you’re smart enough to see that. You know we’re being ironic, right?”

But the BK ad is not winking at us. It’s acting like a sleazy guy trying to usher us in to a peep show.

It’s not the stupid clichés or the fact that it’s equating a sandwich with a penis.  It’s the woman in the ad – why is she made up to look like a sex doll? Why is she not enjoying the delicious sandwich she is about to eat? Why is she not showing any emotion? Is she, in a misogynistic sense, supposed to open her mouth and eat (take) it, whether she likes it or not?

Several fast-food chains in the U.S. have hired attractive, female celebrities to hawk their food. Food is often linked to sex and Carl’s Jr. is one of the brands that gets it.

What I like about this ad is that you have a smart, beautiful and successful woman who really enjoys eating. (Note to Carl’s Jr. – more like Padma, less like Paris, please.) There is none of this eat-this-and-fit-into-a-size-2-dress blow to our self-esteem that we get from Lean Cuisine. I don’t eat burgers that often, but when I do indulge in it, yes, it can be close to orgasmic. The Carl’s Jr. ad is quite cheeky with its wink-wink premise that a Carl’s Jr. burger is just THAT good. At least it doesn’t ignore their female audience.

The difference between those ads and the BK one is what is being objectified. In the Carl’s Jr. ad, the burger is the object (most men would disagree with me on that, but hear me out). The women are responding with lust, enjoyment and gratification to the burger (the object). In the BK ad, however, the woman is the object – the way the sandwich is placed draws your attention to her. She is not reacting to the (assumed) tastiness of the sandwich, because frankly, who cares what she wants? the ad seems to say. She is just a prop used by the advertisers to make their clever blowjob joke. Besides, aren’t women supposed to be satisfied with their Lean Cuisine entrees and carrot sticks?

To be honest with you, I wouldn’t have that much of a problem with the ad if she was licking her lips in anticipation. At least she’d appear more human and willing.

I don’t know why BK stooped so low. Was the Super Seven Incher trending low in their 18-24 male demographic?  In any case, my appetite for Burger King has suddenly gone flaccid.

June 24, 2009 Posted by | FAIL | , , , | Leave a comment

I’m so red-faced…

…because I am embarrassed. I have the worst case of sunburn in recent memory.

When I was young, before there was talk of depleting ozone layers and melanoma, my 14-year-old self would slather on baby oil and bake in the sun. When I was 30 years old, I would visit a tanning salon to acquire a ‘base tan’ before spending days baking under the Mediterranean sun. Born with a more olive-toned hue to my skin, what would normally reduce most fair-skinned people and redheads into ashes gave me a few days of mild discomfort. All for that glowing, sun-kissed, California Girl look.

But old, harmful habits die hard. While I don’t “suntan” anymore, I still do silly things, like slathering on tanning oil with a low SPF of 4. Or sitting in extraordinarily hot sunshine for hours with no coverage. I tell myself that since I’m not at the beach in a bikini lying in the sun for hours, it doesn’t count. <facepalm>

So, I suffer for my stupidity, if not for beauty.

If you see a woman on the street whose knees and chest are vibrant red, feel free to laugh. Hopefully, I can be shamed into smartness.

Clarification: I DO wear a bra.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | About me, FAIL | Leave a comment

Junk Email of the Day: Special Edition

I received this in my junk email folder at work today. Clearly, my spam filters are set too high – I narrowly missed being recognized for my achievements.

Dear Bonnie,

It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion into the 2009-2010 Princeton Premier Business Leaders and Professionals Honors Edition section of the registry.

The 2009-2010 edition of the registry will include biographies of the world’s most accomplished individuals. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executives and professionals throughout the world each year. Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement.

Upon final confirmation, you will be listed among other accomplished individuals in the Princeton Premier Registry.

For accuracy and publication deadlines, please complete your application form and return it to us within five business days.

There is no cost to be included in the registry. If you’ve already received this email from us, there is no need to respond again. This email serves as our final invitation to potential members who have not yet responded.

On behalf of the Executive Publisher, we wish you continued success.

Sincerely,

Jason Harris

Managing Director

Princeton Premier

May 12, 2009 Posted by | FAIL | , , | Leave a comment

Vanity, thy profile name is HandsomeStrongM

Over brunch with some girlfriends today, the conversation turned to online dating, as it so frequently does when you get a bunch of single girls together. We all have profiles on a certain dating site and shared our dating horror stories. It reminded me of a recent exchange I had with someone on the site. It’s so audaciously head-shaking funny that I had to share it. It also shows why I’m okay with remaining single for the rest of my life, if this is any indication of what is out there.

I later discovered that this guy sent the exact same email to three other girlfriends of mine on the same site. A lesson to men: don’t use cookie-cutter tactics when approaching women, either in person or online. We do talk to each other.

Continue reading

April 25, 2009 Posted by | FAIL | , , | 3 Comments

Son of Son of a Pitch!

UPDATE to Son of a Pitch!

The day after the arrival of Cardboard Dave, the flesh-and-blood one called me. He sheepishly asked me if I received his package, then stated that he wasn’t egotistical; the idea was his marketing departments. (Um, you are the VP of Integrated Marketing, so I assume you have a say in their campaigns?)

In my most pleasant voice, I gave him feedback on this, the most ostentatious marketing campaign I have ever witnessed. (See my original post for my thoughts.) While I understood the reasoning behind it, and how tough it is to get into an organization to pitch your product/services for the first time, I told Dave a more personal touch would have worked for me. It got me in a lot of doors in my previous job. He thanked me for my thoughts and promised to relay this to his marketing department.

I could only promise Dave I would ask my Director if he’d be interested in a meeting and the conversation was closed.

I received this email five minutes later:

From: ODA Info
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 3:14 PM
To: Bonnie Dean
Subject:FW: From XX…

From: Dave
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 2:44 PM
To:ODA Info
Subject: From XX…

Hi there-

If you could please forward to Bonnie Dean, that would be most appreciated!

Best,

Dave

Hi Bonnie-

Thanks for the conversation on the phone earlier today. Hope you don’t mind me sending through the info@ email address… [Um, yes, I do.]

It was great to get some constructive feedback from you on our sales approach, and I would completely agree that a customized message is 100% more beneficial (and effective). I’m sorry Big Dave turned out to be cumbersome for you…we can come and remove him from your office if you wish…

I did have a deeper look on the site and what better way to address your #1 core goal which is “to promote optimal oral health” than to turn the association inside out from a consumer perspective, brand your url www.youroralhealth.ca, and serve up relevant, interesting dental education content that is completely user-friendly and very current. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest this is more progressive than some of the associations we’ve worked with in the past…

I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me…if there’s a chance to meet, that’s great and if not…all the best and here’s to dental hygiene!

Have a great weekend.

Dave

I promptly declined his offer of a meeting. Here’s why:

  • If he dug into our website and opened one of our news releases, my email address is at the bottom of every release. Why not take the time to search it out?
  • His ideas for our website? We did that a year ago with a complete overhaul of the site to appeal to the public. We think it’s pretty rad. Is he saying our content isn’t relevant, interesting or user-friendly? (Take a look and you be the judge.) Isn’t it a tad counterproductive to criticize the website of the company you wish to work with? Instead of insinuating that it could be improved, perhaps offer suggestions on how to add to its greatness. Flattery does get you places.

I still have Cardboard Dave looming behind me, and the search is on for a life-size picture of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s face to superimpose on his mug. The only good things to come out of this was a few blog posts and hopefully, a life-sized, cardboard cut-out of the Comedian watching my back.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | FAIL | , , , , | 1 Comment

Son of a pitch!

Before I went back to school, I was an account executive at a newswire. My job was to advise clients on their communications strategies, which is more accurate than simply saying, “I sold stuff.” I was never the aggressive, Glengarry Glen Ross-type of salesperson; my skills lay in developing relationships with my clients, understanding their needs and providing them with the right product or service. I made sure each proposal was personalized and meant something to my client.  

Now that I’m on the other side of the table, I like to be treated the same way. So imagine my chagrin when I received this today:

ugh1

This is a life-size cardboard cutout of a man named Dave, a VP from a marketing communications agency I won’t name.

I’m not a marketing expert by any means, but it doesn’t take one to know when a pitch hits the right spot. It must be creative, targeted and engaging. Because your goal is to attract attention and create enough interest to make your audience take action that will add to your ROI –visit your website, ask for a meeting, buy your product.

While Cardboard Dave certainly attracted my (and my coworkers’) attention and created interest, the action I took was probably not what he had in mind. Case in point: Cardboard Dave underwent a Sharpie makeover.

Here is why I think Dave’s pitch failed:

  • There was no one waiting at the reception desk to greet me and hand the package to me personally – it was a ditch and run.
  • The package was very large and bulky. I had to carry it up two flights of stairs to my desk and almost knocked someone over. Furthermore, my workspace is not very spacious so I don’t know where I’ll keep Cardboard Dave.
  • The only part of the package with my name on it was the mailing label on the wrapper. There was no letter addressed to me; all I got was a snazzy, embossed booklet placed in a slot where Cardboard Dave’s hands are. There is nothing personal about it.
  • Cardboard Dave promises “favourable impressions” and “better recall” of my organization’s message. It would have been more engaging if their spiel demonstrated some understanding of the ODA’s key messages. And if they did some research, they would have known that while I do wield some influence, I am not the decision-maker of my team.
  • There is a page in the booklet listing the associations Dave’s company has “been associated with.” I’m a sucker for semantics – has this organization actually worked for these associations? I once donated money to the Canadian Cancer Society, so technically, I can say I was “associated” with them.
  • The last page bears Dave’s signature and information, and has an unusual, if slightly creepy, closing:

I’d like to give you a call
In a couple of days
To see what you think.

Or for pickup. : )   (I’m still trying to figure out what THAT means.)

Overall, these are my immediate impressions:

  • The company must be doing well in this economy to spend $200 for each cardboard cutout and booklet, which is what I estimated the package to cost. Are they going to recoup their printing costs through their fees? Because associations are not-for-profit; we answer to our members and have to account for every single cent we spend.
  • How many trees were felled to make Cardboard Dave?
  • Dave’s ego is so big (“How big is it?”), it can’t fit on a standard business card.
  • It would have been more cost-effective, and a nicer touch, if 3D Dave had personally come to my office and spoke to me directly, instead of sending his cardboard representative. Chances are he would have gotten a meeting. Sometimes, tried and true tactics trump snazzy packaging.

I’ll give Dave points for creativity and chutzpah. But like his one-dimensional counterpart, this pitch has left me stiff.

What do you think?

March 12, 2009 Posted by | FAIL | , , | 8 Comments

Podcamp Toronto 2009

podcamp-toronto-2009-header

I had the pleasure of attending Podcamp Toronto this past weekend. Over 600 people converged at the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson to listen to their peers talk about new media, social networking sites, blogging and podcasting (natch). The two-day “unconference” was free, thanks to its many sponsors, and offered a venue to for social media pros and amateurs  alike to mingle, network and learn from each other.

It was a great way to meet new people who share my interest in social networking tools. I was also able to meet the real live people behind the small Twitter avatars I see every day. And I learned something new at every session I attended. 

I won’t bore you with minute details of what was discussed at Podcamp (affectionately known by its hashtag  #pcTO09); all sessions were recorded and will be posted on the Podcamp Toronto wiki  (http://podcamptoronto.pbwiki.com/). I urge you to listen to each session – every speaker is passionate about their topic and the fun is in listening to them reach out to their audiences and share their knowledge.

Thanks and congrats to the organizers of this event!

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Learning | , , , | 1 Comment

A Change is Gonna Come

Barack Hussein Obama, an African-American and son of a goat-hearder from Kenya, was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Read that sentence a few times and savour its deliciousness as it rolls off your tongue. In a country whose identity was shaped in large part by slavery, racism and a blind fear of the different, this is truly a momentous and historic occasion. Only a cold, cold heart could not be moved by the events of the past three months or tear up during the inauguration ceremony.

Is the hype justified? I think it is. Since his election, Obama has shown more concern towards the problems affecting his country than  George  Bush, Jr. has in the last year of his presidency. “Dubya” didn’t care anymore, and it showed.

No one in their right mind believes Obama can or will affect change right away. He inherits a country crippled with debt, riddled with despair and desperate for change; he definitely has his work cut out for him. What transcends all the promises he set out during his campaign and in his inauguration speech is hope. A hope that things will improve. Because frankly, they can’t get any worse.

As a Canadian, I watched with envy as a nation joined together in welcoming their new President. Next week, our Sleeveless Leader, who treats the country like his personal fiefdom, will unveil a budget that will more than likely lead to a third election in as many years. (My math may be off but that’s exactly how it feels.)

So, to my friends south of the border – congratulations! I hope you don’t mind our staring – we just want a little hope of our own.

REUTERS

Photo: REUTERS

January 20, 2009 Posted by | There is hope... | , , , | 1 Comment

StandUp For Your Sisters

We interrupt regular blogging for a special announcement…

postcard

Isn't this the coolest postcard?

I was approached by my BFF Daniela Saioni (and I don’t use that term loosely – we’ve been best friends for over 30 years!) to volunteer my public relations skills (such as they are) to a fundraiser she is organizing called StandUp For Your Sisters. I am proud to be associated with this project because it provides a venue for upcoming female comics in Toronto’s comedy scene and funds raised will go to Gilda’s Club.

More information is in the release below. Get your tickets now! They’re going fast!

Female comics do it standing up…for Gilda’s Club

Toronto, ON – On Tuesday, January 27, some of Toronto’s funniest new “chicks with shticks” are putting on a comedy show guaranteed to titillate your funny bone. And raise money for a great cause.

StandUp For Your Sisters, a benefit for Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, is a night of stand-up featuring 12 female comics who are making a name for themselves on the stages of Toronto’s comedy scene. Hosted by one of Canada’s funniest women, Elvira Kurt (popcultured, The Tonight Show), and headlined by Dawn Whitwell (Girl School, The Jon Dore Show), the event promises a night of great comedy to beat the winter doldrums.

StandUp For Your Sisters initially began as a way for a group of burgeoning comedians, most of whom have less than six months’ experience, to showcase their comedic talents in a scene still dominated by male comics.

“On any given night at most of the ‘mainstream’ open mics, you’re lucky to see even one woman in a lineup of ten comics,” says organizer Daniela Saioni. “Yet, when we do play these clubs, we usually do well.  Maybe it’s because more than half the audience are women. So why the lack of stage time? We decided to make our own.”

But the jokes aren’t all about sugar and spice. “Oh, some of us do get raunchy. But when a woman in her thirties does a joke about sex, it tends to resonate with the kind of truth that incites wine-through-the-nose laughter,” Saioni says.

The women decided to donate any proceeds to charity and Gilda’s Club was the obvious choice: they have all been touched by cancer in some way and thought it would be fitting to honour a charity named after the late comedian Gilda Radner – a woman who helped clear the way for women in comedy.

StandUp takes place at Hugh’s Room, a 200-seat venue located in the heart of Roncesvalles village. Tickets are only $20 in advance ($25 at the door), with all proceeds going to Gilda’s Club, and are available at www.hughsroom.com or by calling 416-531-6604. A silent auction will also take place and includes donations by Roots and Alliance Films.

With this much estrogen-fueled comedy, it’s a great night to come and stand up for your sisters, mothers, daughters and friends.

For more details and comic bios and photos, visit www.standupforyoursisters.com.

About Gilda’s Club

 The mission of Gilda’s Club is to provide a meeting place where men, women, teens and children living with cancer, as well as their families and friends, can join with others to build social and emotional support as a supplement to their treatment of choice. Gilda’s Club is a non-profit organization where membership is free. For more information about Gilda’s Club, please visit their website at www.gildasclubtoronto.org

 – 30 –

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Learning, There is hope... | , | Leave a comment

2008: Hear, hear!

I’ve always been more of a movie buff so this should be a list of the best movies I’ve seen in 2008. However, with the exorbitant prices of theatre tickets and my misanthropic dislike of the common theatre-going public, I either wait for my movies to come on The Movie Network or I see them at the reperatory cinemas. That means my list of 2008 would trend heavily with movies that were released in 2007. So, I decided to offer you my list of favourite albums and singles of the year that took my breath away, made me dance like there’s no tomorrow and renewed my faith in an industry that gives the world Lady GaGa and calls Britney Spears a “comback.”

Here are my top eight music faves for 2008, in no particular order. (That would take way too much time and effort for my holiday-atrophied brain.) When compiling this list, I also noticed they provide great background music to either dance or make sweet, sweet love to – or both. Enjoy.

  • Al Green, Lay It Down. He sure did.
  • James Hunter, The Hard Way. A little story: I was in a Starbucks and heard a song I immediately fell in love with. I thought it was from a compilation of rare 60s R&B I wasn’t aware of. It turned out to be a song by a blues musician from Ireland. That song was “The Hard Way”, the title track.
  • Hercules and Love Affair, self-titled. Vocal contributions from Antony Hegarty. Listen to “Blind” and I challenge you not to dance.
  • Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It. Saadiq does it old, old school.
  • Duffy, Rockferry. Girl’s definitely has a voice. She just has to work on her stage presence and she can be a dynamo.
  • Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree. Very chill.
  • Johnny Pate, Outrageous (reissue). Heard this whilst perusing the wares at Soundscapes and bought it on the spot. I wish this was the soundtrack of my life.
  • Otis Redding, Live! In London and Paris and Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul – Collectors Edition (reissue). ‘Natch.

Honourable Mention:

MGMT, Oracular Spectacular.
Lykke Li, Youth Novels.
Q-Tip, Renaissance.
Santogold, self-titled.
ADELE, 19.

Singles:

What shook your tail this year?

enochbolles19361

December 31, 2008 Posted by | About me | , | Leave a comment

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