On Risk-taking

These days I find I make better life decisions if I ask myself, am I going to regret not doing this?

Gender Equality is Confusing

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A few weeks ago I rode in a yellow NYC cab driven by a woman. I opened the door, slid in, and said I needed to go to La Guardia Airport and I needed to be there as soon as possible. She replied, “Ok,” and I couldn’t help but tear myself away from my text conversation and peek across the sliding glass frame, surprised. ‘Oh, it’s woman,’ I thought to myself, ‘Hmm.’

15 minutes later, when we got to La Guardia – woman drove like a crazy person – I put away my phone and pulled out my wallet to pay her. As I did, she hopped out of the car – and I say hopped because she literally sprung out, she had a wiry frame and couldn’t have been more than 90 pounds – and headed to the back of the car to open the trunk. And a thought struck me… ‘She’s going to grab my bag for me,’ I realized. ‘That’s weird.’

I hurried out with the money in my hand and handed it to her before she could grab the handle of my 2-ton, over the limit, suitcase. I reached over and dragged it out, and dropped it – wheels down – with a loud clunk. I couldn’t let her carry my bag out for me – she was a woman! Older than me. And definitely weaker than me.

Totally baffled, I stood in line for United’s self-service kiosk. What do men do when they’re driven by female cabbies? Do cabbies usually help you with your bags out of chivalry or out of good service? What if the woman is super strong and bulky? Then is it okay to let her get your bag? And would I have let a skinny, weak-looking male cabbie grab my bags? What is the overlap between gender equality and chivalry?

Wet Angry Short Person

herdresslgThere seems to be an unspoken umbrella etiquette in Manhattan that no one ever told me about. If they had I might have thought twice about moving here. Apparently, short people aren’t really supposed to use umbrellas when it rains. Because if you do – tall people get frustrated that your umbrella bumps into their elbow or bag or for some horrible giants, waist. And they make that huffing sound that only tall people make, accompanied with that dirty look that only New Yorkers can pull off. And I just wonder if they think ponchos are a better option for us. So sometimes I buy those extra-wide, family size umbrellas and traipse around the city, occasionally when its not even raining.

The Spectators

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 5.52.40 PMThe stadium started to whir with excitement as the first of the graduates filed in, slowly and surely, with an earnest awe. Parents craned their necks to find their grown up child, now more darling than ever. Grandparents whipped out the smartphones no one knew they had, wanting to #insta it all. The easy, low, discordant hum of the band grew into a tremendous, rising crescendo and suddenly, the magnitude of the event became too much to ignore. A graduation ceremony, a rite of passage, the start of something big – hopefully. And something meaningful – ideally. It could go any way from here, really. All we knew for sure was that it was,  if nothing else, the end of something.

As the rows of chairs filled up,  we could make out some familiar faces. Names and people that fit into the puzzle. Little brother, twin sister, mom, long-distance boyfriend. Old roommates, dance team members, the lab partner, the secret crush. As the crowd settled, more details could be made out. The roommate was taking pictures of her class, of the crowd, of the stage. The dancer stuck her arm out, remarkably without grace, way above her head to capture the bleachers of people; all of them there to watch her, watching herself, as the moment unfolded.

Here was a collisions of worlds where everyone was new and still familiar, every voice in the crowd important and still trivial. And all trying to capture a moment in time. It begs the question:  what is the spectacle here? Thousands of doting parents and family members watching their darlings find their place, taking pictures. Thousands of anxious graduates, fidgeting in their seats, watching the enormous crowd grow with excitement, absorbing the enormity of the occasion, also taking pictures. Who is the audience? Who are the spectators?

Digital Darwinism: Cutting Through the Clutter

Competition is fierce, killer instincts prevail, and your chance of survival is diminishing at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, you’re not a character in The Hunger Games. You’re a brand in the year 2014, with a strong history of profit, a stable consumer base, and an unblemished reputation. Yet you find yourself perpetually teetering on the brink of extinction and oblivion, wondering why no one’s listening anymore and your sales are plateauing. A quick look at the market around you and it strikes; growth and success in the age of Digital Darwinism takes much more than ‘strong, stable, and unblemished.’

Back when the first notably great, soon-to-be-legendary ads were launched, DDB’s “Think Small” and N.W. Ayer’s “A Diamond is Forever,” for example, we lauded the creative genius behind them, the courage to be different, and their spectacular ROAS. We look back and recognize the mark they made and trends they set in advertising history. It was, however, an acutely different era of content creation, with a meager fraction of the competition for consumer attention that brands face today. No doubt, the real life Don Drapers produced valuable work, but there is something to be said about the type of content that fights, survives and even thrives in today’s cutthroat environment.

The average consumer in 2014 gets hit with over 5,000 messages a day, across all channels. Which means that an enormous majority of those messages are ignored, the few that are actually noticed are not often remembered, and the ones remembered are seldom shared. If consumers listen, notice, and share – you can be sure that the content you produced was something meaningful, of substantial entertainment value, or stood out as supremely kick-ass. A re-tweet, share, pin, repost, even a basic copy & paste, are all activities saved for the content that consumers really want people in their circles to see. And let’s be real, nobody wants to be the one to share mildly funny, moderately entertaining, or borderline outrageous content. Old Spice “Real Man,” Kony 2012, and certain YouTube clips of Jersey Shore prove just so.

Digital Darwinism, or the weeding out of all mediocre content, thus dictates that only the funniest, most insightful, most disturbing and most likely to entertain, aka the most shareable content, will survive. We are left with a thin layer of content that is capable of slicing through clutter to survive and reproduce; thriving on social media networks, email threads, Pinterest boards and touted as iconic or the standard for what good content should look, sound, and make you feel like. What we are creating, is a display case of content that will stand to represent this era in cultural and advertising history. It will speak for this phase of content creation unlike any before it – where everything we save and share and archive is shockingly horrible or utterly hilarious or just the sweetest thing; an extreme of sorts.

Indeed there is clear cause for alarm here. The effects of Digital Darwinism requires one to step back and wonder, what will be said of this time period? What will the post-Golden Era of advertising have to show for itself, a display case collection of our time’s most extreme content? Is that an accurate reflection of our society? Are we setting a dangerous mold by asking for an industry in which only extreme subjects, personalities, and content fare well? If so, what happens to a society without mediocre content? Have we raised the bar or have we merely altered our perceptions of good quality?

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