No Risk No Reward

September 19, 2013

I started my career in the Canadian media industry in 1999 (yeah, yeah, I was um 12) as an intern at Catalyst Entertainment, working on Thomas the Tank Engine, which I consider my introduction to branded content marketing um entertainment. Many years later, I’m leading the charge to introduce some of Canada’s biggest brands into the world of branded entertainment and I’m surprised at how challenging it is to pull smart CMOs into this new (not so new) world.

The challenge as I see it so far:

Thing the First – the traditional ratio of “working” to “non-working” dollars is turned on its head with bespoke branded entertainment. S

Thing the Second – it’s a higher risk game in Canada than in the US, where those “non-working” dollars (I put it in quotations, because I’m actually sure the dollars are ~ ahem ~ working) are used against a smaller population.

But STILL – we know that if we don’t evolve in our efforts to make a connection with real people with our brands than we will fade as fast as… as… as what??? Something about sand or ebbing waves or….?

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Hyundai plays on suicide in despicable commercial

April 25, 2013

This morning I read this powerful blog post by digital copywriter and blogger, Holly Brockwell.  You should read it.  It’s incredibly moving. I also lost a parent to suicide (my mom when I was 25) so it really hit home for me.

Also like Holly, I’m a marketer, so I understand intimately the process of making a commercial and in particular the number of people who have to give it the thumbs up from concept to post-production for it to have become a reality.  So WTF?  A team of creatives at a large, award-winning, global ad agency – Innocean - got together, brainstormed and after a long creative process decided that “Pipe Job” (video below) was a GREAT IDEA that should be presented to the Hyundai marketing team.  They would have come up with 2-3 other concepts to present too, but presumably this was their favourite since usually the idea the creative agency tries the hardest to sell through is the one that gets picked by their client. But the marketing execs at Hyundai didn’t have to pick it.  Hyundai thought the best way to show how clean the vehicle’s emissions are is to depict a man trying (& failing) to kill himself via carbon monoxide poisoning in one of its cars. And then an entire production team shot the commercial.  No one thought to say “WOW THIS IS REALLY TERRIBLE, TASTELESS, OFFENSIVE, AND WRONG” (apparently it’s also dangerous, numerous sources are pointing to a large quantity of data that shows that “careless depictions of suicide can cause more suicides to happen.”).

Judge for yourself.


And now Hyundai is making a shit show of its response to the PR disaster. Hyundai North America is on the defensive saying it had nothing to do with the Hyundai European commercial, which is true, but at this point just apologize on behalf of your company without the finger pointing.  It also sounds to me that Hyundai is being purposely vague about its European division’s involvement in the commercial, saying

We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate European video featuring a Hyundai. Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment.

Like, guys, the agency didn’t make this all by themselves and unfortunately feature your car.  You commissioned this work.

*shakes head*

 

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My post-Metro Moment

March 29, 2013

When I started working at Metro in 2007, I’d tell people that my long-term vision was to make my role obsolete.  I had just taken over as the head of a practically non-existent digital department with a mandate to become the future of the business (Metro Montreal only had a PDF of the paper online rather than an actual website at the time, and nationally, all of metronews.ca attracted only 50,000 uvs/month) and knew that if Metro were to survive and thrive in the rapidly changing media landscape, and if I were to do my job, that eventually my role shouldn’t be necessary: digital leadership would be implicitly included in the leadership of each of the company’s traditional departments and business units.

I wasn’t worried that by saying this I’d put myself out of work; I was pretty secure in the demand for my skill set and I felt confident that as long as the company was growing, my role would evolve and I could bring value to the organization in new and exciting ways. And I’m thrilled that for 5 years, that’s exactly what happened.  In 2009, I was proud to be appointed the youngest member of the Senior Leadership Team.  At the same time, I was called upon to leverage my previous marketing experience and brand-spanking-new MBA in Marketing and Strategic Management to take over the Marketing department (overseeing B2C, B2B, PR, and Research for the brand on all platforms) in addition to my role as the head of Interactive.  And in 2011, despite a very public battle with breast cancer (I was lucky, I won), I became Vice President.

I am extremely grateful to Metro and in particular, my former boss, President and Group Publisher, Bill McDonald for all the opportunity for growth and the support and trust he gave me to take the risks that so often resulted in great things.  I know he will lead the company through this tough time, and he will come out ahead of all expectations.  He is an inspirational man to work for and I hope our paths cross again.

I’m very proud of my accomplishments under Bill’s leadership in both Marketing – helping to grow readership significantly and to solidify, without a doubt, Metro’s position as the #1 daily national newspaper in Canada – and in Interactive, growing web traffic to metronews.ca to nearly 2 million uvs from 50,000 in 2007 and increasing digital revenue over 1000% (yup, 3 zeroes) in the same period.  And while those KPIs are the ones that count the most, I think it’s also pretty cool that we were Foursquare’s first news partner in the world (it’s hard not to brag that the New York Times and Washington Post followed).  If you’re interested, I think you can still get the branded Metro badge; try checking in 3 mornings in a row before 10am anywhere near a Metro box.

Relationships like the one with Foursquare were a great fit and reinforced Metro as the newspaper for young, active, metropolitans (or “YAMs”).  And given the strong “on-the-go” association that Metro readers have with the brand, it made sense to continue to push hard to lead the way in all-things-mobile, and so in 2009 we also became one of the first Canadian newspaper brands to launch a suite of native mobile apps (thanks to Spreed for getting us off to a quick, good start).

In 2012, in light of the success we had so far on mobile, we agreed to take it to the next level and invest in a custom solution.  For this I hired Xtreme Labs, who under the supervision of my very talented Interactive Director, Chris Tindal (now at Post Media Labs), built bilingual iOS and Android apps that, for a year now, have consistently been rated #1 among Canadian news apps.

At the same time as we were developing all-new native apps, our internal development team,  working with user experience and design agency, Jet Cooper, built the first responsive news site in Canada (which was also multi-market and in two languages), furthering our commitment to deliver an amazing experience no matter what device the site was being viewed on.  For this, Jet Cooper and Metro were rewarded with a Digi Award nomination.

To build on these successes in mobile, I also made sure before I left that we worked with Xtreme to push through enhancements to the apps and mobile website to include extensive mobile rich media capabilities, which will undoubtedly establish Metro as best-in-class in mobile with its advertisers as it is with its readers, while delivering a rapid return on investment.

In addition to Xtreme Labs and Jet Cooper, I can’t tell you how many other amazing partners I had the privilege of working with while at Metro.  Among them, the incredible team at Rethink stands out, having helped Metro leverage the important societal shift towards collective consumption with the “news worth sharing” positioning which, across two multi-award winning campaigns, boosted brand perception and significantly increased readers-per-copy in key markets.  Rethink never ceased to amaze me by consistently coming up with original, irreverent, creative solutions that solve business challenges so effectively.

I also want to mention that I learned pretty much everything I know about managing and optimizing display advertising from longtime Metro ad ops provider, Net Prophets, let by the wonderful and uber-intelligent Ben Cormier - if you get a chance to work with him, do it.

I don’t feel bad having to move on knowing I’m leaving Metro’s Marketing & Interactive departments in the extremely capable hands of my former reports.  Robyn Payne, Marketing & Research Director is one of the most devoted, hard-working and creative people in media today.  Owen Lambert, Sr. Product Manager,  is brilliant, analytical, and extremely technically adept. Hailey Ben-Izhak is a highly strategic, intelligent and tenacious Interactive Sales Manager. They are all strong leaders too.  A big thanks to each of them for consistently making me look good! (While no longer at Metro, I want to also mention Diane Frysztacki,  my former project manager, Marketing, who is the most versatile, driven, disciplined, even-tempered and honestly cool person I could have had in that role).

As much as I’ll miss my Metro team, I’m super excited about what will come next. Ideally I’d love to contribute to a company that is undergoing rapid growth and where there are more things to do than people to do them.  That is most definitely my favourite way to roll.

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Yes <3

March 14, 2012

Today I launched a Facebook ad campaign. According to Facebook, I’ve put such specific targeting parameters into the campaign that it is only going to reach a tiny audience.  In fact there are less than 20 people on all of Facebook who fit into this target:

Fewer than 20 people, eh? Perfect. Let’s see how long it takes Matt to see it (and no, he doesn’t read this blog. I’m a shamefully infrequent blogger).

Thanks to David Kerpen of Likeable Media whom I saw speak at SXSWi this week (more on that session and others coming soon!) for the inspiration for the campaign.  His talk about social media touched on micro-targeting and gave me the idea to accept Matt’s proposal in a way that makes perfect sense for someone passionate about marketing, digital, and socmed (me) and someone who spends a whole lot of time on Facebook (Matt).  And thanks to Matt Peacock for inspiring me to want to get married for the first time in my life.

UPDATE: It took Matt 5 minutes after launch to notice the ad (yes he spends too much time on Facebook). It took him 10 minutes to update his relationship status to engaged. It took Facebook 10.01 minutes to start serving him wedding-focused ads.  We’ll announce a date soon!

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So #fuckcancer right?

September 27, 2011
It was November 2010. Two months before my 39th birthday. My @metrotoronto horoscope that day read: “You were born to reach the top of your chosen profession. So start climbing.”

In the middle of my workday, climbing to the top of my chosen profession of course, I went to my doctor’s office to renew a prescription. My actual doctor, let’s call him Dr. D (because that’s what I actually call him) wasn’t there that day so I saw the doctor on duty, let’s call her Doctor XX (because she’s a woman and I can’t remember her name), who did a routine breast exam before writing the prescription. While she was palpating around she felt something and had me feel it too. Something small, hard, round, like a pea.  Textbook right?

Dr. XX reassured me that it was probably a cyst and it was likely to shrink or clear in a week or two. But days past and then weeks, and it wasn’t shrinking. Not even a little bit. And then, out of the blue, my boyfriend,@mattpeacock13, noticed the little lump. I hadn’t planned to tell him. If it turned out to be cancer, I was going to make an excuse to break up with him. I mean, who would ask a brand spanking new boyfriend to deal with Cancer Girl. But there it was.  He reassured me that he wasn’t going anywhere.  I replied that I wouldn’t give him the choice.

Dr. XX was there again for my follow up. She told me there was still no reason to worry, it could be a lot of things other than cancer. I cried anyway.   She took pity and sent me immediately across the street to the hospital for an ultrasound and mammogram to set my mind at ease.  I called my best friend to meet me for support.  As I waited in the hallway with him (men aren’t allowed to wait in the actual waiting room) I told him I was sure I had cancer.   He crumpled up the package from the bagel he’d brought me and tossed it at me.  We played paper bag catch for the next hour or ten while I waited.

After what seemed like forever, I was squished in a machine for a mammogram. The results came back negative. Time to double check with an ultrasound.  Once on the ultrasound table, it took the doctor less than a minute to tell me that the lump I’d been obsessing about for two weeks was a lymph node that had floated down into my breast and that it was absolutely nothing to worry about. I was ready to jump up and kiss him on the mouth when he said he was seeing something else in a different part of my breast.  He was 99% certain it was nothing, just a little cloudiness showing up on the ultrasound, but that he’d recommend a biopsy to be 100% sure.  I was halfway between elated and terrified again so I charmed him into performing the biopsy right there on the ultrasound table. *KAPOW!* – a biopsy is done with an enornous needle and sounds like a shotgun. He looked at what came out of the enormous needle and said I should go home and not worry, from what he could see I was almost positively cancer-free.

I walked back into the hall and hugged my bff.  I didn’t have cancer. We had a beer.  I went home that night and told my two sons I was sorry I was acting weird for the last two weeks I thought I had cancer but I DON’T. Then I did the “I don’t have cancer” happy dance.  Literally. They were unimpressed. I’m a terrible dancer. Like, worse than Carlton.

I returned to Dr. D’s office for a completely unrelated reason a week or so later.  I needed a referral for my son. After 20 minutes waiting alone in his office, I was getting pissed. I mean, it’s a referral. Just write it. Eventually he walks into the room looking serious.  He has my file, not my son’s. He blurts “You have cancer.” (well you knew this wouldn’t be an “I don’t have cancer” story). Well fuck. I don’t speak. He continues “listen, I wouldn’t want to be sitting in your chair but if I had to be sitting in your chair and be told I had cancer, I’d want to be told I had breast cancer, it’s one of the ones we now understand, and typically the prognosis is good. I’m going to refer you to the breast centre.” I called my boyfriend and told him to break up with me.  He didn’t.

One of the few cool things (I call them #cancerperks) about having breast cancer at 38, is that everyone on the breast cancer ward calls you young .  1 in 8 women get breast cancer in their lifetime. Most are over 50. So good right? Younger people have more healing power I figure. No such luck. I soon learn that if you get cancer under 40, it means it’s more aggressive cancer.  Also, you have a lot more time for it to kill you. But at least you get fast-tracked into surgery.

I had a surgery decision to make now. There was cancer in my right breast for sure but 7 biopsies (*kapow* *kapow* *kapow*….) on the left side later and it was still uncertain whether there was cancer in both.  Christina Appelgate chose to get a bilateral mastectomy – removing both breasts – because she knew she was BRCA gene (the “breast cancer gene”) positive even though she only had cancer detected in one. Testing positive for BRCA gives you at least a 70% chance of breast cancer in your lifetime.  I had tested for the gene but wouldn’t get the results back until well after my surgery was scheduled. I decided to get a bilateral mastectomy. First, because I was reasonably sure I’d test BCRA positive (I wasn’t but didn’t know that for months) and second, more importantly for me, because I figured that if you have to get one new breast, you might as well make the other one match.

My surgical oncologist, the amazing, sensitive Dr. C (she’s the best, tweet me at @luckyjodi if you want her full name, hint: it starts with a “C”), recommended I postpone reconstruction to be “safe” rather than have immediate reconstruction.  If you get immediate reconstruction and need radiation, it might mess up your new boobs.  On the flip side, the immediate reconstruction gives the best and most natural results if you don’t need radiation.

Dr. C admitted that a recommendation for delayed reconstruction was typical in Canada, where we tend to be more conservative, whereas in the US immediate (like during the same operatiom in which they take them away) reconstruction is more common. Recognizing my struggle, Dr. C ensured that I met with every specialist I could to help me evaluate the chance of success with immediate reconstruction.  I liked my odds and my sister gave me a straightforward “I’d do it” so I gave the thumbs up to replacing my old cancerous breast/s with brand new silicone filled ones immediately after surgery.  Arriving at that decision made me feel instantly relieved. I had control over something and I actually kind of liked the idea of brand new breasts.

After surgery I woke up high as a kite on morphine. It wasn’t easy to come out of that surgery facing the aftermath, but without the reconstruction it would have been 1000x harder. I later learned that Dr. C gave my sisters and my boyfriend high fives while I was in the recovery room.  The surgery had gone well and by all early accounts I wouldn’t need radiation because it didn’t look like any cancer was near my chest wall nor metastasized into my lymph nodes.

Many months after my reconstruction decision, which perhaps is not the best one for everyone, but was definitely the best one for me, I learned that out of the nearly 45000 mastectomies performed in Canada last year, only 8% had reconstruction. Many because it wasn’t offered as an option, even if it was a totally viable one.  If not having immediate or any reconstruction is a woman’s personal decision, I have total respect, but if it’s a lack of awareness about the options,  I think women need to understand their options better.

I thought I was out of the water decision-wise after the surgery, but now I had to choose whether to go with the post-surgery recommended course of 6 rounds of chemo, 3 weeks apart. As “insurance,” in case a microscopic cancer cell had escaped into my blood stream. I didn’t want to go through chemo. Remember, I was “born to be at the top of my profession” and I was supposed to be “climbing” there.

But how terrible would I feel if I turned down the “insurance” of chemo (reducing my chance of recurrence by 12% statistically) and then didn’t get a chance to see my sons grow up because of it. So I decided to go forward with the 18 weeks of treatment even though I was worried that, as a woman in business, showing people I had cancer (hard to hide when you’re bald or wearing a wig and lose your eyelashes and eyebrows) would make me look weak and a liability.

I didn’t have to worry. My boss soon proved to me that cancer need not change the way you are treated or perceived in the workplace.  He continued to trust my ability to perform while giving me all the room I needed to rest and heal.  His support helped me “come out” in the business world, to show other women that a cancer diagnosis is not the end of the world, or your career.

Chemo sucks.  Don’t get me wrong. But to be honest I thought it would be even worse. I didn’t throw up. Well except for the night I combined chemo with way too much wine.  I did lose my hair. I did lose almost all my eyelashes. I did lose almost all my eyebrows. Ironically I had to get my lip waxed anyway halfway through my treatment.  The worst parts for me?  How fuzzy your brain gets on chemo. Especially the week after a treatment. I could barely focus. I couldn’t remember common words.

The best parts? Falling in love again with someone who stood by me the whole time even though he’d only known me a short time pre-diagnosis. He was awesome. We played with a bouncy ball while chemo pumped into my veins. He made other patients smile. He made me laugh. He made me feel not-so-ugly. He went about building a new life with me as if cancer wasn’t a thing.  And my kids were amazing.  And my ex came around and went from bitter and resentful to understanding and empathetic. And my colleagues were supportive and trusting that I’d come out of this better than before. And my direct reports, the managers – @christindal, @hailbail, @robynpayne, and diane who isn’t tweeting, who had to carry me when my brain was cotton candy, made me look good and took care of things when I couldn’t.  And my sisters, @lifeafterreason, @theycallmevice were my rocks. And the whole entire rest of my family rallied around me in person or online. It made it almost easy.

I’m 8 weeks after treatment and the odds are very, very good that I’m totally and forever breast cancer free. But if you are just starting this journey here are 5 random insights I want to share…

#1 Hot girls get breast cancer. You’re in good company. Think Christina Appelgate, Sheryl Crow, Kylie Minogue…
#2 Real hair wigs are worth every penny. Don’t let anyone convince you that the synthetic hair wig at half the price will do. It won’t. It gets fuzzy and awful and looks bad.
#3. Eyelashes have a purpose other than batting at boys. Who knew? Wear sunglasses when riding a bike during chemo or bugs and dust will make them tear up.
#4. During chemo, when your brain is fuzzy, like really, really fuzzy, remember some people feel like that ALL the time.
#5. Don’t take your horoscope literally. But do keep climbing.

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i am so introducing neighborgoods to my new neighbourhood

July 4, 2010

even if it means sucking it up and using the american spelling of neighbour *sigh*. The queen of england was here today and I know she’d be disappointed in me abandoning my british spelling of things just cause i got excited about a new use for localized social networking. but this site is really, really, cool and i’m moving onto a brand new street in 3 weeks.  i think introducing neighborgoods.net to my neighbours will either scare them (hi, i’m jodi, itemize the stuff you have in your house so i can take it) or endear me to them (i can’t wait to be part of the community, i have a tool that will help us be more of one).

as i started to think about items i’ve got to lend, three things crossed my mind:

1) this is so awesome, *grrr*, why didn’t i think of it?

2) this is so easy to monetize: first through the $4.99 “verified account” option currently offered and second through targeted advertising.  nope, there’s no advertising on the site yet but you can bet there will be! you search for what you’re looking for and alongside your neighbours’ inventory comes  a bunch of ads telling you where nearby you can buy what you need.  smart, smart, smart.

3) i just created a shopping list for a thief.

bah. i’m going to banish the 3rd thought and am thrilled to announce that i have publicly listed some stuff i own. wanna borrow something? gawd. another idea i wish were mine. i echo mashable with a slow clap for neighborgoods.net

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Google. Pac Man. Shut. Up.

May 22, 2010
I

Google homepage on May 21st

In celebration of Pac Man’s 30th birthday, Google turned its logo into a working Pac Man game.  A principal rule of brand management is don’t f–k with the logo.  That Google flips this rule on its head with custom logo surprises that are both fun and functional and turn a search landing page into a must-visit destination despite the fact that you’ve got the search box embedded in your browser toolbar remind me why Google deserves its place as the #1 brand in the world.  Slow clap for you, Google, slow clap for you.

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Google opens up the ebook market. I put my Kindle up for sale.

May 5, 2010

Yesterday, Google publicly announced that the launch date for the highly anticipated Google Editions could be as soon as this June. Google Editions is exciting because it opens up the ebook market with a device-agnostic ebook store with ebooks available  directly through the Google Bookstore AND straight from the websites of retailers who will then keep the majority of the money earned.

The only ebooks you can currently read on your Amazon Kindle, iRex iLiad, Jinke Hanlin eReader, Bookeen by CyBook, Sony Reader or Barnes & Noble Nook (list courtesy of Wikipedia – I’ve only tried the Kindle btw) are the proprietary ebooks from the device-providers themselves.  At least as far as I know. Maybe there’s some hack.

I own the Kindle 2. The latest generation Kindle. Two people I adore, founders and former owners of gigpark.com@pema and @noahgodfrey - gave it to me as a gift this holiday season, just after it was made available (FINALLY) in Canada.  I was crazy grateful to get it; immediately downloaded 4 ebooks; and used it for about a week.  And then I stopped using it. And it’s been sitting in my drawer ever since. Hence the Craigslist sale (sorry, Noah & Pema, I know, I’m a jerk. Feel good knowing the proceeds are going towards a sweet iPad).

I discovered the free Kindle app for iPhone recently and that helped, because it meant that the books I’d bought for the Kindle were available to me on the iPhone, my (everyone’s?) always-with-me-ubiquitous-great-gravy-device, making it perfect for the unexpected times I have for reading.  On the other hand, if I’m on the go and not pre-planning my reading time (like I’m not taking a train, bus or plane or going for a walk in a park), I won’t haul a paper book or even a smaller-than-a-paper-book-bigger-than-an-iphone ereader (read:my Kindle) with me.

But if I am pre-planning my reading, the problem with the Kindle is it just doesn’t measure up to the dead-tree-texture-on-my-fingertips-stick-in-a-receipt-for-a-bookmark-pretty-dust-cover-book-book.  And I’m saying this as someone who is not particularly a paper enthusiast (despite the fact that I work for a v. cool newspaper brand). I don’t keep hard copies of anything I don’t have to and I’m happier reading a newspaper online than in print because I can follow links to get more sources of information related to what I’m reading.

The “definition” feature on the Kindle is a good idea in theory, and better on the Kindle 2 than the original Kindle ’cause the definitions appear at the bottom of the page rather than in a new window, but that’s about as far as the interactivity goes: it’s super clunky to search the web with, and in Canada, the web search function doesn’t even work.  So just like when I’m reading a paper book, I need to use my computer to do further research anyway, which takes a lot of the value out of the “e” part of e-reading for me on current devices.

For now, when it comes to books, I’m going to stick to “real” books in all their texture, stainability, weight, and space-consumption but if Google or any other e-reading service wants to wow me, then its ebooks will not only be device-agnostic but include hyperlinked content that will offer more than definitions but rather integrated, multi-sensory experiences (think: click to play song referred to in narrative, google earth link to location of story, links to related stories or information sources related to story). And of course the ebooks better look awesome on the new iPad I plan on buying with the proceeds from my Kindle.  That is, if the iPad ever gets to Canada (rude, Apple, just rude).

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