Thursday, July 31, 2008

going to china? #1 rule: bring gifts

Lucky you, you're off to Beijing, perhaps a well-earned perk of slaving away on a CPG you once thought you wouldn't touch with a ten-foot vaulting pole. Wish I was going with you, sigh. (Hey, not too late, need a translator? my bags are packed!)

As someone who's been lucky to enjoy several opportunities to visit China and to witness its stunning cultural (and consumer) evolution since 1982…two words of advice: bring loot. Lots of it. Day to day China runs on a gift economy. Translators, concierges, drivers, guides all expect booty, and, though they won't mention anything, so do your hosts, but forget Tiffany keychains or pricey Polo shirts--counterfeits can be had over there for a song and recipients won't appreciate the subtle difference between real and fake. What they will appreciate are things you'd never think to take, things you might be insulted to receive yourself:
bottle of multivitamins (Centrum and Costco are favorite brands) Yes, there are supplements in China, but lots of counterfeits, so people prefer vitamins bought overseas.

deodorants--still hard to find in China and (as you'll soon realize) largely ineffective

American ginseng (for some reason it's considered a more premium variety--here's a website to buy it

moisturizers--don't waste money on La Mer, most appreciated are "famous" drug store brands like Pond's and Oil of Olay.

Ditto cosmetics--preferred brand is Clinique.

"typical" American sweets and treats like maple syrup, salt water toffee, Sour Patch kids, California Raisins, Jelly Bellies. And peanut butter.

Lots of smokers in China, a habit you may not want to encourage, but smokes are appreciated. Ironically, American cigs are readily available and cheaper over there than most good Chinese brands (tobacco media bucks shunned here flood overseas markets) so pick up Zhong Hua cigarettes in duty free…or bring cigars instead. (Davidoff is a good brand)

calendars with photos of your hometown (especially if your hometown is a "famous" brand like New York or Toronto)

CDs with music that is considered American - blues, jazz, gospel

If you're looking to impress a host or bribe an official for something really big--MP3, IPOD, USB stick, digital camera. Even though a lot of these items are made in China, they're quite a bit cheaper over here and the Chinese may be the only people in the world who still associate the US with quality.
What NOT to give:
scissors, knives or other cutting utensils (unless you wish to indicate intention to sever your relationship)

clocks, handkerchiefs, flowers or straw sandals (these are associated with funerals, death)

anything with the number four (considered unlucky number--for this reason, don't give four of anything)

And you should know: When giving a gift (or even a business card), don't be barbarian. Always present (and receive) card or gift with both hands. To do otherwise shows extreme lack of respect. Polite people generally don't open gifts when they receive them, and if they are old-school, may refuse gifts three times before accepting them. No need for wrapping, Chinese generally present gifts au naturel, or in a bag--but if you do wrap, don't use white, blue or black paper.

And that's all for today from your Sinophile Emily Post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

are aussies more civilized?

Buying something online from Australia? Here are the drop down options available when specifying your address:
Pstr (?)

(and, lastly, my personal favorite ) The

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

what did mad men have that we don't?

I couldn't have answered this better than Lenore Skenazy who writes for The New York Sun , the new best newspaper in New York:
..So much has been lost since [1962]...when men wore hats with sly little feathers, and women wore dresses that looked ready to twirl on a music box. And what have we gotten in return? Oh right. My job. Feminism. Civil rights. Pilates. Is it worth the trade off? Here's a look:

MEN IN HATS: Why oh why have these gone the way of the cha-cha-cha? Men looked better in hats — taller, richer, smarter. They looked great taking them off, too, as a sign of respect. What simple gesture can men do now to show their respect to a woman? Unlock the car door using their key-chain remote? Oh boy. I'm swooning.

WOMEN IN HATS: We looked better too.

THE BRILLIANCE OF BRILLIANTINE: The only men still slicking back their hair these days are the villains in action movies. And yet, even the dweebiest guys in "Mad Men" look polished because their hair is polished. It shines. It stays in place. And when it doesn't, it gets put back there several times a day. The results of an informal survey of the men in my office disclosed exactly how many of them even carrying a comb? Zee-ro. And yes, these are guys who still have hair.

BRAS THAT DID ALL THE WORK: Exercise all you want, ladies, we will never look as good as the women in Mad Men. They're so shapely, it's as if someone taped party hats up there. "Those were firm bras," Nancy Deihl, a historian at the Fashion Institute of Technology, explains. "If you had the bust, it got shaped. If you didn't, there was lots of structure available, padding (not just from below, like our Wonderbra), concentric circles, batting." Let's hear it for concentric circles.

STATION WAGONS: How did we ever decide these weren't cool? How did we ever decide chunky, clunky SUVs are? In SUVs, the back seat faces forward. Sorry about that, kids.

POSTURE: They had it. We lost it. Ms. Deihl, the professor, again explains what was going on: "Posture was really emphasized in the beauty magazines of the '50s and early '60s. Think about the movie stars — Cary Grant, Gregory Peck: tall and lean." Carrying yourself right was more important than working out back then. It still is — guys just don't know it.

MEAT: And here's the secret women today don't know: Meat is important, too — on them. The "Mad Men" women have some meat on their bones, an extra 10 pounds they'd be working like crazy to get rid of today. A little roundness made their skin look young and their legs look nice. In the show, at least, everyone also always seems to be eating meat — steaks sizzling with fat or home-cooked roast beef, and no one is talking about cholesterol. Not even the doctors. Of course, they're weren't talking about the rampant alcoholism, either. But still. It would be nice to eat more steak.

VESTS: Nowadays, they make a guy look like a lawyer. But when everyone was wearing them, they just looked great. Same with cuff links. Same with a smirk.

LUNCH HOUR: Imagine a time when people actually took off a whole hour to eat someplace else. They felt they deserved a little break, and their boss agreed. Even as I write this I am picking at the chicken kebab next to my keyboard.

So what have we gained?


POST-LUNCH SOBRIETY: When you're eating a chicken kebab at your desk, you're not going out for any three martini lunches. I guess that's progress.

A SMOKE-FREE WORK ENVIRONMENT: It's great we don't have to smell cigarettes at work. Now we can smell the kebabs.

PANTYHOSE: Whoopee. We've got 'em, the women in "Mad Men" don't. They all seem to be wearing stockings held up by garters. How do we know? The drunk guys are always trying to paw them off. (See cable TV, above.)

SELF-SERVICE ELEVATORS: I'm really relieved no one is pressing the buttons for us anymore. Also relieved we get to grab our own paper towels in most bathrooms, too. But I'm kind of sorry we have to pump our own gas, at least when we're not in New Jersey.

CELL PHONES: No longer do we need an operator to place a call. No longer do we even need to be in the office to make that call. The phone is wherever we are. So is our office! And our work! And — oh wait. I meant to put that in the "lost" column.

EQUALITY: Women, men, blacks, and whites — we're all better off. We just don't look as good.
Contact this writer at

Monday, July 28, 2008

how does a nice kid like you end up in advertising?

If you're a young creative still on your first job, here's a question from a friend who's updating a book about breaking into the business: in what form did you show your prospective boss your portfolio? Hard copy? DVD? Website? Hologram? No correct answers, no cash prizes, just undying appreciation.

finally, mad men get a xerox, now if only they had more fonts to work with

Typewriter fonts available in 1962. (Not shown: IBM selectric’s “Orator” font– meant for typing speeches and scripts to be read at arm’s length from a podium or script stand.) Click on photo for more readable display.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

candidate for change, 1952

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first presidential candidate to use TV commercials, though he was skeptical about using the new medium. Here, a homemaker speaks upwards as if to the heavens, "High prices are just driving me crazy." Eisenhower immediately cuts in and answers benevolently, "It's another reason why I say it's time for a change."

Ike's opponent, Adlai Stevenson, wouldn’t appear on television because he thought it demeaning to a man ascending to the presidency. Instead, he had his daughter do commercials for him, literally singing his praises, adulatory as Obama Girl.

Ike answered this with his own musical spot, produced by Roy Disney, Walt's brother. Note similarity to the animation and opening march music of the "Mickey Mouse Club". Roy later produced "Our Friend The Atom", an animated commercial for the White House's "Atoms for Peace" campaign.

tips of the hat to DKR and BoingBoing

Saturday, July 26, 2008

just because you now have a door, don't forget that once you didn't

To help you get through until 10 PM tomorrow: Peggy's Promotion.

I remember when, like her, I was finally promoted out of the secretarial pool into an office. (No cubes in those days.) I was so glad for a door, I didn't care that my office was actually a closet I had to share with storage boxes from the Promotions Department.

does your niche market do curbside delivery?

Only in New York--a deli for cab drivers.

surprised this car isn't towed for harassment

as it's parked on the Upper West Side, home to the highest population of alpha-parents outside Park Slope.

Friday, July 25, 2008

friday flashback: warhol's 15 min as mr. whipple

Andrew Warhola started out as an illustrator for shoe ads, one of which won him an Art Director's Club Medal in 1959. He crossed from commercial world into art by exhibiting his shoe drawings in a NYC gallery but never lost his fascination with advertising and commercial culture.

In 1964, he staged an exhibit called "The American Supermarket", a show held in Paul Bianchini's Upper East Side gallery. The show was presented as a typical small supermarket environment, except that everything in it—the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc.—was created by six prominent pop artists of the time, including the controversial (and like-minded) Billy Apple, Mary Inman, and Robert Watts. Warhol's painting of a can of Campbell's soup cost $1,500, while each autographed can sold for $6. (Imagine the regret of  shoppers who one day, too busy to go dinner-shopping, popped the top and threw away the can.)

Interesting to me that his philosophy still holds today:
What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

poster source

Thursday, July 24, 2008

how to access banned websites--updated

A relative informs me he can't read Ad Broad at the office because his company bans blogspots--if you try to call one up on the screen you get a blackout box containing message from the CEO: "This IP is for business use only. Love, George."

I told him corporate surveillance ain't no excuse and directed him to a couple of sites (this one and this one) to help get him to the blogosphere even from the depths of his daily containment. Which you reading this obviously already know how to do.

Message to George: Recent study shows banning personal web use actually costs companies billions. (Of course, don't tell George study was conducted by PopCap, maker of online games.)

UPDATE Escape Maestro Joker advises you can also try silentsurfer or ztunnel.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

attention shoppers: it's better in the midwest

As I think I've mentioned, I've grown inured to lack of customer service, grown accustomed to sales clerks who avoid eye contact as they ring up my stuff, chatting loudly in a language I can't understand, not to me but to the clerk in the next aisle; I've come to expect that returning something to a store is such an onerous process that I'm inclined to keep the unwanted item if I can't mail it back…so imagine my delight to discover that customer service still exists, alive and well in the American Midwest. Here, clerks make small talk, looking you straight in the eye. Friendly folks greet you as you walk in the door. Savvy retailers, instead of relegating customer service to a dim, dusty closet in the back of the store, build huge, brightly lit counters positioned by the front door! Like New York stores attracting shoppers with Euros made fat by the devalued dollar, Midwest stores could lure streams of jaded shoppers from New York by advertising lower prices and upgraded shopping experience.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

airline retaliates

Usually, a trip to see family in the Midwest entails a relatively painless two hour nonstop flight but yesterday, as if to pay me back for a recent snarky post re. the industry, they cancelled my flight (withholding the news until I was at the airport, trying to check in eletronically when the kiosk flashed the ominous See Agent warning) and detoured me to Charlotte, NC where I waited for hours, which gave me time to discover that the Gracious South still exists in ladies rooms there. Incredibly, each is supplied with a trayful of treats for the Lady Traveller: hand cream, breath mints, tampons, Listerine. More incredibly to me, though the trays are unattended, takers take only a dainty amount.

I finally made it to my destination (with soft skin and inoffensive breath) but the airline's vengeance continued: my bag stayed in Charlotte.

porch lesson in parenting

A wren couple built their house on the porch of our place in the country and for weeks we've had the pleasure of watching reality bird show: nest, little blue eggs, fuzzy wrenlets, wrenlets with feathers. When we went up this weekend, however, we were surprised that birds were still there--the babies are so big now that their wings flop out if the nest. So we got the opportunity to learn how a mother bird gets her grown offspring to fly the coop-- she stops enabling them with the food deliveries, instead keeps her distance, chirping encouragingly from a branch nearby until they finally summon the courage to try their own wings. No boomerangers allowed.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BBH's Axe creative team could save the planet

From today's NY Times:
Al Gore gave a big speech about global warming last week. He was thunderous and prophetic. He said “the survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk.” So here’s a question: If the job is so huge and urgent, why is the ad campaign so pedestrian?

Mr. Gore himself has done more than anybody to put global warming on center stage, with just a PowerPoint presentation that became an Oscar-winning movie. So it’s vexing that his new campaign — so far, anyway — seems unlikely to break out of the pack of “green” advertising that, as The Times reported last week, is making consumers bored and skeptical.

There are plenty of planetary opinion leaders who could help him out...[like] whoever handled the Axe body spray contract, the one that somehow got millions of men in their 20s to obsess about personal odor management. Then you might have something.

Al, if you're reading this, contact BBH here. Please!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

when cellphone battery was a crime

Anticipation generated by the new i-phone was nothing compared to the excitement surrounding introduction of the first cell which, in 1989, came with only one feature (calling) in a handset the size and weight of a brick. Being an early adopter, I bought one. It still works great, as a doorstop.

Years later, cellphones offered more advanced features, but were still hefty enough to be used as assault weapons, as this spot for Sprint startlingly demonstrates. (note fine print disclaimer: Do not attempt.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

the new york honk

Cary Grant had it. Nelson Rockefeller had it. According to Tom Wolfe, Clay Felker had it: 
the most fashionable accent an American male could have at that time, namely, the spring of 1963. One achieved it by forcing all words out through the nostrils rather than the mouth. It was at once virile … and utterly affected.
The most Legendary Honker in the ad biz was David Ogilvy--who had the original, from London, the place from which so much of fashionable NY was imported in those days. Hear it in this rather surprising clip in which he opines on the superiority of direct advertising over general.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

the office, circa. 1959

Seeing Bette Davis double feature at a theater the other night reminded me of how much better women of a certain economic strata had it in the old days: afternoon "beauty naps", closetsful of great looking "outfits" (no mom jeans), handsome hardbox luggage to haul the outfits around whenever you travelled, (of course, plenty of willing others to do the actual hauling, for coin tips), a maid AND a housekeeper being de rigueur, even if it was just you and a spouse living in a tiny house in Vermont.

For working women (meaning women without husbands), it was a different story. Only a few jobs were actually open to you: nurse, teacher, domestic labor, sales clerk, secretary. And just one business countenanced female execs--publishing. The only way to break in was as a secretary (NOT an admin) which basically meant being slave to your boss' whims and idiosyncrasies. This could be most daunting in the rare event your boss was a woman as illustrated by Joan Crawford in The Best of Everything who supposedly was the model Streep followed for The Devil Wears Prada. Anything that requires a personal reply goes here... not here, or here, but.. here...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

does this house make my brain look small?

What would induce sentient adults to stick their heads through the dirt floor of a toxic-smelling glass house, and do it in public, in full view of camera-toting strangers? A little sign at a museum that tells them to do so. I suspect that this installation at MassMoCA is less about art than it is grist for some psych experiment involving volunteers behind the scenes keeping track of people who oblige absent artist's request, people who don't.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

tray tables, armrests, seat backs not included

Commenting on the bad news that airlines are squeezing additional revenue by selling space on boarding passes, Geo (who spent the day at an offsite and clearly had time on his hands) mused so eloquently about the future of air travel, I figured his comment deserved a post all its own.

Introducing Incremental Air.

Here's how it works, you pay just $69 for any seat on any plane to anywhere in the world. One seat, one flat fee.*

*$69 fee applicable to all flight except flights during blackout periods. Blackout periods include all days you want to fly. To fly on black out days, there is an additional $10 blackout fee. Jetway fees of $8/ticket apply. $2 check-in fees apply. $9 ticket-scanning-fee applicable on days of the week that end in Y or start with a consonant. Flight attendant service fee of $11 applies. $2 armrest fees apply. In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, a $25 oxygen-mask usage fee will be imposed. $7 security fee applies. $4 rest-room usage and upkeep fee valid. $1 carpet depreciation fee applies. $18 window fee or $17 aisle fee applicable on all flights over one minute. On all flights $22 center-seat fees apply. $42 banal announcements from the flight deck fees are active effective March 1, 2001. $9 lighting fees for cabin light apply. $22 aircraft lighting fees apply. $19 fuel-hike surcharge fees where applicable. Fees applicable in entire solar system. $75 additional fee fee applicable on all additional fees. $6 Public address announcement fee. $8 recline fee. $25 airport usage fee, applicable in the continental US and outside the continental US. $55 border crossing fee. 3 magic beans fee fie fo fum fee. $4 tire inflation fee. $7 air fee. $8 mechanics' retirement fund fee. $72 pigs at the trough fee. $12 award-winning inflight magazine fees apply. $6 pillow and blanket removal fees apply. $27 seatbelt fees applicable to passengers with seats. $3 tray table usage fees apply. Other fees, taxes, surcharges, penalties and sundry charges will be applied without further notification and at an additional $25 additional unspecified fee fee.

new frontier in small space: boarding-pass ads

Airlines that charge whopping amounts for amenities fliers once took for granted--meals, legroom, checked luggage, headphones--are now selling advertisers space on your boarding pass.

According to today's Wall Street Journal:
Delta Air Lines Inc. passengers checking in online for Las Vegas Tuesday will notice something new on their boarding passes: lots of ads...The move is just the latest attempt by cash-strapped airlines to generate more revenue -- this time by charging advertisers for fliers' eyeballs.

mom-jeans-free zones

Agency Tart rants (quite rightly) against mom jeans at ad agencies.
There should be a rule that if you work for a halfway respectable ad agency, you should not be allowed to wear jeans with the pockets up by your kidneys.
But for some ad broads, wearing mom jeans is a helpless addiction that started gradually, years ago, with commercials like this. (For the record, this Ad Broad doesn't wear jeans, she wears pleated skirts and white gloves and two-toned pumps and--for Big Client Pitches--a matching pillbox hat.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

talk of the town: Beijing

Just spoke with daughter in Beijing who reports rain, rain, rain. Why? They're shooting clouds with electricity to control the weather so that outlook for Olympics is blue skies & sun. (Word is, the tactic worked great for Bill Gates' recent visit.)

She also enlightened me on the hilarious translation error that Dear Jane Sample posted a few days ago. Chinese characters in the picture mean Cafeteria--my daughter is convinced that English-speaking printers amused themselves by printing up the mistake.

In other China news, this just in from Reuters:
Officials have issued a standard chanting routine that all Chinese spectators should employ during competitions (translated as "Olympics! Add fuel!" with two claps and then both thumbs up, then "China! Add fuel!" with two more claps and raised fists, according to a June Reuters dispatch). ("Add fuel" is apparently a traditional motivational chant in China.) (via StandUpDad via News of the Weird)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

what happens when farmers send offspring to law school

That lame heifer we sold you? Put it on ebay.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

it's your funeral--but only if you really want one

Driving by this cemetery lit by gorgeous morning sun, where most of the stones seemed decades, even centuries old, I wondered--are graves becoming a thing of the past?

Have you noticed that funerals are becoming outré--er, passé (thanks for the catch, Fritinancy)--being replaced by the more fashionable memorial service or even-- increasingly, alarmingly, no service at all. Several relatives and a neighbor passed away this year and I was startled that their passing didn't merit any kind of group recognition. When I gently inquired about this, I was informed that "the person wouldn't have wanted a big deal made of his/her death." But aren't funerals actually meant for the living?

It may be last millenium, but just for the record--Friends and Family reading this: I want my exit observed with a jolly, rip-roaring party and an old-fashioned grave you'll feel obligated to visit. Condolences!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

only in vermont: telephone pole porn

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

celebrating the red, WHITE and blue

Members Only Country Club Picnic Dress Code: knee-length creased shorts preferably in Nantucket Red (pink), leather belt studded with brass horses or seashells, ironed polo shirt, patriotic headgear, annual income exceeding GNP of small country, expert command of Stuff White People Like.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

dark comedy from the Consumer Product Safety Commission

For your edification and (unintentional) entertainment: a low-budget industrial by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission demo-ing how very many ways firecrackers can go wrong. Have a blast!

via Very Short List

Thursday, July 3, 2008

good excuse for not hitting the gym today: study links fitness to violent crime

From the New York Times:
A new study finds that mesomorphs (athletically fit people) make up an unusually large percentage of the prison population, from 62 percent to 73 percent.

The study found that [people less fit] were less likely to have been imprisoned for violent crimes.
So go ahead, let that gym membership lapse. Working out can get you arrested.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

hey, kids! looks like ad agencies are hiring

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

lost in translation

The teenaged daughter of a friend just left for Nice where she'll be staying with a French family in a homestay program. (Oh, to live the life our kids do!)

The homestay family kindly emailed to ask if there were any rules they should abide by.

My friend doesn't speak French, but her ex-husband does, and, after discussion with her, he wrote a letter explaining their parenting customs. Unsure of his grammar, and a busy man, he wrote the letter in English, then put it through Google Translator to get the French version. This he sent to the homestay parents, cc'd to my friend.

My friend, eager to read the letter, re-Googled it to translate the French back to English. And was amused to discover her ex--(a professor of English)--sounding like someone who can't pass TOEFEL.

Please do not hesitate to ask a question about Katie once she arrives. Please do not count on it for information on what his parents do or not do it! You can get a bending of truth to meet their needs. I think you understand a parent yourself. Katie is a very nice girl and

Like many teenagers Katie likes to sleep late and at home, we need to tell him to wake up! I think it will be better on the behaviour with you!

there goes the cookbook, another publishing casualty

When our daughter volunteered to make dinner, I reminded her where the cookbooks are. Cookbooks? she said, incredulous at me and my luddite ways.

Which is how I discovered SmittenKitchen, a food-porn site favorited by foodies everywhere, recipes from a writer/photographer who chronicles culinary adventures in the 80 sq. ft kitchen of her NYC tenement walkup. Even if you hate to cook, you'll be seized with sudden desire fling yourself at a stove.