Baked & Wired.

DC has more cupcake specialty shops than I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s kind of ridiculous. The coworker who sits next to me decided to look up how many cupcake purveyors there were within a 2 mile radius of our office. Turns out there are 12. And only 4 of those are bakeries that do more than just cupcakes… the rest are considered to do nothing BUT cupcakes.

I can’t help but wonder if the fad is about to jump the shark with openings of cupcake megachains Crumbs and Sprinkles.

When I first started at AKQA, everyone raved about Baked & Wired. They put down Georgetown Cupcake as though it was baked with sawdust and broken glass.

Admittedly, I fell in love with Baked and Wired almost immediately. The strawberry cupcake is one of their bestsellers for a reason. A big, golden cupcake laden with chunks of berry, topped with a fat mound of pink buttercream. Pure heaven.

Then, I tried a couple others. And then I hit a couple strawberry cupcakes that weren’t that fruity. Or the gold cake in it was somewhat dry or flavorless on a bad day.

I plugged up my ears and ventured off to the tourist hell that has become Georgetown Cupcake. The first time I went, I didn’t have to stand in the notorious long line of giggly tourist girls who are so excited to finally eat a treat featured on their favorite cable TV show (DC Cupcakes).

I went in and ordered a Peanut Butter and Chocolate cupcake, and a caramel apple cupcake. Both were glorious.

I’d found the first time I’d had a chocolate cupcake from baked and wired, I could barely taste the chocolate. It was clear from the first bite of both Georgetown cupcakes that the quality of the ingredients were consistently high. No shortage of intense chocolate flavor popping in my mouth. The caramel core in the Caramel Apple cupcake oozed out and coated all the teeth in my lower jaw.

Gooey heaven.

I recently called off my cupcake obsessions and abstained from the cupcake madness for a few weeks. Then, I went back to Georgetown Cupcake again with the coworker who’d done the original cupcake location research.

Today, I got a Vanilla Birthday cupcake and a Chocolate Lava. I started with the Vanilla. I knew from that first bite, from the first moment I eyed a few specks of Madagascar vanilla bean, that this was a superior cupcake. And I never thought their buttercream would beat out Baked and Wired’s… but it did. This is what a cupcake should taste like.

So, now, I have cupcake guilt. While I adore the staff and so very much about the cupcakes at Baked and Wired, I’m on the verge of changing my allegiance. For $3.75/cupcake, Baked and Wired needs to wow me with the intensity of their chocolate and how many berries they’re able to pack into a single strawberry cupcake. Right now… I feel like they’ve lost sight of their craft.

Georgetown Cupcake.

Meanwhile, there are 10 other places to try in that 2 mile radius. We’re tempted to put them all to the test. As soon as we get some stretchy pants and extra cash.

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Digital 101: The List

October 5, 2010

If you can't see this image, your phone or computer sucks. Just saying.So, you wanna know what’s going on in the world of digital advertising, eh? After talking to a couple people here at my new digital agency, I created this list of blogs and websites to check on a regular basis.

I’ve officially now been on the digital side of this business for a full 91 days. And one thing I can tell traditional copywriters who are aspiring digital copywriters… it doesn’t hurt to be a bit of a geek. It helps if you understand web design to some degree. It REALLY helps if you’re extraordinarily organized. And it also helps if you can separate folly from function. (i.e…. Online consumers aren’t as likely to jive with your apps if they’re just “fun.” They need to be impressive, well-developed, functional, and creative in their functionality.)

At least that’s my impression so far.

Anyway, here’s the list. I’m finding it very helpful so far. So, I figure I’d pass it along.

Mashable: the self-dubbed “Social Media Guide.” Lots of good stuff here.

Mobile Marketer: if you’re really getting into mobile, here’s a great place to check out what’s going on.

Mobile Awesomeness: great little site for looking at what mobile sites are going up. Wonderful place for seeing design possibilities… what works, and what doesn’t.

Banner Blog: whether you like it or not, banner ads are still a big part of online advertising. See some great examples from all over the world showing how it doesn’t have to suck.

TechCrunch: focuses more on the business of being in mobile. They define themselves as being “dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news.”

Engadget: Gadgets and everything that goes along with em.

Gizmodo: more gadget and tech geekery.

A Whole New World.

August 12, 2010

Ok. I swear. There’s a reason why I haven’t blogged in a while. Long story short, new job. New city. New everything. Actually best couple of months I’ve had in a long while, but I digress…

I’ve moved on up to DC to work at AKQA on the Volkswagen account. Definitely a totally different shindig than anything I ever did at past agencies. Also a bit of a shock to the system coming from Publicis Dallas. Examples:

  • People rarely go home before 7 at AKQA.
  • Technical abbreviations and thinky words are standard fare.
  • Some people ::gasp:: don’t eat meat here.
  • I haven’t ONCE heard anyone talk about football since arriving here.

I have had to re-learn how to use my brain again. Coming to a digital agency like AKQA has proved to be more than just a creative job. I thought being a tech-geek would be enough to make me a total pro at this job, but apparently, you need absorb a lot of intricate know-how to communicate with all the people you work with. I don’t just work with a Creative Director and Art Director and Designers anymore. There’s a huge team of programmers sitting only feet away. They speak mostly in 3-letter-acronyms. And in meetings, they all know what each other is talking about.

Luckily, I’m learning. Slowly but surely. When offers started to roll in for new jobs, I could have taken the more traditional route. With a more senior title and whatnot. However, I wasn’t really thinking about how to make my 2010 better. I was thinking more about 2014. And 2018. If I didn’t learn the digital side of this business at some point, I’d be screwing myself. And fooling myself, thinking that what I read on Gizmodo and Lifehacker would be enough to make me “techie” would only be selling myself short in the long run.

So now… I present to you… the new adventures of an old copywriter. Join me as I navigate the UCWOAHRDA (uber-confusing waters of a highly-respected digital agency).

Note: this job will probably cause the vocabulary I use in this blog to go from a 5th to 7th-grade reading level. Prepare yourself.

Even though I love animals (both to cuddle with and slather barbecue sauce on), I have generally dismissed most of PETA’s advertising. It’s never very smart. Just goes for shock value. And often doesn’t totally make sense.

Hence, this effort featuring Chantelle Houghton (who?). The copy reads “Eating Meat Got You Down? Fight Impotence. Go Vegetarian!” Then the ad encourages you to order a starter kit for going veggie.

Ok. Now. Let’s dissect this…

Hot girl. Limp hot dog. You got my attention. I want to know what the ad SAYS now.

“Got me down?”  “Fight impotence?”

Are you indirectly saying I should give up male genitalia?

What else could that limp hot dog and frowning sexy girl mean? Incidentally, there are plenty of limp vegetarian foods. Ever tried holding up a piece of tofu?

So… my quick take-away from this ad is: give up dick.

I know, I know. That’s not what they’re trying to say. But that’s the problem. Advertising’s sole purpose is to COMMUNICATE. And this ad makes almost no logical sense.

It ALMOST could work if you took out “Fight Impotence.” Maybe that’s where it’s throwing me.

Either way, this ad actually made me want to go get a hot dog for dinner tonight. Mmmm. Hot dogs.

Call it a rant. Call it a manifesto. Maybe what I’m about to say is something that many of us ad-people believe, but hey. Here goes nuthin’.

After 5 years in advertising and 30 years of being a female, I have come to a few conclusions about how advertising can better speak to women.

When I first entered this business, I worked on unisex-type products. A website. Cars. A restaurant. A soft drink. Etc. I never thought I’d have to work on a “chick product,” and honestly, didn’t really want to. I didn’t even have many girl-friends until later in college. I was never a tomboy, but I just had lots of guy friends. I was that girl at the mall who wanted to hit Best Buy instead of Banana Republic. I didn’t dig the cattiness and drama of teenage girldom. So, I waited it out.

Since I was never too great at chatting it up with other gals (I never had a celebrity crush, had my own uninfluenced sense of fashion, and didn’t really think so-and-so’s baby was very cute), I really didn’t want to work on women’s products in advertising.

Then I worked on a couple of fitness brands geared towards women. And a couple packaged goods geared towards moms. Frankly, I cringed at each assignment. In my mind, advertising to women meant doing ads like this:

(By the way… why are they eating YOGURT at a WEDDING?)

But, I learned a lot working on women’s brands. If there’s any ONE piece of advice that you take from these ramblings, walk away with this: Stop talking to women as though they’re women.

When you write to women, write to people — who just happen to be women. It’s that simple.

We don’t just laugh at jokes about men and bad clothes.

We don’t all go craaazy for puppies, weddings, gossip, romantic comedies, and strawberry daiquiris (mmm… daiquiris…)

Many of us like bacon and fart jokes and politics and sports.

Even the girly-girls.

Even the sentimental new moms.

Even the spoiled divas.

Yes, fart jokes.

Knowing that some products can’t avoid being related to things that are super feminine and girly (feminine products, cosmetics, etc), some brands have done a great job of poking fun at stereotypes. I like these:

But — and if you’re still reading this, mazel tov — here’s a fun test:

Are you a dude? Did you laugh at those ads?

Guess what. So did I.

And most women of the women I know did too.

And we’re the ones who are supposed to buy those products.

I say, now that we’ve addressed all the crappy female stereotypes and made fun of them, let’s just move on. Let’s just write some ads that stop saying “hey – you’re a woman, so you’ll laugh at this” and just write ads that say “hey — you’ll laugh at this.”

Personally, I’d love to see some more physical humor in female-targeted ads. And yes. Maybe even a fart joke.

Yeah. I said it. You don’t see many “mad propz” these days, but this one is well-deserved.

Back in 2005, when I started at BBDO NY, there was this writer-guy, Alec Brownstein, who sat around the corner from me. While being a junior at BBDO was somewhat intimidating, knowing guys like Alec made it a lot less so. He was always ready to chat it up and have a laugh. We both worked on Pizza Hut, but for me — it was the occasional assignment. This guy was doing ALL Pizza Hut. And he still was cool and smiling and shit. (I will always admire that. I can make lemonade out of lemons, but I can only pretend for so long. At some point, everyone cracks and says  ‘hey, this isn’t lemonade! This is crappy lemon-water. Fuck this.’)

Anyway, Alec went to work for Maxim. Then Publicis. It was a crazy few years, but we stayed in touch on and off. And then… he got a job at Y&R. An AWESOME job — but even more awesome about it — the way he scored it.

Click here to watch an interview with Alec and his new boss on Good Morning America.

Not only did he score a killer gig, he scored some big awards. Like One Show pencils.

Anyway, really proud. Alec isn’t just a smart dude, he’s a good dude.

Way to go.

It appears that American Airlines is attempting to speak directly to African-American travelers. This attempt is wrapped in a neat little bow called the Black Atlas.

If you're not black, DON'T click here.

Ok. I get it. They’re trying to push a segment that may not think about travel as much to travel more. Or something.

But then… what about the Jewish Atlas? Gay Atlas? Woman Atlas?

It seems a little odd/uncomfortable to me that they are very directly talking to one cultural group only. It very glaringly says “Hey! Black Folks! We want more of your money!!”

While the travel suggestions are good and the overall thinking is interesting, I hate pulling a demographic aside and saying, “hey. We’re talking just to you. The way we think you’d like to be talked to.”

Any thoughts..?

By now, you’ve probably seen one of the many stories about the iPhone 4. How some young engineer from Apple got shitfaced in a bar and lost it. And then some guy found it and sold it to Gizmodo. And then Gizmodo did a whole spread on it. And then how Steve Jobs blew up and called Gizmodo himself, demanding it back.

Here’s some of the coverage:

Gizmodo’s Expose

Article about the Debacle

After reading all this and discussing it with my coworkers, we were on the fence. Was this a stunt for free PR? Or real?

Would the kid who lost the phone have to move to Micronesia and live out his days fearing the wrath of Steve Jobs? Or was this all planned?

If Gizmodo really DID buy “stolen” property for $5,000, then… how does that reflect on them as journalists? Or, well… bloggers?

My gut reaction is this: Apple didn’t need this stunt. Sales of iPhones had no sign of slowing down — only increasing. Apple has a cult-like following of fanboys, and frankly, a stunt like this seemed almost BENEATH them. They just don’t need it. The new iPhone would sell itself.

If we find out that it was a PR stunt, I’ll be pretty disappointed in Apple. I like that they’re a class-act (for the most part), and a shameless ploy like this would just make them seem kinda… base. Ick.

Anyway…  just in case you have ill feelings about Gizmodo after reading this, consider this article.  After reading that, how can you not still LOVE them?

Back when I was in ad school, I had a hard time getting sooooo much work done. Truly, it’s hard enough to complete a crapload of work and also do it well.

To beat drowsiness, I drank a lot of Diet Coke and espresso. It was especially easy to down 8 Diet Cokes in a sitting back in Atlanta — free refills everywhere you go! NYC restaurants aren’t usually quite so generous.

By the time I’d had about 3-4 Diet Cokes, I’d start to get buzzy and spinny. I’d be louder. I’d get hyper. And my ideas got crazier… and by crazier, I do mean better.

Soon, I figured out that I truly wrote better on a lot of caffeine. And then, I couldn’t write well at all unless I was completely high on diet cola.

I’ve been on and off with caffeine addiction. On those days where I pound a couple liters of diet soda, I definitely work better. But I also become extremely irritable. I bounce around like a freakin cokehead for 4 hours and then crash hard for 12. It’s very tiring being a caffeine addict.

When I look back at my portfolio, I can often remember when/where I thought of my best headlines or ideas. And 99% of the time, I was off-the-wall high on caffeine. “Oh! That one was at Starbucks!” “Oh yeah — that was at Panera after my 12th Diet Pepsi.”

Do I owe my career to caffeine? Would I be a secretary or a cell phone salesman if not for that precious molecule? Or would I, in my addictive nature, have reached out for a harder substance? And become a full-on addict of Naughty Snorty?

And how many ad creatives could attribute many of their successes to caffeine consumption? I doubt I’m alone. I tend to think this entire industry owes a LOT to this nasty little chemical.

Anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank caffeine for all its given me. Thank you for all the laughs, for getting me jobs, the late nights and early mornings. Caffeine, I salute you.

It’s all Her Fault.

April 14, 2010

Ok. Sorry I have been MIA for the past week. Sort of an interesting story…

For years, I’ve had the urge to do some kind of animal-related volunteer work. When I lived in NYC, I did a dog-walk at BARC in Brooklyn. (A great way to spend an afternoon and help a pooch in need stretch his or her little legs).

I’ve also considered adopting a second dog in addition to my French Bulldog, Hildy. However, she’s the kind of dog who will run around a dog park from human to human, ignoring all the other dogs. I wasn’t sure if a second dog was a good idea or not.

Cut to this past Sunday. Every year, Dallas holds an event at the Cotton Bowl called the Dallas Dog Bowl. They essentially turn the field of the Cotton Bowl into a giant, off-leash dog park with lots of vendors. It’s a lot of fun. Here are a couple pictures a photog shot of Hildy running amok:

Anyway, on our way in, I noticed a few rescue organizations set up with lots of cages and tents. I wanted to stop and look, but I decided to hold off till later.

On our way out, Hildy and I perused the crates and found the SWEETEST little Basenji mix named Yoda (note the ears).  She was so scared, so sweet, and only 3 mos old. One look at her sad little eyes and I knew I couldn’t leave her there. Especially since the organization was “desperate for fosters!” Apparently, they’d pretty much run out of homes to place these dogs in.

So I filled out a two-page application, got the thumbs up on the puppy from a friend who swung by, and I carried the puppy all the way to my car. She still didn’t know how to walk on a leash. In a matter of minutes, I was a foster mom.

It’s been a hectic week, but it looks like a good friend of mine will be adopting her on Friday! Which is great — Hildy has had a lot of fun playing with the puppy, and now they can remain friends. I’ve been calling her Rhoda (a bit more feminine than Yoda) and it looks like her name will become Roxy soon).

How does this story relate to the whole “from the front lines of the advertising industry” thing? Well… I’ll tell ya. For the past few years, I have not had time to volunteer. Advertising is a very chaotic, self-absorbing business by nature. And the idea of taking time out to just donate to a cause might seem somewhat impossible. I mean, sure — I wrote a couple checks to the SPCA last year — and it helps. And working on a pro-bono PSA campaign is quite nice. However, I’ve always felt that physically volunteering is so much more rewarding.

It’s one thing to donate money for puppy food. It’s another thing to help potty-train and give some love to an abandoned puppy… so that it can become a good pet for someone’s family, and not just another statistic.

I really want to encourage all of you busy ad folks out there to volunteer. Fostering Yoda/Rhoda/Roxy was a gamble and a bit time-consuming, but I was able to integrate it into my own life. My own schedule.

And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.