Go Canada! Next Week's 'New Yorker' Filled With All-Canadian Advertising

Due to its soaring value against the American ...
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We’re not just hockey players and beer!

Check out the June 28 issue of the New Yorker — where every ad sold is from a Canadian institution, school or bank. The magazine has only done this once before, and the advertiser was Target.

This time, the elite readers of the New Yorker will be introduced to the country’s private schools, places to visit, banks. As a proud Canadian, I’m always delighted when my country gets a shred of recognition or acknowledgement — I bet most Americans don’t know that the two nations have the largest trading relationship in the world, doing billions of dollars worth of business with each other annually.

It’s a good time for Canadian advertisers to make the move because the loonie (that’s the Canadian $1 gold colored coin) is near par with the U.S. — it was 65 cents for many years. That makes Canada more expensive for American visitors and college students (who pay non-resident fees, often four times higher), but still well worth a look.

Many New Yorkers are sending their kids to McGill, and I’m always touting my alma mater, the University of Toronto — tuition for non-Canadians is still much less than for comparable American colleges.

Plus you get to live in a foreign country where the drinking age is 18.

Jurassic Park Redux: The Wall Street Journal's New NYC Edition Debut

T-Rex Dinosaur
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Welcome to Jurassic Park. Daily print newspapers are supposed to be dead — watch the the T. Rex and the Brontosaurus claw at one another anyway!

I was underwhelmed by today’s first edition of the Journal’s new, much-anticipated Metro section.

The new section is called Greater New York, ( a sop to advertisers that they’ll also include the suburban hedge-fund wives of Scarsdale and Greenwich, CT and Short Hills, NJ) and the best story on front page today — albeit not a breaking news piece — was about a rat infestation on the tony Upper East Side. Chewed Manolos!

One front-page piece looked at the state deciding whether or not to borrow money to avoid a looming $1 billion shortfall and another focused on a commercial real estate story about a Fifth Avenue property. An inside page offered tips on how to swipe your Metrocard properly, a fairly basic urban skill. There were two food stories, two pieces about auction houses, a Tribeca penthouse at $28 million and the Mark Hotel, one of the city’s oldest and most elegant, now struggling for business.

If you’re rich — as most Journal readers are — this sort of thing matters. For the rest of us, who just live here, not so compelling.

Only sports columnist Jason Gay — as WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show admired this morning in their assessment of the new section — won plaudits for his self-deprecating sense of humor:

1. Goes without saying, but this column will be primarily dedicated to New York-area fox-hunting and squash. On occasion, it will cover fringe sports, like that science experiment with a basketball in Madison Square Garden.

2. We’ll do our best to devote equal attention to the Yankees and Mets. On occasions where there is a conflict, we will simply lavish praise on the Yankees. Just kidding, Mets—calm down! Stop being the Jan Brady of New York sports.

The tone of the new section feels stiff and tentative, sort of New York Observer light.

It should be an interesting horse race. The Post is unrepentantly itself — today’s wood (front page) had Boobquake — and the Times will retain its own perspective. The Times and Journal will be duking it out for affluent readers, so their race for ad dollars is one to watch, reports today’s Post:

Shares of the Times Co. fell for a second day on Friday, dropping 68 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $11.61. On Thursday, the company reported first-quarter results that showed ad declines were easing but that the market had not yet hit bottom.

Despite the pressure on ad rates, media buyers don’t foresee advertisers abandoning the Times for the Journal’s Greater New York.

“It’s an attractive opportunity for advertisers looking to heavy up in the New York market,” said George Jansen, director of print at WPP’s GroupM media-buying unit. “Do I think they will pull out of the Times and put it all in the Journal? Absolutely not.”

The Times has some factors in its favor. Roughly half of the paper’s more than 900,000 daily print subscribers are in the New York market.

While the Journal has 1.6 million print subscribers, Greater New York is expected to reach about 300,000 readers. The paper also skews more heavily male than the Times, which makes it a tougher sell for retailers.

Still, Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman are advertising in the new section, according to Ad Age. Both also advertise in the Times and fall into the paper’s high-end, New York-centric retail base.

Feel the earth tremble. Let the newspaper war begin!

Brand Me — Not, Not With A Hot Iron. How Do You Become A 'Brand'?

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Independent writers these days, we are told, must create, nurture and sell our “brand.”

If only I had one.

Great piece on that issue  — I can’t link to it, sorry! — in this month’s GQ, by Shalom Auslander: funny, moving, bitter, thoughtful. He finds the whole idea of becoming a brand, as do I, freaking nuts — sorry, risible; (if my brand is smart-girl, I had best select thoughtful, erudite diction.)

I understand, and get, style, voice, consistency. Monet and Manet look as different from one another, equally gorgeous and immediately identifiable to my eye, as Jenny Holzer and Damien Hirst. The Eagles aren’t Arcade Fire. Rachael Ray isn’t Julia Child.

But branding one’s writing? That’s a tough one, as every plagiarist apologizing these days, and it’s almost daily, points out. You can be rilly pretentious and write in so florid and bizarre a way that it’s your brand — but who wants to read it?

The idea of a personal brand is also deeply abhorrent to anyone who believes in complexity and in modesty. Any intelligent writer knows that stringing words together is damned difficult to do well, in the best way, which is in a way so deeply unbranded, so unobtrusive your readers slide seamlessly into it without ooohing and aaahing at its “watchwatchme-ness” as they read.

Great writing never tells you it’s great. It just takes your damn breath away.

An intelligent writer, in my view, does not pretend to compare themselves, nor wishes to, to a can of sugary beverage or a gleaming new SUV. Reduced, say, to three tidy adjectives. (Or is this a good thing? Is complexity over-rated?)

A brand is known by its easily-defined characteristics, wherein lies the problem.

I’ve always been, and hope to be for a few more decades, a mix of silly, deeply serious, compassionate, brutally practical, geeky, adventurous, curious, technophobic — but attached to my new Itouch. I read by candle-light, am passionate about using objects that pre-date the 19th. century but thrill to the smell of jet fuel, my heart beating faster at the exquisite design of an Embraer jet wing.

Born in June, I’m a Gemini, the twins’ sign, so I’m allowed, astrologically speaking, to be two people. That’s on a slow day…

A brand is consistent. I am consistently — not.

Who’s that simple? Who wants to be?

Water Guns And Crayons — Welcome To 'Creative' Meetings

Leaders attend a breakfast meeting during the ...
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Is this your kind of meeting?

Water guns and crayons, reports today’s Wall Street Journal, help participants loosen up, think freely and brainstorm without fear of criticism and negativity.

Dixon Schwabl Advertising Inc., in Rochester, N.Y., tries to lower the inhibitions of its 82 employees by arming them with water guns, which workers are instructed to bring to all meetings. Anyone who passes a negative comment at the meeting is bound to get wet.

“It helps them be more comfortable because no one will be criticized or scrutinized,” says Lauren Dixon, the marketing and advertising firm’s chief executive.

Anonymity can also help lower inhibitions. During meetings at cloud-computing firm Box.net Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., Jen Grant gives workers seven minutes to jot down as many thoughts as possible on Post-It notes, without having to write their names. When time is up, the suggestions are put on a wall for the employees to read and rearrange.

“I tell them to not think about whether the idea is dumb or too costly, which allows them to think as big as they can,” she says.

I like the idea of finding ways to make people, when possible, less self-conscious and more comfortable in meetings. Many people hate speaking out publicly for fear of looking or sounding stupid, or being ridiculed, while blowhards and brown-nosers can easily dominate. And knee-jerk negativity is a real creativity-crusher.

Many of the cool ideas we use and value today were risibly out-there, but someone found the guts to express them.

Have you found a way to make your meetings work better?