Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sexism is alive and well, oh yes

In a former life I was so interested in feminism that I was doing a PhD on its history.  Back then I hadn’t encountered much sexism directly, although I was very aware of its existence.  I was more interested in it in an abstract way, of what gender actually meant, and I disappeared so far up my own Lacanian arse that I didn’t manage to get my research written up.

Since then I haven’t encountered much sexism directly either, although I am perhaps more aware of its existence.  I don’t work in a sexist environment and I have never felt that I couldn’t do something because I am a woman.  I’m lucky.  I don’t think I am affected by the pay gap, and since I don’t have children I have not really come up against any of the hurdles that can entail for women.

However, I am extremely aware of the latent sexism/chauvinism in the industry I work in.  Advertising/tech is dominated by men at its higher echelons.  Maybe this is because of the childcare thing, since we work stupid macho hours and do a lot of travelling.  However, that can’t be the only reason.  Time and again we see the same men being asked to write articles or speak at conferences, and when women are invited it appears tokenistic, even to the extent of being open about ‘needing a woman’ so thinking of her.

I went to the Social Buzz Awards panel discussion last week and the content was rather disappointing – I was expecting a conversation about insight, innovation and ideas, but instead it was largely focused on the personality required to run good social media, and whether women were better at social media than men because they are better at multitasking and communication.

A twitter argument began the event because of the 8 panelists, there was only one woman, who didn’t attend the event. The panel just didn’t represent the social media practitioner audience – which was a healthy 50-50 split of men and women.

I didn’t really enjoy that discussion much.  I would much rather have addressed the issue head on than on Twitter, which just felt passive aggressive.  I don’t want to come across as petty.  This feels like a serious issue.  It is a serious issue.

It is comforting to know that this cause has been taken up by influential, international names in the industry such as Farrah Bostic, Cindy Gallop and Edward Boches.  The toomanywhitemen hashtag highlights not just the gender unbalance but the ethnic one too, although I guess this is more relevant in places outside of Scotland.

On the day of the International Marketing Festival (which featured a lot of male speakers) we held the inaugural She Says Scotland event.  It was really fun to do, and we were quite aware of the contrast between the two events.  She Says has been going since 2007, having started in London/New York, and it’s about giving women a platform, to share their ideas and experience.  If women can become better known via this organisation, help to put them top of mind when ‘normal’ conferences are being planned then it will have done part of its job. It’s not just about giving women a voice in the industry though, there is a mentoring system and it’s all about helping each other.  You don’t have to be a woman to come to the events either.

I am glad that Dominique took the plunge and decided to get it started in Scotland.  We need it.  Watch this space for details of the next event, which will be in Glasgow…

How to sum up?  Well, I guess I am a feminist because talk of ‘ladies’ and ‘better communicators’ and too many men speakers at conferences pisses me off.  I think we’d be better off if we all tried to make a change and help to make the great women working in this industry more visible.  What do you think?  Is feminism a dirty word?  Is it all about sexism?

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Is invention strategy the answer?

Ooh, just saw this post of Bud Caddell’s.  Now I am not going to apply for a job in LA any time soon (having found the 50 mile commute to Edinburgh a complete killer) but I absolutely love the concept of Invention Strategy.  I think it is a really neat way of putting what planners/strategists do in digitally led agencies.  So beautifully simple and succinct.  And everyone loves a good Venn, don’t they?

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Procrastinators Anonymous 3

Every so often I like to post something about procrastination.  Like this ace film and this encouraging thing.

Here’s another article related to procrastination which is about banishing your inner critic.  This popped into my RSS this morning and it was very apt because I had a dream about every single thing I have ever worried about last night.  This dream stopped me from getting on with the very important task of sleeping.  It’s nice to be reminded not to be so hard on yourself, even if it is by a blog article.

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The arrogance of bloggers

Just came across this article  about the arrogance of bloggers.

I’m not going to go into the navel-gazing it inspired in me.

Just read it.  (And that means you, Seth Godin.)

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At least 10 good reasons to check out Social Media Week

Many of you will know about Social Media Week already, but for those of you who don’t, it is a week-long conference, held in a number of different cities world-wide, covering many aspects of social media, with speakers from all around the world and from all kinds of industries.

One of the best things about it is that all the events in the programme are free, so you can pop in and out to the things that interest you, rather than having to commit to a whole day.  You do have to register for talks, though, so get in there and register early to avoid disappointment.

This year we are lucky for it to be held in Glasgow, and I have just spent a wee bit of time booking in to some of the events.  There are a whole lot to choose from – although some are beginning to ‘sell out’.

When I say ‘at least 10 reasons’, here are more than 10 events I thought were worth popping into:

Integration of Channels

This is a subject close to my heart – and I am always interested in knowing what other people think about this, and what their approach is.  Particularly when I work with them!

Fashion Blogging 101

This will be very glam, I am hoping.

Psychology of Social Media

This should be good, with three speakers coming from completely different angles.

Social Storytelling

Lovely thing, storytelling.  I’ve mentioned it before (although I can’t find the post, maybe I dreamt it).

Managing your digital personality

Something lots of people/brands I am not going to mention could do with some advice on!

Blogging for success

Exciting title, hopefully full of great tips.

How and why you should build an effective online community

Think this will be a good one, interesting looking speakers.

Sport and social media

There is so much scope for brands who sponsor sports (or sponsor anything, in fact) within social media.  I’m going to this and expect to take lots of notes!

Dirty Pretty Digital Things

This sounds fun, although it clashes with the event below…

What’s next in blogging

This sounds great – a keynote from a Revolution/Marketing journo about what’s coming up.  Plus it’s in the lovely Blythswood.

Snake Oil Salesman…

This looks like a good talk – how to know how to hire the right agency for the job.

Social Buzz Awards

This promisess trends and insights.  Very promising.

Where do good ideas come from?

Your chance to see me blush and quake in my Converse.  Probably.

There’s loads more in there.  Have a dig around, see what you think.  Should be fun!

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My top 5 albums to listen to whilst travelling

I am on a train, reading WG Sebald. His writing never ceases to amaze me:

‘There is something illusionistic and illusory about the relationship of time and space as we experience it in travelling, which is why whenever we come home from elsewhere we never feel quite sure if we really have been abroad.’

Anyway, I recently heard (at a presentation given by @LadyLele) about theta waves. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theta_rhythm) These aren’t well understood but they are apparently brainwaves you get when you’re not sleeping but zoning out. They’re associated with learning and memory. Daydreaming. They might even help you get good ideas.

I think I get these when I’m in the shower or on a long walk or bike ride, but also on a long train journey. I zone in and out, not really conscious of what I am thinking about, but thinking all the time.

This state is often enhanced by what I am listening to on my iPod at the time, so here are my top 5 theta-wave-enhancing travelling albums.

1. The Orb: U.F. Orb

I first took this album on a long journey when I visited friends in Wales around the time of my 16th birthday. I was delighted to discover that they didn’t do much there except listen to dub, smoke weed and go to parties, and I associate this album with being at parties in barns and squats, sleeping in cars, and being present at the world record attempt for rolling the longest joint of all time.

2. The Happy Mondays: Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches

School trip to the Vendee in 1990 = nearly a whole day in a coach full of 14 year olds singing The Bangles’ ‘Eternal Flame’ and being bus-sick. I had a copy of this on one side of a C90 and The Stone Roses on the other, ran my batteries down rewinding the cassette over and over again. This side of the tape wore out I loved it so much. It was excellent for plotting my revenge on mediocre pop music. (Which was never carried out.)

3. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavillion

I got this album in the winter of 2009-10 and played it a lot, when I was doing the daily commute from Glasgow to Edinburgh. It was cold and dark all the time and snowy a lot of it, and I was always tired and a bit depressed. This album gave me optimism, made me think of summer. Now it reminds me of winter.

4. Bonnie Prince Billie: The Letting Go

I had a client in Inverness and the regular train journey was beautiful and romantic. And long. Made me wistful. And bored. And a bit train sick.

5. Radiohead: OK Computer

This album was released the summer before I re-started university. Like everyone else, I went crazy for this album and played it non-stop. If you listen to it end to end, it’s like reading a long article about the state of the world except it’s up to you to decide what the key points are.

So, that’s my list. What are your favourite meditative travelling tunes? Or do you prefer to move in silence?

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Nothing is unthinkable

I came across Will Burns’ post Nothing is Unthinkable via Neil Perkin’s blog post of the month feature today. (If you aren’t familiar with this regular feature, it is definitely worth following, and participating in, and looking back at, if you like reading clever people saying clever stuff…)

I really like this article because it fits nicely with all the thinking I have been doing recently about ideas, where ideas come from, and how to get good ones. It focuses around how someone said ‘There are no new ideas’ and deflated everyone’s enthusiasm.

Apparently (according to Brainyquote, that bastion of useful less ful information) the quote is originally attributed to Audre Lorde, who I had never really heard of. Perhaps because I don’t like poetry. Anyway, she actually said

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.

which is quite a bit more positive than the colleague in Burns’ article. And it is also quite true.

Burns says it’s important to remember that two old ideas can make a new idea – this ties in nicely with the Steven Johnson stuff about half hunches. This is also true.

Can two seemingly opposing ideas both be true? What I think is this. Whether they’re old ideas or new ideas, as long, as Audre Lorde says, they’re presented and packaged in a new way, or applied in a category they’ve not been applied before, and so on, they are ‘new enough’.

More importantly, who cares if the idea’s truly ‘new’? It’s much more important to maintain a positive and encouraging atmosphere so that people can get on with bumping their ideas up against other ideas to make better ideas.

I’m not necessarily saying planners/strategists have to be cheerleaders – it’s just as important to be realistic and critical – but the role of the strategist is to work out ways of keeping everyone engaged – not just the target audience – but creatives, design team, account management, your SEM team, and even the client.

This is best done with lots of interesting ways of approaching the problem, of making whatever brand/product/service you are working on seem essential to human existence, of making solving that problem a challenge people want to conquer.

It’s not life and death in marketing, it’s meant to be fun. We’re coming up with new ways to sell stuff, in hopefully creative ways.

That’s pretty much it, actually.

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