What my advertising background can tell you about that Pepsi Ad

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Once upon a time I worked for an ad agency. We weren’t a huge agency, but I had coworkers who had worked for bigger agencies and I learned a lot about how things work.

So when Pepsi’s protest ad with Kendall Jenner popped up on the internet, I saw a lot of questions.

Like, how did this get past a focus group?

And the truth is – if there was a focus group, it was probably just aimed at younger adults and they asked how they felt about Kendall Jenner. They probably didn’t show ads, but likely asked questions about diversity in advertising and how they felt about ads with a social message like some of the ads at this year’s Super Bowl.

Like, how did this get approved?

The way it works is that the client (Pepsi) tells the ad agency what they want. Which honestly was probably – Coke’s iconic “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ad, but updated for today’s generation of social activists. Then the ad agency came up with ideas, and Pepsi probably said… can we make it less depressing? And you ended up with what you have.

There were meetings about everything – the photographer, the sweaty cellist, the guy who fist bumps Kendall. And odds are, there weren’t a lot of POC involved. And you know which meetings you’re more likely to be listened to. Pepsi, who probably insisted in a young, hot white girl (see, diverse!), would not be that audience.

So you end in an Emperor’s New Clothes type situation. Where you can’t be 100% honest, you just hope the client realizes it once they’ve assembled it. (Odds are there are alternate takes on that ad agency’s drives) And in this case, Pepsi’s team loved it. So you’re stuck with a bad ad that has your agency’s name on it.

And you can tell that Pepsi loved it, considering their apology was to putting Kendall Jenner in the midst of the controversy – not the people whose decades of work of activism they made a mockery of. They just didn’t get it.

So there you have it. My two cents based on a job I did a decade ago, for a small agency that did those post-secondary ads you probably made fun of if you were home sick from school or work. (Odds are, if you were home a decade or so ago, you might have even seen ME in one of them) The agency also did higher visibility brands, but that wasn’t what I worked on.

Things of note, my lovelies – don’t blame all the multicultural actors who took this gig. They were probably just told they were auditioning for a Pepsi ad and were like… sign me up for that money. They don’t have the luxury of saying no. Kendall Jenner on the other hand? She has money. She could have said no.

(It’s why we blame the marquee actors who take whitewashed roles, but not the actors who take the racist bit parts. One has the luxury of saying no, one is trying to make a living)

There are a number of really great pieces pulling apart the social ramifications of the ad. This one in particular is a must read, by April Reign (the woman who created the #OscarsSoWhite campaign). They aren’t hard to find, just spend some time on Twitter.

On the NHL skipping the Olympics.

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Today, the NHL released a press statement that they wouldn’t be stopping their season to allow players to participate in the Olympics (the first time they’ve come to this decision since 1998, when NHL players first began participating). This column went up on NHL.com explaining some of the logic behind it.

And I’m going to tell you, the real reason is simple – the NHL (in this case, the owners) can’t make money off sending its players. They’d been trying to bargain with the IOC (who is notorious for making sure that nobody can make money off the Olympics except for itself), and that didn’t go anywhere.

The NHL’s argument comes down to a few points.

First, that the Olympics as an event doesn’t grow the League. You don’t gain committed fans, you get casual fans who watch the Olympics. If so, that failure lies with the NHL who clearly aren’t doing the right kind of marketing post-Olympics. (You don’t need the rings to mention Team Canada, Team Russia, Team USA)

If the issue is that international tournaments don’t attract fans, then why would the NHL have put on the World Cup of Hockey – which used International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) eligible players, not just NHL talents? Why would they be promoting the NHL with a “global” game in China?

The answer is simple – international gameplay doesn’t matter to the NHL unless they’re making money on it.

Another concern raised was player injury, both due to the additional games or compressed season. Which again, if this was the case, they would contest NHL players going to any IIHF tournament. And wouldn’t have run their own the month before the NHL season started.

They cited a ridiculous poll of fans who ultimately said they didn’t want players to go to the Olympics. I don’t know of a single hockey fan (casual or serious) that wouldn’t want them to represent their country, or enjoy seeing them on the international stage. Much less 53% of Canadians or 73% of Americans polled. (Though that last statistic might be bitter Team USA fans)

I can understand that the month break is disruptive to the season, since it does happen just as things are ramping up towards clinching playoff berths. But, it’s once every four years. We aren’t talking about an international tournament every year. It’s the Olympics.

And frankly, I’m not sure that the NHL wants to see what happens to their ratings when their games are put up against the Olympics – especially since NBC’s family of stations (which broadcast NHL games) will be covering nothing but the Olympics, both live and time delayed for major events.

The NHL Player’s Association (NHLPA) issued their own statement that made it clear that they disagree with this decision. Since it’s a great honor for any player to represent their country.

Which brings me to the thing that nobody seems to have considered at the NHL – implications for the future. The IOC made it clear that if the NHL won’t allow players to attend 2018, then 2022 would be off limits, too.

Update: The IOC issued their own response:

It’s a huge honor to represent your country, and certainly something that young athletes dream of. Would you play in a league, no matter how popular, if it meant that you might never get that shot because the League doesn’t make enough money off the Olympics? Or would you go perhaps go to the KHL if it mean you could still represent your home country in the Olympics?

It’s obvious that some of the heavyweights in the NHL will be able to represent their country, regardless of what Bettman’s decided. Alex Ovechkin already said he’d be representing Russia, no matter what the decision was. He’s a face of the franchise- the Capitols would never say no to that. I doubt the Penguins could tell Sidney Crosby or Geno Malkin no, either. But that isn’t a luxury that a young prospect would have, and certainly an aspect that might figure into where they go in the end. And one wonders whether or not the team owners in favor of skipping the Olympics considered that.

But one thing is clear. The NHL might be talking a big talk about ‘growing their appeal’ – but this is the sort of a decision that’s cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s a sort sighted decision that will impact the growth of the game beyond their immediate fanbase.

Your thoughts?

Dear Marvel, Diversity isn’t the Problem

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Today, there was an interview where David Gabriel said that Marvel’s diverse titles had failed and they had feedback from shops that wasn’t what fans wanted.

Which is… weird, to say the least. Because it isn’t anything like what I’ve heard from fans from all spectrum.

Fans haven’t been happy with Marvel’s books – but it certainly wasn’t the introduction of characters like Ms Marvel, Riri Williams, or Jane Foster as Thor.

What fans were weary of was their favorite characters being pushed aside or misused – see Nick Spencer’s ongoing ‘let’s make beloved characters Hydra’ storyline. Or characters being killed or retired in order for new characters to pick up the mantle.

Newsflash: If you already have a vocal group of people who complain any time you make a change, it probably isn’t going to help if you sideline their favorite character to make way for the New Whomever. That’s fighting an uphill battle to win over an audience.

More importantly – it doesn’t matter what you do with creating new characters, if the writing isn’t amazing. If you look at some of the books and writers who command people to commit to picking up their book monthly, it’s because it’s quality writing.

I know people who will buy anything that Chip Zdarsky writes. Because it’s well done. Same with Brian K Vaughn. Same with Gail Simone. They will commit to a long term story, no matter how high concept the pitch might be, because the writing is solid. These are writers who have earned their trust.

On the other hand, a lot of the regular monthly titles from the big two don’t have that kind of craft. People will argue it’s because they put out more titles a month, so the writers have more work to do – but why put out so much if you aren’t putting out something worth reading?

Do you really expect readers to commit to giant year long story arcs that justify major overhauls of your cast of characters, if the writing isn’t engaging? I don’t care how pretty the covers are, how nice the linework is inside – if the writing is flat or, in the case of Spencer’s Cap suddenly being Hydra twist, is offensive to the core of the character – I’m not going to keep purchasing it.

To me it’s laughable that Gabriel uses a book where Peter and Mary Jane are married as being proof that fans like the older and established – fans were furious when Marvel split them up in the first place, because it was obviously a cheap tactic for publicity. So of course they’d be happy to get a book where they were married – because it’s what makes sense for the characters.

I’ve lost so much faith in Marvel as a company in the last couple of years. It’s been clear that they’re paying diversity lip service, and aren’t listening to what fans are asking for. Which is more diversity in writers, so that you’re giving these new characters a chance to shine. It’s more quality in writing, to bring us back.

Quality, not quantity.

Longing for the Sea.

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Sometimes I dream of the sea. I can taste the sea air, feel the water on my body and the water fill me with comfort as I dive below. I’m never human in these dreams, but a creature of salt and spray.

They’re wonderful dreams. I actually wake up rested, which is unusual. My mantra these days is that I’m tired of being tired.

I’ve long been obsessed with the sea. As a young child, I thought it was because I was a child of the desert – and something I just was obsessed with when I moved to California.

We’d go to the beach and even if the water was too cold, I’d wander along the jetties and feel the surf thrum through my veins. I’d joke that my lungs, strong and able to hold a note for far longer than most girls my age were a sign that I wasn’t quite human. I read The Little Mermaid, watched the Disney version again and again. I loved the mermaids in Peter Pan, even as they tried to drown Wendy (only a little, Peter).

My happiest moments are at the beach. Listening to the surf, smelling the salt air, and staying out of the water for fear it will take me from those I love. (Though that’s more selkie than mermaid)

This year, as my body finds new ways to fail me… it’s easy to muse whether or not I really did come from the sea. Is my body failing because it wasn’t meant to be on land, out of the surf for all these years?

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Congrats Riverdale, Now Do Your Homework

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So Riverdale was renewed for a second season. And as I’ve been having some lovely weekly twitter chats with fellow viewers, where we’ve been discussing the shortcomings of this current season.

So I thought that maybe I could offer a few suggestions for what you should be thinking about for season 2?

1. Make Jughead Jones aroace. The fact that you didn’t from the very start was more than just disappointing, it was a huge misstep. I know, it’s an AU, but somehow Veronica is still rich, Betty an overchiever, and Archie still plays football and is interested in music. Having Jughead being aroace is a core part of the character (literally, nothing changed about him – just that they finally had a label to describe it), and if you haven’t come up with an actual legitimate story arc about him realizing this? It’s time to actually come out with it. And talk to people in the aroace community (which btw, isn’t the same as asexual. It’s very different, and think pieces from the ace community saying that the Betty/Jughead storyline is a-okay with them is insulting), to make sure that you aren’t making matters worse. Aroace gets very little visibility out there, and for teenagers trying to figure out where they fit, you could actually help them feel like they fit somewhere.

2. Stop it with the sexual predators. Sex between adults and teens is gross, and something that happens in the real world – and it’s constantly diminished. (I just saw a news story today that referred to an adult school teacher who slept with 14 year old students as a modern ‘Mrs Robinson’ despite the fact that that’s rape, and Mrs Robinson was an adult who had a consenting relationship with an adult college student.) Stop glamorizing sexual abuse. The whole Grundy storyline had zero pay-off other than making a bunch of people really uncomfortable and questioning just how heartless the parents of Riverdale were.

3. Maybe make your characters a little more human? I quit caring about who killed Jason, because other than his academic accolades, everyone just kept talking about how terrible he was. The only character who had anything nice to say about Jason was Cheryl, who’s been so unlikeable that it’s hard to care about her either.

The reason Twin Peaks worked so well was that despite Laura Palmer’s double life, people loved her and it was apparent. So you loved her too. I get that the Blossoms are a creepy family and that made their kids weird, but it took so long for us to find that out, that I’d already quit caring.

4. Decide on what your mystery is now, and make sure that moves along in every episode. It’s obvious looking back, that you guys had a lot of things you wanted to fit into the first few episodes, in case that’s all you had. As good an episode as B&V uncovering the slutshaming was, between that and the Grundy reveal episode – there were two back to back episodes where nothing happened to further the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom. So by the time we got back to it, most people I know didn’t really care anymore. (Even now, I mostly care about Polly’s side of the story, not Jason) And while we’re slowly getting some crumbs now, you can’t undo that loss of momentum. It still feels like in Riverdale, Betty and Jughead care about who killed Jason. (Outside of the Blossoms)

5. And dropping plot points. If Polly wasn’t a brunette, why did Betty go for the black wig? Where is Jughead living? Is Moose still chasing after Kevin? How did the Blossoms think that inviting half the town would expose Jason’s killer?

6. Kevin deserves better. Why exactly is Kevin’s dialogue basically Will from Will & Grace? Kevin’s a gay kid of NOW, not a 30 year old guy from the 90s. He’s literally written as every stereotype you can think of, and calling out those stereotypes (the gay best friend, guy cruising for hook ups), doesn’t change the fact that you’re still resorting to using them.

Most importantly, 7. Decide what you are. Are you Riverdale Noir? Riverdale Gothic? A generic teen drama? Make up your mind, and stick to it. All the yo-yoing between styles and genres makes it hard for the characters and storyline to find a groove. I love the vintage feel the show has at times, which fits very much with a noir story – but then the story will shift gears to something that yanks me from that.

Riverdale: the Grundy problem

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I’ve been watching Riverdale for the last four episodes.

I’ve started and stopped so many posts about this show it isn’t funny. About the apparent erasure of Jughead’s identity of being asexual and aromantic (as the comics have spelled out) – as Cole Sprouse spilled in an interview before the show started airing. About how Kevin Keller’s written as though we’re still in the days of Will & Grace. All snark, sex, and stereotypes – but no real substance. About the continued queerbaiting with Betty & Veronica in promos, the awkward references that are sometimes out of date by the time the episode aired….

But I have a real issue with what was seemingly wrapped up in last night’s episode. The Grundy problem. From the pilot onward, we witnessed the incredibly uncomfortable and illegal relationship between 15 year old Archie Andrews (yes 15 – he’s a sophmore, remember?) and the hot music teacher Miss Grundy.

The show tried to pitch it as a taboo romance, even though Jughead wisely knew it was just wrong and that Archie was being taken advantage of. Betty, too, though her actions were tempered by Archie’s own feelings on the matter.

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It’s 2017, and I’m falling apart.

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The irony is, it isn’t even the political stuff.

My name is Whitney Drake, and I’m probably in the worst shape I’ve been in the last 4 years. I apologize to anyone who liked hearing about my progress, because there’s a reason I haven’t written about living with Crohns – 2016 was a year of frustration and that’s hard to write about.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re new to my blog, I have Crohns disease. It’s an IBD, an inflammatory bowel disease – which are a family of diseases where your body attacks part of your digestive system. I have Crohns, and my body is attacking my small intestine.

Nobody knows what causes Crohns for sure – the best lead is that it has something to do with the bacteria you do and don’t have in your intestine. But there is no cure and mostly people just treat it, aim for remission, until they have to have their intestine removed completely.

This time last year, the medicine I’d been taking stopped working. That was budesonide aka Entocort (a steroid). My doctor put me on a new pill, Pentasa, which is this big pill I have to take 2 of, 4 times a day. It worked alright?

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To the Young Women of the US, why we march.

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I’m going to do something shocking. And repost something I wrote on another social network. I actually posted this on Tumblr and on FB before I put it here. It was prompted by seeing several young women (all 23 and under) sharing right wing memes insulting women who took part in the Womens March(es).

It breaks my heart to see young women, working 40+ hour work weeks who claim they have the exact same rights as men. Who tear down women who found a way to march (often at economic hardship), just to seem superior.

I don’t care if you don’t understand it. You’re young, and you don’t know the barriers you have yet to hit based on your gender alone. You probably haven’t worked in a field where your wages weren’t set by a union (that was a rude awakening for me, let me tell you). You haven’t seen female workers who’ve been there longer than you hit the glass ceiling again and again, while men who’ve done half the work and been there half the time get promoted. You haven’t had to justify to your boss that your maternity leave won’t affect your work output (much less research filing for disability because your company doesn’t cover it) – that you’ll answer the phone no matter what, even though that’s actually illegal. You haven’t reported sexual harassment to a manager, only to be told they can’t do anything because it’s ‘he said she said’ and you’ll have to suck it up when working with your harasser.

You might not have had to live in a state (or needed services) to get reproductive health care and had to jump through hoops – like driving across the state to see a doctor. I’m not even talking about abortions. I’m talking about regular, affordable health care since it’s only been recently that your birth control, pap smears and mammograms had to be covered. (And probably won’t be much longer)

What I can tell you is that those women aren’t lazy. A lot of those women marched knowing that they were being photographed by the police in order to be identified. They knew it might have repercussions, and yet, they went anyways. They went because they had something to say and wanted the world to listen.

And if they’re lazy… then what does that say about the women all around the world who joined them in solidarity?

Stop tearing other women down. I’m not tearing you down – I’m urging you to respect that there are things you haven’t experienced, and that most of us hope that you NEVER experience. That most of us fight so that you won’t have to deal with it.

Were these women crass? Sure. It was a direct response to the very words used by the man that you helped elect, probably. (I’m basing that off all the hashtags I see on these posts) Want to Make America Great Again? Do a little research. Understand the wage gap (especially as it breaks down for non-white women). Understand the reality for many women in the United States – especially women of different ethnicities and class levels as you.
Just because it hasn’t happened to you yet, doesn’t mean it can’t. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to help out the women that it IS happening to.

The hardest thing for me is that the attitude of these memes isn’t that “I disagree with you” it’s that “there’s nothing to complain about. If it isn’t a problem that affects me, it isn’t a problem.”

And just because you are young and fortunate enough not to have those issues – doesn’t mean it might not be an issue for you in the future. Personally, I don’t want any woman to have to know what it’s like to be prosecuted for a miscarriage- which bodies do naturally. I’d like you to get to choose your life’s path, instead of having it chosen for you by a group of rich, white men who don’t understand how a woman’s body works.

That’s what feminism is, no matter what a talking head said – even if she’s a woman on the right.

Support women. In the US and Worldwide

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There’s a copy/paste going around Facebook, sharing a woman’s feelings about why she didn’t march in the Women’s Marches yesterday.

Essentially it boiled down to “why would I whine about what I have here, when women around the world have so many fewer rights.”

Here’s why it bothers me.

It’s an all too common reply when people want to make social change, to bring up conditions in the rest of the world.

The fact is, that we don’t live elsewhere. We live here. And I do not mean to undermine the conditions that exist in other countries (in fact, I do what I can to support humanitarian causes to improve those), but I want to point out something fundamentally simple:

You can fight for the equality you should have in this country, while doing what you can to help women elsewhere. In fact, women of the US – if you were to help fight for wage equality here, that would give you extra money to help women world-wide.

But instead, you call protestors whiners, who simply don’t recognize what a great life they have. I can assure you that isn’t the case.

Instead, they’re women who recognize that they live in one of the leading countries in the world. And the only one where they don’t have equal access to healthcare. One where they have to be concerned that they’re being paid at most 79 cents on the dollar compared to male counterparts. And that’s just white women.

When you say it isn’t worth complaining, you tell me that it’s okay that Hispanic women on average, make 55 cents for every dollar that a white man makes in this country. You tell me that it’s okay that we have to work at least twice as many hours to try to make up the difference, to provide our families the same life.

You say that it’s okay for the majority of us to live with barriers that keep us from moving up in the world. Whether it’s being able to make enough to afford an apartment and stop living on the street, or being able to afford to buy a house. Or buy a brand new car instead of a used car that will lead to endless repairs (and eat up what little money they did have). Or save to send their children to college. To support their parents.

It hurts because I see these same people apply these same complaints to any protest regarding equality in the US – yet complain when the United States gives foreign aid to other countries.

You can’t complain about both those situations, unless you’re satisfied that the system works well enough for you.

They walk, they fight, to make things better in the United States – so that we can acknowledge that the very truths laid out in the documents that shaped our country are true. That this is a country where all are equal.

And the beautiful thing about it, is that when the US thrives, we can use our own privilege to help those countries. Whether it’s on a personal or national level.

But we don’t. We turn away refugees. We donate money to worldwide causes when celebrities fundraise, but stop as soon as the cameras and headlines are gone.

If you want to complain that protestors are whining when they already have so much? You’d better be putting your money where you mouth is and be doing something to raise the situations of women world-wide.

Apathy put us in the exact position we are in. In the US and world-wide. So stop being apathetic, and if you really care about the issues of the world, do something.

Here are three organizations you should support to help women internationally:

Girls Not Brides
Heifer International
Tostan

REVIEW: Hidden Figures (no spoilers)

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Yesterday, I went to see Hidden Figures with one of my best friends. We had lunch, talked about writing (dear God, did I ramble and dominate the conversation – what the hell) and then we saw the movie. This review contains no spoilers beyond what you might have seen in commercials.

Hidden Figures is a movie based on the book of the same name about the true story of three African-American women who worked at NASA in the early 60s, at the height of the space race. This was before the advent of computers, so they had teams of women (both white and African-American) that acted as human computers – performing complex math. In fact, a lot of the plot hinges around an IBM being installed at NASA, with everyone aware that this would impact all the women employed.

Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughn, the woman heading up the team of ‘colored computers’ – who acts as supervisor to the woman, though without the actual job title (there’s a lot more to her story, but I don’t want to spoil that one bit). Taraji P. Hensen plays Katherine Goble (later Johnson), a brilliant mathematician who finds herself placed with the team calculating launch and landing trajectories for Project Mercury – NASA’s first attempts to get a man into space. Janelle Monae plays Mary Jackson, the member of the group who aspires to be an engineer. All three women are brilliant, and I honestly had no idea how good of an actress Monae is.

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