Lots of pictures

For a while, my bluetooth connection between my phone and my laptop didn’t work, and I couldn’t upload any of my pictures. I got it sorted out, so here’s a bunch of my pictures.

Afb0011Afb018I love these! How to make a fairly boring product interesting on a supermarket shelf.

Afb004_1Afb005_1Afb006The inside of the Seattle public library (no pics from the outside, it rained too hard) from when I was there. It’s designed by Rem Koolhaas, and although pretty ugly on the outside, it’s wonderful and very functional on the inside.

Afb008Afb0091Afb015_1From left to right: a cool truck, advertising an upcoming musical; leftovers of traditional American pancakes for breakfast; Union Square in San Francisco with my hotel on the left.


_40566621_sponge_afp300Wow. A few days after Thanksgiving, and after everyone has shopped til they dropped on Black Friday, and all of a sudden it’s Christmas everywhere! Someone flicked a switch, and now there are xmas-tree vendors on the streets, xmas muzak in all the stores and I’ve already seen the first tree ornaments on sale. I guess what surprised me so much is that before Thanksgiving, there was not a sign of Christmas anywhere, and now it’s everywhere. In the Netherlands, Christmas (and Sinterklaas, which is on December 5th) sort of slowly creeps up on you and here it came with a bang.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I should first report back on how my Thanksgiving was. The parade rocked!! We got up at 5.15, to start helping out with getting the marching bands in the right order for the Parade. It rained and it was cold, but once we got going, we didn’t really notice it, although I felt sorry for some of the bands, who were not dressed for cold and rain and suffered. But once the whole thing got going at 9.02am, everyone perked up. We walked in the parade as escorts to the Airforce Band, which was a hoot. Unforgettable. And yes, I did say thanks on Thanksgiving day (I have so much that I’m thankful for in my life). And no, I didn’t have turkey. But I did have a great burger with mashed potatoes. And a nice hot shower at the end of the day.

The academics have heated up a bit, in the next 2.5 weeks I have 3 exams and 3 big projects due. So I’m trying to work hard to finish those, and then I’ve got an extra 10 days or so before my plane will take me home to celebrate Christmas with my family. I can’t believe it’s almost time to leave NYC again and I’m doubling my efforts not to take it for granted and enjoy myself as much as possible.

Let’s rock and roll!

BarneyballoonQuick post, since I’m running around trying to get ready for Thanksgiving and to finish two big assignments due on Monday. On the list of things to do: clean the house for my friend who’s coming (check), watch the obligatory ‘how-not-to-fight-with-your-inlaws’ and ‘how not to overeat on turkey’ segments on breakfast news (check), go to Macy’s for a pre-parade briefing (check). Yep, that’s right, Miss M, H and I be helping out with the world-famous (well, at least in the US) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! I’m very much looking forward to it, it promises to be a blast! And about as American as apple pie and turkey on Thanksgiving ;-)

Check here to see quite how large this Parade is, and how much planning is involved, and where to find the best seat to see the whole thing.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Life’s a game

Images38No MBA graduates without knowing about game theory (if you want to brush up on your game theory, check out the Wikipedia entry). One of the first things you’re taught is about the Prisoner’s dilemma, which according to the same fabulous Wikipedia is a
"type of non-zero-sum game in which two players can "cooperate" with or "defect" (i.e. betray) the other player. In this game, as in all game theory, the only concern of each individual player ("prisoner") is maximizing his/her own payoff, without any concern for the other player’s payoff per se." However, if you participate, you maximise both your own and the other person’s pay-off.

Where is this going? Apart from being an interesting theory to think about in a theoretical way, it doesn’t come into its own until you work with it. And today, in Negotiations class, we did an exercise which dealt with a typical Prisoner’s Dilemma. We were split in groups, and had to go through different rounds of negotiations (so it became an iterative P-dilemma), without talking to the other party or even being in the same room with them. There are different outcomes per round depending on how much you offer in the negotiation which also depends on what the other party offers (in amount of $ you can make), and the idea is that if you cooperate, both parties end up with the highest amount of money at the end of all the rounds, higher than they make without cooperating. This is MBA101, we all get taught this in the first few months. However, of the 4 groups we were the only group that got it (and luckily for us, the other party we were negotiationg with, got it too)! Now, I don’t mean to beat my own drum (although this is MY blog ;-), but what I didn’t understand is why if people know this, and recognize the assignment as being a Prisoner’s Dilemma assignment (and I checked, they did), they would still get involved in sub-optimal solutions.

What I find most interesting is why this happens when we all know the theory. Because we’re all type A personalities as MBA students (or are we?)? Or do people’s egos get in the way (although you would think that winning the game would be more important than winning one specific round)? And why does that happen? Some of the other groups were trying to screw the other group they were negotiating with, and trying to outsmart them. Why is that? I don’t have the answers, although my guess is that ego and competitiveness might have something to do with it. Once more proves that Organisational Behaviour is one of the most important subjects to study in b-school, you can be taught other things, but if you can’t apply them in real world situations with real world people, they aren’t worth a lot. Soft skills rule!

[edit: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that about 70% of the people in this class have stated their concentration is in Finance, and that they want to work in Finance. Doesn’t know if that makes a difference.]

… en 1 melk

My_girlMy favourite course at Stern this term is called Advertising Management, taught by prof Green. He’s a very experienced ad-man, and is passionate about what he teaches, which make his classes fun, interesting and insightful. What I particularly love, is that he uses a clear framework to go through the course, so that everything you’re learning in individual lectures makes sense in the bigger picture. He runs through

  • ‘why should you advertise (should you advertise?)’,
  • ‘who are you advertising to’,
  • ‘where and when can you reach them’,
  • ‘what do we say to them’,
  • ‘how do we say it’ and finally
  • ‘how do we know how it worked?

The companion text is Jon Steel’s Truth, Lies and Advertising : The Art of Account Planning, which is written in an easy style with lots of humour, and most of all lots of insight into the function of planning. I can highly recommend it if you’re interested in advertising or marketing in general. (And he’s got a new book out, which is rumoured to be very good too, it’s on my to-read list).

Some more sources of information I’ve found really interesting with regards to advertising and marketing:
* David Ogilvy’s Ogilvy on Advertising, irreverent look at someone who really knows his advertising stuff (any b-school library will have a copy of this book)
* Advertising Age magazine (in US, but have a good online version (which has just released it’s Marketing 50, the 50 best marketing ideas (in the US of course) of the past year, for the PDF, check this link)
* Russell Davies’ blog (one of my favourite reads on my RSS feeds). He’s a planner, and writes about planning, advertising and general cool stuff. Highly recommended.
* Wieden + Kennedy London’s blog, an candid look at what goes on inside an ad agency
* Brand Republic, UK magazine for marketers
* Adcritic.com, does what is says on the tin
* Fallon Planning Blog, from the bright minds at Fallon
And not exactly marketing or advertising, but very interesting
* Springwise, which is a trend-spotting blog, I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff on here, definitely worth a spot on your RSS feed list.

So, where does the milk come into this whole story? (the title to this post is the tagline to one of the Netherlands’ most succesful ad campaigns, promoting milk) In his book, Jon Steel mentions the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign in California which he worked on. And that got me thinking. We had a similar campaign to promote the consumption of milk in the late 80s and early 90s in the Netherlands. So thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I found the original ad (see below). To this day I can’t hear this song without thinking about this campaign!

[edit on Nov 17th: this came in on my RSS feeds today: Russell Davies has interviewed Jon Steel about his new book, you can find it here.]

Do a little dance… practical information on Seattle and SF

Afb000 In an earlier post, I already gave the quick lowdown on my West Coast trip, but I wanted to give some more detail on the practical stuff.

First up: guidebooks. Obviously, as a bookhistorian, a fair amount of thought goes into which to bring. I have used copies of the Rough Guides Directions series a couple times lately, and liked them. They’re perfect if you’re in a city for a couple of days, and need some thoughts on where to go and what to do and you want something small and easy to carry. They are aimed at the crowd that is looking for good food, good shopping and good culture, and are organized per neighbourhood. I ended up taking the San Francisco Directions with me and loved it. One downside of this particular guide was that it wasn’t very detailed on public transport, but otherwise, thumbs up. For Seattle, there is no RG Directions guide, so after some research I ended with the normal Rough Guide to Seattle, and a copy of The Food Lover’s Guide to Seattle which is a wonderful guide to find out where to buy the best food and food-related items, organised by product (e.g. chocolate, bread etc). This is one of the best specialty guides I’ve seen in a long time and I can highly recommend it (and if they put maps in it, I would consider this THE best specialty guide I own).

Next: shopping. In Seattle, Pike Place Market was obviously one of my first stops. It’s an eclectic collection of food and general knick-knack shopping, and I loved it. Favourites were Dilettante, the chocolate shop, the guys throwing fish, DeLaurentis for gourmet food shopping (and wine, which is where the pic at the top comes from), the cooking shop Sur La Table and  the mapshop with inflatable and huggable globes and planets Metskers. On Pioneer Square, the Eliott Bay bookstore is a wonderfully eclectic bookstore with a great secondhand section. I was taken to Target and absolutely loved it, and for the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted, go to Fran’s Chocolates (the salt caramels are especially wonderful). In San Francisco I didn’t have too much time to seek out interesting shops, although I loved the Banana Republic flagship store just off Union Square.

Lastly: food! Breakfast in Seattle (with a vote for Best View Whilst Having Breakfast) at Lowell’s in Pike Place Market and the most scrumptious breakfast at Macrina’s Bakery in Belltown (gets busy on weekends but well worth the wait). Very good (and cheap) hearty Mexican fare in a relaxed setting at Agua Verde near the University (I had the flank steak taco with a side of mashed potatoes and I swear I almost ate my fingers with the food it was that good). Food in SF: we had lunch at a great Thai place, but I forgot to write down the name. It’s one block south of Union Square, I think on Geary Street. Dirt-cheap, big portions and good stuff.

Gimme a P

Afb068Yep. It’s that time again. KV will probably guess what I’m talking about (he is a very good observer… last year he saw that I blog most when I’m at my busiest, or when I’m procrastinating). I’m procrastinating again (other people call it blogging). There’s a big job application (one of my very very favorite jobs) due tomorrow, and although I’m basically done with it, I have a hard time hitting that ‘send’ button. What if it doesn’t really say what I want to say? Or what if I work on a it a little longer, will that make it better? It’s kinda frightening to only have this one shot at an interview, with a company you really like.

Hmmm, all of a sudden I’m having this big deja vu moment (and there’s no Denzel Washington in it). I had the same thing last year over my internships! And the year before that with the MBA applications! Well, I hope financial theory is accurate in this case: the bigger the risks, the bigger the rewards ;-)

PS good news and bad news on the job search front came in today: company X, who I also really like, have got back to my and said they want to interview! However, company Y dinged me. Such is life.

It’s wet, grubby and the taxi drivers drive like maniacs

Afb001aaaaaaahhhh, it’s good to be back in NYC! Now, if only someone would turn off the rain-tap, life would be so much easier ;-) I’m fed up with soaked socks and umbrellas, enough with the water already.

Shout out to the people who sent me recommendations for my west coast trip, much appreciated, even if I didn’t have time or room to follow them up. I’m keeping them in my archive, so next time I go I know where to go and what to eat!

Both Seattle and San Francisco were great. I’d never been to Seattle before, but now I understand grunge music a lot better. If it rained like that for more than the 3 days I was there, I would write depressing songs too ;-) But the city itself was great, we were fortunate to have some great local guides to show us around, I discovered the joys of shopping at Target (I had to almost be surgically removed from the store), tasted some of the best chocolate ever at Fran’s chocolates (and of course I had to try two other chocolate shops too), saw the awesome Snoquamie Falls, and had the most perfect breakfast (minus a 40 min wait) at Macrina’s Bakery in Belltown.

San Francisco was an improvement weather wise, and it was nice to not have soaked shoes and socks for a few days. I didn’t have enough time to do all I wanted to do and see here, but I did go up to Berkeley to visit a fellow LBS exchangee, which was great fun, discovered the delights of shopping at Banana Republic, and caught up with a few of my LBS friends. All in all it was a great trip, and I had a blast. But now, it’s back to the grind, no more traveling for me until I travel home for Christmas.

Job applications are still on the agenda (with two big ones due this week), as is coursework (desperately trying to catch up from my 6 day absence, and some cool projects in the pipeline such as our Advertising Management creative brief (about which more another time) and the New Product Development new product we’re developing). I’m starting to become a little homesick (strangely enough for both NL and the UK), and although I’m still enjoying my time here, I’m also looking forward to going home. I’ve already bought my first two Christmas presents and I’m starting to worry about how I’ll get my stuff back home ;-)

[edit: see also this post for recommendations and practical details of my West Coast trip.]