November 10, 2010

Pushing the envelope (or better yet – the chicken cutlet)

Posted in Just for fun at 11:10 am by Jennifer

Mae West once said; “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” So for the purposes of this week’s blog post I put forth a personal challenge that would settle my own morbid curiosity while at the same time test the limits of friendship and stomach acids. A quick thank you wrapped in an apology sprinkled with Pepto Bismol to Elliott Pen (@tootightoque) for his very reluctant participation away from the mainly vegan contents of his fridge into the fast food industry.

Ladies and gentleman, yesterday we tried the KFC Double Down. If you haven’t heard of it the creation consists of “bacon, two different kinds of melted cheese, the Colonel’s ‘secret’ sauce in between two pieces of Original Recipe chicken fillets”. That’s right; the fried chicken is the “bun”.

Fast food marketing is a category all to itself. Concerns over calorie content are swept aside with clever campaigns that use humour, nostalgia or promises of a great tasting product. Otherwise they try to prove themselves a healthier option than the competition. A while back Torontoist tried the KFC Double Down so I wouldn’t have to but really they just made me curiouser and curiouser, like Alice falling down that rabbit hole to take a bite of greasy chicken. Elliott and I strolled into KFC on Queen West, placed our order and gave it a try.

One interesting thing about fast food advertising is the visual representation; the real thing didn’t look much like the ad in the doorway. Elliott pointed out that the Double Down in front of him looked sort of like a human heart, which was fitting since this is exactly the organ that would be getting clogged momentarily.


The KFC Double Down is not healthy. We know it, they know it, the media knows it. So when they set out to promote this menu item crossing the border to Canadian soil they didn’t even attempt to hide the fact that this is one of the unhealthiest things we have seen in a long time – impressive since Canada is the land of poutine. (Note: photos were all taken with an iPhone and we were playing around with an app called “Hipstamatic”.)

Me: “It wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t good either. It was way too salty but that’s what KFC is – salty fried chicken so no surprise there. I didn’t finish it, and after eating it I felt pretty drained and tired. I think that food should be something to enjoy, and when I indulge in fast food I would rather it be a really good burger or something made relatively fresh. I haven’t eaten at KFC in a long time, and don’t think I’ll be grabbing for a piece of their chicken any time soon. After trying our Double Downs, Elliott and I sat quietly on the couch and ate oranges. That was the best tasting orange of my life.”

Elliott: “I’ll admit going into this ‘experiment’ I had my reservations about the sandwich. Not only for its blatant disregard for the Canadian Food Guide but also the overly macho ad campaign. Food shouldn’t be a challenge, and while waiting in line I almost expected the counter-person to offer me a t-shirt for even having the gall to order this monstrosity. As for the taste, well, I may not have the most honed pallet capable of sussing out notes of lavender in a particular wine but I do recognize when sodium dominates my taste buds. I don’t believe in my entire life I’ve ever described something as ‘too salty’ but that is what the Double Down is, a salty mess. And for all you fans of the sandwich take note, despite being a vegetarian I was a good sport and took three suitable bites. My first three bites of KFC product in 15 years, and my last for the rest of my life.”

Well regardless of how the things tasted, this is my favorite kind of PR – not the fact that this is a very unhealthy product that I do not think people should be eating but because it’s honest and transparent. The flaws and shortcomings are out in the open and they are not trying to deceive anyone. Not everything in this world is or will be good for you, but when companies are open about the risks associated with their products it lends itself to a better sense of corporate responsibility in my opinion.

Apparently they’re only being sold in Canada until November 14, 2010 so if you really want to try one you have just four days left. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat my fourth piece of fruit for the day.


October 1, 2010

Making an Impression on the Toronto Fashion Scene

Posted in events, Just for fun, Social Life, trends at 10:20 pm by Jennifer

Joe Fresh made a lot of fans when it launched in 2006, selling a mix of wardrobe basics and fashion forward pieces at relatively low prices by industry standards. It was created by Joseph Mimran, co-founder of Club Monaco and I’ve been a fan for a while now. I love being able to update my wardrobe without hearing my Visa scream out in pain.

While I still lean mainly towards stores like Zara, Banana Republic and Club Monaco for my work wardrobe Joe Fresh has added to my closet some of my very favorite outfits for after work drinks, dates and dinner with friends. So I was pleasantly excited to be invited and have a sneak peek at the recent Joe Fresh Runway Sale, partnered with Lou Lou (love this magazine). I knew a few pieces that I had my eyes on from the fall collection and was hoping to get my hands on them.

The event promised food, wine and fashion – who could possibly pass that up? Apparently, no one could! It was packed full of Toronto fashionistas scanning the racks like seasoned veterans. Being one of the first 20 people in the store I luckily found and grabbed what I wanted then snuck over to the change rooms and avoided the crowds.

Then to my pleasant surprise, the man behind the brand himself made an appearance. Joseph was friendly, approachable and walked around consulting with girls giving style advice – I briefly met him and was amazed at the relaxed confidence he exuded, cool yet completely approachable.

Planning events for clients is never an easy task, and I think overall the Joe Fresh pop up event was a hit. Some things I think could have been done better:

  • Crowd control. At one point the store was way too crowded, huge lineups for the change rooms and the cash registers. A larger space could have solved this, with areas dedicated to nibbling, socializing and sipping wine.
  • Sizes. Apparently they ran out of small/extra small in the first hour (or so I heard). Luckily I was able to get the things I wanted in small before the crowds hit.
  • No men’s clothing. Not even a little bit. I saw a few men in the crowd and felt they were left out.

But what was done exceptionally well made all of the difference. The staff was all very friendly from the people in the fitting rooms to the catering staff handing out (surprisingly good) canapés and dry white wine. I was amazed how quickly they passed through the crowd again and again, with new things that everyone got a chance to try.

The biggest bonus from an event standpoint IMO? Joseph Mimran attending. There is nothing that creates more credibility with a brand and makes an impact on customers than being able to speak with a CEO or the head of a company one on one. Making these impressions can be time consuming, yes, but they really work and create lasting impressions on your target market. Authenticity and a friendly attitude can go a long way to creating brand loyalty.

– BB

August 4, 2010

PR The Movie – Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

Posted in Just for fun, Movies at 9:31 am by Jennifer

When a movie or TV series portrays specific careers I think that it’s interesting how certain jobs are depicted. After the premiere of CSI many more students turned to forensics as a career choice and my sister (a neonatal nurse in Ottawa) loves watching the hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy every week.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Monday night as I unpacked the very last box in my new apartment, I poured myself a glass of red wine and put in season three of Sex and The City for a bit of much needed wind down time. Oh Samantha Jones, you hard partying PR vixen. Why can I not picture you sitting behind a desk pulling together an extensive media list or creating a critical path for an event?

I’m a self-confessed movie addict which got me to thinking – how else is the PR industry portrayed in film? A few movies came to mind.

Thank you for Smoking – I really love this movie, even though it’s not the most flattering portrayal of PR professionals. What it does is highlight the reality that all kinds of clients and industries need/use PR (from small local charities to multinational corporations.) In the movie the main character Nick never claims there aren’t health risks associated with smoking but instead uses his wit while defending big tobacco, resulting in one of my favorite bits of movie dialogue;

Nick Naylor: Well, the real demonstrated #1 killer in America is cholesterol. And here comes Senator Finistirre whose fine state is, I regret to say, clogging the nation’s arteries with Vermont Cheddar Cheese. If we want to talk numbers, how about the millions of people dying of heart attacks? Perhaps Vermont Cheddar should come with a skull and crossbones.

Senator Ortolan Finistirre: That is ludicrous. The great state of Vermont will not apologize for its cheese!

Jerry Maguire – Oh pre-Oprah couch jumping Tom Cruise, you had me at hello. If this movie taught me anything it’s that integrity, standing by what you believe and taking a risk can be the key to a successful career. As cliché as it sounds, what goes around really does come around in the end.

Wag the Dog – What’s the best way for a President facing a scandal mere weeks before election to divert the attention of American voters? Why, invent a fictional war of course! Robert DeNiro plays a fast thinking “spin doctor” named Conrad Brean who hires a big shot Hollywood producer to literally create a war in the White House basement. The “coverage” is broadcast on TV so that the President can “take control of the situation” and save the day. But really, this story is so farfetched it could never actually happen in America… *cough cough* I think that deception in PR is generally a really bad idea. Once the truth comes out you will lose all credibility.

The Queen –This movie is about relationships, within families but also from a PR standpoint – relationships with the public. After the death of Princess Diana the public becomes increasingly frustrated that the Royal Family has not released a statement. They interpret this silence as a lack of respect or caring. The Queen in the end addresses the public in a moving TV interview. As a public figure or an organization, saying nothing is not always the best course of action. I think there is always something that can be offered to the public, even if it’s just that you have heard their concern.

Chicago – I’m a sucker for a musical, and while Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) is actually a slick talking Chicago lawyer the movie does a very humorous critique of “spinning the truth” and media relations. Things like reinforcing important key messages as well as branding/creating an image are explored to extreme lengths through song and dance.

Sex and the City (movies 1 and 2) – I just had to include these movies because watching the second film I think Samantha taught us all a very important lesson. While visiting in Abu Dhabi her overt displays of sexuality get her into trouble both legally and professionally. While we should be our authentic selves, you are always representing your company/yourself and need to be mindful of your clients and also respectful of cultural differences.

What films have been made about your career, and what do you think about the portrayal?

– BB

July 28, 2010

Home Sweet Office

Posted in Just for fun, Work-Life at 2:15 pm by Jennifer

This is going to be a very quick post; I just wanted to share a bit about MCI since I spend so much of my time here! Usually when I’m referring to “my second home” it’s in regards to my beloved Rex Jazz Club, but then I realized since I joined my new agency I haven’t talked about it very much.  That isn’t a reflection of there being nothing to talk about, but instead of there being a lot happening over here.

Things have been incredibly busy for all of us; a lot of exciting changes happening online, with new clients as well as existing ones on top of us all getting to know eachother. I work with quite a few talented men and women and we all have different backgrounds and experience; marketing, medical, Government, consumer, non-profit, events, social media (just to name a few). There’s a whole grab bag of talent and we’re constantly learning from one another.

I’m also lucky enough to live basically across the street. (Edit: Maybe not so lucky when someone gets elected to “pop by” the office at strange hours!) I totally love the space; it’s central and beautiful with exposed brick walls, scattered plants/flowers and an open concept. I was so used to having an office at my previous agency that the open layout was something I had to get used to, but I think I actually prefer being able to “poke up” and see/speak to some of my fellow coworkers.

I snapped a few pictures and thought I would share them – enjoy!

So, what is your office/workplace like? What makes it unique/special?

– BB

July 22, 2010

An Open Letter to 5am

Posted in Just for fun, Work-Life at 1:42 pm by Jennifer

Dear 5am,

I felt that I needed to sit down and write you a letter, because while we may have had our differences in the past I think it’s important that we learn to get along. After all, because of my career choice we are bound to be working together from time to time.

We’ve had some good times 5am. On more than one occasion in my student days I’ve stayed up late with you, but if I’m honest, I don’t really feel like waking up with you. That may seem a bit like a double standard, but it’s the truth. You could say I’ve outgrown wanting “that kind” of a relationship with you. It’s not that I’m ashamed to be seen with you, it’s just that you look and feel a lot different in the harsh early morning light and it generally doesn’t work for me.

I wanted to apologize for the things I’ve said to you in the past. I know that I said I would never see you again that one early morning where you had me feeling disoriented and I almost broke my foot against the door frame. That language was very unladylike, and I’m sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again.

I think it’s important 5am that we see other people. You’ll need to be understanding. After all, 7am is my best friend and I love to spend the occasional Saturday or Sunday with whatever hour I want. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still see each other once in a while. It just means it might not be very often.

 Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you around.

(Although not too soon I hope.)

Your acquaintance,

Jennifer Ouellette