There is More to Pan Ams than Traffic Disruptions

“We can’t take the HOV lane on Monday!”

My father hit the panic button during dinner on Saturday as my mother asked if I had any friends competing at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. The only thing my dad apparently knows about Pan Ams is that effective today, the HOV lanes will require occupying vehicles to carry 3 passengers. Although, after the panic was expressed, he did ask me what sports would be featured.

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games is a major international multi sport event yet the sentiment within the host city is lacking. But really, who can blame the citizens of Toronto and the surrounding region? Google Pan Am Games, turn on the radio, visit Reddit/r/Toronto and the only stories and hype about the Pan Ams are centered on:

  • HOV lane changes/transportation disruptions
  • Unsold tickets
  • Budgets & committee bonus payouts
  • Low hotel occupancy rates

In trying to prepare for the Games, the committee and media has focused entirely too much on the potential disruptions due to excitement, hype, and activation around the Games itself and the corresponding events. In doing so, building the actual excitement about the actual event, the Pan Am Games, has been neglected. Other than one commercial, Invade, and the TTC wraps on trains, I have yet to see commonplace media buys focused on telling the story, the importance, and athleticism of the Games. I believe the people of Toronto and the surrounding supporting committees feel indifferent, rage, and the readiness to fly out of town because they have only been exposed and educated on the potential inconveniences of the Pan Am Games.

During my first week in advertising the very valuable lesson of not overwhelming your consumers was passed down. If you look at the most effective ads out there, whether it be print or video or digital, there is really only one main Call to Action. As one instructor, a partner at a multicultural-focused agency, once told our class, “Decide whether your goal is to capture the share of mind or the share of market”. A campaign can absolutely have more than one Call to Action but in the event of the Pan Am Games, it seems the marketing team and media has missed an important component.

Over the last few months I’ve been delivered many CTAs by the local media and official bodies, from the Pan Am Games team to the City of Toronto, and each CTA has directed a negative connotation toward the games. Torontonians are being told to:

  • Take public transit inside of drive
  • Stay away from HOV lanes
  • Carpool
  • Take a vacation (to avoid the crowds!)

All of these issued CTAs are negative inconveniences (well maybe other than the last one). In contrast to these numerous issues, the positives of the Games, the experiences, have not been released to create awareness. And CTAs to attend such a large international sporting event, if they have been released, have been buried by the negativity.

Personally, I am excited for Pan Ams. With inspiring athletes like Greg McNeil, Sasha Gollish, Donna VakalisSarah Wells, and Rachel Hannah competing, I am more than ready to throw on a red tshirt and cheer on Canadian athletes. Armed with waterpolo tickets, I’m taking the Games as an opportunity to learn about sports that are not my own and enjoy the higher level athleticism. If only other Torontonians realized that there is more to the Pan Am Games than transportation disruptions.

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Beer Education – Craft of Not?

For those of you reading this who are still wrapping up at the office, already a few drinks in, or just chilling and wondering what should be on the menu for the weekend, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Last year, for our final project, my International Business team chose to analyze the Hong Kong beer market and strategize an entrance for the Boston Beer Company. Although our instructor bounced us from serving Samuel Adams samples during the final presentation we all walked away with a just a little bit more knowledge about brews.

A while ago I drew upon that knowledge as  a few friends and I set up at-home beer sampling tasting completed with fries and gravy, spicy roasted chickpeas, salty edamame, and 14 different beers. As 14 beers in one night, albeit in sampler sizes, is a tall drink order we ended up only sampling 10. Domestic, foreign, and arguably craft beers were included in the line up – from Halifax’s Moosehead to the Belgian export, Delirium, to the Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams. I am not a beer connoisseur but I tend to favour those with fuller bodies or a crisper sense , that night 3 beers stood out: Shock Top, Rolling Rock, and Creemore’s Hops and Bolts.

Of the three, none are actually considered craft beers by the official bodies. In today’s consumer market, the term craft beer is associated and aligned with a sense of intimacy between the brewer and consumer and superiority in taste and brewing. But the Brewer’s Association (America) has a more defined take, they state that production of craft beer must be carried out by brewers that are within the scope of being small, independent, and traditional.  With Ab Inbev owning the breweries that churn out Shock Top and Rolling Rock and Molson owning Creemore Springs a question of what exactly is craft beer and what definition should be employed arises.

An interesting timbit to take note of is that the brewery that ignited the craft beer movement and education in the United States, the Boston Beer Company, sold 2.3 million barrels in 2010 – over the 2 million limit [ a brewery must produce less than 2 million a year for it to be considered craft] set by the Brewers Association. That year, the allowance was changed to 6 million barrels. Tastes are arbitrary and apparently numbers are too.


The truth is I am not a beer expert and I can’t really tell you if a beer is craft or not but I can tell you this:

Shock Top – Tastes light and golden with hints of citrus. Personally, I think it tastes like sunshine.

Rolling Rock -Refreshing light taste with a slight hint of lemon

Hops and Bolts – A bit harsh with a fuller malty flavour with strong citrus and light caramel notes

Sorry, I lied, I don’t have you covered – I am not qualified to give out beer recs.

That’s all she wrote folks!

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Treat of the Week: Baked Chocolate Donuts

Every morning, after the emails have been checked and the urgent matters resolved, my team makes a coffee run down to Tim Hortons. And every morning, while standing in line, I will glaze my eyes longingly at the display of donuts. The desire is strong and the temptation is near. I woke up yesterday morning with the realization of how I can have my donut and eat it too, without consequences.

Tomorrow, as I stand in line wincing at the Creamy Chocolate Chili sign while craving a sweet chocoately baked treat, I will only have to picture one of my own baked goodies.

Sidenote: While I adore the creative heights that Tim Hortons and JWT broke with the Creamy Chocolate Chili Levitation stunt I can’t believe they let the product go to market with such a name. The product title is just not appetizing, and although I would probably enjoy this frozen treat I don’t think I can ever bring myself to order an item with such a title. 

Baked Chocolate Donuts 

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Makes 7 donuts

  • 1/3C + 2 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1/4C oat flour
  • 1/4C cocoa powder
  • 1/4C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • coconut oil spray


  • 3/4C powered sugar
  • 3 tbsp almond milk

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Melt the butter. In a large bowl whisk the melted butter with the almond milk. Add the sugar, maple syrup, and egg and mix until will blended.   Incorporate the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt until just combined.

3. Spray the donut pan with the coconut oil spray and ladle the batter until each donut mold is 2/3 full.

5. Bake 12 minutes

6. While the donuts are baking, combine and whisk the glaze ingredients.

7. Glaze the donuts once they have been removed from pan and cooled.


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Upwards and Onwards

The sun is shining and a new chapter awaits.

After months of searching, bleak silence, and bouncing from interview to interview I am pleased to let you all know that the job search chronicles will now be paused.  Instead, commuting horror stories are about to be my topic of conversation du jour. I am excited to share that I will be joining an awesome advertising agency, effective Monday.

The last couple of months were bleak as I faced periods of silence before bouncing from interview to interview. Every night, at bedtime, an image of a dark tunnel would emerge as my eyes closed.

It was an endless dark but glimpses of light from some distance above peeked through the dim sooty bleakness. The little dots of light that had penetrated the otherwise somber twisting road looked to be far off and in irregular stretches. Sometimes the distance between one burst of brightness from another would be so lengthy that one would be encompassed in the darkness.

The ups and downs of the last couple of months and years, in reference to the academics, the professional life, and my personal shenanigans, have taught me the power of hope. We cannot control when or where the light will be able to break through the solid earthen walls next but we can and must visualize the next flicker. Hope, it’s a powerful thing.

Every year at this time, with the stress of school over, I try to dig up a contribution to the surrounding community to place smiles and ignite hope. Last year I baked goodies for the homeless and this year I am donating to Gregory MacNeil’s funding campaign for this summer’s Pan Am Games and Rio 2016. While my resume lists a number of intern positions Greg’s athletic resume includes titles such as Silver Medallist at the 2014 Canadian Nationals Track & Field Championship and CIS Gold in the 60Hm. Greg is an amazing athlete whose only fault may be influencing the Madison girls to call me Jojo. If you haven’t already, hop over to TrackieProfile to make a donation to ignite the flame and fund his dream.

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I’ll rather play beyond the walls

It was cold outside. The winds were howling, the ground was covered with icy snow, and the sky was dark.

The lights were bright. They shone from slanted rectangles, they stood stark against the black barred ceiling. The inside contrasted with the scene beyond the glass windows; one could see in here. Under the sterile lighting one could read, write, type, and glem information from the world wide web. She was inside, but despite the contrast with the outside, she felt cold.

Here she was subjected to reading feverishly, typing faster than the tick of the clock, and developing expertise through an unviewable connection to the outside world. The concrete Turkey offered warmth and the tools of learning that the 21th century had to offer. But she still felt cold; she was trapped.

She had entered the Turkey with the intention to learn, to solve problems, but the concrete had acted more as a nuisance than structural barriers. She looked out the steel-encased window and at the snow, with her wool coat draped over her and her red mittens on her hands she would be warm.


Recently I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the value of education, especially the value of business education within the classroom. There is a notion that classroom education, university degrees, equates to smarts or competency but I feel knowledge cannot be measured by the GPA or the title on the certificate alone. Sitting alone at Robarts at 1AM while working on an international “group” paper alone somehow inspired this little sketch about my feelings about the confines of the traditional classroom education. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take classes that challenge students to complete practical projects and I believe more of this needs to be implemented.

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Happy Chinese New Year from Nestle !


My aunt told me a few days ago that she felt a line needed to be drawn at my proposal to make guacamole for Sunday’s Chinese New Year dinner. Orange-flavoured KitKats however, will be on the dessert menu, thanks to the festive Chinese New Year packaging Nestle has come up with.

With a matte gold sheep (Year of the Goat/Sheep) embossing a red background and well wishes printed in white, I think this marketing campaign is extremely nifty. For starters, the orange-flavoured (or milk-flavoured) KitKats  were not developed for the Lunar New Year. But Nestle is positioning these products, that are already within their portfolio, as a Lunar New Year treat. And this simple change in packaging has captured the hearts and the wallets of consumers, my mother revealed she only purchased the chocolate for me because the packaging would let me celebrate Chinese New Year and share my culture with my friends and roommates.

I am also extremely impressed with the execution of these KitKats as Chinese New Year treats; it is exceedingly smart. A printed paper sleeve was used instead of printing the festive graphics directly on foil, allowing for product continuity post-Lunar New Year. These sleeves can simply be removed for products to stay on store shelves, eliminating the practice of the post-holiday margin lowering markdowns. (As much as I love the markdowns of February 15th, Valentine’s Day manufacturers could learn a thing or two from the Lunar New Year KitKats.)

More and more companies in Canada are actively targeting the ethnic market but many are still reluctant to do so due to the risks and costs associated with segment marketing. I think these Lunar New Year KitKats are an excellent example of how companies are becoming more and more creative at lowering the barriers to ethnic marketing.  I am excited to see (and maybe be part of a team!) what is next in store for ethnic marketing, as Andrew Pelletier of Walmart Canada once revealed, “This is truly the future of retail [marketing] in Canada.”.



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The Challenge to Notice Things

A few weeks ago, at the end of a business design class that featured active listening exercises, our instructor challenged us to notice things. We live our lives within routines and it is so easy to overlook changes or anything outside of the expectant.

I live about a 10 minute walk from the Athletic Centre and I always take the same route to and from the AC. In the span of a typical week it is quite possible for me to walk through this same stretch of Spadina 12 times. Despite the regular visits it had taken me about a year and a half to notice that the street played host to a Shoeless Joe’s on the west side. And I only noticed the restaurant’s existence after I was handed a flyer with the address listed.

The challenge popped into mind this morning as I was leaving the AC to head home after my workout. Instead of pressing the play button on my phone and hurrying through the slush I decided to relax into the familiar surroundings and see if I could spot anything new or beyond the normal daily scope. I didn’t know if this thread of difference would be a cute squirrel out to play or even just a pair of interesting pants a fellow pedestrian could be wearing. I was just on a mission to notice something I haven’t taken note of in my previous walks along this stretch of Spadina.

I must say I feel sufficiently rewarded for my efforts. On February 14, 2015, I spied with my eyes a Nestlé Tollhouse Cafe on Spadina.

It is often difficult to step outside of personal bubbles but the insights gained, once one is in the green, are invaluable. I now challenge you to also notice things out of your ordinary. And if anyone’s discoveries include speciality flavoured Oreos in the GTA, please send me a text.



(I’ll take an ice cream sandwich, please)


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