Pass the Ha Gow, It’s Chinese New Year

At Thanksgiving my mother and I pulled out our mah jong table, a table that is likely older than I am, when we learnt that my mother’s youngest sister and my younger cousins didn’t know how to play. I was in shocked into silence.

The revelation that the younger family members didn’t know how to play this traditional game was overwhelming. My parents taught me to play mah jong when I was very young. This game of luck and pattern recognition is as familiar to me as ordering ha gow when we go dim sum. In my mind, like dim sum, mah jong is a cornerstone of the Cantonese culture.

Last week I surprisingly found myself in the position where I was the one demanding for the traditional Chinese New Year dinner. While my extended family had mentioned getting dinner together, no one, none of the adults, actively tried to make plans for this holiday that even other cultures are aware of. I had a Chinese New Year lunch with colleagues in my calendar, the special edition CNY 8-pack on my desk, but no concrete plans for dim sum, pekking duck, or mah jong with family.

I am not okay with this.

We live in an awesome country that is supportive of multiculturalism so why is it that we’re not embracing our culture more?

This instance has opened up my eyes to how we as individuals need to make more of an effort to actively embrace and share our culture with those that share it and even those that don’t – if we don’t, there is opportunity for it to dilute and even disappear.

Ps.

I’m sorry but while I understand it is a busy time of year for those of us with work, exams, and other extracurriculars but as long as you’re part of my family we’re going to make time for ha gow, mah jong, and the traditional wishes that come with the red pockets.

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***Chinese New Year and SB50 ready!

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The Path of Uncertainty: The Unexpected Opportunities

Last week something that I wrote went live.

If you live in Ontario and you are between the ages of 19 and 24, it is quite possible that the copy  (and its variations) has been or will be served to you. It will be one of the many uncredited pieces you are served every day on social media but HEY MOM LOOK WHAT I DID AT WORK .

The pieces might only be short form content (and only circulated on social media) – with many under 117 characters. But there is still a sense of satisfaction when I see the sponsored post on my newsfeed or the ad on the sidebar.

Last year I touched briefly upon my childhood desire to be a writer and how the undefined destination was buried deeply. It’s hard to believe that a mere year later I would have the opportunity do some content versioning, to throw together a few words, where the reach will be beyond my own personal network.

It’s kind of funny how one ends up in the places they do.

Earlier in the week I came across a Facebook post by a first year student, the student was expressing their struggles with a certain mandatory course and their uncertainty as to whether the commerce program was right for them. I remember feeling the exact doubt and sentiments when I was in first year.

In this post I want to share that it’s okay to be on a path of uncertainty. It may not be the most fun road to travel on but over time you will learn and grow. I am not afraid to share that when I started my commerce degree 5 years ago I was an extremely confused individual without a clear objective for post-graduation. Along the way I’ve stumbled and made countless mistakes. But it’s okay as long as you seize the opportunities that life does hand out.

Sometimes the opportunities aren’t what you expected or lack a certain aspect you were hoping to obtain but that’s okay. In today’s digital age we’re prone to wanting and expecting our queries to be delivered in instantaneous time but Rome wasn’t built in one day.

My post-graduation path has been anything but of the expected traditional trajectory. I’ve had 3 roles in 8 months, I’m making a lot less money than a lot of my friends, and I’ve accomplished one of my worst nightmares of moving back home to my parents’ in the suburbs but I’ve also accomplished my childhood dream of being a writer, albeit with a new writing form.

I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 months but for the moment I’m okay.

 

 

 

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What is the Value of a Human Life?

Today, on what was to be my first 60 minute run in over a month, I got hit by a car that neglected to slow down enough upon approach at a crossroad. Instead of coming to a full stop at the red octagon the driver decided to continue with a rolling right turn. He also decided not to employ his eyes. It was the first time in my 22 years that I thought I was actually going to die.

I had almost crossed the street when I felt the car clip my heel. And heard the car continuing to drive. The driver didn’t stop until I had launched into the longest thrill of more profanity that I have uttered in a very long time. When he finally stopped the vehicle he remained dismissive – not bothering to roll down a window until I pounded on it. Even then he only rolled down the window of his driver side to yell at me, “Are you stupid?!?!?”. A few seconds later, he drove off.

I have never cut a run short due to traffic incidents. I have also never filed a police report. Tonight, I did both of those things.

The lack of remorse shown by the driver was scary. Coming to a full stop at a stop sign, or even just slowing down a bit more, would have only cost the driver a maximum of 5 seconds but he neglected to do so. The lack of remorse he showed showcases that he thought that extra 5 seconds was worth more than my life.

So what is a human life worth? Apparently less than 5 seconds.

And in terms of monetary value? The minimum wage in Ontario is $11.25, the value of that 5 seconds is just under 2 cents. Apparently my life was valued by the driver to be less 2 cents. 

My parents have a different view. My father told me that next time I should just wait the extra 10+ seconds for that car that is half a street back to complete it’s trajectory, because my life is worth more than 10 seconds.

With a glass of wine, the ingredients for a squash beef stew, and a half-finished weekly report in front of me I’m just wondering why is it that human life is measured terms such as time and monetary costs.  I mean, my mom thinks I’m priceless.

Now I don’t know if the culprit of today’s events was under the influences, but with the holiday season approaching, I would like to urge all my driver friends out there to drive carefully and please don’t drink and drive – please drink responsibly.

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The Issue with Sarah Being Beautiful, and Smart

A few weeks ago, at Thanksgiving dinner, my 10 year old cousin reached for a mini carrot cake cupcake (completed with a luscious cream cheese frosting). But the status of her trajectory remained incomplete, as her hand hoovered over the plate of treats, my sweet, quiet, and shy cousin uttered her longest string of words of the night, “I can’t eat this, I am getting fat.”

My cousin is 10. She is taller than average for her age, her body weight and composition is at a healthy level, and she looks great in black pants covered in printed rainbow hearts. But despite this, at her young age, she is already worried about her weight and her physical image.

And then over dinner with a few girlfriends, the topic of body image surfaced. I brought up my cousin’s reaction to the cupcakes and how alarming it is that girls are pressured to look a certain way from a young age. In conjunction, we approached how the industry recently applauded a food manufacturing brand for launching an advertising campaign to rebrand with a message of self-empowerment. With the last bites of our burgers and rice bowls lingering on the table, the conversation took a turn, why is it that society and media is so focused on the physical image of a girl and not what a girl has done or is capable of doing.

My friend Sarah is in law school, she can run a 800 much faster than I will ever attempt, and she has the ability to make me laugh till my sides ache even if I’m feeling down. Despite the fact Sarah can do all this I’ve introduced her to friends with the following: Sarah is beautiful, and she’s smart. Somehow, despite all that Sarah can do, the way she looks has been prioritized ahead of what she can do. What kind of message have I been sending with such an introduction?

Last month Mattel launched a new piece of creative showcasing how Barbie “encourage[s] girls on their journey to self-discovery”. The commercial, titled Imagine the Possibilities, is powerful. This creative captures young girls dreaming big and making an impact. This contrasts with the commercials of my youth where Barbie and friends merely spent the days shopping and driving around in pink convertibles with the sole goal of looking glamourous. When you play with the little Lego men you imagine them as building forts, strategizing battle plans, and developing new innovations for the village (my little Lego men never wished for hair transplants)- the imagination behind this toy set is captured in propelling actions. And this new Barbie campaign encourages girls to do the same – to imagine the possibilities of the future.

Because you know what, Sarah is smart and beautiful.

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Learning to Enjoy the Moment

The workout of the day was not going well. The left hip was tight, the trail I was on was not the most familiar, and I was going solo, without a clue as to whether I was on pace or not. But here I was, in a tank top and a pair of shorts in 18 degrees (celsius), in October, on an endless trail in the Bay Area in California.

My turnaround from being a student to working in advertising was less than a week. And the turnaround from my previous role in advertising to working at Rotman again was a mere weekend. The last couple of months have been jam-packed and every day carried a feel of go-go-go. As a bit of a constant worrier with a strong belief that every contingency should have a contingency I’ve propelled myself from project to project with enthusiasm and extremely detailed orientated outlooks. I’ve gotten to run some pretty cool projects in the last couple of weeks but I’ve realized that I haven’t been very good at letting myself enjoy the moment.

It wasn’t until Monday evening, with a glass of Prosecco in my hand and a plate of biscotti in front of me, that I realized I had survived. Over 300 first year students had rotated through a courtyard and the WO basement for 4 hours where most of them learnt at least something, were sufficiently entertained, and at the very least, left with a stomach full of pizza. Another event hit record attendance and we made it through Q&A without any cringing. And then 350 students were sent out to wander the streets of Toronto and solve puzzles where they were drenched by torrential rain but they still came back with smiles and enough positively to thank me for directing them to the snack station. All of these moments (and more) were wins but I had been too busy moving from one project to the next to realize this and enjoy the moment.

So here I was today, feeling not the greatest about my workout, but running down a beautiful trail in Northern California when I re-realized something – I really need to learn to enjoy the moment. It is October but I was basked in warm sunlight, I had just passed the campus of one of the largest tech companies in the world to my left, rivers ran on my right, and this trail was endless. According to the real life laws of being an adult I should be behind a desk in Toronto, not here. But because I am here, I need to stop worrying for a second and just enjoy the moment. Moments like these are the ones that keep us going when the road gets tough.

***Once again, thank you to those of you that have been there for me the last few weeks, whether as a volunteer, a student panellist, a conference leader, a listening ear, or as a cider provider – couldn’t have done it without you

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Thank You.

The last few weeks have been extremely jam-packed as I hopped over from my previous role in advertising to cover a student life position at my alma mater. With a lead time of just over 2 weeks to finalize and execute the concepts developed by my predecessor for 3 large scale/flagship events in 10 days, I got a crash course in how to hit the ground running.

A program orientation, a kickoff event for an experiential learning program, and the flagship first year conference ran like a flawless script for the participants. But while students, volunteers, friends, and colleagues kept coming up to me during and after the events to congratulate me on the production I personally think it should be my team of volunteers that deserve the praise. I want to thank all of your for volunteering your time, your experiences, and your positivity.

In my folders I have decks for one event that were built by some of you who were in Japan or Italy at the time. I have a list of names of those of you that decided to spend one of the last days of summer as shepherds. And then there is that extra long list of you that attended conference leader orientations, panelist dry runs, MC dry runs, and read my countless emails that all showed up today to help run the production titled Destination RC. We hit some snags along the way due to uncontrollable factors like the weather and a case of the travelling flu but you all went with it and the show went on in a spectacular fashion.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting on such a great show. You are all rockstars and I wish I could take all of you out to party like one too.

Ps. My resting face is naturally worried/sad – don’t worry about me ;)

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Advertising 101: Monkey Business

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an advertisement, a TV commercial, Youtube pre roll, or print ad, that made you cringe.

One such commercial that comes to mind is courtesy of Oliver Jewellery, this infamous Cashman spot is one that everyone in Toronto has seen at some point in their life and just cringed, hard. Cashman is so bad it’s almost good in that if the ask, the pure objective, is to create retained awareness, the ad agency might just get a pass.

I’ve always wondered what the concept behind the commercial is. I can’t for the life of me understand why Russell Oliver ever thought it is a good idea to put himself, behaving in an overly loud and intrusive manner, on camera. I guess in some circles it’s always a good idea to wave bills in front of half-dressed girls while singing: I’m the cashman? With this portrayal the Oliver Jewellery brand is associated with adjectives ranging from cheap to gaudy to indent – not exactly the most desirable terms for a brand to be aligned with. Personally, I feel this reel is one that borderlines disrespect for the customer. This whole commercials just screams: WHY?

Why would a client ever chose to authorize a media buy to deliver the commercial that portrays their brand in such a manner? Why did the agency even produce such an artless annoying commercial that is just packed with aggressive selling? Moreover, why was such a concept even presented to the client?

A few weeks ago a member of the creative team I work with shared some insight about the role of the agency as we sat in a meeting musing over concepts. He had this to offer:

Don’t present a monkey (to client) unless you want to hear ooh-ooh-ahh-ahh in the commercial.  

The client may be the one with the final word on the concept that is distributed but it is the agency that has control over what is presented to client. I believe the agency has the responsibility to ensure work that they produce and facilitate is work that the client and the agency itself can be proud of.

On the flipside, head over to Marketing Mag  for Ads You Must See.

Ps. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 22 :)

 

 

 

 

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