Am I allowed to say Olympics in this blog?

A fantastic article by The Spectator details the absurd rules about the Olympics.

Driving to work the other day, I caught a CBC broadcast about the Olympic Brand protection and the absurd measures the International Olympic Committee will go to protect their brand.

In theory, I’m breaking the laws in place just by speaking ill of the games and linking to their website. According to the IOC rules, you’re only allowed to link to their site if you say nice things. Well, I don’t have anything nice to say, so sue me!

Another big issue is with companies and stores that haven’t paid sponsored the game using the Olympic brand and the legal issues doing so. I get the fact that sponsors like McDonald’s and Adidas have paid millions of dollars to sponsor the games. I also understand brand protection, I do work in advertising after all and must respect the companies making sure their names and likeness are used in only approved ways. The Olympics are different. They are about the people. It’s one thing selling counterfeit Olympic t-shirts, it’s another making the Olympic Rings out of issue in your flower shop to show your support

The people of London have put up with a lot for the Games to happen, including their own tax money. The IOC must understand that having this epic event in your home country, a local business will to want to capitalize upon it. Olympic organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including 2012. Twenty-Twelve, Olympics, London 2012, Sponsors, Games, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Summer. The list goes on and on. It’s seriously ridiculous, and I’m sure people will backlash against these totalitarian style rules. In theory, if you make a hand-drawn sign that says London 2012 and place it up in your store, you can be sued.

One of the trends to fight back against these rules include brands creating Olympic themed ads that toe the line of breaking the rules. But we’re not talking big brands here, we’re talking Mom & Pop shops that just want to make a buck to keep their business alive during what will probably be the most high-profile event in their neighbourhood ever!

It will be interesting to see how this plays out at Olympic venues around London. If I show up to an event wearing a Nike shirt, holding a Pepsi and eating Burger King, will I be turned away? After all, Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are the official sponsors of the games.

What are your thoughts on this censorship? Let me know in the comments.



Revealing the secrets behind McDonald’s food

In case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s Canada has pulled back the curtain to showcase how their food is made. In a bold attempt at transparency, they are letting real consumers ask any question they like about the food. Instead of the usual corporate B.S. the public is used to getting, they are actually addressing the questions on a dedicated site using videos and real answers. Ever wanted to know how the food looks so perfect, or what’s in the secret sauce? All is being revealed over at McDonald’s Canada Youtube channel and the Your Questions microsite.

“Ever wanted to ask us about the food in our Canadian restaurants?  Now’s your chance! We’ll answer any questions about our food – even  the tough ones – then post a personal reply from McDonald’s® Canada.”

Simple, direct and honest. This is social media at it’s best: opening a two-way dialogue, creating buzz and being super awesome. It’s genius.

In this always connected world where every brand is now under the spotlight, McDonald’s is taking control of their message and showing they have nothing to hide. They have even revealed how to make the secret sauce for the Big Mac.

I must say this is the best advertising campaign I have seen in a long time (and it’s not just because I happen to worship McDonald’s!). The takeaways here aren’t anything new: be open and honest and everything else will fall into place. Many brands just haven’t got that message yet. Social media is helping them understand there is nowhere to hide anymore!

Of course there are critics, this is a billion dollar brand that is known for many controversial issues (pink slime anyone?), but McDonald’s has reacted in a perfect way that resonates with consumers.

The campaign is picking up a ton of momentum, I’ve heard people talking about it on radio, television  and all over the web. News outlets all over the world have picked up on the campaign. This is a viral campaign in every sense of the word: it’s spreading like virus!  Everyone wants to know the secrets behind the biggest fast food chain in the world. Many urban legends and misconceptions have circulated the internet for years, and this is their bold attempt at stopping them in their tracks.

One point of criticism: Users can’t comment on the videos, and while they do show real behind the scenes, they are also very controlled. While very open and honest, key information is being left out of the conversation. Maybe the next video can detail the food additives and manufacturing process of the food before it gets into the store. Either way, at least the world now knows how to make Big Mac sauce.

Great job McDonald’s! Now to head to my kitchen and attempt to see if I can make a Big Mac that is just as good as the restaurant!

How do you feel about this campaign? Do you love it, or hate it? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

Cool Ads: Brave Transit Wrap

It’s very rare that an advertising campaign grabs my attention, but I had to stop to take a picture of this. It’s a promotional transit wrap for the upcoming Disney-Pixar movie Brave. It’s not surprising, Disney is one of the  most creative companies on the planet. This transit wrap is a fun and well executed way to promote the movie while people are waiting for the TTC or walking down the street. It’s very detailed and stands out in a cluttered media environment. Great job Disney!

11 Wicked sources to stay updated on Social Media

There are way too many places to get information these days, it’s overwhelming. In order to stay on top of the game and know what’s going on in the world, it’s really important to read as much as you can about your industry. Mine happens to be social media, marketing and advertising. My last post detailed some tips about how to consume information, now I’m going to focus on the sources I use to be the most up-to-date person you’ll ever meet. I spend hours each day reading anything I can get my hands on. Not only about my industry, but things that are completely unrelated. It helps my personal brand, at work and even when I watch Jeopardy! I’m going to reveal some of my sources,but remember this is the tip of the iceberg.

Here is the list of some of my favourite sources to get the latest & greatest information about marketing, advertising, social media and business:


This site was cited at Social Media Week as the most important source for any person new to social media. They do post a lot of fluff, but if you can wade through that, it’s a valuable source for social media and tech news.

Social Media Examiner

Great daily articles about the social media world, but beware it’s very sales oriented towards their success summits.

Smartbrief on Social Media

A great newsletter that grabs the most important headlines of the day and brings them to your inbox.

Under the Influence

A homegrown podcast on CBC Radio about marketing and advertising. with Terry O’Reilly as its host. The most informative half hour of my week. New episodes every Sunday.


Another tech blog, great for coverage of the newest technologies and apps.


Information and inspiration about the world’s biggest brands and idea makers.

TED Talks

Videos from the super expensive and exclusive TED Conference. They range from design to business and marketing. All very informative and inspirational.


Great articles on startups, business strategies, tech, marketing and ton’s of other things.

Ad Age

The advertising industry bible. A must read to keep abreast of the latest campaigns, strategies and ideas

Marketing Magazine

The Canadian version of Ad Age, a great overview of Canadian agencies and accounts moving around. It’s nice because most of the other trade magazine focus on the U.S. budgets and statistics, where this gives Canadian stats.

PR Daily

Focused on public relations, with articles about writing, spelling, grammar and other related topics. Great source for social media crisis management.

As I said before, it’s a lot of work to stay updated with these sources. The payoff is worth it: you’ll be better at work, and more importantly with your personal brand. Look for my next article detailing what that is and how you can manage it. Remember, things change very quickly and news breaks fast. These sources are a great start, but there are many more. Now that I’ve shared some my sources, what do you recommend I add to the list? Comment below and tell me!

10 Ways to stay up to date with Social Media (and other things)

In my previous post, I talked about how constant learning is key to survive in the social media realm (and really in an industry). As there are millions of sources for information, it’s difficult to organize everything and keep up to date. I’m going to share some tools I use to digest as much information as I can in the most efficient way. A future post will focus on sources I use to keep updated about my industry, in the meantime here are some tools you can use to stay fresh in yours:


A great app for the iPad and iPhone. You can add all your social streams like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, plus Google Reader (see below). You can also subscribe to content within the app from Conde Nast, TechCrunch, and many others. It’s great because it takes all that information and presents it like a magazine you can flip through. Kind of a one-stop-place for all your important sources of information.

Google Reader

A simple place to subscribe to RSS feeds of blogs and websites to keep track of what you’ve read if you don’t have an iPad to use Flipboard.

Google Alerts

Simply pick keywords you want to know about, and receive a digest of activity related to that keyword from across the web. Especially good to set one up for your own name to monitor your personal brand (a future topic).

Twitter and Facebook Streams

Simply follow or Like brands and pages you want updates from, and while you see what your friends are up to, you can see the breaking news about social media as part of your stream. I find Twitter is great to uncover content I may miss, I pop in a few times a day to see what’s going on.


The good ones amalgamate various sources to produce a great overview of high quality content you can digest quickly. The bad ones (and you can tell) are very sales oriented and provide little information that’s useful to the reader. I hate those and quickly unsubscribe. It’s really easy to subscribe to a few newsletters and find yourself with inbox overload. I say pick 2 or 3 at first and make sure you read them. If not, move on to the next.


The hottest site on the web these days. It’s visually based, making it a breeze to skim and get excellent information, infographics and inspiring images. Still in Beta, you can email me for an invite if you want to join the site.

Read in the bathroom

Seriously, how much time do you spend sitting there just doing your business? Why not utilize that time to learn a few things. Take a book you’re reading, magazine, heck, even your iPad. People may judge, but you’ll be smarter for it! Trust me.

Magazines & Industry Publications

Print is not dead. Sometimes it’s nice to read something printed on paper. Our agency subscribes to a million different publications and I will skim them as I chow down at lunch. Another opportune time to grab some information. If you don’t get the print editions, visit the websites. Most of the content is the same, even expanded on the sites.

Blogs & Websites

An obvious one, but still worth mentioning. Tons of information is available on everything you can think of. Great for late breaking news & multiple viewpoints and opinions.


In the shower, on your commute to work, while your working out. All great times to listen to marketing, advertising and social media podcasts. There are lots out there, many of varying quality. Find the ones you like and subscribe to them in iTunes so they can update automatically.

Needless to say, I’m ALWAYS absorbing information everywhere I go. I feel like the only time I’m not learning is when I sleep. You may call it information overkill, I call it staying competitive and on the ball for my career.

These sources are what work for me, but may not be optimal for the way you digest information. Let me know how you stay up to date in your industry in the comments below.

The key is to find out what works for you by experimenting. Also, realize that someone else will always know more than you and that’s ok. The key is to be well-rounded and able to have a conversation.

Make sure to check back for my next post featuring a cheat sheet of sources to stay up to date.

Why American brands fail in Canada

I was really excited to hear that Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville had opened in Niagara Falls Canada. Its one of my favourite places to go for drinks in Orlando either before or after a day at Universal. That was until I looked at the menu. They have about half the menu items, a quarter of the merchandise selection in the store and don’t even use Margaritaville brand liquor in the drinks! This isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed with an American brand coming to Canada. TGI Fridays is known for having cheap, tasty food, but head to the handful up North and the prices are horrible and the menu hardly resembles the American version at all. I’ve been to these places in the U.S. and know what they should be like, as many other Canadians do as well. It would be interesting to see what people think who are experiencing only the Canadian versions of these brand, without comparing them the U.S. ones. That’s the issue here, we get a watered down Canadian version of these brands. Higher prices with less selection. With the available comparison shopping available with the internet, it has become more of an issue. Take a look at the uproar with J.Crew. They thought they could get away with a subpar brand experience by charging more money and offering less merchandise, but Canadian shoppers knew better. They have been exposed to the online shopping arm of the brand for years, and knew something wasn’t right when they visited the first Canadian store in Toronto. The simply facts are that the Canadian dollar has been worth more than the U.S. dollar for 5 years now, and it’s not reflected in the pricing of these companies. All the talking heads refer to the higher costs of doing business in Canada and blah blah blah. It’s simply sucks that we get a subpar brand experience. Now, some brands are taking preventative steps for price comparisons, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister sending customers to a Canadian version of their site that reflects the same prices as Canadian stores. You simply cannot access the U.S. website if you are in Canada. Other companies have even stopped listing both the U.S. and Canadian prices on the tags, thereby hiding the price differences in both countries.

It will be interesting to see what approach Target takes when they open the first phase of stores in Canada starting in 2013. Will it be the same Target those of us who’ve shopped there know and expect, or a vastly different chain with the only similarity being the logo. How will the pricing be in comparison to the U.S., and what will the merchandise selection look like. I’m taking a wait and see approach, and hoping for the best. But many of us know what the reality most likely can and will end up being.

Kim Kardashian vs. Old Navy with a splash of Sears

Believe it or not, the Old Navy commercial below is the reason for a $20 million dollar lawsuit against Gap Inc. (their parent company), by Kim Kardashian and Co. Why you may ask? It seems that the woman looks very similar to Kim. Ok, yes she does. Should it be illegal to have the same body type, hairstyle, facial whatever? In my opinion no. Since Kim, Khloe or one of the other people in the family that all look like each other as well, have a clothing line coming out with Sears, it may create confusion for the brand. To be clear, this campaign aired in January, as in 6 months ago. I find it difficult to remember a commercial I saw 2 hours ago on Big Brother let alone this music video from January! Side note: Is Sears really on the radar for the target market of people who like Kim and Co?  Anyways, I’m ashamed I am even wasting time on this but take a look at the ad below.  It’s a catchy song. At least we know one thing is true: this woman would never be caught in anything from Old Navy!

Hello Employment!

Today was my very first day at my brand new job as the Social Media Coordinator/ Writer at a great communications company right near where I live. It was a pretty packed day, with a couple of meetings scattered here and there. It’s a lot of information to take it, but this is the exact type of place I have been trying to get my foot in the door with for about 2 years. The highlight of my day was sitting with the team and going over what companies that had sent us RFP’s (request for proposals) to gain their business. We were discussing strategy, concepts, ideas, campaigns, research etc. I was in complete heaven! So far so good. There are many factors involved in why I can tell this job is going to be perfect fit, including the following:

  • 15 Minute drive from home (suck it 401 and GO Train!)
  • Small company, meaning lots of opportunity to work on many projects
  • Passionate, driven and focused team
  • Learning new things everyday
  • The best part is that this job is so new the opportunities for advancement are endless

The best part is that we are gearing up for the busy season, meaning I doubt there will ever be a dull moment. (Flash forward to me pulling out my hair in a months time!)