Disrupt This Ad

6 Dec

When he spoke in front of a room of media professionals at Code/Media earlier this year, Gabe Leydon of Machine Zone, the mobile gaming giant, spooked the room with his view that brand awareness, CPM-based digital campaigns will soon go the way of the dodo. There is such a fondness among Silicon Valley types for disruption, or at least the appearance of disruption, that this seemed newsworthy. A young Turk taking on the dinosaurs. But Leydon’s experience with digital media buying at Machine Zone is not representative of the myriad needs of different brands and publishers across the web. To think his experience is universal would be a mistake.

Leydon talked about his company’s revenue model of in-app purchases within a mobile game. For the very particular product that he is selling, heavy advertising on Facebook has proved very successful. Machine Zone pays Facebook a click per install rate, and the more people install the app, the more people get hooked and pay for in-app purchases, which is where the real money is made. Fine. But not all advertisers are Machine Zone; their objective isn’t installs or in-app purchases, but the purchase of flights to new airline routes, or a public awareness campaign to sign up for healthcare, or a sale on stylish sunglasses. The aforementioned examples are just some that I remember from my days running ad campaigns on display, mobile and video. Different advertisers have different goals. Installs are not the only metric that matters. Far from it.

In the talk, Leydon also indicated that publishers avoid quantifying their media, that they are all in on the racket.  That is simply not borne out by my experience. What I found when working with publishers is that they are often not as knowledgeable as they need to be about how to earn money online. Publishers are not the enemy; along with Leydon, I blame ad tech. There are always studies showing that bots make up a huge proportion of web traffic. Moat recently made the New York Times with its new product offering, a traffic verification tool. I worked at an ad network that sought to be transparent by using Moat’s technology. But in this age of programmatic buying, transparency and quality fall by the wayside. Digital advertising provides so many more opportunities for advertisers to glean insights into consumers, to create partnerships with publishers, to sell products effectively. I wholeheartedly support more transparency and efficiency in online advertising. Can a one-stop shop really handle the creation, placement and trafficking of online campaigns? Is Leydon’s insistence on disrupting online media buying prophetic or shortsighted? I am reminded of the saying “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” One company’s needs do not represent the trends of the rest of the industry.

 

 

A Moral 9/11

16 Nov
Awful Trump

Awful Trump

Thomas Friedman articulated my feelings after last Tuesday so well: the election of Donald Trump is a moral 9/11. Except the only difference is that the damage from 9/11 was inflicted from outside, whereas we did this to ourselves.

Sometimes it takes a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist to articulate what we are feeling. The fact that Trump’s victory represents a self-inflicted wound. It means that rather than looking at the Obama years as a shining moment in American history, we will look at it as just a period of calm between the W years and the Donald years. It is proof that Americans learned nothing from the Bush years. We watched as a thoroughly unprepared man tiptoed into the White House and proceeded to surround himself with Batman villains that toppled the economy and started two simultaneous ground wars in the Muslim world and thought, how can we go lower?

One reason that November 8th, 2016 feels like 9/11 is that we will all recall where we were when we realized that Donald Trump would succeed Barack Obama as President. When we realized that the campaign of Yes We Can was replaced with America First. When those of us who are not rural, white men realized that millions and millions of our fellow citizens had no problem affirming a campaign of white nationalism and wanton cruelty. Speaking of wanton cruelty, contemplate the picture that accompanies this post. Donald Trump is mocking a disabled journalist. Why was that not a thoroughly disqualifying moment? The fact that it was treated as a non-issue by the media- just another gaffe by wacky Trump- should have been the first sign that  nothing would stick to him. The Republican party saw what an incompetent hateful sociopath they were dealing with…and yet they chose to step aside and let him take over their party. Why? Because they thought he was an empty vessel that they could control. They decided they were okay with a candidate who would rip apart the social fabric of America and make our country’s diversity an issue to be contested rather than a simple fact of our society. And it turned out to be a winning strategy.

I’m sad and angry. Feelings of resignation alternate with feelings of rage. I’m angry that there have been at least 400 documented incidents of hate and intimidation in the last WEEK alone. That is only incidents that have been reported to date. I try to overcome my fear by speaking out, but I admit, I’m scared. I’m glad I tweet under a pseudonym. Although I look pretty white for someone of my background (call me an undercover minority), I still am fearful for myself and others, like my family and my friends who stand out more than I do. I am angry as hell that widespread fear for our safety is the result of a presidential election. It bears repeating over and over and over again: this is not normal.

This is a moral 9/11. We did it to ourselves.
http://content.jwplatform.com/players/JuufWlrh-EAYoNgFe.html

Fear and Loathing in 2016

16 Oct
Trump

Trump

In 2008 Barack Obama emerged to be elected President of the United States. Now, in 2016, a truly vile man seeks to succeed him as leader of this nation.

The hope and optimism of 2008 seem more and more like a distant dream. Optimism? Sarah Palin (remember her?) spoke derisively of ‘hopey-changey’ stuff. She was the asterisk to the hope of the Obama campaign, the one sour note of that joyful year in politics. But the rancor of the 2016 presidential campaign shows that she was not a bug of the Republican party. She was a feature.

I was an American who was inspired by candidate Obama’s call for unity, his rhetoric of not a red America, or a blue America, but a United States of America. Bill Maher once said he was tired of politicians hailing the heartland, wondering why people from the rural center of the country were considered more American than those of us from cities and suburbs from other parts of the country. Obama’s campaign gathered those of us who didn’t come from the amber waves of grain and reminded us that we too are America. His effort at inclusion wasn’t just geographic, uniting all regions of the country (minus the Southeast), but also racial, making those of us who are not of WASP-descent feel like an equally vital part of this nation. If the biracial candidate with African and white roots, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, and had a last name as uncommon as mine, could unite the country and reach the highest office in the land, anything truly seemed possible. We had always learned that anyone could grow up to become President of the United States. He represented the best in us, and he gave me, and many others, immense hope.

So it is important to remember the good feeling that prevailed eight years ago in order to appreciate how horrid things are now. All of the optimism is gone. I, a descendant  of immigrants, have been made to feel in the current political climate that I am less than some of my fellow citizens. Rather than inspire the better angels of our nature, the presidential candidate of the opposition party fuels hate. The election is rigged, he warns, not because sinister forces conspire to steal the election, but because some citizens, his followers believe, are less legitimate than others. They- Arabs, Mexicans, women, Asians, African-Americans- aren’t “real” Americans like we are, so their votes don’t count as much as ours do, their thinking goes. We have to watch the polls to make sure they don’t do anything fishy, they protest. It is terrifying for all citizens of good conscience to watch half of our country descend into the fever swamps of hate. 2008 was a season of unity and hope. 2016 is a season of division and anxiety. It has clarified for me, like no history lesson ever did, an understanding of 1930’s Italy and Germany. I just hope that the hate sown by Donald Trump doesn’t give way to violence. I hope.

Dónde Comer y Tomar en la Ciudad de México

11 Sep
Chaibar

Chaibar

Solo viví en la Ciudad de México (otroramente conocida como el Distrito Federal) durante diez meses, pero en ese plazo corto, me gustaba explorar mi colonia, la Condesa, y la colonia aledaña, la Roma. Por esa razón esta lista tiene un sesgo por esas áreas. Abajo encontrarán algunos de los locales que extraño y que felizmente visitaría en el futuro.

Chaibar– Ubicado a unos metros del Parque México, Chaibar significa mucho para mi. En el principio, cuando no conocía a mucha gente en mi nueva ciudad, y mas adelante, tras un día laboral intenso y estresante, Chaibar servía como mi refugio. Los empleados siempre eran amables y abiertos, y crearon un ambiente cálido que atraía a la gente día y noche. El chai es cremoso y sabroso, hecho con ingredientes naturales y leche de soya, con tres opciones posibles- té negro, té de limón, o campechano, una mezcla de los dos. A mi siempre me gustaba el campechano. Chaibar es un buen lugar para tomar tu te y mirar el mundo pasar.

Libreria El Péndulo– Es una cadena de librerías que se denominan “cafebrerías”, con restaurantes en las premisas. La que está en la Condesa, en calle Nuevo León, donde me gustaba desayunar los fines de semana, cuenta con músicos en vivo los sábados por la mañana. Hay una cosa que siempre pedía para desayunar, los Huevos Macondo. Era un desayuno con sabor muy mexicano, con un huevo frito encima de una quesadilla llena de quesillo, huitlacoche y flor de calabaza, cubierto de salsa verde. Acompañado por un café o jugo, y sobretodo con un buen libro, es una buena forma de comenzar el fin de semana.

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar– Visité este restaurante en Roma Norte poco después de su inauguración, y de pronto entablé uan amistad con los dueños, quienes fueron muy sorprendidos cuando les dije que soy libanesa. Pero si mi cara no les convencía de mis orígenes, mi afinidad por su comida lo hizo. Pedir el plato libanés, un surtido de comidas distintas, es la mejor forma de probar todo en un solo lugar. Aunque las hojas de uva rellenas nunca han sido mi comida favorita, me encanta las que preparan aquí, llenas de arroz y carne y bañados en aceite de olivo. Eso, y el kipe crujiente (la cosa en forma óvalo en la foto), eran mis favoritas, aunque en realidad todo es rico.

Helado Obscuro– Vine una noche con una amiga, y cuanto más nieve comimos, mas borrachas nos pusimos. Aquí sirven nieve con licor, y con MUCHO licor. Unos ejemplos de los sabores que ofrecen son absenta y frambuesa o Kahlua chocolate. También vale la pena ir por la música y el ambiente 100% hipster.

Gourmart– Los dueños de este restaurante colombiano modesto en la Roma Norte siempre te saludan con una sonrisa. Tienen una carta sencilla, con solo dos opciones de comida de lunes a viernes. El café colombiano es una buena forma de comenzar el día, fuerte pero nada amargo, y por la tarde las mejores opciones son el  sancocho, un guisado que lleva pollo desmenuzado, elote, rajas de aguacate, una salsa no picosa, y arroz, y el sudado de albondigas, que son albondigas bañadas en una salsa de jitomate y cebolla- todo servido con una arepa al lado. Esta comida es muy buena para el alma cuando hace frío.

Rosetta

Rosetta

Rosetta– Tenía ganas de conocer este restaurante desde que leí noticias sobre ello antes de llegar a México, y por eso pensé que cenar en Rosetta sería una buena forma de festejar mi cumpleaños. Y cuando llegamos esa noche lluviosa, no me decepcionaron. El ambiente es íntimo, y no es de sorprender, ya que el restaurante ocupa una casa porfiriana en la Roma Norte. La gastronomía es italiana con un toque mexicano. Recuerdo un pan divino, crujiente por afuera y con una masa esponjosa por dentro, un primer plato de hinojo frito, y una pasta hecha con un ragú jugosa con sabor a ajo. Para resumir, lo recomiendo para cualquier ocasión especial.

Riviera del Sur– He ido a este restaurante/bar en la Roma Sur varias veces con varios amigos, y siempre me ha gustado por su buena comida yucateca. La sopa de lima es como una sopa de tortilla pero mas sencilla, los kibis son muy parecidos al kipe libanés, y los tacos de cochinita pibil son una rica forma de consumir el puerco (sobre todo si te gusta lo dulce). La Riviera es amplio y tiene un ambiente amigable, así que es un buen lugar para pasar el tiempo con amigos.

Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma

Biergarten– En la azotea de Mercado Roma, un mercado a la moda donde hay puestos que venden todo, de los sandwiches vietnamitas a las paletas, Biergarten es un bar de cerveza inspirado por los mismos que se encuentran en Alemania. Te da la oportunidad de disfrutar de una buena cerveza al aire libre. La carta de comida tiene buenas opciones, y si la cerveza no es lo tuyo, los ‘smashes’ son una buena opción de cocteles.

Los tacos callejeros cerca de la  Sumesa, Calle Oaxaca y Avenida Álvaro Obregon. Es difícil describir este lugar porque es un puesto callejero sencillo, y tengo que recomendarlo sin ningún enlace, ni foto, ni una buena descripción de su ubicación. Espero que siga allí y que no haya cambiado. Hacen tacos con una variedad de rellenos, con frijoles pintos y papas fritas crujientes encima. Simplemente es lo mejor. Imprescindible comerlo con una botella de Coca Cola.

También cabe mencionar: Lardo, Temporal, Azul Restaurante

Where to Eat and Drink in Mexico City

11 Sep
Chaibar

Chaibar

I only lived in Mexico City for ten months, but in that short time, I enjoyed exploring my neighborhood, Condesa, and the neighboring Roma neighborhood. For that reason this list skews heavily towards those areas. Below are some of the places I now miss and would gladly visit on any future visits to the city.

Chaibar– Located just off of Parque México, Chaibar is very meaningful to me. During the times when I felt either lonely as a newly arrived expat who didn’t have many friends yet, or disillusioned after a long, stressful day at work, I always found Chaibar to be a refuge. The employees were always so warm and friendly, and they created a convivial atmosphere that attracted people day and night to this closet-sized space. The chai is creamy and flavorful, made will all-natural ingredients and soy milk, with three options available- black tea, lemongrass, or ‘campechano’, a mix of both. I always enjoyed the campechano. Chaibar is a good place to drink your tea and people watch.

Libreria El Péndulo– This is a small, local chain of bookstores that also have restaurants on the premises. The Condesa location, where I liked to eat breakfast on the weekends, had live music on Saturday mornings, which was a lovely accompaniment to the meal. There was one item I liked to order, called Huevos Macondo. It was a tasty Mexican breakfast, a fried egg on top of a tortilla filled with cheese, huitlacoche (like a very pungent mushroom) and squash, all covered in a mild green sauce. With a coffee or juice, and especially with a good book, it was a great way to start the day.

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar

Jalil Sabor a Hogar– I first visited this restaurant in Roma Norte shortly after it opened, and quickly became friends with the owners, who were quite surprised to learn that I’m Lebanese. But if my looks didn’t convince them of my origins, my fondness for their food did. I found that ordering the plato libanés, an assortment of different dishes, was the best way to get all of my favorite tastes in one place. Although stuffed grape leaves have never been a favorite of mine, I loved the ones here, moist and full of flavorful rice and meat. That, and the crisp kibbeh (the football-shaped item in the picture), were my favorites, though everything on the plate is delicious.

Helado Obscuro– I came with a friend one night, and the more ice cream we ate, the drunker we started to feel. Not only does this ice cream shop serve liquor-infused ice cream, but the ice cream is VERY liberally infused with the alcohol. Think flavors like absinthe raspberry and Kahlua chocolate. It’s also worth visiting this spot in Roma Sur for the very hisptery music and décor.

Gourmart– The owners of this modest Colombian restaurant in Roma Norte always greet you with a smile. They have a simple menu, with two specials served for lunch each weekday. The Colombian coffee is good first thing in the morning, strong but not bitter, and in the afternoon the best choices are the sancocho, a stew filled with chicken, corn, avocado slices, mild salsa, and rice, and the sudado de albondigas, meatballs in a tomato-onion sauce, all served with an arepa on the side (a corn-based wafer). Especially comforting on a cold day.

Rosetta

Rosetta

Rosetta– Intrigued by reviews of this restaurant that I had read before I arrived in Mexico, I thought that a dinner there would be the perfect way to celebrate my birthday. And once we showed up on that rainy night, I was not disappointed. The ambience was homey and intimate, which is not surprising given that the restaurant occupies a former 19th-century home in Roma Norte. The cuisine is mostly Italian with a strong Mexican streak. I recall having bread that was divine, with a crunchy crust and light and airy dough, an appetizer of crispy, fried hinojo (a leafy herb), and a pasta dish with a meaty ragu studded with garlic and all kinds of delicious spices. All in all, a wonderful restaurant for a special occasion.

Riviera del Sur– I’ve been to this restaurant/bar in Roma Sur several times with different friends, and I’ve always enjoyed the Yucatecan food. The sopa de lima is a citrusy, pared-down tortilla soup, the kibis, which surprisingly are a lot like Lebanese kibbeh, are a good accompaniment to a cold beer, and the tacos de cochinita pibil are an ideal pork-delivery system (and are especially good if you have a sweet palette, since the pork is cooked in a citrus marinade). La Riviera is spacious and friendly, a good place to get a drink and relax with friends.

Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma

Biergarten– On the top floor of Mercado Roma, a swanky market with food booths selling everything from banh mi to popsicles, Biergarten is a German-inspired beer hall that gives patrons the chance to drink a pint of beer outdoors while enjoying good music. The food options are good-I remember having poutine covered in gravy- and if ice cold beer on tap is not your thing, the smashes are a great cocktail option.

Street tacos near Sumesa grocery store, Calle Oaxaca and Avenida Álvaro Obregon. This one is hard to describe because it’s a street food stall, and I have to recommend it without a link, a photo, or a firm description of the location. I hope that this place is still there and still as good as usual. They make tacos with a variety of meat fillings that are topped with whole pinto beans and crispy French fries. It’s the best taco around.

Honorable mention: Lardo, Temporal, Azul Restaurante

“The Girls” and the Mansons and Growing Up

7 Sep

Last month I read one of the best books I have read in a long time: “The Girls” by new author Emma Cline. My first exposure to the book was in the tasting room of Cline Cellars in Sonoma, when I thought it was odd that a winery would sell a novel along with cheese boards and wine bottle openers. I asked the friendly woman pouring for our group about it, and she proudly exclaimed that the book was on sale because it was written by the owner’s eldest daughter. I had seen at least two people reading it on my morning ferry into San Francisco. A coworker eagerly lent me her copy, and I finally read it.

If you were once a 14 year old girl, it’s not an easy read. It takes you back where you may not want to go. Cline recreates the ennui and uncertainty and insecurity that go along with being 14, lurching from 8th grade to freshman year of high school. The book details Evie, the protagonist, as she tries to make her way in the world: among other things, she tries in vain to look cool to the boy she likes, only to get teased; she feels terribly alone after her best friend dumps her and she has no one to spend her long summer days with. Cline expertly details what it is to be an adolescent girl in the suburbs. It felt particularly relatable to me because Evie is a 14 year old in Petaluma, the North Bay town only miles from where I grew up. She referred to streets and landscapes and hippie mindsets that I knew. Although the novel is filled with 1969-era period detail (every item of clothing described is straight out of a time capsule), the confusion of being 14 and lonely appears to be timeless. One line that stands out, indicative of Cline’s lyrical literary chops: All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you — the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.

“The Girls”, as every review will remind you, is loosely inspired by the young female adherents of Charles Manson (although it is much more than that). But yes, Evie spends the summer of 1969 falling in with a group of girls who pull her into the orbit of a charismatic cult figure. We see the filth of their rural outpost, the squalor that one girl’s baby grows up in, the casual cruelty with which the girls address each other and their abandonment of all sense of self to devote themselves to their leader and his delusional dreams of pop stardom. Cline shows how it could be appealing to a young girl eager for the kinship and attention provided by the cool girls. The sense of belonging, of common purpose, the perverse joy in subverting societal norms- they are all so important to teenagers. You begin to see how this, plus copious amounts of mind-altering drugs, could lead some girls down a truly frightening path.

After finishing the book, I perused reviews of the book online, and came across this article in Australian Elle.  It mentioned the You Must Remember This podcast, which I promptly downloaded and listened to,  12 episodes devoted to the Manson family (focusing on the Family’s Hollywood connections).  Karina Longworth delves not only into the nitty gritty of Charles Manson’s life and the trials for the Tate/LaBianca murders, but also how the time, 1969- and the place, freewheeling San Francisco and Hollywood- affected the movies that were produced at the time, and how the Manson murders had an effect on future films (Shampoo, Chinatown, Easy Rider, just to name a few). Longworth effectively makes the argument that the masterpieces of 1970’s cinema were inevitably influenced by the horror of the Manson murders. Listening to this podcast was the perfect bookend to reading this magnificent book. It is the reason why I spent August of 2016 in the canyons of 1969 Los Angeles.

I’ll be coming where dreams are made of

9 May
New York

New York

Just two weeks into my stay in Washington D.C., I went to New York for a few hours one day. Why? Because I could. Shortly after arriving, I found out that one can take the Bolt bus from D.C. to New York in 4 hours and for as low as $12-16 each way. I quickly made plans to see a friend who lives in Brooklyn, works at U.N. headquarters, and whom I hadn’t seen in 8 years. I was too bashful to ask her if I could spend the night at her house, knowing that the last thing she needed was to prepare lodging for a guest in addition to caring for her kids. I wanted a no-hassle trip. So I decided to make it a day trip.

The sun was out, the air was cool, and I walked the streets feeling carefree. The bus dropped us off in the Soho/West Village area, which I had always heard about and surely seen on the big screen. I had heard that there was a part of New York that didn’t feel hectic and crazy, with narrow, cobblestone streets and a less frenetic pace of life. I didn’t exactly feel like I was in the middle of Nebraska, but rather that I was walking streets that were bursting with all of the best of city life: conviviality, diversity, vibrancy. There seemed to be a buzz in the air, a crackling energy. Yes, in the evening the streets got crowded, but people were congenial, friendly. It wasn’t a scowling, unfriendly city; it was full of neighborly people of all walks of life. So I strolled the area for a few hours, stopping occasionally to get a slice of pizza, later a hot tea, browsing stores and churches, until the evening came. I had a wonderful time at a restaurant in Chinatown catching up with my friend and her kids, and then I caught the bus back to Washington. I was home before midnight.

I couldn’t help thinking, as the bus pushed through the darkness of Delaware and Maryland that night, if I had chosen the wrong East Coast city to live in. New York had grabbed a hold of me.