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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

Dreaming of Double-Digit Growth?

Filed under: Editorial, Personal

Hi, Everyone!

We recently had a very special event here at ASI: We hosted the monthly meeting of Specialty Advertising Counselors of the Delaware Valley (SACDV), our local industry association. It was a fun and informative meeting, equal parts networking event and education.

There was lots of fabulous food (salad, pizza, hors d’oeuvre, wine, soft drinks, root-beer ice cream floats) courtesy of the event’s sponsors: Admints/Zagabor, ASI, Montco, PromoBiz Coach and Rockland Embroidery.

Janet McMaster, education chair of the group, explained the need for grassroots efforts to combat an overly-restrictive and detrimental bill currently before Congress: the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. Janet stressed the need to write your local congressperson to express concern over the negative impact it would have on the industry. She also noted that SACDV will be forming a legislative committee to work as an advocate in the legal arena on behalf of the group and the industry. Dale Denham, senior vice president for ASI, addressed the group in more detail, explaining that if passed, the law would force pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies to reveal the gifting of every item, of any value, once the annual threshold of $100 is crossed. Under the current law, only items exceeding $25 must be reported once the threshold is passed. Information would be combined in a national database that could be accessed by the public. Click here to read more.

But it was Gene Geiger’s keynote presentation, entitled “Virtual Business Cultivation: Using Social Networks to Grow Business,” that had attendees tuned in. Gene is such a super guy — one of the most gracious, genteel and dryly funny people in the industry — and his presentation did not disappoint. (He may also be the one person in the industry who could get away with using the phrase “honest to Betsy” — as he did last night — and have it sound endearingly charming.) If you’re like me and get completely overwhelmed by the concept of online social networking and sites like Facebook and Twitter, Gene’s speech was for you. In it, he explained how online social networking isn’t just for kids anymore — indeed, the fastest-growing group of users are the over-40 crowd. Gene said it’s ideal for building relationships and “light alliances” where people can make connections they don’t have the time for otherwise. For more information about SACDV or to request a copy of Gene’s very thorough and comprehensive presentation, go to www.sacdv.org.

El Presidentes! (From left to right): Tim Andrews, president/CEO of ASI; Gene Geiger, president of Counselor Top 40 distributor Geiger; and Brett Hersh, president of Admints/Zagabor spend some quality time at the SACDV event, held at ASI’s Trevose, PA-based headquarters on Monday evening.
Dale Denham, a senior vice president at ASI, addresses the more than 50 SACDV members in attendance that the group’s monthly meeting, held Tuesday night at ASI, on the topic of the proposed Physician Payments Sunshine Act.
The always-informative and self-deprecating Gene Geiger, the keynote speaker at SACDV’s meeting, kept everyone riveted with his presentation on the topic of, “Virtual Business Cultivation: Using Social Networks to Grow Business.”

Dreaming of Double-Digit Growth?

Tired of the doom and gloom financial news? Listen in to the free Webinar I’m moderating tomorrow! We’ve found some industry suppliers who have experienced double- and triple-digit growth, despite the turbulent economy. My panelists will be Fred Antonini, owner of eGrips (asi/54596), whose company grew 1,700% in one year, as well as Brett Hersh, owner of AdMints & Zagabor (asi/31516) and Rob Watson, president of MediaTree (asi/70303) — both of whom experienced 100% growth for their companies from ’07 to ’08 — and Christopher Duffy, senior vice president of marketing at Bag Makers Inc.(asi/37940), a company that grew 47% from ’07 to ’08. Join us for the Webinar tomorrow, Wednesday, June 24, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. (EST) to learn their tips for success, see how they’ve navigated pitfalls and discover how they’ve used innovation and ingenuity to generate spectacular sales in a stagnant marketplace. To listen to the Webinar held earlier today, click here.

More next week!



A “Hangover” that Didn’t Make Me Beg for Death…

Filed under: Fun, Personal

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

So just in time for the weekend, and because everyone needs a good, hearty laugh to counterbalance the dreary state of the economy, I am telling everyone I know to run — don’t walk — to see The Hangover.

My merry band of movie-going pals here at ASI went to see it last night and I will tell you that I haven’t howled that heartily at a movie since Old School. I thought Forgetting Sarah Marshall was funny; this is riotous in a body-convulsing fashion. At one point, I laughed so hard that my pal Pierre Schnog, a senior editorial desgner for ASI’s magazines, leaned over and asked — in a very concerned way — if I needed medical assistance. I believe he thought my lungs had collapsed because I was wheezing with laughter [click here to hear my turkey-call of a laugh that frightens young and old alike…]. To be sure, many hangovers I’ve experienced have made me weep and beg for a quick, painless death; this one made me cry with uproarious hilarity. 

In a nutshell, the movie is about four guys who take a road trip from Cali to Vegas for one last night of partying before one of them — “Doug” — gets married. You don’t get to see much of Doug once they arrive in Vegas because he goes missing, and the mayhem that follows is nothing short of Caligulan. [Click here to see a trailer of the movie].

Perhaps I loved the movie so much because some of my trips to Vegas for industry shows have been equally as legendary in their Dionysian debauchery (Shepenco’s Dan Townes, Express Pens’ Matt Linderman, Bravo Awards’ Brian Starke & Greg Livings, On Time Promotions’ Sharon Biernat, WorkflowOne’s Jill Albers and Red Heart Promotions’ Sharon Ross, I’m looking at you…; )). Really now, who hasn’t woken up on the floor of a room resembling the sack of Rome, newly tattooed, with a free-range chicken strutting through the place? Am I the only one???

As sublime as the movie was, my complaint still holds from the last few movies my pals and I have been to — where are the fun, cool and memorable ad specialty tie-ins? I’m telling you: If, for example, at showings of The Hangover, they gave out stuffed tigers, keychains with fake incisor “charms,” imprinted tighty-whiteys (all key plots points from the movie), shot glasses or disposable cameras (so movie-goers could snap evidence of their own extreme partying), the items would be coveted.

Mark my words, my friends: If the day ever comes when ASI’s president & CEO Tim Andrews finally shows me the door for being a PITA (Pain In The Ass), I’ll start my own movie promo business going to theaters owners and yapping incessantly to them about how — if they used ad specialties — they’d have legions of loyal patrons.

Cheers, and more next week!

— M 

In Praise of Nerds, Networkers & Beloved BFFs

Filed under: Fun, Personal

Hi & Happy June, Everyone! 

For people of my ilk — the sci-fi/fantasy/comic-con freaks — there can be no doubt that this is our time to shine. The Golden Age of the Geek. In the past two months, movies such as Wolverine, the electrifying Star Trek and decidedly so-so Terminator have opened, with the second installment of Transformers and the sixth Harry Potter coming in a few weeks. It is, indeed, the summer of our most content. Having seen some of these movies with my Nerd Herd friends at ASI (Jeremy Young, Jason Kuttner, Jim Maratea, Seth Kusiak, Samantha Tucker and Hillary Braubitz, I’m looking at you!), here’s my question: Where are the promo products to accompany these big-budget openings? There are few fan bases as rabid in their devotion and loyalty as the geeks, so why aren’t the movie industry, theater owners, etc. doing more to show their appreciation?

When the Nerd Herd and I went to see Wolverine, we all gathered in the theater’s lobby after the movie to play one of those games where you maneuver the metal claw to capture a plush toy. (No need to point out the weirdness of a bunch of people in their early 30s and considerably older participating in this… We know.) My techy wizard pal Seth was able to win a stuffed Star Trek “Live Long and Prosper” hand (the Vulcan “farewell” for those of you not cool enough to know… ; ) ), but it cost us all about $15 in dollar bills to do so.

My ASI “Nerd Herd,” after seeing the new Wolverine movie. Here, Seth Kusiak shows the Star Trek “Live Long and Prosper” hand he won after spending about $15 in dollar bills.

Would it fry the neural pathways of ad specialty buyers to offer some logoed items as free giveaways? Just a thought, but if they want the continued patronage of people with clearly a lot of time, money and freakish devotion, wouldn’t it behoove them to ply the fanboy (and girl) demographic with incentives? Remember: These are people willing to dress in costume and sleep on streets for movie premiers; imagine how fired up their metachlorians would get over an imprinted T-shirt.      

SnugZ/USA’s Charley Johnson Gets Connected

My friend Charley Johnson, one half of the charismatic SnugZ/USA duo, recently started a new Facebook group called “Promo 35,” which he says will focus mainly on the younger/next generation of the ad specialty industry. It will also spotlight enlightening interviews with some well-known people in the industry — Q&As with Gene Geiger, Bob Stoltz from Sanford Business-to-Business and ASI’s president/CEO Tim Andrews are on the site now.

One of Counselor‘s “Power 50” last year, Charley Johnson (left), co-owner of SnugZ/USA, has started a Facebook site for the industry — “Promo 35” — with an eye towards the younger generation.

Though I personally find online social networking to be a scourge, I applaud any effort like Charley’s to make the industry more inclusive. “Only a small percentage of people know the ins and outs of our industry and I would like to bring the knowledge of some of the big players in the industry to more people,” Charley says. “A happier, more engaged employee only makes for a stronger company, which in turn helps the industry. I have many Facebook friends from the industry but they all have their own set of friends — friends they work with back at the office, friends I will never meet nor will you — and these are the people I want to get involved. It’s a piece a cake to send a Friend request and even simpler for these people to accept and not a damn dime is spent.”

To check out Charley’s “Promo 35” site, use this link: http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#/pages/promo35/106499934072?ref=ts. The site is only one week old and already has over 400 members. Interviews with Dard’s Bonni Shevin-Sandy, AIA’s David Woods, Boundless Network’s Jason Black, The Vernon Co.’s Chris Vernon and Shelbyville Pencil/Shepenco’s Dan Townes, among others, will be posted soon.

A Message to Michael

Lastly, I’d like to give a special shout-out to my favorite in the industry, Michael Bernstein, who celebrates his 42nd birthday today. Michael, the vice chairman of Polyconcept, and I have been friends since we were 29 years old — I was new to the industry when we met and he was just a guy who worked in the design department at Leed’s. In the 12 years since, he is the one I’m closest to, the one I rely on the most and the one who calls me on my crap.

Michael and I have been BFFs for 12 years now, so much so, that I think we’re beginning to look alike — like people sometimes do with their pets.

Henceforth, the top six reasons why the talented Mr. Bernstein is my brother from another mother:

6. Because I’ve always been a sucker for smart-ass, defiant rebels. When we first met, at the 1997 Counselor banquet — when it was the “Top 25” and Leed’s had just cracked the list in the #25 slot — he sat at a back table in the banquet facility with a one-hitter and got progressively high throughout the evening… much to the mystified amazement of everyone who recognized the wafting scent and snapped to attention. 

5. Because he’s seen the Grateful Dead more than 120 times and once took me to a Stones concert in Pittsburgh at which we had front row seats — and because he only mildly mocked me as I squealed like a 12-year-old girl when Keith Richards stood directly in front of us and played “Sympathy for the Devil.”

4. Because even though he’s snarky and sarcastic, cynical and borderline nihilistic, he and his wife Amy have Shabbat dinner every Friday night so their four young children get a sense of their Jewish heritage.

3. Because he covets his privacy and keeps such a low profile he makes Keyser Söze seem attention-starved, yet acquiesces to my continued, pesky requests for interviews, quotes and dreaded (for him) photo shoots for ASI’s magazines.

Michael Bernstein, vice chairman of Counselor Top 40 supplier Polyconcept, has appeared on two Counselor covers (in June, 2004 and Decemeber, 2007) — something that has rarely happened in the magazine’s 55-year history. To say I had to beg, plead with and cajole him to stuff himself under his desk (left cover) and pose like a teenybopper pin-up model is putting it mildly; to say he cursed at me like a sailor on shore leave while he was under there is accurate.

2. Because when I need someone to explain the intricacies of world economies and financial markets — and their impact on the industry — he’s the first one I call. He is the Annie Sullivan to my Helen Keller.

1. Because even though he’s now the vice chairman of a billion dollar global company, he’s still the same person he was when I met him 12 years ago — one of the most chronically individualistic, iconoclastic, enigmatic and funny people I know.

Happy Birthday, Michael… ; )

— M