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

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