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

With Glasses Half Full …

Filed under: Editorial, Fun, Personal

Happy Autumn!

As summer is my favorite season, I’m less than thrilled to see it go but welcome the positive aspects of fall, like the latest crop of shoes and boots and the premier of some great new TV shows (more on that later)! 

Here at Counselor, we’re beginning to think about our awards season and have decided to add a new category to our Spirit Awards to honor industry pros who are using new media platforms for their self-promo campaigns. As an example, check out the latest in a series of Sweda’s hysterical YouTube videos for its 24-hour service. [Click here to watch.]

I’m sure there are many companies in the industry crafting cool, creative self-promos using innovative forms of multi-media, so keep an eye out for our call for nominations in February. Here at ASI, one of my favorites is this video on the subject of athletic apparel for Wearables magazine, starring staff writer and our reigning editorial department kook, Matt George. Matt, who’s in his early 20s, reminds me of a big, goofy chocolate lab who pants and gets all excited at the idea of chasing a stray ball or having his belly rubbed. The last 30 seconds of this video make me cackle each time I watch it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2g1bBzKdDE&feature=player_embedded

Speaking of fun, I — and my colleagues here at ASI — always try to stay positive and look on the bright side, despite turbulent financial and market conditions for the economy and our industry. We’re definitely glass-half-full kind of people. As an example, ASI president/CEO Tim Andrews graciously hosted a soiree at his home in Princeton, NJ, last week for the company’s senior leaders. It was a fun and festive occasion, and a great opportunity to relax with work friends you’re too busy to spend time with on a daily basis. I’ve been invited to Tim’s house before, but wasn’t able to make it due to traveling. As Tim greeted me at the door, I told him it was “my first time” and we both burst out laughing, knowing I don’t get to utter a phrase like that too often.

Tim’s reason for hosting the party was quite simple: “In an uncertain time, and certainly these have been uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to thank the people who matter — and for me there’s hardly a better way I know than to invite them to come over for a little food, some drink and to be able to spend some time with their colleagues in a social environment,” he says.

Here are some photos from the party, featuring some of your favorite ASI characters, I’m sure. Post a comment and let me know who your favorite ASI staffer is and why!

(From left): Randi Bromberg, director of marketing for the ASI Show; Karen DiTomasso, director of sales for the ASI Show; Chris Lovell, senior vice president of sales; and Jodi Tashman, assistant director of ASI’s coordination department enjoy the afternoon and the sounds of the jazz trio in Tim’s backyard. Keith Tuskey (left), ASI’s chief technology officer, and Tim Andrews, ASI’s president/CEO, have known each other for years — they worked together prior to ASI at Dow Jones and Primedia.
This jazz trio played at Tim’s garden soiree. Their official name is Michael Yang Trio, but I will be calling them “The Three Adorable Yet Annoyingly Young Band Boys.” Representing the second and third generation of family ownership of ASI are Matthew Cohn (left), the company’s vice chairman, and Norman Cohn, its chairman of the board.
Dan Dienna (left), ASI’s associate publisher of digital products & catalogs, shown here with Andy Hornstein, director of business applications. Making Dan laugh is one of my favorite things to do here at ASI, because for a guy who’s 6′ tall, he has a giggle like a 12-year-old schoolgirl. Leo Peysakhovich, who has the coolest-sounding title — chief data architect; Alex Khais, director of project management; Keith Tuskey, chief technology officer; and Seth Kusiak, director of Web infrastructure. As all my favorite techies at ASI report to Keith, I hereby crown him, “The King of the Coders, Tech Geeks & Data Nerds.”
Scott Fuhr (left), director of corporate communications and Ron Ball, ASI’s chronically eccentric vice president of supplier sales. Ron has a singular talent of taking a word as innocuous as “the” and finding a way to make it a saucy double entendre. Gene Rahill (left), sales director of membership and ASI CreditConnect, and Dan “The Man” Brown, director of distributor services. Should any of you see Gene at a show, step aside and let him pass so you can take a gander at his very distinctive stragger — a new word I’m making up to describe his strut and swagger. His walk deserves its own theme song, perhaps something like this.
Gene, apparently mesmerized by shiny lights, and Jake Krolick, ASI’s marketing manager for online products and services. In every picture I take of Jakey, he either looks like a degenerate rock star or a crazed loon. Switching things up, he looks relatively normal here — but wait for it … . Dale Denham, ASI’s senior vice president, and Candace Hershey, executive director of the ESPOnline Information Team and everyone’s favorite industry celebutante.
Jonathon Schwartz (left), operations manager for ASI’s membership information team, and Haitham Barakat, director of production. Sometimes when I see Jonathon in the halls here at ASI, he throws me a smirk as if to say, “What the hell kind of trouble are you up to???” Jake “Captain Excess” Krolick, doing his best salty pirate face, and my editorial pal Kathy Huston, editor of Advantages magazine. As Kathy’s office is right next to mine, managing editor and star of The Joe Show Joe Haley refers to our area as, “The Bat Cave.”
(From left): Karen DiTomasso; Karyn Coates, executive director of E-Media and Member Benefits; and Randi Bromberg. I call Karyn “Six” because she reminds me of the femme fatale Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. Gary Alexis (left), ASI’s director of information technology and my pal Seth Kusiak. Seth is really very nice and very sweet — despite the fact that in this photo, he looks as though he’s draining what’s left of my soul with his eyes.
Here’s my pal Colin Graf, who’s so even-keel and mild-mannered I’m often tempted to take his pulse. Colin is ASI’s marketing manager for supplier sales and always looks as though he just swallowed the canary in photos. (From left, standing): Larry Basinait aka, “The Basinaitor,” director of ASI’s research services; Tim Andrews; Steve Oswald, an art director for ASI’s marketing department; and Jack Flohr (seated), director of marketing for membership services.
Tom Augeri (left), director of marketing for supplier services, and Vince Bucolo, ASI’s chief operating officer. Vince has always been one of my favorites at ASI (and not just because he’s a Stones fan and a Dead Head from way back) but because for years, I’ve been telling him I’m going to marry his very cute and much-younger-than-me son (he’s a college senior… MEOW, says this lazy cougar!). The thought of me as a daughter-in-law always produces a look of profound terror on Vince’s face. Party-goers enjoying Tim’s beautifully-landscaped back yard.
My editorial handler Joe Haley, striking his superhero stance, is able to leap (very) small buildings in a single bound. Last, but certainly not least, we have two of my favorite BFFs at ASI: Ron Ball (left) and Christian “Tigerbeat” Brandt, executive director of distributor services. As Tim Andrews is fond of saying, these are the only two people who, by comparison, make me seem respectable. ; )

Cheers, and more next week! — M

PS: By now those of you who read my blog and my tweets (@ASI_MBell) know that I’m a TV junkie. As I promised myself I would only add two new shows to my already-crowded roster (really, more than that and I would qualify as a crazy cat-lady recluse, just to keep up with all the TV I watch!), here are my picks: For a sitcom, the show Modern Family is hil-arious. It premiered last Tuesday and “The Lion King” moment at the end had me roaring… Click here to watch the 30-minute episode (it’s worth it). For a drama, I went with FlashForward, which premiered last Thursday. I vacillated about whether or not to commit to this one, because it’s premise is a little unnerving, creepy and disjointed and I already get my weekly mind-f**k from Lost. However, having watched the premier, I’m in. In the show, everyone in the world passes out at exactly the same time for two minutes and 17 seconds, which — as you can imagine — wreaks widespread havoc. The last scene from Thursday’s episode alone had me hooked.

Of Webs, Vampires & Sweda…

Filed under: Editorial

Happy Friday!

First, thanks to everyone who logged on to hear the Webinar I moderated yesterday, which featured some industry leaders who will be speaking at ASI’s upcoming third annual Power Summit in Carlsbad, CA. [For more information on the Power Summit, click here]. David Nicholson, president of Counselor Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, Vera Muzzillo, co-CEO of Counselor Top 40 distributor Proforma and Memo Kahan, owner of Counselor Top 40 distributor PromoShop discussed such timely issues as sales and marketing strategies to employ in a sluggish economy, pricing predictions for 2010, whether print or online supplier catalogs are the most effective, fertile markets for ad specialty sales, how the new CPSIA regulations will affect the industry and smart ways to utilize online social media. To listen to the free Webinar in its entirety, click here and then click the link at the top for “Power Summit Preview.”

Speaking of social media, have you seen how my pals at Counselor Top 40 supplier Sweda are using it masterfully to tout their guaranteed 24-hour service? They’ve posted videos on YouTube that are freaking hilarious. You can tell that Scott Pearson, Sweda’s vice president of merchandising — and the man I affectionately call “Giggles” due to his infectious laugh — and Jim Hagan, the company’s oh-so-charming and self-deprecating president, are having a blast doing these videos. And yes, they are funny, but they’re also getting attention and pushing Sweda’s marketing message out to the industry by using a very cool medium that requires only a bit of time and creativity. Talk about off-the-charts ROI. They are smart cookies, my Sweda BFFs.

Click on these links to see their three-video series.

“Twenty-four Touches for Sweda’s 24-Hour Service”:

“Twenty-four Shots for Sweda’s 24-Hour Service”:

“Daredevil Jump Over 24 ‘People’ for Sweda’s 24-Hour Service”:

Have an awesome weekend, and more next week!


— M

PS: If you’re a fan of HBO’s True Blood like I am, how excited are you for Sunday’s finale to a season that — despite the show’s genre — definitely did not suck. My hopes for the last episode of ’09? That someone finally takes down Maryann, the Dionysian strumpet, hard; that Jason continues his Dawn of the Dead-inspired attacks in his uproariously hysterical fashion; and that we again get to see bad-boy vamp Eric, who is so freakin’ hot he makes me want to do “bad things,” sans his shirt. Can. Not. Wait.  


Get Caught in My “Web”

Filed under: Editorial, Interviews

Hi Everyone!

I’m just back from a long holiday weekend in my beloved Avalon, NJ, where I reveled with such abandon that I now know how Keith Richards feels after a Stones tour.  

Now that September is off and running and school is officially back in session, we’re kicking our education efforts here at ASI into high gear. This Thursday, September 10, I’m moderating a free Webinar featuring three of the smartest, savviest, most talented people I know in the industry: David Nicholson, the newly-appointed president of Counselor Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America; Vera Muzzillo, co-owner of Counselor Top 40 distributor Proforma; and Memo Kahan, owner of Counselor Top 40 distributor PromoShop. Each of these leaders will be panelists at ASI’s third annual Power Summit, which will be held from November 1-3 at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA. For more information on this year’s Power Summit, click here.

What listeners will glean from this Webinar are the panelists’ insights and advice on the strategies they’ve been using to keep their businesses above water in a dismal economy, and their stance on topics like new safety regulations and what the industry can expect for the rest of 2009 and into 2010. 

See below for more information on this free education event. I hope to see you log on this Thursday!

More later in the week, and cheers!

— M

Guest Blog: My Top 5 Summer Escapes, by Jake Krolick

Filed under: Travel

So my buddy “Bell” asked me to guest blog for her while she is out of the office this week. We tend to think on the same page, get into the same type of shenanigans, and share a mutual respect for each other’s ability to incite a crowd to riot – or at least lead a gaggle of folks on an evening of unadulterated fun. Since it’s the last day of August, it seemed fitting that I send out the industry’s favorite vacation month by paying homage to my top 5 favorite summer escapes. Bell asked that I tie the post into the promo industry, and so I’ve included a promotional product that one would find most useful on each of these escapes. Please share your favorite vacation escapes in the comments, and let me know which promotional product you found useful to have along for the ride.

Jake Krolick

5. Chicago

I love getting away from people, but I can recognize a good city when I see one.  I would have placed Philly here, but most readers wouldn’t get why. Chicago in the summer is another story, and one that won’t spark as much question. Plain and simple during the months of June, July, and August, it’s just gorgeous. It’s all about being lazy between the Zoo and the Conservatory in Lincoln Park, or playing volleyball until dusk on the lake. Stumbling around wrigglyville or the Viagra Triangle or snagging music at Free Festivals in Wicker Park or hanging out with Perry Ferrell at Lollapalooza in Grant Park – Chicago in the summer is on like Donkey Kong!

For information about Chicago’s Park District, click here.

Promo Product that you will find useful: Frisbee (175 grams, people – none of those wimpy disks) – yep, simple and still fun.

4. High Sierra Music Festival

Ever since I stopped attending and working at summer camps, I missed them. The closest thing I’ve found to summer camp for adults is the summer music festival. No festival in the country is as pro as the intimate offering in Quincy, CA known as High Sierra. Do you love live music? Want to smell the California pines, and sample some of the bay area’s finest wines? Want to catch music from 2- 5 am and then play kickball at 6:00 am with a few hundred others? Cool – me too!

For information on the High Sierra Music Festival, click here.

Promo Product that you will find useful: Double-wide Collapsible Chair w/ Beverage Holders in the center – because your legs will be tired, and it’s always nice to have room for friends.

3. Zion National Park

It’s not as off the beaten path as it once was, but thru-hike the narrows in Zion on a couple hot days in July or August – you’ll thank me for changing your life later.

For information on Zion National Park, click here.

Promo Product that you will find useful: Nalgene Water Bottles – rehydration is key, even though you’re wet most of the hike.

2. Summit County, Colorado

Get in 18 holes at the Ranch course at Keystone, drop the clubs at the pad, jump on the bike and ride around Lake Dillon, stop for a light lunch and rum runners at the Tiki Bar at the Lake Dillon Marina while you watch the J-class boats race.   Then ride your bike back to Frisco in time to catch the tail end of the Frisco BBQ challenge. Then snooze until dusk and jump back on the mountain bike to snag a 5- to 10-mile ride. Finish the night at the Moose Jaw or the Backcountry Brewery, but call it at midnight because tomorrow you’re going kayaking on a run from Pumphouse to Radium on the Colorado River. I could go on, but the list of outdoor activities, arts, and fun would just make your head spin, and yes, the winter has even more.

For information on Keystone, click here.
For information on Frisco, click here.
For information on Moose Jaw, click here.
For information on the Pumphouse Run, click here.

Promo Product that you will find useful: an extra sleeve of golf balls – because you’re going to need them for holes 5 and 16.

1. Maine

I have an unfair advantage, because I grew up in the state of Maine and almost always feel the need to escape to the foothills of the White Mountains or do dawn patrol surfing the 3- to 4-foot slabs of glass on Higgins Beach. Maine’s license plate motto says it best: “Vacationland,” and it’s called that for good reason. Send the kiddos up to summer camp in the lakes region and stay on Sebago Lake for a week. Then sample the 20+ microbrews in Portland (Gritty McDuff’s is a sure bet). Personally, I recommend a good hang in southern Maine. Take the Casco Bay Ferry lines to Peaks Island for reggae Sundays, or head up to Backcountry Bike Excursions for some of the east’s sickest mountain bike trails. Maine is one of the best family vacation spots in the world, so do yourself a favor and visit soon.

For information on Higgins Beach, click here.
For information on Backcountry Bike Excursions, click here.
For information on Gritty McDuff’s, click here.
For information on Jones Landing, click here.

Promo Product that you will find useful: Lobster Bibs – because you’re going to eat more than a few of these tasty crustaceans.

Again, please comment and share your favorite vacation escapes, and let me know which promotional product you found useful to have along for the ride.

Jake Krolick, online marketing manager at ASI, also writes freelance for the music industry, specializing in live show reviews, photo journalism and video mash-ups.  He has been known to enjoy long walks on the beach, skiing, biking, surfing, cooking, and travel.