Unexpected Vacation and a broken thumb

For months my family and I have planned on taking a ski vacation to New Hampshire this week. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate – and the mountain where we were going to ski closed two days before our arrival.

That’s when my wife announced that we were still going away, just not to New Hampshire.

After 12 hours of research, cashing in some American Express and Delta miles, we were on our way to Lake Tahoe to ski at Northstar, Heavenly Valley and Squaw Valley. In some ways I can’t believe that we’re really here. I’m a planner. This no planning thing doesn’t work in my Virgo mode.

But on the other hand, I have to admit its pretty cool.  This morning, we woke up early and were on the mountain by 8:30 AM.  By lunch we had already skied over 10,000 vertical feet. And by the time we stopped for the day, we had hit 17,500 vertical feet.  Keep in mind, at Butternut were we ski in the Berkshires, we average about 4,000 vertical feet on a good day. So it’s fair to say, we are a little tired.

Today was amazing. With one exception. I think I broke my thumb. I slipped on some ice and took a hard fall. Jammed my thumb. From the first knuckle to the tip, my thumb is completely black and blue. Actually, it’s more black than blue. And it hurts. And it’s  throbbing.  But I don’t plan to stop skiing. My goal is to ski 125,000 vertical feet this week. (I’ll post my ski pictures and statistics every few days)

Broken thumb or no broken thumb.


1 Year Later – Made It To Basel

Good morning from Basel, Switzerland.

So far this has been a picture perfect trip. All the connections have been perfect. All the flights left on time and arrived on time. While the weather is a little cold and rainy, it’s not snowing, it’s not freezing and it’s pretty easy to get around.

Not like my last trip to Basel.

A little more than a year ago, I was supposed to come to Basel for a client meeting. unfortunately, two freak snow storms, multiple flight delays and lots of bad timing meant I never got here. But not for a lack of trying.

Last year, I took of from JFK airport for Basel with a connecting flight in London. (By the way, never connect through London.) Of course, that flight is an overnight flight and you always barely sleep. The day we arrived, London was hit by a freak snowstorm that closed all the airports. That meant our connecting flight to Basel was 6 hours delayed. But at least our flight was leaving. Hundreds of flights were canceled. But we were getting out. Eventually.

Our flight boarded and we took off for our short flight to Basel. Ah, but here’s the catch – that freak snowstorm that his London had moved and was now pounding France and Switzerland. Right as we were about to land, the pilot came over the PA system and announced we’d have to circle for a while Basel cleaned the runways for  us. But he told us not to worry ‘because we filled up with gas in London, so we can stay up here for a long time.’  Well, we circled for a long time, so long in fact that we had to make a detour to stop and get gas. The pilot informed us the nearest place to land was a British Airways hub in Lyon, France. Now, keep in mind that it’s snowing there, too. Hard.

We land in Lyon. We’ve now been flying or delayed for 15 hours. We sit on the ground in Lyon getting gas for another 2 hours. We remove the snow and ice from the plane – another hour. Oh, and did I mention that there’s no food on the plane since it was supposed to be a short flight.

Eventually, we take off for Basel. Hooray. Except one little detail. Basel airport has closed for the night. So mid-flight, the pilot announces that we’re heading BACK to London. Now, everyone is breaking the law. People start pulling out cellphones to find a place to stay in London. I find a Holiday Inn Express about 25 miles outside of London. It’s the only rooms available in the entire city.

Two hours later, we land in London. It’s not 2 AM. Just before our plane lands, a 747 that was heading to Mumbai decides it can’t leave London either. And empties its 500 passengers in front of our plane at London customs. I don’t know if you know this, but at 2 AM when London Customs isn’t expecting 1000 people, the two customs agents they have on the night shift aren’t really enough to handle the load. And Sophie and Trevor (the customs Agents) don’t really give a damn. Another 1-1/2 later we clear customs and get a taxi to drive us to the Holiday Inn Express. (Yes, me and three co-workers.)

It’s now 4 AM, we haven’t eaten since 11 AM. We get to the Holiday Inn Express and order the British version of Domino’s Pizza. Except this place has already closed but is willing to sell us their left over pizza. We take it.

It arrived an hour later. The night clerk at  the Holiday Inn finds us some beer. And at 5 AM, we sit in one of the rooms, eating pizza, drinking beer and watching the British version of COPS — in sign language. Yes, the only station that was broadcasting was showing COPS and instead of sound – had a woman using sign language in the corner of the screen.

Now I know what you’re thinking — no way. This did not happen like this. Something was embellished in this story. Sorry, not one word. This is exactly how it happened. Except for one other little tidbit. British Airways somehow lost my luggage. They sent it ahead to Basel even though I never made it. I wouldn’t see that bag for over a week.

But today is a different day. Today everything worked. Today my suitcase was tucked under the seat in front of me. Yes, it’s raining in Basel today. And yes, it’s a little chilly. But I made it. And after all, that’s all that really matters.


There are no Hamburgers in Hamburg

Hello from Hamburg, Germany.

I’m here today for a meeting with a creative director from our Hamburg office to discuss how to better align on a global account. In the morning I leave for another meeting in Basel, Switzerland.

Doesn’t it sound pretty glamorous and exciting?

Well, I have to admit. It is. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work. I’m physically tired. But it’s also a lot of fun. Don’t let anyone kid you, traveling the world on business is pretty cool.

I’ve already learned two things about Hamburg I didn’t know.  That everything is closed on Sunday. Everything (except restaurants). Want to go to the drug store. Sorry, don’t get sick on a Sunday. Want to shop for the perfect last-minute gift. Not on Sunday. It’s very quiet with all the shops closed. And I have to admit – it’s a little boring.

The second thing I noticed was at lunch – there wasn’t a Hamburger on the menu. Wait – shouldn’t every restaurant have a hamburger on the menu in Hamburg? That’s like not having a hot dog on the menu in Frankfurt. Wasn’t the hamburger invented here? Apparently not. Perhaps I just need to look a little harder.

The other thing I noticed about Hamburg is that people love their cars. I’ve seen more cool cars in the first hour after arriving than you see in a week in New York City. I saw two great cars parked on the street. An Audi A9 in a matte black paint finish and a Weisman sport coupe. I had never heard of the Weisman – but it was cool looking. People were actually taking a photo of the car as they were walking past.

Working in advertising has allowed me to travel to the four corners of the globe. Visit places that I may never had been exposed to without a business trip. I’ve been all over Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, the Caribbean and of course The United States. I’ve been to big cities and small towns. I’ve traveled to towns that were no bigger than four buildings. I’ve traveled to some amazing spots. Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Rio and Buenos Aries. I’ve been on millions of miles of flights. I’ve been to countless airports. And I’ve butchered countless languages.

And I would do it all over again – exactly the same way. I will admit I miss my family while traveling. (Thank heavens for cell phone, Skype and FaceTime) And I’ve probably missed my share of family events. But I think I’ve managed to keep work and home aligned nicely.

And I’ve learned a few things along the way. Like there are no hamburgers in Hamburg. I wonder if there’s basil and Basel.


Today is a new business day

Love your existing clients. That’s my mantra for the rest of the year. Make every day like you’re pitching for their business. Show them work for free. Give them unsolicited ideas. Make them sweat. Make them uncomfortable (at times). Make them know that you are always thinking about them and their business.

And that’s nothing new. We do think about our clients every day. We just don’t tell them as often as we should.

The interesting thing about working for an advertising agency is that (at times) we’re terrible communicators. Ever look at most agency’s web site? How about the print campaign they create for themselves. Most people will say it’s because we’re too busy working on client business to work on ourselves. You know the old ‘the show makers children have no shoes’ story.  I think that’s a bunch of bull.  But that’s a posting for another day.

Today and every day we should remind our clients why they chose us in the first place. Remember – our clients chose to work with us. They didn’t just hand us their business. They had us come in, show them what we can do, show them our thinking, and they chose to work with us. Every day when we show them what we do – our thinking, our creativity, our strategic brilliance – we reaffirm that choice.

Today let’s do something amazing. Let’s find a nugget that our client hasn’t thought of first. Let’s uncover an insight that really makes us stop and think. Let’s find a creative solution for the same old problems. Let’s go out of our way to thank our clients for trusting their brands (and their jobs and future promotions) with us.

Today let’s keep our eye on the small stuff. Let’s make sure that everything has been through editorial – even if it’s only for an internal meeting. Let’s follow-up on that e-mail request a little faster. Let’s attend a meeting in person versus on the phone. Let’s make sure we fill out our timesheets quickly so we can make sure we’re on budget. Let’s communicate internally so we can make sure we’re on task.

And let’s not forget that if we don’t do all of these things every day, we risk losing everything.

There are 293 days left in 2012.  That means we have at least 293 new business meetings to do this year. Every client. Every day.


I’m huge in Hong Kong!

I don’t know why I’m so surprised.

Yesterday I looked at the global map of my blog and was shocked at the number of different countries my readers are coming from. In all, 26 different countries are represented in the last 7 days. Wow. I don’t know why, but I guess I was a little surprised. I thought I knew everyone who was reading this. Friends, co-workers and even my FIT students. But 26 countries? That was a surprise.

But then I started thinking ‘why isn’t anyone reading from France? I mean, I have readers from the United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Italy and Belgium, so why not France? Do I not make enough Jerry Lewis references? Is it because I haven’t seen ‘The Artist?” Or perhaps my smart ass comments don’t translate into French.  I’ll have to ask one of my friends who is from France to give me some secret coded message that only people in France will understand. Maybe that will work.

I assumed that English-speaking countries would have the greatest number of readers. It makes sense that readers are coming from the USA, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK, New Zealand, India, Bangladesh and the British Virgin Islands.  But I have to admit that I was surprised at the volume of readers from Taiwan, The Republic of Korea, Thailand, China, Japan, Israel, Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil and the Philippines.

But I was equally surprised that none of my people – my heritage – have been to my site. Where are the Russians? My Polish brothers? The Greeks? Heck, I’m 1/4 Turkish – come on and read! You can read your newspapers later in the day. Make my blog a part of your morning with’ a glass tea.’

And finally, I’m also surprised that I have no readers from the Czech Republic. Hey, I just visited your country this summer. I was going to post some pictures of your beautiful corner of the world so more tourists would visit. But maybe now I won’t. You have to get here and read first. (Of course, if I put the photos up, maybe you will come.)

Oh, and one last thing. Thank you for reading. Thank you for coming back day after day. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to spend it with me. After all – this wouldn’t be any fun without you.

Au revoir

Four New Business Pitches In Five Days

Wondering where I’ve been?

The past few weeks have been (possibly) the hardest and most exhausting weeks of my career. As the agency had four pitches in five days in four different states – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Plus we’re prepping another dozen for the next few weeks. That will include pitches in Florida, Washington, D.C., Basel Switzerland and glamorous Morristown, New Jersey.

Yes, It’s been busy.

On top of the new business activity, we’ve been creating some amazing work for our existing clients. I’m proud of the work we’re doing. One of our clients just approved an amazing new website that – the day it’s released – will be a huge step forward in pharmaceutical websites. We’re hosting an event for another company that will be huge and will frankly be unlike anything anyone has ever done before.  We’re shooting multiple TV campaigns, we’re creating a video for a pro bono client’s 50th anniversary, we’re shooting 3 print campaigns, designing multiple trade show booths and attempting to create a new agency website at the same time.

Not to mention all the daily projects that are too numerous to mention. Print ads, brochures, digital web banners, interactive visual aids, RM programs, eCRM programs, QR codes, out-of-home executions, and pharma’s coolest iPad apps.

And you know what? I love it. I love the buzz, I love the activity, I love the passion of the people working on these projects.

I’ve come to realize that when it comes to new business, it’s not really about the winning and losing. If you’re good, you’ll win your fair share. And even if you’re good, you’ll lose a few that you should have won. I’ve won pitches that I probably shouldn’t have won. I’ve lost pitches I never should have lost. But at the end of the day, I’m proud of the teamwork, the camaraderie, the intelligence, the passion, the drive, the determination, the guts, the depth and the vision of our team.

It’s hard work doing what we do. But I still wouldn’t want to do anything else in the entire world. And I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. Yes, this week has been a hell of a week. And I can’t wait to see what happens next week.


I follow this blog – and I really like some of the posts. I loved this particular one. Although I’ve always been fond of really great knockers. Enjoy


snacks & adventure

As I mentioned a few posts ago, Ian and I were recently in Belgium, where I took 676 photos in four days.  It made me realize how quickly Cambridge has become my home – while I’m certainly not immune to its charms, it very quickly became just the place where I happen to live.  I saw all sorts of mundane things in Ghent and Brussels that completely delighted me. The best example was the door handles/letterboxes that I saw on lots of the doors, particularly while doing the Victor Horta walking tour.  The variety was incredible, and some were so intricate and Art Nouveau.  I couldn’t get enough.

In fact, I had been taking photos of balconies (not sure that’s gong to yield a good collage yet…) when I pointed the door handles out to my husband.  He said “why don’t you make a collage of those?” and I said…

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My Son Blew Me Off

I know many of you have written ‘where’s the post from your son?’

I’m sorry, he blew me off. He had better things to do. Like watch American Idol, do his homework, and have a play date with a couple of his friends. I was putting too much pressure on him to write. And I think he just decided it was too much work.

Damn. It would have been funny. Maybe someday he’ll be a guest blogger. Just not this week.

Apologies again.

My normal post for today will follow shortly.