Her Life As A Focus Group ™
My life as a focus group. No, not mine. The woman sitting next to me on a New York-bound commuter train. At least that's what it says on the header of the Blogger account she is feverishly pecking into on her Mac.
"Most people think the left brain is the random, emotional and creative side of the brain," she writes, engaging one of the sides of my brain -- or perhaps both -- as I peek over her shoulder at what she is writing.
"In fact," she continues, "it's the right brain that's the emotional and irrational and the left brain that focuses on the rational, logical and analytical. I've spent years questioning what is the right mix of the two sides of the brain to get to the most disruptive creative solution and without alienating our audience and our clients."
With an opening like that, and given what I do for a living, I couldn't resist asking: "Excuse me, are you in the advertising business?"
Pausing just long enough to shift her neural activity from one side to the other, she turns to me quizzically, and nods: "Why, yes, I am."
"My Life As A Focus Group? That's a great name for a blog," I observe.
"I've trademarked it," she responds with a hint of pride, and an ample dose of intellectual propriety.
"As well you should have," I continue, prompting one of the sides of her brain to respond in kind:
"Are you in the business too?"
"Well, sort of," I reply, explaining that I am a journalist who covers the business for MediaPost, and at Advertising Age, Adweek and other places before that.
What's the point of this encounter, and why should you care? Well, fundamentally, because it is a story about people in our business. People who observe the stories of others -- whether they are being unfolded in focus groups, on commuter train rides, or in the ones they tell or post on blogs.
I've been telling stories about people -- mainly people in our business -- for more than 30 years. So I figured I might as well tell you one more about Elizabeth Elfenbein, her new blog, and why she began writing it. But before I do, let me go back to the question I posed earlier -- "why should you care?" Fair enough, and for those people who have already heard what I'm about to say, you can just skip the next paragraph.
For those of you who are still with me, please pay careful attention to this sentence, because by the time you finish reading it, a new media outlet will have been created that, in principle, can compete with the biggest and most established media outlets in the world. A new blog, social media page, Twitter account -- you name it -- is created by someone just about every second now.
So why should you care about Elizabeth Elfenbein's blog? Some of you clearly will not. Others will. The difference comes down to a few things, not the least of which is how well she writes, how insightful her posts truly are, and perhaps most importantly of all, how relevant they are to you. One thing I can tell she is she is incredibly energized about it, and if you could see the look in her eyes when I asked her about it, you'd check it out if only to see what could motivate someone to spend her morning commutes nakedly broadcasting her thoughts to the world. Raw and unexpurgated, as we like to say at MediaPost. Typing at the speed of thought into her Mac, and pumping it straight into the cloud via her Verizon aircard, typos, and multi-sided brain insights and all.
Or as Elfenbein wrote in a prior post: "A smile is a wonderful thing. It's like a spark that invites people to get to know you. A smile sends a message to other people that you are warm and approachable." If you want to get to know Elfenbein, you can find more of her observations at her aptly named Blogger account, People Observations. It's aptly named, not because I as a person observed her posting to it, but because that's what she does for a living. She observes people. Gleans insights from those observations. And then applies it on behalf of her clients' brands. As a partner and head of the creative group at CementBloc, and at some big Madison Avenue agencies before that, Elfenbein has spent much of her professional life observing what makes people tick, and how that influences how they relate to brands.
She started as a "creative person" -- art director by trade -- but says she is most inspired by consumer behavior, and lives her life as, well, a focus group. It doesn't matter whether she's learning from people in conference room settings, or a chance encounter with a young boy on her Metro North commute. It's all about focusing on people. She says she began her blog as a way to put her long commute to good use, and to begin sharing her thoughts with anyone who cares to listen.
Those are two things I can relate to. I don't blog, because I already have a platform for sharing my thoughts with a community -- MediaPost. And my chance encounter with Elfenbein makes me wonder how many people in our business have become bloggers? I know a few, mainly friends and former Madison Avenue media gurus like Rob Frydlewicz at History As You Experienced It and Steve Sternberg at The Sternberg Report.
If you're publishing a blog about the business, let me know (you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll check it out, and maybe even write about it.
Because, as Elfenbein points out in a fresh post, "a human truth regarding sharing is that it results in fortunate things." There, I've shared something. Now it's your turn.