Is That Odd Launch Party, Super Secret Squirrel Lair, New York (maybe!)
October 20, 2010
Last night I have no idea where I was. I may have been at a location that is one of the oldest literary clubs in the U.S. But I may not have been. I may have been at a club whose dress code has a strict policy against turtlenecks and tracksuits and the ever-popular open-necked shirt. But then again, maybe I wasn't. If an event occurs, but the event reporter is asked not to mention the location because the club is weirdly exclusive like that, does that mean the event itself doesn't exist?
I walked up to the mysterious location feverishly texting my date, Attention's Karen Ram, who was standing in front of The Lotus Club, which may or may not sound exactly like the club I was in front of, but maybe not. She was at the wrong location. But maybe I was, too...
I walked up the winding red velvet staircase in the invisible club that once boasted the presence of Mark Twain and up into a marbled foyer. The woman at the check-in table gave me a sticker with my name on it and asked me to choose an avatar. I picked the sticker with the face of a construction man in an orange beanie. That's my inner self.
The bar area was where the men (including Is That Odd CEO's hubby Eric Engstrom, General Manager, Bing Mobile at Microsoft) were lurking in suits, sipping their beverages, away from the women folk. I wanted to ask if they were smoking cigars and speaking of the wauh (say it like Scarlett O'Hara, please).
I wandered around the library, a lovely dark spot surrounded by books (obviously) and oil paintings of some old dudes and a priest. I saw Abe Lincoln by the stinky cheese plate, confirming that he and I would have had similar interests back in the day. I also spotted a gaggle of women surrounding another woman with an iPad. IPad was demonstrating IsThatOdd.com (ITO) , a lady-focused social network. Unfortunately, due to the fact that one woman was "just a friend" and another "works for the government" I couldn't take their names. But, I was informed I could describe them as "the target market" or in laymen's terms, "women."
This wasn't going well. I needed to slap myself out of it, lest you think I'm a self-hating woman (because yes, I am critical of just-for-the-crap-of-it women's groups, clubs, and movements that are actually more embarrassing for women. But don't get me started. And this wasn't that kind of party anyway.) I went into the salon area for a pick-me-up. The event promised "mini-spa treatments," so I was hoping for a shoulder massage. Manicure stations were set up, as well as a make-up touch-up station -- good enough! This is where I found Casey Fremont of Art Production Fund getting her nails slicked. She was with Alicia Marenzana of Citi Habitats and Madeline Fawcett, ITO's PR Director.
I'm more of a "leave me alone while I poke around" sort of gal so I didn't entertain myself with demos while I waited for my date. Instead, I scurried back towards the cheese plate. I was intercepted in the lobby by Michael Fawcett from Meacham Woodfield, LLC., who asked who I wrote for and then said I could take as many pictures as I wanted, that I could write whatever I wanted but asked that I not mention the location. I didn't know what to say to that. So I smiled and nodded.
I later talked Informatics (just a new word for behavioral targeting, people, don't worry about Googling that) with Michael, who is convinced (thank goodness, he's an investor) that ITO will deliver all kinds of behavioral stats to advertisers, making ITO not only a supportive and lucrative community for the women participating, but also one that will generate all kinds of ad revenue. So what I'm saying is Michael is a fine human being, a great conversationalist, and a smart dude, but he knows not what he asks. I had already posted the location to Twitter and Facebook.
The idea of the site is to give women a platform to positively interact, to welcome every kind of woman -- in fact, you have to agree to "...solemnly pledge to be the best I can be while using ITO and help others in a genuine fashion" before creating your profile -- so having the launch event at a club that not only stinks of hoity-toity exclusivity, but also doesn't want to be associated with the event, seems counter-message. But I'm going to be the best woman I can be and focus on the positives here:
While the idea of a social network isn't new, the words are, and the business proposition for brands and advertisers is slick and simple. Posts are Oddcasts. You are part of the Oddience. Rewards for participating are Odd Coins, which you can use towards product samples, which are currently under wraps, just like the location of the event! You earn even more Odd Coins when you review your product samples. That alone got me on board to test it out. While I try to rebel against "typical woman" syndrome, I cannot deny that I love samples. I love sample sizes -- of anything. I mean, hello, mini burgers. You bet your butt I will let ITO have my Informatics so I can have samples.
Cindy Engstrom, CEO of ITO, is the biggest asset outside of the so-far fast-and-simple ITO interface. She is exuberant. She is excited, and not in that "I'm going to say I'm excited right now so you believe I'm excited" way. It reaches her eyes and you can hear it deep in her throat. This is her baby, she thinks it's cuter than yours, Zuckerberg, and she is going to enter it in every contest. And she knows it will win. That is Cindy's energy.
Also, on a very positive note, Cindy and the ITO team donated $2,500 to GoodWishes, a wonderful organization enabling gifting of scarfs of all kinds (silk, cotton, whatever!) from France Luxe to women who are experiencing hair thinning or loss due to illness or treatment. I spoke with Laurie Erickson from France Luxe who said a lot of traffic comes in those sleepless hours in and around 2 a.m., either from sleep-troubled family and friends or the survivors themselves. Good good person, Laurie Erickson. AND it's good that ITO is an official supporter of their efforts.
After talking with Freddie Spoor, former Wall Street dude and former low-key bookie ("everyone on the floor was a bookie in those days," he said) and his sparkplug wife Marty for at least half an hour, I knew it was time to head home. This was also obvious when I looked around and realized that everyone remaining in the library was from the ITO team.