Getting Trumped in Digital Marketing


A lot has been made of Donald Trump’s use, or abuse, of social media, especially his late-night Twitter tirades. At the beginning of summer, before the Republican presidential nominee’s “grab ’em by the pussy” meltdown, I wrote a blog post for Above the Fold Media, using Mr. Orange Head as an example of someone who has a poorly thought-through digital marketing plan.

I point out that Trump has been criticized for his narrow use of social media and not having a “ground game” – a sophisticated cross-digital media strategy to get out the vote, especially in all-important swing states. As a result of his lack of social media presence, Clinton’s campaign website was, at that time, recording five times the traffic of the Donald’s, and may be one reason she was trumping him in online donations.

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Chasing Hans Solo


When I picture Hans Kleefeld, I see him across from me at one of our lunches at the Musket, a German-Austrian restaurant in Toronto’s west end. Patrons could enjoy hearty plates of wiener schnitzel or the “delicious and delightfully tender barbecue port hox,” served with foaming steins of draft Weissbier.

The serving frau, however, would look contemptuously at our modest sandwich orders, washed back with coffee or water, and would leave us to our own devices for long stretches. Hans usually brought printed samples of good and bad design – culled from magazines or books, or snagged online – used to illustrate the columns he wrote for the graphic arts magazine I then edited.

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Not the Frozen North



Yes, camels once did roam the Arctic. Of course, this was about 3.5 million years ago during the Pliocene warm period. The remains of these extinct giants were discovered on Ellesmere Island by a research team led by the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Last year I worked with Carmen Serravalle, VP, creative at Scott Thornley + Company (STC), to create an ad that would run in the Globe and Mail, promoting the museum’s Centre of Arctic Knowledge and Exploration.

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Robert Redford and the Law of the Jungle


The trouble with trying to arrange a memorable vacation isn’t the lack of choice but too much of it. With so many options available on the Internet, it’s hard to know what offers the best experience. You might find yourself on a cookie-cutter tour and miss a destination’s hidden treasures.

Last year, I worked with the team at Frank Design Strategy in Calgary to help create a website for travel agent Natasha Rhodes. Her company, Rhodes Less Travelled, offers active and experiential vacations that enable clients to explore other cultures, get up close and personal with wildlife and immerse themselves in natural wonders, ranging from kayaking in the stillness of the High Arctic to exploring the lush jungles and wine lands of South Africa.

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Cause and Effect at Kids Help Phone


“I grew up being abused – physically, sexually, mentally. Like a lot of boys, I didn’t know how to ask for help. I kept things compartmentalized and cramped down. I’d have nightmares as my brain tried to cope with what was happening. . . .”

I tell Aidan’s story as part of the 2014-15 impact report written for Kids Help Phone, Canada’s only 24/7 counselling and information service for young people. As a charity with no government funding, Kids Help Phone depends entirely on the kindness of strangers, and friends, for the money, volunteers and expertise to carry out its mission, reaching kids in trouble through its phone line and, increasingly, the Internet, with its popular Live Chat service.

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From Link Building to Brand Building


At one time, search engine optimization was a narrowly defined profession, tinkering under the online hood to up page rankings in search engines, particularly Google. But SEO has made the transition from link building to brand building – from specialty supplier to essential digital marketing partner.

In the past year, I have served as senior writer on a number of projects with Toronto SEO/digital marketing agency Above the Fold Media, run by David Sahly. The work has included content marketing plans, specialized landing pages, pay-per-click campaigns and sales personas for lawyer, bankruptcy trustee, real estate and other clients, as well as site writing and blogging for ATF itself.

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International Architecture & Design Embraces its Inner Audiophile

LePage Property Magazine/Office Edition


Starting with the Winter 2016 issue, I have become the Techno File columnist for International Architecture & Design magazine. Published in Toronto, the 50,000-circulation publication covers luxury design, architecture and art both within Canada and internationally.

My job is to introduce new consumer technology to affluent homeowners who have a penchant for fine design and unique functionality, as well as the budget to indulge their tastes. In this first issue I concentrated on music, looking at additions to a home stereo system that would please a true audiophile.

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Border Crossings


Sarah Nordean plays with media to find the best ways to make the monumental out of the mundane and to discover the power of repeated gestures

“The boundary between various art forms is hazy for me,” says Sarah Nordean. “I think things can slide back and forth between different modes of expression to get an idea across.”

The boundaries for the Calgary artist include the ones between painting, drawing, sound, video and sculpture. She is fascinated by repeated gestures and strives to create the extraordinary out of the ordinary. She’ll map her walking journeys via GPS coordinates, turn these into a continuum of related shapes that sashay across an exhibit wall to a hypnotic sound loop she has also created for the occasion.

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Ways of the Weeks

Holiday wrapping illustrated for Soapbox Design. Copywriting: Doug Dolan.

Holiday wrapping illustrated for Soapbox Design. Copywriting: Doug Dolan.

Ben Weeks preaches compassion towards clients. “You have to have empathy for people who work in corporations, ad agencies and marketing departments. You need to understand the pressures on them.”

You look at the face of the 34-year-old Toronto illustrator for signs that he is putting you on.

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RFP: Request For Perplexity



It’s tough not knowing. As you craft the response to an RFP (request for proposal) on behalf of the creative agency or event-management firm, you wonder if you are competing on a level playing field.

Sure it’s sweet when you know. You’re told by the branding agency that the potential client has let them know on the sly the job will be theirs. The RFP process is a mere formality.

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