BY HOLLY HODGES. LOS ANGELES (@CHIATDAYNIGHT) — Carol Madonna is the Director of Office Services at TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles offices. If six hundred advertising professionals who work at the TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles headquarters make up a small town, then Carol Madonna, as the Director of Office Services, is their mayor. I wanted to ask her how she manages 600 residents, 100 visitors and 150 dogs. I also wanted to know if I could volunteer for her “pet” project at the animal rescue organization, NKLA.
When did you start your career at TBWA\Chiat\Day?
I started out at Chiat in 1984, when they were located in the Biltmore Hotel. I was working at the hotel, doing floral arranging and cocktailing. I had a degree in Ornamental Horticulture/Landscape Design for Cal Poly and realized it wasn’t for me — I quit the first day on the job. I wasn’t interested in advertising at the time, I just needed a job, while I figured out what to do with my life.
Was your first job in Office Services?
No, Chiat only had 70 people. My first job was travel coordinator, then broadcast secretary and then Nike/Yamaha secretary. Chiat was working on their 1984 Olympics campaign and the epic 1984 Apple ad. (Note: Chiat was on their way to being Agency of the Decade.)
Eventually, I found myself working for Jay Chiat for the next 8 years. I did everything from taking care of his art collection, properties, and cars, to helping his best friend, Frank Gehry, build the Chiat\Day binocular building in Venice. I even tutored Frank’s kids with their computers. Frank is still a dear, dear friend.
How does it feel to be in charge of so many people?
Are you kidding? Our department deals with pissed-off neighbors, escapee dogs, birds in the building, cockroach sitings… it’s never the same day twice. This is why I’ve loved every day (almost) for the past 28 years. It’s like running a small town.
When the TV Cable company HBO came in to shoot, they brought 400 people in the building, who started moving furniture. We had to keep track of everything, so by Monday things were returned to their rightful owners. At least I’m earning money for this department which generally only spends money.
What’s your biggest challenge?
To not take it personally when employees don’t respect our office space. I want them to cherish it as much as I do.
Tell us about Samson’s Garden, the 40th Anniversary gift for Lee Clow. How can we get involved and do we need special skills to help?
Samson’s Garden was the company gift to Lee Clow for his 40th Anniversary of working for TBWA\Chiat\Day. I was working with NKLA (NKLA is a coalition of animal welfare organizations) and went to their shelter over Christmas to take the supplies we collected here. The landscaping looked horrible. So I thought it would be great gift for Lee to have a garden installed and have it named after his favorite dog, Samson.
We’re looking for volunteers to help with the NKLA garden on a Saturday (May 24). You don’t have to have any experience in landscaping to volunteer at Samson’s Garden. We’ll show you how to do everything. There will be digging, planting and weeding.
How would you spend your perfect day?
I love to sail. For my birthday, I sailed around Bora Bora, which was unbelievably tranquil and beautiful. I would love to do that again.
BY HOLLY HODGES. LOS ANGELES (@CHIATDAYNIGHT) — Joel Weeks is TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Director of Product Strategy for Nissan and Infiniti — “the Car Guy.” At Chiat\Day, if you have a car question (about any car) Joel will have the answer. But watch out — by the time you’re done talking with Joel — you may not want to buy anything but a Nissan.
Here’s how Joel describes some of the fun parts of his job.
New Car Launches ↩
When a new car comes out, I attend a fact-finding trip with Nissan’s engineers and planners, who give a soup-to-nuts preview of the whole car. I come back to the agency to present the car’s strong points, define the exciting ideas, and tell what to focus on. I don’t want to filter too much; I try to give the team around five-to-ten big features. They take those features and then come back with ideas for discussion. There’s a lot of back-and-forth until final presentations.
Unique Selling Proposition (the gold-plated airbag sensor story) ↩
Every good advertising campaign focuses on something a car has that is better than the competitors. Occasionally, you find something about a car that is common to many models, but hasn’t been talked about. We call that the “Lexus gold-plated airbag sensor” story. All cars have gold-plated airbag connections, but no one mentioned it, until Lexus brought it up. People thought it was amazing to have gold plating on these air bag sensors, but in reality, all cars have that. It’s age-old now, so there aren’t many new examples, but every once in a while, a nugget like that pops up.
Most Memorable Nissan Event ↩
When the Nissan GT-R was first launched, we held an event here at Chiat, revealing the car to a group of car fanatics in Los Angeles. There were about 200 cars here, mostly, older GT-Rs. Nissan brought two of the brand, new GT-Rs that hadn’t yet been revealed. It was the first time car enthusiasts could sit in the car and actually talk to Nissan personnel. The owners were extremely passionate about the car and appreciated that we put on this type of event. We also recreated the event for the Nissan 370-Z.
Advice for those who want to work in Product Strategy ↩
First off — You have to have a love of cars. You also need to be buttoned up and detail oriented. We check all communications for product accuracy; we attend every single car shoot. We make sure everything about the car is right: seat belts, headrest in the correct position, position of hands on the steering wheel, etc.
Second — We work crazy hours. I don’t know if it’s a record, but this spring the Nissan group completed 11 ads in six or eight weeks.
Recently I attended a video shoot for Nissan social media at the test site in Arizona. We started at 5 AM and ended at 3 AM. We made five videos in one day — two crews worked simultaneously. It was a little crazy; a lot of hard work; but it was worth it.
Joel’s cars ↩
I have a yellow Nissan Z, which is eight years old. I also lease a Nissan LEAF. Everybody knows the Z is exhilarating to drive, but the LEAF is a really fun drive too — in a different way (my husband and I fight over who is going to drive our LEAF). It’s filled with hi-tech goodies: Bluetooth, navi, XM radio. You plug the car in at night, and you’re ready to go the next morning — It’s like charging your iPhone. Chiat has chargers, so it’s easy to plug it in at work.
Perfect day ↩
I would probably get in my convertible and drive to San Francisco on Route 1, by the cliffs at the ocean’s edge; all the twists and turns are a blast to drive. Another perfect day would be going to a major motorsports event, Indy, NASCAR, or F1. I love the competition and the strategy. Long Beach, Fontana, or go up north to Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma. It’s fun planning the day, packing up and taking a picnic.
From Nissan to Chiat\Day ↩
Joel had worked for Nissan for 16 years at its Engineering and Product Planning in southern California. When Nissan moved its operations in Nashville, Tennessee, Joel decided to stay in California and do the thing he loves … drive. He jumped in his yellow Z convertible and drove across the USA.
I was going to “diamond” the US, starting in Los Angeles. I headed to Denver; Mount Rushmore; and then up to the upper peninsula of Michigan; through Canada; then, to the East Coast. On the way back — searching for fun, winding roads — I drove through the Smokey Mountains, down to New Orleans, up to Oklahoma City, and back to Los Angeles.”
After that amazing trip, Joel was a just one phone call away from joining TBWA\Chiat\Day. Chiat needed a Product Strategist and Joel took a chance working on the agency side. As a Product Planner at Nissan, he had been on the design end of the car cycle. At Chiat, he is on the exact opposite end, after the car rolls out of the factory.
Who made Chiat\Day’s “Chaya Playa” the hottest commissary in Southern California? Lisa Kurth, that’s who
BY HOLLY HODGES. PLAYA DEL REY, CALIFORNIA (CHIATDAYNIGHT) — Think feeding 600 hungry employees a day is a challenge? How about serving dinner to the president of Pepsico? Or planning a client presentation with Koji Truck entrepreneur Roy Choi? Lisa Kurth — Executive Chef and General Manager of TBWA\Chiat\Day’s café, Chaya Playa — handles such demands with panache. Her witty, elegant, and — above all — delicious menus have made Chiat\Day’s commissary the envy of hungry media professionals from Burbank to Hollywood to San Diego and — if the longing tweets from famished TBWA offices in Brazil, France, New York, and farther afield are any indication — even beyond Southern California.
Is there a typical day for an Executive Chef at TBWA?
My day begins around 5am. I create menus, research the nutritional values and figure out the costs associated with delivering breakfast and lunch for 500 people, 5 days a week. Fortunately, I have a wonderful staff of twelve. I can’t imagine how it all would get done without them.
We also do special catering for meetings and we’re sometimes involved in a pitch.
Working on the Uncle Ben’s pitch
For the Uncle Ben’s pitch with OMD, we prepared a complete rice breakfast. We created omelet stations: omelets made with rice, cheese and avocados. Plus we developed a rice/bran/raisin muffin for them. An artist created a portrait of Uncle Ben out of colored grains of rice. It was amazing.
Prepping ingredients with food truck entreprenuer, Roy Choi
Crate & Barrel was an intense pitch. The day before, I worked with Roy, prepping all the ingredients he needed. It turned out to be an awesome event. We had a mixologist, who was inspirational. Now I want to study mixology. I never knew how exciting that field was.
After-hours supper for Pepsico
When we did a dinner for Pepsi, we did up the tables with fine linens and beautiful china place settings. It was a beautiful display. It looked like the Ritz-Carlton. I researched what Indra Nooyi (Presidient of Pepsico) liked to eat and found out she’s a vegetarian, so we had some special vegetarian dishes.
It had been a long day and we were just getting ready to leave, when Rob Schwartz came running up and asked us to follow him. Indra wanted to talk to us. She grabbed my hand and thanked me. I just remember how gracious she was and how soft her hands were.
Did you always want to be a chef?
Pretty much. I grew up back east in an Italian family. My whole life was influenced by my grandmother. Her backyard was turned into a garden. Absolutely no grass. She made her own ketchup, jellies, tomato sauce and pasta. She had these clothesline-like contraptions to dry pasta on.
My mom baked everything from scratch. We owned a restaurant, Il Dolce Café, from 1994-99 in Whittier. I catered at Whittier College for the faculty master. Whittier had their own caterers, Bon Appetit, but the faculty master always used me to cater for him. (He loved my tuna sandwich, which I still make today.) Eventually, Bon Appetit wanted to hire me and here I am today.
Describe your perfect day
I’d like to wake up in a Tuscan villa with a garden. I’ll make some pasta with my granddaughter, Addie, and relax in a beautiful outside setting. I love the countryside.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to do what you do?
You can’t please everybody. It’s devastating when even one person is disappointed. But you have to know you’re right and keep on. Have a tough skin. Be committed. Be passionate. Don’t take anything personally.
Thank you Lisa. I have a hundred other questions, but it’s almost lunchtime and I think I hear a Pesto chicken melt on Ciabatta calling me.
I bought my first iPhone in October, so I’m still learning how to navigate the mobile world.
Pinterest? no interest. Words with Friends? nope. Instagram? insta-love.
OMG, how is it possible to connect with friends in my town AND strangers who live in exotic locales? AND the subject of your digital postcard is limitless…food, pets, babies, sunsets, fonts, cars, shoes…instantly transferred into ART with filters. Paradise.
Instagram was the Genie in the bottle.
Yesterday, the game changed. And we really have to see what happens now that FaceBook is running the show. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t even drink his own kool aid, so why would FaceBook care about the customer experience? However, FaceBook does know how to make money off of our information.
Things will change for Instagram, but who believes things will change for the better?
I feel like it’s 1984 and Apple just sold out to Microsoft. I’m devastated.
“It’s popular because we’re tired of talking about ourselves.”
Brilliant. I’ve never heard that said before. You read about your friend’s trip to Paris for a month and then you’re left with writing a clever post about your third trip to In-N-Out. That’s exhausting.
Pinterest gives you a place to express your interests…with photos and links… and it only takes a minute. Done.
There. I said it. I’m glad the holidays are over. I’m glad to be back at work.
Don’t get me wrong. I had Holiday fun with my family and friends. I had a week of drinking coffee in bed. I ate everything that was put in front of me like a starving puppy.
Still…I felt a little empty. Where were my Apple support group? Those who own every Apple gadget imaginable… who Path their every move…
Go out to a restaurant with coworkers and as soon as the food is brought out, conversation pauses, iPhones are drawn from pocket or purse and the plates are snapped. The race begins to see who can post to which social site first. First Place winner shouts “DONE!”, iLifts his phone in the air and the meal resumes until we order dessert, just for Instagramification.
During the holidays, whenever I’d bring out my iPhone in front of my family, I’d hear “You’re not taking MY picture!” or the stinging “Is this really the right time for that?” and the killer “You are NOT playing with your Phone AND driving, are you?” (To clarify, we were SITTING at a red light.)
So, I’m glad to be back at work, where I’m no longer misunderstood.
Last week, we were lucky to have reps from HTC and TagStand speak to us about Near Field Communication. For someone who hasn’t heard of NFC (like myself), it’s a closed loop system that allows simplified transactions, data exchange and wireless connections between two devices when they’re in very close proximity (usually by no more thn a few centimeters)or touching.
NFC can be used with Smart Phones or credit cards to send or receive info to or from a reader. It can be used for a range of actions from making purchases, to starting your car, to track customer loyalty.
TagStand makes NFC chips, or tags. They program the tags (which have tiny antennae) and deliver analytics to the client.
HTC is making smart phones with NFC already built in. One of their models currently has it built-in and they are predicting that 70% of their phones will be NFC ready next year.
Will NFC replace QR codes? NFC is definitely easier to use than QR codes. Since stores don’t need equipment for QR codes, this will be one hurdle.
If Apple includes NFC in the future iPhones, it will bring another set of users. Do iPhone users trust Apple enough not to worry about how their information is being shared?