----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: May 2007

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Does Sex Sell Mortgages?

I read about this TV commercial on the L.A. Land Blog at LATimes.com, but it was originally mentioned on the Blown Mortgage blog. Apparently, the commercial is for real...it's a bad parody of those 1-800-call now to talk to hot singles commercials, except it's about home mortgages.

Kal has posted comments on the blogs taking issue with his commercial, writing, "My marketing slogan is 'I'm not your mothers mortgage broker, but probably your daughter's.'" He says he wants to target young renters who don't think they can afford to buy a home. Well, in California, they probably can't, but in Atlanta, maybe they can.

Anyway, the ad has accomplished one goal. It's getting Kal a lot of attention. (And yes, I am adding fuel to the fire.) If his niche is targeting first-time homebuyers, as he claims, then fine. Based on the commercial I saw, though, he's only targeting beer-swilling, Maxim-reading, former frat boy homebuyers. Note to Kal: Women have money, too. Women buy homes, too. And this woman, at least, is turned off by your advertising techniques. I doubt Kal's commercial appeals to women of any age. I am technically in the demographic that he wants to target--I'm a young renter considering a first-time home purchase--but the ad that I saw ensures that I will never call Kal for a mortgage, even if he could get me the best rate in the universe. Why would I want to get a home mortgage from a guy who thinks it's clever to have a bunch of busty women act like airheads to promote his business? "Like, oh my God! Mortgages are haaard! Let's get Kal to help."

This puts the "ick" in gimmick.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Marketing Keywords!

At 4:45 on Friday afternoon, just before the start of Memorial Day weekend, I got an email from one of the companies that I had applied to. The company was asking me and an unknown number of other candidates to complete a writing test on one of a number of keywords having to do with cosmetic surgery. The instructions were quite involved, and the whole thing seemed a little fishy, but since I need a job, I decided to take a stab at the test.

The company claims that our work will be used "for evaluation purposes only," but I am suspicious that these "writing samples" may end up being used for their clients...a way to get lots of work written for free. So, I am posting part of my sample here to prove that I wrote it. If you want to know about body contouring, read on.

Body Contouring—Boost Your Body Confidence

Lean. Trim. Toned. Taut. We'd all like to be able to use those words to describe our bodies. But some of us need a little help to get there. Maybe no matter how many crunches you do, you can't get rid of that "muffin top" around your waist. Or maybe you hit the stair-climber seven days a week, but you just can't seem to shrink your thighs. If your body isn't as firm and shapely as you'd like it to be, body contouring may be able to help.

What Is Body Contouring?

Body contouring is a term that can refer to a wide variety of cosmetic surgery procedures, including liposuction, abdominoplasty (also known as a "tummy tuck"), butt lift, thigh lift, breast lift, or arm lift.

Refined cosmetic surgery techniques allow doctors to re-shape the contours of your body, leaving you with the figure that you have always wanted.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Job Searching

Okay, all facetious job applications aside (see "More Fun With Craigslist" post), my job search is becoming discouraging in a hurry. I have revamped my resume. I have let friends and family know I am on the hunt. I have scoured various Internet sites for job postings. I have applied for multiple jobs. And so far...bupkis.

Well, that's not entirely true. Here's what's happened:

Real Estate Leads
*I interviewed for a broker's assistant position with a Realtor in Huntington Beach, and he wants me to come back for a second interview. It would probably be a decent job, and the pay is pretty good, but it's a long commute.
*I am going to a presentation from First Team Real Estate this evening, and I have a meeting with the manager of their Dana Point office next week.
*I had an interview with a real estate staffing service that provides pre-screened Realtors on a temporary basis to new home communities. The hope is that their candidates will eventually be hired full-time by the builders. That agency was really nice and invited me to come in for training, but if I do get sent out by them, the pay is only $11 an hour. It's like a paid try-out for a full-time job with one of the builders, and with the slowdown in the housing market, who knows if that's a good risk to take?
* I went to an open interview with the Irvine Company to see about being a leasing coordinator, but since I would like to make more than $35,000 a year, that's not going to work out too well.

Writing/Editing/Etc. Leads
*I did an editing test for a local book publisher, and I am hoping I'll here back about that.
* I have an interview next week for a contract editing and writing job.
* I had a phone interview for a tutoring position.
* I signed up with AppleOne and I took their assessment tests. I can type 67 wpm, I can do data entry with 100 percent accuracy, and I scored a 97 out of 100 on the Microsoft Word test. I believe this qualifies me to make $14 an hour as an administrative assistant somewhere, if I take the Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, college honors, and master's degree off of my resume.

Mr. Pink says I shouldn't get so discouraged, especially since I have been looking for a job for only about two weeks now. The problem is that I feel like I am either over-qualified or under-qualified for everything that I'd like to do. For instance, I'd like to use my copywriting skills to find a job in advertising or marketing, but whenever I see those jobs advertised, they demand a minimum of two years of agency experience. I could certainly perform those job duties, and perform them well, but when I apply, my resume gets ignored because I don't have the precise experience they require--I am technically "underqualified."

I have also tried to get more entry-level positions, such as marketing coordinator, but I have a suspicion that those jobs go to people straight out of college who don't mind making $28,000 a year. And yes, money is a factor. I don't want to take a job that pays $12 an hour just for the "experience." But maybe I am going to have to.

Advice and suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More Fun with Craigslist

Now that I have officially moved down to Dana Point, I have started a job search in earnest. I would prefer to build my freelance clientele, but that will take some time, and I am in need of a more immediate cash flow. So, I have polished my resume and I spend my time trolling the Internet for job postings.

I found this one today on Craigslist:

"Job Title: Princess

We currently have an opening for a witty, sarcastic prima donna in our Irvine office. Show up late, leave early and spend your day chatting on your cell phone, surfing the Internet, reading magazines, listening to your iPod, and if it is not too much trouble do some light bookkeeping in QuickBooks.

Don't bother sending your resume - instead, type a couple of paragraphs in your own words explaining why I should consider you for the position."

Now, I am pretty sure this is not a real job posting, and I don't even know Quickbooks, but I decided to send in a response anyway. Not my finest work, but here it is:

"Subject Line: I'm the Princess!

I don't think this is a real job posting, but nevertheless, I'll take a shot.

You should hire me because what I do all day matches your job description precisely, except I do it at home, and I do it for free. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I occasionally do a little light copywriting, copy editing, and household budgeting, for which some poor saps pay me handsomely. But they don’t pay often enough, which is why I am perusing Craigslist for new and exciting opportunities.

I brighten every room that I enter, and I am happy regale my co-workers with amusing stories of my fabulous and glamorous life. For instance, this weekend, I sat in the sun on a verandah overlooking the ocean while obliging waiters brought me champagne and mojitos and someone else paid the bill. See? Aren’t you amused already?

In short, I am a joy to be around. A position as office princess would suit me perfectly. I already have the tiara, and I am always looking for an excuse to wear it."

So what do you think? Will these people contact me?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The End of DVR Fast-Forwarding?

ABC is pretty much my favorite network. It's got a lot of shows I follow religiously--Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, Lost. But now ABC is starting to piss me off.

Today in Media Daily News, I read that ABC has struck a deal with Cox Communications to put some of its most popular shows--the very ones that I follow religiously--on Cox's Video On Demand service the very next day after they air. The catch? If you watch these shows on VOD, you won't be able to fast-forward through the commercials. ESPN has entered into a similar deal with Cox. These tests will be starting next fall in Orange County, Calif., which happens to be where I live, and where I subscribe to Cox.

I hate Cox for other reasons, which I will discuss in a separate post. It doesn't surprise me that this terrible cable provider would enter into such a deal. It does bother me that ABC apparently thinks that they should hold us hostage to television commercials. Okay, so at this point, if you record Grey's Anatomy on your DVR, you'll still be able to fast-forward through the commercials. You just won't be able to fast-forward if you forget to record it and want to watch it on VOD. But I still think it sets a bad precedent.

ABC's position is that it wants to nip ad fast-forwarding in the bud, before people get too accustomed to being able to do it. Now, I know that many people have yet to experience the magic that is DVR (according to Nielsen only 17 percent of households have them), but haven't people been recording shows on their VCRs and playing them back and fast-forwarding through the commercials for years? News flash: People don't really want to watch commercials. For the most part, they're just annoying.

I have a feeling that this is all being driven by Mike Shaw, ABC's president of advertising sales. I blogged about him last year after he said that he thought DVRs were just a "convenience," not a method of "commercial avoidance." Sorry, Shaw, but it's both. Do any of you out there who have DVRs not use them to skip commercials? I never even watch live TV anymore. I always record my shows, wait about 15 minutes, and then start watching, just so I can fast-forward through the commercials.

The American public is not stupid. Well, sometimes it is. But not when it comes to commercials. Most commercials are extremely stupid, and even when I fast-forward through them, I get the gist. Besides, I see the same commercials over and over. It's not like I don't get the message the first time. I don't need to see it 20 more times. Also, most commercials are a mixture of images and text. I can still read the text while I'm fast-forwarding. The message is not all lost!

Look, I understand that the television networks need to sell ads. Otherwise, how else could they justify kazillion-dollar salaries for their execs? Clearly, companies want to advertise to consumers so that we'll buy their products. But technology is changing the way we watch television, and once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't put it back in. If ABC succeeds in getting cable operators to "disable the fast-forward [button]," as Shaw wants, I might go back to recording shows via VCR.

Here's a tip for all the ad agency creatives who need to ensure that the ads they create will be seen so that the companies they work for will keep them on retainer: MAKE BETTER COMMERCIALS! I'm serious. If there's a commercial that is funny or intriguing, I will watch it willingly. I have even re-wound my DVR to catch a commercial I particularly liked. For instance, I always watch those "Mac vs. PC" commercials, because they make me laugh and I have been a fan of Justin Long ("Mac") since his days on "Ed." Seriously, these ad execs are also getting paid plenty. It's time to step it up.

There is another solution, too. Maybe it's time to go back to the days of sponsored shows. I'd be much more likely to watch a minute and a half of ad pre-roll before my show, if it meant that the narrative wasn't interrupted five times by stupid commercials. For instance, last night on "House," House discovers that Wilson has been dosing him with anti-depressants ground up in his morning coffee. This would be a great opportunity for one of the big pharmaceutical companies to sponsor the show, and then have it be their anti-depressant that is mentioned! (This would work especially well, since the FDA is planning to crack down on direct-to-consumer drug marketing).

Clearly, the same old way of advertising isn't working as well anymore. It's time to get creative. Isn't that what these people are paid for, anyway?