Reefer Madness: No social media allowed

liberals-pot-20170327(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

When Justin Trudeau was running for Prime Minister back in 2013, one of his platform promises was to legalize marijuana. This helped him secure the younger voter like my daughter (who also voted for him because he has nice hair).  On October 17th at midnight, recreational cannabis officially became legal in Canada, and it’s currently posing some interesting challenges for companies who want to promote their cannabis product.

Section 17 of the Cannabis Act

The federal government has implemented strict regulations on the promotion of cannabis: companies cannot promote the product, accessories or services unless they take the steps to prevent those 18 and younger from seeing the ad; they cannot show people engaging in the product, or link the product to any kind of glamour or excitement; and, they can’t use celebrity endorsements which means influencer marketing is off limits. (Emilie Fieil-Fraser, Social media is really the best way to engage cannabis users but this too has major restrictions. Furthermore, all social platforms prohibit ads related to illicit or recreational drugs, even when they are legal in states and countries like Canada. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,  Instagram and others will block any ads promoting weed or all recreational drugs.


So how do you stop young people from viewing social media when it’s their communication method of choice and there are no ways to guarantee age requirement? Some producers are “promoting brand names only” and using images that are not cannabis related but cleverly make a link to weed like , also known as Canopy Growth Corporation. A number of cannabis companies have paid ads on some news media sites but in the eyes of the producers, these ads are are promoting the company, not saying “smoke our weed.” Some would argue, any association with the company is still promotion of marijuana. The consensus within the cannabis community, however, is that there is not enough clarity with these regulations and they are open to interpretation. As a result, these companies are trying to push the envelope somewhat until they are warned, and then they will take steps to correct their actions.


Often these ads will take them to a web site

Art Installations: Only designed for the perfect selfie?

Last week an event company came to our office to pitch a new idea they had designed: 20 brands would each create an art installation targeted at Millennials to be housed under one roof.  The giant art pieces would be an opportunity for the visitor to take the perfect selfie, which in turn, would generate huge social media for the brands.

As a newbie to Instagram, it opened my eyes to the reality of these art installations: are they all being designed for social media?  I’m sure true artists don’t create their masterpiece just for that purpose, because for them, it’s all about the “art”.  But platforms like Instagram are providing such huge awareness for these artists that their exhibits are becoming social media darlings.  Apparently, the art selfie – an exhibit designed for the purposes of Instagram – is the subject of huge debate in the upper echelons of the art world.  Writing for The Guardian, Janelle Zara states that these types of installations have given rise to the “development of the so-called “selfie factory,” a name given to museums of hyper-stylized backdrops that cater specifically to selfie seekers.”

One such museum is New York’s Museum of Ice Cream, opened by Maryellis Bunn and Manish Vora in the summer of 2016, which also has locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  In a Wired article by Arielle Pardes, Selfie factories: the rise of the made-for-Instagram museum, Bunn claims they did not design the museum with social media in mind.  “Yet, it’s hard to walk through the space and imagine it as anything but a series of Instagram backdrops” says Pardes.  It seems the museum has risen to “Instagram cult status” since it’s opening.

Another hugely popular installation is Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibit, that has traveled to various cities across North American in the last two years.  Everyone who visits is obsessed with getting that perfect selfie.  Tim Loc of LAist actually provides Five tips on capturing glorious selfies at the ‘Infinity Mirrors’ exhibit.  Of course, part of the intent is to actually show you were there, but did Kusama design her art with the selfie in mind?  Kusama has been erecting art installations for decades but her work has now dominated the art scene in recent years with the advent of the selfie opp, and we are seeing more and more installations like hers.

At “Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field” (Photo by Tim Loc/LAist)

In 2015, when the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery opened Wonder “an immersive art experience”, it saw more visitors in six weeks than it had seen in one year!  Three years earlier, an installation called the Rain Room opened at London’s Barbican Center, and although closed now, it has lived on for eternity in online photos.  ’29Rooms’, a pop up installation created by the digital media brand Refinery29, is in its 4th year and has grown enormously.  Piera Gelardi, Executive Creative Director and co-founder, says they did design the rooms around how the viewer could be part of the experience and the star of the show (Pardes).

Art purists say art is supposed to invoke thought and create emotion.  It is supposed to be an intensely personal experience – a connection between the artist and the viewer.  Christopher Knight, an art critic for the Los Angeles Times says “manufactured entertainments aren’t significant art exhibitions any more than a Chuck E. Cheese arcade” (Pardes), while others, say the participant is integral to the experience.  The curator of the Infinity Mirrors tour Mika Yoshitake, stated, that while the exhibit should be experienced without smartphone in hand, the sharing aspect “triggers the infinite repetition of an image of oneself that has been so central to [Kusama’s] practice as an artist” (Loc).  So in some ways, the experience of the exhibit and sharing this experience to hundreds of followers is really like an extension of the art piece.

But it’s the commercial angle that critics point to as eroding the integrity of the installation.  Brands are always looking for innovative ways to connect with Millennials, and these exhibits are leveraging that selfie appetite.  In the 29 Rooms exhibit, seven are sponsored and the Museum of Ice Cream’s NYC location has 30 sponsors, some of which are integrated into the room, such as “Tinderland”, a space sponsored by the dating app Tinder.  Visitors sit on an ice cream see-saw and use an app to find their true flavour match.  Creative? Yes.  A great branding strategy? Absolutely.  An innovative way to garner social media with Millennials? Most definitely.  Art? Perhaps not. “The degree to which these brands impact the experience differs by location, but the existence of brand sponsorships at all changes the meaning of these spaces, and the reason they exist at all” (Pardes).  So will we see more of these branded art installations in Toronto next year?  If our visiting event company is successful in securing 20 sponsors, it certainly looks that way.

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Do you think these art exhibits are really art or just a way to foster commercialism?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

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Social Media and the Generation Gap: Who’s Using What?

Cambridge Dictionary describes the term ‘generation gap’ as “a situation in which older and younger people do not understand each other because of their different experiences, opinions, habits, and behaviour.”  The same can be said for how the different demographic groups in society – Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers – are utilizing social media differently and their motivation for engaging in social media.


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Millennials, those born in the 80s and 90s, have grown up in the digital age and and have been using social media since its inception.  Leah Fogliani from lush – The Content Agency writes that Millennnials follow brands online for the purpose of being entertained and seeking out information but “they overwhelmingly want authenticity and trustworthiness in brand communication.”  Fogliani states that most use their smart phones for posting and streaming music.  Instagram is the most popular social platform for this group, having moved from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat in recent years (although Snapchat is now waning).  Some still have Facebook accounts, but only half as many use Facebook as Gen Xers and Boomers (Fogliani).  Also known as Gen Y, this demographic is looking for instant gratification and validation from their peers. Posting that perfect picture of themselves or their beautiful young kids is their modus operandi to elicit the response they are hoping for. “You look so hot” with a bunch of fire emojis or “Your kids are so adorable” + smiley face, smiley face.

Generation X

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Believe it or not, this demographic is a slightly heavier user of social media and twice as likely to use Facebook than Millennials, but more likely to use a tablet rather than their smart phone for entertainment and information (Fogliani). Gen Xers are those born between 1965 and 1980.  Most of what I see posted on Facebook by the younger spectrum of this group are pictures of their children (Jimmy got a hat trick), beautiful home renovations (check out my new kitchen) and their awesome vacations (off to Greece again) – they want to be the envy of their friends.  Fogliani states they follow brands online and are the most likely to purchase something through the internet but will also research a brand and then purchase in-store.  But this group is looking for great deals, loyalty programs and excellent customer service.  More than likely, Gen Xers will enter contests and will reach out to customer service online: I know this from my own experience in marketing.  Like Millennials, they are most active on social media between 8:00 pm and midnight (Fogliani).


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Boomers, that older demographic somewhere between 50 and 70 years old, have been late adopters but are increasing their social media usage.  According to Sprout Social, just as many people from this demographic are using Facebook as Gen Xers – about 65% – and this group is looking for even more deals than Gen Xers. Younger boomers are using Facebook for “status” updates as well, but are more likely to use it to connect with old friend groups, such as university or high school colleagues.  Fewer Boomers own smart phones and are certainly less likely to use mobile for social posting or research.  They don’t tend to use social as a form of communication with brands (Sprout Social). Rather, they tend to observe more online rather than take action: “only 14% are regularly starting a dialogue or interaction with your brand.”  And of course, boomers are not as savvy on social media so they still get tripped up by posting fake news or responding to a post they weren’t supposed to.

Understanding usage behaviours and motivation among different demographics on specific social media platforms is key to a brand’s marketing strategy.  Without a firm grip on how to communicate to all three groups, Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, your message may be lost in the noise and may even annoy your consumers.  Regardless of which demographic you are targeting, social media is making brands really focus on their core market, and forcing companies to be more accountable.

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Home Decorating: 5 ways to avoid costly mistakes

There’s no doubt about it. Decorating your home can be an expensive undertaking. Of course, costs really depend on how extensive your project is, how large the space is, the items you purchase to decorate, and the labour (if any) you hire to assist you with the all the fun. I’m not talking about major renovations here.  I’m talking about a cosmetic overhaul that would include painting and adding decorative items such as drapery and mirrors. After updating a few of my own homes and making some pricey blunders, here are five tips to help you save a few dollars in the decorating process.


Always sample the paint first

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Paint is one of the least expensive ways to refresh a room, but with the wrong colour, it can become expensive. Paint colours are very tricky.  I’m sure this has happened to you before: you’ve gone to the paint store and grabbed a pile of paint chips, you’ve chosen the colour you want, ordered up a gallon and brought it home. You start painting, only to find that the colour on the walls does not look like you thought it would. There’s a number of reasons for this fail, and the main reason is light – both natural and artificial light.  But you cannot return that gallon of paint so here’s a tip to avoid buying and regretting: most reputable paint retailers offer sample sizes for about $5.00.  Ask the store to mix the colour or colours you want in a tester pot, then apply it to a few different sections of the wall, especially around the trim. Look at the colour at different times of the day to ensure it works in all lighting conditions and with your furniture. In fact, painting is the last thing you should do if you are buying new furniture and accessories, since you want to pull a colour from these items as your jumping off point for your paint.

Don’t guess – measure, measure, measure

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Similar to paint, if you decide you want to wallpaper a room or feature wall, you can often take the wallpaper sample book home with you to review the pattern and colour in your room. DIY stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer in-stock rolls of wallpaper and you can ask for a strip as a sample. Otherwise, if you are ordering from a specialty paint and wallpaper store, you must custom order your rolls.  These rolls are non-refundable, so make sure you have the pattern and colour nailed down. Measure the room accurately to avoid purchasing too many rolls – which cannot be returned – or ordering too little and not receiving the same die lot. Different die lots can be slightly different in colour because they are not produced at the same time. Accurately measure the size of the strip so you don’t cut it too long or too short and waste your expensive wallpaper. When purchasing furniture, ensure you measure the space properly and that the pieces are the correct proportion.  The last thing you want is a couch or table that is too small or too big for the area.  One of my favourite resources, Canadian House & Home, has a great feature on the 30 Biggest Decorating Mistakes and outlines 3 tips for buying the right-sized furniture.


Don’t buy cheap stuff

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I’ve been very guilty of this mistake many times in the past: purchasing numerous items in the past because of the price tag, only to be disappointed with the quality of the pieces and out they go to my favourite reseller charity, Value Village. I’ve shopped at stores offering inexpensive furniture that appears to be cool and contemporary, but alas,  they fall apart within a year (Ikea anybody?) When I moved into my house, I bought a kitchen set with a glass top. The chairs were made of particleboard with a veneer finish (the words particle board and veneer just scream cheap!) As you can guess, I cannot keep that glass top clean, the chairs have not worn well at all, and the cat has clawed the seat fabric. Sometimes it’s best to wait until you’ve done your research and can afford a well-made piece that’s just right for the space. I am holding out for a special marble-top table: it will be expensive, but I consider it an investment in quality. If you don’t have the money for your favourite item, check reseller sites like Kijiji or visit antique stores for well-made articles that you can restore or repaint yourself. I bought some mid-century modern chairs at a garage sale recently for $5.00 each that I will reupholster in a sturdy fabric to go with my dream table.  That way, I don’t have to blow the budget for both table and chairs.


Avoid purchasing now to use later

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Guilty again. I’ll be in a store, see something shiny on sale, buy it and store it for later use, “just because”.  I truly have the best of intentions. But inevitably, this collection of items will gather dust in the garage until my frustrated husband reaches a boiling point, waits until I am away, and then sneakily carts them off to Value Village. Typically, when furniture and accessories are on sale, they cannot be refunded. Conversely, I’ll buy an item at full price and lose the receipt so it becomes almost impossible to return. These actions result in being out of pocket hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars over time, and may lead to the desire to ensure you display all these items. Because I don’t want all my purchases to end up at the local charity, the result: my rooms are brimming with stuff and feel very disorganized.  In an article on how to prevent clutter in Architectural Digest,  the designers at Laurel and Wolf suggest letting your pieces breath. Adding too many accessories can make a space feel smaller and cluttered, and sometimes the items really don’t work well together. It takes a very savvy decorator who can group different pieces, and make a make a room look like everything belongs and the room appears orderly. Which brings me to my next tip.


When in doubt, ask an expert

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Although you may feel hiring an interior decorator will be expensive, a professional may save you money in the long-run. An expert can help you choose the right pieces, make the right decisions, direct you to the right retailers and might even be able to pass on their trade discount. Sometimes you can hire students or recent graduates who are not as costly as an experienced decorator. Another alternative is to just have the professional provide a consultation to assist with colour choices, furniture placement and wall décor options. When I was stuck with a decorating dilemma, I had a friend come by who had just started her own home renovation business. Something was just not right with my living room and upon entering, she immediately pointed to the red silk drapes. My friend directed me to a store for inexpensive drapery, helped me choose fabric for my cushions and had them custom-made by her upholsterer for a reasonable price. I paid her for her time and the cushions – a grand total of $200, which was well worth the investment and saved me both time and money.  In her Smart Cookies blog in the The Globe & Mail, Amanda Self described How spending on an interior designer could save you money and claimed “the long-term value of professional guidance far outweighs the initial costs.”

Of course, there are many resources on decorating tips to help you avoid costly mistakes, but as a DIYer, these five I list above are definitely the big ones for me: sample, measure, don’t cheap out, don’t buy “just because”, and when in doubt, consult with a professional.  Follow these basic rules and your décor project will not only provide a great deal of satisfaction, but can save you a few bucks along the way.



Empty Nester Syndrome? 5 Ways to Find Purpose

Your kids are in high school and your life is mayhem: meal preps, school stress, sports, peer pressure, drugs and alcohol, college selections, not to mention the late night pick ups from their job or that 2 am party.  All this while you and your husband work full-time jobs.  You have no time for anything and you find yourself looking forward to the day they’re all out of the house.  But when the time comes, you’re not as happy as you thought you’d be.  So what now?

I went through this transformation from busy mom to empty nester very quickly because my kids are a year apart.  I remember thinking of all the things I was going to do when they were gone.  But all I did was come home from work, flop on the couch, watch TV and drink wine.  Before long, I found myself feeling bored and unfulfilled. When my kids were home, I had a sense of purpose and never realized how much I loved being a mom. Who was I kidding? I actually thrived on that busy schedule and missed the days of non-stop action.  I realized I was going through Empty Nest Syndrome and I had to get some purpose back into my life.

Psychology Today describes Empty Nest Syndrome as “a feeling of loneliness or sadness that occurs among parents after children grow up and leave home.”

Here are 5 things you can do to combat Empty Nester Syndrome and experience more fulfillment at home.

Start Purging

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There’s no time like now to get rid of all your junk.  The old furniture you thought you would keep for your kids, they don’t want it.  All those old clothes you were keeping will never get worn, so out they go. With the financial burden of university, you may need some extra money so try having a garage sale or sell your items on sites like Kijiji or Craig’s List.  Or donate all your items to charity re-sellers like Value Village and the Salvation Army.  Getting your house in order can be very fulfilling and will go along way to assisting with the transition of downsizing when the time comes.

Begin Working Out

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Your doctor is going to tell you to do it anyway, so you might as well jump on the fitness bandwagon.  If you can’t afford to join a gym, there are so many web sites that offer online exercise regimes, from yoga to kickboxing. Start slow so you don’t injure yourself. I began by walking the dog everyday and bought a bike this summer.  I now do 10 minutes of stretching every morning which is a great way to start your day and keep your muscles limber. Keep adding more ways to exercise as you feel stronger and get into a routine. If you’re still feeling unmotivated, pick a night and ask a friend to join you or hire a personal trainer to keep yourself committed.

Find a Hobby

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If you sit down and think about it, you have more interests within you than you think do now. They’ve just been dormant for awhile.  When you had kids, there was no time to read, but now you can join a reading club or just read for an hour each night.  When I was in high school, I really loved the art program so I bought some paints and canvases at Michael’s with my 50% off coupon (never go to Michael’s without your 50% off coupon), and started painting.  I’m also taking a photography course. Joining a club or taking a class forces you to make a commitment each week and it’s also a great way to meet new people.  Just find something that you really love doing.

Reconnect with Old Friends

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Sometimes seeing friends from your past who you have not seen for a long time can be a bit intimidating.  But I recently had a get together with some high school friends and I realized we’re all experiencing the same issues about empty nesting (not to mention the same issues with getting older). These groups have so many shared memories, and at this age, it’s fun to remember things you did so long ago.  I also just enjoyed a girls weekend with my old roommates from university. Joining Facebook is a great way to connect with friends from you past, especially those that live far away.

Travel More

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With your life now freed up, it’s time to travel and explore the world.  I realize that not everybody can afford to travel, but experiencing new cities and countries can bring a great deal of excitement to your life and can happen with careful planning.  Put money aside each week or each month for your travel fun.  Sometimes just a drive to a new city or a weekend away can be thrilling.  If you want cheap travel, start camping.  There’s nothing like feeling a connection with the world than staring at the stars at night.  Even in your own city, I’ll bet you can find 50 places you haven’t explored.  The internet can provide you with many resources for inexpensive travel – even planning your trip can be fulfilling!

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If all else fails, there’s your significant other to bring you fulfillment.  Reconnecting with your partner is one of the best things you can do.  As an empty nester, you can now spend more quality time together and do things you never did before.  Pick an activity or schedule a weekly date night.  That bike I bought?  My husband and I try to do a regular bike ride on Saturdays.  Traveling? We plan one awesome trip a year and do weekend excursions.  Friends?  We socialize more than ever. For me, I’ve realized I’d better use the best of my time before my health fails or the grandkids come along!

Feel like you have Empty Nester Syndrome?

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Empty nesting not what you thought it would be? Perhaps you have Empty Nester Syndrome.  5 ways to find purpose:

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