For a changing America, mushrooms are new taste makers

Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

Move over succulents — there’s a new “It” plant in town.

Or rather, a new fungus.

The New York Times recently declared that the fungus is among us, and it’s hard to disagree. If the exaltation of the mushroom is news to you, it certainly won’t stay that way for long; the fleshy-skinned fungi is quickly sprouting up on consumer goods, beauty counters, shelves and runways. There are now over 9.5 million #mushroom posts on Instagram (#mileycyrus trails at 7 million). …

Technology is Moving Fast — Can Good Decisions Keep Up?

Whenever see the inevitable question of how our addiction to social media apps and sites have negatively impact our society, my mind drifts to a cool, cloudy night in Michigan. A ragtag crew of Trump supporters had assembled, their fists urgently banging on windows as they chanted in discordant notes to stop the count. “I think it’s a terrible thing when people or states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over,” former President Donald Trump said, insisting that votes that weren’t…

Nearly 100 Years Apart, Children Write of Illness and Oranges

Mr. Claus, resident of the North Pole, pictured here in 2020 and 1918

In 1918 a little girl wrote a letter to Santa as many little girls had before her — but hers came with a warning. After asking for a bed for her doll, Eugenia cautioned Santa, “Please don’t forget the flu at my home. Evelyn and Louise and Verna and mamma all have the flu. Santa, I hope you won’t take the flu.”

The flu, of course, was the dreaded “Spanish Flu,” and by the time Christmas rolled around in 1918, the United States had just seen the highest fatality rate of the whole pandemic. …

Deep-seated fears about ghosts and…Airbnb hosts?

Oh, The Horror: Watching The Grudge, or, the Nightly News?

For years I worked on the commercials for Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights (temporarily RIP, 2020). The job was a bit ironic, since scary movies give me the willies. Nonetheless, I quickly discovered that making a truly, enticingly creepy ad wasn’t as simple as rounding up the local clowns and giving them chainsaws. Our taste in terror changes, and is intimately tied to our current cultural fears.

Horror films are a fantastic vehicle for showing how we process our collective anxieties: in the World War era of the 1930s and 40s, we feared…

In 2021, Brands Can’t Escape Political and Social Issues

Controversial Corporate Entity, with Goya Products

Sometime in March of 2020, when COVID-19 went from the boogeyman in the closet to a force closing schools and businesses, an interesting website popped up. Well, actually, it was a bit terrifying. As an advertising brand strategist, it was one I noticed immediately: someone was starting a collection of which brands had responded with support during COVID-19, and which hadn’t. The Scarlet Letter approach was aimed at shaming and tipping powerful hands, and also to inform people which brands they should support based off of how they supported us during…

The most flown generation shares their thoughts on their post-Coronavirus travel

A decade ago, I left my hometown of fifty-thousand people and endless beige strip malls, nervously clutching a boarding pass. It was my first international flight. A year abroad would soon turn me into a life-long parishioner of the church of travel; crowded rows of airline seats have become my pews, the safety announcement my sermon. Travel and joy have become interwoven in my life. I spent two years flying-back-and-forth for a long-distance relationship (spoiler: I married that boy). And, I have worked for nearly a decade advertising travel…

Waxy scented clues about our societal values, attitudes and fears

If you heard about a company making a $6.5 million expansion, with a 20,000 square-foot research and development lab for prototyping, your head would likely to go to many places; maybe burgeoning tech, or some innovative new product. But it probably did not think of Yankee Candle. The world’s largest candle company — and scented resident of your grandma’s washroom — has recently undertaken massive growth to develop new candles and fragrance products, as the candle industry and market size sizzles. …

We’re hardwiring ourselves to seek relatability; it’s time to stop.

Photo by Ben Weber on Unsplash

In 2010 Jane E. Wohl wrote to the language section of the New Yorker with a simple question: her students were using a word she wasn’t familiar with, at least, not in the way she knew it to exist. It was not exactly fleek, yeet, or lit, but it was pervasive all the same. The word was “relatable.”

And if you were wondering, they found Sara Palin relatable.

You’d be forgiven for thinking relatable,in the way that we currently use it, has been around for ages; it’s a word we…

How American cities will sound 30 years from now

Imagine the sounds of London, 1800. Maybe you hear hooves clomping on cobblestone, vendors yelling their wares, newspaper boys singing out hoarse and high. Now take your ears to Woodstock, 1969; you hear the raucous laughter, off-key singing from hundreds of voices, the guitar feedback cutting humid air. Let’s go forward — what does 2050 sound like?

It’s a strange question, what does the future sound like. But more and more, as I rest my eyes riding the metro home, listening to the chatter and viral videos blaring unencumbered by headphones…

Queerbaiting, Blackfishing and the strategic identity

Photo by Jhonis Martins from Pexels

For over a year, I co-lead a massive national research project studying the identity of the generation after Millennials, Generation Z. Roughly ages 10–24 — and of a size around 65 million — they are an influential group that many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around. Like their Millennials siblings before them, this generation is also being swept up in broad, incomplete monikers; they are the most practical, accepting, empathetic, PC generation. They are woke.

Yeah, about that…

I started to notice a worrying trend. On headlines, Tweets and posts…

Jess Watts

Where culture & consumerism meet. Advertising Strategy Director, Business Insider’s Rising Stars of Madison Ave | Stalk me here:

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