The last time I saw it, Kathmandu was literally still shaking from the aftershocks of a devastating 7.9 earthquake that left thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless and without shelter. Immediately after the quake, which happened during brunch with my friends Dr. Pranav and Rajani Joshi, I’d spent four sleepless days and nights in the U.S. Embassy kitchen, feeding hundreds of sheltering American families. Meanwhile, Pranav tirelessly dug people and animals alike out of the wreckage in the small town of Bhaktapur, where his vet clinic is located. Just days later, my USAID-husband and I were flown back to the USA without the chance to say a proper good-bye to people and places we had loved during our four years of service in Nepal.
Last month, on the second anniversary of this tragic event, I finally had the chance to return. Pranav and I consult by Facebook Messenger nearly every day, but nothing beats being there in person! During our years in Kathmandu, I helped Pranav build his clinic from a tiny room in his family home to a respectable veterinary center. The week prior to the earthquake, we had gutted the space for a major remodeling that had to be postponed until the aftershocks stopped and the building inspected for safety. The clinic is always my happy space, so being in the newly renovated space for the first time was a mixed emotional moment of both happiness, and sorrow for the team members who lost family members but continued on, serving the health of people and their pets.
During my all-too-brief stay, Pranav and I had the chance to work side-by-side again. Over the last two years, the vet student teaching project we started with a single post-grad looking for mentorship has grown into a group of eight young vet school graduates, who rotate through the clinic, seeing out-patients and having hands-on training that the Nepal vet school is unable to provide.
One standout is Dr. Ekata Pandey – who has taken to surgery like a duck to water, and is now doing routine procedures confidently on her own. Dr. Pandey is now the first new full-time veterinarian entrusted to join the Vet-For-Your-Pet clinic staff, freeing up Dr. Joshi to prepare a formal proposal for an accredited small animal internship program; work on his research into the infectious disease interface between domestic and wild animals and the surrounding human communities; and creating Nepal’s first high quality animal boarding center … all this while still running the Bhaktapur Animal Welfare Society, which provides free rabies vaccinations, neutering, and sick-animal care to the street dogs of the Kathmandu Valley. There are also plans to expand the clinic by opening satellite centers in Phora Durbar, in old Pattan, and in the tourist town of Pokara, which is the starting point for many of the trekking routes into the Himalayas.
I’m happiest simply caring for animals, I feel strongly that those of us who have succeeded in life are obliged to “give back” generously, by providing the mentorship and support that, if we were lucky, we received along the way. I’m so grateful to be able to continue to work with this tremendous team of caring human beings, and lucky that Växt supports my ongoing international efforts by enduring my time away from my other great team in Madison! Thanks, guys – and Namaste!
At Vaxt, we are an eclectic bunch with varied experiences and skills. Being a ‘creative’ shop, this is a huge asset. I love the energy, passion and interesting tangents we sometimes launch into.
Rob Siltanen, former TBWA/Chiat/Day's creative director, perfectly summarizes it in his “To The Crazy Ones” campaign for Apple: “Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
On this thread of thought, I asked our team what some of their favorite ads and books were. This is what they said:
Jonathan Tuttle, founder and President/New Business Director (also a passionate sailor, photographer and soccer dad):
Books: The Bible.
Advertising: I've always like clean, simple messaging so the “Think Small” campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle is one of my favorites. Created by DDB in the 1960s, this campaign also turned out to be one of the most recognized campaigns ever.
Julia Hoag, DVM, VP/Medical Communications Director (also participates in triathlons, loves showing her Morgan mare and training her Aussies):
Books: I guess the book I have read the most times is “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”, by Tom Robbins because he writes fictional prose as if it were poetry. Second would be anything in the series “Dragonriders of Pern”, by Ann McCaffrey and the “Outlander” series, by Diana Gabaldon. Both are fantasy writers that weave wonderful story lines in which the readers get lost in other worlds. I have read “Into Thin Air”, by Jon Krakauer easily 12 times – his telling of the tragedy and human struggles on Mt. Everest are so emotionally moving. Finally, I read “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” by the Monks of New Skete at least annually in my quest to understand the mind of the dog.
Advertising: Some of my favorites are the Nike “Charles Barkley of Seville” and EDS “Cowboys Herding Cats” . I also love the entire WWF “Give a Hand To Wildlife” and the cheeky, yet hilarious, Axe “Wash Your Balls” campaigns.
Robert Giblin, VP Operations/PR Director (also an avid bicycle rider, hunter and a certified Barbeque judge):
Books: “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn”, by Mark Twain, and “To Kill a Mockingbird”, by Harper Lee. I first read each in the second grade. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn inspired a lot of my activities in younger years, though I spent much of my time on the Oconomowoc River, and not the Mississippi River. All three are full of fun, warmth and humor, while touching on some serious, timeless issues. I try to re-read at least one of them every year. In 2015, I was thrilled with the release of Harper Lee's other book, “Go Set a Watchman”.
Advertising: Sunsweet “Finicky Prune Eater”: This ad sticks out because of the way it addressed how Sunsweet improved a product to overcome a negative, and addressed it in a funny way. The commercial featured British actor Ronald Long, being interviewed by off-camera announcer Stan Freberg.
Shiseido Olive Soap “Bath Time”: It was a CLEO award winner. I also remember it from my advertising classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I’ve also always liked the Coca Cola ads from the 1970s. The classic “I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing” still resonates as a classic. At the time, it was the most expensive commercial ever filmed, at a cost of about $250,000. The commercial also has a fascinating history, and has been remade several times. While the commercial stands on its own, it also strongly reinforced the company’s “It’s the real thing” product positioning. I’ve also always admired Coke for making some gutsy moves with commercials, including commissioning, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which first aired in 1965. It also had an interesting history and some controversy, yet still stands the test of time.
Melissa Cusumano, VP/Creative Director (also an avid equestrian, proud mom and dog owner):
Advertising: The Apple, “Get A Mac” campaign: I love the simplicity and the witty writing. For some interesting trivia, in 2010, Adweek declared it to be the best advertising campaign of the first decade of the new century.
The Mini Cooper campaign is another one where simplicity really stands out. The out-of-home pieces are brilliant. The use of the actual car makes for a great emphasis on the small size.
The P&G “Thank You Mom” Olympics campaign: It has run for years now and each commercial brings it to a new level, but I enjoy one of the first the best.
Me (Lavanya Seetamraju), Manager, Client Relations (also a nature and outdoor enthusiast who is passionate about recycling, reading and her kids):
Books: “Welcome to Advertising! Now, Get Lost”, by Omkar Sane, is an exaggerated but hilarious take on life in advertising. I have a copy and love recommending it to anyone who is contemplating a career in advertising. The “Shopaholic” series of books, by Sophie Kinsella, is an all-time favorite read.
Advertising: Honda Accord “The Cog”, by Wieden+Kennedy, for its sheer attention to detail. It also turned out to be one of the most expensive commercials ever made. HappyDent “City Light TV”, by McCann India, just because the end is so unexpected, and so unlike an ad for a tooth whitening gum.
Are any of these your favorites too? What are some of your favorite ones?
Following a challenging year, it was great to see hundreds of dairy farmers, corporate professionals, government officials and university experts turn out for “Dairy Strong 2017: The Journey Forward,” Jan. 18-19 at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center in Madison. This year marked the third Dairy Strong conference, which was started by the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association.
The opening keynote speaker was Dana Perino, a best-selling author who served as press secretary to President George W. Bush and who currently co-hosts “The Five” – a program featuring five Fox News personalities who debate top issues. As part of relating her own stories about her career and life, Perino also emphasized the growing importance of storytelling to all involved in agriculture.
She emphasized that storytelling is the key to connect with customers, and to give them something to hold on to. In agriculture, there are a lot of stories to tell, but there is a reticence to tell them. Yet, it’s one of the most important things anyone can do to have an influence in public policy debates, and if agriculture doesn’t tell them, someone else will fill the vacuum with their own perspectives.
During his dinner keynote speech, futurist Jack Uldrich talked about several trends that will have an impact on everyday life for everyone: “internet of things,” big data, social media, robotics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and “collaborative consumption.” He used a lot of examples to relate them to dairying, and stressed the importance of how important it is to understand how they will transform businesses sooner, rather than later.
He also discussed the growing role of “augmented reality.” Technologies are converging to allow consumers to see a product in the grocery store and learn everything about it, including what went into producing it, sustainability, its carbon footprint and other details. Technology will foster more transparency in farming and all aspects of agriculture and food production.
Other great sessions included a panel on the lives of Latino immigrants; a case study on Peninsula Pride Farms and farmer-led environmental initiatives; a panel on the Latino influence on U.S. food and agriculture; a legislative update by Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch; and several breakout sessions.
While the program was diverse, themes and topics that ran throughout the conference included the importance of storytelling, and the increasing role of technology in connecting people -- from farmers, to processors, retailers, consumers, media, activists, politicians and others.
As our population becomes more urban, fewer and fewer people will ever interact in person with farmers and ranchers, and everyone else involved in agriculture, and production of food and fiber. Yet, consumer expectations are growing to know where there food comes from, how it’s produced, environmental impacts, and alignment with their social beliefs.
More than ever, it is important to all of us involved with the agriculture and food communities to understand the trends and their impacts, to tell our stories, and to embrace the technologies that connect us.
The holiday season is especially exciting for Vaxt, especially with the many positive changes that have taken place here in 2016. The past year brought business growth, new clients, and expansion of our management team. Our new team members bring diversity in culture, professional experiences and personal passions, which will help fuel the growth and our ability to serve clients in 2017.
Those of us in the upper Midwest are fortunate that Christmas and other December celebrations come at the beginning of winter. With the onset of cold temperatures and snow in the upper Midwest, some consider winter dreary and drab. Others of us find it refreshing, cleansing and exhilarating.
This is the time of year when snow paints the landscape white. Shortened daylight hours are counterbalanced by the outdoor Christmas lights and decorations, and the lit pine trees visible through living room windows.
This year, we’re heading into the holiday season with two rounds of weather events known as “polar vortexes.” For those of us who grew up in northern climates – before weather changes became named weather events – we just referred to these as cold spells. We bundle up a bit more, and enjoy the added blessing of having a short respite from mosquitoes. Yet, even in the coldest of weather, the holiday spirit feels like a warm fire.
Regardless of which holidays we celebrate in December, this also is a time when families, friends and co-workers gather…often around meals. Vaxt Marketing is into longer, healthier, happier living. Most of our work is in the areas of human health and nutrition, life sciences, and agriculture and food. All are among the passions of our leadership team members, and we’re honored to play a role in American agriculture.
Even in a country that has the world’s most abundant, high-quality food supply, there are people who are hungry and need help during the holiday season. About 15 percent of American households are “food insecure,” and about seven million households have very low food security. That’s why in keeping with the holiday spirit and our passions and commitments, Vaxt Marketing and its employees have donated to the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. Our employees also have committed to supporting other food banks or pantries, and other charitable organizations, in the communities where they live.
On behalf of all of us at Vaxt Marketing, have a very Merry Christmas and joyous, happy holiday season. We look forward to working with you, and wish you all a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous 2017.
While the United States of America is the only country celebrating the specific holiday known as “Thanksgiving”, many global cultures have holidays for the celebration of gratitude. In fact, one of the most prominent symbols of the American Thanksgiving tradition, the cornucopia, actually dates back to the ancient Romans - who had a celebration similar to the American Thanksgiving Holiday - in which they honored Ceres, the goddess of grain crops (the word "cereal" is derived from her name). The Roman celebration included music, parades, games, sports and a feast, much like modern Thanksgiving. The term (generally describing a horn-shaped basket filled with fruit, flowers and other goodies) comes from the Latin cornu copiae, literally "horn of plenty." In Greek mythology, the cornucopia is an enchanted severed goat's horn, created by Zeus to produce a never-ending supply of whatever the owner desires.
In many American homes, families sitting down to share the meal also traditionally share stories of what they are thankful for. In this tradition, here are some things the Växt family members are thankful for this year!
Melissa – VP/Creative Director: I am thankful for the support and love I’ve received from my family and friends over the years, for good health, for the clients and coworkers who make my work day exciting and fulfilling, and for my four-legged family members who put a smile on my face. But, I’m most thankful for my husband and daughter that make everyday a new adventure and for giving me the drive to be a better person.
Robert – VP/Public Relations: I’m thankful for my friends and family and all that we have shared over the years, and to my parents, who not only gave us great childhoods, but who also made the decision to move out of the big city to a then-small town, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, which turned out to be a wonderful place to grow up. I’m also thankful to again be working with a great team. Many people never have a chance to work with a great team of people even once in their careers, and I have been blessed with that opportunity many times on both the corporate and agency sides, and in the military. I’m also extremely thankful for having a life that has almost always been interesting … and it continues to be.
Lavanya – Client Relations Manager: I feel thankful for good health, that lets me take care of my family. I feel thankful for parents that gave me a wonderful childhood and memories that I look back at fondly. I feel thankful for people who listened to me, believed me and took their chances with me. And last but certainly not the least, heated homes that keep me sane in Wisconsin winters!
Mickey – VP Business Development/Managing Director Vaxt NE: There are so many things for which I am thankful this year, my wife and family, including our first grandchild, our health, our menagerie of pets and our home. I’m also thankful for being able to work with great people in a field where you can make a positive difference. This Thanksgiving, as always, will be a time to reflect on all our blessings with deep gratitude.
Jonathan – President/CEO: As I celebrate this Thanksgiving Day in another country I am reminded that we are uniquely gifted with a time to focus on and give thanks for the the many blessings we have. As I think back over the past year I am thankful for my wife and our big and amazing family and the memories we've created and shared. I’m thankful for our good health. I'm thankful for the quality of life that we have, and too often take for granted. I'm thankful for the fact that we can follow our dreams. I'm also very thanksful for the clients that have entrusted our team with the success of their products, and of course, I’m thankful for my team at Växt Marketing, who keep me on my toes!
Lastly – I personally am thankful for the support and affection of family and friends throughout 2016. I’m thankful for being entrusted with the care of fur-kids and the families who love them. I’m thankful to be part of a dynamic, creative team that brings passion to work every day. Most of all, I’m thankful for my own fur-babies – who bring non-judgmental joy and love to every one they encounter. May I be as good a person as they are!
May YOUR family and friends have bounties to be thankful for and may you all enjoy the joy and peace of the holidays!
Julie Hoag DVM – VP Medical Marketing and Communications