Jake Ten Pas Signing Off

Good night, and good luck from Jake Ten Pas

 This is Jake Ten Pas, signing off…

We all knew this day would come. Nobody can be a Minister of Propaganda forever. All things considered, I’ve survived longer than most. Come Monday, I take the bittersweet step of leaving my faithful comrades at AM:PM PR for an amazing new position with the Children’s Cancer Association. I’ll take the reins of the nonprofit’s MyMusicRX program, which uses music as therapy for the kids and their families dealing with life-threatening illness.

My Music RX logoAnybody who’s had a close relationship with AM:PM PR knows that we’re as tight as a family, and so you can imagine that it was tough for me to tell Pat and Allison about my decision. Despite the great job offer, it was a hard decision to make. Without AM and PM’s assistance and encouragement over the years, I might never have made the jump from journalism to public relations, and hence never been in a position to apply for this next step in my professional life.

It felt like a breakup, and I’ve never been good at breakups. In fact, as one person observed, I’d rather be broken up with than do the breaking. My own pain I can handle, but somebody else’s? I turn to jelly.

In this regard, I’m doubly fortunate. First, because you couldn’t ask for two more gracious people when it comes to having this kind of conversation. Both Pat and Allison were not only happy for me, but I think proud, as well, that our work together had prepared me for this bold new direction. Second, because, well, this isn’t a breakup. We’re family, and familial feeling doesn’t dissipate, even when stretched by distance. I suspect you’ll continue to see me at the occasional PR 3.0, and you’ll definitely see me at AM:PM PR’s office-warming party for its straight-up space-age new headquarters.

Plus, one of Portland’s best young communicators will be stepping up to fill my shoes. Mike Phillips, who will introduce himself to you tomorrow, is a warm, articulate, passionate PR man, and I expect great things from him as AM:PM PR’s new word slinger. One quick piece of advice, though: Wear shoulder pads, Mike. Alexis has got a mean jab.

children's cancer association logo
To stretch the relationship metaphor just a bit further, my wife made a keen observation in regards to my success in nailing down this new position. You’re always more attractive when you’re in a relationship, she said. It’s because other women can smell the lack of desperation. Similarly, the wonderful job I already had with AM:PM PR couldn’t have hurt my chances with CCA.

I’m ultra jazzed about the opportunity to make a very real difference in the lives of people suffering under the weight of debilitating sickness. That I get to use music, which has gotten me through nearly every rough patch in my own life, and which continues to be my number one inspiration on a daily basis, to do so is pretty much blowing my mind. At the same time, I’m going to miss the incredible clients I’ve worked with here, and the family with whom I’ve shared my work. Here’s to the future, both of AM:PM PR and to all the high-flying trajectories it launches.

lemongrass portland




Jake Ten Pas
by Jake Ten Pas

I don’t really believe in the concept of reverse racism. At least not in America. Racism is based on power, and, well, this isn’t a blog about reverse racism, so I won’t waste any more of your time with my philosophical ramblings. I simply mention it to preface what I’m about to say.

Reverse racism exists, and nowhere is it more prevalent than in Thai restaurants in Portland. If you don’t believe me, try a little experiment:

Step 1) If you’re white (and also a masochist), go into a Thai restaurant and order your favorite dish at the spiciest level the restaurant offers. This will usually be a four or five.

Step 2) Be disappointed.

Step 3) Invite one of your Asian friends to join you for the same meal at the same restaurant. If you don’t have an Asian friend, make one.

Step 4) Go back and order the same dish at the same level of heat.

jake ten pas sweating
Step 5) Enjoy (Unless you’re one of those “normal” people, who don’t like having your taste buds burned off of your tongue with edible lava, or the impending gastrointestinal discomfort that will surely accompany it).

Step 6) Come to the mandatory conclusion that white folks simply can’t get any respect when trying to order spicy at Thai restaurants. You might want to have a pillow handy, so you don’t have to cry into your sleeve.

Now that we’ve all learned something about the brutal nature of modern life, allow me to blow your mind. What if I were to tell you that there’s a Thai restaurant in Portland where the color of your skin not only doesn’t matter, but where the heat scale goes up not just to five, not even to eleven, but to TWENTY.

It’s called Lemongrass, and it’s located in a beautiful, if slightly dilapidated, old house on N.E. Couch St. The restaurant’s menu is pretty simple compared to many Thai places, and the staff seems to consist entirely of the family that owns the place. If you’re looking for either a luxurious or cookie-cutter dining experience, stay away. This means you, angry man on Yelp.

If, however, you’re looking to eat some incredibly delicious Thai food, and sweat out all the toxins in your body (and perhaps a few pints of essential bodily fluids), Lemongrass is the place for you.

Explaining to our host my issue with most Thai joints’ underestimation of my threshold for pain, I was met with eyes that said they’d heard it all before. I was told that I should probably order a level two on my green curry to match other restaurants’ level 5. Full of the sin of pride, I ordered a level three and braced myself.

Jake Ten Pas celebrating
Did I weep openly? Did I gnash my teeth? Did my internal organs liquefy? No. I’m a professional, people. I’ve eaten something called a Satan’s Handroll, Salvador Molly’s Balls of Fire and even attempted Orochon Ramen’s Special #2 noodle challenge.

But it was damn spicy, and full of flavor that surpassed that spice to disprove the notion that when a dish is too hot, all you can taste is the heat. And this was a level three. Imagine a ten, or heaven forbid a twenty. I am, and my imagination tastes delicious right now.

If you’re like me, and tired of the extremely first-world problem of not being able to get hot enough curry, stop by Lemongrass Thai sometime. I’ll be headed back soon myself, and this time I’m trying for a five. Pray for me.


Building the Perfect Spokesthing

Mr Show pIt-pat Spokesthing

The “magical, pan-sexual spokesthing” Pit-Pat is introduced by David Cross’ character on “Mr. Show With Bob And David.” While the sketch lampooned business and marketing alike, it’s proven to be a great influence in the creation of several social media characters by yours truly.

By Jake Ten Pas

I don’t know who first coined the term spokesthing, but I initially heard it on a “Mr. Show With Bob And David” sketch about a decade ago. Being the irreverent sorts they are, Odenkirk and Cross used it to poke fun at marketing/advertising types, and they hit the nail on the head. I won’t link to the sketch in question here because it is full to bursting with foul language, but if you desire to seek it out, I certainly won’t try to stop you.Regardless, I just like the word spokesthing. It’s funny and gender-neutral and hints at the meta nature that marketing achieves at its most clever.

When I made the jump from journalism to public relations, one of my first tasks was managing the social media presence for Tillamook Cheese. One day, I thought it would be funny to tweet at people as if I WAS the Baby Loaf of Tillamook Cheese, and when a follower responded, “Is @Tillamook Cheese tweeting in first person? Brilliant!,” the character of Loafy was born.



Yes, that’s me dressed as Loafy. No, Tillamook didn’t let me keep the costume.

Notice I didn’t say that the character was born when I thought of him. The character was born when one of Tillamook’s fans responded to him. That’s the way social media works. People don’t want to be marketed to anymore. They want you to have a conversation WITH them. When I realized this was a concept with resonance, I set about fleshing out the character of Loafy, and an entire mythology of my new spokesthing was born.

Recently, when AM:PM PR was hired by The Original WOW! Burger, a new gourmet burger joint soon to be debuting in the Portland market, I again started thinking about what makes for a great spokesthing. Creating a good character that will resonate with your fans is important, but as Pat likes to say, we were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason. You can be the cleverest boy in all the land, but if you don’t listen to what your customers are saying and respond to them genuinely, it’s all for naught.

Dean Winters Allstate

The one and only Dean Winters plays Mayhem, Allstate’s imaginary reason to buy more insurance. Not sure if the Facebook account is written by the same folks that write the ad copy, but both are pretty choice.

One of my favorite spokesthings is Allstate’s Mayhem persona, who is played on TV by the killer character actor Dean Winters of “Oz,” “30 Rock,” “Rescue Me” and “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” fame. The commercials are short and humorous, and the Facebook posts carry that over well. Not sure why Allstate hasn’t brought this character to Twitter, where it would fit in well. My only complaint is the imbalance between the number of posts “likers” of Mayhem are leaving on the page and the number of responses Mayhem is offering. Clearly, the account is doing a great job of generating interest, but as a listening tool, it’s somewhat less effective.

Back when I was still managing the Tillamook account, I quite enjoyed posts by the Quiznos Toaster, more conceptually than consistently in practice. For some reason, I’m drawn to the notion of inanimate objects talking to me, which could explain part of my love for Tom Robbins’ “Skinny Legs and All.” Unfortunately, the Toaster got increasingly lewd as time went on, and it appears that Quiznos has now pulled the plug on him. I like to imagine a Hal 9000-esque scene playing out at the end there. The Kool-Aid Man had a funny Twitter account for a while, too, although whether it was ever connected to the brand remains a mystery to me. It no longer exists, which makes me doubtful.

Elsewhere, a slew of companies continue to try to convert their advertising spokesthings into social media spokesthings. From Bob’s Big Boy to Cheetos’ Chester Cheetah to M&M’s to the unholy insurance onslaught of Progressive, Aflac, Geico, etc., they achieve their objectives to varying degrees. The true measure of a spokesthing’s success in my eyes isn’t to transition the same old marketing messages over to social media. It’s to capture the imaginations of fans and inspire in them the desire to essentially create short bursts of fan fiction about you.

Even more, the goal of any spokesthing should be to disarm fans and followers and make them feel comfortable engaging in a conversation with you. If you can do that, and turn off your clever little marketer brain long enough to listen to what they have to say, then you’ve accomplished two invaluable goals at once – learning and creating. You’ve learned what your customers want and created a whole new legion of brand ambassadors in the process.

The (millennial) Kids Aren’t Al(ways)right

Jake Ten Pas sneerby Jake Ten Pas

If you’ve been reading the blogs of my boss, Pat McCormick, then you know he’s an optimist who views the younger millennial generation’s contributions to evolving communication trends with open-minded anticipation. He bucks the stereotype of the technophobic member of the silent generation, and it’s this spirit of enthusiasm and youthful energy that made me instantly like him when first we met.

On the other hand, he’s wrong. Not about kids and their communications habits pointing the way toward the future. No, that’s happening, and we’re powerless to stop it. What Pat’s mistaken about is that this is a good thing.

tiny keyboard

Clearly, texting on a miniature keyboard is the best way to communicate. Why make all of your fingers work when your thumbs can carry the burden for the rest of them.

When Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this year that he was changing the way Facebook’s messaging platform functions because some of his younger relatives told him that email is too slow, I rolled my eyes so hard that my spirit animal briefly changed from a badger to a pug.

How to put this delicately? If email is too slow of a format for you, then there’s something wrong with you, not email. If email is too slow for you, you should automatically get a prescription for Ritalin in the mail. If email is too slow for you, you should stop trying to write in sentences and just resort to a series of grunts and exaggerated hand gestures. This is technology as regression, not progress. It’s using new communication opportunities as a chance to unleash your inner caveman.

You know what isn’t hard? Typing a subject line. In fact, it might actually help you assemble your thoughts into something coherent, as opposed to the absolutely pointless, unfocused ejaculations that seem to pass for conversation these days.

Perhaps I’m picking up Pat’s slack by reinforcing the stereotype of the grumpy old man, but I find it hard to be inspired by the communications trends of generations Y and Z.

Justin Bieber

Seriously, would you listen to anything somebody with this haircut told you? No? Then why take your communication cues from Gen Y?

Texting is your go-to communication method? Seriously? What is it that you find so scary about the human voice? And don’t even say that you’re too busy to talk on the phone. If you have time to watch “Jersey Shore” and listen to Justin Bieber, you’ve got time to talk on the phone or send a proper email.

Texting has a place. It’s for quick, pertinent exchanges of information. It isn’t for discussing the fate of your relationship or other important conversations in which the likelihood of misunderstanding increases exponentially.

Which reminds me, why would you take advice from a generation of kids that thinks low-rider skinny jeans are cool? Why listen to people who can’t discern between music made by artists in a studio and music that’s made with an iPhone app? Why listen to individuals who pay money, over and over again, to watch vampire movies in which the vampires are about as threatening as male models on a hunger strike and the female protagonist’s only goal is to court one of these anemic mope-heads?



If you think the Twilight movies are good – and I mean seriously good, not just good fun to laugh at because of how terrible they are – then the medium by which you communicate is probably irrelevant.

So what if they grew up with the technology and are immersed in it in a way that my generation and older can’t understand. That just sounds like a lack of context and perspective to me. Because I remember a time before people conversed only by text, I can speak in complete sentences and occasionally put a paragraph together. I can make use of new technology without ever thinking that it’s the end-all-be-all of communication. I see a Tweet as a means to an end, and not an end in and of itself.

Sure, I’m stereotyping here. There are many young people today who are turning to vinyl as a reaction to my generation’s obsession with tiny technology. There are young people who are reading actual books and watching quality movies and listening to music that wasn’t popularized on YouTube. To you, I offer my unbridled respect. Being cool at your age takes even more hard work than it did when I was a teenager, and we thought Starter Jackets were stylish and Stone Temple Pilots was a good band.

This is an important point to make. There’s nothing inherently wrong with generations Y and Z. We all like stupid stuff when we’re kids. I liked Hammer pants, the movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and professional wrestling when I was younger. Fortunately, nobody was turning to me for advice at that age. The mistake we’re making as a culture is thinking that young people should be steering us. That’s what they call the tail wagging the dog.

Perhaps technology will eventually facilitate conversation that isn’t as brief and vapid as what most people say via text and tweet. Perhaps it will usher in a new era of democratized, personalized exchanges, as Pat suggests. Until then, we seem to have mistaken technological advancement for its own sake with true progress. While this willy-nilly dive down the rabbit hole might be shaping the brave new world one nano-second at a time, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be a world any of us take pride in populating.

The upside, of course, is that introspection will by then have been bred out of the gene pool, and people will judge their quality of life by the richness of their tan and their ability to afford a variety of flavors of Axe Nutrient Spray, which will replace both food and deodorant by 2050.

Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping up with the technology so that, A) I don’t lose all touch with where we’re headed as a society, B) nobody can say that I fear it because I don’t understand it, and C) I can keep an eye on you lunatics so I don’t have to scream and gnash my teeth after the fact like Charlton Heston in “Planet of the Apes.”

Don’t worry. That reference can’t be lost on somebody who doesn’t have the attention span to read past the first paragraph. Put that in your phone and text it.