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Making a difference

—Margaret M. Nava

Fighting cancer isn’t just about treating a disease—it’s also about coping with doctor offices, imaging centers, and insurance companies while attempting to fulfill, or at least provide for, family needs and schedules. Running back and forth between appointments can be difficult and stressful, and there’s usually little time, or energy, left for anything else—especially housecleaning. That’s where Jeanneth Lopez comes in.

Two weeks after moving to Rio Rancho from California in 2005, Lopez started her home-based business called Rio Rancho Cleaning, LLC. “When I first moved here, I had a dirty house that I just bought, and I looked in the yellow pages and called some cleaning companies. The ones in Albuquerque didn’t want to come all the way out here, and the one here in town was two weeks behind because they didn’t have enough staff. So I said, okay, I come from a long line of housekeepers, I can do this on my own.”

Although initially working with individual homeowners, Jeanneth’s clients soon included real estate brokers, homebuilders, business owners and office complexes. As Rio Rancho grew, so did her business. A couple of years ago, she read about a Lewisville, Texas woman, Deborah Sardone, who had started a nonprofit foundation for the sole purpose of providing free, professional, housecleaning services to women undergoing treatment for any type of cancer.

Since its inception in 2006, the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation has partnered with more than 550 professional cleaning service businesses in all 50 states and four provinces of Canada. Women undergoing cancer treatment contact the foundation and fill out an online application. Once the patient’s treatment is verified, she is matched with a local cleaning service business and provided with four free, basic house cleanings—one per month for four months while she is receiving treatment.

Lopez says the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation is a natural fit for Rio Rancho Cleaning. “I wanted to be able to use my business to help in the community somehow. My great-grandmother died from cancer when I was ten years old, and over the years, I’ve had several close friends die of cancer. I also lost my sister in June 2009. So helping cancer patients became a mission for me to be able to help improve the lives of women with cancer. With the support of Cleaning for a Reason, I can do that.”

In 2009, Governor Bill Richardson proclaimed the week of April 26 through May 2 as Cleaning for a Reason Week. “Whereas the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation and… its maid service partners have donated nearly $240,000 worth of cleaning services to over 1,300 women with cancer nationwide… providing the gift of a clean home… and allowing them to focus on their health… [it] is truly deserving of recognition for its worthy gifts on behalf of those it serves.”

Four cleaning companies in New Mexico are partnered with the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation: two in Albuquerque, one in Las Cruces, and one in Rio Rancho. Each company pays its employees who do the cleaning, but receives no payment from the patients or reimbursement from the Foundation. “Each company commits to servicing at least two free accounts per month and contributes monthly financial pledges which are used to sustain the operations of the program. There’s a heavy need for this service in New Mexico, but we need more cleaning companies to participate in the foundation. Fighting cancer is difficult, but living with it is even more difficult. The more services that participate in the foundation, the more women we can help.

“This year, we’re holding our 1st Annual Pink Ribbon Mixer on April 9th at the Sandia Resort and Casino. We want to raise funds to benefit the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation. The main goal for this fundraiser is to bring cancer awareness to the community because there are so many services and programs that cancer patients and their families don’t even know about. During the event, we will be hosting a silent auction that people or companies can donate to, and we’re also looking for sponsors to participate by providing goodie bags, posters, and program ads or by manning support group or educational vendor tables.”

Aside from being committed to providing the gift of a clean home to women undergoing cancer treatment, Jeanneth volunteers with the Community Emergency Response Team and supports the Children’s Grief Center and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. She is also a proud member of the International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association, Better Business Bureau, Small Business Administration, Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Business Network International. “I like to participate with the community as much as possible and maybe make a difference.”
We think she does.

For further information about Rio Rancho Cleaning or the pink ribbon mixer, contact Jeanneth at (505) 771-0093, or log on to www.rioranchocleaning.com. For information about making a donation to or receiving services from the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation, log on to www.cleaningforareason.org.


‘Tis the season to be fearful: Confessions of an ex-ad-woman (part 1)

—Judith Acosta, LISW
It was a long time ago. I was young. I was writing for Madison Avenue, hobnobbing with celebrities, going to parties. It was as far from a meaningful life as I've ever been, but it was the 1980s, Reagan was president, we were selling, and everyone was buying. Life was "good."

Then one day, I got an ad order for one of the firm's big clients. They were pushing a new diet pill that would expand in the stomach and fool the person into feeling full so they wouldn't eat. I read the marketing stats carefully. Their targeted audience was young, female, and anorexic.

I don't know what made me suddenly so sensitive or intolerant of such an obviously necessary strategy—who else would you sell a diet product to?—but I got angry. And in a pique of rebellion, I hurled my typewriter against what I felt to be a nasty injustice and sealed my fate when I submitted an ad with a picture of the little expanding pill and a headline that read Fat Chance.

Needless to say, they never ran the ad.

Not too much later, I was enrolled in graduate school for social work.

Being a therapist is not too different in some ways from being a copywriter, when you think about it. It's all about understanding people, their motivations, habits, and triggers. What I do with it now, however, is very, very different than what I used to do. And what I'd like to do is share what I know about advertising, so you can become selectively immune to it. Consider this a mental, psychological, and emotional vaccination. And an act of contrition for me.

WHAT MARKETERS KNOW ABOUT YOU AND HOW THEY USE IT

Everyone knows that sex sells. It has been a truism for hundreds, more likely thousands of years. The Romans knew it, the Greeks knew it, snake-oil salesmen on the American frontier knew it, and we thought we knew it. Instead of talking about the mechanical superiority of their latest cars, manufacturers hired the sexiest, perkiest breasted young women they could find to writhe, lean, and lick their lips next to their new products. Hard-bodied young men have gazed with sleepy-eyed sensuality at the camera to sell everything from Mediterranean travel to vacuums. It's been the American way since America's had a way. Sex was the King of Madison Avenue, the number one guarantee at the cash box, the Great Motivator.

Until now.

Because the number one seller is no longer sex. It's fear. What marketers know is that Americans are afraid. And they'll do anything to make that feeling go away.

So what does Madison Avenue do?
What any self-respecting ad man does: utilize the fear to motivate a purchase.

The evidence is all around us: We're bombarded with rapid-fire holiday ads designed to make us worry and buy. And what do these purveyors want us to worry about? Everything—what we eat, when we eat, what we wear, when we wear it, who we touch, and what we can catch. And the sooner we worry the better. The "self-improvement" ads that ordinarily start January 1 now start airing on December 26. Why wait when you can panic about a few extra pounds now? And what better season than this one? What better spirit to celebrate Christmas and New Year's than the spirit of Panic Present?

The message is the same everywhere. Be afraid. Be very afraid. We hear it from the newscasters we watch in the morning as we get ready for work, we see it in the ads tucked between talk shows, we read it in the magazines left for us in the waiting room at our doctors' offices. By the end of the day, we've been slipped about a hundred different fear mickeys.

The holiday season has a special sort of viral fear that gets added to the mix of the usual doomsday, global warming, code red, "It Could Happen Tomorrow" programming. At this special time of redemption and renewal, we get to fear the flu, unsightly blemishes and weight gain, loneliness, collagen loss, not being invited to the big parties, alcoholism, and early onset Alzheimer's, not to mention fallen meringues, sagging breasts, and cervical cancer if we don't get the vaccine now. Anxious about how anxious you are? Great. They're selling a pill for that, too.

Viral fear pops up on your home page, too. And while you're looking at the ads for Apocalypto or scanning the news blurbs about the new nuclear proliferation, don't let your eyes glaze over. Look at them. Really look. See what they're really selling and what in you they're really talking to.

In her study on fear in advertising, Lynn Kennedy profiled a billboard of Sammy Davis Jr. that looked like a tombstone. Next to a withered, sunken likeness of him was his date of birth and date of death. The headline read: The tobacco industry made him history. Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of Americans as much as cancer. Many can't even say the word itself and instead call it "the big C."

Pharmaceutical companies, "natural" food suppliers, vitamin manufacturers, and home improvement specialists (air purification systems, for instance) work that fear with ruthless efficiency to scare us into buying whatever it is they're selling. The entire insurance industry is based on promoting and profiting from fear.

Prudential has based its whole campaign on the notion, "Don't wait till it's too late." They implant the gloomiest, most heart-wrenching imagery possible of the consequences for not having life insurance. Act Now, they implore us so sincerely. Before it's too late.

And it works. People buy things they don't really need and walk around worried about all the things they can't do anything about. They fret about the things that might happen if they don't apply this cream or take that pill or sign that form. They pace anxiously, considering the things they're not doing that they have been told they ought to be doing, and ponder all the diseases, catastrophes, and losses they might suffer because they've been negligent.

WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICANS?

How does this happen in a country as comfortable and as technologically advanced as this one? It seems that when it comes to viral fear America's immune system has been systematically suppressed over the last sixty years, primarily since the Cold War. Why are we responding so predictably to the fear mongering?

According to a 1995 study by Horowitz and Bordens, it was found that people use what is called "central route processing" when they encounter a message that is personally meaningful. So, say a 45-year old woman is brushing her teeth in the morning, looks up in the mirror, sees some crow's feet, and then sees a television ad that holds a prune up to the camera as the announcer tells her: "Are you afraid you're going to wake up one day and see this in the mirror? Well, you don't have to if you buy our product!!!"

Odds are that our 45-year old woman will find that message relevant. Odds are that she will already have had certain feelings and beliefs about aging, feelings, by the way, that are very obviously a by-product of acculturation and value distortion. Our society as a whole rejects aging and on the value ladder places sexual appeal way over wisdom, grace, or purposefulness. Horowitz and Bordens say that within that context, she will then create a context of the image from her ideas and beliefs and be more predisposed to believe that their product will save her from the natural effects of aging.

And, here's the awful irony—according to two other experts (Pratkanis and Aronson), the more frightful the advertising, the more effective in stimulating anxiety but not in stimulating a positive action. If the message produces fear but doesn't offer a specific recommendation to reduce or deal with the perceived threat, people don't respond. They just walk around unconsciously anxious. Happily for the marketing departments of the world, in western culture anxiety of that nature normally translates into sales of some kind. When people are uncomfortable in this country, they look for something to buy. And anything will do, so long as it's new and distracting, and they don't have to actually process their discomfort.

So, what are Americans really afraid of? They're afraid of terrorists, of course. They're afraid of attacks just like we were in 1954. These are all the obvious ones. But we're also afraid of germs, of erectile dysfunction, of not being successful, of robbers, of child abduction, of Alzheimer's, of not having enough, of not being enough, of too much intimacy, of too little, of AIDS, of failure, of sunspots and solar radiation, of global warming, of dishwasher spots on our glasses, and E. coli on our spinach. And we're always worried about sex.

The greatest danger as I see it is that even when we use sex and scandal to sell, we're still using fear to close the deals. The American limbic system has been mutated so that now fear, violence, and sex have been fused.

WHAT TO DO

Advertisers are smart. They do this because they know that Americans are really afraid more than anything else of not being attractive, accepted, or loved. We are afraid of ourselves, of being alone, of stillness, of our own mortality. We are a nation of addicts (food, work, image, drugs, drink, sugar), and culturally we love to believe in miracle cures. We don't feel good about ourselves, we take a pill, and voila! We are new creatures—vibrant, trim, clear-skinned. We don't have friends coming to our house, so we buy a new couch or a new plasma TV, and we imagine the house is suddenly filled with loving neighbors toasting Amaretto to our continued success. We believe in Gadget Gods. Gadgets bring love, long life, good health, new friends, better jobs, clean lungs, big muscles, and long-lasting on-demand erections. And don't forget: The newest gadget cures best. So hurry! If you don't act now, there might not be any left!

Viral fear has capitalized on our culture's weakest point—our urgent need for the quick fix. Viral fear encourages irrational thinking, greed, and conformity, while it undermines self-worth, independence, connectedness with others, and, worst of all, faith in God and a higher meaning in life. The tragedy from my point of view is that America's greatest gift to the world has been its courage, its work ethic, its doggedness in the face of adversity, its intrepid willingness to stand up to bad guys and bullies, and its inspirational inventiveness. And for a country that was born of faith and the fearlessness of millions of people crawling, paddling, and begging their ways here so they could be free to now be a country paralyzed by magical thinking and benumbed with viral fear is heartbreaking.

So what are we to do?

This is what Edward A. Merlis said way back in 1975 when he worked with the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee and devoted much of his time to advertising legislation:

He [the American] is bombarded at every flip of the magazine page, at every turn of the TV dial. Can he be proud that we now export our form of mental gang rape to the people of other countries? Advertising is a science, designed to attack people's weak spots in order to sell a product. Wolfbane may have been the antidote for vampires and wolfmen, but it appears that only knowledge and awareness are the antidotes for our 20th-century monster, advertising.

He was right, of course. Knowledge is power, and awareness can be life changing not only in terms of what you're willing to buy, but what you're willing to swallow.

Knowledge may not be absolute power, but it sure as hell packs a punch.


Sitcom television star to host Santa Ana Star Search Finale: Entertainment experts set to judge contestants

Belita Moreno, known best for her role as George Lopez’s mother on the George Lopez Show, will be the master of ceremonies as New Mexico’s best amateur talent is crowned in the Santa Ana Star Search on March 12. Moreno is a seasoned actress who has appeared in several films, including Mommy Dearest, Clear and Present Danger, A Perfect Couple, and the long-running popular situation comedy, Perfect Strangers.

In the weeks leading up to the finale, a panel of judges will help narrow down the search to nine final contestants. Judges range from television personalities to music and dance experts:

  • Roger Malone is the resident conductor and chorus director of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.
  • Dan Mayfield is editor-in-chief of Albuquerque The Magazine.
  • Elenor Bravo has worked in the film industry in New Mexico for nearly 10 years. 
  • Deborah Bibby is the founder of Bibbs Talent in Las Vegas.
  • Edye Allen is the owner of Dance Exposé Productions in Albuquerque.
  • Carol Henry served as the executive director of the Miss New Mexico Organization for 14 years and has judged numerous state pageants for Miss America.
  • Emmett Garcia is the lead singer for Native Roots, a Native American reggae band. 
  • Doug Geist is a Grammy award winner who has worked on music production for local, national, and international releases. 
  • Janice Lujan is the manager of the Phoenix Agency, a talent agency in Albuquerque.  
  • Nikki Stanzione is the host of KASA-TV’s New Mexico Style. 
  • Alton Walpole is an eclectic filmmaker with more than 30-years experience as a cinematographer, editor, and producer. 
  • Tobias Rene is an award winning Latin entertainer who has sold more than 100,000 records in the Southwest.
  • Michael Burdick is the director of marketing for Santa Ana Star Casino.

Twenty-seven contestants will perform in front of the judges and a live audience at the Santa Ana Star Casino’s Bosque Event Center during one of three preliminary rounds, in which nine contestants will be selected to move onto the Santa Ana Star Search finale. The winner will receive an opportunity to sign an optional one-year development contract with a national talent agent, be awarded a $10,000 prize, receive a trip for two to the 2011 American Idol finale in Los Angeles as a member of its studio audience, and conduct a solo performance at Santa Ana Star Casino. In addition, all Santa Ana Star Search finalists will receive a $500 prize for being selected to participate in the final competition.

The first Santa Ana Star Search show debuts on Saturday, February 5 at the event center. It will be hosted by Miles Copeland, morning show host for KBQI-FM (Big I 107.9). The second, semifinal show will take place on Saturday, February 12, and Donnie Chase, morning show host for KPEK-FM (100.3 The Peak), will be the master of ceremonies. Saturday, February 26 is the last of the preliminary shows, and it will be hosted by Baxter, an on-air personality for KTEG-FM (104.1 The Edge).

The Santa Ana Star Search finale will be held on March 12. All shows begin at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m. 

For more information, people are encouraged to visit the Santa Ana Star Search Web site at santaanastarsearch.com.

     

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