Sunday, April 13, 2008

All The Gory Details From Camp Baby

Seems like nearly everyone has written their recap about the Johnson & Johnson Camp Baby event from last week. I could sound all writerly and say I needed time to digest the event for a proper write-up, but the truth is I've just been so busy catching up from being gone three days and working on school assignments. And it is incredibly hard to condense three days worth of information into one post, so I was a little intimidated, too.

Wednesday

Conquering my fear of flying was a little difficult when I took my seat on a plane where the cabin was only slightly wider than my SUV, with about as much head room. But we made it there safely, and I quickly found the Camp Baby representative, who ushered me into a Suburban. I learned that all of our ground transportation for the event was being sponsored by GM. I've seen GM at other blog events (like BlogHer 06) and I've always been impressed with their outreach.

At the hotel I checked in and was told that I could get something to eat in the hospitality suite. Since I traveled during lunchtime, I was hungry, so I quickly dumped my luggage in my room (stopping to notice the gift bag of Neutrogena products) and set off to find the hospitality suite. When I got there, I immediately ran into Belinda and Carmen, who were already chatting while Belinda twittered. The food was a bit of a let-down at first: some fruit, nuts, and soda. I was expecting something a little more substantial. Tracey arrived shortly after that, and asked if we could get some food with a little protein, like hummus. Poof - hummus and pita triangles arrived! Later, we tried this same trick with "something sweet" and poof - cookies arrived. Yum.

That evening everyone gathered for the wine tasting with Ted Allen. Confession - aside from him being male, I couldn't have picked him out of the crowd if asked. I've never really watched any of the shows he's been on. He was very patient through all of our chatting (C'mon, many of us haven't seen each other since July! We want to catch up!) as he guided us through food and wine pairings. I've always preferred white wine to red, but I got to try a few reds that might change my mind.

We were all feeling warm and happy, thanks to the wine, and then Lori got up and reminded us that Thursday's activities would begin at 7:30am. (Ack!) Still, it wasn't enough to convince us to go to bed - many congregated in the bar afterwards, and Kristen did her podcast live from just outside the bar.

Thursday

All of the morning activities were in one (very nice) room. They clearly were thinking of us when choosing this hotel. Each row had a desk with outlets to plug in laptops. Genius! The programming for the day began with a talk about teaching your children to sleep by Dr. Jodi Mindell. Most of us could identify with our children having at least one issue with going to bed or staying asleep, and we all learned we don't get enough sleep. (Wait - we knew that.) We were all given a copy of her book as well.

Other morning programs included a talk with "Dr. Germ" who told us that there are germs on everything (and then I watched the poor germaphobes in the room squirm in their seats), and a nutritionist who I didn't care for at all. I mean, she had some good points, but she also insisted that there was no problem giving artificial sweetener to kids, and organic milk was a waste of money, because there's nothing wrong with antibiotics and artificial growth hormones in milk. I might mention that even Wal-Mart, who I trust with my health about as much as I trust George W. Bush with searching for alternatives to oil, recently decided to remove growth hormones from all of it's private label milk.

We also got to see a J&J employee answer questions about the safety of their products. She had clearly anticipated that we would have questions about parabens and phthalates, and proceeded to tell us that there are good and bad versions of these chemicals, and they use only the "good" ones. I don't think she convinced anyone in the room - many of us have read the research and know the dangers. But she was honest about not knowing just how much animal testing they do with their products - I appreciate that she didn't try to talk around that question.

We then heard Tina Sharkey from Babycenter talk about how the internet has affected the way moms connect and interact, and while she was a great speaker, she said little that the mom bloggers in the room didn't already know. Those stats she gave? We're the ones making those stats.

The best session in the morning had to be Dr. Scott Jens talking about the InfantSEE program, which works to provide babies under a year old with free eye exams. I'll be blogging more about this in another post.

After lunch, we were split into three groups so we could rotate through three different sessions. One was a feedback session, some of which I talked about here. I felt a little like we were beating our heads against a wall. There were so many of us trying to get across that we are VERY concerned about the chemicals in our children's bath & body products. Several challenged J&J to make one product - just one - free of parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrance, etc. and let us prove to them that there is a strong market for it. I hope our suggestions will be given serious consideration.

The next session was "What's Happening Down There?" where the greatest amount of twittering took place. This session discussed the issue of uterine prolapse and other gynecological issues that can affect women who have had children. Honestly, I think it was too much for this crowd to handle. I'm in nursing school, and just finished my unit on reproductive health, so it didn't bother me, but many women were (justifiably) horrified at the topic. But I felt bad for the speakers, too. How would you like to be giving a lecture and look up to see this:

The laptop brigade can be intimidating.
(photo by Glennia - found here)

By the time I got to the final session (hairbraiding), I was burned out, along with everyone else. Silliness ensued:

Dana (Mamalogues)

Catherine (Her Bad Mother) (photo by Glennia again - found here)

Dinner was held at The Frog and the Peach restaurant, and while the dinner was simply amazing, that wasn't the story for the evening. GM sponsored all of the cars that took us to the restaurant, but I have no idea who they hired as drivers. As a group of us were being driven to the restaurant, it quickly became clear that the driver had no idea where he was going. We drove from one end of New Brunswick to the other, still not arriving at dinner. Even worse, the driver was listening to ultra-conservative talk radio, and we were all stunned into silence at what we were hearing.

If it wasn't for Sarah and her GPS, we might have never made it to the restaurant - two blocks away from the hotel. It took 20 minutes to get there.

Sarah saves the day.

Nintendo had several Wii systems set up at the restaurant, including one that featured the new Wii Fit. I can simply say that I will be lined up to purchase the Wii Fit when it is available in May. (Karianna has now pointed out they are available for pre-order on Amazon now.) They also surprised all of us with a DS Lite and a copy of the game Brain Age 2. Being a geek, I already have a DS Lite, but the game was a welcome distraction in the airport on the way home.

Friday

Again, we had to be in the lobby way too early for my liking (7:00am). We checked out of our rooms, stowed our luggage with the hotel, and went to the J&J headquarters for breakfast. We had a great presentation about the history of the company and some information about the blogs they write. We gave a little more feedback, again asking for more product information on their website, and they seemed genuinely interested in our thoughts.

After breakfast, we returned to the hotel to visit the product expo, where we went table to table with our pretty bags, trick-or-treat style, collecting full size samples of many of the products Johnson & Johnson makes. Another genius moment - the event coordinators anticipated that we wouldn't be able to take all of our loot on the planes, so they provided boxes and FedEx labels to ship it all back to us. (Side note: It's been over a week now. I'm still waiting for my box. Where's my box?) From there, we all waited in the lobby for our moment to be whisked away to the airport to return home.

Other random thoughts about the event:

  • Lori and the entire event staff did a kick-ass job making sure everything went smoothly. Honestly, I don't think I've seen an event run so well, often going above and beyond to make sure we were getting what we needed (and a lot of what we wanted).

  • I fully expected to have a lot of product information pushed at us. I realized this was a business trip. But I wish they would have put together a morning of product information and then have sessions that weren't necessarily related to a product. It became a game after a while to identify the pitch. Dr. Germ = Purell. The nutritionist = Splenda. Hairbraiding = J&J hair care products. Even the "down there" session = lube, pads, and the surgical materials used to fix a prolapse.

  • Twitter is the greatest invention ever. If it wasn't for Twitter, I might have been bored through some of the presentations. But knowing that half of the room was on Twitter discussing how good looking the eye doctor was, or throwing out links to research that countered things being said. It was like a second discussion going on without having to bother the person talking. And having those who couldn't be there following along with us made it a party.

  • I think J&J learned a lot from us, and we learned from them, too. I didn't realize that some of the products I use are made by J&J, and I didn't know about some of the community outreach projects they participate in. I hope they learned from us that many mom bloggers are smart, highly educated women who really do want to know more about the products we use, and have a serious concern about the safety of what we're using for our families. We want full disclosure - you might think we're not interested in chemistry and research, but we are.

  • Did you know J&J has a blog? More than one, actually.
While there were some problems with the initial invitation process, the event was interesting and entertaining. I appreciate that J&J wanted to meet with us and listen to us, and I'd like to see more blogger outreach. (And I'm not talking about sending us press releases and expecting us to post them.) If you really want to know what moms think, go to the mom bloggers. We're some of the most opinionated women out there, and we're often happy to tell you exactly what we think. Even if you don't want to hear it.

So thanks for a fun event, J&J, and I hope we didn't tell you too much that you didn't want to hear.

8 comments:

jenB said...

I agree on most everything. I was perhaps one of the few that enjoyed the Vagina talk. We were the first group to get the talk and I learned a lot. I know I was not the only one. There was head nodding and reallys?? I thought the two expert lady types to be congenial and nice and informative.

I also think they really got the picture on the chemical, scents, plastics, thing. I think every group talked such things. I know we emphasized that "natural" does not equal organic. In fact, I would have enjoyed or thought they were getting more out of us, if there was more time to talk to J&J people, since that is ultimately why they brought us there.

Also, Lori was lovely and I felt we were treated very well. :-)

But yeah, too early in the AM for me. :-)

Crunchy Domestic Goddess said...

i enjoyed all of the tweets during the camp and appreciate your write-up too. it will be interesting to see if they take any of the advice regarding any chemical-free products. hope so!

glad you had a nice time and got to reconnect w/ old pals. :)

Kim Moldofsky said...

Maybe it was because I was sitting near JenB, but I didn't mind the Girl Talk, that much either.

It was educational in a horrifying sort of way, but generally the realted product plug was a soft sell. "Please Dr., if you must rebuild my pelvic floor, be sure that you only use J&J bladder hammocks." Not likely.

I think Lori and her staff pulled of a great event. I created a Yahoo!Group for attendees. Drop me a note if you're not on it, but would like to be.

Mindy said...

I liked how they set up the "acceptable amounts" of by-product and chemicals in their products with Dr. Germ.

"Sure, throw stones. YOUR sink contains more fecal matter than your toilet after you flush."

sparklykatt said...

There was a hair braiding session?

Mwah hah hah!!!!

I don't get it...

daundelyon said...

As someone who watches Top Chef almost religiously, all I can say to Ted Allen is "SQUEEE!"
Otherwise, it sounds like an entertaining and informative event.
~Daundelyon

Rachel said...

Cool beans. THanks for sharing. I've enjoyed reading everyone's perspectives on this.

Karianna said...

Wii Fit is now available for preorder on Amazon.com. And yes, I preordered it. ;-)