Wednesday, June 29, 2016
It's that time again.
For the 13th year in a row, we will be packing the Acura MDX until it can be packed no more. We will fill every nook and cranny and hidden emergency trunk space with all manner of camping gear.
Fire starter kits that will never be started.
Emergency space blankets that will never be taken from their emergency space blanket packets.
And dried beef stroganoff that will remain in powder form unless some grizzly bear rips through the campground, eats all our lime flavored Tostitos chips and handcrafted hard salami, and leaves us nothing in his wake.
Unlike years past, we will not be bringing the kids in tow. They have reached that age when, first of all they don't like being referred to as kids. And second of all, they are just way too cool to "camp."
And while this breaks my heart it also gives us license to stock up on California state-approved herbal medicine and their carefully prescribed medicinal use.
It also allows us permission to revisit nearby attractions that may not have been so attractive when we visited them a long time ago.
The BristleCone Forest for instance, featuring trees that are older than modern civilization, dating back 4000 years ago, was a brutal sun-baked hike for some of our whiny 7 and 8 year olds. But now, without the crying and complaining, it may warrant another trip.
Likewise, minus the youngins', we might also summit the mighty Kearsage Pass, an 11 mile hike with 2500 foot gain in altitude.
There can be no doubt that without the kids running around, the camping trip will take on a different dynamic.
If I know anything about human behavior I think it's safe to say that the kids, ours and our friend's, will be visiting the place long after this 44 year old has written his final tagline. They'll be reliving memories. Memories, we all had a hand in making.
Hopefully, they'll be drinking rum and cokes, scouring the campground and taking their children on a laugh-filled, imaginary snipe hunt.
"Wugga-wugga-wugga, here snipe!"
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Last week, summer arrived.
After weeks of a cooler-than-normal June Gloom, the sun broke through and the mercury soared. Triple digits, inland. High nineties, here by the beach.
Granted it was a dry heat, not like the unbearable humid summer days of my NY youth when by 9 o'clock in the morning my sweaty clothes had the aroma of 9 o'clock in the evening.
Nevertheless it was hot and it gave me ample reason to reset the Nest Thermostat and fire up the jet engine air conditioning units I purchased way back in October.
The 2 &1/2 ton Trane XB 14 and the 3 ton Trane XB 16 purred to perfection. And within seconds, virginal cool air was blowing through the all the ducts in the house, well almost all the ducts. But that's a $1000 repair for another blog.
We, meaning all the Siegels, were in heaven. And that includes my two princess daughters, home from college, whose first spoken words many years ago were not "Dada" or "Mama" but "We have to get a/c for the house."
Of course, the happiness was short-lived. As it always is in my life. My former art director, John Shirley, is fond of saying, "You're only happy when you're unhappy."
That couldn't be a truer statement. Because within hours of putting the air conditioning on I felt a conditioned reflex to turn it off.
Maybe it's the Scottish in me.
Or the Jewish in me.
Or maybe as I posited on Father's Day I have fully evolved into my father.
In another lifetime, he drove an old Pontiac Bonneville. It was the first car we ever had that came equipped with air conditioning. It was an after-market air conditioning unit installed below the push-button radio but that hardly mattered.
It blew cold air.
Or so we were led to believe. Because the old man refused to turn it on. Ever. It put a strain on the engine and used up too much fuel.
"Roll down your windows."
"Drink some water."
"Why don't you kids shut up?"
And there it was. The explanation for my a/c hesitance.
From a very, very young age, I had it drummed into my head that running the air conditioning is an expensive proposition.
And this is when gasoline was only 28 cents a gallon.
Monday, June 27, 2016
As you may or may not have heard, last week a small group of people, drunk with power, hellbent on maintaining their incestuous culture and perpetuating exclusionary policies, took to voting, made their fateful selections and in turn rocked the world economies, sending hundreds of advertising professionals to their nearest linkedin.com update profile page.
Oh wait, you thought I was talking about the Brexit.
When in fact I was referring to the Cannes Advertising Festival.
Sorry, this was your classic misdirect.
And the misdirect was completely intentional.
Because as our beloved ad industry flounders, with shrinking margins, the disappearance of AOR accounts, the fragmentation of media as well as its blatantly false metrics, the scandalous corporate leadership, institutional C-Suite racism, sexism and ageism, the tone-deaf powers that be, would rather distract us with their debauchery and have us believe there's ample cause for excessive celebration.
Sorry to be the parade rainer, but I'm simply not buying it.
Tell it to the thousands of ad veterans who Got Quit this year.
"Remember when you won a Lion for us in 2008? That was great and the agency really appreciates all you've done, but we can't afford you. Or your office anymore. Or your vision care. We hired three interns to do your job and still had enough left over for these obscenely-expensive magnums of Armand de Brignac."
You could argue that those who "left to pursue other opportunities" are the lucky ones. What about the unfortunate many who didn't make the trip? The ones still on the agency payroll.
"We'd love to give you a raise this year. And last year. And the year before, but we simply can't. The holding company says we have to tighten the belt. But look who played at our private party...Sting. We got Sting!"
Well, it's back to business as ususal this week. And by usual I mean get in to the office at 9:30 AM and don't leave until 11PM. Oh and if you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother to come in on Sunday.
You know the drill so place your nose squarely on the grindstone. Because next year, the same people pouring you a tall glass of Kool Aid have their eye on a fancy hotel upgrade.
"Check it out, I'm on the top floor of the Carlton. The room was $3000 a night. I'm looking right out onto the Gulf de le Napoule. Damn, Droga got a yacht. We gotta get a yacht."
Thursday, June 23, 2016
If you reside in Adland you are well aware of the creative and media review initiated by AT&T, the nation's largest...er, I don't even know what to call them anymore.
Their account is worth $438 billion dollars, equivalent to the GDP of China, Russia and Finland, combined.
Normally I'd be itching to get in on that good freelance action. I'm sure agencies are paying top dollar for mercenary creatives like myself to dig in with both hands and crack the code that will lead to victory.
But that turns out to be my naivete speaking.
Last week I was reading about the review as reported on AgencySpy, which is quickly becoming the only legitimate news source for the industry. Equally enlightening are the AgencySpy comments left by trollers, recently fired employees, and surprisingly enough, people in the know.
Apparently, there is no code to be cracked.
The contest, between two mighty holding companies, will not be decided based upon 20th century criteria like creativity, design or strategic thinking. That's so passe.
No, like the way anything gets done in America, it will depend on cronyism, favor taking, margin trimming, and huge sums of money being passed under the table. Or in the Champagne Room at the Rack Shack.
You see, it's no longer about storyboards, scripts or anthems that carve out a unique point of view. That's all been commoditized. So much so that unlike days of yore when you could tell a Chiat/Day or Wieden & Kennedy spot from a JWT or McCann Erikson spot, now it all looks and feels the same.
And that's fine, let the bean counters have their day.
It's a sweet, savory reversal of fortune.
Because in the long feverish days and nights leading up to the pitch, I hope it's the Creatives who get to go home at 5.
And I hope it's the finance folks and the holding company execs who are eating Mushu Pork at 1 AM or assembling the Powerpoint decks on a hot Saturday afternoon without any fuckin' air conditioning!!!
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
We're about to pass an important milestone here at RoundSeventeen Headquarters located in the heart of formerly dumpy Culver City.
We're about to welcome our 500,000th visitor.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be crossing this monumental, inspiring, critical and joyful threshold. By the way, the use of multiple adjectives is a good indication that my tongue is pressed firmly against my cheek.
I don't take this blog seriously and nor should you, (more on that later.)
I remember when I first started this blog and talked to my good friend, freelance art director and veteran blogger Laura Sweet. She reached the 1/2 million mark in her first week. Then again people have an inherent interest in all things style and fashion and couldn't care less about the ramblings of an underachieving 44 year old freelance copywriter.
"It'll start slow at first, but keep at it and soon you'll be averaging 1,000 hits a day and fighting off offers from clients who want to advertise on your blog."
Laura was right about the slow start and the need for persistence. But her calculations were a tad off and now after 8 years of plugging away, I'm seeing about 500 visitors a day. And last month we had an all time high in traffic, with more than 15,000 visits.
Hell, I cringe over the posts I wrote last week.
And apparently I'm not the only one.
Recently one anonymous reader has taken me to task for my insidious rants about ad agency Planning.
In anonymous comments that I no longer feel the need to publish, he or she (and by the way the sex of this reader does not matter) suggests I have been hateful and misogynistic.
He or she suggests I've caused he or she personal and professional doubt and depression.
Really? You're letting a non-accredited journalist, a frustrated copywriter with a Dropbox filled with non-strategic, un-produced campaign ideas, an insignificant blogger in a world full of insignificant bloggers, cause you to question your self worth?
He or she, claims I have been constant in my confrontation and relentless with my rhetoric. The fact is, I have shown restraint and for the sake of my 13 regular readers who enjoy a broad range of topics and who have visited here 1/2 million times, and limited myself to one Planning post a month.
So I can only deduce that he or she has been following this blog for a considerable length of time.
In which case he or she is probably reading these very words.
Let me be the first to offer you some simple advice. And by the way this didn't require months of research or Big Data analysis. Or any charts. Diagrams. Or Powerpoint decks.
If what I'm writing disturbs you, causes you undue harm or in your words "makes you feel like a total shit", then and here's the big reveal...
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
You'd think I'd know better.
That after 30 some odd years...er, 20 some odd years, in the advertising business deluding people about the incredible horsepower of a shitty compact car or shooting chemically-injected painted chicken designed to flare up over a flaming grill, I would know that you can't always believe what you see.
Of course that didn't stop me from clicking an online shopping site, whipping out my credit card and laying claim to a brand new $80 LayBag.
Lured by its vaginal appearance and its incredibly simple inflation, I was convinced I needed one of these hipster contraptions. It's light. It's durable. And it'll be perfect for outdoor activities, a comfortable alternative to those stiff aluminum folding camping chairs.
Or so I thought.
Two months after ordering the damn thing, it shows up. Shipped to me by some laughing Swedes who are now counting their shekels and picturing lame Americans trying to inflate the oversized Zip Lock bag.
Because believe me it is not as simple as it may appear in many of the company's YouTube videos.
I spent the better part of the afternoon flailing the contraption around my back yard. I ran with it. I did circles with it. I tried to gulp the air into it the way a whale opens his mouth wide and captures a ton of kelp.
All, it appears, to be in vain.
When I tried to compress the air I did manage to get in the bag and roll up the ends, I was left with nothing more than a glorified 3 foot long ottoman, hardly the canoe-length couch I had been promised.
My wife and daughters, watching from the comfort of the family room, required ice on their necks to recover from all the hilarity they enjoyed at my expense. And here at the Siegel household we put a premium on laughter.
So, in a way, I did get my money's worth.
Monday, June 20, 2016
It's award season in advertising again.
I think we all know that from the flood of tweets and pictures from Cannes appearing on our Facebook feeds.
"Look, there's that Mucketty Muck Creative Director who didn't approve my Super Bowl spot. Doesn't he look like he's having a good time in his plaid shorts and his $120 Calvin Klein Crew Neck T-Shirt. I hope he drinks too much rose wine, eats some bad snails and blows chunks all over that CFO who tried to idiot-splain why the agency didn't have any money this year - or the past 5 years -- for bonuses, raises or new computers to replace the 2007 MacBooks. Oh and look, they're on a yacht."
Wait, where was I before I got diverted onto my tired Bernie Sanders like rant about the financial inequality plaguing the ad industry?
Oh yes, awards.
Well, before they can hand out the trinkets, trophies and metallic validation of our oh-so-disposable Skip Ads and Viral Stunts, there's an award judging season.
That's when cream of the crop creatives, from all over the land, are flown to exotic locations to sit in imperial favor and cast their discerning eyes on who and what shall be admitted to their inner circle.
Here too, we are often treated to a photographic collage of their international adventures via social media.
They're in Aruba.
Any destination that manages to skirt the agency's restrictive rule on flying Business Class and earns these prestigious judges their precious pre-flight warmed chocolate chip cookie.
I use the term cream of the crop creatives because it is a status I have successfully avoided.
I came close in my day, but was always denied entry. In many ways it's like a high school cafeteria. I never sat with the football players and the cheerleaders, but occasionally managed to pull up a stool next to the lacrosse team equipment manager or the flag twirlers.
That is not to say that I have never been asked to judge a show.
A dozen years ago, I was invited to partake in the decision making for the Pele Awards. Never heard of them? Neither had I. Turns out they are a second tier local awards show for our ad colleagues living in Hawaii.
It rained the three days we were there. Apparently the Motel 6 was booked to capacity and my wife and I were put up at the Royal Illikai in the heart of Waikiki. There was nothing remotely royal about the place. And as we joked later, while fighting off food poisoning from room service spicy tuna poke, they managed to put the ILL in ILLIKAI.
As recently as 8 months ago, I was asked to judge another show. I can't even remember who it was for. I do remember that the work sucked and, even better, the judging was all online.
Fueling my wife's oft-heard complaint, "We never leave Culver City."
Thursday, June 16, 2016
I've made it a habit to walk from my house to the Baldwin Hills Overlook about three times a week. It's a good 6.5 mile hike that includes two, sometimes three, up and downs of the mighty hill. On the way there, I walk by SafeWay Sandblasting.
There's always something interesting to see there. Or even on the way there.
I don't know what any of it has got to do with anything, but I've been extremely busy, it's the end of the week and I'm pooped.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
A few years ago, two former colleagues --both copywriters--started a new online enterprise called ADWEAK. It was a satirical news page spoofing the insanity of the advertising business.
Because it was brash and brutally honest and because they cleverly used a stock photo of a fat, hairy swimmer as the editor of this fictitious magazine, many folks in the industry mistakenly assumed I was behind the venture.
I can't tell you how many phone calls and e-mails I had to field denying my authorship.
On the one hand it was flattering because their shit was really funny. On the other hand, I was still a staff guy at Chiat/Day with a rash of political problems that weren't being helped by this weekly sedition.
It wasn't me then, but it could be me now.
ADWEAK has evolved and is no longer a full blown website. Now it is a Twitter feed with more than 20 thousand followers. That's a lot of exposure. And it's well earned. Because these guys continue to crank out premium material, though when pushed they will readily admit they steal ideas and inspiration from right here at RoundSeventeen.
But that's the beauty of satirizing the ad industry -- it's a target rich environment. Like shooting flatfish in a barrel.
Whether it's fat, drunk CEO's pawing the underlings or complaining about "Those Fuckin' Jews".
Or it's double-talking planners who couldn't strategize their way out of a paper bag.
Or, it's just Pepsi.
This deep well of nonsense, incompetence and monumental greed will never run dry.
And so it is with great pleasure that I am announcing my plan to throw in with the ADWEAK staff. I've just been named a Junior Correspondent and look forward to making my anonymous contributions to their twitter feed.
And I must say it's off to a good start.
On just the second day of the job, one of my tweets was liked by Lee Clow, which according to the editors of ADWEAK, has never happened in their 10 year online history.
In case you're wondering, the ADWEAK gig pays the same as the RoundSeventeen gig -- nothing.
So I'll still be available for all your chest-beating manifesto/ anthem/banner/page takeover needs.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I'm going to be perfectly honest, I'm in pain.
I've never had an addiction problem but what I'm going through feels a lot like withdrawal. All the symptoms are there. I'm aching. I feel a longing. A void that can't be filled. I'm sure the tremors will be rolling in soon.
You see, way back in April, I found myself entangled with an online chess opponent -- a German fellow. It should be noted that I've played Germans, Iraqis, and Syrians, online in randomly selected games. All without incident. Though I will admit beating these gents gave me added pleasure.
But this Bavarian was different.
In a clear breach of online netiquette, he started talking trash. At the same time he was questioning my skills, he was propping up his own in a manner that demanded a reply. And so I obliged.
What followed was a 51 day match that went way beyond the chessboard. The game ended when, left with no option, I was forced to resign. But now I am missing my German compatriot.
Those of you privy to my Facebook newsfeed watched the whole thing unfold. But, because today is a slow news day, I thought I'd recap the juicy affair through the magic of screen grabs.
Here's how it started.
It escalated quite quickly.
And then the German and Yiddish cursing began.
At which point I decided I would stretch the game to its maximum limits and use every bit of time allotted to me. Mostly because I sensed it made him mad. Very, very mad.
And thought it was working.
For a few days he had gone silent and not responded.
Turns out, he was not the Bonsai type. Nor did he respond to one of my earlier submissions, a link of motivational posters. But I was not about to give up.
If he knew how his long bouts of silence were killing me, he would have remained silent and won the games being played on the board and on the screen.
But, true to Teutonic tradition, he lashed out. And I got to play some more.
It was at this point, after 50 some odd days, the game would end.
And as you can see, there will be no rematch.
Hence, the pain. The excrucriating pain.
Your silent prayers are welcome.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Last night, while watching the NBA Finals, Jeff Van Gundy had this say about small forward 35 year old Richard Jefferson, a guy who usually comes off the bench...
"He's amazing. Got this limitless, deep well of energy, I swear he's like the Energizer Bunny."
A truly remarkable statement considering the Energizer Bunny stopped being like the Energizer Bunny years ago.
If you'll recall the Bunny made its debut by busting through staid, formulaic commercials. You, the viewer, would get sucked into believing you were watching some terrible spot about a nasal spray, a body soap or a performance sedan, and then via the Fourth Wall, the Bunny would burst through and take the steaming piss out of the whole thing.
The underlying message: the batteries were so strong and so long lasting (qualities one wants in a battery) that the Bunny could not be stopped and would just Keep Going. And going. And going.
In the parlance of the day, it was Disruptive. And spawned a multi-million dollar spin-off industry of merchandise (see above.) It isn't often that an advertising idea gives birth to a Halloween costume, and a fine one at that. Grrrrrrrr.
Simple and effective, right?
Only it wasn't so simple. Because over the course of time the brain trust at Energizer twisted and contorted the idea until, ironically, there was no juice left in it.
(Full disclosure, I was freelancing at Chiat/Day and witnessed the whole draining affair.)
Keep Going was replaced, or nudged aside, with "That's Positivenergy™". I have no idea what that means. Nor, do I believe, do the Focus Group attendants who will say anything to collect their $75 and eat free tuna fish sandwiches and peanut M&M's.
It wasn't the first time a client took the goose that laid the golden eggs and offered to sacrifice it on the altar of mediocrity. Nor the first time an agency, a holding company agency, long-divested of a spine, responded by saying...
"Sure, Mr. or Ms. New CMO, we can do that. Here's the invoice for April."
Just recently, the agency handling the Dos Equis account retired the Most Interesting Man in the World. I suspect some Big Data mining executives and Digital Content Strategy Innovators came to the conclusion that people who drink beer want to see a younger, hipper spokesperson. Maybe a guy with a lumberjack beard, who can dance.
They literally took the best asset the brand had and put it on a one way death rocket to Mars.
We have yet to see what they will do to replace the Most Interesting Man in the World.
But I'm going to go out on a limb and predict it will be a lot less interesting.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Right now, as you are reading these very words, there are a group of privileged ad agencies creatives making their final preparations for the flight to southern France.
I'm going to assume it's not you because RoundSeventeen is really aimed at a different market, the working class of the ad industry, not the Kool Aid drinking Adverati -- and you know who they are.
They're at the haberdashery, carefully selecting their new $500 Pharrell-type hats.
Or at the dry cleaners picking up their white, off-white and Navajo-white Capri pants.
Or at home figuring out how to jam three weeks of fashionable summer apparel into a bag meant to accommodate only one. And consequently, how they will bury the baggage fee into their shrinking holding company per diem.
I get it.
Winning awards is great.
I'd be a hypocrite to say I didn't understand the thrill.
At one misguided point in my life it mattered. And I have the pencils, the CA Annuals and the Beldings, all in a box in the garage, behind the Chanukah decorations we don't put up anymore.
Because now, truthfully, it doesn't mean squat. Nor, I suspect, does it mean squat to the 100 leading CMO's and CEO's in this country who steward billions of dollars in advertising revenue.
Do you think Tim Cook at Apple knows who won the Titanium Lion for Best Experiential Display in the $250,000-$500,000 Category?
Do you think Sergey Brin from Google knows, or cares, who won a Gold Lion for 30 second TV?
Do you think Ian C. Read, CEO at Pfizer gives a rat's ass that his agency did not get Silver in the vaunted Best Analgesic Pain Relief Category?
The fact that we are giving out awards for pharmaceutical advertising tells you everything you need to know about the worthless trinket chasing that commands our attention and robs thousands of employees of a raise, an end of year bonus and decent toilet paper in the restrooms.
Because of some previously mentioned logistical errors and some behind the scenes political agendas (oh my) some of the best work I did as a staffer never got entered at the prestigious International Festival in France.
As a result I'm never going to have a Cannes Lion. But that's not going to stop me from being entirely happy.
I have crappy neighbors for that.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
My daughter brought me a present the other day.
That's not unusual, daughters are always surprising their fathers with presents: watches, cufflinks, maybe a nice belt.
Not mine. She brings me a paper hat from In and Out and showers the gesture with all kinds of tongue-in-cheek heraldry.
"Father, we were out and about and I saw something very special and I wanted to get it just for you because you've done so much for me. Look, isn't this great?"
Yes, yes it is.
What she doesn't know and what she couldn't know is that she stumbled upon something I had long ago forgotten. A bit of nostalgia that one could argue was the leading indicator of my future vocation.
Let's back up the story a bit.
On a family vacation to the St. Lawrence River many, many years ago, we were all piled into the 1973 Rambler making our way up Route 81 through Central New York. From the highway you could spot the telltale iconic buildings of Syracuse University. My father exited the highway rather abruptly for a little detour to scope out the school. After the 25 minute impromptu visit, we returned to the air conditionless Rambler.
"Five years from now, that's where you're going to college," he announced.
And so it was. Despite my scholarship offers from nearby and the more affordable SUNY schools, I was going to be at one of the most expensive private universities in the country. Oh and guess who was footing half the bill?
As part of my father's rigorous character-building program, I was presented with a non-stop stream of bills for books, room and board and tuition.
So I worked.
At the Brockway Student Dining Hall. I put more hours in the dishwashing room there than I did for any labs, lectures or classes about the Czarist Influence On Early 18th Century Russian literature. Hell, at the dining hall, I could make money, eat for free and steal ample slices of ham and bologna for in-room snacking.
In order to work in the dining hall I had to wear a disposable plastic apron as well as a disposable white paper hat, not unlike the one my daughter gifted me. And because the work in the dining hall was largely unbearable, washing dishes, scrubbing pots, mopping floors or refilling the ice cream tubs for JAPPY bitches who were never satisfied with the flavor selection, I was always stoned.
And because I was always lit, I made the most of the opportunity, grabbed a thick magic marker and wrote a pithy headline on the outside of each paper hat. The space was limited. And the type had to be large. What I didn't know, but know now, is that I was training myself to write billboards.
I wrote a new line for every shift. Most were bad. Some were good. I had saved hundreds of these paper hats in a box that sat in my parent's garage in Suffern, NY but sadly have been lost to time.
Not to sound too immodest, I literally had people coming up to me every day to see my new hat. And my new headline.
I put a lot of effort into those hats. Mostly with the mistaken notion that college girls really appreciate a man with a healthy sense of humor.
Turns out a plastic apron, a funny paper hat and a mop bucket was not the winning formula for getting laid.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Last week, business called.
I had to go to Las Vegas.
This is a city that brings back memories. Most of them fuzzy.
As a 22 year old, I went there with two high school buddies and did things that shall forever remain sealed in a bro-vault, that shall never be opened. Suffice to say I've never again exited a "Gentleman's Club" when the sun was already 2 hours into its day.
Later in life, I had visited the city with girlfriends, wives, friends and other couples. There was considerably less debauchery. But a lot more of my hard earned money being turned over to the casinos.
Now, it seems, I only go there for business.
Years ago I was summoned to the CES convention. I was put up at a very fancy hotel. And treated to a monumentally expensive dinner at the SW Steakhouse, where (and I'm looking at their current menu) you can enjoy a 4 oz. New York Strip Steak, made from Kobe beef imported from the Hyogo Prefecture for only $220. If 4 ounces isn't enough you can increase the size of 100% Tajima Cattle steak for a mere $55 an ounce.
More recently, I was flown to Sin City and housed at the incredible Aria hotel, where everything in the room, and I mean everything, is controlled by an electronic remote control board. You want the shades up, there's a button for that. You want the closet doors to open, there's a button for that. You want the bidet in the bathroom to shoot water up your ass with the force of a fire hose, there's a button for that.
Last week, I was there for a project that will remain undisclosed.
It was a quick 32 hour turnaround that included two 5 hour drives, one 3 hour client meeting, one 2 hour dinner, one 90 minute show, and a hazy number of hours winning huge stacks of chips at the roulette table (first time ever). This was followed by endless gawking at the human zoo on Fremont street -- where two faux show girls were happy to exploit my intoxicated generosity and pose for some very embarrassing photos with me.
Why, you may be wondering would we forego the 45 plane ride and drive all the way to Vegas and back?
Well, the truth is, the mechanic at the Lexus dealership told me I had be using poor low octane gas in my car and that if I wanted to see better performance I needed to flush it out with a few tanks of the good high octane stuff.
So that's what Las Vegas has become to me -- an opportunity to perform some much needed automobile maintenance.
Damn, getting old(er) sucks.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Facebook sent me a reminder last week.
Linkedin.com sent me the same reminder today.
And my wife, in her own passive/aggressive manner, echoed the same sentiments recently when she said...
"It's been 12 years now, when are you going to get a real job?"
Well, I'm only 44 years old and it may be a bit premature to make any conjectures, but I'm pretty sure the job I have now, as a free-roaming, creative mercenary, will be the job that I have until I retire.
That is unless my bid to replace Sir Martin Sorrell as Chairman of the WPP falls on unwilling ears.
How shortsighted of them not to even fly me out (business class) to NYC, put me up at a swanky old man hotel, not one of the Eurotrash Boutiques with the waterfall urinals, take me to a nice steakhouse, the kind where old Mafia captains would get shot, and hear out my proposals for righting the ship that seems eager to find its resting place at the bottom of the Marianna Trench.
But it's exactly that type of corporate myopia that has kept me at arm's length from the agency world.
A short arm to be completely accurate. Because let's face it, the bulk of my business still comes from the ad agencies, who call me and the growing battalions of freelancers, usually at the last minute, and usually with a hint of desperation in their breath:
"The client's not happy with the work they have been dictating to us for the last 18 months and wants to do something different -- a whole new brand direction. Can you come in Monday? And we can only afford you through Wednesday."
And I'm more than happy to oblige. To share my little schpiel about creativity requiring time. And to make for them, one very expensive clock.
But, I'm even happier these days to be fielding calls directly from clients.
And this is happening more and more.
Projects from clients who see my age and my experience as an asset. Clients who are more than happy to save vital office space and want me to work remotely. Clients who trust in the process and do not require mid day, mid evening and mid morning check ins. Clients who actually want to hear my Lee Clow/Chiat/Day war stories.
There's a tidal wave of change coming to the business.
And maybe it's the flurry of recent bank deposits talking, but I think the next twelve years are going to be better than the first.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
As I've mentioned before, I like to stay abreast on all industry news. I like to know where clients are going. Where employees are going. And where trends are going.
It's part and parcel of being a copywriter. I like to think I'm a good observer of human behavior.
It's how, for instance, I know that people don't want to give up the steering wheel for a driverless car. Or how they will never be convinced to eat pizza backwards. Or how, despite the horse-hockey dished out by management about greater collaboration and increased productivity, people do not want to work in an open office plan.
They just don't.
Of course, I never predicted the ascendancy of a two-bit, vulgarian with the orange merkin hat and the intellectual prowess of a bean bag, as a legitimate Presidential candidate, but then who did?
Lately, I've noticed a very troubling trend in the ad industry.
OK, there are many troubling trends in the ad industry, but this one is gaining steam.
Perhaps you've noticed it too.
An agency will hire a bevy of heavy hitting C-Suite executives. They have fancy titles. Impressive resumes. And they come furnished with their own professionally shot, heavily photoshopped 8 X 10 headshots. Any agency would be proud to have these tattooed wonders on board. Digital is their native language. And clients can't get enough of their paradigm-changing wisdom.
So says the press releases on AgencySpy
Then, a week, maybe two weeks later, that same agency -- and there are many I've seen doing this -- will "downsize" or "rightsize" or "trim the fat" and lay off a bevy of not-so-heavy-hitting staffers.
People who actually do the work. You know, the peons who gave up their nights and weekends and missed birthday parties for mismanaged new business pitches or last minute brand turnarounds.
It doesn't take a genius to spot this trend. The fact that I noticed it, is proof of that. But it certainly is indicative of the level of tone deafness that is increasing on a daily basis.
There used to be a joke, "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."
Now, it's, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out and could you please hold it open for our new Chief Innovations Platform Anthropologist?"
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
The plan was to have boys.
Sturdy, durable, barrel-chested boys that I could whip into shape with a equal mix of humor and character-building hardship. They'd sport full heads of hair, thick mustaches, and chase rich women all around the globe while pursuing their interests in law, medicine and world championship chess.
But I had no luck producing the Y chromosome and that plan was quickly scrapped for another.
Let's be clear I love my two daughters. And with summertime approaching, both will soon be back under my roof. And despite the indescribably damage they can do to a shared bathroom or the ungodly mess they can make in the simple preparation of a sandwich, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Because the nattering, the bickering and the arguing about who gets to drive the Volvo will be over in the blink of an eye and they both will be returning to college before I can yell, "who backed up the toilet with the girly stuff?"
Here's the part I never saw coming.
When they return to UC (University of Colorado) and UDUB (University of Washington), two fine schools with two skyrocketing out-of-state tuition's, they will both be residing in sorority houses. That's right, sorority Houses!
What the hell plan was that? I never pictured myself as the father of sorority girls. When I was in college I'm pretty sure I secured a lifetime ban from ever entering a sorority house.
In fact, if you were to scour through the archives of student disciplinary reports at Syracuse University you'd discover that my inordinate ability to guzzle whiskey and beer combined with a unnatural reserve of nocturnal energy and predilection for destruction earned me a lifetime ban from the fraternity houses as well.
No small feat on any campus.
And now I'm just one embossed, gold-inked invitation away from some contrived father-daughter dance at the Gamma Delta Spring Pin Invitational. Or whatever the fuck they call it.
How did this happen?
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
That's my face on a dartboard.
Correction, that's my much younger face on a dartboard.
And if you are a Planner or you are involved with Strategy or the construction of briefs with their many triangles, trapezoids and parallelograms, not to mention bullet points, asterisks, and run on sentences, today is your lucky day.
Today is about retribution.
And getting back at the old 44 freelance copywriter.
You see, fresh off the chart-busting success of my previous book, Round Seventeen &1/2, the Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Inefficient, I began work on my next opus. That's right another book is on its way.
Regardless of what you've been told, people do judge a book by its cover and so a lot of time and thinking has gone into the packaging. I had already picked the design for the front and was going over the many options for the back. That's when it struck me, more accurately that's when a certain unnamed Planner from NYC who took exception to my current WPP campaign, because of my "tired hate the planner trope" struck me.
So I've decided to let Planners have their day.
And plaster the back cover of the new book with scathing, go-for-the-jugular literary reviews. It's not even important if they have read the book -- which if they have been following Round Seventeen, they have -- it's more about the opportunity to flip the table and turn the skewer into the skewee.
What do I mean?
Here's a picture of the back cover of Round Seventeen & 1/2:
It's littered with fake nasty reviews from real literary publications.
"Blowing out a candle does not make one a firefighter, any more than clacking away on a keyboard makes one a writer." -- Tim Farnsworth, Ploughshares.
The plan is do something similar.
Only with real quotes from real Planners.
This is not just an opportunity to flex your creative muscle. This is an opportunity to exact some measure of vocational vengeance. To vent. To lash back at the irrelevant dinosaur who has ruthlessly torn into your profession and left the bloody mess scattered about the blogosphere for all to see.
It's Open Season on the Creative Department.
Lock and Unload.
Winners will be selected based on wit, cruelty and inventive invective.
Monday, May 30, 2016
Sir Martin Sorrell receives an online petition from change.org requesting Rich Siegel be made the new Chairman of WPP.
"Helen, what is this? I think my iPad has been hacked."
"Helen, have the IT guys add another block to my account: George Parker, Bob Hoffman and Rich Siegel."
"Helen, alert the press, we have our new Chairman."
These are just some of the possible reactions to my impending candidacy. Of course none of this happens unless the petition reaches the bare minimum of a hundred signatures. At this writing we are 88% of the way there.
If we don't reach our goal, and thanks again to Gregg Bergan for starting the effort (without any prompting from me, BTW), then advertising as we know it will continue on its dreadful course.
You know what I'm talking about: thin margins, data-driven dreck and the proliferation of FFDKK, Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks™. It can change, but only if you take the requisite 3 minutes to click the link, sign your name, give a fake address and be done with it.
This month we've reached the highest traffic numbers ever in the 8 years I've been writing RoundSeventeen --about 15,000 page views. And in that time I've never asked you for anything.
Except for the occasional call for new taglines.
Or the time I begged you all to buy my book, RoundSeventeen &1/2, The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Inefficient.
Or the time I figuratively swam across the Straits of Gibraltar to raise $1200 for the Wounded Warriors.
Or a year later when I repeated the swim, only longer, across the English Channel to raise $4000 for our veterans.
OK, I have asked in the past, but most of you have just ignored me and enjoyed this semi-premium daily dose of humor absolutely free.
I've been digging around the very public financial records of WPP and discovered they (we?) command more than $19 billion in revenue. I can't promises, actually as the new Chairman, I can make plenty of promises. And $19 billion butters a lot of bread, wink, wink.
So, the 100 of you that get on the change.org list can look forward to many handsome rewards: an office with a window and a door that closes, weekends off, Saturdays AND Sundays, and a personal invitation to my end of Summer New Orleans-themed BBQ, I make a mean Sazerac.
Those of who didn't sign the petition will find yourself on a different list. One that I have committed to memory.
Did I mention I have the memory of an elephant?
Thursday, May 26, 2016
You might not gather from reading this blog or even knowing me in person, but I like to think of myself as open-minded.
I'll eat new foods (particularly if they're spicy).
I'll drink new drinks (particularly if they're alcoholic).
And I'll work for new clients (particularly if they're paying well).
And so it was with great curiosity that my wife and I, while doing our regular hike up the Baldwin Hills Scenic overlook, came across a group of musicians playing in the pavilion erected for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and other events where people might congregate for pigs in a blanket.
There, we saw a group of musicians cobbled together with no rhyme or reason (literally), "playing" before a spellbound crowd. We had been walking a good three and half miles before we stumbled upon the trio and had assumed we got there just as they were warming up.
There was a lot of tuning up.
A lot of random note playing.
A lot of silence, in between the short spasms of sound.
Little did we know, this was the "music".
Even more confounding were the throngs of people pushing through to get a good seat to listen, I'm sorry, experience, this one-of-a-kind performance. We waited and waited and the music never seemed to get going.
So we laughed and decided we had better things to do with our time -- maybe clean fish or snake the drain in the shower or refill the window washing fluid in the Acura.
So on the way out we stopped by the admissions desk and grabbed a flyer with more information and a schedule of upcoming events. I'll want to save the date for those.
Turns out the entire extravaganza was put on (and I use the words 'put on' intentionally) by the quintessentially Los Angeles, SASSAS -- Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound.
I wish I had video captured the event -- which was like every Woody Allen trope about Southern California all baked into one Bundt cake. Sadly, I didn't.
But SASSAS has thoughtfully archived hours and hours and hours of their musicians, in what can only be described as the Shoah of Performance Art.
Even though the event was free, I still wanted to ask someone for my money back.