Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Tower of Babel in my Pants


I'm standing in the cabana at the LA Fitness club at Jefferson and Lincoln.

It's a beautiful sunny day.

I've had a productive morning at home and an assignment that will earn me a few more day rates.

I'm also cursing to myself about the crowd in the pool, including my nemesis, some old crazy cat lady that likes to take up an entire lane with her useless snorkeling and then hog the shower so she can condition her ugly grey hair with 13 different kinds of oils and lotions.

After she "exercises" she goes back to her car and chain smokes an entire box of Marlboro's. Marlboro Light, because you know she's health conscious.

Anyway, as I'm standing in the cabana, buck naked, and about to pull up my swim trunks I notice the instructions for the proper Care and Maintenance of my Quiksilver trunks. That's when I break out my iPhone and without a tripod (insert joke here) I snap the photo above.

I don't know if you can tell, but that's SEVEN tiny pages detailing the materials used to fabricate the bathing suit as well as a United Nations treatise outlining the correct way to wash said garment, that, it should be pointed out, was made for the express purpose of going in and out of a pool of highly-chlorinated water and old lady urine.

I'm not sure what type of dim wit needs these Ulysses-ian cleaning instructions, but rest assured if he speaks English, German, Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese or Tagolog, the good folks at Quiksilver have got him covered.

Also, I checked just for good measure, and on the back of the last tag I found the blueprint for a modern nuclear bomb.

It was written in Farsi.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My tough kid


Came across something interesting while walking the Baldwin Hills Stairs the other day.

Truth is, I find something interesting every time I decide to make the 2 hour journey, from my house to the trailhead, up and down the stairs 4 times and the 1.7 mile return trip, my fingers swollen to sausage-like proportions from the exertion.

As I was descending the hill, making my way down the winding switchback where I often find lightening-fast lizards and startling brown and yellow ringed gopher snakes, I spotted a young Hispanic family coming up the hill.

The young couple, in their late twenties at best, were trailed by a brood of 5 toddlers. Actually, one kid was not walking, he was in a stroller.

Not one of those fancy-schmancy REI-endorsed $400 strollers with the ergonomic seating, the built-in iPod player and the hydraulic shock absorbers for rugged off roading.

No, this was a street model.

Probably picked up at a K-Mart or a flea-market. It had four wheels, three of them wobbly, a torn fabric seat, and beat up plastic handlebars that were machine extruded from a Taiwanese sweatshop in 1992.  It looked out-of-place here on the fashionable Westside of LA, not unlike the parents, who were not wearing $200 hiking shoes, $100 cargo shorts or $50 cool-wicking headbands from the fine folks at Patagonia.

They weren't outfitted for the hike. And neither were the kids, who sported hand me down flip flops, threw dirt and rocks at each other and played without a care in the snake-infested sagebrush.

As our paths criss-crossed, one of the mijas tripped on a jagged rock. She hit the ground hard. And fast. So fast, that her parents, who were a few yards ahead, didn't even see it.

Nor did they have to.

The four year old girl, snapped back up, brushed the dirt from the fresh bloody raspberry, and didn't miss a beat. There was no crying. No whining. No 5 alarm dash to the Cedar Sinai Emergency Room.

I thought about all this as I recently brought my own daughter back to JCA summer camp after her bout with the flu.

I offered to help bring her belongings back to the cabin but she declined. Perhaps she didn't want to be humiliated by her father. But as I pulled away I looked in the rear view mirror and saw her trudging up the hill with a 25 lbs. duffel bag, a backpack, a 10 lbs. handbag and her oversized pillow.

She's a hearty little camper.
Maybe not as rugged as the little girl with the bloody knee, but still tough.

And toughness is a good thing to have in this world.

A very good thing.




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sweet Sweat Equity


Creative people in ad agencies want something to show for their work. They want to be able to hold it, touch it, see it and show it to other people and say, "Look what I've done."

Or, more accurately, "look what we, with the help of our client partners, a production company, a mixing house and a staff of editors and color-correction button-pushers, have done."

The point is, we want something tangible.
Something that validates our chosen line of pursuit.

Ad agencies on the other hand want, or more accurately, need satisfied clients. They need to keep the lights on, the bills paid and the coffee machines fully stocked. The best way to accomplish that is to fill the roster of happy clients, with more happy clients.  Hopefully, with bigger budgets.

This relentless push for growth often requires time. More time that the regularly allotted 40 hours enjoyed by the average American salary man or woman.

And so, creative people and occasionally planners who might need to redraw some Venn diagrams, are asked (maybe asked is not the right word) to sacrifice their nights and weekends. It's an ugly push-pull situation that makes for a lot of sulky dissatisfaction as well as some excellent colorful reading on Glass Door.

Is there a solution?

I'm just a 44 year old freelance copywriter with a plateful of assignments I'm putting off, but allow me to extemporize a little.

I know margins are low. And after paying out all the Chief Anthropology Officers, Experiential Ninjas and Global World International Pubas who do such heavy lifting for the holding companies, it's harder than ever for an ad agency to turn a profit.

But what about Sweat Equity?

What if for instance, for every stolen weekend, an art director or a copywriter would earn a credit. Partial credits would also be doled out for late nights. Or missed vacation time. At the end of a year, a hardworking ad agency creative could accrue a significant amount of credits.

How would those credits be paid, you might ask?

Good question.

But here's the thing. Ad agencies love to beat their chest about how they are a center for creativity. It's why we hear such bloviated terminology as, "we're not an ad agency, we're an Idea Factory."

Or, "We incubate the imagination."

Or, "We're redefining pop culture with our unique brand of entertainvertising."

Sure, hand me that box of tissues, would you?

In short, there's a lot of lip service about making stuff without ever doing anything to encourage the making of stuff. Nor giving the employees the actual time it takes to make said stuff.

So what if agencies reimbursed those credits with supplies, equipment or access to facilities that would bring the unmanifested passion of creatives to fruition? What if the credits, earned by sacrificing precious time, could be used to make a short film? Or stage an art show? Or defray the cost of self-publishing a book?

What if, and I'm just spitballing here, agencies stole a page from the early playbook of the Vatican and became the curator/sponsor of their own in-house artists? They could actually be the studio they boast so freely about in the agency credentials page. Given enough thought I think you can agree this could  be a win-win situation.

I know there will be some, ok many, who will scoff and write this off as the ramblings of a naive misanthrope who is completely clueless as to the finances and operations of a modern day advertising agency.

However, I am privy to the soaring frustration and disillusionment of the creative community and I see the millions of dollars being thrown at retaining current employees and the recruitment of new ones. Millions of dollars. None of it producing any effective results.

So who's being naive?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Get off of my lawn!


Coughing is a lot like farting. I can handle my own, I just don't want to be around when someone else is doing the former or the latter.

Last week, my daughter was home from summer camp, couch-ridden because she wasn't feeling well. The coughing was relentless. I love my daughter and if you spent 5 minutes with her you'd love her too. She's wicked funny, unusually smart and bursting with energy.

But I hate the way she coughs.

She has this odd ptttp--ptttttpppp--ptttp pattern to her cough that is worse than nails being dragged across a chalkboard while the smoke alarm batteries are going off.

Even the obnoxious pit bulls next door made a hasty retreat to somewhere out of earshot.

So I packed up my belongings and made a beeline for Starbucks where I could enjoy the B.O. of strangers and the dulcet tones of shitty corporate approved, focus group tested house music.

No sooner had I settled in with my large black coffee -- I won't use their silly terminology -- and continued the laborious work of tweaking my insignificant collection of short stories for my upcoming book, did I get a text from my daughter Hacky McHackingham.

"Some lady just yakked all over our front yard."

She also texted my wife, who laughed it off and went about the business of selling ad space in America's favorite magazine, Harvard Business Review, sometimes referred to as the print version of a stroke.

I, on the other hand, sprung into action.

I booted up my recently purchased DropCam, which is mounted under the eaves and covers 110 degree angle of my front yard. I backed up the footage and reviewed the tape as if I were an investigator on CSI/Culver City -- The Hurl Detectors.

And sure enough I found the culprit.

You might have seen the video last week, as I immediately posted it on Facebook. But for me, and the for the marketing people at DropCam who were thoroughly amused and want to use it in their next online marketing campaign, it's classic, it's timeless and it merits another viewing.

For maximum pleasure I suggest you turn the volume up on your speakers.



Watching the video brought back memories of being an impressionable young Hebrew School student at the Monsey Jewish Center. My teacher, Mr. Resnikoff was telling us about the rich, humorous literature that sprang forth from the Polish shtettles. In fact, many Yiddish phrases that have entered our modern day lexicon were born there.

For instance:

A Schlemiel is the guy sitting at the counter in a restaurant who, without fail, will always spill his soup.

A Schlemazel is the unfortunate guy sitting next to the schlemiel, who ends up with the spilt soup all over his lap.

And the man who, for no good rhyme or reason, has strangers drive up to his yard and explosively hurl breakfast, and parts of last night's dinner across his lawn, well that my friends would be a Siegel.







Thursday, July 23, 2015

Not a Humblebrag



I am now sliding into my third voluntary week away from work. I am afforded this because this past year has been unusually busy. Perhaps the busiest in my dozen years as a freelancing mercenary.

I'm seeing a lot of articles lately about ageism, maybe people don't know I'm an over-ripe 44 years of age.

In any case, I'm not complaining.
Ok, I am complaining.

You see over the course of the last 12 months I've written hundreds of scripts, penned another 50 concepts for digital, laid down a bunch of manifestos and even cranked out a few banner ads. That is, I've come up with ideas for all of the above.

None of it got produced.
Not a single one.

This all became painfully apparent when, the other night at an Angels baseball game, my nephew asked me what commercials I had on the air right now. I hemmed and hawed and quickly changed the subject.

"You want another Corona?"

I don't have anything on the air. And haven't for a while. The last time I produced anything President Bush was standing on an aircraft carrier and my shares of MCI Worldcom became toilet paper.

Look, when it comes to ideas, I shit the bed as much as the next guy. Mine are just a little more expensive. Similarly, and not to sound immodest, once in every 50 at bats or so, I can hit one out of the park. In fact, on one particular assignment I'm sure my partner and I had done just that.

The specifics are unimportant. The agency, the client, the creative directors can all rest assured I'm not going to divulge any details.

But I've been around the block. A few times. I've judged shows. Picked up a few awards here and there. I've pitched and won new business. And had the great fortune to work side by side with legends in the business like Lee Clow, Steve Hayden and David Lubars.

I know a good ad when I've seen one. Or written one. This one was good. And could've been great. Not because it was mine, it wasn't. It was a true collaboration where my partner said one thing, I said another, he said something else. I ignored that. Then tweaked the 30th thing he said. And voila, the spot was born.

It was pure.
It was simple.
It was funny.
And it was based on a human truth that everyone will recognize. Or would have.

But now it's dead.

Why? Because in the assemblage of a 279-page deck, it somehow got lost in the shuffle. Passed over for some nonsense with a cool hippety-hoppity soundtrack or a buzz worthy brand engagement unit that was not buzz worthy in the least.

I don't think a client ever saw it.
I don't think the lead Creative Director ever saw it.
In its final indignity, the paper the idea was printed on never even made it to the recycle bin. It got tossed in with the trash and quickly smothered with last night's cold Pad Thai Noodle.

Want to know why 99% of the advertising on TV sucks?
It's because 99% of the great ideas never make it out the door.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mrs. Wilson and Her Faulty Duodenum


You get your stories where they come to you.

Today's story comes from St. Vincent's Hospital, deep in the bowels of Los Angeles, on Alvarado, where Koreatown bumps into Little Bangledesh and nudges up against the rapidly growing downtown district.

Unfortunately, I've spent the better part of last week at this oasis just north of famed Macarthur Park, where Sister Fidelis Klein and the other Daughter's of Charity have been administering to the sick in their Satan-like costumes since 1954.

Seems my brother went to spinning class last week, the first and probably the only time he'll ever do that. 24 hours after the relentless cycling he began suffering from extreme leg cramps.

I would have washed down two Vicodens with three fingers worth of Jack Daniels but my brother and I are cut from different cloth.

At 4 AM on a Sunday morning, unable to sleep, he got in his car and drove to St. Vincent's, Home of the Scarily Winged Nuns. Turns out he over-exerted himself and created muscle debris, which can be very painful and spike levels of CPK in the bloodstream.

Out of extreme precaution, my brother's spontaneous ER visit turned into a 6 day stay at the posh palace by the park, where on a clear day one can see the brown fire-ready brush of the Hollywood Hills.

Of course, this hardly bothered my brother who enjoys any time he's not reconciling bank statements or balancing credits, debits, assets and liabilities. Plus the British Open was on TV. Plus his meals, if you can call it that, were brought to his bed and the dirty dishes whisked away at his command. With a little well placed play acting he could have been put back on a Morphine-drip. I wouldn't have passed on that.

To some, a hospital stay is a welcome relief from the hum drum of everyday life.

I'm not some. While I enjoyed visiting my brother -- who was just released and is fine, thank you -- and spanking his ass at Chess, and the free Purell at every corner, there is very little to be said for being in a hospital.

Fact is, I spent an entire summer at a hospital. Good Samaritan in Suffern, NY. Not as a patient, but as a kitchen pot scrubber making an unheard of $3.62/hour. I was relegated to the kitchen after my second day on the job. Take it from me, the hospital kitchen is not as clean or as sanitary as hospital administrators would have you believe.

I was initially assigned to Tray Pass, but that didn't last long.

I'd stack the plastic covered trays on a huge hand cart and then roll them up to the floors, where I would personally deliver each carefully assigned meal.

Kosher, goes to Mrs. Schwartzbaum.
Low Salt, Mr. Vitali.
And this one, Low Fat, High Protein, that's reserved for Mrs. Wilson.

I knocked on her door. No answer.

I looked for assistance, but no one was around. I heard a low moaning sound but that was hardly unusual in a hospital, particularly on the ICU Ward.

Mrs. Wilson, all of 84 years old, did not respond. Perhaps she couldn't hear me. I proceeded. Foolishly.

I pulled back the privacy curtain and there she was. Standing next to the bed, with her hospital gown by her ankles, squatting over a bedpan stationed on the floor.

She looked up at me and let out a scream that I'm sure could be heard in Pearl River.

I stood there frozen.

The nurse ran in, assessed the situation, got right in my face and yelled, "Get out! GET OUT!!!"

I did.

Gladly.

I hate Hospitals.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Heavy Burden of College Tuition Bills


Last week I wrote about how the ad industry could solve its growing talent crisis. The post was republished on AgencySpy and Adweak and found its way around the Twittersphere.

I received quite a bit of email from disgruntled advertising creatives (are there any other kind?) who thanked me for saying what so many were thinking.

I suspect there was quite a bit of sharing, which these days simply requires one creative to nudge the other -- sitting two feet away at the IncrediDesk™-- to slide over in their cheap Herman Niller knock off chair and read it on their screen.

Even as I am writing this post, there are folks chiming in on Facebook and Linkedin.com.

One colleague said I had "created the perfect blueprint for the agency of the future."

Not surprisingly, web traffic shot through the roof. And the post cracked the RoundSeventeen Top Ten. I love when that happens.

Make no mistake, I understand that the machinations of this blog and its incumbent pitiful readership means nothing in this world, or if I can quote my daughter, "literally nothing". And that navel gazing is just a sure sign that I am living in a digital bubble. But it's my bubble. And the things that amuse me are getting tinier and tinier. As I suspect it does for most 44 year olds.

That said, "Top Ten, Woo-hoo!"

So how do I top myself?
 I could write another scathing piece on Account Management.

One time, while flying in a GulfStream 4, Lee Clow confided to me that if it were up to him, he'd fire all the account people at the agency and replace them with Broadcast Producers. They, he explained, knew how to get things done. They magically got music rights, booked unbookable directors and secured A-list celebrities who had sworn never to sully their careers with a foray into advertising.

Well, I could have countered, it's a lot easier when all you have to do is throw money at a problem.

Account people have to deal with clients. More often than not, stupid clients. But I rarely made a habit of standing up for account folks or disagreeing with Lee, so instead glanced out the window of the jet and said…

"Ooo, look there's the Santa Monica Bay."

I could also take on the Planning Department.

But it seems to me, I've exhausted that topic before. On many, many occasions. And really what could I possibly say about Ad Agency Planning that is more visceral and more accurate than this quickly hand-drawn graphic?




Or, I could -- you know just as a change of of pace -- wisely recognize that I've already walked up too close to the precipice and that if I want to continue working as a 44 year freelance copywriter, maybe now is a good time to shut my big fat mouth.

Yeah, that seems like a good idea.












Monday, July 20, 2015

Confessions of an Endomorph



I have body issues.

Have since I was ten, some thirty four years ago.

As a result, I've been pitched in a life long battle. Truth be told I wasn't putting up much a fight in high school and college, but once I stepped foot in California I realized that life was about more than donuts and pizza.

Particularly the crap that passes for pizza in Los Angeles, with its soggy, sweetened crust, making it better suited for mopping up dirty floors than for human consumption.

Then I got bit by the fitness craze. I traded the cinnabuns, eclairs and beer bottles for steel cut oatmeal, eggwhites and barbells.

And light beer.
It wasn't as if I was going to stop drinking beer.

I started running and began a life long pursuit of bone spurs and plantar fascitis. Soon, I was doing 10K's, triathlons and marathons.

In the following two years, I dropped 45 lbs. And prowled Southern California in my tank top and 31 inch waist dungarees. OK, maybe prowled isn't the right word. I still lived with two other slobs in a beach adjacent flophouse, slept on a mattress thrown on the floor and drove a tiny Mazda pick up truck that had all the muscle of a lawnmower.

Nevertheless, through sheer determination and a ruthless exercise regimen that would send most men to an early grave, particularly the high school jocks who never picked me for their precious teams and who peaked in life way too early, I was moving in the right direction.

Or so I thought.

The stress of career, women and those damn beeping alarms from trucks going in reverse, made it impossible to maintain my 172 lbs. benchmark.

Later, in the 90's I recommitted myself and once again shed the weight that has hounded me since childhood. Friends and colleagues would often approach me with backhanded compliments.

"Rich, you're looking skinny. Too skinny."

They didn't want to say it, but the message was loud and clear.

"We think you're funnier when you're fat."

I bring this up because the other day, as I was pulling into the parking lot at the gym, I saw this brute of a man walking to his car.

Muscles? This guy's ears had muscles. He didn't so much walk as he swung one side of his body forward, then, capturing the momentum, followed it with the other side of his hulking mass. I didn't have time to snap a photo but Google Images is always there to the rescue.

He looked something like this.


Maybe I've been going about this the wrong way, I thought? I'll never be an Ecto or a Mesomorph. but, what if instead of losing weight I made a conscious effort to pack it on?

How cool would it be to walk the Earth and have others simply cower in fear at the sight of my 23 inch neck?

Men would ogle my tree trunk calves and curse their puny DNA.

Women would be besides themselves, itching to run their soft hands over my sculpted deltoids. They'd spot the wedding ring bolted to my fourth finger and think, "Damn that Debbie Siegel is a lucky woman."

Colleagues would stare at my veiny arms which would pronounce, in no uncertain terms, "Do not even think about fucking with my copy."

And think of all the money I'd save on dry cleaning. Because you can be sure once I chisel my body to resemble the guy pictured above, I'm going to be strolling into the office without a shirt. And maybe without pants.

This is gonna be good. Please pass the Creatine.



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Payback is rich.

I have far exceeded my word count this week and apologize if I've overstayed my welcome.

To make up for it, today's post will be short.

Weeks ago, my buddies over at Adweak took the opportunity to poke fun at me and my status as America's second oldest freelance copywriter.

You'd think that would have satiated the cruel, sophomoric bastards, but it didn't.

Because now they're using the bloated caricature of me in many of their juvenile cartoons.

They even gave me a choice of wardrobe selections, which I now present for your amusement.

Laugh it up boys, but remember this is not a sprint, it's a marathon. I'm built for longevity and I have the memory of an elephant, an angry, mustachioed bald elephant.



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Talent Crisis? What Crisis?



I'm seeing a lot of chatter lately on the Interwebs from Recruitment people…er, I'm sorry, Talent Acquisitions Officers, regarding the best way for ad agencies to attract and retain top creative talent.

Apparently there's a crisis in adland and many writers and art directors are foregoing a career on the agency side and opting instead for the promising world of start up techs. Or the cash rich giants of Silicon valley and Silicon beach : Facebook, Google and Amazon.

The crisis, I believe, is self-generated.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a Leadership Committee or even a prankish stunt at the recent Cannes't Festival to put this puppy to rest.

All it takes is some common sense.
Mmmmm, where are we going to find that?

As a 44-year old freelance copywriter, I feel have the credentials to speak on the matter. After all, I spent the first two years in the business writing recruitment ads.

And the rest of my "career" hop-scotching from agency to agency in search of the ideal environment. Or a better commute. Or just better bagels.

If I were in the business of nabbing the best and the brightest for an agency, here's what I would offer:

An office. You want to be in the business of coming up with ideas for America's Fortune 500 companies? We're going to give you the space to do it. With a window, a door and a desk large enough to accommodate a surreptitious afternoon nap. No AmazingDesks™, no shoulder-to-shoulder picnic tables, no need for Bose Noise Canceling headphones to put over your Beats Noise Canceling headphones. You're welcome.

Nights. They belong to you. We believe that after you've put in a hard day of ideating or content creation or emojifying, your brain needs to shut down. The doors at the agency close at 7. So you get home by 8. To see your kids. Your husband. Your wife. And the rest of your life. Clients need to be told that last minute changes do not get last minute solutions. Thinking requires time. Good night.

Weekends. See above. Saturdays and Sundays also belong to you. However, certain situations may create the need for more of your time. Clients don't expect us to give our time away for free and we don't expect you too either. If we bring you in on the weekend, we will pay you extra for the weekend. Seems fair, right?

A Bitch of a Pitch.  Pitching new business can be exciting, nerve-wracking, exhausting, career-changing and exhausting. It should also be rewarding. If we pitch new business and we win new business, the holding company officers in New York will take home a little taste. We think you should too. It's that simple. Here's your envelope.

The Work. Finally, because we offer people an unprecedented environment for creativity, an environment you won't find anywhere else in the agency world, we expect, no, we demand the kind of work that you won't find anywhere else in the agency world. We believe great work generates more great work. You deliver on your end, we'll deliver on ours.

Produce great work and you get to keep your office, your nights, your weekends and your bonuses.

Don't produce great work and you'll find yourself at another agency, sitting at the long table at 4 AM, eating cold Thai food and wondering how to tell the art director next to you that she has to find a new deodorant.

See how that works?



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Happy Belated Flag Day



We've witnessed some remarkable social progress over the past two weeks. And while my opinion on these issues matters little, I've given myself a forum, so I'm going to take the opportunity to weigh in.

In years past, I would have written a letter to the Editor at the Los Angeles Times, but no one reads the newspaper anymore so why bother.

Of course no one reads this blog either, so it's a bit of a wash.

I've heard and seen many of the arguments pro and con on social media regarding the verdicts of the courts, state and Supreme. I will not delve into the logistics or the makings of those decisions as I have the constitutional awareness of an 11th grader.

However, it should be noted that having seen some of those viral man-on-the-street videos of people who couldn't identify the Vice President, or which country we declared our independence from or who fought the Civil War, my high school level acumen, by comparison, makes me a veritable PhD.

"I'll take Three Branches of Government for $1000, Alex."


On Gay Marriage. 

The opponents of equality often quote the Bible, the Old Testament, my people's book, as a reason why the state should not sanction gay marriage.

Of course, Leviticus also forbids the mixing of cloths and the eating of shellfish. I'm willing to bet that somewhere in their closet (appropriately) those opponents have some cheap blended suits from Joseph A Banks. And indeed may be enjoying the Jalapeno Shrimp Poppers and Alaskan King Crab Legs at Red Lobster as we speak.

More importantly, Americans are not governed by scriptural laws penned more than 2000 years ago by ignorant goat herders and brickmakers who, while having an unusual recollection of who begat who, knew NOTHING about science, mathematics and the fundamentals of baseball.

You show me a guy who doesn't know the hit-and-run strategy with a runner in scoring position and I'll show you a Grade A Idiot.

Opponents of gay marriage will often say it is not what our forefathers had in mind. Sure, they intended citizens to have the right to own military grade automatic machine guns but didn't intend for us to live under the credo that "all men are created equal"?

I may be failing the teachings of Mr. Kolakowski -- my 11th grade History Instructor -- but it seems to me our forefathers came to this country to build a society where state and church were separate.

In other words, the bible is not the law of the land. Nor is the Koran. Or the Torah. We should all be thankful for that, particularly if you've ever tried to strap on tefillin.

Look, if you want to worship a god who's less concerned about famine, poverty and disease and more concerned about who's touching whose genitals, that's your prerogative. But keep it out of our schools and our governance and don't expect the rest of us to abide by your irrational fairy tales.

I, for one, have tasted thick, center-cut applewood bacon and there's no going back.

On the Confederate Flag.

This one is a no brainer.

And frankly I'm shocked that is has taken this long for the country to do the right thing. Again, I'm somewhat familiar with the birth of this symbol and how it originated as a battle flag for North Virginians. And I've heard all the hoo-haa about the Civil War being about state's rights and the intrusion of the big Federal Government. And how this is all about Heritage Not Hate.

To which I can only reply: Bullshit.

State's rights? Funny, not according to Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States, who in his landmark 1861 Cornerstone Speech stated in the very first paragraph that the slavery was the immediate cause for secession.

And one paragraph later:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition.

Now with regards to heritage, what exactly is it that you Southerners seem to be so proud of? The wealth, the infrastructure, the entire society of the South was built on the backs of enslaved, tortured and murdered African Americans….oh, I'm sorry Negroes.

Following World War II, the German citizenry took immediate responsibility for the genocide they inflicted on the world. They banned Nazi insignia, made reparations and did everything they could to restore their image and distance themselves from the shameful acts of their fathers and mothers.

What they didn't do was slap swastikas on belt buckles, bikinis and beer cozies and revel in the heritage of hate.

Like I said I'm no expert on legislature.
My knowledge of history is sketchy at best.
But it seems to me those are fuzzy rationalizations in a discussion that is truly black and white.

The reason the Confederate flag should come down from all government buildings boils down to one concern: It's the decent thing to do.

Remember decency?






Monday, July 13, 2015

Read this. Now. Damnit.


Nuance and client feedback appear to be mutually exclusive in the year 2015.

When I do hear from clients it's rarely:

"Could the joke be a little more pointed?"

or

"It's feels flat, like it needs another twist?

or

"The strategy called for something innovative and different, could this be different in a groundbreaking sort of way?"

It's never like that.

If there is any feedback, and many times there isn't, there's simply the ripping up of one brief in exchange for a hastily-composed other brief, or it goes along the lines of:

"It has to be more urgent. URGENT!!!!!!"

That's advertising today.
Tear jerking spots and digital toys that sell nothing.
Or hard-hitting, retail, Tier Five ads that have to sell everything. EVERYTHING!!!

It doesn't matter if it's for cars, pizza, beer, or a phone company, the tail that wags the dog is the CTA. The Call To Action.

Clients want it louder. They want it stronger. They want the call to action at the beginning of a spot, in the middle of a spot and at the end of the spot. If it weren't for the pesky product or service they'd have the call to action be the spot.

They must know something I don't.

Because in all my dealings with a salesperson, I've never found myself convinced by someone yelling at me. Or annoying me. Or getting up in my face, so close that I can tell what they had for breakfast. Last week.

It's as if today's advertisers believe they can bully consumers into buying their crap.

And of course no one on the agency side wants to tell them otherwise because frankly, "if your agency won't get on the bullhorn and corral the sheeple into our abattoir, we'll find one, with a lower retainer fee, that will."

I miss the days when advertising was about the art of persuasion. Of pinpointing a unique position in the marketplace. And finding smart, subtle ways to convince consumers that no other brand was worthy of their attention.

We used long copy to cajole people, to inform them, and bring them around to a brand's point of view.

We used TV and radio -- remember radio -- to charm folks. Monday mornings at the office used to include water cooler chat about some funny spot someone had seen over the weekend. When was the last time you heard someone say, "Hey did you see that new Tostitos commercial?"

We used Creativity as a tool. And the agencies that had the better toolboxes were easily distinguishable from the ones that didn't.

That pecking order has all but disappeared. It's not unusual to see Weiden Kennedy pitching the same piece of business as the Zimmerman Agency.

In fact, in the year 2015, I'd give the edge to the latter, because no one does a CTA better than they do. When the FTC relaxes language restrictions on advertising, and I'm convinced they will, the vulgarians in Florida will be the first to drop the F-bomb in an ad.

"Get your fuckin' asses down here, before I come to your fuckin' house and punch your fuckin' lights out."

Client: That's good. Can you add 'today' or 'now' to the copy?













Thursday, July 9, 2015

On the Go


When the children's were younger they used to enjoy marching in Independence's Independence Day Parade. Each year, they'd march with a different theme.

The first year, 2003, they were the Crazy Camping Kids. They wanted their banner to read Krazy Kamping Kids, but thankfully we dissuaded them of that notion.

One year they all brought their Razor Scooters and amazed the crowd with their amazing ability to balance on one leg.

One year they went as synchronized swimmers.

Another they went atop a float that my buddy Paul actually built.

And yet another year, with a little help from me, they marched as diplomatic ambassador's from Independence's Sister City of Kapaa in Hawaii. Of course, they don't actually have a Sister City but that didn't stop the locals from pondering imponderable…

"I didn't know we had a sister city in Kauai."

The kids are too old and consequently too cool for any damn parade nowadays. But that doesn't stop us from venturing into town and watching the Independencinians, who never cease to amaze.

Pictured above you'll find Rufus, probably his name, sitting on a toilet that is mounted to a go cart.

Not sure what this has to do with the colonists and their desire to break away from the motherland, but I'll just go with it.

This sparked an impromptu naming game. If you can top our list, feel free to add your suggestion in the comment section.

There is no prize, but all participants will be placed on the list of people I will never subject to any future public humiliation on this blog.


Commode on The Road


The PoopMobile


Briggs, Stratton & Gump


The Fast and the Curious


ThunderTurd


Peed Racer


Doo Buggy


Pre-Digested Meals on Wheels








Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Lost Wisdom of Rabbi Jose


A One Hit Wonder?

That was the discussion around the campfire last week, among many others, fueled by rum and cola and more rum.

"What ever happened to Rabbi Jose? Who is quoted only once in the Passover Hagaddah and never mentioned again."

If we can all turn to page 20 of our Haggadahs, I will quote the good rabbi. Here's some visual reference for those of you not in possession of the book read every year to celebrate the exodus of my people.


Jose, the Galilean and clearly a fancier of magic tricks, has much to say regarding the plagues that struck Egypt.

Of course, this struck us as very weird. You must be thinking, as we did, that a knowledgable man worthy of getting in the Haggadah and having his wisdom quoted for more than 3,000 years over a table of dried-out brisket, brown apples and some fakakta bitter herb concoction, had more sagacity to impart upon his followers.

Naturally, you'd be right.

I have some time before my next gig starts and so I've done a little digging. Not because I owe you, the readers of Round Seventeen that much. It's more about me procrastinating and not putting all the camping gear back in the garage.

Here's what I uncovered:


"It is prohibited to mix milk with meat. It is also unwise to eat more than 3 consecutive meals with your in-laws." -- Rabbi Jose, Kislev 8, 675 BC


"If a man offers you three goats for your daughter, check for fleas and ask for a fourth." -- Rabbi Jose, Tishrei 19, 673 BC


"If a woman layeth down with another women, it is suggested they do so in a tent with many viewing portals." -- Rabbi Jose, Elul 23, 681 BC 


"There's a strange purple-colored bush around the corner from Feinberg's hut. Touch it and you'll be chafing for weeks." -- Rabbi Jose, Kislev 15, 671 BC


"If a man is using a public toilet for more than 4 minutes it is best to find yourself a different public toilet." -- Rabbi Jose, Tammuz 3, 692 BC 




Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Spoiled For Life


One doesn't spend 6 weeks, I mean 6 days, holed up in the woods along the Onion Valley Creek and not return home with some good stories to tell.

I mean good stories, not stupid anecdotes about cheap bald eagle shaped wine decanters (see yesterday's post).

Last week, while camping with 3 other families, and despite our combined 8 Coleman coolers stocked with enough food to feed 1000 Namibians, including 3 cases of assorted beer, all manner of tortilla chip, fresh caught trout, flank steak, chicken and bourvos -- a one of a kind South African sausage -- we decided to get in the SUV, truck down the mountain and up Route 395 to the Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine.

Opened in 2014, this modest roadside attraction has already been named Yelp's Number One Restaurant in the entire United States.

Our plan was to take a respite from the cooking chores and gather everyone for a great Wednesday night dinner. However, by the time our scouting party, the wives returning from their obligatory visit to Bishop, called back to base camp, to report the Copper Top had sold out all their food by 4:30 PM.

SHIT!

You can imagine our disappointment.

We were already jonesing for that sweet, tangy, fatty BBQ taste. And now it looked like we'd have to fire up the coals and pick through some bony, farm-raised trout, thrown in the creek by the California Wildlife people to give people the impression they are natural born anglers.

Not to be skunked, my buddy Paul and I fought off our hangovers and got up early the next day so that we could be in line at the Copper Top by 11:30 AM.

As my family can tell you, I am not fond of waiting in line for food. But we were assured by the early birds who had already secured their Tri-Tip sandwiches and whose faces were already glazed with two coats of BBQ sauce that the wait was worth it.

One monstrously huge 11 year old boy, who was pushing 200 lbs. if I've ever seen it, summed it up best…

"Mommy can I have another root beer so I can burp and make room for more food?"

With the bounty safely tucked in the backseat of the MDX, we made the 27 mile back down route 395.

It was nerve-racking. If any of you have ever driven a newborn baby home from the hospital for the very first time, you know from which I speak. Only in this case, Paul and I wanted to pull over to the gravelly shoulder of the road and start sloppily gnawing on the baby.

The smell was tortuous.
I'm saying, in a completely non-hyperbolic way, that if we wanted to extract vital information from ISIS Jihadis, we should put them in a non-ventilated room, hands tied behind their back, with a few racks of Copper Top St. Louis style pork ribs.

I know the brave warriors of Islam don't indulge in pork products, but in this case I'm convinced they'd say,

"Allah be damned, hand me that swiney goodness and pass the wet naps."

The $175 worth of carnivorous delight was gone in minutes. Had peer pressure not prevailed I would have eaten the styrofoam container that still bore the saucy remnants. As my girthy 36 inch waist will attest, I'm no stranger to good BBQ. But I simply do not have the words that can sufficiently describe the 5 Star Copper Top dining experience.

In fact, if I were you, I would call in sick today, hightail it through the Antelope Valley and put the pedal to the metal until you reach Big Pine on Route 395.

You might get a ticket at one of the speed traps in Olancha, Lone Pine or Independence, but the Pulled Pork, the Tri-Tip and the Chili Lime Beans are all worth it.





Monday, July 6, 2015

Happy July Fifth


For years, artists, musicians, and writers fled the confines of the city to escape to the barren, sun-baked scruff of the desert.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico you'll find an entire museum of Georgia O'keeffe works detailing her love affair with the landscape and the architecture of America's great western deserts.

I love the desert too.

Not for its craggy cliffs and soaring mountains.
Not for its abundance of invincible wildlife.
Not even for its wide open freeways that bring delight to itchy motorists with the need for speed.

For me, it's all about the Meth and the people who abuse it -- White Trash.

I know I run the risk of coming off as some snooty, East Coast intellectual elitist, ok, maybe not intellectual. But let me just remind you I have just spent six days sleeping on the ground at the Upper Grays Meadow Campground, stepping in deer scat and showering from a spigot attached to a plasticine bag.

Besides I'm comfortable enough in my West LA, white Collar, privileged skin to admit that I am fascinated by White Trash.

Always have been.
Always will be.

By some good stroke of fortune, my oldest daughter shares my fascination. And loves nothing more than to soak in and study the White Trash way of life, including the homemade tattoos, the jerkwater patriotism, and the nonexistent dental hygiene.

We are both drawn to it, like a moth to a Roman Candle flame.

And so it was no surprise, on our southbound travel through the Owens Valley, she took me up on my offer to plow through Palmdale and make an adventurous stop in Littlerock.

If there was a God, and all the billboards and shabby adobe churches seem to suggest there is, Littlerock would be the Mecca/Jerusalem of souvenirs.

What Detroit is or was to cars, Littlerock is to kitsch. Kites, wind socks, Pez dispensers, nostalgia lunch boxes, Dukes of Hazard Monopoly sets, and enough confederate flag belt buckles to outfit the entire state of South Carolina.

Naturally we stopped, as thousands always do, at the Charlie Brown Farms. Where the tired collector of Chinese-made unicorn figurines or inauthentic Nazi military pins can refresh themselves on homemade fudge or a thick, frosty date shake.

Charlie Brown Farms, for the uninitiated, stocks millions upon millions of tschotschkes. Shelves upon shelves of crap for as far as the eye can see. Or at least until you exit one gift shop and enter one of the NINE adjoining stores that comprise the farm.

I don't want to sound like the proud gloating father, but you have my word on it, that my daughter spotted the funniest piece of all (pictured above.)

Mind you, there was an entire menagerie of reclining creatures ready to get soused, including a bear, a pig, an alligator and a Bernese Mountain Dog. But, and this is where my daughter's Scottish and Jewish heritage came in handy, normally $35.99, this parched symbol of our national culture was marked down 50%!

And lest you think I simply snatched a photo of this one-of-a-kind, machine-crafted family heirloom and left Littlerock empty-handed, I invite you to gaze upon its magnificent beauty as it temporarily enjoys its new home perched in my dining room.


At least until my wife comes home from her business trip.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Office

(Still camping and looking forward to a decent hot shower. Reprinted from August 14, 2013)




I love my house.

I know if you were to take a bulldozer to it, it's nothing more than plywood, 2X4's, drywall, electric wiring and a tangled mess of copper plumbing, but it's mine.

Technically, half of it belongs to the bank, but if I didn't have that mortgage I wouldn't have a reason to get up in the morning and start pimping on behalf of America's finest corporations. And if I didn't do that, well, I wouldn't have had the money to buy the half of the house that belongs to me.

Let's just leave it at...I love my house.

The thing I love most about my house is the thing I like the least about working in an office.

Maybe even your office.

You see at my house, I don't work at a long communal mega table.
I have a desk.
With seating for One.
In a proper Herman Miller chair, not some knock-off ergonomick (spelling intentional) chair that will save a few dollars for the holding company shareholders.

At my house I'm not crammed into a corner near the media girls talking loudly about how they scammed the latest sales rep for a humongus lunch at Nobu.

I have an office.
I can close the door.
And if the neighbor's dog starts barking, I can slip on my Bose Noise canceling headphones.
Or crank up some Led Zeppellin, Santana or Pink Floyd.

That's right, I said Pink Floyd. I know that dates me but I don't want to listen to your Mumford and Sons, or Kings of Leon, or any of that bad electronica that somehow passes for music these days.

At my house, I have clocks in every room but they have no bearing on the assignment at hand.

If I have a great idea, or even just a good one, I'll write it down. It can happen at 7 in the morning. Or 11 o'clock at night. I might flesh it out right there on the spot. Or I might flesh it out later. Because if I also feel the need to go for a swim, I'll do that too.

At my house, I have the freedom to come and go as I please. But I also have the maturity to know that with great freedom comes great responsibility. Because if I don't deliver, the phone will stop ringing.

At my house, I am at my happiest.
At my house, I am my most productive.
At my house, I am at my most creative.

Maybe I work harder at home because eventually I'd like to stop writing the mortgage checks and own the half that still belongs to the bank. Or maybe it's because I like to eat my fruit, drink my coffee and do my business, in my bathroom.

If you have a project or an assignment for me, I'm happy to work on it. And even happier to take your money.

But if you want the most bang for your buck, you'll brief me on the phone and tell me to do the work at my house.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Just stoolen' around

(Hungover, dirty and still camping. Reprinted from November 1, 2011)



                                          

As chronicled in many earlier posts, I am easily amused.

I'll laugh at anything.

I've even sat through the Paul Blart movie with my daughters.

Advertising is a different story however. That's when I become a Taste Nazi. Perhaps it's because I've spent considerable time in the trenches. But if I see something crappy on TV or on the web or in a newspaper, I think of the ad agency involved and say to myself…

"You have this big brand and this big opportunity and you waste an at-bat on something like that?"

But let's get back to stools and the inspiration for today's post.

As anyone who writes a blog knows, it's fun to mine the analytics, just to see how many people are actually reading this tripe and where the traffic is coming from.

Just like any small business owner would do with a software program detailing his or her sales volume and sales sources. Only in the case of a blog it's all done without any actual money changing hands.

Last week I noticed that considerable traffic was coming from djstools.com.
Naturally I was curious.
Turns out it's a European distributor of electronica.

Why were Italian musicians looking for the latest offerings in amplifiers being routed to Round Seventeen? As someone in the IT department explained to me, it has something to do with a spambot.

I have no idea what a spambot is, I thought it was a Hawaiian breakfast treat. But I do know where to find the funny in any given situation.

And let's face it, stools and anything stool-related is funny.

So I did what any 12-year old boy would do and found the US based stool store.  Then I called the Madison, Wisconsin establishment at 1-608-271-4088 and spoke with a sales rep.

Me: I was looking at your website.

Salesman: Excellent we have a wide range of products to meet your every need.

Me: How big are your stools?

Salesman: They come in all sizes.

Me: And they have wheels?

Salesman: Some do, yes sir.

Me: That would make it easier to move my stools?

Silence

(me fighting back laughter)

Me: Do your moving stools come in brown?

Click.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I could listen to her forever


(Still camping, so I've reprinted this gem from December 12, 2012)




I often make fun of ad agency/marketing bullshit.

More specifically, the jargon that is spouted off in meetings in order to produce the veneer of intelligence.

I am not alone in this endeavor.

My buddy Jeff Gelberg writes about on his blog, Rotation and Balance.

My east coast doppleganger, George Tannenbaum waxes eloquently on the matter in his blog, Adaged.

And CEO/Curmudgeon Bob Hoffman is no less perturbed on the topic in his blog, AdContrarian.

In fact, that is where I found the following video gem which I have embedded here because it needs to be seen, and heard, to be believed.





If you have suffered through the entire 4:08 seconds of that interview, I don't know if you can withstand a play by play dissection. Particularly since most of you actually work in an ad agency or on the client side and will be subjected to more of the same in a meeting scheduled for later this afternoon.

So, if I'm not going to break down the enlightening discussion and I'm not offering up any satirical commentary, why you may ask have I brought it to your attention?

To be perfectly honest, I just needed an excuse to play with with my new toy: the Einstein Blackboard Generator.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Out Fishing

(Camping this week, so I've lazily reprinted posts from the past. Today is from June 20, 2013 and it couldn't be more appropriate.)





Next week is no time to be working at an ad agency.
And thankfully, I won't be.

I'll be gleefully employed by a client and working directly for their in-house department.

So what bullet will have I dodged?

Well today, the Adverati, that is the elite royalty of our business who have long ago given up flying in economy class or ridden in anything but a Lincoln Town Car, will be returning home from their debauched soiree in Cannes.

They'll be bringing back more than swollen livers, deviated septums and gut-busting stories about sodden CEO's and how they almost fell off the company yacht as it hit rough waters rounding the Cap d'Antibes.

They'll be coming back, dare I say it, Inspired.

And of course if an agency is going to pink slip underlings or freeze the salary of worker bees to lavish $50,000 on their top-rung creative people,  that agency is going to want a return on that money.

Which can only mean one thing -- Inspirational speeches.

There will be the "We've got work harder" speech.

This despite the 60-hour work weeks, followed by the mandatory/voluntary Saturday and Sunday office appearances. We've got to press our noses so hard to the grindstone that our molars will be rattling down to the root. Because we're in the noblest of battles, advertising….er, excuse me, Advertising.

There will be the "We've got to work smarter" speech.

This despite the contracted timelines, the fluid strategies and the growing bureaucracies found on the client side of the table. We've got think outside the box. And when that's not working we've got to crawl back in to the box and keep thinking. Remember we're the brightest, most creative people on the planet. Now let's break out those emoji's and get to work.

And finally, there will be the "We need to win more awards" speech.

Of all the speeches, this is the most critical. Because as any Francophile can tell you, the only thing more important than going to Cannes, is winning a Lion so you can gloat about it when you go back to Cannes the following year.

Thankfully, I will be spared all the Rose Koolaid, the Ra-Ra-ing and ear-bending. And it's just as well, because I don't have the time for that fire-in-the-belly nonsense.

These banner ads are not going to write themselves.