Thursday, January 18, 2018

Being an A Lister

Last weekend I did something I've never done in my life -- that's a set up line for a million jokes.

But with the photo above, I've already telegraphed the payoff.

As an early birthday present, my brother took me to a Saturday afternoon Clippers game. To be honest, I don't pay much attention to the NBA while the football players are still putting on the pads. To be even more honest, I don't care what goes on until my Syracuse Orangemen are officially relegated to the NIT and the fever of NCAA March Madness wears off.

Nevertheless, it was opportunity to do something fun with my brother. And drink beer in the middle of the day. Little did I know that what my brother had in store was more than just a pair of nose bleeds wedged between the supporting columns and the TV cameras for Univision.

When we arrived at Staples Center, we were led into the super exclusive VIP parking area. Once I handed the valet the car keys, we were guided thru a labyrinth of dark hallways and cool blue neon mood lighting. A smiling usher greeted us every 25 feet. And once we met their demanding security criteria, they navigated us all the way to our even more exclusive seats.



We thought we were courtside.

The folks at Staples have a rather lenient definition of the term. You see, while we were not exactly sitting next to Billy Crystal in the blue cushioned seats, we were directly behind them. And for some unexplainable reason, these too were considered courtside.

More like courtside-adjacent.

This perturbed my brother a bit, who fancied himself being shown on the big screen. No doubt hoping to recreate a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, by tripping De'andre Jordan. But it was not to be.

It didn't bother me at all. From down here, the game is so different. You hear the players jabbering at each other. You see how fast they move. And for two and a half hours you see how the other half lives. And by that I mean the deferential treatment from the waiters, the security people, even the folks handing out the free shit. They're all so eager to treat you in a way regular civilians never get treated.

One other interesting tidbit. About ten minutes before tipoff, a middle aged man and his son took their seats right next to us. I recognized him immediately. It was Disney CEO Bob Iger. This was my second random meeting with the man who literally set my career on a different (much better) trajectory in two years.

We exchanged some small talk, but to be honest this time I don't think he recalled who I was.

That disappointment didn't last long. As we left the arena I asked the usher to send the waiter by so I could clear up our substantial lunch/beer tab.

"It's all complimentary in the courtside seats."

Like I said, it's a different world down here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Where's Pedro?

What are you looking at?

Well, this is just an estimate, I could be off by a hundred or two hundred, but this is roughly 5,000 people. That's a lot of teachers, firefighters, accountants, short order cooks and freelance copywriters, right?

Not really.

Because, you see, it's only one thousandth of the number of people alleged to have voted, illegally, in the 2016 election. So says stable genius and immigration expert, Precedent Shitgibbon.

You may recall that shortly after he "won" the presidency via the Electoral College, he was visibly and mentally upset to hear that he lost the popular vote. Trumps don't lose. With the exception of Trump Steaks, Trump Wine, Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, Trump University and Trump Casinos.

So he did what any rational, budget-conscious leader of the Free World would do -- he allotted millions of dollars to have Kris Koblach from Kansas set up a commission for a months long investigation. Last week that commission was decommissioned.

Here's what they found:

That's right, NOTHING.

I was under the impression that we live in the smartest, most sophisticated country on the planet. With technology that is light years ahead of our nearest competitor.

And yet this star-studded commission of voting experts could find no evidence.

We are talking about FIVE MILLION People. Where did they go? Where did they stay? Not one of them got a hankering for some cheese doodles and a Big Gulp? There are no receipts? No witnesses? No video capture of one of them popping in at a 7-11?

I'm no Efram Zimbalist Jr.  -- though I wish I had pursued a career in criminal detection as I love to figure out puzzles and use all the resources at my disposal to find answers -- but I have to believe if there were 5 million illegal voters, I'd have the wherewithal to find at least one of them.

I'm actually very good at tracking down ne'erdowells.

Just ask one of my Carlson Park neighbors who had the temerity to deface my front yard.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Let's Do Drugs.

With any luck 2018 will be a turning point in my career. And by that I mean I will transition from being a general market freelance copywriter into a pharmaceutical freelance copywriter.

Oh yeah, I'm feeling it. Of course that could also be the onset of Restless Leg Syndrome.

I'm well aware of the implications of this ground shaking shift. Some will say it's the beginning of the end. That the needle on the record player is skirting dangerously close to the paper label. That Siegel has lost it and that furthermore, we have lost Siegel.

"I haven't seen him in years. Not since he started work on that new Open Wound Salve Cream."

The truth is I'm itching to break into the lucrative world of pharmaceutical.

Why? You may ask.

For one thing, it's swimming in money. It's like they're printing the stuff. Or more appropriately, they're breaking out in money, like a bad case of hives. And can't get rid of it fast enough.

Years ago, we took the kids to the Hyatt Regency in Kauai, not an inexpensive place to hole up for the night. Or seven. Turns out an entire wing of the hotel was booked for the sales reps of a huge pharma company. They were there on a boondoggle.

I cornered one of the reps, Top Cialis Producer in the Northern Indiana/Eastern Illinois Sales District, who told me their Hawaiian boondoggle included lodging, meals and TWO excursions a day. At the end of the week the pharma company threw a huge luau at the hotel. With roasted pigs, tattooed Samoan dancers and a full blown fireworks show.

They spared no expense.
I think they rolled Don Ho out of his grave for one last encore performance.

"But Rich," I can hear the naysayers, "you might make a lot of money in pharma, but you risk losing the creative respect of your peers and the opportunity to line your mantel piece with tinny gold-plated trinkets made in Taiwan."

"Hand me that brief for Latuda."

Finally, there's the issue of media. Pharma companies, whose main market is older people with nagging skin conditions, wobbly knees and skidmarked underwear, are decidedly old school. They've got their adhesively-bonded teeth firmly latched onto TV and print. Ahhh, the good stuff. They're not wasting their time or money on banners, page takeovers, towers, pop ups and mobile. They mirror the same attitude as the older folks they market to...

"Get off my phone!"

Not surprisingly, they've gotten pretty good at this TV stuff.

How good? Chances are you're going to being singing Tresiba Ready for the next few hours, whether you like it or not.

You can scoff all you'd like but we're getting older. I'm not going to be 44 forever. So this makes perfect sense. It's a way to remain productive and creative while I still have all my mental faculties. And suddenly find myself reaching for the Celebrex.

With any luck 2018 will be a turning point in my career. And by that I mean I will transition from being a general market freelance copywriter into a pharmaceutical freelance copywriter.

Oh wait, I said that already.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hello, I'm your Jamonero.

The week started with a rather lengthy post about about pancakes. Perhaps it's only fitting that we end  the week talking about jamon. Or as we Americans say ham. Or as we Jewish Americans say tref.

I often use this bully pulpit to talk about the various forms of modern day advertising. And have often gone to great lengths to mock, deride or otherwise poo-poo our current fascination with all things digital.

But alas, I have discovered one medium that is even less productive -- the door-to-door hand flier.

I don't know how it works at your home, but at mine there is a daily barrage of fliers, door knob hangers and welcome mat proper uppers to greet me every day. From the local dry cleaner. To the local tree trimmer. And everything in between, maids, cobblers, and handymen. Not only have I never acted on one of these handbills, I have simply stopped reading them. They go from my front doorstep directly to the recycle bin on my driveway.

Yesterday was different.

As I was going to retrieve my NY Times I noticed a young man who had parked his old style Schwinn at the end of my walkway. This bespectacled young man in fashionable Capri pants had just placed a flier on my step. I must have looked curious because he offerered, in very broken English, ...

"I'm just going around the neighborhood, passing these out. I hope you will consider my services."

And with that I grew even more curious.

Here's why.

He was a real live Jamonero -- a Master Ham Carver.

As the back of his flier explained, carving ham is a bit of an art. And Pedro was hawking his art across the tonier neighborhoods of West Los Angeles.

I'm sure my wife and I had witnessed one of these skilled bladesmen, or bladeswomen, years ago when we galavanted across the Iberian Peninsula and ate our dinners at 11 o'clock in the evening. But never noticed them due to our excessive consumption of beer and tequila.

I should also mention that there's zero to less than zero chance that my wife and I would be requiring the services of a Jamonero, even one as charming as Pedro.

We don't eat much pig, not because of any stupid Jewish dietary laws, we're just not big pig people. And if we do, it's usually in the form of baby back ribs, slowly smoked on my new Traeger grill for 8 loving hours.

Or we'll eat bacon. Thick center cut, applewood smoked bacon.

Mmmmm, bacon.

Mmmmm, bacon and pancakes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Statues of Non Liberty

Welcome to Qatar.

Where the air is warm. And dry. And the official religion of the state is imposed upon people with no regard to their freedoms, beliefs or their possible non-binary sexual orientation.

Before I explain this little introduction to Qatar --which I suspect most Americans, including our stable genius of a President could not locate on a map --let's back the train up a bit, shall we?

As you know I spend a good deal of my time (perhaps too much) mocking and chipping away at the current regime of Precedent Shitgibbon. Only because I see him as the gravest danger to our democracy since the Civil War.

And I say that without any hyperbole.

Nevertheless, I do try to understand those with differing opinion. Notice I didn't say those just across the aisle, because if they were just across the aisle I suspect they're seeing exactly what we're seeing.

I'm talking about Shitgibbon diehards that are so to the right of the aisle they wear their red golf caps to bed. And in further deference to their fishbrained Messiah, bring with them McDonald's cheeseburgers and three TV remote controls.

As far as I can tell, the only argument these paint chip eaters have is our current economy. The stock market is at 25, 000, unemployment is down to 4.1% and GDP is up. I could argue that these numbers are a simple continuation of the Obama administration and that he produced more jobs and greater stock market growth, but for the purposes of today's post I'm going to concede.

Lets say, that despite passing no legislation to stimulate growth or move the economy forward, Precedent Shitgibbon gets all the credit in the world for our current economic state.

Newsflash: That is NOT what makes a country great.

America is more than increased productivity. We are not defined by our stock portfolios. And even if we had two chickens in every pot and three Lamborghinis in every garage, that is not why people flock to this country.

They come for the intangibles. The freedom. The opportunity. The modesty, grace and goodwill that is a hallmark of all Americans. Or as the recent poll would indicate at least 67% of us. It's not all about the money.

Let's go back to Qatar for example. The average income for the average Qatari is $129,000 a year. Almost three times what the average American makes. Many Qatari's own two homes. And shit in gold plated toilets. They are the richest nation on the planet.

Does that make them the greatest?

If it does maybe you should consider moving there.

I can't, they don't take Jews.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

That's it?

Yesterday, you may recall, I devoted an entire piece to IHOP and their new pancake heavy campaign. If you like to see me on my less ranty, less angry, less cantankerous days, I suggest you scroll down for that piece of atypical RoundSeventeen.

Today, we turn our attention to McDonalds.

We also return to form.

About a year ago, the brilliant marketing officers at Mickey D's announced they were NOT HAPPY with the current iteration of their worldwide and national campaigns. Sales were off. Brand awareness was down. And the fish filet sandwiches were going bad.

So they did what any multi-billion dollar global corporation would do -- they blamed their ad agency.

And then they did the second thing any clueless global corporation would do, they hired consultants and conducted a year long, cashapolluza agency review.

All the big agencies were invited. And all leapt out of their party dresses to participate. Throwing huge piles of money at the RFP in hopes of landing the mother of all fast food accounts. It goes without saying they also emptied their reserves to bring in freelancers who would help in this clown-footed Herculian task.

I know this because all my freelance friends were called in.

And all were swimming in greenbacks. For some reason, perhaps because of this blog or because of my advanced 44 years of age, I was not. Instead of hawking Big Mac's, quarter pounders and McRib samiches, I was left to pimp banner ads for local clients, like Kathy's House of Katheters and The WingNut Stop, America's premier wing nut supplier since 1918.

But here's my beef, if you'll pardon the pun.

The review was more than a year ago. The account was split between two big holding companies. Dedicated account teams were formed. I believe they went so far as to set up separate entities that would be solely committed to the McDonald's enterprise. With artisanal corporate names like "Big M" or "Team Arches" or even something more cryptic like, "Area 47."

So where is the work?

I suspect it's out there. I just haven't noticed it. Mostly, because there's nothing to notice.

It's happy saccharine people. Conjoined in multi-ethnic pods of three or four that would never happen in real life. All gushing, biting and smiling, over soggy burgers and even soggier french fries.

In other words, it's the same campaign they had with their previous ad agency only now it has the thinnest veneer of newness after a committee of brain dead marketing officers threw a billion dollars in the nearest toilet.

Ba-da-ba-ba-ba-I'm loving it.

Postscript: I could write and create an entire campaign based solely on the photo above. Imagine Ronald McDonald being hauled off by two kidnappers in fake policemen uniforms. It's the perfect beginning that could spin off into a series of spots with store surveillance, random notes, private investigators, payoffs and all kinds of fun shenanigans. But I suspect the client would prefer some perky blond at the counter singing about the McPick Two.

Monday, January 8, 2018

On Pancakes

It isn't often that I come across a TV commercial that not only catches my attention, but has me fumbling between my iPhone and my remote control in search of that magic replay button on the DVR.

But the other night while watching my beloved Syracuse Orange get pounded by the clearly inferior Deacons of Wake Forest or between Rachel Maddow's running account about how this country is being run into the acid-rain soaked ground by a two bit, merkin-sporting Nazi-wannabe, that's exactly what happened.

Here's the spot...

I'll admit to being easily amused. I'm also not overly impressed by the god of "production value." I just love a good laugh.

And this spot delivers. In pancakes.

And not that my opinion matters, but I have gone out of my way to congratulate the agency and the makers of this little comedic gem.

But my admiration is twofold. Not only for briefly reviving the LOL comedic motif of yesteryear but for reaffirming my marketing inclinations. You had to know this was coming.

You see, years ago I was working on a pitch for IHOP. I don't remember the year. I don't remember the agency. I don't remember the day rate I was getting. I do remember the stupid-ass planner who handed me a brief that said...

"We need to make IHOP relevant beyond pancakes and attract lunchtime and dinner time diners."

Yeah sure, we're going to get people to flock to the nearest IHOP for Lobster Newburgh or the Veal Parmisan.

Oh and then there's was this additional nugget...

"They don't have a big budget, can we do something viral?"

Suffice to say, I went in a different direction. I thought, and apparently the folks at Droga 5 did too, the best way to promote IHOP was to lean heavily into their core strength. To preach to the choir. A choir that would no doubt be leaving the church hungry and ready for some blueberry-embedded pancakes.

I wrote a series of spots (I was flying solo at the time) that repositioned "pancakes" as the new "champagne." In other words, anytime there was cause for a formal celebration of good fortune or a turn of fate, was a time for pancakes.

Imagine a jubilant father, seeing his newborn son, a healthy, bouncing boy, for the very first time. His joy is uncontained. The entire family in the hospital room is smiling. And crying. The new dad hugs his wife and announces, "This is a great time for pancakes."

Cut to him, his wife still in the rolling hospital bed, his-in laws, the baby in the basinet and even a smattering of nurses, all gathered at the local IHOP. Eating, pancakes.

The agency didn't like the work.

They also didn't win the account.

And they never called on me again.

But seeing the latest round of IHOP work is a bit of vindication. And though the joy is vicarious, it's real nonetheless.

And predictably, it's got me in the mood for pancakes.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Family Time

I rarely do this, for the most part I like to keep my family and personal life, off this blog.

But we're only a few days into 2018 and I'm already swamped with work. Besides, my writing rhythm has not fully returned from the winter break.

Speaking of winter break, here is a collection of photos from last two weeks which my wife and I got to enjoy (for the most part) with our two daughters.

They may be in their 20's but they can't resist a dinosaur statue 
at the Sinclair Service Station in Mesquite, AZ.

Our condo in Brian Head sat at 9,783 feet. 
The air is very thin at that level, but they sell some at the store.

Here's my youngest enjoying what little snow there was.

The entire Siegel clan, wearing $759 worth of rented gear.

From Utah we made our way down to Vegas, which is never short on oddities.

The hotel elevator at the Mandalay Bay. 
They closed off the top four floors since the recent shooting.

The very eerie view from our room.
The country music festival was staged in the empty parking lot on the right.

Rocks. Painted.

Town. Vacated.

Country. Fucked.
(please enlarge and zoom in.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


I know the last year was dominated by many political posts.

Don't expect that to change anytime soon. With his constant stream of toxic, ignorant, dangerous tweets/comments/remarks, our current fuckknuckle of a president draws us ever closer to a complete apocalyptic meltdown. That's not a hyperbolic statement in the least. His base of rocket scientists, neurosurgeons and carbon-burning, Constitution-burning fascists may not see it, but that doesn't mean the danger is not real.

And so, I'm not prepared to go down without a fight.

Nor am I prepared to stop throwing ideas against the wall with the hope that one will stick. Last year's Call in Sick of Trump Day was a rousing failure.  Drawing only 750 participants to the group. We did sell sell two coffee mugs on cafe express, but I bought those, one for me and for my talented art director, Mr. Jean Robaire.

I have no delusion that the following idea I am about to propose will catch on. But if I may borrow a phrase inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren,

"Nevertheless, he persisted."

Here are the facts. The Republicans control the House and the Senate. Moreover, despite the abundant evidence of incompetency, instability and criminality, the Republicans insist on putting party before country. And when it comes to checks and balances, the Supreme Court has been equally negligent.

So where does "our" power come from? Where it always comes from, money.

At this writing, the Dow Jones stock market is near record high 25,000. Contrary to what Shitgibbon would have you believe, it's been on a bull run for 9 years now. It's due for a correction. In fact the Correction with a capital C, is long overdue.

I suggest, we, the people in the blue states who own equities, ETF's, and mutual funds, SELL.


We should intentionally crash the market and let the putrid steam out of President Gasbag's number one talking point.

You want to send a message to red state miscreants who blindly back this racist blowhard?


You want to goose the Republican Senate who pick pocketed homeowners and the middle class with their wealth redistribution tax scam?


You want to ram a spiked Louisville Slugger up the hairy butt of this fobbing, crusty, earth-vexing canker blossom who dares to call himself our President?


This is something we can do. I'm not asking you to buy some fakakta coffee mug or T-Shirt. And I'm not asking you to call in sick and take a day off of work.

I'm asking you to sell off all, or a good portion of your portfolio, to send the stock market into a Marianna Trench nosedive. And to pad your bank account with some real cash, which you'll need to navigate the coming nuclear winter.

Also, if I had to pick the ideal date for the mass market departure, I'd go with January 20, 2018, the one year anniversary of the inauguration of this boil-brained hugger-mugger.

Mark the date.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The future is coming

And we're back.

Of course when I say 'we' I mean 'I' in the fictional collective sense, because let's face it when comes to readership of RoundSeventeen there is no 'we'. And even if there were a we, 'they' would not be reading this with any type of anticipation.

2017 is in the books. And it was not at all pretty. I'll spare you the Shitgibbon-dominated recap. And suggest, instead, that we look forward to 2018. In fact, I'm going to boldly make some predictions for the upcoming year.

This will be a bit unusual as the 8 regular readers of this blog know, I have great disdain for soothsaying. My cynical, substantially-large nose gets turned up at anything having to do with: astrology, tarot cards, palm reading, Mercury in (or out) of retrograde, ouji boards, mediums, tea leaves, and/or fortune cookies.

Nevertheless I'm putting on my wizard cape and feel very confident that we are going to see the following:

* A monumental presidential slip of the tongue. It'll be hard for Precedent Shitgibbon to top the flops of 2017, which included calling a standing US Senator a whore, claiming Nazi's were very fine people, calling Puerto Ricans lazy who "wanted everything done for them", arguing with a Gold Star widow, and insulting intelligence of anyone who ever graduated high school with his childish, bullying narcissism. But he is the Commander in Chief and I have great trust in him and believe he will rise (in this case, lower) himself to the occasion.

* Shots Fired. On the heels of my previous prediction, I also think we will once again be at war. I should say we will be adding another war to our already significant list of current wars: war in Afghanistan, war in Syria, war on drugs, war on women, war on minorities, war on truth, war on intelligence, war on humanity, war on civil rights. Thankfully however, the War on Christmas is officially over. I know it's very early, but I just can't stop saying it, so for 2018, "Merry Christmas."

* Business will rebound. Despite the incredible flurry of activity during the last month, financially-speaking, 2017 was not a good year. Compounding that, I even made the mistake of moving a good deal of money out of the stock market, taking profit from the Obama years off the table. No tears here. I know my people are supposed to be good with money so not reaping the benefits of the Dow's meteoric soaring over the last year stands as a huge mistake. But the fact is I simply didn't, and still don't, have any confidence in the business acumen of a guy who has declared bankruptcy four times and had to pay out 25 million dollars for running a scam university.

That said, I do believe brands and marketers are starting to see the analog light thru the digital smoke and mirrors. And there will be a return to old school tools of mass persuasion, tv, print, outdoor and, I hope, radio. I also predict one big agency in NYC will start calling on a semi-regular basis, taking full advantage of the inexpensive day rates (relatively), the years of experience and the incredible no-drama, electronic delivery of meeting-worthy material. I just don't know which agency that will be.

* The return of the West Coast drought. It's already January and here in Los Angeles we have not had a drop of rain since last April. This hasn't stopped Angelenos from watering their yards, washing their cars (sometimes twice a week) and posting rain alerts on Facebook every time a good thick fog rolls in.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with global warming. I'm doubly sure we can trust the situation is in the hands of good folks at the current EPA, which now includes, two former VP's from Goldman Sachs, an analyst from Meryl Lynch, an ex-security guard at Trump Casino, Atlantic City, and a former real estate agent from Boca Raton who sold the most condos in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

* And finally, in 2018 my wife and I will be celebrating monumental birthdays. I won't say which one for Debbie, but I will miraculously be turning 44. Again. Where does the time go? To mark the occasion and the graduation of our daughter from University of Washington and the end of tuition bills, we hope to sojourn to Africa for a safari and extended vacation. That is, if it's still standing or Eric and Don Jr. haven't shot up all the wild life.

In any case, it's a new year, let's make a good one. (We deserve it.)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The last post

Sadly, or mercifully, we've come to last post of 2017.

This was a very difficult year.

There was the daily barrage of destruction and dishonor coming from the White House, a phenomena that promises to deliver more in 2018, until he implodes or Bob Mueller drops the hammer on his Ray Kroc-fattened ass.

My summer was torn asunder by worry and anxiety. It is not easy knowing your defenseless daughter is galavanting around East Africa with nothing more than a vague memory of childhood karate lessons and a penknife in her purse.

And business was off. For the first time since the recession of 2008, revenue was not more than the previous year. I'm not blaming ageism, because even at 44 years old I can still hold my own with any of these upstart kids. If anything it has to do with the glut of freelancers on the market. Freelancers who no longer want to sit at The Long Table of Mediocrity™ and pump out Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks™.

I see a silver lining in all of that. It just means I have to hustle more in the upcoming year. Accordingly, I must get back to the stack of assignments on my desk right now.

From all of us at RoundSeventeen headquarters, thank you for your readership, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I leave you with this random collection of (uncaptioned) photos found on my iPhone.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Grab Your Pussy...Hats

Last year, my wife and about 3 million of her closest friends, marched on Washington DC to protest the impending presidency of one major fuckknuckle.

They knew in advance of the disasters that soon would follow: the daily lying, the endorsement of NeoNazis, the spilling of top secret data to the Russians, the firing of Comey, the disrespecting of Gold Star families, the destruction of all federal regulations, the alienation on the world stage, and the constant, degradation and dishonoring of the office of the presidency of the United States.

Today, in the midst of a Special Counsel investigation by the very honorable Robert Mueller, there's talk of a second march to the streets.

Rumor has it, that fearing for his viability and the very lives of his family including the duplicitous Jared Kushner and the dim bulb that bears his name, Don Jr., Precedent Shitgibbon is prepared to go all Saturday Night Massacre II and fire Rod Rosenstein so he can also fire the unimpeachable Robert Mueller.

Rumor also has it, that should those events come to pass, masses of Americans will take to the streets again and wave signs and shout nasty things.


I don't believe that's going to happen. And even if it did, so what? This administration, from the executive wing of know nothing miscreants to the Senate house of pasty, white silverback cretins, could care less.

They are driven by money. The dream of making more money. And the guarantee that the new money they make will be funneled into government-protected investments that  will have their progeny drowning in even more money. See #Corkerkickback and #CollinsKickback.

All of which has got me thinking of a better idea, a more impactful way to hit this "administration" where it hurts should they decide to thwart Mueller and his vigorous defense of our threatened democracy.


That's right, I suggest we crash the market. Instead of taking to the streets and wasting all that good pent up anger, we should take to the phones and the computer screens and sell off half our portfolios. Or all of our portfolios.

Think about it. Wall Street would take a nose dive. Shitgibbon would shit his khaki golf pants. And we'd all pocket a boatload of profit in the process.

At the risk of sounding immodest, it really is a brilliant idea.

Who's buying it?

Or should I ask, who's selling?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tis the season

Did you get the Siegel family Christmas card yet?

Well, don't waste your time waiting by the mailbox. Truth is we stopped sending out cards years ago.

For several reasons. And none of them meant to disparage the practice whatsoever. Many friends and family still send us cards and we thoroughly enjoy them. No cynicism intended. We love the photos, the updates, even the long winded letters some of you choose to send out.

We enjoy them so much that we are racked with guilt for not returning the gesture. Of course that guilt is short lived or short circuited if Jeopardy comes on the tube. Or if Precedent Shitgibbon takes to the podium to announce which books we'll be burning this year.

The fact of the matter is, we're not Christmasy people. Considering the militant atheism and strands of Nihilism strewn about the house, we're barely Channukah people. We've got many bones to pick with God. So you'll have to excuse us for not coming to his three month long birthday party.

The other thing, perhaps the most glaring, is it's not our holiday.

When Tu B'shvat, the Jewish Arbor Day rolls around, I don't expect all my gentile friends to partake in the storied Tu B'shvat traditions -- the planting of the acorns, the blood-baked matzo, the bending of the knee towards the east, and the ritual reading of specified Torah sections:

Those of you diligent to do a cut and paste and a find a Hebrew translator will understand very quickly why we have abandoned organized religion. (For those who can't be bothered, Deuteronomy 25:11. Something about goats, begetting and cutting off body parts. Seriously.)

Let this be our official season's greetings card to all our friends and family.

We sincerely hope you enjoy your holiday, made even more special this year, thanks to the tireless efforts of our president who declared (strongly/bigly/mightily) that the War on Christmas is over.

Finally, after a long, long absence, the oversized trees and the flashing lights and the caroling and the candy canes and the fruitcake and the mall Santas and the sleighs and the elves and the bells and the wreaths and the ugly sweaters and the sappy movies and the candles and the cookies and the parades and the wrapping paper and the reindeer and the car antler attachments, are back.

So without fear of any persecution or retribution, I can fearlessly say, "Merry Christmas."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Good morning 2018!

Smell that?

There's something in the air. And it's not the smokey ashy remains of the nearby Thomas Fire that is literally eating up huge swaths of the Santa Monica mountains. Nor is it the decaying flesh of a democracy that once had the world's respect but now has a monopoly on the world's disdain thanks to a covfefe-drinking, pussy grabbing, would-be book burner.

No, the thing that I caught whiff of and haven't smelled in a long, long time is called hope. It's the refreshing aroma of optimism.

I'm not speaking in political terms, something I've been doing way too much of.

Because it would be all too easy to be fooled by Alabama's recent election of Doug Moore. Yes, he won. But let's not forget it was by the slimmest of margins. Let's not also forget his opponent was a child molesting, gun toting, Stone Age Bible thumper. Roy Moore did everything but don a KKK white robe to the podium and claim he was a card-carrying Grand Wizard. Actually, if he had done that, he probably would've won.

My rosy outlook springs from something more personal.

Something more vocational.

As I might have mentioned last week, I've been extremely busy, lately. So busy in fact that this entry, normally written in advance on Saturday morning, is currently being penned on a Sunday, with an NFL football game blaring in the background.

After several less than busy months, I'm now swamped. Yesterday, I got a call and had to turn away an assignment. If you know me and have seen the bills from the college bursar's office at UW and CU, you know I don't do, "No."

Of course, my buoyancy goes beyond the quantitative. Yes, it is nice to be sending out invoices again. It's very nice. It's even better to be getting paid by people who are not under the thumb of Big Holding Company Schmucks.

You see, lately the spigot has been turned on by smaller, independent agencies, startups, PR agencies and even production companies.

These are people who don't govern by committee. They don't do 329 page decks. They're not lacking in confidence and don't switch up the strategy every time they get a nervous email from a twitchy,  indecisive client. The folks I've been dealing with are smart, confident and courageous. And I'm not just saying that to pander and feather my bed for 2018.

OK, maybe I am.

In any case, I'm much more bullish on the upcoming year. I know I'm botching up an aphorism used by Rob Schwartz, but maybe, after eating so much broccoli and cauliflower recently, maybe we can finally get to the ice cream.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

No Sale

This landed on my doorstep the other day. We'll get to the rest of the picture in a second.

It's a solicitation from a local real estate broker.

If you've driven around West LA, Mar Vista or Culver City, you've seen George's ubiquitous signs. He sells houses all across the spectrum. From $1 million 2 bedroom fixer uppers (sarcasm intentional) to $5 million McMansions overlooking the layer of smog that sits atop Santa Monica Bay.

I have no intention of selling my house, which I've now owned for 25 years -- that's right since I was 19 years old. But if I did, I don't think I'd be calling on George, who until now had just been some unseen name on a placard.

It has nothing to do with his ethnicity. In the politically incorrect vernacular of Kayla Moore, "I have many friends who are Orientals (again intentional, for pointed effect)."

It has much more to do with his odd closed-fisted stance.

His awkward grimace.

And that damn cowboy hat.

On top of all that, among hundreds of still photos presented to him, he chose this one for his public debut. That's just not the kind of business acumen I'm looking for in a real estate agent. Or a plumber. Or even the busboy at Pacos Tacos on Centinela.

Also, dude, what's with the shoes? Even I know how to pick better shoes than that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Baseball been very very good to me.

I ran into a fellow freelancer a couple of weeks ago. Like me, he abandoned the staff model and put on his mercenary gear a little more than ten years ago. We knew each other by name but we'd never met.

As is always the case, we started trading war stories.

He told me his experience toiling in the hallways of __ & __________. I think it's best that I leave them unnamed. He said there was one week, on a particularly brutal assignment, where he was asked to remain on the premises until 5 AM.

Let me just stipulate that at this point in my life I could be at the most rocking, most debauched Hollywood A-list party and Scarlet Johansen could be hand feeding me crab cake appetizers from the Ivy while Charlize Theron was pouring $500 champagne down my gullet and I still wouldn't be sticking around until 5 AM.

At 5 AM, I'm tucked under my covers in deep sleep.

Or I'm being awakened by my neighbor's mangey dogs.

What I'm not doing is sitting opposite my partner at the Long Table of Mediocrity™ trying to crack a brief and pimping Bagel Bites or some newfangled brand of three ply toilet paper.

He went on to tell me how the Monday-into-Tuesday debacle was followed by 4 more late nights of the same nature.

5 AM.
5 AM.
5 AM.
5 AM.

One part of me wanted to admire him for his fortitude and persistence. The other part of me, the cranky, old, fuck-this-business part of me prevailed and said,

"Are you out of your mind? That's just batshit crazy and unacceptable."

What's most upsetting about this type of Bataan Death March approach to advertising is the idiocy of it all. You can't deprive top performing people of their sleep and then expect them to be at their best 5-6 hours later.

Not to be too presumptuous, but Clayton Kershaw didn't pitch all 6 games of the last World Series. Davey Roberts, and every other manager in the league, knows the value of rest.

Ad people, simply do not.

To make matters worse, I found out this fellow soldier on the front lines of copywriting did not bill for the many, many, many extra hours. A big no-no. Time is money. That's something I learned from the holding companies.

If clients get billed for extra agency time, agencies get billed for mine.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Last Call

"ooo ooo ooo, ooo ooo ooo
Well, they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late last month..."

-- Johnny 99, Bruce Springsteen

I grew up and went to high school with guys like Johnny 99. In large part because the Ford plant in Mahwah, New Jersey, the one spoken of by The Boss, was 5 minutes down the road from my house in Suffern, New York.

That factory is not the only place in Northern NJ to be immortalized in pop culture. Many might remember the Bada Bing Strip Joint...I'm sorry, Gentleman's Club...made famous by Tony Soprano and his "business associates."

Unlike other Hollywood fabrications, there really is a gentleman's club on Rt. 17 just north of the cutoff to Rt. 4 and the gateway to the George Washington bridge. And from what I can tell they filmed many scenes from the HBO hit show right there on the premises. But the name Bada Bing belongs to David Chase and his writers. The club's actual name is Satin Dolls.

I know because I've been there.

I'll go out on limb and suggest that a huge portion of men, from Sloatsburg, NY to Hackensack, NJ, have graced the rails of this Garden State institution and forked over fistful's of single dollar bills in the process. 

When I was growing up there, a trip to Satin Dolls was nothing less than a geographic-specific rite of passage. Like getting stoned in the parking lot of the Paramus Mall. Or ordering the Huevos Rancheros at the Stateline Diner in Ramsey.

For many of us, sneaking in with fake ID, Satin Dolls was where we felt the first pangs of love.

"Did you see the way she looked at me? Did you see how she winked? I think she likes me."

Perhaps that's why it hurt so much when I came across the news that the Bada Bing (see also Satin Dolls, see also Candy Land, see also Eager Beavers, see also The LumberYard) was bringing  Brittany to the stage for one last dance and closing its legendary doors.

The Ford Plant is gone. 

The Playboy Club at Great Gorge is gone.

The Bada Bing is gone. 

Chris Christie is gone. 

Geez, New Jersey, I hardly recognize you anymore.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas time. And I can't believe that in the nine years I've been writing this blog I've never taken the time to give you, the 21 regular readers of Roundseventeen, a Christmas gift. 

Shame on me. 

Thankfully, and due in no small part to the relentless efforts of Precedent Shitgibbon, the War on Christmas is now officially over. So not only can I finally say Merry Christmas, I can match the thought with deed.

And I suspect, we're all in serious need of some yuletide cheer. 

Southern California and the Middle East are going up in flames.

Sexual predators are reproducing like sexual predators.

And North Korea is still trying to decide which West Coast city to target with their Big Boom Boom nuclear weapon. For selfish reasons I hope they don't choose Los Angeles. Or Seattle. Or San Francisco. Or Portland.

I hope they pick Oceanside, I once bought some bad weed in Oceanside.

Let's get back to the gift giving.

The thing I hear most, whether it's via email, text, the rare phone call, or the even rarer personal appearance at an ad agency, is how much people love it when I take planners down a notch. I've even got a got a few loyalists who forward me articles, anecdotes and youtube videos. Mostly videos of wild haired Brits who have carved out a niche for themselves in the arena of Fecal Thought Tossing. I won't say their names, but they rhyme with Dingy and Flaris.

Truth is, between the amount of material I am sent and the real life interactions I've accumulated I could fill the pages of Roundseventeen with nothing but planning-related blog entries. The other truth is I have no desire to paint all planners with the same brush of tar. Some are actually helpful. The one I worked with with last week. And the team of planners I'm working with this week, come to mind.

They're smart.
And concise.
Concision is so underrated.

Today's gift springs from none of that.

In fact, what I'm about to show you was buried deep within a 156 page, 3/4 inch thick planning brief I received a long time ago from an agency that will remain anonymous and a client that will also remain anonymous. Suffice to say, we were asked to pimp pizza that had bacon stuffed in the crust.

I'm not the brightest bulb in the package. If I were, I'd be writing a TV show or movies. Or hawking my newest book on an around-the-world book tour paid for by Random House. Staying at fancy hotels and abusing my room service privileges.

"Hi, can you send up a $23 pitcher of orange juice and the $78 dollar lox and bagel plate?"

But come on, it's pizza, with bacon, how hard can it be to figure that out?

This hard:

I don't know about you but every time I look at this poorly-crafted chart my jaw, already in the slack position from 30 plus years in this business, finds a new level of slackiness. It hurts that someone thought a chart like this would be useful. It hurts even more than I have to be given direction by someone who prepares a chart like this.

And this, which says so little but also says so much, is emblematic of advertising today.

Somebody (somebodies - a team, a pod or a SWAT) took the time to prepare this. Somebody higher up the chain had to approve it. A client had to sign off on it. And then, three hours of valuable time had to be wasted presenting this, and other nonsense, to a bunch of cynical, overpaid creatives who had to fight like hell not to do a spit take of high priced non-fat lattes across the table.

I look at this and reflect on the nature of our business. And in the vernacular of the day and that awful sense of helplessness that I see so much of these days...

"I just can't."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Today in Random Photopourri

As I mentioned earlier in the week, these are quite busy times. Which is good, because I have some making up to do. I know thanks to deregulation and our increased reliance on coal, the economy is booming. Sadly however those boom times have not trickled down to advertising.

And if revenue doesn't pick up in 2018 I may be forced to sell my Gulfstream V, despite the generous new federal subsidies.

Fingers crossed.

In any case, we're foregoing the writing and making with the photos.

From the deep phone archives, my daughter teaching me how to dance. 
I think this was from the Bat Mitzvah circuit 2009.

It's a Rich Seagull. Get it?

On the way to the top of FlatIron 1.
Boulder, Colorado at its best.

My youngest daughter is fascinated by Guy Fieri.
I find POTUS, equally repulsive. Hence.

Why yes that is a woman wearing a Jiffy pop container as a hat.

Could not sell one of these on the inter webs.

From the Summer of 2017.
Or it could have been last week.
They're all the same.

Soviet Space Dogs. Google it.

Authentic Kenyan beer, from the worst Kenyan restaurant in all of America.

23andMe says this woman is a cousin. 
I don't see the family resemblance.

I think there's more resemblance here.