Thursday, April 17, 2014


Much as it might surprise you, I don't dwell on the traffic numbers or the Google Analytics for this site. For one thing the accuracy is a bit questionable.

My Google Analytics chart shows traffic dating back as far as April 2007.

Which is curious, since I started this blog in March of 2009.

The other reason I don't trust the numbers is I don't have to.

It's only good if I were to sell R17 to some large media conglomerate and as of today I have fielded zero inquiries about that.

The numbers would also come into play if I were to start monetizing or putting up display advertising on the site. But I don't want to do that to my 13 faithful readers.

Plus it would only net me about 38 cents every week.

But upon further inspection, I did notice something very interesting about the data.

Ukraine, the scene of civil unrest and currently torn between its desire to enter NATO and its centuries old bonds to the Motherland, is one of the Top Ten Countries for Round Seventeen readership.

Even more surprising, Russia comes in at a shocking #2.

My ancestors come from all over Eastern Europe, they basically ran to where ever the Gestapo or the Cossacks weren't.

So I really don't have a dog in this fight. Though my sentiments are always with the underdog.

But I can't help wondering where all this Eastern readership stems from.

Either some long lost relatives who escaped the Nazi genocide have discovered their prodigious American cousin or these shtetl-dwelling, potato-eating, vodka-imbibers have a preternatural affinity for my particular brand of snark.

UPDATE: This morning I checked the analytics page again and found this gem worth sharing:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hurts so good

Sir Winston Churchill once famously said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life."

Those of you who know me or those of you who read this blog with any regularity will not be surprised to find I have enemies. Resulting, as Sir Winston put it, from my repeated and often vociferous stands on a host of topics.

In the advertising world, I have railed against slimy politics, groupthink, appeasement, pretentious affectation, even communal office furniture. And while this has earned me a small measure of respect in some circles, it has also cast me as some stubborn, pigheaded purist in others.

Sadly, it's members of those latter circles that tend to rise up the corporate ladder. And gain the ear of those in power. This is usually achieved through back-office obstructionism and silky smooth sycophancy.

"Hey Rich, I spoke with our CEO and he agrees with me, we should give the client what he is asking for. Can we see something by Wednesday? Cheers, mate."

This in essence forms the dividing line in many advertising agencies.

There are the Ad Makers, those who come up with the ideas that alter the business landscape and vault clients into the stratosphere.

And then there are the Ad Fakers, those who abuse the people who come up with the ideas. Showboat. Steal credit.  And earn ungodly sums of money simply because they can pull off wearing Capri pants and know the right champagne to order at Cannes.

Is it fair?
Of course it's not fair.

If advertising were fair, CEO's would not be taking home 4,000 times as much as the mailroom clerk.

If advertising were fair, tone deaf one percenters at agencies would be forbidden from posting Facebook pictures of their new cars, new houses and new $800 Manolo Blahniks.

If advertising were fair, layoffs would not be so prevalent because upper management would have the foresight to set some money aside for inevitable down cycles.

The good news is that even advertising abides by the wisdom of another famous Brit and must adhere to Newton's Laws of Physics.

Namely, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

And while karma doesn't come around as often as most of us would like, recently it took a big fat public steaming dump on a chap who has a PHd. in smugness and a black belt in asswipery.

For some reason this unnamed malignant faker still draws a paycheck, but my spidey sense tells me the pendulum is starting to swing in the direction of the makers.

in any case, it made for some very tasty schadenfreud.
very tasty, indeed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Money, money, money

(It's All Titillation Week, Day 2. For a fuller explanation, see yesterday's posting.)

Today, I'd like to talk about a topic that rarely gets talked about: money.
It rarely gets talked about because we've all been told NOT to talk about it.

Because we don't talk about it, I have no idea how my net worth stands up against my friend's net worth. Or my coworkers, my relatives or even my neighbors.

I have no way of keeping a scorecard. A man needs a scorecard.

I don't know if I can ease up on the gas pedal or slam it to the floor so I don't end up in a dirty nursing home under the sloppy care of Raul, the loose-change stealing orderly.

I'm so unversed on the topic of money that everything I have learned about wealth and the acquisition of wealth comes from the Parker Brothers.

It all comes from Monopoly.

Years ago, my wife and I found ourselves with two mortgages.

One on the house where we are raising our two daughters and another on a crappy little condo in south Culver City or North LAX-adjacent. We had, as my uncle coins it, fallen into the business of 'Tenants and Terlets.'

Only this additional property was not Broadway or Park Place. It wasn't even the desirable greens or reds. Our 2 BR flophouse in Fox Hills was more the equivalent of the cheap purplish properties that frankly no respectable Monopoly player wants to own.

Before renting it out, we interviewed many candidates including an older African American couple with a 14-year old son. The mom was sick and the dad had been unemployed for more than 5 years. They were on Section 8 Federal assistance. Their credit score wasn't low. They didn't even have one.

Not the ideal candidates by any stretch.

A day after meeting them, we received a handwritten 3-page letter begging us for the apartment. Naturally I was reluctant. But my wife -- who many people refer to as a saint, for obvious reasons --  convinced me it would be a mitzvah.

Turned out, doing good by them, did well by us. Section 8 was a blessing in disguise.

Every first of the month we got a check from Uncle Sam for 99.9% of the rent. It was so automatic it became very easy for me to let the tenants slide into arrears for 6 or 7 months. Their share never amounted to more than a couple of hundred bucks. And they were very sweet people who took great care of the property.

The point is, making money as a land baron is a lot easier than making money as a copywriter. So when the ad agency world finally discovers that I'm just a fraud, and they will, I'll have my landlord career to fall back on.

Where is all this leading? Well, several weeks ago, my daughter went on a camping spiritual retreat with her high school classmates. They went to rediscover their relationship with Jesus. My daughter went for the smores. When they returned there was a welcoming reception reuniting the parents with their born-again children.

At the party I had a chance to corner the Principal of St. Monica's Catholic High School. I told him the Monopoly anecdote I just told you. I also suggested the school look into ways of developing a formalized curriculum of financial education.

He agreed the students and many of the teachers knew little or nothing about banking, checking, mortgages, the stock market or even mutual funds. He said he'd run the idea by the monsignor.

Monsignor: "Oh really, which parent came up with this novel, yet-completely-unfeasible idea?"

Principal: "The Jew." (I'm positive that's how they refer to me.)

Monsignor: "Mmmmm, on second thought…."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Some Major Bouncage

Recently, my former boss Steve Rabosky said I should commit more time to writing about advertising.

Last week I took him up on his suggestion and committed 5 days of blogging to nothing but our beloved and sometimes hated industry.

I chose quite the week to do it as well because there were tectonic shifts right here in the Southern California ad market.

In any case the stunt was a bounding success. Sending Round Seventeen traffic through the roof and hitting all kinds of new peaks. Ending with Friday's posting that featured a half-naked woman and a nipple-grabbing boiled lobster, the best kind.

To that end, and taking our cue from the NY Post and the London Sun Times, postings this week will all feature photos of scantily clad women.

I had some luck finding a picture today and I am confident, through rigor and determination, that I will be able to locate similar puerile pics for the upcoming posts.

In addition to kicking off All Titillation Week, today is also Passover.

So let's switch gears. From mammaries to matzos.

The producers of the Noah's Ark movie have been receiving all kinds of flack because their film does not adhere to the original screenplay authored by God. And Shane Black. Yet no one has raised a peep over God's earlier bibler, the Ten Commandments.

Here, we must focus our attention not on the film  but at the original Passover story and its many, many faults.

I think it's clear that when God was done with the first draft, he should have optioned it to the studio and let the script doctors do a total rewrite. Because as it stands now, the Passover yarn is a complete sham.

First off, it starts out way too slow.
400 years of slavery and bondage.
Talk about a yawner for an opening.

Nothing happens for two hours and then Moses starts talking to a burning rhododendron. A bush?

Where does that character development go?
Why couldn't it be a three-legged talking goat?
Or a sassy donkey?
Or a cat that thinks he's a pirate?
Has God even seen Shrek?

OK, the plagues.

Ten plagues for Christ's sake! Why not three? There's an age-old magic symmetry to three. Plus, this God character is the Master of the Universe, the King of Kings,  Lord over everything from Pacoima to Pluto and the best he can do is whip up some frogs and locusts?
How about some meteorites?
Tsunami waves?
And I know this is often repeated, but what the hell is murrain?

Finally, and this is where the story loses all kinds of credibility, are we to believe that it took an act, or eleven boring acts, of God to convince the Pharaoh to let my people go?

I've sat in living rooms, dining rooms, and oneg shabbat rooms at the back of the Temple, my entire life. I know about the kvetching, the griping and the sending of the cold soup back to the kitchen.

I can say with no small amount of Hebraic certitude that Pharaoh would not put up with this tsuris for 45 minutes, much less 400 years.

If I were the Egyptian Sun God and Moses told me his people wanted to leave, I would have helped him wrap up the ruggelah and the kreplach and personally escorted he and his yappy tribe of yentas across the Red Sea.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We see ads differently

(This is a special bonus Friday posting in celebration of our All Advertising Week. As you might know there's nothing I enjoy more than being right. Well, yesterday Adweek announced that Red Lobster was holding an agency review. Just as they did three years ago. To that end, I'm ending the week with a reprint of a previous R17 posting. Or, if you'd like you can read this as a preview of a posting that will go up three years from now.)

August, 2011.

Last week it was announced that Darden, the operator of many family restaurant chains like Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, was putting the Red Lobster account up for review. Sales had been falling, franchisee's were getting unhappy and the advertising had gotten stale.

Cue the eager agency contenders.

I know from experience, weekends will be sacrificed in the pursuit of this crown jewel of advertising. People will work long hours. Couches will get slept on. Cold coffee will get nuked. And strategies will be constructed, deconstructed and put before the knowing eye of focus groups.

Backs will get stabbed. Inter-office jockeying will occur. And new office romances will bloom, fed by the aphrodisiacal aromas of stale pizza and 11 PM body odor.

At the end of the review process, an agency will be selected, champagne will be uncorked and a brand-spanking new Red Lobster campaign will be foisted on the crustacean-hungry masses...

Open on hot melted butter drizzled over freshly steamed lobster tail.

Cut to tight shot of tongs placing lobster tail on a beautifully-dressed dinner plate.

Cut to steam rising off the fluffy mashed potatoes.

Cut to dinner roll being cracked in half.

Cut to extreme slow motion shot of flakes flying off the dinner roll.

Cut to beet red lobster tail shell being cracked open.

Cut to man wearing khaki pants, with extremely white teeth, biting into said lobster and smiling.

Cut to khaki pants man's wife, she is smiling too.

ANNCR: Right now during Red Lobster Red Tag Dining Days, you can get our signature lobster tail, mashed potatoes and your choice of farm fresh vegetable for only $9.99. Come on in now, we'll start melting the butter just for you.

End on beauty shot of dinner plate.

Starburst: Red Tag Dining Days. Just $9.99

Art Card: Red Lobster. Who's in the mood for Tail?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mental masturbation

I won't beat around the bush.

When it comes to ad agency Planning, I don't get it.
Newsflash, I don't ever plan to get it.

I don't want to offend anyone, but in the twenty plus years --oh shit, now it's twenty five plus years --I've been in the business I have never depended on the Planning Department, and whatever it is they do, to inch me any closer to a creative solution.

Not once.

And I have been forced to sit through thousands of Planning Department briefings.

In the automotive world, I've heard the word "luxury" dissected 18 ways 'til Sunday.

In the technology world, "innovation" has been picked over like a dead water buffalo under the Serengeti sun.

Once, while pitching Sparklett's water, our MBA-enhanced Planner with the grating British accent graced us with his business acumen and told us the strategy was all about "Blue." (This can be corroborated by several R17 readers.)

By the way, Blue was the result of a two month-long 'deep dive' and a five-city tour of focus groups that I believe included a trip to the planner's home town of West Kensington.

Years ago I was at an unnamed ad agency eavesdropping -- thank you open office plan -- in on a group of unnamed account planners and unnamed account executives talking about a unnamed brand of tortilla chips.

Personally, I don't see how a briefing about a low-interest tortilla chip could merit a meeting lasting more than 3 minutes, but this one went on longer than the Wolf of the Wall Street.

The ensuing question/answer/further discussion period was like an aural root canal.

"People like sharing tortilla chips."

"The spots should be about the _________ Tortilla Chip Moments."

"We need a tortilla chip manifesto."

Cue the sound of creative people rethinking their career choice.

And yet the inanity continues.

As you are reading this rather-restrained rant, there are conference rooms chock full of creatives who have just presented their ideas to a bunch of over-critical, over-thinking Planners, who are over-zealously picking it apart and measuring the work against some insipid set-in-stone briefing document.

As sure as the mustache under my nose, some 26-year old ex-sorority girl with a certificate in planning and two years of real world living, is chiming in with the ubiquitous:

"I like it. And I don't want to split hairs, maybe it's in the semantics, but (and here comes the phrase that kills all good ideas) I'm not sure it's on-strategy."

To which, just once, I wish one ballsy staff creative would simply rise to the occasion, stand up and reply:

"Maybe, the strategy is off-strategy."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We're Not Hiring

Weeks ago a reader complained that my arguments would carry more water if I weren't so disdainful of younger people, what they wear, how they work and the "jewelry" with which they choose to adorn their body.

But, I'm 44 and approaching middle age.
It's my job to disparage those with so much energy, so little wisdom and so many misguided sartorial decisions.

Besides I find it hard to hide my disdain for their budding advertising careers. Not so much for what they are doing in advertising, although there's plenty of grist for the mill there. It's more about how they got into advertising.

Somebody -- the holding companies -- is holding the door open for them.

It wasn't like that when I came up through the ranks.
Not by a long shot.

You could't get a job as a copywriter unless you had experience.
And you couldn't get experience, unless you were a copywriter.

There were no Young Gun programs.
Or agencies hiring cubbie copywriters, as they did in the 60's and 70's.
If you wanted a job as a junior you had to fight off the competition like some fast swimming sperm with the strongest tail and the best package of chromosomes.

I did what many fellow 44-year olds did.

Instead of going straight into the big time, I spent a few years in the D league.
The Farm System.
The Minors.

I got a job writing recruitment ads. Recruitment ad agencies were eager to hire any writer who could string together a few words. Particularly if they knew the difference between it's and its, your and you're, as well as their and there.

There are many "professional copywriters" today, stewarding billion-dollar brands, who don't.

Recruitment advertising was not easy work. There are not that many ways to say, "We offer a challenging work environment with competitive salaries and benefits."

That never dissuaded my boss, a squat, chain-smoking, Napoleonic man with all the manners of a feral pig, from taking a red pen to my work and sending me back to my desk for more options.

This didn't happen once a day. It happened 15-20 times a day. Recruitment ad agencies don't get hired on the basis of their creativity. It's all about volume. Excuse me, Volume.

It wasn't glamorous.
Or fun.
Or inspiring.
In fact, I'd argue it was 180 degrees from all of the above.

And I didn't do it for a month. Or a year. Or even two years. I churned out that bird cage lining for 2 & 1/2 painful years. But the experience was invaluable.

Kids today seemed to have leap-frogged over this kind of hardship. They waltz out of college with their  Vines, their case studies and their fake ads for glow-in-the-dark condoms, and walk into an ad agency expecting to be wooed and handed a gym membership and a generous car allowance.

So how did I unshackle myself from the recruitment ad agency world and break into the big time?

For that, let's go to a sample spec ad from the Siegel Humility Files…

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This is your invitation

Go ahead enlarge the picture.

That is the face of Lee Clow, The Bearded One.
As well as the face of a Pacific Chinook Salmon, The Scaly One.

Why, you may ask, are they on the same page?
In which case you'd be missing the greater point -- they're on a page.

A printed page.

The year was 1998 and Lee Clow had just been named WSAAA leader of the year. To honor him, the WSAAA, Western States Advertising Agency Association, was throwing a gala dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Since my art director John Shirley and I were the Flavors of the Month for a short five minutes, we were asked to come up with an invite for the event.

Fortunately, this was before the advent of the cheap e-vite or e-mail blasts.

Yes, those are cheaper ways of communicating.
But, and I can't stress this enough, those are cheaper ways of communicating.

You can call me old school but you'd better say it loudly, 'cause the hair in my ear is getting thicker by the day, but an invite to a black tie event should be a printed piece.

On thick stock.

Something you can share with co-workers.

"Check this out, it's Lee Clow and a Salmon."

Here it is in all its glory:

If you were holding this in your hand you could fold it out and easily read all the little captions instead of trying to enlarge the html, find the zoom-in tool and mouse across the timeline.

And that's the problem with advertising today.
There's no tactility.

Fortunately, for you, I've taken the liberty of breaking it down to smaller components.

I'm sure when we presented the invite ideas there were two to three other concepts in the mix. You never went to Clow with just one idea in your pocket. He needed to have choices. I'm glad Lee has a penchant for self-deprecation and chose this odd bird.

Not only because it gave us a chance to get in front of every important professional in the Los Angeles advertising community. 

It also gave us the self-serving opportunity to cement our work (the ABC campaign) among the select legendary campaigns that built the Chiat/Day legend.

Moreover, and this cannot be overstated, it gave us a glorious four-color platform to put a picture of advertising icon Lee Clow next to a dead flash-frozen fish.

Monday, April 7, 2014

All Advertising Week

The Complaint Department at Round Seventeen was working overtime last week.

Many readers took issue with my April Fool's Day prank. Wherein I threatened/promised to pull the plug on this blogfoolery. The tone was not all pleasing.

"How dare you stop writing a complementary daily blog that I enjoy everyday free of charge with no subscription fee and no annoying banners that are so often seen on lesser websites which much greater traffic?"

As if that were not enough, later in the week I penned a lengthy piece regarding the Arab League and their blind theocratic march towards the Dark Ages.

To which one reader, a former boss of mine, responded (verbatim):

"You're much funnier when you write about the fucked up business of advertising."

A passive/aggressive accolade if I've ever heard one. One of the short-tempered interns in the Complaint Department urged me to send that reader a cake.

But instead, I have uncharacteristically decided to take the high ground.

I'm happy to announce this week will be about advertising. And nothing but advertising. I've even enlisted the aid of my wife who will serve as editor, making sure I don't overstep my boundaries, name names or otherwise dig myself a career hole I can't get out of.

This thematic endeavor may seem highly unusual, but in fact it is not. We have done series here before.

Regular readers will remember the Things Jews Don't Do collection.

There was also Celebrities I Have Worked With.

In 2012, there was the Swiftian monthly series People We Need To Kill.

There was even the two-week anthology Why Rich Siegel Is The World's Greatest Lover. Not surprisingly, it didn't last two weeks and turned out to be a bit of an over-promise.

Great, you might be thinking, what advertising legend are you going to cut down to size today?
Are you going to skewer the bloated bureaucracies?
The irrationality of focus groups?
The deification of all things digital?

Come on Rich, lay some brutal honesty and common man wisdom on those greedy penny-pinching, money-hoarding, yacht-buying holding companies.

I'm sorry, but today's posting is done.This was more like a teaser of things to come.

If you don't like it, you're more than welcome to direct any correspondence to our always-attentive and always-responsive R17 Complaint Department.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A three hour tour

A few weeks ago, it rained in Southern California.

For the rest of the country, pounded by snow, hail and sleet, this would not raise an eyebrow. But here, where the hills are brown and firemen are at a constant DefCon 5, rain is big news.

Even the possibility of rain is big news. A thunder cloud in Morro Bay, 250 miles north of LA, will send the local weathermen scurrying for the hair gel products and some last minute promos.

"Is rain in the forecast? Tune in at eleven (followed by a fist pump)."

And it works.

Local news stations see their ratings spike on just the hint of any possible precipitation.

The Storm of the Century turned out to be a little more than 2 inches of rain. My gutters got clogged. But unfortunately there's no FEMA money in clogged gutters.

Others didn't fare so well.

Like this boat owner.
I should say previous boat owner, because this one was a total wreck.

Not sure my photographs tell the whole picture, but this is a big boat.
Was a big boat.

It had a state room, a kitchen and a sunning deck. There might be more nautical terms, but I'm a confirmed landlubber. I get seasick on a porch swing.

You don't see a sight like this everyday in Playa del Rey, so naturally it conjures up a mystery. How did it get here, springs to mind.

Marina del Rey, where boaters typically dock, is a just few hundred yards away.

Oh sure, it might have been a shoddy Buntline Hitch Knot.

Or a poorly executed Halyard Cleat Hitch.

But I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest it might have something to do with alcohol.

" Isn't it great being out here without our nagging wives?"


"Did you get the anchor, Steve?"

"One Anchor Steam coming right up."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In the foot

I hope I didn't alienate too many of you with yesterday's April Fool's Joke.

I was touched by the outpouring of sentiment. Now, I must revise the standard joke that I've been telling. It appears I don't have five regular readers. The actual number is closer to thirteen. It'd be a lot higher if some of you lazy bastards learned how to use the Share button, but I'll save that rant for another day.

Despite your unwillingness to spread the word, March 2014 was the most trafficked month in the history of Round Seventeen. With more than 8500 page hits. 10,000 monthly hits cannot be far behind.

In other words, I must be doing something right.

In order to compensate for that and to quell my unquenchable thirst for self-destruction, today I am willfully doing something wrong. And writing about politics, anti-semitism and Israel -- the birthplace of resurrection.

All, according to Big Data, your least favorite topics.

At a recent conference of the Arab League, male leaders gathered, wearing their distinctive dashing dishdashas. Women are not permitted to lead, or in many cases vote, or in other cases drive, or in other cases do anything more than birth and bake.

That's why you have the sausage-fest pictured above.

When they weren't eating their cookies, the mustachioed macho men put on an unusual display of unity. Unusual because the Shias and Sunnis, who comprise the Arab world, are normally at odds with each other. And hold widely divergent views on the coming Ummah, the time when the entire world will come under Sharia law.

Can you say dhimmitude?

But, if there's one thing they can agree on, it's Jews. They hate 'em.

They won't accept a Jewish state in their neighborhood, even though the Koran acknowledges a Jewish nation from the time of Mohammed, Peace be unto Him.

Even though a Jewish State was established in 1948. By the United Nations. The same recognized institution where 57 Muslims countries regularly pass resolutions vilifying Israel.

For those of you short on history, Palestine was also established in 1948, but instead of accepting two separate states (the solution we hear so much about) the Arabs chose to go to war.

They lost.

Eight years later, they lost again.

Nine years after that, Egypt's General Nasser threatened to throw the Jews into the sea. That didn't happen. And they lost again.

In the 60 plus years, the Arabs have never won a war, nor have they developed a winning strategy. As Abba Eban, once put it, "They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

Instead of shooting at the Jews they keep shooting themselves in the feet. This is not good as many of them are fond of wearing sandals.

Last week was no exception. The Arab League accepts none of the blame for the middle-east crisis and have doubled down on their own losing ways. Refusing to even recognize Israel or their right to exist.

In 1982, Israel gave back the entire Sinai Peninsula, more than 23,000 square miles of land. Today, Israel proper is only 20,000 square miles. That's more than 100% of their own land. Name me one country in the modern era that has made that kind of sacrifice.

Just look at the region from a big picture view.

In Israel, 7 million literate people thrive in a democracy that is at the forefront of technology.

In the Arab world, 300 million, mostly illiterate people, live on the edge of poverty, struggle against political oppression and bloody sectarian violence. I'll bet there are 100,000 dead Syrian civilians that would gladly live in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

And yet everyday 300 million people suckle themselves on their hatred for Jews and bow 5-times-a-day, reverently calling for Israel's destruction. Allah willing.

Maybe it hasn't occurred to them, but maybe Allah is not so willing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This is the end

That's it, folks.

The well is dry.
The batteries in the keyboard are dead.
And my doctor will not renew my prescription for Vicoden.

So, we're closing up shop, throwing the deadbolt and calling it a wrap.

For some of you this could be the best news of the day.

"Thank the Lord. Now I don't have to put up with his insufferable stories, his shameless self-promotion and his unearned, bloated sense of righteous indignation. He's like a little school girl with an instagram account, a non-stop parade of desperate selfies that just cry out for attention." 

For others it will be like.

"Eh, who cares, now I'll have more time to read Kathy Hepinstall's blog. She's not as prodigious, but she's a real writer. And she's actually funny."

And for 5 people, this news may be crushing.

"You can't stop writing Round Seventeen. It's the first thing I read every morning. It puts a smile on my face. And makes life bearable."

Ok, maybe not 5 people, maybe two people, including my wife.

You might think that after five years and more than 1000 entries into this blog that my epitaph would be a long rambling tome, chock full of anecdotes and wisdom.

Or that it would be a heartfelt piece, with layers of snark and cynicism carefully peeled back to reveal a soft core of raw emotion and unabashed sentimentality.

But you'd be wrong.

You might also be wondering why am I pulling the plug today?

Yesterday was March 31st and web traffic for the month was 8500 page views, the highest monthly total ever. Taking the advice of one Jerry Seinfeld, "it's always good to leave on a high note."

Thank you.

It was fun.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I did that

Here in Southern California, birthplace to many of the nation's fast food titans, there has been a little brouhaha in the advertising community.

In keeping with Round Seventeen policy I'm not going to name names. At this point I don't have to.

Nor will I weigh in on the matter as I don't want to rub any noses the wrong way and I'd like to keep putting food on the Siegel dinner table.

However, when it comes to the issue of plagiarism, I will not waffle. I am against it.

Let's go to the Time Machine and step back twenty years, when I was gainfully employed at Team One  Advertising.

The agency was growing fast. And I had the unique privilege to work in one of the most talented Creative Departments. Many of those art directors and copywriters have become ECDs or CCO's. Moreover there was a great camaraderie. We often went to lunch in groups of 10 or more. And we laughed. Often 'til our cheeks and necks were hurting.

We ate together.
Laughed together.
Even reviewed portfolios together.

And it was during one of these sessions that an art director pulled a laminated two page spread from a black case, turned to me and said, "Hey Siegel, I thought you did this ad at Chiat/Day."

And indeed I did, though I can't stand to look at it now, I will offer it up for your amusement.

As you can imagine I almost popped a carotid artery.

What the fuck was this clown doing with my Nissan ad in his portfolio, I thought.

And then I turned to the group and said, "What the fuck is this clown doing with my Nissan ad in his portfolio?"

Well, if you know me or if you've been reading this blog for any time now, you know that this simply would not stand.

The following day, we, the creative department commandeered a conference room and called the offending aspiring writer. We told him his portfolio showed potential and prodded him with questions about relocating to El Segundo where Team One was headquartered. We told him about the affordable houses. The excellent schools. Even some of the fine dining choices on Sepulveda Blvd., like the Stick and Stein.

In other words, we got him all worked up about joining the Team One team. And then…

"Tell us about this long copy Pathfinder ad. That's some old time craftsmanship. Did you write this?"

"Sure did," he replied.

"Ehhhh (imitating the sound of a game show buzzer). Wrong answer, douchebag. I wrote this ad last year." 

Even though we were separated by a thousand miles or so, you could literally hear his heart sink, smashing into his kidneys.

A long silent pause was broken by a mea culpa.

The kid explained that he was working at a Chiat/Day satellite office and had to resize the ad for a different publication. Meaning, the copy was tweaked. Two prepositions and a pronoun were added to the 864-word ad. That hardly gave him the right to put my work in his portfolio.

We told him the book would be returned. Minus the Pathfinder ad.

That laminated copy is somewhere out in my garage. It's attached to something else. A hand-written letter from the offending party. He Fed-exed me a heartfelt apology as well as a thank you. For teaching him a critical lesson about integrity; a character trait that is highly undervalued and in very short supply, particularly in our industry.

In retrospect, I like to think I would have handled the situation with a different approach.

Perhaps a little more maturely. But it was 1994, I was only 24 years old and had full head of hair as well as a full head of energy. Plus, there was no such thing as the Internet.

Or Agencyspy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"I'm pooping here."

Color me confused.

Went to use the bathroom the other day and found this jerry-rigged privacy curtain hung on the stall door.

It never would have occurred to me to construct this 2 ply penumbra.

However, and you can thank me later, it did occur to me to photograph it.

As I sat on the throne going about my business -- no further details on that matter -- I wondered what would drive someone to such engineering feats.

I will grant you the space between the stainless steel partitions is wider than an eyeball. But in all my years in public men's rooms, I've never seen another man peer in through the crack for a better look.

A passing glance perhaps but never a full on peer.

Maybe I'm lucky that way.

I have found a jiggle on the door handle provides all the occupancy information an urgent bathroom goer could possibly need.

That said, if I were in the seated position returning my Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl back to the Pacific and I noticed a more-than-curious eyeball spying on me during a most delicate time with my pants around my ankles, I would have nothing to be embarrassed about.

At least nowhere near as much as the guy who makes it a habit of browsing toilet stalls.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spread too thin?

Last year's Occupy Movement made all the headlines. The 99% er's brought their beef to the street and everyone was talking about it.

Before that we had the vaunted Arab Spring, where disenfranchised voters in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and now Syria, fought to have a voice in their country's future.

But what happened to Miracle Whip's Sandwich Condiment Revolution?

Perhaps you remember their egg-based stirring call to arms from 2009:

Don't go unnoticed.

Don't blend in.

Don't be ordinary, boring or bland

In other words, don't be so mayo.

We are our own one-of-a-kind unique flavor.

We are Miracle Whip.

And we will not tone it down.

Wow, you must be thinking, "has it really been five years since I felt that stirring in my belly?"

Like you, I want to know where the revolution stands today. Has progress been made? Is egg salad no longer just egg salad? Or is it now the chosen food for those who openly defy convention?

What's next on the Miracle Whip agenda? And more importantly how can I, an individual with strong feelings about mayonnaise and sandwich toppings, get involved and actively engage with the brand?

I feel like maybe I've been left out of the loop.

Maybe they're talking about Miracle Whip on Instagram.
Or Plaxo.
Or Tinder.

Maybe there are underground after hours clubs packed with hipsters planning the next Miracle Whip Rage against the Mayonnaise Machine. Maybe that's why I'm lost out here in no man's condiment land.

I don't know.

What I do know is if Miracle Whip doesn't follow up their original anthem spot with another edge-of-my-seat manifesto my attention will turn elsewhere.

You know after my 10 hour work day, my 90 minutes of exercise, my 35 minute dinner with the family, my 25 minutes of helping my daughters with their homework, my 22 minutes of The Daily Show, and my 15 minutes of online chess, I still have a precious 10 minutes worth of bandwidth to spend with my favorite brands.

If these Miracle Whip people don't step up to the plate, I'll go elsewhere.

I hear they are doing exciting things over at Pepto Bismol.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Goodness gracious

Nancy Grace.
Has there ever been a more inappropriately named woman?

She is to grace as I am to svelte.
Or tall.
Or easy on the eyes.

For the life of me I do not understand why this walking/talking leach/woman has a nationally-syndicated program on HLN.

An even bigger mystery is why I have HLN as one of the presets on my XM radio.

I don't do a lot of driving these days. My commute is mercifully short. And when I am in the car I'm usually tuned in to the Classic Vinyl Station or BB King's Bluesville. You can't beat some of the nicknames that came out of the Memphis music scene: Pine Top Perkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Eddie Cleanhead Vinson.

But occasionally I'll need a hit of news, so I scan through to CNN. And when they go to commercial to hawk some hemorrhoid cream or Sizzler Early Bird Specials, I switch over to HLN.

That's when she comes on.

I work in advertising, so it's already a given that I have a sado-masochistic streak. But this woman's voice, her mannerisms, and her proclivity to talk over anyone else in the vicinity can only be described as radio journalism's equivalent of waterboarding.

Twenty years ago when the ATF tried to flush David Koresh and his wacky followers out of the Waco compound, they blasted heavy metal music through industrial-sized speakers. An obvious blunder.

Ten minutes of Nancy Grace badgering a defense attorney or pimping the travails of Tot Mom, and those brainwashed Seventh Sealers would have come screaming out the front gate begging for mercy.

I can listen to Nancy Grace in twenty second intervals. By comparison, I can listen to sharpened finishing nails being dragged across a fresh new blackboard in thirty second intervals.

This is not say that Nancy Grace serves no discernible purpose in this world.

On the rare occasion when I get in a fight with my wife, I will often storm out of the house and try to gather myself with a high speed drive along the uncrowded Marina Freeway. When the speedometer creeps past 70, I'll tune in to The Shrill One and find great comfort there.

Because while marriage can often be difficult and test my patience, thankfully, I do not occupy the painful shoes of mister Nancy Grace.

Actually, no one should.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Portfolio Sucks

Last week I was going over the collection of work I have amassed over the last 25 years in advertising. I did not walk away from the review a happy man.

Much like the woman pictured above, with the plethora of penises (penii?) tattooed to her skull, the vision in my head did not sync up with the reality on the page.

Please do not read this as some kind of humble brag.
It is not.

I am seriously disillusioned for all that I do NOT have to show for my professional efforts. Yes, I've had the good fortune to produce some good work over the years. But I've had the greater misfortune of watching much, much more good work ---sometime even great work -- die on the vine.

I am by no means alone in this respect. In fact, if you're involved in the creative endeavor and you're reading this, I can already detect your blood pressure beginning to rise.

I can't speak for you and your failures, for that I suggest signing up for Wordpress or Blogger, but I can, and often do, speak on mine.

And after much consideration, I've discovered there's a very good reason why my portfolio sucks. Frankly it has little to do with me.

That's right, it's not my fault.

War Story Time:

Back in 1999, we met with Stuart Wolff, the CEO of This was a man who inhaled his own fumes and often talked of himself in the third person. Comparing his yet-to-be-written legacy to that of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

We had presented many campaigns to Stuart, but one rose above the rest. He was ready to green light the project, but wanted us to "change the paradigm." In the late 90's everything was about paradigm changing.  Stuart challenged us to find a way to make people consider paying to see our commercials.

My partner and I suggested filming an entire movie, which we could distribute and monetize, and extract the commercials from the footage. It had never been done before. And the approach was both ambitious and fraught with risk.

Because it was iffy, agency naysayers on the account and management side cowered in fear.

"You're not making a movie, Rich."

"Learn to compromise. Why do you have to be such a stubborn ass?"

"Give it a rest, Fellini."

I suppose we should have listened and made nice-nice with the agency brass. But we didn't. We stuck to our guns and persisted like an open wound. The battle of wills, which often got ugly, lasted more than a year. In the end, the movie and the commercials got made.

The acrimony earned my partner and I, a severance check and a security-guard escort from the building.

That was a costly victory, in a war that has seen far too many defeats.

The point is this. My portfolio -- and most likely yours -- would be 100 times better if the people who got in the way, got out of the way.

The other point is this. I don't fight anymore. Particularly now that I'm a freelancer. Because many agencies, not all, don't want fighters. They flap their tongues about cultivating rebels, misfits, and passionate artists who have a unique voice and challenge the status quo.

But what they really want are cheap Kool-Aid drinking drones, who can stylishly sport a nose ring or a sleeve of tattoos, and toe the company line 12 hours a day from the comfort of their Aeron chairs at the Creative Department Community Table.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On the Decline of America

For all its chest-pounding and goose-stepping, the Third Reich only lasted a dozen years.

The sun rose on the British Empire, but then a few hundred years later it set.

The Greeks and Romans had their fair share of success, but they too did not stand the test of time.

Similarly our American experiment will eventually fall. And when it does, historians will look for clues and begin casting blame.

I'd like to short circuit that process and save them the trouble.

Our inevitable descent began the day that kids across the USA stopped delivering the newspaper by hand.

I'm dead serious about this.

As you might have expected, I had one of those character-building paper routes.

I got my first newspaper delivery route when I was 14 years old. Everyday after school, I'd load up my canvas bag with 35 newspapers, strap them to my aging bicycle, and tool around the neighborhood delivering the goods. None of this tossing-the-paper-while-riding crap either. That was some twisted Rockwellian fantasy.

No, I parked the bike, fought off snarling dogs, and responsibly placed each paper under the doormat to protect it from the elements. And in upstate New York, there were plenty of elements: rain, sleet, snow.

Those damn postmen get all the glory, but we newspaper delivery boys walked the same beat.

When the kid in the adjoining neighborhood couldn't take the pressure and abandoned the job, I swooped in and grabbed his territory, effectively doubling my route to 75 houses.

It was hard, tedious work. And the pay was miniscule. The only thing that kept me going was my father's command to keep at it and the pubescent fantasy that one day one of these lonely housewives along the route would come to the door in a negligee, invite me in and slip me a truly memorable Christmas tip.

That never happened.
Nothing even remotely close.

Nevertheless the enterprise taught me some valuable lessons about discipline, adversity and fortitude. The kind of characteristics that are in short supply these days.

If I had my way, I'd make both my teenage daughters secure themselves a job delivering newspapers. Of course either by willful ignorance or the rise of technology, nobody reads newspapers anymore.

Addendum: One day while working my route, I was driven off the side of the road by a passing car. The bike was totaled and I broke my wrist. The doctors said I lost 15% of the turning ability in my radius bone. Weeks later at a workers compensation hearing, the judge asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Though I am inordinately squeamish and have all the musical talent of a leaky faucet, I followed the commands of my father and told him I wanted to be a Brain Surgeon or a Concert Pianist. The judge awarded me $2000 for college funds. That was more money than I had ever earned schlepping the papers. America, what a country!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A dreaded day

This cannot be happening.

The adorable little girl standing in the flower bed with her little summer outfit and the tiny shoes that would fit in my cereal bowl, is turning 18 today.


I know I should be extremely proud of her.

Proud that she's funny, caring, sensible, good-natured and incredibly intelligent. That she's a solid A- student. That she's already been accepted at 8 of the 10 colleges she has applied, and still waiting to hear from 8 more. That she's kind to her mother, her sister, and sometimes her father. That's she's a good driver, a hard worker and a talented photographer.

I should be proud and happy and glowing about all of that.

But the truth is, I want to scream.

I want to make it stop.

I want to come home from work and see her crawling on all fours in the backyard.

I want to read to her about Zundel the Tailor before she nods off to sleep.

I want to see her marvel at the workings of a garden hose.

I want to lather her hair up with shampoo and make a faux hawk.

I want to see her giggling on stage during the first grade production of Guys and Dolls.

I want to lay on the carpet and play Pretty Princess with her and her sister.

I want what I'm finding out every parent wants, a chance to do it over again.

Only smarter, better, kinder.

Less concerned whether a brain-dead client likes a rough cut and more in the moment of being a Dad.

Truth is, I'd empty half the bank account -- not the whole thing cause I don't want to end up in a dirty nursing home -- to relive any part of what is now just a memory.

This magical Sunday morning would be a good place to start.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Today's dirty word: Collaboration.

This will come as no surprise, but I'm an old school guy. I'm not sure when that transition happened, but it did. And as my buddy recently told me, it's best to just own it.

So I do, confident that my first hand memories of printed polyester shirts and the Watergate hearings have nothing to do with my ability to out-think, out-write and out-perform today's crop of copywriters.

However, I cannot hide my disdain for this new term that is creeping into agency life wherever I go.

I'm talking about collaboration.

It's the notion that if two people, an art director and a copywriter, are good at coming up with creative solutions to a challenge, then four people, or six people, or eight people, are even better.

I'm familiar with this approach when it comes to codeine-enhanced cough medicine. And can attest to its euphoric efficacy. But it doesn't work when it comes to work.

Collaboration simply muddies the water. Even the term bothers me. I can't help think of the Vichy government who collaborated with, and were puppets of, the Nazi regime.

I can't imagine how young people today, who may be drinking the collaboration Kool Aid, can stand out and make a name for themselves and their work if they are content to throw all their ideas into the collective bucket of mediocre groupthink.

You see, when I find myself briefed with other teams on a big project, I don't want to work with them. I want my partner and I to beat the pants off them. I want our ideas to outshine theirs. So that when the next big project comes along the powers that be say, "let's get that old angry fat dude and his partner, they had some killer ideas."

I'll take competition over collaboration any day of the week.

I still have a vivid, photographic memory of a weekend spent at the old Chiat/Day warehouse. We were in the throes of a 100 million dollar pitch. We gathered in The Fish, a Gehry-designed conference room shaped like the inside of a sperm whale, and presented work to Clow and Kuperman.

My partner and I were guppies swimming with sharks. The rock stars of the business: Rabosky, Butler, Feakens, Gentile, Siltanen, Rice, Sweitzer, Hooper, Vincent, Jordan, Curtis, Hughes, Dunkle, et al.

Each team stood up and, hoping not to embarrass themselves, and presented their best thinking. The tension was high. But the desire to best the other teams was even higher.

And guess what? It worked.

Everyone, through the process of competitive humiliation, got better. Not unlike hot steel being forged into a precision sushi knife.

There was a time when I knew all the names of all the people in the ad business who were doing the good work. Now, thanks to collaboration and the demise of the star system, I don't know any.

Or, maybe I do know their names but can't remember them. Hell, I can't remember where I left my reading glasses.