Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Office

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




I love my house.

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

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

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

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

Maybe even your office.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Just stoolen' around

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



                                          

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

I'll laugh at anything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: I was looking at your website.

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

Me: How big are your stools?

Salesman: They come in all sizes.

Me: And they have wheels?

Salesman: Some do, yes sir.

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

Silence

(me fighting back laughter)

Me: Do your moving stools come in brown?

Click.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I could listen to her forever


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




I often make fun of ad agency/marketing bullshit.

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

I am not alone in this endeavor.

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

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

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

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





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

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

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



Monday, June 29, 2015

Out Fishing

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





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

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

So what bullet will have I dodged?

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

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

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

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

Which can only mean one thing -- Inspirational speeches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These banner ads are not going to write themselves.




Thursday, June 25, 2015

Enjoy the present



I have a gift for you.

It's Thursday, the end of the week, and nearly the end of the month. And soon I will be on my way for our yearly camping trip.

I have never looked forward to the trip more than this year.

Which might have a little something to do with how busy I've been lately. Last week I was holed up at the office until 11 at night. And on several occasions, was there past sundown. If you read RoundSeventeen with any regularity you know that's not my preferred way of working.

I like shutting it down. Refreshing the batteries. And starting new early in the morning, often at my house before I go in.

In any case, the woods, the hills, the streams and the lakes are calling my name. So I will keep today's post mercifully short. And to tide you over for next week, I'll revisit and repost some of my favorites posts from the past.

The gift?

During the NBA playoffs, the Fitbit company ran a commercial with what I consider the best music of the year. I did a little digging and found the sound. Hell I bought the album.

Hear, for your listening pleasure is your gift, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Self Immolation


Lately, I've had the joy of working with my old friend Robert Prins.

That is not to say he is old, but that we've known each other for a long time. Oh, who am I kidding, he's old. Just like me. Robert's 44.

Years ago we were temporarily teamed up while laboring at Team One. We were given the opportunity to pitch ideas to Boston Market, a welcome relief from the grind of hawking Lexus automobiles and reading the mind of our client, a Japanese tyrant who was often referred to as Colonel Saito from Bridge Over the River Kwai.

We produced one commercial for Boston Market. And is often the case, the spot never made it to air.

Frustrating, yes. But a blessing in disguise.

Last week, Robert donned some overalls, popped the screened gate and went scrounging around under the crawlspace of his house, where buried deep in the boxes of glory past, he found a DVD of the aforementioned masterpiece.

He managed to upload the 20 year old video and send it via the mysterious ether waves to my home in Culver City, where I am now proud to share it with you.




Everything about the commercial is wrong. Mostly because at the last minute the client sliced the budget by more than 75%. 

Our cross country boondoggle BBQ road trip was reduced to a day and a half of filming in a dusty lot in Santa Clarita.

Of course, it wasn't all the clients doing. The acting was broad and over the top. The music was just plain wrong. And to no one's surprise, the writing sucked.

You may be wondering why I take so many opportunities to air out crappy work I've done in the past? In these overly sensitive times we live in, I've simply run out of targets for my scathing ridicule. 

I'm the only left that I can safely make fun of.

Frankly, I think I'm getting better at it.




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tears of a Clown


As I have mentioned before, this year has been extremely busy.

Cars, beers, pizza, phone companies, even talking cows, you name it I've worked on it. Not bad for a 44 year old trying to keep pace with today's content creators who are often asked to keep the idea machine cranking on all cylinders, 24/7/365.

But there's a trend afoot. A trend that threatens to knock me off my pedestal and leave me peddling my wares in the world of pharmaceuticals.

Advertisers and agencies have got it in their heads that the best way to persuade consumers is to make them cry. Once they're reaching for the Kleenex tissues, the reasoning goes, they'll soon be reaching for their checkbooks and credit cards. Oh I'm sorry millennial readers, their bit coins.

Maybe you've noticed it.

Touching homages to motherhood, fatherhood, lesbian parenting, interracial parenting, two-dad parenting, physical disability, mental disability, blah, blah, blah.

Someone, impossibly more cynical than myself, put his or her finger on the collective phenomena that is sweeping through the planning offices of agencies across America and coined the phrase--Sadvertising.

Sadvertising, indeed.

Remember how your mom dressed you in the morning?
Remember she gave you baths?
Made you those smiley pancakes?
Found you clothing that didn't itch?
Remember how she held you when your dog died?
And stood up for you when you were being bullied by that Jenkins kid?
Isn't it time you did something for her?

Radial steel belted tires are now just $199. Buy three tires and the fourth tire is free.

Offer not valid in Tennessee, certain restrictions do apply. 

Well, as you might imagine, I don't get called in for these kind of assignments. They're not in my wheelhouse. They're not in my zip code. I'm not sure they're even in the same galaxy.

I suppose that's a blessing. The last thing I want to do is spend hours in an edit bay mulling over takes of actors dropping crocodile tears.

"I like the first take. But in the second take there was some lip quiver action. If we could get more heads and tails on that take, we'd be money." 



Monday, June 22, 2015

My Dinner with Iger


Last Saturday the weekly battle of "where should we go out to dinner?" almost landed us at Chop Daddy's, the new Texas-style BBQ joint in downtown Culver City.

But my wife, hardly a snob, evidenced by 23 years of marriage to yours truly, was put off by the plastic cutlery and the red solo cups.

"That's OK at a picnic or for a hastily thrown together company party intended to boost morale, but not at a restaurant where I'm going to drop a C-note for artisanally-smoked beef brisket."

We crossed the street and landed at Sambar's, a new Indian style gastro-pub located in the space formerly occupied by Ford's Filling Station.

The obligatory 20 minute wait for a table turned into 55 minutes, enough time for me to guzzle down two Djaarling Torpedo's, the Mumbai take on the classic Manhattan.

Sufficiently lubed and hungry, the snooty hostess (why do restaurant hosts/hostesses think they have the most important job in the world?) started leading us towards a very nice table near the open-face kitchen.

As we turned the corner, I looked at the table on my left and saw Bob Iger, his wife and the restaurant chef seated at a nearby table. With not a second thought in the world, I detoured off my path and extended my hand.

"Bob Iger, how are you? Rich Siegel."

You might be thinking, "Holy Shit, you can't just go up to the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood. What kind of hallucinogenic garnish did they put in your drink?"

Well, 18 years ago, I had the pleasure of presenting the Yellow campaign to the top brass at ABC. Mr. Iger was in that meeting. Moreover, as Chairmen of the American Broadcasting Company at the time, he was instrumental in selecting the agency and the campaign, and literally changed the course of my career.

His response to my abrupt interruption was about as graceful and delightful as one could possibly imagine.

"Oh hi Rich. I thought I recognized you. I saw this bald guy with the thick mustache and said that guy looks familiar. Know what's really funny? Remember that song Yellow that we started using for on-air promos? I was having dinner with Coldplay last week and we were just talking about the ABC campaign."

Mind. Officially. Blown.

We exchanged some more pleasantries and then I told him a little story I often tell.

As the campaign was rolling into Year Two, my partner John Shirley and I were invited to a big celebrity hoo-haa in Pasadena. It was a black tie affair, not my favorite. Very stiff. With a lot of hobnobbing that Hollywood people seem to enjoy.

I like a party where there's excessive alcohol, someone throws a fit and expensive custom glass is shattered. But that's me.

As we nursed our cocktails and stood far away from Drew Carey, Michael J. Fox and that crazy Scientology chick who played Dharma in Dharma and Greg, we were tapped on the shoulder by Bob Iger.

"Rich. John. How are you? Bob Iger. I wanted to thank you guys for all the work you've done for us."

On the corporate ladder, John and I were on the rung just above the guy who makes the Starbucks run at 4 in the afternoon. So to be called out, by name, by the CEO was not too shabby.

Other than to drop names and establish the flimsiest of connection to Hollywood's A-list, is there a point to any of this?

None at all.

But the Chicken Tika Marsala was especially good at Sambar. And I can't say enough great things about those Djaarling Torpedos.






Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fuck you I won't do what you tell me


I stopped listening to the Bruce Springsteen channel on my XM radio.

I decided I'd had enough. I heard every damn concert. Listened to every cover version. And got tired of  the story about his father in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer and complaining about that damn guitar.

I love the Boss as much as any Garden Stater.
Or, in my case as a hometown boy of Suffern, NY, being on the border, a near Garden Stater.

So last week I went hunting and came across a song by Rage Against the Machine, ironically, one of Springsteen's favorite bands. The song, Killing in the Name features what is perhaps the greatest chorus in the history of rock n' roll:

Fuck you I won't do what you tell me.

Repeated not once, but 16 times.
I probably would have gone for 17, but that's because I'm partial to the number.

The song resonated because I currently find myself raging against the machine.

You see I have a first draft of my book ready and I am currently seeking literary representation. You'd think because I have a book under my belt, a few years in the ad business, a couple of IMDB credits, close to 50 pieces in the Huffington Post and a loyal following of nearly a dozen readers right here at RoundSeventeen, that I'd have no problem finding an agent who could put me in front of a publishing house.

But you'd be wrong.

The publishing game and its promise of hundreds of dollars in profit is a tricky one to navigate.

Potential agents want formalized query letters, a business plan and a complete analysis of the market before they'll even lay eyes on a sample chapter.

And then, after they have agreed to grace you with their esteemed representation they have a whole new set of requests before they will submit the work to a publisher. It could take a year before my book is casually ignored on the dusty liquidation shelf of the local downsized Barnes & Noble.

Oh sure there's the thin veneer of validation, the poorly-attended book signings and the half-hearted promotional materials one can only get from an established book publisher. But I'm 44 years old, have sold ideas to Fortune 100 companies and have built a semi-successful career on the haphazard stitching together of words, cheap sloganeering and this imaginary skill called copywriting.

I don't need their stamp of approval.
Or their notes.
Or their tweaks.
Or their "suggestions".

Thank you, self-publishing services of Amazon.com.

As for the machine,

Fuck you I won't do what you tell me!













Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We're Empty Tenters


Last Friday, my oldest daughter returned home from her freshman year at the University of Washington.

It was not a year without its ups and downs. Roommate issues. Constant need for money. Travel logistics. And more roommate issues.

The good news is she persevered. And the daughter that came home is markedly different than the daughter we dropped off a year ago. More confident, more aware and more mature. Still annoyingly sloppy, but in a more grown up way.

It is, as one professor told us during parent orientation, the transformative power of adversity.

As she settles back in her room and messes up the house, my wife and I are getting ready to leave. It's time for our annual camping trip to Independence, California. Our 12th year in a row. Only this time it's going to be different.

My girls aren't going with us. And because they're not going, neither are the kids with the other families who have made this regular sojourn.

We have officially become Empty Tenters.

Naturally, this has brought about a certain sadness.

We won't be doing the very-intoxicated Snipe Hunt. And coaxing the kids into the thorny bushes to "grab the snipe. I see it, get in there. Fast."

We won't be doing Smores. And sending our kids down to the stream to wipe the melted chocolate and sticky marshmallows from their filthy faces.

We won't be doing the 11 mile hike up to Kearsage Pass. And telling our kids, "just one more switchback, promise."

On the other hand, we will be doing more of what a camping trip is all about.

We'll be napping.
We'll be reading.
We'll be retreating from the grind of everyday life and recharging batteries that are all but completely drained.

Also, we'll be drinking Margaritas from the new hand churning camping blender I just bought.

And if I get time to make it to the dispensary to renew my medical marijuana card, we'll be enjoying some tasty buds under the starlit skies of the Eastern Sierras. And we'll probably get the munchies.

So maybe we will be doing Smores after all.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Marketing 101


I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if you are reading this blog, you are probably, like myself, a regular viewer of The Daily Show.

I wasn't on board for the early days of the show, but the broadcast has become a staple of my day, much like 7 cups of coffee, a 3/4 mile swim and the grousing about my neighbor's "god damn pit bulls."

I don't swallow everything Jon Stewart puts out there.

I love how he skewers the media and cherry picks sound bites to point out the biblical hypocrisy of the increasingly extremist right wing nutters. I don't know how any educated person can align themselves with the likes of Palin, Huckabee or Santorum.

On the other hand, I find him ceaselessly naive about the dangers of Islamism, Sharia-creep and the erosion of freedom of speech on American soil.

Similarly, I don't see how any educated person, particularly my friends on the left end of the political spectrum, cannot see the ugly, fascist, oppressive narrative that is reshaping the Middle East, Europe and California as we speak.

Last week a student at Berkeley penned a piece on why she left Islam. The student newspaper would not publish the article for fear that it might provoke violence. If I may paraphrase Groucho Marx:

I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. Or threaten to kill me for not renewing my membership.

Politics aside, I think we can all agree that Jon Stewart's regular roasting of Arby's is the comedy that reaches across both sides of the aisle. Who doesn't not like these bits?

I like to speculate on the birth of this on-going effort to take down America's Number One Purveyor of Fine Grey Meats.

I'm picturing a group of Daily Show writers holed up in their office for 10 smelly hours of writing, rewriting and addressing network notes. I see one of the horse-tired writers ordering out for food. And I'm imagining bags of sloppy Arby's sandwiches, soggy french fries and wet cole slaw strewn about the writer's table. Then I'm fast forwarding another three hours or so, just as they are about to call a wrap on a long day, and suddenly there's grumbling. The kind of intestinal noise that foreshadows nothing good.

The joking, the bantering, the witty back and forth have all been replaced with the hurling, the porcelain praying and the violent hurling.

The next day, one of the writers calls the manager at the local Arby's, in a futile effort to get a refund.

In a thick accent, the foreign-born manager explains,

"So you all threw up? In my country that's like getting two meals for the price of one."

Others, impossibly more cynical than me, have suggested that the entire thing is nothing more than cleverly placed paid advertising. That the genii at Arby's decided to exploit rather than deny the negative perceptions people have of their brand. That they are doing a complete Ju-Jitsu. And gave the writer's carte blanche and instructed them to "rip us a new one."

The increased sales numbers seem to suggest that this surreptitious plan is working.

If so, we may be moving into what I think could be the golden age of advertising. With companies hiring bitter copywriters to roll up their sleeves, bend at the knees and shit all over their 100% wool, Italian-designed corporate suits.

Are you catching all this Hewlett Packard?
Nordictrac?
Time Warner Cable?

Which one of you forward thinking companies wants a big old Stanley Steamer?














Monday, June 15, 2015

Cannes Do


That happened fast.

Seems like it was just yesterday that I was taking my sharp pointy pen to the annual advertising orgy known as the Cannes Festival.

Can an entire year have passed since I sat in my home in Culver City and passed snarky judgment on the fashionistas, hipsters and makers of the world's most treasured advertising, gaudily displayed in the south of France?

How is it possible that the earth made an entire celestial orbit around the sun since we last visited the trinket collectors who have refreshed, changed and pushed the world forward with their monumental achievements in advertising and content creation?

And the panels.

Those precious prescient panels where professional prognosticators predicted the death of television, the birth of robust brand engagement and the re-birth of the banner ad.

If 365 days have come and gone since then, shouldn't we all be knee-deep in conversations with Tostitos, Crest toothpaste and Bounty Paper towels, the quicker picker-upper?

Maybe when you turn 44 years old the clock goes a little faster because it feels like the ink has barely dried on my 2014 shredding of Cannes. Not to mention 2013, 2012 and the scathing thought piece of 2011, wherein I tackled:

Stingy brim fedoras

Capri pants

Rose wine

Company yachts

Elitism

Over-promoted, under-skilled agency brass

The 5,000 mile international boundary for permissible infidelity

The Gutter Bar

V-neck T-shirts

The tone-deaf Facebook postings of rampant agency debauchery while homebound "team members" forfeit their nights and weekends to assemble pdf's of decks that will digitally transverse the ocean only to remain gleefully unzipped. 

Even though I relish the opportunity to take thinly-veiled potshots at the industry and the greedy gluttons who have so diligently earned the disdain of their colleagues, it just seems so done.

Doing another blog piece on the excesses of the festival feels tired. And repetitive. And meaningless. And wasteful. And self-important.

Wait a minute.

Could this lazy regurgitation of past work be the perfect metaphor for Cannes and the current state of advertising?









Thursday, June 11, 2015

Oh jeez, he's talking about Jesus.



Confession: two weeks ago, I screwed up.

In what I thought would be an amusing bit, I penned my letter of resignation to the Catholic Church. This, following my daughters graduation from a Catholic high school.

The idea of resigning was not a new one. I have many friends, some of whom have graduated from esteemed Notre Dame University, who now refer to themselves as retired or resigned Catholics.

The piece was vintage R17.

I poked fun here.
I went off on little tangents.
And I tried to spread the cheekiness at those who follow the Old Testament as well as the New. My reference to a Beverly Hills proctologist might have gone over the line, particularly for those with tender sensibilities.

But my cardinal sin -- the one I should've known better about -- I mistakenly gave the name of my daughter's school. Thus looping them in to my circle of satire. Moreover, the piece got picked up in the Huffington Post, which only served to heighten my error.

Readers here, that is those familiar with my acerbic tone, and my regular roasting of all three Abrahamic religions, took the post for what it was, a good-natured ribbing at best. Stalwart Catholics reading HuffPo were not so forgiving. The comment section was chock full of rage. And at least one anti-semitic diatribe.

And so my stomach started turning, which is rare as I can pound a plate full of habanero peppers with not so much as a grumble. My worst fear was that somehow the piece would get back to the staff at the school and rub someone the wrong way.

Particularly since the school has done so much for my girls. They provided a small, safe environment with a strong emphasis on academics. They prepped both of them for college. And whether they deserve the credit or not, nurtured them through the troublesome teen years sparing my wife and I the drama that often accompanies this turbulent time.

I really am grateful.
I'm not dropping to my knees anytime soon, but thank God we found this school.

The other reason that caused stirred distress is that I have become the Jewish poster boy for recruitment. A few weeks ago the principal called me up and asked whether I would be willing to speak to a couple thinking about sending their son to the school. I unflinchingly said, "yes."

I would tell these new parents how Catholic school is like a private school education for 1/3 the price.

I would tell them how the school is open to all denominations and will go out of its way to accommodate them.

And I would tell this fellow landsman that following graduation he should think twice about writing any letters of resignation to the Catholic Church.









Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Back in the water


Lately Facebook has been placing old posts on my newsfeed.

It's some nostalgic marketing ploy to remind you how important they are in your lives.

They're also hawking a service that will allow you to publish all your old FaceBook posts in some fetishized narcissistic hardcover book. Apologies to anyone who has shelled out the $495 bucks.

In any case, I got a reminder of something I had posted three years ago.

To mark D-Day and the Allies landing on the beaches of Normandy. It was my symbolic cross channel swim to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project.

I swam 21 miles in 7 days.
Together, we donated $4000 for the noblest of causes.

Another D-Day has just passed and I feel bad that I haven't continued the long fundraising swims. Work and shipping two girls off to college has been a full time occupation.

But I like to think life is more than about posting funny Kim Jung Un pictures, pimping cars and slinging funny anecdotes about advertising, parenting and shitty white trash neighbors. So for the upcoming Veterans Day in November, I will swim back the other way.

And to raise the stakes, I will attempt to amass the 21 miles in 5 days instead of 7.

This will be difficult for several reasons, the least of which being this aging 44 year old body. But also because my swimming situation has changed.

I was using the beautiful pool at my brother's condo complex in Playa Vista. I often had the entire place to myself and the water was the perfect 78 degrees and crystal clear.

Now I am across the street at a dump known by many locals as LA Fitness.The water is too warm at 81 degrees. It's dirty, because the pool guy is also one of the junior salesman. He dumps some chlorine in the water when he is not picking the pockets of unsuspecting customers.

Moreover, the pool is crowded. Disgusting men with hairy backs. Old women with their space-hogging Aquasize routines. And non-swimmers who have mistaken the gym pool for the wading lagoon at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

Then there's hygiene. I don't know what these people are bathing with but it's not Ivory, or Zest, or Irish Spring. It's more like a soap fashioned from potpourri, Pakistani incense candles and spoiled cilantro.

But the swim, and the money we will raise, will be worth it.

Three years ago, the Wounded Warrior people sent me a fleece blanket for the generous donation. This year, I've got my eye on the windbreaker.

Stay tuned for details.



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"To concept and to serve."


That snuck up on me.

Had it not been for linkedin.com and their silly notifications, I might have missed an important milestone and easy blog topic. Turns out I've given eleven good years of service to Rich Siegel Worldwide.

Ironically, the reason I might have missed this anniversary is because this year, 2015, has been my busiest year to date. Since January 1st, I've worked non-stop including nights and time-and-a-half weekends. If my phone still had a hook it'd be ringing off it even as we speak.

To what do I attribute this unusual demand, you might ask.

Is it the growing economy?

Is it the ceaseless self-promotion?

Is it my marginal ability to put one word in front of another?

It's none of the above.

It has very little to do with what I am doing and is more about what the industry is not doing.

It's not breeding writers.

In order to maximize profits, bill hours and pass the profits on to C-Suiters holed up in their NY town homes, holding companies are grabbing any warm body with a college degree and a medicine cabinet full of beard care products. Before they can get out of their rented caps and gowns, these wunderkind are enrolled in some fakakta, cleverly-named copywriting internship program:


Fresh Blood

Creative Rebels

Game Changers

WordSmithsters

Digital Warriors


Their freshly-printed business cards say they're copywriters. Their sloppy first drafts indicate otherwise.

Look, my worked sucked when I first started out in the business. But I was writing Help Wanted ads for hospitals, banks and bomb-makers. I wrote hunting ads for single-gauge shotguns and doe urine (apparently very effective at attracting bucks).

I wrote headlines for small savings and loans, with headlines like:

Our interest rates should interest you.

It was garbage time. And with any luck, my boss and I were the only ones to see it. But it was also good practice. And believe me I needed plenty of practice. I didn't touch my first national print ad until I had 5 years experience notched on my belt. And another two years, before anyone let me near a TV script.

Here's a newsflash youngsters, a script for a thirty second television commercial is like a resume. It should all fit on one page. Not three.

Make no mistake, I'm not complaining.

The more agencies hire kids that can't write, the greater the need for people who can.

It just proves the old adage that it takes 10,000 hours before you can master something. Not a T-shirt and a flat-brim trucker hat that says "I'm a Young Pirate."









Monday, June 8, 2015

Egads, I've been homaged.


Last month, blog traffic soared over 12,000 hits. Surpassing the previous record by a good 13.8%.

It wasn't because the writing was any funnier.
Or even funny.

It wasn't because I trotted out pictures of women with ample cleavage.
A trick I've used in the past.

And it certainly wasn't because I charted new ground.
I've been mining the same tired quarries for 6 years now.

It was because, hear me say it, Social Media.

You see my buddies at ADWEAK began linking posts in this blog in their daily twitter feed. Sending their substantially larger audience in the direction of Culver City, the pitbull-surrounded headquarters of RoundSeventeen, Inc.

They came in droves.

Favoriting and retweeting posts to other ad industry folks looking for a reason not to come up with ideas for a Year End Clearance Sale or a Two-For-One Taco Fiesta or a new anti-depressant from Pfizer, Shoveitall.

In appreciation, I wrote a post about ADWEAK and their expanding staff.

These anonymous folks are colleagues I've known for a long time. As evidenced by their twitter feed, they can out-think, out-write and out-art-direct 98% of anybody with a seat at the long table or the SuperDesk™.

They're also fellow freelancers who can take food off my family's diner table so I don't want to pimp them too much.

Besides, mutual admiration among ad people has a very short shelf life. Moreover, it's not a natural state of being and can often upset our collective homeostasis. More often than not, mutual admiration quickly degenerates into jabbing, ball-busting and thinly-veiled potshots.

Last week, for instance, in their newly formed Animation division, the has-been hacks at ADWEAK rolled out this little gem.





The bushy mustache, the conspicuous eyebrows, the absent hairline and the massive biceps, leave no doubt as to the identity of this "veteran" copywriter. Though I'm not fond of the Lumbersexual look and tend to shy away from plaid. But it's all good, because my skin is as thick as my inaccurately-drawn waistline.

Nevertheless, a clear shot has been fired across the bow.

So know this ADWEAK, it is on.








Thursday, June 4, 2015

Meet me in the Men's Room


When you work in advertising you end up shooting the shit with your partner.

Discussions that start out on car shopping, can quickly devolve into football. Football chats can spin out of control, until the topic is ISIS, or barking dogs, or good falafel, or even condom machines.

Naturally, a topic like condom machines led to a Google search and an exhaustive examination of their colorful titilating decals.




If you've travelled cross country, or even been to the old biker's bar on Sepulveda Blvd. aptly named The Meat Market, you know there are thousand upon thousands of kitschy variations on the Jimmy Hat --all designed to lure the attention of some misguided drunk with last minute plans to seal the deal.

They're beautiful and have their own classic aesthetic. Is there a coffee table book waiting to happen here?

You bet.

Will I be the one to traverse the country, walking into men's rooms with a high priced camera in one hand and a roll of quarters in the other?

Probably not.

The mission does sound adventurous though. You ladies might not know this, but in addition to the brightly decorated condom machines, the walls and toilet stalls of the Men's Room, particularly those in bars and gas stations, are festooned with homegrown wit and knowledge, the likes of which cannot be found in libraries or the halls of academia.

And sometimes the two converge in a memorable way that I will take to my grave.

Years ago, I came across a headline that to this day sets the bar and served as a North Star for my entire copywriting career. Scratched onto the facia of a 75 year old condom machine and winner of the best Graffiti Ever Found Award:

Don't chew this gum, it's awful.






Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Comments, we get comments.


Last week I shared some of the many comments generated by my recent article in the Huffington Post regarding my obnoxious neighbor and his exponentially obnoxious pit bulls.

As a student of the Vitriolic Arts, I am fascinated by the visceral reactions and thought it would be fun to share some of the other delightful comments left by pit bull lovers and haters alike.

Instead of finding fault with my neighbor, who never went to the trouble of socializing or training his "dog" and had no problem with the little bastards barking before the sun crested over the horizon, Rona Seltzer directed her anger at me.


Yes, how dare I insist my dog not be attacked or that fellow residents of Culver City abide by the city ordinances regarding noise? How dare I?

Others objected to the way I heightened the stakes in the story and revealed the nature of my private sleepy time dreams.


"Are we 12?", asked Kara Frances from Worcester, Massachusetts. Actually, no Kara, I'm 44.

Not to be outdone.


Julie Arnold, a woman in charge of building our nation's aircraft, accused me of philandering. Uhh, Julie, you do know it was a dream? And that dreams are controlled by the subconscious? Unless you've written some code that can change all that?

In which case, my wife still doesn't give a shit.

But perhaps the best comment, OK second best, I'm still waiting to hear from Victoria Starz, came all the way from Mayo, Mayo, Ireland and a young lassie wasted no time beating around the bush.


That's a shocker.

Particularly in light of the recent legislation allowing gay marriage in Ireland. Apparently, the Irish are tolerant of man/man or woman/woman love but have a hard time with a middle aged bear trying to get his beauty sleep.





Tuesday, June 2, 2015

An Advertising Epiphany



I finally figured it out.

It took me long enough. Perhaps too long.

Others, smarter than me, got it much earlier in their careers. They worked it. Exploited it. And regurgitated it enough until the process was as natural as a cow chewing its cud 7 times over. And these smarter, now wealthier, folks never looked back.

Spit it out already, Siegel, or I'll turn my attention to my AgencySpy, where the design sucks but the comments are still pithy, snarky and to the point.

Ok, here it is, clients say they want different. They say they want disruptive. They say they want game-changing. And so we chase our tails, at least I have for far too long, in search of different, disruptive and game-changing.

But that's not what they want at all.

They want safe, copy-tested, Twitter-proof ideas that are slickly packaged with the thin veneer of different-ness. The slightest smidgen of unfamiliarity. As Jon Stewart might say, while gesturing like French chef, just a soup├žon of newness.

But never enough, and this is the key, to raise the eyebrow of the public, or worse the CEO, which could trigger attention and the call to the C-Suite headhunter.

"I know she's only been here 6 months, but we need a new CMO."

The problem is, in the era of mass communication, we've been fed such a steady diet of "new and improved" it all feels old and tired. As a result we get food porn, beer commercials that are interchangeable with soda commercials, and limited time Sales Events that run 24/7/365.

Same.
Same.
Same.

Back in 1998, Bill Clinton famously answered a reporters question with…

"That depends on what your definition of is, is."

Having had this little epiphany, I now have a better idea of what different is.




Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Decapitated Arthur the Rat Doll


When I hear people saying, "It's a sign from above" or "The Lord is speaking to me", my initial reaction is typically, "that cheeseburger looks good" or "did you see the Golden State Warrior game?"

I just can't listen to that stuff.

The universe is so massive in its unknowable scale it seems so egotistical to believe it has gone out of its way to tap you on the shoulder. Frankly, I'd prefer God feed hungry kids in Africa or free women from their patriarchal masters in the Mideast than to be wasting time with cryptic messages.

However, and here is the turn, last Friday I found myself gobsmacked while returning home from my hike up the Baldwin Hills Overlook.

First some context.

In three months, my youngest daughter will be shipping off to Boulder as a freshman at the University of Colorado. A week after that, my oldest daughter will be returning to the University of Washington for her second year.

My wife and I will be Empty Nesters.

Not full fledged empty nesters because the girls will still be coming home for holidays and summers. They'll bring home dirty laundry, clog up the toilets and leave their shit all around the house. I can't wait.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say the prospect of both girls being out of the house is not a source of anxiety.

Of course, I'm proud but can't help drifting into melancholic nostalgia.

When the girls were younger, much younger, they enjoyed Arthur the Rat (pictured above). We had Arthur books, Arthur VHS tapes and even Arthur CD's. My oldest Rachel, would sit for hours on end in the kitchen, glued to a laptop and reciting the alphabet along with Arthur.

By 18 months she was identifying the magnetic letters stuck on our old white refrigerator.

Arthur the Rat means as much to me as it does to the girls.

Well, you can imagine how I felt when, after notching 17,000 steps on my Jawbone and ascending the Baldwin Hills Stairs four times, I came across this by the park pavillion:


A decapitated Arthur the Rat doll with a reindeer headband.

It's as if the Cosmos was telling me, "your children are not children anymore. They're on their own now. Time to move on to the next stage of your life. It's time to let go."

Then again, that cheeseburger does look good.