Thursday, July 28, 2016

Razor Sharp Wit

The great thing about the universe is how is it strives for balance.

Unseen, unknown forces are hard at work to provide a ying for every yang. A dog for every cat. A new calorie-burning cardio machine for every slice of German Triple Chocolate Forest Cake.

This great movement is also evident in the world of business.

Take Theranos for example. At one time this Silicon Valley wundercompany was valued at more than $9 billion. Today, the maker of medical diagnostic toys that literally wanted your blood, is worth less than the bandaids needed to cover up the pricks.

The ying to this particular yang is the Dollar Shave Club. A start up that had zero valuation in its infancy was just sold to Unilever for $1 billion.

And that's not faux Wall Street wall paper money, that's one billion dollars in greenbacks -- the kind of real cash you can use to buy groceries, purchase dry cleaning services or even hand over to your personal physician for verifiable medical testing.

Clearly I am delighted with the success of Dollar Shave Club.

Why? Because it can be argued the company owes its unprecedented success to marketing.

Look, monthly purchasing clubs have been with us for a while. You can have fruits and cheese delivered to your doorstep. You can have tailored shirts delivered to your doorstep. You can even join a purchasing outfit that will send you a new golf club every month.

Razor blades are just the latest commodity to join the list.

What stood out was the way those shaving utensils were brought to market -- with quirky, breakthrough, hilarious videos. Let me refresh your memory.

Of course my joy for Dollar Shave Club is tinged with a little bitterness. It's like digging into a delicious chopped salad only to find the chef has misguidedly added in some turnips. And beets.

You see I've spent the entirety of my career writing and pitching ideas of a similar nature. Deadpan delivery. Intelligent copy. A nod to the absurd. And for the entirety of my career I have returned from those pitch meetings with weird bromides like:

"We like humor but we're not looking for laughs."

How silly of me.

It may not have worked out in my case, but congratulations DSC. You have proven the maxim -- Funny is Money.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


As I've mentioned on this blog many times in the past, when senior creatives, fellow copywriters and art directors who've spent years in the trenches, suddenly find themselves booted from those trenches, due to rightsizing or just the willy-nilly hiring of inexperienced (cheaper) kids, mine is the first phone to ring.

They want advice.
They want reassurance.
They want to know there's life after the agency world.

All very strange, because anyone who knows me knows I'm not exactly the nurturing kind, oozing with positivity and optimism.

 I tell them all the same thing.

"Take a deep breath. Relax. And follow this fail proof formula for getting freelance gigs. Grow your ear hair out. Ask for twice as much as you think they might pay. And don't return any job inquiries for at least three days. It makes Creative Resource Managers want you that much more."

Let's keep in mind these people are now going after the same jobs that put food on my table and keep two college bursars at bay.

Because I've been fortunate enough to stay very busy during my past dozen years as a freelancer, every one of these panicked phone call ends with the same plea:

"If you have any overflow, send it my way."

And for twelve years, ever since I was 32 years old, I have.

I've placed more people in gigs than many of LA's top headhunters.

Two weeks ago, for instance, I found myself up to my own ear hairs in work assignments. And, as always the case, an agency called to inquire about my availability. Had they been open to me working remotely, I would have taken on the project, climbed out of bed at 5 in the morning, clicked and clacked on the keyboard until the clock struck midnight and gleefully started sending out the invoices.

But they wanted me onsite.

So I flipped through my Rolodex (you kids, look that up on your Lycos) and gave the recruiter the names of other freelance writers.

I know many, many freelance writers. But I know of only one who, 6 months earlier, repaid the favor of a referral with a rare bottle of Opus One Overture, which Vivino describes as "approachable in its youth with a generous fruit and a soft, supple mid-palate."

I have no idea what the fuck that means. Nor does it matter. Suffice to say, that writer's name was at the top of the list. And today, he is starting his second week on the job.

That gives me great joy.

What gives me even greater joy is that in addition to the very nice bottle of wine he sent, today I received another FedEx. A carefully bubble-wrapped bottle of premium Hibiki Suntory Whiskey (seen above).

Keep that, and my empty liquor cabinet, in mind next time you guys start hitting me up for overflow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Instie this!

Do you tumble?

I do.

Three and a half years ago I started tumbling about Kim Jung Un, the dear Leader of the DPRK, the Democratic (?) People's Republic of North Korea.

Like most good projects, I had no idea it would grow and evolve and keep gaining momentum, as it has. Had I been a little more savvy, I would have chosen a better digital platform for the near daily captioning of his staged photo ops.

I would have picked Instagram, which I'm told by my daughters is much hipper and more conducive to viral sharing.

But I didn't and now I'm stuck on Tumblr, the red-headed, goth-filled, manga porn-laden, Nazi-obsessed, twisted stepchild of the Internet.

And it's much too late to migrate the collection, literally hundreds of captioned Kim Jung Un photos, to a new app.

Which is fine because it's not like the Tumblr dashboard is without its rewards.

Today, for instance, I found the following. And because I'm recovering from a stifling little head cold, I'll concede that I can't write anything funnier.


Monday, July 25, 2016

E Mail Scandal

Many of you are familiar with my Apple debacle several years ago. Much to my dismay, I'm told my quick unexpected departure from the Cupertino office is a tale told by many a freelancer.

To recap, I was hired for a long 4 month gig to help with the launch of the iPhone 5. Because of incredibly tight security and the omnipresent threat of corporate sabotage, I was required to spend my time under their employ, under their roof.

The plan was for me to drive north, shack up at the Klimpton Inn down the street, work Monday thru Friday afternoon and then fly back and forth on weekends to spend time with my family and my two daughters who were fast approaching college age.

Long story mercifully shorter, the working conditions were not ideal. For me. A huge open room. Long community tables. Surveillance cameras at every turn.

"Mr. Siegel, you used an excessive amount of toilet paper in the bathroom."

Not to mention, a slow, laborious process that emphasized teamwork. Ugh. 
Collaboration, yuck. 
And a fastidious fascist-like attention to detail, Agggghhhh!

I was on-site for three and half days, earning an exorbitant day rate I might add, and still hadn't received a brief. I decided then and there that 4 months of this nerdy, khaki pants wearing hell was just too much. So I bailed.

But before I did, and this is part of the tale that never gets told, I shot off an email to my supervisor and enclosed 4-5 pages of headlines and body copy I had written without a brief. The new iPhone was in color, how much did I need a brief?

I'm surprised I made it back to the 101 Freeway without getting waterboarded.

As my supervisor explained, all emails must be sent on Apple's proprietary, highly encrypted Java-coded, hyper HTML-enhanced Super Servers in order to foil any agents of espionage. The discussion got very heated and the veins on his neck throbbed uncontrollably. And he was wearing a turtle neck.

I reassured him they were only stupid headlines:

Make your friends green with envy. 

The sky blue is the limit.

Picking your next phone is no longer black and white.

Remember, these were written without the aid of a brief.

Apart from me being blacklisted at Apple, there was no harm done. My boss didn't get fired. Samsung didn't steal their thunder. And any breach of their double walled, super secret security system went unnoticed.

Who among us hasn't made a misstep with email?

I don't know whether Hillary's reclassified emails were as just as innocuous but with the campaign now entering the homestretch I am sure we're going to get an earful about it. 

After all, the empty-headed game show host/real estate huckster/orange vulgarian has got little else to run on. 

In either case, the next 4 months are going to be Huuuuuuge.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cleveland Rocks

If you're in the business of making with the funny, and thankfully I am, this week's Republican National Convention and indeed the entire campaign of Donald Trump, is frankly the gift that keeps on giving.

It doles out laughs faster than a Federally funded Saul Alinsky Welfare Program could dish out thousand dollar bills.

The plagiarized speech, referenced above, is but a tiny fraction of the miscues -- though I'm not sure many Republicans see it that way -- beaming to us live from the shores of appropriately named Lake Erie.

Two days ago, for instance, the California delegation caught a very contagious case of norovirus. So if the opening chaos on the convention floor, the lack of minorities in attendance and the anemic support of the Republican establishment didn't have them vomiting and shitting all over themselves, surely the three day old shrimp salad did.

And then there were the speakers.

At one time, I was a big admirer of Rudy Guliani. His handling and leadership of the post-9/11 crisis was nothing short of inspiring. Cool, calm and collected. The Rudy we saw the other night was anything but. As one online friend put it, it was as if he were doing a poor imitation of Benito Mussolini.

The GOP could be excused if Rudy was an anomaly.
That was hardly the case.

Ben Carson, the absent-minded doctor who, by his own admission and in some misguided attempt to get some street cred, stabbed a fellow schoolmate in his younger and wilder days. Not stabbed him in the back metaphorically, as politicians and advertising agency executives have been known to do.

But in the gut with a kitchen knife.
Thankfully, the boy was saved by a miraculous belt buckle.

Inexplicably, Dr. Carson made Lucifer, The Prince of Darkness, the keystone of his nationally broadcast speech.

We are staring at global climate change, intricate challenges in geo-politics, the rise of extremism, diminishing natural resources, overpopulation, growing income disparity, and a host of other problems that demand rigorous attention and out of the box thinking, but we are talking about Lucifer?

Have we really sunken to this infantile level of intellectual discourse?
Apparently we have.

You see the brain surgeon was preceded onstage by the un-brain surgeon, Scott Baio.

According to Baio, aka Charles in Charge, "Trump is a guy who gets things done."

Moreover, "it's not about getting free stuff" --though I'm sure some purchasing agents at the Pentagon, fond of gold plated toilets, disagree.

And once we put God/Jesus/Allah/SkyDaddy back in the classroom, "we're going to make America America again."

That's some mind-bending stuff, Chachi.

No wonder Joanie loved you.

Next week, the Democrats are up. In terms of sheer laughter, they're gonna have hard time topping this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What about Story Selling?

You've seen this guy.

He's in an odd TV commercial. One that has had America scratching its collective head for a month or so.

Chances are you can already hear the harpy voices of the song playing in the background. And almost feel his warm soothing touch as he pats you on the shoulder.

You might even remember the car he's in is a Volvo.

And for breaking thru the enormously cluttered world of TV advertising, the crew at the ad agency (frankly I'm swamped with work and I'm not even bothering to look it up) deserves credit.

But for the life of me I don't know what this commercial wants me to feel.

Here's what I do know.

I would have paid good money, maybe 100, maybe 200 bucks, to have been a fly on the wall when the team presented this work to the National Board of Volvo Dealers.

I'd throw in another 100 if somebody would have granted me permission to film the reaction. Trust me when I say there is nothing more entertaining than watching a bunch of advertising agency bullshitters trying to put one over on a bunch of sheet metal bullshitters.

"What the fuck is that? Are they going to a funeral? And who the fuck are these people? Why aren't we talking about the 27 airbags? The blind spot warning system? The intelligent all wheel drive? Play it again. Did I miss something? And what's with that music? Is that Bjork? I thought she was dead. Can someone tell me what the fuck is going on here?"

I've never found myself agreeing with a bunch of car dealers, who by and large have the aesthetic taste of, what's the right metaphor...a car dealer.

But on this I'd have to concur.

It makes me for yearn for a simpler and, dare I say, smarter time. When we used the precious 30 seconds we were given on the national airwaves to make a point, to offer up something in the arena of persuasion, when we tried to actually sell our client's products. And not make short jack-off cinema pieces that would get booed off the stage at the Des Moines Independent Film Festival.

Little war story.

When I was at Chiat, I played a lot of pool with Jerry Gentile and Rob Feakins. We had a great pool table and we were not subjected to the ridiculous 24 hour check ins that hang above the heads of creatives like the sword of Damocles.

One time, my boss took it upon herself to chide me about my ever improving pool game.

"Shouldn't you be working on that new Nissan Altima spot?" she inquired.

Taking that as my inspiration and to prove a point about how creativity needs to flow freely, we quickly wrote a spot involving pool balls. We painted them with the same process and self-healing paint as the Nissan Altima. Then, using specially rigged motion control cameras that glided along the felt table we filmed the balls smashing into each other. The spot ended with a corny heavy-handed reference to Scratch. Get it?

Not a great spot (I can't find it anywhere on YouTube) but at least it made a point. And gave car buyers one more reason to consider an Altima.

I miss those days.

But once you turn 44 years old, there are a lot of things you start to miss.

Cue the sappy Bjork Music.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, our new Creative Director

Recognize this guy?

I didn't.

But that's understandable, he's a hip hop artist. I could name two, maybe three, hip hop "artists" if I got lucky. Mostly from telling my teenage daughters to "turn that (insert hip hop artist name here) shit down."

But you?

You're younger, hipper, more wired to pop culture than I'll ever be. And so the name Swiss Beatz should've come rolling off your tongue immediately. Or is it Swizz Beats?

Well, the genii at Bacardi are so enamored with this Mr. Beatz, they have named him to be their new "Global Chief Creative for Culture for Bacardi with Oversight for the Entire Bacardi Portfolio of Brands."

Wow, that's gonna be hard to fit on a business card.

The article did not disclose the financial details of the signing, but I have to suspect it's not as lucrative as the deal Alicia Keys got from Blackberry.

Nor is it anywhere near the multimillion dollar struck between Intel, the world's largest manufacturer of microprocessing chips and Will I Am, famous hawker of Pepsi brown fizzy water.

I'm also not sure what these brands think they're buying. I can't imagine some hipster dude with a footlong lumberjack beard or a woman in a skin-tight tube dress sauntering up to a bar and saying,

"Can I get a Mojito? Oh no, not that Captain Morgan swill. Gimme the rum that my man Swiss Beatz drinks. He's the Global Chief Creative for Culture for Bacardi with Oversight for the Entire Bacardi Portfolio of Brands. Yeah, he knows his shit."

Farfetched as that might sound, I have an even harder time conjuring up Will I Am's contribution at Intel.

Look, I am the embodiment of unhip, uncool and unbearably ignorant of today's music scene. But think about the guys in the IT department --the pocket-protector wearing purchasing agents responsible for enterprise data management and corporate hardware upgrades. The feeds and speed nerds. You think they're following Black Eyed Peas? To them it's a vegetable, in same inedible category as cauliflower and broccoli.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong on all this.

Maybe I should get a celebrity brand spokesperson for Rich Siegel Worldwide?

I wonder what Spoonie Gee is up to.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Kudos to Coffee

Maybe it's the optimist in me (mind you, he's a tiny fellow) but it appears the advertising pendulum has begun swinging in the opposite direction.

Towards sanity.
Towards common sense.
Towards persuasion.
And away from bullshit.

Just last week, John Wren, head of mighty Omnicom, hinted that clients are steering more of their budgets back into traditional media.

Prior to that, Martin Sorrell suggested scaling back or even skipping the now bloated and inordinately expensive Cannes festival.

And we are witnessing the final and very public takedown of one William Grizack, the Planning/Strategist/Charlatan/Grifter/Flim Flam Man (BTW, all those words are somewhat interchangeable) who embezzled money from unwitting ad agencies (are thee any other kind?) and sent dozens of our colleagues to the unemployment lines.

The fall of SeƱor Grizack is directly proportionate to the rise of Mr. Patrick Coffee, the hard charging editor/journalist who uncovered this seedy little story at AgencySpy.

Here too, things are changing.

AgencySpy, at one time banned from certain organizations with a weak stomach and an even weaker understanding of how the Internet is available through various mobile devices, was fondly regarded as an industry gossip rag.

It was here we could anonymously vent, rage against the Death Star holding companies and throw carefully-crafted shade on shitty Nike knock-off spots or newly-appointed douchey creative directors sporting ear gauges, tatted sleeves or silk ascots.

But now, with the glorious takedown of the Grizmeister and his paradigm shape shifting formulas and his revolutionary brand ebonics, AgencySpy is becoming something else -- credible.

And we ought to give a hearty hat tip to Patrick Coffee for doing so.

Of course now that the Griz has exchanged his $150 plaid shirts for a set of prison-issued orange overalls, the question is, where will Mr. Coffee proceed to turn his prying eye?

I have a host of suggestions: obscene pay inequality, sweatshop working conditions, dysfunctional mismanagement, drug and alcohol abuse, raging incompetence and the disappearance of any work/life balance.

Plus, now that I'm 44, it's hard to believe but I'm beginning to see the first signs of ageism.

The sad truth is I never rose that high on the corporate ladder. With today's bloated title inflation, my one-time status as a Group Creative Director is truly the equivalent of being the Senior Mailroom Clerk. So I never really knew about all the agency dirt. But I do know the people who do know the people who know where all the bodies are buried.

I'd be tempted to give up those names if Patrick Coffee would simply revert back to the old, easier to read layout of AgencySpy.

Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Make it stop

It might be the last thing you want to hear right now, particularly since I've only recently stopped obnoxiously promoting my last book, but the manuscript for my next book is almost complete.

Please do not try to bombard me with pre-sales orders.

There's still a lot of proofreading, tweaking and discarding of weak material to be done.

And let me tell you the hardest about writing a book is re-reading and rewriting the book you've already written.

Especially so in this case.

The book is a collection of the best rants curated from the pages of RoundSeventeen. And because there is so much in the way of bitching and moaning and ranting and raving and whining and pining, it's enough to make you look for a tall building with a shoddily made glass side from the 70th floor to the 69th floor.

Seriously, I can't imagine why the 13 regular readers of this blog bother to return everyday. There's nothing even remotely entertaining here. Advertising blah blah blah. Shitty planners gabba gabba gabba. Overpaid drunk CEOs wokka wokka wokka.


I don't know about you, but I'm sick of me.

I hope you'll enjoy my new book.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Using the hustle muscle

This post is about discovering new muscles.

It's not related to my every other day pumping of the iron in my garage. Or how I am easily bench-pressing my weight (impressive for a fat 44 year old). Or even how the curling is producing the desired veiny bulge in my biceps.

My wife still won't let me walk around the house with sleeveless tank tops.

No, this is about musculature of a different sort.
The professional kind.

You see lately things have gotten a little wonky in the ad agency world. Holding companies in NY are demanding more and more profits. Which means agencies, particularly the LA satellite agencies, have to run leaner and meaner.

Leaner, meaning anyone with 5 years experience in the biz, is too expensive.

"Can't we get an intern to write the Super Bowl spot?"

And meaner, meaning: the floggings will continue until morale improves.

Couple that with the growing glut of freelancers (skilled art directors and writers Getting Quit, see above) and you'll know why I haven't stepped foot in an ad agency in more than 3 months. Of course I still field remote work, but I do occasionally find myself missing the smell of day old pizza as well as the stench of crushed dreams and broken careers.

Anyway, to keep the coffers filled here at Rich Siegel Worldwide, I've been working directly with clients.

This is where those new muscles come in. Because as you might expect, playing Account Guy, Planner Strategist and Chief Financial Officer are not exactly in my comfort zone. They're not even remotely in my zip code.

Nevertheless, Adopt.
And Survive.

Lately I've found myself writing proposals, negotiating project scope, and running to the local printers to fire off some spiral bound decks. By the way, the lazy asses at my local Kinkos can fuck off with their 24 hour turnaround. The nice people at OfficeMax across the street knocked it out in 3 hours. People in a service industry should learn the fundamentals about service.

It's almost like I'm starting a little ad agency of my own. I wonder which holding company I should sell myself to? I know Omnicom has those fat dividends. And that nice yacht in Cannes.

Next week I should hear back from a small adult beverage distributor about some project work on a growing brand of alcohol. This would be perfect.

I can supplement my new muscle growth with an invigorating workout for my liver.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Noah's Lark

Submitted for your amusement, Ken Ham's Legendary Ark Encounter, a $107 million tourist attraction being built in the heart of Kentucky (God's second favorite place) and just about ready to open its hatch to homo-hating, gun-toting Bible literalists throughout the land.

Spoiler Alert: Iffin' you are an Abrahamic believer and take offense easily, I suggest you stop reading cause shit's about to get real. Unless the Lord strikes me down as I take to the keyboard and lay waste to another one of his soggy pulp fiction, human-spiting stories. Which would actually be a cool way to go now that I think about it.

First off, kudos to Ken Ham, the Australian Genesis-guided evangelical who spearheaded this important work.

Mr. Ham, an appropriate name if there ever was one, is a strict follower of the first book of the Old Testament, a collection of funny stories written by a bunch of old Jews before they got around to Seinfeld, Blazing Saddles and Everyone Loves Raymond.

Ham felt that by rebuilding Noah's very big boat, he could inspire people and bring them back to God's law, faulty in logic as that may be.

If, for instance, the world as Ken knows it was created in 6 days how did God measure a day, which is the time it takes for Earth to complete one rotation? But according to Ken's book the sun is not created until Day Four, so how can you define a day previous to its creation?

It boggles the mind.

But it is not nearly as confounding as the fact that the good people of Kentucky (again, God's second favorite place on Earth) could shell out, in the form of tax credits, millions of dollars so that Mr. Ham could erect his biblical petting zoo.

Think of how that money could have otherwise been spent.

Just a thought, a Christian thought, they could have fed some hungry people. They could have housed some homeless folks. Or, and I'm just spitballing here, they could have used the money to buy new textbooks for the schools -- updated textbooks that include descriptions of a round, not flat, Earth, Charles Darwin and this new science-y thing called carbon-dating.

And then of course, there's the Ark itself.

Supposedly, it housed a pair of more than 5,000 species of animals. Including, according to Mr. Ham, dinosaurs which roamed the planet the same time Noah was putting the finishing touches on the Ark bathrooms. Which brings up the care and feeding of all those creatures.

According to Ken Ham's "scholars", they had enough food onboard to feed all the animals for a full year, until all the rain waters had receded. I'm just doing the math in my head and have got to believe it would take a better part of a 24 hour day to feed all those damn critters. And then what about cleaning up after them?

I've seen those news reports of sewage problems on a Carnival Cruise Line and it's not pretty.

Maybe Noah and Mrs. Noah were built of stronger stuff than me, but if God told me to live on a boat for a year with 10,000 smelly, eating and constantly-pooping animals, I'd ask to see what was behind Door #2.

BTW, I know you're dying for a closer look at this monstrosity, so here's a promotional video of this faithfully recreated biblical miracle. (I had no idea they had Tyvek protective sheathing back then. Just another one of the Lord's miracles)

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Wild Wild West

As a Bronx-born child who was raised in the suburbs of New York City, I always had a picture of what life was like in the wild, wild west.

To be honest, I had several pictures, including gun-slinging cowboys, tee pees, baked beans and of course, old cow skeletons.

I know this is a cliche.

A proven cliche at that, particularly if you do a Google search for cow skulls (see above).

The truth is the vast, western landscape is not littered with the remains of old bovine carcasses. In fact, in the 30 plus, 20 plus years I've been living in California, I have never come across one.

Though when I was a bartender I did meet an actual cowboy. He herded steer in Wyoming, shoed horses and could dance a mean Texas Two Step. He also had an affinity for pink daiquiris. And by the end of the night we, the bartending staff, would often have to pour Tuffie McTuffBoy into the tiny camper that was bolted onto his truck which was permanently parked behind the restaurant.

Another myth destroyed.

But last week, while my wife and I were camping,in the High Sierras, hiking and cramming all manner of fire-cooked meat into our pieholes, there was redemption.

While off on another Paul Sinfield-inspired roadside attraction hunt, we came across this...

I was going to hop the barbed wire fence, trespass on the property and get up close for a better shot but my wife objected.

She correctly pointed out that most people possess a zoom-in feature on their computer. She also pointed out that the land owner -- most likely a drug addled, white supremacist -- probably possessed a high powered rifle.

Additionally, though the front porch of his double wide trailer was nearly a quarter mile in the distance, he could easily pick off a slow moving 44 year old Jew with two, maybe three, well-placed shots.

Now, you may be thinking, "come on, Rich, that's awfully narrowminded of you to paint with such a broad brush. Just like your mistaken cliched images of the West, not everyone who lives in the sun-baked Owens Valley is a lowbrow, barefoot, meth-smoking, hate-filled flesh sack named Cletus."

How silly of me.

Where would I come up with that idea?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Moving day

Rode the new rail line to Santa Monica recently.

Loved it.

The nearest station (PALMS) is a mile and a half from my house but the walk always does me good and clears the head. On the way south on Clarington, I spotted this moving truck.

Naturally, I whipped out my camera and started photographing the oddity.

The three Hispanic guys -- that's right they weren't some nice Jewish boys as the name would indicate -- watched as I scoped out the vehicle.

One of them even offered to translate.

"Funny name, isn't it? Want to know what it means?"

I gave him the same answer I give to Jehovah Witnesses when they come selling God at my doorstep.

"I got it covered."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Hills Are Alive

It's that time again.

For the 13th year in a row, we will be packing the Acura MDX until it can be packed no more. We will fill every nook and cranny and hidden emergency trunk space with all manner of camping gear.

Fire starter kits that will never be started.

Emergency space blankets that will never be taken from their emergency space blanket packets.

And dried beef stroganoff that will remain in powder form unless some grizzly bear rips through the campground, eats all our lime flavored Tostitos chips and handcrafted hard salami, and leaves us nothing in his wake.

Unlike years past, we will not be bringing the kids in tow. They have reached that age when, first of all they don't like being referred to as kids. And second of all, they are just way too cool to "camp."

And while this breaks my heart it also gives us license to stock up on California state-approved herbal medicine and their carefully prescribed medicinal use.

It also allows us permission to revisit nearby attractions that may not have been so attractive when we visited them a long time ago.

The BristleCone Forest for instance, featuring trees that are older than modern civilization, dating back 4000 years ago, was a brutal sun-baked hike for some of our whiny 7 and 8 year olds. But now, without the crying and complaining, it may warrant another trip.

Likewise, minus the youngins', we might also summit the mighty Kearsage Pass, an 11 mile hike with 2500 foot gain in altitude.

There can be no doubt that without the kids running around, the camping trip will take on a different dynamic.

If I know anything about human behavior I think it's safe to say that the kids, ours and our friend's, will be visiting the place long after this 44 year old has written his final tagline. They'll be reliving memories. Memories, we all had a hand in making.

Hopefully, they'll be drinking rum and cokes, scouring the campground and taking their children on a laugh-filled, imaginary snipe hunt.

"Wugga-wugga-wugga, here snipe!"

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It's hot, hot, hot.

Last week, summer arrived.

After weeks of a cooler-than-normal June Gloom, the sun broke through and the mercury soared. Triple digits, inland. High nineties, here by the beach.

Granted it was a dry heat, not like the unbearable humid summer days of my NY youth when by 9 o'clock in the morning my sweaty clothes had the aroma of 9 o'clock in the evening.

Nevertheless it was hot and it gave me ample reason to reset the Nest Thermostat and fire up the jet engine air conditioning units I purchased way back in October.

The 2 &1/2 ton Trane XB 14 and the 3 ton Trane XB 16 purred to perfection. And within seconds, virginal cool air was blowing through the all the ducts in the house, well almost all the ducts. But that's a $1000 repair for another blog.

We, meaning all the Siegels, were in heaven. And that includes my two princess daughters, home from college, whose first spoken words many years ago were not "Dada" or "Mama" but "We have to get a/c for the house."

Of course, the happiness was short-lived. As it always is in my life. My former art director, John Shirley, is fond of saying, "You're only happy when you're unhappy."

That couldn't be a truer statement. Because within hours of putting the air conditioning on I felt a conditioned reflex to turn it off.

Maybe it's the Scottish in me.
Or the Jewish in me.
Or maybe as I posited on Father's Day I have fully evolved into my father.

In another lifetime, he drove an old Pontiac Bonneville. It was the first car we ever had that came equipped with air conditioning. It was an after-market air conditioning unit installed below the push-button radio but that hardly mattered.

It blew cold air.

Or so we were led to believe. Because the old man refused to turn it on. Ever. It put a strain on the engine and used up too much fuel.

"Roll down your windows."

"Drink some water."

"Why don't you kids shut up?"

And there it was. The explanation for my a/c hesitance.

From a very, very young age, I had it drummed into my head that running the air conditioning is an expensive proposition.

And this is when gasoline was only 28 cents a gallon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

As the World Teeters

As you may or may not have heard, last week a small group of people, drunk with power, hellbent on maintaining their incestuous culture and perpetuating exclusionary policies, took to voting, made their fateful selections and in turn rocked the world economies, sending hundreds of advertising professionals to their nearest update profile page.

Oh wait, you thought I was talking about the Brexit.

When in fact I was referring to the Cannes Advertising Festival.

Sorry, this was your classic misdirect.
And the misdirect was completely intentional.

Because as our beloved ad industry flounders, with shrinking margins, the disappearance of AOR accounts, the fragmentation of media as well as its blatantly false metrics, the scandalous corporate leadership, institutional C-Suite racism, sexism and ageism, the tone-deaf powers that be, would rather distract us with their debauchery and have us believe there's ample cause for excessive celebration.

Sorry to be the parade rainer, but I'm simply not buying it.

Tell it to the thousands of ad veterans who Got Quit this year.

"Hey really sorry that we have to let you go after 13 years of dedicated service, including countless weekends, canceled vacation plans.and missed wedding anniversaries. And we know your daughter is going in for that expensive orthodontia so this is a particularly bad time, but hey, check out this cool house we rented in Le Cannet. It has a pool!"


"Remember when you won a Lion for us in 2008? That was great and the agency really appreciates all you've done, but we can't afford you. Or your office anymore. Or your vision care. We hired three interns to do your job and still had enough left over for these obscenely-expensive magnums of Armand de Brignac."

You could argue that those who "left to pursue other opportunities" are the lucky ones. What about the unfortunate many who didn't make the trip? The ones still on the agency payroll.

"We'd love to give you a raise this year. And last year. And the year before, but we simply can't. The holding company says we have to tighten the belt. But look who played at our private party...Sting. We got Sting!"

Well, it's back to business as ususal this week. And by usual I mean get in to the office at 9:30 AM and don't leave until 11PM. Oh and if you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother to come in on Sunday.

You know the drill so place your nose squarely on the grindstone. Because next year, the same people pouring you a tall glass of Kool Aid have their eye on a fancy hotel upgrade.

"Check it out, I'm on the top floor of the Carlton. The room was $3000 a night. I'm looking right out onto the Gulf de le Napoule. Damn, Droga got a yacht. We gotta get a yacht."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Let's review the review

If you reside in Adland you are well aware of the creative and media review initiated by AT&T, the nation's, I don't even know what to call them anymore.

Their account is worth $438 billion dollars, equivalent to the GDP of China, Russia and Finland, combined.

Normally I'd be itching to get in on that good freelance action. I'm sure agencies are paying top dollar for mercenary creatives like myself to dig in with both hands and crack the code that will lead to victory.

But that turns out to be my naivete speaking.

Last week I was reading about the review as reported on AgencySpy, which is quickly becoming the only legitimate news source for the industry. Equally enlightening are the AgencySpy comments left by trollers, recently fired employees, and surprisingly enough, people in the know.

Apparently, there is no code to be cracked.

The contest, between two mighty holding companies, will not be decided based upon 20th century criteria like creativity, design or strategic thinking. That's so passe.

No, like the way anything gets done in America, it will depend on cronyism, favor taking, margin trimming, and huge sums of money being passed under the table. Or in the Champagne Room at the Rack Shack.

You see, it's no longer about storyboards, scripts or anthems that carve out a unique point of view. That's all been commoditized. So much so that unlike days of yore when you could tell a Chiat/Day or Wieden & Kennedy spot from a JWT or McCann Erikson spot, now it all looks and feels the same.

And that's fine, let the bean counters have their day.

It's a sweet, savory reversal of fortune.

Because in the long feverish days and nights leading up to the pitch, I hope it's the Creatives who get to go home at 5.

And I hope it's the finance folks and the holding company execs who are eating Mushu Pork at 1 AM or assembling the Powerpoint decks on a hot Saturday afternoon without any fuckin' air conditioning!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

You could be our 1/2 millionth reader

We're about to pass an important milestone here at RoundSeventeen Headquarters located in the heart of formerly dumpy Culver City.

We're about to welcome our 500,000th visitor.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be crossing this monumental, inspiring, critical and joyful threshold. By the way, the use of multiple adjectives is a good indication that my tongue is pressed firmly against my cheek.

I don't take this blog seriously and nor should you, (more on that later.)

I remember when I first started this blog and talked to my good friend, freelance art director and veteran blogger Laura Sweet. She reached the 1/2 million mark in her first week. Then again people have an inherent interest in all things style and fashion and couldn't care less about the ramblings of an underachieving 44 year old freelance copywriter.

"It'll start slow at first, but keep at it and soon you'll be averaging 1,000 hits a day and fighting off offers from clients who want to advertise on your blog."

Laura was right about the slow start and the need for persistence. But her calculations were a tad off and now after 8 years of plugging away, I'm seeing about 500 visitors a day. And last month we had an all time high in traffic, with more than 15,000 visits.

If I am to be completely honest, those first few years I was floundering and still trying to find the right voice. I cringe every time I look at some of the early posts. Did I really spend an entire week coming up with euphemisms for "dropping the kids off at the Pool?" Oy.

Hell, I cringe over the posts I wrote last week.

And apparently I'm not the only one.

Recently one anonymous reader has taken me to task for my insidious rants about ad agency Planning.

In anonymous comments that I no longer feel the need to publish, he or she (and by the way the sex of this reader does not matter) suggests I have been hateful and misogynistic.

He or she suggests I've caused he or she personal and professional doubt and depression.

Really? You're letting a non-accredited journalist, a frustrated copywriter with a Dropbox filled with non-strategic, un-produced campaign ideas, an insignificant blogger in a world full of insignificant bloggers, cause you to question your self worth?

He or she, claims I have been constant in my confrontation and relentless with my rhetoric. The fact is, I have shown restraint and for the sake of my 13 regular readers who enjoy a broad range of topics and who have visited here 1/2 million times, and limited myself to one Planning post a month.

So I can only deduce that he or she has been following this blog for a considerable length of time.

In which case he or she is probably reading these very words.

Let me be the first to offer you some simple advice. And by the way this didn't require months of research or Big Data analysis. Or any charts. Diagrams. Or Powerpoint decks.

If what I'm writing disturbs you, causes you undue harm or in your words "makes you feel like a total shit", then and here's the big reveal...

Stop reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I'm a Le Douchebag

You'd think I'd know better.

That after 30 some odd, 20 some odd years, in the advertising business deluding people about the incredible horsepower of a shitty compact car or shooting chemically-injected painted chicken designed to flare up over a flaming grill, I would know that you can't always believe what you see.

Of course that didn't stop me from clicking an online shopping site, whipping out my credit card and laying claim to a brand new $80 LayBag.

Lured by its vaginal appearance and its incredibly simple inflation, I was convinced I needed one of these hipster contraptions. It's light. It's durable. And it'll be perfect for outdoor activities, a comfortable alternative to those stiff aluminum folding camping chairs.

Or so I thought.

Two months after ordering the damn thing, it shows up. Shipped to me by some laughing Swedes who are now counting their shekels and picturing lame Americans trying to inflate the oversized Zip Lock bag.

Because believe me it is not as simple as it may appear in many of the company's YouTube videos.

I spent the better part of the afternoon flailing the contraption around my back yard. I ran with it. I did circles with it. I tried to gulp the air into it the way a whale opens his mouth wide and captures a ton of kelp.

All, it appears, to be in vain.

When I tried to compress the air I did manage to get in the bag and roll up the ends, I was left with nothing more than a glorified 3 foot long ottoman, hardly the canoe-length couch I had been promised.

My wife and daughters, watching from the comfort of the family room, required ice on their necks to recover from all the hilarity they enjoyed at my expense. And here at the Siegel household we put a premium on laughter.

So, in a way, I did get my money's worth.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sitting in judgment

It's award season in advertising again.

I think we all know that from the flood of tweets and pictures from Cannes appearing on our Facebook feeds.

"Look, there's that Mucketty Muck Creative Director who didn't approve my Super Bowl spot. Doesn't he look like he's having a good time in his plaid shorts and his $120 Calvin Klein Crew Neck T-Shirt. I hope he drinks too much rose wine, eats some bad snails and blows chunks all over that CFO who tried to idiot-splain why the agency didn't have any money this year - or the past 5 years -- for bonuses, raises or new computers to replace the 2007 MacBooks. Oh and look, they're on a yacht."

Wait, where was I before I got diverted onto my tired Bernie Sanders like rant about the financial inequality plaguing the ad industry?

Oh yes, awards.

Well, before they can hand out the trinkets, trophies and metallic validation of our oh-so-disposable Skip Ads and Viral Stunts, there's an award judging season.

That's when cream of the crop creatives, from all over the land, are flown to exotic locations to sit in imperial favor and cast their discerning eyes on who and what shall be admitted to their inner circle.

Here too, we are often treated to a photographic collage of their international adventures via social media.

They're in Aruba.
In Fiji.
In Greece.
In Havana.
Any destination that manages to skirt the agency's restrictive rule on flying Business Class and earns these prestigious judges their precious pre-flight warmed chocolate chip cookie.

I use the term cream of the crop creatives because it is a status I have successfully avoided.

I came close in my day, but was always denied entry. In many ways it's like a high school cafeteria. I never sat with the football players and the cheerleaders, but occasionally managed to pull up a stool next to the lacrosse team equipment manager or the flag twirlers.

That is not to say that I have never been asked to judge a show.

A dozen years ago, I was invited to partake in the decision making for the Pele Awards. Never heard of them? Neither had I. Turns out they are a second tier local awards show for our ad colleagues living in Hawaii.

It rained the three days we were there. Apparently the Motel 6 was booked to capacity and my wife and I were put up at the Royal Illikai in the heart of Waikiki. There was nothing remotely royal about the place. And as we joked later, while fighting off food poisoning from room service spicy tuna poke, they managed to put the ILL in ILLIKAI.

As recently as 8 months ago, I was asked to judge another show. I can't even remember who it was for. I do remember that the work sucked and, even better, the judging was all online.

Fueling my wife's oft-heard complaint, "We never leave Culver City."