Thursday, February 4, 2016
No one on this earth would ever describe me as fashion forward.
I am at my most comfortable throwing on some dungarees, a tee shirt and a North Face fleece which has just the right amount of thickness to hide my excessive hipline yet not too thick to cause excessive sweating.
My only concession to style would be my $180 Panama Jack ankle-high leather boots.
I wear them because they are comfortable, provide ample support against my plantar fascitis and because the Vibram heel adds 3/4 inch to my stature, barely lifting me out of being labeled a short guy.
That is not to say I am completely unaware of the latest sartorial trends.
Working in advertising, I bear ample witness to ear gauges, frothy beards, stingy brim fedoras and the oh-so-popular man bun. I am not interested in any of these affectations, I am only interested in making uninformed old man prejudgments of those who choose to partake in them.
As a grumpy old timer who enjoys the artificiality of those who have not advanced to 44 years of age, I make it my duty to spot new and upcoming trends.
And as you might have guessed, we have one -- the Jacques Cousteau look.
For many of you that reference will seem dated. Not to worry, Cousteau's life was spoofed by the highly overrated Wes Anderson (with the exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox) and the unwatchable Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
In the past two weeks I've now spotted no fewer than 10 hipsters sporting this exact look. Mostly at the nearby Whole Foods Store, where it gets "unreal in the parking lot."
What I find most amazing about those bedecked with this latest manifestation of faux masculinity is the thinness of it all.
Because I'd put my testicles up on the chopping block to bet that if you were to shake the hands of these landlubbing "sailors", you'd find the soft, uncalloused skin of a man who has never skippered a boat, never fished at sea and never even tied a Sheepshead Knot.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
I curse you Uber. Which I am convinced is an amalgamation of, "I used to be sober."
Allow me to explain.
Every so often I will get together with some old ad buddies from Team One. Though saddled with one of the worst clients in advertising history, a man who spoke no more 300 words of English, we had a unique camaraderie at the offices on Grand Blvd. in the heart of smelly El Segundo, where the the refinery meets the sea.
These infrequent occasions are marked by laughing, drinking, more laughing, and more drinking.
To wit, the plan was to grab a long table at Alejo's Italian Restaurant near LAX, guzzle beer and down enough garlic bread to stave off all the vampires in Transylvania. For those arriving early, there was the pre-dinner promise of ample whiskey at the Hacienda --a Mexican dive next door with a full liquor license.
We never made it to Alejo's.
Knowing what would transpire I did the mature thing and Ubered (the newest verb to enter Webster's dictionary) from my house in Culver City.
Unencumbered by the thought of having to drive home, fingers crossed, with a mouthful of breath mints, one rotgut Manhattan led to another and another.
One wouldn't normally pair up a whiskey drink with tacos carne asada, but we weren't there for the food.
Unlike our NY advertising brethren and their foodie tendencies (I'm very well acquainted with the steak and pom frite at Rauols), we weren't there to drop C-notes and regal each other with stories about starfucking parties on the Upper West Side. Or Studio 54. Or wherever NY elitists gather these days, with their Tony Jacklin golf clubs and bleeding masonic handshakes!
To make a long drinking story mercifully short, we ended up closing the place.
Sadly, we dispersed before Stan Toyama could amuse us with his stinging and deadly-accurate impression of Mr. Chikuma, the aforementioned Team One client who made our lives a miserable hell but also bonded us and gave us a lasting brotherhood not unlike the one shared by survivors of the Bataan Death March.
Fortunately we had the wherewithal to ask the waitress, or for all I can recall it could have been a waiter, to snap a photo of this legendary night.
And whether it was through serendipity or the guiding hand of a posthumous former CMO, we have this unimaginably fortuitous, perfectly timed snapshot for our scrapbooks.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Not long ago, a Creative Services Manager told me something in confidence.
She said how much more pleasant her job would be if other freelancers replied as quickly to her emails as I did.
Naturally, this came as quite a shock. Because food doesn't get on my table, beer doesn't get in my fridge and bursars from the University of Colorado and Washington don't get their pound of my flesh, unless I respond as quickly as possible to ANY inquiry for freelance work.
I like to think that my particular brand of copywriting was what separated me from my colleagues, but now I'm discovering the reason I stay busy all the time has more to do with my obsessive punctuality and responsible email etiquette.
This movie isn't ending with me in a dirty nursing home.
I'll take work anyway and anywhere I can get it.
On that note I recently enjoyed an experience that may be familiar to many freelancers. Or, maybe not.
I had just finished an assignment for an out of town ad agency -- the best kind of assignment, a solo writing gig that entailed a generous day rate, my Herman Miller chair, the freedom of a midday swim followed by a sandwich from the increasingly-popular Jackson Market which is an easy dog walk away from my house.
I wasn't booked for my next gig, but that was about to change. Quickly. Because on the same day, on the same morning, I fielded two questions regarding my availability.
It was as if I were the prettiest girl in high school fending off woo from both the football team quarterback AND the basketball team high scoring power forward.
I responded "yes" to both requests and transmitted my replies as fast as the confabulated flik-flaks of the Internet could deliver them. And then, from the comfort of my Adidas nylon sweatpants, I sat back and imagined the frenzied chatter of both resource management teams.
"We gotta get Siegel in here."
" I don't care about his 'get-home-before-Jeopardy' work policy."
"Tell him we'll double what the other agency is willing to pay."
Of course, that's not exactly how it all played out. As in all cases I simply said 'yes' to the first caller who went beyond the availability question and put a solid booking on the table.
But, a man can dream can't he?
Monday, February 1, 2016
You probably noticed, but in addition to David Bowie and Glen Frey, there have been a lot of deaths in the musical world lately. And with it, the attendant gushy obituaries and sappy Facebook tomes.
I have not been a participant in that type of public weeping. Don't get me wrong, I love music as much as the next fellow, I'm listening to Mark Knopfler tear up the frets even as I am writing this piece.
But, because I never aspired to be a guitar player, singer, drummer or piano player, I don't see their passing as a monumental life milestone. I'm pretty sure when John Lennon was shot I was eating a beef burrito at Burrito King on Lincoln Blvd., then again, maybe I wasn't.
That is not to say I did not have childhood heroes. I did.
They all worked at the National Lampoon. In fact, I knew from reading the Adventures of Politeness Man, Pinto's First Lay and the intricate, dark and perverted tales told in National Lampoon's parody Kefauver High School Yearbook, my life course had been set.
I was blessed in a way few 14 year old kids are.
I knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up -- a writer.
I ended up being a copywriter, but it's close.
Last week, I caught a documentary now playing on Showtime -- Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead, the story of the National Lampoon. It was like being a teenager all over again. And I will admit to pangs of nostalgia.
Maybe you're not the aficionado that I was and continue to be (in my garage you'll find crates of old Natlamp magazines, some from my childhood and some purchased on e-bay.) But in the movie you will see the faces of comedy legends who altered our cultural landscape in a way Jimmy Page or Roger Daltry never could.
There's John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Chevy Chase, all NL alumni.
Not to mention the killer writers who worked behind the scenes: Doug Kenney, Michael O'donahue, Tony Hendra and PJ O'rourke. These are the genii who took humor to a different level. Who, with their love of language and their razor sharp wit, went beyond the juvenile, broad slapstick and layered in sly satire, shifted social mores and shook up the world of politics.
And unlike brethren publications, they included tits. Lots of tits.
If I may co-opt a sentiment recently expressed by one of my colleagues, these guys "towered over my imagination."
Of course that was then and this is now. Today, I'm a 44 year old copywriter with a mortgage, two pressing college tuitions and a Public Storage locker full of life's crushed dreams, so if one of my National Lampoon idols has a brain aneurysm or overdoses on Oxycontin don't expect any heartfelt paeans from me.
I've got banner ads to write.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoy Anthony Bourdain and his alcohol/recreational drug-fueled trips around the world.
I've watched him drift cars with Iranian teenagers.
Drink himself silly with jungle farmers in Borneo.
And sport wood and kiss the amazing ladyboys of Thailand.
If I were to travel the world with anyone, you know other than my wife who doesn't like the way I pack a suitcase, it would be with Mr. Bourdain.
Last week, I caught up an old show that struck close to home.
The homeland, I should say.
Anthony was in Glasgow, where my mother was born. This might explain the email address attached to this blog and my twitter handle: glasgowdick. It's not the most creative thing I've ever done but to be honest, I never thought I'd be blogging for 7 weeks, much less 7 years.
Before the show even begins, Bourdain prefaces the adventure by stating, "Glasgow might be one of his Top 5 cities in the world!" This is a man who has seen, eaten and drunk it all, so that's mighty high praise.
I've been there twice. And between the relentless cold rain, the biting wind, and smoldering smelly cigarettes in the hands of every pedestrian, I'm not sure Glasgow cracks my top 100 cities.
Not surprisingly, what Bourdain found so charming about this grimy, hard-nosed, working-class city with its quaint old building and penchant for irony...
...were the people.
As Bourdain found out while dining with one of the city elders, Scottish people are funny. Not ha ha funny, but dark, twisted, cynical funny.
The Glasgowegian explained while sipping on a bowl of rabbit/squirrel/boiled chipmunk stew.
"Americans are different than the Scots," she stated.
"How so?" replied Bourdain.
"You tell an American that your father just passed away and the immediate reaction is sympathy. Genuine, heartfelt sympathy."
"That's a good thing," said Bourdain.
"Of course it is. But you tell a Scotsman that your father just died and he might come back to you with something like, 'Oh, what size shoe did he wear?'"
I'm not interested in wearing a dead man's shoes, but I can appreciate the black humor that springs from generation's long thriftiness and hope eternal.
My own Glasgow anecdote...
After a 6 hour train ride from London, we (the entire Siegel Clan) arrived at the Central Station (pictured above). It was raining, naturally. But we managed to drag our 8 suitcases and paraphernalia across the street to the Taxi stand. A wee old man arrived in his Prius and with a little elbow grease managed to stuff all our belongings in the trunk. We squeezed into the cab and I told him to take us to the Grand Central Hotel.
The driver slapped his calloused hand to his forehead, "Yur already der, mate."
And with that he pointed to the building above the train station which happened to be the hotel. He hopped out the cab and started unloading the luggage. He even helped my wife and daughters drag it across the cobblestone street and into the warmth of the hotel lobby, where it was balmy 59 degrees.
Under his breath he mumbled, "aye your a dighted scunner."
I slipped him a twenty dollar, but he came away with so much more.
Because you know, and I know, and Anthony Bourdain knows, he'll be telling the story of the stupid Yank at the pub until they bury his shoeless corpse in the dark, danky dirty of good old Scotland.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Sometimes the grapevine bears some very interesting fruit.
For instance years ago, a friend of mine found himself in a resources meeting with many of the agency brass (in this case the emphasis is on ass). A big new project was rearing its head and the powers that be were trying to determine staffing/freelance needs.
Being a good friend, he threw my name in the hat. To which one Peter-Principled, smarmy taskmaster replied...
"Oh no, we're not bringing in Siegel. Every time I see him all I hear is cash registers ringing."
In compliance with RoundSeventeen's strict no names policy I'm not naming names (though there's nothing in the policy about dropping clever little hints.) Suffice to say this anonymous fellow is to advertising what Sarah Palin is to the world of nuanced diplomacy.
Not only was the comment stupid. It was wrong.
Look, I'm no soothsayer, but I think we can all agree the ad industry is changing. And I'm gonna go out on a self-serving limb --because let's face it that's what soothsaying is all about -- and suggest the future and very survivability of our cherished business depends on the freelancer.
What would lead me to such a diagnosis? After all I'm not in the diagnosis business.
The current model of an ad agency with its long tables of bescarved, bepierced, and betattoed creatives is simply unsustainable. Particularly with the decline of AOR relationships and the advent of jump ball scenarios.
You see while it may be cost effective to fill the hallways of the creative department with newly minted college graduates, the truth is they're getting paid whether they're fecklessly stewarding billion dollar brands or just working on their sniping skills in the latest version of Call of Duty.
Freelancers, on the other hand, hit the ground running. You start the meter, they start the work.
And yes they might cost more, but only to the untrained eye.
Because before an agency pulls the trigger and brings in the mercenaries they go to the trouble of getting the brief signed. They make sure the assignment is buttoned up. That there is consensus. That deliverables are agreed upon. They will go out of their way to get the most value out of the money they're spending on freelancers by doing all the legwork in advance.
In other words, the agencies are operating at their most efficient.
Moreover, this has a push-pull effect on the clients. They're the ones footing the bill. And guess what happens? Clients start getting their shit together. They streamline approval processes. Clarify their thinking. And banish from the room anyone saying the following...
"I don't know why I don't like it, I just don't."
In other other words, they too are operating at their most efficient.
It's a win-win situation. And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If this were a 273 page Powerpoint deck we'd only be at page 6. Other advantages to bringing in the hired guns? No healthcare costs. No melodrama. No paid vacations. Hell, you don't even have to feed freelancers.
The money saved from buying bagels alone would finance Martin Sorell's next yacht.
So you see unctuous unnamed "creative" executive who shall remain unnamed, you shouldn't shy away from hiring me or any other freelancer. You should pat us on the back and say, "Oh my, thank you for being here."
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
I am very upset.
Unbeknownst to me or my wife, someone has been taking unwarranted pictures of our 18 year old daughter. Stealthily stalking and snapping shots of her, at her most vulnerable moments.
It's a modern day nightmare that is causing us all to lose vital sleep.
I should point out that the creeper in question is not some two-time loser with a rap sheet of lurid petty crimes.
No, the peeper in question is Big Brother.
That's right my daughter faithfully executed the California Roll, failing to come to a complete stop at a red light before proceeding with a right hand turn. And it was captured on video by Culver City's state of the art webcam. Or so the city alleges.
It should be noted that there was no cop on duty and the only evidence they have of the infraction are these grainy photos. I don't know whether there's actual video footage I only know the government says there is.
In any case, the warpaint is being applied, the black Brook Brothers suit reserved for weddings, funerals and boring Rosh Hashanah services is coming out of mothballs. And the mustache, eyebrows and ears are all getting manscaped, because we're going to war.
I was denied my day in court when I threatened to take down the NordicTrack company and their flimsy stationary bike. They put the kibosh on my efforts when I began publicly and relentlessly humiliating Jillian Michaels (their spokesperson) on her Facebook page. They wisely refunded all my money and even paid to have that Chinese assemblage of cheap nuts and bolts hauled out of my garage.
Similarly I was robbed of my opportunity to deliver my version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and judicate the differences I've had with the non-stop yelping of a neighbor's dog (that situation has been temporarily resolved. Somewhat.)
So I'm loaded for bear on this one.
$490 for an alleged teenage indiscretion?
"You're out of order. You're all out of order!"
Monday, January 25, 2016
I told myself I wasn't going to do political rants anymore but that was before last week's endorsement of Donald Trump by America's own Poet Laureate.
Saturday Night Live and the nation's top pundits have already dissected her rootin' tootin' ramble, so I'm not going to attempt to top them.
I will say that watching Sarah speak is not unlike watching those crazy Russian dashboard videos.
You never know what's coming.
And when it does, you can only drop your jaw in amazement.
That Holy Shit reaction is not just about Palin, but the complete unraveling of the Republican Party.
I have no allegiance to either side of the aisle. And to be honest, some days I'm more conservative and some days I'm more liberal. I like to believe I can entertain two competing lines of thought at the same time. And so I have no dog in the fight. But with regards to this year's current crop of Republican presidential candidates, I can only say, "Is this the best you've got?'
Moreover, I'm left wondering about the people actually running the GOP.
These are folks with years of strategic experience. Experts who should know how to mend the rift between the tea party contingent and the more "progressive" wing -- if that even exists anymore.
Look, 270 votes from the electoral college are not going to be easy to come by. Particularly when trotting out a nonstop diet of hate, intolerance, and religious bigotry. Sarah Palin's nice rack, notwithstanding.
Seems to me they'd want to be opening the doors to the tent not sewing them shut with thread made out of kevlar. Where are the sensible Republicans like John Huntsman? Goldwater? Or even Eisenhower?
I'll never forget a pivotal point in my advertising career.
Hunkered down in The Fish at the old Chiat/Day Warehouse (the best of all the Chiat/Day buildings), I had the opportunity to watch Lee Clow and Bob Kuperman discuss the strategy for an upcoming pitch. After meandering through a bunch of pointless executions, Bob wisely told the entire creative department (and the planners) to step back. He asked us to take a breath and ask ourselves:
"What is it we need to do to win this piece of new business?"
Maybe that wasn't a revelation for others, but it was for me. Because it necessitated more than just cranking out a funny spot or clever headline. It required an honest assessment of the situation and a collective shift in our POV.
Winning the White House is not the same as winning the Bounty Paper Towel account from Proctor & Gamble. However, it might be a good idea for Rance Priebus and his cronies at the RNC to take a good long look at their current contenders including: a doctor who believes the Earth is 6000 years old, a Harvard graduate who believes the Bible trumps the Constitution and a hip-talking gasbag who is as unfamiliar with the Nuclear Triad as he is with a decent barber.
The Republicans need to do themselves a favor, step back for a moment, and ask themselves:
"What is it we need to do to win this election?"
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Last week was incredibly pleasant.
In addition to my wife leaving town for a few days and my well earned 'mancation', complete with dirty dishes left in the sink, a limitless supply of Maker's Mark 46 and two pregnant burritos from El Nepol, I got feedback.
Lots of feedback.
Of the 5 Star variety, no less.
From Kate Kemp, a talented freelance writer based in NYC so she poses no threat. She was so happy to receive my book she posted this photo (see above) on my timeline. Moreover, unlike you losers, she took the time to send me a personal email/review.
I may know a little about Photoshop but I'm not good enough to fake a Facebook email.
I wanted to thank Kate for taking time out of her day so I thought I'd give her a shout out and help her land her next gig.
I also wanted to thank my brother-in-law, John O'Conner, who teaches high school English. Last week he called me out of the blue to tell me how much he was laughing and how the book managed to touch on universal themes over and above advertising.
He also mentioned that I dangled some participles, but I'm a copywriter so who gives a shit?
And finally, I'd like to acknowledge Executive Creative Director Erik Spiegler, who again unlike you miserly bastards, generously penned the following missive...
To Kate, John and Erik, thank you.
Want to see your name or earn a plug on this blog?
You know what to do.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
The earth moved last week.
Not because of any tectonic plate shifting. The seismic activity was confined to the Los Angeles advertising world, where in the span of just a few days we learned of the departure of one CCO -- Chief Creative Officer for those of you in the real world -- and the hiring of two new ones.
With all this free flowing digital ink, and none of it about me, it's hard to not feel like I'm being ignored.
That is until one loyal reader found this article buried in the back pages of ADWEEK (just the printed version.)
HAWTHORNE, CA -- Independent boutique agency, SynergInc, a rapidly growing team of "brand landscapers" has not named Rich Siegel to be their Chief Creative Officer. The 44-year old copywriting veteran, known for his brutal honesty and uncompromising demeanor, was not chosen to take SynergInc to the next level and will continue to be exploring other opportunities.
SynergInc President Herman Hardwick was eager to go public with the announcement of Siegel's non-selection.
"We couldn't be happier not to welcome Siegel to the ranks of SynergInc's staff, a proven team of marketing assassins who come to work every day ready to change the world with wide-eyed optimism, selfless sacrifice and a limitless arsenal of cutting edge UX design, robust databases and rich banner ads.
At SynergInc, we are finding new ways for our clients to engage in conversations with their customers. We are extremely excited that Siegel will not be in those conversations."
Cramming his laminated ABC outdoor boards back into his oversized leather portfolio case, the 44 year old Siegel, who refused to show us his driver's license, had this to say about not being named CCO, "That's just how the business goes these days. Did I mention my recently published book?"
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
I did something I find myself doing once every two years -- I bought a new iPhone.
Not because I plan to film my cinematic opus in all its high resolution, hand-held beauty.
Or that I can press down on a photo and make it do cartwheels or some other nonsense which I will never use.
Or even that I'm a huge fan of the increasingly-huge Jon Favreau, who looks like he ate the entire craft service team during the shooting of Chef.
I bought a new iPhone because the battery on my old iPhone had less pep to its step than Abe Vigoda.
And while migrating my photos from one nebulous wing of the iCloud to another I stumbled across the photo above. It's the Ludwig van Beethoven Action Figure Doll. It was a gift given to my sister-in-law's nephew Max, during a recent Chanukah celebration.
I've gone on record as being 'easily-amused' but this tschochke-esque toy figure tickled my fancy the way old Ludwig van tickled the ivories, which if you look closely, you'll find cleverly woven into the packaging.
The makers of the Ludwig van Beethoven Action Figure Doll -- a phrase I never thought I'd ever find myself writing -- have paid attention to all the details. From the black wooden moccasins to the neckerchief to the un-ignorable loin thingamajig. I'm sure there's a 17th century term for this groin-covering garment, but I'm just too lazy to look it up.
Besides, there's a piano stool!
I don't know which genius at the Beijing Action Figure Toy Factory thought to include a piano stool and go the extra mile to have it custom wrapped in its own impossible-to-cut plastic clamshell, but you sir, are a genius of the highest magnitude.
As if all this were not inspirational enough, the fine folks at Accoutrements, Outfitters of Popular Culture, adorned the package with a life lesson from LVB:
"What I have in my heart must come out: that is why I compose."
It's safe to say that this may be applied to many of us who still toil in advertising. Tweaked of course to reflect our modern reality.
"What I have in my mailbox, bills, must be paid: that is why I will attend the Tuesday morning briefing."
Don't tell Max, but I've already purchased his gift for Chanukah 2016. Another exquisite offering from the fine folks at Accoutrements...
Monday, January 18, 2016
You probably haven't noticed but I've been very quiet on the political front as of late.
On second thought I don't think you've noticed because I don't like to assume people read RoundSeventeen with any kind of regularity. Or monitor its content. Or frankly, pay any attention. Because I think after 7 years the irrelevance of this blog has been very well established, thank you very much.
But a few weeks ago I got entangled, in a very civil manner mind you, with a few Facebook friends regarding the viability of a Bernie Sanders candidacy/presidency.
They saw it as a possibility.
I clearly do not.
It has nothing to do with his policies. While Bernie is clearly a Democrat, I think if more middle class families in the red states paid less attention to his silvery freak flag and listened to this passionate progressive they'd actually find he speaks to their needs.
He wants to lesson their tax burden and have the slack picked up for by billionaires and large tax-evading corporations shielding their income on Crete.
Or The Maldives.
And if people could get past the meaningless Socialist label, a remnant of a useless Cold War from the last century, they might see Bernie is fiercely committed to serving the middle class. And does so, with a sense of integrity rarely seen on K Street.
What makes Bernie Sanders, an American born in America, unfit for the Oval office can be found right at the tip of his schmeckle. More accurately, it can't be found.
You see, Bernie is a landsman.
A God-shmearing, lox-loving, candle-lighter who will, if he survives the primaries, no doubt appear in Adam Sandler's next Chanukah song.
And this country will NEVER elect a Jew for President of these United States.
Look, I'm 44 years old and have been around the block a few times, so I can say this with a fair amount of certainty. It's just not going to happen.
"Rich, are you out of your mind? This country has come a long way. We have a black president. Gay people can now get married. And women are now making 77 cents for every dollar made by a man. We are an enlightened people."
I don't have the time or the inclination to articulate, in debate team style, the many reasons proving my side of the argument. I'm not going to cherry pick vitriolic quotes from populist websites like stormfront or vanguard. And I'm not going to bore you with personal anti-Semitic anecdotes ripped from the bowels of the boy's locker room at Suffern Junior High School.
It's just a pure, indisputable gut feeling.
You can even call it Jewish instinct, like when a car dealer tells you that if he went any lower on the price he'd be losing money.
President Sanders. Sorry, Bernie that's not going to happen.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
I started my copywriting career at the now defunct Abert, Newhoff & Burr, but things didn't really click until I moved over to Chiat/Day (the proper name for the agency, BTW.) There, I had the pleasure of working in the vicinity of the Grouchy One, Jay Chiat.
Every new employee was given one of these little red handbooks. In it, was the collected wisdom and seeming incongruencies of the man and the agency.
For instance, Jay loudly and proudly proclaimed, "I see everything that goes out the door." This is followed quickly by a directive to his then executive assistant Sharon, "Why are you showing me this?"
I bring this up because the conundrum that Jay faced in 1994, still haunts us today. Only it has gotten worse.
Let's step back for a second.
There was a time when amongst the thousands of assignments floating around the agency, everyone recognized the ones that were "D&D" or simply Down and Dirty. The pay-the-bills evil schlock that needed to be executed, expedited and expectorated with the least amount of effort.
The back of an FSI.
The 5 second tag on a Tier Two spot.
The 10 second live radio DJ read.
The race win ad at the Des Moines BMX quarterfinals.
The 78 X 125 thumbnail banner ad for Harvard Business Review.com
There was an unspoken understanding that, placed in the hands of competent, talented creatives, these little down and dirty jobs could be handled quickly and efficiently. That understanding was expelled from the building. Along with the FAX machines and the notion that employees should have weekends off.
Today, there are no down and dirty jobs. Everything, and I mean everything, is a 5 Alarm Fire Drill. Worthy of late night Pad Thai noodles, a few wasted weekends and a 138 page deck. Gotta have a deck.
"If we don't get this hang tag right, those guys from Droga5 will sweep in here and steal this account."
"The new Tweet has been approved by the Group Creative Director who needs to show it to the Executive Creative Director who needs to run it by the Chief Creative Officer who will then pass it on to the CEO."
"Where are we on the 17th round of revisions to the CTA?"
Not only does my observation apply to everything, it applies to everywhere.
As I've noted before, as a freelancer I work in many, many different agencies of all shapes and sizes. And I've seen this expensive phenomena of micro(aggressive)management across the board.
A few months ago I sat in on a conference call. And as the Assistant Associate Planner of Experiential Digital Strategies was merging trapezoids and parallelograms via the magic of Powerpoint, I took the time to scan through the meeting attendee list.
There were no less than 47 people on the call.
That's two football teams. Two baseball teams. And seven guys in the Men's Room standing way too close to each other at the stadium stainless steel pee trough.
Jay Chiat one famously asked, "How big can we get before we get bad?"
He might have added, "How big can we get before we get bloated?"
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
It's Wednesday morning where you are. But here on the other side of the time/space continuum, it's still Saturday morning, (January 9th).
As I have explained in the past, I do the entire week's blogging on the prior Saturday morning and schedule their postings all in one sitting.
Impressive you say? Well, not if you're paying attention and spot all the facile thinking, the rehashed themes and the countless grammatical errors (that's for you Gary John).
None of that matters now.
Because by the time you are reading this column, the Powerball numbers will have been drawn, the giant over sized check plastered on foam core and hastily written out to yours truly.
More importantly, I will be sucking garlic-soaked snails from their paper thin shells while sitting atop my new 120 foot yacht somewhere off the coast Anguilla.
Oh and I'll be drinking Korbel champagne, extra dry Brut. Not that cheap shit they drag out for agency birthday parties because it's $3.99 a bottle and Janice from Accounting don't give a fuck.
You might be wondering how I can be so sure that I'm the next Powerball winner.
First of all you should know I never buy lottery tickets.
Not a big fan of gambling and all too aware how the odds are stacked in favor of The Man. But as I was coming home from my midday swim, traffic on Culver Blvd was unusually heavy, so I went south to Braddock drive. As I zig-zagged my way through the bowels of Culver City, I decided to stop at the 7-11 to pick up a newspaper and a Diet Coke.
I exited the car I was approached by a very disheveled, very obvious homeless woman in her late 40's. I reached for my wallet before she could utter a word about buying a sandwich or getting a bus ticket back to Sacramento. I handed her a five spot. Moments later I approached the counter with newspaper and beverage in hand.
The homeless woman, with her distinctive BO, was standing right in front of me. Without any shame or guilt, she used the money I had given her to buy lottery tickets.
I would've raised a stink, not that we needed any more of that, but instead I chose to take this as a sign. A sign from God that the consequence of my actions, the detour, the last minute impulse to stop at 7-11, and the generous display of empathy for my fellow man, had led me to this time and place for the fateful selection of my Winning Powerball Ticket.
It's the least the Universe could do in light of the incredibly disappointing sales of my recently published book.
Just so you know, I've opted for the all in one cash payout. Subtract taxes and various lawyer fees, the $900 million payout is actually closer to $425 million. What am I going to do with this obscene amount of cash?
After the obligatory yacht/snail/champagne buying, I'm going to snap up some ad agencies, form a holding company, go on tour speaking about "working for our clients", "redefining the digital landscape", "shifting paradigms via integrated synergistic messaging", and collect some fat ass checks.
That's where the real money is at.
(UPDATE: I did NOT win the Powerball. To all those dimwitted CEO's, Creative Directors, "Strategic" "Planners", annoying neighbors and crazy ex-girlfriends who might have received a vitriolic, long winded diatribe via email, please disregard. Unless, I win tonight.)
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
I'm closing in on 12 years as owner/operator/proprietor of Rich Siegel Worldwide, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cynical Industries.
We're only in it for the money.
Every year is different and brings with it new adventures.
Well, except for my first three years as a freelancer (2004-2007), where I was gainfully employed as a 'permalancer' back at Chiat/Day (I prefer the old moniker.) This never sat well with my brother, a CPA with little or no understanding for the way the advertising world works.
"Wait, they fired you back in 2002. And now they brought you back as a freelancer? With no management responsibilities? And they pay you more than you were making before? And you get to wear shorts to the office?"
Yes, yes, yes and yes.
My brother, a man not fond of monkey suits, was most upset by the last bit of dissonance.
Nevertheless, I was earning my money. Putting out fires on almost every Chiat/Day account. And even writing body for some of the young bloods (interns) who were still intimidated by a blank page and begged me to do their work.
The economy went south in 2008 and I was shown the door. Since then I've stepped foot in almost every agency in Southern California, traditional, digital and otherwise. I never know where the next assignment is coming from. Thankfully, it always does.
In 2015, I found myself working for a slew of new clients. Invariably, they come to me because they've heard of this blog or seen some funny pictures of Kim Jung Un or even caught wind of my book.
Social media may not be right for selling widgets, but it works wonders for selling writers.
I even started doing work for this little tech start up in Seattle, Amazon. Maybe you've heard of them.
And so, while many of you have grown tired of my endless self promotion, my snarky commenting and my ubiquitous internet presence, you can be sure it will only continue. And more than likely grow.
At least until my daughters have graduated from college or I've won the Powerball.
Whichever comes first.
Monday, January 11, 2016
I met my doppelgänger about 6 years ago, shortly after I started writing this blog.
We met via the interwebs through the good graces of a mutual colleague, another copywriter.
Here are the amazing similarities:
We are both copywriters.
We are both from NY.
We are both of the Hebraic persuasion.
We are both fathers, of two daughters.
Prior to advertising, we both labored as short order cooks.
I'd like to say we are both the same age but my doppelgänger is considerably older than 44.
Finally, though I know there are a few other amazing coincidental parallels, we are both dyed in the wool, card carrying, certifiable, unmistakable misanthropes.
In fact, as people who generally don't like other people, you can imagine how weird after 6 years of Internet invisibility, it would be to actually sit down and break bread with my disdainful doppelgänger.
But, it wasn't.
George Tannenbaum, my brother from another mother and another father -- who no doubt descended from the same East European shtetl where our forefathers were bullied and robbed of their borscht money by crazy cossacks -- was flying with his wife to Hawaii.
While on a two day layover in LA, George thought it'd be nice to have a face-to-face.
In his recap of our breakfast, George noted that I was considerably thinner and healthier looking than I had always led on. He dutifully noted my sensible eating routine and my disciplined carb-free selection of eggs and fruit. A torturous regimen that has done me no good whatsoever.
But I had observations of my own.
You see, George is fond of portraying himself as a dour Debbie Downer, albeit a very scholarly sourpuss. A man who could go toe-to-toe with Moliere, quoting chapter and verse the many, many reasons why we all suck.
However, like Abraham Lincoln says, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet. The reality is -- and mind you we only sat down for an hour or so -- George and his wife, were exceedingly not unpleasant.
In fact, the words, which no reader of his blog would ever suspect, jovial and spirited, come to mind.
If I didn't have to get back to my home office to crank out some banner ads for a cyst removal clinic I could have chatted with George and his lovely wife well into the afternoon, particularly had the morning coffee turned into early Bloody Marys.
Perhaps next time I'm in NY (I will be available for freelance as of January 17th) George and I will meet again at the Tempus Fugit, his watering hole, and we can knock back a few Pike's Ale (THE ALE THAT WON FOR YALE.)
Thursday, January 7, 2016
I'm not big on re-caps.
The end of 2015 slipped by and I did nothing to rehash the highlights and low lights of the year.
Mostly because I don't think any of you want to relive my life. I published a book, I made my yearly numbers, I sent two kids off to college, I had an onion bialy with delicious whitefish salad, blah blah blah.
However, I did coin a phrase in 2015 that is seemingly and unexpectedly gaining some traction. I know this because I have received several emails to the effect. And I've read the comments. And I've seen it repeated with an obligatory Rich Siegel Hat Tip.
Frivolous, Fuckwadian, Digital Knick Knacks™.
Those of you in the ad biz know exactly what I'm referring to. In fact, I'm willing to wager some of you even have a spot in production for this year's Super Bowl. But that spot won't hit the airwaves and thrill 270 million people until you have faithfully completed the 360 degree arc of brand integration.
And that means finishing the social media extension of your big beautiful commercial with some kind of superfluous disposable social media tchotchke™.
What will that be?
* Tweet To Eat -- Tell us your best Wheat Thin story in 140 characters or less and win a lifetime supply Wheat Thins, now available in Honey Mustard, Chili Cheese and Zesty Salsa (it's zesty).
* Free Wheelin' --Upload your photo and see what your face would look like as a Nissan Hubcap.
* Meow Mixed -- Post an Instagram of your cat enjoying our delicious, nutritious fish and chicken anal glands and we'll go through your iTunes library and create your very own Meow Mix Mixed Tape.
* Bud Lights The Way -- Send us your email address, proof that you are over 21 years of age and access to your GPS and through the magic of Augmented Reality, we will use your mobile phone to direct you to the nearest location where you can buy Bud Light. It's 22nd century technology in the palm of your 21st century hand!
*The Old Spice Scintillating, Smellolicious Scavenger Hunt -- Find the tumblr photo of the Old Spice Man on the inter webs, customize the photo so that he is on a goat, retweet the photo and collect 1000 shares, screen grab your customized photo with 1000 shares and at least 10,000 likes, and post it on your Facebook page along with a 3,000 word essay and we'll send you a coupon good for a 15% discount on your next purchase of any Old Spice product.
Those of you not in the business, like my friend Paul who often complains that I waste too much digital ink on advertising or advertising-related themes, could care less about these Herculean marketing flim flams which require so much effort and yield so little return -- sort of like making crepes.
Fear not advertising laymen, you are in the company of about 8 billion other people who never engage with any of this crap.
And who would frankly be content to live out the rest of their days without ever seeing another Frivolous, Fuckwadian, Digital Knick Knack™.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
I don't know if you've been following the international geo-political situation lately, but relations with our old adversary, Russia, have reached an all time low. Putin has declared NATO a national threat and the Europeans are issuing more sanctions in light of Russia's indiscriminate bombing in Syria.
Apparently we want to kill the really bad Islamic fundamentalists and NOT the moderately bad Islamic fundamentalists.
Naturally, all this escalating tension happens when RoundSeventeen web traffic is soaring in the former Soviet Union.
These diplomatic conflagrations could have a disastrous impact on the precarious negotiations currently underway with the Baikalskaya Brothers and their plans to turn my book, Round Seventeen & 1/2, The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Inefficient into a movie.
To swing the pendulum back in my favor I've decided to revisit some of my favorite online Russian Dating Sites.
If I can bring some happiness to these lonely Russian singles, perhaps Karma will return the favor.
This is Irina Svetzonski from Vlaski, a small rural area north of Leningrad. This double-jointed beauty is looking for a man who enjoys a home cooked meal. "I will bite the head off this chicken, cook it over a fire of burning tires, and we will drink vodka until the police come and arrest us for trespassing on this old Jew's farm."
Latvana from Minsk also knows that the way to man is through his stomach as she impishly displays a heart-shaped potato that says Love. The tanlines tell us Latavana enjoys the great outdoors. And the hypodermic needle on the shelf behind her tell us she might also have a taste for the China White.
Food seems to be a recurring theme and perhaps it's a great aphrodisiac in a land of few pleasures, unfinished construction projects and crazy dashboard videos. Here, Yaraslova from St. Petersburg, demonstrates her appetite for adventure. "Some men claim I'm too much woman for them. My question to you comrade is, are you enough man for this woman?"
I think Petrov, with his massive pectoral muscles, his freak flag, and his unbeatable sense of fashion and interior design, may be just the man for Yaraslova. A match made in heaven. Or at least Belarus.
If Petrov doesn't work out, there is always Igor, a man who, like many Russians, is also fond of hanging Persian rugs on the wall. Igor enjoys swordplay, stomach crunches and oddly effeminate dogs which counterbalance his raging testosterone.
And finally there is Elena. Sadly this princess/mermaid was with us when I first made light of Russian Dating Sites more than 3 years ago. She still hasn't made a love connection. I'm not put off by the bedsheets turned into a swim fin, the crooked tiara, or even the unstrung $6.99 guitar. But Elena, you might want to reconsider not drinking whatever it is you are drinking out of a mug that doubles as a skull.
Just a thought.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Saw a sci-fi movie over the Christmas break.
No, not the one given to excessive hype, costumed fanboys & fangirls and millions of dollars of speciously-related, co-opted marketing efforts.
"Come in now for Buffalo Wild Wings Intergalactic Triple Dippers. 15 juicy wings and 3 large sides of honey butter, Louisiana Lemon and Atomic Hot. May the Sauce be with you."
I saw a different cult classic, one I'd meaning to see for a long time -- Blade Runner.
To be frank, I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. It felt like a poor man's Terminator. But now, having seen it, I can't believe the many ways in which I am connected to this film.
First the obvious.
The movie features one of my neighbors, the unmistakable M. Emmet Walsh -- who lives in the house behind my property. Emmet plays Harrison Ford's police chief in that kind of breezy, hard-nosed style that became a film cliche in the early 80's. You probably don't know Emmet by name but upon seeing his face and hearing his booming voice you'd recognize him for his massive body of cinematic work.
The cinematographer for Blade Runner was oscar-winning Jordan Cronenweth. Years ago I shot a bunch of Jaguar commercials with Jordan's now grown-up sons, Tim and Jeff. The work wasn't great (my fault not the Cronenweths) but the post production parties and drinking were.
Many of scenes in Blade Runner were shot in the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. This too is odd, as just two weeks ago, my wife and I took the train to the Central Market and stopped by this iconic landmark.
As if all that weren't enough, the movie also starred the stunning Joanna Cassidy (pictured above).
Years before I got into advertising I was the Assistant Manager and Head of Catering Operations at a major restaurant. OK, I was a line cook. The point is it was a very popular place. And I had youth, status and hair.
Ms. Cassidy was a good friend of one the waitresses and found herself at one of our post-closing parties. Fueled with alcohol, a false sense of bravado, and the willingness to turn on the flirtatious charm, it wasn't long before Ms. Cassidy and I were pouring ourselves into a late night taxi.
We made it to her Brentwood apartment at 4:30 AM.
And because traffic was light, I was back at my Culver City apartment by 4:45 AM.
Now, considering my fumbled opportunity and having seen Ms. Cassidy in all her naked cougary goodness, I can certainly attest to that age-old adage.
Hollywood truly is a land of broken dreams.
Monday, January 4, 2016
It's been a long year and boy are my feet tired.
(A strained variation on that old joke, "I just flew in from NY and boy are my arms tired.")
Only in this case, it's not half as funny and it requires some explanation.
For the past week and a half many of you have been traveling: skiing, snorkeling, shussing off to see grandma and grandpa. I've been doing none of that. There is no grandma and grandpa. Thanks to a livelong addiction to tobacco and creamed herring, of the Jewish and the Scottish variety, my predecessors have been enjoying the dirt nap for quite some time.
And so, I've been working.
Working, because when the phone pings or the emails come flooding in and someone offers up a day rate to knock out some outdoor boards or banner ads or spamifestos, I immediately reply, "Thank you sir, may I have another."
It's the downside of being a freelancer. You never, ever, ever say 'no' to work. And it's not like I'm in position to pass up the money. Not when I've got two kids in college and a house with enough sewage and drainage problems to keep three full time plumbers on call.
When I wasn't working, or simply needed to step away from the keyboard, we, the Siegels, went hiking.
We Shanghaied our daughters up to Griffith Park and made another unsuccessful attempt to summit the Hollywood sign. We got within a 1/2 mile of our destination before the whining and the foot dragging commenced. Sporadically interrupted with the telltale call of the spoiled West LA teenager...
"I hate you."
Having learned our lesson, we -- sans children-- ventured north to the Oxnard-adjacent Chalmers Park Trailhead. As the sun was setting over the Pacific we found ourselves double backing over unmarked looped trails that we had covered earlier in the afternoon. There was some slight panic. And for a brief moment I thought I'd have to whip out my multi-tool and fashion some kind of lean-two shelter. Or snare some unsuspecting chipmunk for some protein to tide us over until the morning.
Our best hike came later in the week when we decided to explore the nearby Westridge Canyon trail. We didn't know much about it, other than it didn't require a long trip up the PCH or the often frustrating search for parking that sends many Hollywood hikers into get-off-the-road rage.
We simply drove up to the top of Westridge Road and started walking. That's when we discovered the trail extends from deep in the bowels of Brentwood to the southern edge of Encino. In all, an 8 mile there and back. Siri also told us there is an abandoned Nike Missile Station at the very end of the moderately inclined uphill trail.
I hadn't intended to walk 8 miles that day. Nor had my wife. And even though we are in excellent shape and have been fortified by careers in advertising, it's not something two 44-year olds can just wing on an impulse. But, and this is how I know I made the right choice a long, long time ago, my wife was more than up for the adventure.
"Let's do it," as she tightened the laces on her hiking shoes.
It was a beautiful hike. Capped, surprisingly, with the opportunity to explore the old missile launching site. And enjoy some Cold War humor.
On the way home we stopped at the Brentwood Country Mart for a well-earned beer, cheese and nuts. And there at the Farm Shop we saw the iconic Helen Mirren, who strolled about the cured meats and the outrageously expensive bries as if she were Hollywood royalty.
My wife got into an impromptu discussion with the hostess and the waitresses about Ms. Mirren's beautiful timeless skin. And I found myself -- silently of course-- in concurrence with the claim often heard on the inter webs.
She does have a great set of tits.
Anyway, it's good to be back. Happy New Year!