Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Been thinking about who we are and what we do lately.
We're not artists. If we were true poets and painters, we'd be writing sonnets and visiting our work in museums or local Greenwich Village studios. Instead, we're penning industrial yank-off manifestos and scouring the Internet for illustrators who will do our bidding for $19 an hour.
We're not business people. If we had a knack for numbers we'd look at our holding company overlords who have sold us a bad bill of goods, infected us with deadly Stockholm Syndrome and say Fuck You Very Much.
We're bruisers and brawlers who can step in the ring, take a good corporate pummeling and like Jake LaMotta, look adversity in the eye, and say, "You never got me down, Ray. Never."
Of course this is no great revelation. If you've ever presented your ideas to a Leadership Committee or Partner Party or Executive Bureau -- every agency has a different name -- you're all too familiar with the requisite ducking, weaving and counterpunching.
"Yes, it is on strategy"
"Yes, we can produce this on a limited budget."
"Yes, it covers off all the mandatories on the brief."
"No, we don't have a brand engagement unit that seamlessly integrates with the idea in a synergistic manner that will actively stimulate brand-to-consumer interaction. But the Pad Thai Noodles are coming at 8 and we should have that by tomorrow morning."
The pugilism analogy is hardly stretched.
As in the world of boxing, there are certain creatives who will, with a modicum of skills and an entourage of smooth talking connections, rise above the rest and become true prizefighters.
And then there are the rest of us who will bounce around from one gym (open office plan) to another (open office plan with foosball table.)
We'll take body punches from planners. Head butts from CMO's. And bone crushing, dream crushing combinations from the least likely of sources, a newly minted Account Coordinator, eager to make her mark and ascend the corporate ladder...
"I like the idea but if I can just play Devil's Advocate."
In the end and apart from the scratches and bruises and scars, we don't have much to show for our efforts.
Nobody remembers that million dollar Nissan spot you shot with that artsy-fartsy European director who despised the color blue. Nobody can recall the 24 page insert you wrote for Dell computers. And nobody gives a horse's patooty about all those goddamned banner ads and page takeovers.
All of which makes me so glad that 13 years ago I hung up my agency boxing gloves and took up the more fluid, freelance approach of Tai Chi.
Monday, December 5, 2016
Last week Business Insider magazine printed their 2016 list of the 16 Richest White Jowly Men in Advertising. If that's not grist for the RoundSeventeen mill nothing else is.
I've spent quite a few years in this business and have had the opportunity to work with people who are generally regarded as icons of their time: Lee Clow, Steve Hayden and David Lubars, to name a few. Not one of these gents is on the list.
In fact, if you were to scour the list you wouldn't find one poor schlub who has ever written a headline, comped a layout or dragged an unwieldy Gator Board thru the Cincinatti airport at 2 in the morning to catch a redeye connection for a 7 AM pitch the following morning.
But alas, so much digital ink has already been expended on these richy rich douchebags, I'm going to go in the opposite direction.
You see last week I spotted a posting on LinkedIn. It happened to be from a headhunter friend of mine but I don't fault her for listing the job but I do have some issues with the people trying to fill the job.
Take a look.
This self-described killer creative shop is looking for an award winning team with lots of TV experience and they're willing to pay 120K! Wowie, zowie, how incredibly generous is that?
If you're a senior creative who has won lots of awards for TV work, chances are you're in your thirties. Because frankly kids in their twenties, the ones raised on banner ads and Snapchat fuckamajigs, can barely write a TV spot, much less an award winning one.
So you're in your 30's and you're gonna live in NYC. Oh the agency will pay the relocation fee. But that $3000 a month rent for your 600 square foot Chelsea studio with the bathtub that doubles as a kitchen sink, that's all on you.
Now let's start tapping some keys. Because in a normal industry 120K is not a bad salary for someone putting in a standard 40 hour work week. For 2000 hours of annual labor it works out to be about $60/hour.
But advertising is not normal. Nor standard. Let's not forget, we're changing the world. And that can't be done in 40 hours a week. Fuck no. Between briefs that are rewritten, sometimes twice a day, client dysfunction, and rampant committee-think, you'll be lucky to clock 60 hours a week. But this is a "killer shop", which means they've been cursed with ambition, so it's gonna be more like 80 hours a week.
Not to mention weekends.
"You need to fast? We're not asking you not to eat. We're asking you to work. Actually, we're not asking."
In all, new relocated senior team with a portfolio chock full of awards sitting at seats #21 and #22 at the "idea assembly line", you'll log so much time at the agency you'll develop an aura of perma-body odor.
Your true hourly rate will be less that the building's night watchman. And the Puerto Rican janitor, Fernando, who gets paid for his overtime and also makes more money than you, will joke...
"Oh you spend so much time here, Mr./Ms. (your last name here), when are they going to put your name on the door?"
And they never will.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Last week the hard drive on my 6 year old iMac crashed. It crashed hard.
I took it to the Genius Bar and had the tech guy run some diagnostics. All the tests were coming up green until, bam, like crapping out in Vegas I was staring at a big red warning button.
"Not good," said the hipster dude with the abnormally long lumberjack beard. "You can get a whole new computer for about $2300 or a new hard drive for 200 bucks," he added.
I have two college bursars with a lien on my paychecks; I took the new hard drive.
When it was installed a week later, I brought it home and began the laborious job of rebuilding my digital life. I love the pinpoint accuracy of the El Captain installation process (see picture above.)
About 974,480,799 hours and 5 minutes remaining.
I won't bore you with the excruciating details, but it took a long time to reboot the lost software, track down all the photos and the iTunes and finally, partially recover my accounting records that detailed the ups and downs of the last 13 years of freelancing.
Instead I'll share some of the random photos I found on my iPhone this week that, in a haphazard way, tell the story of the recent election, my daughter's homecoming(s), our family trip to the Broad Museum, Thanksgiving and the nearby Pacific Ocean which we don't visit often enough.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Considering my longstanding membership in the Tribe, you might find it strange, but I too have Christmas traditions. As in year's past, this most wonderful time of the year can only mean only thing -- the reappearance of the Caganer.
Caganer, you say, what the hell is a Caganer?
I'm glad you asked.
It started in 17th century in the northern regions of Spain, when local villagers were preparing their outdoor Nativity scenes. Some wiseguy, decided that in addition to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men and their camels, there needed to be an old man outside the manger squatting down and leaving a big steaming dump for all to enjoy. All during the birth of our Lord and Savior, no less.
Rumor has it that it had something to do with fertilizing the land and guaranteeing a fruitful crop come harvest time. I don't buy that for a second and believe it had more to do with an overconsumption of low-grade Sangria.
In any case, the practice of putting a Caganer -- literally The Shitter -- outside Nativity scenes caught on. And before long a new Christmas ritual was born.
It wasn't just Catalonians diligently setting their nativity scenes up with a Lincoln Logcutter. The practice has now spread to southern France and other regions of the European continent. And lest you doubt the veracity of my human tail tale...
That's a 25 foot high Caganer in a mall just outside Barcelona.
I've had friends returning from Europe gifting me with little Caganers.
And if you're interested, you can purchase one online.
Seeing as there are caganers available in everything from Pope form to Madonna to even the late Fidel Castro, it should come as no surprise there is even a new Donald Trump character. But what sets this apart is the loving craftsmanship, remarkable authenticity and attention to detail of this unique caganer.
You see in light of the President elect's troubling statements about restricting free speech, his willingness to have fascists join him in the West Wing and his thorough disregard for the emolument clause, the artisans at caganer.com have lovingly made one amendment to this very special caganer.
That's right, Mr. Trump is figuratively and literally taking a dump on the Constitution.
The next four years are going to be so entertaining.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Like you, I go through the newsfeed on Facebook. I scan through all the latest news on Linkedin. And I enjoy the guilty pleasures of AgencySpy.
And probably like you, I will often read of the promotions of colleagues or see their continued ascendancy and think, "damn, that could've been me."
Or, and this I know to be true, I will look at the recent work they've done and, like you, have said, "how did they let that hot mess of sophomoric copy and lifeless art direction out the door. Glad my name isn't attached to that salesfuckery."
All these thoughts have run through my head. Perhaps because I've had a smidgen of success and imagine myself to be more talented than I am, I will often picture myself in a similar position and think how I would do things differently.
If I were CCO, I'd...
Then I usually lay on the couch in my home office and despite the consumption of 5 full cups of coffee, nap for 20 minutes and wake up remarkably clear headed and free of such delusions.
You see, I could never be a CCO or even an ECD. Mostly because I don't have the palate for it. Palate, don't you mean strategic understanding, business acumen and management aptitude?
No, I mean palate.
And make no mistake, being in charge of the creative product at an ad agency is remarkably similar to being a mayor. Only the bowls of shit arrive on the desktop at a much faster pace.
I see the shit they eat and wonder how they do it.
I see them smiling at the witless comments made by clients, the people paying the bills.
I see them deferring to clueless CEOs, the people signing the paychecks.
And I see them gnashing their teeth through presentations made by strategists, the people...I still don't know what they do.
It's not only fast and furious, it's nonstop. 24/7/365.
Not long ago, I was mistakenly cc:ed on an electronic meeting invite. The email was sent out on a Saturday night at 3 AM!! For a meeting to be held that same Saturday night at 4 AM!!
There isn't a Year End Clearance Sale, a two for one eyeglass promotion, a $6.99 any two toppings deal or even an Apple rebranding assignment that is worth me prying my eyes open at 4 AM on a Saturday night.
Another bowl of shit?
No thanks, I'll pass.
Monday, November 28, 2016
I read the newspaper the other day.
I know that's hardly the most searing lead in I've ever written but it is depressingly newsworthy.
There was a time that every morning started with a cup of black Joe, a bowl of cereal and a thick meaty LA Times to eat up an hour's worth of my day.
Now, however, I find myself getting my news from the worst possible source, the same place populated by a million videos of skateboarders smashing their crotch on a handrail, the same place where I can watch two women doing unimaginable things with a cup, the same place where you come to hear some glib 44 year old copywriter rage at the world.
This is not good, people.
David Frum, a man I rarely agree with, said the biggest catastrophe of the latest election is not who will be crowned on January 20, 2017, but what we have buried 6 feet under -- the Facts. And with it the source of those facts, more specifically, the media.
And even more more specifically, the print press, newspapers.
I grew up in a newspaper-devouring household. My father would often come home from the train with three papers in his hand -- the NY Times, The Post and The Daily News. Plus, I delivered the local paper, the Rockland Journal news. If an errant cigarette tipped over, there was enough newsprint in my house to set Suffern, Spring Valley and some adjoining areas of Upper Saddle River ablaze.
I even remember in high school, they showed us How to Read a newspaper, including all the intricate folding moves one needed to manhandle the Old Grey Lady.
The point is, we were saturated in news and journalism and facts. Mostly facts. I'm sure there were biases back then but the astute reader learned to weigh the agenda of each source and find a healthy and confident position somewhere on that spectrum.
That's gone now.
Today, and sadly I'm as guilty as anyone, we get our news, our facts, our misunderstanding of the world around us, from Buzzfeed, the Blaze, the Beast, Gawker, that guy on Facebook and that crazy cousin in Flagstaff who is convinced the End Days are coming and it's time to stock up on kerosene and chicken broth.
Or worse, we eat up the "news" dished out by the TV networks, the same TV networks who live and breath on ratings and consequent advertising revenue. The same networks who looked at the wall separating the news division, the entertainment division and the how-do-we-flush-our-country-in-the-toilet division and said, "I know, let's go with open office plan."
To Frum's point, if we can't find a source of reliable, objective media to give us some semblance of the facts, what hope do we have of ever finding our footing? We have become supremely susceptible to propaganda and deception and flim-flammerty, from all sides.
To this day Alex Jones and his legion of false flagging fuckheads (Michael Flynn, our new NSA Director among them) believe the tragedy of Sandy Hook was a conspiracy arranged by the government to push the gun grabbing agenda. He continues to spew this ugly nonsense even after watching 20 young schoolchildren being lowered into the ground.
If this is what passes for news these days, I'm afraid they should start digging one more hole for our diseased, ill-informed culture.
Addendum: I am signing up for the daily delivery of the NY Times and Wall Street Journal at my doorstep.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Two weeks ago, I decided to change the face of RoundSeventeen.
Despite the warnings of my friend and fellow blogger Jeff, I signed up for Google's AdSense program and began allowing various advertisers to hawk their wares on my modest little blog.
In the interest of making the most money possible, I didn't just dip my toe in the water, I went full bore and let the good guys at Google plaster my page with ads (insert bukake joke here.)
Since signing up I've seen the rotation of ads include everything from Norm Reeves Honda Superstore to some arcane evangelical school in the heart of Georgia looking for future seminaries.
Not sure they're gonna find any future missionaries here at R17.
In any case, the program is up and running. And this little media channel that I've built all on my own, without any VC capital and without any regard for how it might be destroying my once promising career as a copywriter, is already generating revenue.
Are you wondering how much money the inter web is putting in my pocket?
Of course you are.
And politicians, particularly those in the new administration should take heed as well. Because frankly, despite the promises of President Shitgibbon, those coal mining jobs and those flange manufacturing jobs and all those Rust Belt jobs are simply not coming back.
But there are big bucks to be had in the job of blogging.
I just checked the Earnings stat page. And after all the page views and click throughs and percentages have been tallied, in just two weeks time, I've amassed...are you ready?...68 cents.
I know 2016 has not been kind to us in many ways, with the election debacle, the many celebrity deaths and the recent stumble of the Washington Huskies football team, but the good Lord hath provided.
My Exit Plan is in place.
This Thanksgiving, I truly have something to be thankful for.
Have a great holiday.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
As you may or may not recall, earlier this year I traveled up to Oakland for a family wedding. And I know the first question that comes to mind is, "who gets married in Oakland?"
But my niece and her now-husband live there and to be honest, the city is making a comeback and provided many pleasant surprises.
One of the not-so-pleasant surprises was the appearance of Kash Doll. As I detailed in an earlier posting, Ms. Doll and her "crew" showed up at our downtown hotel and decided it would be a perfect location for shooting her new music video.
Being unfamiliar with the Oakland hip hop scene, and upon first sighting, my wife and daughters assumed Ms. Doll and her scantily clad cohorts were simply street walkers. And had no idea she was a legitimate professional musician with serious credentials.
Like being able to rhyme words like bitch and snitch, glock and cock and suck and fuck.
You know, a songwriter.
The rather loud filming of the Kash Doll/Philthy Rich Joint went way past the midnight hour. And had I not had a few choice words with the hotel manager, the shoot could have easily gone until the sun came up. Attention to detail, the right lighting, getting just the right hand gestures, I've been on many shoots myself and know these things take time.
The inconvenience was not without its rewards. The hotel comped me for the night and sprang for breakfast and lattes at their in-house Starbucks which was right on the premises. Thank you Kash Doll.
As if that weren't enough to compensate me for a lost night of sleep, I now have a copy of the video that was so laboriously labored over.
Am I going to share it with you? You're damn right I'm going to share it with you.
Bear in mind the language is a little crude so might want to slap on the headphones. But what Kash Doll lacks in refinement she certainly makes up for in artistic expression. And this my friends, is high art.
Monday, November 21, 2016
The pundits and the prognosticators told us that people felt one way. When in fact people felt the other. The "experts" crunched their numbers over and over again. They reviewed their focus group findings. They crossed their T's and dotted their i's. They stood high on their soapboxes and with uncanny confidence, told us the way it was and the way it was going to go.
And yet it didn't.
If it didn't have such disastrous impact on our country and the country we'll be handing over to our children, I'd be laughing. We're only two weeks into this new administration and the cabinet is already looking like half the cast of Mississippi Burning -- the white half.
The truth is we've seen this type of comical miscalculation before.
My old boss, Jay Chiat, brought many great contributions to our industry, the birth of west coast creativity, an unrelenting demand for excellence, innovations in art and architecture. Planning wasn't one of them.
Since the late 90's we have witnessed the ascent of the planners/strategists. Not only have they been rising, they've been multiplying. Today's typical BDA (Big Dumb Agency) now has Communication Strategists, Brand Strategists, Media Strategists and Digital Content Strategists. If I told you I knew what they did, I'd be lying.
And if I told you I understood their Powerpoint decks with their vast array of polygons, vectors and arrows, and how all that data translates into greater sales of Wheat Thins, disposable razors or underpowered Fiat hatchbacks, well, I'd be lying again.
Perhaps I should count my blessings.
Because the next time I sit in a briefing and hear some horsecockery from our "experts" and feel the need to question the brief or the strategy, I now have additional weapons in my counter argument arsenal.
We used to cite the Seinfeld effect. In focus group after focus group, respondents claimed the show sucked. That it was boring. Or, better yet, it was about nothing.
It was about nothing. And had the network sheeple listened to their highly-paid pollsters, they would have left more than a billion dollars on the table.
Of course, Seinfeld is now a dated Big Data reference. Half the people working in advertising weren't even born when Kramer failed to master of his own domain.
So now, when we want to push back on planning, when we want to question the brief, when we insist on finding our own human truths, we have the bungled election of 2016.
Thank you Nate Silver, you've done us all a great service.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
What is that, you ask?
Is it an alien?
Something they removed from my dog?
The latest offering from the local Dim Sum joint?
Maybe this will help.
It's a lemon. A mutant, to say the least, that fell off my lemon tree. Why am I posting a mutant lemon off my backyard lemon tree? Well, this has been a busy and emotionally draining week.
And when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.
Or, in this case, an end of the week blog posting.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
You know who really lost last week?
The rough-riding, camo-wearing, weapon-sexuals who for weeks preceding the election, stated in no uncertain terms, that if their guy didn't win they were prepared to go all Wolverine on us and stage their own Lexington Concord.
By the way, I'm sure the folks pictured above are much more familiar with the Red Dawn reference than they are to the very birth of our nation.
But you know and I know that on the night on November 7th, these white trash assnuggets were polishing their 5.56 polymer tipped ammo and chomping at the bit to wreak some revenge on the cultural elitists, global elitists and kale-eating nutrition elitists who stole their election.
If things didn't go their way, these Rambo-wannabes warned, blood would run all the way from 5th Avenue down to the Pacific via Wilshire Blvd.
Intricate maps were drawn up. Complete with stealthy diversions, Patton-like flanking maneuvers and tactical positions marked up for the group's best snipers. Finally, they thought, an opportunity to leverage all those weekend warrior training trips to the woods.
And lob homemade hand grenades at Them. You know Them, the enemy who wants to destroy this great country with education, access to proper healthcare, sensible banking regulations, alternative energy sources and equal rights for all citizens.
What kind of un-American bullshit is that?
Guess what Bobby Jo Kalashnikov and Betty Bag O'Bullets, your guy won.
Not with more votes, he didn't win more votes. But he won nonetheless, with the same gerrymandered system you so vocally distrust and want to destroy. The one that was rigged by, how did David Duke put it, oh yeah the Jooos - who, as it turns out, are the world's worst puppetmasters and stringpullers.
Well the doomsday scenario they so desperately wanted did not materialize. Alex Jones will have to conjur up some new false flags. And all that preparation will have be to put on powder.
At least until 2020.
What's the expiration date for freeze dried beef stroganoff?
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
I used to sleep like a champion.
Those days are long gone.
Now I find myself leaping out of bed, ok, not exactly leaping, but rising while the sun is still on the bottom side of the horizon. This is not to my liking. And it's clearly not my first choice.
If I had my druthers I'd be three cycles deep into REM sleep and dreaming of Angelina Jolie, she's single now.
Or as my wife would say,
"Keep dreaming. I'm sure after the break up with Brad Pitt she's on the prowl for a fat, bald Jew in a 2007 Lexus with the dual climate control and Mark Levenson stereo. If you can make that happen, go for it."
My point is...what was my point...oh yeah, I can't sleep anymore. Which, as I mentioned before, was not always the case.
As a teenager I'd rarely be out of bed before lunch hit the table. And in college, far from my father's watchful and scornful eye, I'd gladly skip class and wake up when the sun was at its highest point in the day and the temperature was at its apex, which in Syracuse was rarely above 28 degrees.
Of course the logical solution would be for me to go to bed earlier. At a more reasonable hour like 10 or 11PM, you know like my fellow 44 year olds. But the Internet will not allow.
This is messing with my system. I'm eating lunch when I should be eating breakfast. And I find myself intrigued with the early bird specials at my local Denny's. Two for one Salisbury Steak if I order before 4 PM. How can I pass that up?
Oh, look it's 8:30 AM.
Maybe I'll take a nap.
Monday, November 14, 2016
There are some big changes coming to RoundSeventeen.
And of course, by big I mean banner ads usually 128 X 324 in size.
It all started last week, when on the first day of a new gig I ran into a copywriter friend. Before we were briefed on the new project we had time to catch up and shoot the shit. Naturally, as is always the case when two copywriters start chatting, the discussion turned to other copywriters, schmucks, who were making money, much more money, than either of us.
He started telling me of another blogger and how he had successfully monetized his operation with ads. He didn't know for sure but thought this other blogger had anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 page visits a month, which had roughly translated into $500 of extra money.
FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS, I said, in a voice that was inappropriately loud in a place of business.
Shit, who couldn't use an extra $500 a month? If I could swing 500 bucks just for my daily bouts of industry-bashing, career self-immolation and narcissistic nostalgia, my wife and I could live like royalty.
We could enjoy that sharp cheddar cheese I like instead of the store branded American.
We could switch from the scratchy toilet paper we're currently using to that nice soft quilted 2 ply that seems to reward me with every use.
And we could spring for that new outdoor security camera system that beams HD pictures in glorious 4K so I could keep an eagle eye on my white trash neighbor's nefarious activities.
Well, that was all I needed to hear. So I took a deep dive into the blogger settings and signed up for their advertising program.
I don't know why I had resisted the notion before. Some nonsense about purity. Editorial control. And having Respect for my readers. Then I looked at the sales numbers for my books, books that you never bought or reviewed or created any buzz about and thought, screw that.
The process has not taken long.
As you might have noticed, the good folks at Google have already polluted this page. I've seen ads for Nest Thermostats, camping equipment and Mammoth Mountain. Which tells me, the ad placement is governed by algorithms of my current online activities.
Well, my mama didn't raise no fool. I did a little digging and found out that the biggest online sales stem from auto insurance, recipe tutorials and penis enlargement pills.
So don't be surprised if in the near future you find yourself reading a lot more RoundSeventeen posts about T-boning, chicken masala and Ron Jeremy.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
It's two days after the election. But since I'm writing this post in advance on Saturday November 5th, I have no idea who the President will be.
I know who it won't be -- Uncle Bernie Sanders.
I stated on this blog months ago that America was not ready for a Jewish President, even an agnostic one like Bernie. I believed that then. And in light of the bigotry and racism we've seen in this year's campaign, I believe it even more now.
"Oh, but we've had a black President, there might even be a woman President, surely you can't think America is not ready for a Jewish President?"
Permit me to introduce you to Lana Lokteff, a self-styled white knight and protector of Aryan culture despite the fact that she is of Russian descent and clearly not a naturally born blonde.
Lana, or as I refer to her, Eva Braun's ugly niece, and her equally hair challenged co-host Henrik (perhaps the missing link primate scientists have been searching for) host a lovely internet based show called Red Ice Radio.
Here, free from FTC regulation, they spout their virulent anti-semitism to thousands of followers. See if you can get thru two minutes....
In this one particular clip, they mock Israeli doctors and nurses who are risking their lives to save the lives of Syrian refugees who have been cast onto the open waters by a different group of Jew haters.
How anyone can find fault with human beings helping other human beings and preventing them from drowning, defies all manner of logic.
But this ugly Nazi gasbag and her shit-for-brains boyfriend don't stop there. You see, according to these rocket scientists, the reason the Jooos are directing the non-swimming Syrian refugees safely to the shore is to further the Islamic invasion of Europe.
Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
Israel has its hands full with 57 Muslim countries around the world, all seemingly bent on its delegitimization and ultimate destruction. How is it in their best interest to advance the cause of an Islamic takeover of Europe?
Clearly, on this and so many other issues, Lana hasn't thought this through.
Sorry Eva Braun, your Russian niece is not only ugly and hateful, she's 50 Nordic-adjacent shades of stupid.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
I remember a simpler time.
"Oh no, not another old man war story."
A simpler time when my partner and I were handed an assignment. We were told we'd have two weeks to work on it. And, that in two weeks time, we'd be showing our work to Lee, as in Lee Clow.
More often than not, we'd get it wrong. Lee would straighten us out, point us in a more focused direction and we'd come back to him in another two weeks. The process would repeat itself over and over again, but in the end we usually had something we could be proud of. The work would be presented, by Lee. Sold. And then produced.
I told you it was simpler.
In 2016, that's not the way it goes. Not by a long shot. Today I'm a freelancer and despite the fact that I have more experience than everyone on the org chart, any work I do must first get the blessing of the ACD, Associate Creative Director.
ACDs usually want to see the work 24 hours after I've been handed a brief. It's never to their liking. But given it's been one rotation of the earth it's rarely to my liking as well. ACDs are funny because now that they have a title they need to start showing why they're worthy of a bigger title.
If and when the work goes to the next layer, the Creative Director, it is often caveated by the ACDs. And if something is liked, it's accompanied by some editorial...
"We told them to do that."
"We told them not to do that."
Creative Directors tend to be more savvy. They know to bring in extra artillery. So before the work, now examined by two all-knowing lawyers of middle management proceeds, it gets presented to the planners. If we are to go back to the cake analogy, the planners are the creamy vanilla filling. You can draw your own conclusions on that.
Next up, the work goes to the Group Creative Directors. Though these folks are spread thin on multiple accounts, they've still got plenty of opinions. And ways to get their thumbprint on the work. Of course, their revisions, deconstruction and new spin on the idea must be completed within 24 hours.
Everything it seems must be turned around in the span of one day.
Next up, the ECD. Executive Creative Directors didn't get to be Executive Creative Directors without having an opinion or two. And often those opinions are quite different than the plainly ignorant opinions of GCDs gunning for their position. So the work gets torn apart. And needs to be reassembled.
By when? You know when.
It's been a long journey, but now, finally, the work is being presented to the CCO, the Chief Creative Officer, the top rung of the creative ladder. Only, as I've mentioned in previous postings, he or she is not. Because even if the work squeaks by this big wig it still has to cut the mustard with the Leadership council/partnership/committee/squadron/board/conglomeration/junta.
And if you think a congressional filibuster is the height of inefficiency, well you haven't experienced the corporate equivalent of the Bataan Death March.
The good news is the work is finally put together in a deck. But because of scheduling conflicts, the presentation had to be canceled, so the 178 page deck was compressed and sent over to the client via a pdf on a very large zip drive.
Where it will sit unzipped, unviewed and unmolested for at least a week.
And then, it will start all over again.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
There is something unnerving about walking into a marijuana dispensary.
I know it's legal. I know there are as many dispensaries in Los Angeles as there are Starbucks. And I know I won't get arrested and spend a night in the clink, as I did a long, long time ago while visiting the Jersey Shore.
By the way, if you're going to hole up in a jail, the one in Belmar was very clean.
Still, it's hard to process the whole process when your head is filled with so many memories of making a similar transaction on the sly; whether it was buying weed from shady characters in Greenwich Village to taking a cab ride into the heart of Harlem only to come away with some marijuana-like oregano.
I hadn't been to the dispensary in quite some time. In my case, a little goes a long way. I don't wake and bake as I used to do in college. Now, I like to have some on hand for camping trips or for "medicinal purposes", like when my plantar fascitis flares up.
In any case, before gaining entry to the back room of the dispensary I had to go through the security check.
Alas, my "medical" marijuana card had expired. Meaning, a trip to the "medical" marijuana "doctor" was in order. Please note the ample use of quotes because it's hard to take any of these cannabis charades seriously.
Fortunately the "doctor", who also has equity in the dispensary, was located just down the street. It's a tiny ramshackle office that sits under the shadow of the 405 freeway, wedged between a taco stand and an old-timey steak house that still serves green beans fresh from the can.
Also fortunately, the waiting room was empty.
The last time I was in there it was packed. Mostly with giggling high school kids eager to see Dr. FeelGood. I took a seat on the cheap Ikea furniture and paged through the latest edition of High Times. The centerfold was a glorious three page fold out of a baseball-sized bud of Five Star Master Kush. Who says print is a dead medium?
After a few minutes I was led down the hallway to the windowless office of the "doctor." It was 1:30 in the afternoon and apparently I had caught him while he was plowing through his Filipino lunch -- a plate of Sisig (sizzling pork cheeks, brain and liver) smothered in Sriracha sauce.
He asked me a few questions. Didn't even look at my feet, now burdened with bone spurs from 25 years of running. And had me sign some silly piece of paper about my "medical affliction" and my dissatisfaction with more "traditional conventional treatments."
But before he handed me my shiny new medical marijuana card enabling me to enjoy all the "medicinal" benefits of state-regulated and grown sativa, he relieved my wallet of forty bucks. The only relief this "doctor" provided.
He thanked me and vigorously shook my hand.
On the way out, I noticed I had Sriracha sauce all over my palm.
Monday, November 7, 2016
The Cubbies finally won the World Series and now, three days later, the adrenaline is just leaving my body.
I'm not a big baseball guy. If I find myself at a ballpark in April or May, it's usually to enjoy pastoral Chavez Ravine, drink beer and eat $9 hot dogs filled with various unmentionable rat parts. But come late September, October and now early November, and I can identify RISP, name 10 Jewish players currently in the Big Show and correctly spot the difference between a cutter and a slider.
I love the World Series. And though I've only been to Chicago once, on a disgustingly extravagant film shoot (OPM), I love the Windy City. That the Cubbies took home the ultimate prize only made it sweeter.
What made this year's Fall Classic even classic-er, was what happened after the last out was recorded.
I'm sure you saw it. As did 40 million other viewers who were glued to their boob tubes. A 60 second (not 6 second you Vine-aphiles) spot from Nike that captured the joy Midwesterners have been waiting for 108 years.
Like a 101 mile per hour two seam fastball delivered by Aroldis Chapman, the spot was pure perfection. The music. The location. The Harry Caray call. All perfection.
And what was most rewarding was the Truth, intentionally capitalized.
You don't see much Truth in advertising these days. I'm not talking about bait & switch, or weasel words, or sales events that claim to be ending soon but never do. I'm talking about true Truth. Insights into human behavior that can, when used wisely, be used to tug at heartstrings, raise goosebumps and earn some real estate in our collective mindspace.
I think people will be talking about this commercial in the same breath as, "Remember when the Cubbies finally won the World Series."
Here's the thing. That Truth here wasn't unearthed by big data. Nor did it require a 6 week deep dive by the planning department. I guarantee it was something that sprang up when a copywriter and an art director were just shooting the shit and one said...
"When we were kids, my little brother used to throw on his jersey, grab his mitt and bat, run out to the park and play imaginary baseball all by himself. He'd hit the ball, run the bases, and do the color commentary. And he wouldn't come home until the sun set or my mom would be screaming out the window for Dinner."
And the partner replied, "yeah, my sister did that on a basketball court. We should do something with that."
What I love most about this spot is its simplicity. There are no special effects. The execution is purposefully small. And perhaps most importantly, it's a spot that any maker of sporting goods could put their logo on.
But guess what, simpleminded marketer and killer of all good ideas that artfully employ a category-sell, they didn't.
Nike did. And to victor go the spoils.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man's meat.
SFX: DVR in Reverse.
Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man's meat.
Let me get this straight. The agency brought you rounds and rounds of work. Work that no doubt stressed the great taste of Heineken Light, the beer of choice for young hipsters who want the great taste of a great tasting beer but without all the calories associated with a full bodied import.
And because there was a celebrity spokesperson involved, my guess is the script scrutiny was extra intense. The last thing anyone wants to do is embarrass themselves in front of an A-list thespian like Neil Patrick Harris.
And yet, after all that, after all the hundreds and hundreds of man hours on this pivotal spot, you guys chose this lifeless drek, with a meaningless and pointless homosexual innuendo, against a white syc, with the same production value afforded the shooting a 5 year old's backyard birthday party?
I've spent a lot of time in this stupid marketing business and still can't wrap my head around this one.
How the planners convinced the client this was on strategy?
How the creatives arrived at this weird contrivance and more importantly how they sold it?
And how something like this actually sells more beer?
Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man's meat.
Next time I'm having lunch with one of my gay friends or my gay uncle is visiting from Palm Springs, I'll have to ask exactly what that means.
Or, maybe I don't want to know.
In any case, I wish the people from Heineken would reach out to me. I'd be happy to give them advertising that moves their product.
Instead of commercials that sell more Beck's Light.
Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man's meat.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
There's an old saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day. I find it hard to believe that Donald Trump could manage two right things in a day, but sadly he has.
Recently he mentioned the notion of Congressional term limits. I can't imagine why this doesn't resonate, but for me it does. Frankly, I'm tired of do-nothing congressmen and congresswomen who have been drawing a salary, enjoying free healthcare and the unlimited use of the Congressional gym including their Olympic sized swimming pool, for 6 terms, 7 terms or even 8 terms.
These old codgers have been sucking on Uncle Sam's teat longer than my 44 years.
The second is the notion that Hilary Clinton has been in office for 30 years and has done little in the way of change. At face, this is unfair. You can't expect a Senator or a Secretary of State to bring about wild change. It's the nature of our consensual system.
At the 30,000 foot level however, Trump is correct. Not about Clinton, per se. But about politicians. And politics. If this campaign season has done anything, it's shown the light on the ugly way, our leaders go about their business. It's less about substantive change or policy, and more, much more, about slamming the other candidate, slinging mud, and spinning the news in a hyperbolic positive way.
Mmmmm, why does that sound so familiar?
Oh, I know why, because I worked in advertising. And I know this may come as a shock to some of you but there are politics in advertising. More than any of us want to admit.
Maybe some of you have been a victim of office politics. I know I have.
You see I naively went about my business focusing on the client's business. I spent waking and non-waking hours sweating the creation and crafting of new campaigns, new ideas and new ways to get to the marketplace.
I did little in the way of buttering up to management, polishing my image or cutting closed door meetings to jump a few rungs on the corporate ladder.
As a copywriter or a creative director, I was a contender.
As a political career climber, I was a Grade A chump.
The refrain I often hear about this year's election and our two ethically-challenged candidates, "Is this the best we've got?"
And then I look at the leaders in our own industry, the ones taking home 8 figure compensation packages, the ones building offices with no desks, the ones scheming huge holding company mergers, the ones groping women, the ones screaming about 'Fucking Jews', the ones sitting in First Class asking for a new flute of champagne as the plane loses altitude over the Mariana Trench, and I think,
"Is this the best we've got?"
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Color me shocked.
Last week, in addition to announcing a 10% cut in overall staff, Twitter pronounced their breakthrough media platform -- Vine -- officially dead. In the coming months, the app used to make 6 second cinematic masterpieces will soon be discontinued.
This paradigm-shifting news sent dozens of Fortune 100 companies scurrying to their collective whiteboards.
How, they wondered, would they be able to tell their unique brand engaging stories and actively connect with consumers on an ongoing and authentic basis that resulted in exponential sales growth without their precious Vine videos...oh wait, that didn't happen.
Is that schadenfreude in the air? Of course it is.
You see I was skeptical of this digital horsecockery when it first arrived on the scene.
Pardon my cynicism, but I spent a lifetime trying to craft compelling spots into 30 second time slots. And poo-pooed the media genii who convinced our clients it could all be done in 15 seconds. So when some media planner with baby soft hands and a carefully-sculpted lumberjack beard told me it all had to be done in these new 6 second Vines, I quickly volunteered to write the email blasts.
Not one to hold back, I posted this in 2014.
Perhaps it's only fitting that a media platform that was short on substance, short on engagement, and short on any meaning whatsoever, was also short on life. Barely lasting two years in the public eye.
Who knows how this will reverberate throughout the industry.
Because, as my previous posting noted, Twitter had also created an entire division dedicated to measuring and analyzing Vine data -- Loop Counts. And that in turn spawned all new hirings in the ad agency world and exciting opportunities for social media analysts.
But, if there are no Vines then sadly there is no need for skilled professional Loop Counters. And this is where it really gets sad.
Because if an MBA with a degree from Wharton and a proven two year track record of extracting valuable brand insights from people watching 6 second videos while sitting on the crapper, can't make a decent living and have enough money in his pocket for a $7 cold brew coffee, what hope do the rest of us have?