Thursday, December 12, 2013
I am about to embark on a 4 month roller coaster ride.
Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter completed her college application process. There were panicked nights of essay writing. Frenzied gathering of my financial data. As well as some valuable lessons in resume inflation.
Apparently my daughter is peaceful, loving, and actively engaged in her community, not to mention brilliant, charming and given to scholarly excellence. If I'm reading her credentials correctly, she makes Mother Theresa look like a stupid French whore.
I guess all the kids do it.
Entrance to college is that competitive.
A lot different from when I was a kid. Syracuse University only wanted to know that my father's check would clear. They were more than happy to take his money and let me sit in an auditorium with 500 equally disinterested stoned students.
After four years they dispatched me a sheepskin and said, "good luck out there." And then they replaced me with the some other poor schmuck.
Well, last night, the first letter came back from one of her chosen 19 colleges. There was a lot of drama opening that envelope. The kind of mailbox drama I'm going to have to endure in the weeks that follow.
The good news is, she got accepted. First letter, first acceptance. 1 for 1.
They don't have a big time football team or basketball team, so it's not my first choice. After all, sending my kid to college is all about getting the t-shirts and the sports gear. Nevertheless, it was a great way to start and sent her confidence into the stratosphere.
Of course, there's some bad news too. Like trying not to dwell on thoughts of my own mortality, there's a certain inevitability to all this.
Soon, she will be packing her stuff in boxes.
Soon, she will be leaving the house.
Soon, she will be gone and I will finally get the peace and quiet I've been screaming about for all these years.
And I will be sad.
Then, when I think it can't get any worse, the first tuition bill will come in the mail.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I'm the Mayor of Who-Gives-A-Shitsville.
Which is my way of saying that if I didn't accept your connection to FourSquare, the social media that tracks your every location, I won't be doing so in the near future.
I'll be the first to admit that when this new FourSquare phenomena hit, I signed up for it. Not sure why I did, as my wife postulates…
"you never go anywhere interesting, why would people want to know you're at the pool or getting an overpriced fruit cup from Bristol Farms?"
However, I work in an industry where there is this ungodly fascination with trends, particularly anything remotely related to digital.
Application blah blah blah.
Mobile blah blah blah.
Hashtag blah blah blah.
So I get roped into these meaningless digital flash mobs. The fear is if I don't stay current and know what the kids are doing I'll be pegged as some kind of industry dinosaur.
From what I can see, the kids aren't doing much of anything.
They're tweeting and instagramming and snapchatting about stuff, but they're not actually doing stuff. And yes, I'm aware of the irony that I am currently blogging about what other people aren't doing.
But, and this is a big butt, I'm honing my skills, putting one word in front of another.
Colleagues, who call themselves writers, or the more diminutive copywriters, aren't even doing that. I know, I've looked. I've seen the portfolios without any print, without any radio, without any demonstrable evidence of that thing we used to call craft.
I do see a lot of page takeovers. Clients love page takeovers. I'm guessing consumers do, too. I was at a dinner party the other night -- sorry, I didn't check in on Foursquare -- and heard this guy regalling others with a tale about page takeover.
"The other day I was checking out CNN.com. Did anybody see how Capitol One took over their page? It was incredible!"
OK, nobody is talking about page takeovers. Nobody should.
When these copywriters aren't doing page takeovers, they're coming up with cool new ways to showcase their client's products and services on Jizbo, Yeeha, Purple Box, Gaglet, FuzzBucket, or some other media platform known only to 23 people on the planet.
My credentials can be damned.
I'm no longer on Foursquare.
And from this point on, I'm downsizing my digital thumbprint.
I look forward to the day when corporations do the same.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
2013 has been a very odd year.
Upon retuning from Europe way back in January, I was thrown headfirst into a billion dollar pitch that had me working for 9 consecutive weeks.
I went 67 days without a day off.
And was even paid for 57 of those days.
During the summer I was offered a long term gig with Apple. Not just with Apple, at Apple. The plan was to move into a nice hotel in Cupertino (an oxymoron, I might add) and toil in secret, deep within the belly of the beast.
But things didn't go exactly as planned.
Their idea of a creative work environment and my idea of a creative work environment were not compatible. I couldn't see myself working three hours at a communal work table, much less three months. Nor am I a big fan of constant video surveillance and CIA-like security measures.
I completely understand it and see how it works for Apple.
It just wasn't working for me.
So I did what I rarely do and self-aborted the gig. I emailed whatever progress I had made on the assignment to the Creative Director, who proceeded to chew me out for sending anything to him that wasn't encrypted. I guess I hadn't got that far in the rule book yet.
But I can tell you this. Nothing I have ever written in my entire life, and I mean nothing, has ever been worthy of being encrypted.
On top of all that, my mother-in-law was ill and my daughter is in her last year of high school and getting ready to go away to college. The truth is, and I should have thought of all this before accepting the assignment, I wanted to spend more time in Culver City and no time in Cupertino.
Of course, the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't close one door without opening a window.
Even as I was driving south on the 101, my phone started ringing. New assignments came in from Costa Mesa, Detroit, NY and even Australia. The significant money I left on the table in Cupertino was quickly recouped. Not sure my reputation will heal as quickly.
Who knows what 2014 will bring.
But I did learn things have a way of working out. And if a job comes up this year where I am required to sit at a communal table, I will politely say, "thanks, but no thanks."
Your staff may be fine churning out the creativity while being poked, prodded and crammed together like keyboard clacking veal, but I am not.
Monday, December 9, 2013
It isn't often that I tread over the same material here on Round Seventeen, but it is Christmas time. And once again, you crazy goyim are breaking out the lights, the trees, the wreaths, the carols, the sweaters, the stockings, and the yule time 'knick knacks' -- an all-inclusive name for shit I don't know about it.
You're repeating yourself. So, I'm giving myself that same liberty.
I've gone deep into the mothballs and found an old spot I did for Acura, when it was at the RP& Agency.
We once shot a Lexus spot in an airplane hangar. It wasn't intended to be an all-nighter, but the production crew kept screwing up the set and a 12-hour day turned into a 24-hour nightmare.
Also shot an ABC promo in a warehouse in downtown LA, long before the hipsters and the douchebags with their beanie caps arrived with their overpriced PBR and ear gauges.
For this Elf spot, we hauled our asses up to the Angeles Crest Forest. I made it until 3:30 AM before I fell asleep in the production van with one of the Key Grips. This man's intestines should be posthumously donated to the Smithsonian. Or the Pentagon.
Because he produced a digestive aroma that could, in George Carlin's words, "knock a buzzard off a shitwagon."
I awoke, and bolted from the van in time for the filming of the most crucial scene in the spot.
The car has already stopped. Santa is in his sleigh waiting. There is a moment of tense silence. And then the elf emerges from the trees having successfully irrigated the dry land.
That's when we all enjoyed the biggest laugh of the night. Not because of anything I had written in the script. That rarely produces a chortle. No, after blocking the scene and conducting a few rehearsals, the director, Rick LeMoine, called for action. At which point the elf zips up his elf pants and delivers his one word line, "Sorry."
Apparently, the line was delivered too broadly.
It was too theatrical.
Needed to be a little more subtle.
That's when Director Rick turned to the actor, who stood all of 3 foot seven, and said, "try not to play it so big."
Merry Christmas everybody.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Last week I caved.
I dropped some major coin on a Roomba, one of those robotic vacuums that effortlessly glides about the house picking up dust, dirt and errant dog hair. I justified the purchase to my wife by noting the Roomba's stated ability to help asthmatics.
I am not asthmatic.
But thanks to last year's $1000 visit to a Beverly Hills allergist, I discovered I am allergic to dust. And my yearly bout with bronchitis is now going into its third month. My prescription for Hydrocod is running low and my GP thinks I'm selling the codeine-nectar on the black market.
Something had to be done.
Besides, my buddy Clark has a new Roomba. And he is already killing me on the Newly Acquired Gadget Scoreboard. He has the 60 inch flatscreen, mine is only 50. He has two Nest Thermostats, I only have one. And though he has two daughters like me, he also has X Box One, Wii and a PlayStation 3. I don't even play those damn video games but I have burning desire to get one of those confounded boxes.
Of course, I know it would only gather dust, and as I mentioned earlier, that's not good.
The Roomba was incredibly easy to set up. And within minutes it was tooling around my house and rendering the floor hospital clean. That is until it found itself trapped between the armoire in the mudroom and the couch in the living room.
It bounced off one and hit the other. It bounced off that and returned the favor. It whirred. It spinned. But for the life of it could not tap into its "smart-sensing" technology to extricate itself and return to the docking station.
My Roomba was not as intelligent as other Roombas.
I had come home from Best Buy with a 'special needs' robot.
My wife thought I was crazy, which by the way is an ongoing concern. So I decided I would capture the less-than-stellar performance on video. For her enjoyment as well as yours.
I placed the Roomba in the exact same spot. Set up my iPhone on a handy little tripod. And pushed the Go button. Naturally, I couldn't replicate the experience. Roomba snook up on the armoire, didn't even touch it, then went scurrying across the floor into the family room.
I repeated the procedure over and over again. And time after time, like a crafty chess player, Roomba found an escape route.
I was locked into a battle of wits with a Chinese-made robot.
And I lost.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Six months ago, P&G, the world's biggest advertiser announced a new payment structure for their ad agencies.
They had been paying their bills in 45 days and were now going take up to 75 days. If my math is correct, and these days that's becoming less frequent, that's an increase of nearly 66%.
Or nearly double.
Or as one accounts receivable clerk put it, "Holy Shit!"
As Ad Age reported, the move threatens to send shock waves throughout the ad world. And the many commenters on the article have made it abundantly clear that the situation is, in laymen's terms, "going to suck!"
That was six months ago and the rippling effect has already reached my personal finances, which can be argued, are the most outermost circles of the ad pond.
As a freelancer I work for many different agencies, large and small. And have had to navigate a plethora of confounding corporate commensuration customs. I am always been happy to do so. Because the result was always a paycheck. Sometimes produced within days, a week, or tops, two weeks, after starting a job.
That is no longer the case.
Today, checks don't take a month, or two months or even three months to land in my mailbox. I currently have an outstanding invoice for work I did at the end of the summer. I'm not going to name names because I want to Be Big and Don't Omit myself from future assignments, but as my wife so succinctly put it, "that's bullshit!"
But hardly an isolated case. Another unnamed agency, part of a WaPPer of a holding company, is also a bit tardy with the payments and quickly approaching over 100 days late.
The irony couldn't be clearer.
Because while agencies and clients are taking longer to pay, they are simultaneously giving myself and everyone else on the idea end of the process, less time to create the thing they're paying for.
Campaigns that used to have a three week turnaround are now regularly cranked out in three hours. With three full revisions, no less.
It's all part of the movement towards greater efficiency.
And it explains why so much of the work you see today can't hold a candle to something like this:
Monday, December 2, 2013
With Thanksgiving over and the fattening part -- the latkes -- of Hanukkah done, we are now officially into the homestretch of the holidays.
Of course, the big one is still coming up.
And by big one, I mean the holiday with the Caganers.
You remember Caganers, don't you?
It's an old Christmas custom born in Catalonia, in Northern Spain. To celebrate Christmas and the Winter Solice, Catalan farmers erected beautiful nativity scenes. They also included a Caganer, who heralded the birth of the Savior by giving birth to his own divine fudge dragon.
It sounds crazy, but I shit you not.
Catholic clergy claim it has to do with fertilizing the land for a great Spring planting season.
I like to believe they did it because because it's just so damn funny.
In any case, the sight of a Caganer launching a lifeboat off the SS Assitania was so captivating and glorious, the custom quickly spread to Southern France.
And Northern Italy.
If you've been reading Round Seventeen for the past 5 years or so, you know that I have appointed myself the official ambassador of this time-honored tradition. I've thrown down the gauntlet and made it my own personal mission to dot this great land with a new Yuletide Log.
You may scoff, but I believe this Caganer thing is about to, as the kids would say, pop off.
Last week, my friend and former boss David M., sent me the address for a website where you can purchase the Lady Gaga Caganer, aka Lady Caganer. Which says to me that the public display of Christmastime defecation has gone mainstream.
Sadly, I married a Jewish woman and have no excuse to put a nativity scene on my property. And as much as I'd like to parade a statue or even Lady Gaga "conducting an exit interview with Mr. Brown" on my lawn, I can't.
Not only would it seem disrespectful but if you know anything about my neighbors, the sight of a small man or woman or diva pooping on my yard could be taken as permission for their damn dog to do the same.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
I'm thankful that I don't have to pick my brain for another rant-worthy post.
I'm thankful that I can, without any guilt, spend the entire day drinking bourbon and watching football.
And I'm thankful for all the blessings in my life that have come to me, not through God, but through:
-- hard work
-- the wise choices made by my parents
-- the good luck to live in a country that celebrates and sacrifices for freedom
-- and the ever-lasting patience of my wife
Most of all, I'm thankful that I have two daughters who recognize a silly photo opportunity and are so willing to indulge their sophomoric father.
OK, I had to force them to stand next to the statue in Portland's Pioneer Square, but at least I didn't have to yell at them in public.
I'm thankful for that.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Recognize this dude?
No, well you should. His name is Ali ibn Abi Talib. He is the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed. He is to Shia Muslims, what Jesus Christ is to Christians. Or what Woody Allen is to Jews.
Shias, about 190 million strong, believe Ali is the second most divinely inspired man and that his descendants are the sole legitimate leaders of true Islam.
Of course, the Sunnis, numbering well over a billion, aren't buying that story. They believe their man, Abu Bakr, the father of Mohammed's wife…
...was the rightful successor to the Caliphate and that anyone who says otherwise isn't fit to run a falafel stand.
Of course, I'm being glib, and probably somewhat offensive, but the truth is we all could use a better understanding of what divides the believers of one fairy tale from the believers of a remarkably-similar fairy tale.
Because what is essentially a probate debate, a squabble among the Islamic heirs, is actually a clash between theocratic nut jobs that threatens to destroy life as we know it on Planet Earth.
Am I being hyperbolic?
The Iran-Iraq war of the 80's was a decade long battle between Shia (Iran) and Sunnis (Iraq). The fighting has stopped, but the hatred has not.
In fact, as I write this, Secretary of State John Kerry is on his way to Geneva hoping to sign a deal that will stop the nuclear proliferation in Iran.
Who do you suppose is most concerned about a possible nuclear-equipped Iran? It's not the Israelis. Or the Americans. Or, even the Europeans. It's the neighboring Sunni Arab states to the south and the west. As well as the nuclear-equipped Sunni state of Pakistan to the east.
It's a weird day in the middle east when the sheiks of Saudi Arabia find themselves on the same team as the Israelis.
The deal will probably be signed. And if it isn't or proves to be ineffective, we can all take comfort and count on the good natured, rational peace-loving people who have thoughtfully governed that region for the past 1000 years.
Monday, November 25, 2013
I've made a lot of hay on this blog criticizing the new kids on the advertising block.
Between their entitled attitudes ("I've been here two years, I should be a Creative Director."), their unholy fascination with digital media, and their piss poor sartorial/tonsorial choices, they have provided me with ample grist for the old man mill.
I could easily continue down this well-worn path, and given the "quality" of today's work, not face any writer's block until the year 2023.
But to do so would be folly.
And I would only cementing my image as an aging myopic curmudgeon.
"Those that can do, do.
Those who can no longer do, become grumpy bloggers."
So today, we're zigging, not zagging. Today we're talking about someone who is actually talented. And has, what I think are, the makings of a great art director. Of course, I may be biased. And later, you'll see why.
Last week, I stumbled across an article about a creative team, a copywriter and an art director. Both are women. One is a Mormon. The other, a lesbian. If that doesn't have a must-read quality, I don't know what does.
A click here and a link there and within seconds I was able to find both of their online portfolios. Nothing stalker-ish about that. I like to know who I am still competing against for jobs. And I like to see where the work is trending these days.
I also love to see the garbled English and abundant typos that is so prevalent these days. It's that kind of sloppy unprofessionalism that will keep me employed for years.
But there was none of that here.
There was just a lot of good work. And the Art Director (I'm using her name with permission) Kimberly Linn, had a campaign that struck home. It was for Taco Bell. More specifically, Taco Bell's Late Night endeavors.
You see, years ago when the Irvine-based company was keeping the doors open into the wee wee hours, I was involved with the initial launch. In fact, my partner and I came up with the original concept of FourthMeal. I even wrote about it here more than two years ago.
FourthMeal has become a Taco Bell franchise. Although to this day, I've never seen any executions that gave the idea its due.
In her portfolio, Kimberly has a slew of outdoor and OOH print for Fourthmeal that she had done with copywriter Mike Zuckerman (I also have his blessing).
All the lines have a distinctive post-modern flavor, and a few are better than others. But the fact that I liked some of the work, explains why Taco Bell didn't like any.
I'm sure it's because there's no food. But if Taco Bell had any understanding of the two-in-the-morning drunken craving for a sloppy burrito, they'd know a photo was ridiculously unnecessary.
Of course, I'm not the target audience. And by 2 AM, I'm well into my second cycle of REM sleep. But in the fast food world of equally non-nutritious eating matter, I'll go with the company that has a sense of humor and understands the power of self-deprecation.
So Kimberly's work never ran. And it only lives online. In her portfolio. Where it can never win any awards. And will only be seen by potential new employers. And underemployed bloggers.
But she is young.
And relatively new to the business.
The good news is, as far as demoralizing advertising experiences go, there's plenty more where that came from.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
It's getting harder and harder to be a parent these days. All the good forms of punishment have been taken away.
There are times I'd love to reach for my belt, form a leather loop and smack my daughters on the behind (just as my father did to me) but I'm told that is no longer acceptable.
I can't take away TV. They don't watch much TV. And even if I did pull the plug, they'd only resort to their bedrooms and sign on to their Hulu or Netflix accounts and watch whatever it is they watch on their computer.
And I can't take away their computer since that's where all their homework is done.
I have fewer options than the Green Bay Packers have viable quarterbacks.
Every time I pick up my iPhone or my iPad there a dozen new selfies of my youngest daughter. The collection is mammoth. Abby is to selfies, what Kim Jung Un is to poorly staged press releases.
Well, I didn't spend decades in the Creative Department without being able to put two disparate items together to form a solution.
Allow me to elaborate.
Last week, I got a phone call at midnight. My daughter was spending the night at one of her friends house in Pacific Palisades, a good half hour from Culver City. Abby was in tears and asked if I could pick her up.
She wouldn't explain and she didn't have to. A father knows when it's time to halt the Bible study, throw on the flip flops and get in the car.
When I arrived at her friend's house, I was greeted by a burly beat cop standing at the front door.
"Is one of these kids (pointing at a dozen or so teens) yours?", he asked.
"That one's mine," I replied.
"Have a nice night," he said motioning for us to simply go.
Later, I was to find out there was alcohol, pot and fireworks -- the triumvirate of teenage stupidity -- involved.
In the pantheon of teenager offenses, it was all kind of laughable. But, I have a blog and I know how to use it. And as of yet, I haven't heard my wife rule out the use of public shaming.
So next time my daughter decides to 'paint outside the lines', as it were, you, the Round Seventeen reader will be treated to one of the less flattering Abby selfies I have in my possession.
And believe me, I have plenty of them.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, my political views took a hard turn to the right.
I suspect I was not alone in that sentiment.
Granted George Bush is an intellectual lightweight, long on faith but short on morality, but at least he took a definitive stance against Arab terrorism.
And yes, we should have focused on Al Queda in Afghanistan and not ventured into Iraq. But there is no arguing that the world is a better and safer place without Saddam Hussein. No weapons of mass destruction were found, but you'd also have a hard time finding the 300,000 Kurds murdered by Saddam.
Recently, we have witnessed the onset of the Arab Spring and the failed revolutions in Libya and Egypt. I still believe that Arab political incompetence, the millineum-old Shia-Sunni rift and Islamic fundamentalism represent the greatest threat to mankind.
But I'm no Bush apologist.
And his bungling of the war efforts, his handling of the Katrina crises and his failure to avert the financial meltdown in 2007/2008 have swung me back to the left.
I couldn't be happier that President Obama has abolished "don't ask, don't tell". Or, that he doesn't create policy based on whispers in his ear from God. Or, that he believes all Americans should have some form of health care.
Frankly, I don't understand the Republican opposition to this. We spend trillions of dollars defending against foreign invaders or foreign attacks. Is it that different than foreign bacteria? Particularly, if the result, in all cases, is dead Americans.
Perhaps the Affordable Care Act should have been packaged as a defense expenditure?
But the pendulum has not stopped swinging.
Good intentions will only go so far. The roll out of Obamacare looks like it was commandeered by Captain Hazelwood, of Exxon Valdez fame.
It's a complete facepalm.
On the facepalm scale of 1-10, the failed rollout is a 25,732, the number of Americans who have successfully navigated the website and signed up for the plan.
Between the forced cancellations and the enrollment website debacle, I don't know how the President can show his face in public anymore. I'm just spitballing here, but perhaps he could have put off one golf outing and had Kathleen Sebelius walk him through the wire frames before launching the site.
If the President is smart, and I believe he is, he should turn this into an opportunity to demonstrate bi-partisanship. In order to make his self-imposed deadline of a complete fix by November 30, maybe he should appoint a Republican with proven leadership ability and administrative prowess.
Yes, she is functionally brain dead and would have a hard time with the Sudoku puzzle in the back of a Club Penguin Pamphlet.
But seriously, could she do any worse?
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Yesterday I spoke about the annual rite of the year end agency review.
It is by no means the only regular occurrence in the ad world. Particularly here in Southern California, where all the automotive companies are located.
That's right I'm talking about the Lexus December-to-Remember Sales Event. Perhaps you've seen one of their commercials with the $50,000 car topped with a big red bow.
Thanks to Facebook, I just saw a sneak preview of their latest version in this loooooong-running campaign. It's clear from the production values and the exotic locations, they sunk millions into the new spot.
I'm not here to pass judgment. But years ago, when I was running the Jaguar account for Y&R, we spoofed the red bow motif with a series of year end sales events of our own.
While we were shooting the pre-approved scripts, we had an idea for a simple one-take spot. We weren't sure the client would take too kindly to the subject matter, so we went all surreptitious on her.
During a lunch break we had an account executive keep her stalled in the Winnebago. We grabbed two of the actors on the set and had them stand by the Jaguar with the red bow. We told them the premise of the spot and took the lens cap off the camera.
We had it in the can in less than 15 minutes, just as the client was finishing up her dessert of lemon meringue pie. Each actor got a standard $600 bump in their paycheck. And apart from the minimal time, spent in post-production, the spot was virtually FREE.
Weeks later, we showed it to the Jaguar client(s), who laughed out loud and agreed that is was funnier than all the scripts they had watered-down and focused-grouped to death.
Possibly because it had that rarest of qualities, human truth.
They made us change son-of-a-bitch to jerk.
And then, they never ran it on TV.
Monday, November 18, 2013
It might happen today.
It might happen tomorrow.
But there can be no doubt, it will happen soon.
A Fortune 500 company will put out a press release announcing an advertising agency review.
"We have been extremely satisfied with ________, _____ & ______. Their creative execution and strategic insight have been impeccable and have served us well for more than 32 years. However, with the changing social media landscape and the emergence of new global markets we feel compelled to trash this veneer of respect and loyalty and explore all options. We look forward to being wined, dined and in some cases, provided with mounds of cocaine and expensive escorts."
This will set off an all-too-familiar chain of events.
There will be blood in the water.
The holding company war lords will move their pieces around, figuring out the best point of attack.
Motivational staff memos will be written. With empty promises of fame, glory and wealth. After all, no one gets bonuses or raises until these guys get paid.
And finally, vacations, those much-needed breaks from the demoralizing grind that is advertising today, will be canceled.
Thanksgiving won't be spent sitting around the fireplace, watching the Detroit Lions lose and eating turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving will spent at the cubicle farm. With cold coffee and muttering co-workers. Although some overly-perky assistant who mistakenly believes she can turn those frowns upside down, will bring in special Thanksgiving pizza, topped with turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
Well, that's sacred. So agency bosses will insist everybody leave the office by 9 PM on Christmas Eve. And not come in until noon on Christmas Day.
You know, just like last year.
New Year's Day is when millions of American make their resolutions and vow to change the habits that have blackened their lungs, rotted their livers or chewed through their nasal membranes.
In that spirit of change, the all-knowing powers that be in the agency world will ditch the brief everyone has been working against for the last two months and proclaim, with no hint of irony, "we have a new strategic direction."
If you sense I'm grumbling, you're not reading this correctly.
As a staff guy, this annual ritual would make my blood boil. But as an atheist freelancer with no regard for the holidays and an insatiable desire to work, this kind of nonsense only makes my Stay-Out-Of-A-Dirty-Nursing-Home-Retirement account swell.
For me, this really is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
As some of you might know, I like to amuse myself, and occasionally others, by poking fun at Kim Jung Un. Apparently his name is spelled Kim Jong Un, but I made the initial mistake of spelling his name with a U and I'm sticking with it.
I try to make daily additions to the collection on a tumblr called kimjungfun.tumblr.com.
But this post isn't about Kim Jung Un. Or, his accomplished father, Kim Jung Il, who, on his first golf outing hit an astounding 11 holes in one.
This is about tumblr.
I'll be the first to admit that prior to signing up for my tumblr account I knew very little about this emerging social media platform. I only knew it was similar to instagram. They're both visually driven venues that operate a little different than Facebook or linkedin or even Twitter.
I don't have a network of tumblr friends. That is, people I converse with or exchange ideas with, I simply have followers. I don't know them. They don't know me. However, in order for my Kim Jung Un tumblr to get more exposure and more traffic, I have to "follow" other tumblers.
And they have to follow me.
My daughters tried to explain the machinations to me, but every word out of their mouths is "like" and I can't listen to them for more than 5 minutes.
The long and the short of it is, I now have 147 faithful followers on tumblr.
Many of them are from Japan.
Many of them are into goth.
Lots and lots of weed.
And all of them are are very young.
So when I check my dashboard -- the equivalent of a Facebook newsfeed -- I see a lot of this:
That's offset by some of my tumblr followers who post beautiful pictures like these:
Which can be followed by something like this:
Or even this:
But once in a while I will come across something that is truly magnificent and worth all the time lost to senseless browsing.
Something like this:
There's no point to all of this.
But as the Internet often proves, there doesn't have to be.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
If I were to ever own my own ad agency, and I've threatened such a scenario for years, the scope of services would be very limited.
1. We'd make the ads.
2. We'd manage the creation, production and distribution of the ads.
3. And then we'd bill the client.
We'd operate this way, not because those are the only areas where I have some expertise, but because anything else is superfluous.
Of course, that is NOT the general direction in which most agencies are going. And I should know, I have worked in all of them.
These days the scope of services goes way beyond the making of ads. Agencies today are more than willing to tell clients, and sell clients, profound insights as to what goes into making a culture.
A few weeks ago, I was working out of the cafeteria of a company that shall remain anonymous -- "The names have been changed to protect the inefficient."
There, I had the distinct pleasure of eavesdropping in on a "business" conversation by the Planners. I believe they are now called Cultural Experiential Anthropologists.
It was all so enlightening.
Had you squinted your eyes and employed a little cognitive dissonance you would have sworn you were in the living room of the local Tri-Delt House.
"So, let's talk about emoticons."
"OMG, I hate emoticons. And the people that use them."
"Hello, 2007 called and it wants its winky face back."
"Know what's worse than emoticons? Acroynms. LOL, ROFLOL, LMFAOLOL."
"Yeah. I can't stand acronyms."
"OMG, me too!" (from one girl who was impossibly more clueless than the others)
"How many of you have instagrammed a meal before?"
"Speaking of meals, look somebody just put leftover birthday cake on the counter."
By the way, I may be a hardcore atheist but I would put my hand on a Bible/Torah/Quran, or even Darwin's The Origin of a Species, and swear that the dialogue quoted above is a true word-for-word accounting.
At the conclusion of this Insight Farming Session (OK, that I made up, but I'm sure they had some jargon-y term for what had just transpired) somebody volunteered to compile all the "findings".
I'm sure a deck was made.
An invoice was generated.
And a check was blindly written by the client to pay for this groundbreaking research.
I can't help wondering how many dohickees/whatchamacallits/thiggamajigs the client has to sell just to cover this cost of this horse hockey.
I may not possess an MBA. Or a sophisticated knowledge of human behavior and the influence of a fractured media landscape. And I lack the ability to discern the intricate differences between a 'Pragmatic Charismatic' and a 'Practical Self-Actualizer.' But this, the above tale, is what passes for marketing and business acumen in the halls of corporate America in the year 2013.
And it explains why in 50 years we're all going to be speaking Mandarin.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I'm not working today.
This is kind of rare as I like to work whenever possible. In fact, in the West Coast domain of freelancers, I'm often referred to as the "busiest freelancer in the business."
I'll be the first to admit, it has nothing to do with talent. I can name ten writers who are much better than me. But they don't need any additional ink. And I'm not going to give it to them.
Take that, Hepinstall.
I'm busy, through sheer determination and resourcefulness. I listen to industry gossip. I track down leads. I make the cold calls others are not willing to make. And I self promote. Probably to the point of humiliating myself, but I have three princesses to keep fed and clothed.
I'm also a slut.
Availing myself to anyone willing to cover my exorbitant day rate.
Though incredibly less exorbitant than my previously mentioned, hyper-talented colleagues.
If there's one thing I've learned in my decade-long tenure as a mercenary, it's that when an agency is looking for a Digital Copywriter they're not looking for me.
Part of that could be my age. I know when I walk into an agency these days there are whispers.
"Hey Tiffany, why is your grandfather here?"
"Is that Bill Bernbach?"
Doesn't bother me.
The truth is, if it came down to a fight I could probably beat up 98% of the copywriters with staff jobs. I don't know why it would come to fisticuffs, but if it did, I'd be ready.
Not to get too meta, but another reason why I'm often overlooked for digital assignments is, ironically, this blog.
I, along with many other industry pundits, often poo-poo the value of digital advertising. And we often do it right here on the Internet. It's such a target-rich environment, I'd have a hard time not making fun of digital advertising.
By the way, if you ask the average consumer to name the most successful digital advertising effort, I have no doubt many would reply, "Burger King's Subservient Chicken." That launched in 2004!
You and I may be aware of other notable Titanium-Lion worthy campaigns. But the buying public is not. Nor, I believe, are they waiting for the next one.
Finally, there's this. If you were to look at my online portfolio, you'd see I cut my teeth doing TV, radio, print and outdoor. You might fail to see that I have done quite a bit in the digital world. Fact is, I've done more than most digital copywriters. Oh and I could beat them up too.
I could take the time to list them all here. Or I could do something more effective and buy the accoutrements that would make me look the part. Cause you can't be a Digital Copywriter unless you've got the Digital Copywriter hat.
Monday, November 11, 2013
The Chinese are kicking our ass.
They must be smart, because they spend one fifth of what we spend on military hardware and the armed services.
Their plan is not to bomb us. Or destroy our infrastructure. Or anything that would have a negative impact on the substantial investments they have made here on our mainland.
No, they are way too wily for that.
The Chinese plan, and it's quite nefarious, is to leverage our ungodly consumerism until we choke ourselves to death on their shabby goods.
We'll dig our own graves. And we'll do it with the HoleMaster KR 9000™.
The beauty of it all is we're willing participants in our demise.
Two weeks ago I purchased a new recumbent exercise bike to replace the Chinese-made NordicTrack that literally disintegrated in my garage. I did my research and decided the Diamondback 510SR would be a good choice. Had I dug a little further I would have discovered the Diamondback is also built in China.
Here's the ultimate irony.
A piece of machinery intended to add years to my life has managed to accomplish quite the opposite. Take one look at the assembly page instructions above and you will know why.
I am an unusually handy Jew.
It took me 16 hours, but I once installed a new garbage disposal under the kitchen sink. I have outfitted entire apartments in Ikea furniture. And I can change the oil and the tires on my car, though I often choose not to because I don't want the old lady across the street to ask me to do it for her.
The point is, I'm not one of those "soft" Ashkenazis. I trace my roots to Bulgaria and self-identify with the Sephardim, the one who can do for themselves.
But when it came to putting this damn recumbent bike together, I found myself in tears. Actually, I wasn't crying, my wife was. Something to the effect of, "Oh no, not again."
I don't know if you can make sense of the instructions, but somewhere between Step 23 and Step 24, I gave up. Mind you, I survived Advanced Calculus in college and know how to track shapes and figures moving in three dimensional space.
But I couldn't make heads or tails of these instructions, so I went with my gut. I connected wires that seemed to need connecting. Bolted pieces together that seemed to need bolting. And managed to put the whole damn thing together.
It doesn't look exactly like the picture on the box, but the important thing is it works.
Of course, now I have a lot of leftover pieces. Mostly washers, nuts and bolts.
I'm not laying down in this fight that crosses the Pacific. I take the extra hardware and mix it in with some coins and leave them on the table as a tip any time I go to a Chinese restaurant.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
I like sleeping.
Or, as Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons says, "Oh boy, sleep! That's where I'm a viking."
But it appears the world has conspired to keep me from enjoying my beauty rest. Hence the face only a mother could love.
Whether it's the noise from the Backstage Bar, inconveniently located 1/4 mile from my house.
Or the bi-polar neighbor behind me, who feels compelled to build furniture or hit the punching bag at 3 AM.
Or, my next door neighbor with two barking, vicious pit bulls who I would most gladly pump full of lead, there's always something to keep me from my date with Morpheus.
Enter Rudolf Stefanich.
Rudolf is an Austrian industrial designer who is working on a device, that would stick on windows, and using advanced noise canceling technology, effectively silence the outside world.
You can read about it here and even see it in action with the video at the bottom of the article.
Right now the device is in the developmental stages. But I think we should we start diverting money from useless efforts like trying to cure cancer or stemming the disastrous effects of global warming, and funnel the funds directly to Rudolf.
Hell, I would gladly spend all the money I've saved for my daughter's college education to get my mitts on one, or several of these devices.
Besides, I hear they're doing good things at community colleges these days.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Recognize this chap?
If you work in advertising you might know the scowl, the bulbous nose and the jutting chin that begs to be punched, belongs to Tony Kaye.
And self important ass clown.
If you haven't guessed, I'm not a fan of Mr. Kaye. In general, I'm not a fan of anyone who drinks their own Kool-Aid and believes that fame, power or some deluded notion of celebrity-ness entitles them to boorish behavior.
I mention all this because last week I came across a commercial on youtube that we had done with Tony Kaye way back when, during the dot.com craze. Our experience with him was not at all pleasant and actually came close to an exchange of fists.
I've told this story before but not with the video evidence that supports my position.
Allow me to rehash the incident.
We were filming in a warehouse near Riverside, CA. The scene involved a schlubby manager of a fictional company called tubwarehouse.com. A phone rings and the manager happily ignores it so we (the audience) could hear the message being left on the answering machine.
For some reason, Tony obstinately wanted to place the phone near the manager. We, the creative team, and the client (the people footing the bill) wanted to place the phone further away on a desk out of his reach.
A disagreement became an argument which then became an explosive display, the likes of which I have never witnessed on a set. Tony grabbed a wooden folding chair and swung it over his head smashing it on the concrete floor. Over and over again. All the while, screaming at the top of his lungs. Splintered wood filled the air, and through cloud of dust and particles of Douglas Fir, you could see the veins in his neck throbbing.
It was all very surreal.
And it was all so Tony Kaye.
When the wooden chair was no more, he stormed off the set and disappeared for 15 minutes. He came back to the set as if nothing happened and started barking commands to his cinematographer.
I also barked a command to the DP and told him to stop. I then got in Tony's face, squared him right in the eye and said, "We're not shooting another frame of film until you apologize to everyone on this set, you bloviated asshole."
OK, I'm not sure those are the exact words I used, but there was no mistaking my anger. Tony yielded and put the phone where we wanted it. Where, as you can see from the video, it made the most sense.
I hadn't seen this spot in a very long time. And from the insignia on the top right hand side it looks like it was shortlisted at Cannes. Who knows, maybe it would have won had we followed Tony's course of action.
I don't really care.
To be honest, I'd gladly trade that meaningless Gold Lion for a war story like this.