Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Proud Papa

This is the time of year when many parents are bursting with pride.

Many, like us, have graduating high school seniors about to trek off to college. And naturally with the advent of Facebook, we wear those college acceptances like badges of honor.

It has even created its own faux pecking order.

"My son is going to Yale."

"Well my daughter is going to Bard."

"It's Santa Monica College for my son, but he's in the honors program."

I'm just as guilty of the rest and have boasted about Rachel's new journey to the University of Washington.

But here's the thing. It's all so meaningless.

In the real world, where you went to college or didn't go to college, matters not. In all my years of advertising, no one Creative Director has ever asked about Syracuse University, one of the premier schools in Communication. Not one.

But today, I am proud for different reason. Last Sunday, my 18 year old daughter fell. And in the vernacular of the agency where I am currently employed, she slew her Goliath.

You see, my daughter did what neither my wife and I could never imagine doing -- she fell from a plane. 10,000 feet high above Lake Elsinore in Eastern Riverside County.

She and her two good friends woke up on a Sunday morning, drove 90 minutes into the scorching Inland Empire, climbed aboard a flimsy prop plane, strapped themselves to some strapping young guys who relished the opportunity to introduce 3 pretty girls into the 2 mile high club, and then...jumped.

Maybe you're wondering if I'm embellishing or even making up the story. I'm not. And I have the proof.

In fact, I'll recreate the hair-raising experience using the novelty of the scroll function. I hope you'll be as relieved as I was when she finally returned to terra firma.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I hate Hemingway

I hate Hemingway.

There, I said it.

I know that's heresy for a writer, correction copywriter, but try as I might I have not acquired the taste for Papa. He falls into the same category as brisket, scotch and Mad Men. I want to like them, but I don't.

Two weeks ago, I went on a camping trip. I brought with me, The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (The Finca Vigia Edition.)

As I lay in the hammock, cooled by the babbling waters of the Onion Valley Creek, I dove head first into Ten Indians. 300 words in, zzzzzzzzz.

Same with The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.

And The Big Two-Hearted River.

All impenetrable.
All boring.
All overrated, as far as I'm concerned.

Call me a lightweight. But if I want a healthy dose of obfuscation that requires tedious reading and re-reading, there are plenty of planning briefs I can get my hands on.

Fortunately, I didn't venture into the foothills of the Eastern Sierras unprepared. On the advice of my east coast doppleganger, George Tannenbaum, the most scholarly copywriter on the planet, I brought along Joseph Mitchell's Up in the Old Hotel.

Mitchell is everything Hemingway is not.
Accessible, entertaining and not overtly impressed with his own style.

He was a reporter for the New Yorker magazine and covered the hundreds of drinking establishments in lower Manhattan. There, he met and chronicled the lives of New York's most colorful characters.

Including Jane Barnell, a bearded lady, Captain Charles Eugene Cassell, owner/operator of Captain Charley's Private Museum for Intelligent People, and of course, the Bowery's legendary Joe Gould, Keeper of the World's Oral History.

By the end of the camping trip I felt like I had reconnected with Mother Nature while simultaneously connecting with the kind of unforgettable people who made New York City, New York City.

I'll never understand why high school and college English teachers are so smitten with Ernest Hemingway. Nor will I ever understand my families love of brisket, come the High Holidays.

That's what's great about being an adult and living in a free country. I don't have to subject myself to either.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Names will be named

Years ago I made the mistake of putting a friend's name in a blog posting hoping he would understand the tongue-in-cheek nature of the piece. It backfired. I publicly apologized. And swore never to name names in any RoundSeventeen blog posting.

Today I'm welching on that promise.

For two reasons.

First, I'm getting to a privileged point in my career where I just don't give a shit anymore.

And second, I've come to the painful conclusion that what I write matters to no one because frankly no one (apart from you faithful fourteen followers) is reading what I'm writing.

So what bullshit am I calling bullshit on?

Years ago, I was in charge of advertising for El Pollo Loco advertising. They had a minuscule budget and an ambitious media plan. Somehow we had figured a way to make 45 TV commercials on less than $250,000. Even by 2004 standards, that was quite a feat.

One day, the account people requested my attendance for a meeting with the folks from Cruz Kravetz, their Hispanic Marketing Agency. They were going to produce some El Pollo Loco commercials and thought it would be a good idea to get some guidance.

Wait, what?

The money I was told I didn't have for production was being used to fund the production of other commercials. Why, I naively thought, are we making two different sets of commercials?

Because, as the bullshit machine was slowly being cranked to 11, Hispanics eat El Pollo Loco's citrus-marinated, fire grilled chicken for completely different reasons than general market Caucasians or African Americans.

You see, I was under the mistaken impression that people from Mexico or El Salvador or Belize might enjoy EPL because they were hungry or appreciated fresh chicken or authentic salsa and tortillas.

But that, it turns out, is a narrow white man's view of the world devoid of any ethnographic insight.

As the Cruz Kravetz experts expertly pointed out, Hispanic people are all about, "family, passion and the family-oriented, passionate preparation of food products."

And then I was treated to a cavalcade of storyboards featuring large families. Being passionate. Eating chicken. And then, impossibly, being more passionate.

If it weren't so politically incorrect I would have told these professionals exactly what I thought of their fiesta de mierda.

They are by no means alone in their hoodwinking.

I've never had the pleasure of sitting in with an African-American speciality boutique, but I can spot their spots a mile away. Most often in car commercials. The copy, accompanied by needle-drop 'urban' music, invariably includes nonsense like "flow", "smooth" or "get your drive on."

Frankly if I were Hispanic or black I would be seriously offended by these cliched marketing approaches.

Then again, who am I to judge. I'm not a member of any minority. I'm just a white Jew. And the only advertising I respond to usually involves liquidation sales or 30% discounts.

Wait a minute…

Monday, July 21, 2014

On bedding a woman

I want to tell you about the first time I bedded down with a woman.

I should clarify that.

What I meant was a woman who wasn't under the influence of way too much tequila and too little in the manner of standards. In other words, a woman who had every intention of making me breakfast.

This was when I was first introduced to the world of excessive bedding accessories.

I remember walking into her room, heavily perfumed with patchouli (this was a long time ago), looking at the bed and thinking, "What the hell is all that?" More importantly, where was the mini-step ladder I would need to climb in.

There were shims and shams and ruffles and raffles. There were duvets. And it seemed the blankets had their own blankets.

There was even a headboard.
My parents had a headboard.

Until then, I had been sleeping on a twin mattress, laying on a wooden floor.

Even now, as a grown man, the world of beds and bedding is still quite alien.

Not long ago my wife convinced me to buy a new mattress. Guided by the "happy wife/happy life" principle, I reluctantly agreed to this newfangled memory foam.

The first night was a living hell of tossing and turning and muffled screaming about spending $3000 to sleep in a heated ©Playdoh mold.

The second night was even worse.

This went on for a week until I called the store manager. Having identified myself as a long-winded Yelper and a prodigious blogger (I might have told him I was lawyer too), he quickly offered to replace the foam mattress with a standard coil and spring model.

That bed was enormous. A California King they call it. The mattress is so wide it spans two different zip codes. My wife and I bring cellphones to bed so we can communicate with each other. The bed is so big we're thinking of subletting out a portion of it.

And now I find myself battling with bedding accessories of a different nature.

The extra, extra firm mattress is covered with a pillow top. I didn't want that feature but I refer you back to the time-honored maxim of "happy wife/happy life." The pillow top, it seems, needs to be covered by a mattress pad, for reasons which still remain unclear.

As if that were not enough, the mattress pad also requires a protective latex sheathing which serves to shield the mattress from the natural dead skin cells, oil and hair that come off a sleeping body.

There's so many layers between me and the mattress, I wake up in the morning feeling like I slept on a load of wrinkled laundry.

My wife assures me it's all necessary to preserve the integrity and value of the bed, though I'm not convinced there's a huge market for second hand mattresses. Particularly those previously slept on by swarthy Mediterraneans.

I told my wife, when it's time for the Dirt Nap, put me in a plain pine box. No sheets, no shams, no dust ruffles, no pads, no pad covers. Use that money to buy some good Noah's Mill Bourbon for the wake.

I'll sleep better.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Snuff Film

This is a tale about Snuffy the Seal.

Two tales actually.

Last year, the Discovery Channel rolled out their annual event called Shark Week.

To promote Shark Week, they created a TV commercial in the guise of a news broadcast, that, as we in the industry like to say, went viral.

A great idea.
Executed quite well.
That's not something you usually hear about a standard splice and dice cable network promo.

The spot garnered a lot attention. Perhaps too much attention. Before long, parents groups, animal rights groups and people who are easily offended and prone to organize groups and petitions, were expressing their "outrage" at this wanton display of butchery.

Had the network brass at the Discovery Channel not possessed the backbone of the jellyfish, they would have told the molehill-makers to pound sand.

For one thing, it's a TV commercial!

For another, there is no Snuffy!

And for another other, it's a TV commercial!

But that's not the way it works in these absurdly sensitive times.

You want a free case of beer? Pretend you're an old spinster, with cats and an impressive collection of Hummel porcelain dolls, then write a letter to the Dos Equis Marketing Department asking why they haven't done a commercial about the Most Interesting Woman In the World?

Witness this year's promotional campaign for Shark Week and watch how they carefully put to rest all the harped-up concerns about Snuffy, the fictional seal that never got eaten in last year's fictional TV commercial.

They completely caved and did what is now referred to as a walk-back.

Snuffy lives!

Ok, now I'm offended.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On the nature of Free Will.

You might recall my recent post about the imam who rationalized anal sex -- a definite no-no according to the laws of Mo-Mo -- as long as the anal activities were in the service of jihad.

More specifically, the imam stated, it was, "OK to indulge in ass play if the goal were to widen one's butt for the implantation of a bomb that would kill infidels."

One Roundseventeen reader took objection to the post. Indeed all my posts regarding religion, superstition and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Granted, this anonymous commenter was complimentary about the blog, but used the word "please" twice in one sentence so I can only imagine his or her displeasure with my choice of topics.

To wit, I may only offer my sincere apologies.

But I will not, and cannot, take the childish fairy tales that have such an inordinate impact on all our lives, off the table. Particularly, as in the case of the aforementioned bearded wise man, when it's so damn amusing.

The same can be said for the same irrational jackoffery -- God I love that word -- spewed by the misguided followers of Jesus. And in the interest of fair play, the fakakta wisdom often dispensed by the hirsute members of my own tribe.

Why the strident atheism, you may ask.

I happen to believe that religion, and its incumbent irrationality, are not the forces for good they pretend to be. And couldn't be happier to see more and more people getting off their knees and embracing the tenets of logic and science.

I don't have the wherewithal or the intellectual firepower of a Sam Harris or a Richard Dawkins, but I can add my voice to the chorus evangelizing the powers of critical thinking.

And so I will.

Over and above all that, it should be noted that I started this blog and maintained this blog so that I could enjoy a platform to write about anything I chose. In fact, the title Roundseventeen is a thumb in the face of advertising clients who have become so prescriptive and subjected the work to round after round of meaningless scrutiny, they have all but taken the writing out of copywriting.

Like it or not, the random ranting will continue.

About religion.
About advertising.
About dentistry.
About fatherhood.
About Things Jews Don't Do.
About meritocracy.
And about people who need to be thinned from the herd.

Stay tuned, next week I'm having a colonoscopy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

That's Chairman Siegel to you.

Don't know if you saw it, but last week the ground beneath the feet of the advertising industry shook.

There were trades, swaps, free agency deals and lots and lots of promotions. On the East Coast. And the West Coast.

Due to my own streak of self-imposed career stagnancy, I was not on the receiving end of any of it.

Then I had a moment of clarity that only someone who gets paid to bullshit people into buying things can possibly have.

Why not give myself a promotion?

Why not indeed.

Recently I passed a significant benchmark, 10 years as a successful, and I use that word with trepidation, freelancer. If you looked me up on you'd see my title is, and always has been, CEO and Chief Creative Officer. Those titles seem to suffice. That is until I got bit by the jealousy bug following last week's flurry of press releases.

And so it gives me great pleasure to announce that Rich Siegel has been named Chairman of Rich Siegel Worldwide.

Keep in mind, the last noteworthy spot I produced was more than two years ago, for the relaunch of the Honda Civic - a fun campaign I did with the very talented Dana Markee.

And I haven't helped win new business or collect any awards at Cannes in ages.

In fact, for the last few years the level of my work has been journeymen, at best.

Let's not be naive. One glance at the org. chart of any of the big holding companies will prove this industry is no meritocracy.

Consequently, I don't see why the lack of any discernible achievement should stop me from being Chairman.

Hell, some ad agencies have two Chairmen, why shouldn't mine have at least one?

Furthermore, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't award myself a sweet Golden Parachute.

In the unlikely event that there's a dereliction of duties or a drop in revenue or some kind of substance abuse, I want to protect myself and my family.

And so I've just signed a contract that should my termination from Rich Siegel Worldwide become necessary, I will be given a significant lump sum of CA$H from the Rich Siegel Worldwide Corporation.

Of course that money will have to be extracted from my daughter's 529 College Savings account, but I'm sure she'll understand.

It's not personal, it's business.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Irish eyes are smiling

Last week I received a text from home -- home being that suburban corridor of land surrounding the border of Northern New Jersey and Lower New York State, including Suffern, Mahwah, Spring Valley, Ramsey, Upper Saddle River and Nanuet.

The text reminded me to mark the day as the anniversary of the passing of our good friend, Jim.

That day brought on a flood of memories. And in thinking of Jim, one word always comes to mind -- Gusto.

It's a rare attribute.

You see it in some people, in glimpses or flashes. Or raucous Polish weddings. But Jim had gusto that simply would not quit. If there was a gathering of people and there was laughing and drinking and carousing and making the most of every breath of oxygen, Jim had to be there.

Unlike anyone I've ever met, Jim was always committed to being fully in the moment.

His voracious appetite for life could never be satisfied in the 'burbs. And explains why, on so many occasions, he'd urge us all to jump in his sea-foam green Dodge Dart, with the push-button transmission, and make the 45 minute trek into The City.

His father was a NYC cop and so, with his dad's special parking permit affixed to the dashboard, Manhattan was our own personal playground.

Did you know there's usually ample parking spaces next to all the fire hydrants?

The Big Apple in the late 70's had everything Suffern, NY did not. Hustle, bustle, grit, grime, an infinite cast of amazing characters, many of whom wrote and starred in their own personal performance theater right on the street.

And of course, there was Brew Burger.

For $6.95 you could get a cheeseburger, fries and an endless supply of Michelob beer. Jim didn't like Michelob beer, but he loved the word endless. Four of us would pile into a booth and wouldn't leave until the chairs were being put on top of the other tables or the Pakistani manager would throw us out…

"No, no, no, this no very good. You boys go now. I call the police."

"Ok, Haji, you call the midtown precinct and ask for Sgt. Murphy," Jim replied.

A City trip always included a stop in the Village. There, we'd make fun of hippies, or the remnants of hippies. Stroll around Washington Square. And laugh loud enough to wake up the people in Staten Island.

The nights would never end.

And we'd often find ourselves crossing the GW bridge guided by the stinging rays of the morning sun. Back on home turf, Jim would often 'Shanghai' us to the Stateline Diner. Or Don Len's on Route 59.  Not because any of us were starving for breakfast but because that's how much he enjoyed the camaraderie of his friends.

Because he wanted to bust balls.
Flirt with waitresses.
Bellow with laughter, until every fiber of his 6'3" 230 lbs. body convulsed with joy.
He wanted -- as my wife would say -- to be out among them.

Three of us commiserated last week and spoke of how much we missed Big Jim. But it's safe to say he misses us more.

Jim had Gusto.

Enough to last two lifetimes.
Sadly, he packed it into 26 years of one.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Not that there's anything wrong with that, ok, there's something wrong with that.

A few years ago, a minister representing Hamas, the friendly neighbors lobbing random rockets at civilian targets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, famously said, "We desire death more than you desire life."

A not-so-shocking statement considering that in the Arab/Muslim world the notion of death is so closely tied to the notion of endless sexual escapades with 72 black-eyed virgins.

I personally don't see the attraction to women with black eyes, but then there is so much about that culture I do not understand.

However, as a student of the Middle East and an unabashed Zionist, I am quite familiar with the barbarous nature of the more fanatic followers of the Quran. With the crucifixions in Syria and the mass murder now taking place in Iraq, I thought nothing could surprise me.

But I was wrong.

I'm going to share a video with you.

Afterwords, I could make some pointed commentary or some cheap jokes, but as I have friends and relatives across the full spectrum of human sexuality I will wisely refrain. Suffice to say, this is why we can't have peace in the Middle East.

All you need to know is the video pertains to the following Fatwa, a religious edicts set forth by holy Islamic clergymen:

Homosexuality may be forbidden in Islam, but Muslim brothers may engage in sodomy if the goal is too stretch the anus opening so that bomb materials can be inserted for martyrdom operations.

Footnote to the editors at The Onion, the bar has officially been raised.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Twitter introduces Twig

I know there's uneasiness in the Ukraine.

I know rebel Muslims are killing other Muslims in order to establish an all-Muslim planet.

And I know there's global warming going on because it's hot at my house and my wife and kids are yammering at me to install air conditioning.

But no one, and I mean no one, is changing this world more than the people at Twitter.

Last week, the forward thinking folks who gave us the Guttenberg-busting 140-character messaging platform announced a new metric for their Vines, the 6 second videos that re-aligned our solar system -- Loop Counts.

Wired Magazine wrote an entire article explaining the Loop Counts which you can read here.

I'm not going to lie and tell you I understand the mechanics of metrics, but the author of the article summed up it nicely with…

"It's a smart way to get you thinking about what is different about the platform. It reminds you why you're here."

You know, in case you forgot.

Of course if you want to gauge the true far-reaching impact that Loop Counts will have on our industry and how Loop Counts will change the way we eat, sleep and breath, you have to hear it from the soothsayers who can't wait to get their hands on this magic formula, the Social Media Director/Senior Content Strategists of this world.

I've conveniently blocked out the name of this fast-rising middle manager because I don't want him, or her, to be deluged by headhunters, which might get in his, or her, way of important Loop Counting.

You'd think one revolutionary announcement from the Twitterverse would be plenty, but you'd be wrong.

Resourceful Roundseventeen reporters have it on good word that we will soon see Twig™-- a game changing video platform delivered in 18 seconds.

Meatier than a Vine, yet shorter than a standard 30 second spot, the new 18-second Twig™promises to spawn three times as much buzz.

Three times as much wallop.

And of course, three times as much sales as the now popular, Vine.

Three Times!!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The California Caliphate

Between your Haight-Ashbury free lovers, your Humboldt County alternative "medicine" growers and your West Hollywood Let's-Make-Paper-Mache-Penises-And-Throw-A-Paraders, California may be the bluest, most progressive, gluten-free states in the union.

But don't tell that to the sun-baked, leather-skinned, jerky-chewers who populate the towns up and down Route 395, a two lane sticky asphalt highway that runs the length of the state on the eastern side of the Sierras.

Here in the Owen's Valley, nature's very own 100,000 square mile solar panel, you'll find the same kind of backwards thinking that would rival the newly-formed Caliphate in Syria/Iraq.

Am I over-generalizing?
Of course, I am.

But the similarities can hardly be dismissed.

First, there's this unholy fascination with God. And the curious notion that somehow these folks have been blessed by the Almighty to live on a land with less than 4 inches of annual rainfall.

The burka-clad women and mustachioed men of the Middle East call out to Allah 5 times a day.

But in towns like Olancha, Big Pine and Randsburg, Jesus is broadcasting 24/7/365 on every AM/FM station. And don't expect any escape with the Scan button, he's commandeered every preset.

Jesus even has his own network on XM Satellite, Savior 77. Commercial-free, just like Howard Stern.

Of course you can't spread the Lord's message of love, wisdom and brotherhood without guns. And military munition.

For every Kalashnikov and RPG in the service of the Holy Quran, there are tenfold AR-15's and Glock 9's available for purchase at gun stores conveniently located every 10 miles, from Mojave to the Mono Basin.

Most are next door to a Subway Sandwich shop. For easy lock and carbo-loading.

Besides guns and God, are there any other shared attributes between the Caliphate on the Tigres River and the one along the California Aquaduct?

Well, there's patriarchal misogyny, raging intolerance, overzealous nationalism, blind faith, anti-intellectualism, a seemingly genetic disposition towards violence, poor dental hygiene and an irrational willingness to blame all of life's problems on…wait for it...the Jews.

Maybe water and oil are not our most precious resource.

Maybe it's sunscreen.

Monday, July 7, 2014

In Praise of the Crown

It may seem odd that a few days after our American Independence Day, a day I spent in Independence, CA, I write of Jolly Ole England, but I am nothing if not contrarian.

Several days ago, famous Brit, Sir John Hegarty, founder of BBH, gave a wide ranging interview on the state of advertising. Broken. Ill-informed. And completely out of touch with the times. In short, he likened it to the state of Mississippi.

Hegarty has gravitas.

And though I, and other Yankee bloggers, have been saying the same things for years, when Hegarty speaks people listen. It might have something to do with his immense body of work. Or, perhaps more likely, it has more to do with his erudite annunciation and his $300 shirts.

Hegarty bemoans the bean counting.

"Too many people leading our industry are accountants, and I think for a creative industry that’s a tragedy."

Hegarty ponders the demise of TV.

“I think the industry has lost faith in TV. I think it has lost faith in the big, bold idea. I think it has lost its courage and I’m deeply upset by that."

And finally, Hegarty takes his shot against the onslaught of digital.

"In our industry we’ve become obsessed with technology, in doing so, it has lost faith a little bit in the value of that big idea."

Of course when I make similar statements they are clearly with a more regional dialect. And with far less eloquence.

"I got your social media, right here."

Last week, while on vacation, if you call sleeping on the ground, slathering on bug spray and storing food in a bear box a vacation, I reposted some old stories from the archive. Including one on the nature of digital advertising. Imagine my surprise to come home and find out that piece racked up thousands of hits.

Turns out, Dave Trott, another Brit, who I will affectionately refer to as the poor man's John Hegarty, only because he hasn't been knighted, yet, tweeted that story and sent it all over the Motherland, Great Britain. 

One tweet led to a retweet (something you losers here in the Colonies never do) and suddenly I've got new followers and a band of Brits spreading the good Roundseventeen word across the European continent.

If you haven't read Dave's blog, you should. He's a remarkable writer and tells some terrific stories. And I'm not just saying that so that he'll continue to evangelize on my behalf. Oh who am I kidding, of course I am.

More importantly however, I get to claim, at least on one occasion, that I got the Trott's…

…Seal of Approval.

I've been wanting to use that joke for the longest time. Oh it's good to be back.

I'll be here all week.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Old school of thought

(reposted from 10/29/12)

I miss the One Off.

The One Off was a singular great idea/great execution/great ad that stood alone in the limelight. It was unencumbered by contrived brand extensions. Unfettered by social media integration. And unburdened by the false prophecy of 360 degree synergy.

Look through the awards annuals of days gone by and you'll find page after page of great One Offs.

But the One Off is on the endangered species list. Today, Creative Directors will trash an idea simply because it is a One Off. As if that were some kind of pejorative.

Or worse, like some crazed Joe Pesci character, they'll stick a great idea in a table vice and squeeze it until it yields banners, mobile apps and "something fun we can do on InstaGram."

It's all such nonsense. Sometimes a great spot is just a great spot. And that should be more than enough.

Ask the man, the woman, or the CMO on the street which brand does the best job marketing itself and you will no doubt hear, Apple. This is more than a little ironic since Apple is a company that defines the cutting edge of digital technology. Yet they refuse to play in the digital marketing arena.

When it comes to advertising they don't subscribe to the flavor of the day. They are iconoclasts. And refreshingly old school.

Steve Jobs, and his successor Tim Cook, never bought into the Java-scripted, HTML, inflective paradigm shifting mumbo jumbo that is being peddled in executive boardrooms across America. They know snake oil when they smell it.

But what if the greatest One Off of all time, Apple's original Super Bowl spot, were in the hands of folks who didn't know how to leave well enough alone?

I suspect Tank Top Girl would have her own Facebook page. We'd know where she buys her athletic shorts. The workout routine that produced such stunning triceps. And the high protein, gluten free cereal she eats every morning before her daily assault on convention.

Similarly, the Big Brother character would have his own Twitter feed. And a team of 20-something social media writers would be working night and day, wearing out the dictionary and the Thesaurus to come up with authentic sounding Orwellian doublespeak.

And of course there would be a website where users could enter their own target of disdain and, through the magic of algorithms and UX design, see their ex-bosses, old girlfriends, and former landlords, destroyed by a rebellious airborne sledgehammer of destruction.

Oh the hours of meaningful brand engagement that would produce. Yeah, right.

Thankfully, 1984 was not like 2012.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

If it's Tuesday it must be Malibu

 (reposted from February 14, 2012)

It's Tuesday morning and I'm feeling nostalgic. I'm heading into the office and somehow wishing I weren't. Not that I'm not grateful for the gig, I am. But I remember a time when Tuesday mornings and the office were mutually exclusive.

I was working as Creative Director at Chiat/Day. My partner and I were left alone to run the ABC account the way we saw it. We never had to have the work cleared by a planner. Or an account director. Or even someone higher up on the creative food chain.

We had shoestring budgets, run and gun schedules and complete autonomy. We also had the trust of a client who would produce the work they found funny and kill the work they didn't find funny. It was that simple.

That type of creative freedom was rare, so we took advantage of it.

On Tuesday mornings we would schedule golf outings at the Malibu Country Club. We'd hit the links
at 8 AM and be back in the office after lunch. No one seemed to notice and no one seemed to care.

The foursome included myself, John Shirley, Jerry Gentile and Mark Fenske. Not the best quartet of golfers by any means. (OK, Gentile, as his name would indicate, was pretty good.) But what we lacked in golfing acuity we more than made up for in laughs. By the time the round was over, my shoulders and neck were always aching from the non-stop howling.

Best of all, the design of Malibu Country Club lent itself to our tomfoolery. The course is built into the hills of the Santa Monica mountains. The fairways are lined with desert scrub and thick, high chaparral. Out of bounds is truly out of bounds, with an abundance of scorpions and rattlesnakes. That never stopped Jerry from galloping into the brush and collecting as many lost balls as possible.

And those found balls were put to good use.

The 18th hole at Malibu sits atop a high hill. There is about 300 feet of elevation between the tee box and the green, some 400 yards away. So with the carts parked on the path, we all reached for our drivers. Somebody, I don't remember who, had a USGA non-approved driver made in Korea. The head of the golf club was about 1000 cc's and it looked like a small toaster oven.

And with that we tee'd off. Not aiming for the green. Or even the fairway. Not giving a damn about hooking or slicing. We simply gripped it and ripped it. Taking advantage of our Mt. Olympus-like setting and hitting those rescued balls as hard and as far as we possibly could.

We all looked forward to Fenske's monster swings. Mark stands about 6'3" and at the time weighed in about 250 lbs. A moose of a man, with the strength to match. His form was nowhere near perfect. And he possessed all the athletic grace of a drunken ice fisherman. But damn that boy could smack the dimples off a Titleist.

Once he drove the ball 350 yards, 150 of them were straight.

The ball landed on the green of the 7th hole.
The 7th hole of nearby Sherwood Country Club.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Yes, we have no bananas

(reposted from December 10, 2011)

Insane Orthodox Jews hang floor-to-ceiling curtains to separate men from the women in synagogue.

Christians have an unholy preoccupation with virginity and have violated the principles of logic with something called 'immaculate conception.'

But when it comes to sheer lunacy and Neanderthal attitudes towards the female of the species, no one can hold a locked-and-loaded RPG to the Muslims.

Last week, an unnamed cleric in Egypt issued a fatwa banning women from touching bananas and cucumbers. In fact, the ban went on to include all penis-shaped foods including carrots, zucchinis and hot dogs. Of course those would be beef hot dogs, as Muslims and Jews already ban hot dogs made from pork, probably because that would lead women to have unclean thoughts about porking.

The forward-thinking sheik also stated that if women wish to eat these tubular foods, a third party male (obviously not a homosexual male because he too would be unable to curb his cravings for cock) should cut the phallicly- shaped food into smaller, non-sexual pieces.

He further went on to explain, though not reported in the paper, that it was no coincidence that American women (sinners), in particular widows, flock to Florida a state that is clearly shaped like a turgid penis and is indeed a geographic peninsula, which in itself sounds like penis.

The fatwa caused immediate turmoil throughout the Middle East.

At the Sizzler in Medina, Saudi Arabia, 8-year old Dahab Ahlam was steered away from the XXX-rated salad bar and later told by her mother she could not have a banana split sundae for dessert. She was forced to settle for the rather flaccid rice pudding. And then defying logic, as only children and deeply religious people can, she vowed, "this is another great injustice which can only be redeemed by the massive spilling of infidel blood. Allah Akbar."

Pleased with her daughter's violent indignant reaction and her pledge to take up violent jihad, Dahab's mother topped the little girl's rice pudding with Reese's Pieces. And all was right with the world. Temporarily.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Gone Camping

If you read roundseventeen with any regularity, and frankly I don't know why anyone other than my wife would, you know that at this time of the year we head up to Independence, CA, for our yearly camping trip.

This year, our twelfth, will be different.

My youngest daughter is away at Jew camp. And my oldest daughter has a summer job and will be guarding the homestead with our dog Nellie.

In the spirit of not divulging too much security information, my brother has also agreed to pop in the house at several unscheduled times. Lest any of you ne'er-do-wells have any thoughts of coming to Culver City and relieving me of my prized 50 inch flatscreen TV or my 21-speed Cinelli racing bike.

My brother's wrists are as thick as a #10 can of Ketchup, so I don't recommend tangling with him.

So where does that leave you, the regular roundseventeen reader?

Probably with a much needed respite from my finely fermented venom, my Luddite geo-political ramblings, and my personal oversharing.

But I'm not about to leave you in the lurch.

That's not how I built the 23,981,763rd most popular blog in America with a daily readership in the high teens, and spiking in the low twenties when linked via AgencySpy or Huffington Post.

I've scoured the archives and reposted pieces that I thought were deserving of a second look. I'm often surprised on this end about which posts catch fire and which ones don't.

I hope you will enjoy these while I'm high in the Sierras cavorting with the local meth-heads and scrounging for moss that will answer many unmentionable hygiene needs.

We will return to our regularly scheduled blogging on July 7th.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fixodent and forget it. Not.

As some of you might know I've been experiencing some dental trauma over the course of the last two months.

Back in April, the bridge that had been in my mouth for close to thirty years, fell apart. The plan was to replace it with state of the art dental implants that would have cost almost as much as a year's worth of college tuition. But, as it turns out, a 3D X-Ray of my entire skull made that prospect impossible.

Seems I have a rather large vein that runs the length of my upper jaw. That vein obstructs the bony marrow for the implant base. It would be like posting caissons in quicksand.

Consequently, I'm back to Plan B, which is replacing the old bridge with a new one. Until that new bridge is built, in a laboratory somewhere in the South Bay, I have been wearing a temporary.

I use the word 'wearing' purposefully. In order to denote its flimsy day-to-day nature.

You see while the temporary bridge felt sturdy and up to the task, last week while swimming, the bridge snapped in two. I had no choice but to hightail it over to the nearest Pharmacy to purchase a tube of Fixodent.

Nothing will age a 44-year old man faster than stepping up to the cashier at a CVS with a tube of Fixodent. Good thing I don't suffer from incontinence and require a box of Depends.

Lately I've been eating only very soft foods. Last week, we were at The Counter and I'm here to tell you the bacon cheeseburger doesn't taste half as good when it's pureed and sipped through a straw.

The Fixodent hasn't helped much. The two-piece broken bridge has been falling out repeatedly and rolling around in my mouth like a pair of sticky Las Vegas dice from a dirty craps table.

I'm sure you feel as I do that the new permanent bridge cannot go in fast enough.

That way we can stop talking about my teeth.
And get back to the biting essays on advertising.

Did you see what I did there?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Friendly Fire

One of the tropes large ad agencies like to trot out to their global clients is their "vast international host of creative resources and assets."

This, along with their mastery of social media and emerging digital platforms, is simply laughable.

Served up from the same industrial-sized vat of bullshit that gave birth to the open office plan and its resultant "increased collaboration and architecturally-induced sparking of new ideas and next generation thinking."



Years ago, when I worked at Chiat/Day, my partner and I were often sent to the NY office to help out on pitches and assignments. We often flew business class. We often stayed at the SoHo Grand. And we often abused the hell out of our per diems.

"I'll have a double shot of your 18-year old single malt. And for dinner, I'd like your second most expensive steak stuffed inside your most expensive steak."

It was sweet.

But it wasn't very productive.

When we strolled into the office we were met by glares and enough territorial rage to fuel the #7 line all the way to Flushing.

The NY staffers didn't want us there. They didn't want our help. And they didn't want to hear stories about how cool it was to work alongside Lee Clow.

Now with the benefit of hindsight, I understand why.

Years later, I took a position with Y&R, where the perverted concept of inter-office collaboration was twisted beyond recognition.

When I was hired I was under the impression that we, the Irvine office, would be in charge of the Jaguar account. What I found out was, every ad, every idea, every campaign, was a jump ball. Not with other agencies. But with the Y&R office from London.

Every three months or so, a team of their whiskey-sodden wankers would pop across the pond and share with us their latest gems.

And instead of expressing their gratitude for bailing them out of World War II and saving the British Empire from a 1000-year Reich of soggy sauerkraut and secondhand schnitzel, these dentally-challenged chaps took a massive dump on all our work. And they did it in that grating British voice that clearly justified the first shots at Lexington Concord.

If memory serves I believe Ian or Nigel or Winthorpe referred to our ideas as "groaners."

Surely you think I'm exaggerating and telling this story for self-serving purposes. But thanks to Google search I was able to locate an image that will give you an idea of the kind of work generated by Y&R's "vast international host of creative resources and assets."

That's right.

The lads from London, or as I liked to call them, the Hacks from Hounslow, wanted to do an entire campaign of Jaguars painted like Jaguars.

To their credit they hadn't proposed illustrating the Jaguar face on the bonnet. You know, because they wanted to keep it classy.

Next time you hear the words global and collaboration, do yourself a favor, walk in the other direction.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Homeless in Culver City

I have the good fortune of living about a mile and half away from the tortuous stairs at the Baldwin Park Scenic Overlook. These stairs were made famous by the Apple ad that can be seen here.

I love these stairs, not only for the aerobic workout, but for the quiet and solitude one can find at the top and on the back trails on the way down.

The other day I grabbed a water bottle and set out for the Overlook.

About 1/4 mile into my walk I noticed my shorts were slipping. I like to think it's because I'm shedding a few pounds but it's more than likely that I bought the wrong shorts.

I knew the rest of the walk wouldn't go well if I didn't find a way to hitch up my pants. So I did what any fan of shows like Survivorman, Life Below Zero, and Naked and Afraid, would do, I turned to Mother Nature.

I spotted a bush covered in solanum jasminoides, white potato vine, which is indigenous to California.

I pinched off a couple of yards of vine and made me way to an alcove in front of one of the industrial businesses along Jefferson Blvd. I carefully pruned the vine of it leaves and vinelets and then started threading it through the loops in my shorts.

I wasn't going for that whole "connected to the land" feeling, I just didn't want my thighs to chafe.

As I was fashioning the belt, two older African American woman emerged from the building.

My do-it-yourself habberdashering caught their immediate attention. They didn't avert their eyes. And they didn't hide their misguided assumptions.

(please excuse the politically incorrect intonations, I believe it makes the story funnier)

"Letitia was telling me she came out of her office in Santa Monica and there was some bum sleeping in the doorway."

"What she do?"

"She told him, 'you can't be sleeping here.'"

"Oh gurrrrrl."

"Then she be like on the phone making like she be calling the po-po."

"That man best be moving."

"Oh he did. He move fast."

There was no mistaking it.
They had mistaken me for a homeless man.

I could have pointed out my $120 Asics running shoes. Or the expensive gold wedding ring. Or the designer water bottle my wife is fond of purchasing. Or I could have taken out my iPhone and shown them a picture of the obscenely overpriced home owned by this homeless man. And the bank.

But I decided against all that and let them go on their way with their preconceptions.

And I went on my way. Thanks to my non-sagging shorts, I reached the top of the stairs in record time.

When I returned home, my wife took one look at me, now sweaty and even more disheveled, she spotted my potato vine belt and said…

"Look at you. You look like a homeless person."

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Cannesgover

If you happen to be employed in advertising you know today is the Worst. Day. Ever.


Because today the adverati return from Cannes. Most will come home empty-handed, but full of glory-hungry piss and vinegar. They watched as the Brazilians and Europeans carted off a suitcase packed with lions and vowed to return next year with work that would knock your $200 Fedora off.

And so today, the creatives who didn't go to France to lounge on a yacht, sip rose and pontificate about the holistic integration of Instagram, Twitter, and wearable anklet computers, the ones who banged out the sales events, the statement stuffers and the e-mail blasts that keep the lights on, will get an earful.

You know what I'm talking about: The Pep Talks.

Years ago we would have been herded into the conference room. But now, since we all sit at the community table or the SuperDesk, the flagellation…er, motivational speeches can be administered out in the open.

"We have to be smarter." 

"We have to work harder."

"We have to generate ideas faster."

"We have to create work that can stand up to the myopic scrutiny of MBAs and have people in focus groups exclaiming, 'that spot has to be made.'"

Stop me if you've heard this before. Chances are you have. And you'll hear it again next year. Because the powers that be in advertising, the ones who graced you with a 2 inch high Eiffel Tower souvenir from their annual French boondoggle, are averse to change.

The only change they're interested in is an upgraded suite at the InterContinental Carlton in 2015.

But I'm an outsider now.
And have no vested interest in vesting. Or ladder climbing.
And, perhaps blindly, no fear of retribution.

So here's my humble but deadly-accurate prescription, for agencies that want to win awards at Cannes.

1.) Pink Slip The Planners -- You show me a creative team that can't figure out a distinctive market insight and I'll show you a team that doesn't deserve a Cannes Lion. Or a job for that matter.

2.) Put Creatives in Charge -- The final say on what goes out the door and sold to the client goes to a Creative Director.  Not a CEO, a CMO, or a CFO. Or worse, a committee of all the aforementioned.

3.) Never say the words Social and Media in the same sentence -- Banners, tweets, mobile apps, Facebook updates, page takeovers, kickstarters, Tumblrs and Foursquare friend finders have never sold a single widget, dohickey or whatchamacallit. They never will. Stop. Just stop.

4.) Make with the Funny -- With the exception of Barton Graf and the agency where I am currently employed, there are few folks doing work that's genuinely funny. Not wink worthy. Or smile inducing. People want work that makes them laugh. Where are the Evil Beavers?

4a.) Hire a crusty Old Time Writer -- In the 10 years I've been freelancing I haven't been to one agency that couldn't benefit from an old timey writing guy. Or gal. Who knows how to put one word in front of another and bring back the art of persuasion.

5.) Finally, Burn the Community Table -- Writers and art directors need offices. Real offices. Give them the ones formerly occupied by the Planners.