Monday, May 22, 2017
The other day somebody told me I won.
I had put up a snarky remark on one of the social media political sites. I won't bore you with which one, I make so many snarky remarks I can't remember which snark-enhanced missive had earned the victory. I only know that I won.
And not some cheap trinket that one could easily secure at a carnival midway. Nor some gaudy zirconium-encrusted belt coveted by hairless, steroid-enhanced "professional" wrestlers given to ranting and raving at MAGA crowds.
No, I had won something bigger. More substantial. Something enormous.
I won the Internet!
Naturally, I thought it was too good to be true. But I didn't hear it from just one person, I heard it from many.
"That's brilliant, you win."
"Sir, you have won the Internet today."
"ROFL, LMFAO, the Internet belongs to you today, buddy."
Not only to receive the glowing praise of total strangers but to also find out that my affinity for cracking wise can result in some type of astronomical cash prize. If I won the Internet, it's gotta be worth something, right?
Not so fast, Sparky. Turns out it has as much value as an advertising executive promising a client "brand loyalty" or "this FFDKK -- Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knack™-- will engage the consumer and stimulate meaningful and fruitful brand dialogue."
And then it struck me, actually it struck my friend Paul, who had also seen that I had won the Internet, that it should mean something. This is actually a good idea for Google. What if, during the course of the day, Google randomly awarded $100 or even $1000 to a computer-curated comment deemed to have won the Internet.
It wouldn't be hard to do. Nor would it be expensive. Pffft, those people are just printing money up there in Mountain View, home of the $21 Tiny Artisanal Croissant.
Moreover, by the end of the year, Google will have compiled a Best of the Best if the Internet. That can easily be turned into...wait, what is that the kids call it these days...oh yeah, Content.
Best of all, this new brick-and-mortar prize awarding approach will increase competition. People will go out of their way to craft smart, witty, razor-sharp repartee. And it will weed out the losers. Discouraging wannabees from clogging up our interwebs with dull, facile, yawn-inducing comments and replies.
Because, as Kamau Bell put it after witnessing grown white Republicans crossing swords with their new Saudi friends, "If you can't be funny in 2017, you can't be funny."
Thursday, May 18, 2017
I might have mentioned this a few weeks ago, but as a lark I answered a phishing scheme from Asia Date.com.
Much to my delight, my mailbox has been flooded with titillating offers from Asian ladies looking for old, fat Jewish guys with oversized noses.
And so, because I have no hobbies and it's an easy way to amuse myself, I have taken on the fake persona of David Goldstein and started writing back.
If the analytics on this post indicate any success I will publish a new letter (I have more than 75 ready to be addressed) and any return correspondence, every Thursday until the joke wears itself out. Or, until my wife tells me to cut the shit.
Now if you'll excuse me, I must write back to Sunny, who likes to shell peanuts and bring great dishonor to dirty clothing.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
It's Wednesday where we are.
It's Wednesday Night, possibly into Thursday, where my daughter Abby is.
Two days ago, she set off on her Birthright program. By the way, I hate that name, as it implies some kind of genetic privilege, which should be an anathema to any Jew.
Nevertheless, I do understand the intent of the program.
For those who don't know, Birthright provides a free trip to Israel to any kid 17-26, who can show Jewish lineage. Even partial lineage. The purpose is to expose, enlighten and preserve.
My daughter is a Bat Mitzvah and has had plenty of exposure to her religion. She also graduated from a Catholic High School, so she is well versed in other religions as well.
Enlighten? Well, having been raised by a cranky militant atheist father, me, and an on-the-fence agnostic, my wife, there's not much room for enlightenment. As the other campers on the tour will soon discover, my daughter is quite the Nihilist. A funny one, at that.
Preservation is a whole other thing. Some of you less-informed readers might be thinking...
"Jesus Christ, what is with you Jews and your obsession with self-preservation?"
Allow me to elaborate.
That obsession has been earned. Forged in the fire of slavery, de-Judaization, the Spanish Inquisition, the Diaspora, pogroms and less than a hundred years ago, a mass genocide at the hands of people who swore to kill every Jew on Earth. And unless you haven't been to a movie theater in the last 30 years, you'd know they did a pretty good job.
By 1945, they had murdered 1 out of every 3 Jews on the planet.
If you had a family of six it would now be a family of four. Two of your loved ones would have been butchered, raped and slaughtered simply because they believed in a God, the same god who figuratively gave birth to Jesus and/or Allah.
Also, and you'd never know this paging through the credits on a TV sitcom or if you were looking for a lawyer or a good dentist or if you were scanning the list of Nobel Prize winners, but there are only 15 million Jews on the planet today; living, breathing and sending the cold soup back to the kitchen.
In short, every Jew counts.
I'm going to climb down off this soapbox, now.
But before I do, what's with the divider separating the men from the women at the Wailing Wall (see picture above)?
It's hard to maintain the thin veneer of moral superiority when my own tribe is participating in this patriarchal bullshit.
God damn, you religious people are stupid.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
The NBA playoffs are in full swing.
I don't really pay much attention to basketball unless my beloved Syracuse Orangemen are playing --not very well of late -- or until the playoffs kick in. Truth is, as my brother often points out, you can skip the first three quarters of any game and just tune in to the fourth-and-decisive quarter and still come away satisfied.
But, with so much tsuris emanating form Precedent Shitgibbon and his band of conniving half-wits, the playoff games provides much needed relief.
One thing, even obvious to the casual observer, is how a shooter can get on a streak. A 3 pointer from downtown...a jumper from top of the key...floats a teardrop...another 3 pointer from beyond the arch.
It's a matter of rhythm and confidence. It's how success breeds success.
It's not a phenomena exclusive to 6' 4" point guards from Baltimore or Detroit. Ad people can find it too.
Lately, a lot more of my work is coming directly from clients. Meaning I'm put in the unenviable position of talking with people. That's not always easy for a misanthrope like myself.
And as many agency people will tell you, in my younger days I was not the kind of person you wanted to trot out in front of clients. Opinionated and stubborn and lacking in personal hygiene is not a winning formula, they might have added.
It's different now.
I've learned to put some distance between myself and the work. I know I can't control the outcome of any situation. And so I don't try. I simply put what I consider my best foot forward and offer up my honest opinion. Not in a hard-headed obstinate way, like I might have done in the past. But in a pared-down straightforward manner that is devoid of any agenda.
In recent weeks, I have found myself saying, with a new found quiet confidence,
"You (Mr. or Ms. Client) have to do your homework."
"I understand where you are coming from, but I wouldn't do it that way."
"I know I'm shortchanging myself out of money, but here is the way I would approach that."
Even more surprising, this shit works.
It's almost as if the less I care, the more persuasive I become. This is an incredible revelation to be learning so late in my career.
Other observations, I have made.
The NBA halftime show with Charles Barkley, Kenny the Jet, Ernie and Shaquile O'Neal is the one of the funniest on all of television.
Tina Fey, while funny on SNL and a talented writer, has no business doing those AmEx commercials.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Last week, I received a message from LinkedIn. The good folks at the data mining company informed me that I had come up on 13 years in my current position.
Ironic, because my current position is not a position at all.
I can gussy it up all I want, but the truth is I'm an unemployed freelancer. The other truth is I never thought my career trajectory would go this way. In my mind I was between jobs. Just waiting for the right opportunity to come knocking on my door.
Turns out there weren't many ad agencies looking to pay a handsome sum of money to a cranky copywriter who was never willing to compromise on quality. And even less willing to work late or on the weekends.
And so I found myself gigging. Leapfrogging from one assignment to another. From one dysfunctional ad agency with free bagels to another dysfunctional ad agency with artisanal iced coffee.
It was terrifying at first. Particularly since I had two young princesses to feed and spoil wildly. Two mortgages. And a mountain of bills from the Bosley Hair Replacement Center for a treatment program that proved itself ineffective.
Of course I had no one to blame but myself.
If there was any pain, it was all self-induced. I had quit my lucrative position as a Group Creative Director at Y&R, where the work we were doing was hit or miss, and blindly leapt off the cliff into the unknown.
As you might expect there was fear. But that fear was far outweighed by not having to commute 106 miles every fucking day on the 405 Fucking Freeway --or as I refer to it, Satan's Dirty Anal Tract.
In many ways it was reminiscent of the way my father taught me to swim.
Having watched all the other dads, with their slim waists and full heads of hair, patiently coax their kids into kicking and paddling and alternately swinging their arms to stay afloat, my father dispensed with all the niceties. He hoisted me up and to the dismay of my screaming mother, simply tossed me in the deep end of the pool. Somehow I managed to claw my way to the edge, where my father announced, quite proudly...
"There, he's a swimmer."
So now I've got 13 years behind me as a semi-successful freelancer. I'm only 44 years old, so hopefully there will be another 13 years in front of me.
After that, I'm done. Because quite frankly I can't imagine any agency in their right mind needing the services of a seasoned copywriter in his mid-fifties.
That's crazy talk.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
I had no intention of doing a RoundSeventeen Themed Week, but as you might have noticed the three previous postings from this week were all centered around Precedent Shitgibbon.
And so is this one.
I don't know what it's like at your household, but here in the heart of Culver City blood pressure is spiking to heretofore unseen levels.
When my wife and I are not screaming at the TV. We are seriously paging through the Aliyah pamphlets and contemplating a move to the Holy Land where we would ironically feel safer than we currently do in America and the rise of the Fourth Reich.
My liver, overworked by a nightly three fingers worth of Maker's Mark has been producing more bile than my body knows what to do with. Consequently it has poured itself all over the blog.
Perhaps it's because I'm a so-called writer or perhaps it's because meaningful political persuasion is way above my pay grade, but I've become fascinated with Shakespearean insults as well as the practice of linguistic antibacchius.
antibacchius -- compounds consisting of one element of a single stressed syllable and a second disyllabic element with a trochaic pattern, i.e., stressed unstressed.
Of course, it's more fun to eat the sausage than it is to see or discuss how it's made. So with no further ado, here are my favorite names for our current commander in chief.
Churlish, earth-vexxing jizztrumpet
Paunchy, beef-witted taintbiscuit
Frothy, gore-bellied flapdragon
Lumpish, clay-brained shitmandril
Reeky, clapper-clawed pissweasel
Mammering, dog-hearted hugger mugger
Fawning, idle-headed toadsucker
I encourage you to use any or all of these colorful descriptors when referring to our heartless leader.
Also, if you prefer pictures over words, please free to use this.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Years ago, the leaders in Iran, thought it would be a clever idea to sponsor a Holocaust Cartoon Contest, after all nothing delights the soul or pleases Allah more than the desecration of 6 million corpses.
Moreover it would be a perfect way to exact some type of revenge on those Jews, who not only found a way to make the desert bloom, but also had a nuclear bomb, Stuxnet, and better tasting falafels.
What they didn't count on was two enterprising young Israelis who, in a brilliant display of free speech and one-upmanship, did a ju-jitsu on the Persian leaders and created their own Holocaust Cartoon Contest.
The cartoons in Tel Aviv were darker.
And as expected, funnier.
No one does self-loathing better than us.
I bring all this up because I am a 1st Amendment Absolutist. I don't agree with many of the European countries and their restrictive laws regarding Holocaust denial or access to Nazi ideology. Hateful speech is more detrimental to those speaking it than it is those hearing it.
Voltaire put it best, "I don't defend what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."
You could argue that this is the very cornerstone of American democracy. Not sure however, if you'd get agreement on this from Precedent Shitgibbon.
I'm not even sure he knows of Voltaire.
"Voltaire? That crappy French restaurant on the Upper West Side. Had a steak there once. They didn't even have ketchup. SAD."
Seems the man who criss-crossed the country telling us that political correctness has destroyed America and left the country a disaster, a terrible, horrible disaster, feels he is free to bloviate at will but the rest of us simply are not.
Last week, we not only saw a woman being federally prosecuted for laughing at a congressional hearing, but the chairman of the FCC was instructed to investigate and prosecute Steven Colbert for cracking a politically incorrect joke over the airwaves; suggesting that Trump's mouth was nothing more than Vladmir Putin's cockholster.
By far, my favorite phrasing off 2017.
The hypocrisy here is glaring. Particularly after the infamous pussy-grabbing affair.
Or as my astute wife noted after hurling a string of unmentionable invectives at our favorite frothy, triple-chinned jizztrumpet...
"Come on Donnie, it's just locker room talk."
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
By most accounts, the new healthcare bill, TrumpCare™, that passed last week is a paper turd.
It had a 17% approval rating in public polls.
It will lead to 24 million Americans losing their coverage.
And it was rejected by 20 Republicans in the House of Representatives.
I don't want to get all wonky and dive into the details. Fact is, I don't even understand how the deductibles work on my car insurance. I'm not about to tackle waivers, high risk pools, and affordable exchanges.
Here's what I do know -- the business world.
I know how corporate organizations work.
I know how tasks get delegated.
I know how deadlines get met.
I know about optics.
I've seen it at the best ad agencies. The worst agencies. And even at great agencies who are no longer at their best.
Shit gets done.
For 8 years we've heard the Republicans in Congress bitching and moaning about Obamacare and its Death Panels. We've heard them yakking about jobs and how the previous administration had failed working class Americans. And then there's the National Debt, now near 20 trillion dollars. We heard them panic on that as well...
"If we don't do something about the debt soon, we'll be bankrupting our grandchildren."
Well, six months ago the pasty-faced white men in their Joseph A. Banks suits got a gift from heaven (or Moscow.) They were unbound, free to impose their myopic will and make their legislative mark on America. But it hasn't exactly gone as planned.
Let me tell you what would have happened if these were ad people and not politicians.
On January 20th, shortly after a royal walk down Pennsylvania Ave., Precedent Shitgibbon would arrive at the Oval Office. And before he even had time to order a Coke, there would've been a thick document sitting on his desk, waiting for his immediate signature. That document, a viable ObamaCare alternative would have been carefully crafted by people who worked nights and weekends to dot every i and cross every t.
This new healthcare bill would have covered every American. Would have lowered premiums. And would have been blessed by every Republican in the House and the Senate. It would have been so meticulously thought out there would simply be no need for revisions or committees.
But before they all retired to the Rose Garden for beer and high fives, Eddie Munster (Paul Ryan) would have placed another thick document before COTUS -- our Cockholster Of The United States.
A jobs bill.
A comprehensive, creative piece of legislation encompassing 8 years of their best thinking, to lower unemployment, and guarantee working Americans a better shot at the future. That too, would have unanimous approval by the Republicans, after all they would have spent the better part of a decade canoodling and tweaking the bill to perfection.
And finally, before the ink was even dry on the new Healthcare Bill and the new Jobs Bill, and before the press photographers ran out of digital space on their SD cards, our orange-haired twatwaffle would have been presented a new budget.
One that also reflected 8 years of nose-to-the-grindstone work. A budget that would lower spending, reduce our collective debt and put us on the path to financial sanity.
Oh and since it was prepared by ad people, not worthless politicians, it'd probably include some hashtags and brand activation ideas.
All of which begs the question,
"What the fuck have these bible-thumping, khaki-pants wearing, illiterate frat boys been doing for the past 8 years?"
Monday, May 8, 2017
An Open Letter to my daughters:
Dear Rachel & Abby,
As you know your mother and I have recently updated the living will and trust. Many of the terms and conditions still apply, including the power of attorney clause.
Should I ever find myself choking on a Swedish meatball and turning blue and losing oxygen flow leaving me with all the mental capacities of a Red State Voter in Iowa's 4th Congressional District, please feel free, no, obligated to yank the plug from the wall and donate my remaining puree meals to the poor schmuck in the hospital bed next to me.
And rest assured that certain financial arrangements are still in place for you with regards to any liquid assets or subsequent sale of the house. However, and this is the difficult part of this letter, there may be substantially less money than you had previously been led to believe.
Your mother and I have decided to move to Sioux City, Iowa. OK, I'm still working on convincing mom, but I'm dead set on going. The plan is to establish residency in this very white, very Republican, very goyish 4th District and dethrone current Representative Steve King, not the author, the miscreant.
Rep. King once famously stated the "female body has the ability to prevent pregnancy in cases of incest or rape."
King also proposed electrifying the fence on our southern border because it's been proven to work on livestock.
Are we (?) going all the way to Sioux City to support and fund raise and campaign for a new candidate and help him or her unseat this walking talking flesh-sack of idiocy?
The plan is grander than that.
Your inheritance, the money you have been eyeing since the time you accidentally opened an envelope from Fidelity Investments, is being redirected. It will nourish the seeds of a political newbie. A man of principle. Common sense. And enough moral indignation for 10 men -- Me.
I have officially reached my boiling point and can no longer watch this feckless Congress and their Fascist flagbearer, the man we call Precedent Shitgibbon. Or, COTUS, Cockholster Of The United States. Or, the churlish, clay-brained, canker blossom.
I'm going to be the change I want to see in this country. You know as soon as I change your mother's mind about picking up and moving to Iowa.
PS. Possible campaign slogan:
The Jew from the City of Sioux.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Today's post is short.
Short because it's the end of a very busy week. And because I rarely get any credit for maintaining consistency, nor the discipline it requires to make these daily observations. Furthermore, as my wife points out, "what's the point of it all?"
A good question considering I spotted the broken window in the picture above on my way home from work one day, and took the time out of my day to go back the very next day just to snap photos of it. Just to document the art of reality. Just to make a blog posting for you.
I'm a giver.
Anyway, the photo is Part One of a two part equation.
Here's Part Two.
Have a nice weekend.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
There's a been a lot of talk lately about Precedent Shitgibbon's first 100 days in office. This post is not about that.
I'm more concerned about the last 30 days. And by concerned I mean overjoyed.
April 2017 saw the highest traffic numbers for RoundSeventeen since this blog was started about 9 years ago. Nine years? Wow, as my friend Mark Monteiro once noted, I really do have diarrhea of the brain.
Last month, for the very first time, there were more than 20,000 page views. We had come tantalizingly close in the past, hitting numbers like 19, 087, 19, 254 and 19, 457 -- that was the previous high mark.
In April we didn't just nudge past 20, 000 we went rocketing past it like Precedent Shitgibbon's disapproval ratings.
Maybe that doesn't do anything for you.
But my life is pathetic, filled with little joy and even less in the way of validation, so I'm popping the cork on that bottle of sparkling Apple Cider that's been sitting in my garage refrigerator since it went unopened at my daughter's Bat Mitzvah party.
If you're a regular reader of RoundSeventeen you might be wondering what accounts for the sudden surge in viewership.
"He's not funnier."
"He's always whining about advertising."
"His political rants are facile and long in the tooth."
Guilty. Guilty. And very guilty.
The answer is, as it always is, algorithms.
Recently, I was working onsite in an office where my Apple Mail was unable to connect to the server. Subsequently, I was forced to use my rarely-used Gmail account.
There, I noticed a shitload of spam from a mail order bride company in China. Thinking this could be kung pao grist for another book, not unlike my Nigerian spam book, I decided to respond to one of the AsiaDate promos.
And surprise, surprise, Mingyu Lee, a 22 year old cosmetology student from Quang Lo province, was looking a for a 44 year old freelance copywriter to make her dreams come true. And so, it turns out, were a thousand of her friends.
Who knew bald Jewish guys with big noses could be so popular?
Well, now the bots have taken over. Their ads are all over the blog. And the traffic is way, way up. Of course, the numbers and the statistics are all fake and manufactured. But it's 2017 and we have a fobbing, pottle-deep moldwarp in the White House, so why should that matter?
Besides, according to the incredibly deferential Mingyu:
"Mr. Rich, you are so handsome and verile, with much strong knowledge to share with picnic by cold babbling brook."
Indeed Mingyu, indeed.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
I've gotten to a pretty sweet point in my career.
While others are clawing and scratching for work, including the most debasing assignments (see yesterday's posting), I am growing ever more selective about the projects I will accept.
It's not because I'm flush with cash. I don't have Fuck You Money. And never will.
But what I lack in liquid assets I more than make up for in confidence and integrity.
So while the industry makes a turbo-charged race for the bottom, I'm taking, if you'll permit the expression, a more Disruptive™ route.
In addition to the Day Rate I normally charge agencies and clients, I am tacking on additional fees as a means of dealing with the increasing indignities faced by today's nomadic freelancer.
A numeric value has not been assigned to each fee, yet, but this will give a good idea of what to look forward to in the very near future:
Onsite working at the Long Table of Mediocrity Fee...................TBD
Rewriting the Brief in the Middle of Assignment Fee...................TBD
Asking for Adlike Objects Fee.......................................................TBD
Check In with Planners Fee..........................................................TBD
Lunchtime Meeting with No Food Fee..........................................TBD
Soviet Style HR Documentation Fee.............................................TBD
Dealing with Agency Bureaucracy/Politics Fee...........................TBD
Gun-to-the-Head Useless Deadline Fee........................................TBD
Planners Posing as Creative Directors Fee..................................TBD
Monday, May 1, 2017
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Last week, I got word that a TV campaign I had worked on was greeted with great enthusiasm by the client. Not just one of campaigns, but all of them. And that our collective favorite was in the frontrunner position.
Holy shit, this 44 year old might get something produced.
Of course, that euphoria was short lived. You know, like when you "accidentally" take one extra spoonful of industrial-grade cough medicine.
In my constant effort to keep the freelance train humming, I ran across a help wanted posting on linkedin. A small agency in NY was looking for freelance writers for a last minute pitch. More specifically, they were looking for writers with an interest in football. Not real football, with helmets, shoulder pads, steroids and convicted domestic abusers, but European football, aka, soccer.
I know as much about as soccer as a I know about English Royalty, Russian Literature and Greek Mythology, all loser categories for me when they pop up on Jeopardy.
I self-eliminated, knowing there would be a thousand freelancers in NY ready to feast on that carcass.
I'm glad I did. I heard through the grapevine that the small digital agency doing the hiring had some unconventional thoughts on compensation.
According to my unnamed source, the writers were free to submit as many ideas -- in the form of a one page treatment -- to the Creative Director. He or she would then cull down the pile, paying, are you ready for this, $100 for each accepted submission. That's right, a whole C-Note. (minus the obligatory federal tax deductions needed to pay for Precedent Shitgibbon's weekly Mar A Lago jamboree.)
Pretty enticing, huh? Well, it gets better.
Because should the client decide to move forward with one of the hundred dollar game changing ideas, this small clueless digital agency was willing to pay an extra five Ben Franklins where that came from.
In the course of a week, the industrious and imaginative NYC copywriter could conceivably walk away with a windfall of $600, $700, maybe even $800, in return for setting a worldwide manufacturing of sporting goods on the path to marketing prosperity.
All in all a shameful, disgusting microcosm of where this business is headed.
I began this post with a quote from Charles Dickens.
I'd like to end it with a music video by Terence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Today I offer a tip of the hat to colleague Warren Eakins.
Warren and I have never actually met, but he is a legend in the business. And apparently he has turned his attention to more artistic endeavors.
In this last posting for the month of April, which looks to be the highest trafficked month in the history of RoundSeventeen, Warren pays tribute to the everlasting power of No.
If only other members of the ad industry knew of its dominion.
"Can we move the meeting to Monday morning?"
"Can you make that 90 manifesto work in a 15 second pre-roll?"
"Can you have a Super Bowl spot written by end of day?"
"Can you check in with the planner at 2 PM? And again at 7 PM?"
"Can you make this instructional tutorial on long term life insurance go viral?"
"Can you stay until midnight?"
"Can you do it for free?"
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Today, I am absolutely giddy.
I am booked on the kind of job that I love. Without going into too many specifics or naming names, let me fill you in on some details.
For one thing the work is remote.
Meaning I can do it all from the comfort of my home, a home that is noticeably quieter and lonelier with the passing of my dog two weeks ago, but it's still my home. Which means I'm not hopscotching around an office looking for a quiet room where I can think.
As I have stated on many occasion -- though to no avail and with little impact on office planners -- a writer and/or an art director cannot and should not be expected to work at the Long Table of Mediocrity™.
Moreover, since they are the ones who actually make the product that funds the holding companies, they should be given offices. With windows. And a couch. And a small refrigerator for cold beverages.
But today I am in my comfortable Herman Miller chair with the ample lumbar support. Alexa is in the living room shuffling through the entire library of Mark Knopfler songs. And I have enough dark roasted Peet's coffee in the freezer to last me until the Dirt Nap or until Precedent Shitgibbon launches the ICBMs.
Now, here's the best part of this gig.
The client, and I won't say who, has given me a list of deliverables. As I might have mentioned a few weeks ago, sometimes the hardest part of my job is figuring out what the fuck people want. Manifestos, minifestos, directions, platforms, journey maps, and adlike objects. It's all so hazy and nebulous and frankly a waste of good fired synapses.
This client wants headlines.
Headlines for outdoor boards and out of home transit posters. This, by far, is my favorite thing to do. If I can risk being immodest, I've built an entire career on nothing more than the wiseass ability to crank out short, snappy and pointed headlines.
I knew I was destined for this vocation when, as a young man, I spotted this gem scrawled on a condom machine in a men's room tucked inside a Syracuse saloon.
I've only been budgeted for a short time on this job. And I haven't even been given my full day rate.
But the truth is, I'm going to give this client more than they ever asked for. Because, there is the promise of more work down the road. And because, if I'm being honest, it's the kind of work I would gladly do for free.
Just don't tell anybody.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Last week I got tangled up in an online dialogue regarding Precedent Shitgibbon.
Oddly enough the discussion was not about any substantive issues. Rather, it was about emotions and whether it was wrong or right to "hate" someone.
As many of these Facebook/Linkedin/Twitter back and forths go, it was pulled before it got too heated. But, seeing as I have a self-built platform for my opinions, let me dispense with the semantic gymnastics and tell you why I hate this ruttish, sheep-biting, idle-headed canker blossom.
I hate that the man with the toughest job in the world is also the laziest man to ever hold the office; spending more time on the Mar A Lago golf course and watching cable TV than he does in intelligence briefings.
I hate that his laziness is only surpassed by his pussy grabbing crudeness; and find it odd that the party that always railed about respect and morality can stomach the way this man treats his wife. Or women in general.
I hate that his vulgarity is dwarfed by his stupidity; and I'm sure the friends of Luciano Pavarotti as well as the descendants of Frederick Douglass and the Korean folks who trace their lineage to China, will agree.
I hate that in addition to being monumentally ill-informed he is magnificently ill-tempered; and takes offense to every slight of his precious self esteem. Droning on about ratings as if he were in a Nielsen's battle with Dancing With the Stars.
I hate that because of his hair trigger temper I must go to sleep at night with visions of mushroom clouds and the nagging thought that I should have paid more attention to all six seasons of Doomsday Preppers.
I hate that Hate now has a seat at the table, including confirmed racist Jeff Sessions, LGBT foe Mike Pence, and alt. right scumbag Steve Bannon, who couldn't stand the thought of his children going to school with a bunch of whiny Jewish kids. (Though if I'm being honest, I do see his point.)
I hate that people who say, "at least he's better than her" can so easily dismiss his flagrant and countless violations of our trust; this includes admitting two paid foreign agents into his circle of influence, a disregard for the emoluments clause, shady pay-for-play business transactions, cabinet members lying under oath, and last but not least, a willingness (if not collusion) to let Vladimir Putin, our primary adversary, put his thumb on the scale of our election, which should be cherished at least as much as our right to own an AR-15. (Please note the silence of the idiots who walk around with a Constitution stuffed in their pockets)
Most of all, I hate that everything, and I mean everything, is about him.
It's not about coal miners, not about victims of terror, not about veterans, not about jobs, not about the economy, not about climate change or not even about our nation's security. It's about this cuntish, knotty-pated flapdragon and his planet-sized ego.
An ego that's going to get us all killed.
Millions of people don't see it that way.
I hate that, too.
Monday, April 24, 2017
The question always comes up when I meet strangers at a party. Or run into relatives on my wife's side of the family, whose names I have long forgotten.
"Oh you work in advertising? Do you have any favorite commercials on TV right now?"
And of course the answer is always, "no."
Not only do I not have any favorites, my mind goes completely blank and I can't even remember the crappy advertising I know is out there.
That changed last week.
If you haven't seen the new campaign for Fram Oil Filters, do yourself a favor and make with the Google. There, you will find a set of spots by Laughlin Constable, featuring Jonathon Banks as their new cranky spokesperson.
The timing of these spots couldn't be better. Because as the astute among you will notice, Mr. Banks is also one of the stars of Better Call Saul, one of the best shows on television. In fact, the creatives at the ad agency should be congratulated for successfully appropriating Mr. Banks entire character.
It's genius. And frankly, I'm surprised Vince Gilligan, the show's creator hasn't sued the good folks at Fram and their agency.
What I love so much about the cranky spokesperson -- the cranksperson -- is no doubt what account people and planners hate about him. And I can well imagine how that first creative review went when the creative people sprung the idea on the 27 year old business and marketing experts.
"He's so negative."
"Does he have to insult our target market audience?"
"He never smiles. He seems downright angry. And he's old. This'll never work. Plus how do you put that bald ugly dude on Instagram?"
Am I fabricating these comments?
No. I. Am. Not.
I have been in a hundred, nee, a thousand of these internal idea death panels myself. In fact, if I may, I'd like to indulge in another one of those We-Had-A-Campaign-Just-Like-That Moments.
A long time ago when John Shirley (my art director) and I were still walking around with one last and diminishing ray of sunshine on our careers we were asked to head up a pitch for Hardees. We had done a little digging and found that Hardee's used to have a company spokesperson for the advertising, Lil' Chef. Our idea was to drag Lil' Chef out of retirement and put him back to work in order to save the company.
In our iteration, Lil' Chef wanted no part of it. He was an old man. An old, cranky wealthy man, not unlike the Big Lebowski. Oh and in a thinly-veiled homage to the agency management at the time, we made Lil' Chef, a raging alcoholic.
He was always drunk and always angry. He was drangry.
Of course, Lil' Chef never saw the light of day. Thus amplifying my current campaign envy. Shortly thereafter, we were shown the light at the end of the tunnel leading out of Chiat/Day.
But I digress. In any case here is your Moment of Fram.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Today's hat tip goes to Tim Geoghegan.
Tim and I have never actually met but we share the same ad agency DNA as well as a healthy disdain for the way ad agencies currently operate, I believe the ironic term they use is, "best practices." That term shows management's delusional flair for self aggrandizement.
This monumental waste of creative resources doesn't merit "good practices" or even "fair practices". Part of me wants to believe this schematic of the 360 degree campaign was pulled straight from the syllabus at Trump University.
Meaning, it was never designed to produce effective results, but crafted for the sole purpose of inflating billable hours and generating obscene revenue for the C-suite and Cannes-goers.
If I were to amend Tim's brilliant design I would lop off the parts about Concepting a TV spot and Producing a TV spot. Because that shit just doesn't happen anymore.
Now teams are told to start thinking digital.
To be media agnostic.
To let the organic idea spring from itself.
A banner ad, we are told, could be the starting point for the whole campaign. That or an FSI. Or a mobile app.
By the way, has anything good ever come from mobile apps? I don't know about you but when my iPhone tells me it's time to manage my storage capacity, those apps on Screen #5 and 6 are the first to go.
An app to identify plants out in the wild, gone.
An app to simulate a stapler, I think my daughter downloaded this, gone.
An app to measure my sperm count, never used it.
I write a lot about missing the old days. I miss the camaraderie, the irreverence, the offices with windows, the lavish productions, the time given to crack an assignment, the fun, the boozy office parties, and the sense that we were part of pop culture -- when was the last time you heard people at a water cooler talking about a page takeover or augmented reality app.?
But in reviewing Tim's deadly accurate diagram, it's clear the thing I miss most about the ad business is a simple fucking sense of sanity.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Sorry about the gloom and doom.
I know I wrote about my dog's passing yesterday and today I'm broaching the subject of my last will and testament. But until I work my way out of this funk, that's just the way it has to be.
Two months ago, my wife and I visited the lawyer's office to discuss the will. We already had one -- it cost a fortune to prepare -- but it was time to make some revisions and updates.
Turns out one of the organizations we had originally designated to receive a significant donation was no longer worthy of our good will. Apparently the CEO has been siphoning off money and chartering private jets to Antigua.
I didn't slave over meaningless brand engagement units and two-fold, four-color FSI's just to fund some fat slob and his hammock-humping secretary.
Moreover, the family has expanded in some areas and suffered losses in others. And my daughters are no longer 7 and 9 years old. All these things come into consideration.
As well as my demand that everybody just start being very fucking nice to me.
On top of all that there's the small matter of geopolitics. At this writing (Saturday morning) only one MOAB has been detonated in Afghanistan and no nukes have been fired towards the DPRK. But as we know from our fobbing, beetle-headed flap dragon Precedent, all that can change in a second.
Or with the next serving of chocolate cake.
And so with the apocalypse looming, I'm tempted not to leave as much as I had intended to have left.
There's the cabin on a lake in Maine I've been eyeing.
The restored 66 Dodge Coronet selling on Craig's list.
Or the 1387 acre horse ranch in Northern Idaho. I know nothing of horses. And never stepped foot in Idaho. But I do like the idea of 1387 acres between me and my nearest white trash neighbor.
I'm thinking of emptying out the 401K. And throwing caution to the wind. Binging in a way a thrift-minded Half Scottish/Half Jewish man has never binged before.
Maybe I'll start slow with some of that Market Priced Lobster. I've never ordered that off the menu before.
Monday, April 17, 2017
The first time I lost a dog I was just out of college. I had left New York State for the first time and was living on the roof of a fraternity house at UCLA.
That's right, the roof.
They didn't have rooms for rent, so for a hundred bucks a month they rented me a mattress on the roof and let me use the kitchen, the bathroom and the telephone facilities (hint, this was before cellphones.)
My mother called and said our German Shepherd, the one I grew up with, had passed. I burst out crying. And because I was a young man and didn't want anyone to see me crying, it was a blessing to have that whole rooftop to myself.
I'm older now and really don't care if someone sees me crying.
In fact if I were to go old school and write this out on a typewriter, there's a good chance there'd be plenty of tears on the white bond paper.
Yesterday, we had to let go of our sweet retriever mix, Nellie.
Rather than reliving the painful way our paths uncrossed let me tell you of a happier time when she entered our lives.
My wife and I had been taking our young daughters to the local rescue pounds, brimming with all kinds of sharp-toothed pit bulls. I know some of you love your pitties, but they scared the living bejesus out of my kids.
We finally stumbled on this fat, white fluffy puppy, appropriately named Snowball, at the Santa Monica pound. The girls fell in love with Snowball right away. And so did half the population of the entire Westside. The pound literally had to lottery off this lucky dog.
We did NOT win.
If you've ever driven with two heartbroken little girls you know you'd do anything to make it stop. And so, on the way home, we passed Centinela Pet Feed & Supply. In the parking lot, they were having a pop up mini-rescue. They had three dogs up for adoption, including a tiny, orange 3 month old that was barely the size of a small watermelon.
"Pumpkin", my oldest daughter shrieked as she read the name tag on the pup's collar.
The emotional 180 had been executed. And as I spied another family with small children pulling into the lot, I quickly turned to the woman running the rescue and said, "We'll take her."
My girls loved Pumpkin, but they hated her name, so she quickly became Nellie.
Pumpkin/Nellie had been found in the hard streets of Compton, CA, where apparently she had been beaten and abused. Perhaps that's why she was so grateful to be taken in. And given an entirely different life, one filled with love, her own styrofoam bed and the occasional chunk of thick applewood bacon.
Though we had 15 years with Nellie, the last two were particularly special.
My daughters had shipped off to college. My wife would go to work at her office. And I would do my freelance work here at home.
It was just the two of us. And though she did little more than sleep and shuffle back and forth between her bed and the big oversized chair she hijacked in the living room, she filled the house with a warm, comforting energy.
When I wasn't writing End of Year Sales Events, I was rubbing her belly.
When I wasn't creating banner ads for a local bank, I was scratching her ears.
And when I wasn't concepting page takeovers for a new mobile app nobody wanted, I was taking Nellie for a walk around the park and the opportunity to smell the butts on other dogs.
As folks in the neighborhood will tell you, we were inseparable.
I made the mistake of loving that dog.
I won't do that again.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
I told myself last week that I was not going to chime in on the Kendall Jenner Pepsi debacle. After all so many others had jumped on this brown fizzy sugar water disaster it didn't seem like there was anything to add.
Then again, I thought, it's Thursday, I've exhausted my supply of odd iPhone photo's and Trump memes, why not?
I think we can all agree, the three minute film was three minutes too long.
Though it was shot well, with plenty of production value, it was wrong. I did find it amusing that some of my colleagues who found fault in the film were so willing to lay the blame on advertising's current social pariahs -- white men.
Conveniently ignoring the fact that the ad was created, written and produced by Pepsi's in-house Creative League. Here's a link to their Instagram page.
If that's not the picture of diversity, I don't know what is.
There were other issues as well. Shooting the spot in Thailand to avoid paying Americans residuals. Cultural appropriation. Even the protest signage sparked some offense.
I'd remind these folks that little Syrian children lost their lives last week because of an ancient 1300 year old rift between one group of fairy tale believers (the Shia) and another group of fairy tale believers (the Sunni.) Maybe this isn't the best time to empty the I-Take-Offense Vault.
That said, my biggest issue with this ad comes down to the Smell Test.
As do many ads these days that are so detached from the real world one has to wonder, "What the fuck were they thinking?"
Thanks to Bob Hoffman we know what they were thinking:
Here's a thought. Can we put a stop to all this aspirational marketing manure and the round the bend contrivances?
I like a toaster oven that toasts my bread, not one that empowers the breakfast.
I like a car that feels comfortable and has some giddy up, not one that dares me to dare greatly.
I like a tortilla chip that tastes good, not one that enhances my shareable moments with like-minded tortilla chip lovers.
Freud (and you young kids can look him up) put it best, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Barely a week goes by when we are not treated to another ad agency unveiling their latest variation of the remodeled open office plan. Invariably adorned by reams of PR spin about this being "a communication hubspot of innovation" or "an imagination incubator" or my favorite, "the Idea Campus."
Also without fail, there is the constant claptrap about collaboration and teamwork and my other favorite, "a climate built around growing our culture."
Culture, it seems, is best nurtured in an environment with fluorescent lighting, oversized furniture upholstered in bright primary colors and an abundance of foosball, ping pong and pool tables.
I call it the kindergardening of advertising.
I'm an atheist Jew, so I think I'm a little qualified to speak about culture. My tribe's got 4000 years of it. And I can tell you with a certain amount of confidence that culture cannot be manufactured. Particularly not with decorative throw rugs, gumball machines and purple ottomans.
We didn't get this far on frivolous adornments. Hell, our holiest site is an old brick wall. And we're currently celebrating Passover by chowing down on drywall, jellied fish and fiery hot horseradish to remind us of the hardships of our ancestors.
More agnostically, I had the distinct privilege of working at Chiat/Day when they were at the top of their game. I know this is an old record that you're tired of hearing, but there can be no doubt we also had a culture. Based on a shared belief, a shared commitment to the work and a shared commiseration about the inexcusable paychecks.
I bring all this up, because in an effort to stem the talent departure from our industry, Human Resource folks are furiously cooking up new retention programs. Many of them based on the Kool Aid notion that we can keep people in the biz if we just make it fun. And colorful. And even more Fun.
Months ago, I came across a post on LinkedIn from an unnamed HR pro who was soliciting "ideas" than can help "build the culture."
And there were some doozies:
-- Arrange a Midnight Bowling Excursion
-- A competitive departmental bake sale
-- A field trip to a local art museum
-- Tuesday Trustfalls
-- Secret Santa in June
-- A Paint Your Parking Spot Contest
-- Twinsie Thursdays
I did all I could to refrain from chiming in, but 44 years of Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions would not allow me to remain silent. I explained the secret to Chiat culture...
"We created ads that won lots of awards and then we went out and got fucking drunk."
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
As I have mentioned before, my preference is to always work out of the house. I'm more relaxed at home, more productive at home and more at ease with my increasingly lax hygiene routines at home.
"I'm good, I showered three days ago."
But occasionally, a gig will come up that requires me to be onsite. For some reason, this pleases my wife.
This week I am in Century City. It's only 3.7 miles from my house which, in LA rush hour time, translates to 45 minutes.
Ironically the office is just across the street from Abert, Newhoff & Burr, where I got my start in the ad biz. I'll never forget that big beautiful office I had, with a table, a couch and a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. The accommodations have gone downhill ever since.
The building I'm in has a unique elevator system. Here's how it works:
You swipe your electronic key card.
You select the desired floor on the touchscreen.
The computer assigns you an elevator, which in essence and thanks to some nifty software, becomes an Express Elevator.
After lunch the other day, I keyed up an elevator to whisk me to the 23rd floor. I was all alone in the elevator, but had become accustomed to riding solo in this newfangled state of the art elevator system.
At the very last second, a woman in her mid-thirties squeezed in just before the doors closed. Either of two things occurred to me.
One, she was an employee at the same ad agency where I was gigging. Or two, she had mistakenly got on an elevator that was only going to the 23rd floor.
If you know me at all, you know I can be quite jovial. I like to think I treat strangers with respect and am always quick with a smile. Moreover, I don't hit on younger women because I'm married and also because I own a mirror. So, in a completely innocuous way, I smiled and said...
"Oh are you going to the 23rd floor?"
She didn't answer me. Of course she didn't just NOT answer me. She shot me a look that could light the fuse on a Tomahawk Missile. I was taken aback.
She then pointed to a barely visible digital panel with two illuminated numbers: 23 & 24.
"I'm going to 24."
"OK, I'm new here and I thought the elevators only went to one floor."
That did not suffice. And she added.
"What fuckin' business is it of yours?"
Holy crap, I thought, she went nuclear faster than Mitch McConnell. To say I was stunned would be the understatement of the century. It never occurred to me that these speedy efficient elevators would pair up floors in close proximity. It made perfect sense. But her scowl and outright antagonism did not.
We've all had situations where hours after a rude encounter, we think of the pitch perfect reply. You know, the stinger that would in no uncertain terms, determine the oratory victor. If only we had the wits and the speed to spit it out. This was NOT one of those frustrating moments.
As the doors opened up on the 23rd floor, my floor, I turned to her, flashed her an overly toothy smile and leaned back into the elevator and with catlike precision, whispered...
"You might want to switch to decaf."
Monday, April 10, 2017
Holy shit am I exhausted.
But in a good way, a very good way.
For the first time in a long, long time I was booked on a job and asked to write TV spots. 30 second brand building, mass media with a successful track record of putting asses in seats, moving the merch and spiking the needle.
Even better, this was an evolution of an existing campaign, so the tagline, the copy line and the structure was already in place. So all we had to do was strap on our reverse engineering hard hats and get busy with the getting busy.
Those of you in the trenches, particularly those with a little snow on the roof or hairs growing out of the ears, know exactly what I'm talking about. Assignments like this don't come along every day.
In fact, in 2017, advertising isn't always about advertising. Frankly, there are many instances when I don't know what it is. We spend more time figuring out what the 'ask' is than we do crafting the 'answer'.
Agencies have created a whole lot of names for what they're wanting: platforms, handles, directions, disruption road maps, communications itineraries or just simply blurbs. And meetings seem to be all about getting these puff pieces preened to perfection.
The other writers out there are going to hate me, but I'm gonna let you in on a little secret.
These 'platforms', 'handles', 'directions', 'disruption road maps', 'communications itineraries' or just simply 'blurbs' you're asking for are nothing more than re-digested briefs. Oh they might have the sheen of newness or the thin veneer of a solution, but trust me they're nothing more than planner speak put into copywriter speak.
And without any kind of ads or, in the vernacular of the day 'adlike objects' to back them up, they're just as meaningless.
Call me old school, call me a dinosaur, call me a grumpy, cynical bastard who can't get with the times.
I don't care, last week I was called a copywriter. And it felt good.
Now hand me that assignment for radio.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
It's near the end of the week.
And though these posts are written in advance, I know by now I will be exhausted by the daily nonstop barrage of Trumpfuckery™intended to turn our country into New West Russia.
I could buckle down and work myself up into a good lather about the $3500 I just spent to fix my wife's Acura. Seems like every month that damn car needs a new timing belt.
I could do a hit piece on Devin Nunes, quite possibly the biggest miscreant in today's house of Congress. A man who has gone above and beyond to snatch the title from Steve King and Louis Gohmert.
And I was planning to deconstruct the whole notion of Disruption and all its incumbent idiocy.
But, instead, and because I only have decaf coffee at the moment, I'm going to my trusty default.
With that I give you a random selection of photo's (like the one above) found on my iPhone.
Read into them what you will...
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
I had a dream last night.
I had a dream the night before and the night before that, but I woke up and forgot those dreams. I couldn't tell you one lick what they were about. But last night's dream was quite fascinating, filled with mystery, Easter eggs and thinly-veiled commentary about the business most of us are in.
First the main character of the dream -- Alex Bogusky.
Alex, for those who don't know, is an industry icon. Responsible for culture changing work and the subsequent rise of CPB. He is a charismatic man, able to move mountains with his silver tongue and his youthful energy. In the dream Alex is as manic, as driven and as charming as he has ever been.
He wouldn't remember me, but years ago, he and I spent a weekend on a panel judging an advertising contest in NYC. I'll never forget his pronouncement, "All this work sucks, we shouldn't award any of it." Clearly he made an impression on me.
Back to the dream where I am summoned by Alex to a sprawling house in Santa Monica. Once there, I see some colleagues from many years ago -- stellar creatives who shall remain nameless.
Alex greets me. He tells his assistant to bring us some yogurt, those cool containers where you flip the granola into the flavorless yogurt. You know, the good ones with the granola nuggets and the large chunks of chewy fruit.
He gives me a tour of the shabby house. The carpet is worn out. There's no furniture. And I remember walking into a downstairs bathroom, where I found a maggot-infested raccoon carcass.
"All this is gonna change. We just signed the lease. We're just getting started."
And with that he gave me the Pitch.
He had secured VC funding as well as contracts from several major advertisers. And he was starting up an agency right here in Santa Monica. Moreover, the agency was going to be strictly old school. Driven by creatives. Void of of all the Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks™. And committed to doing the kind of ground breaking work that we, a hand-selected group of veterans, wanted to do.
Even though I have taken a blood oath never to return to agency life, Alex made it sound so tempting. Plus, I was flattered. I am easily swayed when I'm flattered.
He gave me a big bear hug and told me to be there Monday morning, 9 AM sharp, to meet the first client.
As I turned towards my car, he added...
"Don't forget to wear a tie."
As dream recollections go, sometimes bits and pieces and tell-tale clues arrive way after the fact. The name of this new agency struck me. In keeping with the old school motif, Alex was going to name the agency Roberts, Louis & Stevenson.
Sounds appropriately goyish, doesn't it? The astute among you will also recognize the moniker of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, who, in addition to writing The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, also penned Treasure Island.
Treasure Island, for those looking for subconscious clues, is a swashbuckling tale of boat rocking buccaneers.
I leave you Chiat/Day alumni to draw your own conclusions.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
The FBI is in the news a lot lately. And many people are eagerly awaiting the results of the big investigation.
If you're a Republican you're no doubt looking forward to having FBI Director Comey spell out in excruciating detail how there never, ever was any collusion between campaign surrogates and Russian intelligence officers. And that the numerous meetings with Manafort, Sessions, Flynn, and Gordon as well as the subsequent failed memories about those meetings, were all simply coincidental. A haphazard collection of random Russian-related events.
If you're a Democrat or an Independent (like myself) you're eager to see the concrete evidence that demonstrates how the last election was stolen by a wart-neck, unwashed twatwaffle.
And if you're an FBI agent, you'd better be looking over you shoulder everywhere you go. Gonna run down to the QuikyMart for a YooHoo? You'd better pack some heat. Cause KGB or whatever they're called these days seem to very busy cleaning up the messy entrails.
I don't know if any you have had direct contact with an FBI agent, but I have.
The year was.... never mind what year it was.
The place was Belmont Shores in New Jersey. And I found myself, as well as some high school buddies in a huge beach flophouse. There must have been about a dozen girls and guys in this house from all over the Tri-State area. We didn't all know each other, but for that debauched weekend, we all shared the same purpose.
One of the strangers in the house looked like a professional athlete. He was at least 6'3" and had the build of a Lou Gehrig. But baseball was not his game, espionage was. After a few beers, he showed us his official FBI badge, just like the one in the picture above.
After a few more beers, he started telling war stories. Fascinating war stories. Like how he was assigned to shadow a KGB agent living here in the states. He explained how it was his job to keep tabs on Sergei or Petrov or whatever his name was, and file weekly reports on all his activities.
"Monday, Sergei ordered a pastrami sandwich at Sal's Deli."
"Tuesday, Sergei ordered the corn beef at Sal's Deli."
"Wednesday, Sergei goes into Sal's Deli and buys Tums."
Crazy, right? But so is the flip side.
Because as Mr. FBI agent explained, the KGB guy was shadowing him as well. And filing the same kind of "intelligence" reports back to Moscow.
Here's where it gets interesting.
That Saturday night in New Jersey, amongst all the parties and beach bonfires, I got arrested by Belmont Shore's finest. The cops nabbed me and this other woman for smoking marijuana on the street. And guess who was with us the whole time?
Agent #739 of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Which means the whole incident was also recorded for posterity's sake by KGB Agent #182. So somewhere in the dusty bowels of an under-heated cinder-block Soviet building, there is a file with all the sordid details of my Jersey-shore incarceration.
It's a little creepy.
I feel your pain Precedent Shitgibbon, I feel your pain.
Monday, April 3, 2017
By now, most of us, most of us being in the ad biz, know that things are changing at Carl's Jr.
Last week, their ad agency 72 & Sunny let us know there's a new sheriff in town. Carl's is ditching the old T&A formula for the smarter, more dimensional, pissed off Founder.
Let's be clear here. I am in no way disparaging the marketing shift. In fact, I applaud it.
And readers of RoundSeventeen know I rarely have a nice word to say about other people's work. Not because I'm jealous that I didn't get to produce anything. But because most other work genuinely sucks. In fact, 99.97% of everything I see on TV sucks.
This new Carl's Jr. campaign does not suck. In fact, it does not suck in so many great ways.
First, I found myself giggling with glee over the searing depiction of youngsters doing business. The hot tub, the VR devices and the playtime office environ was pitch perfect.
I also savored the bull in a china shop arrival of the Dad, who without the aid of a committee or any advisors, simply sprung into action. Cutting through all the horseshit and instantaneously zeroed in on the company's new mission and focus... the burgers.
I almost love everything about this long form campaign launch, including the writing, the acting, the playful art direction, even the costuming. All dead on.
Here's my minor bone to pick.
If I, as the father, had poured all my blood, sweat and tears into a business. And that business grew. And kept on growing. Only to have the entire prosperous empire put at risk because I had left my sprawling business to my lazy, dim headed slacker son, I'd be a bit angry.
And that's where my problem is, the dynamic between the father Carl's Hardee Sr. and Carl's Hardee Jr. They need turn the heat up on that sucker.
I know that.
You know that.
Even the good folks at 72 & Sunny know that.
I'm guessing there are some less-than-senior marketing execs at Carl's Jr., who don't know that. Because all clients, even ones as adventurous as this one, abhor sentiments like anger, confrontation or even negativity.
And so, in edit bays somewhere in Santa Monica, I am sure this was heard...
"Oh, the Dad seems a little angry. Do we have any takes where he's not so angry?"
And at that point the creative team stifled every desire to jump up on the table and scream, "He's angry because the kid just fucked up his company. Wouldn't you be angry?"
"I just think we should find a softer take."
And of course, the agency being consummate pros, does have softer takes.
You know what else they have? They have a full range of alternative takes. Better, funnier, angrier takes.
Here's a little industry secret. When we go to shoot a commercial and hire real actors and put them in real scenarios, we often film variations. What you see on screen or as you are fast forwarding on your DVR, is just one selected take. There are hundreds of others.
And among those, I guarantee there are some zingers and winners and delicious smackdowns of that bratty skinny kid that sadly, we will never see. If this sounds familiar, you have my sympathy.
But over and above that, the teams at 72& Sunny have my admiration. Well done.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
This is my dog Nellie.
Only about the sweetest dog you have ever met, even if it's just digitally.
I've written about Nellie in the past. Once when she was so sick she had to have her gall bladder removed. Then, as part of her recuperative process she needed to have a quart of fluid pumped into her on a daily basis. The Vet said that I - an incredibly needle-averse pussy -- would have to administer the IV at home.
Holy shit, what an ordeal that was.
But make no mistake, I have been blessed. Because Nellie is now 15 years old.
Nellie II (see arrow in picture above) is about three years old. Nellie II, that's what we call her massive benign fatty tissue lump, has been growing exponentially. Frankly I'm surprised Nellie II hasn't just popped through the strained skin and started stealing Nellie I's food.
If you're familiar with retrievers, or retriever mixes, as in my case, you know they tend to get these belly lumps. Years ago, we had one removed and it weighed close to 13 lbs.
Nellie II is far bigger and if I had to guess would put her somewhere at 20 lbs. You may be wondering why we haven't separated Nellie 1 from Nellie II. I want to, but the vet doesn't.
Other than making her walk funny and slowing her down a bit, he said the lump, Nellie II, is quite harmless. If you look closely you can see the early signs of Nellie III emerging.
Indeed, it makes no sense to put a 15 year old dog through the considerable risks of surgery. It was hard not to notice the Vet shrugging his shoulders when he said that.
Like I said, we've been blessed.
Nellie has the kind of longevity I can only hope for.
I'm only 44 now, but I'd love to live to a ripe old age where a doctor examines my maladies, considers all the painful treatments and invasive surgeries, then looks up at the calendar and says,
"Ah fuck it, nature will soon take its course."
I should be so lucky.