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.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Recognize this guy?
Don't be embarrassed if you don't. I had never heard of him -- Clipper Darrell -- until the other day when my wife, my brother and my daughter took me to Staples Center as a late birthday present.
It's funny, we went to a basketball game.
But a circus broke out.
If you've been to a sporting event lately, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
In years past, knowing fans would go and sit as close the court as possible so they could dissect the pick-and-roll. Or get a first hand glance at the deceptive give-and-go. Or even the dynamic 1-3-1 Zone.
Now, it seems, people are there for the fireworks. The Kiss Cams. The high powered T-Shirt Cannons. And the leggy Clipper Girls. Then again, who doesn't like the high-stepping, pelvis-swerving Clipper Girls?
About halfway through the poor-shooting and lackadaisical first quarter, Clipper Darrell in his signature red and blue suit/costume walked by our choice $75 seats and plunked his substantially wide ass two rows in front of us.
The locals, that is, the season ticket holders, all seemed to know Darrell. There were catcalls. And fist bumps. Lots and lots of fist bumps. And so many of the fans stopped to have selfies taken with the Darrell, the self proclaimed #1 Superfan of your Los Angeles Clippers.
It was all good fun. And because I was seated just behind the Clipper's #1 Superfan, I took special efforts to photobomb as many of the pics as possible.
"Who is this fat, bald Jew behind Darrell?
And why is he making faces?
What is he 14 years old?"
I imagined them saying when arriving home and beginning the assembly of their Staples Center Cherished Memories Scrapbook.
It was so special being in the presence of greatness. So close I could almost touch it, but could definitely smell Darrell's suit which was sorely in need of a visit to the dry cleaners.
Greatness, you say, turning a skeptical eye to this former electrician-turned-fanomena?
Well, feast your eyes on this:
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
I don't keep up with television these days.
My wife and daughters will tell me what's his face is a star of such and such, or she's in that reality thingie, but the truth is I'm completely clueless.
Haven't watched Game of Thrones. House of Cards. Empire. The Big Bang Theory or a hundred other shows that have the country's attention but certainly not mine.
If my TV is on, it is no doubt tuned to a sporting event or one of many news shows documenting our collective nosedive into corruption, incompetency and general douchebaggery.
But my day was lifted when I read that Leah Remini had been renewed for a second season of her hit show, Scientology and the Aftermath.
Quick Recap: 35 years ago, Brooklyn-born actress Leah Remini, moved to LA and became a follower of L. Ron Hubbard. She studied hard. Put her hands on soup cans. Told all. Gave money. Became an actress. Became a fabulously wealthy actress. Donated all her money to Scientology. Caught whiff of their bullshit. Left the "church." And then, with the assistance of the A&E network and a full production crew, took the whole lot of these scummy brainfuckers to PoundTown.
The first season was delicious.
With scathing interviews of those who left the church. Or, more precisely were 'disconnected' for daring to have an opinion or voicing the slightest dissent.
Even more compelling was Leah's look at some of the devilish and Fascist practices of Tom Cruise and his merry band of walletdrainers.
These are evil people. Demanding excessive Kool Aid drinking. Forcing followers into slavery. And doing whatever it takes to squash dissent and keep the money flowing upstream towards the leadership circle.
Sounds eerily similar to advertising, no?
Perhaps that's why I'm such an ardent fan of Ms. Remini. She puts truth above all. And says the things no one else will say.
In that sense, we are two peas in a pod.
Of course, her pod consists of a huge mansion in Beverly Hills, and she gets the celebrity treatment wherever she goes and will receive enough residual checks to last an eternity. Or until L. Ron Hubbard returns from Planet Zebulon.
My pod is soggy, half eaten and sitting under an orange peel at the bottom of an in-sink garbage disposal.
Monday, March 27, 2017
If you've ever been to upstate New York, you've seen these signs.
If you grew up in upstate New York, not only have you seen these signs, you're expected to know about each and every one of them.
There's a quiz tomorrow.
To that end, I can tell you where Mad Major Anthony Wayne had his boots shined. Where John Quincy Adams enjoyed his first pale ale. And where young George Washington, father of our country, visited an Onondaga sweat lodge, sat with naked native Americans and felt the need to rub one out.
Scattered about Rockland and Westchester counties you will also find many markings about the infamous Benedict Arnold, the first two names in American treason. But after last week, old Benny might be given a run for his money.
That's right, I've taken the long circuitous route through the hamlets of upstate New York and the ugly memories of 11th grade high school to talk about Precedent Shitgibbon.
Because what we are seeing and what we are witnessing is nothing short of history in the making.
We now know, through the testimony of our FBI Director James Comey, that there has been an ongoing investigation into the nefarious relationships between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. A relationship that has already resulted in the disgraceful resignation of Michael Flynn, whose title was National SECURITY Advisor. A man who also turned out to be a paid agent of a foreign Islamic country, no less.
If that were not incriminating enough we also had our own Grand Wizard...er, I mean Attorney General, recuse himself from any further investigation because he lied, under oath, about his relationship with the Russkies. Though I suspect his recusal will be as effective as Shitgibbon's divestment from his own businesses.
Hello, emoluments clause anyone? Emoluments?
And now, we have Representative Adam Schiff, from the House Intelligence Committee telling us there is solid evidence of collusion that goes beyond circumstantial.
Good night nurse!
We are talking about Treason and the incompetent, evil twatbiscuits in the White House in the same breath!
Did you know that Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution of the United States? And according to Article III, it is defined by "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." There can be no disagreement that Russia is, and has been, our enemy. Their stated goal is the destruction of the West.
Some may argue that releasing emails stolen from the DNC is nothing more than soft persuasion. OK, but it was done to further the interests of our sworn adversary. And to collude with them or coordinate those releases is nothing short of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
The irony could not be any sweeter.
The candidate and the party so willing to whip out the Constitution and whip their red meat constituents into a frenzy, are soon going to be scouring and parsing the very same document in search of a loophole to save their own worthless, borscht-soaked asses.
I say hang them high.
And get one of these blue historical markers ready for the front lawn at Mar A Lago.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Geez, it's getting harder and harder to make $62.73 cents these days.
Months ago, you might recall, I signed up for the blogspot online advertising programs. It's called Adsense. By doing so I agreed to let Google -- the host of RoundSeventeen-- begin placing ads on my daily online content.
You might have even noticed the ads running alongside these posts.
Ads for Nest Thermostats, Sonos speakers, an all Muslim Banking Organization that lends money in strict accordance with the Koran, the Tushy Bidet System, and Red Lobster. These ads pop up in accordance with the algorithms generated by each posting.
Since starting the Adsense program I have racked up a stunning $62.73 earnings.
Incredible right? I knew this writing thing would pay off some day.
Of course, that someday hasn't arrived yet as Google will not cut any checks until the balance reaches $100. At this rate, my kids could be out of college and I could be sipping sirloin puree at a dirty nursing home before I collect my windfall.
But your apathy and refusal to click on one of our treasured advertisers is not the only obstacle to my future wealth.
Recently I received a warning from Google. Apparently one of my posts from 2013 contained a picture of a woman baring a little too much breast. I was scolded, slapped on the wrist and told that if I did not modify the offending ad my entire advertising fortune would be at risk.
And that my participation in the Adsense program would be curtailed. They even sent me a little blurb about their policies.
Naturally, I found this quite amusing.
And naturally, being the boat rocker that I am (or as Chiat/Day might put it -- a Pirate, aaaargh) I've decided to push back against the powers that be. Hence the picture above.
I'm also a bit flattered.
And enjoy knowing that some poor schmuck at Google has been assigned to monitor my compliance and will be forced to scour RoundSeventeen on a daily basis.
That bumps me from 8 regulars readers everyday to 9.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
This is not a political rant.
It's about Precedent Shitgibbon and the current state of our nation but it's not about politics.
And here's why. You and I can have differing opinions regarding health care, military budgets, economics, etc.
Moreover, at least in my case, perhaps in yours as well, those opinions can change over time. For instance, while I consider myself pro-choice, I distinctly remember questioning my longheld beliefs regarding abortion once I went through the process of prenatal care, sonograms and fatherhood.
Similarly, while I initially supported George W. Bush and the strong reaction to the 9/11 attacks, in retrospect, I wish we had been more measured and more tactical in our response.
The point is, we can have a civil discourse about those differences and in the end agree to disagree.
That's what grown ups do. They understand everything is not black and white and make room for nuance. Remember nuance?
But today, the issues are not the issue. What concerns me and what should concern you, even if we are diametrically opposed on every matter, is the illiterate man/child who holds the fate of the free world in his tiny vulgarian hands.
He is a Liar.
All politicians are liars, but his lies are toxic, born from paranoia. And they are a literal and growing threat to our way of life.
President Obama did not wiretapp Trump Tower. We know this because James Comey, head of the FBI said it. The Senate Intelligence Committee said it. Paul Ryan said it. And congresspeople from both sides of the aisle have said it.
Congratulations Precedent Shitgibbon, for the first time in my life I am believing the words coming for the mouths of our federally elected officials.
Here's another newsflash, contrary to the ramblings of Truther Andrew Napolitano, a man whose hair seems to be feeding on his brain cells, British spies also didn't have wiretapps hidden throughout Trump Tower. So egregious is the charge, they made an unprecedented public denial -- something spy agencies are loathe to do.
And while it is beyond amusing to watch Shitgibbon surrogates like Spicey, KAC and Jeffrey Lord dance on the head of a needle to parse the words and find some cause for the libelous charges, it is now fundamentally dangerous.
Because in doubling down on the double down, we are now hearing a growing tin-foil chorus about the sinister powers of the alleged Deep State -- a fictional underground cabal of Democrats, liberals and progressives who are pulling the strings of government and conspiring to bring down Precedent Shitgibbon.
This is farcical on so many levels.
And begs the question, if there is an all-powerful Deep State capable of ruling from the shadows, why allow this craven, fen-sucked twatbiscuit in the White House in the first place?
No, this is Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Free Mason, Rothschild Banker, New World Order, Conspiracy Theory type bullshit!
This should scare the pants off you, even if you are a Killary-hating, red-hat-wearing, Confederate flag waving Tea Partier.
Because Truth and our shared notion of what defines Truth is under attack. And once that goes, Justice and the American Way are sure to follow.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
I know it was more than three months ago, but I remember it vividly.
Because I was working. It was one of those long drawn out new business pitches. You know the ones. You work like a dog. Weekends, nights and days filled with stale coffee, limp pizza and colleagues who desperately need a bath.
And finally the big day arrives.
You emerge from the pitch feeling good. Analyzing the body movements. Rehashing the highlights. And picking apart every snippet of dialogue.
"How about when the client asked about tissue sessions? And remember when they talked about the friends and family discount? Oh man, I think it went great. I have a good feeling about this one."
And then, a week later, the client calls and says they urgently want Another Presentation.
Yeah, those new business pitches.
That's why my partner and I found ourselves scratching out new concepts on Christmas Eve. And again, on December 25, the very birthday of our Lord and Savior. And on Boxing Day. And every day thereafter. Until the NCAA college football champ had been crowned.
Mind you, I'm a creative mercenary and was getting a decent day rate, so I'm not complaining. At all.
Plus, I'm an atheist Jew so not only was I happy that I had something to do on Christmas, I was feeling quite flush, so that night when ordering our ritualistic Chinese food to go, I sprung for the General Tse Chicken as well as the Sweet and Sour Lobster.
Sometimes you just gotta live like a millionaire.
But now I look up at the calendar and notice that today is the first day of Spring.
And the potential new client who called for the urgent additional presentation and turned over the apple cart on so many staffers who had to re-arrange their Christmas plans has still not made a decision.
"Mommy and Daddy will take you to Disneyworld next year. Promise (fingers crossed)."
Industry pundits and observers wonder why ad agency morale is so low.
Monday, March 20, 2017
There was a time when a sign like the one above would have precluded half my family. As of yesterday, that is no longer the case.
My firstborn just turned 21.
Hard to believe.
I look terrible for a man of 29.
It seems like only yesterday my wife would emerge from the bathroom, show me her ovulation kit and send me scurrying to the local Whack Shack to fill up the cup with 15-20 million little swimmers in the hope that one would break through and do the touchdown dance.
Oh, you want to read more about our hilarious travails through Fertility Hell? Well, it's all documented in the book RoundSeventeen & 1/2, The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Inefficient, still on sale via amazon.com
Today, Monday, you will not find me in my office writing banner ads for the local hi-colonics clinic or disruptive page takeovers for pUber, the newest break through in Internet, community-based dog doo removal.
Nor will I be hounding Creative Resource Managers for the next gig, like the 10,000 other available freelancers who seem to have misplaced their dignity and have been reduced to public begging.
Either you want a smart writer who can solve your marketing challenges quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. Or you'll call Erik Moe.
Today, my wife and I and the newest grown up in the house will be trekking up to a local Winery in Malibu.
There, the three Siegel simpletons will speak in hushed tones and mock our fellow wine drinkers.
"This one has a nutty glow and a strong cherry finish."
"I found this to be fruity, robust and ambitious."
"Where's the bourbon? Do you guys make bourbon?"
We will eat like adults.
We will drink like adults.
And if all goes according to plan, we will be getting home like Uber passengers.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
I'm a Jeopardy Freak. When I get booked for a job and need to work onsite, I often make it clear that day starts at 9 or 9:30 and goes until Just-Enough-Time-To-Jump-On-The-405-So-I-Can-Get-Home-For-Jeopardy.
Don't talk to me about DVR's, I want to watch the show live.
One reason I love Jeopardy is because while I don't know a lot about things, I do know a little about a lot of things. Geography. History. Biology. Sports. State Capitols. All in my wheel house. English Royalty, Shakespeare, literary characters (though I'm working on this), not so much.
And on any given night I generally fare better than the contestants.
Which brings me to more confession time.
When it comes to watching Jeopardy, I'm a multi-screener. Meaning that while Alex is making some dumb misogynistic remark...
"Tonight we've got the little ladies. I hope these clues blow wind up your skirts."
...I also like to keep my iPhone at the ready.
Because the only thing more enjoyable than watching these contestants and their little ticks, is dialing up the Twitter search to see the real time tweets of fellow Jeopardy viewers. Nothing brings out the best in people more than a buxom paralegal from Des Moines who knows that Vilnius is the capitol of Lithuania.
"Jeopardy contestant Karen has the best breasts I've ever seen. I'd like to father her children."--@doug127
Doug is hardly alone. Turns out there are many lovelorn fans out there in Jeopardy world. And every woman who appears on the show, regardless of her appearance, is subject to these unsolicited attempts at woo. Not all of them so poetic.
"The minute she's off the show I want to drive that redhead Chrystal, straight to PoundTown." --@horndog58
Of course testosterone is a fickle beast and sometimes the tweets turn the other way, particularly when a contestant has an annoying lisp, or twitch, or even the way he holds the buzzer.
"I'd like to take that buzzer out of Rob's hand and shove it where the sun don't shine. Where the sun don't shine for 800, Alex." --@angryman29
Jeopardy has it all: trivial knowledge, contestant watching and contestant watching-watching. It's the trifecta of uselessness. Add to that the aura of unrequited sex and empty threats of violence.
It's a pitch perfect reflection of America 2017.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Last week, I read with great jealousy, the story about the social media manager for Wendy's, whose only job is to scan, reply and troll the Internet, looking for snarky opportunities to pimp the brand. I'd give up my left pinkie finger for a paying gig like that.
But since that's not happening anytime soon, I've channeled my energy and began making my own Internet memes.
I also discovered an outlet for these memes that gives me access way beyond my 1500 or so friends and followers on social media.
It's a Facebook Group that goes under the name: New Rules With Bill Maher And Now This With John Oliver. It's a fan club of more than 40,000 members.
You'd think this group of satire fans would be smart, savvy and streetwise.
And you'd be wrong.
I recently posted this:
To which one brain-dead respondent who did not spot the satire, replied:
"OMG, this guy is a nut case."
"He's soooooo dumb. Apparently no intelligence or experience necessary for the WH."
And one more:
"HUD is so fuc*ed."
I guess dimwittedness can be found on both sides of the aisle.
But my favorite reply came in response to a fake tweet I had posted. A woman from Texas, lets call her Ruth (because that's her name) took issue with me posting funny material on a site dedicated to funny material.
After Precedent Shitgibbon accused President Obama of wiretapping and generally being a bad sick guy, I went one further and posted this:
Ruth, would have none of that and scolded me in public. And naturally I took every opportunity to turn her anger into my personal playground.
I hope I get to hear from Ruth again.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Got stopped in my tracks the other day.
I saw a clip of a scientist answering a question about extraterrestrial life, a topic that's in the news quite a bit these days.
The scientist, it might have been Neil Degrasse Tyson or Bill Nye, said the question is very binary.
"There are really only two possibilities. Either there is life on other planets and considering the size of the Universe that would be billions of other planets. That's scary enough. Or, and this is a big Or, there is no life on other planets, meaning we are all alone."
His logic cannot be faulted.
And I suppose instinctually I always knew this. But I never gave it much thought. However, because we are now witnessing the apocalyptic arrival of the Four Horsemen, including the dumb one with orange hair, it merits further thought.
If you've ever seen one of those informative Angstrom-Light Year scale videos you know we are merely riding a speck of dust in an inconceivably large canvas of space that fries the human mind. It stands to reason that somewhere out there, among the trillions and trillions of other galaxies and planets there is life.
This is even more probable then Mama June gaining back more than 100 lbs. and renewing her love of soda pop.
It also stands to reason that among those life sustaining orbs, there is a civilization or multiple civilizations that are way beyond our mere 5000 years of "progress." Living organisms who have been kicking around the cosmos for 10,000, or 100,000 or even a million years. Meaning they have mastered mind control, time travel and the proper method for rebooting the modem and reconnecting to the internet.
Should we encounter one of these advanced civilizations you can be sure they would take one listen to Sean Spicey or his boss, the frothy, boil-brained wagtail and decide that Earth was worthy of an instant zapping of the Death Laser.
After all, nobody wants to live in a neighborhood with White Trash.
On the other hand, the scarier hand, we are all alone.
The only living beings for billions of light years in all directions. A fragile zoo sustained only by our wits and the haphazard whims of an angry bearded zookeeper who professes to loves us and bless us but instead taunts us with tornados, earthquakes, cockroaches, Steve Bannon and Auschwitz.
I am less comfortable with the latter paradigm. Because it lends credence to the legion of religious and political miscreants who have done nothing but add pain and suffering to our short history.
Moreover, it raises the real viability of a heaven and a hell.
And frankly, while I have no interest spending an eternity in the hot place, wiping sweat from behind my ears and knees, I'm even less thrilled by the alternative. I'm not a robe or a violin or cheery morning person.
Thankfully there's the warm, soothing, alcoholic-comfort of 21st century Nihilism.
Yeah, fuck it all.
Monday, March 13, 2017
I want to show restraint.
I want to put on the muzzle.
And filter my thoughts, my rage, my utter disbelief.
But I can't and must ask, "What the Fuck is going on out there?"
At one time there was an understanding between clients who needed advertising and agencies who provided advertising that messaging, or the creation of the advertising vehicle -- whether it was a TV spot, an outdoor board, or even in today's parlance, a brand engagement unit -- required time.
Time to dwell on the challenge. Time to map out a plan. Time to sketch some out thoughts. Throw those thoughts away and come up with better thoughts. Time to turn those thoughts and brain itches into actual ideas. Time to craft those ideas into tangible communications pieces. Time to assess, evaluate and improve on the next round of advertising.
That's all changed. And those changes are reflected in how I'm getting booked for jobs these days.
It used to be:
"Hey Rich, we have a big pitch coming up. Some meaty stuff. A whole brand turnaround. Are you available for the next three weeks?"
Then the holding companies decided to run cleaner, leaner and meaner, emphasis on meaner. And it turned into:
"Hey Rich, we have a big pitch coming up. Some meaty stuff. A whole brand turnaround. Are you available for the next three days?"
And now, thanks to obscene compensation packages divied out to holding company C-Suiters, it's more like:
"Hey Rich, we have a big pitch coming up. Some meaty stuff. A whole brand turnaround. Are you available for the next 3/4 of a day?"
In the past week, I have fielded more than a few of these partial day gigs.
And I've spoken with fellow freelance colleagues who are doing the same.
You might be wondering, if it's possible to make a living on a slew of half day jobs. Of course it is. How do I do it? If I may borrow a punchline from an old Jewish joke.
And when push comes to shove, I'd still prefer to work this way than to deal with agency bureaucracy, status meetings, and the non-stop briefings, re briefings and re-re-briefings.
But here's what clients, agencies and creative resource managers have to know.
When you hire me for half a day or just a few hours, you're not getting the best ideas in my head.
You're just getting the first.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
To the Honorable Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,
With the unfortunate sudden departure of Lt. General Michael Flynn, it’s my understanding that you may be looking for a new lobbyist in Washington, DC.
At first glance, I may not strike you as the most qualified candidate.
However, upon second glance you will notice that I have spent the bulk of my 44 years as an advertising copywriter. And made quite a decent living in the area of persuasion. Effectively getting people to want, what they don’t even need --everything from brown fizzy sugar water to desktop computers.
In 2002, while a Group Creative Director at the esteemed Young & Rubicam, we staged the Unwrap A Jaguar Sales Event and sold more crappy Jaguar X-Types than ever before.
I don’t possess any experience in the Beltway, but it’s clear from the last 5 weeks that is hardly an impediment.
You may be asking, “why leave the lucrative world of advertising for the world of international lobbying?”
Well, even if I were to charge the excessive day rates of my NYC colleagues or double dip, writing manifestos, banner ads and page takeovers, there’s no way I could rack up the $530K you paid Mr. Flynn.
Make no mistake however, my motives are more than monetary.
I have a genuine interest in geo-politics. Though I’ve never been to Turkey, I will say that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I have had your taffy. And in my humble opinion, the Alan Parker-helmed Midnight Express still stands as a cinematic masterpiece.
Also, my children are in college so my wife and I have a great deal of flexibility. And if I can be frank with you, Recep, we can use a change of scenery, as the neighbor’s dog never stops barking.
I’ve enclosed a resume for your perusal. Please let me know as soon as possible so I can give ample notice to the movers.