Thursday, May 27, 2010


Years ago, I was in charge of advertising for Jaguar.

Our team fought tooth and nail to restore this once storied brand back to its rightful place. But with Ford (their previous owner) hemorrhaging money, every discussion came down to pounding out the deal and moving the shoddily-built X-type out the door for $269 a month.

The X-type, as I was soon to discover, was nothing more than a European-built Ford Mondeo adorned with a Leaper -- that's Jaguar lingo for the silver cat once found on the hood. The Leaper is no longer attached to Jaguars as the British nanny state legislated them out of existence for fear that pedestrians might find themselves impaled by the iconic cat.

We hawked the X-type night and day. We followed one sales event with another. Until the word event had no meaning whatsoever. We lowered the price. Cut profit margins. Even handed out stuffed Jaguars with every sale. Let me tell you, it's a long, long road from the signature automobile that made James Bond to "here's your complimentary plush toy."

Life could have been so much easier and so much more rewarding had one of the chaps on Brown's Lane said, "Let's stop selling the X-type and bring back the E-type."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Return to Sender

Is there anything more gratifying than catching someone red-handed? I think not.

Last week my neighbor came running to my door and said she spotted a man walking his pit bull in the neighborhood. She watched in horror as the dog "dumped all his shares of Ralston Purina" on one of the neighbor's lawn. He didn't bother to scoop up his belongings, he just continued walking away.

I ran out the door and stealthily followed the man to this house on Motor Ave.

Surging with adrenaline, I confronted the guy and shamed him into going back to the scene of the crime and pick up his 'property.' He claimed he normally picks up after his dog however he ran out of plastic baggies after the dog had already done some previous business.

I'm no veterinarian or fecal forensic technician, but without going into too much graphic detail I can tell you, with just a cursory glance, that was NOT the dog's second movement of the day. In other words, his quickly fabricated excuse was just that.

And that's OK.

Because now when I find errant poopie on my grass, I know just where to take it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's Review Time

We're coming up on June, which means I've now been with my present company, Rich Siegel Worldwide, for 6 years.

In those six years, there have many ups and downs, including the financial firestorm of 2008-2009. But after hundreds of assignments and close to 1000 scripts, it has occurred to me that we've never had a formal Employee Performance Review.

For the purposes of clarity, I will be playing both the parts of Management (M) and of Labor (L).

M: How are you today Mr. Siegel? Would you mind closing the door?

L: Uh-oh.

M: No, no, no, it's nothing like that. We're just doing your Employee Performance Review.

L: Shwew.

M: It says here that since you've joined the company your demeanor has improved, you're getting along better with others and you're "having fun" again.

L: I like to think my writing is better as well.

M: Doesn't say anything about that in the file.

L: Really?

M: You've helped win some new business, you've got some spots currently in production and you're working with a much wider scope of clients.

L: At the beginning, most my work was for TBWA Chiat/Day, but lately I've been working with Y&R, Publicis, RPA, and a lot of digital agencies doing non-traditional stuff.

M: That's good. We're happy to see the development. Unfortunately, our shareholders demand greater and greater profits. So while you have grown personally and professionally and you have increased the revenue stream, we're not going to be able to give you any more money.

L: Nothing?

M: Not a thing. We're all tightening our belts.

L: I hear from a good source that you got a raise and a bonus. And you're looking at buying a new car.

M: Yeah, I don't know where you're hearing that from. But look the news isn't all bad. I was able to convince the brass to get you a promotion. It's not more money, but it is more responsibility and you get a better title.

L: A better title? What's that going to be?

M: You're the writer, you'll come up with something.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Runaway Mickey, Runaway

Last week, as many you know, was Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. I've recreated what I think to be the best of the many submissions. Best, because it is hardly offensive and remarkably simple.

It also points out the absolute absurdity of the Depict Mohammed/Don't Depict Mohammed situation.

I'm not about to launch into any kind of long winded discussion about freedom of speech. Or the illogical belief that since you subscribe to the tenets of the Koran I must as well. It should be noted that as I am writing this, I am eating a bacon and cheese sandwich on a Sabbath morning, a proud violation of all three great monotheistic religions.

But the fact that this simple 2 stroke piece of animation could by some strange stretch of the imagination merit a death threat, should have us all back on our heels.

Maybe you don't care if they come to Culver City with a sharpened scimitar and try to separate my head from my body. But just know, that after they come for me, they will not stop. They'll come for everything that's near and dear to your heart.

Including Mickey Mouse...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Out of Home, 2/c Poster

A lot has been written about the power of creativity. I don't know if I have anything insightful to add to the discussion. I'm just a freelance writer who puts food on the table by stringing together words and delivering ideas that have some impact on people. So I can hardly being objective on the matter.

Nor do I know if any of it works.
No one does.

But I do know that if I were a burglar and I had to rob one of the two houses pictured above, I would choose the former over the latter. If only to avoid having some barrel-chested, fast-as-lightening Doberman Pinscher gnaw off a piece of my ass.

That's the power of advertising.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

No Vamos a la Arizona

I find myself conflicted about Arizona's new immigration control law. On the one hand, I do believe we need to secure the borders. And that immigrants should follow the law of the land in order to gain citizenship in this country.

On the other hand, as someone who has lived in Southern California for more years than I care to divulge, I have fallen deeply in love with Hispanic culture.

I love living near streets named Sepulveda, La Cienega and Santa Monica.
I love shopping at supermarkets stocked with tomatilloes, avocados, chimichangas and tongue-searing peppers like serrano and habanero.
I love the nannies who helped take care of my daughters when my wife and I were consumed by work.
I love being able to visit the mountains of San Bernardino and the Sierra Nevadas.

I even love the ranchero music basting from the pickup next to me on the Pacific Coast Highway (of course I also love the sound-deadening windows on my Lexus that can drown that out with the flick of a button, because let's face it, ranchero music can get pretty annoying. Muy Rapido.)

I also love being mistaken for being Mexican. (Personally I find more flattering to be considered a big-nosed bald man from Guadalajara rather than a big-nosed bald Jew from the Bronx.) It's probably because of the mustache, but I often find stopped by strangers and assaulted by a non-stop barrage of rapid fire Spanish.

Me hablo un pocquito, perro no bastante. I can pick out every 5th or so word, but my command of Espanol never got beyond 10th grade or what I picked up working in many restaurant kitchens in LA. In other words, I can say something nasty about your mother/wife/sister or inquire, "Donde esta la biblioteca?"

Getting back to the question of the Arizona law, I no longer have to sit on that fence.

Earlier this week, former Alaska Governor and NY Times Bestselling author (I'll bet her high school classmates never thought her name would appear in conjunction that phrase) Sarah Palin came out in support of the bill.

Which puts me clearly against it. Frankly I don't want to share any of the same political views with a woman who tiene una pequena cabeza de mierde.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monkey Business Part 2

Having been in the ad world for more than 20 years, I can tell you that every buying decision you've ever made has been dissected, analyzed, compartmentalized and conveniently categorized.

You may not know you're an Adventurous, Dominant Influencer or a Socially Active Persuader or even Cautious Recessive Prosumer. But believe me, they do.

They being The Man.

The marketing genii who place the gift shops at the end of every amusement park ride. Or scent the casinos in Las Vegas with lilac because it makes people gamble more. They're good. They've done their homework.

They know you're more likely to buy a new car when you see it under a big, circus-like red and white tent. They know the magical seductive power of helium balloons and giant twirling arrows. They can get you to buy a baby Steinway simply by placing a huge inflatable Orca on top of the store. Even if you've never tinkled the ivories.

They've even discovered that despite the apparent incongruity, that you will eat more raw fish upon seeing a man in a gorilla suit. Particularly odd since gorillas don't eat fish, nor are they indigenous to Japan.

Nevertheless, here I am with a sushi-hawking gorilla.

Once again I feel obliged to point out, I'm the one behind the camera.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Living large

There isn't a copywriter on the planet who hasn't started off, or tried to start off, a commercial with the following sentence:

Open on a lush, beautiful tropic island.

It doesn't matter whether the product is a flea powder or a molar-whitening toothpaste. The lush tropical island is the perfect setting for any boondoggle-loving adman or adwoman.

Few, if any of us, have actually brought a script like that to fruition. I say this without boasting, but I count myself among those fortunate few.

The week we spent at the Mauna Kea hotel on the big Isle was what advertising was meant to be.

Several months ago, my partner tried to pull off the other half of the advertising exacta. We wrote a car spot that included monkeys. That was before the Creative Director informed us that the higher brass at the agency had issued a "no monkey" policy. They literally committed those words to ink.

Well, this weekend, while cleaning out some files I found a picture of myself at a shoot about 40 lbs., a head of hair and 10 years ago. I had forgotten all about the commercial for Earthlink, but it turns out I have triumphantly fulfilled the dream of all American copywriters -- I've actually done a commercial with a monkey, a chimpanzee to be technically correct.

Here's the picture of me and extraordinarily-strong Mr. Muggs.

I'm the one on the left.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rage Against the Machine Makers

Last week I promised to tap open a bottle of Noah's Mill bourbon and write three verses of drunken Haiku per reader requests. This week, I have some fessing up to do.

I never made it to the BevMo to buy the $55 bottle. (Frankly, your sketchy readership of this blog and the failure to promote it doesn't merit that investment.) And because of the events that have transpired this week I found it impossible to focus on anything but my own pent up anger.

You see, my 50 inch HDTV, that I bought in 2008 went on the fritz. It wouldn't turn on. The service people carted it away and told me the main receiver board had to be replaced. An $811.66 repair to a TV that cost $2200 brand new a little more than 2 years ago.

After many fruitless efforts, I finally did speak with a representative from the manufacturer, who merely restated the facts, said there was nothing he could do and was sorry for my misfortune.

I told him that I would use the power of the Internet and the lyricism of Haiku poetry to make my misfortune, his company's misfortune.

Haiku #1:

"Plas, Ma. TV broke"
Change input, reboot machine.
Daddy not happy.

Haiku #2

Please remain on line
Your business is important
Be with you shortly

Haiku #3

Customer is King?
Brand disloyalty is born
Fuck you Pioneer!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cock Blocked

To write is to procrastinate. That's no famous quote that's just a truism. At least on my part. You see, in between penning pithy commercials for soda pop or riveting copy for the Southern California Daihatsu Dealers, I spend a lot of time on the Internet.

My poison in

Last week provided a non-stop parade of newsworthy stories. From the oil spill in the Gulf to the economic crisis in Greece to the bumbling exploits of Faisal Shahzad, who apparently failed remedial bomb making, a required course at all madrasas.

While tracking down his story on, I ran across this:

There you will notice the second story from the bottom: Police barred from penis enlargement.
I don't know how a headline like that could NOT peak the curiosity. So I checked and it turns out that herbal penis enlargement is pardon the pun, a huge problem in Indonesia.

According to Jakarta Globe the practice of wrapping one's penis with leaves from the gatal-gatal tree can indeed make one's penis itchy and swell up as if it had been stung by a bee. And for reasons that still elude me, this is a particular problem for those involved in law enforcement.

Of course this begs the question, how small does your penis have to be before you're willing to run to the supermarket and ask the grocer for some fresh gatal-gatal?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Semper Fido

My decision to leave the corporate world and work at home has provided many rewards. A flexible schedule. Stress-free Sunday nights. Tax write-offs up the ying yang. But none of these superficial rewards compare with the experience I had yesterday.

As I was taking groceries from the trunk of my car, I did a quick spot check of my lawn to make sure no dogs had left me any presents. Lately, the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street has become a minefield of doggie doo. Though technically this piece of property belongs to the city, the leftover poop always seems to find a home at the bottom of my shoe.

Then I noticed the old man walking his Pomeranian (a breed I'm not too fond of) up the street. I had seen this man many times before but never had spoken with him. I moved slowly so he wouldn’t be tempted to let his dog do his business.

As he approached, I noticed he was wearing a hat that read: World War II Veteran, Marine Corps. He was so thin and frail, it was hard to picture this man as a killing machine. I asked him what theater he served in and he told me he was part of the 6th Marines in the South Pacific.

But he didn't stop there. For 15 minutes he regaled me with stories that made HBO's miniseries seem like a snooze-fest. As a 20-year old boy, he took 4 beach heads; Guam, Iwo Jima and two beaches in the Marshall Islands.

He told me what happened on Guam, where his buddy had the heel of his boot blown off by shrapnel. Not very gripping, until he discovered that his pal was prone on the beach right in front of him. And had the heel of his boot not caught the shrapnel, my neighbor's skull would have.

He told me how as a Communications Specialist, he received orders to report to a new unit. Not wanting to leave his buddies behind, he bitched about the transfer order. A week later he found out his entire former unit got wiped out in a ferocious firefight.

Finally he shared the tale of some endgame shenanigans. Having defeated the Japanese, his battalion found itself fighting with the Red Chinese in an end-of-war land grab on the Asian continent. Low on reserves and morale but high on Japanese POWs, the Marines cleverly pitted their captive soldiers against the greedy Reds.

I could have listened to the stories all afternoon, but the frozen yogurt in my grocery bag was melting and I had to get back to writing some website copy about the latest advancements in kidney stone diagnostics.

As my friend and his yappy toy dog (by the way, what kind of ex-marine has a Pomeranian) walked away, I wondered if that was the dog who has been shitting on my yard.

If it is, I guess I'll give that guy a pass.

I owe him that. And so much more.

(As seen in today's Huffington Post at:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Demon Alcohol

Summer is coming and that can only mean one thing. Soon our radio airwaves will be flooded with those heartbreaking commercials from the Sheriff's Department warning us about the dangers of drinking and boating.

Drinking has gotten a bad rap these days. It seems there's so many activities that should not be combined with drinking.

You shouldn't drink and boat.
You shouldn't drink and ski.
You shouldn't drink and operate heavy machinery.
You shouldn't drink and drive.

And now with the hindsight of age and a nest egg susceptible to litigation, it all makes very good sense.

Thankfully there's one activity that's a perfect complement to drinking: writing. Faulkner said, "Civilization begins with distillation." Hemmingway concurred with, "A man does not exist until he is drunk."

I like to write. And I like to drink. But since I have neither the talent or the capacity to write anything over 200 words worth reading, I engage in this blog. And as a reward for taking you along this narcissistic journey, I'm offering you the reader a unique opportunity.

This Saturday night, when my wife and kids are fast asleep, I will crack open a good bottle of bourbon and embark on some drunken haiku. The first three respondents with topic suggestions will have their poems published next week.

I do promise it will be in the proper 5-7-5 syllable formation.
But I don't promise it will be meaningful, poetic, or even good.
Because really, what haiku is?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'm going to Harvard

Tomorrow, The Harvard Business School is hosting some kind of Business Growth Conference in Anaheim. For some ungodly reason, I've been invited to speak on one of the panels. This is as close as I will ever get to an Ivy League University.

Years ago, I entertained the thought of going to Cornell, that is until a friend who was giving us a tour of the campus pointed out the "Suicide Bridge" where over-burdened students have opted to take a different kind of final.

It's hard to believe my name and the esteemed Harvard name actually do appear on the same web page. Albeit a mangled version of my name:

I suppose I should be nervous with all these CEO's and Harvard MBA's sitting around talking about 'shifting communications paradigms' and 'brand core essence architecture' and 'evolving social media landscape and its effect on messaging channel distribution'. But I'm not. Because frankly, it's all so much mental masturbation.

If somebody asks me a question, I'm going to talk about what I like, what I know and what I find funny. I'm going to talk about the new Old Spice commercial.

I'm on a panel.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Other Clan

Spotted in the men's room at the Penmar By The Sea Municipal Golf Course.

I probably wouldn't have noticed the sign had it not been for the elderly gentleman who was laughing himself silly when I entered the john.

"Can ya believe this, laddie?" he said to me, his cheeks bulbous from smiling.

"No, I couldn't," I replied, picking up on the lilt in his voice. "Is that a Scottish accent?"

Indeed it was. The gentlemen was from Edinburgh and had come to the states 40 years ago. I told him my mom was from Paisley and that I still had family in the old country. I also explained how difficult it was to understand my auntie on the phone because her accent was so thick.

"How do you carry on a conversation?" he asked.

I told him, we have this little trick. My aunt can understand American English but I have difficulty understanding Scottish English, so she accommodates by talking in a John Wayne accent.

"How ya doing there Rich? How's the family and the youngins? I hope you're all doing swell."

The image of my 72-year old Auntie, having a pint of Tennents lager in her coal-heated row house, pretending to talk like a rough-hewn cowboy, brought my new found friend to his knees.

We exited together. Laughing and smiling broadly. The way two strange men should never exit a public bathroom.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Your money is no good here

The unwritten rule as a freelance writer is to accept any job and every job. As my friend Jim puts it, the goal is to "crank it and bank it." And so I find myself taking on projects of every imaginable sort. From big branding campaigns for automotive brands to local mattress store flyers announcing their annual Arbor Day Sale.

Truth is, as long as the check clears, it doesn't really matter to me. Not that I'm driven solely by the money. I give it my best shot each and every time. Years ago, I managed to squeak into the One Show awards book with some bar coasters we created for an Australian beer.

Recently I found myself doing some work for an entrepreneur who was seeking ideas for his startup business. It wasn't advertising per se, but he was willing to pay me a day rate and as far I'm concerned that means the deal is done.

A signed NDA prevents me from disclosing too many details, but after I submitted my first round of ideas, I got an email back from my new employer requesting time for feedback. He also asked me to familiarize myself with his assessment of the work in the following chart:

For Superman, it's Kryptonite.
For Tiger Woods, it's blond bimbos.
For creative people, it's charts like these that bring us to our knees.

I had no interest in discussing ways to make idea #3 more feasible or increase the pizzazz factor on idea #5. That's when I knew I had to bail out of the project. But not before wondering why so many business people have no ability to judge creativity or the capacity to trust their gut.

Last year Steve Jobs was named the most admired CEO in America. Having worked at TBWA Chiat/Day, Apple's agency of record, I have it on first hand knowledge that this is how Steve judges any new idea: