Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stroking It

(This week will be completely devoted to my Swim to Africa campaign to aid disabled veterans. To find out more details, see the blog entry dated May 26, 2011. To date we are more than halfway towards the stated goal. It is not too late to sign on for this worthy cause.)

Memorial Day, May 30, 2011.

It's 10:38 PM. I've just returned home from the pool from the second of my mile swims today. Two miles down and ten plus to go. I'm not going to bore you with details of the swim. Frankly I can't imagine anything more boring than writing about swimming. Other than actually swimming.

You see while covering this distance presents a physical challenge, it's the mental challenge that is more daunting.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
More than 70 times to cover just one mile.

Of course, it does afford the mind time to wander. And today I couldn't stop thinking of an assignment I was recently working on. Before I actually put pen to paper I was handed an extraordinarily wordy, not to mention complicated, brief. It was chockful of communications strategies, branding strategies, digital strategies and executional strategies.

To be quite honest, after 20 years in the business, I still can't tell you what any of those terms actually means. Frankly, all I hear is, "can you write a funny commercial about burgers or beer or cars or computers?"

Did I mention that in between these indecipherable strategy documents, there were charts?

Lots and lots of charts. I suppose people who think quantitavely assume people who don't think quantitavely will somehow benefit from these pie charts, bar graphs and vectoring arrows.

We don't.

The truth is they confuse the issues rather than illuminate them. Particularly for someone of my advanced age.

How can I explain this?

Oh I know...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Swimming to Africa

Last week I watched a documentary called "Swim." It's the tale of two soldiers who set out to swim the Straits of Gibraltar to raise money for disabled veterans. It was quite moving. It reminded me of the noble nature of Americans.

Then I got around to thinking about this blog and how traffic has significantly increased over the past few months and if there was a way to leverage those extra eyeballs into something good. With Memorial Day coming up, it didn't take a rocket scientist to put 2 plus 2 together.

It came out 12.5

Next week, beginning on Monday, I plan to reproduce the Swim Across Gibraltar feat. Of course, with a family and a job and a mortgage and two college tuitions looming on the horizon, I won't actually be swimming the fast moving currents off the coast of Spain. (Besides I'm not a big fan of flying and Spanish food tends to makes me gassy.)

But I will be doing the next best thing. Going twice or possibly three times a day to rack up the mileage at the pool of my brother's condo complex in Playa Vista.

Granted I won't be dealing with the cold water, the sharks and the massive boats that clog up the shipping lanes of Gibraltar, but I will be duplicating the swim of David Broyles and Rush Vann.  And let's not forget I've got quite a few extra years and few extra pounds than both these boys.

Not to mention my thick stubby arms and legs which makes swimming 12 miles in 7 days close to impossible.

This is where you come in. For more than two years I've been providing the laughs, the funny stories and the revealing anecdotes, absolutely free. I've enjoyed every moment of it. In fact, the blog has become a labor of love. But I have not asked anything from you, the reader.

Until today.

No matter where you stand politically, the fact of the matter is that we have brave young men and women standing in harm's way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and sometimes in Pakistan. Many of these soldiers do not come back the same as the way they left. Some are mentally damaged. Others, like the ones in the film, physically. We owe them. In a way that can't be repaid.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

So I'm asking you to step up to the plate and pledge 1 dollar for every mile I swim. If I do the 12 miles (and if you know me, you know I finish anything I start) it will cost you $12. If I manage to get 100 sponsors (about 1/2 of the daily traffic to this site), that will be $1200. Maybe it will be more if this social media thing actually works.

Help me help some disabled vets. Contact me at: siegelrich@mac.com And thanks in advance.

Next week will be a running travelogue of my aquatic quest. But don't expect any pictures of me in a Speedo. Unless we can somehow reach $2500.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Making things right

We, I, make mistakes here at roundseventeen. And in the continuing spirit of transparency, I take it as my responsibility to own up to those occasional stumblings and attempt to right what was wrong.

Last week, as we all know, was supposed to be the end of the world -- The Rapture. In addition to getting all my business in order I also took the time (since there was very little left of it) to feverishly write some letters and...how shall I phrase this...settle some scores.

Well, Jesus never made it to the party.
And so now I feel some apologies are in order.

To my ex-girlfriend: I'm sorry I posted your name and address on Craig's List. You do know how to show a man a good time, and it doesn't always involve a ball gag, a bouncy room and a recording of James Brown's, "It's Too Funky in Here."

To my former art director partner: I'm sorry I called you a tailcoat-riding, ink whore unfit to own a T-square or the latest version of Adobe CS5.5. I'm also sorry I de-friended you and posted that "recommendation" on linkedin. I hope your boss didn't see it.

To my former Creative Director: I'm sorry I called you a talentless, nagging hack with chronic halitosis and annoying underarm stubble. That letter was meant for a different ex-girlfriend.

That feels good to clear the air.
I feel better.
And I hope you do too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Barber of Culverville

Yesterday I far exceeded my average word count, so today I will be mercifully shorter. And hopefully funnier, as it also appears I got on a bit of a soapbox.

It has been years since I've sat in a barber's chair. Last time I went, a visit to Cliff's Salon/Saloon included a Jack Daniels on ice and a free viewing of Lawrence of a Labia. Cliff had little regard for the health code ordinances regarding the operation of a barber shop and made a habit of serving alcohol and showing porn on his new DVD player.

Since then, my hairline has receded all the way to my shoulder blades and I have been able to cut my own hair. What's good for man, I reasoned, is good for man's best friend.

Well as it turns out, buzzing my own head and taking the clippers to my thick-coated retriever/shepherd are two different things. The resulting mangey look (see above) was not a big hit with the Siegel ladies.

Fortunately the grooming shop is within walking distance to my house and I was able to get Nelly the appropriate tonsorial triage...

Lesson learned.

Animal hygiene is not a DIY project. Something to keep in mind six months from now, when Nelly will need to have to her anal glands expressed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Apocalpyse Not Now

I suspect many of you reading today's post knew the topic in advance. After all, you're here, I'm here, and my noisy neighbor is still here. If there were to be a silver lining in this whole Rapture schmegegie it would have been that my circular saw-happy neighbor would have ascended to heaven and I could have made up some ground in my sleep deficit.

But that didn't happen. I guess Jesus was too busy helping basketball teams win games and actresses win cheap plastic trophies.

And now 89-year old Harold Camping, the crazy coot that started this whole Mediapocalypse, will recede from the limelight and enjoy his pureed peas until his end time does arrive, which could be any minute now.

I think Harold deserves a round of applause. Not only has he provided a wealth of comedic material, he has, perhaps unintentionally, forced many to examine their own faith and the very notion of prophecy.

At least I hope he has.

As Dennis Miller used to say, "I don't want to get off on a rant here" but my problem with religion, is that it is too easy. It asks for little more than belief.

I've read Christian, Hebrew and Islamic scripture, and God (who seems to be very insecure) demands a lot of praise and appreciation. But above all, he puts a premium on belief.
It even made his Top Ten: Thou shalt have no others before me.

But when you stop to think about it, belief is so declasse. It's one of our reptilian brain functions.

People believe that black cats cause bad luck. People believe wearing baseball caps inside out will spark a rally. People believe chewing the roots of some Brazilian swamp plant will cure cancer. The nodule that controls the belief function in the human brain sits right next to the cluster of nerves that make us drool when we sleep.

Look, if I were God (I don't get to write that phrase very often), and I had taken the trouble to create the entire universe in 6 days and bothered to put mankind at the top of the food chain and endowed him with the ability of critical thinking, I think a golden ticket to heaven would require a little more than an 11:59:59 vow of "Oh Lord I believe in thee."

If there is any precept of Judaism that makes sense to me, it's that we should be judged by our actions not our words. Not that many prison converts want to hear that little nugget.

We humans have the ability to play the violin, to write operas, to perform nano-neural surgery, to split the atom, and to extend a brand's core essence across a vast field of digital media landscape producing multiple touchpoint/revenue streams. Shouldn't God be more appreciative of these efforts than the mindless bending of a knee on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning?

I just ran across this stashed in my drawer.

It's from an old college Math exam. I'm literally stunned that at one time in my life, all these numbers and scribbles made sense to me. They don't now. But take a good look at the rigor and the logic. They demonstrate the beautiful unlimited capacity of the human mind.

Of course, the irony here is that apocalpyse-predicting Harold is a former civil engineer. From Berkeley, no less. Thanks to his God-given brain he could easily find the center of mass in the diagram prescribed above. And a whole lot more.

Seems to me, Mr. Camping, that if the Lord judged us on how much we have actually accomplished in this world, you could have camped out by his side for the rest of eternity. All you needed to do was stop thumping your bible and work a little magic with your protractor and your slide rule.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The End is Here

We're now less than 48 hours from The Rapture. And as many you know, roundseventeen is published regularly Monday through Thursday. Meaning, that without any posts for tomorrow or Saturday, this then is the last official entry before I make my way with the other saved souls to spend eternity with my maker.

But Rich, I can hear you snickering at your monitor, you and the fellow members of The Tribe will not be making that journey.

Under normal circumstances I might grant you the validity of that argument, but perhaps you are unaware of my plan. Starting at precisely 11:30 on Saturday morning, a good 30 minutes before the levitation begins, I plan to hedge my atheistic bets and formally accept Jesus as my saviour. I will also be making similar declarations regarding Allah, Buddha, Zeus, Krishna and Degei the Fijian Snake God.

In fact as I write this I am going through Wikipedia and assembling the names of as many gods as I can. You see I'm not taking any chances. I don't want to be 'left behind' with the rest of you degenerates.

You can laugh all you want but what if Harold Camping, the 89-year old civil engineer and self-published author, is right. In the realm of human knowledge, Harold might not know any more or any less than the Pope, the world's leading imams and rabbis, or any other scholar of religious fiction.

I know he predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and that didn't happen. And thank God it didn't happen then, because that was about the time I got my campaign for Castlemaine XXXX Beer produced.

But you know we all make mistakes. 

One time we were at eating Delmonicos on Pico Blvd. and we got some bad calamari. The waiter said he wouldn't charge us for it, but he made a mistake and left it on the bill. I corrected his mistake and he removed the charge. That didn't stop me from giving him a generous 8% tip.

The point is, Harold is human. And humans make mistakes. We just have to learn to adopt, adapt and survive. 

Of course all that is moot because come Sunday I, and maybe you, (but definitely not Erik Moe) will be with Jesus/Allah/Buddha/Zeus/Krishna and/or Degei in a perfect world where mistakes don't happen and the calamari is always fresh.

Peace Out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Check out the Mem-whore-ial Day Specials

Spotted at the El Segundo Shopping Center.

I know this shopping center has a name, I just haven't bothered to learn it. Nor the names of the strip malls across the street from this one. Or the continuous line of strip malls that adorn Sepulveda Blvd all the way down to Pacific Palisades. Frankly I've never understood this Southern California phenomena. It's puzzling, in the same way that the light rail lines don't go to the airport, or to Dodger Stadium, or even to the beach.

Of course what we lack in good planning logistics we more than make up for in discounted prostitution paraphernalia.

"Don't forget about Fetish Fridays here at Ho Goods. All 8" Stiletto Pumps are 50% Off. That's the price ladies, not the stilettos."

"Glimmer and Glitter Body Make Up. Just like you've seen on all the high-earners. Nothing says 'date me for an hour' like a Rainbow Vajayjay."

"Check your calendar girls, Father's Day is just around the corner. Make sure your 'daddy' has a strong pimp hand, with Authentic Manilla Caning Sticks, 10 for $4.99."

"Attention hookers, there is a red light special in aisle 5, where right now you can pick up Zithromax, the world's leading STD antibiotic, in the 100 pill bottle, for just $21.99. Take the fight to chlamydia, Take it the Max, with Zithromax."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Stash of White Trash

Every once and awhile my buddy Greg will send me a link detailing some of the crazy shenanigans going on in his home state of Tennessee. Invariably these Darwinian antics involve a power tool, some home brewed moonshine,  and a cast of snaggle-toothed characters that barely make it into the double digit IQ range.

But when it comes to trashy white trash behavior, the Volunteer State would be best advised to voluntarily drop out of the competition and hand the cubic zirconium-encrusted crown to its kissing cousin on the east, West Virginia.

Recently I watched The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Now I don't make a habit of recommending movies, but this is must see material. There are stabbings, gunshots, misspelled tattoos, Xanax-snorting, more stabbings, incest, and tap dancing. You know how certain things in life are mesmerizing, like jugglers, car wrecks and derailed locomotives. Think of this film as a Japanese bullet train filled with Suzukis and clowns flying off the track at 300 mph.

It's that bad. It's that good.

The movie has a certain palliative quality. You can't watch this film and not feel better about your own life. Whether you've been laid off, whether you're feeling fat, whether your washing machine sprung a leak and flooded your basement, whether you turned over your entire 401K plan to a crafty Nigerian, at least you're not living in Boone County and at least your last name is not White.

I know my buddy Greg and my other buddy Joe take pride in Tennessee, but I'm sorry, your home state is gonna have to hit that pipe pretty hard to get back on track and keep up with the likes of the Whites and of  Gary Thompson, who was just awarded the state's highest honor for animal husbandry.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Job offers

Months ago I wrote a piece about a cheesy Red Lobster commercial (a little redundant) and it was picked up in agencyspy.com. One of the brave anonymous commenters suggested I be more careful with my criticism lest my important contacts within the ad industry shrivel up.

This nameless hater --I hate that phrase as well as that other millennial colloquialism, haterade -- doesn't have a clue in the world about me or my business. 2009 was an incredibly busy year. And 2010 was my busiest year in 7 years as a freelancer.

One reason I'm able to stay busy, apart from my ability to slap one word in front of another, is the Internet and social media. I consider myself pretty resourceful and know how to track down leads. As well as create them. Take linkedin for example. (I'm about to divulge one of my secrets.) By simply rearranging the numerous clients I have worked on in the past 7 years, that is switching the order of the names, I can generate a simple profile update. That gets scrolled in the update roll. So that when Creative Resources Managers log on to linkedin, my name will be on their radar.

It's simple. And it's effective.

Facebook may not have mastered the Who's Looked At Your Profile game but linkedin certainly has. So I make it a habit to track who is tracking me. It points me in the right direction when I'm dialing and smiling.

Last week I checked my profile and it turns out there are two exciting vocational possibilities looming in my future. Mind you I have no interest in taking a staff position, but if the right one reared its ugly head, I would give it further thought. For instance...

I could go to Michigan, become an Adjunct Professor and teach some corn-fed Midwesterners the fine art of Writing the Free Standing insert. Or lecture on "Deciphering the Creative Brief: Making Friends with the Trash Can."

Of course if the money and the dental benefits at the University of Detroit are not up to snuff, I could uproot the family, don a sherwani and help Dawar, Dama and Bhaggyamma win the Rumford Baking Powder account.

This will not be easy. And it will be further complicated by my daughter's unfavorable disposition towards tandori and curry.

But in any case, it is nice to be wanted.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Make it stop

I know you've see this new Taco Bell commercial. If you've had your television on even once this last month, maybe to catch the Osama vs. Obama Celebrity Death Match, you've seen Mr. Way Too Excited About His 89 Cent Taco.

Maybe it's been too long since I've been in my mid-twenties, but I don't ever recall an out of this world culinary experience that had me doing chest bumps with total strangers.

I do remember one incident during my early days at Chiat/Day. After a particularly grueling project my boss came to me on a friday afternoon and said, "take your wife out dinner this weekend. And bring me the bill. No house wine. No split plates. No sharing of desserts. I want you to do some major damage."

And we did. We secured a table at Patina on Melrose and spent an ungodly amount of money on some uncommonly delicious fare. Appetizers, starters, entrees, if memory serves, we even ordered something that was Market Priced -- meaning the restaurant could charge us anything they damn well pleased. That's some nifty capitalism.

To this day, finer food has not passed my gullet. And yet when we left the restaurant, I did not feel inclined to burst into a plyometric display of gastronomic glee. Possibly because my pants were feeling a little tight. Or more likely, because despite what Chief Marketing Officers want to believe, people don't behave that way.  People also don't say things like, "It's not delivery, It's DiGiorno" or "My money, my choice, my Meineke", but that doesn't stop clients, does it?

And yet, that is not why I find lacking in this Taco Bell commercial entitled "Winner".

I'm bigger picture than all that.

You see, if you're in your mid-late twenties and you're at a groovin party decorated with fresh cut flowers and fanciful paper lanterns, not to mention an astounding array of outrageously attractive people,
and they're serving food brought in from the local Taco Bell , neither you nor anyone else at this little shin-dig is a Winner.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"I Think it's Stupid."

It's so easy to make fun at the world of advertising. Whether it's know-nothing bosses, myopic clients, asinine commercials, it is as the military would put it, "a target rich environment."

Furthermore, because the barrel is so full of fish, I can unload my shotgun without ever having to name names or burn any bridges, thus allowing me to still feed at the trough of insanity.

Take focus groups for example.
Or as many colleagues call them, 'F@*k Us Groups'.

Much has been written about this outdated form of research. A methodology that assumes we would view a commercial at home, half asleep on the couch in our underwear, the same way we would watch a cheaply animated, poorly acted, undirected series of stick figures with a bunch of demographically-similar peers and a unlimited supply of stale sandwiches and year-old M&M's.

I don't know where the validity of that comes from but I would like to meet the snake oil salesperson who gave birth to the secretly-miked conference room and one-way mirrored glass.

A friend of mine pointed out the futility of focus groups by noting that 99% of the commercials you see on TV are shit. Not coincidentally, 99% of the shit commercials you see on TV passed the focus group litmus test. I'm no statistician or EVP of Planning & Customer Insight Architecture, but it seems to me the correlation is as much in front of our eyes as that Self-Activated Affluential Housewife from Covina stuffing her face with a tuna sandwich, "Oh my god, did she eat that in one bite?"

Truth is I don't have much to say about focus groups that hasn't already been said. But I do remember years ago we were pitching a phone company and we wanted to see if our concepts resonated with the phone buying public. I was asked...uh, told to be at the facility at 8 o'clock for the first of two groups.

The first was brutal.

"I don't get it."
"I do get it, but I don't like it."
"I get it. I don't like it. And I think the people who come up with this crap are stupid."

Oddly enough, he was right. I was stupid. For giving up my night at home with my family and subjecting myself to this kind of idiocy. The first group picked up their check for $75 and left. I found my way to the coffee room, which unbeknown to me, was connected to the waiting room. In my need to make light of what had just transpired I said to the focus group mediator, who was also getting coffee, "Send in the next bunch of losers."

Not a wise move it turned out, as the next of bunch of losers were all within earshot.

They strolled into the room, grim-faced, and took their seats. Fearing that we had just blown $25,000 worth of research, the mediator tried to rescue the situation, explaining, "the man said 'Send in the next bunch of users." Losers/users, seemed plausible right?

The second group brutalizted the work even more than the first. In fact, they concluded the hate-fest 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

In retrospect, it might have been the best $25,000 I ever threw in the toilet.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boys Shaved Cock

Other than colleagues in the ad industry or friends from Facebook, no one knows or reads roundseventeen. I know this from a careful examination of the Google analytics that come free with the hosting service.

I know other bloggers who go through their analytics with a scrutinous eye and figure out how to increase their traffic with a tweak here and an html-search optimized confibulated flik-flak there. I possess none of that know how. Nor the desire. I gave up on the hope that some large media company would offer me millions for my daily ramblings.

Now I just write the blog because it gives me a good excuse to put on the Bose Noise-canceling headphones, shut the door in my office and not listen to the estrogen-fueled squabbling that goes on between my wife and two ever-assertive teenage daughters.

But I did have a chance to look at my analytics last week and discovered something amusing.

I'm happy that somebody might have punched in the phrase 'things Jews don't like" into Google and stumbled upon roundseventeen. Four lines down from that however, you'll notice someone, with one hand on the mouse, was looking for 'boys shaved cock' and then got routed to my site.

I didn't bother to check, but my guess is that if you put 'boys shaved cock' in Google, you're going to come up with hundreds, if not thousands, of hits. And that the link to roundseventeen is way down on the list. Nevertheless, our 'boys shaved cock' seeker felt he might find something different, something unique, something he hadn't expected when he went hunting for 'boys shaved cock' and clicked the link.

I'd like to believe he was not disappointed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Osama Bin Eaten

A week ago, the United States Navy tossed...uh, buried the corpse of Osama Bin Laden in the ocean. But no sooner had the sharks devoured all six foot four of him did the hand wringing and second guessing begin.

It started on Facebook when many took issue with the "excessive" rejoicing of our nation's college students.

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness:only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Oh please, spare me the sanctimony.

Woody Allen had the more appropriate quote, "Nazis are going to march in NJ. We should get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them."

I mean seriously, can we dispose ourselves of this notion that Osama bin Laden's life was as precious as any other? It wasn't. That thing needed some axiomatic killing. Had he been given one more breath of oxygen he would have spent it planning and plotting the death of thousands, no, millions, of innocent people, whose only crime was not submitting to his perverse death cult.

And while I don't find it necessary to chant U.S.A. in the streets until 4:00 AM (mostly because I have to drive the kids to school in the morning) I don't begrudge those exuberant college students one bit. They have spent half their lives under the constant threat of cowardly terrorism.

Why shouldn't they celebrate Osama's death? And why shouldn't we be proud of the President and the meticulous planning and execution of this dangerous mission? And shouldn't we all be standing up for the men and women who serve in the intelligence community and the Navy Seals?

Hell, I'm still rejoicing. You can accuse me of binary thinking. Or being un-nuanced about the matter, but the truth is I'm still giddy knowing that justice has been served.

Some say we should have captured him alive and put him on trial, not unlike the way the Israelis captured Eichmann. By making him take the stand, they argued, all the world would witness the horrors of the Holocaust. And no one would ever question its veracity ever again. That worked out well, didn't it?

I understand the notion of the moral high ground. I just think it's highly overrated.

Besides, what Osama and Al Qaeda did, and continues to do, are not criminal acts, they are acts of war. They don't require evidence gathering or any Mirandizing, they require night-vision goggles, large caliber weaponry and titanium-fanged attack dogs.

They're not innocent until proven guilty. They're guilty until we make them dead.

The latest wrinkle in this story is the President's decision not to release the photo's of Osama's corpse. I'm a big believer in Occam's razor, so if conspiracists want to believe one thing, I most likely believe the other. I trust the President, I trust the Seals, I trust the people who say they have seen the photos and that he is in fact dead.

I have a hard time however with Obama's explanation that the photos might inflame the Muslim world. I have an even harder time with our ceaseless capitulation to unending Muslim sensitivities. How ironic that the reason we can't see a picture of the world's most wanted dead terrorist is the same reason why we could not view an episode of South Park.

Let's be honest here. You could inflame the Muslim world with a picture of someone eating a ham sandwich. That might also inflame the Jewish world, but they're less likely to fly a plane into a building.

Where were these precious Muslim sensitivities when the Taliban blew up the ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan? Where were these sensitivities when Palestinians danced in the streets on September 11, 2001? Where were these sensitivities when they aired the beheading of "The Jew" Daniel Pearl?

One more note. Those of you you who are worried that the raid on Osama's compound will result in a retaliatory attack, are under the mistaken belief that Al Qaeda follows some kind of rational tit-for-tat doctrine. They don't. Bin Laden and Zawahiri were disciples of Sayyid Qutb, of the original Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb suggested The West was a fabrication of man made law and thus an affront to Islamic values. In fact, because of our over-sexualized women and the fact that we listen to "Negro music", he posited we were worthy of an attack at ALL times, provoked or unprovoked.

When all is said and done, we don't need photos of dead terrorists.
We just need more dead terrorists.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Months ago, I bought a new Lexus, and by new of course I mean used. Did I say used? I meant to say Certified Pre-Owned, that was an Orwellian slip.

As part of their CPO service, every Lexus that leaves the lot is entitled to a 3-month trial program of XM/Sirius radio. Cool, I thought, as I would never spend the money for all those radio stations even if they were exponentially better than standard FM. Needless to say, the sounds coming from my neighbor's garage are better than today's FM radio.

So I took XM/Sirius up on their free offer and activated the system. And for a man who is not often pleasantly surprised, I was pleasantly surprised.

There were so many choices. Good choices. I had 18 pre-sets to choose and they went fast. There's Classic Vinyl, that seemed to be a must. There's BB King Bluesville, where I can listen to to the rocking sounds of Pinetop Perkins, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and Big Maceo Merriweather. Truth be told, I like the nicknames as much or more than the music. There's even a channel dedicated entirely to Big East Sports, you know so I can follow the pathetic demise of the once-proud Syracuse Football program.

One of my favorite stations is/was E Street Radio. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year of nothing but Bruce Springsteen. I say was because for the first few weeks it was great to be able to hear cuts from his vast albumography or his numerous live concerts.

But too much of a good thing can be too much of a good thing.

There's only so many times I want listen to Badlands or Human Touch or Johnny 99 (which mentions my beloved Mahwah, NJ where I spent so much of my drunken youth.) Furthermore, while I love his music, Bruce's concert banter leaves much to be desired. He stumbles and stutters. And has this annoying way of laughing at his own not-too-funny jokes.

My heart goes out to the DJ's who drew the short straw and have to host E Street Radio for a living. That has to be the radio version of purgatory. Making New Jersey seem glamorous is difficult enough. But imagine having to listen, praise, idolize and hype the exploits of one man -- one very talented man -- every waking minute of every waking day.

I suspect it's like being Catholic.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who Brain Farted?

Yesterday I went off about my failings and the business of advertising.
Today, I'd like to turn the tables.

I was paying the bills the other day. I like to let them stack up until the pile is so thick in doesn't fit in the little tray we've set aside for bills. I don't know about you, but when I pay the bills, I find the bill and toss all that other direct mail crap they stuff in the envelope. I suspect we could reduce global warming if ad agencies ceased this horrible practice. Sadly, there are entire industries set up to perpetuate this nonsense.

Right now, there are 7-10 high powered execs sitting in a conference room, carefully scrutinizing the September statement stuffer. They'll rewrite the copy. Argue about the strategy. Make the photographer re shoot the customer service rep answering the phone ("she needs more energy.") They'll rewrite the copy again. And some poor schmuck in Milwaukee will stay up to 4 AM to finalize the last color check and just barely make the deadline. Then it will end up on your kitchen table and you'll toss in the trash can without giving it a second glance.

A travesty right? It gets worse.

By chance, I gave the statement stuffer from the Gas Company a second glance and noticed a strange invitation at the bottom. As if the opportunity to follow Charlie Sheen and Pippa Middleton on Twitter weren't enough, now I can log on and follow my favorite utility company.

Which means another poor schmuck is actually generating tweets for the Gas Company.

Imagine if your lot in life were to write pithy Twitter updates that are in line with the brief, positioning the Gas Company as a "thoughtful leader with innovative ideas and a positive, energetic outlook towards the future while maintaining a vigorous commitment to environmental awareness." (BTW, this last quote was lifted from every brief I've ever seen.)

Furthermore, there's a crack team of millennial digital ninjas working feverishly to extend the brand and bring the Gas Company to life on Facebook. I can't wait to find out what the Gas Company is doing this weekend and what the gas Company had for breakfast. And I'm sure the Facebook page is chock full of clever nuggets like; Favorite book: Fahrenheit 451. Favorite Song: the Doors, Light My Fire. Favorite Basketball Team: The Miami Heat.

It's not all bad however. You have to give them credit for coming up with a snappy name for their little newsletter, Gas Matters.

My daughters will verify that statement, though not for the same reasons as the Gas Company.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why I Sucked at Being a Creative Director

There's a new book coming out.

And it features the thoughts of several high profile Creative Directors, including friends, colleagues and ex-bosses, their thoughts on becoming a Creative Director and the current state of advertising.

Far from being jealous as to why I was not asked to participate in the endeavor -- which would have been useless since I have nothing relevant to offer in that arena -- the book's announcement got me thinking.

Using generous math, and including the time I was an Associate Creative Director (a worthless title if there ever was one), I spent roughly 10 years as a CD. With the benefit of hindsight and a heaping helping of self-deprecation, here's Why I Sucked at Being a Creative Director:

1. Immovable as a Dead Donkey. Like all Siegels I have inherited a generations-long stubborn streak. It's deeply embedded within my DNA. In some instances it disguises itself as Persistence or Determination. And has served me well in running marathons or getting a movie produced or a book published. But in the case of being a Creative Director at an advertising agency, where there is a premium on building consensus, accommodating cretinous client demands and answering to faceless holding company officers, that same stubborn streak has done me a distinct disservice. Earning me the unhealthy reputation of being an ass. An immovable one at that.

2. Art Before Commerce. Young creatives often find mentors or role models to look up to. More often it's a matter of studying their work in the One Show Book or CA annuals and mimicking (stealing) their style. When I was learning the business, the writer I most respected was Mark Fenske. His work was always smart, always different, and always courageous. Mark subscribed to the auteur theory. That advertising should reflect a personal vision. And stand on its own as a piece of communication worth experiencing. I always challenged myself, and my teams, to those type of standards. Sometimes we measured up. Most times we didn't. But the process was never ever pretty. (see point #1)

3. Dirty Hands. Unlike most Creative Directors, I was never able to walk away from the keyboard. I always kept my hand in the making of ads. Competing with the teams that were working for me. Was it always fair? No, but it was my responsibility to always put the best work in front of the client. I like to think this kind of demanding work environment made any creatives working for me, better creatives. I do know that I fought as hard for their work as I did for any of mine. Of course any admiration from my creative colleagues was far surpassed by the contempt and scorn of those in Account Management and Account Planning who took issue with my pugilistic defense of the work. (again, see point #1)

4. Terrible at Chess. As my buddy Cody is finding out online, I know my way around the rooks and bishops, kings and queens. I even won some chess tournaments while in college. But when all those moving pieces have moving mouths, then it's no longer a game. You see being a Creative Director is often about knowing which client is on the ascent and which one isn't. It's about knowing how to make a CMO look like a hero. It's about Relationships with a capital R. This was all squarely out of my comfort zone. I never had the patience, nor the ability, to keep track of the internal machinations within the client's marketing department. I have a wife and two daughters, I have a hard enough time keeping a lid on that dysfunctional dynamic. (This has little to do with point #1, however I'm sure you can imagine the aforementioned stubbornness never helped matters.)

5. Bad Geography. A long time ago I made the mistake of setting up shop on the West Coast, where sensitivities are high and the beautifully-tanned California skin is awfully thin. Take the simple phrase, "Get out of my office you asshole." Spoken to a colleague here in the homogenized, touchy-feely confines of West L.A., that off-the-cuff type utterance would often earn me an immediate trip to the Human Resources office. But in the Big Apple, where I should have stayed, "Get off of my office asshole", would merit a completely different response, like, "Up yours douchebag. We still on for drinks after work?" See the difference?

6. Replace Filter as Necessary. Another reason I sucked at being a Creative Director is that I never mastered the art of not saying what I was thinking. If a synapse fired in the cortex, you can be sure the tongue and the lips were going to respond accordingly. Not always a good idea. However I am getting better at this. And to that end, I think I'll pay heed to that older and wiser little voice in my head that is telling me to hold off on points 7-point 100. 

I'll save those for a rainy day.
Or better yet, I'll save them for myself.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A bitch of an itch.

Spotted on Culver Blvd., just south of Sony Studios.

I don't know if you can read this, but it says, "Pediculophobia is a fear of lice." I'll save you the trip to Google Dictionary, Pediculophobia is the fear of lice.

What would drive someone to take time out of their day, risk a hefty fine for damaging public property and write something like that? I haven't a clue. Perhaps it had something to do with President Obama's fundraising visit last week. He spoke at Sony Studios and his motorcade drove right past this streetside electrical transformer thiggamajiggy. Maybe the culprit wants to call our government's attention to the problem of Pediculus humanus and their devious plans to establish a new world order. (Conspiring with Freemasons and Jews of course.)

More than likely, that's not the case.

Maybe it's the ramblings of some new street artist. Last night, I watched Banksy's Exit Through The Gift Shop. I know I'm a little late to this cultural phenomena, but as my friend Laura will tell you, I'm late to all the latest cultural phenomena. Did you know that before Shepaird Fairey hit the jackpot with his iconic poster, he peppered the city with a stencil of professional wrestler Andre the Giant.

Does that make any more sense than Pediculophobia?

Or, could the motivation be more commercial? Could this be some brilliant underground, gorilla campaign from the genii at Proctor & Gamble? Because right now I -- and I'm sure you as well -- feel compelled to rush to my local supermarket to purchase the industrial-sized container of clinical strength Head and Shoulders.

That's pretty effective marketing, particularly when you consider that I'm clinically lice-proof and have longer hairs in my nose than I have on my head.