Thursday, May 31, 2012

Avert your eyes

Something tells me I will live to regret this.

That is a picture of me in a Speedo. And I am printing this at great risk. Particularly considering how many people I have pranked over the years.

Once a colleague told us he had fallen for a crazy stalker girl in Germany. He naively gave us her name. Within weeks, and because we had connections in the Fatherland, he started receiving disturbing postcards that we had handwritten and forwarded across the pond so it would bare a European postmark.

He'd even read the postcards aloud to us at the office. You can imagine how difficult it was to stifle the laughter.

Another time, a friend told me he was working out of a hotel in NY but couldn't receive emails because the hotel was having computer issues. I quickly scribbled out a script and had another friend of mine call his room posing as the hotel manager. She explained that because of the computer problems he needed to come down to the front desk and confirm his excessive viewing of porn on the hotel's pay-per-view system.

Because it had the air of legitimacy about it, he fell hook, line and sinker and approached the front desk to tell the Assistant Manager Susan that he had not ordered Brazilian Babes in Bondage or Forrest Hump.

Again, there was great laughter.

So why am I taking this huge gamble?

As many of you know today I am beginning my symbolic swim across the English Channel to raise money for the Wounded Warriors. My hope is that you'll sign up and donate a buck a mile or even two bucks a mile.

These brave soldiers have sacrificed so much, sacrificing my time and now, my dignity, seems so little to give in return.

By the way, in case you hadn't guessed this picture was taken a while ago.
I look a little different now.

My racing number 65 is no longer inked across my arms and thigh.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Visiting the neighborhood

Today, we're going to do something new.

If you'll notice at the top of this page there is a button for Next Blog. Out of curiosity and taking my cue from my buddy Jeff Gelberg (who did this experiment months ago) I decided to see who's across the street from me in the blogosphere.

I ended up here, at a blog called Learning the Ropes.

It's written by Dr. Ginger Carter Miller. I find it interesting that all three of her names end in 'er'. Not surprisingly, I didn't find much else very interesting. Particularly the fact that she leads a gluten-free life. Why are gluten-free people so smitten with the gluten-free life?

No offense to the good doctor, but I sense even she is disinterested in her own blog since the last time she posted an entry was in November of 2011.

Be that as it may, I still have great respect and admiration for my fellow bloggers who are willing to share their thoughts and opinions. And I've also been a sucker for a woman in a corset.

So what I'd like to do is to get Dr. Miller back on the blogging horse. And I think you can help.

I'd like you to copy and paste the link to her site and share it with friends on Facebook. Weeks or months from now, Dr. Miller will eventually check her site and, if she is like other bloggers, will also check her analytics and see a sudden spike in traffic for May 30, 2012.

She'll do a little investigation and find the source of all these new eyeballs, this posting. Then she'll write me a personal note of gratitude and invite me to give a speech on advertising at Georgia State University, where I will be hailed as some kind of faux advertising celebrity.

And I will agree to this little junket with the proviso that I am flown to Atlanta in First Class, that I am put up at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel and that all the female undergrads will attend that class wearing stiletto heels and a black leather corset.

At least, that's how it plays out in my head.


We are near $3200 and within donating distance of our $5000 goal.
Please sign up at: 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Put on your protective gear

The average person uses about 30,000 words in the English language. There are thousands more, but they have too many syllables or are difficult to pronounce and spell, so they sit on the shelf like an old can of leftover paint.

I play with words. It's what I get paid to do.

My job is to take those 30,000 words, rearrange them and make some kind of persuasive argument that will make you buy a particular product or service.

That's all advertising is.

But there's another group of people who don't see it that way. They have fancy titles. And make a lot more money. They're the ones that come up with Communications Platform Strategies. Or Paradigm Shifting Experiential Experiences. Or Bullshit Bullshit Bullshittery.

I would offer you more but the minute they start spewing that indecipherable jargon my mind goes blank or drifts to this.

But maybe you're one of those people who enjoys that type of thing. I know people who go to the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Niguel every year and watch people pose as classic paintings. Others enjoy The Riverdance. And millions of Americans seemed to be enthralled with cars going around a NASCAR track.

For aficionados of marketing's and business jargon, there can be nothing sweeter that this website which I'm sure will be an instant bookmark.

With a simple click of the mouse the Web Economy Bullshit Generator cranks out gems like "extend collaborative applications", "syndicate plug-and-play interfaces" and "reintermediate real-time initiatives."
I'm just spitballing some numbers here, but judging from the comprehensive list of terms, there must be well over 3, 872, 951 possible combinations.

Of course the only thing better than reading these nonsensical terms is seeing them put into action. And for that, compliments of professional curmudgeon George Parker, I give you this video gem:

You might be thinking, "Wow Rich, you'll never get any freelance assignments from these folks." And the truth is, I'm OK with that. Why? Because I have to work much harder and it takes much longer for me to produce the kind of crap they sell to clients.

The net result is lower ROPLCI, or Return on Personal Labor and Creativity Investment.

Put another way, I'd rather stay home and watch Dr. Drew.


We are near $3200 and within donating distance of our $5000 goal.
Please sign up at:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Crab Apple

Just finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

I mention that for two reasons.

First, I can't remember the last time I willingly got through a book of 627 pages. Actually it's only 571 and there are 50 odd pages of footnotes and annotations, but the copywriter in me chose the larger number even if it is stretching the truth.

But it seems I'm not the only one who has played hackey sack with the truth.
And that brings me to the second reason.

While author Walter Isaacson has penned a fast-moving and often-gripping account of Jobs' life, there are several missteps along the way. I know this because I had a ringside seat for many of the dealings between Apple and Chiat/Day.

In 1997, Mr. Isaacson writes Chiat/Day no longer pitched accounts. I know we would have liked to stop pitching accounts, particularly in light of the resources that it drains from the agency and the downright cretinous way clients go about reviews. Not to mention the crappy motels we were forced to stay in, I'm looking at you Hampton Inn, Wilkesboro, NC and your broken-ass in-room coffeemakers.

But the truth is, we pitched.

Between 1996 and 2002, we pitched ABC, Levis, Wall Street Journal,, Lowe's, Citibank, Red Roof, and many more.

Walter also gives a less-than-stellar account of the development of the Think Different campaign. He even attributes some of the manifesto writing to Mr. Jobs, including the pivotal last line: because the people crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I don't know much about the world. I'm not up on the differences between a Syrah and a Cab. I don't always set the table right. And I'm not well-versed in finance. But I do know copywriting. And that line was written by a copywriter.

In fact, you can read more about it here in a great piece written by my former boss Rob Siltanen.

Finally, while we are on the topic of credit, Mr. Isaacson shortchanges my good friend Susan Alinsangan, the art director who created the iconic iPod silhouette campaign that launched Apple into the music business. I could argue that he has marginalized the collective efforts of all the creative people who helped build the Apple brand, but I come from a somewhat biased point of view on the matter.

Besides it would only stroke the egos of people who don't need any more ego-stroking.
Particularly from me.

The larger point, and the one that lawyers often make, has to do with the Fruit of the Poisoned Tree. That is, if some of the fruit is tainted (which it clearly is), everything obtained from the tree must also be questioned.

In other words, you can't always believe everything you read. Unless you read it here at roundseventeen, where we boast a 100% AAA Rating*.

* Ratings reprinted with permission form the Siegel Institute of Brutal Honesty.


There's still time to sign up:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I See Dead People

Just checked the calendar and realized I hadn't written about People We Need To Kill in well over a month. In fact I almost missed the May edition.

This is surprising on many levels, mostly because if I didn't think it would lead to trouble with the police, I could write about a new group of people we need to dispose of on a daily basis.

Spoiler Alert: If you like to smoke cigarettes you're not going to like what I have to say about your filthy habit. Better to hit the close button and step outside for some cancer nip.

Unlike other creative folk, I get to work at a decent hour, usually 9:30 in the morning. Sometimes 9:45 if traffic is slowed by imbeciles texting on the 405. And everyday, without fail, there is a small gaggle of women gathered in the designated outdoor smoking area or as I call it, God's Waiting Room.

My guess is these woman like get to work early, not because they strike me as incredible productive, but because they like to get out of bed as quickly as possible and light up. After all, those 8 hours of sleeping are 8 hours they are not smoking. And if there's one thing smokers don't like, it's being separated from their ciggies.

These particular smokers, the ones outside my office building, also don't like to be too far from their Cinnabuns and Ho-Ho's. As a man with a BMI in the high twenties, I know I have to tread lightly here. But as I have written about regularly on roundseventeen, I fight the fat everyday and exercise great self-denial on a daily basis.

I'm not sure these huffing and puffing women, who all look ten years older than they are, have denied themselves anything, anytime, anywhere. They are the embodiment of lazy, undisciplined overconsumption. Moreover, and perhaps this is what troubles me, they're so damn happy about it.

But why wouldn't they be? Between the non-stop smoking, the guiltless eating, and the cloying chit chatting, they've managed to get 8 hours of pay for 2 hours of work.

And lest you think I'm being misogynistic about this, I share equal disdain for the 300 lbs. guy who strolls the business park with three packs of Newports in one hand and a walking cane in the other.

For years health advocates have been trying to get tobacco companies to reduce the carcinogens in their products. I think this is a misguided approach and will only serve to delay the inevitable and increase the cost of all our healthcare.

If had my druthers, tobacco companies would increase the carcinogenic content in their coffin nails. And they'd throw in some hemlock just for good measure.


There's still time to sign up:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Christmas in May

Pictured here, the Corflex Cryo Pneumatic Shoulder Orthosis with Reusable Gel Pack. 
Mine arrived from Amazon ten days ago. 
Six days ago, I figured out how to use it.

Use it? 
What is it? I'm sure you're thinking. 

As many of you know I have challenged myself to swim the equivalent distance of the English Channel in order to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. The swim commences on May 31st, Memorial Day and was detailed in last week's And though this effort is to raise money for a worthy cause it didn't stop one commenter, Tom 'Call me Douchebag' Positano, from making a douchey remark.

I was tempted to put this logic-impaired misanthrope in his place, but uncharacteristically chose the high road. 

Tom ignorantly dismisses swimming 3 miles a day as mere exercise. For any of you non-swimmers with remaining doubts, I invite you to swim 3 continuous laps without gasping for oxygen. 3 miles for those of you unwilling to do the math is 210 lengths of the pool. 

But back to the Corflex Cryo Pneumatic Shoulder Orthosis with Reusable Gel Pack. Which is just a longwinded way of saying ice pack. But the Corflex Cryo Pneumatic Shoulder Orthosis with Reusable Gel Pack is the Porsche of shoulder-specific ice packs. And for all the training miles I've been putting in the pool lately, I decided to treat myself.

Ergonomically designed to apply maximum ice exposure to the rotator cuff, it comes equipped with three industrial-strength straps fashioned from the finest Velcro. The anatomically shaped ice-pack insert contours the shoulder and is composed of quick freezing, state of the art nitrogen-based hydro- compounds. But what separates the Corflex Cryo Pneumatic Shoulder Orthosis with Reusable Gel Pack from other shoulder wraps is the easily inflatable air bladder that enables the user to apply the ice with additional pressure. 

Mmmmm, pressure.

In case you can't tell, I'm absolutely verklempt about my new toy.  
In fact, I'm wearing it right now. 

I think the full torso shot used in the catalogue picture does it more justice. And I would offer you a better shot of the Corflex Cryo Pneumatic Shoulder Orthosis with Reusable Gel Pack, but my daughter say it makes me look like I have man boobs. 

Actually what she said was, "It makes your man boobs even boobier."

Brutal honesty, alive and well at the Siegel household.


There's still time to sign up:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Woo-hoo It's Monday!

I can work anywhere.
And as a freelancer I have worked everywhere.

With nothing more than a laptop in my hand and a carefully-crafted creative brief full of meaningless planner phrases like "leadership position", "innovative thought management" and "humorous but not funny" at my disposal, I'm good to go. I have written brand campaigns in a park, in a coffee shop, even in an office that was a converted attic space.

I'm not complaining, even though that is in my nature. The jobs are usually short in nature and I'm very happy to be getting the assignments.

A few weeks ago I interviewed for a staff position at an agency where the creatives were stacked one on top of another like a chord of firewood. And I use that analogy purposely because those are the kind of working conditions that lead to burnout.

And they are not alone. If you watch AMC's The Pitch, you'll see many agencies opting for this elbow-to-elbow environment. They'll gussy it up and call it a open-space arena that curates creativity. But the truth is it's not so much about "sparking ideas" as it is about the soaring cost of commercial real estate.

About a century ago, when I first started work at Chiat/Day, I shared an open cubicle with my art director partner, Mary Ann. Just the two of us in an 8 foot by 10 foot area. And we actually did some good work together. But as many of you know a partnership bears a great resemblance to a marriage. A bad one. And after 6 months of close quarter contact, ticks become annoyances, annoyances become grievances and grievances become screaming matches.

Eventually someone goes home crying.

Years later, I found myself back at Chiat/Day in a different building with a different partner in a different 8 X10 cube. We too did good work, but like serial divorcees we found ourselves at each other's throats about the slightest slights. After 5 years of being attached at the desktop, it got to the point where I couldn't stand listening to my partner breath. "Do you have to breath so much?" I thought to myself, secretly planning hundreds of ways to kill this man.

Moreover he would bring his dog to work. And this dog, God rest his soul, was a very sweet dog. He could have used a Tic Tac once in a while but that's beside the point. But 80 square feet is tough to share with one other living creature, let alone, two.

Don't get me wrong. I love dogs. And I love kids.
More specifically, I love my dog and I love my kids.
Yours? Feh.

I have a lot more to say about the way agencies treat their Creative personnel but I also have some headlines to write. So I think I'll close the door to my office, stare out the window, kick some Scrabble ass and then get some work done.


There's still time to sign up:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are we there yet?

Can a fat old man swim the distance from Great Britain to France? 

More importantly, what are you willing to do for the American men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan?

William Arthur Ward once said, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don't bother me I'm working

Had a very Woody Allen-like email exchange last week with fellow blogger/copywriter/kvetcher George Tannenbaum. I wanted to know if he had been watching The Pitch, AMC's new advertising show. In his inimitable way, George wrote back, "I don't watch TV. It would cut into the amount of time I obsess about the Holocaust."

His answer was flip.
But then again, it wasn't.

Like George, I find myself still angsting about the Shoah. I have the History Channel, or as my daughters call it The Hitler Channel, on speed dial. I am intimately familiar with the rise and the fall of the Third Reich (I like the fall better). And I tend to gobble up any books or articles written about that awful time, when one out of every three Jews was murdered. The story of the 6 million must have been told 6 billion times.

To venture into this territory is to risk being repetitive, dull and uninteresting.
Of course, that has never stopped me before.

So let's take a look at the sign that every Auschwitz victim saw before entering the death camp. It reads Arbeit Macht Frei ,which translates to Work Makes You Free.

The sign was hung in irony, by Nazis who were mocking those on their way to the gas chambers and the ovens. But it does more. I believe that Germans saw in Jews that which they lacked in themselves, an indomitable spirit. That is why we became the target of their hate.

In the post-depression, post-World War One era, Germans were suffering through difficult economic times. But Jews were succeeding. In science, in academics, in finance, in art and in literature.

Why? Work.

Long before there was a Protestant Work ethic or an American Work ethic, there was a Jewish one.

My substantiation for this is all anecdotal. But it is also self-evident.

How is it that a people who represent .2% of the world's population account for 22% of the Nobel Prize Winners? How is it that people who prior to 1948 had no country, no home and no will to fight, now find themselves as a prosperous, self-sufficient nation at the cutting edge of technology? And why is it that many gentile parents will tell their daughters to settle down with a nice Jewish boy?

The answer is straightforward and simple. It has nothing to do clannishness. Or some secret plot to dominate the world. Or even an some old-timey biblical pact with the devil. Those canards are just canards.

We Jews simply work hard. Harder than others it appears.

Look at three of the most arguably influential men in civilization: Albert Einstein, Karl Marx and Jesus Christ. All of Jewish lineage. One slaved tirelessly to answer the riddles of our universe. One rewrote politics and created, albeit misguided, a new system for sharing resources. And another convinced billions of people to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Though many of his followers could use a refresher course.

Our propensity for hard work is why the Nazis, the Cossacks, the Inquisitors, the Mohammedans, the Romans and countless others wanted to kill us.

It is also why they have failed.

So if you see an unusually wealthy or successful Member of the Tribe, don't hate them because they're Jewish, hate them because they work hard.

That's enough ranting about anti-semitism, the Holocaust and our alleged super-industriousness. At least for today. If you have an upcoming project and need a hard working copywriter, I invite you look at my credentials, here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There's a Nap for That

I was reading the Harvard Crimson the other day -- significant pause so you can regain your breath -- and discovered a few inventive grad students had developed a new app for the iPhone. It's called Sigmund and it works off a very simple premise.

If you've ever found yourself dreaming in the early morning hours you know that sometimes your brain will incorporate outside stimuli into a dream.

If for instance, your wife starts making coffee in the kitchen and starts listening to Pink Floyd, there's a good possibility you could find yourself sipping iced lattes with Scarlet Johannsen on a rocket ship doing circles around the Dark Side of the Moon.

That's how dreams work.

So these bright young men devised an application that calculates your REM cycle, that is the time you are most likely to be dreaming, and uses the voice activation mode on your iPhone to suggest words or phrases that will be incorporated into your dreams.

Before you get ahead of yourself here Sparky you should know that the folks at Apple run a very Disney-like corporation. But you can be sure there are coders and programmers in Chatsworth feverishly working night and day to remedy that as we speak.

The most prurient words you'll find on Sigmund are: mistress, sex, bikini, silk and fruit. Hardly the stuff of libidinous magic. But had these Harvard nerds done a little more right brain thinking they could have creatively short-skirted the Apple guidelines and still produced the desired results.

Here are some perfectly innocent words that could have innocently been added to the app:

Lincoln Tunnel
Hot dogs
Pipe cleaner
Leather Collar
Fishing Net

I'm sure you can think of a thousand more.

At this point you're probably curious to know whether it all works. And I'm here to tell you, "I don't know." I downloaded the app, picked out my five words for the evening, set the phone on my nightstand and let it do its thing. I woke the next morning, experienced a night of unusually vivid dreams, but can't recall if any of them involved: chocolate, lipstick, Paris, speedboat and a catcher's mask.

In fact, I can't remember anything.

Dreams, as you well know, are flighty, non-linear and thoroughly insignificant.
Not unlike roundseventeen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reader Appreciation Day

Today's post is about you.
OK, one of you.

You see it dawned on me the other day, probably after watching a recent report about online narcissism, that I write way too much about myself. Granted this is my blog and I'm free to do as I please and you are free to ignore this as you please, but still I do find the trend disturbing. Even writing about myself being upset with how much I write about myself, is a tad unsettling.

But enough about me, let's talk about you.

If you look in the very lower right hand corner of this blog you'll see the 74 people who have taken the time to sign up and follow roundseventeen on a regular basis. The number hasn't grown much lately. And frankly that doesn't bother me. I have signed up for other blogs and haven't read them in ages. So, in essence, the whole practice is meaningless.

But recently, I picked up a new follower. A fellow who goes by the name Kold Kadavr. I don't remember going to school or working with someone with that moniker, I'm pretty sure I'd remember if I did.

Not to mention Mr. Kadavr's striking and unforgettable pompadour.

So once again I indulged my curiosity. After all, if Kold Kadavr was interested in my daily spouting, I could at the very least show some interest in his. And it turns out that this Accountant from Topeka, Kansas (which is not a place you want to visit in the middle of summer) has put me to shame in the blogging department.

You see, where I maintain but one admittedly narcissistic blog, Mr. Kadavr lists himself as the author of no less than 15. That's right 15 blogs!

And these are no ordinary blogs, trust me, I've taken the time to look at all of them. Here's a small sampling of his writing:

I've admitted it before and I'll admit it again, I'm not the world's biggest reader. My tastes tend toward current events, history and non-fiction. I'm not much on prose, nuance or subtext. I appreciate writers who wield those tools, I've just never been one of them.

However, I'm open to new experiences, new literature and new authors, like Mr. Kadavr. And even though I haven't the slightest clue as to what he is talking about, I would like to publicly thank him for sharing his unique brand of schizophrenia. If for no other reason than to expand my vocabulary.

In fact in recognition of his distinctive and indecipherable style, over the course of the next few days, either on this blog, or in one my commercials, I will actively be seeking to use my new word for the day: askance.

Thanks KK, keep on blogging.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I'm working with Lindsay

Last week I received an assignment from my friends at a Hollywood boutique ad agency. They needed ideas for the upcoming Lifetime movie "Liz and Dick". The movie, if you haven't heard, will be starring Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor.

I do a lot of work for these guys and the process works out incredibly well.

They send over a brief, via email. We talk on the phone, when necessary, and a few days later I send them back a whole bunch of scripts. Few, if any, ever get produced. Cable TV networks have a tendency to fall back to the default of a few clips plus a very short, snappy pun-filled voiceover.

And that's fine with me. I understand my role is to provide meeting fodder. I give the agency ideas that Cable Networks might use if they ever wanted to step out of their comfort zone. They, being television people, rarely do.

Anyway, I received the brief for Liz and Dick. And they also included a sneak preview of the movie script to help me develop promos ideas. Highlighted, underlined and bolded in the email, was an addendum about the very confidential nature of the project. None of which I have violated in this post.

In no uncertain terms I was told NOT to share the script with anyone.

Share it?

I'm not even going to read it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This sucks

I don't make a good patient. I suspect most men don't. Fortunately I don't get sick very often, but when I do, I generously share the discomfort with my wife and my two daughters.

I often compound that discomfort by gleefully ignoring my wife's counsel.

When stricken with a bad cold she will tell me to apply some Vapo rub. While I enjoy the smell of Eucalyptus, my thick hairy chest is no place for a sticky herbal gel. She'll tell me to drink some green tea to break up the congestion. But I'm a coffee man, and despite my Scottish heritage, have no inclination towards tea.

But God bless her persistence -- perhaps it's just her desire to get me to quit bitching -- she will also suggest I try the Neti Pot. I think you can probably guess where I net out on this ancient Himalayan nasal irrigation system. The thought of running semi-boiling water up my nostrils usually has me running straight for the medicine cabinet and 10mg of hydrocodone.

Vicodin (hydrocodone) does very little to relieve the symptoms of a cold or bronchitis. But when combined with a fews cups of coffee, none of that, or anything else, seems to matter.

But this year, after 10 years of rejecting her intimations, I caved in. (The Weinblatt women have nagging down to an art.) Like so many other occasions, my wife was right. I'm now a Neti Pot convert.

I love its efficacy. And firmly believe in the power of direct nasal cavity drainage. But let's face it the Neti Pot can get quite messy. But then I came across the device pictured above.

Now I've got to convince my wife to get on the receiving end of the Nasal Suck 9000 and assist me the next time I catch a cold.

That could also be a 10-year process.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gentlemen, start your engines

Ever since Hiller and Diller was canceled I don't watch a lot of network TV.

That is not say I don't watch any, I'm particularly fascinated by some of the reality shows. As I mentioned yesterday I enjoy The Pitch, mostly for its high schadenfreud content. I dig the treasure-finding adventures of Storage Wars. But my new favorite, and this is born from my innate need for justice, is Bait Car.

Perhaps you've seen it. The cops rig a new Cadillac Escalade or a Ford Taurus with a gaggle of hidden lipstick cameras. Then they plant two undercover cops in the vehicle who stage a phony argument. Some of these officers of the law may have missed their calling to the stage or the silver screen. The sparring battle ends with the two combatants leaving the vehicle in a huff. In all the excitement they purposely leave the keys in the ignition.

Act Two begins.

The would-be thieves pounce on the abandoned vehicle. Sometimes it's a solo miscreant, but more often the vehicle is boosted by a bandit and his buddy. The Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of joyriding, as it were. For some reason the stealing of a car is best enjoyed by two. And that's OK with me. Because the dialogue between the carjackers, while not of the Newman/Redford standard, is so delicious. The joy of getting a $40,000 car for free makes for some great repartee.

"Dude, check it out, the car has a stereo."

"Oh dude, look at this, it's got a glove compartment!"

"I get the wheels Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you get it Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. And then we'll switch off every Saturday."

"I'm gonna take my lady to a movie and maybe some Mickey D's afterwards, it's gonna be sic."

It's as if these bozos have never known the joy of working hard at job, earning enough money and buying a car for themselves...oh wait.

Using a remote control, the cops lock the doors to the vehicle. Call me crazy but I love that sound. They shut down the engine. And then surround the vehicle in their shiny black-and-whites and muscular unmarked Dodge Chargers. The cops have a lot of toys at their disposal and it's satisfying to see my tax dollars at work.

Every episode of Bait Car ends the same. But what it lacks in a twisting denouement, it more than makes up for in spontaneity and on-the-fly-excuse-making.

The clueless thugs exit the Bait Car and begin spinning their yarn.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I was parking the car for this lady."

"Which lady? What's her name?"

"I don't know her name. But I saw she left the keys in the car and I didn't want anybody taking it 'cause you know there are some bad mother*ckers on the street. So I was doing her a favor and was parking the car somewhere safe."

"And how were you going to return the keys to her?"

"We didn't get that far with the plan."

"Get in the back of the patrol car."

If ever a television show warranted a laugh track, Bait Car would be that show.

I often tell my daughters, life isn't always fair.
But at 8PM, Wednesday Night on TRU-TV, it can be.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Pitch, Bitch.

I missed the Mad Men train about 4 years ago and have no intention of renting the DVD set to catch up. When my colleagues start their eventual recap of last night's episode, I'll simply grin and nod and turn my inner attention to the next campaign I'm supposed to be writing.

But when AMC introduced us to The Pitch I knew I couldn't make the same mistake twice.

This is train wreck television at its worst. Meaning at its finest.

Contrived scenarios. Sound byte dialogue. And punch-worthy villains, like last week's Ray Johnson, who are literally part of my inner career circle. That's right I named names. I'm living on the edge.

What's most interesting about The Pitch and its semi-documentary portrayal of the advertising new business process is how little it actually resembles reality. Particularly in my case.

You see, I had the unique fortune to spend the majority of my agency life at TBWA Chiat/Day under the leadership of Lee Clow. I had the even greater fortune to work on several "pitches" with him. And in many ways these experiences -- like the show -- also bore very little any resemblance to way things are in advertising.

Lee is that iconic.

He's the industry star who is actually known outside our industry. I remember chatting with him at an airline terminal on our way to do a meet and greet and seeing passengers lugging their suitcases, pointing at Lee and murmuring as if they had seen a celebrity. And in truth, they had. Lee has crossed over into mainstream. He's the Jenna Jamison of advertising.

As you can imagine, that kind of star power can change the dynamics of a new business pitch. Not only does he look like Moses, he brings the same presence and conviction. So persuasive are Lee's powers I suspect that had he visited the Pharaoh and proclaimed "let my people go", the Egyptians would have saved themselves the nuisance of 10 pesky plagues.

I don't know what the rest of The Pitch season has in store for us, but I do know you will not see anyone in Lee's league.

Walking into a Pitch with Lee made all our jobs easier. It was like being Earle Combes, the Yankees center fielder who batted in front of Babe Ruth and came away with a .356 lifetime average.

And it explains why, unlike the uncomfortable participants in the TV show, I never felt nervous during the actual pitch. Ever. There was very little stammering. Or stumbling. Or painful silent pauses when a powerpoint or DVD player wouldn't cooperate. And that's because Chief Marketing Officers and CEO's were always thrilled to have Lee in the room, telling them what they could and should be doing to improve their business.

Did we win everything we pitched? Of course not. And some of those, like the Wall Street Journal and Lowe's, still sting. But to this day I'll never understand why clients weren't lining up outside our door to work with the architect and the ad agency responsible for so many incredible campaigns including the resurgence of Apple Computer, the most successful company on the planet.

So yes, there were times when potential clients didn't pick us.
And we weren't the winner.
But we weren't the loser either.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Marquis Piece

This is the ad that was good enough to appear in two portfolios.

Permit me to elaborate.

A little less than twenty years ago, I was an Associate Creative Director at Team One Advertising. We had been experiencing rapid growth and needed to expand our staff of writers and art directors. The call to recruiters went out. And the portfolios came in.

This was before the Internet, when creatives actually had a box or a leather case with all their laminated work and 3/4 reel of their TV spots.  Now it seems all Creative Directors want to see are tiny flash-animated banners and social media prowess ("that's a nice Tweetdeck"), but I'll save my diatribe on that for another day.

It doesn't take long to spot a good portfolio from the rest of the dreck one normally sees. And my partner had singled out a promising young writer whose work he suggested I see. I was very impressed with all the work in his book. Particularly a long copy print spread for the Nissan Pathfinder.

Why was I so taken by this one piece? Because I WROTE it.

That's right, this ambitious go-getter had pilfered my ad and posed as its author.

So I did what you would do, assuming you harbor a persecution complex and an overblown sense of indignation. I called the aspiring writer from Canada who was aching to join the Team One team.

"Hey, ______ ________, we're looking at your portfolio and really like what we see."

"Great",  said the clueless one.

"We need writers who can actually write and from the long copy ads in your book it appears you might be one of them." I said exercising unprecedented restraint.

"Oh, I think long copy ads take some real craftsmanship. Not many people can do it well."

Clearly, I thought. 

"This Pathfinder ad is beautiful", I said never missing an opportunity to pat myself on the back. "Did you write it?"

" Yep", he replied without a moment's hesitation.

"Really? Cause according to several awards annuals I was the one listed as the copywriter" I shot back.

You could feel the air being sucked 1753 miles through the telephone line.

Then he gave me some half-hearted bullshit about having to resize the ad for a different publication and filling out a widow or two. But in no way did he write the 1526 word double page spread.

After a long silent pause on my end and much to his credit, he fessed up. And admitted he had made a terrible mistake. We Fed Exed his portfolio, minus one Nissan ad, back to him. I also included a finely worded note about integrity. If you haven't noticed after 642 entries here, I'm kind of a stickler about integrity, particularly since there's so little of it left in our industry.

Two days later, he sent a heartfelt letter of apology with a plea to never air out this ugly piece of dirty laundry. And true to my word, I haven't mentioned the young man's name.

But now I've had a chance to reread the ad and I cringe at how poorly it's overwritten. It's slow, it's meandering -- not unlike this story -- and the phrasing is abysmal. I don't know what I or my Creative Director was thinking.

With the benefit of hindsight I realize I should have removed the ad from my portfolio and let him keep it. He would have been doing me a favor.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stroke for stroke

There was a very interesting article in last week's NY Times on a topic of which I am intimately familiar.
Daniel Jones eloquently lays out the benefits of being bald. But not just bald. Down to the skin bald. As in shaved head bald.

I don't want to tell a reporter at the Old Gray Lady how to do his job , but in an apparent oversight, he only devoted one paragraph to the actual process, that is the shaving of own's head. And since it's that time of the week and my computer has a built in camera, I thought I'd give you a first head account.

Unlike Mr. Jones, I don't do my head shaving in the shower. But I do agree, a good lathering is crucial. I find it very soothing to rub shaving cream over my massive skull. I never got any joy from applying shaving cream to my face but palming my head and spreading a thin layer of blue skin-sensitive Edge is different.

Next, I pop in a brand new Fusion cartridge with the patented 5 Blade Shaving Surface Technology. It seems like just yesterday the fine folks at Gillette were offering the double bladed cartridge. That was quickly followed by the 3-blade and the 4-blade. We seem to have been stuck on the 5-blade cartridge for an unusually long time. I know why it takes car companies three years to roll out a new model, I don't understand the delay on the 6-blade model.

My dad taught me how to shave my face, but there was no one there to mentor me for that first auto-scalping. At first I was very nervous, but much to my delight the sensation was quite painless. Enjoyable, in fact. I start on the left side, just above the temple and slowly drag the blade back to the nape of my neck. Then, as if mowing a lawn, I repeat the process, forming a new line of attack with each progressive stroke.

When I have completed the forward to back motion, I reverse course and go over the covered ground, starting from my neck and ending near my eyebrows. This is important, because sometimes the grain of the hair goes the other way. And you don't want to leave any patches or stubble. 

This too creates an odd sensation because as you drag a razor blade over the bony areas of the skull, you can actually hear the blades shearing off the hair.

Finally, because one has to complete a major chunk of this operation without the benefit of vision and because thoroughness is important, I will rub my left hand over my newly barren scalp to find any errant hairs. When I'm done, my head is cue-ball smooth. Only it's slightly slick from the gel shaving cream. It's an indescribably clean feeling that sadly only lasts a day or two before the stubborn follicles make their unwanted return.

Most of you will never know the joy of this unique experience. And my intent was not to convince you to give it a try. But one of these days I will put my powers of persuasion to the test.

You see, I work with a woman who is very Jewish. She is Orthodox and keeps kosher. Meaning she has never satiated herself with a rack of fall-off-the-bone, smothered-in-BBQ-sauce, baby back ribs. That is a sin. A wrong that needs to be righted.

I have a blog and a computer with a camera and, as I have demonstrated, I'm willing to use them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Holy Kroc!

Seeing as today is May Day I figured a story about labor was in order.

Last week, I stumbled onto this little nugget.

By the way if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I do a lot of stumbling. That's the nature of being a copywriter. Or any writer for that matter. You don't just step up to the terminal and the keyboard and start throwing words on the page. Granted, there's a little of that. But in between well-crafted sentences and solidly-contained paragraphs, there's a lot of dilly dallying. And dilly dallying leads to stumbling. And stumbling leads to blogging.

I'm fortunate to count myself among those who never worked at McDonalds. But that is not to say I  escaped the greasy clutches of the fast food world. I put in considerable amount of time at Jack in the Box, their less corporate, less dogmatic rival across the street.

Not sure if it applies today, but at the time there was a palpable hierarchy in the kind of kids who flipped burgers and stuffed tacos. And in many ways it mirrored the pecking order in high school. This was captured brilliantly in the "C" story line in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, more specifically Judge Rheinhold's painful descent into fast food hell.

McDonalds was the domain of the overachievers. Bright eyed kids with good skin and even better teeth. They smiled a lot. Said "yes mam" and "yes sir". And they all seemed to be bucking for a promotion to shift leader. They were Hitler Youth in polyester uniforms.

The Burger King kids were next in line. They didn't get hired at McDonalds and didn't take that rejection particularly well. They had the same good looks and get up and go spirit, but for some reason they didn't make the cut. The BK company slogan was "special orders don't upset us", but special orders did upset them. And you could see it on the kid's faces. And the cheeseburgers that were missing pickles and onions. Their can-do attitude was bitterly replaced with an up-yours.

Then came Wendys.
Followed by Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips.
And bringing up the rear were the Jacksters from Jack in the Box.

We were the outsiders. The independents. We hated our jobs. We hated our bosses. We even hated the food. It was not uncommon for some of us to have a pizza delivered for our lunch break. But, oddly enough, we also loved each other.

Perhaps because we were not jocks or cheerleaders or in the band or part of the rocket club, we formed a bond and enjoyed a special camaraderie, rarely seen in today's workplaces. We drank together. We went out together. We took mischief-making trips to New York City and almost went to jail together.

Other than folks who worked in the Creative Department, I couldn't name five people who I worked with at Y&R. But decades after the fact, I could rattle off 10-15 names of people who punched the clock at Box #1428, 10 Central Ave., Spring Valley, NY.

Like Armand, uh....I don't remember his last name, but I do remember he was from the shallow end of the gene pool. I also remember the time -- I want to say one time but he might have done this on multiple occasions -- he dropped his tongs in the 450 degree cooking oil to fry the tacos. No sooner did the tongs go in the hot oil than did his hands go in trying to retrieve them.

That's a scream I can't erase from my hard drive.

Steve Shayne, the assistant manager quickly rushed Armand to the hospital which was located nearby. It wasn't the first or the last time Steve had to drive Armand there. But he didn't mind. Because like the rest of us, he didn't care for Jumbo Jacks. And the hospital was just across the street from the McDonalds.