Thursday, November 29, 2012

Excuse Me?

I've been in advertising many, many years.

I know dozens of my contemporaries are looking for ways to get out. These are mostly staffers, working managerial positions and not having half the fun they used to.

I'm not looking for a way out, mostly because I like working the way I do. As a mercenary. Sometimes actually going in to an office. Sometimes working from my house. But rarely meeting with planners, account people or clients. Or dealing with any of the mishigas that can instigate the fight or flight response.

In that respect, I'd like to work many, many more years in this crazy business.

Not to get a spot in the Super Bowl or create another award winning campaign, though that would be nice. Not to build my portfolio. I'm way past that. Not even to prove the remarkably obvious point that age and experience are more instrumental to an agency's success than free bagels, Friday afternoon keg parties or a creative department full of clueless hipsters in stingy brim fedora hats.


I'd like to work in advertising so that one day, maybe, perhaps, with a little luck, on the off chance, with a sprinkle of serendipity, I might hear a client say:

"That's good, but it doesn't make me nervous. I want something that makes me feel nervous."

"I like the dog, but wouldn't it be better with a monkey?"

"I have a gut feeling about this, let's skip the focus groups."

"This feels like spoon-feeding. We shouldn't speak down to our customers."

"I like it, I don't care what my boss thinks."

"I know this should have a social media component, but let's save that money and put into the production budget."

"Let's give it more white space."

"Now that the planner has left the room, can you tell me what he does?"

I could probably come up with 100 more of the quips, but the codeine based cough medicine I've been taking is making me sleepy. Feel free to add your own.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

That's Hot!

Until last week, I had never given much thought to my thermostat. And living here in Southern California, I had even fewer reasons than many.

But recently, a technician came out to the house to do a complimentary service on the furnace he installed last year. He needed to confibulate the flik-flaks or calibrate the manifold exhaust valve pistons. The point is he needed to do something that involved gas and electricity, two forces of nature I usually shy away from.

When he left the house, everything was hunky dory. Then the weather turned cold and neither I, my wife, nor my two gadget-inclined daughters could figure out the thermostat.

I didn't want to program the thermostat because well we're just not pre-programmed people. But I couldn't figure out how to put the damn thing in manual mode. I would turn the temperature up to 70 degrees, the heat would kick in and within minutes it would shut down again and the thermostat setting would magically go down to 62.

And the little brochure, written in Korean pidgin English was of no help. I wanted to "bring great dishonor to cold" but I couldn't find the dishonor button.

So I sprung into action. Meaning I went to the Best Buy store and bought the second generation Nest Thermostat.

Designed by a former Apple Engineer, it has all the beauty and intuitiveness of an iPod. Even the packaging has the careful detailing one expects from the folks in Cupertino.

Naturally I was a little intimidated by the installation process but there were ample videos online that demonstrate just how easy the task can be.

I flipped the circuit breaker, unhinged the old thermostat and carefully drilled the base unit into the wall. As I was inserting the color coded wires, two of them touched and sent a low voltage jolt up my right arm. It was shocking, but not altogether unpleasant.

Within minutes I had successfully, and cleanly I might add, installed the Nest unit. Then I connected to the wireless network that runs throughout the house. Now I can change the temperature on my thermostat from my iPhone.

I realize I'm getting excessively exuberant about all this. But I'm a bit of a control freak and this is just one more element of my environment that is at my command.

If Apple or the people from Nest ever design a gizmo that can reign in my teenage daughters, I'll be the first one camped out on the sidewalk.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Our Day with Ally Sheedy

The 1970's are considered to be the height of American cinema. That storied decade gave us The Godfather, The French Connection, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Manhattan and Jaws.

Sadly, the 1980's followed with such stellar films as Yentl, Ishtar, and Over The Top.

1985 also gave us the Breakfast Club, a breakout vehicle for many brat packers including Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall -- all of whom went on to make a huge impact on the thespianic arts.

I know that for many The Breakfast Club has a lot of nostalgic value. For me it has none. Well, almost none.

You see following its release, another star, Ally Sheedy, also found instant fame and was quickly catapulted unto the A list of actresses. Determined not to become a Rom-Com princess in the John Hughes fantasy world, Ally began searching out meatier, more dramatic roles. And she became a Method Actor.

So when she agreed to play the character of a fast rising Art Director at a hip ad agency there was only one thing to do -- hang out with a creative team at Chiat/Day.

Perhaps because all the other teams were involved with some award-winning campaigns, and because we were not, we were chosen for the task.

The plan was for Ms. Sheedy to spend an entire day with my partner and I to get a feel for what we did and how we did it. If memory serves, she strolled in around 11 o'clock. We exchanged some small talk. She was very pleasant. And then she watched as my partner kerned some body copy and asked me to fill in some widows on a 1/2 page ad for the 1991 Nissan Maxima.

Hardly the stuff of Shakespeare.

She took us to lunch at the Rose Cafe and returned to the office so she could watch us get briefed on a new assignment and shoot rubber bands at the other creative teams in the adjoining cubicles. In addition to her high cheekbones and strong chin, Ms. Sheedy has been blessed with a quick mind.

Because by 2:30 PM her limo showed up and she was out of there.

We eagerly awaited the movie's release. Hoping to get a screen credit as technical consultants. But like so many Hollywood dreams, we were crushed. We found out the film got shit-canned.

Apparently the studio execs came to the conclusion that movies about people in advertising are just not that interesting. I could have saved them millions of development dollars. I have 4 half-written screenplays to that effect.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Like you, we will be partaking in all the usual traditions. There will be two turkeys, one (the big one) roasted, and a smaller backup turkey, smoked on the grill. There will be dull football games playing on the bigscreen TV. Games whose outcome means nothing to anyone at our celebration. And there will be ample excuses to exceed my daily allotment of bourbon.

18 excuses to be exact, including all my sisters-in-law, who, let's just say, have been blessed with the gift of gab.

But this year, thanks to a tip from my niece (who just got her Master's degree and is looking for a job, nudge, nudge) we'll be doing something I'm pretty sure your family will not.

You see, last week her and her boyfriend were watching the Jimmy Fallon show. He and his guest, Jason Sudeikus, agreed to play a little game of Russian Egg Roulette. It's based on the same premise as Russian Roulette, but in this case the game is not played with blanks and bullets. It's played with eggs, hard boiled and not hard boiled.

So after the turkey is eaten and before the Tryptophan sets in, the men will adjourn to the backyard. And then we will engage in a round robin tournament armed with only with our courage and three dozen Grade AA generic brand eggs.

Because what better way to thank the Lord for his blessings than to drunkenly smash that bounty against our foreheads and permanently stain our recently-pressed Oxford shirts?  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I am an idiot

Sometimes I'll be at a party or a school event or simply outside in the real world and somebody will ask me what I do for a living. I tell them I'm a copywriter. That I write TV commercials and such for large ad agencies. What I don't say, or try not to, is...

"I'm a writer."

That is a loaded response, fraught with all kinds of death traps.

You see, when you tell people you're a writer they make the assumption that you are smart. I'm not smart.

I'm smart enough to make a comfortable living. Smart enough to keep myself and my family out of financial trouble. Smart enough to convince Facebook friends that I have a good grasp on geopolitics, current events and the tenets of modern secularism. Smart enough to use a multi-syllabic phrase like tenets of modern secularism.

But make no mistake, I'm not smart.

People also assume writers are readers. I wish I were a reader but sadly I'm not. My wife, an avid reader, jokes that I am the least well-read writer she has ever known. That's when I remind her that I'm a copywriter. Big difference.

I'd like to read more. The problem is there's so much to read, I hardly know where to start.

Years ago, I had a job in Irvine, CA. A 53-mile commute that would take an hour in the morning and an hour and a half at night. To make the most of this time, I started listening to books on tape. Not just any books, mind you. I was determined to put as many classics under my belt as possible. And I notched quite a few: Frankenstein, Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, Beowulf, Dracula, The Fountainhead, The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World, and about three dozen more.

I was beginning to fill the literary vacuum that had haunted me since the discovery of Cliff Notes in high school. But then the job ended. And with it, my pursuit of a basic 11th grader's reading level.

Recently I tried to muscle my way through Salmon Rushdie's Satanic Verses. This guy is to prose what Guy Fieri is to nacho cheese, he can lay it on thick. I made it through 52 pages and still couldn't tell you what the hell was happening in the book.

Which makes it all the more interesting that thousands of illiterate Pakistanis managed to pick up Rushdie's subtext and thematic treatment that they would call for the author's death.

I enjoyed listening to Rushdie on the Bill Maher show, maybe I'll go back and give him another try.

But it is difficult. Because time spent reading is time not spent on the Internet and finding gems like this:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bone Us

The Christmas Bonus.

It's that time of year again, when none of us will get one.

Of course that wasn't always the case. I remember getting my first Xmas bonus. It was my first year in the corporate world. There I was, a lowly mailroom clerk, seated among some of the most highly regarded creative professionals in the ad industry. People responsible for making Los Angeles a legitimate advertising town.

We were at the Riviera Country, where, ironically enough, I would return 10 years later to get married. Agency Principal Gerry Rubin, decked out in a fancy suit and an even fancier cowboy hat strutted around the banquet room handing out envelopes. He approached me, shook my hand, thanked me for all the hard work I had put in that year, though I'm absolutely sure he did not even know my name. Nevertheless, he placed a #10 Navajo White envelope on my place setting.

The more seasoned folks simply placed the envelope in their coat pocket or their purse. I had none of that well-practiced Protestant restraint. I ripped it open before Gerry had moved on to the next table. Inside, I found (1) incredibly-crisp, never-been-folded hundred dollar bill.

Until that point in my life, I'd never held an actual C-note. I was giddy with excitement. And thought, naively I might add, this is just the beginning. This is going to get better and bigger with every passing year in the business.

It did not.

Apparently Southern California ad agencies -- and I've worked at all of them --  have been in a recession and in belt-tightening mode for the last 25 consecutive years. Monetary bonuses were soon replaced with trinkets. Umbrellas. Hoodies. Moleskin tablets. When that got too costly, agencies went to gestures.

"In lieu of a gift we have generously made a donation to the Don't Eat the Dolphins Fund in your name."

Never acknowledging that this charitable donation made for a healthy year tax write-off.
For the agency that is.

And soon the gestures became distant memories. Not only had the Christmas bonus vanished, the grumbling about not getting a year end or Xmas bonus had also disappeared. Now savvy staffers, who are lucky that they have a job, know to keep their mouths shut.

After all, happy shareholders are more important than happy employees.

I work for a very small company now. In fact, we only have one employee: Rich Siegel. And he's done a fantastic job this year. So he's going to get a bonus. And an expensive bottle of bourbon. And some new underwear. And we're going to make a donation to Red Cross in his name. And to top it all off, we're even going to let him write the charitable gift off his tax return.

Merry Christmas, Rich.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Lord does provide

Ruby Shipp used to teach English at the nearby Culver City High School. She also lived in my house before we bought it from her estate in 1993.We still get mail for Ruby so I innocently assumed her identity and have started a correspondence with the Peter Popoff Ministry.

Popoff calls his "church", People United For Christ.

I'm pretty sure Jesus would not look too kindly on the right reverend and his crude technique for separating poor people from what little money they might have.

In his latest package, Popoff sent several (Chinese-made trinkets) including this:

It's nothing more than a piece of nylon chord. I placed it next to my car keys for reference. Popoff wants me (Ruby) to return the chord (then why did he send it?) along with a Prayer offering of $38. In exchange, according the letter, "I have hooked up a SPECIAL PHONE LINE so I can whisper these words directly from our dear Lord's heart into your ear."

Additionally, he sent this lovely bracelet, constructed from the finest synthetic materials and hand-molded plastic:

This is my new Luke 6:38 Bracelet of Blessing...JESUS LOVES ME. He wants me to wear it daily, saying, "I am in prayer agreement with you and your financial needs."

I'm not sure that the corpse of poor old Ruby has many financial needs, but it's good to know they are in the holy and generous hands of Peter Popoff.

And finally, there was this:

A blank check drawn from the Bank of Heaven. Lordy, will miracles never cease?

And just in time for me to do all my Hanukkah shopping.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just Say No.

As I write this it is 10 AM. I woke up an hour ago. Put on a pot of coffee. Had some low calorie cereal. Replaced the batteries on my thermostat. And played a few games of online Scrabble.

In other words, I'm not at work.

This is unusual for me, even as a freelancer. You see, this has been one incredibly busy year. I haven't worked at a lot of different agencies, but the ones I have did work for, just kept extending me.

It wasn't because they like to have some male eye candy walking the halls.
They extended me because I help put out fires.
Many, many fires.

You see, I write. Whereas most of the folks who call themselves copywriters these days do not actually live up to their job title. I've seen what they do. They make presentations on Post It Notes. They conjure up InstaGrams. They mumble on about social media projects that will only be seen by 327 people.

They do everything but write.

And for me, that's the best of part ad life. I'm not big on meetings. Or exchanging small talk in the hallways. Or "collaborating" with client partners. Particularly the latter. Because that's when what I've written gets dumbed down and becomes what a committee has unwritten.

It's when the compromises start. And never seem to end.

And if you haven't guessed, capitulating, checking off boxes, settling for mediocrity, these are not my strong suits. Once in the name of ambition, I had a stomach for it. Not anymore.

Right now I've got two, possibly three commercials, that have been approved at competing agencies. Neither of these agencies bothered to keep me on for production. I understand. Why pay me a full day rate to sit around to eat sushi and approve wardrobe selections?

Some creatives would grumble about not seeing their work through to the end. I call these people, young.

You see when a commercial goes into production the client Hollywood wannabes come out of their cubicles. Suddenly everybody has an opinion.

"I don't like that actress. She reminds me of my neighbor."

"Let's shoot the red car. Or maybe the black one. The silver is nice."

"What lens is he using?"

Worst of all, when you're on a set, the tenuous power balance between agency and client is tilted in the favor of the party writing the checks.

On one unforgettable occasion and under the threat of an impending thunderstorm, a client, who had graduated with an MBA just 8 months prior to the shoot, caused a two hour delay to a tight shooting schedule, in order to angle a Jaguar XK 3 inches to the left.


For a shot that lasted 2 seconds on screen.

I'm sure he's now the CMO of a major auto manufacturer.

This was more than 10 years, and I'm just now purging it from my system.

So here's my compromise. I'll write your commercials. Or your manifestos. Or your print ads. Or your radio spots. But when it comes to producing them and watching them die a thousand bureaucratic deaths, I'd prefer to stay home and eat my supermarket sushi.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Piece of Cake

I was watching one of the Bourne movies the other night. I don't remember which version, but it was the one where Jason Bourne takes out three guys in the span of 1.6 seconds. Anyway, I happened to catch the end credits.

Turns out one of the Executive Producers was Frank Marshall. That name rang a bell and now you're about to find out why.

Before I found my niche in life as a Corporate Word Prostitute ("Wanna go on the air tonight?" "I'll show you my call to action" "How about a half and half? Half manifesto, half anthemic spot?") I was a kitchen manager at Cowboy-themed restaurant in West LA. We did ribs, chicken and steak on a huge open air display BBQ. People would literally line up on Santa Monica Blvd. waiting to get in.

My boss was smart enough to capitalize on this popularity by renting out the restaurant for private events, mostly movie wrap parties.

The first film we did was Poltergeist. It was a huge affair with more than 300 guests, including Steven Spielberg. Not to mention the kids who starred in the movie, many of whom strangely died at an early age.

Also strange, at least to this young ex-New Yorker, were some of the rituals that took place at every Frank Marshall wrap party. You see, before the shindig had started, a crew from a Hollywood bakery showed up with a delivery. They had in their van, a giant sheet cake. How big, you ask. The cake literally had to be brought in on an old door. It was 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. And took four grown men to carry.

I suppose a cake that large made sense if everybody in the party were to get a piece of the Black Forest Chocolate Cake. But they didn't.

As was their custom, after dinner Frank Marshall would address the cast and crew. He'd thank them for their efforts. He'd perform a little amateur magic, to the delight of all who had seen it a hundred times before. And then the cake would be brought out and placed in front of him. Just before he would make the first ceremonial cut, two production assistants would run up behind Frank and push him, face first, into the oversized sheet cake.

Frank would flail around in the cake until chocolate, whip cream and strawberries found their way into every crevice on his body. He would act surprised, but everyone in the room, with the exception of yours truly, knew it was coming. And they howled accordingly.

It was Hollywood's equivalent of the bucket of Gatorade toss on the head coach.

It didn't make sense to me then, but it does make sense to me now.

Sure, no one got a taste of the cake --the busboys and I might have snagged a piece that didn't get trampled -- but the crowd got something even more delicious, a moment of our sheer exuberance and laughter.

These days, Hollywood, advertising, and business in general, are all ruled by the bean counters, the cost analyzers and the fun-sucker-outters. I doubt very much that a line item for a $3000 cake, that would never get eaten, would pass the budget gestapo.

And that's the real shame.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The POTUS Position

I am an unabashed aisle crosser.

There have been years when I have voted for the Republican candidate. And there have been years I have voted for the Democrat. There have even been years when I voted for neither. And threw my support behind a bat house crazy Texas billionaire.

How can you not like a man who once said, " If you see a snake, just kill it -- don't appoint a committee on snakes."

A Ross Perot presidency might not have been the best, but it would have been the most colorful.

This year, I voted for President Obama. And I'd like to explain why.

I have a college degree. I stay fairly informed on the issues. And I can carry my own in a discussion about politics. But all that said, you could pour what I know about Economics into a thimble and still have plenty of room for the thumb of large Samoan football player.

I don't know whether Romney's financial plan or President Obama's plan made better sense. And frankly when you're talking about billions and trillions of dollars, I don't think even the most informed among us have a clue.

But this election came down to something more important than money. It was about people.

As I have mentioned before, I live in a house with my wife, my dog Nelly, and two teenage daughters. I am the Mayor of Estrogenville. Until I get my prescription for Viagra refilled, I'm pretty sure my wife will not be getting pregnant anytime soon. The story is not the same however for my daughters, who have been known to make poor choices on occasion.

Should that situation come to fruition, I don't want the President, a governor, a senator, or any pinhead of any political stripe, taking any of my family's choices away. Particularly while waving a bible in my face.

I don't live my life according to the laws of your religion. I don't even live my life according to the laws of my religion.

Now let's talk about homosexuality.

My uncle is gay. I have friends that are gay. We know gay couples from the elementary school that have started a family and are raising children. It stuns me that they do not enjoy some of the same civil rights as I do. It saddens me that a candidate and a political party would want to enact laws that further stigmatize and marginalize these people.

I know it's hyperbolic to play the Nazi card but in this case it's not a metaphor. Delegitimizing people is exactly what Hitler did in 1933.

Had they not been wearing Brooks Brothers suits, men like Romney, Akin, and Murdock, could easily have been mistaken for Taliban clerics preaching patriarchy in the foothills of Waziristan.

I don't know what the next four years has in store but I do know it won't involve the President setting policy based on the Old Testament or the New Testament. Or, had Mitt been elected, the new New Testament.

Though I am intrigued by this thing called polygamy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Most Scatological Man in the World

Every time I walk into a new agency, and lately that's been happening a lot, I am jumped by the HR people who insist I sign a 10 page NDA, before I step foot in the building.

In this Non-Disclosure Agreement, I agree not to disclose any pertinent information regarding the agency or, more importantly, the client I will be working on. This ominous legal agreement is meant to stem the tide of corporate espionage.

Only after I have signed the document am I allowed to discuss the latest project, often code-named like Eagle Wing or Red Box or Area 52, or some other nonsense proposed by a junior planner, in lieu of any meaningful contribution.

And only after the papers have been properly filed am I to be given a briefing of any kind.

I make my rounds in Southern California, the automotive capitol of the world. And so, I am often called in to work on car assignments. Today I was handed a brief for a new car, a car the account team, the planners and the client, want to portray as "innovative", "youthful" and a leader in its own "category."

That is certainly information I will hold close to my vest.

However I hate to break it to these folks, but three weeks ago I was at a different ad agency, working on a different car, and their double secret probation brief was along the lines of "innovative, youthful and industry leadership."

And next week I'm headed to another agency. Mmmmm, I wonder what that brief will say?

In other words, it's all the same.

About the only thing that differentiates one ad agency from another, is the zip code. And the level of prankdom allowed in the hallowed hallways.

Yesterday I found the picture above in the 2nd floor men's room at my current undisclosed agency in the heart of Santa Monica. When I first spotted it, I found myself laughing out loud in a crowded men's room, which is probably never a good idea.

Today I am able to share this photo with you. But only after a 25 minute discussion with the HR people and the understanding that this will not violate the terms and spirit of the precious NDA.

Stay regular, my friends.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Canary Island Date Palm, R.I.P.

This is the majestic Phoenix Canariensis, the Canary Island Date Palm.

It's is also known as the Pineapple Palm tree, because when trimmed properly, the base beneath the tree leaves resembles a pineapple.

The tree pictured above has been in my back yard since we bought the modest Culver City home in 1993. At that time it already stood 20 feet tall, so we can assume it had been there quite a while. Sadly, or stupidly, the landscaper who planted this beautiful tree in the mid 20th century couldn't have picked a worse spot: right under the Department of Water and Power's High Voltage electrical lines.

Last week, I got frantic call from my daughter with the one word no homeowner wants to hear: Fire.

One of the neighbors spotted smoke coming off the tree and wisely called 911. In less than a minute firefighters were high on a cherry picker putting out my palm tree.

You can't see it from the picture, but the top of the 'pineapple' is all scorched.

Faced with no other choice, today a crew of indifferent Mexican gardeners are swinging chainsaws and reducing this beautiful queen into garden mulch. There is a mammoth wood chipper sitting on my driveway and the scene resembles something out of Fargo. But without the blood, the bones or the legendary Coen Brothers snappy dialogue.

My wife and daughters have been reduced to tears. They had an emotional attachment to the tree. I've witnessed this all before, when we got rid of the old dining table. And when we sold the minivan.

I'm also sad.
But for a completely different reason.

Before the hacking, the sawing and the cutting all began, the tree specialist who came out to supervise the operation told me that had they been able to remove the tree (impossible because of the power lines) I could have sold it. Apparently these trees are quite popular with city municipalities. And many Las Vegas hotels that would pay top dollar for a mature 35 foot high Canary Island Date Palm.

So instead of walking away from this with $20,000 in my pocket (that's right $20,000) I now have about $27 worth of smelly firewood.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

De plane, de plane

I'm a big believer of non-believing.

I have little faith in religion, politics, media or anything resembling an institution. I'm a natural born cynic. And though I have a healthy respect for those consumed by doubt, I'm also acutely aware of when skeptics go off the rail.

Particularly the conspiracists.

The Birthers who claim President Obama was born in Kenya. The 911 Truthers who believe it was the CIA and Haliburton that blew up the World Trade Center. Or even the white supremacist militias who put their stock in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and who are convinced the Jews run the world.

This is particularly troubling because if my tribe is pulling all the strings I'd like to know why I have not been invited to one god damn meeting.

Of course, what these conspiracy theorists lack in credibility, they more than make up for in sheer imagination.

Perhaps that's why I end up spending an inordinate amount of my time paging through their websites and watching their incredulous youtube videos.

I don't have the energy or the inclination to debunk all their harebrained notions. I would hope most people with any common sense would see that's exactly what these folks lack. But I'll give you a great cherry-picked example -- which, by the way, is the favorite methodology of conspiracists.

Take this picture for instance. On many videos and on many websites, the 911 Truthers allege, there is a missile strapped to the bottom of the 767 that struck the South Tower.

A missile? Really?

I don't see a missile in this grainy shot but if there were one, the reality is it would measure more than 15 feet in length. Hardly something the baggage handlers at Logan Airport would have missed that morning.

"Hey Bobby, hand me that Samsonite... what the that a two ton LGB-AF62 with laser guided telemetry and infra-red capability jerry-rigged to the bottom of this wide body commercial airliner?"

It simply doesn't add up. Unless the baggage handlers and anybody else who saw the planes that morning, including other pilots, ground crew, and little children staring out the window before boarding their flight and torturing 250 innocent passengers, were all in on the jig.

Is that what these folks are suggesting?

This is where conspiracy theories fall apart. They depend on massive collaboration, deception and off-the-chart intelligence.

And frankly from my experience in the world, and in the advertising world in particular, people are just too damn stupid to pull that off.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Anger Management 101

Dear Neighbor with the Car Horn Alarm that goes off at 5 in the morning,

Even though you live 1/2 mile from my house.
Even though I have never seen your car.
Even though I have never seen your face.

I know you.

And I hate you.

I hate your face.
I hate your shoes.
I hate your mayonnaise.
I hate the school you obviously did not graduate from.

Mostly, I hate the fact that you are completely anonymous to me and that I can't confront you.

I could drag my butt out of bed, throw on some shorts and flip flops, get on my bike and track down your car via the obnoxiously loud alarm. And then I could vent my rage on your precious 2005 Ford Taurus or your irreplaceable 2003 Buick LaCrosse. But if I'm going to jail I don't want it to be for minor vandalism.

I want them to throw me in the clink for Major Verbal Battery and Assault on your cretinous ass. And your tiny reptilian pea brain.

Deep breath.

First of all, who counts on a car alarm to deter thieves? That might have worked in 1986. But today's thieves are much more sophisticated. They can disarm a security system and hot-wire a car faster than you can say Flock of Seagulls. Who, by the way, are no longer recording music and now working as barristas at the local Starbucks.

Secondly, we might share the same zip code but I don't know what kind of alternate universe you live in. When a car alarm goes off, particularly one as grating as yours (a car horn that beeps every 1 &3/4 seconds) no one, and I mean no one, runs to the phone to alert the Po-Po.

"Officer, I believe there's a vehicle being stolen from across the street. Please send the SWAT team."

To the contrary, I suspect your incessant alarm, which has now gone off four times within the last week (all at the worst possible hours of the day) sends a different kind of signal to the community. I think it tells your more immediate neighbors, who are in direct eyesight and earshot of your car...

"Pardon me for interrupting your sleep, can you please urinate on my door handle?"

It's now just before 6 in the morning. Your car horn stopped honking 20 minutes ago but there is still a phantom ringing in my ears. The initial wave of raw anger has begun to subside. Now that my heartbeat is back into the double digits it occurs to me that I owe you a small debt of gratitude.

You see, at the beginning of this year I promised the 11 regular readers of roundseventeen a monthly addition to the list of People We Need to Kill. That well was running frightfully dry. That is, until 5:02 AM this morning.


Your neighbor with a full bladder

Thursday, November 1, 2012

1859, a very good year

Last week, there was an article in Adweek about PearleVision.

They were conducting an agency review. I was surprised to read that they had been with Arnold for the last six years.

There was a time when PearleVision, like many serial agency hoppers -- I'm looking at you Jiffy Lube, El Pollo Loco and Jenny Craig -- would burn out an agency every two years.

Sadly, I was on the receiving end of one of those pitches way back in the mid-90's. This was at a time when Chiat, and many other agencies, were adopting the collaborative pitch process.

If we were to be marketing partners, the thinking went, we needed to partner up with the potential client as many times as possible before the actual pitch. And so we would get caught in this endless loop of "tissue" sessions with lower level PearleVision clients who thought they had 20/15 vision and knew exactly what the bosses were looking for.

And every week, the second guessing was second guessed.

The process was tortuous. And instead of going into the final pitch with a boatload of enthusiasm ("Damn, I hope we win this account"), we'd end up drained, pale and listless ("Thank god, I can't wait til this is over").

In the end, we did win the account.

And management, bless their heart, told the creative team to go out for a celebration dinner. So my bosses, Tony Stern and Jeff Roll, rabbis without credential, took 10 of us in total, to Michael's, one of the most expensive restaurants on the Westside.

Because we had been put through such hell and because the client was being billed for the dinner, the goal, Tony said, was to have a great time. Oh, and to "do some major damage."

If there's one thing creatives know how to do, apart from making great ads, it's spending other people's money. There were starters before the starters. Appetizers that ran the length of the table. And the only entrees that were ordered were Market Priced.

We did some damage.

And before it was over, the waiter brought an after dinner desert menu that featured some very exclusive liquors, including a $500 bottle of cognac that was corked just before President Lincoln was shot.

Naturally, we ordered a bottle 1859 vintage cognac and a snifter was filled for everyone at the table.

It was nasty, tasted like kerosene, and brought a scowl to everyone's face.
The second bottle wasn't any better.