Thursday, June 27, 2013

Outdoor Advertising, RIP 2013.

It’s only a little ironic that lately I find myself commuting on the 405 freeway from my house in Culver City to a freelance gig in Costa Mesa. Ironic, because it was exactly 9 years ago this week that I quit my job as a Group Creative Director, running the Jaguar account, at Y&R/Irvine.

And why did I quit that job, you may ask.

Because the drive, the exact same drive, was killing me.
It’s not more pleasant than it was then. But it is considerably less stressful.

I don’t worry about making meetings. Or navigating the awkward politics. Or dreading the awful employee performance reviews. Awful, because even if someone was doing a stellar job in 2004, when the economy was doing well, there was never any money from the holding company that I had the liberty to dispense.

For 99% of ad agency people, raises/bonuses have not been seen since 1997. Regardless of how the economy was doing.

Of course, now I’m a mercenary and have nothing to complain about, right? Well, if I lacked the ability to manufacture a legitimate gripe, roundseventeen would have been over a long, long time ago.

You see, on the long drive down to beyond the Orange Curtain I noticed something had disappeared from the freeways – Outdoor Advertising. Oh there are plenty of billboards, hundreds of them in fact, but none them are memorable. At least not for the right reasons.

I saw one for a luxury automobile, with the obligatory beauty shot of the car, accompanied by the three of the most uninspired words I’ve ever seen, “Upgrade your commute.”

Really, that’s the best you got? 

I don’t want to go all Gran Turino on you, but in my day, in my time, a line like that would get you demoted from Senior Copywriter to Unemployed Senior Copywriter. (Not to toot my own horn, but I dug out the very first outdoor board I worked on for Public Storage. I think it stills holds up today.)

Billboards have a unique ability to make you think, to stir some emotion, and to leave some kind of lasting impression. Perhaps I should say had. Because what I'm seeing on the road today doesn't do any of the above. In fact the best writing I’ve seen doesn’t originate from any of the major ad agencies, it comes from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

That made me laugh out loud. 
Like doing 65 mph is even possible on the 405.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spurn the other Cheek

I know after reading this post, many of you husbands will want to send me Thank You cards.

In fact, if I'm reading the recently-discovered Beginner's Packet published by the Christian Domestic Discipline Movement, many of you wives and girlfriends will also want to shower me with appreciation.

Or something else.

First a primer.

Christian Domestic Discipline is the practice between two consenting life partners in which the Head of the Household (that'd be me) takes the necessary measures to achieve a healthy relationship dynamic; the necessary measure to create a healthy home environment and the necessary measures to punish unwanted and detrimental behaviors for the greater good of the family.

If you hadn't guessed this involves loss of privileges, time outs and spanking. Lots of spanking.

I've given the Beginner's Packet a cursory glance and pulled some nuggets in case you and your partner wanted to make this magical journey, my words, not theirs.

For instance, here's how they suggest you broach the topic of domestic disciplining...

"Hey Sweetheart. I just wanted to talk to you about something. I know it might sound strange and I certainly understand that. But, I think it could really help our relationship, especially with ___________________ (you are to fill in your own issues). I'd like to try it because I love you a lot and I want our relationship to be the strongest it can be."

You might want to transcribe those words on index cards and commit them to memory before talking to her over breakfast. Also make sure there are no iron skillets nearby.

They also suggest going slow.

"Take things slow. Establish the foundation. Don't be in a hurry to catch up. Begin to add on from there as the weeks, months and years go by."

That certainly seems to make sense to me. But I'd certainly like to know which couples I need to catch up to.

It's easy to scoff at all this but as the Huffington Post makes clear many women report...

"...feeling extremely calm and relaxed after being disciplined, and believe it is an expression of their husband caring about them and their relationship enough to help them modify their behavior."

The booklet even details the proper methods for spanking.

"For beginners it's recommended either a hairbrush, a wooden spoon, or a wooden paddle be used. The recommended number of strikes is 15. But 20 may be necessary for the desired result."

I wonder how many strokes it will take before my wife agrees to make me a sandwich. With cheese. And toasted bread.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's just a soda

Last week I saw a truly amazing piece of advertising.

I don't say that too often.

Partially because a lot of what passes for amazing, isn't. And partially because it goes against my nature to lay too much praise on other people's work.

It's not my most becoming attribute, but shouldn't I get some points for honesty?

Anyway, the piece I'm referring to came from Weiden & Kennedy. As I've said many times before, I'm a huge fan of their work. They are one of the few remaining ad agencies that will not dumb it down. Or treat their audience with disrespect.

See for yourself:

Go ahead, get some tissue paper and dry your eyes.

But before you start thinking, "Thank God Coca Cola stepped up to the plate and put that potential armegeddon to rest", let's back the truck up a bit.

A few dozen Indians and Pakistanis put their hands on a vending machine to get a free can of of soda. That's a great way to sell more sugar water. It's fun. It's smart. And it's entertaining. But let's not delude ourselves and mistake this clever marketing ploy for diplomacy. Or nuclear disarmament. Or anything close to settling 66 years of death match animosity.

The film may be titled, Bringing India and Pakistan together, but if you have even most fundamental understanding of geo-politics you know that is a bit of an over-statement.

I know this is my cynicism showing but we ad people are fond of making overpromises. We're even fonder of self-delusion. And the silly, egocentric notion that what we do, can make the world a better place.

I could argue just the opposite.

If we did less of what we do -- made fewer commercials, made fewer banner ads, and stopped defacing every seatback, every handrail and every urinal cake we could get a press check on -- the world would actually be a better place.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Boss

Since I started this blog, almost 5 years ago, many celebrities have left this world for the next.

Oh, who am I kidding? There is no next world. When you die you're done. Lights out. Matter returns to energy. To believe otherwise is to put stock in the Tooth Fairy, The Seventh Imam of Medina or Diapernese, the Greek God of Poop.

But I digress.

As I said, many stars of the big screen, the little screen and pop culture in general have passed away. To the best of my recollection I have never indulged in any sappy RIP's.

I won't start now.

However the news of James Gandolfini's passing did hit me like a .45 caliber bullet to the side of the head. Fact is, I saw Gandolfini not more than 3 months ago. I was at my doctor's office at the Century City Medical Center to check on the condition of Hurty, the bone spur that has grown on my heel bone after 25 years of running. As I was waiting for my car to be brought around by the valet parker, I was joined by a large, hulking man on my left. He looked very familiar. He smiled at me and muttered, "Heyhowyoudoin?"

It was the cordial greeting one stranger passes with another.

He looked familiar. And for a second thought maybe I know this guy from high school or another ad agency. Then it dawned on me that I was standing next to Tony Soprano.

I was, and still am, a huge fan of the show. But Los Angeles Celebrity Ettiquette required me to respect his privacy and move on without any gushing. And so I did.

But the connection goes much deeper. You see I grew up in Suffern, NY, which as you can tell from the accompanying map is Mafia-adjacent to North Jersey, where the Soprano family ruled the roost.

The famed Bada Bing strip club is an actual strip club. And to the best of my uh, personal recollection, has been there for ages, under a variety of names like Satin Dolls, Candy Lane, Whispers, Velvet Room, and Jersey Whore. Don't take my word on the last one.

Some of the recent obituaries noted how Gandolfini was so remarkably believable as Tony Soprano. I believe this is somewhat attributable to geography.

He grew up in Northern Jersey. He knew the best booths at the best diners. He knew the surprisingly beautiful backroads of Upper Saddle River. He knew the gas stations on Route 17, where you are not allowed to pump your own gas and an attendant will still clean your windshield.

In fact, my buddy Bob remembers working with a very young James Gandolfini when he was a waiter at the T.G.I.F. in Hackensack, NJ.

His passing is very sad. But he left us a great body of work. And in case my wife is reading this, a complete boxed set of The Soprano's DVDs would make an excellent gift for next year's Father's Day.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

They're Coming Back

Next week is no time to be working at an ad agency. And thankfully, I won't be.

I'll be gleefully employed by a client and working directly for their in-house department.

So what bullet will have I dodged?

Well Monday the Adverati, that is the elite royalty of our business who have long ago given up flying in economy class or ridden in anything but a Lincoln Town Car, will be returning from their debauched soiree in Cannes.

They'll be bringing back more than swollen livers, deviated septums and gut-busting stories about how they almost fell off the company yacht as it hit rough waters rounding the Cap d'Antibes.

They'll be coming back, dare I say it, Inspired.

And of course if an agency is going to lavish $50,000 on every one of their top-rung creative people,  an agency is going to want a return on that money. That can only mean one thing -- inspirational speeches.

There will be the "We've got work harder" speech.
This despite the 60-hour work weeks, followed by the mandatory/voluntary Saturday and Sunday office appearances.

There will be the "We've got to work smarter" speech.
This despite the contracted timelines, the fluid strategies and the growing bureaucracies found on the client side of the table.

And finally, there will be the "We need to win more awards" speech.
Of all the speeches, this is the most critical. Because as any Francophile can tell you, the only thing more important than going to Cannes, is going back to Cannes.

Thankfully, I will be spared all the Rose Koolaid, the Ra-Ra-ing and ear-bending. And it's just as well, because I don't have the time for that fire-in-the-belly nonsense.

These banner ads are not going to write themselves.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lessons from Culver Blvd.

Assuming there's no wind, you could, with a strong 4 iron, hit a golf ball from the Culver Motel and land it in the #6 lane of the 405, the most hated freeway on the planet.

I picture the guests at this fine establishment leaving their windows open at night to let the white noise of the passing traffic, which almost sounds like the ocean, lull them into a deep slumber. That, and the rotgut whiskey and stolen bennies.

I've driven past the Culver Motel for more than 20 years and never took the time to notice its Kerouacian charm.

You can, for instance, secure a modest room at the Culver for less than fifty dollars. That same fifty bucks will not even cover the cost a of room service breakfast at the SoHo Grand. I know, because I had to go a few rounds with the finance people to get reimbursed.

Of course the big draw at the Culver Motel is the C O L O R TV.

And not just any color tv. RCA, my friends. Because when you situate a hotel in Culver City -- The Heart of Screenland, guests expect the finest reproduction of motion pictures, talkies and non-talkies.

It's hard to believe but at one time the RCA name had a certain cache. Those times are long gone.

Though I was surprised to see that the company is still in business. In fact, RCA still makes televisions that are sold at the big box stores. For a good giggle, walk into your local best buy and ask the woman in the blue polo shirt to show you the state of the art RCA's, like the 42 inch LCD with "mega dynamic contrast."

RCA is even on the interwebs.

I'm not sure what the pensive, strong-jawed man about to get jizzed with some mystery green fluid has to do with TV's, or technology, or anything. But the folks in the RCA marketing department could use a few pointers about clarity and no nonsense communication.

Maybe they should speak to the owners of the Culver Motel?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Find new thinking

Uh, hello?
Anybody see something wrong here?

You have two different car companies trying to establish two different branding positions using two different taglines that, well, don't seem well...very different.

I'm not about to pass judgment on the work itself. Mostly, because I don't want to bite the hands that occasionally feeds me.

However I do find it interesting that Chevrolet, find new roads, Mitsubishi, find your own lane, stem from the same thought.

And I have a pretty good idea where that thought came from -- you.

Not you, my cynical, jaded industry colleagues who hate advertising one day and post Facebook pictures of the strawberry tart served at the Georgio Baldi wrap party the very next day.

I'm talking about the more general you, as in the larger public. The ones who 'volunteer' for a marketing focus group and gladly give up an evening at home for fifty bucks, a tuna sandwich and a bowl of previously-pawed M&M's.

You sit there with your laminated name tags, and your pleated khaki pants and your boring stories about boy scout camping trips. And then, given an opportunity to pontificate, you snatch up the role of Focus Group Captain and steer the discussion about how you'd like to discover the world. Or blaze new trails. Or travel the road less travelled. Or about a hundred other cliches that quickly get transcribed on index cards and pinned in a war room, passing for something the planners, with their masters and doctoral degrees, call "insight."

The sad truth is, banality like Find your own lane or Find new roads or (insert automotive tagline here) does not merit much discussion.

Taglines today have little bearing on car purchasing behavior. And they're even less effective when it comes to positioning a carmaker. Particularly when the taglines feel like they've been clipped from the back of a Tony Robbins Motivational Tape.

Activate your life.

Be one with the journey.

Feel the drive.

Let it move you.

Go everywhere.

I could do this all day.
Oh wait, I do do this all day.

Sad face.

Monday, June 17, 2013

On the links

Last week, Tiger Woods added to his incredible list of super-human accomplishments.

He played in the U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club in Haverford Township, Pennslvania.

And at the very same time, he made an appearance at the Executive 9-Hole Course at Penmar by The Sea, also known as Landfill by the Pacific, or The Santa Monica Squirrel Preserve.

Obviously he didn't transcend the law of physics and make an actual appearance, but he was there in spirit, in the body of a hard charging Tiger wannabe who had joined our foursome on the first tee box with...

 "OK, boys, let's show this bitch who is in charge."

Then Tiger, I believe his name was Chris, proceeded to fist bump the four strangers with whom he would thoroughly embarrass himself with for the next 3 hours.

In fact when this Tiger Pretender with the extremely high testosterone-count wasn't cursing at the grounds crew for leaving the sprinklers on or complaining about the length of the tree branches -- which he hit with great regularity -- he was constantly fistbumping. Which seemed to be his primary mode of communication.

Every action taken on the course that day required a fist bump.

"Nice sand save brother, put it here."

"Excellent 4 foot putt, give me some."

"I like the way you tee'd that ball up, show me some love."

If you hadn't guessed, I'm not given to excessive exuberance. Particularly during a game of amateur golf by a bunch of unemployed weekday duffers on a rag-tag Muni course. But Chris/Tiger didn't see it that way. In his head Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Jim Nance were watching his every move.

Why else would he be taking ten practice swings? Or gauging the distance to the hole with his $300 Scoutmaster KL 9000? Or pronouncing that his goal was to land all his approach shots below the hole so he would have easier uphill putts? At Penmar, which is flatter than a ping pong table?

But what made all his prepping and preening and posturing so delightfully delicious was that fact that this blowhard sucked. Big Time.

There wasn't a tree he didn't hit. A green he didn't four putt. A shot he didn't turn into a Tin Cup disaster. If anything, he was the Anti-Tiger. I could have watched him "play" all day long. It was that entertaining.

The best specific example I could cite happened on the second, one of the longer holes on the course that faces into the ocean and the ocean breeze.

Before tee-ing off, Anti-Tiger, reached down and pulled a thatchet of grass from the lawn. And then, as if sporting a PGA card in his back pocket, proceeded to toss the loose grass into the air to getter a better read about how the wind was swirling above the treetops. He watched carefully as the fallen grass was swept to his left. Ideally, he would counter the wind with a low stinging draw that would stay low and leave him a make-able approach shot.

Instead, he pulled out his big black square headed Titanium driver, held his breath, over swung, and with a mighty grunt, topped the ball, sending a worm burner  50 yards through the deep grass until it stopped on the backside of a tree.

That was followed by a loud outburst of cursing and screaming.

As he thundered away to his ball, I turned to my buddy, and we exchanged some laughter borne of schadenfreud as well as a small surreptitious fist bump -- the only one that was merited for that day.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Slip sliding away

Have you noticed how more people are employing the 'slippery slope' argument in their arguments?

If we ban semi-automatic weapons or high capacity magazine clips, what's next? Will the government repeal the Second Amendment, take away all our guns and throw us in some Soviet-style gulag? Maybe they'll take our kitchen knives, and scissors and hedge trimmers? I'm not living in a country with unruly shrubbery.

This one has been making the rounds too.

If we allow the gays to marry, what's next? Are we going to allow a man to marry three women? Can a man marry a horse? A dog? A pig? What if a man wants to marry a topiary hedge which he can no longer shape, thanks to our increasingly-powerful Nanny State?

It's an exercise in irrationality.

Particularly since, with the flick of a finger, the slope can be turned the other way.

If we allow the government to cut the tax rate for billionaires when will it stop? If 22% will suffice why not 12? Why not 2%? What if the government simply stops collecting taxes? Then who will pave the roads? And who will maintain the tarmac and air traffic control tower for my Gulfstream IV?

Or what about this.

If we ban abortions, what kind of surgical operation is our Big Brother government going to prohibit next? Root Canals? Bunion Removal? Tonsilectomies? Maybe we shouldn't allow people to pass kidney stones, because every kidney stone is precious.

That's the problem with Slippery Slopers.
One fanciful flight of the imagination leads to another and another and another.

Once they get on the slippery slope, they just can't seem to get off.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let's Go Dordts!

As the father of Irish Twins, daughters born 17 months apart, I've grown quite accustomed to sibling rivalry. It goes with the territory.

If one daughter gets something  -- attention, a car, a chicken wing -- the other daughter has to receive something of equal or greater value.

And so it was only natural that my youngest started feeling neglected when her older sister, who is officially now a high school senior, started fielding recruitment calls from prospective colleges. I wrote about this several weeks ago.

These are not the big name high profile colleges that you read about on ESPN or see prominently displayed on license plate frames or overly inflated resumes. We're talking about C and D level institutions, the kind of schools that offer degrees in Crocodile Husbandry or Oven Mittology.

Well, last week my youngest daughter's prayers were answered. She received her first recruiting inquiry. From Dordt College.

I'm going out on a limb and assuming you've never heard of Dordt College. They don't have a football team. Or any famous alumni. And I doubt the scientific world pays any attention to papers published from Dordt in Sioux Center, Iowa, a suburb of Sioux City.

None of that fazed my daughter Abby, who was so excited to receive the brochure she vowed to become a Dordter. Of course my wife and I protested, which only made our defiant 15 year old more steadfast in her decision.

Then I told her to turn to page 3, testimonials from current students.

"Dordt has broadened my vision of what God's world is and how I fit into it. We are called to participate in the mission of God wherever we are."

After two years of Catholic High School my daughter has already had her fill of liturgy, fairy tales and institutionalized hypocrisy.

Dordt is now dead as a doornail.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lost and browned

With all the posts I've written about dog poop, human poop, and poop in general, I'm sure some Freudian would say I'm anal obsessive. And that's fine. Because recognizing the problem is halfway towards the solution.

In that spirit of regularity, I'd like to return to the issue one more time, though it will hardly be the last.

You see in addition to being anal obsessive, I'm also a self admitted misanthrope. A while ago I considered changing the tagline for Round Seventeen to "Your one-stop shop for misanthropy." But the rhythm didn't feel right so I abandoned that notion.

But I have not given up my disgust with people.

Particular those who go about their business with a blissful ignorance of the world that surrounds them. You know who I'm talking about. Neighbors who run power equipment at 2 in the morning. Co-workers who feel the need to "share" their favorite house music. Smokers who believe emphysema is a disease that should be enjoyed by all.

And of course, careless pet owners who have volunteered to fertilize the planet, whether it needs it or not.

By the way, the above photo was snapped by my daughter and sent to my iPhone with the accompanying message, "Were you in Santa Monica?" I'm going to assume she was referring to the sign.

In any case, my disdain for ©Shitter Litterers knows no bounds. Indeed, with the aid of their local advertising agency, the people in one small town in Spain found a unique solution to problem of ©shittering.

If I could I would award this work a special metal.

And it wouldn't be gold, silver or bronze.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pick One


Have you ever thought about ditching your life as an ad agency staffer and exploring the wonderful, carefree existence of a freelancer? A life full of rainbows, unicorns and fat, tax-free paychecks.

Or maybe the shoe is on the other foot.

Have you ever yearned to crawl back into the agency world and cozy up to a full time gig with free bagels, paid vacations and an endless supply of moleskin notebooks?

It's quite the dilemma. And it probably gets discussed more in the hallways of an ad agency than that other proverbial discussion about the "asshat client with all the vision of a ground mole."

I know this to be true because I've batted for both teams.

In fact, next week I'll be celebrating 9 mostly-successful years as a freelancer. Before that, was more years than I care to think of as a full time ad guy sucking on the corporate teat.

A couple of months ago I received an email from a friend in NY, who shall remain nameless, but whose story is quite universal. He was going through a rough patch in his career, meaning he had to work on a day that ended in a "Y", and was envious of my position as a hired gun.

What he didn't know was I had recently turned down a gig in Orange County, mostly to recover from the exhaustive Honda/Acura pitch, and that my phone had stopped ringing.

One day off turned into one week off.
One week off turned into a fortnight.
And a fortnight with no visible stream of revenue turned into mild panic disorder. With nightmares of my family eating out of a dumpster and me in a dirty nursing home with Jamaican orderlies pilfering my loose change and my Vicodin.

The point is, there's enough tsuris for everyone.

Staffers have to sit in the middle seat on a last minute flight to Des Moines.
Freelancers have to sit in a janitor's closet, jerry-rigged to be an office.

Staffers have to listen to junior clients tell them why the work is off strategy.
Freelancers have to watch Montel Williams tell tattoed amateur rappers they are the father.

Staffers have to smile through pep talks, status meetings and employee reviews that always end in, "there's no money for raises or bonuses."
Freelancers have to endure spouses and children yammering, "when are you going to get a real job?"

In short, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. It's brown, it's full of weeds and it's often littered with the unwanted business of the neighbor's dog.

So it boils down to picking the lesser of two evils. For me, I'd prefer the poison of a freelancer.

Back to the dry spell. Eventually, as it always does, the phone did ring, multiple times. And like a schmuck I ended up taking the gig with the lowest day rate.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Apparently, the stupidest question you could ask a gay person is, "when did you know you were homosexual?" I know this because we had a discussion about it with my gay uncle on a recent visit to his home in Palm Springs.

Mind you, I didn't ask the "offensive" question, my uncle was simply recanting a media gaffe he had seen on Fox News.

That's the interesting thing about having a gay family member -- as Dick Cheney and Senator Portman can tell you -- you get to see life through a different set of eyes. In my case, a set of eyes that may not fully appreciate the picture above.

Feast your eyes on Barbara Eden, 78-year old Barbara Eden, appearing on stage at a fundraiser in the original costume that brought her fame. That's not special effects. Or tailoring. Or even magic genie power. That's just simply clean living and a disciplined workout routine.

It's also an affirmation of my own personal hardwiring.

You see, if you were to ask me, "when did I know I was a heterosexual?" I would not be offended. In fact, I could almost give you the exact date and time.

It was the first time I saw an episode of I Dream of Jeannie.

Truth be told, tonight I might still dream of Jeannie.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Not Sold Here.

This is an earthquake resistant table. A lightweight device that features a sturdy birch desktop that sits on a set of shock absorbers that can withstand 1000 kg of falling cement and steel. Placed side by side, these tables can also form a life saving tunnel and an exit from crumbled buildings.

It's an outstanding example of innovation that could spell the difference between life and death for thousands of people in earthquake-prone countries.

But you won't find this remarkable table in Pakistan.
Or Iran.
Or Indonesia.
Or a dozen other nations that sit on or near the turbulent Ring of Fire.
Because it was designed and built by Jews. More specifically, the Jews who live in Israel.

And if you hadn't heard, there's a global boycott of Israeli goods being organized and promoted by a group of mostly third world countries -- the ones I call Losers -- that could, ironically, benefit the most from Israeli innovation.

Apparently it's morally acceptable to sacrifice a few thousand schoolchildren in the name of taking a stand against the alleged "apartheid" being practiced in Israel. Conveniently ignoring their own deplorable record on human rights including state-sanctioned rape, honor killings, institutionalized misogyny and blasphemy laws that make any form of apostasy punishable by death.

Of course the earthquake resistant table is just one example of people cutting off their nose to spite the people in Israel with noticeably larger noses.

There are dozens of other Jewish medical and technological breakthroughs that these folks wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

Including the PillCam for the non-invasive diagnosis of gastrointestinal diseases, mushroom-based treatments that have shown remarkable success fighting pancreatic cancer, and a clever radiation-free baby monitoring device that can prevent crib death.

OK, the last one was not really fair, since the babies who were unfortunate enough to be born in these enlightened countries, rarely actually sleep in cribs.

The futility speaks for itself.

By the way, to counter this misguided movement the Israelis have organized a boycott of their own.
Refusing to buy or import any of the amazing products and innovations coming out of Malaysia, Bangladesh, Syria and Yemen.

No one seems to have noticed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Other Shoe has Dropped

This is an old print ad (remember those?) John Shirley and I did way back in 1999.

Not a great ad. But not bad either. At the risk of making of humble brag, I believe it was shortlisted at Cannes. And lost out to a bunch of Swedes who did some fun drop leaflets for a parachute school in Svedensk.

My point is, the whole 'people living in a shoe' motif was done in the previous millennium.

Apparently the statue of limitations has expired, because in the last week alone -- a week where I have been watching a great deal of TV thanks to the exciting NBA playoffs -- I have spotted THREE separate commercials featuring residents of the proverbial overgrown shoe.

The first one comes from adidas. This one almost slipped by me because the shoe visual is only evident at the beginning of the spot and once more towards the end. Moreover the commercial is voiced over by a fast talking rapper, meaning I only caught every other word. I've never been good with rhymes or limericks, so I have a special appreciation for people who can make it work.

Also, of note, the rapper is sporting a full grill of gold teeth. Years ago, some of my good friends, quite possibly the most liberal-minded people on the planet, got in hot water with Rev. Jesse Jackson for doing a Toyota spot about gold teeth and being racially insensitive. I wonder why the principled Reverend isn't all over this adidas spot?

The second spot, from DirecTV shows us an old man who lives in a shoe with seemingly hundreds of little children. Fortunately, with Directv, he can watch his favorite shows on any portable device. This begs a certain question. Most people who have multiple portable devices are technically savvy. And they already know that they can stream TV, movies, etc.,  to their various platforms. Why then do tech clients feel the need to produce multimillion dollar commercials to promote a non-proprietary feature?

Plus, I'd rather DirecTV shoot more commercials that feature the Genie. I can't get enough of the Genie.

The third spot is a newcomer. It comes from T-Mobile. This is a competitive spot and highlights the many advantages T-Mobile has over AT&T. So many advantages that, according to the teenage resident, it almost negates the social stigma of living in a shoe.

I don't know about the social stigma of living in a shoe, but at one time there was a professional stigma about doing ads that looked like other people's ads.

If I were in an edit bay staring at footage of a 50 foot shoe and people walking out the door of the heel, I'd pull the plug and start over. But maybe that's just me, I'm kind of old school.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Seeing better

I've told this story before, but in light of the recent "controversy" regarding a Cheerios spot with an interracial couple, it's worth repeating.

Years ago, I was down in New Orleans to shoot a documentary, Home Movie (Two Thumbs Up from the late Roger Ebert). We weren't actually in N'orlans, we were 50 miles southwest of the city, in the far reaches of the Bayou Boeuf.

On one particular hot and muggy day -- they were all hot and muggy -- the humidity was messing with the camera lens, so the shooting slowed to a snail's pace. We found ourselves killing time and chatting with some of the locals, who mistook us for big time Hollywood guys.

I distinctly remember sitting on a lawn chair and talking to Earlene, a woman who looked a decade older than her 44 years on earth. In those 44 years it became apparent that she had never sat in a dentist's chair. While not long on dental hygiene or book learning or even proper foot coverings, Earlene was blessed with the gift of country wisdom.

She told me tales about the Ku Klux Klan coming through her neck of the woods and terrorizing the black residents. She told me how the Bayou was literally split in two. And how the two communities never, or tried not to, interact with each other. She told me how hate hung in the air like a late afternoon thunderstorm.

She also shared some interesting observations about inbreeding. You see, in their desire to keep the races pure, white folks in this secluded rural area only dated other white folks. Most of whom were distantly related, second cousins, third cousins and such.

In other words, the gene pool was getting dangerously shallow.

As a result, there was an increase in the population of babies born with birth defects, mental retardation and learning disabilities. (Snarky comment: the last category must have been hard to detect.)

But sometime back in the 1940's or '50's, a few brave souls dared to cross the color line.

As you might imagine, it was not looked upon favorably. And the racial turmoil of the 1960's did nothing to help the matter. Then something interesting happened. The health of the babies, that is the mixed race babies, being born in the bayou improved.

The gene pool had expanded. And so did the notion of what was and wasn't acceptable.

Slowly, the line of separation was being erased.

In fact, as Earlene put it, "years later, there were no longer two communities, of equal numbers, but three communities, white, black and mixed." As it turned out, the thing that people feared the most -- interracial dating -- was the thing that literally saved them.

After a lunch of chicken fried in muddy thick black oil, the skies erupted and we were pelted with a passing 20 minute rain.

The humidity dropped.
The air thinned out.
And the camera lens was suddenly clear.