Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nuzzling up to the brown ring

Last week I did something I usually don't do.

I said something nice about a colleague.

I don't make a habit of passing out compliments. Or gushing over mediocrity. I'm not given to exaggerated exuberance. Particularly when it comes to advertising. From what I can see there's enough workmanlike work out there we don't need to shower it with undue praise.

Everything is not awesome. In fact very little is awesome.
And I refuse to state otherwise.

This is just a longwinded way of saying I don't kiss ass. Even though I've had the privilege of working with giants of the industry whose ass's, one could argue, were well worth kissing.

Still, I never indulged. And to this day continue to refrain.

Others, nameless people who have long since stopped reading this blog, have made a Career of it.

Sycophancy is part of their skill set. It's right there on, next to Account Management, Brand Stewardship and Digital Proficiency (insert joke here).

Some are so adept in this dubious arena, they have ridden their knack for nosing up the anal cavity straight to the C-Suite. Or even higher.

They flatter.
They fawn.
Their servility knows no bounds.

They have equity.
I have dignity.

As a 44-year old man who has spent considerable time languishing on the middle rungs of corporate management, I have seen my fair share of obsequious behavior.

And while it may be too late for me to change my obstinate ways, there's still time for many of you to hone your hole-polishing skills and breath the rarefied air of the Mutual Admiration Society.

You simply have to know the do's and don'ts.

Don't say:

"This brief is confusing, chock full of contradiction and muddy at best."

Do say:

"We're going to London for vacation, can you recommend a pub?"

Don't say:

"Why are we doing focus group?"

Do say:

"It's amazing that we can see them through the glass but they can't see us."

Don't say:


Don't even say:


Do say:

"I was hoping you'd ask for a banner ad and a brand engagement unit."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dog Days of April

This may look like a bowl of dog food.
But to me, it's more.

The fact that it has been sitting in the bowl, untouched for more than 30 minutes, means my Nellie isn't feeling well. And hasn't for a while now.

Two weeks ago, she started vomiting (my second post about hurling in a week). Her temperature had spiked -- I know this because, despite living in a house with three women and their alleged maternal instincts, I had to stick the digital thermometer in her butt.

She also stopped eating.

A fortnight has passed and now Nellie is shy one gall bladder. And I'm shy a few thousand dollars.

She's home now, resting in her own bed. And for the past 5 days, I've been jamming pills down her throat and administering injections and subcutaneous IV fluids. For someone who is incredibly squeamish and can't sit through a Quinton Tarantino movie with both eyes open, this is a remarkable achievement.

But for all my Herculean/Nightinggale type efforts, she is still not feeling well.

I know this from all the non-verbal communication.

From how she looks at me, with brown eyes that were once clear, but are now cloudy and blue.

From the way she strains to get out of bed and rest her head on my lap. Leaning into me for comfort in a way my daughters no longer do.

From the way she latches on to my wrist and won't let me pull away after petting her.

The nails dig into my forearm but I don't budge an inch.

I know all this from the two spoonfuls of high-protein, low-fat gastrointestinal food that still sits in her bowl.

And taunts me. Making her pain, my pain.

If I thought it would make her feel better, I'd bend down on all fours and eat that brown gelatinous slop.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Band Apart

Last year, the band Led Zeppelin, of bombastic supergroup fame, was honored at the Kennedy Arts Memorial.

President Obama was there.
And Heart, the female rock duo of the 70's, played an incredible rendition of Stairway to Heaven.

It had Jimmy Page in tears.
And it had some of the military generals muttering, "damn long hair hippies."

Watching the tribute took me back to the summer of 1980. When my buddies and I nabbed four tickets to see Zeppelin at an outdoor stadium in Philadelphia.

Mind you, this was before the Internet and ticket brokers and Stub Hub and all that nonsense.

Scoring tickets to a big show, and at the time they didn't get any bigger than Led Zeppelin, required knowing a guy who knew another guy who could possibly, maybe, get his hands on some tickets but it meant a trip to the sketchy parts of Camden to retrieve them.

Picture Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, only the dealer's name was Tyrone.
And instead of a cute cap, he had half a fro.
The other half of his head was impaled with an odd comb.
And in his waistband he had his two skilled partners, Smith and Wesson, who helped "negotiate" the price.

Good times.

But the ordeal was all for naught.

On the day we were scheduled to see Zepellin from our appropriately labelled Seats ZZ 17, ZZ 18, ZZ 19, and ZZ 20, in the uppermost level of the stadium just below the 1000 degree halogen lamps, the band was in Northern England laying their legendary drummer John Bonham to rest for his eternal dirt nap.

Bonham liked his drink. And a week before the concert he liked it a little too much, eventually drowning in his own vomit.

Short of being discovered with an object up your butt, foreign or otherwise, I can't think of a more ignominious way to go.

So we never saw Led Zeppelin perform live. But, I was fortunate enough to see many of the great bands of that era, including: Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Yes, The Allman Brothers, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raite, and many more.

I mention all this because last week my daughter returned home from Coachella, where she spent two days in the blistering desert heat listening to bands I've never heard of. Hipster, flighty bands whose music will not stand the test of time. And who will never find themselves standing next to the President at the Kennedy Arts Center.

Maybe I'm wrong.
I was wrong once in 1998, it could happen again.

Only time will tell.
So ten years from now let's see what happens to the following musical luminaries:

The Crotch Monkeys
Cheese for Motor Oil
Truncated Apostrophe
The Woozy Woos
Needle Nose Plier
Broken Lens Cap
Purple Eclair
Five Legged Donkey
Missing Gear
Mumford & Sons

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Location, vocation, location

I love this photo.

It was snapped by a local photographer using some time-lapse thig-a-majig that's way too technical for this Luddite.

I do know it was taken from a hilly knoll in El Segundo that is favorited by plane-o-philes like myself.

Not sure why I love planes, particularly since I hate flying. And hate is an understatement. Before I can fly anywhere I need to make a trip to the local pharmacy. And if I'm going oversees I usually have to cop some illegal stuff from a guy in the alley behind the Rite-Aid.

Also, I can't sleep while flying.

I always picture some emergency in the cockpit and a crew member calling for any volunteer to help pilot the craft. I know nothing of aeronautics but I've watched enough movies and played some aerial combat video games, and feel confident I could come through in a pinch.

When I was a staffer forced to take business trips, my partner John Shirley would always check the turbulence forecast on his laptop. Then, to bust my balls while downing my double shot of Jack Daniels, he would announce…

"Oh man look at those winds. Those are wing-rippers!"

Like I said, I hate flying.

But I love planes.

Which makes my current work environment so damn pleasing.

You see I'm about a 1/2 mile down the road from the aforementioned knoll in El Segundo. I'm seven stories up. And while I'm not sitting in a private office, I'm in a pretty quiet semi-secluded cubicle, with a similar, if not better, view of the LAX runways.

I shot this in between writing some banner ads for a local colonic clinic.

Not sure the iPhone does it justice. But I will tell you the sight of something as large as a cruise ship lifting off the ground never ceases to amaze. Especially when the big birds, the 747's and the 777's take all of the runway and nose up just before cresting over the hill and the Pacific Ocean.

It all brings up a point about offices, seating arrangements and negotiations with ad agencies.

I've made myself clear about communal work tables on several occasions. There's no need to repeat myself. But I do advise anyone jumping ship or considering a new job offer to bring up the seating arrangements.

Where you sit for 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day is important. It affects how you feel. And ultimately how you work.

Ignore it and it's like getting stuck in a crappy, bed-bug infested hotel room wedged between the squeaky elevator and the rattling ice machine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's in the bag

Yesterday I plugged a competitor's blog.

Today I'm plugging a former copywriter's business.

Her name is Pam Barsky. I met Pam a long, long, long time ago. We were both students at the Carson/Roberts Creative Workshop -- names that will mean nothing to today's generation of copywriters and art directors.

(Other meaningless names include Bill Bernbach, Jay Chiat, and Howard Gossage.)

For some reason, Pam was disillusioned by the ad game. It defies all reason, but she found it demoralizing, stifling and riddled with political ass nuggets.

So she did what few of us do, she got out.

And started a boutique in the tony neighborhood between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Selling bags. For some reason women need bags. And lots of them. These are not just bags. Each features a pithy headline/slogan/theme, if you will.

She turned her ability to string a few clever words together into a venture that made the sales register ring.

Is that jealousy you detect? You're damn right it is.

Her business thrived so she packed up and did what few sane Californians do, she moved to NYC, the vortex of the Polar Vortex. Now dozens, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of Gothamites are tooling around the city with Pam's creativity in full display.

She doesn't have to water anything down.
She doesn't need client approval.
And she gets to write whatever the fuck she wants.

It's sort of like this blog, only she makes money at it.

Pam was kind enough to send me some of her handiwork. I promised her a picture of both my daughters with two of her bags. But after a recent spat about college choices, my oldest daughter isn't speaking to me.

Not only do I suck at developing an exit plan from advertising, I'm not so good at this fatherhood thing either.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Get off the Internet

You'll never hear the people at Dr. Pepper telling you to drink Pepsi.
Or Coke.

Why would they?

Why would a tiny venture send their paying customers to one of the big boys?
It makes no sense.
And yet that is exactly what I am doing today.

The man pictured above is Bob Hoffman. He is older than me. More successful than me. And, believe it or not, has more hair than me. His blog also brings in about a million more readers than mine.

So why am I, the Dr. Pepper of advertising blogs sending you across the street for a Big Gulp of Hoffman's Old Time Curmudgeony Goodness?

Because several weeks ago Bob did a speaking engagement at the European Advertising Week Symposium and let loose with 45 minutes of master debunkery.

The video only has 10,000 hits but deserves 100,000 more.

He rails.
He opines.
He breaks out the facts and tears digital ninjas a new digital ninja asshole.

It's a delicious social media smack down.

What I like most about the speech is how uncomfortable the host/presenter/moderator is about letting Hoffman have his day.

He's hesitant and reluctant at the beginning of the talk. He is also sure that Bob is about to shoot himself in the foot with this audience of young ad kind.

Confident that these twenty somethings will send Bob back across the pond with a scarlet letter of shame, at the end of the talk he invites the audience to demonstrate their disapproval. But they don't.

In fact they side with Bob.

Proving Hoffman's point that even the bullshitters, ad people, are tired of peddling this social media bullshit.

Still not convinced?
Maybe you don't have time to watch his entire speech?
Fair enough.
Watch this video, also borrowed from adcontrarian, and tell me we all don't deserve a welt-making smack across the face with the Reality Stick.

2 places marketing dollars are being wasted on Facebook from iMedia Connection on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Much as it might surprise you, I don't dwell on the traffic numbers or the Google Analytics for this site. For one thing the accuracy is a bit questionable.

My Google Analytics chart shows traffic dating back as far as April 2007.

Which is curious, since I started this blog in March of 2009.

The other reason I don't trust the numbers is I don't have to.

It's only good if I were to sell R17 to some large media conglomerate and as of today I have fielded zero inquiries about that.

The numbers would also come into play if I were to start monetizing or putting up display advertising on the site. But I don't want to do that to my 13 faithful readers.

Plus it would only net me about 38 cents every week.

But upon further inspection, I did notice something very interesting about the data.

Ukraine, the scene of civil unrest and currently torn between its desire to enter NATO and its centuries old bonds to the Motherland, is one of the Top Ten Countries for Round Seventeen readership.

Even more surprising, Russia comes in at a shocking #2.

My ancestors come from all over Eastern Europe, they basically ran to where ever the Gestapo or the Cossacks weren't.

So I really don't have a dog in this fight. Though my sentiments are always with the underdog.

But I can't help wondering where all this Eastern readership stems from.

Either some long lost relatives who escaped the Nazi genocide have discovered their prodigious American cousin or these shtetl-dwelling, potato-eating, vodka-imbibers have a preternatural affinity for my particular brand of snark.

UPDATE: This morning I checked the analytics page again and found this gem worth sharing:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hurts so good

Sir Winston Churchill once famously said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life."

Those of you who know me or those of you who read this blog with any regularity will not be surprised to find I have enemies. Resulting, as Sir Winston put it, from my repeated and often vociferous stands on a host of topics.

In the advertising world, I have railed against slimy politics, groupthink, appeasement, pretentious affectation, even communal office furniture. And while this has earned me a small measure of respect in some circles, it has also cast me as some stubborn, pigheaded purist in others.

Sadly, it's members of those latter circles that tend to rise up the corporate ladder. And gain the ear of those in power. This is usually achieved through back-office obstructionism and silky smooth sycophancy.

"Hey Rich, I spoke with our CEO and he agrees with me, we should give the client what he is asking for. Can we see something by Wednesday? Cheers, mate."

This in essence forms the dividing line in many advertising agencies.

There are the Ad Makers, those who come up with the ideas that alter the business landscape and vault clients into the stratosphere.

And then there are the Ad Fakers, those who abuse the people who come up with the ideas. Showboat. Steal credit.  And earn ungodly sums of money simply because they can pull off wearing Capri pants and know the right champagne to order at Cannes.

Is it fair?
Of course it's not fair.

If advertising were fair, CEO's would not be taking home 4,000 times as much as the mailroom clerk.

If advertising were fair, tone deaf one percenters at agencies would be forbidden from posting Facebook pictures of their new cars, new houses and new $800 Manolo Blahniks.

If advertising were fair, layoffs would not be so prevalent because upper management would have the foresight to set some money aside for inevitable down cycles.

The good news is that even advertising abides by the wisdom of another famous Brit and must adhere to Newton's Laws of Physics.

Namely, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

And while karma doesn't come around as often as most of us would like, recently it took a big fat public steaming dump on a chap who has a PHd. in smugness and a black belt in asswipery.

For some reason this unnamed malignant faker still draws a paycheck, but my spidey sense tells me the pendulum is starting to swing in the direction of the makers.

in any case, it made for some very tasty schadenfreud.
very tasty, indeed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Money, money, money

(It's All Titillation Week, Day 2. For a fuller explanation, see yesterday's posting.)

Today, I'd like to talk about a topic that rarely gets talked about: money.
It rarely gets talked about because we've all been told NOT to talk about it.

Because we don't talk about it, I have no idea how my net worth stands up against my friend's net worth. Or my coworkers, my relatives or even my neighbors.

I have no way of keeping a scorecard. A man needs a scorecard.

I don't know if I can ease up on the gas pedal or slam it to the floor so I don't end up in a dirty nursing home under the sloppy care of Raul, the loose-change stealing orderly.

I'm so unversed on the topic of money that everything I have learned about wealth and the acquisition of wealth comes from the Parker Brothers.

It all comes from Monopoly.

Years ago, my wife and I found ourselves with two mortgages.

One on the house where we are raising our two daughters and another on a crappy little condo in south Culver City or North LAX-adjacent. We had, as my uncle coins it, fallen into the business of 'Tenants and Terlets.'

Only this additional property was not Broadway or Park Place. It wasn't even the desirable greens or reds. Our 2 BR flophouse in Fox Hills was more the equivalent of the cheap purplish properties that frankly no respectable Monopoly player wants to own.

Before renting it out, we interviewed many candidates including an older African American couple with a 14-year old son. The mom was sick and the dad had been unemployed for more than 5 years. They were on Section 8 Federal assistance. Their credit score wasn't low. They didn't even have one.

Not the ideal candidates by any stretch.

A day after meeting them, we received a handwritten 3-page letter begging us for the apartment. Naturally I was reluctant. But my wife -- who many people refer to as a saint, for obvious reasons --  convinced me it would be a mitzvah.

Turned out, doing good by them, did well by us. Section 8 was a blessing in disguise.

Every first of the month we got a check from Uncle Sam for 99.9% of the rent. It was so automatic it became very easy for me to let the tenants slide into arrears for 6 or 7 months. Their share never amounted to more than a couple of hundred bucks. And they were very sweet people who took great care of the property.

The point is, making money as a land baron is a lot easier than making money as a copywriter. So when the ad agency world finally discovers that I'm just a fraud, and they will, I'll have my landlord career to fall back on.

Where is all this leading? Well, several weeks ago, my daughter went on a camping spiritual retreat with her high school classmates. They went to rediscover their relationship with Jesus. My daughter went for the smores. When they returned there was a welcoming reception reuniting the parents with their born-again children.

At the party I had a chance to corner the Principal of St. Monica's Catholic High School. I told him the Monopoly anecdote I just told you. I also suggested the school look into ways of developing a formalized curriculum of financial education.

He agreed the students and many of the teachers knew little or nothing about banking, checking, mortgages, the stock market or even mutual funds. He said he'd run the idea by the monsignor.

Monsignor: "Oh really, which parent came up with this novel, yet-completely-unfeasible idea?"

Principal: "The Jew." (I'm positive that's how they refer to me.)

Monsignor: "Mmmmm, on second thought…."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Some Major Bouncage

Recently, my former boss Steve Rabosky said I should commit more time to writing about advertising.

Last week I took him up on his suggestion and committed 5 days of blogging to nothing but our beloved and sometimes hated industry.

I chose quite the week to do it as well because there were tectonic shifts right here in the Southern California ad market.

In any case the stunt was a bounding success. Sending Round Seventeen traffic through the roof and hitting all kinds of new peaks. Ending with Friday's posting that featured a half-naked woman and a nipple-grabbing boiled lobster, the best kind.

To that end, and taking our cue from the NY Post and the London Sun Times, postings this week will all feature photos of scantily clad women.

I had some luck finding a picture today and I am confident, through rigor and determination, that I will be able to locate similar puerile pics for the upcoming posts.

In addition to kicking off All Titillation Week, today is also Passover.

So let's switch gears. From mammaries to matzos.

The producers of the Noah's Ark movie have been receiving all kinds of flack because their film does not adhere to the original screenplay authored by God. And Shane Black. Yet no one has raised a peep over God's earlier bibler, the Ten Commandments.

Here, we must focus our attention not on the film  but at the original Passover story and its many, many faults.

I think it's clear that when God was done with the first draft, he should have optioned it to the studio and let the script doctors do a total rewrite. Because as it stands now, the Passover yarn is a complete sham.

First off, it starts out way too slow.
400 years of slavery and bondage.
Talk about a yawner for an opening.

Nothing happens for two hours and then Moses starts talking to a burning rhododendron. A bush?

Where does that character development go?
Why couldn't it be a three-legged talking goat?
Or a sassy donkey?
Or a cat that thinks he's a pirate?
Has God even seen Shrek?

OK, the plagues.

Ten plagues for Christ's sake! Why not three? There's an age-old magic symmetry to three. Plus, this God character is the Master of the Universe, the King of Kings,  Lord over everything from Pacoima to Pluto and the best he can do is whip up some frogs and locusts?
How about some meteorites?
Tsunami waves?
And I know this is often repeated, but what the hell is murrain?

Finally, and this is where the story loses all kinds of credibility, are we to believe that it took an act, or eleven boring acts, of God to convince the Pharaoh to let my people go?

I've sat in living rooms, dining rooms, and oneg shabbat rooms at the back of the Temple, my entire life. I know about the kvetching, the griping and the sending of the cold soup back to the kitchen.

I can say with no small amount of Hebraic certitude that Pharaoh would not put up with this tsuris for 45 minutes, much less 400 years.

If I were the Egyptian Sun God and Moses told me his people wanted to leave, I would have helped him wrap up the ruggelah and the kreplach and personally escorted he and his yappy tribe of yentas across the Red Sea.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We see ads differently

(This is a special bonus Friday posting in celebration of our All Advertising Week. As you might know there's nothing I enjoy more than being right. Well, yesterday Adweek announced that Red Lobster was holding an agency review. Just as they did three years ago. To that end, I'm ending the week with a reprint of a previous R17 posting. Or, if you'd like you can read this as a preview of a posting that will go up three years from now.)

August, 2011.

Last week it was announced that Darden, the operator of many family restaurant chains like Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, was putting the Red Lobster account up for review. Sales had been falling, franchisee's were getting unhappy and the advertising had gotten stale.

Cue the eager agency contenders.

I know from experience, weekends will be sacrificed in the pursuit of this crown jewel of advertising. People will work long hours. Couches will get slept on. Cold coffee will get nuked. And strategies will be constructed, deconstructed and put before the knowing eye of focus groups.

Backs will get stabbed. Inter-office jockeying will occur. And new office romances will bloom, fed by the aphrodisiacal aromas of stale pizza and 11 PM body odor.

At the end of the review process, an agency will be selected, champagne will be uncorked and a brand-spanking new Red Lobster campaign will be foisted on the crustacean-hungry masses...

Open on hot melted butter drizzled over freshly steamed lobster tail.

Cut to tight shot of tongs placing lobster tail on a beautifully-dressed dinner plate.

Cut to steam rising off the fluffy mashed potatoes.

Cut to dinner roll being cracked in half.

Cut to extreme slow motion shot of flakes flying off the dinner roll.

Cut to beet red lobster tail shell being cracked open.

Cut to man wearing khaki pants, with extremely white teeth, biting into said lobster and smiling.

Cut to khaki pants man's wife, she is smiling too.

ANNCR: Right now during Red Lobster Red Tag Dining Days, you can get our signature lobster tail, mashed potatoes and your choice of farm fresh vegetable for only $9.99. Come on in now, we'll start melting the butter just for you.

End on beauty shot of dinner plate.

Starburst: Red Tag Dining Days. Just $9.99

Art Card: Red Lobster. Who's in the mood for Tail?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mental masturbation

I won't beat around the bush.

When it comes to ad agency Planning, I don't get it.
Newsflash, I don't ever plan to get it.

I don't want to offend anyone, but in the twenty plus years --oh shit, now it's twenty five plus years --I've been in the business I have never depended on the Planning Department, and whatever it is they do, to inch me any closer to a creative solution.

Not once.

And I have been forced to sit through thousands of Planning Department briefings.

In the automotive world, I've heard the word "luxury" dissected 18 ways 'til Sunday.

In the technology world, "innovation" has been picked over like a dead water buffalo under the Serengeti sun.

Once, while pitching Sparklett's water, our MBA-enhanced Planner with the grating British accent graced us with his business acumen and told us the strategy was all about "Blue." (This can be corroborated by several R17 readers.)

By the way, Blue was the result of a two month-long 'deep dive' and a five-city tour of focus groups that I believe included a trip to the planner's home town of West Kensington.

Years ago I was at an unnamed ad agency eavesdropping -- thank you open office plan -- in on a group of unnamed account planners and unnamed account executives talking about a unnamed brand of tortilla chips.

Personally, I don't see how a briefing about a low-interest tortilla chip could merit a meeting lasting more than 3 minutes, but this one went on longer than the Wolf of the Wall Street.

The ensuing question/answer/further discussion period was like an aural root canal.

"People like sharing tortilla chips."

"The spots should be about the _________ Tortilla Chip Moments."

"We need a tortilla chip manifesto."

Cue the sound of creative people rethinking their career choice.

And yet the inanity continues.

As you are reading this rather-restrained rant, there are conference rooms chock full of creatives who have just presented their ideas to a bunch of over-critical, over-thinking Planners, who are over-zealously picking it apart and measuring the work against some insipid set-in-stone briefing document.

As sure as the mustache under my nose, some 26-year old ex-sorority girl with a certificate in planning and two years of real world living, is chiming in with the ubiquitous:

"I like it. And I don't want to split hairs, maybe it's in the semantics, but (and here comes the phrase that kills all good ideas) I'm not sure it's on-strategy."

To which, just once, I wish one ballsy staff creative would simply rise to the occasion, stand up and reply:

"Maybe, the strategy is off-strategy."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We're Not Hiring

Weeks ago a reader complained that my arguments would carry more water if I weren't so disdainful of younger people, what they wear, how they work and the "jewelry" with which they choose to adorn their body.

But, I'm 44 and approaching middle age.
It's my job to disparage those with so much energy, so little wisdom and so many misguided sartorial decisions.

Besides I find it hard to hide my disdain for their budding advertising careers. Not so much for what they are doing in advertising, although there's plenty of grist for the mill there. It's more about how they got into advertising.

Somebody -- the holding companies -- is holding the door open for them.

It wasn't like that when I came up through the ranks.
Not by a long shot.

You could't get a job as a copywriter unless you had experience.
And you couldn't get experience, unless you were a copywriter.

There were no Young Gun programs.
Or agencies hiring cubbie copywriters, as they did in the 60's and 70's.
If you wanted a job as a junior you had to fight off the competition like some fast swimming sperm with the strongest tail and the best package of chromosomes.

I did what many fellow 44-year olds did.

Instead of going straight into the big time, I spent a few years in the D league.
The Farm System.
The Minors.

I got a job writing recruitment ads. Recruitment ad agencies were eager to hire any writer who could string together a few words. Particularly if they knew the difference between it's and its, your and you're, as well as their and there.

There are many "professional copywriters" today, stewarding billion-dollar brands, who don't.

Recruitment advertising was not easy work. There are not that many ways to say, "We offer a challenging work environment with competitive salaries and benefits."

That never dissuaded my boss, a squat, chain-smoking, Napoleonic man with all the manners of a feral pig, from taking a red pen to my work and sending me back to my desk for more options.

This didn't happen once a day. It happened 15-20 times a day. Recruitment ad agencies don't get hired on the basis of their creativity. It's all about volume. Excuse me, Volume.

It wasn't glamorous.
Or fun.
Or inspiring.
In fact, I'd argue it was 180 degrees from all of the above.

And I didn't do it for a month. Or a year. Or even two years. I churned out that bird cage lining for 2 & 1/2 painful years. But the experience was invaluable.

Kids today seemed to have leap-frogged over this kind of hardship. They waltz out of college with their  Vines, their case studies and their fake ads for glow-in-the-dark condoms, and walk into an ad agency expecting to be wooed and handed a gym membership and a generous car allowance.

So how did I unshackle myself from the recruitment ad agency world and break into the big time?

For that, let's go to a sample spec ad from the Siegel Humility Files…

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This is your invitation

Go ahead enlarge the picture.

That is the face of Lee Clow, The Bearded One.
As well as the face of a Pacific Chinook Salmon, The Scaly One.

Why, you may ask, are they on the same page?
In which case you'd be missing the greater point -- they're on a page.

A printed page.

The year was 1998 and Lee Clow had just been named WSAAA leader of the year. To honor him, the WSAAA, Western States Advertising Agency Association, was throwing a gala dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Since my art director John Shirley and I were the Flavors of the Month for a short five minutes, we were asked to come up with an invite for the event.

Fortunately, this was before the advent of the cheap e-vite or e-mail blasts.

Yes, those are cheaper ways of communicating.
But, and I can't stress this enough, those are cheaper ways of communicating.

You can call me old school but you'd better say it loudly, 'cause the hair in my ear is getting thicker by the day, but an invite to a black tie event should be a printed piece.

On thick stock.

Something you can share with co-workers.

"Check this out, it's Lee Clow and a Salmon."

Here it is in all its glory:

If you were holding this in your hand you could fold it out and easily read all the little captions instead of trying to enlarge the html, find the zoom-in tool and mouse across the timeline.

And that's the problem with advertising today.
There's no tactility.

Fortunately, for you, I've taken the liberty of breaking it down to smaller components.

I'm sure when we presented the invite ideas there were two to three other concepts in the mix. You never went to Clow with just one idea in your pocket. He needed to have choices. I'm glad Lee has a penchant for self-deprecation and chose this odd bird.

Not only because it gave us a chance to get in front of every important professional in the Los Angeles advertising community. 

It also gave us the self-serving opportunity to cement our work (the ABC campaign) among the select legendary campaigns that built the Chiat/Day legend.

Moreover, and this cannot be overstated, it gave us a glorious four-color platform to put a picture of advertising icon Lee Clow next to a dead flash-frozen fish.

Monday, April 7, 2014

All Advertising Week

The Complaint Department at Round Seventeen was working overtime last week.

Many readers took issue with my April Fool's Day prank. Wherein I threatened/promised to pull the plug on this blogfoolery. The tone was not all pleasing.

"How dare you stop writing a complementary daily blog that I enjoy everyday free of charge with no subscription fee and no annoying banners that are so often seen on lesser websites which much greater traffic?"

As if that were not enough, later in the week I penned a lengthy piece regarding the Arab League and their blind theocratic march towards the Dark Ages.

To which one reader, a former boss of mine, responded (verbatim):

"You're much funnier when you write about the fucked up business of advertising."

A passive/aggressive accolade if I've ever heard one. One of the short-tempered interns in the Complaint Department urged me to send that reader a cake.

But instead, I have uncharacteristically decided to take the high ground.

I'm happy to announce this week will be about advertising. And nothing but advertising. I've even enlisted the aid of my wife who will serve as editor, making sure I don't overstep my boundaries, name names or otherwise dig myself a career hole I can't get out of.

This thematic endeavor may seem highly unusual, but in fact it is not. We have done series here before.

Regular readers will remember the Things Jews Don't Do collection.

There was also Celebrities I Have Worked With.

In 2012, there was the Swiftian monthly series People We Need To Kill.

There was even the two-week anthology Why Rich Siegel Is The World's Greatest Lover. Not surprisingly, it didn't last two weeks and turned out to be a bit of an over-promise.

Great, you might be thinking, what advertising legend are you going to cut down to size today?
Are you going to skewer the bloated bureaucracies?
The irrationality of focus groups?
The deification of all things digital?

Come on Rich, lay some brutal honesty and common man wisdom on those greedy penny-pinching, money-hoarding, yacht-buying holding companies.

I'm sorry, but today's posting is done.This was more like a teaser of things to come.

If you don't like it, you're more than welcome to direct any correspondence to our always-attentive and always-responsive R17 Complaint Department.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A three hour tour

A few weeks ago, it rained in Southern California.

For the rest of the country, pounded by snow, hail and sleet, this would not raise an eyebrow. But here, where the hills are brown and firemen are at a constant DefCon 5, rain is big news.

Even the possibility of rain is big news. A thunder cloud in Morro Bay, 250 miles north of LA, will send the local weathermen scurrying for the hair gel products and some last minute promos.

"Is rain in the forecast? Tune in at eleven (followed by a fist pump)."

And it works.

Local news stations see their ratings spike on just the hint of any possible precipitation.

The Storm of the Century turned out to be a little more than 2 inches of rain. My gutters got clogged. But unfortunately there's no FEMA money in clogged gutters.

Others didn't fare so well.

Like this boat owner.
I should say previous boat owner, because this one was a total wreck.

Not sure my photographs tell the whole picture, but this is a big boat.
Was a big boat.

It had a state room, a kitchen and a sunning deck. There might be more nautical terms, but I'm a confirmed landlubber. I get seasick on a porch swing.

You don't see a sight like this everyday in Playa del Rey, so naturally it conjures up a mystery. How did it get here, springs to mind.

Marina del Rey, where boaters typically dock, is a just few hundred yards away.

Oh sure, it might have been a shoddy Buntline Hitch Knot.

Or a poorly executed Halyard Cleat Hitch.

But I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest it might have something to do with alcohol.

" Isn't it great being out here without our nagging wives?"


"Did you get the anchor, Steve?"

"One Anchor Steam coming right up."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This is the end

That's it, folks.

The well is dry.
The batteries in the keyboard are dead.
And my doctor will not renew my prescription for Vicoden.

So, we're closing up shop, throwing the deadbolt and calling it a wrap.

For some of you this could be the best news of the day.

"Thank the Lord. Now I don't have to put up with his insufferable stories, his shameless self-promotion and his unearned, bloated sense of righteous indignation. He's like a little school girl with an instagram account, a non-stop parade of desperate selfies that just cry out for attention." 

For others it will be like.

"Eh, who cares, now I'll have more time to read Kathy Hepinstall's blog. She's not as prodigious, but she's a real writer. And she's actually funny."

And for 5 people, this news may be crushing.

"You can't stop writing Round Seventeen. It's the first thing I read every morning. It puts a smile on my face. And makes life bearable."

Ok, maybe not 5 people, maybe two people, including my wife.

You might think that after five years and more than 1000 entries into this blog that my epitaph would be a long rambling tome, chock full of anecdotes and wisdom.

Or that it would be a heartfelt piece, with layers of snark and cynicism carefully peeled back to reveal a soft core of raw emotion and unabashed sentimentality.

But you'd be wrong.

You might also be wondering why am I pulling the plug today?

Yesterday was March 31st and web traffic for the month was 8500 page views, the highest monthly total ever. Taking the advice of one Jerry Seinfeld, "it's always good to leave on a high note."

Thank you.

It was fun.