Friday, May 30, 2014

A Bridge Too Strong

Last week I reported on the progress of my new dental implants.

However, it seems I jumped the gun. I thought the dentist was going to be drilling holes in my skull in preparation for my new permanent, titanium based front teeth.

That did not happen. Instead, we spent an hour and a half removing the dental bridge that I had always assumed would follow me to the dirt nap. It's pictured above for your sadistic pleasure.

I'm not going to lie, I had nightmares about the bridge removal.

Cursed with a vivid imagination, I lay awake the night before wondering how the dentist was going to yank this inch and a half wide appliance out of my jaw. Particularly since when it was put there, the original dentist assured me this thing was going nowhere.

My worst fears came to fruition.

The proceedings were started with 4, count em four, injections of novacaine through my upper jaw and perilously close to the temporal lobes of my brain responsible for trigonometry, bookkeeping and the composition of urgent CTA's (calls to action, for you ad laymen).

Once sufficiently numbed, the dentist reached for the appliance removal device. Let's put the euphemisms aside, these were nothing more than needle-nose pliers.

He tugged.
He tugged a little harder.
He tugged with a wiggle to the left. And a wiggle to the right.

Bad news, tugging was not going to do the trick.

The dentist turned to his right.

That's when he reached for the tapper.

Another euphemism.
The tapper is dental-speak for hammer and chisel. I was no longer a patient, I was a plumbing project.

"This may feel a little uncomfortable."

A little, was the understatement of the morning.

The tapping and the chiseling and the yanking proved unsuccessful. That's when the circular saw came out. He didn't have a euphemism for the saw.

Mind you it wasn't the kind of circular saw you'd see on This Old House, but a tiny version of the same, made specifically for splitting the sheet metal in my mouth.

If you look at the picture above you can see where a vertical ridge was ripped into each of the bridge supports. This was followed by more tapping. More yanking. And then finally a gush of air where my dental bridge once was.

Right now I'm walking around with a temporary bridge. Some cheap resin fashioned to look like teeth, held in by nothing stronger than Elmer's Glue. I've been told not eat anything sturdier than an overripe peach, lest the bridge comes loose and falls out on its own.

Considering what I went through that morning, that's the least of my concerns.

In two weeks I go back to have the titanium bases installed. That's when the drill comes out.

Did I say drill?
 I meant bicuspid implantation device.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hostile takeover

Know what I love?

A good page takeover.

OK, that's nowhere near the truth.
No one likes loves a good page takeover.

You show me someone who does and I'll show you someone who never skips the pre-roll ads on a youtube video.

Someone who actually clicks banner ads.

Someone who answers every damn Buzzfeed quiz and is eager to share with the world what kind of bug/flower/dog breed/quilting pattern he or she would be in another lifetime.

In Barcelona.

In terms of annoying media choices, the page takeover is the digital equivalent of the urinal cake. It's there. It's unavoidable. And if we could we'd squeeze our sphincters and obliterate it with a steady and strong stream of annoyed piss.

And yet we, the advertising industry, persist and sell this malarkey to our clients in the interest of appearing 360 degrees or fully integrated or media agnostic.

The fact is, no "campaign" gets out the agency door unless it's accompanied by a slew of page takeover options. These are usually conceived and designed at the very last minute. Triggered by a sharp account coordinator going over the deck and making sure all the deliverables are in order.

"Oh shit," usually uttered 45 minutes before the foam core boards are packed away, "we don't have any page takeovers."

I know this sounds like old school heresy.

We tell our clients that a good idea can come from anywhere. But, in all the years I've been doing this, and I'm 44 so it's quite substantial, I've never seen a Chief Creative Officer say, "This is a great page takeover idea, let's develop some TV, print and guerrilla ideas that support this."


I'd love to see the research that documents the effectiveness of advertising page takeovers. Actually I'd rather have more painful dental surgery than wade through that. Besides there's nothing anyone say that would convince me these page takeovers have any effect on consumers.

People visit a website for news.
Or sports results.
Or stock quotes.
They don't want to be interrupted and have roadblocks placed between themselves and what they want from the internet.

Know who doesn't do page takeovers?
The porn industry.
(So I hear)

If you ask me, we can learn a lot from the porn industry.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Eat your broccoli

Heard a great interview with legendary singer David Crosby.

The DJ had asked David about his politics. Crosby comes from a time when singers and musicians had a world view and infused it into their music. Unlike some of the lyrics you might hear today that sound something like:

Bitch get my gatt
Or you gonna to get got.

Crosby was asked how he felt about concert goers who come to hear his music but may not care to hear about his politics. David said it was, "too fucking bad. The two are inseparable and if the audience doesn't like it they can go elsewhere."

On that note, I know you come to this blog for my sometimes humorous, sometimes suicidal, anecdotes about the ad industry but today I'm going to launch into another tirade about Arab hypocrisy and the threat of Sharia law.

Have you heard of BDS?

It's a movement by Palestinians that calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. As movements go, I much prefer this approach to the previous intifadas, which involved indiscriminate suicide bombings, throat slitting and plane hijackings.

More specifically the BDS folks are calling on colleges and financial institutions to walk away from Israeli innovation and to reject any products exported from the Holy Land. Last week the students at the University of Washington -- where my daughter will be going in the fall -- wisely rejected the call for Israeli divestiture.

Why the BDS movement you may ask?
Because these ill-informed leftists see Israel as the obstacle to Palestinian statehood.

Choosing to ignore the fact that the State of Palestine was established in May of 1948 and then quickly unestablished, by unhappy Palestinians, in June 1948.

They've also chosen to ignore the fact that billions of dollars of international aid to Palestinians was siphoned off and now sits in a Swiss bank account held by Mrs. Yassir Arafat. And in her shoe closet.

Or that Fatah and Hamas, the two governing bodies of the Palestinian people cannot agree on a flag, or the official state hummus, much less how to "rule" their own people.

Perhaps they could model their new state after one of the other successful self-proclaimed Islamic countries in the region. But have you seen the sectarian violence in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mali, etc. Not a lot of good role models there.

In Sudan they are getting ready to stone a pregnant woman for converting to Christianity.
And who could forget the new crucifixions that are popping up all around the region (except ironically in Israel)?

The BDS people can overlook all that.

And so they do what people have always done for the past 5,000 years, they blame Jews. They've even gone so far as to label Israel an Apartheid state.

This takes, as my people would say, chutzpah.

Palestinian literacy and standard of living are among the highest of all people living in Arab or Islamic countries.

In the interest of brevity I won't bore you with all the facts and statistics. Suffice to say in neighboring Syria, millions of people have been displaced and more than 100,000 civilians have been murdered.

Quiz me this BDS Advocate, given a choice, would those dead Syrians prefer the grave or some good old fashioned Israeli Apartheid living?

UPDATE: And then there's this ripped from today's headlines.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Man O'Manifesto

It has now been more than 8 months since I wrote my last manifesto.

And I do believe we are entering a new era of advertising.

An era I am calling The Age of the Antifesto.

I for one couldn't be happier.
People hate the manifesto. And that's fine with me, because I hate writing them.

There was a time I was being brought in to agencies to crank out two manifestos in a week. That became three. And then the three manifestos a week quickly became three manifestos in three days. Three days quickly became one day.

And on one occasion I had a client ask me for a new manifesto in 45 minutes!

Was it any good?

Good is in the eye of the beholder.

It assumes a standard. 
A standard that…

See how easy it is to slip into that crappy pseudo-important tone of voice?

When manifestos had their heyday, back in the 90's, I had the good fortune to be working with Mark Fenske, who was, and is, a writer's writer. Mark is a naturally-built middle linebacker, standing 6'4" and weighing in at a very decent bowler's score.

As such, he manhandles words as if they were a skinny punter from the Czech Republic.

I still have some of Mark's old manifestos in my files.
And refer to them when the going gets tough.
Or steal from them when the deadline gets impossible.

In any case the pendulum is swinging back the other way.

Not every company can be like Apple. Nor should they be. Computers impact people lives. Scented candles, restaurant-style tortilla chips, online hotel aggregators, do not.

Smart CEO's who want to sell their shit are contacting ad agencies to help them sell more of their shit. And they're doing so without the aid of some hastily-written, easily-ignored corporate poetry.

Yet, weeks from now, sure as the deals that won't last forever, I will be asked to write some aspirational horse-hockey for some delusional CMO who believes his company's dohickey or whatchamacallit can rescue mankind.

Ignoring the most common of common sense.

Because the Soda Pop Pushers, Mayonnaise Makers and Fast Food Vendors who are crazy enough to  think they can change the world, are the ones who won't.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I got screwed

Today's post is being written in advance (dirty little secret, all my posts are written in advance).

But yesterday, Wednesday, I went to see my dentist to begin some major restorative work.

Today, Thursday I will, hopefully, be under the hazy influence of some major opiates.

Just to screw around with the time-space continuum a bit more, a long time ago my brother and I were wrestling in the top bunk of our bunk beds. Oddly enough, on certain family get togethers and providing there is enough alcohol we still like to tangle for alpha male dominance.

In any case, my brother kicked me off the top bunk. I landed on the hard wooden floors face first. Actually upper jaw first. The six foot fall knocked out my two front teeth and left a pool of blood on the hardwood floor that was a 1/4 inch deep.

As a result I was the only kid in first grade with dentures.

Years later when I moved out to California I decided to replace the flipper in my mouth with something more permanent. Low on financial resources I took my dilemma to the UCLA Dental School, where apprentice dentists work free of charge.

I was assigned an Egyptian student who, after taking one look in my mouth, practically jumped for joy. He said my missing front teeth would be the perfect assignment for his final exam.

Under the watchful eyes of tenured professors in dentistry, George, an odd name for an Egyptian, installed a permanent bridge across my upper jaw. Weeks afterwards, he sent me a kind thank you letter and told me he received an A+ on his final exam.

That bridge help up for more than 25 years until last week when I was gorging myself on some BBQ beef ribs. I heard an audible crack and thought maybe I had splintered the bone on the rib.

No such luck. The porcelain teeth broke off the metal bridge.

I looked in the mirror and saw metal, lots and lots of metal.

And now the bridge must come down.

I've come to learn that dentists don't do bridges anymore. They favor dental implants. So yesterday a few titanium bases were drilled into my skull. Weeks from now those bases will be plugged. And weeks after that new beautiful enamel teeth will be screwed onto the bases.

But it will be worth it. Not only because I will receive a new prescription for Vicoden.

But, and this is hard to fathom, I've been led to believe that when all is said and done I'll be even prettier than I am today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

No Mood for Mood Boards

If you haven't guessed I am a man of many pet peeves.

You don't get to a 1000+ posts on a blog without having some irritations. Or in my case, way too many.

Perhaps I should learn to meditate but I can't help thinking nothing will dry the well faster than a sense of tranquility and ease with the world at large.

And so I willfully remain peeved. And the world returns the favor with an endless supply of asininity.

Nothing illustrates that more than the mood board.

Years ago, my partner and I were working at an ad agency, an unnamed local satellite of a much larger worldwide agency. The creative directors in charge were young. Given to tattoos, Capri pants and artisanal coffee; all well-documented pet peeves of mine.

While they were long on affectations, they were noticeably shorthanded in their ability to tell a story.

And so we found ourselves, on several late nights, preparing elaborate mood boards to accompany and elucidate our scripts.

My best thinking and my best writing are done early so I'm not fond of being in the office at 8 o'clock on any night. By then Final Jeopardy has been answered and I've been robbed of an opportunity to flaunt my abundant trivial knowledge in front of my family.

I'm particularly foul about staying late to do a Google image search for just the right rustic farmhouse barn.

Or the perfectly coiffed middle aged housewife.

Or the demographically-correct breed of pet dog.

Let's say you're a client, you're the Chief Marketing Officer of a large multibillion dollar company. You've spent years in the business and have an intuitive feel for how a brand's message needs to be conveyed.

And let's say I'm in your fancy Chief Marketing Officer's office and I'm presenting you a script. And just for example the spot opens with, "A woman walks into a luxurious high end apartment."

Do you really need to see a mood board -- like the one above -- in order to understand the visual cues one might find in a luxurious high end apartment?


If anything you should be insulted that we, the ad agency, have discounted your imagination and opted to spoon feed you meaningless generic images screen grabbed off a computer while eating crappy, over-spiced Thai food.

You should rightfully be insulted and cheesed off that we assigned billable hours to that stupid endeavor.

Conversely, if you are a CMO and you need a mood board because you can't conjure up the images in your head, well then I would respectfully submit that your reach has exceeded your grasp.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Highway to Hell

We think of freeways or highways or thruways as high speed roads that take us to the places we know we are going. Nothing is left to chance. We can see our destinations clearly on a NAV system or on our iPhones.

But this is the story of unknown destinations.
And how the 405 freeway saved my life.

Back in 2004, I was working as Group Creative Director for Y&R in Irvine, CA. By all accounts it was a decent job.

I enjoyed the company of my boss, a legendary art director with a very quirky and dry sense of humor.

My sometimes difficult client, Jaguar, had been experiencing record setting sales.

And I was bringing home a healthy paycheck.

That is when I could get home.

You see, 53 grueling miles stood between the front door of my house in Culver City and the front door of my office behind the Orange Curtain.

If you've ever tried to leave Dodger Stadium at the top half of the 8th inning, when everyone is scurrying for the exits, you know exactly what the 405 or as I like to call it -- the Asphalt Ribbon of Death -- feels like.

It's a parking lot that's about 5 mph past parking.

I would often look over at my fellow commuters and see that my pain was their pain. Hands flailed. Steering wheels were pounded. And silent screams muffled by the A/C and laminated windows, were heard only by those doing the screaming.

I would tell my wife, "I was one Sig Alert away from going on a mass roadside murder spree."

Fortunately, I do not own a gun.
And recognizing my own short fuse, never will.
I call that responsible non-gun ownership.

One night the 405 got the best of me. And my wife, a fount of wisdom (even though marrying me puts her sagacity in question), told me to quit.

"Quit?" I said, "I've got nowhere to go. I don't have another job. And there aren't many ad agencies looking to hire a 34-year old timer."

But it wasn't what she said as much as it was how she said it that put me over the edge.

If she had to sit through one more meal listening to me gripe about work, the god damned drive to Irvine and the over-abundance of chain restaurants in Orange County, she was going to assemble a crack team of divorce attorneys and I'd never see my jacuzzi again.

And so I informed the creative leaders at Y&R that they would have to do without my creativity. And my surly demeanor.

In a couple of weeks I will be celebrating 10 successful and quite happy years as a freelancer. All because I decided to get off the freeway and allow myself the freedom to get a little lost.

I read a great piece of writing advice about the importance of spontaneity. A famous author said, "Never write the ending of your story beforehand. It has to be earned." She was right.

For me at least, the Highway to Hell turned into the Highway to Heaven.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cai Quo Whoa!!!!

Years ago, I took my wife and two daughters to New York City, land of loogie hockers, Shakespearean self-talkers and entrepreneurial sidewalk falafel makers. It is the greatest city in the world. By a New York Mile.

I was in the Big Apple under unnatural circumstances. That is, having lived in the Bronx, several outposts in Queens and the suburban hamlet of Suffern, I was in New York as a tourist.

As such, we did all the shitty things tourists do.

Rockefeller Center.
The Empire State Building.
The Statue of Liberty.
We even visited some chocolate emporium near Times Square that sent my daughters into some confectionary nirvana.

This was an aberration. As a candy store in New York will always be some fleabag bodega where my mother would send me to pick up her cigarettes.

Prior to returning to LA, my oldest daughter wanted to see the Guggenheim. I obliged even though I had been there many times before.

In 3rd grade.
In 5th grade.
In 6th grade.
And I believe twice more in 11th grade.

The Guggenheim is a required course in the New York State Public School curriculum.

But this time was different because the entire museum had been commandeered by a Chinese artist named Cai Quo Chang. I had never heard of him. Which is not all that unusual since I can name about 5 artists, tops: Rembrandt, Picasso, Dali, that dude that cut off his ear and my friend Rohitash Ro.

The first "piece", upon entering the museum, was an out-of-world experience in taxidermy; 300 stuffed wolves, charging in a pack, leaping off the ground and running headlong into a large wall of acrylic glass. I had never seen anything like it.

My jaw was dragging on the ground as I walked through the museum and made my way to the top circular level. That's where this non-museum going, culturally-ignorant, football-watching neanderthal,  was handsomely rewarded.

Michaelangelo had his marble. Caldor had his mobiles. Cai Quo Chang's preferred medium is gunpowder. He designs with it. He paints with it. And of course he lights matches to it.

It was a day at the museum that I will never forget. And for years afterward, I often brought Cai Quo Chang's name to the creative table, suggesting we use him and his penchant for blowing stuff up to hawk some car or soft drink or feminine hygiene product.

But it's always been a swing and a miss. So today I'm giving up.

And I'm giving you, the young creative professional the source of what could be a monster spot. It's all about giving back to the ad community.

It's the same generous spirit I share with Jordan Zimmerman. I can't fly you to South Florida to tour the house that tent sales built. Or wine and dine you at the Ft. Lauderdale Olive Garden. Or share my biceps and my formula for building a $33 trillion empire.

But I can point you in the direction of an artist who is ripe for the ad world.

If you do pursue Cai Quo Chang and you do make an award-winning commercial with dead wolves or TNT, all I ask for in return is a slash.

And a Facebook share.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Where to Abdul?

"Can you pick me up? Now."

If you were to scan through my iPhone you'd find this text in all its glorious forms. As the father of two teenage daughters, it's to be expected.

For those of you about to enter this stage of parenthood, let this be a word of caution. In addition to your regular job you will take on the duties of a full time chaffuer.

If at all possible, try to dissuade your son or daughter from getting too tight with Persians. This will complicate your life to no end.

I mean no disrespect, but Persians, it seems, have a different understanding of time and time management. I can't tell you how many times I have delivered my daughter to her Iranian friend's house in Beverly Hills only to find out --sometimes 20 minutes later -- that her Persian pal had a dentist appointment. Or a class with a tutor.

It is uncanny. And my friend from Tehran concurs it is a common cultural occurrence.

In any case, as I was in the car on my way to retrieve my daughter I was stopped at a red light. There, I noticed an older black man who looked surprisingly like the one pictured above. He was running across the street hoping to catch the city bus.

He missed it. And I could see the disappointment in his eyes.

The light turned green and I proceeded to get my daughter.

On the way back to the house I noticed the older man, not really old, about 64, twenty years older than me, was still sitting on the bench waiting for the next bus.

Then I did what I should have done in the first place, I pulled over.

"What are you doing Dad?", I heard from the back seat.

The old man hopped in, a bit flabbergasted by this unusual gesture from a total stranger.

Turned out he didn't need to go that far. Just a few miles to the next bus station where his son was going to pick him up.

He told us his name was Addis Ababa, or something that sounded like that. And that he had come to America about a year ago, from his native country of Eritrea.

He couldn't stop thanking me.

Little did he know that I should have been thanking him. For giving me an opportunity to put on a little demonstration for my child. To show her the value of a random act of kindness. Not that I want her picking up strange old men at bus stops, but you get the point.

I bring all this up because yesterday CNN reported that one in four people throughout the globe harbor anti-Semitic feelings. This, despite the fact that more 5 billion people on the planet have never even met a Jew. The percentage was significantly higher in Africa and the Middle East.

Statistically speaking -- and yes I understand the danger of making broad generalizations while making a broad generalization -- there's a good chance that my new friend Addis, who seemed like a very nice person, is one these uninformed people. And that for unknown reasons he bears a hatred for Members of the Tribe.

Perhaps my impromptu courtesy would have dissuaded him of those ugly preconceptions.

I didn't introduce myself as Rich Siegel, American Jew.

Now I wish I had.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Mid-Term Elections

When you blog as much as I do, Monday through Thursday, and occasionally Friday, there is a tendency to get tired of one's own voice.

You, the reader, can escape my non-stop ranting and petty self-righteousness by simply not logging onto R17.

I don't have that luxury. Sadly, neither does my wife. I probably should have bought her a pair Bose QC-15 Noise canceling Headphones for Mother's Day.

In any case, today I'm going to turn off the diatribe machine and talk about my daughter. My youngest daughter, Abby.

This year she has been serving on the Leadership Council at school. They're the liaisons between the students and the staff. It's a Catholic School so it's not like the teachers are actually going to yield to any student demands. It's more about the appearance of compromise. And tricking the students into believing they have a say in the school's future.

In many ways it's much like our own democracy.

Abby enjoyed being on the council so much that she decided to run for Student Body Class President next year. You can see one of her campaign posters above. I offered to help her write and design the posters but she wanted to do it by herself.

Hence, my idea, "I Like Kike"….

…playing off her Hebraic roots and Eisenhower's iconic presidential campaign, never saw the light of day.

I'm not sure the Monsignor would have approved but I have a warm spot for self-deprecation.

For weeks Abby worked on her campaign. The teacher representative told us she worked harder than all the other candidates, combined. She made posters, canvassed the hallways, even baked cookies to sway voters who were still on the fence.

But as we have seen many times over, the best candidate and the hardest working candidate doesn't always win.

There was a palpable sadness here in Culver City that lasted a good three days. It magically disappeared when Abby checked the DVR and discovered an unwatched episode of Pretty Little Liar.

Monday, May 12, 2014

We're Not Number One

While the NBA struggles with issues of character and ill-informed stupidity at its highest levels, the advertising industry finds itself doing the same.

You might remember 9 months ago we heard of the proposed $35 billion merger of Omnicom (an alma mater) and Publicis (also an alma mater).

This "marriage of equals" was to bring us "untold synergy and a global platform with which to ideate, implement and execute scalable innovative and disruptive communications devices for the betterment of our clients and indeed all of mankind."

Which is another way of saying a few obscenely rich white dudes could have expanded their harem of mistresses and purchased a new fleet of yachts.

That's not jealousy you're sensing there, that's a finely polished ulcer of bitter frustration.

In today's modern advertising industry there's not even the illusion of fairness.

Workers bees like myself, and probably you, never get equity in an ad agency, particularly those owned by the holding companies. You and I were not invited to the wealth distribution party. You have to be a made man or a made woman -- oh who are we we kidding it's only men -- to secure a position at the billion dollar feeding trough.

And getting to the top of Mt. Advertising is not a matter of creating great ideas, entering the iconic language of pop culture or even mastering this new digital landscape.

If I'm not mistaken, the capos…er, CEO's of the four holding companies, Messrs. Wren, Levy, Sorrell and Nadal have never written a headline.

Never comped a layout.

Never scratched out a banner ad in their life.

I'd bet a testicle not one of them has ever laid hands on a gator board.

All that is moot.

Because as many you heard, last week the urge to merge lost its surge. And the deal was called off. There was some hooey in the press about the marriage failing because of a "clash of cultures."

Give me a break. I know the Supreme Court said corporations are people, but holding companies don't have cultures.

Holding companies have vaults where they hold all the money. Maybe the Omnicom vault was jet black and the Publicis vault was charcoal grey. A junior art director with a Pantone chart could have mediated that little clash.

Adweek reported that both companies have spent a combined $100 million in fees for lawyers and international accountants to sort out the deal; the deal that didn't happen. And all it bought them was a public relations nightmare.

That money has literally been pissed into the wind.

How could it have been better spent?

* $100 million could have been set aside for a pension plan, you know for the advertising people who actually do the advertising work for an advertising company.

* $100 million could have been used to build proper offices. Not some fakakta Superdesk, but real offices, with doors that close. So that you can get on the phone and describe in detail that funny rash you discovered on your inner thigh.

* $100 million could have been used for flight upgrades. Comfortable, humane seats in business class for demoralized copywriters who have been asked to give up time with their friends and family and don't want to sit 7 hours in coach, in a middle seat wedged between a fat guy and an older woman who chain smokes and wears too much perfume.

* $100 million could have been spread across the board. Divied up between the collective 130,000 employees at both organizations. I did the math. It works out to a $750 bonus for each and every employee.

Imagine the note that some smart CEO could have penned to accompany that unexpected windfall:

Dear OmniCom or Publicis employee,

We've recently been approached to merge with one of our competitors. This is in no doubt because of the value and worth you have given our company. Your loyalty, determination and hard work have raised our profile in the industry. 

None of this would have happened had it not been for you.  

After careful consideration of the deal and before we engage a hoard of outrageously expensive lawyers, we have turned down that offer. Mostly because we're not in the merger and acquisition business. 

We're in the business of advertising. And our most valuable assets ride up and down the elevator everyday. 

Accordingly we'd like you to have this small token of our appreciation -- a check for $750. 

Pay some bills, go out to dinner, throw a party for your son to make up for the birthday you missed. 

And thank you for making us look good.


Your Leader

Of course, it didn't happen that way.
It never does.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Celebrity Week, Bonus Edition

Yesterday, I wrote about our whirlwind experience with ABC and showed an ad we did for Politically Incorrect. That's when I suddenly remembered my hotblooded exchange with its star, Bill Maher.

Of course to tell this story correctly we've got to jump in the time machine.

In 1997, Chiat/Day teamed me up with a freelance art director, John Shirley.

Apart from our toothy grins, John and I had absolutely nothing in common.

He was a blond haired, surfer dude given to earrings, chin air and picture books.
I was a fat Jew from NY who chose to wear my facial hair above the lip.

What we did have in common, and still do, is an ability to make each other laugh.

Shortly after we won the ABC account we were invited to NY for something called an upfront. All the stars were there. After a few top shelf cocktails, compliments of the Disney shareholders, John did what I could never do.

He literally inserted himself into snapshots with the stars. Think of it as reverse photobombing.

He even convinced Robert Pastorelli to strike a Sears Roebuck catalogue shot.

I was howling with laughter.

While he went about securing photos with every actor who had ever stepped foot on the ABC lot, I was busy relieving Disney of its massive quantities of bourbon. And it was on one of these frequent trips to the bar that I ran into Bill Maher, who in case you haven't guessed, is a lot shorter in real life.

I'm a big fan of Bill Maher.
I like his show.
And loved his movie Irreligious.

But at the time, Bill was not a fan of our Yellow campaign; and said as much to the press.

I like a good entanglement as much as the next fellow, but even more so when it comes to my work. So after some introductory niceties, Bill and I got into it. I had three inches of height and 50 lbs. on him, so we really got into it.

This was a long time ago and I'd love to quote you some of the witty repartee that went back and forth, but that dialogue is forever lost somewhere along the shores of the Knob Creek.

I could as I might have done in the past, fictionalize it, now with the advantage of hindsight and a sober mind. But that would be wrong.

Here's what I do remember.

The argument ended with Bill Maher loudly calling me an asshole.
And me, equally, if not louder, returning the favor.

Suffice to say, it was a magical night.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Celebrity Week Part 4

Some of you may not recognize today's celebrity.

She has the looks of any actress but made her name behind the scenes and never on the screens.

This is Jamie Tarses.

One time girlfriend to Mathew Perry.
And also one time President of the ABC Television Network.

I am forever indebted to Ms. Tarses for having the cajones to pull the trigger on our now famous/infamous ABC Yellow Campaign back in 1997. That bit of good fortune changed the trajectory of my career. And like so many other campaigns before it, could have easily died and never seen the light of day.

Working with Ms. Tarses and her boss Bob Iger -- who is now the CEO of Disney -- as well as her staff, including my friend Alan Cohen, was an education unto itself.

There, in the hallowed hallways of the American Broadcasting Company, we were introduced to the fascinating and often-slimy world of Network TV.

If you, my advertising colleagues, think our industry is dysfunctional, you should witness the Somali-type governance of a major broadcasting network. Each show was its own fiefdom, clawing for more production money and more network promos, often at the expense of their competition, the other shows.

Show runners and executives slithered through the hallways at the ABC corporate headquarters, with their backs against the drywall to protect against any unforeseen attacks.

For us, the agency guys, it was all different. Jamie Tarses and her crew looked forward to seeing us. At least it seemed that way.

We never had any hidden agendas. We just showed up with a bunch of billboards or some 30 second spots. And the criteria was painfully simple.

If the work made her laugh, it got produced.
If it didn't make her laugh, we'd go back to Playa Vista and make some more.

My partner John Shirley and I would often leave the Century City offices and high five each other. With one of us saying, "it'll never get any better than this."

Sadly we couldn't have been more prescient.

Thanks to this thing called social media I was able to contact one of the talented young art directors, Mark Cohen, who worked on our team. He graciously forwarded me a copy of an ad he did with a very talented writer, Maya Rao.

If memory serves this was also one of Ms. Tarses' favorite ads, it remains one of mine...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Celebrity Week Part 3

As I mentioned yesterday, the best projects are the ones touched by the least amount of people.

There shouldn't be too many cooks in the kitchen.
In fact there shouldn't be any.
Great food is prepared by a chef.

A skilled man or woman who knows the ingredients because he or she has picked them.
Knows the preparation, because he or she has done them.
And knows the results, because no one else was around to fuck things up.

I seem to have digressed.
Maybe I should have had someone help me write this post.

Years ago, a woman who used to work for me but who was now my boss, brought me in for a fun assignment. She and her partner had produced a campaign for Pedigree dog food that was simple, efficient and charming.

It was just a dog on a yellow syc, looking directly at the camera.

The viewer would hear the inner thoughts of the dog voiced by X-Files star David Duchovny. They had so much excess footage of dogs the Creative Directors thought why not churn out a dozen more extra spots?

The best news was these would be bonus spots. The client didn't ask for them, but the agency, showing some initiative, chose to over-deliver. Always a good strategy.

Moreover the scripts were just 15 seconds long. Just enough time to deliver the joke, the sell and the logo.

Duchovny came into the recording studio as if he just rolled out of bed. Disheveled, unshaven and yet completely professional. He nailed the sarcastic tone in one or two takes. Which was a blessing.

Because if it's one thing TV and film actors hate, it's taking direction from the no-talent sleaze bags who work in advertising -- that's me, and mostly likely you, thank you very much.

I wish there were more interesting things to say about David Duchovny, but there aren't. He was all business.

We did a dozen of these snarky snippy spots. Not one of them made it to air.

That's the odd thing. I like to think I can write funny. Some of you who read this blog think I can write funny. But clients, many it seems, are just not in the same boat.

Fuck 'em, it's their loss.

(please excuse the low resolution, I'm trying to recalibrate the flip-flaks)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Celebrity Week Part 2

Several months ago, my mate -- that's what English people like to be called -- rang me up on the telly and asked if I was available for a short gig.

Oddly enough, I was available, and since I enjoy working with and working for this chap, who we will just refer to as Shrek, I was more than happy to do the job.

He had just completed shooting a holiday commercial for his client Netflix. I will gladly post it here knowing that some of you less-attentive readers will come away from this thinking, "Siegel did that funny Treetopper spot." When in fact I had nothing to do with it.

However, you might recognize the voice of the TreeTopper as none other than Lorraine Bracco of Goodfellas fame and the more recent Sopranos.

Weeks after this holiday spot aired, thanks to signed NDA's I can't go into any detail, the Netflix folks wanted to have something for an internal meeting. And I was asked to help prepare a long form video.

Recognizing good work when I see it, I suggested reprising Lorraine's Treetopper character. Within hours we had a script -- a funny script -- written and approved.

Interesting how projects that are not on anybody's radar can be the most fun and the most painless. I swear ad agencies, clients and their slavish adherence to process and bureaucracy are their own worst enemies.

For obvious reasons I was looking forward to meeting Lorraine. And wanted to share all my stories about Northern New Jersey and the many Sopranos locations that were haunts of my teenage years.

The famed Bada Bing strip club on Route 17 in Paramus is an actual gentleman's club, though gentlemen is generally a term that is not recognized in the Garden State. I guess calling it a Gumba's Club didn't have the same panache.

In any case, the Bada Bing was real. And has gone by several names including CandyLand and Satin Dolls.

I know this because my buddies and I spent enough money there to replace the unmentionably-stained pleatherette couches in the Whisper Room.

But meeting Lorraine was not to be. She was stuck in the Hamptons and the voiceover recording all took place over a digital phone patch. And in case you're wondering, she was charming, salty and authentic NY through and through.

Was I disappointed?
You bet I was.

My plan was to get out my iPhone and snap a picture of myself and Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Tony Soprano's therapist.

Then I would have posted the picture of her and I right here on the blog and cleverly called it a Smelfie.

Get it? Selfie + Melfi = Smelfie.

Ahhhhh, maybe it's just as well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

It's All Celebrity Week

A little housekeeping before we begin today's post.

If you were reading Roundseventeen last month, and it appears many of you were, there were several themed weeks in April.

We kicked off the month with Advertising Week which dovetailed nicely into Tits & Ass Week. The results were quite astonishing.

April saw 10,890 hits, a new web traffic record. And significantly more, 2,590 more, than the previous high mark of 8500 set in March of 2014.

My math skills aren't what they used to be and my daughter won't let me borrow her $200 Texas Instruments calculator, but I believe that's an increase of more than 4,821%, with a 3% margin for error.

Which can only mean one of two things.

Some pornbot in Burma has my blog listed on their bukakke page.

Or this theme week thing is getting traction.

So today, we begin Celebrity Week -- a hazy recounting of my numerous but very brief work encounters with Hollywood's A-listers.

First up, Owen Wilson.

Years ago, I was freelancing at TBWA Chiat/Day, my old alma mater from the halcyon days of 1997. Energizer batteries had cooked up some marketing symbiotic deal with Disney and the release of the next Cars movie.

The deal allowed us to do a spot with Owen Wilson as the voice of one of the cars. What that had to do with Energizer's Double AA lithium batteries was beyond me.

But that's where copywriting and the ability to spin gold out of the fibrous material in the turds excreted by marketing committees comes in to play.

Frankly I think these co-op commercials are a scam foisted upon junior ad agency media buyers. The movie folks get free TV exposure and the ad agencies walk away deluding themselves that there will be some halo effect on their low-interest packaged goods.

In any case, Owen showed up at the recording studio in the middle of the afternoon. I'm thinking there was a little 'waking and baking' going on earlier that morning.

He was upbeat, friendly and wore a perpetual smile. The kind of perpetual smile you expect on Owen Wilson.

What struck me most about Owen's arrival at the recording studio was the effect he had on all the single women. Before he even opened the front door, the place was thick with feminine pheromones.

I watch enough nature shows on National Geographic to recognize the phenomena. It was like a herd of does in heat.

Owen would pass by the kitchen and the young ladies would start whispering.

Owen entered the recording studio and the account girls would start snapping photo's with their iPhones.

Owen finished the recording and got back to his car in the parking lot and every woman in the building went outside to wave goodbye.

And yet, two months after our recording session there were rumors that Owen Wilson attempted suicide.


But in hindsight it all makes sense. Imagine walking through life knowing that each and every woman on the street would gladly and unhesitatingly avail herself to you. And then because of marriage commitments, work schedules or life's other distractions, you were simply not able to follow through on these numerous and completely random amorous offers.

That would depress me.

I understand your pain Owen. I've lived here long enough and know that being eye candy in this town is a burden I would not wish on anybody.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dawg Dazed

Today is May 1st.

In countries throughout the world, this is a day to honor Labor. The working men and women who farm the fields, build the machines, pick the crops, forge the iron and write the advertising copy that fuels the engine of capitalism.

Not coincidentally it's also the day all high school seniors must make the official college selection.

In other words, students must decide where the fruits of their parent's labor will be directed and siphoned off for the next 4 years.

Like thousands of others, my daughter has also made her choice. After gaining acceptance to prestigious schools like Syracuse, Marquette, Temple and Gonzaga, and a yearlong process that has all but consumed the Siegel household, she has opted for UW, the University of Washington.

Naturally, we couldn't be prouder, it's an excellent school with a premium on scholarship.

We couldn't be happier, they have a great football and basketball team.

We couldn't be more excited, Seattle is beautiful and the Pacific Northwest with its mountains, islands, and refreshing rains is a great place to visit.

And as all parents of college students will tell you, we also couldn't be filled with more anticipation.

Paying for this educational extravaganza promises to sap the Siegel portfolio and guarantee Deb and I two dirty cots at the Shady Hills Warehouse for the Almost-Dead but Certainly-Destitute Retirement Home.

How can I be so sure of our inevitable financial demise?

Because next year, on May 1st, 2015, my other daughter will decide which college she will be attending.