Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Poison Pen

I kicked up a bit of a kerfuffle recently when I wrote of my displeasure with Ernest Hemingway. I don't know how I ventured into Comparative Literature as this is by no means my strong suit. Anymore than Organic Chemistry. Or Renaissance Art: The Age of Enlightenment.

I might have taken a Comp. Lit. course in college, some 20 years ago, but there's a good bet I was stoned and don't remember a thing.

If you read the comment section of that post you'll see I got into some playful back and forth with a Papaphile but was disappointed he didn't want to go another few volleys. If you know me at all, and I would think after 1100 posts you'd know a little, there's nothing I enjoy more than the opportunity to get behind the keyboard and start swinging.

But the commenter didn't oblige and I channeled that excess energy into some bench presses.

In any case, it reminded of an article I had read about famous authors taking potshots at other famous authors.

In today's sterilized world of political correctness people are hesitant to come out and say exactly what they are thinking. This is especially true in Hollywood, where one misspoken word can be the difference between a promising film career or becoming Steven Dorf.

But that type of vocational dishonesty didn't stop these very famous authors. As a service to RoundSeventeen readers, I've collected, I'm sorry, curated, some of my favorites.

We'll start with one of the most famous insults.

Truman Capote about Jack Kerouac:

"That's not writing, that's typing."

Here's what Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita) had to say about Hemingway:

"I read him for the first time in the early forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, I loathed it."

Mark Twain was quite clear on his opinion of Jane Austen:

"Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

Some of my favorite heated exchanges involve Groucho Marx and famed screenwriter S. J. Perelman. The two enjoyed a contentious, though hilarious, relationship.

Groucho to S.J. with regards to his new book:

"From the moment I picked up your new book to the moment I put it down, I convulsed with laughter. Some day, I intend reading it."

S.J., no slouch in the wit department, once said:

"I did two films with them, which in its way is perhaps my greatest distinction in life, because as anybody who ever worked on a film with the Marx Brothers said he would rather be chained to a galley oar and lashed at ten minute intervals until blood spurted from his frame than ever work for those sons of bitches again."

Decades later S.J. was visiting Groucho at his home in the hills and asked, "Do you mind if I smoke?" Groucho replied, "I don't care if you burn."

Discretion and good manners prevent me from throwing jabs at fellow copywriters suffice to say there is one hack in this town known for closing commercials with…

"See your local _______ dealer and lease a new _______ for just $349 a month."

That's weak.
Written by someone who should be cold-cocked on the head with their own femur bone.

I would have stated it much more eloquently.

"Lease a ______ for just $349 a month. See your local ______ dealer."

Much better. Right?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Chevy Dolts

Recognize this car?

Of course you don't. This is the Chevy Volt before it was picked apart by middle managers, focus group housewives, and career-minded designers with little integrity and an uncanny willingness to compromise and please their org. chart superiors.

"Got it, boss. Take off edges, water it down and make it look more like the 1979 Chevy Vega. No problema."

Chances are you've seen today's Chevy Volt.
Hell, 38 people in America drive one.

You just can't remember it. That's because the committee that fought diligently to find the least common denominator and brought the Volt to fruition got everything they asked for: a bland, non-polarizing electric vehicle with all the pizzazz of an office stapler.

Alternatively, the current best selling electric vehicle is the unforgettable Tesla Model S. Did you see how I cleverly buried the AC pun into the wording?

Tesla can't keep these cars in stock.

In fact there's a waiting list to get one. They've succeeded beyond their dreams. And are preparing to unleash a Tesla Roadster and a more affordable sedan to the electric car buying public.

This, more than anything I can remember, demonstrates what is wrong with American business, and I'm looking at you Advertising Industry, today.

There are talented, imaginative, creative people who have the gonads to bring something unique and daring to the table.

And then there are committees, governed by mealy-mouthed sycophants whose inability to move the ball forward is surpassed only by an instinctual drive to cover their ass and crush the dreams and aspirations of fat, bald Jewish bloggers like myself.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Getting In

I'm always amazed how many young people gain entry into the business of advertising.

They "graduate" from of the many ad warehouses throughout the country and walk right into one of the youngblood/intern/indentured servitude stints at one of the holding company ad agencies.

Voila, 6 months later, after knocking out a few banner ads and some viral content that received 413 views on Youtube, they're a copywriter.
Or an Art Director.
Or an ACD.

In my day, meaning 20 years ago, it didn't work like that.

I knocked on more doors, lugging a shitty portfolio of shitty work, than I care to remember. But I'll never forget the first bite.

A woman who was the Creative Director at Bernard Hodes Recruitment Advertising had an opening for a junior copywriter. She thought my book showed potential but wasn't convinced. She clipped one of the recruitment ads that had just come off the press, handed me the inky newspaper tearsheet and said come back on Monday with three alternative headlines.

And so I did.

I cleared my weekend docket of all the dates I had scheduled with leggy supermodels. Canceled the test drive I had arranged at the Porsche dealership. And I went to work.

On Monday I showed up in her office. Not with three alternative headlines but with ten. If memory serves, I even wrote the body copy for each ad. None of it was any good. All of it sounded something like…

Tomorrow's challenges, today.


Opportunity is staring you right in the face.

To be honest I don't think any of that mattered. They had an empty desk and they needed to fill it with someone who could churn, burn and grind it out. Oh and gladly take home $17, 000 a year.

That was 3,489,621 words ago.
Today I'm still grinding.

The words come easier now. And hopefully they pack more punch and feel more relevant. When they don't, they're often changed by clients, account managers or Junior Creative Directors, recent college graduates who, at 22 years old, are exactly half my age.

I think that's the definition of irony, but I'm not sure.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Proud Papa

This is the time of year when many parents are bursting with pride.

Many, like us, have graduating high school seniors about to trek off to college. And naturally with the advent of Facebook, we wear those college acceptances like badges of honor.

It has even created its own faux pecking order.

"My son is going to Yale."

"Well my daughter is going to Bard."

"It's Santa Monica College for my son, but he's in the honors program."

I'm just as guilty of the rest and have boasted about Rachel's new journey to the University of Washington.

But here's the thing. It's all so meaningless.

In the real world, where you went to college or didn't go to college, matters not. In all my years of advertising, no one Creative Director has ever asked about Syracuse University, one of the premier schools in Communication. Not one.

But today, I am proud for different reason. Last Sunday, my 18 year old daughter fell. And in the vernacular of the agency where I am currently employed, she slew her Goliath.

You see, my daughter did what neither my wife and I could never imagine doing -- she fell from a plane. 10,000 feet high above Lake Elsinore in Eastern Riverside County.

She and her two good friends woke up on a Sunday morning, drove 90 minutes into the scorching Inland Empire, climbed aboard a flimsy prop plane, strapped themselves to some strapping young guys who relished the opportunity to introduce 3 pretty girls into the 2 mile high club, and then...jumped.

Maybe you're wondering if I'm embellishing or even making up the story. I'm not. And I have the proof.

In fact, I'll recreate the hair-raising experience using the novelty of the scroll function. I hope you'll be as relieved as I was when she finally returned to terra firma.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I hate Hemingway

I hate Hemingway.

There, I said it.

I know that's heresy for a writer, correction copywriter, but try as I might I have not acquired the taste for Papa. He falls into the same category as brisket, scotch and Mad Men. I want to like them, but I don't.

Two weeks ago, I went on a camping trip. I brought with me, The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (The Finca Vigia Edition.)

As I lay in the hammock, cooled by the babbling waters of the Onion Valley Creek, I dove head first into Ten Indians. 300 words in, zzzzzzzzz.

Same with The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.

And The Big Two-Hearted River.

All impenetrable.
All boring.
All overrated, as far as I'm concerned.

Call me a lightweight. But if I want a healthy dose of obfuscation that requires tedious reading and re-reading, there are plenty of planning briefs I can get my hands on.

Fortunately, I didn't venture into the foothills of the Eastern Sierras unprepared. On the advice of my east coast doppleganger, George Tannenbaum, the most scholarly copywriter on the planet, I brought along Joseph Mitchell's Up in the Old Hotel.

Mitchell is everything Hemingway is not.
Accessible, entertaining and not overtly impressed with his own style.

He was a reporter for the New Yorker magazine and covered the hundreds of drinking establishments in lower Manhattan. There, he met and chronicled the lives of New York's most colorful characters.

Including Jane Barnell, a bearded lady, Captain Charles Eugene Cassell, owner/operator of Captain Charley's Private Museum for Intelligent People, and of course, the Bowery's legendary Joe Gould, Keeper of the World's Oral History.

By the end of the camping trip I felt like I had reconnected with Mother Nature while simultaneously connecting with the kind of unforgettable people who made New York City, New York City.

I'll never understand why high school and college English teachers are so smitten with Ernest Hemingway. Nor will I ever understand my families love of brisket, come the High Holidays.

That's what's great about being an adult and living in a free country. I don't have to subject myself to either.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Names will be named

Years ago I made the mistake of putting a friend's name in a blog posting hoping he would understand the tongue-in-cheek nature of the piece. It backfired. I publicly apologized. And swore never to name names in any RoundSeventeen blog posting.

Today I'm welching on that promise.

For two reasons.

First, I'm getting to a privileged point in my career where I just don't give a shit anymore.

And second, I've come to the painful conclusion that what I write matters to no one because frankly no one (apart from you faithful fourteen followers) is reading what I'm writing.

So what bullshit am I calling bullshit on?

Years ago, I was in charge of advertising for El Pollo Loco advertising. They had a minuscule budget and an ambitious media plan. Somehow we had figured a way to make 45 TV commercials on less than $250,000. Even by 2004 standards, that was quite a feat.

One day, the account people requested my attendance for a meeting with the folks from Cruz Kravetz, their Hispanic Marketing Agency. They were going to produce some El Pollo Loco commercials and thought it would be a good idea to get some guidance.

Wait, what?

The money I was told I didn't have for production was being used to fund the production of other commercials. Why, I naively thought, are we making two different sets of commercials?

Because, as the bullshit machine was slowly being cranked to 11, Hispanics eat El Pollo Loco's citrus-marinated, fire grilled chicken for completely different reasons than general market Caucasians or African Americans.

You see, I was under the mistaken impression that people from Mexico or El Salvador or Belize might enjoy EPL because they were hungry or appreciated fresh chicken or authentic salsa and tortillas.

But that, it turns out, is a narrow white man's view of the world devoid of any ethnographic insight.

As the Cruz Kravetz experts expertly pointed out, Hispanic people are all about, "family, passion and the family-oriented, passionate preparation of food products."

And then I was treated to a cavalcade of storyboards featuring large families. Being passionate. Eating chicken. And then, impossibly, being more passionate.

If it weren't so politically incorrect I would have told these professionals exactly what I thought of their fiesta de mierda.

They are by no means alone in their hoodwinking.

I've never had the pleasure of sitting in with an African-American speciality boutique, but I can spot their spots a mile away. Most often in car commercials. The copy, accompanied by needle-drop 'urban' music, invariably includes nonsense like "flow", "smooth" or "get your drive on."

Frankly if I were Hispanic or black I would be seriously offended by these cliched marketing approaches.

Then again, who am I to judge. I'm not a member of any minority. I'm just a white Jew. And the only advertising I respond to usually involves liquidation sales or 30% discounts.

Wait a minute…

Monday, July 21, 2014

On bedding a woman

I want to tell you about the first time I bedded down with a woman.

I should clarify that.

What I meant was a woman who wasn't under the influence of way too much tequila and too little in the manner of standards. In other words, a woman who had every intention of making me breakfast.

This was when I was first introduced to the world of excessive bedding accessories.

I remember walking into her room, heavily perfumed with patchouli (this was a long time ago), looking at the bed and thinking, "What the hell is all that?" More importantly, where was the mini-step ladder I would need to climb in.

There were shims and shams and ruffles and raffles. There were duvets. And it seemed the blankets had their own blankets.

There was even a headboard.
My parents had a headboard.

Until then, I had been sleeping on a twin mattress, laying on a wooden floor.

Even now, as a grown man, the world of beds and bedding is still quite alien.

Not long ago my wife convinced me to buy a new mattress. Guided by the "happy wife/happy life" principle, I reluctantly agreed to this newfangled memory foam.

The first night was a living hell of tossing and turning and muffled screaming about spending $3000 to sleep in a heated ©Playdoh mold.

The second night was even worse.

This went on for a week until I called the store manager. Having identified myself as a long-winded Yelper and a prodigious blogger (I might have told him I was lawyer too), he quickly offered to replace the foam mattress with a standard coil and spring model.

That bed was enormous. A California King they call it. The mattress is so wide it spans two different zip codes. My wife and I bring cellphones to bed so we can communicate with each other. The bed is so big we're thinking of subletting out a portion of it.

And now I find myself battling with bedding accessories of a different nature.

The extra, extra firm mattress is covered with a pillow top. I didn't want that feature but I refer you back to the time-honored maxim of "happy wife/happy life." The pillow top, it seems, needs to be covered by a mattress pad, for reasons which still remain unclear.

As if that were not enough, the mattress pad also requires a protective latex sheathing which serves to shield the mattress from the natural dead skin cells, oil and hair that come off a sleeping body.

There's so many layers between me and the mattress, I wake up in the morning feeling like I slept on a load of wrinkled laundry.

My wife assures me it's all necessary to preserve the integrity and value of the bed, though I'm not convinced there's a huge market for second hand mattresses. Particularly those previously slept on by swarthy Mediterraneans.

I told my wife, when it's time for the Dirt Nap, put me in a plain pine box. No sheets, no shams, no dust ruffles, no pads, no pad covers. Use that money to buy some good Noah's Mill Bourbon for the wake.

I'll sleep better.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Snuff Film

This is a tale about Snuffy the Seal.

Two tales actually.

Last year, the Discovery Channel rolled out their annual event called Shark Week.

To promote Shark Week, they created a TV commercial in the guise of a news broadcast, that, as we in the industry like to say, went viral.

A great idea.
Executed quite well.
That's not something you usually hear about a standard splice and dice cable network promo.

The spot garnered a lot attention. Perhaps too much attention. Before long, parents groups, animal rights groups and people who are easily offended and prone to organize groups and petitions, were expressing their "outrage" at this wanton display of butchery.

Had the network brass at the Discovery Channel not possessed the backbone of the jellyfish, they would have told the molehill-makers to pound sand.

For one thing, it's a TV commercial!

For another, there is no Snuffy!

And for another other, it's a TV commercial!

But that's not the way it works in these absurdly sensitive times.

You want a free case of beer? Pretend you're an old spinster, with cats and an impressive collection of Hummel porcelain dolls, then write a letter to the Dos Equis Marketing Department asking why they haven't done a commercial about the Most Interesting Woman In the World?

Witness this year's promotional campaign for Shark Week and watch how they carefully put to rest all the harped-up concerns about Snuffy, the fictional seal that never got eaten in last year's fictional TV commercial.

They completely caved and did what is now referred to as a walk-back.

Snuffy lives!

Ok, now I'm offended.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On the nature of Free Will.

You might recall my recent post about the imam who rationalized anal sex -- a definite no-no according to the laws of Mo-Mo -- as long as the anal activities were in the service of jihad.

More specifically, the imam stated, it was, "OK to indulge in ass play if the goal were to widen one's butt for the implantation of a bomb that would kill infidels."

One Roundseventeen reader took objection to the post. Indeed all my posts regarding religion, superstition and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Granted, this anonymous commenter was complimentary about the blog, but used the word "please" twice in one sentence so I can only imagine his or her displeasure with my choice of topics.

To wit, I may only offer my sincere apologies.

But I will not, and cannot, take the childish fairy tales that have such an inordinate impact on all our lives, off the table. Particularly, as in the case of the aforementioned bearded wise man, when it's so damn amusing.

The same can be said for the same irrational jackoffery -- God I love that word -- spewed by the misguided followers of Jesus. And in the interest of fair play, the fakakta wisdom often dispensed by the hirsute members of my own tribe.

Why the strident atheism, you may ask.

I happen to believe that religion, and its incumbent irrationality, are not the forces for good they pretend to be. And couldn't be happier to see more and more people getting off their knees and embracing the tenets of logic and science.

I don't have the wherewithal or the intellectual firepower of a Sam Harris or a Richard Dawkins, but I can add my voice to the chorus evangelizing the powers of critical thinking.

And so I will.

Over and above all that, it should be noted that I started this blog and maintained this blog so that I could enjoy a platform to write about anything I chose. In fact, the title Roundseventeen is a thumb in the face of advertising clients who have become so prescriptive and subjected the work to round after round of meaningless scrutiny, they have all but taken the writing out of copywriting.

Like it or not, the random ranting will continue.

About religion.
About advertising.
About dentistry.
About fatherhood.
About Things Jews Don't Do.
About meritocracy.
And about people who need to be thinned from the herd.

Stay tuned, next week I'm having a colonoscopy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

That's Chairman Siegel to you.

Don't know if you saw it, but last week the ground beneath the feet of the advertising industry shook.

There were trades, swaps, free agency deals and lots and lots of promotions. On the East Coast. And the West Coast.

Due to my own streak of self-imposed career stagnancy, I was not on the receiving end of any of it.

Then I had a moment of clarity that only someone who gets paid to bullshit people into buying things can possibly have.

Why not give myself a promotion?

Why not indeed.

Recently I passed a significant benchmark, 10 years as a successful, and I use that word with trepidation, freelancer. If you looked me up on you'd see my title is, and always has been, CEO and Chief Creative Officer. Those titles seem to suffice. That is until I got bit by the jealousy bug following last week's flurry of press releases.

And so it gives me great pleasure to announce that Rich Siegel has been named Chairman of Rich Siegel Worldwide.

Keep in mind, the last noteworthy spot I produced was more than two years ago, for the relaunch of the Honda Civic - a fun campaign I did with the very talented Dana Markee.

And I haven't helped win new business or collect any awards at Cannes in ages.

In fact, for the last few years the level of my work has been journeymen, at best.

Let's not be naive. One glance at the org. chart of any of the big holding companies will prove this industry is no meritocracy.

Consequently, I don't see why the lack of any discernible achievement should stop me from being Chairman.

Hell, some ad agencies have two Chairmen, why shouldn't mine have at least one?

Furthermore, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't award myself a sweet Golden Parachute.

In the unlikely event that there's a dereliction of duties or a drop in revenue or some kind of substance abuse, I want to protect myself and my family.

And so I've just signed a contract that should my termination from Rich Siegel Worldwide become necessary, I will be given a significant lump sum of CA$H from the Rich Siegel Worldwide Corporation.

Of course that money will have to be extracted from my daughter's 529 College Savings account, but I'm sure she'll understand.

It's not personal, it's business.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Irish eyes are smiling

Last week I received a text from home -- home being that suburban corridor of land surrounding the border of Northern New Jersey and Lower New York State, including Suffern, Mahwah, Spring Valley, Ramsey, Upper Saddle River and Nanuet.

The text reminded me to mark the day as the anniversary of the passing of our good friend, Jim.

That day brought on a flood of memories. And in thinking of Jim, one word always comes to mind -- Gusto.

It's a rare attribute.

You see it in some people, in glimpses or flashes. Or raucous Polish weddings. But Jim had gusto that simply would not quit. If there was a gathering of people and there was laughing and drinking and carousing and making the most of every breath of oxygen, Jim had to be there.

Unlike anyone I've ever met, Jim was always committed to being fully in the moment.

His voracious appetite for life could never be satisfied in the 'burbs. And explains why, on so many occasions, he'd urge us all to jump in his sea-foam green Dodge Dart, with the push-button transmission, and make the 45 minute trek into The City.

His father was a NYC cop and so, with his dad's special parking permit affixed to the dashboard, Manhattan was our own personal playground.

Did you know there's usually ample parking spaces next to all the fire hydrants?

The Big Apple in the late 70's had everything Suffern, NY did not. Hustle, bustle, grit, grime, an infinite cast of amazing characters, many of whom wrote and starred in their own personal performance theater right on the street.

And of course, there was Brew Burger.

For $6.95 you could get a cheeseburger, fries and an endless supply of Michelob beer. Jim didn't like Michelob beer, but he loved the word endless. Four of us would pile into a booth and wouldn't leave until the chairs were being put on top of the other tables or the manager would throw us out…

"No, no, no, this no very good. You boys go now. I call the police."

"Ok, you call the midtown precinct and ask for Sgt. Murphy," Jim replied.

A City trip always included a stop in the Village. There, we'd make fun of hippies, or the remnants of hippies. Stroll around Washington Square. And laugh loud enough to wake up the people in Staten Island.

The nights would never end.

And we'd often find ourselves crossing the GW bridge guided by the stinging rays of the morning sun. Back on home turf, Jim would often 'Shanghai' us to the Stateline Diner. Or Don Len's on Route 59.  Not because any of us were starving for breakfast but because that's how much he enjoyed the camaraderie of his friends.

Because he wanted to bust balls.
Flirt with waitresses.
Bellow with laughter, until every fiber of his 6'3" 230 lbs. body convulsed with joy.
He wanted -- as my wife would say -- to be out among them.

Three of us commiserated last week and spoke of how much we missed Big Jim. But it's safe to say he misses us more.

Jim had Gusto.

Enough to last two lifetimes.
Sadly, he packed it into 26 years of one.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The California Caliphate

Between your Haight-Ashbury free lovers, your Humboldt County alternative "medicine" growers and your West Hollywood Let's-Make-Paper-Mache-Penises-And-Throw-A-Paraders, California may be the bluest, most progressive, gluten-free states in the union.

But don't tell that to the sun-baked, leather-skinned, jerky-chewers who populate the towns up and down Route 395, a two lane sticky asphalt highway that runs the length of the state on the eastern side of the Sierras.

Here in the Owen's Valley, nature's very own 100,000 square mile solar panel, you'll find the same kind of backwards thinking that would rival the newly-formed Caliphate in Syria/Iraq.

Am I over-generalizing?
Of course, I am.

But the similarities can hardly be dismissed.

First, there's this unholy fascination with God. And the curious notion that somehow these folks have been blessed by the Almighty to live on a land with less than 4 inches of annual rainfall.

The burka-clad women and mustachioed men of the Middle East call out to Allah 5 times a day.

But in towns like Olancha, Big Pine and Randsburg, Jesus is broadcasting 24/7/365 on every AM/FM station. And don't expect any escape with the Scan button, he's commandeered every preset.

Jesus even has his own network on XM Satellite, Savior 77. Commercial-free, just like Howard Stern.

Of course you can't spread the Lord's message of love, wisdom and brotherhood without guns. And military munition.

For every Kalashnikov and RPG in the service of the Holy Quran, there are tenfold AR-15's and Glock 9's available for purchase at gun stores conveniently located every 10 miles, from Mojave to the Mono Basin.

Most are next door to a Subway Sandwich shop. For easy lock and carbo-loading.

Besides guns and God, are there any other shared attributes between the Caliphate on the Tigres River and the one along the California Aquaduct?

Well, there's patriarchal misogyny, raging intolerance, overzealous nationalism, blind faith, anti-intellectualism, a seemingly genetic disposition towards violence, poor dental hygiene and an irrational willingness to blame all of life's problems on…wait for it...the Jews.

Maybe water and oil are not our most precious resource.

Maybe it's sunscreen.

Monday, July 7, 2014

In Praise of the Crown

It may seem odd that a few days after our American Independence Day, a day I spent in Independence, CA, I write of Jolly Ole England, but I am nothing if not contrarian.

Several days ago, famous Brit, Sir John Hegarty, founder of BBH, gave a wide ranging interview on the state of advertising. Broken. Ill-informed. And completely out of touch with the times. In short, he likened it to the state of Mississippi.

Hegarty has gravitas.

And though I, and other Yankee bloggers, have been saying the same things for years, when Hegarty speaks people listen. It might have something to do with his immense body of work. Or, perhaps more likely, it has more to do with his erudite annunciation and his $300 shirts.

Hegarty bemoans the bean counting.

"Too many people leading our industry are accountants, and I think for a creative industry that’s a tragedy."

Hegarty ponders the demise of TV.

“I think the industry has lost faith in TV. I think it has lost faith in the big, bold idea. I think it has lost its courage and I’m deeply upset by that."

And finally, Hegarty takes his shot against the onslaught of digital.

"In our industry we’ve become obsessed with technology, in doing so, it has lost faith a little bit in the value of that big idea."

Of course when I make similar statements they are clearly with a more regional dialect. And with far less eloquence.

"I got your social media, right here."

Last week, while on vacation, if you call sleeping on the ground, slathering on bug spray and storing food in a bear box a vacation, I reposted some old stories from the archive. Including one on the nature of digital advertising. Imagine my surprise to come home and find out that piece racked up thousands of hits.

Turns out, Dave Trott, another Brit, who I will affectionately refer to as the poor man's John Hegarty, only because he hasn't been knighted, yet, tweeted that story and sent it all over the Motherland, Great Britain. 

One tweet led to a retweet (something you losers here in the Colonies never do) and suddenly I've got new followers and a band of Brits spreading the good Roundseventeen word across the European continent.

If you haven't read Dave's blog, you should. He's a remarkable writer and tells some terrific stories. And I'm not just saying that so that he'll continue to evangelize on my behalf. Oh who am I kidding, of course I am.

More importantly however, I get to claim, at least on one occasion, that I got the Trott's…

…Seal of Approval.

I've been wanting to use that joke for the longest time. Oh it's good to be back.

I'll be here all week.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Old school of thought

(reposted from 10/29/12)

I miss the One Off.

The One Off was a singular great idea/great execution/great ad that stood alone in the limelight. It was unencumbered by contrived brand extensions. Unfettered by social media integration. And unburdened by the false prophecy of 360 degree synergy.

Look through the awards annuals of days gone by and you'll find page after page of great One Offs.

But the One Off is on the endangered species list. Today, Creative Directors will trash an idea simply because it is a One Off. As if that were some kind of pejorative.

Or worse, like some crazed Joe Pesci character, they'll stick a great idea in a table vice and squeeze it until it yields banners, mobile apps and "something fun we can do on InstaGram."

It's all such nonsense. Sometimes a great spot is just a great spot. And that should be more than enough.

Ask the man, the woman, or the CMO on the street which brand does the best job marketing itself and you will no doubt hear, Apple. This is more than a little ironic since Apple is a company that defines the cutting edge of digital technology. Yet they refuse to play in the digital marketing arena.

When it comes to advertising they don't subscribe to the flavor of the day. They are iconoclasts. And refreshingly old school.

Steve Jobs, and his successor Tim Cook, never bought into the Java-scripted, HTML, inflective paradigm shifting mumbo jumbo that is being peddled in executive boardrooms across America. They know snake oil when they smell it.

But what if the greatest One Off of all time, Apple's original Super Bowl spot, were in the hands of folks who didn't know how to leave well enough alone?

I suspect Tank Top Girl would have her own Facebook page. We'd know where she buys her athletic shorts. The workout routine that produced such stunning triceps. And the high protein, gluten free cereal she eats every morning before her daily assault on convention.

Similarly, the Big Brother character would have his own Twitter feed. And a team of 20-something social media writers would be working night and day, wearing out the dictionary and the Thesaurus to come up with authentic sounding Orwellian doublespeak.

And of course there would be a website where users could enter their own target of disdain and, through the magic of algorithms and UX design, see their ex-bosses, old girlfriends, and former landlords, destroyed by a rebellious airborne sledgehammer of destruction.

Oh the hours of meaningful brand engagement that would produce. Yeah, right.

Thankfully, 1984 was not like 2012.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

If it's Tuesday it must be Malibu

 (reposted from February 14, 2012)

It's Tuesday morning and I'm feeling nostalgic. I'm heading into the office and somehow wishing I weren't. Not that I'm not grateful for the gig, I am. But I remember a time when Tuesday mornings and the office were mutually exclusive.

I was working as Creative Director at Chiat/Day. My partner and I were left alone to run the ABC account the way we saw it. We never had to have the work cleared by a planner. Or an account director. Or even someone higher up on the creative food chain.

We had shoestring budgets, run and gun schedules and complete autonomy. We also had the trust of a client who would produce the work they found funny and kill the work they didn't find funny. It was that simple.

That type of creative freedom was rare, so we took advantage of it.

On Tuesday mornings we would schedule golf outings at the Malibu Country Club. We'd hit the links
at 8 AM and be back in the office after lunch. No one seemed to notice and no one seemed to care.

The foursome included myself, John Shirley, Jerry Gentile and Mark Fenske. Not the best quartet of golfers by any means. (OK, Gentile, as his name would indicate, was pretty good.) But what we lacked in golfing acuity we more than made up for in laughs. By the time the round was over, my shoulders and neck were always aching from the non-stop howling.

Best of all, the design of Malibu Country Club lent itself to our tomfoolery. The course is built into the hills of the Santa Monica mountains. The fairways are lined with desert scrub and thick, high chaparral. Out of bounds is truly out of bounds, with an abundance of scorpions and rattlesnakes. That never stopped Jerry from galloping into the brush and collecting as many lost balls as possible.

And those found balls were put to good use.

The 18th hole at Malibu sits atop a high hill. There is about 300 feet of elevation between the tee box and the green, some 400 yards away. So with the carts parked on the path, we all reached for our drivers. Somebody, I don't remember who, had a USGA non-approved driver made in Korea. The head of the golf club was about 1000 cc's and it looked like a small toaster oven.

And with that we tee'd off. Not aiming for the green. Or even the fairway. Not giving a damn about hooking or slicing. We simply gripped it and ripped it. Taking advantage of our Mt. Olympus-like setting and hitting those rescued balls as hard and as far as we possibly could.

We all looked forward to Fenske's monster swings. Mark stands about 6'3" and at the time weighed in about 250 lbs. A moose of a man, with the strength to match. His form was nowhere near perfect. And he possessed all the athletic grace of a drunken ice fisherman. But damn that boy could smack the dimples off a Titleist.

Once he drove the ball 350 yards, 150 of them were straight.

The ball landed on the green of the 7th hole.
The 7th hole of nearby Sherwood Country Club.