Thursday, July 28, 2016

Razor Sharp Wit

The great thing about the universe is how is it strives for balance.

Unseen, unknown forces are hard at work to provide a ying for every yang. A dog for every cat. A new calorie-burning cardio machine for every slice of German Triple Chocolate Forest Cake.

This great movement is also evident in the world of business.

Take Theranos for example. At one time this Silicon Valley wundercompany was valued at more than $9 billion. Today, the maker of medical diagnostic toys that literally wanted your blood, is worth less than the bandaids needed to cover up the pricks.

The ying to this particular yang is the Dollar Shave Club. A start up that had zero valuation in its infancy was just sold to Unilever for $1 billion.

And that's not faux Wall Street wall paper money, that's one billion dollars in greenbacks -- the kind of real cash you can use to buy groceries, purchase dry cleaning services or even hand over to your personal physician for verifiable medical testing.

Clearly I am delighted with the success of Dollar Shave Club.

Why? Because it can be argued the company owes its unprecedented success to marketing.

Look, monthly purchasing clubs have been with us for a while. You can have fruits and cheese delivered to your doorstep. You can have tailored shirts delivered to your doorstep. You can even join a purchasing outfit that will send you a new golf club every month.

Razor blades are just the latest commodity to join the list.

What stood out was the way those shaving utensils were brought to market -- with quirky, breakthrough, hilarious videos. Let me refresh your memory.

Of course my joy for Dollar Shave Club is tinged with a little bitterness. It's like digging into a delicious chopped salad only to find the chef has misguidedly added in some turnips. And beets.

You see I've spent the entirety of my career writing and pitching ideas of a similar nature. Deadpan delivery. Intelligent copy. A nod to the absurd. And for the entirety of my career I have returned from those pitch meetings with weird bromides like:

"We like humor but we're not looking for laughs."

How silly of me.

It may not have worked out in my case, but congratulations DSC. You have proven the maxim -- Funny is Money.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


As I've mentioned on this blog many times in the past, when senior creatives, fellow copywriters and art directors who've spent years in the trenches, suddenly find themselves booted from those trenches, due to rightsizing or just the willy-nilly hiring of inexperienced (cheaper) kids, mine is the first phone to ring.

They want advice.
They want reassurance.
They want to know there's life after the agency world.

All very strange, because anyone who knows me knows I'm not exactly the nurturing kind, oozing with positivity and optimism.

 I tell them all the same thing.

"Take a deep breath. Relax. And follow this fail proof formula for getting freelance gigs. Grow your ear hair out. Ask for twice as much as you think they might pay. And don't return any job inquiries for at least three days. It makes Creative Resource Managers want you that much more."

Let's keep in mind these people are now going after the same jobs that put food on my table and keep two college bursars at bay.

Because I've been fortunate enough to stay very busy during my past dozen years as a freelancer, every one of these panicked phone call ends with the same plea:

"If you have any overflow, send it my way."

And for twelve years, ever since I was 32 years old, I have.

I've placed more people in gigs than many of LA's top headhunters.

Two weeks ago, for instance, I found myself up to my own ear hairs in work assignments. And, as always the case, an agency called to inquire about my availability. Had they been open to me working remotely, I would have taken on the project, climbed out of bed at 5 in the morning, clicked and clacked on the keyboard until the clock struck midnight and gleefully started sending out the invoices.

But they wanted me onsite.

So I flipped through my Rolodex (you kids, look that up on your Lycos) and gave the recruiter the names of other freelance writers.

I know many, many freelance writers. But I know of only one who, 6 months earlier, repaid the favor of a referral with a rare bottle of Opus One Overture, which Vivino describes as "approachable in its youth with a generous fruit and a soft, supple mid-palate."

I have no idea what the fuck that means. Nor does it matter. Suffice to say, that writer's name was at the top of the list. And today, he is starting his second week on the job.

That gives me great joy.

What gives me even greater joy is that in addition to the very nice bottle of wine he sent, today I received another FedEx. A carefully bubble-wrapped bottle of premium Hibiki Suntory Whiskey (seen above).

Keep that, and my empty liquor cabinet, in mind next time you guys start hitting me up for overflow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Instie this!

Do you tumble?

I do.

Three and a half years ago I started tumbling about Kim Jung Un, the dear Leader of the DPRK, the Democratic (?) People's Republic of North Korea.

Like most good projects, I had no idea it would grow and evolve and keep gaining momentum, as it has. Had I been a little more savvy, I would have chosen a better digital platform for the near daily captioning of his staged photo ops.

I would have picked Instagram, which I'm told by my daughters is much hipper and more conducive to viral sharing.

But I didn't and now I'm stuck on Tumblr, the red-headed, goth-filled, manga porn-laden, Nazi-obsessed, twisted stepchild of the Internet.

And it's much too late to migrate the collection, literally hundreds of captioned Kim Jung Un photos, to a new app.

Which is fine because it's not like the Tumblr dashboard is without its rewards.

Today, for instance, I found the following. And because I'm recovering from a stifling little head cold, I'll concede that I can't write anything funnier.


Monday, July 25, 2016

E Mail Scandal

Many of you are familiar with my Apple debacle several years ago. Much to my dismay, I'm told my quick unexpected departure from the Cupertino office is a tale told by many a freelancer.

To recap, I was hired for a long 4 month gig to help with the launch of the iPhone 5. Because of incredibly tight security and the omnipresent threat of corporate sabotage, I was required to spend my time under their employ, under their roof.

The plan was for me to drive north, shack up at the Klimpton Inn down the street, work Monday thru Friday afternoon and then fly back and forth on weekends to spend time with my family and my two daughters who were fast approaching college age.

Long story mercifully shorter, the working conditions were not ideal. For me. A huge open room. Long community tables. Surveillance cameras at every turn.

"Mr. Siegel, you used an excessive amount of toilet paper in the bathroom."

Not to mention, a slow, laborious process that emphasized teamwork. Ugh. 
Collaboration, yuck. 
And a fastidious fascist-like attention to detail, Agggghhhh!

I was on-site for three and half days, earning an exorbitant day rate I might add, and still hadn't received a brief. I decided then and there that 4 months of this nerdy, khaki pants wearing hell was just too much. So I bailed.

But before I did, and this is part of the tale that never gets told, I shot off an email to my supervisor and enclosed 4-5 pages of headlines and body copy I had written without a brief. The new iPhone was in color, how much did I need a brief?

I'm surprised I made it back to the 101 Freeway without getting waterboarded.

As my supervisor explained, all emails must be sent on Apple's proprietary, highly encrypted Java-coded, hyper HTML-enhanced Super Servers in order to foil any agents of espionage. The discussion got very heated and the veins on his neck throbbed uncontrollably. And he was wearing a turtle neck.

I reassured him they were only stupid headlines:

Make your friends green with envy. 

The sky blue is the limit.

Picking your next phone is no longer black and white.

Remember, these were written without the aid of a brief.

Apart from me being blacklisted at Apple, there was no harm done. My boss didn't get fired. Samsung didn't steal their thunder. And any breach of their double walled, super secret security system went unnoticed.

Who among us hasn't made a misstep with email?

I don't know whether Hillary's reclassified emails were as just as innocuous but with the campaign now entering the homestretch I am sure we're going to get an earful about it. 

After all, the empty-headed game show host/real estate huckster/orange vulgarian has got little else to run on. 

In either case, the next 4 months are going to be Huuuuuuge.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cleveland Rocks

If you're in the business of making with the funny, and thankfully I am, this week's Republican National Convention and indeed the entire campaign of Donald Trump, is frankly the gift that keeps on giving.

It doles out laughs faster than a Federally funded Saul Alinsky Welfare Program could dish out thousand dollar bills.

The plagiarized speech, referenced above, is but a tiny fraction of the miscues -- though I'm not sure many Republicans see it that way -- beaming to us live from the shores of appropriately named Lake Erie.

Two days ago, for instance, the California delegation caught a very contagious case of norovirus. So if the opening chaos on the convention floor, the lack of minorities in attendance and the anemic support of the Republican establishment didn't have them vomiting and shitting all over themselves, surely the three day old shrimp salad did.

And then there were the speakers.

At one time, I was a big admirer of Rudy Guliani. His handling and leadership of the post-9/11 crisis was nothing short of inspiring. Cool, calm and collected. The Rudy we saw the other night was anything but. As one online friend put it, it was as if he were doing a poor imitation of Benito Mussolini.

The GOP could be excused if Rudy was an anomaly.
That was hardly the case.

Ben Carson, the absent-minded doctor who, by his own admission and in some misguided attempt to get some street cred, stabbed a fellow schoolmate in his younger and wilder days. Not stabbed him in the back metaphorically, as politicians and advertising agency executives have been known to do.

But in the gut with a kitchen knife.
Thankfully, the boy was saved by a miraculous belt buckle.

Inexplicably, Dr. Carson made Lucifer, The Prince of Darkness, the keystone of his nationally broadcast speech.

We are staring at global climate change, intricate challenges in geo-politics, the rise of extremism, diminishing natural resources, overpopulation, growing income disparity, and a host of other problems that demand rigorous attention and out of the box thinking, but we are talking about Lucifer?

Have we really sunken to this infantile level of intellectual discourse?
Apparently we have.

You see the brain surgeon was preceded onstage by the un-brain surgeon, Scott Baio.

According to Baio, aka Charles in Charge, "Trump is a guy who gets things done."

Moreover, "it's not about getting free stuff" --though I'm sure some purchasing agents at the Pentagon, fond of gold plated toilets, disagree.

And once we put God/Jesus/Allah/SkyDaddy back in the classroom, "we're going to make America America again."

That's some mind-bending stuff, Chachi.

No wonder Joanie loved you.

Next week, the Democrats are up. In terms of sheer laughter, they're gonna have hard time topping this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What about Story Selling?

You've seen this guy.

He's in an odd TV commercial. One that has had America scratching its collective head for a month or so.

Chances are you can already hear the harpy voices of the song playing in the background. And almost feel his warm soothing touch as he pats you on the shoulder.

You might even remember the car he's in is a Volvo.

And for breaking thru the enormously cluttered world of TV advertising, the crew at the ad agency (frankly I'm swamped with work and I'm not even bothering to look it up) deserves credit.

But for the life of me I don't know what this commercial wants me to feel.

Here's what I do know.

I would have paid good money, maybe 100, maybe 200 bucks, to have been a fly on the wall when the team presented this work to the National Board of Volvo Dealers.

I'd throw in another 100 if somebody would have granted me permission to film the reaction. Trust me when I say there is nothing more entertaining than watching a bunch of advertising agency bullshitters trying to put one over on a bunch of sheet metal bullshitters.

"What the fuck is that? Are they going to a funeral? And who the fuck are these people? Why aren't we talking about the 27 airbags? The blind spot warning system? The intelligent all wheel drive? Play it again. Did I miss something? And what's with that music? Is that Bjork? I thought she was dead. Can someone tell me what the fuck is going on here?"

I've never found myself agreeing with a bunch of car dealers, who by and large have the aesthetic taste of, what's the right metaphor...a car dealer.

But on this I'd have to concur.

It makes me for yearn for a simpler and, dare I say, smarter time. When we used the precious 30 seconds we were given on the national airwaves to make a point, to offer up something in the arena of persuasion, when we tried to actually sell our client's products. And not make short jack-off cinema pieces that would get booed off the stage at the Des Moines Independent Film Festival.

Little war story.

When I was at Chiat, I played a lot of pool with Jerry Gentile and Rob Feakins. We had a great pool table and we were not subjected to the ridiculous 24 hour check ins that hang above the heads of creatives like the sword of Damocles.

One time, my boss took it upon herself to chide me about my ever improving pool game.

"Shouldn't you be working on that new Nissan Altima spot?" she inquired.

Taking that as my inspiration and to prove a point about how creativity needs to flow freely, we quickly wrote a spot involving pool balls. We painted them with the same process and self-healing paint as the Nissan Altima. Then, using specially rigged motion control cameras that glided along the felt table we filmed the balls smashing into each other. The spot ended with a corny heavy-handed reference to Scratch. Get it?

Not a great spot (I can't find it anywhere on YouTube) but at least it made a point. And gave car buyers one more reason to consider an Altima.

I miss those days.

But once you turn 44 years old, there are a lot of things you start to miss.

Cue the sappy Bjork Music.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, our new Creative Director

Recognize this guy?

I didn't.

But that's understandable, he's a hip hop artist. I could name two, maybe three, hip hop "artists" if I got lucky. Mostly from telling my teenage daughters to "turn that (insert hip hop artist name here) shit down."

But you?

You're younger, hipper, more wired to pop culture than I'll ever be. And so the name Swiss Beatz should've come rolling off your tongue immediately. Or is it Swizz Beats?

Well, the genii at Bacardi are so enamored with this Mr. Beatz, they have named him to be their new "Global Chief Creative for Culture for Bacardi with Oversight for the Entire Bacardi Portfolio of Brands."

Wow, that's gonna be hard to fit on a business card.

The article did not disclose the financial details of the signing, but I have to suspect it's not as lucrative as the deal Alicia Keys got from Blackberry.

Nor is it anywhere near the multimillion dollar struck between Intel, the world's largest manufacturer of microprocessing chips and Will I Am, famous hawker of Pepsi brown fizzy water.

I'm also not sure what these brands think they're buying. I can't imagine some hipster dude with a footlong lumberjack beard or a woman in a skin-tight tube dress sauntering up to a bar and saying,

"Can I get a Mojito? Oh no, not that Captain Morgan swill. Gimme the rum that my man Swiss Beatz drinks. He's the Global Chief Creative for Culture for Bacardi with Oversight for the Entire Bacardi Portfolio of Brands. Yeah, he knows his shit."

Farfetched as that might sound, I have an even harder time conjuring up Will I Am's contribution at Intel.

Look, I am the embodiment of unhip, uncool and unbearably ignorant of today's music scene. But think about the guys in the IT department --the pocket-protector wearing purchasing agents responsible for enterprise data management and corporate hardware upgrades. The feeds and speed nerds. You think they're following Black Eyed Peas? To them it's a vegetable, in same inedible category as cauliflower and broccoli.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong on all this.

Maybe I should get a celebrity brand spokesperson for Rich Siegel Worldwide?

I wonder what Spoonie Gee is up to.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Kudos to Coffee

Maybe it's the optimist in me (mind you, he's a tiny fellow) but it appears the advertising pendulum has begun swinging in the opposite direction.

Towards sanity.
Towards common sense.
Towards persuasion.
And away from bullshit.

Just last week, John Wren, head of mighty Omnicom, hinted that clients are steering more of their budgets back into traditional media.

Prior to that, Martin Sorrell suggested scaling back or even skipping the now bloated and inordinately expensive Cannes festival.

And we are witnessing the final and very public takedown of one William Grizack, the Planning/Strategist/Charlatan/Grifter/Flim Flam Man (BTW, all those words are somewhat interchangeable) who embezzled money from unwitting ad agencies (are thee any other kind?) and sent dozens of our colleagues to the unemployment lines.

The fall of SeƱor Grizack is directly proportionate to the rise of Mr. Patrick Coffee, the hard charging editor/journalist who uncovered this seedy little story at AgencySpy.

Here too, things are changing.

AgencySpy, at one time banned from certain organizations with a weak stomach and an even weaker understanding of how the Internet is available through various mobile devices, was fondly regarded as an industry gossip rag.

It was here we could anonymously vent, rage against the Death Star holding companies and throw carefully-crafted shade on shitty Nike knock-off spots or newly-appointed douchey creative directors sporting ear gauges, tatted sleeves or silk ascots.

But now, with the glorious takedown of the Grizmeister and his paradigm shape shifting formulas and his revolutionary brand ebonics, AgencySpy is becoming something else -- credible.

And we ought to give a hearty hat tip to Patrick Coffee for doing so.

Of course now that the Griz has exchanged his $150 plaid shirts for a set of prison-issued orange overalls, the question is, where will Mr. Coffee proceed to turn his prying eye?

I have a host of suggestions: obscene pay inequality, sweatshop working conditions, dysfunctional mismanagement, drug and alcohol abuse, raging incompetence and the disappearance of any work/life balance.

Plus, now that I'm 44, it's hard to believe but I'm beginning to see the first signs of ageism.

The sad truth is I never rose that high on the corporate ladder. With today's bloated title inflation, my one-time status as a Group Creative Director is truly the equivalent of being the Senior Mailroom Clerk. So I never really knew about all the agency dirt. But I do know the people who do know the people who know where all the bodies are buried.

I'd be tempted to give up those names if Patrick Coffee would simply revert back to the old, easier to read layout of AgencySpy.

Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Make it stop

It might be the last thing you want to hear right now, particularly since I've only recently stopped obnoxiously promoting my last book, but the manuscript for my next book is almost complete.

Please do not try to bombard me with pre-sales orders.

There's still a lot of proofreading, tweaking and discarding of weak material to be done.

And let me tell you the hardest about writing a book is re-reading and rewriting the book you've already written.

Especially so in this case.

The book is a collection of the best rants curated from the pages of RoundSeventeen. And because there is so much in the way of bitching and moaning and ranting and raving and whining and pining, it's enough to make you look for a tall building with a shoddily made glass side from the 70th floor to the 69th floor.

Seriously, I can't imagine why the 13 regular readers of this blog bother to return everyday. There's nothing even remotely entertaining here. Advertising blah blah blah. Shitty planners gabba gabba gabba. Overpaid drunk CEOs wokka wokka wokka.


I don't know about you, but I'm sick of me.

I hope you'll enjoy my new book.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Using the hustle muscle

This post is about discovering new muscles.

It's not related to my every other day pumping of the iron in my garage. Or how I am easily bench-pressing my weight (impressive for a fat 44 year old). Or even how the curling is producing the desired veiny bulge in my biceps.

My wife still won't let me walk around the house with sleeveless tank tops.

No, this is about musculature of a different sort.
The professional kind.

You see lately things have gotten a little wonky in the ad agency world. Holding companies in NY are demanding more and more profits. Which means agencies, particularly the LA satellite agencies, have to run leaner and meaner.

Leaner, meaning anyone with 5 years experience in the biz, is too expensive.

"Can't we get an intern to write the Super Bowl spot?"

And meaner, meaning: the floggings will continue until morale improves.

Couple that with the growing glut of freelancers (skilled art directors and writers Getting Quit, see above) and you'll know why I haven't stepped foot in an ad agency in more than 3 months. Of course I still field remote work, but I do occasionally find myself missing the smell of day old pizza as well as the stench of crushed dreams and broken careers.

Anyway, to keep the coffers filled here at Rich Siegel Worldwide, I've been working directly with clients.

This is where those new muscles come in. Because as you might expect, playing Account Guy, Planner Strategist and Chief Financial Officer are not exactly in my comfort zone. They're not even remotely in my zip code.

Nevertheless, Adopt.
And Survive.

Lately I've found myself writing proposals, negotiating project scope, and running to the local printers to fire off some spiral bound decks. By the way, the lazy asses at my local Kinkos can fuck off with their 24 hour turnaround. The nice people at OfficeMax across the street knocked it out in 3 hours. People in a service industry should learn the fundamentals about service.

It's almost like I'm starting a little ad agency of my own. I wonder which holding company I should sell myself to? I know Omnicom has those fat dividends. And that nice yacht in Cannes.

Next week I should hear back from a small adult beverage distributor about some project work on a growing brand of alcohol. This would be perfect.

I can supplement my new muscle growth with an invigorating workout for my liver.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Noah's Lark

Submitted for your amusement, Ken Ham's Legendary Ark Encounter, a $107 million tourist attraction being built in the heart of Kentucky (God's second favorite place) and just about ready to open its hatch to homo-hating, gun-toting Bible literalists throughout the land.

Spoiler Alert: Iffin' you are an Abrahamic believer and take offense easily, I suggest you stop reading cause shit's about to get real. Unless the Lord strikes me down as I take to the keyboard and lay waste to another one of his soggy pulp fiction, human-spiting stories. Which would actually be a cool way to go now that I think about it.

First off, kudos to Ken Ham, the Australian Genesis-guided evangelical who spearheaded this important work.

Mr. Ham, an appropriate name if there ever was one, is a strict follower of the first book of the Old Testament, a collection of funny stories written by a bunch of old Jews before they got around to Seinfeld, Blazing Saddles and Everyone Loves Raymond.

Ham felt that by rebuilding Noah's very big boat, he could inspire people and bring them back to God's law, faulty in logic as that may be.

If, for instance, the world as Ken knows it was created in 6 days how did God measure a day, which is the time it takes for Earth to complete one rotation? But according to Ken's book the sun is not created until Day Four, so how can you define a day previous to its creation?

It boggles the mind.

But it is not nearly as confounding as the fact that the good people of Kentucky (again, God's second favorite place on Earth) could shell out, in the form of tax credits, millions of dollars so that Mr. Ham could erect his biblical petting zoo.

Think of how that money could have otherwise been spent.

Just a thought, a Christian thought, they could have fed some hungry people. They could have housed some homeless folks. Or, and I'm just spitballing here, they could have used the money to buy new textbooks for the schools -- updated textbooks that include descriptions of a round, not flat, Earth, Charles Darwin and this new science-y thing called carbon-dating.

And then of course, there's the Ark itself.

Supposedly, it housed a pair of more than 5,000 species of animals. Including, according to Mr. Ham, dinosaurs which roamed the planet the same time Noah was putting the finishing touches on the Ark bathrooms. Which brings up the care and feeding of all those creatures.

According to Ken Ham's "scholars", they had enough food onboard to feed all the animals for a full year, until all the rain waters had receded. I'm just doing the math in my head and have got to believe it would take a better part of a 24 hour day to feed all those damn critters. And then what about cleaning up after them?

I've seen those news reports of sewage problems on a Carnival Cruise Line and it's not pretty.

Maybe Noah and Mrs. Noah were built of stronger stuff than me, but if God told me to live on a boat for a year with 10,000 smelly, eating and constantly-pooping animals, I'd ask to see what was behind Door #2.

BTW, I know you're dying for a closer look at this monstrosity, so here's a promotional video of this faithfully recreated biblical miracle. (I had no idea they had Tyvek protective sheathing back then. Just another one of the Lord's miracles)

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Wild Wild West

As a Bronx-born child who was raised in the suburbs of New York City, I always had a picture of what life was like in the wild, wild west.

To be honest, I had several pictures, including gun-slinging cowboys, tee pees, baked beans and of course, old cow skeletons.

I know this is a cliche.

A proven cliche at that, particularly if you do a Google search for cow skulls (see above).

The truth is the vast, western landscape is not littered with the remains of old bovine carcasses. In fact, in the 30 plus, 20 plus years I've been living in California, I have never come across one.

Though when I was a bartender I did meet an actual cowboy. He herded steer in Wyoming, shoed horses and could dance a mean Texas Two Step. He also had an affinity for pink daiquiris. And by the end of the night we, the bartending staff, would often have to pour Tuffie McTuffBoy into the tiny camper that was bolted onto his truck which was permanently parked behind the restaurant.

Another myth destroyed.

But last week, while my wife and I were camping,in the High Sierras, hiking and cramming all manner of fire-cooked meat into our pieholes, there was redemption.

While off on another Paul Sinfield-inspired roadside attraction hunt, we came across this...

I was going to hop the barbed wire fence, trespass on the property and get up close for a better shot but my wife objected.

She correctly pointed out that most people possess a zoom-in feature on their computer. She also pointed out that the land owner -- most likely a drug addled, white supremacist -- probably possessed a high powered rifle.

Additionally, though the front porch of his double wide trailer was nearly a quarter mile in the distance, he could easily pick off a slow moving 44 year old Jew with two, maybe three, well-placed shots.

Now, you may be thinking, "come on, Rich, that's awfully narrowminded of you to paint with such a broad brush. Just like your mistaken cliched images of the West, not everyone who lives in the sun-baked Owens Valley is a lowbrow, barefoot, meth-smoking, hate-filled flesh sack named Cletus."

How silly of me.

Where would I come up with that idea?