Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Your obligatory End-of-the-Month post on Planners

How many planners does it take to change a light bulb?

I had a funny punchline to this joke but it was rejected by the Junior Associate Planning Coordinator who "drilled down" on the project and found my answer did not "check off all the boxes" nor did it please focus group attendee Gary W., a plumber from Pacoima who once took a course in advertising at Fontana Community College.

I bring this up because despite the almost daily news stories about agencies downsizing, another large holding company shop had the wherewithal to hire a Group Planning Director.

I may be wrong on the numbers but I think that's their 38th Group Planning Director hire this year. Hell, you could hand all these planners some bricks and mortar and they can have the Mexican Wall built by Mother's Day.

My consternation regarding this issue knows no bounds.

To begin with, I'm 44 years old and have worked in advertising for more than 53 years and to this day I still have no idea why we need a planner. Since all work must pass through the C-suite sphincter, why not just corner the CEO in a room and ask for the 10 second elevator pitch about their business.

Steve Jobs -- "We make computers for the rest of us."

Phil Knight -- "We're all about the celebration of sport."

Ersk Von Defluggenshiester (CEO of Volvo) -- "We make cars that are safe."

You, Mr. or Ms. Planner, can take the rest of the day off.

Am I guilty of oversimplification? Hardly.

Because a CEO has a lot on his or her mind. Marketing and advertising take up the smallest sliver of real estate. And so the time-pressed CEO, who will have to say yeah or nay on anything that goes out the door, will view the ideas through that simple filter. The same oversimplified filter by the way, that is employed by the consumer.

Anything else is worthless math.

Speaking of worthless math, why, if one planner is too many, are 18 planners not enough?

Not long ago, an art director and I sat in on a briefing. We were walked through a three page document that was presented to us by three separate planners. Oh I'm sorry, a brand planner, a communications strategist and an experiential anthropologist. I shit you not.

The briefing concluded at 11:45 AM. Afterwards, I heard one woman say to her colleagues, let's go get lunch. I can only imagine the chartmaking, the ruminating and the robust discussion that preceded the decision on where they would eat.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Oh Advertising

I was looking over the past few weeks of postings and noticed I had somehow neglected to touch on two of my favorite subjects: Advertising and shitting.

And then, as if from out of the ether, I ran across this ad on Facebook.

Holy Coincidences. Here's an opportunity to write about advertising. And an opportunity to write about shitting. And, bonus time, here's an opportunity to shit on advertising that is about shitting.

It's as if I hit the Monday Morning Trifecta.

I'm not great at capturing videos or GIFs and don't have much schooling in HTML, but here, to the best of my ability is the ad in question. It's for a bidet manufacturer and it literally shows a woman in a kimono 'launching a lifeboat off the SS Assitania.'

I can't help be reminded of that old anecdote told by Bill Bernbach who famously said...

"...it makes sense to run an ad with a man standing on his head only if you're demonstrating pants that keep from falling from his pockets."

Likewise, it makes perfect sense to depict a woman 'dumping all her shares of Hometown Buffet' if you're selling a device that 'cleans up and feeds off a down market.'

Do I have a bone to pick with the ad?
Of course I do.

First of all, a toilet against a white syc? It's not that hard to dress a set to look like a bathroom.

And the newspaper? The Sunday Something? Come on, such a blown naming opportunity. The Porcelain Gazette comes to mind.

The Dookie Digest.

The Lincoln Log Journal. I'll be here all day.

But I do give the TUSHY folks credit for their out-of-the-bowl thinking and their courage to go where no advertiser has gone before. I'm also reminded of all the weak-kneed, lily liver clients who have blocked the passage of good work in the past.

I'm still reeling from a comment heard just two months ago...

"We like what you've done here. It's an excellent problem/solution type spot. Just wondering, do the problems have to be so....er...negative?" 

Frankly, it's hard to square our allegedly negative ad with one of a woman taking a shit on camera!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hello, is this Jake from State Farm?

I was driving to a client meeting in Venice the other day and passed this.

I didn't know what to make of it at first.

Did the guy have a white, male green jaguar?
And he was selling to exotic pet owners?
Hit me up at 310-923-3008?

I had seen spotted jaguars and black jaguars, but never a white male green jaguar.

I pulled a bat turn and drove back for a closer examination.

That's when I noticed the remains of the left rear quarter panel. This poor guy's Honda got smashed in by a hit and run driver in a green Jaguar.

It was all starting to make sense to me. Except for the man's method of tracking down the culprit. Not sure he's gonna get a return on his plywood investment.

However, the Honda owner should take some consolation. If the errant driver caused this much damage to the beat up Honda, imagine the bondo, aluminum sheathing, and premium British paint it's going to take to repair the overpriced Jag.

Unless the guy was driving a Jaguar X-Type (as I did for too many years.)

Those things are a piece of shit.

Or as the Brits would say, shiite.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Is it safe?

Allow me to be honest with you.

There are days, sometimes weeks, when I get to thinking about this damn blog and wonder, "What the hell am I gonna write about now?"

I'm sure you've had similar thoughts, as in, "Oh shit, how many times is he gonna rehash those old Chiat/Day war stories, bitch about planners, or rag on the open office space thing?"

I get it.

And yet, the work goes on. I crank out this drivel. You lap it up. And the money I make from the Google-placed ads on this site continues to accrue and will someday be used to keep me out of a dirty nursing home.

Today was one of those days when I had nothing. Nothing. Despite the glut of material that appears to be gushing from the new White House.

And then I came across this ad in the LA Times.

Holy crap, that's a mouthful.

First, you should know I have a strange fascination with dentistry. It is truly one of the oddest professions on God's green earth. I simply can't imagine some kid thinking...

"When I grow up, I want to strap on a rubber apron and stick sharp utensils into people's pieholes."

Moreover, I was introduced to the notion of orthodontics at an extremely young age. While wrestling with my five year old brother, I was kicked out of the top bunk bed and landed face first on the hardwood floors of our Jackson Heights apartment.

My two beautiful front teeth had been knocked out and bounced across the room into the opening of my PF Flyers.

Now I sport a bridge in my mouth that forces me to be very careful when biting into apples or beef ribs. And absolutely precludes me from eating a cob of corn impaled on a power drill.

What struck me most about the ad clipped from the newspaper was not the pointy-titted receptionist inexplicably pictured in the ad. Though that in itself could probably warrant its own blog posting.

I was inordinately drawn to the ad because not long ago I was contracted by an ad agency to pitch a competitor of...er...OK, that's weird, there's not even a name to this company/ dentist office/implant factory.

Is pointy-titted Ani the one who actually does the dental work?

I'm so confused. Even more confused about the pitiful trajectory of my career and how I ended up writing similar ads about dental implants. That too, is its own blog posting.

For now, all I can do is unpack this ad and study its craftsmanship.

Damn, we didn't include a bullet point about FREE! Sedation. That could've been a game changer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I don't want to die.

I suspect none of us do. Though I am writing this on the morning of the inauguration and secretly thinking, "this wouldn't be a bad time to check out of the Life Hotel."

But I steady my resolve, pour some low-fat milk into my awful tasting high protein cereal and vow to fight on. After all, I'm only 44 years old.

Nevertheless, last week my wife and I made the 3.2 mile trip to Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, the law firm in charge of my "estate." Only in Los Angeles could a trip of that distance take 45 minutes. Whatever hell has in store, it will not hold a candle to the 405 at 8:30 in the morning.

We hadn't spoken to the lawyers  - mostly because they charge $500 an hour, including the small talk -- for quite some time. But my daughters are now adults, supposedly, and it was time to rearrange the arrangements in the event of our demise.

On the plus side, after a careful forensic examination of our financial state, the lawyer assured us we would not end up in a dirty nursing home. Readers of this blog know that is my greatest fear.

"Nurse, there's a cockroach in my soup."

"Please be quiet Mr. Siegel or soon everybody will want one."

On the not-so plus side, there's the question of what would happen if, for instance, Deb and I were to be on a plane that went down in the Andes and we met our demise because we refused to eat Raoul, the Argentinian plumber.

Because, even after the lawyer extracts his 100 lbs. of flesh, even after the bank gets their due on the mortgage, and even after St. Jude's Hospital names a toilet paper holder after us for making a sizable donation, there's the matter of turning over a not unsubstantial amount of money over to my two daughters.

I don't want to say they're irresponsible, but I shudder to think that I wrote all those TV spots, sat in all those status meetings, bit my tongue and ate all those bowls of shit, just to have my girls blow the fruits of my labor on Chipotle, Forever 21 and Boba Smoothies.

Then again, maybe I'm letting my imagination get the worst of me. As is often the case. Maybe they're more responsible than I give them credit for.

Over the winter break, Abby, my youngest daughter went to London and Paris. She called me recently and wanted me to set up a Venmo account. Why, I asked. So, she explained, she could pay me back the money I gave her for the trip.

I have no idea what the fuck a Venmo account is.

But I did tell the lawyer that I want Abby to get my Tommy Lasorda autographed baseball.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hello Ladies

I'm awfully proud of the women in my life. As I write this from the cozy comfort of my home office, my wife is in Trumptown...er, Washington, DC. She's gathered with a million (hopefully) other enraged women, telling The Man to, "Let my pussy go."

She's not alone in this endeavor.

My two daughters have taken time away from SnapChat, beer pong and blazing 420, to also get out in the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the clouted, shard-borne nuthook, otherwise known as Precedent Shitgibbon.

As we enter this new Age of the Unenlightened and the powers that be begin to give shape to the Testosterone Doctrine, I began thinking of our better half. More specifically, the women who have shaped my life.

Even more specifically, the female copywriters who birthed and nurtured my career.

There was the first Creative Director that hired me out of the mailroom, Kat Johnson. She gave me my first shot. And for that I will always be grateful. She taught me how to write recruitment ads. Sometimes, 10 or 15 in a day. She taught me something more important, or at least tried to. How to accept rejection and go back to the drawing board with grace, resolve and a sense of humor. She had it mastered. For me, it's still a work in progress.

Then I learned to steal. And of course, by steal I mean mimic. There was no better source of material than the One Show books and the CA annuals. If you pored through those books like I did, certain agencies showed up again and again, Chiat/Day, Wieden & Kennedy, Fallon McElligot and Ammirati & Puris. Certain names also popped up over and over again, including Helayne Spivak. Her smart headlines and body copy had a New York wit that I always thought was in my wheelhouse. Of course, now she is the head of Advertising at VCU and I'm writing banner ads for the local colonics clinic, so I might have been wrong on that.

No discussion of female copywriters would be complete without the inclusion of Penny Kapsusouz. For those who don't know, Penny wrote so many of the early Apple print ads, including a 20 page insert that stands as a monument to creativity and salesmanship. Oh yeah, we're supposed to be selling this shit. Penny painstakingly removed the mystery and confusion from technology. When I began writing Apple ads for BBDO, Steve Hayden wisely handed me her work and said, "here, do it like this."

There's also a streak of poetry that runs through this business. Or at least, there should be. Janet Champ, made that happen. I remember hearing and seeing her work for Nike and feeling synapses going off in my head. There hadn't been advertising like that before. These were ads that not only sold sneakers and sweatshirts. These were ads that provided an inspirational blueprint for fathering daughters. My girls know there are unfair barriers and obstacles out there. But they also know I expect them to ignore or better yet, smash through them.

Not sure I would have heard the end of it, had I not mentioned my good friend Claudia Caplan. She once said my writing style was muscular and forceful. I told her I learned from the best. She and April Winchell, were two of the best radio writers in Southern California. Radio is a writer's medium, so I studied and stole from their work. Liberally.

And of course there's Kathy Hepinstall. She writes real books. She creates amazing pop art. She has an outrageously funny blog. And she freelances all around the country, often taking the high-paying jobs that could feed my family and easily cover my daughter's college tuition leaving me enough money to buy that jet black Audi A5 I've been eyeing.

Fuck that, I have nothing nice to say about Kathy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Article 2, Clause 5

For eight years the Alex Jones/Alt. Right/Illuminati-fearing set peddled some horseshit about President Obama not being a native born American.

"He's from Kenya", they cried.

Of course these are the same Wheel of Fortune idiots who said Obama would take our guns, establish Death Panels, send gas soaring to $12 a gallon, tank the economy and turn us all into gay, Muslim, Communist, transgender snowflakes.

Well, now one of these barnacle brains is about to become our next Commander in Chief.

But after careful examination of his behavior, his pre-inaugural behavior mind you, I'm beginning to wonder whether Donald J. Trump is a real live American.

Actually, I'm prepared to prove he is not.

Americans are by nature, good natured. The other day I was buying prescription dog food for my 14 year old retriever/shepherd mix. The food comes in big 50 lbs. bags. There was a woman at the cash register trying to corral 3 screaming kids, a new hamster and 5 plastic baggies with goldfish. She saw me carrying the large bag and offered to let me go in front of her. I didn't ask. I didn't make the face. She just saw that her purchase would take an inordinate amount of time and let me in. Can you picture this orange-haired alien doing the same? Can you even picture him in a pet food store? The man doesn't like babies, I doubt he has much love for dogs.

Americans have a kind streak. I've never kicked somebody. There was that one time in karate class and I was sparring with a brown belt. He caught me with an uppercut and I reflexively kneed him in the groin. But he, and the swarm of British planners I've kicked in the figurative sense, had it coming to him. Last week our new POTUS fired 89 year old Charles Brotman, the same man who had been announcing the inaugural parade since 1957. The same man who lost his wife just a few weeks ago. Who fires a recently-widowed 89 year old man from a job he has be doing for close to 60 years? Not any American I know.

Americans are smarter than your average shmoe. It may not be evident from our SAT scores or our falling leadership status in math and science, but by and large we are smart people. Smart enough to live in the greatest country in the world. We're also smart enough to know that a stack of unlabeled and apparently untouched manilla folders containing reams of blank white paper is not sufficient evidence to prove our new President has dissolved his involvement with global businesses which is a clear conflict of interest. Moreover, for this craven, sheep-biting vulgarian to think he could hoodwink the rest of us with this sham is both dumb and insulting. It's also downright UnAmerican.

Americans stand by their word. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. It's a pretty simple concept. You know for those of us born on Terra Americana. He -- the mammering, boil-brained lewdster-- said he was going to build a wall and that Mexico was going to pay for it. He said that a lot. Now it seems there will be large stretches of land that won't have a wall. And this new wall that we won't have, won't even be paid for by the President of Mexico. Or Mexicans. Or even Russians. What the hell is that all about? What happened to truth, justice and the American Way?

Finally, and most damning, Americans know how to eat pizza.

As if that weren't enough

Precedent Shitgibbon ought to get out his birth certificate and parade it around in one of those news conferences he's so good at.

I don't know where this artless, flap-mouthed join-head is from, but I do know he's not of us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ready to fight

Gotta tip my hat to Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch. Building a modern day media empire is a lot more difficult than I thought.

I'll give you a good example. As you may recall, last month I started allowing Google to place banner ads on this blog.

I hadn't refreshed the blog in quite some time. And I felt things were getting a little stale. The tagline, "No Artificial Sweeteners" appears to be unbeatable.  So, in the effort to keep things fresh, I relented and began allowing sponsors to piggyback on my semi-daily, semi-legible, semi-funny rants.

In the five weeks since, and despite the surprising surge in readership (last week's Casey Affleck post racked up 1500 hits in one day), the money has NOT been rolling in. To date, the various hits/visits/pageviews/clicks have earned me $41.73.

I can't even take my wife down to Back at the Beach in Santa Monica and have lunch for $41.73. Mostly because she insists on buying those ridiculous $9 Ice Teas.

To add insult to injury, I've recently hit another speed bump on the road to my first billion dollars.

Seems the good folks at Google and their third party revenue disbursement partner, Adsense, came upon an old posting of mine that did not meet their high standards.

Keep in mind, you can scan through the current Google library of blogs and find all kinds of informative writing about Killing Jews, Making Love to Goats and Supporting the new Trump Administration. But my little satirical posting about the proper way to discipline your wife raised some eyebrows.

You can find the offending piece here.

Look, I'm a First Amendment absolutist and refuse to do anything to alter the post.

If necessary, I'll fight for my right to express myself freely. And I'm prepared to spend my entire bankroll of blog earnings, all $41.73. I'll take this all the way to the Supreme Court.

Whichever comes first.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Read this book.

Yesterday I threw my insignificant weight behind a product everyone should have. Today, I am upping the ante and throwing my exponentially increasing weight behind a book everyone should read.

At least those of us in advertising.

Dan Lyons is one of the writers on HBO's incredibly funny and incredibly smart, Silicon Valley. But he is no overnight sensation, not by a long shot. I heard he was 10 years older than me. Hard to believe that a 54 year old could still productively pound the keyboard.

But he does and that gives me hope.

Dan spent many years as a reporter for Newsweek magazine. And then, in order to exercise his funny bone, he began tweeting as FakeSteveJobs. A humorous diversion not unlike my kimjungfun.tumblr.com account.

In fact, months ago, Dan stumbled upon one of my Kim Jung Un posts and he wrote to me. That is how we started our correspondence. OK, it's not really a correspondence. I write to him and he doesn't respond, but in this new Trumpian era why let facts get in the way of a good fantasy?

When Newsweek downsized, Dan found himself out of work. That is until he parlayed his FakeSteveJobs notoriety into a high level gig at HubSpot, a scamarama software outfit in Boston.

The book follows, in painstaking detail, Dan's journey into the high tech world. More specifically in their marketing department. And this is where it gets interesting. Or humiliating. Many times both. In other words, it's just like our lives in advertising.

There's the tortuous brainstorming meetings and the walls festooned with appropriately-sized Post It Notes of Insight.

There's the squabbling over offices, cubicles, seats at the long table in the boiler room/sweatshop.

There's cognitive dissonance. Much the same way we tell and sell our clients this salesfuckery about building their brands with tweets, Snaps and Instagram scavenger hunts, the Hubspotters spout off about 1+1=3. With equally mysterious comments like, "A Hubspotter would never say something like that." 

And there's Kool Aid drinking.

So, so, so much Kool Aid drinking. Complete with asinine acronyms, delusional manifestos, and unwarranted cult-like loyalty. Here are some selected slides from the 128 page Hubspot Code of Conduct.

Had I been subjected to this presentation, I would have been requesting an Exit Interview before the 5th slide.

Most of all, there's greed.

Because despite the many opportunities to fix the product, improve the product and make the product better than anything offered by the competition, all the energy was exclusively spent preparing for the IPO and funneling as much money as humanly possible to the khaki-pants-wearing white men in the C-Suite.

Mmmmm, why does that sound so familiar?

Monday, January 16, 2017

I'm walking here

As you can see from the screen grab above, I am a man who does a lot of walking.

This map shows me going to the bank to deposit a check, my favorite part of the walk. Followed by a long ascent up to the top of the Baldwin Hills Overlook, which offers unbeatable views of the city, the San Bernardino Mountains as well the entirety of the Santa Monica Bay.

It's not easy to maintain my girlish figure, so I try to make this walk at least three times a week.

Unfortunately, and this is of import to Chinese electronic manufacturers, these three hour treks would sap my iPhone long before they would sap me.

Accordingly, I was forced to bring all manner of outside battery packs and their assorted cables. Between my iPhone and external juice packs, my iPod and accompanying headphones, I was a walking rat's nest of Apple paraphernalia.

That all changed last week.

I'm not big on endorsements, mostly because I write that shit for a living and don't take kindly to giving the stuff away for free, but in the case of this special case, I'm going to bend the rules.

This thing is a lifesaver.

You know if your life is tethered to to an iPhone, as I suspect it is for most of us.

You insert your phone into the pre-wired case and the clever engineers who make Cupertino their home, do the rest. There are no cables. There are no moving parts. There's not even a switch to tell your iPhone to go to the external battery (the hump in the picture above.)

In essence, the case simply doubles the battery power on your phone. It also doubles the weight of the phone, but I'm at a point in my life where function is way more important than form.

Besides, aesthetics is for young people. Or Fancy Nancies who fret over just the right paper towel holders, flip flops or dog food bowls.


I'll take my big fat ugly phone with its big fat ugly reserve of power.

Hell, maybe I'll walk 10.5 miles instead of 7.5 and get rid of this big fat ugly ass of mine.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I got your donuts right here.

There's been a lot of chatter lately about a spec spot from Germany for Adidas. The rogue commercial was written, produced and directed by a couple of ad students. And it's got a lot of industry pundits saying things, "This is what advertising could be."

Normally, I'd jump all over any argument that disposes of bureaucracy, excessive planning and the staid formulas of our business. But to be completely honest, I wasn't all that impressed with the spot.

It had too many logistical loopholes to carry any water, as it were.

For me, the better example of what we could be doing with our marketing efforts, if we were not so hampered by prudish sensibilities and tired thinking, came from the staff at Saturday Night Live.

The spot features an outstanding performance by Casey Affleck. In fact, I think his work here is far more Oscar-worthy than his stint in Manchester By the Sea, which, like the aforementioned Adidas spot, I also found to be overrated.

Here, take a look.

That's the Krakken.

This spot has it all. For one thing it makes a mockery of all those force fed client copy points about buying donuts with a phone app or craving some bullshit coffee cocktail with cinnamon, sugar and cinnamon sugar.

And it turns the notion of real people on its head, with a hardscrabble character who curses, smokes and gets in an argument with the $16.38 an hour assistant manager.

In other words, it dares to be, as my legendary Film Professor once called it, really real.

Best of all, there's violence. At the very least, the threat of violence brought on by the evident class warfare. All harkening back to the gritty neighborhoods in Gone Baby Gone. If there's a more charming set of people than the tough-talking blue collar hard-on's living on Boston's Southside, I have yet to find them.

The spoof spot ran up crazy numbers on social media. And I'll bet sales at Dunkin Donuts followed suit. Isn't that what advertising is supposed to do?

Hell, if it wasn't for my excessive girth and my strict protein-only breakfast policy, I'd be running down to my local DD for a chocolate eclair.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Precedented Presidents

A little more than a week from now, hillbillies, rednecks and know-nothings will be tuned in to the swearing in of the most unfit man on the planet to the highest ranking position on the planet.

God, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, help the United States of America.

The rest of us, the ones who were stunned by the same shitgibbon who...

* mocked a disabled reporter

* talked about unconstitutionally banning Muslims

* questioned the credibility of a judge with Hispanic roots

* talked about his big brain as well as his lady penis

* failed to identify the Nuclear Triad

* claimed women who exercised their reproductive rights should be punished

* appointed racists, fascists and billionaires to his cabinet

* spoke openly about grabbing pussy

* and reneged on virtually every campaign promise he made before even taking office

... will be stocking up hallucinogenics wondering, "how the hell did this happen?"

But if you work in advertising or have had any exposure to the corporate world, the meteoric rise of this goatish, idle-headed moldwarp should come as no surprise. In fact, it should've been expected.

Because it's nothing more than the Peter Principle in action. Which is best explained by this simple illustration...

Or, as I've been fond of saying, "how do these fucking idiots get to the top?"

And though I'm only 44 years old, I've seen plenty of them. Names are unimportant. But I'm sure you'll recognize these prototypical Presidents who we've all had the pleasure of working for at some time in our career.

There was President Lie to My Face. This agency honcho knows the value of incentivized performance. We'll all work hard, she'd say, and at the end of the year there will be big bonuses and generous raises. And there were. For her.

There was President Invertebrate. We could do good creative work that pushes the envelope and makes employees proud to work here, but clients don't want that. They don't want confrontation. Or rocking the boat. They've got kids and mortgages and car payments. And besides their layouts aren't so bad. And if the client wants to write the headlines that makes your life so much easier, doesn't it Rich?

And then there was President Foster Brooks. This President loved his alcohol. He was always drinking. When he wasn't drinking, he was thinking about drinking.

For some reason I have this scene stuck in my head. I can't remember if it actually happened or if it were part of some bad dream. I find myself with President Foster Brooks in the back of a stretch limousine on the way to a potential billion dollar client's headquarters. Foster stumbles upon -- he did a lot of stumbling -- the onboard liquor cabinet. As we crawl through traffic at 9:30 in the morning, President Brooks delicately starts fingering the bottlecaps of all the spirits, mumbling to himself, "Mmmmm, vodka. Mmmmm, bourbon. Mmmm, tequila."  All the while I start mumbling to myself, "Mmmmm, must freshen up resume."

It had to have been a dream. Right?

A dystopic dream just like the one we'll be facing on January 20.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Letters, we get letters.

I don't take a compliment very well.

Some people thrive on it. I don't.

I never know how to respond. My first inclination is to say, "Ditto." Or to turn around and somehow compliment the person doing the complimenting.

But as you might have garnered from your many years of reading this blog, flattering or doling out praise is not one of my strong suits. And I hate coming off as disingenuous.

Last week one generous reader contacted me from out of the blue.

I've blurred out his name to spare him any humiliation. It should also be noted that I possess no photoshopping skills whatsoever and the only digital manipulation capabilities I do have spring from Preview. In other words, there isn't a chance in the world I could have fabricated the following...

That's some pretty heady stuff.

Not to be outdone, a day later, I received another flattering email. Once again, I've taken the trouble to blur the writer's identity to maintain this misguided individual his or her dignity.


Couple that with last month's end of year surge, where traffic reached an all time high of 19, 450 hits and I might have to get myself a new car, one with a sunroof to accommodate my swollen head.

The good news is that while I don't take compliments very well, it's an issue I don't have to deal with too often.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Welcome to Ad Heaven

Today's post may come off as pandering. But it's really not.

I'm in the fortunate position of not having to kiss ass or play the sycophant, a role that does not suit me well. And never has.

No, today I want to talk about a recent gig that my partner and I just completed only because this one was so different than so many others.

First, it should be noted I did not get my full day rate. I would have liked to. The University of Washington, where my daughter goes to school, covers close to 100 acres of land. And that land needs to be landscaped. And somebody has to pay for that extensive landscaping. And apparently that somebody is me.

So yes, I would have loved to received my going rate. But I discounted my fee because the job came in at the last second. Unexpectedly. And it was for an ad agency I have always enjoyed working with.

"How can that be? 
Weren't you named the 2016's Crankiest 44 year old Freelance Copywriter?" 

Indeed I was. However it is impossible to accurately describe the sweatshop conditions in our industry without acknowledging the diametric opposite, that is, an agency that knows how to treat people.

Let's start with the office itself. Or let's not, because the folks who hired us for this gig did not require us to be in their office.

One, because the Christmas holidays were upon us. And two, more importantly, we were dealing with grown ups who know how to trust other grown ups. A longwinded way of saying, we worked off site.

Here, deep in the heart of Culver City, is where I do my best work. Because it is here that I am free from the ugly commutes, the starched shirts and the pesky necessities of daily hygiene. I'm still on a SpeedStick of deodorant that my wife bought me in 2013.

You put me in my den, with my Herman Miller Aeron chair, a pot of coffee, some prescription grade cough medicine and an advertising brief, and I will be at most productive.

None of which escaped the notice of our taskmasters who were not taskmasters at all.

We reported to one Creative Director who couldn't have been more pleasant, more professional and more clear-minded, attributes that have become quite rare these days. He fielded the shit we hate fielding: meetings, debriefs, and more meetings about debriefs.

We simply took direction and cranked out the work. Tons and tons of work. Right up to the last minute of the last day of the last extension of the assignment.

I wouldn't have it any other way.
Though given the nature of advertising, I most likely will.

Probably tomorrow.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Shitgibbon, explained

As many of you may or may not know, I have started a new tumblr page to mock our new Precedent: shitgibbonfiles.tumblr.com.

It is not as wildly popular as my other political tumblr page: kimjungfun.tumblr.com.

Seems people are more amused by the North Korean man/child/despot than our new man/child/despot, but I'm confident that over time that will change.

And even if it doesn't, it's not going to stop me.

My rage and sense of disbelief that we, well not we but some of you, elected this toupee-sporting 10th grade dropout to the highest office in the land requires some copious amounts of catharsis.


Contrary to what incoming Press Secretary Spicer claims, "we need to stop mocking him." Listen Sean, any douchebag that consciously chooses to sit in a gold-fringed chair deserves a healthy dose of daily derision. And I'm happy to take on the task.

But today I want to turn my attention away from the Shitgibbon-Elect to the word itself.

It should come as no surprise that I like saying the word. Go ahead, give it a shot. Shitgibbon rolls off the tongue in a very pleasing manner. Why? I wondered that myself and decided to do a little etymological research.

It turns out to have something to do with assonance -- how appropriate.

Assonance -- in poetry, the repetition of of the sound of a vowel or dipthong in a non-rhyming stressed syllables near enough to each other for the echo to be discernible.

I have no idea what that means. But, shitgibbon.

I also discovered the author of the phrase is of Scottish descent, as am I. And can be attributed to the Scottish practice of flinging of good, complex, overblown insults. Moreover, this is a remnant of an ancient tradition of Flyting.

Flyting is the predecessor to today's modern day Rap Battles. It's the ritual poetic exchange of insults that was practiced between the 5th century and the 16th century.

Rich, do you have any examples? Indeed I do.

I will no longer keep it secret:
It was with thy sister
thous hadst such a son
hardly worse than thyself.

It's safe to say that it's not that big a leap from incest jokes to "Yo Mamma" jokes.

Here's an example of flyting from the one and only William Shakespeare:

Ajax: Thou bitch-wolf's son, canst thou not hear? Feel then.
Thersites: The plague of Greece upon thee, thou mongrel beef-witted lord!

I like the way that sounds, however, again, I have no idea what The Bard is talking about.

But, shitgibbon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Land Ahoy

Hear that?

That's opportunity knocking.

Last week, the family and I took a road trip up north to Rohnert Park. To visit my sister-in-law. I love it up there. Northern California suits me.

For one thing there is weather, I miss weather.

There are also great, smart people. I had a chance to have a beer with a friend and ex-boss in Healdsburg, a town with enough charm for two towns.

And there is open space, damn I miss open space.

One day, we hiked up Sonoma Mountain. A moderate hike. But strenuous enough to get my daughters going...

"Are we there yet? Can we turn around?"

God, I love torturing them.

In any case, I was smitten by the landscape. So much so that upon my return home I did a little internet searching and found an amazing piece of property for sale. It sits on Lichau Road and has a sweeping view of the valley below. As you can see from the photo, it also has a pond. And a creek. And, according to the description, 90 plantable acres, most likely for a vineyard.

The property itself is 394 acres!!! That's huge. I didn't go to surveying school, but I'm pretty sure that's bigger than the state of Delaware.

There is a house on the property, but they haven't shown any pictures of it on the site. Which leads me to believe it's an eyesore or a total pig sty. But my daughters were just home for a month so that doesn't phase me in the least.

However, and I'll say this again, it's 394 acres of land in Sonoma County. They're not making any more of that stuff.

Here's the deal, the price tag is $3 million. That's way too rich for my blood. It may be too rich for yours as well. But that's where the out-of-the-cubicle-farm thinking comes in.

You see I know many of the people reading this blog are ad folks. Not the new Kool Aid drinking, let's stay all night and make these banners great ad folks. I'm talking to you seasoned vets who are one status meeting away from a disgruntled employee shooting rampage.

If a group of us were to pool some money together this rambling estate could be ours. This could be the elusive Exit Plan. With a fresh coat of paint and a little elbow grease we could fix up the house. And with a little more elbow grease and some intense Googling we could learn how to plant grapes and bottle wine. Hell, if Lucy and Ethel could do it certainly, some over-educated West Coast elitists could.

Who is with me? Who wants out?

I even have the perfect name for our new wine...

 Chateau Voe Cue.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Staying calm

Please pardon the politically incorrect image above.

It popped up when I was doing a simple Google search for JAPS, not in reference to people living on the other side of the Pacific, but to Jewish American Princesses. More specifically, today I'm writing about the two JAPS living under my roof.

To appreciate the irony of that, you must understand I grew up in New York and went to Syracuse University, widely regarded as the official university of the Jewish American Princess.

There, in her natural environment and surrounded by new BMWs, these over-indulged whiny brats who migrated from the outer reaches of Long Island, would flourish and like an invasive weed take over the entire landscape. Not only could you see them, you could hear them.

"OMG, these dorm rooms are too small."

"Daddy, can you send me more money?"

"This soup is cold. Everything is cold. I should've gone to Miami."

To say these young women got under my skin would be quite the understatement. Particularly since I had to work my way through college. More often than not, in service jobs that required me to cater to their excessive demands.

"I'd be happy to get you some more marshmallows for your hot cocoa. Let me take it to the back of the kitchen and I'll personally melt it on top just for you."

Clearly, the fire that was raging in my belly so many years ago has hardly subsided. And in a cruel twist of fate, the good Lord has blessed me with two daughters of my own. Who, unbeknownst to me,  grew up into little JAPS.

Are my princesses as bad as the ones cited above? Hardly.

They don't drive brand new luxury cars.
They don't adorn themselves with 10 lbs. of 24 karat gold.
And they sure as hell don't treat people as if they were  their own personal indentured servants.

They're simply spoiled. And I've got no one to blame but the person who did the spoiling -- me.

But today their official Winter Break is over. They'll be going to back to their respective schools. And they won't be home, rummaging through my wallet, leaving their dirty dishes in the sink or refusing to pick up the dog shit in the yard for another 10 weeks.

You can file this under Unexplainable or just a daddy's stupid love, but those ten weeks can't go fast enough.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Deadliest Pitch

Welcome back.

I hate to start the New Year on a negative note, but I suspect 2017, the official Chinese year of the shitgibbon, will give us plenty of negative notes so we might as well get used to it.

Besides, ever since I heard this story it has been eating me up. And considering my considerable girth that's no small task.

Turns out a woman in Japan, working for Dentsu, a giant advertising company, committed suicide when she could no longer keep up with the grueling workload.

First off, we're talking about advertising. Nothing should be grueling about advertising. Let's not forget our products are frivolous TV commercials, meaningless interweb scavenger hunts, and the occasional print and outdoor board, shiny print pieces meant to bait witless consumers into a frenzy of mindless consumerism.

We're not curing cancer. In most cases we're pimping it. With brown fizzy sugar water. Hormone injected meat tubes. And carbon burning 400 horsepower crossover vehicles.

It's just huckstering. And it doesn't merit grueling anything.

It was reported that the young woman put in 105 hours of overtime in one month. That's roughly 25 hours a week. Meaning she put in about 65 hours a week, for four weeks straight.

Sadly, this is not unheard of. Years ago, while working on a pitch, I maintained that pace for about 9 weeks.

The whole team did. And it was brutal. And nerves were frayed. To the point where one creative director, unhappy with the specifics of one highly forgettable storyboard, literally turned to the art director and in full tantrum mode, blasted...

"Frame #5 is all wrong. It's supposed to be a male dog. Where is the dick on the dog? Have this redrawn and put a damn dick on the dog."

Oh yeah, that happened. If I'm lying, I'm dying.

Of course, I'm not dying. And don't plan to off myself in the pursuit of writing the great American 15 second BOGO spot or the world's greatest Call to Action.

Because after all these years in this business, I now have something that unfortunately the overworked Dentsu employee did not.