Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Power of No

Today I offer a tip of the hat to colleague Warren Eakins.

Warren and I have never actually met, but he is a legend in the business. And apparently he has turned his attention to more artistic endeavors.

In this last posting for the month of April, which looks to be the highest trafficked month in the history of RoundSeventeen, Warren pays tribute to the everlasting power of No.

If only other members of the ad industry knew of its dominion.

"Can we move the meeting to Monday morning?"

"Can you make that 90 manifesto work in a 15 second pre-roll?"

"Can you have a Super Bowl spot written by end of day?"

"Can you check in with the planner at 2 PM? And again at 7 PM?"

"Can you make this instructional tutorial on long term life insurance go viral?"

"Can you stay until midnight?"

"Can you do it for free?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vocational heaven

Today, I am absolutely giddy.

I am booked on the kind of job that I love. Without going into too many specifics or naming names, let me fill you in on some details.

For one thing the work is remote.

Meaning I can do it all from the comfort of my home, a home that is noticeably quieter and lonelier with the passing of my dog two weeks ago, but it's still my home. Which means I'm not hopscotching around an office looking for a quiet room where I can think.

As I have stated on many occasion -- though to no avail and with little impact on office planners -- a writer and/or an art director cannot and should not be expected to work at the Long Table of Mediocrity™.

Moreover, since they are the ones who actually make the product that funds the holding companies, they should be given offices. With windows. And a couch. And a small refrigerator for cold beverages.

But today I am in my comfortable Herman Miller chair with the ample lumbar support. Alexa is in the living room shuffling through the entire library of Mark Knopfler songs. And I have enough dark roasted Peet's coffee in the freezer to last me until the Dirt Nap or until Precedent Shitgibbon launches the ICBMs.

Now, here's the best part of this gig.

The client, and I won't say who, has given me a list of deliverables. As I might have mentioned a few weeks ago, sometimes the hardest part of my job is figuring out what the fuck people want. Manifestos, minifestos, directions, platforms, journey maps, and adlike objects. It's all so hazy and nebulous and frankly a waste of good fired synapses.

This client wants headlines.

Headlines for outdoor boards and out of home transit posters. This, by far, is my favorite thing to do. If I can risk being immodest, I've built an entire career on nothing more than the wiseass ability to crank out short, snappy and pointed headlines.

I knew I was destined for this vocation when, as a young man, I spotted this gem scrawled on a condom machine in a men's room tucked inside a Syracuse saloon.

I've only been budgeted for a short time on this job. And I haven't even been given my full day rate. 

But the truth is, I'm going to give this client more than they ever asked for. Because, there is the promise of more work down the road. And because, if I'm being honest, it's the kind of work I would gladly do for free.

Just don't tell anybody.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Give HATE a chance

Last week I got tangled up in an online dialogue regarding Precedent Shitgibbon.

Oddly enough the discussion was not about any substantive issues. Rather, it was about emotions and whether it was wrong or right to "hate" someone.

As many of these Facebook/Linkedin/Twitter back and forths go, it was pulled before it got too heated. But, seeing as I have a self-built platform for my opinions, let me dispense with the semantic gymnastics and tell you why I hate this ruttish, sheep-biting, idle-headed canker blossom.

I hate that the man with the toughest job in the world is also the laziest man to ever hold the office; spending more time on the Mar A Lago golf course and watching cable TV than he does in intelligence briefings.

I hate that his laziness is only surpassed by his pussy grabbing crudeness; and find it odd that the party that always railed about respect and morality can stomach the way this man treats his wife. Or women in general.

I hate that his vulgarity is dwarfed by his stupidity; and I'm sure the friends of Luciano Pavarotti as well as the descendants of Frederick Douglass and the Korean folks who trace their lineage to China, will agree.

I hate that in addition to being monumentally ill-informed he is magnificently ill-tempered; and takes offense to every slight of his precious self esteem. Droning on about ratings as if he were in a Nielsen's battle with Dancing With the Stars.

I hate that because of his hair trigger temper I must go to sleep at night with visions of mushroom clouds and the nagging thought that I should have paid more attention to all six seasons of Doomsday Preppers.

I hate that Hate now has a seat at the table, including confirmed racist Jeff Sessions, LGBT foe Mike Pence, and alt. right scumbag Steve Bannon, who couldn't stand the thought of his children going to school with a bunch of whiny Jewish kids. (Though if I'm being honest, I do see his point.)

I hate that people who say, "at least he's better than her" can so easily dismiss his flagrant and countless violations of our trust; this includes admitting two paid foreign agents into his circle of influence, a disregard for the emoluments clause, shady pay-for-play business transactions, cabinet members lying under oath, and last but not least, a willingness (if not collusion) to let Vladimir Putin, our primary adversary, put his thumb on the scale of our election, which should be cherished at least as much as our right to own an AR-15. (Please note the silence of the idiots who walk around with a Constitution stuffed in their pockets)

Most of all, I hate that everything, and I mean everything, is about him.

It's not about coal miners, not about victims of terror, not about veterans, not about jobs, not about the economy, not about climate change or not even about our nation's security. It's about this cuntish, knotty-pated flapdragon and his planet-sized ego.

An ego that's going to get us all killed.

Millions of people don't see it that way.

I hate that, too.

Monday, April 24, 2017

No Country For Old Men

The question always comes up when I meet strangers at a party. Or run into relatives on my wife's side of the family, whose names I have long forgotten.

"Oh you work in advertising? Do you have any favorite commercials on TV right now?"

And of course the answer is always, "no."

Not only do I not have any favorites, my mind goes completely blank and I can't even remember the crappy advertising I know is out there.

That changed last week.

If you haven't seen the new campaign for Fram Oil Filters, do yourself a favor and make with the Google. There, you will find a set of spots by Laughlin Constable, featuring Jonathon Banks as their new cranky spokesperson.

The timing of these spots couldn't be better. Because as the astute among you will notice, Mr. Banks is also one of the stars of Better Call Saul, one of the best shows on television. In fact, the creatives at the ad agency should be congratulated for successfully appropriating Mr. Banks entire character.

It's genius. And frankly, I'm surprised Vince Gilligan, the show's creator hasn't sued the good folks at Fram and their agency.

What I love so much about the cranky spokesperson -- the cranksperson -- is no doubt what account people and planners hate about him. And I can well imagine how that first creative review went when the creative people sprung the idea on the 27 year old business and marketing experts.

"He's so negative."

"Does he have to insult our target market audience?"

"He never smiles. He seems downright angry. And he's old. This'll never work. Plus how do you put that bald ugly dude on Instagram?"

Am I fabricating these comments?
No. I. Am. Not.

I have been in a hundred, nee, a thousand of these internal idea death panels myself. In fact, if I may, I'd like to indulge in another one of those We-Had-A-Campaign-Just-Like-That Moments.

A long time ago when John Shirley (my art director) and I were still walking around with one last and diminishing ray of sunshine on our careers we were asked to head up a pitch for Hardees. We had done a little digging and found that Hardee's used to have a company spokesperson for the advertising, Lil' Chef. Our idea was to drag Lil' Chef out of retirement and put him back to work in order to save the company.

In our iteration, Lil' Chef wanted no part of it. He was an old man. An old, cranky wealthy man, not unlike the Big Lebowski. Oh and in a thinly-veiled homage to the agency management at the time, we made Lil' Chef, a raging alcoholic.

He was always drunk and always angry. He was drangry.

Of course, Lil' Chef never saw the light of day. Thus amplifying my current campaign envy. Shortly thereafter, we were shown the light at the end of the tunnel leading out of Chiat/Day.

But I digress. In any case here is your Moment of Fram.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

360 degrees of FFDKKs.

Today's hat tip goes to Tim Geoghegan.

Tim and I have never actually met but we share the same ad agency DNA as well as a healthy disdain for the way ad agencies currently operate, I believe the ironic term they use is, "best practices." That term shows management's delusional flair for self aggrandizement.

"Best practices"?

This monumental waste of creative resources doesn't merit "good practices" or even "fair practices". Part of me wants to believe this schematic of the 360 degree campaign was pulled straight from the syllabus at Trump University.

Meaning, it was never designed to produce effective results, but crafted for the sole purpose of inflating billable hours and generating obscene revenue for the C-suite and Cannes-goers.

If I were to amend Tim's brilliant design I would lop off the parts about Concepting a TV spot and Producing a TV spot. Because that shit just doesn't happen anymore.

Now teams are told to start thinking digital.
To be media agnostic.
To let the organic idea spring from itself.
A banner ad, we are told, could be the starting point for the whole campaign. That or an FSI. Or a mobile app.

By the way, has anything good ever come from mobile apps? I don't know about you but when my iPhone tells me it's time to manage my storage capacity, those apps on Screen #5 and 6 are the first to go.

An app to identify plants out in the wild, gone.
An app to simulate a stapler, I think my daughter downloaded this, gone.
An app to measure my sperm count, never used it.

I write a lot about missing the old days. I miss the camaraderie, the irreverence, the offices with windows, the lavish productions, the time given to crack an assignment, the fun, the boozy office parties, and the sense that we were part of pop culture -- when was the last time you heard people at a water cooler talking about a page takeover or augmented reality app.?

But in reviewing Tim's deadly accurate diagram, it's clear the thing I miss most about the ad business is a simple fucking sense of sanity.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Guns, lawyers and money

Sorry about the gloom and doom.

I know I wrote about my dog's passing yesterday and today I'm broaching the subject of my last will and testament. But until I work my way out of this funk, that's just the way it has to be.

Two months ago, my wife and I visited the lawyer's office to discuss the will. We already had one -- it cost a fortune to prepare -- but it was time to make some revisions and updates.

Turns out one of the organizations we had originally designated to receive a significant donation was no longer worthy of our good will. Apparently the CEO has been siphoning off money and chartering private jets to Antigua.

I didn't slave over meaningless brand engagement units and two-fold, four-color FSI's just to fund some fat slob and his hammock-humping secretary.

Moreover, the family has expanded in some areas and suffered losses in others. And my daughters are no longer 7 and 9 years old. All these things come into consideration.

As well as my demand that everybody just start being very fucking nice to me.

On top of all that there's the small matter of geopolitics. At this writing (Saturday morning) only one MOAB has been detonated in Afghanistan and no nukes have been fired towards the DPRK. But as we know from our fobbing, beetle-headed flap dragon Precedent, all that can change in a second.

Or with the next serving of chocolate cake.

And so with the apocalypse looming, I'm tempted not to leave as much as I had intended to have left.

There's the cabin on a lake in Maine I've been eyeing.

The restored 66 Dodge Coronet selling on Craig's list.

Or the 1387 acre horse ranch in Northern Idaho. I know nothing of horses. And never stepped foot in Idaho. But I do like the idea of 1387 acres between me and my nearest white trash neighbor.

I'm thinking of emptying out the 401K. And throwing caution to the wind. Binging in a way a thrift-minded Half Scottish/Half Jewish man has never binged before.

Maybe I'll start slow with some of that Market Priced Lobster. I've never ordered that off the menu before.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bye Nellie

The first time I lost a dog I was just out of college. I had left New York State for the first time and was living on the roof of a fraternity house at UCLA.

That's right, the roof.

They didn't have rooms for rent, so for a hundred bucks a month they rented me a mattress on the roof and let me use the kitchen, the bathroom and the telephone facilities (hint, this was before cellphones.)

My mother called and said our German Shepherd, the one I grew up with, had passed. I burst out crying. And because I was a young man and didn't want anyone to see me crying, it was a blessing to have that whole rooftop to myself.

I'm older now and really don't care if someone sees me crying.

In fact if I were to go old school and write this out on a typewriter, there's a good chance there'd be plenty of tears on the white bond paper.

Yesterday, we had to let go of our sweet retriever mix, Nellie.

Rather than reliving the painful way our paths uncrossed let me tell you of a happier time when she entered our lives.

My wife and I had been taking our young daughters to the local rescue pounds, brimming with all kinds of sharp-toothed pit bulls. I know some of you love your pitties, but they scared the living bejesus out of my kids.

We finally stumbled on this fat, white fluffy puppy, appropriately named Snowball, at the Santa Monica pound. The girls fell in love with Snowball right away. And so did half the population of the entire Westside. The pound literally had to lottery off this lucky dog.

We did NOT win.

If you've ever driven with two heartbroken little girls you know you'd do anything to make it stop. And so, on the way home, we passed Centinela Pet Feed & Supply. In the parking lot, they were having a pop up mini-rescue. They had three dogs up for adoption, including a tiny, orange 3 month old that was barely the size of a small watermelon.

"Pumpkin", my oldest daughter shrieked as she read the name tag on the pup's collar.

The emotional 180 had been executed. And as I spied another family with small children pulling into the lot, I quickly turned to the woman running the rescue and said, "We'll take her."

My girls loved Pumpkin, but they hated her name, so she quickly became Nellie.

Pumpkin/Nellie had been found in the hard streets of Compton, CA, where apparently she had been beaten and abused. Perhaps that's why she was so grateful to be taken in. And given an entirely different life, one filled with love, her own styrofoam bed and the occasional chunk of thick applewood bacon.

Though we had 15 years with Nellie, the last two were particularly special.

My daughters had shipped off to college. My wife would go to work at her office. And I would do my freelance work here at home.

It was just the two of us. And though she did little more than sleep and shuffle back and forth between her bed and the big oversized chair she hijacked in the living room, she filled the house with a warm, comforting energy.

When I wasn't writing End of Year Sales Events, I was rubbing her belly.

When I wasn't creating banner ads for a local bank, I was scratching her ears.

And when I wasn't concepting page takeovers for a new mobile app nobody wanted, I was taking Nellie for a walk around the park and the opportunity to smell the butts on other dogs.

As folks in the neighborhood will tell you, we were inseparable.

I made the mistake of loving that dog.

I won't do that again.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Smells like cynicism

I told myself last week that I was not going to chime in on the Kendall Jenner Pepsi debacle. After all so many others had jumped on this brown fizzy sugar water disaster it didn't seem like there was anything to add.

Then again, I thought, it's Thursday, I've exhausted my supply of odd iPhone photo's and Trump memes, why not?

I think we can all agree, the three minute film was three minutes too long.

Though it was shot well, with plenty of production value, it was wrong. I did find it amusing that some of my colleagues who found fault in the film were so willing to lay the blame on advertising's current social pariahs -- white men.

Conveniently ignoring the fact that the ad was created, written and produced by Pepsi's in-house Creative League. Here's a link to their Instagram page.

If that's not the picture of diversity, I don't know what is.

There were other issues as well. Shooting the spot in Thailand to avoid paying Americans residuals. Cultural appropriation. Even the protest signage sparked some offense.

I'd remind these folks that little Syrian children lost their lives last week because of an ancient 1300 year old rift between one group of fairy tale believers (the Shia) and another group of fairy tale believers (the Sunni.) Maybe this isn't the best time to empty the I-Take-Offense Vault.

That said, my biggest issue with this ad comes down to the Smell Test.

It fails.

As do many ads these days that are so detached from the real world one has to wonder, "What the fuck were they thinking?"

Thanks to Bob Hoffman we know what they were thinking:

OK, Chief.

Here's a thought. Can we put a stop to all this aspirational marketing manure and the round the bend contrivances?

I like a toaster oven that toasts my bread, not one that empowers the breakfast.

I like a car that feels comfortable and has some giddy up, not one that dares me to dare greatly.

I like a tortilla chip that tastes good, not one that enhances my shareable moments with like-minded tortilla chip lovers.

Freud (and you young kids can look him up) put it best, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Infantilization Factor

Barely a week goes by when we are not treated to another ad agency unveiling their latest variation of the remodeled open office plan. Invariably adorned by reams of PR spin about this being "a communication hubspot of innovation" or "an imagination incubator" or my favorite, "the Idea Campus."

Also without fail, there is the constant claptrap about collaboration and teamwork and my other favorite, "a climate built around growing our culture."


Culture, it seems, is best nurtured in an environment with fluorescent lighting, oversized furniture upholstered in bright primary colors and an abundance of foosball, ping pong and pool tables.

I call it the kindergardening of advertising.

I'm an atheist Jew, so I think I'm a little qualified to speak about culture. My tribe's got 4000 years of it. And I can tell you with a certain amount of confidence that culture cannot be manufactured. Particularly not with decorative throw rugs, gumball machines and purple ottomans.

We didn't get this far on frivolous adornments. Hell, our holiest site is an old brick wall. And we're currently celebrating Passover by chowing down on drywall, jellied fish and fiery hot horseradish to remind us of the hardships of our ancestors.

That's culture.

More agnostically, I had the distinct privilege of working at Chiat/Day when they were at the top of their game. I know this is an old record that you're tired of hearing, but there can be no doubt we also had a culture. Based on a shared belief, a shared commitment to the work and a shared commiseration about the inexcusable paychecks.

I bring all this up, because in an effort to stem the talent departure from our industry, Human Resource folks are furiously cooking up new retention programs. Many of them based on the Kool Aid notion that we can keep people in the biz if we just make it fun. And colorful. And even more Fun.

Months ago, I came across a post on LinkedIn from an unnamed HR pro who was soliciting "ideas" than can help "build the culture."

And there were some doozies:

-- Arrange a Midnight Bowling Excursion

-- A competitive departmental bake sale

-- A field trip to a local art museum

-- Tuesday Trustfalls

-- Secret Santa in June

-- A Paint Your Parking Spot Contest

-- Twinsie Thursdays

I did all I could to refrain from chiming in, but 44 years of Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions would not allow me to remain silent. I explained the secret to Chiat culture...

"We created ads that won lots of awards and then we went out and got fucking drunk."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dear Lady

As I have mentioned before, my preference is to always work out of the house. I'm more relaxed at home, more productive at home and more at ease with my increasingly lax hygiene routines at home.

"I'm good, I showered three days ago."

But occasionally, a gig will come up that requires me to be onsite. For some reason, this pleases my wife.

This week I am in Century City. It's only 3.7 miles from my house which, in LA rush hour time, translates to 45 minutes.

Ironically the office is just across the street from Abert, Newhoff & Burr, where I got my start in the ad biz. I'll never forget that big beautiful office I had, with a table, a couch and a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. The accommodations have gone downhill ever since.

The building I'm in has a unique elevator system. Here's how it works:

You swipe your electronic key card.

You select the desired floor on the touchscreen.

The computer assigns you an elevator, which in essence and thanks to some nifty software, becomes an Express Elevator.

After lunch the other day, I keyed up an elevator to whisk me to the 23rd floor. I was all alone in the elevator, but had become accustomed to riding solo in this newfangled state of the art elevator system.

At the very last second, a woman in her mid-thirties squeezed in just before the doors closed. Either of two things occurred to me.

One, she was an employee at the same ad agency where I was gigging. Or two, she had mistakenly got on an elevator that was only going to the 23rd floor.

If you know me at all, you know I can be quite jovial. I like to think I treat strangers with respect and am always quick with a smile. Moreover, I don't hit on younger women because I'm married and also because I own a mirror. So, in a completely innocuous way, I smiled and said...

"Oh are you going to the 23rd floor?"

She didn't answer me. Of course she didn't just NOT answer me. She shot me a look that could light the fuse on a Tomahawk Missile. I was taken aback.

She then pointed to a barely visible digital panel with two illuminated numbers: 23 & 24.

"I'm going to 24."

"OK, I'm new here and I thought the elevators only went to one floor."

That did not suffice. And she added.

 "What fuckin' business is it of yours?"

Holy crap, I thought, she went nuclear faster than Mitch McConnell. To say I was stunned would be the understatement of the century. It never occurred to me that these speedy efficient elevators would pair up floors in close proximity. It made perfect sense. But her scowl and outright antagonism did not.

We've all had situations where hours after a rude encounter, we think of the pitch perfect reply. You know, the stinger that would in no uncertain terms, determine the oratory victor. If only we had the wits and the speed to spit it out. This was NOT one of those frustrating moments.

As the doors opened up on the 23rd floor, my floor, I turned to her, flashed her an overly toothy smile and leaned back into the elevator and with catlike precision, whispered...

"You might want to switch to decaf." 

Monday, April 10, 2017

TV is Good.

Holy shit am I exhausted.

But in a good way, a very good way.

For the first time in a long, long time I was booked on a job and asked to write TV spots. 30 second brand building, mass media with a successful track record of putting asses in seats, moving the merch and spiking the needle.

Even better, this was an evolution of an existing campaign, so the tagline, the copy line and the structure was already in place. So all we had to do was strap on our reverse engineering hard hats and get busy with the getting busy.

Those of you in the trenches, particularly those with a little snow on the roof or hairs growing out of the ears, know exactly what I'm talking about. Assignments like this don't come along every day.

In fact, in 2017, advertising isn't always about advertising. Frankly, there are many instances when I don't know what it is. We spend more time figuring out what the 'ask' is than we do crafting the 'answer'.

Agencies have created a whole lot of names for what they're wanting: platforms, handles, directions, disruption road maps, communications itineraries or just simply blurbs. And meetings seem to be all about getting these puff pieces preened to perfection.

The other writers out there are going to hate me, but I'm gonna let you in on a little secret.

These 'platforms', 'handles', 'directions', 'disruption road maps', 'communications itineraries' or just simply 'blurbs' you're asking for are nothing more than re-digested briefs. Oh they might have the sheen of newness or the thin veneer of a solution, but trust me they're nothing more than planner speak put into copywriter speak.

And without any kind of ads or, in the vernacular of the day 'adlike objects' to back them up, they're just as meaningless.

Call me old school, call me a dinosaur, call me a grumpy, cynical bastard who can't get with the times.

I don't care, last week I was called a copywriter. And it felt good.

Now hand me that assignment for radio.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fickle Photo Thursday

It's Thursday.

It's near the end of the week.

And though these posts are written in advance, I know by now I will be exhausted by the daily nonstop barrage of Trumpfuckery™intended to turn our country into New West Russia.

I could buckle down and work myself up into a good lather about the $3500 I just spent to fix my wife's Acura. Seems like every month that damn car needs a new timing belt.

I could do a hit piece on Devin Nunes, quite possibly the biggest miscreant in today's house of Congress. A man who has gone above and beyond to snatch the title from Steve King and Louis Gohmert.

And I was planning to deconstruct the whole notion of Disruption and all its incumbent idiocy.
But, instead, and because I only have decaf coffee at the moment, I'm going to my trusty default.

With that I give you a random selection of photo's (like the one above) found on my iPhone.

Read into them what you will...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


I had a dream last night.

I had a dream the night before and the night before that, but I woke up and forgot those dreams. I couldn't tell you one lick what they were about. But last night's dream was quite fascinating, filled with mystery, Easter eggs and thinly-veiled commentary about the business most of us are in.

First the main character of the dream -- Alex Bogusky.

Alex, for those who don't know, is an industry icon. Responsible for culture changing work and the subsequent rise of CPB. He is a charismatic man, able to move mountains with his silver tongue and his youthful energy. In the dream Alex is as manic, as driven and as charming as he has ever been.

He wouldn't remember me, but years ago, he and I spent a weekend on a panel judging an advertising contest in NYC. I'll never forget his pronouncement, "All this work sucks, we shouldn't award any of it." Clearly he made an impression on me.

Back to the dream where I am summoned by Alex to a sprawling house in Santa Monica. Once there, I see some colleagues from many years ago -- stellar creatives who shall remain nameless.

Alex greets me. He tells his assistant to bring us some yogurt, those cool containers where you flip the granola into the flavorless yogurt. You know, the good ones with the granola nuggets and the large chunks of chewy fruit.

He gives me a tour of the shabby house. The carpet is worn out. There's no furniture. And I remember walking into a downstairs bathroom, where I found a maggot-infested raccoon carcass.

"All this is gonna change. We just signed the lease. We're just getting started."

And with that he gave me the Pitch.

He had secured VC funding as well as contracts from several major advertisers. And he was starting up an agency right here in Santa Monica. Moreover, the agency was going to be strictly old school. Driven by creatives. Void of of all the Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks™. And committed to doing the kind of ground breaking work that we, a hand-selected group of veterans, wanted to do.

Even though I have taken a blood oath never to return to agency life, Alex made it sound so tempting.     Plus, I was flattered. I am easily swayed when I'm flattered.

He gave me a big bear hug and told me to be there Monday morning, 9 AM sharp, to meet the first client.

As I turned towards my car, he added...

"Don't forget to wear a tie."


As dream recollections go, sometimes bits and pieces and tell-tale clues arrive way after the fact. The name of this new agency struck me. In keeping with the old school motif, Alex was going to name the agency Roberts, Louis & Stevenson.

Sounds appropriately goyish, doesn't it? The astute among you will also recognize the moniker of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, who, in addition to writing The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, also penned Treasure Island.

Treasure Island, for those looking for subconscious clues, is a swashbuckling tale of boat rocking buccaneers.

I leave you Chiat/Day alumni to draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Me and the FBI

The FBI is in the news a lot lately. And many people are eagerly awaiting the results of the big investigation.

If you're a Republican you're no doubt looking forward to having FBI Director Comey spell out in excruciating detail how there never, ever was any collusion between campaign surrogates and Russian intelligence officers. And that the numerous meetings with Manafort, Sessions, Flynn, and Gordon as well as the subsequent failed memories about those meetings, were all simply coincidental. A haphazard collection of random Russian-related events.

If you're a Democrat or an Independent (like myself) you're eager to see the concrete evidence that demonstrates how the last election was stolen by a wart-neck, unwashed twatwaffle.

And if you're an FBI agent, you'd better be looking over you shoulder everywhere you go. Gonna run down to the QuikyMart for a YooHoo? You'd better pack some heat. Cause KGB or whatever they're called these days seem to very busy cleaning up the messy entrails.

I don't know if any you have had direct contact with an FBI agent, but I have.

The year was.... never mind what year it was.

The place was Belmont Shores in New Jersey. And I found myself, as well as some high school buddies in a huge beach flophouse. There must have been about a dozen girls and guys in this house from all over the Tri-State area. We didn't all know each other, but for that debauched weekend, we all shared the same purpose.

One of the strangers in the house looked like a professional athlete. He was at least 6'3" and had the build of a Lou Gehrig. But baseball was not his game, espionage was. After a few beers, he showed us his official FBI badge, just like the one in the picture above.

After a few more beers, he started telling war stories. Fascinating war stories. Like how he was assigned to shadow a KGB agent living here in the states. He explained how it was his job to keep tabs on Sergei or Petrov or whatever his name was, and file weekly reports on all his activities.

"Monday, Sergei ordered a pastrami sandwich at Sal's Deli."

"Tuesday, Sergei ordered the corn beef at Sal's Deli."

"Wednesday, Sergei goes into Sal's Deli and buys Tums."

Crazy, right? But so is the flip side.

Because as Mr. FBI agent explained, the KGB guy was shadowing him as well. And filing the same kind of "intelligence" reports back to Moscow.

Here's where it gets interesting.

That Saturday night in New Jersey, amongst all the parties and beach bonfires, I got arrested by Belmont Shore's finest. The cops nabbed me and this other woman for smoking marijuana on the street. And guess who was with us the whole time?

Agent #739 of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Which means the whole incident was also recorded for posterity's sake by KGB Agent #182. So somewhere in the dusty bowels of an under-heated cinder-block Soviet building, there is a file with all the sordid details of my Jersey-shore incarceration.

It's a little creepy.

I feel your pain Precedent Shitgibbon, I feel your pain.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Where's the Heat?

By now, most of us, most of us being in the ad biz, know that things are changing at Carl's Jr.

Last week, their ad agency 72 & Sunny let us know there's a new sheriff in town. Carl's is ditching the old T&A formula for the smarter, more dimensional, pissed off Founder.

Let's be clear here. I am in no way disparaging the marketing shift. In fact, I applaud it.

And readers of RoundSeventeen know I rarely have a nice word to say about other people's work. Not because I'm jealous that I didn't get to produce anything. But because most other work genuinely sucks. In fact, 99.97% of everything I see on TV sucks.

This new Carl's Jr. campaign does not suck. In fact, it does not suck in so many great ways.

First, I found myself giggling with glee over the searing depiction of youngsters doing business. The hot tub, the VR devices and the playtime office environ was pitch perfect.

I also savored the bull in a china shop arrival of the Dad, who without the aid of a committee or any advisors, simply sprung into action. Cutting through all the horseshit and instantaneously zeroed in on the company's new mission and focus... the burgers.


I almost love everything about this long form campaign launch, including the writing, the acting, the playful art direction, even the costuming. All dead on.

Here's my minor bone to pick.

If I, as the father, had poured all my blood, sweat and tears into a business. And that business grew. And kept on growing. Only to have the entire prosperous empire put at risk because I had left my sprawling business to my lazy, dim headed slacker son, I'd be a bit angry.

Noticably angry.

And that's where my problem is, the dynamic between the father Carl's Hardee Sr. and Carl's Hardee Jr. They need turn the heat up on that sucker.

I know that.
You know that.
Even the good folks at 72 & Sunny know that.

I'm guessing there are some less-than-senior marketing execs at Carl's Jr., who don't know that. Because all clients, even ones as adventurous as this one, abhor sentiments like anger, confrontation or even negativity.

And so, in edit bays somewhere in Santa Monica, I am sure this was heard...

"Oh, the Dad seems a little angry. Do we have any takes where he's not so angry?"

And at that point the creative team stifled every desire to jump up on the table and scream, "He's angry because the kid just fucked up his company. Wouldn't you be angry?"

"I just think we should find a softer take."

And of course, the agency being consummate pros, does have softer takes.

You know what else they have? They have a full range of alternative takes. Better, funnier, angrier takes.

Here's a little industry secret. When we go to shoot a commercial and hire real actors and put them in real scenarios, we often film variations. What you see on screen or as you are fast forwarding on your DVR, is just one selected take. There are hundreds of others.

And among those, I guarantee there are some zingers and winners and delicious smackdowns of that bratty skinny kid that sadly, we will never see. If this sounds familiar, you have my sympathy.

But over and above that, the teams at 72& Sunny have my admiration. Well done.