Monday, December 23, 2019

To the Roaring Twenties

"People shaking hands, that's a good image for business."

I will never forget those words. Uttered by a man worth more than $5 billion. A man who looked over our exhaustive high minded brand campaign for his business software company and basically shit all over the work.

"What about people answering the phone? Did you try that? Because that's also a good image for business."

That happened more than 20 years ago. And though our efforts did not produce a campaign, the memory of that disastrous encounter, in a building bounded by the multicolored waters of South San Fransisco, still produces a laugh. And for that, I am thankful.

And it makes for an excellent transition for today's post.

You see I've noticed many of my freelancing colleagues are taking time to thank all their clients. More specifically, they're listing all the agencies that hired them in the past year. I want to thank those colleagues for clueing me in to the shops that are still hiring freelancers.

Or, in the vernacular of Glengarry Glen Ross, "Thanks for the good leads."

As someone who prides himself on resourcefulness, I will most certainly be tracking down these newfangled agencies that have eschewed the standard three names on a door motif and now adopted names more befitting a local garage band, ie:



Click Soldier

I will also follow suit and offer up my appreciation to the folks who put the brisket on my BBQ. Not the agencies, the clients. Many of whom simply bypass the floundering AOR model and come directly to my digital doorstep.

So sincere thanks go out to the following:

Kaiser Permanente
Land Rover
Guitar Center
Al Serra Auto Plaza
TruBrain with CBD
CBS Sports
Gallagher Insurance
Luke's Organic Chips
Green Roads CBD
Family Tree DNA
Universal Music Group
Sesame Street
Cox Communications

The variety of companies I've worked for is only surpassed by the variety of media each assignment entailed. Everything from unopened email blasts to ungodly expensive Super Bowl commercials.

It was good year, not a great year. Because projects that once lasted months, now last weeks. And in many instances, days. And believe it or not, I have on several occasions, been contracted out by fractional hours.

Let's hope 2020 brings us bigger budgets, smaller meetings, fewer FFDKK's™ (Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks), and more mass media (TV/outdoor/Print). Most of all, longer lead times.

And while we're engaging in this Capitalist daydream, let's give people back their offices and take a sledgehammer to the Long Table of Mediocrity™.

Let's Make Advertising Great Again.

Happy Holidays.

See you in the new decade.

And Fuck Trump.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Good Fights

Lately, I've been doing a lot of fighting.

Not the squabbles you might see me engaged in online in the various social media platforms. Those are merely sparring matches that keep me on my toes for battles that matter. They're good for a laugh. And nothing more.

Besides, as I've seen it aptly put, trying to convince a Trumpster with facts and truths is like administering medicine to a corpse.

I've been putting my oversized nose to the grindstone elsewhere. Where the wars being waged have real consequences.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm doing work for a non-profit. And as I've come to learn I'm making very little profit. And the cause, which I still don't want to mention by name, has me re-thinking my predispositions towards dairy. And meat. Though, like a die-hard Trumpster I will go to my grave unconvinced there's anything better than a perfectly seared, medium rare Tomahawk steak. Sorry, not sorry.

I've also been helping my friend, whip smart Josh Weltman, whose ad career has had more twists and turns than San Francisco's Lombard Street. And that included several years as a Producer on the show Mad Men. Josh and his equally smart wife formed a PAC, a political action committee, on their own and have committed time and money to oust Captain Ouchie Foot from the people's house.

Months ago Josh called and asked if I'd like to help. He said he didn't have a lot of money. And he wasn't lying.

Though Elizabeth Warren may not have been my first choice, the truth is there are 330 million Americans I would rather have at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Including you, the reader who has gotten this far. And there's a chance I don't even know you.

If you get a chance you should visit the website. I can tell you from personal experience the T-shirts are a crowd stopper and often spark random meetings on the street.

If you get another chance, you should read this enlightening article by Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.

Finally, there's this.

When scouring Southern California for an assisted living place for my uncle we opened up a Pandora's Box of ugliness. These places, in case you haven't been there, are depressing. Worn out carpet. Tiny rooms. And minimum wage earning workers who frankly don't give a rat's ass about the residents.

Moreover, you'll pay a pretty penny for all that luxury.

The good news is there's federal assistance money for seniors who have served in the military. And my uncle has.

The bad news is, that money is only put aside for seniors who served during combat times.

I would not begrudge one penny to our combat veterans. I don't think any American would. Nor do I think any American, on either side of the aisle, would disagree that veterans who sacrificed for their country during more fortunate peaceful times are not entitled to any assistance.

As it stands now, they're not.

If you ever wanted to know what the journey through the Nine Gates of Hell would be like I suggest you start climbing up a phone tree from the Veteran's Administration. I'd rather have an anesthesia-free route canal. Performed at the DMV.

It's a daunting challenge. Not dissimilar to the vegetable lasagna plate served at my uncle's senior care center.

But I'm up for the fight. And should I prevail I've already got the name for the change in legislation:

The Ronald Siegel Veteran's Tiered Benefits Act.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

An evening with Mel

The universe works in mighty strange ways. Case in point, last Saturday night.

Prior to that evening my wife and I walked the dog down to the burgeoning Culver City, which has changed in more ways than one. Hello, skyrocketing real estate values.

As we were surveying the new Steps Plaza and the adjoining and evolving Culver Studios, I pointed out that while I was freelancing for Fullscreen Studio, I was shown the production offices of Mel Brooks. He was located at the far west wing of the "plantation" building.

I was told, he was showing up with less regularity those days, so there was little chance of a fanboy encounter. Sadly.

Fast forward to later that evening when I stumbled across a documentary on HBO, Mel Brooks Unwrapped.

I missed the opening 10 minutes but the rest of the film was unadulterated joy.

I was a Mel Brooks fan long before the arrival of Blazing Saddles, which appealed to my juvenile obsession with flatulence. As well as Young Frankenstein, which appealed to my juvenile obsession with "great knockers."

My admiration for Mr. Brooks harkens back to an earlier movie featuring the inimitable Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, The Producers. Yes it was schticky. And, oh how did one of my former less-woke bosses put it so indelicately, it was "New York deli" in style.

I loved it for something more. It was a reproach to the horrors of the Holocaust. A study in gallows humor. And it was classic in its Jewishness.

"Oh you super efficient Teutonic agents of Satan want to murder us and wipe us all from the face of the earth, well guess what, we're still here. And now we're wearing leather jackboots, prancing around on stage and mocking your failed 1000 year regime. Geh kachen afin yam."  

When you finish the documentary, and by all means I recommend you do, you come away with an altogether different picture of Mel, who in addition to being the grandpa we all wish we had, is incredibly intelligent and monumentally talented. He sings. He dances. He charms the hell out of you.

I could watch him demonstrate proper hand drumming techniques for hours on end.

As I mentioned before, I never met Mel. But my buddies from New Jersey, who spent a raucous summer out here in LA, did. This was a very long time ago. They were walking by a restaurant in Beverlywood and spotted Mel and his wife Anne Bancroft eating lunch at window table.

Instead of going up to Mel they went back to their car, found a piece of cardboard and a magic marker and quickly scribbled out a sign. Then they went back to the restaurant and pressed the sign up to the window. It read:

"We loved Silent Movie."

Mel and his wife had a great chuckle. So much so that he and Ann waved them to come inside the restaurant for a personal meet and greet.

Now that menschy story makes so much more sense to me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

That's how it's done.

I want to apologize for yesterday's lengthy sojourn into amateur academics.

That's clearly not my forte but I feel the need to arm fellow resistors with facts, should they find themselves in arguments, online or IRL, with near-sighted followers of Captain Ouchie Foot.

Today, we're also treading on new territory.

A couple of weeks ago I was handed a blind referral. A small non-profit client in Orange County needed help with some TV spots and an online long form video. Although it's been slow, I have been enjoying a late year spurt of activity. Nevertheless I was happy to lower my day rate and jump in on this interesting project.

Without disclosing any details, the assignment was right in my wheelhouse.

There were no bureaucratic hoops to jump through, no FFDKK's™, Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks, and no need to put on a shirt or even pants, meaning I could do the job in the comfort of my own home. (I apologize for planting that revolting image in your head, even though I am bench-pressing a healthy 245 lbs.)

But as happy as I was to take on the assignment, it pales in comparison to how happy the client was to have hired me.

I don't make a habit of publishing the ecstatic reaction of clients, mostly because it comes off as a humblebrag. And more accurately, because it just doesn't happen these days.

And that's what makes this newsworthy.

You see, we sadly live in an age of unreturned emails, rampant ageism and unexplainable ghostings.
So yes, this type of response is not only mind blowing it's also refreshing. But it will also pay dividends.

You see, it's my experience that TV scripts, or scripts in general, need to be revised. And go round after round (sometimes 17 rounds) of changes.

And while I like to think I always go the extra mile for clients, even when making often painful revisions. Because of the client's initial joyous reaction, I will go the extra mile for her and might even do it with a smile on my face.


Monday, December 16, 2019

Unexpected Economics 101

Those of you who know me from my early days in the agency world, know I was often angry. Sometimes unreasonably so, but more often than not it was justified. And more often than not, it boiled down to other people simply not doing their jobs.

I can't tell you how many times I was given a new brief or a new business pitch without the necessary accompanying information. One time my request for additional info was met with a reprint of a Wiki page.

(insert image of a younger me with steam exiting my ears in pressure cooker fashion)

As such, I have become my own investigative reporter. Not to sound immodest, but I can be pretty resourceful. And very good at research.

These days I apply those skills to the takedown of our current fascist regime. I am convinced the best way to fight the ignorance, the truth twisting and the evil propaganda coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and then regurgitated online, is to present the facts.

And so today with your permission, and with minimal editorializing, we embark on what could be a lengthy treatise on our current economy, which by the way is not the "bestest in all of history."

Let's begin where all discussions on national economy begin...

GDP. When Captain Ouchie Foot was campaigning he proposed to unleash our economy. Promising, among other things, that we would see GDP growth of 3, 4, 5 and possibly 6%. He lied. During his presidency the highest GDP he has attained in 2.9%. By the way, GDP growth in 2015, when the smart black guy was president, was also 2.9%.

The prospects for 2019 are even less rosy. Last quarter, GDP growth was 1.9%. That means the economy is in "deep trouble." Don't take my word for it.

So GDP growth for this year is Q1 - 3.1%, Q2 - 2.0% and Q3 - 1.9%. For us to hit the magical 6%, often promised by our Dear Leader, fourth quarter GDP would have to hit to 16%. That's highly unlikely as this president's quarterly growth has never even hit anywhere near above 4%. But guess who has? Twice.

DEBT. I don't know how you do it in your household, but I, coming from a family of many, many CPAs, gauge my economic wellbeing by measuring my assets verse my debts. I don't like debt and do everything I can to reduce it. That used to be the keystone of the GOP. You'll recall the Tea Party and fiscal fuckknuckle, Paul Ryan. Well, while stumping on the campaign trail, Precedent Shitgibbon often complained about our debt and railed against President Obama for adding to it. He bitched and moaned when our US debt was $19 trillion.

Oh the glorious carefree, halcyon days of just $19 trillion of debt. Take a look at where we are at today.

DEFICIT. People often get confused by the terms debt and deficit and by the term people, I include myself. The US debt is our accumulated debt, what we owe. The deficit is a yearly term, meaning what we've racked up this year. Think of it as New Charges on your credit card bill.

Our current deficit is over a trillion dollars. It was over a trillion dollars last year as well. And it's projected by be over a trillion dollars for the remainder of the Shitgibbon administration. The funny thing is, I remember the president and his Treasury Secretary, sloppy-jawed Steve Mnuchin saying the tax cuts would pay for themselves. When does that kick in?

MANUFACTURING. Our economy is service based. That's not what people in manufacturing want to hear but the truth is big companies -- beholden to shareholders -- have to show profits so they have exported manufacturing responsibilities to countries where labor is cheap and unregulated. That didn't stop Grandpa Ramblemouth from promising to "bring manufacturing back."

Guess what, he hasn't. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve, we are in a "manufacturing recession." 

You'd never know that from listening to him speak at his rallies. Where, apparently, receiving a free red golf cap, makes one impenetrable to truth and facts. Indeed at many of the rallies he often speaks about the 6, sometimes it's 7 (because why not) new plants that have been opened by that icon of American manufacturing, US Steel.

Here's where all those new plants are located...

I've already worn out my welcome and haven't even touched upon our seriously bloated defense budget,  the subsidies we now hand out to farmers because of an ill thought out trade war, and the soaring wage inequality that brings us closer and closer to the age of torches and pitchforks.

Also, I'm more than willing to acknowledge the low unemployment rate. But when Obama left office the rate had dropped more than 5 percentage points from 9.8 to 4.7, also historically low. It's now at 3.6. So during this, the best economy ever enjoyed by homo sapiens, the president has lowered the unemployment rate about 1%.

The stock market  is doing well and hovers near its all-time high. However, again, when Obama left office the market had nearly tripled -- from 7,000 to 20,000 -- and was also at an all-time high. I don't recall hearing the Red Hat Brigade cheering for that.

Keep in mind, this is just a primer. I'm far too ignorant to discuss the US economy in depth, you know, just like the president.

But here's what I do know and can speak on with unassailable credentials. I've worked in advertising all my life and know, far too well, the practice of managing up, self promotion and weaselly unsubstantiated promises. So when Captain Ouchie Foot boasts that we are currently enjoying the bestiest economic boom ever in the recorded history of man and woman on this planet, that's nothing but pure, unadulterated, KFC-Fueled, Merkin-Wearing, Presidential-Grade BULLSHIT.


Note: all the data and numbers are sourced from BLS and BEA and are easily verifiable.

Thursday, December 12, 2019


I went to see Frank Bruni speak the other night.

Wow, I never thought words like that would ever come out of my mouth. (Confession: when I'm writing it's often as if I am talking at my keyboard.)

I've heard words like that come out of other people's mouths. More often in one of those effete Manhattan dinner parties depicted regularly in the "good" movies of Woody Allen.

"Did you read Safire today?"

"Shades of Moliere. And quite the stirring counterpoint to Buckley."

"I'm reminded of what Kierkagaard wrote regarding the duality of man..."

Nope. I would never have fit in with the NY socialite crowd.

"Holy Shit, did you see Eli Manning's start against the Eagles? I thought Blue was gonna get out of Philly with the W."

Mr. Bruni, for those who don't know, is an author and leading Op Ed columnist for the NY Times. And as I have mentioned most recently I have become a voracious reader of the Old Grey Lady.

So much so that I'm now comfortable talking about my favorite writers and reporters, including Michelle Goldberg, Nicholas Kristof, and even Maureen Dowd(who couldn't be bothered to mention my name 20 years ago but delighted in bashing my work).

Frank Bruni is at the top of my list.

He has a straightforward and thoughtful style, not to mention a George Tannebaum-like vocabulary that always leaves me envious.

On this night however I was disappointed that his subject matter was less political and more personal. Nevertheless his speech was captivating.

He spoke of his early college years. And his first slide, pictured above, used the beautiful campus of UDUB, where my oldest graduated little more than a year ago.

He had some very interesting thoughts on "safe spaces" and the abridgment of our freedom of speech. This naturally led to how social media/technology had become a negative force on our lives. More specifically, how algorithms had trapped each of us in our own self-selected echo chambers. Think about it.

Facebook feeds us news from the same sources.

Netflix picks our movies and shows.

Pandora chooses our music.

And Amazon recommends future purchases based on previous ones.

It's all very frightening. And should make each of us take inventory of our habits and vow to diversify our sources of news consumption.

Don't start with, however. That shit will sow the seeds of doubt into any First Amendment Absolutist.

It will also have scare the bejesus out of you and have you updating your passport.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Caganer, revisited

It's hard to believe but it's already time for RoundSeveneteen's Annual Caganer Edition. I believe, and I'm not bothering to check, that this is our tenth visit with the Caganer.

If this is your first acquaintance with the Caganer tradition allow me to elucidate.

Ten years ago I was working on the Acura Holiday Sales Event campaign. Eager to do something different, I started researching odd Christmas practices from other parts of the world. That's when I discovered that Spaniards, mostly in the Catalan district, often decorated their outdoor nativity scenes with a caganer, literally The Shitter.

Apparently he was there to "fertilize" the ground in hopes of bringing forth a robust summer harvest. I don't buy that, you can nurture the ground with a big bag of Miracle Grow. I think they did it because it's just so damn funny. Like the 25 foot Caganer who regularly appears at a shopping mall in Barcelona (see above) and uncoils (I love that word) his massive gift with the same regularity as the appearance of Santa Claus.

This year brings special import to the Nativity scene. Because this year we are witnessing a disgusting rise in white supremacy. Fertilized by the way, by the thinly veiled Nazis now occupying the White House. What does white supremacy have to do with any of this?

Well, truth is I'm more than happy to offer a hearty Merry Christmas to all those that celebrate. And despite the war on Xmas, always have. But I take special joy in pointing out that the Nativity Scene, sacred to the 4Chan gang at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and the Red Hat Brigades, is populated with nothing but Jews, Arabs and other non-defined people of brown skin, who now regularly fill wire cages manned by our brave Gestapo soldiers. Oh My!

Let me repeat that. The nativity scene has not one White, Christian, or American participant. Not one.

I don't know why this makes me smile, but it does.

The other reason why this year's caganer is different from all the others, is that defecation is in the news.

Setting aside all the other issues of the day, like Ukraine, impeachment, nuclear containment, Russian election interference, etc., the president has decided to take up his precious time with the swirling problems with our sewer systems.

"...many people have to flush 10-15 times." -- The President of the United States of America

Effectively making Number 2 our Number 1 concern.

Put another way (and by the way, I could do this all day), Captain Ouchie Foot has turned the figurative Shit Show in Washington, DC into a literal Shit Show in Washington, DC.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Cut the cuts.

In the course of my career I have worked with many great editors. I won't name them for fear of insulting someone by omission.

Suffice to say, I've had the good fortune to be in the bay with Oscar, Emmy and Clio award winning cutters. It is only now that I come to appreciate their incredible craftsmanship and artfulness.

Why the sudden recognition?

As my brother and I were explaining to my wife over Thanksgiving, it is unwise to watch sporting events on TV via the DVR. Can't be done, won't be done. With the advent of social media and multiscreen viewing, it's impossible to avoid hearing a final score.

And while I can sit through the Godfather, parts I & II, hundreds of times knowing in the end Fredo is going for a swim in a very cold lake, I can't sit through a football or basketball game knowing the victor or the Fredo in advance.

As such, I am forced to endure many a TV commercial. Aired during a live broadcast. More accurately, many a poorly edited TV commercial. I can't tell you how many times I am forced to hit the rewind button just to see what I have just seen. And even then, after repeated viewings, I find myself muttering...

"What the hell was that all about?"

And while this often stems from poor copywriting and art direction, more often than not it stems from piss poor editing. And this incessant need to cram every shot into a spot.

CLIENT: "We shot all this film, we might as well use it."

Perhaps I'm not alone in this, but I often find myself counting the cuts in a single 30 second spot.

Last week, while watching the New England Patriots get drubbed (that never gets old) I came across a 30 second gem with 53 cuts.


In my mind that's 50 too many.

If you were to look at the dozen or so TV commercials I've put on my portfolio page, a dozen selected out of hundreds, you'd see I'm a big fan of simplicity. Many of my spots have one or two cuts, max.

The source of this minimalism? It's two fold.

First, it comes from listening to and learning from editors. The great ones live by KISS maxim, Keep it Simple Stupid.

The second and more compelling reason, is that for every TV commercial I've ever made there's also a corresponding focus group I've sat in and whined about. And in the ad world, or with any communication piece, there's nothing more deadly than a group of tuna fish sandwich eating experts hired for a hundred bucks a night sitting in a room and saying...

"I don't get it." 

Lately, neither do I.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Love on the rocks

Last week a colleague and friend of mine went full mea culpa and admitted that in the late 1990's he had spent considerable disposable income on meaningless toys and tschotchkes. I'll come clean and concur it was a jaunty time. And I too spent stupid money on fancy cigars, expensive athletic performance T-shirts and 31 flavors of non-functioning Minoxidol.

He then astutely pointed out that had he poured that money into stock from a small company named Amazon, he'd now be sitting on a Nest Egg, upwards of $5 million. Painfully, I'd be in the same yacht and would not be having to sweat the latest round of revisions from Harry's House of Catheters.

That's not to say I don't recognize a good investment when I see one.

About a year and half ago, when it looked like we were going to get in a nuclear conflagration with the DPRK, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and against all odds, the Dear Eaters of both countries called a truce.

And not just any truce.

Where once there was saber rattling and juvenile name calling, now there was jocularity and love letters. Lots of Love letters.

Nixon had his "Shuttle Diplomacy."

Captain Ouchie Foot has his "Cuddle Diplomacy."

Not long after that the White House announced the minting of a 'beautiful' presidential coin (seen above.) I knew I had to have this official commemorative heirloom. In fact, because I want to pass it on to future generations of Siegels, I knew I had to have two, one for each of my daughters.

You might laugh when you hear this, but when I wrote about these massive and weighty hunks of precision machine-stamped coins a little more than a year ago, several other R17 readers also purchased these now rare showpieces. Look, I'm an influencer.

Last week amid all the sturm and drang of Ukraine, impeachment hearings, Supreme Court rulings, inadequate toilet bowl operations and the traveling adventures of Rudy Colludy, there were big developments above the 38th Parallel.

Kim Jong Un not only launched the Quotang 13/B, their largest missile ever, he also launched a rhetorical offensive, promising to deliver a "Christmas Gift" to the United States unless Precedent Shitgibbon caved in to his demands (which he will). He even used the D-word, Dotard.

I don't know what this means for our two morbidly obese lovers.

I don't know what it means for our two countries.

Most importantly, I don't know what it means for the value of my two White House-approved commemorative coins that will according to the Gift Shop website, "brighten any fireplace mantle."

I only know that I should have just bought Amazon stock.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Welcome to Screenland

Yesterday I wrote of my unbridled love of the NY Times. The Old Grey Lady wasted no time returning the love, with a sprawling love letter of its own to my fair city, Culver City.

I'm not sure you can get past the paywall to see the link to the Times, and so as a service to our lazy readers who can't be bothered to click on a link, allow me to summarize with screenshots.

Amazon is coming. The monstrously huge building is slowly taking shape. Replacing the old Culver Studios where I have shot many a commercial.

One time we were on the soundstage adjacent to Mad About You. During the lunch break I had the opportunity to meet Paul Reiser, who was eerily just like the character he played. I also met his co-star, Helen hunt, who was nothing like the charming and affable character she played. (restraint points taken for not making any rhyming jokes.)

As if that were not enough, Apple, Google, HBO, and an assorted number of other tech companies are also shaping the footprint of the place I call home.

Speaking of homes.

Outrageous right? Because along with the rising real estate prices comes the rising traffic, the rising population and the rising of my blood pressure when I walk into a local restaurant and can't get a table for an hour. My only solace, particularly during these slow times in advertising, is that the equity of my modest home continues to multiply. 

So when the phone doesn't ring or I get ghosted on a gig (an increasingly common phenomena) I'll always have Zillow. 

Mmmmm, Zillow.

And finally, because of our idyllic Southern California weather, I can always just hop on my Cinelli 10 speed bike and race down to the ocean via our scenic and bucolic Ballona Creek.

There's nothing like living in the cement jungle. Nothing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

To the Kuiper Belt

About three years ago, ever since Precedent Shitgibbon started using the phrase, "the failing NY Times", I signed up for a subscription to the NY Times for the express purpose of doing my part to prevent its failure.

I was not alone. Its subscriptions rates have skyrocketed.

I read the NY Times daily and discard about 5% of its content due to media bias.

If you've been on earth as long as I have, 44 years, you start to employ critical thinking and come to understand that biases and agendas are evident everywhere you look. Even with the Old Grey Lady.

In some cases it's subtle. In other cases, like the fascist swill coming from Breitbart or Sean Insanity, it's as subtle as Melania's kidney surgery.

In any case, I've been faithfully reading the NY Times for the past three years. In that time, I've been exposed to thousands of ads. From the exorbitantly expensive and completely useless blood gems sold at Tiffany's to the equally useless and indulgent $300 shirts sold at the now defunct Barneys.

In all that time, I have never taken the time to rip an ad out of the NY Times for posterity. Or any other reason. That changed yesterday when I came across this sneaky item...

It was buried on the lower right hand corner of A9 and it screamed for my attention the way Ernest Shackleton cajoled cohorts to join him on his fateful journey.

Suffice to say, I love this.

I love this kind of advertising because it doesn't spoon feed.

Or condescend.

Or insult.

It's tongue is placed firmly in cheek and it's high-minded. It tickles the imagination. Dares the reader to investigate further. And rewards the reader when he or she does.

I also love it because it gave me a good opportunity to mention Uranus.

Yes, I'm that sophomoric.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

They made it simple.

When I took a job as a mailroom clerk at Needham, Harper & Steers, in the Armand Hammer building in Westwood, I had no idea I had stumbled into the DDB of the West.

All I knew was I was schlepping boxes, retrieving dry cleaning, moving furniture and otherwise disappointing my father who had paid for half my college tuition at America's most expensive private university.

It's only in retrospect that I can see how fortunate I was to have landed at an agency that valued (and rewarded) creativity.

And to be in the vicinity of copywriting legends, including Larry Postaer, Bob Coburn and my friend, the late David Morgenstern.

One could argue I benefitted from the process of osmosis. Reading. Re-reading. And ingesting the new long copy ads that seemed to be popping up on a weekly basis. One could even attach a fancy word like 'inspiration' to the fire it lit in my belly.

I'll have none of that.

I wanted to be a copywriter because I was jealous of the creative divas on the 8th floor who had their own offices, their own secretaries, their own expense accounts and their own working hours, often strolling in at 10 AM, taking in a movie at 2 PM, and leaving at 4 PM before the 405 freeway began to resemble the parking lot at Dodger Stadium.

I know my friend George Tannenbaum, advertising's oracle of the East, makes a great deal of hay and pays considerable homage to the DDB writers who gave birth to the VW brand. And rightly so. But a student of the craft would do herself or himself well to supplement that with an open eye to the Honda ads that came out of Needham Harper & Steers in the 1980's.

There you will find an economy of words, Creative Director Larry Postaer was a ruthless editor.

You'll also find an honest, conversational style that effortlessly takes you from beginning to end while simultaneously weaving in any number of product points that would have lesser copywriters crying, "I can't fit all that into an ad."

And finally, you'll find something sorely lacking in today's easily ignorable banner ads and diarrheic email blasts -- Persuasion.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Hit the brakes

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I know I did. 

In fact the grateful spirit that was enhanced last week with bourbon, turkey, stuffing and cranberry, not to mention enough dessert pies to open my own Marie Calendars, continues to brighten my day.

Let me back the truck up. 
Or more accurately the 2012 Acura MDX with 104, 983 miles on it. 

Two weeks ago I brought the car in for a safety check, as I was about to deliver the car to my daughter who now lives in Denver. With the abundant snows in the Mile High city, we wanted to give Abby every automotive advantage at our disposal, meaning a vehicle with all wheel drive.

Upon the advice of several neighbors, I decided to try my luck with Ed Little's Garage, a trusted Culver City staple for close to 50 years. Ed is no longer with us, and his son Bob runs the place. I got the feeling that Bob is just like his father. He's distinctively old timey in his demeanor. I'm sure the boots he was wearing are older than me.

In fact when I introduced myself to him, he scribbled my name, phone number and email in a black ledger book that seemed to predate the arrival of Columbia Studios in our fair city. Pretty sure there was a tattered stickie on the outside of the book that read: I Like Ike.

A day later Bob assured me the car was in great shape and only needed new rotors on the front brakes.

I had my fingers crossed that the two day, 1000 mile drive piloted by my wife and daughter would be uneventful. It was not. 

Apparently, one of the bolts on the brake assembly had not been tightened. It popped off, bounced off the road and tore through the grease boot and hit the axle assembly somewhere outside Cedar City, Utah.

Fortunately, the repair got made and it only set me back $360. And the next day, my wife and arrived arrived at Abby's overpriced downtown apartment. 

But here's where I caught a break.

The following week, I called Bob and told him what had transpired. Indeed I was ready for bear and prepared to read him the riot act. But before my veins could start constricting and before my normally low heart rate started to hit triple digits, Bob interjected...

"Come on down, I'll write you out a check."


"I'm not about to argue with you. We screwed up and I'm gonna give you your money back."

As if all that was not enough, Bob added the personal touch that explains the stellar reputation of Ed Little's legendary neighborhood garage.

"I'm sorry for all this. I'm just glad nobody was hurt."

Thankfully, nobody was. Which I found to be a great relief. But I also found that rarest of rarities -- a car mechanic I can trust. 

And that's not so Little.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Time to recharge

If there is one thing I have learned about myself after 44 years on this planet, it's that I am an annoying creature of habit.

Actually, that didn't require much in the way of introspection, as my wife consistently mocks my consistency OCD. Often, with a scowl. And some snarky comment.

I make no apologies.

Because one person's consistency is another's persistence and determination, noble, at least to me, characteristics that have put food on my table and shekels in my bank account.

Take this blog as an example. I started RoundSeventeen more than 11 years ago. And shortly after I began making the posts public I announced that I would put up new material 4 days a week. Minus holidays, vacations and circumstances beyond my control, I have lived up to that self imposed oath.

And 10% of those of those posts are actually worth reading.

Likewise, with my rigorous and disciplined weight training routine. Way back in July I purchased a used set of weights from a very famous Hollywood producer. When I began, I could hardly bench 185 lbs. Last week, on two separate occasions, I put up 245 lbs.

Seen here is a stock photo I grabbed off the interwebs of what 245 lbs looks like on a bar.

That is no small feat for a man of my age and advanced girth. If I had someone to spot me and prevent the bar from falling on my chest, crushing my ribs and sending me to the hospital for some sweet, sweet morphine, I suspect I could go even higher.

The point is, consistency pays dividends.

A longwinded and somewhat haphazard way of saying, "it's time for a well-deserved break." 

Family and friends are coming from the four corners of the country. And the Thanksgiving table will be extended into the living room, just past Lucy's (my dog) sleeping pad. There promises to be lots of food, interesting cheeses, novelty hot sauces, smoked poultry, fine bourbon and simmering familial tension.

In other words, juicy grist for the R17 consistency mill.

Have a great holiday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Hurry in while the deals last

Many of you will recognize this screen grab from a GMC truck commercial about their "Holiday" Sales Event.

I had posted this on my Facebook page last week, along with the innocuous observation that: I am inordinately bothered by the woman whose husband buys two GMC truck for Christmas and then immediately snags the black one. BTW, I beat Bill Maher to the punch who also wrote a lengthy post about this horsey piece of crap ad.

Anyway, it unleashed a torrent of comments. Mostly to the effect of, "Who buys a car (much less two) as a Xmas gift?"

It also brought up the perennial outcry about the never ending December to Remember spots with their infamous red bow.

A convenient jumping off point to bring up the glory of the past when I was the GCD on the Jaguar account and we effectively spoofed the red bow phenomena. This is one of my favorite spots from that era. It was initially rejected, so I convinced the director to shoot this during a lunch break, unbeknownst to the client. (excuse the poor resolution)

When we showed the client the work on film they loved it. But made us change "son of a bitch" to the softer and less pungent, "jerk."

All of which demonstrates the sheer ridiculousness of the contrived automotive "sales event." Pro tip: the deal you can get during the sales event will still be available the day after the sales event.

Which brings me to a little war story.

Last week, on one of my all too frequent trips to Palm Springs, my daughter tagged along. As we made our way through Ontario, just by the I-15 overpass, I told her about a road trip I had made nearly 30 years ago, in a car full of dealers and sales managers.

We were scouting a location for their upcoming Spring Tent Sale. Until this point I mistakenly thought I knew what advertising was about: breakthrough ideas, creativity, fame and fortune. I was as far from the truth as the Inland Empire is as far from Fiji.

If there's one thing dealer's love more than a year end sales event, it's a Tent Sale.

"Holy shit, we're gonna move some metal."

"We'll get a red and white tent that's 5 stories tall."

"The suckers will come in one end and drive out the other side."

They were literally drooling. Outside of a strip club in Atlanta, I've never seen grown men in clothes so excited.

This, for all the bloviation and pretentiousness and self importance, is what advertising is really about.

Or, as my friend and former copywriter Tom Parker so succinctly put it, "Sales rise when you merchandise."

Monday, November 25, 2019

Mercury, Schmercury.

I'm being told, from reliable sources on the Interwebs, that Mercury is no longer in retrograde.

I've also been told that while Mercury is in retrograde, life can go haywire, like riding a creaky Schwinn bicycle into an oncoming shitstorm.

Well if you know me and you know this blog, you know I have no tolerance for that astrological horse-cockery. There is no position of the stars and planets because the universe is not Earth-centric. Everything is relevant. And fluid.

Including, it seems, my previously stated position on the whole Mercury in Retrograde phenomena.

Case in point, my life.

Because in the last two months it feels like I've not only ridden a bike into a shitstorm, I've had three flat tires, a broken chain and I've misplaced my protective mouth mask.

For instance, I understand work is slow for most advertising freelancers, but for me it's not a case of the phone not ringing. It has. It's more a case of getting teased into nice long juicy gigs and then being canceled at the last moment. Often without an explanation. Professional courtesy has gone the way of White House integrity.

To make matters worse, the revenue from those now ghosted gigs could have eased the not so insignificant pain of dealing with my new role as a senior caregiver. It kills me to see my uncle in a shabby facility where the inedible food is served is mercifully served in microscopic portions. Money can't buy happiness but it can get you a decent plate of vegetable lasagna.

And I won't even begin to describe the agony of schlepping out to Palm Springs once a week (sometimes twice) to clean out his house to get it in some kind of rental form.

Then, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, my daughter in Denver took her eyes off the road, as many young people do, and plowed into a pick up truck. The other driver shrugged it off, but her new Mazda 3 was unrecognizably crunched into a Mazda 2.

The insurance company wanted to rebuild the car, with inferior parts, and I had to beg and plead for them to total the vehicle and send me a cash out check. Which they eventually did.

But, not only was Mercury in retrograde at the time, it appears Venus, Neptune and Jupiter were also in cahoots and wanted to get in on that good Let's-Fuck-With-Siegel action.

Because when I ambled down to my Wells Fargo branch they noticed the check had been made out to Richard (my legal name) and not Rich (the name I have been using for 44 years). They put an indefinite hold on the funds and sent my blood pressure into the stratosphere.

Lastly, to get things resolved in Colorado, my wife and daughter drove the aging Acura from LA to Denver to replace the Mazda 2. And naturally, somewhere outside Cedar City, Utah, a loose bolt came off the brake assembly, smashed through the grease boot and damaged the axle.

What in Carl Sagan's name is going on with my universe?

My friend and blogging buddy George Tannenbaum often says that work is Hell and that we have no other choice but to keep our heads down and plow through it. Well, life can be Hell, know in a first world, affluent white man kind of way. My only option is to stick my oversized nose to the grindstone and play the hand I'm dealt.

It's all about perspective.

Consider this. If you were on Luyton 726-8, one of the nearest stars to our planet, and you were looking through a telescope, Mercury would just now be going into retrograde.

Thankfully, we're all here on Earth.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Let's open the Photo Vault

It's a Photo Funny Thursday. Not by choice but by out of necessity. There's just been too much going on in my life for me to sit down and pen an actual post. Too many things that need not be discussed, but often require self medication.

We start our Photo Funny Thursday with the pie chart above. This is an old classic that has earned a permanent residence on my desktop. Every time I look at this monstrosity I am reminded how it is the perfect metaphor for Advertising 2019. Right down to the poorly appropriated shading.

Then there this...

Life has been handing me a lot of lemons lately. I can't make lemonade out of them because they look like this.

Here's one from Halloween.

At least I thought it was for Halloween. Turns out this neighbor leaves this out year round.


This was our minimalist contribution to the Halloween festivities.

Just before Halloween, my wife and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. I found the ideal anniversary card. As I've said on many occasion, the woman is a saint.

Spotted at my local gas station. A 1972 Super Beetle. The 70 year old owner, dressed like a college professor, told me the car had 380,741 miles on it. Adding, "I'll die before it does."

Speaking of older dudes, These were the spices (and hardly all of them) that we had to clear out of my uncle's house in Palm Springs. Frankly, I had no idea, and I was a restaurant short order cook, that Mother Earth created so many ways to flavor our food.

And finally there's this. Boy, shaving my body hair really has changed my appearance.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Simmer down Mr. and Ms. Creative Director

There's nothing that amuses me more than stumbling across an article or a post or even an interview with a Creative Director, or newly promoted Creative Director, who feels the need to pontificate about his or her critical role in the business.

For one thing, pontification is, by its very nature, nothing but a lot of hot air.

Moroever, pontification about 'advertising', that is blowing hot air about blowing hot air, has got to be the least readworthy of ventures. Though I have often been guilty of such infractions, right here on these very pages.

But let's come clean.

We are not curing cancer here, folks. If anything, we're pimping shit that does cause cancer: fossil fuel burning automobiles, carbonated brown sugar water and USB-fueled sucky devices that allow our teens to blow big puffy clouds of strawberry mango flavored exhaust in their wake.

As if that weren't enough, there's the laughable delusional nature of the whole thing.

Creative Directors like to bloviate about how they steward brands, inspire creativity and thoughtfully map out a successful future for multi-billion dollar organizations.

OK Boomer.

Or Gen Xer.

Or Ambitious Millennial.

I hate to rain on anyone's Ego Parade, but today's Creative Directors are nothing more than glorified copywriters and art directors.

You're not the one steering the boat.
You're not even on the deck where the boat get steered.
You're tucked away in the galley.
You're pulling the oars like everyone else.
You've just been moved to a window seat and that salty sea air has gotten to your head.

And if you bothered to look at the org chart you'd see a Group Creative Director, an Executive Creative Director and a Chief Creative Officer. And guess what? They're all under the similar mistaken belief that they're the ones steering the boat. When in fact they are in steerage, just like you, only the company pays for their gym membership that they never have time to get to use.

It pains me to say all this, but I speak from experience.

A long time ago, I was promoted to Creative Director and foolishly believed I was handed the keys to the kingdom. My head swelled so much I had trouble getting in an out of my new Lexus. I was ready to make my mark on Los Angeles. The ad community. The entire ad industry. And I was ready to tell the world about it.

Thank god there wasn't any social media at the time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Hello Matey

I did the 23&me thing about two years ago. In that time, not one relative, distant or otherwise, has ever reached out to me.

Though to be honest, I can't blame them.

If I found out I were related to me, I'd be running for the hills. Once in the hills, I'd be looking for an airport. To take me to a place where there's a boat. A boat that could take me to a deserted island. Hopefully one with WiFi.

But that kind understanding has not reached Esher, England. Because quite unexpectedly, the 23&me folks forwarded me a message that simply read, "Hey cousin!"

This young woman, whose name I will not divulge, is a third or fourth cousin on my mother's side. She even shares my mother's maiden name. Meaning she hails from my mother's paternal side, who I know nothing about. Other than they were poor, not very educated and probably drank.

I can also assume they had a wicked sense of humor. My Scottish mother's family all have hearty, infectious and unstoppable laughs.

Though to be honest again, I never understood what they were laughing about. I wish these people spoke English.

In any case, the connection made me rather curious about 23&me and I returned to my readout to see what else was going on.

There, I discovered, 23&me had assembled a personalized chart of my genetic traits.

Hard to believe these scientitians can tell all that about me just because I spit in a little test tube more than two years ago. And this list is hardly comprehensive. For another $69 the good people at the lab can tell me 100 other things I already know and/or loathe about myself.

Given the accuracy/inaccuracy of the above findings, it's a safe bet I won't be writing them another check.

You see while I don't have dimples or bunions or even a bald spot -- I have a bald head -- I do love cilantro and won't eat a taco without it.

Morevover, on the very important issue of upper back hair -- in the top left drawer of our new bathroom we keep a fully charged Remington electric shaver on hand for the earliest signs of "sprouting."