Thursday, October 20, 2016
Live in LA long enough and certain locations begin to take on a lore of their own. It goes beyond the corner of Pico and Sepulveda or Olympic and La Cienega.
Locales become know by the movie scene that made them famous.
When my wife and I dare to put up with the hourlong wait, we treat ourselves to Mexican food at Pacos Tacos, known to the rest of the world where Jerry McQuire (Tom Cruise) pitches woo to Renee Zelwegger.
The Culver Hotel is a stone's throw from my house. And this, as any visitor to Culver City will tell you, is where the munchkins stayed while filming The Wizard of Oz. I like to picture dozens of drunken midgets (can I say that?) or little people drinking bourbon and chasing statuesque women through the Victorian styled lobby.
Speaking of getting tanked, there's the little Quick E Mart at Overland and Braddock. From my rooftop, I could hit this place with a well struck fairway wood. This little strip mall convenience shop was made famous by Jonah Hill and Michael Cerra in the movie Superbad. It's here, the boys plan to buy enough booze to make them big men on the high school campus.
From the picture I snapped the other day (above) you can see why the location scouts picked this place. And I guarantee my standard iPhone 6S is not doing it any justice.
Two of the four load-bearing walls holding up the roof are lined with every brand of gin, rum, vodka, tequila and whiskey ever committed to a bottle.
Including many you've never heard of.
I did not know, for instance, that Peruvians loved their scotch whiskey, nor that they had found a way to distill it from old llama hooves.
I find myself at this Quick E Mart at least 3 times a week for various sundries and such: coffee filters, Tylenol, paper towels and Johnson & Johnson's Aloe Vera Baby Oil in the 16 ounce recyclable container. And though the clerk, a very outgoing man of indistinguishable Southern Asian descent is always chatting me up -- "How are you today, Boss?" -- I can't understand a word he says.
When I am there I constantly distracted by the visual and alcoholic assault from behind the counter.
There is enough liquor in this place to get through two armageddons.
Should things go squirrelly on November 9th, I know the first store I'll be looting.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
This is where it all started.
This is where William Hewlett and David Packard put their brains together, along with $538 in funding, to begin their legendary company.
By the time I began calling them a client (back in the mid-90's) they were worth billions and billions of dollars, with offices on every continent of the planet. Had there been people in Antarctica with a need for some slow inkjet printers, I'm sure they would have set up shop there as well.
My dealings with this printing behemoth were never very pleasant. But today's post is not about that.
You see, recently I have begun work for another start up.
They don't operate out of a one car garage, but they are in their infancy. And, I hope, they have more than $538 in funding.
I'm not going to divulge the name of this new client. I don't have their permission. Plus, I don't need other freelance creatives trying to poach them away. I know that sounds crazy, but from various social media postings I can see that fellow copywriters and art directors are absolutely desperate for work.
What I will tell you is that working with them, even at my greatly reduced day rate, is a true joy.
For one thing, it's just a bunch of young, energetic guys, gathered in a frumpy 3 story townhouse. It's a half living, half working type of environment that has all the appearances of a well maintained frat house. They all wear shorts, flip flops and three day facial hair.
So, it's casual to say the least.
But make no mistake, these guys are smart. They're are some MBAs in the crowd. Maybe a Phd. And they all seem very enthusiastic. Everything is "awesome" or "super" or "super, awesome". Last week I showed the CEO and founder some possible new tagline and he was over the moon with giddiness. I know I've developed a thick skin after all these years, but it was downright refreshing to have someone actually appreciate the work I do.
The work we all do.
It stood in dark contrast to the countless meetings of stone faced corporate executives who see what you've pinned up on the board and launch into their well-rehearsed career posturing, box checking and devil's advocate playing...
"I like what you've done here but let me just play..."
Oh fuck you!
Here's the thing about working with people you actually like, people with a passion, people who see value in what you bring to the table -- you want to give them everything you've got. I've already gone way beyond the original scope of the assignment. Way beyond. So I'm already operating in the red.
But you know what?
I don't care.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
On November 8th my wife and I will do as millions of Americans will do. We'll sit glued to the TV and watch the outcome of the presidential election. Or Shitstorm 2016.
I'm confident that our better angels will prevail.
However, I'm far less confident about the result of those results.
More specifically, I'm talking about the pitchfork and torches crowd who are already taking the safeties off their Glock 9's and AR-15's.
They're already convinced the ballot boxes have been stuffed.
And with a lot of encouragement from their pussy-grabbing leader, they're already to pin the blame on a group of nefarious outsiders.
The global elitist international bankers, that's who. Maybe some of you are new to the world of alt. right euphemisms, but I'm not. I've heard them all. New World Order. Trilateral Commission. The Bielderberg Group. FreeMasons. ZOG. Illuminati.
It's all code for Joos!
There's this crazy notion that 16 million of us are the cunning puppet masters of the other 8 billion people on the planet.
I don't know whether I should be flattered, belonging to a supergroup with super intelligence and a supernatural ability to manipulate the comings and goings of an entire race of people.
Or whether I should be shaking in my boots because the gig is up and the truth is out. Unmasked, undone and uncovered by a merkin-sporting, tit-groping, illiterate shitgibbon.
One thing is for sure, three weeks from today, on November 9th, we're going to throw the deadbolt on the door and sleep with baseball bats at our side.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Days like today don't happen too often.
In fact, since I've only published three books, they've only happened to me twice in the past.
Once was in 2005, before there was Facebook or Twitter or Blogspot or all manner of social media, so apart from my short interview on KABC radio, no one even knew of Tuesdays With Mantu, My Adventures with a Nigerian Con Artist.
Last year I released my second book, RoundSeventeen & 1/2, The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Inefficient and the subsequent social platforms were widely available. I don't think any of us can forget how I bludgeoned and digitally abused the 13 readers who come to this blog on a daily basis. And I apologize for my shameless self-promotion and liberal use of the Guilting Stick.
Today, I am officially releasing my newest opus: The Big Book of Rants, A Gentleman's Guide to a Life in Advertising. And I hope to strike a more appropriate balance.
However, I'm not saying that's going to be easy.
When CNN is breaking news stories, almost on an hourly basis, about a presidential candidate bragging about "grabbing pussy", swinging his alleged big billionaire dick around, talking like a 14 year old, and copping feels on every blond shicksa he's ever come in contact with, it's ridiculously hard to break through the clutter.
So here's the soft sell.
If you can part with eleven dollars and ninety eight cents, this timeless collection of caffeine-fueled, disgruntled employee rants can be all yours. The photo alone, snapped by my good friend and book cover designer Robert Prins is worth the price. Moreover, the book has been thoughtfully customized to sit perfectly above most makes and models of today's modern toilets.
But don't take my word for it.
Listen to what some of the most experienced advertising planners in the advertising industry have to say about my new book.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
According to a recent article in Ad Age -- not as reliable as Agency Spy, but still a legitimate source of news in our industry -- 2/3 of all accounts are planning to go into review this year.
I hope you've spent some time with your kids because you won't be seeing them for a while.
I hope you've taken care of all the repairs around the house because all that's going on the back burner.
I hope you've managed to get some stability in your life cause shits about to get real.
If you're a staffer it's enough to make you start Googling things like: arsenic, cyanide, high caliber pistols, and industrial grade sleeping pills. I feel your pain.
Especially if you're employed by the incumbent agency and your tone deaf management decides to mount a sturdy defense.
"We're going to retain this account. We're going to put on our smiley faces. We're going to be agreeable to all client demands. And we're going to reignite the spark that made this pain in the ass client come to our agency just 18 moths ago."
Mind you, I'm not complaining. One of the first tenets in the freelancer's handbook is, "turmoil is your friend."
And as an outsider it's quite amusing to watch an agency go through the wild machinations of trying to retain an account. When you don't have skin in the game, when you're emotionally disconnected from the daily grind, and when you're granted the privilege of being an observer, it's so much easier to see things how they actually are.
Years ago, I had a front row, courtside seat to all this mishigas.
The client had brought in a new CMO, who as all new CMO's do, initiated a lengthy, expensive and futile review. Seems that despite year-to-year double digit sales growth, a content dealer body, and a wealth of work that was some of the smartest in the automotive arena, the brand was simply not being defined to his liking.
He felt, or at the least he told us, that the agency needed to shore up the notion of Luxury. And so, week after week, presentation after presentation, we attempted to redefine Luxury.
I've been doing this a long time and can tell you, it's a fool's game. People know what luxury is and the minute they sit in the driver's seat they know, the car either has it or it doesn't. And no planner-speak or wave of the copywriter magic wand is going to change that.
Mr. New CMO would have none of that.
And so, before the account changed hands and during the last gasping breaths of the review, the agency produced this one last spot. Which, in light of all the idiocy, nonsense and unmitigated torture this one particular assnugget client inflicted on some of the best and brightest people I've had the pleasure of working with, amounts to a delicious 30-second, color-corrected, celebrity-announced Fuck You.
You want luxury? Here's luxury.
In retrospect, and even though I didn't write it, this could be my all time favorite commercial ever committed to celluloid.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Pictured above you'll see one of my recent Fan Duel entries. It might be from last week. It might be from last month. It might be from last year. Doesn't matter. They all look remarkably alike.
By noon, Pacific Time, I'm usually in the green. Meaning I'm winning. Cam Newton has thrown for 5 touchdowns. Dan Bailey has kicked 7 field goals, all from 60 yards out. And the Denver Broncos defense have 14 points just on safeties.
And then the tide turns.
Demarco Murray gets a concussion. Or Julio Jones starts dropping passes in the endzone. The players of the NFL seem to conspire against me.
My $100 winnings become 75. And then 50. And then 25.
By the time Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth start calling the Sunday Night Game I'm no longer in the green. And find myself rooting for Carson Wentz to throw an 80 yard touchdown pass to some third string tight end from Southern North Dakota State, just to get me one fucking point so I can win $9.73.
That's not frustration you're sensing, that's paranoia.
I am convinced the folks at Fan Duel have rigged the system.
You see I resisted the whole fantasy football thing form the very beginning. But then 3 years ago, I caved and gave in to the phenomena, perhaps influenced by the constant playing of the Ed Norton-voiced commercials. I signed up, dropped a small deposit and made my very first picks for my very first entry.
Call it beginner's luck or call it doing my homework, but right from the get-go I was a winner.
45 bucks right out of the gate. Blessed with a fervent imagination, I saw myself as some budding Ace Rothstein. If I played this right I could up my ante, start bringing home some serious cash, and pay the girl's college tuition based solely on the performances of Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and Da'brickashaw what's-his-face.
But that's not the way it went.
Week after miserable week I found myself a point shy, a half a point shy and in one case, two tenths of a point shy of being in the green.
Now, I'm convinced I'll never recoup my losses.
Unless there's stunning performance turned in by Ha Ha Clinton Dix.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Heard while watching football last Sunday...
"Only those who dare can drive the world forward. The all new Cadillac CTS."
Holy horse shit on dry white toast!!!
Drive the world forward?
Have we become this divorced from reality?
What a load of psycho-babble, brain-bashing, marketing malarkey.
Do the genii at Cadillac, or for that matter so many other automakers, truly believe the words that are coming out of their mouths? As well as their very intensive rigorous fact finding focus groups, which are apparently attended by the next generation of Edisons, Einsteins, and Galileos?
I don't know about you but I'm so god-damned tired of hearing about people who dare.
People who are driven.
People who are refreshing the world with their enlightened choice of brown fizzy sugar water.
Granted, I didn't see the 398-page "People Who Dare" Powerpoint presentation, so I'm not privy to all the big data deep dives and the demographic hair splitting, but I'm going to go out on a limb and state, unequivocally, that people don't buy a Cadillac because it aligns with their altruistic nature or their desire to leave the planet in better shape than they found it or their seemingly perpetual need to drive the world forward -- whatever the fuck that means.
They buy a Cadillac to rub their noses in their neighbor's face, the obnoxious neighbors with the barking pit bulls and the yard full of crab grass.
They buy a Cadillac for the massive 973 horsepower, V-8 engine and the hope that one day America will have its own autobahn.
They buy a Cadillac because they like the boaty feel of yacht but are landlocked in Kentucky.
They buy a Cadillac because it harkens back to an earlier time, when you had to own a schmatta factory or captain one branch of the Gambino family to drive a Coupe de Ville.
They buy a Cadillac because there's a lot of shit going on this world. Shit they can't control. Or understand. Or dare to change. But they can work hard. And they can save money. And they can make their driveway the envy of all the other poor saps on the block who are also not out to alter the course of humankind.
You want daring? How about we dare to ignore so much of this useless planning bullcockery and inject some human insight into what we do. You may not like this, but at least their are some nuggets of truth in this...
Monday, October 10, 2016
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Thursday, October 6, 2016
Months ago I was sent a rather ominous letter from the County of Los Angeles. Turns out I was summoned to jury duty and failed to show up. It wasn't because I didn't want to be on a jury, I did.
If you know me at all, you can imagine how I treasure the opportunity to deliver some justice to the imbeciles and cretins of this world.
I answered the letter with an immediate call to the county officials.
I told them that with two girls in college, a very hectic freelance schedule and a blog with 13 insatiable readers, I simply forgot to show up. The woman on the other end of the line was very understanding. She said she would forgo the threatened fine if I showed up to serve the following Tuesday.
Guess what? I forgot to show up for that appointment as well.
Again, not because I'm trying to avoid doing my civic responsibility. I actually enjoy witnessing the entire judicial process. And did I mention the possibility of putting away some imbeciles and cretins?
A few weeks ago, I was summoned again. Not by a simple envelope in the mail. This time somebody showed up at my front doorstep.
That got my attention.
So I showed up at the Inglewood Courthouse ready to do my duty. And as luck would have it, I was one of the first to be paneled, meaning I sat in the box and answered all the questions by the judge. All was going well until late in the interview the judge asked if there was anything about the case that could make me feel impartial about serving?
For one thing, the defendant was defending himself. Which might have been entertaining. On the other hand, the charge was a routine DUI.
He didn't hit anyone. He didn't cause any physical damage. It was just a simple DUI. Only it wasn't that simple and I was more than willing to share my opinion with the 75 potentials jurors seated in the audience on a hot day when the air conditioning wasn't working...
"I have a problem your honor. I can't help notice, and I don't think it has escaped anyone else's attention, the tremendous amount of resources being wasted to bring this case to justice. Look at all these people missing work. Look at all the time being spent. All the schedules re-jigged just because this guy doesn't want to pay a $1000 fine? All due respect to the court, but this feels incredibly irresponsible."
My little ramble didn't elicit a standing ovation, but I certainly heard about it at the break.
"Thank you for speaking up."
"I'm with you, brother."
"Man it's hot in this motherfucking building."
Truth is, I would have been more than happy to adjudicate a robbery or an assault or even something more juicy like a carjacking. But I had no interest in giving up a week of my time to listen to TEN police officers (they told us how many witnesses the DA planned to call to the stand) telling me the defendant was drunk.
Then I heard the magic words reserved for only a lucky few.
"Juror #9, you're excused from the panel. Thank you."
By the way, the guy looked guilty.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Against my better instincts, today I am delving into the political arena. More specifically I plan to talk about the 6'3" shitgibbon from Queens.
I've seen a lot of insults hurled at the man who grew up not far from my two NYC residences in Jackson Heights and Flushing, and shitgibbon is by far my favorite.
Also, and this needs to be stated, I'm not here to campaign for, or defend, or proselytize for Ms. Clinton, so you can spare me the comments and smack-talking. She strikes me as a politician. I don't have much heart for politicians, but at the very least she has the intellect for the position.
SG (shitgibbon) does not.
Along with countless other attributes one might expect in someone seeking the highest position in the land.
For me, his character defects are all the more glaring considering how he makes hay of his otherworldly business acumen. And has called himself America's favorite billionaire.
If I may paraphrase Lloyd Bensen, "I have shaken hands with America's favorite billionaires and I can tell you Sir Gibbon, you are not one of them."
Though I'm only 44 years old, I've had the pleasure of meeting several billionaires or, at the very least, multi-millionaire CEOs: Bob Iger (Disney), Tom Siebel (Siebel Systems), Elena Ford (Ford) and through one or two degrees of separation, Warren Buffet (Warren Buffet).
I'm not saying that in any kind of braggadocious manner. I'm just saying I've had personal contact with folks with bigly money.
Despite their varying wealth, stature and political leanings, these were people who carried themselves with a certain air. They spoke eloquently. They had a sense of who they were and their place in this world because they had a more than rudimentary knowledge of history, a sense of diplomacy, and a general abidance to play within the rules of the game.
In layman's terms, they had class and decency.
Shitgibbon, I'll use his formal name, has none.
Unfit for POTUS?
His vulgarian surliness makes him unfit for a clerical position at the DMV. That's a pretty low bar.
The man has no ability to restrain himself and pick his battles. Witness his recent 3 AM twitter bombs launched at a disgruntled former beauty queen. I could stroll into my local Starbucks and have a 100% chance of finding someone with a more suitable temperament.
"You, over-caffeinated guy with the wool knit cap and the shaky hands, working on that stupid screenplay you'll never sell, come over and put your right hand on the bible."
Our domestic problems are solvable and I have no doubt we can ride the ups and downs of poor infrastructure, unfair income distribution and social unrest.
But with the rise of Islamic terrorism, fluid superpower dynamics and escalating regional conflicts -- is anybody paying attention to Pakistan and India right this second? -- we are just a few bad decisions away from a total nuclear meltdown.
Do we want to trust the fate of the human race to a merkin-sporting, illiterate, billionaire shitgibbon whose fuse is even shorter than his tiny dick?
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
If it happened once, it might not be worth writing about.
Twice, and I could chalk it up to misguided coincidence.
But the Pie Chart is now making a regular appearance on advertising briefs and I cannot let it go.
Well, 27% of me wants to let it go but 73% of me says otherwise.
This is now a thing.
Planners are not happy to do their job and find for us the single unique selling proposition, they've taken the extra step to find two. Sometimes three.
And because they are so committed to bringing their strategic insights to life, they have thoughtfully prescribed an informative ratio to guide us through the heretofore un-navigationable forest of dichotomous communication.
Due to signed NDA's and delicate agency sensitivities, I can't mention names or cite specifics, not that it matters as this is becoming acceptable point of procedure wherever I go, but I have seen pie charts for:
and my favorite
Bacon/Non-Bacon/Crust 33%/33%/20% (remaining 14% for urgent CTA)
Look, there isn't a household in America without a DVR. Even poor Appalachian ginseng root pullers, who don't have two shoes to their name, possess the ability to fast forward through our ridiculously-labored commercials for heartburn relief and disposable adult diapers.
And is there anyone who doesn't hit the SKIP ADS button on youtube?
There are literally 38 people in this great country of ours that actually see TV spots. And now we want them to split their minuscule attention spans along some fakakta proportions that make sense to no one but our navel-gazing MBAs?
Good Night Nurse!
The quantification and commoditization of what we do, what we create and what we say is the clearest indication that people who profess to have an insight into human behavior and acumen in the field of communications, have none.
Perhaps I'm not making myself clear.
Maybe this will help:
Monday, October 3, 2016
If you look at the end of any Apple commercial you'll see the apple logo.
What's more telling however, is what you won't see.
It doesn't say Apple.
There's no phone number to call.
There's not even a hashtag.
It's just a silhouette of an apple with a bite taken out of it.
It's rumored that a few lieutenants asked Steve Jobs to include all that additional information. It's also rumored that he answered them...
"Why the fuck do I want to make it harder for consumers to remember our spots? If they're interested they'll find us. I think they're smart enough to do that. And if they're not that smart they can jump on Windows 95."
Well, apparently the marketing genii at Hilton never got that memo. I've been seeing a bunch of Hilton commercials lately, and believe me, they're all indistinguishable from each other. I see what's on the air and I troll through my files from last year's Hilton pitch and can't help wondering...
But that's not even the point of today's rant.
Having endured 27 seconds of hospitality tropes that have more wear and tear on them than the hallway carpets at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, the consumer is assaulted with an eye chart of proud Hilton properties (see above).
14 properties in all.
Once again, leaving me to wonder, "Really?"
What purpose could it possibly serve? And mind you this is 3 seconds out of 30, that's a full 10% of the messaging unit.
Let's say I'm intrigued by the pristine well-made queen size beds, lured by the sparkling indoor pool, and convinced by the khaki-pants wearing business fellow eating gourmet scrambled eggs and bacon served by an unnaturally happy room service attendant.
And let's say I book my room at the downtown Topeka Hilton for just $149 a night (offer not valid Thursdays thru Sundays).
Why on earth do I need to know that the mother company also operates the Doubletree in Fairbanks, Alaska? Or the Hampton Inn, in Middletown, NY?
If it were me, I'd sell off the Embassy Suites, and use the proceeds of the sale to open up the walls on the remaining 13 properties and put some goddamn soundproofing insulation between the goddamn rooms.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
As some of you might know I've made a habit of posting photos on Thursdays.
Lately this habit has become a routine because the last two months have been the busiest stretch in my almost 13 years of freelancing.
Plus, I'm trying to crank out a book.
Anyway, when I do get free time I like to hike up to the Baldwin Hills Overlook. It's a 1.4 mile walk from my front door to the trailhead. Then I go up and down the mountain (hill) 2-3 times, and then I'll hump it back. Usually with the aid of some Tylenol stuffed in my cargo shorts. All total, it's a good 6-7 mile trek. And 1000 burned calories.
On the walk I always spot something unusual. Like this pink scrap of paper littered on the sidewalk, ironically depicting a pig.
But I also spotted some interesting guerrilla artwork that makes a no less ironic statement on today's pop culture.
I'd appreciate it if you'd Like this post and Share it.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Years ago someone on Facebook posted a picture of himself, or herself, leaning against a 1978 lime green Plymouth Duster that was parked in the driveway of their parents old ranch style house. The picture started accumulating Likes and soon friends and family started digging through their shoeboxes full of old photo's and joined the fray.
This gave birth to #TBT.
Or Throwback Thursdays.
It seems people enjoy seeing themselves from the glory days gone by. They like the old styles, the thinner waistlines and the unreceded hairlines.
You know what else people like? Leaving the office at a decent hour.
But the taskmasters, whether they be advertising holding company officers or that douche and a half CEO from Wells Fargo, don't see it that way. They want us chained to our desks, pinned to our pens in the cubicle farm or locked, stocked and barreled to the long community tables until the wee hours of the morning.
Not to mention Saturdays and Sundays.
Well it doesn't take a United States Senator from Massachusetts to see why. It's all about money. They want more of it. And that means giving you less of it. They can reduce the cost of labor by increasing the number of billable man hours. See inverse relationships.
The 12-14 hour work day has become so commonplace in advertising, that many agencies have regular dinner service. Some have even contracted with dry cleaners, car washers and personal concierge services, you know to take care of those personal life responsibilities that can sometimes get in the way of...wait, I want to get this right..."doing great work."
Wow, if you're buying that I've got a Supplementary Low Cost Wells Fargo Savings Account I'd like to get you into.
I'm sorry my friends, you've been hoodwinked. Bamboozled. You didn't do Cannes Lion winning work. And you're not going to Cannes anytime soon.
It's high time we started taking back our time.
So, in the spirit of #TBT, I'm introducing #WOHW -- We're Out of Here Wednesdays.
Tonight, when the Assistant Associate Planner comes sniffing around to see whether you'd like Pizza or Pad Thai Noodles, take a pass. Tell him or her, you have other plans for the evening. Plans that don't involve banner ads, brand engagement units or content generation.
Tell him or her you won't be around email, or any other mobile device, so that round twenty three of revisions to make the copy more urgent will have to wait until the morning.
Tell him or her that you understand the importance of the $500 million new business pitch, but that you were only handed the brief two hours ago, and you haven't 'cracked it' yet.
At 6 PM tonight, and on every Wednesday thereafter, go home.
Make your colleagues go home.
Make your colleague's colleagues go home.
At 6 PM tonight we need to SHUT IT DOWN.
Go home. I'm already there.
Oh and don't forget to shop at the No Mas SweatShop.
Monday, September 26, 2016
I'm often asked, by other creatives just setting foot in the freelance pool, "How can you work at home? Don't you get lonely?"
"Lonely?" I say, "are you kidding?"
I have me.
I have my dog.
And when I need a distraction or the opportunity to interact, I have 1.5 billion people to troll on Facebook or Linkedin, where the gamut of stimulating conversation can run from Ted Cruz's latest re-entry into the political arena to the newest stuffed crust offerings from Pizza Hut; they put grilled cheese in the crust.
If that doesn't have Americans eating their pizza backwards, I don't know what will.
I also happen to be at my best when I'm left alone in a quiet environment where I can think and focus and eat with my mouth open.
Lest you think I have no live human contact with the outside world, there are always the robocalls. For reasons unknown, we still have a landline in the house. And perhaps due to some bad early potty training, I have been programmed to answer a ringing phone.
But this is where it gets good. Because the only people calling me on the landline are the solicitors and the scammers. And I'm guessing you already know how I feel about them.
"This is the Internal Revenue Service calling about case # 285739. This is a serious matter. Ignoring this case may result in a summons and an appearance before a magistrate, judge of federal grand jury..."
"Hello...this is Rich Siegel...is something wrong?"
"This is the Internal Revenue Service (in an Indian or Pakistani accent no less) regarding an outstanding bill that must be paid immediately..."
"I know exactly what this is about."
"Sir let me give you an address to send the money."
"It's about my Goat Insemination Business that I run on the side isn't it?"
"You know extracting sperm from goats for artificial insemination."
"Sir, you can wire the money immediately to avoid any penalties."
"I knew we shouldn't have taken those deductions but my accountant insisted. Look, sometimes the goats aren't in the mood. So we bought goat aphrodisiacs. We spent money on some Marvin Gaye music, you know to get the goats hot and bothered. We even purchased this special goat lube to apply to the goat penis..."
"Sir I do not want to hear your filthy degenerate stories. (this is often accompanied by colorful cursing in Urdu)"
"That's what I told my accountant. But he said these were legitimate expenses and that we could even take a credit for the electronic goat prostate massager."
The way I see it, the choice is simple.
I could be in an office, sitting in a conference room with some account folks and planners, carefully dissecting the behavior of tortilla chip consumers and the intricacies of the tortilla chip purchase funnel.
Or, I could be yanking the chain of a bearded flim flam man sitting in a boiler room in Islamabad hoping to skim some skin out of some poor American retiree's 401K plan.
If I ever needed a 'thought-starter', I choose the latter.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Last Saturday, was the one year anniversary of my previous book release, RoundSeventeen & 1/2, the Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Inefficient.
Thanks to the thousands of you who never shelled out 12 bucks to support your almost favorite blogger, it's currently sitting comfortable as the 1, 239,754th bestseller on Amazon.
My hope was to release my new book (pictured above) on September 17th of this year, but since I am the world's worst typist and have mercilessly terrorized the English language with grammatical errors and poor syntax, the book is still lingering in its proofreading stage.
Part of me was hesitant to publish a picture of the cover and any news about the upcoming book's release for fear of stealing its thunder. There's a genuine risk that any preview could deflate the pent up demand for this page-turning compilation of the best and bile-filled advertising rants from the past 8 years.
And then the haze from my codeine-enhanced cough medicine wore off.
The Big Book of Rants, a Genetleman's Bathroom Companion to a Life in Advertising, coming soon to a dusty digital bookshelf where it will sit eternally unread.
Next to this.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Had an interesting discussion the other day with a colleague and fellow freelancer. Actually, it wasn't a discussion -- people don't talk on the phone or otherwise anymore -- it was a series of texts via the wonky Facebook chat interface.
I was texting from my iPhone while high atop the Baldwin Hills overlook. And he was texting from the exact same seat and desk I had been occupying just one week earlier.
You can draw your own conclusions, but the discussion, as it were, was about the finicky nature of freelancing.
As my colleague pointed out, at one place you can be the hero who can "write like nobody else we have on staff." And the very next week you can find yourself working for another agency who, and this part I'll paraphrase, "writes shit like everybody else."
And so in the course of my 44 years circling the sun, I've developed a thick skin. A very, very thick skin, which like a camera, adds 10 lbs. to my appearance.
I also try to maintain an even keel about the work and the responses to the work. When there is high praise, and occasionally that happens, I'll blush a little and politely say thanks. I don't let it get to my head and start wondering if I should start wearing an ascot or an earring or some other affectation that says, "look at me, I'm special."
Where do people even buy ascots?
I also remind myself there are a shit ton of better writers out there. I came across another freelancer while on linked.com and he had a wealth of great work that turned me 50 shades of green. He did a great campaign with NFL players for the United Way that's buried on the back pages of his portfolio.
That's how good he is.
I'd hire him in a heartbeat over me.
And that's why I'm not sharing his name.
Conversely, I don't get my Hanes 36-Inch Tagless No-Ride-Up Briefs with the Comfort Flex™ Waistband tied in a bunch when someone sets fire to one of my scripts. Or as one creative director put it so eloquently and with no small measure of disdain...
"This feels like something Goodby would have done in the mid-90's."
If memory serves me correct, Goodby Silverstein and Partners were enjoying the height of their success in the mid 1990's. I would think most agencies would be lucky to recreate work of that caliber. When did that become a pejorative?
What do I know?
I try not to let that get to me. Or as my colleague reminds me, it's the rollercoaster nature of the business.
Problem is, I see the kind of work that gets killed and the work that gets produced and am reminded of a different stomach-grinding amusement park ride and it's appropriate nickname -- the Vomitron.
Perhaps you're familiar with it.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
We visited some friends recently who had just finished painting their living room. Naturally, as guests and being of excessive politeness, we said it looked beautiful. Unable to let a sleeping dog lie however, I made further inquiry.
"What color was it before?"
"It was Snowbound White 7004."
"We went with Toque White 7003."
"Lovely. Just lovely."
And that, in a nutshell is where we are at in Advertising 2016.
Trying to move an apathetic, largely-disinterested audience with fragmented media and a monumentally-bland message that is barely two Angstrom units to the right or left of the same incomprehensible strategy used by the nearest competitor.
Witness the Lexus commercials that look like Acura commercials.
Coke spots that could easily be mistaken for Pepsi spots.
And Windows ads that bear an uncanny resemblance to those from Apple.
(Though to be fair that seems to be MicroSoft's entire modus operandi.)
I'm happy to take money from clients and marketers who think terms like Motivated Achievers or Ambitious Challengers or Extroverted Innovators are useful demographic delineators.
Or agencies who believe their insightful one-of-a-kind briefs are different than another agency's identical insightful one-of-a-kind brief.
Or anyone who thinks they can build a successful brand with tweets, Insties and Snapfaps™.
The truth is they're all playing in the same sandbox. And at some point, the turd left by the cat has to be removed.
It's all such small ball.
And maybe when you're dealing with parity products and parity services it's impossible to raise the flag of true differentiation. But hell, what happened to swinging for the fences? To saying something nobody else was saying? And doing it in a way no one was else was doing?
The other truth is, if you're not doing something radically different, you're doing everything radically wrong.
But I don't expect anything to change. And until then, I'll just keep creating social media scavenger hunts that will never get produced. Conjuring up brand activation stunts that will never get activated. And writing meaningless, micro-targeted TV spots aimed at Perseverant Non-Traditional Influencers.
Whatever the fuck that means.
Monday, September 19, 2016
For the last couple of weeks I have been going into an office. It was a refreshing change of pace as most of my work is done at home. From the comfort of my man cave. With my snacks and my napping couch always nearby.
As agencies go, the place I was going to was great.
They put my partner and I in a real office. With a window. And a door that closed. And a couple of Herman Miller chairs that eased our aging backs. It was the kind of respect and professionalism one rarely sees these days.
Once handed the brief, we wasted no time cranking out the work. Freelancers are expected to spit out massive quantities of work and 10 TV scripts in the course of one day meets that criteria.
In between the generation of ideas, my art director partner and I did what all creative teams do in order to answer the brief -- we shot the shit.
We talked about this.
And of course, we talked about that universal assnugget account guy we all know and hate. This assnugget doesn't have a name, or even a body. He or she is simply an amalgamation of all the assnuggets we have come in contact with over the years -- the screamer, the skirtchaser, the incompetent anti-Mensa, and the drunken drug addict who manages to fit all the criteria.
There was also the ceremonial telling of the war stories.
It was at this point that my partner told me of the time he was freelancing for a NYC agency. This was a shop that on their very best day, might, with some luck and the odd alignment of the stars, do something that could qualify as mediocre.
They never aspired to greatness or fooled themselves into thinking otherwise. And for not giving any lip service to that notion, as many do, and having a realistic assessment of their abilities, I will give them credit.
After a week of concepting, keep in mind this was a while ago, my partner and his writer were asked to show work to the Creative Director, who brought them into his fancy NYC office, sat them on the couch, and queried, "Where's your Rig?"
Not knowing what to make of the situation, my partner replied, "Huh?"
Turns out this was an agency that had made a name for themselves with jingles. So the Creative Director was expecting jingles. And the Rig in question, was a Cassio Keyboard (as seen in the picture above.)
I know there are people in the industry that make a living that way and solve complex marketing problems with little musical ditties, but my partner and I are not those people. He left the agency shortly thereafter. With nothing more than a check and a great little war story.
"Where's your Rig?"
I love that.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
It's been a busy week.
It's been a busy month.
It's been a busy summer.
So today I'm going to give myself a break and let my iPhone do the talking.
The photo above was snapped while walking to the Baldwin Hills Overlook in south Culver City. A walk my wife and I will be doing on fewer occasion given the shrinking daylight hours.
This nihilistic minivan owner caught my eye.
But it wasn't the only decal worth noting.
If only clients had a similar sense of humor.