Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Show me the Money

My wife sells ad space for the Harvard Business Review. It's not easy. She has to compete with other sales reps selling space for much glossier titles like People, Us, or any number of magazines you're likely to find poolside at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.

HBR is thick. It's wordy. And has its own distinctive anesthetic effect.

Though it's readily available around the house, I rarely find myself reaching for the latest edition prior to a bathroom retreat for "an exit interview with Mr. Brown."

But recently HBR published a column by Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology, Seven Rules for Managing Creative-But-Difficult People.

I can see most of you have already pre-identified yourself with the subject of Dr. TCP's article and are eager to hear what he has to say. I'll spare you all the psycho-babble and jump straight to his fifth, and most disturbing, point:

I have no idea why he initially wrote Pay them poorly and then changed it to Don't overpay them. But none of that matters. Either way, the good doctor is wrong.


He contends that external rewards diminish engagement and that the more you pay people to do what they love, the less they will love it.

Really? Because when I'm trying to come up with ideas for a Super Bowl commercial, and I'm working until midnight, or giving up my weekends and the opportunity to spend quality time in my hammock, I never find myself thinking, "Boy, if it weren't for all the external rewards I'd be so much more engaged in this project."

Furthermore, where does this clueless academic come off with the notion that we (and I'm speaking about advertising folks not real creative artists) "love what we do"?

I love making a living with words and with ideas and with people who have a bright imagination. But I don't "love" making 236 X 64 banner ads for flea collars or "ideating" a social media platform for a furniture polish.

And I certainly won't "love" it more if they pay me less.

The sad part is I'm sure this article was clipped by every ad agency HR manager across the country. And it will be used against creative people, who stopped getting raises and bonuses years ago, and who can now expect well-justified pay cuts.

You know, to make them happier at their jobs.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I'm an Afro-Saudi-Indian-Bulgar-Porco-American

Months ago, I enrolled in the National Geographic Genome Project. It's a continuing science project that involves crowdsourcing DNA to get a better map of human evolution. It's intelligent design without any of the sky king fairy tales.

I received the testing kit. Swabbed my inner cheeks. And carefully captured the mini-particles of me in a hermetically sealed test tube.

Yesterday, after what must have been some exhaustive testing, I received my results. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.

I thought that because my mother was born in Scotland and because my father was first generation American, descended from gruel-eating, fashion-challenged shtetl people in Poland and Russia, that my genetic makeup would be more northerly.

I was wrong.

While Northern European is sizably represented, as you can see from the screen grab, my roots are much closer to the warm seas of the Mediterranean. In fact, my profile is almost identical to those people identified as Bulgarian. This was quite a shock to me.

I didn't know exactly where Bulgaria was on a map. I mean, I had some idea. If Bulgaria were a property on the Monopoly Board it would be near the cheap stuff, like the Baltics. It would be purple or blue or magenta. In other words, just slightly more valuable than a Utility or the Railroads. But I had no idea it was in close proximity to Turkey and Albania.

My secondary reference population was no less surprising. It matched up with people from Greece. This goes a long way to explain my aquiline nose, my swarthy olive complexion, and my fondness for breaking plates; as a short order cook I threw many ceramic plates at waitresses who had messed up the order.

Though I suspect that behavior was learned and not hereditary.

Most interesting however, is the remaining 20%, which stems from Southwest Asia. These include the countries of Iraq, Iran, India and Tajikistan, which if I'm not mistaken, is where Hitler once contemplated sending all the Jews.

The astute reader will notice that the percentages of my makeup 46%, 31% and 20%, do not add up to 100. The good people at National Geographic cannot account for this anomaly. I can.

I'm convinced the remaining 4% is of the Hystricidae variety, otherwise known as the North American porcupine.

That would account for the errant thick black hairs sprouting from my ears, my shoulders and that small patch of real estate just above my ass.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dogs Rule

It's the end of the week.
I've been doing a lot of writing lately.
And still have a lot more to do.

So today, I'm going to leave you with a video that was sent to me by a college buddy.
Thanks Joe.

I know many of you are dog lovers.
And I count myself among you.

Maybe watching this police dog in action will explain why.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Miracles and Manna for $200

My buddy Jeff Gelberg, whose incredibly well-written blog Rotation and Balance often makes me jealous, is working on a gig at the Game Show Network.

Seems all my friends have worked at GSN.
Indeed, one of them used to be the CEO of the network.

This week, Jeff is writing promos for The American Bible Challenge.

I know what you're thinking,

"Wait a minute, they've turned the written word of the Lord, the host of hosts, the Great Almighty, into a game show!!! How can I get in on this psalmic action and turn my encyclopedic knowledge of the testaments into a new front-loading washer and dryer?"

This has got to be a challenging assignment for Jeff.

For one thing, he's a cynical Bar Mitzvah boy like myself. Meaning he's only familiar with half the material. And even that half is sketchy considering that material is written in Hebrew.

Fortunately, like myself, he also has two kids attending a Catholic School....er, correction Christian School, so there's not as much guilt. Or Christ-eating. The point is, he has his own
built-in research department sitting right there at the dinner table.

I haven't watched the show. And I don't suggest you watch it either.

You see if 38 people reading this blog decide to tune in, that would qualify as a huge ratings spike at GSN. If that happens, then they won't need anymore promos. And if that happens Jeff will be back on the street.

And I don't want to compete against him for Al Jazeera's new game show, "Name that Hadith."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If I were King of the Forest

Like everybody else in the country, I filed my tax returns last week. Unlike most people in the country however, I file as a freelancer.

Technically, I'm self-employed and the owner of my own company, a fictional organization called Rich Siegel Worldwide.

The truth is I do direct-to-client work very rarely and mostly serve as a hired gun to many different ad agencies. The other truth is I will never be the owner or sole proprietor or even CEO of my own company.

There are many reasons for that, principally because I'm not very adept at schmoozing clients. Nor am I able to work up a shit-eating grin when they make bonehead remarks. These are my flaws and demons and I have come to accept them.

Nevertheless, on occasion, I will picture myself as the man at the top of some imaginary org. chart and wonder how I would do things differently at my ad agency. In other words, I wonder what it would say in my owner's manual.

Rule #1. At the end of every year, every employee gets a raise and a bonus. It doesn't have to be equal, it just has to be fair. It's a little something called incentive. Without it an agency cannot move forward. If we can't afford a raise and a bonus for everyone, then no one gets one. Including me.

Rule #2. The doors open at 9:00 AM and they close at 7:30 PM. And they stay closed on the weekends. That's a little more than 50 hours a week. Nobody should spend more than 50 hours a week thinking about advertising. Employees who have balanced lives also have better ideas. And better attitudes. And most importantly, better feelings towards me.

Rule #3. If we pitch a piece a business and we win, everybody gets a taste. If you'll excuse the simplistic baseball analogy. When the Yankees win a pennant or a divisional championship or even a World Series, they don't gallop into a locker room and hand out Dom Perignon to Jeter, Petite and Cano, or just those who batted in some key RBI's. They roll out the Korbel and everybody partakes. That's what winning new business is about. There is no "Fuck you, you didn't work on the pitch" in TEAM.

Rule #4. Once a month there will be Mailroom Clerk Appreciation Day. Inside every mailroom clerk there is a CEO just waiting to blossom. I'm not saying that just because I was a former Mailroom clerk. OK, yes I am. But let's face it, they, and lowly account coordinators, and executive assistants, are the people who do the heavy lifting of an ad agency. And in fact,  most organizations. Their work is rarely recognized. But should be, because these are the people, not some hot-snot ArtCenter graduate with a stingy-brim Fedora, who will rise through the ranks and be in a position to return the love someday.

Rule #5. No smelly people. If you smoke excessively or have halitosis or do not bathe regularly, you can expect a visit from HR. We will tolerate all manner of eccentric behavior at Rich Siegel Worldwide, but if you smell like a baby needing a diaper change you will be sent home. And eventually replaced by someone who has the good sense not to offend my oversized nose.

I'm sure there are 100 more rules I could commit to paper but I suspect if I pursue this any further I will just be providing more evidence of my business naiveté. No organization, particularly an ad agency, could live up to these ideals.

But if an agency were to subscribe to an owner's manual like this, or even give lip service to it, they'd never have to spend another dime for recruitment.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reading is Fundamental

I would like to bitch slap Holden Caulfield.

I know, I know, weeks ago I made a promise not to use any real names on this blog following a post that was meant to poke fun at copywriting and not at any one particular copywriter.

But, those of you with a GED or a high school diploma will recognize Holden Caulfield as the fictional protagonist in J.D. Salinger's class, The Catcher in the Rye.

You see, after a blistering start to 2013 and the exhaustive Honda review, work has slowed down a bit. Which is fine since I've been going at a non-stop pace for so long. So I decided to do something about my festering illiteracy. By rereading classics I know I had no appreciation for in high school.

As someone employed in the business of words and language, I thought time and age would give me a better perspective on masterful writing. Boy was I wrong.

Or in the vernacular of Mr. Caulfield, "I swear to God you'd hate this book. It's all full of crap. And crap."

That's what the book is. It's 277 pages of this whiny, slacker prep-school dropout going on a two day bender of underage drinking and ragging on everything from actors to girls to the way people sit on the subway.

I kept waiting for something good to happen and then something good finally happened. I got to the end.

They say a good book is supposed to linger with you. And The Catcher in the Rye certainly did. It left me with the lingering thought of, "Why was this considered such a classic?"

Of course, not all my scorn is reserved for Salinger. Prior to dragging my ass through that, I recently muscled my way through Hemingway's, The Sun Also Rises.

Another classic, another colossal bore.

Here's a writer that is famous for his short sentences and a terse minimalist style. In fact, he once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, "I try to put the shit in the wastebasket."

Really? Because the pointless tale of Jake Barnes and his aimless friends of the Lost Generation seemed labored and bloated. I will admit that the first third of the book was interesting, mostly because it took place in Paris and I was just there 4 months ago.

As it turns out, the bar where Hemingway drank, the Select Cafe, was only a block and a half away from our hotel. Had I read the book prior to our trip I might have stopped in to see where the magic happened. Then again, having been bored out of my skull, I probably would have passed.

I know all this is literary heresy but at this writing, the classics are batting 0 for 2. But I'm not giving up on my Quixotic quest for basic high school literacy. Next up is Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which is conveniently sitting on my daughter's desktop.

I just can't get started reading it until she's done taking her final.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kim Jung Fun

A Friday posting?

I never do a Friday posting. But I'm determined to beat last month's web traffic record.

I've started a homemade Tunblr.

Enjoy http://kimjungfun.tumblr.com.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Interview with Rich Siegel

If you read roundseventeen with any kind of regularity you know I have a low tolerance for stupidity.

And pretentiousness.
And people who take things so seriously.
So you can imagine how I feel about idiotic posers who drink their own KoolAid.

And yet these are the folks who are always popping up on panels, on podiums or on the back page of a trade magazine in the world's cheapest form of journalism, the interview.

I'm sure you've seen them.

Some hotshot creative will come up with a viral film or a cool commercial, something to become the Flavor of the Month. And then some industry jag-off will hunt them down for  250 words of life wisdom. Tossing them inane, non-sequiter questions that just beg for witty retorts. But more often produce lame ass responses that are trying way too hard.

I don't get asked to do a lot of interviews. Not only because as a freelancer I don't get to produce a great deal of work. But also because I'm not good interviewee material.

REPORTER: We live in an age of smartphones, tablets, mini-tablets, killer apps., etc. If you were stuck on a remote deserted island what would be the one gadget you'd bring along with you?

RS: I'd bring a boat.

REPORTER: Music is such an influential part of our lives. Is there a band or a particular album that changed the direction of your life and how?

RS: I want to say Led Zeppelin IV and the way they blended the sound of the blues with contemporary British rock, but the truth is we were getting stoned all the time and didn't really understand the lyrics, so that would be a No.

REPORTER: Last week we spoke with a Creative Director from Weiden who was rereading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged so she would have a better understanding of Libertarianism in the context of today's shifting views on what government should and should not be doing. She was also knee deep into Sedaris' latest work which fuels her inner absurdist. If we were to check your nightstand, what would we find?

RS: You'd find a phone. A lamp that never gets used. And a plastic case of earplugs dubbed the World's Finest Natural Ear Plugs. I bought them from www.earplugsonline.com. They're nothing more than clay and I probably spent too much, but they really do the job.

REPORTER: And how about a book?

RS: No.

REPORTER: Many creative people have different techniques for getting over rough patches, when ideas are simply not flowing. Some walk in the woods, others will find a venue with live music, and one art director we recently interviewed said she likes to fast and go to Hot Bikram Yoga. What inspires you?

RS: I like to reach in the box where we keep all our mail and look at the stack of bills and mortgage payments that are due.

REPORTER: If you had not become an advertising copywriter what else would you have been?

RS: I like the notion of wealthy Arab Sheik. Gold toilets, private jets, and a harem of women. Plus, if anything goes wrong you simply blame it on the Jews.

REPORTER: What is your greatest weakness?

RS: That would have to be my short attention span.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"We are about to begin our descent"

Earlier this week there was a terrible bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As of this writing, no suspects are in custody but a "person of interest", a Saudi man, is being questioned. Which might lead one to conclude that the massacre could have been a fulfillment of holy Jihad by a misguided warrior.

After all, as I believe it says in the hadith:

"Thou shalt slay the infidel in his running shoes crafted from forbidden pigskin and deny him the water or electrolyte drinks that would replenish his Kaffir soul. God is Great. Allah Salad bar, blah, blah, blah."

But let's not jump to any politically incorrect assumptions.

This might be the handiwork of some crazed anti-government wing nut. In other words, a member of another crazy religion. Different fairy tale, same blind adherence and self-appointed monopoly on righteousness, albeit of the political stripe.

Only time and the good work of our forensic scientists will tell.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with the picture above, a picture of man inside a huge plastic bag, while seated in 29C.

Allow me to indulge in some equal opportunity religious bashing and turn this rant inwards, because this esteemed gentleman clad in a Hefty Glad Bag, is a member of my tribe. In fact, he's not just a member of the tribe, he's a Kohen, a holy man if you will, who is fulfilling the Lord's command not to be exposed to women.

As it says in the Tanach, Jedediah 17:38:

"And the Lord spoketh, saying unto thee, in all manner of travel be it by land, or sea, or Coach Economy Class, thy priestly men must separateth themselves from thy women. And remember to storeth all baggage in the overhead bin."

However, as is the case with much Jewish law, some of the rabbis have a different opinion. They claim that because the plane was flying over a cemetery, he needed to protect himself from any of the impurities emanating from the ground 37, 000 feet below.

Oh sure, that makes much more sense.

Never mind that in Israel, a sliver of a country, there are very few homes that are not within a five mile radius of a cemetery. Which means one is much more likely to be exposed to netherworld impurities via crosswinds and such, than flying 5 miles above the earth in a self-enclosed, metal tube at 600 miles per hour.

Perhaps this is why I am so leery about religion, all religion.
Or any dogmatic thinking for that matter.

The deeper you get in, the further you move away from science, facts, logic and common sense.
And in Monday morning's case in Boston, human decency.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mmmmm, scotchy, scotch, scotch

Last week, a campaign of banner ads I worked on was nominated for a Webby Award. It's not like I'm clueless about this arena, but I'm told the Webby is a very prestigious award. I guess that makes me all digital and shit.

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to add that little bit of knowledge to my online portfolio page. It also spurred me on to make some subtractions and additions. And that's when it occurred to me that a good deal of the work on my portfolio page is actually spec.

For those of you not in the biz, spec work is work that was never produced. More often than not, it's the kind of work you expect to see in a junior copywriter or junior art director's book. Not someone who has been in the business as long as I have and who is fond of calling himself Methuselah.

The truth is, I have enough produced work to fill three portfolios. But as I often counsel younger creatives, just because something has been produced doesn't make it book worthy.

In fact it's often just the opposite. If it has been produced, it means there have been compromises, concessions and a good deal of just out-and-out bending over. In other words, not book worthy.

I prefer to showcase work that hasn't been tainted by Big Data, planner-speak or committee-think. In other other words, the stuff that doesn't get produced.

For example, years ago we were pitching the Chivas Regal account. It was never going to bill a lot of money, but it was high profile and the name carried a certain cache. My partner and I, both in our thirties and both sons of scotch drinkers, made an interesting discovery. We both started to develop a taste for whiskey and, in different ways, we were becoming more and more like our fathers.

That became the springboard for our campaign.

As I might have telegraphed earlier, the campaign was rejected by Chivas Regal. They weren't particularly interested in insight. Or human truth. Or anything that didn't feature a woman in a red cocktail dress and a huge tumbler of their scotch poured over crisp, chunks of jagged ice.

My partner and I loved the rejected campaign (5 additional print ads not seen here) that we carried it in our portfolios. 

And while Chivas Regal never saw the value of our insight, the folks at Canadian Club did. 

Because a few years later, they ran an entire campaign built around the same concept of "the whiskey your dad drank." Moreover, that campaign went on to win all kinds of industry praise and shiny ad awards. Awards that should be in my garage, gathering dust in a box next to my camping gear. 

This phenomena happens everyday, not just in advertising, but in TV, film, music, the arts and literature. Any where creative people are seeking the approval and financial go-ahead from non-creative people.

The bottom line is, clients get to decide what goes on the air, what gets in the magazine, and what shows up on the Internet. But I get to decide what goes in the portfolio.

Monday, April 15, 2013

College Marketing 101

You can gauge where you're at in life largely by what's in your mailbox.

For instance, when my two daughters were born, we started getting catalogues from Toy R Us.

Five years later our mailbox was stuffed with invitations to birthday parties. Yeah, that's what I want to do during the NFL Playoffs, spend a Sunday afternoon eating cake and cookies with a bunch of spoiled toddlers.

Then it was the bar/bat mitzvah circuit. And because I have two daughters who are also Irish twins, born only 17 months apart, this period of time seemed to last longer than the wandering in the desert. I've seen that Torah coming in and out of that ark more often than Lindsey Lohan entering a rehab center.

And now we're in the college preparation stage of life.

The big schools like UCLA, Notre Dame, Boston College, and such, don't send out recruitment brochures. The competition to get into those schools is so high, they don't have to. Either that, or my kids aren't as bright as I think they are. The point is, we don't see a lot of recruiting material from those institutions.

As a result, the Tier Two, Tier Three and Tier Four schools must actively seek out students who want to pursue a higher education. Witness the four color trifold brochure we just received from Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa (where one of the newsworthy attractions is a large painted rock).

I've never pretended to be an art director but I know bad art direction when I see it.

I'd like to see the other cover options pinned to the wall before the communications professional in the Grand View Administration chose this one. Three different typefaces. Crappy photography. And nearly half the image is buried under some childish doodles.

Let's take a look at that black and white photo. And we'll ignore the fact that it has a certain Shindler's List quality about it.

Who is this skeezy older guy leering at the girl (?) in the red shirt? His fidgeting hands tell me he is less interested in teaching her about the works of Longfellow and more interested in bringing her back to his rented apartment to show her his collection of "photography".

The brochure also details many of the exciting 38 majors available at Grand View University, including Church Music, Sports Management, Organizational Leadership and Pre-Med. Tempting as all that sounds, my daughter will not be attending your esteemed, and surprisingly, accredited, university.

Also, if your surgeon did his or her undergraduate work at Grand View, you might just want to hold onto that tumor.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Radio Daze

The radio spot is dying.

Many claim it has everything to do with the Internet and the fracturing of media spending. That couldn't be further from the truth. The reason no one listens to radio spots anymore is right in front of your nose. On the steering wheel of your car. It's that little button that allows you to jump to the next preset with the same cognitive effort it takes to breath in and breath out.

Detroit/Japan killed the radio commercial. And I, for one, am sad to see it go.

You see, unlike many copywriters who might be intimidated by the medium, I actually look forward to radio assignments.

Two years ago, we did a set of radio spots for the Acura dealers. We thought it'd be fun to record the spots during a test drive. So we loaded up the equipment, hopped in a TL, and strapped a microphone to the talent, who knew how to improvise. We recorded everything, flubs and all.

And recently I found out the spots won some local radio awards.

Of course, you don't come to roundseventeen to hear happy stories, you want misery. Fortunately, like the vault at the Olde-Time Mercury Radio theater, there's plenty in stock.

Back in 2005, as I was just beginning my life as a freelancer, I was hired by a now-defunct agency to write and produce some radio commercials for Chevy's Mexican restaurant. After submitting 5-6 full campaigns the client agreed to one approach I thought showed some promise.

After a week of casting and rewrites I found myself at a local recording studio ready to "lay down some tracks" as we used to say. But it would not be all that simple. The client, in their wisdom, decided to send a "Brand Manager", who had never witnessed a radio recording in her life, to "supervise" the production.

As you can imagine, bad went to worse very quickly.

"Can the talent read that with more energy?"

"The talent needs to have more smile in her voice."

"She still needs more energy."

That was before she saw me using the red intercom button to communicate with the voiceover artist in the booth.

Before long she had her thumb pressed on the button and was barking out line readings into the microphone.

This went on for a couple of hours until finally I had to excuse myself from the studio to go to the bathroom. When I returned, the client was actually in the booth coaching the talent.

The result was a hot mess. And a week later, after the Creative Director had successfully intervened, we were back in the studio for a complete do-over. This time, without the client.

Not a great spot by any means. But it's not embarrassing either.

By the way, that's me cackling at the very end. I also whispered some choice Spanish names for the ill-advised Brand Manager, but you'd need ultra-sensitive headphones to hear it. And that equipment is only available to the FBI and select members of the CIA.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Excuse me, sir...

Last week my erudite blogging doppelganger, George Tannenbaum, told a familiar story about living in the Big Apple. He was on the early morning train to work and the subway, one of the more decrepit lines, was fairly packed.

George spotted an older gentlemen hanging on to the straps and did what nice Jewish boys always do.

He approached the frail looking man and gently offered up his seat.

"Would you like to sit down, sir?"

The old man looked over George, a man two decades his junior, and said, "What do I look like a fucking invalid?"

Hearing these kind of stories make me homesick.

I don't miss the filth of NY. Or the crappy weather. Or the way every minor task can become a major battle against the elements, the logistics and the specialness that is Gotham. But I sure do miss the people and the colorful dialogue that swirls around the city 24/7.

In fact, years ago I had an idea for a book. It would be a collection of bite-size stories about NYC. Each story would be no longer than 150 words, the number of words one can record in a 60 second radio commercial. And the book was to be entitled, In A New York Minute.

A good idea except I don't live there anymore and hardly have enough material. And these are not the kind of stories you can make up. Their worth is derived from the fact that they actually happened.

Like the time I was in Manhattan on a job finding mission. This was when portfolios lived not online but in big, heavy leather cases. I was working my way up 9th Avenue -- I know, what self-respecting ad agency situates themselves on 9th Avenue? -- and couldn't locate an address I had scribbled on a scrap of paper.

Hell's Kitchen is not an area where you want to look like a lost tourist. Or anyone carrying something of value. So after aiming around, fruitlessly, for about 45 minutes I came upon what I took to be a soft spoken old man donning an expensive looking black overcoat.

"Excuse me sir, do you know where I might find this address?", I said and slipped him the scrap of paper.

He put on his old man reading glasses, looked at the address, put the mental picture together in his head and replied, "I think it's down two blocks, make a left and it's the first building on the right."

In addition to looking very distinguished, he was about as gentle and helpful as a stranger can be.

Then, seeking a little affirmation, I held out the scrap of paper one more time and said, "Are you sure?"

He squinted at first, almost as if he didn't hear my question.

And then he snapped, like a frothing Rotweiler...

"What am I Rand-Fucking-McNally?"

In the 30 plus years I have lived in Los Angeles, a city brimming with aspiring thespians, no one, not one, has ever delivered a line with such stinging perfection.

No one.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Putting King of Scotland

On Thursday, the Masters Tournament begins, which makes this an excellent time to talk about golf. Well, golf and advertising.

Last week, I stumbled across a youtube video that deserves sharing. Not only because it was conceived, written and directed by my friend Mark Fenske, but because it speaks to the silly times we live in.

Let me back the golf cart up a bit and explain.

In 1999, at the British Open, one of golf's storied majors, Jean Van De Velde, a Frenchmen, was heading into the 18th hole with a 3 shot lead. The Claret Jug was all but his. That is until he clinked one into Carnoustie's famous Barry Berm, duffed another shot, and penciled in a 7 for the hole.

It was a crushing defeat.

And in an interview afterwards, he was quoted as saying, "I could have played that entire 18th hole with my putter and won the championship."

So Mark, being the inventive thinker that he is, took Van Der Velde up on his rhetorical remark. He took the proposal to Odyssey, makers of the Never Compromise Putter, and secured an agreement and the necessary funding to make an infomercial.

Which I have conveniently uploaded for your viewing pleasure.

I remember when I first saw this and thought this was the future of advertising. It was entertaining. And it was informative, that is, it did a fine job selling the product. Of course it helped that Mark had a self-deprecating Frenchman as its star. A dramatic setting in Scotland. And an interesting proposition that commanded the attention of the golf world.

None of which should marginalize the achievement. This was, and still is, a remarkable breakthrough in the way advertising can be done. In fact, I don't know how many times I have proposed taking on a similar approach for cars, a television manufacturer, even a financial services organization.

They all looked at me like I had been smoking the haggis.

You see, instead of making compelling stories that people want to watch and enjoy, advertisers today are looking  to incubate, incentivize and whiteboard best-of-breed applications and sticky, vertical brand synergies.

And why wouldn't they?
That's exactly what their competitors are doing.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rest in leaves

I don't think we give enough thought to our final resting place.

We leave that gruesome business to our loved ones. Who end up spending way too much money on a mahogany coffin with pearl handrails. And then stick you in the ground next to the kind of people who are always sending the soup back at a deli. Or talk too loud on their cell phones, while sitting inside a Starbucks.

The kind of people, if you'll pardon the expression, you wouldn't be caught dead with.

Well, eternity is a long time. Longer than a Monday morning status meeting. So I'm going to think this thing through.

And I'm pretty sure I've come up with the ideal solution. That is, the people at Bios Urn have.

They have given birth to the new notion of sustainability. With one of those simple ideas that leaves you facepalming yourself and wondering, "Why didn't I think of that?" Of course, even if I had I probably wouldn't have done anything about it, as I have the entrepreneurial skills of a common garden slug. Years ago, my wife and I talked about opening a blintz store, a unique boutique that exclusively sold blintzes.

OK, I talked about it. My wife just laughed.

Back to the Bios Urn. According to the press release it's a biodegradable urn, made from coconut shell, compacted peat, cellulose and the seed of a tree (your choice). Your remains are placed in the urn, planted in the soil. The seed germinates and you have effectively been reborn.

As a tree.

It doesn't get any better than that. Particularly for an atheist like myself.

Frankly the idea of being a tree -- buried in Upper Grey's Meadow off Rt. 395, as pictured above -- is much more preferable to the other afterlife possibilities.

If it's heaven, I don't relish spending the rest of my days in a white robe. I'm not a robe guy. And with me, white never stays white, especially if there's tomato soup or enchiladas in the vicinity.

And hell, I don't want to got hell.
I tend to schvitz the minute the temperature goes above 75.

Look for me 100 years from now, I'll be the sprawling eucalyptus on the hill looking up towards Kearsage Pass. And please don't let your dog pee on my trunk.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Measure twice, cut once

Perhaps it's only coincidental, but 4 days after the world celebrated Easter, we are witnessing the rise of another Jewish carpenter who is bringing love and hope to the weak and impoverished.

I'm talking about my daughter, who is now deep in the bayou country of Louisiana, along with 30 of her classmates, doing a Habitat for Humanity project. Word has it they are putting up scaffolding and beginning to frame out a new triplex that will house 3 families.

Naturally I couldn't be prouder. Or more skeptical. You see I have a hard time picturing my daughter with a Skillsaw in hand. She barely knows how to use a knife to scoop the rice onto her fork.

That's not say she doesn't have the genetic aptitude for carpentry, she does.

I happen to be unusually handy. For a Jew. Last week, for instance, I successfully mounted and installed this concave mirror near our driveway so that my wife could have a better view of oncoming traffic.

Which in no way compares to my father, who at one time designed and built a redwood sauna adjacent to the master bedroom. It looked a lot like this.

I'm not sure he ever used the sauna. He just liked being able to tell people he had one.

My daughter will be leaving New Orleans and coming home in a few days. I doubt they will have completed the house by then. Judging from the InstaGram pictures there's a lot more giggling and posing go on than any actual hammering and nailing.

But at least they'll get the foundation in.

And if my 17 year old daughter is willing to give up a week of her spring break to help other people, well then I like to think my wife and I have done a good job with her foundation.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You'll think the world of Daihatsu

Right now I am in palate-cleansing mode.

For the first time, in more than three years, I am not writing commercials for cars. I'm not waxing poetic about Blind Side Warning Systems. Or babbling on about cupholders that redefine the very notion of luxury. And as anyone who has worked on cars can tell you, the break is refreshing. It has been a long steady diet of Acura, Honda, Toyota, Infiniti, Chevrolet and some new car company in Bosnia that is still trying to raise venture capital.

This makes working on my current assignment, a series of cable and network promos, so much easier. And it gives me a chance to exercise some writing muscles that were nearing atrophy.

It also gave me an opportunity to reflect on the many car brands I have worked on since starting in the business. With the exception of Isuzu and Yugo, you'd be hard pressed to name a brand I have not had contact with.

Which brings to mind the Daihatsu Charade and my very first car commercial. Charade was a very apt name, as it was a 3-cylinder lawn mower pretending to be a compact car. I have scoured youtube and the entire Internet looking for a copy of that old commercial. Because frankly, as I have demonstrated before, there is nothing I enjoy more than ridiculing my own work.

I like to think that I have a black belt in self-deprecation.

But alas, that search has come up empty-handed. You'll just have to take my word on it, it was bad. How bad, you might ask. The same puppet masters at Daihatsu who had their hands up our butts, were also responsible for this Mickey Rourke oeuvre:

And what's most amazing about this spot, and thousands like it, is that it was tortuously picked over by seasoned communications professionals.

And recontorted every which way from Sunday, until some visionary CMO looked at it and said, "Perfect."

"Have a nice life."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

To wit, Twitter

I have come 180 degrees on Twitter.

In the past, I have poo-poo'ed it as the social media of the millennials. 140 characters for a generation whose thoughts barely merit 100.

I saw it as a fad that would soon go the way of Myspace, Plaxo, and FourSquare. By the way, please stop sending me FourSquare requests. You want to know where I am? I'm at my computer. I'm working, here.

But that was before. This is now.

I have evolved on the topic of Twitter. And come to see it as an important tool for spreading the gospel of roundseventeen.

Last month, March 2013, I saw the highest amount of web traffic since I started this blog. More precisely, 8,156 page views. I know in the past I've said I don't write this blog for anyone but myself, but the truth is I find myself looking at the analytics. And like any baseball player I like to see my batting average improve. And it has.

Because of Twitter.
More specifically, the Tweets from Trott.
Dave Trott, that is.

Dave lives in England. He is the Executive Creative Director of The Gate. He has also founded several agencies including GGT and Bainsfair Sharkey Trott. Somehow Dave stumbled onto this blog and in his words became a "regular reader." Unlike you however, Dave will occasionally go to the trouble of tweeting about entries he finds amusing.

And when Dave Trott tweets traffic trends towards...er...I have run out out of alliterations...let's just say good things happen. His tweets become favorited. And then they get retweeted. And then, thanks to the exponential power of Twitter a whole new crowd is exposed to roundseventeen.

Of course they never return again. And why would they, when the Internet has so many more amusing distractions that do not require more than 15 seconds of their time. Like this:

I owe Dave a thank you for sending readers this way. I'm hoping he'll tweet about this entry because if I'm going to top the 8,156 hits I had last month, I'm going to need to start this month with a few home runs.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mumbai Calling

Several months ago, before the craziness of RPA's defense of the Honda account, I received a phone call from Sushil Banka, a partner at Eggfirst Advertising in Mumbai. He is a very pleasant man who speaks perfect English and is quite fluent in the language of American advertising.

That is, he knows good work and the names of the agencies, and the people, who did it.

One of his current clients is Tata Motors, who now own Jaguar automobiles. In viewing the historical reel of past Jaguar advertising, Suhil discovered the London Calling Sales Event. He also noticed that I was listed as the Creative Director on the credits, this despite the fact that the concept was sold to Jaguar before I had even started at Y&R.

Suhil was not interested in the details. Nor did he care. He wanted to speak to the mastermind behind what he called, "this advertising masterpiece."

And so began the courtship across the international dateline that included emails, numerous skypes and a whirlwind 3-day stay at the Leela Mumbai Hotel -- they need to back off on the starch with the bedsheets.

To make a long story short, something I've rarely done on this blog, we are packing our bags and trying to figure out how to fly the dog 8,000 miles across the globe.

Am I nervous? Of course I'm nervous.

But I'm also excited. It's a whole new adventure. I'm going to be swimming in rupees. And I love Indian food. Particularly Indian beer and it's extremely high alcohol content.

Naturally, this means an end to roundseventeen. I didn't think it would end this way, but life is funny that way.  I want to thank you for your support, your readership and the many, many emails telling me how much you have enjoyed reading my musings.

For any of you might be interested, I will report on my progress via Facebook. My official start day in India will be June 3rd. Which for you will be June 2nd.

It's always important to know what day it is.