Tuesday, March 31, 2015
As some of you may recall, I have a funny way about going about my duties here at RoundSeventeen.
I normally write the entire week's entries all on Saturday morning. I occasionally revisit the posts during the week for touch up and to check for typos -- I should probably spend more time on that endeavor -- but my routine rarely changes.
This Saturday morning is a little difficult, as last night my wife and I and some friends made our first ever visit to Dear Johns in Culver City. I'm sure we drank all their whiskey and I am clearly the worse for the experience. However Dear Johns was always on our bucket list and now we can cross it off.
A longwinded way of introducing an idea for a theme-based week that I had earlier in the year.
I would be a tourist in my own home town, visiting sites and venues that somehow I had never managed to see.
It's embarrassing but, for instance, I have never been to the Griffith Observatory. Never. And I like planetariums.
Like every other kid growing up in NYC, I spent countless hours at the Hayden. I'm almost certain these field trips were nothing more an excuse for the teachers to hand the kids off to a planetarium tour guide so they could get a break, go shoe shopping or smoke cigarettes in Central Park.
My wife and daughters have been to the Griffith. I have not.
Nor have I ever been to the Greek Theater. This may not be all that surprising as I am a confirmed misanthrope and generally avoid large crowds of people. Plus, I have a hard time reconciling two hours of entertainment with one hour of driving hell getting into a parking lot. And another tortuous hour and a half getting out.
I've driven by it thousands of times, but I've never been inside the Hotel California, more accurately the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset.
This seminal Eagles album was nothing less than the soundtrack of my youth. You couldn't get off the elevator in my college dorm without hearing it. And yet, I've never bothered to turn off Sunset and meander through its lush hallways.
My father, a schnorer, must be spinning in his grave. He made it a habit of visiting five star hotels, stripping down to his trunks and swimming in their fancy-schmancy pools. Once, he took us to the tony Kutsher's Hotel in the Catskills. He told us to act like we belonged there. Until one of the pool boys got curious about our unbranded towels.
"Sir, are you a guest at this hotel?"
"Absolutely. We're in room 428."
"Uh sir, we don't have a room 428. You and your family will have to leave."
That was a walk of shame I'll never forget.
I've never eaten at Pinks.
I've never been to the Getty Museum.
I've never hiked up to the Hollywood Sign.
And never been to Disneyland.
Oh wait, I have been to Disneyland, I'm just trying to block it from my memory. We waited 94 minutes in line for Thunder Mountain and when it was our turn to escape the searing Santa Ana winds and relentless heat, the roller coaster broke down.
The Crappiest Place on Earth.
But, as I mentioned earlier, I didn't get to visit these must-see sites. Mostly because I've been extremely busy this year, quite possibly the busiest year in my dozen as a freelancer. The staycation will have to wait.
Not only do I have two more posts to write this morning. I've got to gear up for my afternoon assignment, the fine folks at Collins Colostomy Bags, "Doing your do-do right since 1937" want to exploit this new social media thing and have requested a brand engagement unit.
It's going to be a long afternoon.
I don't think I have enough aspirin.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Every year Business Insider puts out a list of the 37 Wealthiest People in Advertising.
Some years, it's 35.
Others, it's 38.
The number doesn't matter, the obscene truckloads of cash is what matters.
Lately, I've noticed some PR-leery big wigs are shying away from the list and choosing not to lay their cocks on the table top for all the world to see. Maybe it occurred to these tone-deaf fat cats that some Assistant Account Executive who hasn't had a raise or seen a Christmas bonus in 7 years might be reading about their piggish salaries and start asking questions.
I know I have questions.
Namely, what the fuck do these people do?
I've been in this business for 30 years. But Rich, you're 44, did you skip 10th grade and go directly into copywriting? Let's not get bogged down by arithmetic and the gyrations of the sun and Earth.
The point is, I know how an ad agency works.
There are many moving parts. The Creative Department, the Account Management Department, the Broadcast Production Department, the Operations people and of course, the always expanding, always shape shifting Media Department.
I also have a general idea of how the departments interact with each other to gestate campaigns, bring them to the unsuspecting public and steward a brand towards mediocrity.
What I don't understand are the people who have escaped the trenches, who no longer deal with the day-to-day insanity and haven't sat in a status meeting since 1998. These are the people on the Business Insider List. They have long titles that usually include one or more of the following words:
I know this is where those titles get generated.
I know how much money they're making in terms of salary, stock options and various "performance" - based bonuses.
I know where they sit on the plane, regardless if the flight is less than 6 hours and does not cross international borders.
I know their yachts.
Their favorite Rose.
And the opulent hotels they stay at while in Cannes.
I also know these are not the people fielding phone calls from angry clients because the car in the commercial was Jet Black and not Onyx Black.
Or lugging foam core boards to the 7 AM pitch in Cincinatti for the prestigious Southern Ohio Hardee's Franchisees.
Or sitting in on a focus group, eating wet tuna fish sandwiches while watching a group of over-animated Houston housewives decimate six, long, hard fought, weekend-less months of creative development.
I know so much about these folks.
What I don't know and what I'd still like to know is…
...what the fuck do these people do?
Thursday, March 26, 2015
You may recall a few days ago I put out the word that I was looking for my 100th follower on RoundSeventeen. It seemed to me that after 6 years of bludgeoning myself and my 96 faithful followers that I deserved to be in the esteemed triple digit club.
And unlike past reader participation events, you responded. Spiking my membership level all the way to 100.
I had promised to do a follow up post dedicated to the lucky reader who helped us cross that magical threshold. Today I am following through on that promise.
Because I have built an entire career based on integrity. Well, you know, as much integrity as a copywriter who deals with weasel words, misdirection and selling people shit they don't need, can possibly muster.
Sadly, blogger.com does not tell me which new member put us over the mark, so I have chosen a member at random.
That's right, 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA--, today is your lucky day.
Though I'm told otherwise, RoundSeventeen doesn't get a lot of exposure. People who come here are mostly friends, family and colleagues. And the occasional high school alumni who no doubt sees this blog and thinks:
"Wow, I thought Siegel was going to make something of himself. What a waste."
Not surprisingly, 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA-- is one of those colleagues.
He and I came up through the ranks together. I'll never forget when we both would write race win ads. Or small space newspaper ads. Or even participate in gang bangs -- that's industry nomenclature for those who might be wondering.
Sometimes I would prevail, other times I wouldn't.
Though good natured about it, 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA-- would never pass up an opportunity to rub it in.
"What did the Creative Director say? Oh yeah. Hey, good work Siegel but we're going with 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA--'s campaign. You could learn a lot from 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA-- and maybe spend less time playing pool and more time trying to come up with work as good as 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA--."
We went our separate ways.
And 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA-- met an art director in NY, LMH562/Q@%FYoqah89RT.
They hitched up and bought a condo in Yonkers of all places. The condo was in a part of town earmarked for redevelopment and the city paid 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA-- three times as much as the original sales price.
So 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA-- and his wife LMH562/Q@%FYoqah89RT, got out of the ad business and opened up retail store, The Brisket Emporium, where you can purchase home cooked brisket. Bubby's, prepared in traditional Jewish style and perfect for High Holidays, Passover or even Shiva. And Bubba's, authentic Texas style brisket.
81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpAand his wife LMH562/Q@%FYoqah89RT are doing extremely well. They have two kids. I can't remember their names. And they're set to open another store.
I couldn't be happier for 81Z18QM91eoVWZ5YCv1Xliv133WCn_yBsZ7PpA.
Welcome to the R17 fold.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Last week I got an email from an unknown admirer on linked in.com. A fellow ad professional who told me, in glowing terms, how much he had enjoyed my prodigious postings of Kim Jung Un photos and my fictional, sometimes funny, captions.
Lately, the tumblr blog that I maintain has been a hotbed of activity. Picking up new followers by the boatload. Sadly none of them have any media connections and can do me any good.
Just out of curiosity I went back to the archive and noticed I have been relentlessly poking at the Pudgy One since April 2013.
Do the math.
That's close to two years.
Holy crap I thought, I gotta get a life.
But then I had a different thought.
This is my life.
I love the idea of finding these strange photos, slapping on a few choice words and sending it out over the ether knowing that it provokes a giggle, a laugh or even, if I'm lucky and having a really good day, a spit take of coffee over an unguarded keyboard.
You'd be surprised how little effort it takes. The pictures come from the official mouthpiece of the DPRK. And if the caption doesn't materialize in 5 minutes, I usually discard it and move on to another photo.
I doubt anything will come of the collection, though I'd like to turn the entire collection into a book. But I do subscribe to the notion that "good luck favors those who put in the hard work."
Or even the flippant, meaningless work.
Besides, it keeps my name out there and on the radar of agency recruiters. And junior copywriters who must be thinking, "this old man is off his rocker."
Then again, it's not as if the venture hasn't produced some dividends.
Because now that I'm on Tumblr and I have close to a thousand followers and I have access to their newsfeeds, which tend to be far more eclectic and interesting than my newsfeeds on Twitter or Facebook.
"Had a great chicken asada burrito while in Austin last week at SXSW. Zzzzzzzzz…"
There's Japanese Manga.
Teenage girl angst.
White supremacist propaganda.
And lots of GIFS.
Tumblr is awash is GIFS. Most not worth watching. But occasionally there will be a share worthy diamond in the rough.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
If I had a second shot at my life in advertising, I probably would have done a few things different.
One of my regrets is that I never became an Executive Creative Director or a Chief Creative Officer. I know I would have liked the opportunity to helm all the creative decisions and left my own imprint on the business. I like to naively think that no "shit" would have made it out the door.
But that day will never happen as I have become a victim of my own hard-headedness and my self-evident tendency towards bloviation.
Instead of speaking my mind, I should have, as Lee Clow once told me, learned the art of listening. In fact, if you were to question Lee, he would tell you that his success stems from the ability to listen.
It's that simple. (More on that at a later date)
In short, there are no second shots.
And now, at 44, you could argue that my career record needle is fast approaching the paper label in the center of the album. That has its own benefits. For instance, I can speak freely on unpleasant events and unpleasant people (without names of course) with little or no fear of retribution.
About twenty years ago, John Shirley and I were asked to head up the pitch for the new Universal Studios Islands of Adventure Amusement Park in Orlando. The business was worth $100 million and the agency was willing to jump through hoops to please the pitch consultant, a monumentally noxious man who made a habit of talking with his mouth full.
He insisted any agency team working on this mammoth piece of business have a first hand view of the park. Not unreasonable. Except at the time, the park had not been built yet. And it was August. And it was in Orlando. Orlando, Florida.
In other words, it was memorably hot.
For three days, in searing T-shirt soaking humidity, we walked around a 150 acre empty lot and looked at steel I-beams, scaffolding and empty pits. The torture punctuated by our over-zealous, mealy mouth host.
"Over here is going to be the Superman Roller Coaster, which will soar 450 feet onto the air and give riders an excellent view of the Hulk Roller Coaster which will be built in that pit, once they figure out the drainage situation."
Did I mention that guided tour was often delivered while our host was scarfing down croissants, hot dogs, pizza, falafel and baba ghanoush. This man had an insatiable appetite.
If I ate like him, I'd look like me.
When the useless walking tour of the construction site was over, we were treated to a 3 hour briefing. Making matters even worse, the agency we were pitching against was also in the large conference room. When we weren't sizing up the competition we had to listen to Marathon Man and his mammoth sized ego drone on about roller coasters.
At the conclusion, my partner John Shirley did one of the funniest things I had ever witnessed. He turned to the competing agency.
"If you're thinking about a campaign where people stand up in their seats and scream at the top of their lungs as the roller coaster free falls, don't. Because we already have that story boarded up."
Because we were Chiat/Day and would never resort to such overworked cliched amusement park advertising.
The other agency had no such compunction.
They pitched an entire campaign of people riding coasters, waving their arms and screaming at the top of their lungs.
They won the business.
Monday, March 23, 2015
There are times when I feel obliged to give something back to advertising, an industry that has given me so little.
Last week was one of those times.
I don't remember (which is not all surprising these days) who had asked me to sit on a panel at Santa Monica High School's Career Day, but for some unknown reason they did. Conveniently ignoring the fact that technically, as a Freelancer, I am Unemployed.
Have been unemployed for close to a dozen years.
Nevertheless, if someone was going to giving me my own souvenir name badge, a snazzy lanyard and my own Vikings-emblazed sippy cup, who was I turn down such swag?
My initial inclination was to ironically show up for Career Day sporting a T-shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops. To show these kids that you could make a decent living in the business world in attire that was very un-businesslike. My wife dissuaded me of this notion. And I slapped on some monkey clothes.
However, upon my arrival I was greeted my buddy, Paul, who is an English teacher at Samohi. He was wearing a t-shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops.
As I pushed my way through the crowded hallways, before the 3rd period panel, I was naturally reminded of my own days in high school -- a messy collage of good times, bad times, laughter, sadness, adolescent confusion, drug experimentation, and enough unused testosterone to fuel two penises.
In other words, typical.
I mention this because as I looked over the 30-40 kids in the room, I spotted the same neuroses.
Sadly, my fellow panelists did not. Their understanding of what a Career Day at a High School is, differed greatly than mine.
The woman seated next to me, a branding, PR consultant officer with multiple degrees in finance and marketing, took the time to prepare a robust powerpoint presentation. Fortunately, the hour time limit prevented her from abusing us all with that little gem. But she was able to monopolize the discussion and when it came time to inspire these kids, she never failed to fail.
"Has anybody here ever heard of Metric Analytics? Well, I've done a little research on your behalf and you'll be happy to know that in the next 10 years there will be 1.5 million excellent jobs in the field of Metric Analytics."
Are you kidding me?
When I was able to wedge in a word I made sure to give them the flip side to her enticing tales of Big Data, Bell Curves and Pie Charts.
I told them how much fun it was to travel in Business Class, stay in fancy hotels, and raid the mini-bar starting with the $12 Toblerone Chocolates and working your way through the Jack Daniels airplane bottles all the way to the $22 jar of Deluxe Mixed Nuts.
I talked about having celebrities act out your jokes on film, playing golf on the company dime, flying in private jets and sitting in the booth next to Johnny Carson at Chaya Playa.
They'd never heard of Johnny Carson.
The point is, these were 16 year old kids. They needed to be shown some razzle dazzle. I put myself in their shoes, the same shoes I was walking in just 28 years ago. I wanted to keep it light on industry specifics and heavy on boondoggles, graft and free alcohol.
Ms. Battaan Death Powerpoint wanted to babble on about analytics, segmentation and PR Crisis Management. Oh, for christ's sake.
I could tell you the students were bored. But the best indication came at 11:34 when the bell rang. There was no applause, no thanks, no students lingering on to ask questions and maybe dig in a little further into the exciting world of emerging social media demographics. They simply swiveled around in their plastic desk/chair and bolted for their next class.
I had to get to work. So, on the way back to my car and still fuming over this colossal waste of time, I walked by the career day greeting area that had been set up for the panelists. There, and without the least bit of guilt, I helped myself to an additional blue Samohi Career Day sippy cup.
Which means some well-intentioned fireman or astronaut went home with none.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Spotted this the other day on Jackson Ave, home of the hipster-famous Jackson Market, where every tattooed douchebag and his ponytailed bro come for turkey panani's pressed on fresh baked sourdough bread.
It caught my attention, because no less than 2 weeks ago, I too had my home address stamped painted onto the curb by an enterprising young man who told me he done two tours in Iraq.
I'm pretty sure that for some, claiming to be a Vet is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Nevertheless I have a soft spot for young boys and girls who have served.
But now I feel like I've been jypped.
For ten dollars all I got were the black block numbers against a stark white background.
What I didn't get was the crowning pineapple palm tree against the setting sun dipping into the azure blue waters of the Pacific. In the world of curb-painted addresses, this is the Rolls Royce.
And I mistakenly got the Ford Taurus. Which they don't even make any more.
I understand these are minor first world problems. A petty grievance at best. Particularly for some of you readers back east.
I understand it has been a brutal winter of snow, snow and more snow. But the weather is warming up. And with any luck your curbs will be visible by early May.
If you choose to have it painted, choose wisely.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
As the tagline for RoundSeventeen suggests, I'm not big on pandering. Or kissing ass. Or showering false praise on work that is better suited for a Golden Shower.
Let's face it, vitriol and cynicism are my bread and butter.
Fortunately, I have chosen a career in advertising where the grist for the mill is supplied on a daily basis.
Sometimes even twice a day.
"We're having a check in at 11 AM. And another one at 6 PM. Please format all the work in the enclosed template."
Lately, I have been on a manifesto tear. Writing anthems and jack off corporate poetry morning, noon and night. Everything from _______ to ________, not to mention _____________. NDA's prevent me from revealing the brands who can't get enough of these chest beating odes to excellence, commitment, innovation and blah, blah, blah.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I've written a thousand of these and I'll write a thousand more if that's what it takes to make my nut and keep me out a dirty nursing home when I escape…er, exit this business.
But recently, I was brought in for an assignment that did NOT involve a manifesto.
It was like having your head held under water for three minutes plus and finally breaking through the surface for fresh air. Not only was I not asked to write a manifesto, my partner, John Figone and I were tasked with coming up with funny ideas. That's funny with a capital F.
Sadly, this does not happen often enough.
I think when Creative Directors want funny they mistakenly ask writers who sport $400 glasses or Capri pants or hipster haircuts.
In any case, my partner and I dug in. And while once again I am unable to disclose the nature of the project or the brand, we hit a goldmine of material. We mined the minutiae and before long were spitting out ideas faster than we could write them down.
We were riffing. As fluidly and effortlessly as any musician. It was one of those rare times when you think to yourself:
"This is why I got in the ad business in the first place."
Time will tell if any of these ideas survive the scrutiny of the ACD's, the CD's, the ECD's, the CCO, the CEO and of course the most critical link in the creative chain of command, the all-knowing, all-insightful junior planner -- whose scant two years in the business world has magically yielded the ability to shoot down ideas with the steely efficiency of a Messerschmidt 262.
But none of that matters. I'm finally reaching that point in my career where I can put emotional distance between myself and what's written on the page. No sale, no problem.
The point is my partner and I think it's funny. And had each other laughing from the late morning to the early evening.
Not a bad way to earn a day rate.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
I'm old enough to remember New York City before it became a haven for big box stores, chain restaurants and tourists willing to drop a mortgage payment on fancified candies.
I remember neighborhoods you don't go near.
Bars that would stay open round the clock.
And peep shows that would escort you to a world of fascinating seediness for the price of a quarter.
As suburban kids from Northern NJ and bordering Rockland County on the NY side, we made it a point to visit "the City" as often as we could.
More times than not it was a function of whose car was actually running.
When no cars were available we counted on Big Jim.
His father ran a Lawn Doctor franchise and had full use of a working Lawn Doctor van, equipped with two bucket seats in the front. And enough cargo space in the back for a couple of lawn mowers, a grass seed dispenser and 100 lbs. of fresh horse manure.
To accommodate the four of us however, we simply removed the gardening accoutrement and replaced it with two folding chaise chairs.
Not sure these would pass muster with the OSHA folks, but they also would have taken a dim view of the pony keg of beer we often had handy.
This is what you get when you grow up with a bunch of Irish guys.
Come hell or green water, we always made it into the City for St. Patrick's Day.
These were monumental drinking occasions. That often started as early as 8:00 AM on March 17th. And sometimes did not end until March 18th.
We covered the city from the north side, not exactly the north, we stayed below 125th street, to the south. From the East Side to the West Side. And we'd park that Lawn Doctor van anywhere we damn well wanted thanks to the parking sticker in the window identifying Jim's dad as an active member of the NYPD.
Everywhere we went, we marked our territory. I will never forget the look on the face of the security guard at Rockefeller Center who caught us midday, generously irrigating the bushes near the skating rink.
"What are you boys doing?"
We zipped up and ran away laughing. And we're still laughing.
But it's probably a safe bet we won't be doing that, or anything like that, today.
Monday, March 16, 2015
There was a lot of College in the air last week.
There was the much-publicized frat house at the University of Oklahoma. These khaki-pants wearing douchebags got caught with their sheets down as they gleefully chanted ditties from the KKK songbook.
And there was the less-publicized, but equally-shameful student council at UCI, who not only voted to have the United States flag banned from campus but took the time to pen a disgusting diatribe against the country that was subsidizing their higher education.
On the positive side, after considering many options from one end of the country to the other, my daughter finally made the commitment to attend the University of Colorado. She took a shine to their fashion forward black and gold school colors. And that means a lot to a 17 year old girl.
All of which had me thinking about my own collegiate years and the high jinx that ensued.
Nothing that would have made the national news, mind you. But nothing that brings me much in the way of pride either.
As a freshman, I once aided and abetted two buddies who stole a fetal pig from the University Biology Lab. It was pickled in a jar that stood a foot tall. The pig, with all its noticeable features including a tiny snout and a spirally tail, was suspended in a foul smelling orangey-brownish jelly type substance.
Stealing the pig was bad.
Nailing it to the door of a fellow student's dorm room, was worse.
Instagram wasn't around back then, otherwise I'd show you the photos. Suffice to say, I'm one of a handful of human beings walking the planet who can legitimately claim they have crucified a piglet.
After a summer of travel, I returned to Syracuse for my senior year with no housing options. I was forced to rent a room in an old Victorian Boarding House. Despite having vacant rooms throughout the house, Charles the landlord assigned me to an unfinished basement room located directly underneath the kitchen.
It was awful.
Dank, musty and noisy.
And as far as renting me a different room he wouldn't budge.
So I did what I believe most college students in that situation would do. I opened the basement window, ran the garden hose into the room and opened the spigot until an inch of water covered the ratty carpet.
"Chuck, you gotta get over here real soon. I think a pipe broke. There's water all over the place, so I had to move my stuff into one of the rooms upstairs."
As you might imagine, Chuck and I were not the best of chums. He was a tyrant of a landlord. Cheap, overbearing and invasive. He once walked in, unannounced, on one of the female co-eds in the house while she and a player from the football team were in flagrante delicto.
The house itself was old. But clean and stately. It sported an old wooden stair rail that ascended three flights. It looked something like this:
Some of the railings to the banister were already missing. On one particularly raucous night of drinking, my buddy Ted and I decided to kick out a few more of the railings. When Chuck laid eyes on the staircase, which now resembled a hockey player's mouth after a bad fight, he decided it was time to call Johnny Law.
There was little the police could do other then take pictures of the staircase for documentation purposes.
That night, under the cover of darkness, Ted and I put the bannister railings back in. And moved some others around just to fuck with Chuck -- which in effect, became my senior year master thesis.
As I mentioned earlier, none of this makes me very proud.
On the other hand, I have enough war stories from that year in the boarding house to fill a book. And in retrospect, that could be prove more valuable than my meaningless, over-priced sheepskin from Syracuse University.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Typically, at this point in the year, I would sharpen up my knives, hone my proclivity for sarcasm and skewer the corporate-sponsored, digital jizz-a-palluzza aka the yearly SXSW Festival.
Or as I like to refer to it, Burning Cash Man.
There's plenty of low hanging fruit here.
Hipsters, douchebags and impossibly prescient prophets, with one word names like Dingy, Melon, and Pazz, telling us what the industry will look like in five years.
I'd love to revisit their previous lectures from 2010 and see how many of their precious predictions came to fruition.
Because here's the thing, the shitty banner ads, rich media flash thingamajigs and obnoxious page takeovers that I hated or ignored five years ago, are just as shitty, and indeed shittier, in 2015.
And the brand conversations I was supposed to be having with Wheat Thins, Right Guard Deodorant or even PearlVision, makers of fine reading glasses since 1947, I'm still not having.
Perhaps that breakthrough Brand Engagement Unit is just around the corner.
One can only hope.
Or at the very least waste countless hours at the many forums and panels at SXSW that will be discussing these riveting issues, just as they have been since they corrupted this indie music event 19 years ago.
If I were to hop on a plane and go to Austin, I wouldn't want to miss these seminal get togethers:
Maximizing your brand's inner potential, presented by Plaxo, Foursquare and Google+
Tuesday 9:30 AM Presidential Suite at the Austin Ramada
Elf Me 14, the Return of America's favorite photo upload phenomena.
Wednesday, 10:00 AM at The Austin Comfort Inn Wedding Banquet Room
Going Long, a discussion with the industry's remaining three 45-year old copywriters
Thursday, 6:00 AM at the Austin CVS
Of course I have no plans to go to Austin. I was just there two months ago. And I loved the city.
But if I were to go, my itinerary would look a lot different.
For me, the most important must see events would include a return visit to Black's BBQ and their super spicy homemade hot sauce. Then I'd sample the legendary beef ribs at Langfords. And of course, the obligatory stop at Franklin's where I'd hope to taste their classic Texas brisket.
If you didn't know the line at Franklin's can stretch out a 1/4 mile long and diners have waited up to 5 hours in the pouring rain just to get in.
Imagine what their business would be like if they had a TweetDeck and a few good banner ads.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
It might be hard to tell from this picture of me sporting an astronaut helmet, courtesy of the Aerospace Museum at the University of Colorado in Boulder, but I'm happy.
And I'm sad.
First things first.
Last weekend my wife, my daughter and I sojourned across the continental divide to the hamlet of Boulder, CO, nestled at the base of the Flat Iron Mountains. To describe the place as beautiful is to do it a terrible disservice. It is stunning in every sense of the word.
Even the homeless people on the street have a certain rugged Robert Redford/Patagonia/western chic vibe about them. Unlike the hobos -- my daughter's words -- in Seattle, who are, also in my daughter's words, sketch.
Everything about the place is disgustingly perfect. The streets were clean. There was no traffic. And the food, including the many flavors of local microbrew beers, was amazing. Of course, I like any restaurant that can seat me immediately. Or even, as one truthful hostess said, "I'll have a table for you in 35 seconds."
And she did.
Fuck you, Los Angeles.
The University was no less impressive. Sprawling, spotless and lively. I got in a snowball fight with a bunch of football players, who were taken aback by this 44 year old's strong throwing arm.
Next to the football stadium, there is a recreational center, the likes of which I have never seen.
In addition to the indoor rock climbing wall, the indoor skating rink, the state of the art weight machines, and the two floors of basketball courts, there was a diving arena and an 8-lane indoor swimming pool. I so wanted to challenge those lunkhead football players to a race in the pool and clean their youthful clocks, but my daughter begged me not to.
Apart from being embarrassed by her father on an hourly basis, Abby also loved the place. She wouldn't give us the satisfaction of saying it out loud, but my wife and I know her better than she knows herself.
If there is one drawback to Boulder it's the people.
Don't get me wrong, they were incredibly cheery, friendly and downright outgoing. Their skin glowed. It might have been the reflecting off the white snow that blanketed the town. But was more likely their overbearing Caucasianness.
The place is exceedingly white. And my daughter, who counts among her closest friends, Persians, Hispanics and even a half-black/half-Jewish girl, gave the University a few demerits on the lack of demographics. On the plus side, Abby does not have the swarthy Mediterranean appearance of her parents and is blessed with clear blue eyes and blond-ish hair.
In other words, she'll blend right in.
All in all, I think we have a sale. Which might make you wonder why I'm also sad.
The truth is, I love doing these college campus tours. And now it appears I won't be doing any more of them. For a good long time. Perhaps with my future grandchildren. And that can't come fast enough.
To that end, I've asked my wife to replace our daughter's birth control pills with Tic-Tacs.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Last week, it was announced that Jordan and Israel had signed an agreement to produce desalinated water from the Dead Sea.
This is significant on several fronts.
First, it proves the Israelis are more interested in peace and less interested in occupying holy Arab land. By the way what Arab land isn't holy?
Because let's face it, if Israel wanted to they could gobble up the territory between the Jordan River and Al Qurayyat in a heartbeat. In fact if the Jordanian soldiers are anything like their Iraqi counterparts, the Israelis could do it without firing off a shot. They could just collect the white flags and stained underwear and call it a day.
Secondly, it proves that when rational people put down their guns and shouts of Allah Akbar, practical solutions can be had.
Imagine if this spirit of cooperation were to sweep into the adjoining territories. All that illiteracy. All that stone age patriarchy. All that unimaginable poverty that lives in the shadow of trillion dollar oil reserves, could be addressed.
Most importantly it begs the question, why not here?
Recently my wife and I found ourselves on the PCH heading north towards Santa Barbara. Along the way we counted three McDonalds, nine Union 76 Stations, and 3, 278 Starbucks.
But not one desalination plant.
With the exception of my ass-nugget neighbor who feels the need to wash his monster trucks every other day of the month, the entire state has been suffering from a severe drought. Despite the recent microbursts of rain, we are still way below our normal water levels.
And yet, right off to our left is the world's largest collection of unusable H-Two-Oh.
I can forgive the misguided planners who built the Metro trains without putting stops in at the Airport or Dodger Stadium, but is unforgivable that we do NOT have desalination plants running up and down the coastline of California.
I don't know, maybe I'm being naive on the matter. The technology could be awfully expensive and make it all undoable. But then again, the Israelis seem to have figured it out.
Maybe that can be the topic of Netanyahu's next speech before Congress.
Monday, March 9, 2015
Before we moved to the bucolic, tree-lined streets of Suffern, NY, I was raised in the hard-scrabble hoods of Flushing and Jackson Heights in the borough of Queens. In the city that never sleeps.
These were working class neighborhoods, populated by mailmen, low level accountants and soldiers.
Not the soldiers that went off to fight misguided wars in Vietnam, Grenada or Iraq. I'm talking about soldiers who fought for Team Genovese, Team Gambino and Team Corleone.
There were plenty in my neighborhood. Hell, there were plenty in my apartment building. I know because my father told me about them. He also played poker with them every other Tuesday night.
For all I know, my father, a fledgling CPA, might have "kept some books" for these wise guys, as he was always looking for a side hustle.
And while he was chummy with the Mob, he was also very careful to make sure I wasn't.
If he caught me hanging out with a bunch of guys with Italian surnames he'd always tell me...
"Never let that guy do you a favor."
"Nevermind whatta I mean, you just never let that guy do you a favor."
I suppose had he lived long enough he would have been very happy that I ended up in the crisp, clean corporate world of advertising, free from graft, cronyism and corruption.
All of which is a long winded way of saying that try as I might to avoid the Mob, I ended up being a soldier for them.
We all have.
We might not be shaking down dry cleaners for protection money or hijacking freight trucks leaving La Guardia airport but clearly those of us with marginal talents in the arts, writers, art directors and UX designers, are into prostitution. In a big way.
We don't create shell companies and fronts to create diversions that send IRS tax collectors looking for love in all the wrong places but we do 'creatively' fill out weekly time sheets, and those alone should be enough to file a RICO indictment.
We don't threaten people or run shakedowns, but when a client is unhappy, we conveniently trade them off from one ad agency to a sister agency in the "Family" so that all those little white envelopes stuffed with cash still go to the same bosses.
Maybe you're not buying my Mafia analogy.
Maybe you think it's a stretch.
But the org. chart sent to me by a friend who just got a job at one of the holding companies suggests otherwise:
Thursday, March 5, 2015
There are times when I can't come up with an idea for this blog. When I look around me and feel like I've touched on just about everything I want to touch on.
Nothing seems to strike my fancy. Or, more likely I've run out of coffee and find myself to lazy to go the store and buy some more.
Today is one of those days.
That's when I find it best to turn this blog loose on itself.
I started looking at layout of this page and noticed the morticed box in the lower right hand corner. Some of you might even recognize your face. Well, 95 of you might.
You, for some unknown reason, are Members of the RoundSeventeen Club.
Or is Association?
Or better yet, the RoundSeventeen Society of the Enlightened?
I like that.
I don't know why 95 of you have bothered to Sign In. Membership does not have its privileges. I don't send out personal letters of appreciation. I don't acknowledge your birthdays or work anniversaries. There's not even a 40% discount at the R17 Gift Shop.
Nevertheless, I do feel the need to show my appreciation for filling out the form and clicking all the requisite buttons. And I'd like to say that in the future there may be some tangible rewards in the form of a T-shirts, coffee mugs or R17 one gigabyte jump drives.
But I can't.
And I won't.
With all that duly noted, I would like to get 5 more of you to Sign In. For no other reason than to put me over the 100 member mark. I feel that after 6 years of daily postings, some of them even noteworthy, that's not too much to ask.
Also, an added incentive, I promise to commission an entire post dedicated to lucky #100.
Provided of course that person's profile picture does come up like this:
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
I'm a hammock guy.
Some people like stand up desks to straighten out their spines and look all forward-thinking.
Some people like their Herman Aeron chairs in the locked off position to prevent reclining.
Some people like visiting chiropractors because they have good sucking candy at the receptionists. Sorry, I can't think of a single reason why anyone would visit a Chiropractor.
But me, I like hammocks.
Always have, always will.
Maybe it's because I'm blessed, and even at the advanced age of 44, have never had problems with my back -- though I understand the painkillers for such ailments are really good.
Or it might have something to do with my affinity for swimming. There's something very liberating about being weightless in the prone position.
In any case, as I've mentioned before, I'm a hammock guy. And pictured above is my latest hammock, generously gifted to me by my lovely wife, despite my poor supermarket choices in garbage bags.
As you might have guessed, assembling this monstrosity was no walk in the park.
Those are four massively heavy arched timbers of dense Cyprus wood. And they had to be configured in such a way that the foot long bolts would slide through the pre-drilled holes. Then there was the matter of digging through my garage for the right size ratchet socket.
With twenty years of home ownership under my belt, I have accumulated hundreds of ratchet sockets. Not one of them properly returned to its clearly marked ratchet socket home in the plastic infused ratchet socket carrying case.
In other words, it wasn't pretty.
There was a lot of cursing. Nail biting. More cursing. Awkward cantilevering of the dense wood in order to hold the arches in place. And a lot more cursing. I've had an easier time putting together a Swedish Credenza from Ikea -- Der Florgenshpippel.
But as you can see, I persevered.
And the hammock is incredibly comfortable.
In fact, as soon I exhausted the last bolt and washer, I kicked off my shoes and laid down to enjoy its gravity-defying Nirvana.
And then, it started raining.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
"Hand me the Beavertail Burnisher."
"…The Watkins Torque Wrench…"
"I'll need the Goat's Foot Elevator."
These are not phrases you want to hear at 8:30 in the morning. In fact at that hour I'm usually in deep REM sleep, dreaming. And the only thing I want to hear is Scarlett Johannsen whispering in my ear, "let's go for number 5."
The reality is, these are not phrases you want to hear at any hour of the day. It means you're in the dentist's chair. And apart from the freaks who live on the outer edges of Tinder, no one likes sitting in a dentist chair.
For the past few months my lower right jaw has been throbbing. A low grade, off and on pain, not unlike the pain of an indecisive client. Naturally, my wife admonished me to see the dentist. And naturally I ignored her.
It wasn't until the admonitions slipped into triple digits that I heeded her advice. After 23 years of marriage this is how the pattern goes.
The initial good news from the dentist was that the tooth had a minor fracture. With any luck, he could seal it up and top it with a crown.
Of course that's the kind of luck that only shines on goyim.
On my second visit, the dentist was busily preparing an impression of my lower right jaw. That's when they stick this contraption, filled with cold blue Playdo, in your mouth until it hardens or runs down your uvula and sets off the gag reflex.
As he removed the goo, he noticed that the fracture in my tooth was now a full blown crack. In my weak understanding of dentistry I thought that meant going from a crown to the more dreaded root canal.
But like I said, I don't have that kind of luck.
The Uberfuehrer….er, dentist said we were now at DefCon5 and that the tooth, the cracked tooth, had to be extracted.
Years ago, I had my wisdom teeth removed. And under some mild anesthesia and ample Vicoden, it was a rather pleasant experience. But Dr. Mengele wanted to extract the tooth right then and there, using nothing more than Novocaine and some semi-rusty pliers.
Since I was already in the chair and didn't want to let a good plastic bib go to waste, I foolishly told him to start yanking.
And that's when I heard the other phrase you never want to hear at 8:30 in the morning.
"Hand me the Franklin Forceps of Eternal Pain."
I'll gladly show you the tooth, but I understand some readers may not want to see it, so you'll have to scroll down a bit to see the Mammoth-sized molar so delicately pulled from the back of my mouth.
Monday, March 2, 2015
Staying busy as a freelance copywriter is a matter of lining up the next gig before the current gig is over. To that end, I am often trolling the Internet, scouring job boards, making note of account changes and sniffing out turmoil.
Turmoil, as I often tell others, is a freelancer's best friend.
"Oh, the ECD Got Quit?"
That means there's a power vacuum and nervous Account People -- like space -- abhor a vacuum. They want their clients in the hands of seasoned and even sometimes cynical veterans. Of course, what Account people want and what Account people get are not always in synch.
Recently I found an interesting job listing.
An agency in town was looking for a Freelance Jr. Copywriter. They specifically requested a Junior and not a middleweight or even a senior.
By the way, just for fun I applied for the job. It only required one click of the mouse and I like to picture the recruiter scratching her head thinking, "Isn't 44 a little old for a Junior Copywriter?"
Then it occurred to me that this one little job listing was the perfect microcosm of our industry and its current state of demise.
You see when an agency says they are looking for a Junior copywriter, they are looking for someone cheap. Cheap, as in we don't want to spend the extra few hundred dollars it might cost to bring in a middleweight, we'd rather trust the stewardship of our clients to someone who still doesn't know the difference between your and you're.
Someone who writes by day and experiments with hipster hairstyles by night.
Someone who has never heard of Jay Chiat and thinks Lee Clow is an appetizer at a Dim Sung Bar.
Hiring a Junior Freelance Copywriter is also incredibly nearsighted. Oh sure you might save dollars in the short term, but with the all the rewrites, the do-overs and the supervisory hours wasted in mentoring, those savings vanish quite quickly.
It's like those mathematically-impaired people who visit seedy strip mall shops to borrow money against their paycheck and get sucked into a vortex of spiraling interest costs. They leave those places with just enough money in their pocket to go next door for two chocolate donuts. Or as they refer to it -- dinner.
It's all part of the commoditization of advertising. Where ideas and creativity have taken a backseat to SuperDesks and low-cost Army Grade toilet paper in the bathrooms.
Which makes this a great time to remind ourselves of the Golden Rule of Commerce:
You get what you pay for.
Followed by the second Golden Rule:
Three Writers for the price of two.™