Thursday, December 29, 2016

Like a Boss

Despite what anybody might tell you, I live well within my means.

I drive a 10 year old used car. Some of the shirts in my closet are older than my daughters. And considering I break out the Braun portable shaver to administer my own haircuts, I spend more on dog grooming than I do for myself.

But last Saturday, I decided to go hog wild. To spend money as if it were going out of style.

I've always been fascinated by the local QuiK E Mart located near my house at the corner of Overland and Braddock, in the heart of Culver City. They not only have the most incredible selection of potables, from Absynthe to Zebra-Infused Wine Coolers, they have the widest selection of stuff this side of a 99 cent store.

It's as if a truck loaded with goods headed to an Islamabad Flea Circus tipped over and the QuiK E Mart owners were Johnny-on-the-Spot and grabbed as much as they could stuff in their 2005 Toyota Camry.

So I went on a $25 shopping spree and bought the most interesting, most useless crap I could find. Not because I needed it, but because I needed to find out what it would be like to live like carefree tycoon.

Feast your eyes on the booty...

First up, Tiger Balm. This set me back $2.39. I could've opted for the $2.19 package but chose to spend the extra 20 cents for the Red Extra Strength. Because when you're counting on useless Chinese herbal ointments for pain relief, that's what you do. Correction, that's what millionaires do.

This is $1.49 Nagchampa Red Incense Sticks. They're from Bombay. I'm curious to know what they will smell like, but will probably never find out because my wife said, "You're not lighting those in the house. Ever."

God bless the licensing genii at Disney. They found a Chinese factory who could put together a functioning Winnie-the-Pooh-endorsed calculator for just $1.99. That includes the battery. No wonder manufacturing jobs have left the United States.

Next up, not one but two 8" wood files. I wasn't planning any woodworking projects but at this price maybe I ought to?

Carpentry can make a man break out in a sweat. Thankfully, I have a cold bottle of Mamma Chia nearby, in thirst quenching Kale & Mint.

Finally, there's the Original Maxim Du-Rag. I've always wondered why wealthy football players wear these things and today I sated that burning curiosity.

You might be wondering what am I, a modest living Fat Jew, gonna do with a DuRag.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My next book

Johnny Carson once defined a New York Minute as the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you laying into his horn.

In other words, it's an instant.

It's also iconic.

And proprietary to the city itself.

It elicits a response like, "Only in New York Fuckin' City."

If you've ever stepped foot in the Big Apple, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The other day I was having lunch with a friend and we were recalling our funniest NYC tales. We have a lot of them. It was at this point, usually when I go to the bathroom hoping my friend will pick up the check, that I remembered I had an idea for a crowd-sourced book.

It's called A New York Minute. And it's simply a collection of stories from colleagues, friends, even family members, who have a unique Gotham City tale to tell. The hook is the story must be told in less than 150 words.

Why 150?

Because if you've ever recorded a radio spot and tried to beat the digital clock that becomes your instant studio enemy, 150 words is the maximum you can squeeze into a script. Despite the client's demand to add in a few points about the dual climate control, the two pizza toppings for $6.99 or some horseshit about locally grown hops and barley.

Pretty simple right?

So break out your anecdotes that have anything to do with New York. They can take place in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island or The Bronx. They can be funny, sad, pathetic, romantic, violent or violently romantic. Angry cab drivers, drunken doormen, one armed hookers, the weirder, the better.

Just throw down 150 words and dash it off to me via private email:

I'll select the best stories, make the necessary edits, and format them into a book with a much better cover than the one you see above. You'll see your name in print. You'll be credited as a participating author. You'll enter the glamorous world of book publishing.

Are you picturing those huge royalty checks? And sitting atop the deck of your new yacht?

Of course you are.

In fact, as a successful published author I'm writing this from the deck of mine.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hand me that throw pillow

I love Wieden & Kennedy.

I have always admired their work, their unwillingness to talk down to consumers and their unconventional approach to the business; including one of their offices which recently mandated office closure at 7 PM, so that employees can have some semblance of a life.

I've never worked at Wieden. Never freelanced there. And though I have inquired on many occasion, never received a return phone call or even an email. Truth is, I wouldn't want to work for Wieden because I still find them so damn intimidating.

But last week, they dropped a small notch in my book.

You see there was an article in Adweek written by one of their talent recruiters. Of course when I say article I mean press release, because this had all the earmarks of self promotion, an arena in which I have some experience.

In the piece, the author goes to great lengths to describe how management has fashioned an environment conducive to employee creativity.

"We moved this over here."

"We put that in this place."

"We brought in colors and shapes and textures and (fill in your own architectural gobblygook here) to foster inspiration."

If I hadn't heard so much of this interior design malarkey while I was at Chiat/Day, I might be more open and tolerant of it, but I'm sorry, I'm not.

It was bullshit then and it's bullshit now.

If you think about it, it reeks of infantilization. Of treating creative people like we're kindergarteners. I know my 44 year old cynicism is showing, but I'm not creatively or professionally moved by leather love seats, stand up treadmill desks or artisnally-curated corked floors.

Advertising legend Dick Sittig said it best when reflecting on the rollercoaster fortunes of Chiat/Day,

"I remember when they wrote less about our furniture and more about the ads we made."

Nobody seems to be talking about the ads anymore.

Monday, December 26, 2016

End of Year Surge

Normally, at this point in the year, I step away from the keyboard, give myself time to recharge the batteries and leave the readers of RoundSeventeen a hand-curated selection of past hits, such as they were.

But as the picture above indicates, there was nothing normal about 2016.

This was the year we saw the incredible rise of billionaire fascism. A year when we elected to the highest office of the land, and of the world, a pussy-grabbing, immigrant-hating shitgibbon who had never heard of our nation's Nuclear Triad. A bumbling, tweeting dimwit who believes the 2nd amendment is more important than the 1st.  An illiterate rich rich douchebag who is unprecedented in his demonstrable pettiness, misogyny and glory fucking.

And so, in light of this remarkably crappy year, I've decided to give you faithful 8 readers some brand new material. A Post-Christmas gift if you will.

Why you may ask.

Well, as of this morning, web traffic here at R17 corporate headquarters is at an all time high.

For the first time ever, we have had more than 18,000 page hits/views in one single month. With a powerful end of year push and with 5 lazy calendar days when advertising people, and normal people as well, are questioning every damn decision in their lives and looking for some type of comic relief, there is the real possibility of surging past 20,000.

If I'm going to be brutally honest, and rare is the occasion when I'm not, there's a good chance some of the analytics are false.

Two weeks ago there was a report of a Russian methbot, a robotic software program that purposefully pumped up the artificial statistics of blogs and websites across the world. This was a malicious attempt to skew numbers and throw corporate accountants into a hissy fit.

I noticed several unwarranted spikes on my web charts. And these were on days when the posts were not particularly funny or well written. Why, for instance, would 1329 Moscovites want to read one of my perpetual rants about witless planners and unproductive open office spaces?

Authenticity notwithstanding, I'll take the inflated numbers.

Because frankly, that's how pathetic lifelong advertising copywriters can get. Our need for self validation knows no bounds.

I'm ashamed to admit this, but for many years the mantle above our fireplace was permanently festooned with a cheap array of Telly awards, LuLu awards, and several framed Belding Certficates, including an Honorable Mention for Best FSI, Automotive Retail, Four Color, Budget under 10K.

My hope for 2017?

That we can hit the 20,000 per month mark every month. If they're human great. If they're Russian methbots, well, I'll take that too.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

On crappy jobs

I've often said it's harder to do crappy work than it is to do the good stuff. And if you've had the breadth of assignments I have, you'd most certainly agree.

Case in point, not long ago, my partner and I had a gun pointed at our heads and were asked to solve a client crisis. The brief requested spots that were to be executed in the classic Problem/Solution formula.

OK, a little too prescriptive if you ask me, but sometimes you just have to shake your head, then shake off the cobwebs and start clacking on the keyboard.

We put some topspin on the assignment but, and I say this humbly, we delivered. So much so, that we  confidently presented the work in progress to one of the clients over the phone.

The reaction was quite positive. At first.

Later in the day, the same day, there were "questions."
Some "thoughts."
Just "things we want to discuss."

"We really like this Problem/Solution spot you guys created. Really like it. We're just wondering, do the problems have to seem so negative?"

You may think I'm exaggerating or breaking out the hyperbole stick to make this story more interesting, but that is a verbatim quote. And if ever called to swear in a deposition I would, without any fear of perjuring myself, declare those were the exact words.

I wanted to leap across the table and scream.

"That's what makes them problems, they're negative!"

Instead, I reminded myself of the two college tuitions I'm paying, wrapped my last shred of dignity in two ply toilet paper, flushed it out towards the Pacific and said...

"Sure, why don't we take a look at that."

Last year, I was hired by a local company that keeps the lights on by keeping mailboxes filled with junk mail. Postcards, letters, flyers, email blasts, all comped and created with one goal in mind, to get people who are currently leasing overpriced automobiles back into a new lease. Or a new vehicle. And these folks are relentless.

My job, at a considerably lower day rate, was to craft these detailed messages, devoid of any creativity, and hammer home the leasing options. The work was purely supplemental, meaning I could do it in conjunction with other assignments, and it was all remote, meaning I could do it between my morning nap and my afternoon nap.

But it was so fucking dreadful.

"Can we change 'learn more' to 'discover more'?"
"Can you put the antilock brakes before the extra cargo space?"
"Can you come up with a different way to say Go?"

In my 13 years of freelancing I've always gone out of my way to accommodate the smaller agencies, smaller production houses and smaller clients, by being flexible on my day rate for their less than glamorous assignments.

But maybe I've been going about this all wrong. Maybe I should be charging them more? And instead perhaps I should discount my fee for the big agencies seeking big ideas?

Hello Droga 5, Wieden Kenney and BBDO, I'm looking at you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gimme that old time religion

As we are on the cusp of Christmas Eve it seemed appropriate to do a post about religion. When it comes to religion, faithful R17 readers know, I am an equal opportunity skewer.

I've taken my shots at Islam. Though not so many recently because I consciously did not want my disdain of Islamism to be muddied with the binary and ugly thinking of our new President Shitgibbon.

Just last week I poked fun at the imaginary War on Christmas and the idiots who have somehow equated equal rights for gays as a modern day worldwide attack on Christianity.

And of course, I have exercised executive privilege and poked fun at my own Judaic roots.

"You can't turn the lights on." 
"You can't have milk with meat." 
"You can't pay retail."

But today we are going beyond the realm of Abraham and into the realm of Elron J. Hubbard. Don't know if you've been watching it on A&E lately, but Leah Remini, star of stage and screen and tough chick from the old neighborhood has been body slamming Scientology. Which is not so much a religion but in reality an elaborate, self-improvement mumbo-jumbo Ponzi Scheme.

I have been riveted to the tube listening to former Scientologists, of all stripes, including Sea Org. Members and former OT 8's (some horsecockery about the planet Zanu, living a billion years, magic underwear, and mastering one's inner Mork.)

It is jaw-dropping TV. Made all the more palatable by Leah Remini's well-coifed hair, bright hard nails, and pent up feline anger. She's like a dirty-talking tiger ready to pounce. Grrrr.

Equally fascinating are the tales of what seem to be normal people getting bilked by this bullshit.

"Here, hold these two empty cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup and tell me how you were abused a child. Then put $10,000 in the kitty on the way out."

And just when I thought I'd seen it all, I hadn't.

Apparently, it's cult month on TV. Because Showtime or HBO was also running Holy Hell, a documentary about Buddhafield, a new "religion" founded by Michel, a gay, out-of-work actor (pictured above) who enjoyed .7 seconds of screen time in the classic Rosemary's Baby.

But boy did this guy know how to parlay his alleged fame. There's really no way to describe the antics at Buddhafield suffice to say you must see this film. And the quivering followers who trekked up to Mammoth Lakes to be in the presence of The Speedo Wearing Teacher. And receive the Knowing. And to cook and clean for this self-obsessed, dove-holding douchebag.

All of which makes me happy and proud to be a Nihilist.

That's a religion I can get behind. There are no holidays. No dogmatic beliefs. No churches or temples. And most importantly, no priests or rabbis or leaders. Once we had a guy who wanted to be the head of Nihilists. But his offer to take the reigns was met with a resounding...

"Fuck You!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Why on earth am I luring you onto my blog with a picture of Charlotte McKinney and a mammoth sized 1300 calorie bacon and cheeseburger from Carl's Jr.?

An excellent question.

But I'm afraid that in this day and age of Kardashians and pussy grabbing and underskilled athletes who play for perpetual losers yet still call themselves Swaggy P, this is the proper to way to bait the hook.

You see, had I posted a picture of Andy Puzder, former CEO of Carl's Jr. and soon to be our new Secretary of Labor, readers would have gone scurrying to the latest cat video or that GIF of the guy falling off a trampoline and then getting skull-humped by a golden retriever.

But I'm glad you're sticking around for this Andy Puzder war story.

The year was 2001. And a great calamity was being visited upon us that year --my partner, John Shirley and I were asked to head up the pitch for Hardee's. For those of you who don't know, Hardees is the redheaded stepchild of Carl's Jr. For reasons I don't understand, they run virtually the same type of restaurant, have the same type of branding, and are virtually indistinguishable from their parent company.

Hardee's are mostly located in the South and the hard to reach areas of Appalachia. Naturally, as part of the agency's How-Can-We-Push-Aging-And-Expensive-Creatives-Out-The-Door Program, it was suggested that we fly (middle seats in Coach) to Alabama or Louisianna or Georgia, one of the Jew-hating states, to get some boots on the ground and sample the food.

Well, there's nothing this New York tribe member enjoys more than an opportunity to visit Klan country. And break bread (that's how stale the buns were) with dinosaur-denying young earthers many of whom would show up at the restaurant without any shoes. Or, as John Shirley referred to them -- foot coverin's.

At least I'd get a free meal out of the deal right?

Andy Puzder might want to call it a meal, but I wouldn't. The food, or I referred to it, mouth stuff, was inedible. Day old bacon. Soggy french fries. And cheese that was way below government grade. All prepared by a staff of minimum wage earners who had all the enthusiasm of a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder.

As for the restaurant, the food place, it was even worse. The second floor Men's Room at the Port Authority, the one located right next to the Short Line Ticket booth, would have been more pleasing. I don't know what bothered me more. The fact that is was filthy or the lazy ass kids behind the counter who seemed unfazed by the whole mess.

Good work Andy, I can certainly see why President Shitgibbon has placed his faith in you and your unprecedented management skills.

And the pitch? Well, that went even worse than our glamorous research field trip. For the first, and it wouldn't be the last, time in my career I witnessed a complete freeze up. One of the big cheeses on our team got stuck. He started presenting work and then he couldn't. Come on man, it's only advertising.

I'll spare you the details.

But, for getting this far in the story that had little or nothing to do with Charlotte McKinney's impressive boobs, the meeting was best summed up by this GIF, which by the way also sums up the entire year 2016.

Monday, December 19, 2016

In which I annoy people

Last week, AgencySpy, the industry's leading and most honest mouthpiece, ran a link to one of my posts, 50 Reasons Why Advertising in 2016 Can Eat a Bag of Haggis.

This, in and of itself is hardly newsworthy. AS has linked to my posts dozens of times. And I'm grateful for the always reliable web traffic surge. But last week was different because one AS reader took exception to my whiny end of the year ragging on the industry.

ChingaTwoMadres (that's clever) wrote: I'm sure Rich is very happy to know that his favorite web log has acknowledged his existence. 2016 was a good year for the Shannon Doherty of Marketing after all. Holla!!!

Finally. Look, I know I rub people the wrong way, hell, sometimes I rub me the wrong way. But it's taken forever for someone to commit their disgust to digital ink. Of course as luck would have it, more specifically my shitty luck, my first ever national publication troll turns out to be some incomprehensible nonsense.

I get the jab at the narcissism, that's all well and good. But the "Shannon Doherty of Marketing"?  What the fuck does that even mean? Topped off by the equally illogical, but currently in vogue vernacular, Holla!!! 

???? Just' sayin'.

Another reader took issue with my recent rant regarding the imaginary War on Christmas, writing:

You really are grumpy...but lately your insights have turned into a political/religious war of self depravity -- not healthy... And please leave Jesus Christ out of it...Please, post some good stuff again. I'd be willing to pay for it -- it was that good.

Clearly, this is someone in the ad business. Someone who knows that the best way to couch some criticism is to garnish it with lots of flattery. Or, if I may paraphrase my old friend Rob Schwartz, "if you want them to eat their broccoli, make sure you give them some ice cream."

And last, but hardly least, there's the private email I received from one of my cantankerous colleagues  who is occasionally just right of the alt. right movement. He didn't take issue so much with with what I've written, but the fact that I've written it at all. That's right, I've saved the best for last.

With regards to my recent ribbing of President Shitgibbon, he opines:

I get the dynamic. I recognize you are an elder statesman in a very young industry. Departing the orthodoxy would make you even more an outsider. You're clawing. So, yes, you must stay relevant.

Holy shit, let's unpack that one. 44 years old makes me an elder statesman? Pffft, I've seen some of what passes for writing in advertising these days. And if this trend continues, I've got a good 15 more years to go before anyone can suggest I hang up the cleats.

Departing the orthodoxy would make me even more an outsider.

Good. If you know me at all you know I'll have nothing to do with the orthodoxy. Moreover, I cherish my firm standing as an outsider. I see the lumberjack beards, the ear gauges, the Trilby hats, the tattoos, all the affectations, and I want to be way outside of all that 21st century peacockery. Way outside.

And lastly, anonymous letter writer, there's the issue of credibility. When you mention advertising and relevancy in the same breath, you tend to lose all of yours.

Come on angry letter writers, anonymous commenters and internet trollers, we can do better than this. Can't we?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The week that was

As you might have guessed I have many friends who maintain wordy, unread, unimportant blogs like this one.

Oh we pretend we're like making a difference and that the internet masses are clamoring for our next post. But given enough interrogation, or a quick examination of the Google analytics, and that belief has all the validity of a Trump post-election victory speech.

One thing I find on these other blogs, which by the way you'll never find here, is the "I don't have anything to write about so I'll write about that" post. Go ahead scan through the 1600 odd posts over the last eight years, I've never done that.

I'll wait.

Of course I understand the sentiment behind such an approach. I'll often struggle to come up with an idea or blog worthy material. But if I can't come up with a topic or some interesting words, I always have my trusty iPhone. And if I open up my Photos folder I can always find something worth sharing.

So, without further ado or hemming and hawing to fill up all this intimidating white space, let's go to the amateurish, low-res iPhone photos and call it a week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The War on Christmas

You know who thanks God for the US electoral college?


That's right. Because if it weren't for the clear-thinking 46.2% of Americans who voted for Donald Trump, the other 48.7%, the Satan-loving secularists, would have marched on and stepped up their unholy War on Christmas.

If not for the last election, Christmas might have been lost.

Those crazy, critical-thinking heathens would have closed the door shut on the 783, 964,381 churches that dot this great country of ours. They would have pink slipped the 2 billion Santas that literally keep our shopping malls humming. And they would have outlawed the singing of our beloved Christmas carols (mostly written by Jews), those cherished songs that stand between modern civilization and a godless, Christmasless Sodom and Gomorah.

But all that's gonna change.

President Shitgibbon is gonna make Starbucks bring back the decorative Christmas cup.

And he's gonna make Mexico pay for it.

Vice President Mike Pence is going to make sure we pass federal legislation guaranteeing religious liberties. God knows we almost lost those.

In the not too distant future, probably on January 21, 2017, when a gay couple requests a wedding cake from a Christ-loving baker, that deeply religious pastry maker will have the freedom, no, the right, to look upon that gay couple and proudly proclaim, "The principles of my brotherly-loving religion forbid me to partake in your abhorrent union. Please leave the premises."

That my friends, is progress.

Side note -- I have a hard time believing any self respecting gay couple would willingly try and force a reluctant Christian to bake them a wedding cake. Why would give them their hard earned money? Moreover, why would they entrust some uncultured rube with their matrimonial dessert?

All that is moot.

The War on Christmas is over. It's time to get the Mission Accomplished banner out of mothballs and hang it proudly over the stern of the SS Intolerance.

Happy Holidays everybody..., I mean Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Other List

Santa's not the only one making a list and checking it twice.

Last week, refuge of the desperate white collar worker, pronounced the 50 Best Places to Work in America. To no one's surprise, at least no one I know, there was not one single advertising agency on the list.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest that if the list were 100 deep you still wouldn't see an ad agency. There might a Toe Fungus Removal Clinic or a Back Hair Shaving Shop, but no ad agencies.

This has got to be quite disconcerting and a constant source of agony for our brethren in the Human Resources Department.

Despite the Free Taco Tuesdays, the Cupcake Cart and the thousands of dollars spent on foosball tables, ping pong tables, and pinball machines, agency morale is at an all time low. Lower in fact than the collective IQ of President Shitgibbon's new cabinet.

Of course, it wasn't always like this. There was a time when working at an agency had a certain cache. People at parties would pump you for the inside scoop...

"You get to wear what you want. Go to a movie in the middle of the day. Push the envelope with crazy ideas. And they pay you good money. Damn, I'd kill for a job like that."

By the way, that's a near verbatim quote from a party I attended in the year...well it doesn't matter what year it was. It just was.

Now it appears, people would prefer to assemble Double Double's with chili and cheese at In-N-Out (#7) than steward the brands of America's Fortune 100.

What happened? Well, the editors at glassdoor aren't the only ones who can make a list. I give you the 50 Reasons Why Advertising in 2016 Can Eat a Bag of Haggis:

1. work/life balance

2. frozen salaries

3. open office plan

4. holding companies

5. PowerPoint

6. electronic meeting invites

7. daily check ins

8. hourly check ins

9. Saturday meetings

10. Sunday meetings

11. timesheets

12. FFDKK, Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks™

13. airline middle seats

14. brand engagement units

15. focus groups

16. groupthink

17. leadership committees

18. overpaid CEOs

19. collaboration

20. stock photography

21. planning

22. 360 degree integration

23. sycophancy

24. long tables

25. Cannes

Oh, were you expecting the list to go to 50? Well just go over it again, because these issues are twice as pressing as anyone in agency management is willing to admit.

You know, there was a time when kids were aching to get a foot in the door.

Today, most people I know in the agency world are working with one foot out the door.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Brace yourself for greatness

You might think that with my yearly postings about the caganer and my equally numerous writings about dog shit and the shit-for-brain dog owners who let their dogs do their business on my lawn, that I'm some kind of fecalfeliac.

Today's ramblings will do little to dissuade you of that.

You see, the other night while watching Jeopardy and simultaneously reading the tweets from other viewers who have snarky comments to make about the contestants --and by the way, they always do -- my wife and I came across a commercial for Cologuard.

The astute among you might recognize that name as I penned an article about them earlier last year when the good folks at Cologuard ran a full page newspaper ad in the back of the LA Times. Pretty sure it was facing the Obituary page, which also makes for some entertaining reading.

For those unfamiliar, Cologuard promises to revolutionize the colon cancer screening process. Instead of visiting a doctor's office and having a micro-camera snorkel its way up your intestinal tract, they've   turned the process inside out.

By literally thinking inside the box.

Here's how it works. They will send you a pre-addressed, plastic-lined, logo-emblazoned box. Your duty, should you choose to accept it, is to capture some of your precious poop and send it back to the Cologuard poopy professionals.

I'm not do-doo-ing this any justice.

Let's go to the video tape.

Go ahead play it twice.

If any Youtube video is worthy of a Number 2 viewing, it's this one.

OK, I don't give it up often enough to my fellow copywriters. And I spend an inordinate amount of time crapping on their banal work, their lazy strategies and their lack of craftsmanship. But today, I stand, no, I get down on bended knee, and humble myself before this masterpiece.

"Just ship me to the lab," says the anthropomorphized box containing the aforementioned shit.

In our little world of taglines, ramplines, positioning lines and calls to action, etc., it just doesn't get any better than that. I doubt the copywriter who wrote that will ever top it.

In fact if it were me, and I'm raging with professional jealousy that it's not, I'd have my family tell the stonecutter to carve those classic words on my tombstone.

"Just ship me to the lab."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Just Do It.

About a year ago, my good friend and colleague Mike Folino (self-styled World's Greatest Freelance Copywriter) told me that I should keep doing the blogging and the tumbling and the book publishing because he felt it was all going to blow up soon. Meaning, it would reap huge dividends.

Actually, he might have told me this two years ago.

Or even three years ago.

The point is, Mike was wrong.

Nothing has blown up. Or taken off. Viacom never reached out to me. And Random House won't even return an email.

To be honest I think he said that to throw me off the scent of some good freelance gigs. He gets those high-paying projects from NY that often involve big budgets, bigger productions and monster boondoggles that take him to exotic locales like Dubai.

I don't want go to a Jew-hating place like Dubai, but I wouldn't mind something juicier than writing banner ads for a local colonics clinic.

Nevertheless this is no time for despair.

Last month, we here at RoundSeventeen headquarters had reason to celebrate.

We topped out at 17, 268 page views. The highest one month readership, ever. Evah!

Granted, about 5, 000 of those page views came from me, editing and fixing typos and such, but still.

I don't know how to account for the sudden surge in readership. The writing has certainly not gotten any better. Or funnier. Or, and I know we'd all like this, any shorter. But it might have something to do with my decision to allow ads on the blog. If anything, I would have thought the traffic would decline.

Even more surprising, the ads are starting to yield fruit. Last month, I made a whopping $5.43 just from folks, good folks like yourself, clicking thru.

Which leads me to the call to action. If you could simply click the tower ad found here...

Or the horizontal ad found here...

I would be much obliged.

You don't have to buy the adult diapers. Or join the Appalachian Seminary for Wayward Evangelists. You simply have to click.

Think of it as an investment in the future. You see I have two kids in college and when they graduate there's gonna be a lot of work to do fixing the mess made by President Shitgibbon

In other words, don't click the ads for me and my ridiculously low sense of self esteem, do it for the kids. And the future. 

Because if you don't click, the terrorists win.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Tale of Me and the Hollywood Billionaire

Last week my daughters were home for Thanksgiving. As one of them was rummaging through the drawer full of CD's and DVD's, vestiges of an earlier era, she stumbled upon not one but two discs featuring the JammX Kids.

What? You've never heard of the JammX Kids?

Well, back in 2004, when I was still able to ride the last fading wave from our ABC Yellow campaign, I got a phone call from Merv Adelson. In some circles Merv was known as Mr. Barbara Walters, they had been married twice. In other circles he was known as the President of Lorimar Television.

He was a Hollywood macher. A man worth billions of dollars.

And when a man worth billions of dollars reaches out to you, you return the call. Particularly when you're a fresh freelancer who had just left the so-called "security" of agency life and you're still trying to find your legs as a mercenary.

Plus, and I know I just mentioned this, he was worth billions of dollars.

So I broke out the khaki pants and the heavily-starched button-down shirt and made my way to Merv's fancy-schmancy Lorimar office. He was every bit the old-timey Hollywood producer.

He was right out of Central Casting -- ironic since he was literally one of the architects of Hollywood Central Casting.

Anyway, Merv had plans to launch a 'huge enterprise'  which he was calling the JammX Kids. An ensemble of ethnically diverse pre-teens who would go on weekly adventures, all thinly-veiled plots designed to demonstrate their quite ample hip hop skills.

As he was explaining the premise of the new show, he was sizing me up and came to the quite natural conclusion that if anyone could kickstart a fresh show about urban kids in fresh clothes breaking down the fresh beats with their awesome super tight dance moves, it was Rich Siegel.

Of course, I was sizing him up as well.

And immediately recognized the man's incredible negotiating power. He knew from my portfolio page and resume that I was new to the freelance game. Accordingly, he offered me an embarrassingly low day rate. Caveated by the promise of steady work and the opportunity to get in on the JammX Kids ground floor.

I saw this man swimming in a giant pool of money and thought it would be wise to hang around the edges, should any of that free-flowing money lap over the sides.

It didn't.

After an initial one-sheet poster I had done for Merv, which mercifully never got produced, our relationship became a non-stop series of fruitless meetings. Wherein, Merv would graciously pump me for free ideas and marketing advice.

"Can I get you some water? Maybe a latte? I have a new espresso machine. I can have my assistant bring in some rugalah. What can I get you?"

And I would be scratching my head wondering how to invoice him for all my time.

Soon after, Merv and I parted ways in the most satisfying Hollywood fashion.

I stopped taking his calls.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A different belt

Been thinking about who we are and what we do lately.

We're not artists. If we were true poets and painters, we'd be writing sonnets and visiting our work in museums or local Greenwich Village studios. Instead, we're penning industrial yank-off manifestos and scouring the Internet for illustrators who will do our bidding for $19 an hour.

We're not business people. If we had a knack for numbers we'd look at our holding company overlords who have sold us a bad bill of goods, infected us with deadly Stockholm Syndrome and say Fuck You Very Much.

We're boxers.

We're fighters.

We're bruisers and brawlers who can step in the ring, take a good corporate pummeling and like Jake LaMotta, look adversity in the eye, and say, "You never got me down, Ray. Never."

Of course this is no great revelation. If you've ever presented your ideas to a Leadership Committee or Partner Party or Executive Bureau -- every agency has a different name -- you're all too familiar with the requisite ducking, weaving and counterpunching.

"Yes, it is on strategy"

"Yes, we can produce this on a limited budget."

"Yes, it covers off all the mandatories on the brief."

"No, we don't have a brand engagement unit that seamlessly integrates with the idea in a synergistic manner that will actively stimulate brand-to-consumer interaction. But the Pad Thai Noodles are coming at 8 and we should have that by tomorrow morning."

The pugilism analogy is hardly stretched.

As in the world of boxing, there are certain creatives who will, with a modicum of skills and an entourage of smooth talking connections, rise above the rest and become true prizefighters.

And then there are the rest of us who will bounce around from one gym (open office plan) to another (open office plan with foosball table.)

We'll take body punches from planners. Head butts from CMO's. And bone crushing, dream crushing combinations from the least likely of sources, a newly minted Account Coordinator, eager to make her mark and ascend the corporate ladder...

"I like the idea but if I can just play Devil's Advocate."

In the end and apart from the scratches and bruises and scars, we don't have much to show for our efforts.

Nobody remembers that million dollar Nissan spot you shot with that artsy-fartsy European director who despised the color blue. Nobody can recall the 24 page insert you wrote for Dell computers. And nobody gives a horse's patooty about all those goddamned banner ads and page takeovers.

All of which makes me so glad that 13 years ago I hung up my agency boxing gloves and took up the more fluid, freelance approach of Tai Chi.

Serenity. Now.

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's good to be the King

Last week Business Insider magazine printed their 2016 list of the 16 Richest White Jowly Men in Advertising. If that's not grist for the RoundSeventeen mill nothing else is.

I've spent quite a few years in this business and have had the opportunity to work with people who are generally regarded as icons of their time: Lee Clow, Steve Hayden and David Lubars, to name a few. Not one of these gents is on the list.

In fact, if you were to scour the list you wouldn't find one poor schlub who has ever written a headline, comped a layout or dragged an unwieldy Gator Board thru the Cincinatti airport at 2 in the morning to catch a redeye connection for a 7 AM pitch the following morning.

But alas, so much digital ink has already been expended on these richy rich douchebags, I'm going to go in the opposite direction.

You see last week I spotted a posting on LinkedIn. It happened to be from a headhunter friend of mine but I don't fault her for listing the job but I do have some issues with the people trying to fill the job.

Take a look.

Good night nurse, let's cut right to the chase and whip out the calculator.

This self-described killer creative shop is looking for an award winning team with lots of TV experience and they're willing to pay 120K! Wowie, zowie, how incredibly generous is that?

If you're a senior creative who has won lots of awards for TV work, chances are you're in your thirties. Because frankly kids in their twenties, the ones raised on banner ads and Snapchat fuckamajigs, can barely write a TV spot, much less an award winning one.

So you're in your 30's and you're gonna live in NYC. Oh the agency will pay the relocation fee. But that $3000 a month rent for your 600 square foot Chelsea studio with the bathtub that doubles as a kitchen sink, that's all on you.

Now let's start tapping some keys. Because in a normal industry 120K is not a bad salary for someone putting in a standard 40 hour work week. For 2000 hours of annual labor it works out to be about $60/hour.

But advertising is not normal. Nor standard. Let's not forget, we're changing the world. And that can't be done in 40 hours a week. Fuck no. Between briefs that are rewritten, sometimes twice a day, client dysfunction, and rampant committee-think, you'll be lucky to clock 60 hours a week. But this is a "killer shop", which means they've been cursed with ambition, so it's gonna be more like 80 hours a week.

Not to mention weekends.
And Holidays.

Yom Kippur?

"You need to fast? We're not asking you not to eat. We're asking you to work. Actually, we're not asking." 

In all, new relocated senior team with a portfolio chock full of awards sitting at seats #21 and #22 at the "idea assembly line", you'll log so much time at the agency you'll develop an aura of perma-body odor.

Your true hourly rate will be less that the building's night watchman. And the Puerto Rican janitor, Fernando, who gets paid for his overtime and also makes more money than you, will joke...

"Oh you spend so much time here, Mr./Ms. (your last name here), when are they going to put your name on the door?"

And they never will.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Last week the hard drive on my 6 year old iMac crashed. It crashed hard.

I took it to the Genius Bar and had the tech guy run some diagnostics. All the tests were coming up green until, bam, like crapping out in Vegas I was staring at a big red warning button.

"Not good," said the hipster dude with the abnormally long lumberjack beard. "You can get a whole new computer for about $2300 or a new hard drive for 200 bucks," he added.

I have two college bursars with a lien on my paychecks; I took the new hard drive.

When it was installed a week later, I brought it home and began the laborious job of rebuilding my digital life. I love the pinpoint accuracy of the El Captain installation process (see picture above.)

About 974,480,799 hours and 5 minutes remaining.

I won't bore you with the excruciating details, but it took a long time to reboot the lost software, track down all the photos and the iTunes and finally, partially recover my accounting records that detailed the ups and downs of the last 13 years of freelancing.

Instead I'll share some of the random photos I found on my iPhone this week that, in a haphazard way, tell the story of the recent election, my daughter's homecoming(s), our family trip to the Broad Museum, Thanksgiving and the nearby Pacific Ocean which we don't visit often enough.