Thursday, May 13, 2021

GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company. An update.

Things at George Central Station have been crazy of late. In fact, I am writing this post at 3:23AM Thursday morning, having worked like a good Stakhanovite nearly through the night.

Alexi Stakhanov set the Soviet standard of a worker who went above his quota.
As Marx himself might have said, he is to be admired and despised.

Since I have the sleep habits (and the stench) of a Gloucester fisherman, late nights are hard for me. But, as Herodotus and Rich Siegel said so many moons ago, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these copywriters from the swift completion of their appointed seventeen rounds." 

So, dig we must.

I mix metaphors like bartenders mix drinks.

GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company is, touch wood, cooking on all eight burners (we recently remodeled our kitchen and got a bigger stove) but what's really flipping my burgers is a call I got from the head--or near head--of one of the "majors." A giant holding company agency.

This bi-pedal carbon-based lifeform (I'm not sure what pronouns ______ uses, so I'm playing it safe) first called me toward the end of April. We've known each other since the early aughts and through the passing decades, fly-bys at half-a-dozen agencies each and an entire continent of movement we have remained friends.

"George, would you consider joining us? We're doing good things."

I laughed.

"You're kidding, right? Isn't that like the DEA recruiting El Chapo?"

It was his, her or their turn to laugh.

"Seriously. We're d and d on this. But it's the <ahem> Barnstable account."

"The Barnstable account. (I'm using a code-name.) Shit. I'm perfect for that. I mean, who knows more about making complex technology sexy than I do?"

"Well, yeah. That's why I'm calling. And you do know Maxine, yes?"

"I was at her kid's Bat Mitzvah--a good table. Away from the band."

"Pigs in a blanket?"

"And mini-latkes."

"For real? Well, listen. I have to bolt. The Barnstable account, think about it."

"Look. I'm making double the money on my own compared to what I was making at Ogilvy. I'm not sure the economics of the holding company can pay people anymore."

"George, no commitment. Let me set up some calls. You'll talk to some people. We won't waste your time."

"Yeah, ok, but. It would take a lot for me to give up the independence it took me forty agency years to attain."

"Barnstable," was all that was said.

So this week and next and probably into Memorial Day, I'll be talking to people. 

Waste of time?

To be clear, they'd have a much better chance if they sent me some pigs in a blanket.

They can convince me of almost anything.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Five questions that may make you a better writer.

I read somewhere a long time ago that in the 100-meter sprint in the Olympics, the difference between winning gold and winning bronze comes down to being about one-percent faster. In other words, a little bit goes a long way.

That's why I think a lot about writing and how to be better at what I do. If I can be one-percent funnier, or different-er, or smarter, or faster than the people I compete against, I could well be a copywriter-monopolist on the order of a Huntington Hartford, Andrew Carnegie or Henry Clay Frick. 

Today, there’s a lot of folderol floating about in the cosmos about the importance of story-telling. And it seems to me you can hardly spit without hitting some self-proclaimed celebrity teaching a course on writing. 

We also hear the word authenticity often enough to our ears practically vomit blood. My guess is the people who use the word and its ugly companion, transparency, most often are the ones who are the biggest liars. My two cents say we believe in authenticity until it costs us something. At that point we believe wholeheartedly in prevarication and double-talk.

But back to writing about writing. 

There's nothing you can learn about writing--from anyone or from anywhere--that is as important as asking yourself a simple question or five.

Ask yourself these questions as you pick up your pencil or tap on your keys. They can't hurt. And they might help.

1. Are you writing to impart useful information to people or are you writing to show how smart you are?

A lot of writing I see uses big words and ridiculously long sentences. It doesn't explain anything.

2. Are you writing to clarify things or to confuse issues? Are you writing to simplify or complicate?

So much of what we read uses jargon and cliches. It's obvious to me that not even the writer knows what they're trying to communicate. Or they're being purposefully deceptive for nefarious purposes.

3. Are you writing lies or have you decided to tell the truth? That is are you writing honestly, or dishonestly?

I often bump into writing that is as circuitous as the roads in a gated community. If you respect the reader, you get to the point. Don't lead them into cul-de-sacs or dead ends.

4. Are you trying to reach people or bully them?

About 85% of the VOs I hear on television is an announcer yelling at viewers. Much of writing also feels more like berating. Is someone channeling my mother?

5. Do you want people to read what you've written or just see that you have written?

A lot of writing starts out with cliches and buzzwords and stock-phrases that indicate to the reader that the writer has put no thought and even less-candor into what they've sent out. This is writing that allows Authority to say they've done the right thing while doing the wrong thing.

I suppose you can reduce all these questions to one. Will the reader trust (and like) the writer--even if they're told something harsh--or will they feel after reading that they've been hosed-down with bullshit and the smell is lingering? 

Unfortunately, most writing--corporate memos, ads, emails, political statements, including apologies, are so rife with weasel words and duplicity, that they are all but meaningless to the careful reader.

Somehow I'm reminded of some beauty by Robert Frost:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

Or my sorry version re-writ for the Modren ad agency:

Before I write a note I'd ask to know
What I was lying about or lying for,
And to whom I was like to give offense,

If you can spare two minutes and thirty-two seconds and you still have a brain that can work through metaphor, give yourself a treat and listen to Mr. Frost himself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Birds of prey.

As a nascent suburbanite, I am seeing parts of the world and creatures in the world that I have never before seen. 

I remember as a little boy waking up in a strange home on a windy day. I saw for the first time the tops of trees swaying in the breeze. I was convinced the tree had to topple. Nothing could lean like that and not fall.

I realized many years later, I had never seen a tree before. Sure I had seen the little mutants that grow on city streets. But I had never seen one that towered. Who knew?

Today--sixty years later--I am having the same sensation as I walk along the seaside here along the Gingham Coast of Connecticut. I don't think, outside of some sparrows, robins or pigeons, I had ever seen birds before.

The first bird to fascinate me was the Osprey. In the Spring and Summer, the skies teem with them here. And since our rickety home is on a cliff above the sea, we see them rise from the surf with a menhadin or a striped bass in their talons, hieing back to their giant nests in the marsh to feed themselves and their fledglings.

With that avian escapade in mind, I recently read a book review in The Wall Street Journal and another (here) in the New York Times of "A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds."

No, it must be said, I am not going to become a birder. I am not buying a three-foot lens covered in camo and waders and all the other accouterments of the birding brotherhood. But one part of the book had appeal to me as a denizen of the ad business and as an observer of humankind.

I quote it here:

“You know what bothers me about scientists?” my mother asked some years ago. “They always say, ‘We used to think, but now we know.’ ” If I remember correctly, she was ticked off over some flip-flopping research about diet and health, maybe the endless eggs-are-good/eggs-are-bad debate, but I have to admit, she had a point. Science is a process, one where ideas are proposed, tested, and discarded if new evidence demands it. Any good researcher (if they’re being true to the scientific method) ought to say, “We used to think, but now we think.”

As someone who's occupied senior roles in ten or so agencies, I've sat in a lot of meetings during my long days and longer nights. And all agencies, whether they're specialists in digital media, events, direct marketing or what is not retronymically-called 'traditional advertising,' trot out the same spiel.

There's always some science like in the quotation above that will solve today's problems and therefore carry the day. There's always someone--usually with an accent (real or not)--who has figured out, like a religious zealot, 'the one true path to marketing salvation.'

Maybe it's ad tracking. 

Maybe it's buying this many GRPs.

Maybe it's a rotating and orange "Learn more" button.

One of those--according to Madison Avenue and all its byways--is the answer. The completion of the great "if-then proposition" that states, "if we do X, then Y will happen."

I've seen it and heard it and so have you.

But I go back to the lines above, "we used to think..." (hahahaha, we were so dumb and naive) "now we know..." (we've learned so much. We've really figured things out.)

The thing is, you no one knows anything.

As the Flitcraft chapter ("G in the Air) from Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" tells us,

"What disturbed him was the discovery that in sensibly ordering his affairs he had got out of step, and not into step, with life. He said he knew before he had gone twenty feet from the fallen beam that he would never know peace again until he had adjusted himself to this new glimpse of life. By the time he had eaten his luncheon he had found his means of adjustment. Life could be ended for him at random by a falling beam: he would change his life at random by simply going away."

In other words, the world is the world, and strange shit happens. In fact the least strangest thing in the world is strange shit happening. Strange is, in fact, normal.

What's dumb and filled with hubris is asserting that YOU know. That your agency's methodology or style or tuned-inned-ness is the answer.

Nope. It ain't.

What I've seen in the business is this. This is what works.

People like to laugh. People like to learn. People like to feel smart. They like to know things their neighbors don't. They like to be entertained. And they get bored easily.

Keep doing work till you have something that fits that description. 

Then run it.

Then do it again.

Sure, there's a lot of waste and inefficiency and losses and mistakes and cost in operating this way.

But it's better than the other way.


Monday, May 10, 2021

Thoughts from a working man.

"There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep rolling under the stars."  --Jack Kerouac, "On the Road."

I read something last night in a book I am reading called "First Steps: How Upright Walking Made us Human," by Jeremy DeSilva. You can read the review from the failing New York Times, here.

My reading style is structured a lot like my desk was when I had a desk. It's a mess. Things--books, interests, articles, topics, pictures, miscellany--are all scattered willy-nilly. They pile up like ashes in an incinerator or snowflakes in a blizzard.

There is no order or plan. Things bump into each other and like a wayward basketball three-point shot or a knuckleball tossed on a windy day, I have no idea where things are or where they'll bounce next.

That's ok. I've found this is the best way to feed my brain. When I was studying to become an English professor, my course of reading was way more methodical. But even then, I would jump from Defoe to Hardy to Thomas Mann to an Archie comic to The New York Times.

Too often, we forget about serendipity and its value. Put another way, we forget about what we can find when we get lost.

The other night while reading the book I mentioned above, I came upon a great journey.

The story of a paleontologist called Zhaoyu Zhu who discovered in 2018 in China, simple stone tools made by ancient hands 2.1 million years ago.

How the fuck did humans get from South Africa, where our species originated, 9,000 miles to the east, all those millions of years ago? 

There were no horses or animals to ride. No roads or even paths. No sailing ships or sealing wax or cabbages or kings.

Then I read this: "
If early members of the genus Homo migrated east at just one mile per decade starting around 2.2 million years ago, they could have reached China 2.1 million years ago, in plenty of time to leave their stone tools at Shangchen..."

In other words--people move, people wander, people don't sit still, people explore. That is the peopling and the progress of humankind. 

Also, time. We don't have what a thousand generations had. But we have over 8700 hours a year. And if we walk 4/10ths of a mile an hour, we could be in San Francisco by Christmas.

On Saturday, I read an article in "The New York Times" called "The Oldest Productivity Trick Around," written by a teacher at Vassar College called Amitava Kumar. If you can muster up the productivity to read it, you can find it here. Naturally, I recommend it.

Kumar starts with something very simple--something anyone who writes for a living--which should include more people than it does--can and should do.

"Write every day, and walk every day.” The specific instruction was to write 150 words and engage in mindful walking for 10 minutes.

Kumar says, "It was a modest goal, because I wanted to be able to do it myself. I had a toddler and other classes to teach. I had recently come across that famous Annie Dillard line: 'How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.' It made me realize that too often I spent my days wanting to write and not writing. Again and again, I would note in my journal, “I did not write today.” The idea that this was how I was going to spend my life filled me with despair.

"So I took up the assignment I had given my students. I used a composition notebook, with those black-and-white marbled covers. Having written my daily quota, I would note the date on the notebook’s last page and make a small check mark next to it. Every few days, I would hold up my notebook to show my students the columns of black check marks."

As a person of ambition--not unlike Yon Cassius, with a lean and hungry look--when I set out to become a writer, I had the intention of making something of myself. 

This is part of the long-American tradition of Horatio Alger melded with Budd Schulberg's Sammy Glick. I also remember, as a young man, reading this book by critic and editor Malcolm Cowley, called, appropriately enough, "And I Worked at the Writer's Trade."

For all my faults as a human, all my shortcomings and indiscretions and peccadillos as a husband, father, friend, boss, employee, co-worker, colleague, agency-owner and short-order copy-cook, I don't think I can be disparaged for my work ethic. The keyword in Cowley, in Kumar and in those ancient traveling humans is work.

Work doesn't have to look like an old Lewis Hine photograph. At least it doesn't for me. But all the same, it is work. It's grueling, challenging, and meaningful--no matter how trivial the task--there is meaning in doing it with dignity. 

I don't care if that sentiment is old-fashioned. If we're supposed to, these days, find purpose by switching straws. I find purpose through getting paid. Making clients rich. Caring for my family. Putting money aside for the inevitable rainy day. And something a little extra, so I can leave something behind.

So when I set out to become a writer, I set out to work at it. Novels, I have boxes full. Regrets, too.

I have terabytes of flawed characters and improbable heroines dragging me from various abysses just in the nick of time. I have sheaves and folios of pat endings and hard-boiled patter, that would make George Raft wince.

But what I have most of is the writing in this space. Nearly two-million words of it through over 6000 posts.

A lot of clients come to me because I can write. I can write because I work at it. And because I walk.

I work. I write. I walk.

Every day.

Thank you.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Modern agency phone tree.

Hello, you have reached the voice-mail system at Why a Papercut and Plasticine. Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed. Para Espanol, numero dos. Para Yiddish, oy vey.

Press 1, if you'd like to get your swagger back.

Press 2, if you'd like your soda company to remove 150 metric tons of ocean plastic from its reputation.

Press 3, if you'd like to become part of culture.

Press 4, if you'd like to lead culture, not merely be a part of it.

Press 5, if you'd like a commercial where sallow young people undulate to bad EDM.

Press 6, if you'd like an agency network with borderless creativity.

Press 7, if you'd like to know that by borderless creativity we mean we put low-wage workers in Mumbai to work creating your Instagram ads.

Press 8, if you'd like us to ignore your business because we're busy winning awards for work that never ran.

Press 9, if you'd like us to lead your brand-transformation though we've transformed our brand from one of the strongest in the world into a money-hemorrhaging sump-pump.

Press 10, if you'd like hundreds of small ads that no one will ever see.

Press 11, if you'd like messaging for your $100 Billion brand tended to by 26-year-olds who can't even pay their own rent. 

Press 12, if you'd like an agile, robust, scalable solution.

Press 13, if you'd like to contribute your marketing budget to our agency overhead.

Press 14, if you'd like to contribute your marketing budget to our
holding company overhead.

Press 15, if you'd like us to recommend cool directors rather than business-building solutions.

Press 16, if you'd like 21 people in a meeting, 19 of whom are texting.

Press 17, if you'd like your business pitched by a team of people you'll never again see once the pitch is over.

Press 18, if you like glad-handing, cloying agreement and grin-fucking.

Press 19, if you'd like your work under-delivered. And late.

Press 20, if you'd like your work late. And under-delivered.

Press 21, if you believe the best promises are empty promises.

Press 22, if you think a suite in Cannes is the ultimate measure of marketing success.

Press 23, if you'd like your advertising agency run by people who have never created an ad.

Your call is important to us.

Please stay on the line and we will be with you never.

Thursday, May 6, 2021


I had written a bunch of ads for a client.

Maybe 100.

The best ads, most times, don't come from a brief. They come from a sense of who the brand is and what they're selling. Sometimes, it's better to convey a feeling of who a brand is, rather than the specifics of the brand.

Most people, after all, don't give much thought to brands or to character or to mission. There are times when you're better off staying at that level--and leaving the details for someplace else.

Of those hundred or so ads, the client had bought seven. Not a bad ratio. 

And GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company, was in the process of producing them. In about 98 different sizes each. That's life today. Fortunately, I had hired some really good people to make it all happen, and they were smart enough to leave me out of the intensive sausage grinding.

On Thursday, one of the ads was killed.

To my eyes, to the father of those ads, they turned on one of my children. Like the Romans would sometimes expose a child to the elements when they decided they didn't or couldn't raise him or her. 

All at once, I had a new ad to write.

It's funny how the different demands of work go. I dropped whatever I was doing and switched to writing new headlines. But headlines have to be channeled, you can't do it as you're switching planes. You have to be in a rhythm to get them right.

I wrote about a dozen and thought they were good.

I sent them to my account person. She thought they were good.

She sent them to our client.

I got a short note back.

The best kind of note.

"I really like the last one," she wrote. "But I want to love something and I don't love it."

That's called lowering the boom.

I suppose it's like having a 16 in Blackjack. You really want to get a card, but the odds tell you to stick.

I got the message.

I didn't stick.

"Let me write some more," I wrote back. "I think you're right. I want you to have something you love, too."

I suppose I could have bayed at the moon. 

What the fuck is wrong with them? 

Be specific.

How about a brief with what you want to say, instead of leaving it to me?

All excuses I've heard a lot during the last forty years.

Like most excuses, pretty lame.

Like I have no time. There's no brief. The product is boring. No one cares. I have to use stock. The space is too small. 

It's not that I have thick skin, or that I roll over. 

The client didn't love what I had done.

Rather than bemoan my chosen profession, I thought about how lucky I am.

I have a client who wants to love the work she's paying for.

I'm the same way.

If I hire a carpenter to build me bookshelves, I don't want acceptable ones. I want beautiful ones. Ones that exceed function. That tickle my brain.

I think that's more than fair.

Viktor Frankl wrote one of the 20th Century's most-important books. A book I've given to more people than any other: "Man's Search for Meaning."

We find meaning when we do things we love.

I worked a lot on writing some new ads and I'm sending them over in less than an hour.

I love them.

I hope they do.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Rumination with a (dim) view.

Portrait of the Blogger, by Durer.

For about the past 48-hours or so, I've been in a dour mood. Maybe even morose. Maybe lugubrious. Maybe worse.

How bad?

I asked my Alexa the temperature prior to going for a walk. I always ask for the temperature in Kelvin, and Alexa never complies. That about sums up what I think of so-called artificial intelligence. Artificial leads going away. Intelligence is left huffing in the gate.

I asked my Alexa the temperature and she replied, "58-degrees. Enjoy your afternoon, George."

I replied as I almost always do when I'm hit with abject solicitude, "Oh go fuck yourself, Alexa. I haven't enjoyed myself since 1961."

She then tried to console me and told me I wasn't alone and read me the phone number of a suicide hotline. I suppose that is our modern dilemma.

The only things that show real care are artificial voices.

It's not quite as bad as suicide, but I was born, the opposite of Scaramouche, not with a gift of laughter, but instead with dark storm clouds collecting over my head. Happy go lucky I aptly interpret as Sappy go fucky. But, as they say, I persist.

I read something late last night--I suppose mid-insomnia--about an ante-diluvian tribe from the Steppes who would consign their elderly not to a kindling-laden raft which they would set aflame and send out to sea, but to a pack of their wild dogs who would tear them apart and speed their way off this mortal coil.

I suppose it sounds cruel to our ears, but these were nomadic warriors who would perish if they could not out-maneuver their foes and they had no accommodation for excess baggage, people or American Touristers, and who can blame them.

Maybe the hardest thing about being thrown out by the business world is the imposed imperative that you no longer have use.

You know your brain still functions. You know your ideas still flow. You know how to put phonemes and morphemes together with a skill and acuity that is regarded, by many, as almost supernatural. But because you don't know Cardi B from Amos Alonso Stagg, you are regarded as obsolete--human jetsam, to be left to the dark, drooling and demonic dogs of human-disposal: HR.

Perhaps this is all because I've had two-days where I haven't been as busy as a serrated knife at an Oneg Shabbat. In other words--GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company, has somewhat returned to earth.

Earth. What a dump.™

The fear of course--though I think I have already in 2021 surpassed my 2019 Ogilvy salary--is that the oasis has run dry and no more work will come.

Also, and just as dispiriting, is the world that modern humans have built. Everything from the electric oven to the microwave, to the washer-dryer, to my wife's 207 Apple devices are constantly beeping, chiming and or vibrating.

I understand that tea-kettles have been whistling since Dr. Thomas K. Ettle invented that device late one night in his attic laboratory in Freiburg im Breisgau in Baden-Wurtemberg in the early 16th-Century. But why is everything today built to summon you 60 or 90 times a day?

Attention must be paid, Mrs. Loman cried. But does it have to be paid so fucking often? Isn't it important to, at times, pay inattention, to let your mind play and run free in the fields of imagination and hope and even dreams without being binged and banged and chirped and cheeped into mental submission?

O tempore, o mores, the Romans said, in between destroying whole civilizations and eating a heap of hummingbird tongues.

Well, on this Tuesday in May, I've had enough tempore and more than enough mores. I could use less mores.

I'd like an hour alone in the sunshine, a gentle breeze, a nice glass of cold seltzer and ten clients waiting for me to get around to returning their calls.

No, sorry. I'm too busy right now.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Nobody asked me but...

Nobody Asked Me But is my periodic tribute to the great New York sportswriter, Jimmy Cannon. Who would write a column of miscellany when he had nothing else to write.

Here's my woeful attempt at imitation.

Nobody asked me but...I think GIFs, however they're pronounced, are stupid. When did we decide that it would be funny if we all told the same joke. And then repeated it. And repeated it and repeated it.

Nobody asked me but...I love New York. But eating outdoors on a sidewalk near a bus-stop is not my idea of gracious living.

Nobody asked me but...Whenever I see an article headlined "Discover the future of..." I always consider it an ad.

Nobody asked me but... National Public Radio news programming is a series of sponsorship announcements interrupted by press-releases and brief items on marijuana legalization.

Nobody asked me but...I don't trust any person who's not creative saying he wants to build a creative company. Especially if he doesn't even take the time to get to know actual creative people.

Nobody asked me but... The more I read, I realize the less I know. I'm reading this book now and it makes me excoriate myself for my ignorance.

Nobody asked me but...I hear a lot about design and its importance, yet just about every marketing communication I see is ill-conceived and ugly.

Nobody asked me but...The quality of writing is even worse.

Nobody asked me but...Judging by the marketing nonsense I read on LinkedIn, Kool-Aid must be the #1-selling beverage in America.

Nobody asked me but...It seems like half the world's logos consist of white type dropped out of a red box.

Nobody asked me but...Never take life advice from something printed on a t-shirt. Or from the person wearing that shirt.

Nobody asked me but...You won't be able to convince me to watch a gum commercial that's 2:34 in length. I tried once, it felt slightly longer than Sergey Bondarchuk's 1965 version of Tolstoy's "War and Peace." 

Nobody asked me but...The best way for a company to show that it's "customer-centric" is to give customers something entertaining to watch or read. 

Nobody asked me but...But apparently, most brands communicate customer-centricity by having bad actors dance badly and speak incomprehensively, and too loud and too fast.

Nobody asked me makes sense to say why what you're advertising is different and better. So many ads are all story but no selling.

Nobody asked me but...About the best piece of advice I've ever received on writing a :30-second spot was this: "A :30-second spot should have about :15-seconds of copy."

Nobody asked me but...Most of the commercials I see on TV confuse me. I don't know what's being sold or why I need it.

Nobody asked me but...If your message sucks, putting a "learn more" button on it won't induce anyone to learn more. That's not a call-to-action, it's a call-to-clutter.

Nobody asked me but...It might be 90 years old, but advertising people and marketers would do well to remember the acronym AIDA.

Nobody asked me but...If you've forgotten, that's Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. 

Nobody asked me but...I'm not sure why that's not accepted currency today.

Nobody asked me but...Maybe they should come out with a bit-coin version.

Monday, May 3, 2021

In love with concrete.

I spent the weekend back in New York, home at last, from our small and somewhat ramshackle cottage on a cliff overlooking the sea in Old Saybrook, CT.

There has been a lot of crap in the news and from our former president (who lost the popular vote in 2016 by three-million votes and in 2020 by eight-million votes) about New York. That the city was a ghost town.

If you've lived in New York as long as I have, you've heard it all before. You've seen a skyrocketing murder rate--with an average one year of nearly seven murders a day. You've seen trillions of dollars of wealth evaporate due to stock-market malfeasance. You've seen planes crash into buildings.

You've heard and seen the sonorous reports about the city emptying out. 

When I was living up on 109th Street and Broadway in the early 1980s, war-mongering, supply-side-lying president Reagan seemed bent on forcing a nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union. 

In fact, that doddering liar's deputy secretary of defense for Strategic and Theater Nuclear Forces, T.K. Jones said, “If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it. Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors and then throw three feet of dirt on top. It’s the dirt that does it.

One morning, unbeknownst to me, a nuclear disarmament group blanketed the neighborhood and the subway platforms with the outlines of vaporized bodies. I mistook them for police chalk outlines of the previous night's murders. I was unphased that there had been a harvest of 50 or so.

Through all that, I have believed in New York. 

But when Covid hit and the siren song of the sea beckoned, I left the city. Since March 2020, I have been away from the city more than any other time in my life.

Some of that has to do with living by the sea. Some has to do with Whiskey's illness and the palliative effects romping in the sea has on her soul. When a soul as perfect as Whiskey is ill, you do everything in your power to soothe it.

As my time away from New York had lengthened, I found myself beginning to convince myself that maybe it was time to hang up my urban spikes. Maybe, I began telling myself, between the high-rents, the noise and the dirt--and worst of all the trillionaires--it's time to admit that Gotham is a young person's town.

It's just possible my increasingly rickety limbs are better suited to the slower pace of Connecticut's Gingham Coast.

But no.

Sunday afternoon, I went to visit my oldest friend who, sadly, is an inpatient at one of the world's greatest hospitals. The institution sits about a mile from my house. The weather was perfect, as perfect as May can be. And people--millions of them--after America's long flirtation with the dark-ages and the plague--were out in force.

There was hardly a midriff that wasn't exposed. Hardly a baseball cap, non-sensically, not turned backward. And hardly a tot not carrying a dripping ice-cream cone.

In my friend's room, we visited the past. We visited the future. We laughed like we've been laughing together since we met in 1971. And we cried too. At the film running out of the projector that is our lives. 

But mostly we laughed. And touched wood. And thanked, silently, our wives. Prayed for, silently, our children. And prayed again for the world, which seems off the rails more often than it's on the rails.

We weren't allowed to shake hands, or hug, or even elbow or fist bump. That's not allowed today and under today's circumstances.

It made it worse for me. Leaving without shaking hands. Or something. I've always been a bad leaver. I always feel that there's another story that could have been told or another joke we could have laughed at.

But, and maybe this is the lesson of New York. 

Don't give up on anything, ever.

Most things, and people, are stronger than you think.

Stronger than they even know.

Friday, April 30, 2021


--  --  --  --  --  --  --  --  --

I had an idea the other day that I can't shake.

Because I work largely on my own, or because I largely work on my own, or because I'm large and work on my own, I try to be hard on my own ideas.

Before I tell them to anyone, I spend a lot of time and a lot of synapses trying to shoot them down. After a lifetime in the business--and a modicum of success--I still fear coming across as a fool. Really, who doesn't?

In any event, going through LinkedIn the other morning, and Twitter, and Facebook, and seeing the pyroclastic explosion of banality from all three of those social networks, I tripped upon an idea for a new type of agency.

This new type would be diametrically different from every other agency that ever was. And that giant difference would be captured immediately and communicated in an instant by its name:


It's not that the people in the agency would actually have mouth-ectomies, it's that we wouldn't, under any circumstances, allow any talking whatsoever.

If you were a creative, your Mouthless job would be to write down or design the crap most agencies spend four weeks till four in the morning talking about.

If you were account, you'd have listened to the client and created a brief or a way to sell the work and written it down on a piece of paper. Preferably a piece of paper the size of an index card.

Same with media.

Same with planning.

The lip-flapping would stop.

Mouths would be persona non grata.

In fact, since Mouthless is my creation, I'd have one simple rule. You couldn't go home at night until you handed me a sheet of paper or two with all the things you thought of that day.

Not vagaries. "Like I was thinking this could be cutty." But real bona fide ideas based on real information and insights. So, someone might write something that said, "No one knows what the client does, so I explained it here in seven words." Or, "I made a diagram so a small business could see how easy it is to accept payments by QR codes."

On Sunday, Bob Hoffman, the Ad Contrarian, sent me an email. Based on the fact that Bob and I have eaten pastrami sandwiches with half-sours and a Dr. Brown's cream down at Katz's, and I don't do that with just anyone, I count him among my closer friends.

His note was short and grumpy. Just the way I like notes.

"Can you believe this shit," he wrote. And then there was a link to an article from Campaign Magazine. There was a time when I might have changed names to protect the innocent, but that Dragnet shit is over for me. Frankly, I was too nice for too long and it did me no good.

Inside O*il*y’s employee wellness program

by Sabrina SanchezApril 19, 2021

The ‘100% You’ program goes beyond mental health to address four pillars of wellness: money, movement, minds and meals.

The past 13 months have been tough on everyone’s mental health. 

As 9.7 million people in the U.S. remain unemployed, and those working from home struggle with burnout from their screens, the overall well being of Americans dropped sharply last year. 

As a result, employee wellness programs took on new meaning. 

To rise to the occasion, O*il*y launched a new program, called 100% You, that aims to address a fuller picture of wellness for employees, said J*m*s K*nn*y, chief people officer in North America and global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at O*il*y.

“We've invested in buildings and in technology,” he said, “but it was time to invest in our [employees] —100% of [them].” 

The program, which launched shortly after 
K*nn*y joined the company in January, includes weekly Zoom seminars around four pillars:  money, movement, minds and meals — to address financial, physical, mental and dietary wellness. U.S. employees are given a time code to attend sessions, which are held during the work day.

The seminar aims to address all of the things employees most need to bring their whole selves to work, 
K*nn*y said. 

“We often talk about wellness as moving your body, or some sort of app, but few people realize the importance of financial wellness,” he said. “If we invest in our people and we teach them how to create [wellness] for themselves, it’s [reflected] in the work.”

Each month, sessions are led by one of four coaches: professional softball player and TV host with DraftKings, A.J. Andrews; CEO and founder of finance coaching platform 
The Financial GymShannon McLay; Morrocan chef Yasmina Ksikes; and certified health coach and yoga teacher Yvette Rose. 

Diversity was also top of mind when developing the program, 
K*nn*y said, adding that he was intentional about choosing four women — and three women of color — to coach.

“When we're talking about 100% You and total wellness, [representation] is part of that,” he said.

While the program is U.S.-based for now, O*il*y plans to expand the program to Europe and APAC and create branding around the program when offices reopen. 

“Whether you're in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or Denver, we will have dedicated spaces for coaches to come in and create this experience on a weekly basis,” 
K*nn*y said. 

He added: “I don't think there's anything more important than this investment in bringing people together. To me that's where creativity begins: through community.”

Reading that bullshit, I don't think there's much else an agency called Mouthless has to say to justify its reason-for-being. I found the notion of "wellness" from a place that sweats people to death and doesn't pay or promote them the moral equivalent of a cold Soviet shower with Levrenti Beria and a plumber's helper.

However, if you're still not convinced regarding the need for an agency like the one I'm proposing, let me leave you with this. Tell me if you don't think the world would be a lot better off with a lot more duct tape. And many fewer Holding Company Chieftains.

WPP Launches Global Data Company: 


Delivers a privacy-first approach to customer data amid changing
market dynamics

W*P (NYSE: W*P) today announces Cho*eog*aph, a new global data company,
to help clients realize the value of their first-party data, consult on and implement
their data and technology strategies, and advise on privacy-first approaches to
navigate the fast-changing data landscape. Cho*eog*aph brings together the
specialist data units of G*oup* and W*nd*rm*n T*om*son into a single
company with global reach, accessible to all WPP clients and companies.

Cho*eog*aph’s core belief is that marketers own their first-party data with 

consumer permission; respect for privacy and the intentional use of data is at the
heart of its approach. Guided by this philosophy, 
Cho*eog*aph will continue to
create market-leading tools to support clients in the appropriate and responsible
application of data in advertising. 
Cho*eog*aph’s role is to orchestrate and
integrate data sets, including managing first-party data as a service, to
expand audiences for growth, and to use data to optimise and improve
media, creative and consumer experiences.

The company will offer four key product categories—audience insights and planning; 
private identity solutions; AI-based media optimization; and predictive analytics—
and services including strategy consultancy, custom technology development and 
data management operations.

M*rk R*ad, CEO of W*P, said: "We are at an inflection point in the industry, where 
brands have an imperative to leverage their own first-party data to make
advertising more relevant, effective and personal while fully respecting
consumer privacy. We must also use data to gain insights, shape our creative
work and measure results – 
and this requires a holistic approach that
this integrated offering brings by enabling data to flow across client,
agency, and media owners. Uniting the powerful and established data units
G*oup* and W*nd*rm*n T*om*son into a single global data company
is another important step in our simplification strategy."

Cho*eog*aph builds on W*P’s extensive data and consultancy capabilities within 

its creative, media, PR and specialist agencies. Leveraging the common data and
technology platform, W*P Op*n, 
Cho*eog*aph has a commitment to agnostic data
partnerships, including cleanroom partners by market, creating unrivalled flexibility
for clients....

...Walgr*ens Bo*ts Al*iance is a premier Cho*eog*aph launch client, as part of
the selection of W*P as its global marketing and communications agency in 2020.
"Cho*eog*aph delivers a unified identity-based approach, providing unique insights
to fuel brand growth and power personalized experiences for our customers
while fully respecting their privacy and preferences," said M*tt H*rker,
VP Global Marketing Strategy & Transformation, Walgr*ens Bo*ts Al*iance.

C*ristian Ju*l, G*oupM G*obal C*O, said: "Data management today should 
reflect the data and technology savvy of the consumer. Cho*eog*aph is built
on common-sense principles that allow marketers to manage and use 
their data.
Our framework of manage and earn, expand and enrich, and activate and optimize
is flexible, modular and designed for the future of data-based businesses,
enabling marketers to create better experiences, stronger brands and
trusted customer relationships."

The new company has the scale advantages of W*P, the world’s leading creative
transformation company, and G*oup*, the largest media investment company
with an annual investment of over 60B USD. Cho*eog*aph launches in all major
markets globally, with support hubs in Karlsruhe (Germany), Lille (France),
London (U.K.), New Delhi (India), New York and San Francisco (U.S.), Shanghai
(China) and Sydney (Australia).

About W*P

W*P is a creative transformation company. We use the power of creativity to
build better futures for our people, planet, clients and communities.
For more information, visit...

By the way, if you're a company that's losing accounts left

and right, losing money quarter after quarter, rather than saying
you use the "power of creativity to build better futures...." perhaps 

you should be Mouthless. Or make money.