Wednesday, April 30, 2008

GM is doing better.

General Motors lost only $3.25 billion last quarter. That's only $250 million a week or $1.5 million an hour. Or $25,000 a minute.

The $2 billion a year GM spends shooting cars on winding roads in California (essentially the same spot they've been airing since Dinah Shore sang "See the USA in your Chevrolet) must really be doing the trick.

How many of your clients are brand managers at Tab.®

Glenn, a friend and gifted creative, has listed Brand Manager at Tab® as his job title on his Facebook profile. When I asked him about it, he replied thusly:...that is just an old joke between me and someone who used to be (or still is) at Og****...the Brand Manager at Tab, his job is to sell less Tab every year than the year prior."

Like any good joke or observation, this one resonates because it has a foundation in the truth. Here it is 2008 and a majority of clients actually still believe "new media" is really new. It isn't. For a large percentage of consumers, the internet, mobile and the like are no longer new. They are vital forms of communication. Yet for the most part, marketing dollars are still allocated as if it is 1985.

"I'll have another Tab."

This is about clients who continue to lose market-share but continue to test their advertising to make sure it tests well. It tests well, yippee! But does it work? That doesn't matter--it performed to our metrics.

"I'll have another Tab."

This is about agencies that produce formulaic commercials with self-proclaimed celebrities that communicate nothing except that those self-proclaimed celebrities are ever-richer (and increasingly less relevant.)

"I'll have another Tab."

I could go on and on. And so can you.

Drink up. And have another Tab.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Some thoughts on AdWeek's agency report cards.

AdWeek's report card is a bit like a pre-pro book. When you get a pre-pro book, the first thing most people do is turn to the personnel section to make sure their title and place in the pecking order is correct. Vis a vis the report card, the first thing most people do is see how their agency did, and then, I suspect they check the twelve or fourteen other places they worked that are listed in the report.

With more than a trace of schadenfreude, I noticed yesterday last three "real" places at which I have most recently been employed (I won't say gainfully) have plummeted in the rankings since I left.

Introducing the Incredible Shrinking Agency.

Here's my thesis: agencies crumble because management, creative and account, prize loyalty above ingenuity. I am inherently disloyal--not in a nefarious, political, back-stabbing way, but in a way that, I believe, puts innovation and creativity above slavish dedication to direction. In other words, for better or worse, I make waves. In the parlance of Adam Morgan's "The Pirate Inside," I am a denter. I make trouble in organizations because I don't conform to the status quo. I want change.

So they make it hard for me to stay and I leave.

Now, I'm not attributing agency shrinkage to my departure alone. But I am saying this: agencies and managements that promulgate loyalty above innovation, change and creativity are doomdead.

Film-making advice from Preston Sturges.

Perhaps the greatest comedy director of all time is someone you've never heard of: Preston Sturges. In a kinetic burst of manic energy, Sturges wrote and directed seven hits, seven classics in four years--an output that I can't imagine will ever be matched.

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
The Palm Beach Story (1942)
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
The Lady Eve (1941)
Christmas in July (1940)
The Great McGinty (1940)

No advertising point here, just something worth thinking and laughing about. Sturges' words of wisdom:

“A pretty girl is better than a plain one. A leg is better than an arm. A bedroom is better than a living room. An arrival is better that a departure. A birth is better than a death. A chase is better than a chat. A dog is better than a landscape. A kitten is better than a dog. A baby is better than a kitten. A kiss is better than a baby. A pratfall is better than anything.”

Monday, April 28, 2008

What would happen?

What would happen if you left your laptop in the office,
if you didn’t bring your computer home one night.
If your voicemail light stayed red for twelve hours,
your in-box stayed full.
What would happen if on one day you left at five and sat on a bench in the sun.
What would happen if you didn’t rush home.
Didn’t pick up the pace to make the light.
Didn’t worry about catching the next train.
What would happen in you called an old friend and reintroduced yourself.
What would happen if you went to a movie in the middle of the day.
Or stayed on that bench and read a book.
What would happen if the TV stayed off and the answering machine picked up every call.
What would happen if you held your child’s hand and walked the dog an extra long way.
What would happen if you sent someone flowers.
Went to the public library.
Or rowed a boat in the park.
Would the clocks stop ticking?
The wheels of commerce grind down.
The economy sputter and die.
Would your house fall apart.
Would illness impede you.
Would your children turn their faces from you.
Would you die, die an ungainly death.
What would happen if

Deer Prezzydent Bush,

Thankyou for the genneruss rebate on my taxes. I can reely uze the $600, after all though I am makeing only an avrage amount of munny, I pay taxes at a rate hier than hegg fun managers and the like.

The only problum is, do I uze the rebate for food or rent??????

Pleeze help.

A newspaper closes.

One of the oxymoronicies of the advertising industry is our obsession with print now that print has virtually no role left.

Before TV, print was the glamor medium. Beautiful artwork, lustrous language. Then during TV but before the internet, print was a complement--a rational reasoned argument to TV's image-making power. Now in the internet age, that role--and others--is filled by websites, web content, banner ads and more.

All that to say, in post-literate America, print and newspapers (which were invented to carry print ads) are dying. According to the NYTimes, another paper-paper, another grey lady, bit the dust yesterday, though it will continue to publish online.

None of this, however, changes much how agencies view print or clients buy print. We still walk into pitches with eight-page manifestos that never run and spreads that never see the light of day. We still spend hours and hours struggling over headlines and body-copy few people read. And we've yet, as an industry, tried to formulate a new role for print.

I believe that the era of visual-punny print is dead and has been dead for years, but no one has told art-directors, award shows or clients. There is still room for well-reasoned and concise reasoning. Clearly stated. Beautifully laid out. There is still room for Lois-like print power (of the sort I wrote about in yesterday's post.) There is still room for a Marty Puris-like ode like this: "The man who controls corporations ought to be able to control his own car." Internet advertising, which does not place a limit on the amount of words you can use--keep writing, there's always more you can say--or a premium on visual cleverness (why bother, you can fall back on SISOMO, SIghtSOundMOtion.) In other words, the flaccidness of internet creative has also allowed traditional print to get worse. We don't need copy points--the web will handle that. So let's just be goofy.

There is still room for print like that, I think. But no one does it anymore. The glib, facile and simplistic (which is different than simple) is easier. See above. One is good. One sucks. One built a brand, an ethos, a category. One built parity and me-too.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Us vs. Them. A mock dialogue.

Where do you, where does your agency sit?

That’s not what the client asked for. We know more than the client about the consumer. (That’s why we’re agents, not vendors.) It’s more important to meet the needs of the consumer than meeting what are sometimes the internal political demands of the client.

It’s due ASAP. Is it really? Or is it due because you’ve scheduled a client meeting prematurely? When will the work run? Can we have an interim meeting to show them what we’re thinking without spilling the beans?

They want last year’s work re-skinned. I suppose that’s ok, since nothing in the world, or nothing their competition is doing has changed since last year.

You didn’t hit every point on the brief. The brief was a client agenda—a negotiation, not a communication. This is too much information for our audience to take in.

We have to show it to low-level clients first. We show work to people who can both approve and disapprove. Not to people who only disapprove or people who try to improve.

Use stock photography.
So we will stand out in the same way everyone else does. Do you go to a restaurant and ask for canned and frozen ingredients?

It’s only online content. You have one brand. Not an online brand and an offline brand. The same principles and integrity you demand from your traditional agency must be applied to content. Is the work on brand? Does it impart useful information? Is it brilliantly executed? Is it interesting, watchable?

George Lois at MoMA.

Very few advertising people have had a positive impact on our culture. Today commercials seem to involve the craven lust for something--a woman, a beer or a phony pill to ask your doctor about. Or they are a blight on our culture because their punchlines revolve around a fart, belch, bosom or talking baby. Or they are so shoddily written and conceived and directed with such lack of imagination that they wash over us like the flotsam and jetsam of a declining civilization.

Today's NYTimes has a nice article on George Lois. Lois was, in my opinion, someone who mattered. Though I didn't love his later ads, I admired his opus. Especially his Esquire covers, 31 of which are being featured at MoMA.

Lois made images that stuck, that said something, that defined and focused. Mostly by breaking every rule there was. He believed in punching people in the face with his design. The three images here are all around 40-years old. They still speak--and loudly--without shouting.

A Mother's Day bra sale.

Some years ago, I saw an ad for, I think Lord & Taylor, announcing a Mother's Day Bra Sale. Bras 30% off for Mother's Day. Can anything be dumber? Or more Oedipal? A Mother's Day Sex Toy Sale, maybe.

This morning I saw an ad for AT&T Wireless announcing a Mother's Day phone sale. Same as a bra sale. Kinda.

I think there should be a law.

Don't run a Mother's Day ad selling things that Moms don't really want or that you won't really buy your Mom.

The Mother Teresa melded with Naomi Watts.

She had the compassion and the empathy of Mother Teresa.
The looks, I'm sure, of Naomi Watts.

My Kindle appeared to have died. I was panicked. It didn't turn on and didn't seem to be charging. Was it $400 down the tubes? Or two hours on hold down the tubes?

I went to "manage my kindle" and typed my phone number in a "field" that said something like "call me." Within 10 seconds--yes, 10 seconds of typing my number--I got a call back from a sales rep based in eastern Washington .

Bailey was her name.
Bailey. Bailey. A name like music.
Her long, blonde hair shimmered in the light of the phone center.
Her silk smooth legs stretched out before her.
She kicked off her heels as we spoke.
A smile danced on her lips.
Her bosom heaved.
Her bodice was strategically rent!

I am here for you, Geo...
She didn't chastise me for not having read the manual.
She just told me that the kindle doesn't charge via USB.
It would be ok when I had my power-source plugged in.
Is there anything else I can help you with.
Is. There. Anything. Else. I. Can. Help. You. With.
Bailey. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My kindle re-kindler.

Is. There. Anything. Else. I. Can. Help. You. With.
And she did.
That's the way it works.

We said goodbye.
So, we parted.
I will miss her.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Return of the flesh-eating virus.

I found this photo in an online ad. Not only is the hand itself oddly hermaphroditic, it's severed. And infected with leprosy or something worse--photoshop.

Friday, April 25, 2008


A micro-example of a macro-problem.

Stock photography has been a panacea for the cheap and the off brand. It offers the solution of sameness. It eliminates the onus of the original. When I worked on HP, I noticed a banner ad done by one of their digital agencies that used the same stock photo that I had previously noticed in a Dell banner ad. That's a perfect way to differentiate your product. Use the same conceits and cliches as all else.

OK. CTN, have to shift some paradigms while watching a 124-page ppt. presentation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Void where prohibited by brains.

There was an ad on the NYTimes online this morning for American Express. The only thing about the ad that was not derivative was that the creators found new and inventive ways of being derivative.

The unit was a space that Apple used effectively (because it made sense for their campaign) but here was just used I presume because "Apple did it."

The headline was an adaptation of work done for the print and broadcast minus any wit that is found in advertisements from those media.

The copy, "Relax your baggage is covered against loss or damage," is so insipid and dumb (can you really relax if your baggage is lost?) that I can scarce believe mine eyes.

The art was the lowest form of Chinese fast-food menu stock photography.

The animation was stilted, as qualitatively empty as anything coming out of 1960s Hanna-Barbera.

A pox on both your houses.

A short poem. Of sorts.

(And with apologies to Joyce Kilmer and the NJ Turnpike.)

I think that I shall never see
A brief that's writ with brevity.
In fact, unless I scream and bawl,
I'll never see a brief at all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A snapshot.

They just closed an Olive Garden and replaced it with a Chili's.
The CVS is out. The Rite Aid is in.
Home Depot gone. Staples opens.
A Blockbuster is shuttered. An AT&T wireless store appears.
Sizzler was. Taco Bell is.
And look, eleven more Starbuck's.
Six Pinkberries.
And a Bed, Bath & Beyond.

The nation that invented mass production has mass produced our needs.
Now we have ready 24x7 access to everything mediocre, bland, tasteless,
shoddy, and cheap.

We have been laid low by linoleum,pricked by plate-glass and fucked by fluorescence.
Our artificially-flavored, genetically-modified souls weep synthetic tears.

Insanity runs in my family.

"Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops."
--Cary Grant in "Arsenic and Old Lace"

Most social organizations are infected with a dominant complacency that perpetuates the dull, stupid and out-moded. Don't believe me, think about the safety movie on every flight. Do we really need to be told how to insert a metal tab? Do we really not know how to undo a seatbelt? Has anyone thought for a minute that lap-belts are more dangerous than wearing nothing at all? (Even the auto industry knows this.)

Think about mass transit systems. In many cases, it costs more to collect fares than the fares themselves account for (when you consider the increase in ridership elimination of fares would bring and the cost of police vigilance against fare evaders.) Nevertheless, we persist in our habits.

Agencies, of course, are among the worst offenders. We have job titles and tasks assigned as if this were still 1980. Half of the briefs we get could have been written in 1985--to wit, do a TV spot. And the halls are teeming with reactives as opposed to creatives--reactives in account services, media, and most egregiously in creative itself.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Have you no scruples?

I just saw a spot for some pharma product called Pataday--it sounds a bit like a Thai dish--but I think it's for itchy eyes. Hands down this spot wins an Ad Aged "Worstie," mostly because they've chosen to animate a self-portrait of Van Gogh, changing his expression from a frown to a smile.

How dare they? Is nothing sacred?

This is Van Gogh. Not spokes-art for drug pushers.

The biggest news nobody noticed.

News Corp., Rupert Murdoch's fief, has quietly put in a nearly $600 million bid for one of the top 25 circulation newspapers in the US. This would give him three top-25 papers in the New York area: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and Newsday.

Couple this with Murdoch's ownership of the Fox network and the ownership of NBC by America's 16th largest defense contractor (GE) and you have a dangerous concentration of power in a small number of hands. And war will continue to be good for business. It's programming.

There will be no protest over this attempted sale. No one will know about it. No one will care. It's less important than a pimple on Beyonce's booty.

The god of client comments.

This is a picture of an ancient "herm" (herm: a statue that has a human head placed on a rectangular pillow and is used for architectural decoration.) One side depicts the god of wine, Bacchus or Dionysus. The other shows Ariadne.

Dionysus and Ariadne aside, what we have here is the only known bust of Contradictus--the hermaphroditic god(dess) of Client Feedback.

One side appears to be giving direction from "the brand team." The other, from"the business unit."

"My name is Contradictus, king of kings:
Look on my quibbles ye mighty and despair!"

I'm working on revises now.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I want your money. (That's what I want.)

Here is a list of the last year's top 10 advertisers.
The truth is, except for the fake ones done solely for the awards shows,
I can't recall a single commercial done by any of these companies
that I actually like.

I can recall a lot of Verizon commercials I despise. Likewise with Ford and GM, especially the Cadillac work about a car turning me on. Time Warner I assume are
spots about triple-play bundles and a beeping bird. AT&T spots I think I remember
as well-produced but banal and un-motivating and giving me information about bars
that I simply do not believe.

This chart represents more than $18 billion of spend.
That's $60 for every person in America or $3 for every person on Earth.
All for work that does little to persuade or change behavior.
Think of all the telco commercials you've viewed this year
all to stay with the carrier you hate.

For no apparent reason the picture here is what comes up when you do a
Google image search for Mammon.

January 2007 - December 2007
Rank Parent Company Total Ad Dollars Spent
1 PROCTER & GAMBLE CO $3,728,279,492
2 AT&T INC $2,150,742,501
3 GENERAL MOTORS CORP $2,028,368,104
4 FORD MOTOR CO $1,760,594,254
6 TIME WARNER INC $1,467,420,737
8 JOHNSON & JOHNSON $1,290,803,595
9 TOYOTA MOTOR CORP $1,255,439,326
10 WALT DISNEY CO $1,191,120,322

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Not sure the Church's Era of Pederasty is over.

Walking home from my run I saw the Pontiff's entourage drive by with a bumper sticker on the back fender of Benedict's vehicle: "If this Pope Mobile is Rocking, Don't Come Knocking."

I don't understand.

I read a lot about advertising, about social networking, about viral, about the semantic web, about content, about reach and frequency, about CRM and CMOs, about all kinds of new modalities and paradigms shifting.

It is all bullshit.




This is all you need to know.
If you do something fun and interesting, it works.
It's motivating and cost-effective.
It will deliver ROI. Customers. Etc.

If your "messaging" is scientific, boring and formulaic, it will suck.
It will not reach anyone. Or move them.

I saw a beautiful ash blonde the other day as I walked to work.
I formulated a communications strategy and a messaging plan around meeting her.
I created a prioritized list of deliverables.
I tested it in three markets.
Then analyzed the learnings and reformulated.

Before I actually spoke to her, she turned left and I turned right.
And that has made all the difference.

In short, anything that is not common sense is merely a full-employment plan
for over-thinking MBAs.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A passover joke I just made up.

Q. Why is this night different from all other nights?

A. Because my wife actually cooked a meal.

PS: My wife is actually quite a good cook. This is a generic wife joke. Not a specific one about my wife. If you want joke specifically about my wife, please send me an email and I will send you one back.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Agency life, 2008.

I just bumped into a creative director in the supply closet picking out all the white binder clips she could find because they are "Apple-y."

FARQ. (Frequent asked rhetorical question.)

In agency life there are questions that are asked everyday that get no answers. I am compiling a list--you can help. But for now, I have these two FARQs.

1. What the fuck?
And its sister FARQ,
2. What the fuck am I doing here?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Remembrance of things past.

Early in my career I had a very funny and very talented boss named Ed Butler. I worked for him while I was at Ally & Gargano.

I spent some time thinking of Ed today because back then he used two phrases quite a lot. They're phrases that aren't used often enough today.

If you and your partner showed Ed an ad that sucked, he would say, "That's flat as a plate of piss." It was neither kind nor gentle. I suppose today people would call HR if a boss used words like that. But we were more liberal back then. We accepted the criticism and people like Ed who cared passionately about good work.

The other phrase Ed used was "the work was pecked to death by geese." You know, when the gaggle of clients start in on an ad, or a photo, or a piece of copy. Pick pick pick. Peck peck peck.

Happens every day.

Ed taught me to fight for good work. To let something die before permitting compromise and to at least attempt to keep my humor up while being pecked.

It was never about him. It was always about the work.

I miss him.

O, Kindle, my Kindle.

With apologies to Walt Whitman for that title, my Amazon Kindle arrived last night. I ordered it on March 3rd along with one for my brother for his birthday. So I have been anticipating it eagerly for about six weeks.

It is a fairly stunning little machine. It's packaging was Apple-esque. Not as good as Apple, but not techno-industrial like so many other tech toys. The instructions and set up were a breeze and somehow, the device knew who I was right out of the box. In other words, it greeted me by name and my recommendations were based according to my Amazon history without me having to input any personal info.

The device itself is smaller than it appears on Amazon's site and it can't weigh more than a few ounces. It is about the spec of a Reader's Digest. Again, design-wise, it's pretty nifty. Not Apple but closer to that lofty standard than to Dell or HP's lack of standards.

The screen is great. The controls are simple to get. The ordering and download facility a snap. I don't love how the NY Times and the WSJ are interpreted on screen and the relatively small screen size (probably about 3"x4.5") is smaller than a standard book's page, so you have to flip pages frequently. But flipping is a tic of the thumb.

Not sure that I'd damn the machine in the way Lincoln Steffens damned the USSR back in 1919 ("I have seen the future and it works.) But the Kindle seems to work. I don't intend to read books on this thing--I like paper and I love books. But to have the newspaper delivered immediately and painlessly at 3AM every morning no matter where you are in the world, seems cool.

I don't think the Kindle will change my life. But I never thought I'd be the author of America's third most popular blog either.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Elevator to the Gallows.

When he was in his mid-twenties, Louis Malle, the great French director made a film called Elevator to the Gallows. Yesterday I read about corporate hack and ass-kisser who's had senior marketing positions at two major failing US corporations who has just gotten a CMO job at a third.

I won't mention his name. I will predict he will be gone in 18 months. He will leave the company worse than he found it. And he will leave richer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Advertising joke time.

I knew an account person who was so dumb, he thought he had to spend his "floating" holiday in a swimming pool.

Rim shot.

A bit more on conference calls.

Did you ever wonder why when you punch in a "participant code" to participate in a conference call the number is often ten digits long. The call I'm on now, my code is 0561668515. Does that mean there are 560-million conference calls going on now, or up to this point there have been 560 million?

I understand needing a unique code to keep unauthorized participants out, but, really, do you think anyone would ever want to break into a conference call and listen if they didn't have to?

Three-minutes of conference call.

Person 1: Beep beep
Person 2: Beep beep. This is Barbara from Emea.
Person 3: Beep beep.
Person 4: Francine from ____________.
Person 5: Beep beep.
Person 6: Beep beep. Static..
Person 1: This is Dave. Barbara are you from ____________?
Person 2: ____________ Emea.
Person 1: Oh, hi. Barbara, have you read the brief.
Person 6: Static.
Person 7: Beep beep.
Person 2: What was that?
Person 1: Have you read the brief?
Person 8: Beep beep.
Person 6: Static.
Person 2: No. I haven’t read the brief.
Person 3: You need to read the brief.
Person 4: ____________ was supposed to take care of that.
Person 5: Beep beep.
Person 6: Static.
Person 1: Well, then let’s get started.
Person 9: Beep beep.
Person 5: How does this impact Vigil and Crusader in the geos?
Person 6: Static.
Person 7: So, it’s agreed, we roll out in Q1?
Person 8: Beep beep.
Person 2: Thanks, ____________.
Person 4: Beep beep.

This is abbreviated from a one-hour call. The salaries on the phone totaled approximately one-million dollars annually. The cost of this to the companies involved with mark-up probably ran in access of $3000.

Ford's VP of marketing and communications is an ostrich.

Jim Farley, the ostrich mentioned in the title, had an epiphany when he jumped from Lexus to Ford. When he told his upscale Santa Monica neighbors that he joined Ford, they told him they wouldn't buy a Ford. "I realized they had gone past skepticism to apathy."

Wow, I realized recently if I'm holding an apple in my hand and drop it, it will fall to the earth.

C'mon, Jim. Ford's market share has halved in the last twenty years--today in the US, it's market share and sales are slipping every quarter--it's down to an all-time low of just 13% today. How many of your Santa Monica neighbors drive Fords? You just realized this?

But the ostrich persists. Research done, I suppose by the George W. Bush Institute for Reality Avoidance, tells Farley that 45% of Americans "already like Ford." So, Farley believes that having consumers and dealers tell Ford's story will increase sales and revitalize the brand.

Farley might have his head in the sand about Ford's future, but he's brilliant in preserving his own. As reported by Adweek, Farley cautioned people not to judge the success of Ford's campaign this month or next. "The judgment on this will be five years from now."

In other words, even as Ford's market share continues to plummet, he's got a job through 2013.

And now, some poetic words by Paul Simon, from his song "Papa Hobo."

It's carbon and monoxide
The ole Detroit perfume
It hangs on the highways
In the morning
And it lays you down by noon
Oh Papa Hobo
You can see that I'm dressed like a schoolboy
But I feel like a clown
It's a natural reaction I learned
In this basketball town

Sweep up
I been sweeping up the tips I've made
I'm living on Gatorade
Planning my getaway
Detroit, Detroit
Got a hell of a hockey team
Got a left-handed way
Of making a man sign up on that
Automotive dream, oh yeah, oh yeah
Oh, Papa Papa Hobo
Could you slip me a ride?
Well, it's just after breakfast
I'm in the road
And the weatherman lied,
Oo-------, Ah-----, Oo-------

I bold-faced all the false-hoods.

I got this email last night announcing the putative merger of Delta and Northwest.

Your WorldPerks # is 1010
Dear ----- -----,

As a valued Northwest Airlines customer and WorldPerks® member, I wanted you to be among the first to hear that we have announced a merger with Delta Air Lines. Subject to regulatory review, our two airlines are joining forces to create America’s premier global airline which, upon closing of the merger, will be called Delta Air Lines.

By combining Northwest and Delta, we are building a stronger, more resilient airline that will be a leader in providing customer service and value. Our combined airline will offer unprecedented access to the world, enabling you to fly to more destinations, have more flight choices and more ways than ever to earn and redeem your WorldPerks miles.

You can be assured that your WorldPerks miles and Elite program status will be unaffected by this merger. In addition, you can continue to earn miles through use of partners like WorldPerks Visa®. And once the new Delta Air Lines emerges you can look forward to being a part of the world’s largest frequent flyer program with expanded benefits.

The combined Delta Air Lines will serve more U.S. communities and connect to more worldwide destinations than any global airline. Our hubs – both Delta’s and Northwest’s – will be retained and enhanced. We will be the only U.S. airline to offer direct service from the United States to all of the world’s major business centers in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa and around North America.

Both airlines bring tremendous strengths to this new partnership. Our complementary service networks form an end-to-end system that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. This is a merger by addition, not subtraction, which means all of our hubs – both Northwest’s and Delta’s – will be retained. In addition, building on both airlines’ proud, decades-long history of serving small communities, we plan to enhance global connections to small towns and cities across the U.S.

All of these positive benefits of our combination mean that we can:

* Offer a true global network where our customers will be able to fly to more destinations, have more schedule options and more opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles in what will become the world’s best and most comprehensive frequent flyer program.
* Continue to serve our current roster of destinations and to maintain our hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Salt Lake City, Amsterdam and Tokyo.
* Improve our customers’ travel experience, through new products and services including enhanced self-service tools, better bag-tracking technology, more onboard services, including more meal options, new seats and refurbished cabins.

While we work to secure approval of our merger, which may take up to 6 to 8 months, it will be business-as-usual at both airlines. We will continue to operate as independent airlines and the people of Northwest will remain focused on providing you with the very best in safe, reliable and convenient air travel. At the same time, both airlines will be planning for a seamless integration of our two airlines, one that delivers to you the enhanced benefits that will earn – and retain – your preference.

As we work through this process, we will keep you informed at every step along the way. Thank you for your business and we look forward to serving you on your next Northwest flight.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Daily dumbness report.

The American airline industry must be almost as dumb as the league of American movie theatre owners. (In response to the increasing popularity of TV, the theatre owners made their screens smaller--more TV-like--their theatres less comfortable and still haven't figured out how to give a time-pressed public reserved seats. But, as always, I digress.)

Today in the NYTimes, both on- an off-line there are the usual airline fare ads. Delta's was the worst of a bad lot: "Euralmost There." It shouted.

At a time when planes aren't being inspected, flights are being canceled by the thousand and consumer confidence in the entire industry is down, running a fare ad is like expecting the public to forget rapacious middle-and-lower-middle-class taxation thanks to a paltry "rebate." Among the intelligent, that kind of bait-and-switch would never work.

When advertising tried harder, when airlines sold themselves as brands, not low-cost providers, Pan Am (which was eventually killed by commoditizing itself) ran an ad that said something like, "I've never heard a customer say they fly Pan Am because of their mechanics. But I've heard a lot of pilots say it."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Infrequently Asked Questions.

1. Will anyone care?
2. Do we really need to have this status meeting?
3. Why can't anyone show up on time?
4. What do you think?
5. Why can't I take a short nap if I'm tired?
6. How come I always get the low chair?
7. Is it ok if I work from home?
8. Who wrote this shit?
9. Have you seen Mitchell, he's not in his office?
10. Why is there never any paper in the printer?
11. I would never put my name on an award-entry just because I'm ECD, would you?
12. Why does everyone leave the conference room such a mess?
13. Can we cover this in ten minutes?

Just got off the blower with Pope Benedict's people.

As the Jewish celebration of Passover approaches, I've been doing some freelance work for Manischewitz, the number one matzo company in America and the world. Of late there's been a resurgence of those who prefer the fancy-schmancy Shmura matzo--even though Shmura runs about $20/lb. as opposed to the $4-$5/lb. for a box of Manischewitz. What's more, the Streit's company has upped its ad spend of late in an attempt to steal both shelf space and market share from Manischewitz. Then of course there are the store brands, and the new matzo from Kraft packaged under the name: "Matz-OH!" and with the horse-radish already inside.

All that to say, the Manischewitz people wanted a big campaign. And that's when it hit me, that a perfect storm of matzo promotion was forming. So, with Pope Benedict's arrival in America later this week, I called up the Pontiff's people. After a bit of dickering, the Pope scrawled his infallible signature on the dotted line.

So all next week you'll hear this: "Today's Lord's prayer is brought to you by Manischewitz, the world's number one maker of matzo and other kosher products." And then comes the Lord's prayer, and my ineffable form of genius. The pope in his hoarse and heavily accented English says, "Give us this day our daily Manischewitz Matzo."

That's product placement, friends. That's how it works.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I am not content.

Content is today's shibboleth. "It's all about content." "Content is king." "We're in the content business."

Oh, bullshit.

First of all, since this blog proposes to look at the world through a linguistic lens, where did the word content come from? I am 50 and before a few years ago, the word, in the way it is used today, did not exist. We relied on words like information, stories, movies, interviews, jokes, instead of the catchall phrase "content."

"Gone With the Wind" was not content. It was a movie, and frankly, my dear,a damn entertaining one. But by amalgamating everything under the heading of content, we eliminate judgment, quality, nuance. It's all just content. Calling everything made out of binary code "content" is as broad and inaccurate as using phrases like "axis of evil," to describe two-or-three-hundred million people. Calling everything content is as broadly discriminatory as saying "all Asians look alike." It's just not the way things are. Everything that contains information, everything that can be viewed while trapped in an edit suite or a conference room in Client-ville is not content.

Here's the one, the only, the simple rule to remember: If it's not relevant, it's not content. If it's bland, a talking head, irrelevant, uninteresting, it's not content. If it doesn't speak to someone with humanity and empathy, it's not content. It's NONtent.

Think about some of those Ogilvy-isms that were drummed into our heads, either from working at Ogilvy or from reading "Ogilvy on Advertising." "You can't bore someone into buying your product." "The consumer isn't a moron; she is your wife." "Unless your advertising is built on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night." In other words, it had damn well better be interesting, or it isn't content.

Now, let's fasten our seat-belts and take a look at some data. According to Richard Saul Wurman in "Information Anxiety," “Companies are only able to keep up with, and use less than 7% of the information they produce.” More data will be produced in the next year than has been generated during the entire existence of humankind. Every year the amount of data produced in the world grows by 800%. In 2005, humans produced 43 million exabytes of data--that more than eight times the amount of printed data ever produced.

Hold on, here's some more: Cal Berkeley studies estimated that by the end of 1999, the sum of human-produced information (including all audio, video recordings and text/books) was about 12 exabytes of data. The 2003 Berkeley report stated that in 2002 alone, "telephone calls worldwide on both landlines and mobile phones contained 17.3 exabytes of new information if stored in digital form", and "it would take 9.25 exabytes of storage to hold all U.S. [telephone] calls each year."International Data Corporation estimates that approximately 160 exabytes of digital information were created, captured, and replicated worldwide in 2006.

Did you cry "Uncle" yet?

The word exabyte is the basis for the term "exaflood", a neologism created by Bret Swanson of the Discovery Institute in a January 2007 Wall Street Journal editorial. Exaflood refers to the rapidly increasing torrent of data transmitted over the Internet. The amount of information people upload, download and share on the Internet is growing (due in large part to video, audio and photo applications), at an exponential rate while the capacity of the Internet, its bandwidth, is limited and susceptible to a “flood” of data equal to multiple exabytes. "One exabyte is the equivalent of about 50,000 years of DVD quality video.

All this data is not content. It's just stuff. It's not king. It's inundation. It's NONtent.

So, if you'll give me the notion of NONtent--shit that isn't interesting, relevant, important, funny, entertaining, I'll concede to you the notion of content. And now I will go back to the days of the Mad-Men and attempt to resurrect the content phrase that pays.

That phrase is AIDA.

So, I'll go so far as to say this it's not content without AIDA.

You don't go home nights and watch "content" on the content-boob-tube that doesn't involve AIDA. You don't listen to the radio or subscribe to magazines that aren't AIDA-oriented. You don't consume NONtent. Why would your audience or your target?

If you build it, they won't come.
If it's interesting, they will.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Simpering sameness.

Earlier this week there were a spate of articles in the advertising trade press about Chrysler exalting its modernity by becoming consumer-focused in its advertising.

That the decision to become "consumer-focused" is news is laughable in and of itself but that's not the worse part of this horrowshow. The worst part is as far as I can discern, the only consumer-focused aspect (or ass-pect) of this new dreck, is the insipid tagline "If you can dream it, do it."

What does that have to do with anything.

Sometimes I dream of astroprojecting myself different places. It would be fast, I'd avoid airports and it would be a better way to stay in touch with friends and family than IM, phones or any other method. It ain't going to happen. It's also not about consumers. It's also not about cars. It also has no relation to anything.

I dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair.
I dream of a weekend with Heidi Klum.
I dream of having six-pack abs.
I dream of world peace, clean air, the death of Ann Coulter and the return of
all the hundreds of millions of people killed in Darfur and all the other genocides of the last century or so.

None of those have anything to do with an irrelevant mode of transportation, from an irrelevant car company, for an irrelevant product.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I generally like BusinessWeek Magazine. But what the hell were they thinking? In the world of business magazines, the Economist owns the color red. Period. End of story. This banner ad from is dumbness incarnate.

Pull on your earlobes.

If you're like most creative people you have a hard time staying awake at work. That's because you work, at most, only about 20-minutes a day. The rest of the time you're probably in a room that's either too warm or too cool and you're listening to people talk about work. You're looking at an ill-formed, un-designed and cliche ridden skein of powerpoint slides that talk about deliverables and next-steps. Chances are, at work you do everything but work. To bastardize Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, you don't prevail, you endure. Day after month after year after holding company after meetings you've made.

If you find yourself dozing while you're not working, pull on your earlobes until you begin to feel pain. That will get your pulse rate up. When I started this technique when I was a junior copywriter, I could only get them down to my Adam's apple. By the time I was an ACD, I could stretch my ear lobes down to my clavicle. Now that I am an ECD, I go out to the park now and again and let kids use my lobes to Double Dutch.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thank you, Ronald Reagan.

Thanks to Ronald Reagan and the host of e-coli conservatives he inspired (an e-coli conservative is a person who thinks Washington DC is so inherently pernicious that e-coli in the food supply is preferable to having any government at all) the United States is fast becoming a third-world country. That is, a third world country that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined.

Since Reagan eviscerated the FAA and the regulation or airlines, we have lost our airline industry. Recently it was revealed Southwest Airlines bribed inspectors and flew dangerous 737s. Today American Airlines cancelled over 1000 of its 2300 scheduled flights, in part because they have failed to properly maintain and inspect their air craft.

Rome became a world empire largely based on the modernity of their roads. In the 19th Century the US surpassed the UK as an economic force in part because we built more railroads. That is, transportation—moving people, good and services is vital to a nation’s prosperity and well-being.

Today we have few if any viable US carriers, bridges are collapsing, roads are over-used, and we have no plan for renewable fuel.

See you on the bread-line.

Dinner at Schrafft's. Shopping at Korvettes. Then a night watching the DuMont television network.

Brands die almost as often as houseplants.
The three I mention in the title of this post were the Starbucks, the Target and the NBC of their day. And their day was not that long ago.

They are all dead now.

Because they became irrelevant.
Their service sucked.
Their product failed to adjust to consumer needs.
Yet business as usual prevailed.

It's been famously said that the world during Napoleon's time was closer to the world during Caesar's time than it was to the world 20 years later. In short, the pace of change is accelerating.

Or, to cite Alvin Toffler author of Future Shock, think about a graph of the speed mankind can achieve on Earth. From the beginning of time until about 1830 you have a flat line. From 1830 until today you have a line that is nearly vertical.

That's change today.

Business as usual reads: CLOSED.

Starting thinking about business as unusual.

Ray Charles, Take 7.

This is about advertising and Ray Charles.

I've always been a big Ray Charles fan. This morning, walking to work my iPod (which is cooler than yours, btw. It's signed by Bono's landscaper) my iPod shuffled over to a track from "Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings." The track was (Night Time ) Is The Right Time Takes 1-7."

This is Mr. Charles working with his orchestra, his chorus and his producer to get it "perfect." In one take he jibes with his producer for "goofing." In another he rags himself for goofing up. In another he instructs the chorus on a little vocal lilt he's looking for.

The point of all this is simple.

As a creative, know what you want. Tell your talent what you want. Get what you want. In 7 takes or less (because if you know what you want you should get in 7 takes or less.) Then go home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.

(Bagels with the cream cheese already inside. Some thoughts.)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, working on consumer packaged goods,
dragging themselves sleepy through deadened powerpoint in conference
rooms at dawn noon and night,
looking for a breath of life
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to something real, something needed
who poverty and tatters and egoistic bosses and ass-covering
clients and glib CEOs burn and burn and burn,

Monday, April 7, 2008

They said it was impossible.

Watching the NCAA Championship Game.
"They said it was impossible for four number one seeds to make the Final Four.
Then again they said it was impossible to get real cola taste in a zero calorie cola."

A lesson on decimal points.

For whatever reason, despite their fascination with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, regardless of their MBAs and their proclivity toward numbers crunching, most clients, and agencies for that matter, have a decimal place problem.

Clients think nothing of spending, say, $5000/frame on a television commercial (roughly $1.5 million for a :30), are loathe to do anything but the basest cretinous crap when it comes to alternative media. I keep telling clients, "You are off by two decimal points." And they keep looking at me like I'm mad. I'm mad alright, but I'm not crazy.

If you want to be a cheap ass shit head bastard skinflint mofo in "below the line" media, it will reflect poorly on your brand. It all works together you cheap ass shit head bastard skinflint mofos.

I went to today.

And I found a way to synch my microwave by Samsung, and my refrigerator and dishwasher, both by GE, to my iTunes. Not only can I now shuffle between the three devices (I can literally wash a load of dishes in 2:30 using my microwave's popcorn setting) I can listen to music while doing so.

I didn't find this on but I also found a way to hook up my golden retriever, Flipper, to my iPod. The only thing is my iPod is stuck on shuffle and when I'm walking her she keeps shape-shifting. At the corner she was a golden, by the time I got to the first fire hydrant she was a chihuahua and then by the time I got about twenty years down the block, she had turned into an Irish wolfhound.

The other thing is, I can't transfer her bark to any other dog, even though I already paid for it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The National Truss Society for Relief of the Ruptured Poor.

In 19th Century England, where income disparity was only slightly less egregious than that of 21st Century Cheery Fascist Reagan-Bush-Bush-Cheney America, there were a host of hospitals and organizations with names like the one listed in the title above. (That was a real organization, by the way.)

Today's New York Times has a special report on CEO compensation. You can read the gory details here:

The rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer. 80,000 more lost their jobs last month, while the "Boardroom Buddy System" produces statistics like these: As reported in the New York Times, "According to the Congressional Research Service, average pay for chief executives stood at 179 times average worker pay in 2005, up from a multiple of 90 in 1994. Adjusted for inflation, average worker pay rose by a total of only 8 percent from 1995 to 2005; median pay for chief executives at the 350 largest companies rose 150 percent."

Mahatma Kane Jeeves.

Mahatma Kane Jeeves was a nom de plume of WC Fields. He created that name because when he was a kid there was always a rich guy in vaudeville acts who said to his butler, "My hat, my cane, Jeeves."

No reason for this post except for laughter. Laughter and cynicism. They sometimes go hand in hand. Or as WC Fields himself might say, "Never cry over spilt milk, because it may have been poisoned."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

This is just dumb.

No, not the car, the car is fine. I'm talking about the three chippies with the balloons.

How does this make you feel?

Marketing people are great at discrimination. They create words like "direct," "interactive," "traditional," "experiential," and so on. These words are all nonsense because if your work is any good it involves all of those adjectives.

Today I heard a report on NPR about the true power of advertising. Dr. Gavan Fitzsimons and his academic cohorts found that "even the briefest exposure to well-known brands can cause people to behave in ways that mirror those brands’ traits.

“Each of us is exposed to thousands of brand images every day, most of which are not related to paid advertising,” said Gavan Fitzsimons. “We assume that incidental brand exposures do not affect us, but our work demonstrates that even fleeting glimpses of logos can affect us quite dramatically.”

In other words you will behave more creatively if for a period as brief as just 1/30th of a second you glimpse the Apple logo. We have been exposed for many years to Apple's consistently consistent advertising. So now we are trained to immediately associate their logo with "nonconformity, innovation and creativity.”

Read all about it here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Air Force Uber Alles.

Earlier this week I wrote about the Air Force advertising on Forbes and other business magazines and I speculated that they were advertising in those locations in order to help their military-contractor partners boost their already war-inflated stock prices. Last night Adweek and Adage reported that GSDM's Idea City has held onto the Air Force's advertising account, valued at around $370 million over the next nine to 10 years. That's a lot of money we could be building schools or providing health care with .

Some words on writing.

I guess you can't blame writers. Or maybe you can. This is a generalization, of course, but it seems today that writing--that words--have lost their passion, their meaning, their uniqueness and their bite. So much is drivel--a stringing together of cliches and fractured phrases or made-up words because people are too indifferent to protest the mongrelization of language. Prediction: we will hear the non-word "curation" in the near future almost as frequently as we now hear "robust." If I had a dime every time I hear something that appalls me--robust, engagement, very uniqueness and so on, I'd have a bunch of dimes now.

Years ago I taught an advertising class at the School of Visual Arts. I found a blues lyric that I thought was expressive and since then I've used it as an example of writing that makes you feel and think--writing that doesn't just waft over you like industrial jello. The blues writer was describing how sad he is, he sang: "It's raining soup and all I have is a fork."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A brilliant article from a brilliant ex-boss.

The article below is brilliant--brilliant in its simplicity. Basically I think I can sum it up this way: marketing is not about technology, it is about connecting with an audience. So if you're a creative person do something that touches people. If you're a client make sure your creative serves, entertains, enriches, reaches. TV is a technology. Not a creative solution.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

No child left unarmed.

Is Amerika spinning out of control, or does it just seem that way?

In the news today there are two separate stores about two separate incidents about 7, 8 and 9-year-olds plotting to attack their bus driver or classroom teacher with knives.

Malcolm X was excoriated when he said America's chickens will come home to roost, but it appears he was right.

Amerika Uber Alles.

Just now I visited and was assaulted once again by two banner ads for the United States Air Force. The headline of one ad reads "Deterrence comes in many engine sizes" and allows you to roll over and see footage of our latest multi-million or even multi-billion dollar war planes. The second ad shows a picture of the Pentagon. The headline reads "This building will be attacked 3,000,000 times today. Who's going to protect it."

Before the full-assumption of power by the US military-industrial complex, there was only one reason for any branch of the armed forces to advertise: recruitment. Today, however, it appears there is another reason. I, for one, cannot believe that the US Air Force is netting recruits from Not sure of the precise demographics of Forbes, but my guess is their average reader is in his 40s and makes upwards of $100K. So why is the Air Force advertising on

They're advertising on because they are bedfellows of the major offense contractors who ask them to to drive up their stock prices. This cohabitation is dangerous. There is a headline in the NYTimes today that says NASA claims nearly 9000 jobs will be lost when the space shuttle program ceases in the next few months. It's been said if the multi-billion dollar F-22 program is canceled, 50,000 jobs will be lost. In other words our economy is being sustained by building weapons. And when you build weapons, you must use them.

It's well-known that Hermann Goering and his Luftwaffe tested their Amerikan-design-adapted Stuka dive-bombers over Guernica, Spain 72-years ago. We are doing the same today. And making select investors rich while doing so.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

One of the best ads I've ever seen.

I don't know what to make of this yet but it's absolutely amazing.
There are times when brands are so ambitious, so optimistic, so cool that you, as a viewer, need to know nothing more about them. I'm not flying to Mars, but in an instant I feel better and more enthusiastic about two brands I already admired greatly.

How was your day, dear?

Most agencies today, and most clients, are run by people who are not creative. Agencies are run by account guys. Clients' marketing departments are run by MBAs. It appears that their collective objective is to make meetings, not to make creative ways to impart useful consumer information. So yesterday's post about the fifteen or so emails needed to pin down a time for a relatively useless status meeting wasn't really funny. It was sad. It was a dozen or so people not thinking, not working, pushing digital paper.

Not that long ago when I worked at a gigantic agency and had a creative department of 140 people to manage I urged my SVP/GCDs to take one day off a week--one day where they went to no meetings, reviewed no work, spoke to no account people or clients. One day where they actually thought about their clients' business. I figured these were the highest paid people in the creative department, and as an agency we were losing something not having them actually create. So I urged them to.

I was roundly excoriated for this. Told I was a loon. That what I suggested was impossible, naive, foolish. So it never happened.

There is a certain inevitability to all this. We wake up, we got to work, we sleep. We go to meetings, shuffle through emails, go to more meetings, prepare for meetings, repair what we prepared, and so it goes.

No wonder. That's all I'm going to say. No wonder.