Thursday, July 31, 2008

Are you sitting down?

Yesterday I had two client meetings, meetings with two different clients. As usual, I followed my usual tack with clients. I was assertively honest and candid and I over-delivered--giving them more than they expected.

Yesterday both clients took in what I had to say, quickly bought what I had to sell (and then some) and thanked me for my work and my presentation.

The photo above is a sculpture of Diogenes found on the campus of the University of Southern California. For most of his life Diogenes "searched with a lantern in the daylight for an honest man." Though Diogenes never found an honest man, he had, in the process, "exposed the vanity and selfishness of man."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Incipient notes from Down Under.

As I am about to re-orient myself to a different part of the world, I thought it made sense to change the orientation of this post.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lingua Quartus Imperii.

The Latin above means "Language of the Fourth Reich." I've updated the Latin from Viktor Klemperer's "Language of the Third Reich."

Klemperer was a "mischling," a "half-Jew" living with an "Aryan," so though he was stripped of all his civil rights, his ability to make a living and though he suffered massive cruelties and indignities, he was somehow allowed to live in a "Jew House" in Dresden and--almost inexplicably survive both WWII and decades of Communist rule.

Along the way, Klemperer, a philogist--a studier of language--kept a diary thousands of pages long and also wrote extensively on the perversion of language--the masking of meaning--perpetrated by the Nazis.

Right now I am reading "The Dark Side: The inside story how the war on terror turned into a war on American Ideals." And Jane Mayer, the author, details the Bush/Cheney/Addington's assault on our own language.

Here's what I mean: "As William Safire, the conservative language columnist for the "New York Times, wrote, "Some locutions begin as bland bureaucratic euphemisms to conceal great crimes...In this past century, the "final solution" and "ethnic cleansing" were phrases that sent a chill through our lexicon."

Mayer then points out that the President used euphemisms like "enhanced," "robust," and "special" interrogations that included beating people to death, applying electric shock to their genitals, waterboarding and the like.

Listen carefully. And you will hear.

When things get complicated.

Look at something simple. And beautiful. And timeless. This is from Andre Kertesz. He shot it 80 years ago.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Don't under-estimate advertising.

Amid all the sturm and drang about the death of advertising--about how consumers are impervious to messaging, a new book has come out that was just reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. It's called "BUYING IN: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are." And it's by Rob Walker, who writes "Consumed," a weekly shopping-culture column in The New York Times Magazine. You can read the review here:

The point seems to be as more and more people say they pay no attention to advertising, consumers, in fact, are ever more consumed by consumerism. Here's what seems to be the pithy-core of the book:

"Few of us will admit that we frequently succumb to salesmanship, and that marketing produces in us needs we never knew we had. Advertisers play along, assuring us that we’re tough to persuade; the trade press laments the birth of a “new consumer,” shoppers hopped up on YouTube and TiVo who are said to have developed a strange “immunity” to advertising. “I’m not much of a consumer,” knowing youngsters confess to Walker — just before they launch into arias on the transcendent qualities of their favorite MP3 players or preferred brands of beer."

In other words, advertising can quote Mark Twain "reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

Friday, July 25, 2008

150 Shopping Days left until Christmas.

Here it is, late July and we are already inundated with back-to-school ads. I realize that school starts before Labor Day for many kids these days, but it still seems like marketers are rushing the season.

But that's not the point of this post. My point is this: I think this is one more example of marketers lying or, at least, dissembling to their target.

Every once in a while, my wife nails one.

My wife (shown above) is an ECD at an agency whose name will go unmentioned to protect the innocent and the imbecilic. This morning she jumped into a cab early so that she could get to work to sit in on a two-hour conference call with the client.

She just gave me a call and said she put the client on MUTant.

The "No money down" economy.

Last year, starting around this time I wrote a few posts--with my usual de Toquevillian perspicacity--about something I was calling the "low-bid economy." You can read them here if your time-sheets permit any non-billable time whatsoever:

This morning, amid the housing crisis, the oil crisis, the credit crisis and news that the nation's foremost stock exchange has lost 20% of its value over the last 12 months, I am visiting the low-bid notion again but with a slight twist.

We are still living in a low-bid nation. Even worse, however, we are living in a no-money-down world. The world of $150 take-out, $1200 handbags, and $15,000/month summer rentals. Of course as agency people this affects us, perhaps most overtly in online marketing.

Here's what I mean. Clients routinely build expensive websites, develop ornate applications, capture compelling content (capture that content! it's getting away!) only to leave these marketing elements unpromoted and floating around cyber-space--never telling consumers where these things are or even that they exist.

As they used to intone on the old TV show Dragnet, dum de dum dum.

This is because clients don't want to pay for real marketing. They bought their marketing with no money down, no money to propagate what they've produced. Ah! Another example of marketers believing that consumers are waiting and waiting eagerly for yet another message.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Whatever happened to writing?

I saw Batman this weekend and while it was entertaining it was a comic book--nothing more.

I thought of Carol Reed's and Graham Greene's and Orson Welles' "The Third Man." I don't it's ever been matched.

The shibboleth of the day is "story-telling." Read the story below. Has it ever been better done?

Opening narrator:
I never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. Constantinople suited me better. I really got to know it in the classic period of the black market. We'd run anything if people wanted it enough and whom had the money to pay. Of course a situation like that does tempt amateurs but, well, umm, you know they can't stay the course like a professional.

Now the city is divided into four zones, you know, each occupied by a power: the American, the British, the Russian and the French. But the centre of the city that's international policed by an international patrol. One member of each of the four powers. Wonderful! What a hope they had! All strangers to the place and none of them could speak the same language. Except a sort of smattering of German.

Good fellows on the whole, did their best you know. Vienna doesn't really look any worse than a lot of other European cities. Bombed about a bit.

Oh, I was going to tell you, wait, I was going to tell you about Holly Martins, an American. Came all the way here to visit a friend of his. The name was Lime, Harry Lime. Now Martins was broke and Lime had offered him, some sort, I don't know, some sort of job.

Anyway, there he was, poor chap. Happy as a lark and without a cent.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" is a short story by F. Scott that I have always liked. You can read it here:

I got to thinking about the story--its title actually, as I was presenting this afternoon, ideas to a fairly luminous CMO of long and storied tenure. What I wondered about is how high the foam-core mountain would be if you totaled up all the boards that have been presented to this guy over the decades.

I wonder if this is how this how CMOs rib each other.
"I passed Mt. Rainier on Tuesday and it's full-steam ahead to Kilamanjaro."
"That's baby stuff. I'm so far into the Himalayas it would make your head spin."

Cliche alert.

Over the last couple of days an old cliche has been sweeping the nation like wildflowers. I really have a beer in my bonnet about cliches. They make my blood spoil. I wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole, or a ten foot Yugoslavian.

The cliche is: "_________-ing the world, one _____________at a time."

I saw it for a soda--"Saving the earth, one bottle at a time."
I saw it for shrimp seasoning--"saving your dinner, one shrimp at a time."
From a New York Times article on windmills: "Rebuilding a Dutch tradition, one windmill at a time."

Ad Aged: "Ridding the world of cliches, one post at a time."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The apotheosis of something.

Yesterday I had a client meeting. Actually, it was a discussion. We talked. Listened to each other, worked things out.

Toward the end of the meeting we went through the six or eleven things the client wanted their tagline to communicate.

For whatever reason I started thinking about the Gotham Book Mart, gone now but until recently one of the world's great bookstore. Gotham had a knowledgeable staff, a large but quirky selection and was the home away from home for many great poets, writers and artists.

But the thing that really got me thinking about Gotham and taglines was the sign shown above. Somehow I think taglines don't get much better than that one.

I can't do any work today, I'm in meetings.

I suppose I have been an oxymoron for on-and-off about ten years. That oxymoron? Creative management. That is, I spend more time managing and going to meetings than doing what I'm good at which is writing ads.

A lot of meeting mania comes from the onslaught of work-place democracy. Let's talk about things, collaborate and reach consensus rather than listen to the directives of the person putatively in charge.

So we talk and talk and talk rather than do and do and do.

It makes me sick.

This is why it takes six months for an ad to travel from brief to newspaper. And why it get schmushed along the way. It all reminds me of that game we played when we were kids: telephone. You start with a message and by the time it proceeds from the originator to the end, the whole thing is shot.

This is the advertising industry.

Years ago when I was looking for a job I asked for a decent base salary--ok, though significantly less than I was used to making, but $25 per page of powerpoint I have to sit through.

If the agency I was negotiating with agreed to that, I would have wound up making an Alex-Rodriguez-like salary. If in turn they banned powerpoint in order to economize, I would have been left with time to create work, would have won major awards and would have moved on to eventual riches.

Monday, July 21, 2008


There is a trend in dog-breeding now that has yielded a raft of new sorts of animals. The idea is to combine a couple of pedigree breeds and hope to distill the best features of each.

So emerging onto the dog scene are labradoodles, goldendoodles and the like.

This morning I wondered what would happen if you crossed account people with poodles? Would they be educable, well-behaved and hypoallergenic?

Would someone please try?

The "Big Lie (s)."

The Big Lie is a propaganda technique defined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography "Mein Kampf." It is a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously".

Today, as on most days I read the paper both online and off. There is a Chevy ad that says: "We share a planet. Why not share a dialogue."

Here's why we can't share a dialogue with Chevy. Their big lie is that they care--that they care about the environment because they build a couple vehicles that get half-way decent gas mileage. The big lie is GM's multi-million-dollar lobbying efforts against higher higher fleet mileage averages. The big lie is GM's investment in brands like Hummer, GMC, and gargantuan SUV's like the suburban. The big lie is that they give a damn about anything except profit.

More big lies come from Exxon Mobil. Where their ads show smile people and happy faces looking for crude in all the right places. Not the Valdez. Not environmental disaster. Not having half of Arabia and half of the government on their payroll. Exxon Mobil's ad depicts a photo of a molecular structure--implying that they are scientists not extractivists.

It seems that more and more of our world is assaulted by big lies. As a society we have become believers of these lies. We don't question. We accept. (Remember covering our windows with duct tape? Remember Viet Nam and our impending victory there if we only mined Haiphong harbor? It goes on and on.)

Big lies. They're out there. More are coming everyday. From Obama. From McCain. And from nearly all else. Watch out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

No contest.

I just saw Batman: The Dark Knight. Lots of stunts, explosions, guns, cannons, fireballs, evil, knives, etc. And, in the Joker, a pretty diabolical bad guy. But for my dime, there's no way the Joker could have stood up to Popeye. OK, OK, Popeye might have had to have an extra can of spinach or two, but before long, the sailboat tattoo on his chest would turn into a battleship firing its guns and his corn cob pipe would spin like a propeller, sending Popeye into flight and the Joker would find his highly comical joking arse kicked to kingdom come.

Gorshk, Oliff. Ack ack ack ack ack. That would be a movie.

Graffiti-ing graffiti.

When I was a kid, Con Edison had a tagline on their trucks: Clean Energy. Kids would graffiti over that and turn it into "an orgy."

While living in Chicago in my late teens, there was a street gang called the Latin Eagles. They would scrawl their tag everywhere. I once saw one re-written and turned into Eaten Bagels.

I guess my point is a consumer control one. Once your message enters the world, it is no longer yours.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Senior management.

The names have been withheld to protect the incompetent.

Friday, July 18, 2008

There was a time.

Do you remember not long ago running into some old guy in the business who had worked for eighteen agencies in eighteen years? In other words, if the agency at which you were working wasn't serving you, you could throw some samples into a bag and find a new job. Because there were hundreds of agencies.

Sadly enough, being a good creative often involves some sort of rage against the machine. Certainly that is a requirement if you are meant to be an agent provateur or a change agent. You are at your agency to shake things up, which involves pissing people off.

But now, there are about twelve agencies left. There's no place to go. So you get conservative and settle in. Don't rock the boat. Don't make waves. They've got you by the short hairs.

From A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad. 1896.

LXII. Terence, this is stupid stuff

‘TERENCE, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Fuck committees. (I believe in lunatics.)"

Some words from Tibor Kalman. No Geo this morning. It's Tibor.

"...It's about the struggle between individuals with jagged passion in their work and today's faceless corporate committees, which claim to understand the needs of the mass audience, and are removing the idiosyncrasies, polishing the jags, creating a thought-free, passion-free, cultural mush that will not be hated nor loved by anyone. By now, virtually all media, architecture, product and graphic design have been freed from ideas, individual passion, and have been relegated to a role of corporate servitude, carrying out corporate strategies and increasing stock prices. Creative people are now working for the bottom line.

Magazine editors have lost their editorial independence, and work for committees of publisher (who work for committees of advertisers). TV scripts are vetted by producers, advertisers, lawyers, research specialists, layers and layers of paid executives who determine whether the scripts are dumb enough to amuse what they call the 'lowest common denominator'. Film studios put films in front of focus groups to determine whether an ending will please target audiences. All cars look the same. Architectural decisions are made by accountants. Ads are stupid. Theater is dead.

Corporations have become the sole arbiters of cultural ideas and taste in America.

Our culture is corporate culture.

Culture used to be the opposite of commerce, not a fast track to 'content'-derived riches. Not so long ago captains of industry (no angels in the way the acquired wealth) thought that part of their responsibility was to use their millions to support culture. Carnegie built libraries, Rockefeller built art museums, Ford created his global foundation. What do we now get from our billionaires? Gates? Or Eisner? Or Redstone? Sales pitches. Junk mail. Meanwhile, creative people have their work reduced to 'content' or 'intellectual property'. Magazine and films become 'delivery systems' for product messages.

But to be fair, the above is only 99 percent true.

I offer a modest solution: find the cracks in the wall. There are a very few lunatic entrepreneurs who will understand that culture and design are not about fatter wallets, but about creating a future. They will understand that wealth is a means, not an end. Under other circumstances they may have turned out to be like you, creative lunatics. Believe me, they're there and when you find them, treat them well and use their money to change the world."

~Tibor Kalman, New York, June 1998. "F___ Committees. I Believe in Lunatics" article excerpted from Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist . Published by Booth-Clibborn.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is what happens when you compete on price.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have just announced quarterly losses of one billion dollars. This isn't because of unions, or health care costs, or fuel costs or depreciation of rolling stock.

The whole industry is dead or dying because each airline has killed their brand and given consumers no reason to choose one carrier over another other than price. Naturally competition drives prices down to the point where you can't succeed.

It's happening to airlines. It's happening to the domestic auto industry. Will it happen in advertising? What does your agency stand for--procurement?

Bringing the USA down.

As I undressed my way through yet another "security" line at yet another airport it occurred to me that those terrorists that we're told are lurking behind every shrub, pillar and doorway could very simply immobilize the USA with--as they say in the ad game--no fuss and no muss.

Eschew the anthrax.
Bag the box cutters.
Schmise the suicide bombers.

At the end of the xray machines, steal one shoe from everyone.

Maybe this is more Yippie than Taliban.
But it ain't bad.

What year is this?

I got a simply awful piece of direct mail yesterday. Is that redundant? Awful and direct mail? If it is redundant, why?

On one side of the envelope is a handsome black man in a state of absolute rapture because of what he is hearing through his headphones. (Interpreted, of course, with no artistry or craft whatsoever. This is not the iridescent iPod people. This is the nadir of cliche-ridden stock.) The line: "You've got worry-free wireless. and that's one less thing to think about."

OK. That blows a whale's penis.

People are worried about a sinking economy. Planes flying into buildings. The demise of polar ice. Their wireless is not keeping them up at night. "Man, I couldn't sleep last night. Shit, my 802.11 G was acting like it was 802.11 B!"

Now, I turn this monstrosity of a non-communication over. On the other side is this line: "See inside for some features that will enhance your wireless experience."

Seeing the Grand Canyon is an experience.
Ray Charles at the Blue Note is an experience.
Removing a pretty girl's wireless bra is an experience.
But wireless in and of itself is not an experience.

"Hi honey. How was your air-conditioning experience today? Hold on, I'm gonna get a cup of water via my faucet experience."

See inside--it's an envelope. Of course I have to see inside. The words see inside are no inducement to open this dreck.

Some features. What does that mean?

And now one of my new least-favorite piece of crap words: enhance.
Bland. Boring. Meaningless. Non-committal. But I suppose it sounds like an ad word.
So clients say--well, it enhances my ass. Put it in there. Speaking of asses, exercise may make you look better. You would never say, "gee, running five miles every morning has really enhanced me." No, you feel and look better.

In all, another blight on our world. Another insult to our intelligence. Another triumph of mediocrity and rote over creativity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Big changes at GM.

GM is in the metaphorical toilet. From their peaks, sales of some brands are down, literally, on the order of 70%.

Fortunately, GM is taking their sales cataclysm seriously. Now as GM is about to divest themselves of redundant brands, as their stock price is at a half century low, as they teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, they have finally decided to eliminate executive bonuses.

I'd rather chew tin foil and shave with a cheese grater.

I had another offsite today. An all-day one. Big egos in a little room. No hair and no air.

Belated Happy Bastille Day.

From Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" in 1789, we have progressed to McCain economic advisor Phil Gramm's "We live in the only country in the world where all the poor people are fat."

Starve the bastards.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Patent number 588388599-08-09987485820488.

This weekend I decided the time was ripe to solve a problem that confronts us all. That is, the proliferation of meetings that accomplish nothing except to rob you of the time you need to actually do your job.

I am a tinkerer by nature. I once turned a broken can-opener into a workable microwave oven. Another time I took the parts from an old Waring blendor and constructed a small drone helicopter. That drone was eventually bought by Northrup-Grumman, marked up approximately one-million percent and sold to the Defense Department and a number of our enemies at extortionate profits.

But back to this weekend. Thinking about the inane, insidious, and invidious meetings we are forced to attend, I took apart my TiVO and fiddled around with it for about an hour. Voila. Behold the MeVO.

The MeVO condenses a 60-minute meeting into 11 minutes. It completely edits out everything Brad, Eliot and Marsha have to say because they've never really do anything but posture.

In other words, the MeVO allows you to (in the words of the tagline I've created) "Zap the crap."

Call me. I have a bunch in the trunk of my 1974 Impala. And I'll set you up at a good price.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My new iPhone.

I waited in line 96 hours, from late Monday night until Saturday around 11:30 PM to get my new iPhone. What a piece of work is i.

After all that waiting, I went to Papaya Dog and waited 16 hours for a frank and then another two hours for a Pepsi. Realizing they had forgotten to put mustard on my hotdog, I waited in the mustard line for 25 minutes.

Then I hustled over to the subway and waited 16 minutes for a 6 train. Once the train pulled into 86th St., I waited 33 seconds for the doors to open.

What I've found is waiting makes everything better. For now on, I'm waiting even when there is no line.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Vote democratic and live longer.

The Democratic party is now the right-to-life party. Not the party that is anti-choice, but the party that believes in extending life expectancy.

The shades of green on the maps above are counties where life-expectancy has increased. The white and shades of red are counties where life-expectancy has decreased, that is, people have died earlier.

Now look at this map of blue counties (democratic counties) versus red (republican) counties.

Now, compare the maps. Notice the overlap between declining life expectancy and Republican voting. Increasing life expectancy and voting Democratic.

So there's your choice: Live=Democratic. Die=Republican.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Direct from Iran, N. Korea, Israel, Iraq.

Flying penises.

If you are conservative. If you are a patriot.

If you believe in the sanctity of the Constitution, if you believe in "Liberty and Justice for All," you are a conservative and a patriot. Because those are the principles and laws our nation was founded on 222 years ago and the principles and laws that the radical administration in Washington has chosen to destroy.

If you are a patriot and a conservative, you will be sickened by this:

"Red Cross investigators concluded last year in a secret report that the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes.

"The International Committee of the Red Cross declared in the report, given to the C.I.A. last year, that the methods used on Abu Zubaydah, the first major Qaeda figure the United States captured, were “categorically” torture, which is illegal under both American and international law.

"The book says Abu Zubaydah was confined in a box “so small he said he had to double up his limbs in the fetal position” and was one of several prisoners to be “slammed against the walls."

You can read more beginning July 15 when “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals,” by Jane Mayer is released.

Citing unnamed “sources familiar with the report,” Ms. Mayer wrote that the Red Cross document “warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.”

PS: I believe that if the current administration were to last through 2012 or 2016, this post would be removed by that administration and I would be harassed, audited, threatened or imprisoned.

This would be easy. A logarithm would be created to search the web for "charged" words. They would be filtered and dissent would be cleansed.

It's Friday. Spend three minutes and three seconds with Orson Welles.

The link above will take you to the climatic clip from the 1947 Orson Welles movie "The Lady from Shanghai." Turn up the volume. Energize your cerebral cortex. Be awed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The tyranny of meetings.

Diatribes against Microsoft are not uncommon. We've all railed against Powerpoint and the dumbing down it visits upon us. But I have a new one now. (Or at least a new one for me.)

This one is about the calendar feature of Microsoft Office. I've come to believe that because it's so easy to schedule meetings, we schedule meetings.

Think about it. When I started in the business, it was rare to have a meeting. I don't think this was a function of junior-hood. Even ten years ago, when I was a SVP, Group Creative Director, pre-Microsoft Office, we didn't have so many meetings. You'd call the people you need to get together with and say, "can you and Randy get together at four?" They'd say yes or no and so it goes.

Today like all other week-days, I come in the office to a print out MS Office calendar that has my day split into half hour increments, nearly all of them filled with something insipid.

What would happen if we eliminated these calendars?

I'll get back to you soon. I've got a meeting.

Life, as we know it.

Seen on the doors of a conference room:

"The 1:30 meeting will start at 1:45."

I kind of like to know what Heidegger would think of that one.

Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Remember waiting?
It's what consumers used to have to do.
Oh, that was long ago.
Long before LL Bean, Amazon and the web changed the world.
So why is it that when you present fucking ideas to a client
it takes them about four weeks to say "yes"?

Years ago I had a fair amount of animus and conflict with a Chief Creative Officer who I thought was singularly lacking in talent but singularly skilled in pissing in my pool.

The CEO of the agency at which I was working said to me,
"Oh, don't worry about the CCO. He's just overthinking things."

I replied: "He's not overthinking. He's undersmarting."

My point is simple.
Is it good?
Or is it not good?

Make a decision. It's not exactly rocket surgery.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The attack continues.

This morning on NPR I heard this sentence:
"A chance of storms today, some of which may be severe."

This is another sloppy attack on our language.

A couple days ago I was struck by the lack of linguistic precision found in this item in the news: "It's the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban." Because I don't believe the Taliban ever fell.

And today we have "severe storms."

A storm, by definition, is severe. This is according to Merriam-Webster: 1 storm

Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German sturm storm, Old English styrian to stir
before 12th century

1 a: a disturbance of the atmosphere marked by wind and usually by rain, snow, hail, sleet, or thunder and lightning b: a heavy fall of rain, snow, or hail c (1): wind having a speed of 64 to 72 miles (103 to 117 kilometers) per hour

I don't know what this means but I like it.

A poster by The Map Office with Eddie Opara, James Mckinnon and Salvador Orara, 2008.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The enemy.

The enemy of good communication is the conference room table.
Those tables inside of agencies and those table in clientville.
Here and there is where people sit in judgment to try to figure out what's wrong with your work, what's missing, what the client is expecting, what the next person up the food chain has as their agenda.

I know what the client wants, they want to see something about "________________."
Well you left out this corporate initiative that our viewers don't care about.
Legal is interested in this: _______________.
The brand group wants this:_________________________.
The product group needs a description of _________________________.
You know what will make the client buy this, if we include __________________.


This murder, slaughter of craft and integrity happens around conference room tables.
Around those tables, in too plush chairs, breathing too little oxygen, too empowered sit:


Thus, we have two choices:
1.) As our fuel shortage becomes more egregious, chop up conference room tables for firewood.
2.) Always leave an people-less chair at the head of the table with a big sign on it.
The sign should read: customer.

Lest we forget.

Stan Laurel on insomnia.

"I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep."

Kino has just released volume 2 of the Stan Laurel Collection, early works before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy. To all those who find this sort of thing passe, remember the words of the master: "You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led."

Monday, July 7, 2008

You know you're old when...

You turn on Antiques Roadshow and they're talking about you.

Perhaps it's just me.

I had lunch in a coffee shop today. With my pancakes the waiter brought little sealed packages of "table syrup." Is there kind of syrup other than table syrup? Is there garage syrup? Bathroom syrup? Tennis court syrup?

Trying too hard.

I went to Barack Obama's website this morning because I heard it was influenced by one of the 24-year-old founders of Facebook and, so,I wanted to see what the site was about. I quickly found the button above. "Log in to my Body Odor."

Lies. Manipulation. Complicity. Apathy.

I heard this statement on NPR this morning. Slack editing? Or something more malevolent?

"It's the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban."

Wait a second, the Taliban hasn't fallen.

Imperial over-reach.

No, this is not about the Roman Empire, or the British Empire, or the Soviet Empire or the American Empire.

It's not even about General Motors, whom both the NY Times and The Wall Street Journal report is contemplating both layoffs and the sale of some of its brands. (Apparently, GM has been hawking Hummer, but no one wants to pay even $1 billion for this dinosaur-waste-sipping dinosaur.)

No, what this post is about is Madison Avenue and its likeness to Detroit.

How long before Interpublic, WPP, Publicis, Omnicom, et al decide that it's time to divest itself of its agencies that have no reason for being except for the size they add to the bottom line--which keeps shareholders happy for the moment. (Agency holding companies, like chains like Starbucks, the Gap, etc. expand to the point of collapse.)

Well, the problem is, there's probably no one to sell these agencies to--except back to the agencies themselves. So until there is fundamental change in the advertising cosmos (notice I didn't say landscape) things will probably stay as they are.

Just wait, though.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Listening to the future.

I am reading Rick Perlstein's new book, "Nixonland," a history of the 1950s-present. Basically, the story of the lower-middle and middle-class transitioning from getting more to keeping what they have. (Getting more is a New Deal-ian attitude, keeping is essentially conservative, xenophobic and racist.)

Early on in the book, Perlstein transcribes the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy. Here are some of Kennedy's words:

"I am not satisfied, as an American, with the progress we are making...This is a great country, but I think it could be a greater country. And this is a powerful country, but it could be a more powerful country...I'm not satisfied to have fifty percent of our steel mill capacity unused...I'm not satisfied when many of our teachers are inadequately paid...I think we should have an educational system second to is a fact that through most of the last twenty-five years, the Republican leadership has opposed federal aid to education, medical care for the aged, development of the Tennessee Valley, development of our natural resources."

Instead we talk about McCain's war record (which dates back 40 years--Obama was 12 when McCain was released from captivity.) Or lapel pins.

Obama has not shown a vision. McCain has not shown a vision. We speak of phone tapping and ugliness. Where is hope? Optimism? The future?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

What does this mean?

I just saw this company description on a former colleague's linked-in profile:

"A Strategic Research, Analytics and Planning Consultancy for the Liquid Marketing Age."

I consider myself fairly smart. I've been around the ad business virtually my whole life. I am a keen observer of new technology, trends and media.

That said, WTF is the 'liquid marketing age'? Does it mean its purveyors use language that make you puke liquid in your mouth?

Losing one of our own.

Larry Harmon (left) died on Thursday. Some years ago, he bought the rights to Bozo and over the last 50 years, Harmon trained more than 200 Bozos. (Or is it Bozoes?)

200 Bozos. Sounds like some agencies I've worked at.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Big flags.

There's an article in today's New York Times about the proliferation of big flags-- flags as long as a 15-story building is tall--at sporting and other events across the United States.

Since it's Independence Day, since we are in an election year battle, and since we are nearing the close of what will likely be regarded as one of the worst three presidencies ever, this article made me think about brand America.

If you you go to you'll find an assortment of logos. Viewers are asked to respond to a logo by typing the first word that comes to mind. Responses are weighted by popularity. The more popular the response, the larger the type. So if you examine "Blockbuster," the words that "pop" are "bankrupt," "cinema," "dead," "dvd," "crap." (Netflix on the other hand, yields "awesome," "fast," "convenient.")

My post, though, pertains to big flags and brand America. What does our brand mean today? If a big flag was found at, what words would "pop." What words would pop among Europeans, Africans, Asians, South Americans, Muslims, the poor, the environmentally conscious? What words would pop in different regions of the US? What words would pop among the 63,000 Americans who lost their jobs last month? What would Ray Hunt, the Bush crony, Halliburton board member, and war-profiteer whose oil company manipulated the State department for profit have to say?

In other words--what does America mean?

How will Obama answer that? How will McCain?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Warming up by chowing down.

To get ready for the festivities at Coney Island tomorrow, I just ate 37 hotdogs (with buns) in eight minutes. I'm skipping dinner to be in top form for tomorrow's contest.

Ogden Nash in my office.

When it gets hot outside and the air-conditioning in my hyper-hip yet crumbling workspace is on the fritz, I think of Ogden Nash's brilliant poem: "Ode to a Baby."

A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.

0% financing.

No money down.
Sign and drive.
No payments for 72 months.
$2500 off.
Red-tag sale.
Employee pricing for everyone.

Detroit tactics. And now, what agencies do when they attempt to get or keep an account.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

We're practically giving them away.

As we spiral ever-deeper into what seems like it will be an infrastructure-shaking recession, news comes from Detroit that something's rotten in the state of Motown.

Chrysler sales dropped a whopping 36%. Ford was down 28%. GM fell 18%. Even Toyota's sales dropped 18%.

According to The New York Times: "Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American sales, said it was not possible to figure out how much GM's month-ending three-day sale boosted June sales."

Note to Mark LaNeve: do you really think anyone will buy a GM vehicle unless you pay them to do so?

My prediction: after the short-term sales heroin of daffy dipshit dollar daze wears off, GM's sales slide will accelerate. It's simple, they make a product no one wants that serves a need no one has. They promote that product with marketing no one likes and sell it through a channel people despise.

PS: The chart above is GM's stock price over the last decade. On Monday, GM's share price hit its lowest point in over half a century.

Civil disobedience.

I just read that we (you and me) under the aegis of our government have adopted wholesale and used torture techniques first employed by the Chinese against American prisoners captured during the Korean police action. As The New York Times reports: "China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo"

"WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners."

Read the entire article here:

My prediction is that this morning millions of Americans will turn on the "news" and hear more about Leona Helmsley leaving billions to her dog.

That's not trivia or gossip culture. That's mind control. And we're falling for it, hook, line and sinker.

Disobey. Read.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What does "patriotism" mean?

Just recently John McCain questioned Barach Obama's patriotism. I wonder what patriotism is code for--what signal the word sends out to people that transcends the philological essence of the word.

Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist. But I believe that linguistically when the "Liberal Media" is assailed, liberal media, or Eastern Liberals or pointy-headed Ivy-Leaguers is populist patois that translates roughly to "Jew." In the old Soviet Union, the code used was "rootless cosmopolitans." Today, high oil prices are being blamed, not on Exxon-Mobil (who tallied $13 billion in profit last year) but on speculators. Speculators = Jews.

So, back to patriotism and its meaning. Questioning Obama's patriotism during the 2008 campaign means one thing--the same thing "elite" means. It means "nigger." It means he's not one of us.

To learn more about this psychological inversion, read Richard Hofstadter's "Anti-intellectualism in American Life." In this book, Hofstadter traces the social movements that altered the role of intellect in American society from a virtue to a vice. The "vice" of intelligence gave us twelve years of Bush (including four with Dan Quayle as vice president.) Eight years of Reagan. Will it now give us four of McCain?