Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A breakup.




I always get a little sad when you see an agency and a client break up after a long and successful run. It makes me feel gloomy for the industry--when an agency's work saves a client or drives a client's success and then they are dismissed. Undoubtedly, the reasons for advertising breakups are as complicated as the reasons for relationship breakups. But somehow, I always take the side of the agency.

The latest breakup involves Carmichael-Lynch, the storied Minneapolis agency, and Harley-Davidson, the storied Milwaukee motorcycle manufacturer.

For 31 years Carmichael-Lynch has done outstanding ads for Harley. Helped them stave off bankruptcy. Helped make them iconic, cool, a standard in a motorcycle world teeming with cheaper Japanese imports.

And now it's over.

Mark-Hans Richer, Harley's chief marketing officer explained things, incomprehensibly, this way: "We've had a good run with Carmichael Lynch over the past 31 years but as our brand has grown globally and with new, broader audiences and cultural opportunities, we've been working for some time with a more diverse group of agency partners. Our strategies have been moving away from a singular consumer target and a one-size-fits-all agency solution. Rather than accept this new reality, CL chose a different path and we respect that."

I'm not sure what Richer's words mean. Like I said, they're incomprehensible.

It probably means Harley's work will suck and no one will see it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Advertising memories.

When I was a kid, this is in the late 60s and early 70s, it seemed like the world was falling apart. People were protesting things, burning buildings. Soldiers were shooting students. Students were taunting cops. Authority was a thing of the past.

For a kid--and kids grow up better in worlds that have absolutes of good and bad, this was all very confusing. There was no permanence, no order. No good and bad. It was all uproar.

As a consequence, baseball became very important to me. It was the same game it always was. You could rely on it.

So pretty much every evening, I would turn on the old black and white RCA Victor set we had and watch the Mets or the Yankees play. Being in a city with two ball teams basically meant that from April 'til October there was a game on every night.

Schafer beer was one of the major advertisers. And while most of their commercials sucked, I remember this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8__0FfSR_mw which, for whatever reason, I can't seem to download.

This Schafer spot was a great story. It told a story that was somehow both funny and comforting. Like this Alka-Seltzer spot, which I was able to download. video

In a world that was going crazy, these spots made things seem ok.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ad of the week.


Point one is especially illuminating. Click on the ad so you can read the type.

El Greco, half a mile below ground in Chile.



A picture of the buried miners from Chile and an el Greco.

No way out.

Of all the evils caused by holding companies and agency consolidation, the worst is that they prevent you from getting angry.

Here's what I mean.

Not long ago these agencies existed in New York.

Kenyon & Eckhardt.
Bozell Jacobs.
Scali McCabe Sloves.
Ammirati & Puris.
SSCB Lintas.
Deutsch.
Lowe.

Six agencies. Now, scraps of those agencies are all rolled into one steaming amalgamation of faceless fecklessness.

Now, if you worked say, at Scali, and you weren't getting good assignments, you had no respect for your boss, or you were just bored you could put some nice slacks on and get a job at, say, Bozell.

No more.

Now if you hate where you are there's nowhere to go.

So we lower our pulses.
Our emotions.
We disengage.
Rather than seizing the day, we just hope to get through it.
There's no place to go.
No way out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 20 most popular words in PR.

According to a document that just came across my desk, below are the 20 most popular words in British press-releases.

Leading.
Best.
Solution.
Great.
Leading provider.
Award winning.
Largest.
Unique.
Innovative.
Innovation.
Extensive.
Exclusive.
Dynamic.
Real-time.
Easy to use.
Fastest.
Premier.
Innovator.
Top.

Accordingly it seems that the United Kingdom has spent much of the year promulgating leading and innovative award winning solutions exclusively easy to use. Or some such.

Uncle Slappy returns.

Since I was away for much of the last two weeks, and since the World Pinocle Championship was being held on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, my Uncle Slappy took the train up from Florida to spend some time in New York. At his request, the post below is from him.

OK, Mr. Hoity Toity, I'll admit I'm no Spring chicken but I have to tell you I don't trust anyone under 50. It seems that entire generations in America have had their ferstunkeneh heads fall off their shoulders.

I could talk about how they get their news from shiny white teeth where they talk about virtually nothing but Lindsay Lohan's tuchas, or from free newspapers where ads for laser bunion removal take up more space than actual articles, I could talk about all that. But I won't.

What I want to talk about, schnook, is symbolic.

For the last four days in New York it's been pissing rain like a racehorse. Ordinarily I'd stay home under such conditions. But with the Pinocle championship going on, I had to take the train up to the Concourse. What do I see amidst all this rain liquifying, you should pardon my language, dog feces, dog urine, bum vomit and general filth? What do I see walking through this near toxic slurry? I don't even want to go out this my rubbers on! But what do I see?

I see skinny girls talking on cell-phones in the rain and walking through puddles wearing flippy floppy sandals.

Just touching with your little finger the filth that runs through New York when it rains could give you deadly cancer of the ear--but these girls--and some boys, too, mind you, are slogging through puddles like Washington crossing the cockamamie Delaware in sandals that maybe, just maybe, are appropriate for the beach.

This is the generation we are trusting our futures too, Big Shot.

Me, I'm sticking to pinocle.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And then one day he climbed up to the top of a bell-tower with a high-powered rifle and just started shooting...

Dear Clients,

I know some MBA somewhere has powerpointed that we must deliver "experiences" to clients.

But come on.

When your kid is in school, she's there to learn her ABCs.
She's not there to have an "alphabetic experience."

Leave my copy alone.

Or you'll have a negative creative director experience.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A bit more on Tick Tock.

The last time I saw Tick Tock Tannenbaum was in the summer of 1975, just a few months before he was presumed dead.

I had just finished high school, hadn't yet entered college and I had a lot of time on my hands. That summer I worked at Playland, a small amusement park in Westchester County that was situated alongside the murky waters of the Long Island Sound.

The job I had was simple. Basically, I sat in a small booth in an arcade and made change. When the arcade got crowded, I was meant to walk around and make sure nobody monkeyed with the machines. Or if someone lost a quarter, I used the trip they gave me to clear the coin slot. Or I gave them a quarter for a new game.

Most of the time, however, the game room was empty. I sat in my booth and read books. That's what I was doing when Tick Tock showed up.

"Fuck face," he said, "whatcha reading?"

"Uncle Tick Tock."

"Cheese it, keed." He slid through the recess in my booth a small parcel wrapped in old newspaper. "Hold this for me until I come for it. Don't rat to the Potsies, ok, keed?"

"Sure. What is it?" I asked naively.

"Cheese it, keed," the old man repeated, "I gotta blow."

I kept Uncle Tick Tock's package in my change booth for the rest of the summer. He never showed up. I took it to college with me that fall and secured it in the bottom drawer of my desk underneath a sheaf of typewritten pages.

When I heard Uncle Tick Tock died later that year, I removed the package from my desk drawer. I deposited it in my trash bin.

I didn't have the balls to open it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's arrived.


I worked at Ally & Gargano, nee Carl Ally, although not in its glory days when it was arguably the best agency ever. Last night I got home at 2AM from a harrowing luggage experience and found that the good graces of our postal system had delivered, in my absence, a mammoth book compiled by Amil Gargano of the agency's best work.

No, I am not living the the past Anonymous. I am not slip-sliding into curmudgeon-hood. I am simply admiring great work like a ballplayer might admire Ted Williams' swing or Joe DiMaggio's centerfield prowess.

It is a book that marks an era in advertising. And it features advertising that helped define what advertising is. In subsequent posts I may dive deeper into some of Ally's ad campaigns.

If you love advertising, as I do, its craft and its bullshit, you ought to drop a dime on this tome.

It's not cheap.

But good advertising seldom is.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A re-post. Words from Arthur Miller.

On my escape from California.


LINES FROM CALIFORNIA
by Arthur Miller

They meet for purchase or sale
and to trace their bounds through rosebushes.
There is a catechism: What's your name, what
do you do, how do you feel, and where you from?
Like people on a perpetual cruise, and the dead
go overboard into a lawn. It's a deck,
part of which is always on fire.
Anything inconsequential makes them serious.
Some teach parakeets to climb ladders; they also
have Malted Milk Specialists.
Tragedy is when you lose your boat.
Life is a preparation for retirement.
The sun is good for business.
Al Jolson left a trust fund which pays
to floodlight his tomb at night forever;
even in death a man should have bills.
The second-largest industry is sporting goods.
To succeed as a woman you have to have a car.
California is Christianity plus the conveniences.
Driving from town to town one wonders what will
happen if neon gas ever runs out; some may
have to learn to read paint.
When a man admits failure he becomes a pedestrian.
Brotherhood is when two men have the same mother.
Sacrifice is a car sold at a ridiculous price.
Society is when people listen to classical music;
or a Savings & Loan.
Law is order, Justice a decent return on money.
Progress is anything turning on and off by itself.
Beauty is teeth, deep skill, and the willingness.
Freedom is the right to live among your own kind.
A philosophy is a keen sense of land values
and the patience to wait.
War is peace waged by other means .
They know they are the Future.
They are exceedingly well-armed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Advertising metaphor of the year.

As reported in "The New York Times," "Bull Leaps Into Crowd at Spanish Ring."

Whether you're analog or digital, this seems like the perfect video clip. Except, of course, that in this scenario the bull gets subdued and probably turned into Bull Burgers.
video

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Off to LA again.

And hoping when I get there it is Raymond Chandler's LA.

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."

from "Farewell, My Lovely".

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Albert Tannenbaum aka 'Tick Tock' Tannenbaum 1906 - 1976


From my friend, Patrick Hamou, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Six-For-Five/142907169065499. Artist and writer.

Born in Nanticoke,Pennsylvania, Tannenbaum’s father moved his family the Lower East Side in 1909 where the family settled on Orchard St.

...After World War I, Allie’s father bought a resort in upstate New York and employed his young son during the summers to wait on tables there. The hotel attracted mostly Jews from the city, including the larger-than-life Manhattan mobsters Harry Big 'Greenie' Greenberg, Jacob Shapiro and Louis Lepke Buchalter, who took the impressionable Tannenbaum under their wing and gave the skinny kid some lessons in acquiring toughness and to stand up for himself. Jacob Shapiro nicknamed him 'Tick Tock' because of his constant clocklike nervous banter.

By the time he quit high school, Allie worked for Lepke and Shapiro after Shapiro spotted him selling hats on the streets of Manhattan and offered a better pay incentive. Bit by bit he learned the trade and was soon running with some of Lepke's gunmen like Emanuel 'Mendy' Weiss and Charlie 'The Bug' Workman though duties at times never went farther then driving black sedans. Eventually he graduated and had his hand in six murders. Tannenbaum also freelanced for whoever had the cash,and was mixed up in the war for control over Brownsville, Brooklyn between Abe Reles’ crew and the Shapiro Brothers.

He eventually became a full time member of Murder Inc. eventually leading to his connection of his most high profile crime, the murder of Harry ‘Big Greenie,’ Greenberg. Greenberg, who was a Ben Siegel protogĂ©, was crying foul and whining money woes to the top brass, and threatening to go the authorities and flip. He eventually went on the run and Tannenbaum was given the task of torpedo.

By 1940, pursuant to constant pressure from Brooklyn authorities along with testimonies pouring out of Abe Reles connecting Tannenbaum to the Greenberg killing, Allie made a complete one eighty of his allegiance to his criminal colleagues and joined Reles in the stool pigeon coup. He spent almost a year at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island along with Reles and Sholem Bernstein under police protection while the Brooklyn district attorney William O’Dwyer prepared his case. He was also flown out to Los Angeles, along with Reles, to testify in the case against Siegel in the Greenberg killing, though Siegel managed to squeeze out with an acquittal. He eventually testified in the trial against Louis Buchalter, working up the courage to stare into the face of the man he had admired so long ago, providing enough incriminating evidence to send Lepke tothe electric chair.

Albert Tannenbaum disappeared soon after from public view, resurfacing once in the mid-1950s for a court appearance as a prosecutor's witness for King's County when the case on the death of Abe Reles was reopened.

Some claim Tannenbaum spent the rest of his life as a hat salesman in Atlanta before he went missing off the coast of Florida in 1976.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thinking in a blizzard.

The news seems to be everywhere. China's economy--measured at $1.33 trillion has surpassed Japan's at $1.28 trillion to become the second largest in the world. So naturally everyone and his cousin starts spouting, thanks to China's rapid growth, that it's only a matter of time until China's economy passes that of the United States.

Let's put this in perspective. China's GNP is $1.33 trillion. The US's is more than 10 times that at $14 trillion.

And China has roughly five times as many people as the US. Which means that per capita, the US is 50 times as productive as China.

Of course, our national mood is today very negative. So no one investigates the data. They instead jump to conclusions.

No one thinks. We prefer to blurt.

It's so much easier.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Heroes.

It seems to me that part of the problem in the world today and therefore, in our business, is the worship of heroes.

Heroes are unnatural and mythic. The heroes we create and worship have no warts and flaws. They fly through the air like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Or fly up mountains like Lance Armstrong. Or they can part the seas and walk on water like Barack Obama. They are the pinnacle and the people we model ourselves after.

Then, of course, comes reality.

We learn that our heroes are nothing but finely-tuned and well-muscled humans. Complete with dents, flaws, shortcomings, hatreds, prejudices and, yes, even horrors. We learn they are juiced up on drugs, that they slap women around, or they demonstrate some other forms of distemper.

We "heroicize" different forms of media too. TV will solve our marketing woes. Or online. Or social media. Or four square.

They are heroic, without flaws. They will be the answer to our prayers. They will uplift us, edify, make us money hand over fist.

We also heroicize agencies and creative directors. We extol and then we imitate. We create an award show mythology around them. What they create must be great. It must be smart. When often it is drivel.

Heroes make it easy for us. They provide an ideal. They give us something to shoot for. They also make it easy for us to not be introspective, for us not to examine with a critical eye, for us to accept without questioning.

For those reasons, heroes are dangerous. As is over-simplification.

Of course it's ok to admire people's work. It's not ok to put people on a pedestal. It keeps you from looking them in the eye.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Notes from LA.

I flew a wide-body out here.
If my wife finds out, she'll kill me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

No, really, how does that make you feel?

There is a troop of Brownies in California, eight-year-olds that has its own stress clinic. A primary school in Liverpool gives stressed children aromatherapy. In 1993 British newspapers used the word "counseling" 400 times. Seven years later, that total had rise to 7,250.

As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, "Christ the Savior is becoming Christ the Counselor."

That's all the time we have today.
I'll see you next week.

Reflections in a dime store mirror.

As you may or may not know, I am just pages from finishing Peter Watson's epic survey of German Genius called, appropriately enough "German Genius." The book is compendious, but every page--or nearly so--introduces you to a thinker you didn't know before or a work you were unaware of. In other words, it is a book chock-full of learning, of ideas of thoughts. It is a respite from the extemporaneous world of advertising where people perseverate over real or imagined slights, like their name misplaced on a memo or a boss that's dumber than they.

It's good to read such books. Good to know that there are, still, minds and thoughts and artists and writers and engineers and musicians and physicists who aren't talking about Lady Gaga or a wayward flight-attending loonie.

Reading such work is a vacation. A vacation or retreat, for me, that is not much different from Thoreau spending a year in the woods. I can't do that. I have miles to go and promises to keep, but I can take half-an-hour every evening or even an hour and say "the world is too much with us" and thereby leave it for a while.

The crush of red lights blinking to tell you you're wanted, of Microsoft meeting maker meetings or the incidental travails that mark life are more than we are meant to take. We are meant to smell ideas, touch art and eat music. Not just live in the here and now.

Your work will be better if you do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Charlatans.

Gail Collins has a column in today's "New York Times" about the phonies and scoundrels that infest our political scene.

People who have plagarized, abducted coeds, started porn sites, borrowed children as props, lied about military service, the colleges they went to and so it goes.

Rushing for a plane this morning so not a lot of time. But even cursorily the parallels to our industry abound. People whose accomplishments are heralded for ads that never ran, for campaigns that never built a business, for work they never did.

Politics and advertising. These failures of judgment are endemic because we prefer to make decisions about people based on snap judgments or spurious efforts at PR. Basically we buy these people because we want to believe. Most of their lacunas can be identified in one half-hour conversation.

But we have no time for that.

We're rushing to another meeting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My father changes.

When I was a kid, say ten years old, my father worked in the city and went to work dressed in pretty much the same outfit every day. He work a dark blue suit, a grey suit or a dark brown suit, along with a white shirt maybe with a minimal pattern, a thin dark tie and dark brown or black lace-up shoes.

One day, my father abandoned all his old clothes. His lapels and ties went from being narrow and muted to being wide and ostentatious. His suits were less subtle--they now had patterns that included bolder colors like reds, greens or even purples. He bought a pair or two of Beatle boots.

My father looked completely different. Everything had changed.

Everything, that is, except my father.

That's kind of how I feel about a lot of what's going on today.

There would be some people who would have proclaimed my father a different man. I knew better. He was the same old guy, my old man.

He was just clothed differently.

Turkey sandwich. $4.99.

The human genetic make-up is less than 1/2 of 1% different from that of apes. In other words, our form is so complex that a tiny variation alone can account for our myriad differences.

Further, genetic variation takes millenia to effect. Climate doesn't change on a Tuesday leading to species change on a Wednesday. This sort of causality takes thousands and thousands of years.

That said about every 30 minutes in advertising agencies, in the trade press and in dozens of ad blogs you hear the grand proclamation "this will change everything."

Nothing will change everything. At least not in our lifetimes.

I think about changes in communications like I think about turkey sandwiches. Since the beginning of time if you ran a deli and you bought too much turkey, you put a sign outside of your shop that says "Turkey Sandwich Special--$4.99."

People, since the beginning of time, have evaluated that ad and responded accordingly.

Today's deli owners do not attempt to incite a conversation about turkey sandwiches or any some such. They put a sign in front of their store. Simple.

Signs in front of stores are the essence of advertising.

They've worked since Hector was a pup. And will continue to work.

Despite the mindless chatter that proclaims "everything's changed," nothing has really changed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Goddamn it! Be happy.

Yesterday the news came about of a Jet Blue flight attendant who lost it. He cursed a (jet)blue streak, popped an emergency slide and ran away from Kennedy Airport to his nearby home.

It occurred to me that this flight attendant, like so many others are paid, indoctrinated, cajoled, bludgeoned and otherwise coerced into a plasticine smile. That's part of their job, to act happy.

At the drugstore near my office, the clerks, downtrodden, down market and down in the dumps no longer say "next" when their register is open. They smile in a stupor and mumble "next guest."

I am a guest at your fucking chain drugstore?

What's happening here is "smiles as a business tool." Some MBA decided that smiles up productivity 17%. So they're painted on like stickers across the faces of low-wage workers. And it's so much cheaper to mandate happiness and accord than to actually create conditions that would lead to a general amiability. Job satisfaction isn't what it's about--looking like you're satisfied is all that matters.

This of course has direct application to advertising.

What we have in our business is a lot of brands that are "tell" brands--that is they tell people how to think, act, feel. We have very few brands that are "do" brands, ie brands that set an example based on their actions, not merely their sloganizing.

There are brands that glad-hand their viewers vs. brands that actually genuine--actually helpful.

Here's the deal. Phony smiles and phony brands fail. Genuine brands cost more to create because they demand commitment up and down the food chain. But they work harder and last longer.

Oh, and they're honest. Which should count for something. Whether or not you're an MBA.

Monday, August 9, 2010

OMG.

I just ran across this career move as reported in Stuart Elliott's online column:

"S---- P---- joined Agency in a new post, senior vice president and director for holistic services.

Director for holistic services.

That title makes me want to poke my eyes in.

Poem on another hot day.

From the great Joseph Mitchell:

"In the Winter,
I'm a Buddhist.
And in the Summer,
I'm a nudist."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bad ad of the year? Of the decade?


A lot's been said about the Old Spice guy. A lot of awards won. But Old Spice also perpetrates this affront above.

I know, I know...I'm not the demo.

But this just sucks.

An armpit that smells like Fiji.

Please.

George Orwell, in his great essay "Politics and the English Language" had 6 rules for decent writing. They apply to advertising--and the last one applies especially to this ad.

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ad placement of the week.


From the San Jose Mercury New's coverage of HP Chairman and CEO's sexual and financial peccadilloes.

Time well spent.

Spending most of the morning trying to convince a Chinese-born designer that today is Thursday. As of right now, he's coming in tomorrow.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The unbearable dumbness of being.


Advertising can suck and often does. We accept that. What I have a hard time with is the combination of imbecility and ubiquity as evidenced by the above Gap ad.

Put the "It" in Fit.

OK.

Now what the fuck does that mean?

"$20 off jeans for you."

Oh, I thought I could only save if I "gifted" these jeans.

Not long from now, we'll read the news that the Gap, suffering from a major sales slump, will be closing 342,769 of its 948,923 stores. They will blame it on shift in consumer habits and the transitory and capricious nature of retail.

I will laugh and say that the cause was smarmy, banal and me-too marketing that did nothing to unique-ify of create lust for their products.

Things take time.

There's an affliction we are living with. It's called immediacy. It's the idea that if things take time it's because someone isn't working hard enough, someone is incompetent.

This obsession with immediacy will destroy us.

I am listening now to a report on the Gulf Oil Disaster. Now all the nabobs are saying the consequences of the cataclysm are relatively minor. That the oil has almost immediately and almost magically disappeared.

We are speeding up this disaster so the news can move onto something else. Something else that will capture our hyperbole for a week or two. Someone's racist tirade. Enhanced ass or drunken spree.

The fact is that the effects of the oil disaster will take years to recover from. And no one knows how deeply oil has seeped into our food chain. No one knows the true effects.

However, we must move on. We've given it enough time.

We do the same, of course, with the work we create. We allow it to be as disposable as wax paper. We don't give it time to build. We pretend the effects of a campaign will be
seen in three weeks. We expect work to be ready in three weeks.

In a previous post I named our era "The Quickies." The era in which everything is instantaneous. From muscles (steroids) to love (eharmony) to fame (reality shows.) In America there is a sizable portion of the population who believe that creation happened not over billions of years but over dozens of hours.

They want things now.

But things take time.
They don't work on your schedule.
They need to be pushed, pulled, explored.
Quick fixes don't fix anything.
Time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Things that ruin other things.

Yes, hipsters, you have made me feel old.
Yes, my mind is more capacious than yours.
Yes, I am more facile. More experienced.
Faster and harder-working.

But you have made me feel old.

You, when I wasn't looking, turned everything into a fetish of design.
By making everything designable, you've ruined just about everything.

Jeans--you know, those pants you pay $200 for, used to be the ultimate in utilitarian clothing. You, hipster, tore them and made them a fashion statement. You did the same with t-shirts. And canvas sneakers.

These were things that functioned. That worked well. And were inexpensive.

You have decided that everything need be cool.

You fucked up coffee.

You made corned-beef lean when, god knows, the flavor is in the fat.

And brought filet mignon and sushi to ballparks.

Shit, you tore down Yankee Stadium.

You haven't made anything better.
You've taken things that worked and made them precious.

You've ignored the simplest of dicta.

Form no longer follows function.

To you,
form is everything.
Function doesn't matter.

Substance, to you, is something "nobody reads."

As Dylan said, "a hard rain's a-gonna fall."

I hope your ever-so-carefully designed umbrella keeps you dry.

I'll be wearing galoshes.

Mad.

The other day some jerk came over to my desk and showed me this "great, really fun" app on his iPhone. A cartoon character you can punch with your finger and it giggles. Or it can take some words you say and say them back to you in a funny voice.

My daughter called this morning and told me that she has a Whoopee cushion app on her Droid phone.

Such is the transformational technology of our era.

I have nothing against iPhones or Droids. What's gnawing at me isn't my lack of sense of fun or my o'erweening gravitas.

What gets me is the trivialization of almost everything. The news is now the "newsotainment." And fart apps have replaced ideas--as Old Navy's Booty Reader attests.

As usual I'm in a bad mood. And the stupidity of our world, the self-centeredness, our propensity to amuse ourselves to death (160 soldiers killed themselves last year. This does not make the news. It might interfere with our consumption of Hot Pockets and erectile dysfunction drugs.)

It all makes me sad. Mad.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

German Genius, Part II.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am reading a long tome by Peter Watson called "German Genius." It's a survey of the brilliant minds of the Vaterland which have been over overshadowed by the horrors of Nazism.

I came upon two witticisms in my reading last night, or at least two things that handed me a laugh.

One was about the critics' reaction to Arnold Schoenberg's atonal composition "Second String Quartet." One newspaper labeled the performance a "Convocation of Cats," and the "New Vienna Daily" printed their review in the crime section of their newspaper.

Then there was this on the misanthropic and dyspeptic Johannes Brahms who said as he hurriedly left a party one evening, "If there is anyone here that I have not insulted, I apologize."

Morrie Yohai, father of Cheez Doodles, dies at 90.

Morrie Yohai, the man who noticed you could air puff corn into three inch tubes, coat it with flavorings and sell it, died last week. You can read his New York Times obit here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/03/business/03yohai.html?hpw

Cheez Doodles brought to my mind the great Lays Potato Chip commercials that starred Bert Lahr, he of Cowardly Lion fame.

No real advertising point. I'm in a bit of a slump of late.

video

Monday, August 2, 2010

One sentence.

I'm still thinking about the 92,000 pages leaked by Wikileaks. About the 2300+ pages of the financial reform act. Of the 2 1/2 pages of to-dos I get from my wife.

In short, there is no shortage of instruction, information and inundation in the world. What there is a shortage of is simplicity.

I read this the other day from Landor about brands. I usually ignore things from places like Landor because they've always seemed to me to be complicators not simplifiers. But this is pretty simple and it gives pause:

1. If you can't describe in one sentence what differentiates your brand from your competitors you don’t have a strong brand.
2. When asked why you're successful, you respond with a stock price.
3. You can't sum up your mission, vision and values in one sentence.
4. No one can remember your logo.
5. The value of your company is the sum of your tangible assets. If our buildings burned down, what would we be worth?
6. People still talk about your founder, not your company.

Most brands, of course, like most people can't abide by much less answer the strictures above. In trying to become brands they'll resort instead to gimmickry or they'll try short cuts. Then when their work doesn't work, they'll fire their agency.

That's why I am saving to open up a Carvel franchise on the Upper West Side.