Thursday, June 30, 2011

Too many project managers.

This morning "The New York Times" had an article on its sports pages on the New York Knicks. It didn't concern the coach or any particular player. It was about the General Manager who knows how to manipulate contracts and their terms to optimize his team's roster. No longer is it the players who are most responsible for a team's winning or losing. It's the money guys who count, the guy who staffs the team.

It's not basketball you're watching, it's accounting.
Of course the same paradigm is true for all sports.
And, now that big money--bankers--own everything, it's true in just about every business.

What we're living through is a miasmatic transition.
The people who do things and make things hardly matter.
Only the money guys do.

Advertising seems less about the quality of the product we make (ads) and more about our billability and the 20 or 40 hours allocated for this project or that.

Creativity is secondary to administrativity.

What advertising can do.

We all know the statistics. How many ads and messages we are bombarded with each day. How many images and words are sent our way. How busy and cluttered and crowded our brains have become. We trot out this information as if it were a new phenomenon. (Which it's not.)

Posit that for a second and let me run this by you.

At its highest form, the purpose of advertising is to bring order to the universe. Amid the noise, advertising can bring clarity.

In my 26+ years in the business, I've seldom worked with a client who actually knows what they sell. So despite the color coordination that branding people have imposed, most brands remain cacophonous and dissonant.

The brands we love, and it seems we all pretty much love the same brands, are clearly defined and they don't waver from their definition regardless of what they're selling.

The issue that most brands are facing is a mass of their own messages in various media without the clarity of definition. They use the latest technologies and channels and chatter but they haven't done the most important job they can do.

Saying who they are. What they stand for. And how they behave.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My quarterly dividend check from IPG.

Some thoughts on Jargon.

When I left Ogilvy for places west, my brilliant mentor wrote on a napkin over dinner, 15 things I should do in order to be successful in future jobs. I've carried that list with me since it was given to me and I think about it often.

One of the things on this list, buried somewhere in the middle, is something I have been unable to follow. It could be why I've had 12 agency jobs in my 26 years, four in the last seven. And that's this: "Learn the jargon of the agency."

It seems to me that there are two ways to exist in any social organization--whether that organization is a company, a group of friends or even a family. You can be on the "inside" or you can be an "outsider."

Some people are happier, and more valuable as outsiders. Their crankiness, their nettling, their dissatisfaction with status-quo-ism is what, at least in part, impels these organizations forward.

Adam Morgan in his excellent book "The Pirate Inside," called such outsiders "denters." And these people are organizationally, a pain in the corporate ass. First off, they align not with the company they work for but the brands they work on. They are not overly concerned if they'll be at the company in ten years' time. They prefer tension to acceptance. And finally, they are on a quest--a personal mission--to drive their brand vision ahead.

Maybe it has something to do with my birth order or some vagary of my upbringing, but I have never felt a part of anyplace I've spent a lot of time; I've felt apart not a part. Maybe I should grow up and not bite the hand that feeds me and my family.

Maybe I should accept the so-called "wisdom" of the dominant complacency. That the world, and human wiring, is changing fundamentally and for all time. Maybe I should learn the jargon and start speaking of planar modalities and conversations about air freshener.

Nah.

I'd rather not.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I "like" my Gastroenterologist.


I don't know if you've ever had a colonoscopy. It's something you're subjected to around the time you turn 50 or if you have a family history of colon cancer. All told, it's not the most pleasant procedure in the world. At some juncture you may feel like you're all alone in the world, save for a long, pliable tube with a micro-camera at one end.

I need to make an appointment for a colonoscopy, so I searched online for my Gastroenterologist's phone number. The first thing I saw, after getting his phone number is that a site called Citysearch was offering me the chance to "like" Dr. Schmerin on Facebook.

I like Dr. Schemerin, the little I've seen of him. And I'm proud to tell the world all about it.

My friend Neisha.

Is a young copywriter who will one day (soon) be a young, famous copywriter. She's started a blog for young creatives. Advice and wisdom. It's well worth checking out and passing along. http://creativewannabes.blogspot.com/

Irrelevance.

I'm 53 years old.
My wife is a jot older.
Together, we make more than 99.7% of the world's population.
We have two kids.
One's a Doctoral student in Psychology.
The other is entering her Sophomore year at an elite private college.
We live in 10028, one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country.
We have in our household seven computers.
We have high-speed connectivity.
We are all on Facebook.
We Skype each other.
We IM.
We even toss in an occasional tweet.
We spend more time online than we do sleeping.
We travel internationally.
We read incessantly.
We watch a modicum of television.

In short, it might be expected that we are the people advertisers need to reach.

With, I suppose few exceptions, none of us have seen anything that was featured and feted in Cannes over the last ten days.

The irrelevant are creating and rewarding the irrelevant.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An evening on the Upper West Side.

Last night my wife and I got free tickets to the Public Theater's "Shakespeare in the Park" which is now presenting "All's Well that Ends Well," (which we saw) and "Measure for Measure," which we likely will see in the next few weeks or so.

However, before the show we walked to Zabar's, perhaps the world's greatest food store, to pick up some food for dinner. We transported our comestibles to a little Zabar's-run cafe, a grungy pace next door to Zabar's with communal tables and a counter that offers sandwiches, soups, pastries and frozen yogurt.

I'm sure it wasn't Zabar's intent when they opened the place--I'm sure they wanted to attract thoroughly yuppified Upper West-Siders, but what they have in their little cafe is dozens of the octogenarians who used to sit on the benches along Broadway, now transported inside spending hours over a cup of coffee and a cinnamon swirl, unraveling the cake a slow inch at a time.

They come for the coffee and they come for their friends. They all seem to know each other. This is a community.

Most of their conversation last night was about the difficulties getting around the city to their various medical appointments.

"The one time he sees me for a full hour and I had to miss my 2:30 because my 11:30 ran so late."

"I left an hour and forty minutes to get to my dentist on the Lower East Side and I called him from the street when I was already late because the trains weren't running because of a police action, what that was, they didn't have the decency to tell us."

"There was a street fair on 6th Avenue and the crosstown had to go on 34th rather than 23rd."

It was like that for the 45 minutes my wife and I were there eating our Caesar salads.

During that whole time not once did any of the elderly we were sitting amidst check their Facebook, send a tweet or check their email. They live in a different world than the world we live in. They don't think about their Klout score, or Kim Kardashian's buttocks or the anything the younger generations wear as a frontlet.

They seemed at peace. Talking. Kvetching. Kibbitzing. Complaining how hard it was to carry a whole cantaloupe back to their apartments.

Their dramas more vivid, even, than the Shakespeare.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Is it behind 'entrance solution' number 1?...

A quotation from Robert Fano.

By way of Errol Morris' 5-part series in "The New York Times" "Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck?"

This is by pioneering computer scientist and MIT professor Robert Fano, who is pushing 94.

"People ask me, “What are you doing today?” And the answer is, “Not much, but it still takes all my time.”

A note from my past.

Years ago I was in a slough of despond. (Not unusual for me.) I was on the receiving end of some political bushwa and I was feeling that I was getting schtupped. My boss, my ECD sent me a long note explaining the world as he saw it as well as a meditation on the person who was out politicking me. It was a long note, well-over 1,000 words and I've kept it ever since and refer to it often.

There's a lot of crap in our world. A lot of attitude. A lot of picayune politics. In any event, here's a bit of what my ex-boss wrote to me. Consider it today's daily meditation:

"After a year of walking around with a big fucking deal attitude, it's put up or shut up time. Where are the awards? Where are the case studies that bring in new business? Where are the clients who've ascended to power on the backs of success - of those things are careers and reputations made. And if he keeps posturing and not delivering, he'll wind up being thought of as just another asshole with a Titanic attitude and a Minnow in the engine room. That's not a formula for career success and personal fulfillment. It does catch up with you. Believe me."

That's all for now.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The technology solution.

There's a fog that's settled over our industry that's obscured our vision to the point where some can't even see their image in a mirror. This is a fog that says advertising is a technology industry.

I saw a parallel to this miasma in "The New York Times" this morning in an op-ed by Nicholas Kristoff. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/opinion/23kristof.html?hp


Kristoff starts his column this way: "What if nutritionists came up with a miracle cure for childhood malnutrition? A protein-rich substance that doesn’t require refrigeration? One that is free and is available even in remote towns like this one in Niger where babies routinely die of hunger-related causes?

"Impossible, you say? Actually, this miracle cure already exists. It’s breast milk.

"When we think of global poverty, we sometimes assume that the challenges are so vast that any solutions must be extraordinarily complex and expensive. Well, some are. But almost nothing would do as much to fight starvation around the world as the ultimate low-tech solution: exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. That’s the strong recommendation of the World Health Organization."

The problem with advertising today isn't our lack of technology or our inability to reach consumers because of their technology.

The problem with advertising today is that most work is dumb, pedantic and boring.

Technology can't solve dumb, pedantic and boring.

Better stories can.

The cobbler's children.

The advertising industry doesn't care about its own brands. The fact is, it's hard to find an agency anywhere that stands for something or a particular sort of work or an approach to advertising. This lacuna is even greater when it comes to multi-office agencies. The office in New York might bear little resemblance to the office in London. I believe that as an industry we have abandoned ethical standards and behaviors in pursuit of ephemeral glory and awards.

As an industry we trumpet and laud work, we heap praise upon things not according to how they influence consumers, but according to how "cool" they make the agency seem. Grand Prix Lions seem to be awarded to work with spurious efficacy based on flawed and dangerous assumptions.

Many of the best brains in the industry, or at least many of the highest-paid brains, fatten their awards chest working on spots that never run for products that barely exist. They disparage work for real clients. They disparage our real business objective which is, simply, to make clients more money.

Somehow that's crass and commercial and beneath us. So we have come to a point in our industry where the primary way to assess the worth of an agency is how many awards they've won as opposed to how many businesses they've built.

In short we are plagued by a pervasive perversion of purpose.

The ad industry has forgotten what business it's in.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest blogger: Blossom Dearie.

video

The end of something.


H & H Bagel, one of the many aspirants to the title of New York's best bagel, has closed its Upper West Side shop. You can read about it here. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/21/for-upper-west-siders-an-end-to-h-hs-steaming-hot-bagels/

I'd been going to H & H literally since they opened in 1972 and was taught how to work their system by my father, who was wise in the ways of the bagel.

The first thing you had to know is that the Puerto Ricans who worked there couldn't give a damn about you or your business. Accordingly they were incredibly brusque and rude. Your job as a customer was to be equally rude. In a sort of New York Newtonian law things would work out. Every act of rudeness must be met with an equal and opposite act of rudeness. So you barked your order--rapidly (faster than they could comprehend it) before they got to the phoneme "T" in the word "next."

Then you would repeat it with ever more disdain until they filled your order. That was the way it worked.

The other thing you had to live with at H & H was that you couldn't decide what kind of bagels you wanted until you got up to the counter. Once there you had to place your hand on the plexiglass and discern which bagels were piping hot. In the winter, you could tell by the steam on the plexiglass. But in the warmer months, you had to use your hand.

It was your job, if you were an H & H-er, to teach these rituals to your loved ones. I've seldom been as proud of my kids as I was when I saw them get themselves a nice pumpernickel, giving as well as they got.

The final nuance of buying your bagels at H & H was the 4:1 rule. For every four bagels you needed at home, you needed one for the way home.

In later years H & H outraged purists like myself by introducing Blueberry Bagels and Cinnamon Raisin. This seemed like a sacrilege. But their tried and true bagels were stalwart enough that we resisted the denigration of tradition. We accepted change, if grudgingly.

That's over now.

H & H is gone now.

Much is lost.

A response to "Bukes."

Bukes wrote the following to me:

"What's the answer? What are we going to do? Where are we going?! I'm hanging on your every word here, George. You've got this ad thing more figured out than 100% of the people I pass in the halls and I just need to know what happens next.

"Don't leave me hanging."

Here's what to do.
Here's what happens next.
Here.

Work your ass off.
When you feel stymied, unoriginal, thwarted, work your way through it.

When you feel bored, unappreciated, dull, work your way through it.

Work on work that works for you.

Work you believe in.

Be bull-headed but not rude.

Fight but don't be belligerent.

Be stubborn but not intransigent.

Work.
Harder than anyone else.
Screw what other people think.
Do what you think good is.

Find true friends.
A partner who will tell you when something sucks.
Widen your circle if you can find people you can respect.

Try new things.
But remember the old.
You can look at the old in new ways.

Making a killing.

People see the throes of agencies, bookstores, newspapers and the like and conclude that their struggles signify the death of entire industries and the demise of entire ways of assimilating information.

I wonder if there is another factor behind the demise of some of these entities. I just read an article in “The New York Times” by David Carr called “Ugly Details in Selling Newspapers.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/business/media/20carr.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=los%20angeles%20examiner%20&st=cse

Carr reports on a book by James O’Shea, the former editor in chief of The Los Angeles Times, called “The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers.” The gist of the matter is this: bankers attracted to newspapers and other media because of the ad revenue they generate ignored all ethics and common sense and milked these media properties for the fees they could collect from them. (Sounds like Dickens' "Bleak House,' don't it?)

Carr writes: "Here’s a note he found buried deep in court records from Jieun Choi, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Company, that demonstrated a breathtaking level of cynicism and self-dealing:

“There is wide speculation that [Tribune] might have so much debt that all of its assets aren’t gonna cover the debt in case of (knock-knock) you know what,” she wrote to a colleague, in a not very veiled reference to bankruptcy. “Well that’s what we are saying, too. But we’re doing this ‘cause it’s enough to cover our bank debt. So, lesson learned from this deal: our (here I mean JPM’s) business strategy for TRB but probably not only limited to TRB is ‘hit and run.’ ”

"She then went on to explain just how far a bank will go to “suck $$$ out of the (dying or dead?) client’s pocket” in terms that are too graphic to be repeated here or most anywhere else."

Maybe because I have a long memory I can't help but recall when ad agencies were considered cash cows. They generated a lot of revenue and needed virtually no capital plant. This of course attracted the money men.

They figured out ways to suck ad agencies dry.

The industry, like the media industry, didn't so much die as it's been killed.

Of course I'd be naive if I said there weren't fundamental issues with the media industry and the ad industry. But, I believe, these issues pale in comparison to the pillage perpetrated by those outside the industry who saw a way to make a killing and then killed.

In the scenario that Carr relates, the Los Angeles Examiner and the Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This could be the reason.


Amid my peregrinations, I came upon a quotation by Professor Trevor J. Saunders in his introduction to Aristotle's "Politics." "The society that loses its grip on the past is in danger, for it produces men who know nothing but the present, and who are not aware that life has been, and could be, different from what it is. Such men bear tyranny easily; for they have nothing with which to compare it."

Hmmmm...a society that loses its grip on the past. Adweek has a banal article by Tim Nudd on the "Ten Funniest Commercials of All-Time." Not one was made before 1999. No Alka-Seltzer "Spicy Meatball." No Volkswagen "Funeral." No Federal Express "Fast Talking Man."

Likewise as a society, advertising, has forgotten what business we're in. We aren't technologists, though we use technology. We aren't artists, though we use art and are artistic. We sell things. We sell ideas. We create lust for brands.

Such notions were rife during the ascent of advertising during the consumerist 1920s. Now they are forgotten. More hours are spent creating apps no one will use and functionality on sites no one will see than on communications that can reach and influence hundreds of millions of people.

We have lost our grip on the past. We've sold our industry and our souls to bankers who recognizing that agencies bring in revenue while having no need for a physical plant and can therefore be milked dry.

This could be the reason I am in a funk.

The expected is easy.

There was an op-ed in "The New York Times" last week that really got my gears turning. It was by a guy called Tim Kreider and it was titled "In Praise of Not Knowing." http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/opinion/19Kreider.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss The gist of the article is simple: it is the information we can't find that spurs the imagination.

Kreider worries that with instant accessibility to yottabytes of information on everything from Kim Kardashian's ample obliquity to the surface of Pluto, the thrill of discovery and imagination are gone. He writes "I hope kids are still finding some way, despite Google and Wikipedia, of not knowing things. Learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simple not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill. Because it turns out that the most important things in this life — why the universe is here instead of not, what happens to us when we die, how the people we love really feel about us — are things we’re never going to know."

Pytka, in an interview in Adweek this week, says somewhat the same thing. http://www.adweek.com/sa-article/not-your-average-joe-132132

When asked what advice he would give to young creative he answers thus:
"You should be aware of the past but keep your mind open about how to do something in a new way. You can’t be too dogmatic. That’s why I’m not crazy about film schools because they teach dogma and creativity is all about breaking rules. You have to leave room for spontaneity."

So much of what we do in our business today is formulaic. Referential to what won at Cannes or D & AD the year before. The synthesized product of Award Show Processors with the life sucked out of it.

We deliver what best practices dictate. What clients and focus group respondents and chief experience officers and chief creative officers and account people expect and the CEO's wife expect the answer to be.

We know the answers before the question is even asked. Or we act as if we do. We don't ever gallop down discovery lane. We shy away from the different. We construct a safety net called "we've done it before," and we do it again.

I think I'm done.

It happens every once in a while. It happens at work. It happens at home. It happens with my kids. It happens.

It happens that I feel used up. That I have been working so relentlessly for so long with such little return that I feel like throwing in the towel.

It happens. Or, I should say, it's happening.

I feel my abilities are a low grade fever.
My jokes aren't as funny.
I feel more than my usual sense of remove from the world around me.
I care less than usual.

It could be a visit from my companion, the black dog.
It could be any number of things.
It happens.

Sorry for the shitty posts lately.
It happens.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dot bust.

Years ago, at the crest of the world's first dot com bubble, I worked on the launch of a dot com with a very bright and funny account person. This particular dot com packaged together a computer and internet access and offered it to the public at an exceptionally low price--in many cases less than internet access alone. I remember this account guy explaining to me the business case behind our dot com. "They lose money on everything they sell, but they make it up in volume."

I think about that line often as we waddle toward our next inevitable dot bust. There's a simple commonality behind all busts whether they involve housing, dot coms or tulips, as they did in 17th Century Holland. These run ups and collapses are built on the simple premise that you can get something for nothing.

Facebook, Twitter, Four Square are valued higher than automakers and the like because people want to believe that you can somehow magically reach consumers and influence them at little or no cost. The law of averages says that most people are average, yet I--who spend probably 60 hours a week online, have never paid attention to an ad on any of these "channels."

These channels are great for poking someone, or finding out what bar they are at after work. They might even be a adroit way to deliver timely coupons.

But the simple fact is, it remains to be seen if they can add to real brand value other than their own.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mr. Nelson.

The summer after I turned 18, I got a summer job at Playland Amusement Park working at a game room that was situated on the boardwalk that ran alongside the Long Island Sound. I suppose it wasn't much of a job but this was 1976 and summer jobs were hard to come by. While this one paid minimum wage--$2.30/hr.--I was fairly happy to have it.

The basics of the job were pretty easy. I was to arrive at 9:30, open the steel gates that shut the game room, turn on the machines and sweep the place out. That took about ten minutes or so. Then I had to go to the back and open a safe where they kept the change and stock my cash till and my apron with change.

My game room opened at 10, whereas the park proper didn't open till noon, so for the first couple hours of the day, as buses arrived from the Bronx and Westchester with summer camp kids, my game room was pretty much the only show in town and we we're very busy. However, my game room was in the scheme of things, a bit of a dog. It wasn't as centrally located and popular as the main one in the park, as a consequence it held about 30 or 40 pinball machines that were fairly long in the tooth. I didn't watch over the new electronic machines, rather I was responsible for the last of the old mechanical ones. That was fine with me. I recognized their charms.

Over the course of the summer I had a lot of down time, because once the main section of the park opened my place was empty. The owner of my game room, Mr. Tolve, was fine with me sitting in my change booth and reading, just so long as I kept the area swept and free of cigarette butts.

I read a lot of books that summer but I also got to "know" the machines in my room. I was given a little stainless steel trip--a slug at the end of a thin rod. This allowed me to give someone a game if the machine ate their dime or quarter and clear the coin slots if someone stuffed something in them. Of course it also allowed me to play games pretty much as much as I wanted.

Pinball didn't hold much interest for me, and the baseball-type games where a metal ball would be pitched at a mechanical bat that you'd swing to swat the ball into a slot that read "out" or "single," "double," "triple" or "home run" as little tin players rounded the bases, was too unrealistic for me. It was easy to rack up 40 runs in one at bat and that amount of offense had no appeal.

The game I really loved was Skeeball, a loose variant of bowling. There's a short, maybe 15-foot lane that slopes at the end and then four concentric rings. If you bowled the softball-sized wooded ball into the outermost ring, you'd gain ten points. As the rings decreased in size their worth went up ten more points. The innermost ring, roughly the size of the ball itself was worth 50 points.

I must have played an average of 30 Skeeball games a day that summer. On some days, when things were really slow, I might have played more.

Consequently, I got so good at Skeeball, I proclaimed myself the "Skeeball Champion of Southern Westchester County."

The other thing that happened while I was working in the game room involved my high school math teacher, Mr. Nelson. "Nellie" as we called him behind his back, was just about the oldest thing any of us teenagers had ever seen, including the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. We used to say he was so good at teaching math because he was around when it was invented.

Mr. Nelson must have lived near Playland. Every afternoon, after my game room had emptied, he would amble over and hang out with me. We'd talk about sports, mostly, and whatever else we happened upon. I was kind of a fuck up as a math student and goofed around in the classes I had with Mr. Nelson way more than I should have. He never really busted me for being a jerk. He liked me. He knew I was smart but wayward and probably had the good sense to know I'd grow out of it.

Mr. Nelson and I would play some of those endless games of Skeeball, each of us acting as a sports announcer broadcasting some seminal event. "Adolph steps up, he rolls, it looks like a 30. Oh, no, it bounces out and Nelson ends up with a 20."

This is the way we passed a summer. Me 18, Mr. Nelson probably 80.

My family moved to Chicago after this summer, and I never went back to my old neighborhood, never saw Mr. Nelson again. It's been 35 years since that summer. I can only assume Mr. Nelson is still alive.

Apropos of nothing.

video

Speaking of great film directors, the clip above is from Preston Sturges' apotheosis, "Sullivan's Travels." It features the great "negro" actor Jess Lee Brooks. Brooks, who died at the age of 50 in 1944, made dozens of films for the "chitlin' circuit" but never really broke in to "white" movies. His last film was Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" but it was a bit part, and he was uncredited. He was also, tragically, uncredited for the performance above.

Sometimes, I'm sad to remark, that despite your talent and your presence, you don't get credit. Sometimes, I'm sad to remark, life sucks.

Thoughts from Jean Renoir.


Jean Renoir, as I have written in this (cyber) space many times before, is probably, to Americans at least, the least-known greatest film director who ever lived. From "Grand Illusion," to "Rules of the Game," to "Boudu Saved from Drowning" to dozens more, he consistently delivered great movie after great movie.

Often when I need a shot in the arm, I turn to Jean Renoir. I always find something he's shot, written or said that gives me some slim scintilla of hope. Or, maybe, better, some lightening of despair.

This morning I happened upon this quotation of his: "The real hell of life is everyone has his reasons."

This is a tough fucking business. We do not, ever it seems, have carte blanc to produce what we want. We have the exigencies of clients, timing and budgets to deal with. We have reasons to do what we do. That's how we get where we get.

I guess the trick to holding onto your personal integrity is not letting the "reasons" get in the way of your personal honesty.

There will be times when despite all the fight you have in you, the reasons prevail and you produce something that blows.

It happens.

We have our reasons.

Just don't let them become your truths.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Years and years ago, when IBM selectrics roamed the earth and lowly copywriters had secretaries, there was one, Marilyn, who sat outside of my office who was resolutely lazy--assertively lazy. Asking her to type over a piece of copy was akin to asking a fat man to swim the English Channel. She regarded work as if it were life-threatening.

There were four or six of us who Marilyn was supposed to work for. My bosses, two ACDs, a middleweight team and me and my partner, the juniors in the mix. Finally, we came to realize that one reason behind Marilyn's indolence was that she hid a small black-and-white television in one of her desk drawers and would spend most of the afternoon watching soap operas.

To Marilyn, soap operas were way more important than booking our travel, doing our expenses or typing over our copy. If you asked for help in the afternoon, you were pretty much shit out of luck.

One day my boss, Harold, had had enough. He went over to Marilyn as she was watching her portable and asked her, "What soap opera are you watching, Marilyn? "One Job to Lose"?

I'd like to say Marilyn improved after that or that she was fired. But all that happened was we were handed a good laugh and started typing our own work.

Lessons from WW I.


I'm reading right now Adam Hochschild's great new book on "The Great War," "To End All Wars." Hochschild is a brilliant writer who finds a way to add visceral power--blood and guts--to a war that passed almost a century ago. He spends a lot of time talking about the role glory and heroism played in the deaths of so many young men. In a rare war where the casualty rates were higher among officers than among enlisted men, something on the order of 50% of the classes of Oxford and Cambridge were wiped out on the Western Front.

Hochschild spends a lot of time in the book talking about the transition that war itself underwent between the 19th and early 20th Centuries. In earlier times when Europeans fought each other, so much depended on the gallantry of cavalry charges. The course of a battle could be changed by a concerted and mad dash of courage. By the time World War I came around, however, the machine gun came into being--a weapon that could mow down thousands in minutes. War quickly became a matter of trench warfare. Largely immobile. My numbers might be off, but during the first weeks of the war, the Central Powers (Germany and Austro-Hungary) occupied 16,500 square miles of France. It took the Allies (Britain and France and later the U.S.) the rest of the war, almost four years to regain just 88 square miles.

It occurs to me that there is some relevance here for us in the creative end of the advertising business. We can hope to carry the day with the dash of fast-action cavalry, but much more often, winning over clients and subsequently the hearts and minds of consumers, is much more a war of attrition. It is slogging it out. Gaining two yards one day, losing three the next. But coming back the next day, nonetheless, to try again.

My client, after literally a year, has just signed off on three new spots. On a lark, I printed out all the scripts that were written before the ones they bought. A half a ream of paper.

Keep your head down. Keep moving forward.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

News without news.

I listened to NPR this morning, and scanned "The New York Times" both the paper and the online editions. No news of the three wars we are fighting. It brought this to mind:

From Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death."

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.
What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.
Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.
Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distraction."

In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us.
Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Monday, June 13, 2011

LeBron vs. Sid.





Uncle Slappy called last night as the Miami Heat-Dallas Mavericks NBA Championship Series was drawing to a close. Like most of America, he was rooting against Miami (despite living in Boca, just a stone's throw from the Heat) and specifically he was rooting against the bombastic LeBron James.

"I want to tell you something about this James LeBron," he parried.

"It's LeBron James, Uncle Slappy."

"LeBron? LeBron is his first name? Not James? Oy, the schvartzas with their ferstunkeneh names. I'll tell you about a basketball player. Sid Tannenbaum."

"I'm sorry, Uncle Slappy, I don't know about him."

"Two times an All-American at NYU. James LeBron couldn't wipe his tuchas."

"Uncle Slappy, no offense, but LeBron James is considered one of the greatest players ever to play the game," I countered.

"You kids today. Sid was like a magician. Hands flew like birds. The best two-handed set shot I've ever seen. There was no defense against it."

"Have you seen LeBron play, Uncle Slappy? The man is unstoppable."

"Yeah, except during big games. Then King James is Schwing James."

With that, the old man hung up and my wife switched the TV to the Tony's.

Angry.

In my agency the ratio of the people who are meant to make sure work is being done to the people who actually create work is about seven to one.

Every morning I receive a host of emails telling me about new processes to discuss and keep track of the work I do. I am charged with going to about four meetings a day to so all those "minders" can find out what work is being done.

There is no advancement of the ball at any of these meetings. Just an acknowledgement that the ball is nigh.

In almost 30 years in the business, I have never failed to get my work done on time. I have created millions of dollars worth of assignments--things I've thought of doing and sold to the client.

I don't know why or how our business has devolved to its current state. Where we are infested with babysitters whose competence is barely above the drool level. These are the people who "run" things today.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

LeBron James and advertising.

LeBron James, many people assert, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest basketball player ever to put on a pair of too-long shorts. The man is a physical freak. At 6'8" and 250 pounds, he's often the strongest and the fastest guy on the floor. In the parlance of the game: "He's faster than anyone bigger and bigger than anyone faster."

The fly in James' ointment, is this: he's never won a championship. He seems to disappear at crunch time. In the 4th quarter of the championship series he is now playing in, he has scored few points, garnered few rebounds. And his team now is in a must win situation in the finals, trailing three games to two.

We work with plenty of advertising LeBron Jameses everyday. They are present when the sun is shining and the pressure is off. They are loud, prominent and full of opinions. However when crunch time happens, these people can be found cowering in a corner, absent of ideas.

There are one or two tests of the efficacy of a creative person. 1) Do they have the stamina to outlast a crappy client and not give in? 2) Do they come through when they're on a pitch?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Old, new and now.

video

My father started in the advertising business almost 60 years ago working in-house for RCA. I believe he was the writer on the commercial pasted above.

Today, "The New York Times" has an article called "Old-Time Torture Tests Resurface on YouTube, and Tablets Take a Licking." http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/business/media/10adco.html?scp=1&sq=vaughn%20monroe&st=cse The article talks about videos made by a company called Square Trade which sells extended warranties. The videos create torture tests and puts them on YouTube.

I find it instructive to look at old-timey commercials, even those not created by my father. Somehow, despite their crudeness, they were closer to the original purpose of advertising, that is, selling. In many cases, they recreated on film what a door-to-door salesman might do on your stoop.

New media savants, the ones who spout that marketing is dead, don't understand that demonstrations, if they're interesting, truthful and compelling fulfill a basic human need for people to see things with their own eyes. (Chico Marx's line "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" notwithstanding.)

I'd argue that the great work Apple's done in selling through the years is nothing more than modernized versions of what my father did a lifetime ago.

The theory of relativity.


At a dinner party, Einstein famously described his theory of relativity this way: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.”

It seems to me we have a serious relativity issue in our business. We don't understand, or recognize, the relative importance and value of the work we create. Depending on where you work, depending on the media in which you work, your agency can spend as many hours and as much people-power discussing the orientation of a scroll bar (should it be horizontal or vertical? I've yet to see a diagonal one) as it will mulling over a national television campaign.

Just as there is very little hierarchy on the web, there is, today, very little hierarchy within agencies. Everything seems equal.

What's really happening within our marketing communications infrastructure is we are having a format civil war, not that much different between the one we had a couple decades ago between VHS and Beta.

Both sides are fighting tooth and nail, propagating the superiority of their world. They disparage the other. They inflate their own importance. There is no honesty, no real sense of relativity.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sometimes a second takes all day.

Here's something the timesheet police will never understand. It can take hours to take a second out of a script.

We have created in our industry a situation where the people that manage the holding companies have never worked in our business and the people who manage our hours have never created anything but a spreadsheet.

Toys, old and modern.

There are three things I lately noticed that have made me think about the current condition of advertising.

First, I saw somewhere (I forget where) little magnetic balls--a desk toy selling online for something like $80. Second, some years after all the shoe repair shops, hobby shops and bookstores closed in my neighborhood, to be replaced by over-priced restaurants, nail salons, over-priced restaurants and nail salons, a kids' toy store opened in my neighborhood. Finally, a store called "Burlington Antique Toys," which was housed in the basement of one of New York's last independent bookstores, shut its doors at the end of May. Burlington Antique Toys sold tin and cast iron toys to rich older men reliving the childhood they never had--it specialized in late 19th and early 20th century tin soldiers.

It occurred to me that this confluence of toys has a meaning. One is, we have a need for toys, regardless of our age. Toys stimulate our imagination. They allow us to use our hands in play, not work. They allow us an indirectness. Not every action, not every waking moment must be filled with something that gets us toward a goal.

Toys allow us, in short, psychic and physical downtime. We use them to start a screensaver in the serious lobe of our brains. If you go back into history, toys are ever-present in all societies. They are often the first "tools" people make after bowls, spears and the like.

It occurs to me that as our society and our industry has evolved into a new species (homo technologistus) that we have spent a fair amount of the early years of our macro development creating toys.

I don't just mean "Angry Birds," or "Bedazzled." But things like "Facebook," "Four Square" and the like are essentially toys. That doesn't mean they aren't important or aren't serious. It does mean, in my opinion, that we should think about what they really are and what role they play in our lives before we deem them the engines of marketing nirvana.

Sometimes a toy is just a toy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bad Mood Wednesday.

They talk.
They are semantically precise.
They schedule meetings.
They control costs.
They argue over briefs.
They demand your timesheets.
They pontificate.
They self-promote.
They discuss.
They criticize.
They facebook.
They tweet.
They foursquare.
They do everything.
But actually do work
that helps create value
for brands.

The Strand and the Dentist.

One of the companions of my 53 years is an accumulation of dental issues that require me to visit my dentist many more times than I wish I had to. I am going on my fifth or sixth visit in this round and nearing the end, for now, of this particular hardship.

For me, there's one thing that lessens the discomfort and angst of visiting the dentist. That is his office is just three short blocks from The Strand, one of the great bookstores in all the world. I seldom attend to my mouth without also finding some time to attend to my bookshelves.

The Strand can be an infuriating place. The staff is sallow and arrogant. Though if you have a good eye you can usually pick out someone who can help you. And the Strand is horribly disorganized. Its 18-miles of books are assorted willy-nilly and the great store's aisles are so narrow it's hard to browse without getting buffeted by shoppers who are in more of a hurry than you.

Last night I went twice to the Strand. Once in the six minutes I had before my appointment, and then for an hour after the drilling, scraping, poking and rinsing.

The Strand was important to my career when I was younger. It was just about half a mile from an agency where I worked, and I'd go there at lunchtime and buy every old awards annual I could put my hands on. Last night I saw a mint edition Art Director's annual, in its original box, from 1965. We are currently on annual 89. I think this one was 45, though my math could be wrong. I'd have bought it, but I already have it.

The other interesting thing, or sad thing, I saw at the Strand last night was a table filled with books about to be remaindered. The sign at the table read, forlornly: "Memoirs. $10."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Advertising and academia.

There's a new spot for airing now for Prudential, the insurance giant. It was created by Droga 5, one of the hottest agencies going, so naturally it received, in the trade press, a decent amount of attention for a couple of reasons. One: What would Droga do? And two: Would Prudential's notoriously banal advertising become, suddenly, intelligent, interesting or less full of boasts and bombast.

Christopher Hedges, the brilliant Pulitzer-prize winning writer (who now writes for Truth Dig) wrote in his great book, "The Empire of Illusion" about the estrangement of academia from the real world. Scholarship has become so esoteric and effete it has lost meaning to anyone not involved in other scholarship. In short, it has become solipsistic and self-referential. It doesn't deal with the problems of our age, it deals instead with other scholarship.

The same affliction has affected advertising. If we want to win awards, work for hot shops, make gobs of money and cavort at Cannes, you don't do ads that move people or products. You make ads that appeal only to ad people.

The Prudential spot is one of these. Here is "Creativity's" synopsis of the spot: "Droga5 debuts its first work for Prudential, a montage of beautiful scenic shots tied together by a single sunrise. According to Creative Chairman David Droga, the entire film was shot in one day, within a three-hour window. Smuggler director Ringan Ledwidge set up 100 cameras across the country to track one sunrise as it rose across the country."

Here is the VO copy that accompanies all those rising suns.

"And just like that, it’s here.
A new day.
A new chance for all of us.
People.
Companies.
Communities.
To face the challenges yesterday left behind.
And the ones tomorrow will bring.
Prudential.
Bring your challenges."

In the words of my 10th-grade girl friend: puh-leeze.

"Creativity" is, of course, a complicit actor in the awards-industrial complex. They laud the small, esoteric and spec to the exclusion of real news and real trends and trauma in our industry. I'm a fairly knowledgeable viewer of spots. I couldn't give a rat's ass that the spot's director "set up 100 cameras across the country." That's the ad industry's equivalent of academia saying that Melville wrote "Moby Dick" with brown ink. Who the heck cares?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Advertising lessons from The New York Times.

Last week I got an email from "The New York Times" entitled "The Story Behind the Story." In it, writer Alison Mitchell describes how the Times "scrambled to report on Osama bin Laden's death."

What follows is essentially a minute by minute account of reporters, rewrite people, editors, photographers, film editors and more, working to remake an edition of the Times so that one of the most important story in years could make it to the paper.

The Times literally "stopped the presses." They destroyed 7,700 copies of the paper that had already been printed. Though it was 10:30 on a Sunday night when it was announced that President Obama had an statement to make, Times people began flooding the newsroom. "Usually we're operating with a skeletal staff this late on a Sunday...[that night] We counted 103 people in the newsroom."

After Obama made the announcement at 11:30, all those journalists went to work. bin Laden's obituary was updated. Reporters were dispatched throughout the city. A rewrite person ran to Times Square for 20 minutes and "anchored a story about the spontaneous and raucous midnight celebrations that included reporting from colleagues at the White House and Ground Zero."

By 12:45 AM, the entire paper was remade and ready to print. While that was happening the Web News Editor was remaking the content on the Times' site. That was done by 3AM and a new crew came to continue the job at 5AM.

I think about this action in terms of the inaction that afflicts most agencies and clients. It takes us sometimes years to come up with an advertising campaign, longer sometimes, for things like websites.

I know comparing journalism and advertising is apples and oranges. But we can all learn a lesson from organizations that know how to get shit done.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Yonkers memories.

When I was a kid, though there was professional football and basketball and hockey, our world revolved around baseball. Baseball took us from February, when the "Grapefruit League" started, through December when the major awards, the MVP and the Cy Young were announced.

We wondered, primarily, how the Yankees would do. The Yankees who had almost always won, but who were now older and as rickety as Mickey Mantle's knees. Almost every year "The New York Times" would herald the arrival of the next great Yankee. After all, DiMaggio had followed Ruth and Mantle had followed DiMaggio, so it was only natural to expect someone to, in turn, follow Mantle.

There was Ross Moschito and Roger Repoz, who had torn the cover off the ball in the minors. There was Roy White who was small but speedy. Then there was Bobby Murcer, an Oklahoma boy like Mantle himself, who played shortstop like Mantle had and was coming up as Mantle was in the long, slow inevitability of hanging up his spikes.

Even though baseball was still regarded as "the summer game," we played year round. There was barely an exposed brick wall in town that didn't have a portrait-oriented rectangle painted on it, a stickball strike zone. In those days, the mid 60s, most stores still closed on Sundays and that when kids from all over would take over the A&P parking lot and play until dark.

My brother, the oldest of the lot would announce the games as he pitched. To his ears his did a dead on "Red" Barber imitation, and would recount every pitch, every hit, with a slight Southern lilt, using liberally, the "ol' redhead's" stock phrases.

"It's a beautiful day at the big ball park. Mantle gets ahold of one, it's way back, way back, that's going, going, gone!"

There's nothing in the world that feels quite so gratifying as hitting one over Brewer's hardware store with your mother's old broom stick, the ball sailing into oblivion, necessitating a good ten minute break as we searched for it amongst the unraked leaves or the untrimmed hydrangea.

When we got older and we could swat the ball too far for comfort, we would deaden it a bit by shrouding it with electrical tape or by puncturing it so it wouldn't fly as true.

We never had any money in those days before you left the house with "mug money." We'd head out the the parking lot on our bikes and play until someone had to go home or until dark. If we wanted something to eat or drink, we would scrounge some deposit bottles until we got 20-cent's worth or a quarter's.

At Benny's, a luncheonette just up the road, you could get a Coke for 25-cents or a Cherry Coke for a nickel more. When we had the money we'd get a hotdog, fries and a Coke. That was a whole dollar. A millionaire's extravagance.

Benny's made the best hotdog I've ever had. It was even better than the ones at the ballpark. They would slice the dog in half lengthwise and grill it then serve it to you on a lightly buttered toasted roll. It was dog perfection.

There was also a Carvel soft ice cream place nearby where you could get a single cone for 17-cents or a "Brown Betty," the same cone dipped in chocolate sauce for 25-cents.

Besides deposit bottles, the other things we would collect were the bottle caps from the milk bottles the milk man delivered two or three days a week. Dellwood, the local dairy was a sponsor of the Yankees and inside each bottle cap they put a paper insert colored orange. I think if you collected 350 of those inserts you could get a free bleacher seat to Yankee Stadium. My brother and I collected them for two years and never got close to that number.

On the way back from Cape Cod last weekend, we drove past all these old haunts, on the Major Deegan, the New England Thruway and the Bruckner. Where there used to be open lots there are now big box stores or condominium townhouses. There's even a Trump tower now in New Rochelle that's 40-stories high.

If you had given us a chance, we could have swatted one over that building easy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A new way of doing things.

Years ago I was going to be offered a job and the time had come to talk about my salary. I had a bit of an epiphany. I would ask for a moderate salary and per page remuneration for each powerpoint page I had to sit through.

Today I had a similar vision. Let's apprise assignments not by the creative we are meant to produce or the date the work is supposed to be live. Let's assess our assignments based on the number of client meetings it takes to reach some sort of tangible conclusion.

For instance, a print ad may be a "26-meeting assignment," a banner ad "a nine meeting assignment" and a brand television campaign or website build might be a "100-meeting job."

The beauty of this methodology is this: it acknowledges that what's important in the business is not the creative we produce to propagate an idea or a brand. It's the meetings we make.

The world isn't hip.

In the universe of advertising blogs, there are those that cover the ins and outs of the agency business. Who's gotten fucked. Who's laying off. And what agency is winning which account.

The biggest news of late is in that last category and involves McGarry Bowen winning, in the span of about ten days, both Sears and Burger King.

The pusillanimous (usually anonymous) pundits commenting on such news excoriate McGarry Bowen. They're sure McGarry's work will be family-focused and bland. It won't be new and cutting edge. It will be mainstream and middle-American.

Well, guess what. Most people are mainstream. They don't want an ironic hamburger. They like to see people smile and they like the warm, emotional and heartfelt.

I am not advocating blandness by any means, that's not my point. But what is my issue is that the Williamsburg-Lower East Side "Creative" Cabal has this belief that there is only one strategy for each and every brand and this is this: "We are cool. In fact we are so cool, we're probably too cool for you."

I don't want a cool car insurance company or a cool bank. I would like Sears to be like an old fashioned Army-Navy store. I could give a rat's ass if they're cool.

Go to Disney World sometime, or even LA but not "that part" of LA. It's filled with people that hipsters mock.

Sorry.

That's America.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Asses.

One of the things that happened in America with the rise of television networks is that regional accents, slang and usages began to disappear. Mass media was the same whether you lived in Manhattan, NY or Manhattan, KS. And over the decades a norm of language was established.

We no longer hear idiomatic descriptions like those of Senator Claghorn, a character on Fred Allen’s old radio show. If you’re speaking too much and saying too little, you’re unlikely to be told “your tongue’s wagging like a blind dog’s tail in a meat market.”

The internet, I think, has furthered our homogenization of language. People from all over the world quickly see (and learn) from many of the same sources. While there are literally billions of sources to chose from, my guess is that some binary version of the 80-20 law prevails and 80% of the world’s populace gets their blather from a handful of sites.

I draw this conclusion because I see the rapid disintegration of our language. Language that is divorced from meaning, that comes from on high and is inexplicable. Language that communicates nothing other than that “I, the speaker or writer ‘get it,’ and you, the dim-witted recipient or listener are unable to even understand what I get.”

As George Parker points out this morning, I defy anyone to explain this sentence by Google’s Eric Schmidt: “Facebook's done a number of things which I admire. It's the first generally available way of disambiguating identity.” Or this sentence that Bob Hoffman gagged on from Bonin Bough, Global Director of Digital and Social Media at PepsiCo.: “how much are we encouraging the continual learning from inside our staff about how to leverage these technologies with inside of their communications and engagement plans but as well as just for their own personal communications and internal communication with inside each other and from employee to employee.”

These sentences, like so many others we hear from worldwide vessels, are in no known language. Yet because such speech is everywhere, early adopters pick it up and propagate its meaninglessness. Like the Emperor with no clothes, very few people will stand up and call bullshit.

When I worked on IBM—a highly technical piece of business if there ever was one—I used to say I wasn’t in the advertising business I was in the translation business. My job was to take things that are hard to understand (because you don’t know the language) and break them into intelligible parts. A chair is a chair is a chair. It is never a ‘seating solution.’

Now, this all brings me to women’s asses. It occurs to me that these days we have three or four words that we use almost exclusively to describe the aforementioned. Booty. Bootay. Trunk (as in ‘junk in the trunk’) and, of course, ass.

Back when language was richer, was less homogenized we had many more and much more interesting words to choose from: backside, posterior, behind, hind-quarters, hinder, heinie, rear or rear-end, derrière, rump, aft, stern, poop, apple, caboose, cakes bottom, tail, trunk, arse, badonkadonk, biscuits, bum, buns, butt, can, cheeks, duff, fanny, hams, haunches, seat, sit-upon, tush, to name a few. Along the way, getting and spending, we have laid waste our powers.

The anti-work agency.

Of the many issues facing advertising agencies today, perhaps the most egregious is that they are, at their core, anti-work. That is, you run against the grain of the agency's cost control core if you have an idea that isn't scoped (by someone who's never created an ad) and decide to work on it "on spec."

No, agencies today have incorporated systems as rigid as a brick and woe be the person who decides to violate those systems. You get a brief that tells you to dig a hole that is two-feet deep and three feet in circumference. Someone, removed from work, has decided that a hole of that dimension is needed. They, of course, aren't elbow deep in the mess of solving a client's issues. They aren't responsive to what's going on in the market. They don't hear the insights of focus groups. They just tell you how to answer all things. They do that with something called a scope.

For the last 15 years or so, since I have been leading groups and accounts, I have had a catchphrase that flies in the face of such regimentation. I always ask "Are we doing the assignment or are we doing the job?"

In other words, are you doing what some petty functionary or someone removed from the business has "scoped" you to do, or are you going beyond and answering a real need?

Sometimes that hole that's been assigned would be more effective if it were a canal, and sometimes you don't know that until you really--'scuse me--dig in and start trying to solve a problem.

In short, question everything. Especially what you've been told to do.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A great piece of design.


It isn't often that I bump into a bit of copy, a headline or a graphic that rings my bell. But this one has. It's for the Criterion re-release of a Charlie Chaplin masterpiece, "The Great Dictator."

In it, Chaplin plays both a poor Jewish barber and the Tomanian dictator, Adenoid Hynkel.

So much graphic design, like so much of everything else, is meaningless and superfluous. Mere decoration.

This piece, in addition to being artful and lovely, is intelligent and--heaven forfend--funny.

DotD.


Doodle of the Day.

Freddie Norman, 104 Wins; 103 Losses.

There was a great baseball manager in the 1970s and 1980s named Sparky Anderson. I think he was the first manager whose teams won a World Series from each league. He won with the Reds in '75 and '76 and with the Tigers in '84.

In any event, there was a guy who pitched for Anderson when he was with the Reds named Freddie Norman. Norman had the uncanny knack for hardly ever winning more games than he lost. He routinely registered records like 13-12, 13-14, 14 and 13. He had a lifetime record of 104 wins and 103 losses. In other words, he was mediocre.

One of the first things Anderson did when he got to the Reds was trade for Freddie Norman. He went after him like you would have gone after Sandy Koufax in his prime. I remember he was asked, by a New York Times reporter, why.

Anderson replied simply, "A baseball season is about 1400 innings long. Year in and year out Freddie Norman eats up 200 innings and doesn't hurt me. He gets me through the season."

Sometimes not hurting things is enough, even in advertising. Sometimes you just need to get through the innings. Work hard and as well as you can. Do your job to the best of your abilities and fight the good fight.

Not every opportunity is an award winning one. Not every battle is for a foothold in Europe. Sometimes you just hope to get through without wounding yourself too much. Closer to the finish line, stirred but not shaken.

Today, just back from an idyllic trip to Cape Cod, I have to edit an internal video for an unappreciative client and, frankly, an unappreciative agency. It's the advertising equivalent of the second game of a double header against the Kansas City Royals. Nobody's watching. Nobody really cares.

I'll use my strong right arm and muscle the ball out there. It won't be a tour de force,
but I might eke out a win. And this way I'll get through part of my 28th season in the game.