Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It is what it is.

Last night during the Olympic 100 Meter Women's Breast Stroke, there was a official's error at the start, and one American swimmer, responded to an errant tone and jumped in the water at the wrong time.

Then, a couple of minutes elapsed before the race went off for real during which the officials rejiggered their devices and made sure everything was now in apple-pie order. After those minutes, the chime chimed and the swimmers swam their race.

The swimmer who mistakenly dived in finished, I think, fifth. Her American team mate finished with the Silver. Afterwards the pair were interviewed by a suitably blonde and vapid "reporter."

Did the mishap effect you, the swimmer was asked.

"It was bad, real bad," she replied. And then she uttered it: "It is what it is."

There are many stupid things to say after a set-back or a tragedy. And most people, when rebounding from one, utter one or another banalities. But, it is what it is, perhaps, takes the cake.

It seems to me a perverted variation on the Old Testament's "I am that I am." Which, coming from Yahweh, I can understand. Or even Popeye's "I yam what I yam and I can'ts be no more."

But 'it is what it is' is so stunning in its banality. It's not nearly as good or as real as "shit happens." The worst part of it is the feeble self-help quality it embraces.

Listen. You've trained your whole life for an event. The starter fucked up. And you're left out of the money.

Can't you muster a little anger? Can't you curse the gods? Or at least the officials?

In our plasticene world we have skipped all of Kubler-Ross' stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and taken an express train to acceptance.

This is the HR-approved reaction to all miscreance and slights large and small. It is what it is.

I'm having none of it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Adjusting vs. starting over.

I once read somewhere that the great writer Umberto Eco wrote in his personal library surrounded by his collection of some 30,000 books.

That is an extraordinary number of volumes. It's buying a book a day every day for 82 years.

Eco liked to be amid his books. And he said when he had visitors he could divide the world neatly into two. There were those who immediately asked "have you read all those books?" (An impossible task.) And those who understood that knowledge can be gained by proximity and osmosis. Eco was better because he could absorb from those volumes.

I'm thinking about this to day as I am engaged in a death battle with my client.

"Just add a sentence or two from a couple of the campaigns we didn't buy. We really liked those thoughts," they say.

They are short, these sentences, but that's not the point.

The point is I've worked extremely hard to make my scripts extremely simple. It's not the number of words that matters, it's how those words are put together. Right now, they work. If I have to add stuff, they won't work.

Because adding at this point is pulling the loose thread in a sweater. Before long, the whole thing unravels.

Sometimes I believe a good piece of copy is like a mosaic or a puzzle. Everything has to fit. There can be no leftover pieces or missing ones.

If you want more stuff in there, it's time not to adjust but to start over.

You can't just add things.

That's not the way it works.

Some people will never get it.


Where's the outrage?

Charles Blow, the brilliant op-ed columnist for "The New York Times," had an online column yesterday about the perverting and pervasive influence of big money on our elections. He titled his column "Where's the outrage?"

As a child of the 60s, of sit-ins, and Kent State and burning draft cards, of protests and riots and marching in the streets, I wonder and worry about today.

Where is our outrage?

Social media has anesthetized us.

We think if we mis-type a few words on our Facebook feeds we have done something important. We think if we wear a ribbon or a petrochemical wrist band, we have made a statement. We think if we piss and sit in a private park, we have had an impact.

We are silent, though.
We sip our $17 martinis.
We write our protests in ink across our backs or on our shoulders.
As if they have an effect.

as ee said:


Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain



Friday, July 27, 2012

Meeting notes.


Media, paid and unpaid.

One of the many amazing things about life in today's modern advertising agency is how little you may have in common with many of your colleagues. In fact, if you want to get right down to the nub of it, you can divide agency denizens roughly in two.

1) There are those who have had marketing communications run in paid media.
2) There are those who have never had anything run in paid media.

Not doing work for paid media seems strange to me. But so much of what we purport to do today is "meta-media." We create products, apps, ecosystems and more. We polish presentations. We buff theory to a high-gloss.

When clients spend millions to run something that something is accompanied by a huge raft of expectations and responsibilities. Your work is subject to scrutiny, accountability and pressure that I think meta-media work doesn't face.

A :30 Super Bowl spot costs roughly $5,000/frame.

There's no room for amateurs.

I'm old-fashioned.

video
At least two times a week some pretty little thing buttonholes me to tell me about a new app or website that "will change everything." These sites are invariably well-designed and have interesting names.

Often they promise to bring you relief from things like standing on lines. Or they are a new way to connect into a "community" of the like-minded. Or they allow you into the lives of interesting people via their tweets, comments and photos.

My first question on viewing such properties is always, yes, always the same.

How do they make money?

The response of the pretty little things is always the same as well. First, they seemed stunned. They look at me as if I suggested putting the golden arches on the Mona Lisa. Then they look back at me blankly. Finally they mutter something about selling the data they collect.

In the wake of the precipitous drops in valuation of Zynga and Facebook, when, it appears to be people smarter than I in the ways of finance are beginning to question the real worth of such binary entities, I think my question reverberates.

It seems to me that since, roughly, the first dot-com boom in 1999, we have been living through the ones and zeroes equivalent of the California Gold Rush. We meet in the 21st Century hipster saloons and trade paper marked with maps to properties that will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams.

We spend fortunes on these deeds. We commit to them. We build communities around them. And then we dig up pyrite--Fool's Gold.

If you talk to most small business people--people who have bricks and mortar to worry about, they'll tell you, almost immediately, that they're breaking even, or making money. No dry cleaner will ever tell you that he cleans and presses for free but will make his money selling his customers' data.

This, simply is a ludicrous notion.

But then again, I'm old-fashioned.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scheduling.

There are many reasons people from my generation feel advertising is worse today than it used to be. One reason, I think, is overlooked by many.

We no longer have schedules. Or traffic people to enforce them.

But first, let me tell you a story. Some months ago a "project manager" (whatever that is) asked me how many hours I thought a particular assignment would take me. I answered honestly, though he thought I was being funny.

"It will take me ten hours if they want it good. 75 hours if they want it to suck."

In days of yore, when you got an assignment, you got a schedule of when work was due to the client. It delineated client reviews and usually gave them three rounds.

Today, clients are allowed literally dozens of rounds of revisions.

In about eight minutes I'm meant to go to a meeting to discuss why my account is (in the words of a project manager) "burning hot." Meaning why are we spending so many people-hours doing the work we're given.

To me, it seems like I am the wrong person to ask. I'm extremely diligent and extremely fast.

Ask the client.

Ask the people who think of schedules and assignments as journeys, which the destination moving ever-further away.

Filling in the .

A couple million years ago (or a few thousand if you're a creationist Republican presidential candidate) humans began getting rewards for filling in the blanks, for adding two plus two, for drawing deductions. People who could do so survived, the others were eaten. Over time, the ability to "see" things before they were apparent became hardwired into our heads.

Here's what I mean.

Say it's two-million BC and you're out for a walk alone. Thirty feet ahead of you is a boulder. You notice that the bush around the boulder is tamped down and torn up. Something must be lurking behind that boulder. You turn on your calloused heels and avoid the lion lurking behind the rock.

You are rewarded (with life) for your ability to perceive.

Now, look at Kanizsa's Triangle, above. You see, of course, two triangles where there are none. This is another example of your brain doing work--of seeing things that aren't there. Of filling in the blanks.

Over the course of human history, humans have been "rewarded" for their ability to add up things that are barely perceptible. My lion example above is just one example.

We know ads work better when they give your brain the pleasure and reward of filling in the blanks. Yet, as Bob Hoffman pointed out in a comment on this blog the other day, so many clients want their advertising to "read" like a court case.

Next, take this drawing by Klimt. It looks like nothing we have ever seen in real life. There are not creatures made of squiggles and outlines. Thankfully, our brains make it work for us.

It's both sad and frustrating that the MBAs who approve our work and so often talk down to us because we wear blue jeans, know nothing of elementary neuroscience.

Our ads become prisoners of completionists. When they should, to be effective, allow the viewer's brain to do what it is wired to do.
--
By the way, if I ever get the nerve, funding or business to re-start my agency, GeorgeCo., I will begin every creative presentation with a brief discussion of Kanizsa's Triangle. It might even become my logo. After all, it looks also like a Jewish star.




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writing.

I joined Ogilvy & Mather on July 19th, 1999. I remember this in part because just three days later I was in my office--early--and I heard bagpipes coming down the hallway. A moment later, there was an honor guard of Scotsmen. David Ogilvy had died and the agency was paying tribute.

In any event, when I arrived at Ogilvy I immediately was handed what Steve Hayden would call "a steaming pile of shit." Someone had sold a B2B campaign on IBM--three long-copy (probably 500 words each) ads on vertical topics. Then, whoever sold the campaign disappeared and there was no one to write the copy.

It was complicated stuff this copy. And long. And the ads were due overnight.

I figured out how to write them in a modular manner. Having, as they say, different ins and outs, but the same body. Thus, I was able to complete what to everyone else seemed an impossible task in about four hours.

What I had written was my first output at Ogilvy and I sent the copy to the account team with more than a little trepidation. A few minutes later I was cc'd on a note from the account guy that went to most of senior management on the IBM account.

In the note he praised my copy. Saying it was long copy in the tradition of David Ogilvy's long copy. It was lucid. Interesting. And forceful. In other words, I had hit a homerun.

I bring this reminiscence up for good reason. Not to praise my writing skill, but, instead to lament that the love of copy, the love of good writing and well-reasoned persuasion seems to have withered. As has the effectiveness of advertising in general.

Ogilvy used to be revered for its Ogilvy-style copy. Scali for its McCabeness. Ally for the words of Messner and Berger and Durfee. Ammirati for its Puris-ness and Tom Thomasosity.

There were defined styles and writers we looked up to and learned from.

Where is that today?

In 2010 there were over 325,000 titles published in the United States and 206,000 titles published in England. In the US, hundreds, maybe thousands of magazines are published. Go to any newsstand--they all appear bursting at the seams.

But a big lie persists.

No one reads, we're told.

Words don't matter seems a shibboleth.

It seems we've actually convinced ourselves that we're dumb, that we don't care, that we can't stand reasoning.

Maybe the reason so many marketing communications fail is that we stopped caring about what matters most: the elegant simplicity of a well-crafted message.

We are more concerned with decoration, frippery and nonsense.

Of course, I have an axe to grind here.

I am a writer of the old school.

I learn everything I can about a client, their offering, their place in the market and the consumer. Then I write one-to-one to that consumer. And help him or her see things my way.

That's what I do.

If you know anyone looking for a writer, let me know.




Some New York memories.

My parents grew up poor, in the poorest immigrant neighborhood in West Philadelphia in the poorest period of America's history, the Great Depression. They also became, if not communists (in the theoretical sense, not the Stalinist/Leninist misinterpretation) then at least extremely left.

My mother even claimed to have worked for Henry Wallace, a former FDR secretary of Agriculture and a Progressive Party nominee for President in 1948, running against the more "status quo" Truman and the more "big business/plutocrat" Thomas E. Dewey. Like most people my mother supported politically, he won 2.4% of the popular vote and no electoral votes at all.

Growing up as they did, the name Rockefeller almost always drew silent movie hisses. John D., the scion of the family was rapacious. It's that simple. He accumulated his vast wealth through nefarious means, on the backs and from the sweat of the little guy. He was, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, a malefactor of great wealth.

I grew up in sunny, suburban New York in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was a candy-coated time for America (at least if you were white). But the house I was raised in was a hive of hissing. Rockefeller's grandson, Nelson A. Rockefeller was governor of New York through virtually my entire childhood--from 1959-1973, when he left the office because he was appointed Vice President in the wake of Nixon's and Agnew's resignations. (From 1974-1976 the President and Vice President of the United States were appointed, not elected. So much for our vaunted "democratic" process.)

Nelson Rockefeller, who never reached the goal he was groomed to assume--the presidency--died of a heart attack in 1979, apparently in flagrante delicto with an "aide" Megan Marshack. She was 26 at the time, and the joke running around was that Rockefeller died of bad blood pressure--70 over 26.

In today's political parlance, Nelson A. Rockefeller, a Republican, would be excoriated as a flaming liberal. But in the "little box" I grew up in, he was only slightly better received than Mussolini. He was tarred by his grandfather's petrochemical brush, and because he was to our eyes retrograde at best.

I'm not sure why I'm writing a history lesson this morning. Rockefeller popped into my head as I walked to work and triggered some New York memories. There's no advertising point in this post.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A plaintive note. And a response.

I got one of those plaintive notes I often get from a young person struggling with his career. As, I suppose, a semi-public service, I am reprinting my response here:


It's a strange business and a strange world we live in. Yes, it's a world where braggarts seem to succeed
and the thoughtful, pensive or moderate seem to be buried. 

That said, there are ways to overcome the "energetic."

It's called persistence.

If you can't out-bombast them, you can out-work them, out-think them, out-perform them.

I don't know how old you are, but I take it I have a few years on you. Take this in that spirit.

Try not to think of life merely on a day to day basis. Of who's "won" or who's screwed you or who's overlooked something you've done. Think of your life as a writer as a long road. And let persistence and steadiness be your watchwords. The "summer soldiers" will disappear when the going gets tough. You will be there, coming through.

Sure, sometimes it looks like the poseurs win. And sometimes they do. But get to a place that is run by "mensches." A Yiddish word meaning people of honor and integrity.

Make that your goal.

And from that good will flow.

Find that place. Find good people. Find people like yourself.

As for the misery you're facing in your job now, think about this.

80% of everyone's job sucks. It's boring, demeaning, routine. Dull.

20% (if you're lucky) is worth something--can really mean something, can make a difference.

The trick is to find a way to spend 80% of your time doing the 20% of work you like.
And 20% of your time doing the 80% crap.

So work like mad to get fast. Come in early and clear your desk.  Get the shit out of the way.
So you can focus on what you like.

We old people don't have all the answers.

And I'd bet that even David Abbott hates his job at least three days out of five.
That's life.
And no amount of barking will ever change it.

You're a good writer.
I can tell that.
If you're not at a place that values you or good writing, create a plan to get to a better place.
Not simple.
But necessary.

Some thoughts on Oskar Kokoschka.

I am reading right now Nobel Prize Winner Eric R. Kandel's magnificent (over-my-head) tome called "The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain from Vienna 1900 to the Present." It's quite an undertaking reading this. It would probably do my career better if I were watching "Ice Road Truckers" in the evening, but there are some things I must do solely for myself.

Right now I am learning about one of Oskar Kokoschka's first portraits. It's called "The Trance Player, Portrait of Ernst Reinhold." For whatever reason (probably because few have heard of Kokoschka today) I couldn't find a reproduction in color, so the black and white will have to suffice.

There's something to be learned about writing copy from this portrait, as obtuse as that sounds. Kokoschka said of it, "The portrait of Reinhold, a picture especially important to me, contains one detail that has been hitherto overlooked. In my haste, I painted only four fingers on the hand that lays across his chest. Did I forget to paint the fifth? In any case, I don't miss it. To me it was more important to cast light on my sitter's pysche than to enumerate details like five fingers, two ears, one nose."

This struck me because Kokoschka is writing about not the details in his work but its subconscious. Not the details but the meaning beneath the layers of paint. The disturbance and turmoil in the hands, not its digits.

I have said before on Ad Aged that I believe most clients (and yes, most creative directors) cannot really read. They look for the trees, almost always missing the forest. They might see a "badly" painted hand and miss the contrast between the serenity of the portrait's face and the turmoil below.

They see only something wrong.

We work--when our business is at its best--in an impressionistic industry. It's not what's said and what's shown that registers--it's what is conveyed--conveyed in dozens of invisible and mysterious ways.

We are not, in most cases, best-served by having all five fingers on our metaphorical hands. We are best served when we create feeling and impressions that go beyond mere typing.

--
Some more Kokoschka: The top being a depiction of the artist and his lover, Alma Mahler. His turmoil, her serenity.





Monday, July 23, 2012

Rewriting.

I heard a story on National Public Radio yesterday. It was a story about Ernest Hemingway. It told about how he wrote his most famous book, "A Farewell to Arms."

The book has just been republished with the 39 or 47 alternative endings Hemingway wrote. The number of endings changes depending on how you count.

The book contains the dark "Nada" ending: "That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you."

There is the ending which was suggested by  F. Scott Fitzgerald: "It kills the very good and very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."

And the "Live Baby" ending: "There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning."

None of those is important of course. What's important is working on your writing. Not letting the first "ending" or the first beginning or the first middle suffice. 

You keep working. 
You keep trying to make things better.

This is the main thing I have learned so far.

Bullies.

Ever since I was a tiny kid I have waged an ongoing battle with bullies.

I hate bullies. Next to Nazis, I hate bullies more than anything.

Maybe it's because I was bullied so much and so relentlessly by my older brother and my mother.

But that's a topic for another day's therapy.

What occurs to me is that much in my everyday life (and maybe yours) is a battle against bullyism. The preying upon the small by the large, the weak by the strong.

Bullyism exists in agencies.

Bosses who don't know how to do anything but shit in your pool.

Back-offices that make the people who are the agency's bread and butter, feel miserable.

Clients who demand dumbness and beat down your resistance to it.

A political system (I am going macro now) that rigs the game for the rich and against the poor.
So the rich get richer and the poor pay taxes.

Bullies disgust me.

Yet there is so much bullying in our lives.

Life with holding companies.

I am embroiled in a fight with the finance people of my agency. They are kicking back expenses because I don't have receipts for subway rides to the client. There is so much wrong in this I want to take a sledge hammer to Michael Roth's sphincter, that is, if he has one which I doubt.

First off, I am a senior--perhaps the most senior creative in the agency. I bill out--at 246% billability at some unconscionable rate. I have been with the holding company for more than ten years and have never been accused of financial malfeasance. Now some motherfucking peon in some self-satisfied cubicle is kicking back $150 of subway fares and asking for receipts.

Second, what happened in this business that we are taking subways to client meetings in the first place. Is it really too much to stick us in a car service. The pissant holding company should be kissing my boots, I'm probably the reason the account remains here.

Third, how dare you make me guilty until proven innocent. How dare you.

Fourth, pay me my fucking money before I rip a urinal from the motherfucking wall.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Judge not lest yet be judged.

Every person carries their own burden, which is why, I've been admonished, we should always be loving and charitable.

It's hard, however, being loving and charitable, when so much is so brutal and stupid.

But worse than the brutal stupidity and weaponized noise of so much marketing, is the mania of trying to win awards.

So much of the work I've seen is so utterly and completely meritless I am practically agape. What's happened, and I've remarked on this sort of thing before, is the disintegration, the meaninglessness of the compound "award-winning."

Awards are meant to be given for something "unusual." Something extra-special. Something note-worthy.

Today, all that seems out the window.

Entering is award-winning.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Noise.

There's an article in today's "New York Times" about the noise level at various sites in New York City. It mentions a gym where the decible level is in the low hundreds and a couple of restaurants where the high 90s are recorded.

By comparison the train I ride to the office--hardly the most civilized of New York's many subway lines, recorded 84 decibles, and normal conversation registers between 60 and 65.

One acoustical engineer calls these excessive noise levels "the weaponization of audio."

You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/nyregion/in-new-york-city-indoor-noise-goes-unabated.html

I bring this up, of course, because in our business we are inundated with weaponized noise. We live in an era of group-grope and group think. Where everyone has a voice and every opinion gets expressed.

Most pre-production noise ruins creative. We are made to listen to too many imputs and heed too many directions.

What we are left doing is producing more noise.

Noise that ultimately makes no noise in the market.

But creates noise nonetheless.

That's noise. Weaponized.



At an awards show.

I am up in Boston for the next couple of days for a couple of reasons. First off, I've been asked by an old friend to judge an award show--and while I usually turn down such requests--this one is in Boston where my oldest daughter lives and I couldn't turn down a chance to see her in her absolute splendor. And second, my wife and I just gave birth to a new golden retriever puppy and my wife's driving up with the pup to meet her older sister.

In all, I'll be doing more judging than daughtering, but that's ok. Little things can mean a lot.

Here are some early random observations from the weekend.

If you're hotel room has one of those Keurig coffee makers, don't use it. The coffee is slightly below the quality you get during domestic air travel.

If you're given a "deluxe" room, immediately ask for an upgrade. Deluxe in most hotels is like bivouacking in Georgia in a swamp.

If there are twenty other judges, you're likely to remember two or three names. Get over appearing foolish. It's ok.

Advertising is an amazing industry populated by people who really love what they do. Seriously, the love of the people here for the job of advertising is astounding.

That's about all for now.

I'm going to try to be friendly, thoughtful and uncynical. The first two will be hard. The last nearly impossible.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tannenbaum's Graph.

As a corollary to Hayden's Mandala (below) I have derived Tannenbaum's Graph (above). It simply, I think, depicts the course new business pitches and other assignments follow.

We start at a moderate level. We're excited about the project, but concerned about timing, if we have the right teams, if you, yourself have run out of ideas.

Then, quickly, there is a period of elation. You've cracked it--and quick! All is right with the world. The business is as good as won, the project solved, glory is on its way.

Then, boom, reality. Someone's done it before. You're off brief. Your boss doesn't like it. You crater. Plummet to a dark place.

Then, you reach down and pull good things to the surface. You do the hard work of work and get to a place you like.

At that point you are nearing your deadline. And here's where exogenous factors intrude. Good agencies and teams find ways to build the work up, to make it better, to make selling it easier. They rally around the work and buoy spirits.

Bad agencies and teams do the reverse. And work takes a turn for the worse.

Nearly every assignment and pitch I've ever been involved with has followed the above line. It's just the way things go.

Hayden's Mandala.

Steve Hayden, the recently moth-balled Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and the copywriter on arguably the most famous commercial ever written, Apple's "1984," was by some order of magnitude both the smartest guy I've ever worked for and the nicest.

In my darkest moments, I think I fucked my career sideways when I left the viper's nest of Ogilvy for sunnier San Francisco climes. But that's spilt milk and besides the point.

Back to the matter at hand.

I was lucky enough to hear Steve give a speech on Hayden's Mandala. Hayden describes this as "a model that describes all human and corporate behavior." You can see the whole magilla it here: http://haydensmandala.com/Intro.html Or take a gander at the Mandala below.

Right now at work I am midstream inside two winding digestive tracks. One involves trying to sell a new broadcast campaign. The second involves a new business pitch.

Very few people--even experienced people understand the oscillations that are behind any long term project. These oscillations (as pinpointed above) are implicit in everything we do.

Unfortunately people don't realize this. They get up when things go well. And suicidal when things go badly.

This is bad for your heart and your health.

You're much better taking the long view.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Posse.

I worked for an imbecile once who said that these days creating advertising was like making a movie. There is today attached to everything from a :60-second anthem spot costing millions of dollars to a Val-Pak statement stuffer, a credits list of participants as long as your arm. As long as your arm even if you're an NBA power forward.

Right now I am in close cahoots with a very talented art-director who knows what he's doing. He knows how to make work work. He's smart and compendious and has an opinion backed up by experience and fact.

With all modesty, I think I'm somewhat the same way.

He and I get handed a problem, we work and derive interesting ways to solve that problem and express a solution.

My art-director and I do this unencumbered by others. We sit and stew until we have something likable.

Then it comes time to show our labor to clients.

All at once, seemingly from nowhere, the non-entities appear like roaches in an East Harlem tenement.

The planners show up (though they've done no planning.)
The producers arrive (though we've done all the producing.)
Legions of media people.
Account people.
Sundry supervisors.

Suddenly, the two of us, my art-director and I, two unassuming guys, have a posse.

There's been much written and much hand-wringing about the costs of advertising agencies today. Much of that cost accrues because we have, as an industry, eliminated accountability. We have forgotten to periodically look at our people and say, "You cost this agency $X. You make this agency $X less Y. You, therefore, are fired."

If we could introduce such cold Romney-an calculus to our business, our business might be good again.

The people who do the work would be rewarded.

The people who pile on would be at Starbucks.




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Filter.

Dear Account People,

I'll make this simple for you.

You often ask me (since I'm the one who actually creates and produces all the customer-facing work on our account) if "there's anything you can do for me."

Well, yes, now that you ask, there is one thing.

You can filter.

The ratio of dumb requests, comments and meetings in today's world is roughly 100 to one smart one. Rather than passing all that dumbness onto me, I'd like you to spend 35 seconds or so thinking through what's being said or asked.

If you know the request will make those little veins at my temples dance like Isadora Duncan, don't just pass it onto me. Try to use your gifts and shield me from it.

If the client hands you a 10-lb. bag of shit, try to remove eight pounds from the bag before you pass it along to me.

Not only will doing so make my life easier, our work will be better and I will stop thinking of ways to feed you into the paper shredder.

Tuesday morning insomnia.

There's an old Yiddish saying I just made up that goes something like this: "If it weren't for beating myself up, I'd get no exercise at all."

Tonight--after today--has been one of those Golden Gloves insomniac nights. A night where I spend too much time and energy applying haymakers to my glass chin and think about what might have been.

About ten years ago I was the head of a giant, dumb and faceless digital agency. I was about as far removed from actually doing work as I could be. The agency had about 800 people, with 140 or so of those in creative. I was insulated through those 140 from ever having to do anything but--pretty much--employee evaluations. My problems were not communications issues. They were about talking to people who flipped someone the bird, who gets raised and who gets axed.

I left that job, impetuously if you must know. And haven't yet recovered either my lofty position or my paycheck.

Today, I'm a writer again. Taking it up the ass with a crowbar from clients and agency people alike.

On nights like this when the stupidity of the world and my surroundings closes in on me like Harrison Ford nearing the gold, I wonder if I blew it.

I'm getting old for this.

Spinning out ideas.

Spinning out ideas for ingrates.

Spinning out ideas for ingrates who have never themselves had one.

It's tough keeping up with the Jones' at one end and the 25-year-olds at the other.

It's tough hurtling through ever higher and ever smaller hoops everyday. Keeping my quality and my spirits up.

It's tough being grin-fucked when all you can do is grin-fuck back.

It's tough, most of all, having to be good. Everyday. Everyday ringing the bell. Being sharp, fast, on-brand.

I could be an executive if I hadn't exploded. It's way less demanding. A judger, not a judgee.

As Preston Sturges wrote in "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock," "A man works all his life in a glass factory, one day he picks up a hammer."

But what's done is done.

I am just a writer. Again.

And tomorrow I have to be good all over again. Not just good. Better than anyone else.

That's all for now.

I need my sleep.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Engagement games.

I find it lands somewhere between sad and mildly amusing. The notion that in our "post-marketing" schema so many people are proffering creative ideas built on "engagement." If I won't spend 30 seconds hearing your message, why would I spend ten minutes "liking" something, uploading a photo, passing it along to my friends, etc.

Most of the work I see these days is demanding. It requires participation from people who on a scale of one to ten, with ten being as lazy as a slug, are 11s.

Maybe my age is showing.

I do not look for fun, affirmation or activity from brands. Basically, I want brands to deliver what they promise then leave me the fuck alone.

This morning I saw an augmented reality bus-shelter ad for Tic Tac breath mints. It's hard for me to believe that anyone in their right mind would do what the jackass neo-hipster in this video is doing, that there's any value to the Tic Tac brand derived from downloaded apps, or that any of this has any impact whatsoever on Tic Tacs sales. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzfzQU52Z34

As it stands, the You Tube video I've pasted here has 67 views.

Seriously, when my kids had a lemonade stand they got more traffic than that.

All this is to say that in this new era of marketing, where everything you're NOT doing is hereby declared dead, there is a complete and utter lack of grown-up-ness.

I've worked on some of the most important brands with some of the biggest budgets in the world. Not one of those brands has ever felt that they had all the money to do what they needed to do. They had to make choices.

Choice is about getting the most good to the greatest number.

It's not playing games.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bastille Day Memory: A repost.



On Bastille Day, 2003, I had one of the high points of both my career and my life. As a creative director on IBM at Ogilvy, I was invited to a creative conference at David Ogilvy's Chateau in Touffou, France.

It was Bastille Day, we had flown all night, then taken a train past Poitiers, then a taxi to the Chateau. The Chateau--parts of which dated to the 12th Century was guarded by a dry moat. There was a path across the moat and on either side of the entrance to the chateau there was a granite lion. A chain stretched from one lion to the other, blocking the cab. I jumped out to remove the chain, got up too quickly and had a tete-a-tete with one of the lions, smashing my forehead and nose. The lion was unharmed.

I was quickly rushed inside the Chateau where Mrs. Ogilvy (Herta) had me rest with my head on a pillow on her lap as she applied an ice pack to my wounds. Together we watched Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France.

Short of pouring molten lead on revolting peasants, I can't think of a better way to have spent Bastille Day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

My box.

When I was young and trying to get a job in the advertising business, someone suggested that I should regularly find every magazine and newspaper I could get my hands on and tear out the ads I liked. Then, at the end of the year, I should review my choices against what won recognition in "Communication Arts," "The One Show" and the "Art Directors" annuals.

This practice would accomplish three things: one) it would make me hyper-aware of advertising, two) it would help me build a boxful of ads that could help unstick me if I got stuck and three) it would help me develop a critical faculty.

My box of ads became an active part of my advertising education. Most important, it helped me recognize "good."

Further, my definition of good was made up of verities, not trends. Good was not just cool. It was intelligent, beautiful, intrusive and more. To stay in the box, there had to be something to you. Steak along with the sizzle.

I kept my box and my practice for more than two decades. It moved with me through six agencies in New York to one in San Francisco, till I left it in a dumpster in Boston. And along the way it helped me acquire something else: confidence. The confidence of knowing, at least in an advertising sense, right from wrong. Of knowing what good is.

Today, no one keeps a box. And no one has confidence in judging quality. It could hit them between the eyes and their response is always the same: let's put more teams on this. Let's second guess what the client's thinking. Let's (because we don't know) panic and do more work.

Confidence, for me, did not come easy.

Judgment and taste were the result of hard work.

More people could use a box.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Point/Counterpoint.

When they say: I have a hard stop.
You should say: I have a hard start.

When they say: I'm sorry I'm late.
You should say: I'm sorry you're here.

When they say: Let's talk next steps.
You should say: Let's talk next schtups.

When they say: It's out of scope.
You should say: It's out of Listerine.

When they say: We need to do something social.
You should say: We need to do something anti-social.

When they say: The client wants something viral.
You should say: I want something hypo-allergenic.



It's not the journey. It's the destination.

Yesterday I had another edition of one of those endless rounds of meetings where work can only be killed; it can't be approved.

Where every frame, every word can be picked at and examined, but cannot be ok'd.

Where every proposition is "testable" or researchable, but is not deemed to be definitive.

You know what I'm talking about.

That road.

That journey.

The 47 "no's" on the road to "yes."

I have written in the past about how at the elemental level--how we are paid as agencies--agencies have fucked themselves. We are paid to continue making meetings. We stop being paid when we produce work.

But there's more.

There's bloat.

There's bloat and "equality."

There's a huge layer of people in agencies at at clients, of bright and eager people, whose opinions are solicited and listened to.

Everyone has something to say.

None of whom have the ability to think like a viewer.

We're supposed to suck it up--as creative people--and nod in agreement when some starched suit says, "this project will be a journey."

Fuck journeys.

They are the domain of blowhards and cowards.
They are the province of decision-avoiders and committophobes.
They are, simply, a waste.
Of time.
Money.
Energy.
Enthusiasm.
Freshness.
Life.
Love.
Laughter.

Grow some balls.
Let's get there already.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tombstones reflected in a 14th-story window.


Stiff-necks.

In the Bible, the original Old Testament, not the sequel, the New Testament, the Chosen People are referred to as stiff-necked.

Meaning obstinate.

Stubborn.

Bull-headed.

Virtually unmovable.

A man who was my mentor for five years at Ogilvy once described me as such.

Sometimes it's bad, stiff-neckedness.

But sometimes it's what you have to be.

Sometimes, this might surprise you, but there are people with more testosterone than sense. Who have to--for ego reasons or for reasons of penile dwarfism--impose their will on you, or try to.

And these people are wrong.

They are not dealing from experience, taste or wisdom.

They just, for whatever reason, have to prevail.

Those mother fuckers must die.

That is when you reach down. When your integrity, reputation, portfolio and connections must be summoned.

And you must say simply and clearly, NO.

Loud and often enough.

Until NO is heard.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fear rears its head.

Today, or actually the last 24-hours, have been, in a word, hellish. Agency life is often like having some pangs of nausea, but the last day or so felt worse, like appendicitis.

I don't often hate going into my office and hate being there once I am there. But I did today.

The reason for my antipathy is easy to put a finger on: fear. Fear is running rampant.

Here's the deal.

I have a big meeting next week with the CEO. (This is supposed to intimidate me and make me nervous. It doesn't. I act with the CEO like I act with everyone. I speak my mind and argue my points with as much grace, intelligence and humor as I can muster.)

But, like I said, I have a big meeting next week with the CEO.

Account people are running around as if the Mayan calendar were coming true.

The client is second-guessing their second guesses. I think that adds up to quadruple-guessing, but my math may be off.

Fear.

Now, here's the thing.

There are actions--positive actions all these people could take to mitigate their fear. They could write a brief, for instance. Or write a deck. Or say, here's what we need to do.

But no, they are all paralytic with fear.

Working in a fearocracy--rule of the fearful--is even more odious than working in a dunceocracy--rule of the dim-witted.

Further, it's no way to live.

It's spineless.

Senseless.

And, finally, sickening.

Like I said, hellish.


Reading.

One of the things that through the years I've grown convinced of is this: I believe about 90%- 95% of people don't know how to read.

No, I'm not being funny.

Or saying something for effect.

I truly believe that the great majority can't read.

Their brains, miniscule as they are, are so fragmented and scattered that they see letters on a page but they cannot process their shapes.

Or they are so consumed by fear and politics that words themselves lose their meaning.

Or they look at the page with such excruciating intensity that they see individual words but not the context they're in.

There's no other way you can explain the miasma of our industry. The bullshit that gets spouted that's so devoid of precision and definition that even the spoutee has no idea of what he's mouth-farting.

There's no other way you can explain the bullshit of the pontificators who proclaim marketing is dead or some such.

If it's dead, maybe it's because no one says anything and no one has the patience to read.

You cannot market to the deaf and blind.

That's what so many have become.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Some rules from an "influential" blogger.

I'm still reeling a bit having been named an "influential advertising blogger." It's not that I don't appreciate the recognition and the attention, I do. I just don't quite understand how a blog so assiduously un-read and un-popular can be influential.

This probably sounds like a modern-day Rodney Dangerfield joke, but here goes: "I have a negative Klout score."

Nevertheless, here's what I have learned about blogging (and myself) since May, 2007 when I started Ad Aged.

1.  I am a happier person when I write everyday. Being "present," that is, writing regularly, beats being profound. If you're present often enough, profundity might follow.

2.  Don't be afraid of showing the world as you see it. The worst that can happen is someone tells you to cut the crap. Or you have to take a post down. I've had to do that exactly once.

3.  Don't worry about your blog not being popular. You're writing for yourself. Not riches, celebrity or mammon. Who reads you isn't really important.

4.  You don't have to be perfect. Just consistently decent.

5.  As the "owner" of the blog, you can write whatever you want. Any topic you choose is "on topic."

6.  I personally loathe self-promotion. So I don't do it. This has probably cost me a couple readers. That's ok.

7.  If you're angry at the world, you're paying attention. It's ok to be angry. In fact, it's good.

8.  Find some "go-to" sites that seem to have interesting things you can comment upon. They're good for when you feel you have nothing to say.

9.  When you have writer's block, write through it.

10. Learn who to listen to. There is no shortage of advice in the world. Take the good, leave the bad.

11. If you're a writer, it's ok to be 99% words. Don't kill yourself looking for pictures if they aren't your thing.

That's all for now.

Lyndon Johnson and Advertising.

I am reading right now book 1 of Robert Caro's four-book biography of Lyndon Johnson, "The Path to Power." It is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. And I read a lot.

It doesn't matter if you care about Johnson or American politics. Rarely--and this includes Shakespeare--will you find a better, more fully-painted portrait of a man, an era, an area and a country than you'll find here. Caro's work is painstakingly researched--he seems to have interviewed everyone (that's not hyperbole) who ever knew Johnson.

Today I am reading about Johnson's first run for Congress as a 28-year-old outsider running outside his district. Things are looking bad for him. He is way behind.

His opponents are hammering away at his youth, his "unelectability," that is, don't vote for him because he can't be elected. Johnson had tried to get prominent local Texans to introduce him at speeches. They turned tail and ran when polls revealed he would lose by thousands.

His father, Sam Johnson, turned it around.

Embrace your youth. Harangue the your opponents' age. And have your cousin, eight-year-old Corky, "the best young cowboy in the Hill Country" introduce you with this:


It Couldn’t Be Done

BY EDGAR ALBERT GUEST
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
      But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
      On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
      At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
      Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
      There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
      The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
      Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Johnson out-thought, out-spent and out-worked his opponents. He refused to knuckle under to conventional wisdom or pollsters.

Edgar Guest is not exactly John Donne or A.E. Housman, he's more of a Kipling sort. But there's a lot of wisdom here.



Barry Becher, 1941-2012.

Barry Becher died at the end of June, an adman of the sort we in the industry seldom if ever herald. You can read his "New York Times" obituary here. It's the least you can do for a guy who, very likely, kept you amused. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/business/media/barry-becher-a-creator-of-ginsu-knife-commercials-dies-at-71.html?hpw

Becher was the writer of the original Ginsu steak knife commercial. The one that opens with this seminal line of copy: "In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife." This is said as a wooden board is karate chopped in half. "But this method doesn't work with a tomato." At this point a hand karates into mush a plump tomato.

Becher and his partners invented, pretty much, the modern infommerical. Complete with "order now," "but wait, there's more" and "operators are standing by."

It's easy to criticize Becher. His work was dreck. Crass. Tasteless. Ugly.

But it sold product.

He sold $30 million's worth of Ginsu knives alone. And then his company was acquired by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway.

Here's something for the effete in our industry to think about. Someone once asked Becher what "Ginsu" meant in English. He replied, "it means I never have to work again."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I don't know how they do it.

I'm not one of those, and never will be, who say that customer service "is the new marketing." There's more to marketing, of course, than customer service. And, after all, if no one knows your name, customer service doesn't mean a thing.

That said, I went to the Apple store at 6:20 this morning.

Something had happened to my four-year-old MacBook Pro. I was getting a file with a question mark on it when I tried to re-boot. This, I feared, was the end.

I was doubly afraid because I had opened up my MacBook on my own back in March, when I maxed out the RAM and put in a new, larger solid-state hard drive. For sure, I thought, they'll yell at me.

I was met by a lovely lady as I walked into the store. "We're going to get you in early," she assured me, batting her limpid iEyes at me.

In a moment or two a "genius" took my machine. He plugged in some plugs. I confessed my indiscretions, which he laughed off. He ran some diagnostics. "You have a cable that's gone out," he said. "It's about the easiest thing in the world to fix. It will cost you $17."

"I have Apple Care," I replied. "I shouldn't have to pay."

"It expired, actually, yesterday. But that's ok. It's free."

In about ten minutes he came geniusing back with my Mac. All spruced up and ready to go.

I really don't know how Apple does it. They pay these people like shit. But somehow they are attentive, intelligent and eager.

What's more, when I said to him I use my MacBook solely for email, Word and web-browsing, he told me there was no need to upgrade to the new retina display machines. That is, he didn't even try to sell me.

There was more good attitude in the Apple Store than you'd find in a dozen Williamsburgs.

Again, I don't know how they do it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The 22 most influential advertising bloggers.

This has just come to my attention. And I must say I'm surprised and maybe even a little befuddled. A magazine called "Business Insider," has just named me among the world's "22 most influential advertising bloggers." You can scan the article here: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-influential-advertising-blogs-and-bloggers-2012-7 

Naturally, I have never heard of "Business Insider." For all I know its readership may be even less than mine. However, as my old man used to say, "it's better than a poke in the eye with an account guy's elbow."



Working out with Uncle Slappy.

It was too hot to work out outdoors (it's supposed to go up to 97-degrees this afternoon) so Uncle Slappy and I headed to our basement health club for our 45-minute workout. As usual Uncle Slappy was in rare form. Perhaps rarer form than usual.

There are two exercise bikes in the gym. I got on one and Uncle Slappy mounted the other. He doesn't do a whole lot of revolutions per minute, but I give the old man credit, he keeps pedaling for the full 45, wise-cracking the entire time.

About 12 minutes into our workout, a sylph-like young woman entered the club and climbed onto the elliptical trainer, which Uncle Slappy insists on calling the epileptical. She began to exercise but the machine made a harsh clanking sound. Something was clearly broken.

Uncle Slappy reassured her this way. "It must be because you're so heavy." She probably tipped the scale at 110 pounds. She smiled at Slappy, not knowing how else to react and shifted her activity to the adjacent elliptical.

After our workout was done, Slappy got off his bike and shuffled into the mens' locker-room where he weighed himself on the scale.

He came out a minute later and announced "167. If I were corned beef, your Aunt Sylvie would be a rich woman."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Knuckle under. Or not.

From the moment you're born, attempts are made to get you to knuckle under.

You're meant to be well-behaved.
Obedient.
Clean your room.
You're meant to speak when spoken to.

You're meant to be obeisant to people bigger than you.
Or people wearing blue blazers.
Or people in uniform.

You're meant to believe what you're told.

That it's you they're thinking about.
Your future.
Your happiness.

You get this from your parents, the cool kids at school, your teachers and those sadists who make you feel if you can't climb a thick rope hanging down from the ceiling that something is wrong with you.

You're meant to knuckle under.
To believe they know and you don't.
That they're right and you're wrong.

Knuckle under.

Then you get into a job.
A job that's hard to get.
Where you see it's people who toe the line who get ahead.
The toads.
The ass suckers.
The brown-noses.
And you're stuck making shit because you're not one of the guys.
You're not knuckling under.

Somehow you progress anyway.
You earn a title.
Then maybe you get a client that's as blind as shit is brown.
They're after you too.
To make you knuckle under.
Life would be so much easier if you just would.
And about twelve people know the difference anyway.
Knuckle under.

It's there every day.
Knuckle under.

What do you do?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Uncle Slappy sees Max Blitz.

Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie arrived--by plane--from Boca yesterday morning to spend some time with us and to escape the south Florida heat. Unfortunately, the heat and humidity in New York have been every bit as oppressive as what's in Florida. Nevertheless, Slappy and Sylvie are here and we'll make the most of it.

I turned the A/C up in the third bedroom hoping to make the place comfortable for them. The first thing Uncle Slappy did was turn it off.

"You shouldn't, Mr. Big Schott, send all your salary to the Consolidated Edison company. Save some  for your will."

"Uncle Slappy," I explained for about the two-hundredth time, "the A/C is in the building. We don't pay extra for it. You should be comfortable."

"I saw the Con-Ed men digging in the street on Independence Day," Slappy shot back, "with their union making sure they're getting double-triple overtime for the holiday. That's you that's paying them."

The old man wouldn't relent. He refused to turn on the A/C.

Just before lunch Aunt Sylvie needed to lie down, so Uncle Slappy, my wife and I went for a walk to the CVS drug store on 82nd and 1st, just a few block from my apartment. They sell Pinaud's "Lilac Vegetal" aftershave there, probably the last place in America that does. Slappy's been using the stuff for about 70 years and he stocks up when he is here.

As we were leaving the store, Slappy ran into another alte kocker, Max Blitz, 91, who Uncle Slappy has known since Roosevelt (Franklin, not Teddy) was in office.

"Blitzy," Uncle Slappy started. "What brings you out today?"

Mr. Blitz mumbled something about his wife, Blooma, needing Poligrip. "They have tons of Poligrip in the store," Blitz continued, "But only one of the shelf. You can't keep your teeth in with the Poligrip in the basement."

Slappy nodded knowingly in assent. "The kids. They empty boxes like glaciers. You don't need it in a box, you need it on the shelf."

Mr. Blitz now turned his attention away from Uncle Slappy and myself and onto my wife. He had the twinkle in his eyes of an inveterate flirt.

"You should give me a call," Blitz said. "But if a woman answers, hang up."





The God particle.

It appears that physicists working with the large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland have discovered something they've been looking for for a long time: the Higgs boson, or the God particle. The Higgs boson imbues things with mass, which, I suppose, is what makes them things in the first place, that is the possession of mass.

video
I can't say, not even for a minute, that I understand any of this, any more than I can understand why a TV show like "Jersey Shore," is interesting. But nonetheless, the incipient breakthrough discovery got me thinking. Does advertising have a God particle?

That is, is there something, perhaps something elusive and mysterious and hidden, that imbues an ad (or to be politically correct, a marketing communication with "mass.") Or, more specifically, what is it, what piece of God makes a communication worth noticing, acting upon, remembering or passing along.

Of course, the advertising industry does not have a 17-miles-long Large Hadron Collider to help us unravel such mysteries. And even if we do have 17-miles of empty holding-company desks filled with highly-paid holding company suits who have never written an ad, they do nothing, it seems, to help us.

The only thing they accelerate is their own ambitions, and the collisions they set into motion lead not to breakthroughs but to downfalls.

There may be a God particle in advertising.

It may be interest.

It may be humor.

It may be intelligence or empathy.

It may be a razor-thin slice of humanity and truth in a world that prefers to revel in bombast and cliche.

Maybe one day someone brilliant, a latter-day Bill Bernbach will re-emerge and show us again the way.

Until then we will keep searching.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Basics.

Yesterday I participated in an online symposium which allowed college advertising students to ask agency veterans like myself some questions about the industry, about getting started and about whatever else was on was on their minds.

One thing really stood out more than anything else: Basics matter.

The symposium employed google+ technology. 40 of the scheduled 60 minutes were marred by technical difficulties. The basics weren't right. (By the way, in America, roughly 125 years after electricity was adapted for home use, millions of people from Ohio to Virginia are without power. For nearly a week. All due to a minor storm.) The basics aren't right.

Toward the end of the question and answer sessions, the panelists were asked "with all the technology in the world, with the changing media landscape etc. what will be the biggest change in advertising over the next 20 years."

I answered first. And I think definitively.

I believe that 99% of all clients don't know or can't articulate what it is they sell or what they do. Regardless of channel, regardless of bits and bytes, our job is to clarify and organize a client's reason for being.  To say what they do, why they do it and why it is important.

There are all kinds of "likes" we can attempt to garner. We can put them on the latest, greatest and coolest. That's all fine.

But none of it makes a difference if you don't get the basics right.

--
Right now I am listening to the news on an L.A. station of National Public Radio, so I get in addition to national and world news, local California news.

California is in the throes of a $17 billion state budget deficit. And there is a story about the state banning foie gras unless it can be produced cruelty-free. I don't hate animals. But it would seem to me the state may have bigger things to worry about than the livers of geese.

Again. Basics.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Throwing you a curve.

The above bell curve can, in my opinion, explain a lot. It's roughly speaking a way of dividing the agency world. And having worked at a dozen agencies since I started in advertising 28 years ago, I modestly believe this bell curve can explain it all.

If the curve above represents brains, bad agencies hire less brainy people. Most agencies hire average intelligence. And a few agencies hire on the positive downslope of the curve.

The curve can also represent ambition or integrity.

It makes sense to look around you, to look critically at the people you work with and for.

Where does your agency sit on the bell curve?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thoughts of a short week.

Secretary of Labor:  The Department of Labor wishes to note that the workers of Freedonia are demanding shorter hours. 
Rufus T. Firefly: Very well, we'll give them shorter hours. We'll start by cutting their lunch hour to 20 minutes. 


One of the many lunacies of our business--especially the creative end of it, is the constant imprecation to   be billable, accountable and to have no downtime. It's a ludicrous notion to think that ideas can be regularized and "clocked" like cleaning a drain or mowing a lawn.


The great French director Jean Renoir once said "The foundation of all civilization is loitering." But in the world of agencies, the holding company vise says NO.


Tim Kreider had this to say in this Sunday's "Times."


"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.... It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking."


That's all for now. 


I'm too busy to think.