Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Teenagers.

Let's think about teenagers for a minute or two.

If their room is messy, they haven't done their homework, or they leave a wet swimsuit on the floor, your natural response is to tell them to do what they're supposed to do.

Clean up. Do your work. Hang it up to dry.

You know from the start this is not a one-time action.

You'll have to repeat yourself over and again before they do what you're asking. You might, in exasperation, even raise your voice. Or offer them a few bucks to do what they ought.

This is a metaphor for advertising, or should be.

I believe that the only way to get through to people is to repeat yourself. You should do it creatively so you don't wind up sounding like the adults in a Peanuts cartoon.

We seem, in advertising, to have forgotten all this.

We seem to think there are other ways to get people to act or behave.

Just about every day in Agency Spy I see some agency that was doing decent work for a client get fired. Or some new CMO come in that changes the direction of the advertising.

I think this is crazy.

The only thing that works in 9/10 communications is repetition.

The only thing that works in 9/10 communications is repetition.

People don't hear you the first hundred times.

Today we change campaigns and executions too often. We'll see this dramatically when the various dwarves from both parties run for president. Rather than a unifying, concise and compelling message,
they'll try 30 to 50 on for size. One for each slice of the demographic pie.

Nothing will get through to anyone.

Then we'll fire agencies for doing work that doesn't work.

It's all a giant waste. Unnecessary. Unproductive.

Find a campaign that understands the soul of your business and an agency that gives a shit.

Then start thinking like a teenager.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Boris. My barber.




On Friday I woke up and I realized that my hair, which is usually as neat as a skein of barbed-wire, was looking more unruly than usual. Though I had a busy weekend ahead of me, on top of a hectic week behind me, I decided it would be a good idea to get a haircut.

About six months ago, I broke one of my cardinal rules. After a lifetime of getting haircuts from different barbers virtually every time, I finally found a barber and a shop I really liked. I had always resisted having a regular barber. My excuse for this was simple--and actually has some bearing on the ad industry. I felt that I had enough relationships in my life, and really didn't want to do the work of having a barber relationship. I'd rather roll the dice and see what I get than talk about tonsorial kids and what not.

But back around Thanksgiving, I started going to this little shop, Il Figaro, around the corner from me on East End Avenue between 81st and 82nd Street. The barber, a meticulous Ukrainian with more than a dollop of the mien of Erich Von Stroheim, is named Boris, and he is a craftsman of the old sort.

The place is clean--a must for a barber shop, and it's obeisant to the proper traditions of yore. That is, you sit in a proper leather barber's chair and get slathered with various emollients of the sort you might find in a New Orleans brothel. Sorry if I offended anyone there, but I don't trust a barber shop that doesn't douse you in Pinaud's Lilac Vegetal or Clubman, which is even cheaper, or something like it. Certain things, come hell or hot water shouldn't change.

Boris is a small bald-man and is a wizard with scissors, chopping away at my mane while some really decent oldies play on his iPad. He pulls out electric razors to make sure you have no hair where it's embarrassing to have hair. His winsome assistant, Oksana, brings you a water, or if you prefer, a shot of Whiskey or Vodka. 

Then, the highlight of the show begins.

The shave.

Men today don't get regularly shaved by barbers but I think the world would be a more peaceful place if they did. Boris starts me off with an abrasive peppermint rub. This frightens my scruff and makes it stand on end. Then, he massages my face with some sort of lubricant. Then comes a towel as hot as you can stand, right up to your nostrils so you can barely breathe.

The towel stays on for a good three minutes. You close your eyes. And then he peels it off and begins scraping with a straight edge as sharp as the brim on Frank Sinatra's fedora. He seems to shave you whisker by whisker, spending inordinate amounts of time under your lower lip and nose. Finally, you're as smooth as a Republican lobbyist and you're wrapped again in an almost infernal hot towel. Then come more emollients, salves and lotions. And then the full-face massage.

The whole affair--from haircut to shave takes a full hour. I pay him $80, two pairs of nylons and 50 Russian rubles. And we call it square.

That's life as it should be.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The sky clears. Finally.

video
Last night the gloom of winter seemed to lift from New York. Despite an explosion downtown that injured dozens and brought 250 fire-fighters, hundreds of police and Hizzoner to the scene, the snow has finally gone the way of all flesh, the spitting rain had cleared, and the temperatures were inching toward the 60s. The sky was rosy-fingered.

In short, baseball was in the air.

If you're a New Yorker of a certain age, there's something even more alluring than Julie Christie in "Dr. Zhivago," or Catherine Deneuve in "Umbrellas," or even the minx a few desks away with the come-hither smile. And that's baseball.

The green grass. The crack of bat meeting ball. The loping outfielder who turns a sure-double into an easy out.

Of late, I've been wearing the black and orange woolen cap of the old New York Giants who held court until they fled west to Baghdad by the Bay, 58 years ago. Most people mistake the cap--which hasn't been seen in these environs since Eisenhower was president for the one worn by the Mets. But that ignorance is what separates the men from the boys. I wouldn't be seen dead in a Mets' cap, or a Yankee's cap for that matter. And Brooklyn, I haven't even visited since the early 90s, having gotten lost on the subway or something.

But the New York Giants were Manhattan's team, playing way uptown across the Harlem River from the Cathedral, Yankee Stadium, they played in the Polo Grounds, and were most-clearly the third team in a three team city.

Nevertheless, they were New York, and I am New York, so it's their cap I wear. Anachronisms be damned.

But back to last night, as the skies cleared, the sap was running and the air was warming. I stepped out of a yellow cab and announced to the Avenue, "It's here. Baseball season."

A like-aged man was crossing the street toward me.

"Baseball," he said, "Baseball and Ballantine."

We both laughed.

video
Maybe the last two New Yorkers who remembered.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My other Uncle.



I've written in this space, a fair amount about my old man's brother, Sid, and, of course, Uncle Slappy, but I've seldom writ about his other brother, the really old one, Oscar.

Sid became a great success in advertising, in Philadelphia. He owned that city's largest advertising agency, called Weightman. Legend has it that he rented space in the Weightman building and named his agency Weightman so clients and prospective clients would think he owned the building.
The Tannenbaum boys grew up on Phiadelphia's impoverished immigrant West Side and didn't have two dimes to rub together. Their old man, my grandfather, died when my father was just 13 or so, and even when he was running his small tailor shop out of the basement of their row house on 51st Street and Walnut, well, he was hardly Hart, Schaffner or Marx.

Oscar was the oldest and he always had an angle. Toward the end of his life he owned a clothing store in nearby Wilmington, Delaware which, in the inimitable words of my termagant mother, sold schvartza clothing.

Before he became a haberdasher, for a couple of summers, Oscar had a booth down at Rehoboth Beach on the Delaware shore. He painted his sign himself and curtained off the back half of his booth. 

The sign read "World's Worst Freak Show~~Oddities, Attractions, Strange, Inhuman and Eerie~~Come One! Come All! Admission Ten Cents. Children Strictly Prohibited. Women barred for fear of fainting."

Inside the booth, Uncle Oscar surely did run the world worst freak show. That said, for about two summers, he did clean up. Amassing enough money to open up his schvartza clothing shop in Wilmington.

He hung signs around the back.

You MUST see it to believe IT!
See the WORLD'S TALLEST MIDGET!

Two WEAKS [sic] Only: The Strange and Preposterous Un-TATTOOED man!

CAN you EYES BELIEVE WHAT THEY'VE SEEN?
The Boney FAT WOMAN.
She EATS, She Drinks Every DAY!

ALL ATTARACTIONS[sic]ONLY TEN (10) Cents.

Not far, I guess, from a career in advertising.












Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Me and Updike.

Years ago I was running, at a very young age, the largest retail bank account in New York. The problem with being a copywriter on a bank account is that unless you’re part of the demographic, which I wasn’t, it’s hard to know what the demographic is thinking. What scares them. What pains them. What moves them. What are their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

For weeks I thought and thought. I talked to the client. I talked to the agency’s “research” person (this was before the time of planners.) I attended focus group after focus group.

No matter, I just couldn't get a grip on the soul of the target.

I went out for a walk.

To clear my head.

In those days, agencies made enough money to have offices near the clients they served. I was working near Grand Central Terminal and I walked that way. There was, pre-internet, a giant piss-soaked room ringed with phone-booths in Grand Central. In the center of the room there was a vast table that held just about every phone book in America.

This was how you could look someone up before Google.

I had an epiphany.

I found John Updike’s number in rural Connecticut and called him. I got the old man on the phone and introduced myself and my problem.

“Got it,” he said laconically. “Got it, got it, got it, got it.”

I stood there in Grand Central silent.

“Who is he? Your customer? Get a pencil. Number two. Yellow. Sharp. And a pad. I don’t care what kind.”

“Got it.”

“He owns Springer Motors, one of the two Toyota agencies in the Brewer area. Or rather he co-owns a half interest with his wife Janice, her mother Bessie sitting on the other half inherited when old man Springer died five years back.”

He was in a trance.

“He feels he owns it all, showing up at the showroom day after day, riding herd on the paperwork and the payroll, swinging in his clean suit in and out of Service and Parts where the men work filmed with oil and look up white-eyed from the bulb-lit engines as in a kind of underworld while he makes contact with the public, the community, the star and the spearpoint of all these two dozen employees and hundred thousand square feet of working space…”

It was four AM when he stopped. I had run through $32 of dimes.

Back to the office, fueled by benzedrine and nicotine and black coffee, I worked round the clock and round the clock again.

Twenty scripts later, I had my campaign.

Thanks, John.





Found Copywriting: Formality on the Bouwerie.


Found Copywriting: From Winnipeg.

Reader Tim Kist, from the frozen north, sent this in. Thanks, Tim.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Drunk in the Tempus Fugit.

“It’s often been said,” the bartender began without the usual niceties like ‘hello,’ or ‘long time, no see.’ “It’s often been said,” he repeated, “that when a great athlete gets in the groove, everything around him seems to slow down.”

He hustled, not unlike a great athlete, around the mahogany woodwork and placed a small bowl filled with cold, clear water for Whiskey. She was already resting at the foot of my barstool, her eyelids heavy with the weight of 3AM on them. In a trice, or even a jiffy, he was back behind the business-side of the bar, pulling me a Pike’s Ale (the ALE that won for YALE!)

“They say that when DiMaggio was in the middle of his 56-game hitting streak back in 1941, the ball came in as fat as a musk-melon.”

“It's been years since I had a good musk-melon,” I said, draining Pike’s number one.

He pulled me another glass of suds and slid over a bowl of salted Spanish peanuts and an over-sized jar filled with pickled hard-boiled eggs. I think the eggs dated from around the time of DiMaggio’s streak. As usual, I demurred.

“People come in here,” he said, wiping clean the bar with his well-worn white terry, “people come in here and I barely think they’re alive.”

“Drunks?”

“Yes,” he said emphatically, pulling me another amber. “Drunk on distraction. Like the Emperor Jones who succumbed to the incessant tom-tomming of distant drums, like Poe’s protagonist who fell to the tintinnabulations of the bells, bells, bells, they are subsumed by the pings, the bells, the chimes, the peals, the beeps, the whistles and the very vibrations of their devices.”

“I know the type,” I said.

“With everyone every minute connected to everything, ignorance poses as knowledge. The digital chaff is inseparable from the digital wheat.”

“Speaking of wheat,” I tapped my glass and he pulled me number three.

“From papyrus, to print, to petabyte, we are drowning in a sea, a miasma, if you will, of nonsense.”

“Perhaps,” I joshed, “I could bring around a digital strategist to re-orient you. There are plenty at my office.”

“We know more and more about less and less, until it winds up we know everything about nothing.”

I laughed and nodded. “I know whereof you speak.” I pulled two twenties from my wallet. “I work in advertising.”

I slid the bills across to him.

“I’ll tell you what Google glass should be,” he said, returning the tender. “Instead of making everything that’s irrelevant ever-present, they should make invisible everything that’s irrelevant.”

Whiskey and I found our way home through the darkness.










Something's wrong.

Last night, I don't remember what I was reading, but all of a sudden I felt like I couldn't breathe. I felt so distant, disconnected and removed from our industry. As if I had arrived at an ad agency in Istanbul and was asked to write an ad in Turkish.

It was a "want" ad that set me off.

It was someone "seeking" a social media strategist.

After a lifetime in this business--literally a lifetime--I felt like the whole thing had collapsed.

Usually when I see a want ad that sounds vaguely interesting, I think about out-of-work friends who might fill the job. If it's a big job, like an executive creative director, I think about whether it's right for me.

But like I said, this job was for a social media strategist.

It gnawed at me.

I'm not being funny here.

Or acting stupid to make a point.

I can't for the life of me--and I'm down in the trenches--tell you what possibly a social media strategist would do for 20 or 40 hours a week.

I simply don't know what the words mean.

Like I said, I've been around the agency business for all of my 57 years. My uncle ran Philadelphia's biggest shop. My old man was chairman of a top-20 US agency. I got my first agency job 31 years ago.

I know a lot about the business. But this has me baffled. I've never seen the product of a social media strategist. Never, knowingly anyway, seen an effort by one to influence the way I think or act. As far as I know, I know nothing.

If I had to characterize life today, I'd say that we know more and more and more about less and less and less. We'll exhume Cervantes' bones and learn that he ate goose liver, or something. But while we're spouting about all we know, we overlook basic human truths. While we extol companies like Apple for making things simple, we make our own lives complicated.

Advertising, whether it's on TV or social media, whether it's a blimp or a billboard, has to get people's attention. Then, it has to make a promise to them.

That's how interpersonal communications have worked since the beginning of time. From back when we were testing out walking on two, rather than four, legs.

If you know what a social media strategist does, or if you are one, please do me a favor. Send me a note or call me up.

I'd like to know what you do.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My take on March Madness.

Much of the TV I watch, I watch with the sound off.

This time of year, for instance, it's hard for me not to get a little wrapped up by March Madness. And since there seems to be a game on every channel, 24-hours-a-day, when I have some work to do, which I usually do, I'll turn a game on and the sound off, and have it on as background while I'm doing what they pay me for.

It's not real hard to keep track of a basketball game without volume. The score is always present, and super-titles come on if someone notable has made a somewhat notable play. Also, they replay that play ad nauseam as if it were the storming of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

Yesterday I had a three or five tasks to do and I turned on the set.

The Wichita State Shockers were playing against the University of Kansas Jayhawks. I don't have much fealty toward either team.

Sinewy tattooed men ran up and back for 40 minutes of playing time, doing all kinds of impossible things with and without a basketball.

When all was said and done the Shockers edged the Jayhawks. People in yellow were happy. People in blue were sad. The tummy-displaying Shocker cheerleaders seemed fairly ebullient. They made me wish I were in college again.

The game was over.

My work was done.

It was time to cook dinner.

Which I did.

As Oklahoma beat Dayton.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Doyle makes a discovery.

(With grammar corrected and humor moderated by the Editor.)

4 October, 1902

Last night twas raining like the veritable flood. There was no one who wasn't dripping wet and soaked unto their bones.

I ran through the rain to the Weinstock's house and when the Mrs. saw me she had my shoes off in a minute and had me sitting by the clanking radiator until I was dry as a soda cracker. Then I was off to my usual chores around the Weinstock apartment.

Stoke the furnace, empty the ashes, clean and move and lift and carry. It's all in a day's work and it is what I do. The Weinstock's don't work me too hard, they feed me well, and Rebbe and even Malka take me aside and teach me things I wouldn't learn in school. They are educated people, reading all the time--from books, to the daily newspaper, to Rebbe Weinstock pouring over his ancient and Holy Jewish texts.

Tonight, I heard the Rebbe arrive home even before he was up the two flights of stairs to their apartment. The front door slammed, an "Oy" rang out like the roll of ancient thunder, and then came the water-soaked tromping up the stairs to his home.

I ran out to help Rebbe Weinstock, he almost always is loaded down with parcels and bundles and his heavy black leather grip, which he everywhere carries. And then it happened.

The Rebbe handed me his grip, rain-soaked and slippery as it was, and as I was reaching for it, it slipped from my hand--the bag weighs 20 pounds if it weighs an ounce. It crashed on the floor and its contents spilled all over the tile of the landing before Weinstock's doorway.

Fear!

What is it that the Rebbe does with the fearsome implements in this bag. With all manner of clamps and knives and what look like invidious instruments of torture. Is the Rebbe some sort of necromancer, practicing the horrible black arts of the Jewish cult? What are these tools  for? What horrors, unspeakable, do they bring, and who suffers at the Rebbe's hand?

Pretending I saw nothing, I scooped the fallen devices into his bag and handed the satchel to the Rebbe.

But what, Diary, what were they?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stop. Please. Stop.

"...One of the other problems I have today is people have retreated to the edges of advertising. You know, they’re happy to do some small little campaign somewhere or they’re doing something on the net that hardly anybody sees and they’re getting awards for it and everybody’s cheering. But they’re not changing the way people feel or think."

--Sir John Hegarty

--
A couple days ago, an agency I used to work with, very publicly dropped the "D" and "G" from its name (just for a day or two, I suppose) to protest some stupidity uttered by some ass at Dolce & Gabbana. 

I can think of no better illustration of what Hegarty is talking about above.

We've stopped talking about the work we do, the businesses we've built, the brands we've fortified.

Instead, we promulgate our holiday videos, our 'service' days and dopey things like changing our name for a day.

We're so proud of these ephemeral and trivial efforts that we talk more about them than the successes we've brought, not to ourselves, but to our clients.


I don't know, or understand, this agency self-absorption. This maniacal self-promotion. Not through actual paid work we do, but through 'stuntification.'

To me it says all you can do is stand on a chair and play the saxophone while juggling tuna-salad sandwiches. 

It doesn't say you can do good work that works.

If you want attention, do something worthy of attention.

A word about Doyle.

When the workmen arrived at my apartment a bit over a week ago, my wife and I vacated the premises in a flurry. I barely grabbed enough clothing and toiletries to last a week. In fact, I left behind Doyle's diary which I had been excerpting in this space.

Last night, though I got home late again, I dropped by my under-construction apartment to check on its progress and to rescue Doyle's diary from the dust. I have it now, in hand, and will be posting about it again, soon. For now, let me just express relief that the over-100-year-old book is once again in my possession and I intend to keep it, henceforth, at my side.

That said, look for a Doyle post either later today if I get a break, or tomorrow, if I don't.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A dialogue that seldom happens.

HEADHUNTER:    They're looking for a new ECD on ________________.

CANDIDATE:        [SERIOUSLY] What happened to the old one?
                                 Did he die?

HEADHUNTER:    [LAUGHS NERVOUSLY]

Gregarious on the M31.

Usually when you come across someone in the city who's gregarious, he's drunk off his ass.

Or they're someone destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night. 

Ahh, you know what I mean.

In any event an old, gregarious black man dragged himself off the negro streets at dawn this morning and greeted, with enthusiasm, the dour bus-driver.

"How's the bus business?" he fairly shouted, loud enough so I could hear it15 rows back.

Grumble, said the driver.

"Up and down or back and forth?" 

The whole bus laughed. 

Even the driver with Edith Piaf's eyes.

Early Wednesday thoughts.

For a creative, not for a farmer or a fisherman, it's early. It's before 7AM and I'm on the M31 trying to get to one of the places I'm working a couple of hours before everyone else.

I had this fanciful notion that at this hour, even heading crosstown on 57th Street, one of the world's most congested thoroughfares wouldn't be that bad. So I eschewed my usual $20 cab ride and paid a $2.50 bus fare. So far, my rosy-hued forecasts have been correct. Downtown traffic has been scant. If it stays this way, I should be at my desk just after 7:30.

The freelance world has become like a southeast Asian rainstorm. Right now, for me, touch wood, it's teeming with work. A wise man--yet somehow a friend of mine (I had done a good turn for his son) told me when I went freelance to never say "no" to a job. I'd say I have about a 95% success rate in heeding his advice.

There are, after all, some things money can't or shouldn't buy.

In any event, I am doing work I like, for people I like, for money I like.

I might miss the days, or reminisce about them, when I had a big office, a lofty title and some fairly unassailable client relationships. Those things were comfort.

But they can also be a trap.

I like the hyperawareness a freelancer must acquire. The speed, diplomacy and precision. A lot of people on Facebook paste homilies on their walls--or whatever they are--about embracing change and confronting fear.

Maybe everyone, every so often should go freelance for a year or so.

It's like my younger daughter says.

"Sometimes you've got to eat cement, and harden up."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Found copywriting. A philosophy and a promise.



I have fucking work to do.

I don't know who it was who said, "the more I know people, the more I love my dog." Some people attribute the quotation to Diogenes, an ancient Greek philosopher and truth-seeker. Others point to the bumper sticker on the 1977 Plymouth Acclaim that's been rusting on the side of the road for the last six weeks on I-95 just south of the Connor Avenue merge in the Bronx.

In any event, I've up-dated the sentiment for today. At least so it suits me and a few other, I'm sure, like-minded misanthropes.

"The more I hear about South by South, the more I love the roaches in my apartment."

For what seems like the past two or three millennia half of my friends' facebook posts have been datelined Austin.

I know where they eat. I know how far they run. I know whom they've bumped into. I've seen pictures of them near daises, behind daises, adjacent to daises.

As my Uncle Slappy would say, I'm up to my pupik in South by.

I guess part of me is jealous that I'm not there. That I am as distant from the center of modern marketing as Contoocook is from one of the moons of Neptune. Maybe that's the cause of some of my bitter negativity.

That said, my erstwhile colleagues do seem to be adding new dimension to the word 'bloviating.' And besides, I have fucking work to do.

Shooting a commercial with so-and-so at Hungry Man. Doing some work for a large tech company. And creating a brand for a big company that's never before marketed itself.

That's enough.

Like I said, I have fucking work to do.

Monday, March 16, 2015

0 for 76.

After about a month in the Mexican Baseball League, manning the esquina caliente--the hot corner, for the Seraperos de Saltillo, I hit a rough patch.

I had been hitting in the mid-.300s, with decent power and it looked, however feebly, that I might perhaps have more of a career in baseball than I had imagined. Even more than I imagined after I had eight or a dozen beers in me.

Hector Quesadilla--the Seraperos' legendary manager had great faith in me. That boosted my confidence. I was seeing the ball as big as a grapefruit, just chugging to the plate, waiting to be smacked.

Then it happened.

I went a game without whacking the pill. Nothing unusual in that. It happens all the time. That's why DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak was so notable. Everybody, even the greatest players, have a game or two every so often where they fail to get good wood on the ball. Or fail to hit the ball safely. Others have games filled with hard luck. They hit the ball well, but right at people.

In any event, I went 0 for 4 a second game, then a third game in a row.

Before I knew it, I was 0 for an entire week.

"Tal vez deberia sentarme yo abajo," I said to Quesdadilla. "Maybe you should sit me down."

"No," he answered, "Le diste en su manera de salir de ella." You hit your way out of it, he said.

So, I kept playing. And I kept 0-for-fouring.

I tried everything. I pulled my bat further back. I moved my hands further forward. I moved in on the plate. Out from the plate. Up in the box and back in the box. I shortened my swing and crouched like Minnie Minoso. I stood up tall and swung from my heels like Willie McCovey.

One afternoon, as I was in the middle of my 0-for-streak, I even tried to bunt my way on from the left side of the plate, figuring with my speed, a decent bunt and two fewer steps to first might do the trick. No dice. I was chucked out by a step and a half.

In the beginning of my 0-for slump, I was at least hitting the ball with some authority, hitting it hard. But along the way, as I tweaked and tinkered, I pretty much stopped making anything but cursory contact.

I'd hit a soft grounder to second, or pop up to their backstop. I struck out. Swinging and missing.

I sucked.

My batting average was falling like a runaway elevator. And all the while, Quesadilla kept me in the line-up, saying, as he said, "Le diste en su manera de salir de ella." Hit your way out of it.

Nearing the end of three weeks my batting average was approaching what baseball people call "the Mendoza Line," that is, a mark of batting futility named for a journeyman infielder from the 1970s called Mario Mendoza. Worse, I was afraid they'd come up with new jargon: The Navidad Nexus--when a player fails to hit his weight.

I weighed in at 190 in those slimmer days, and my batting average was headed to those lowly climes. The hits kept not coming. And Quesadilla kept saying "Le diste en su manera de salir de ella." But I wasn't hitting my way out of it. I was stinking up the place.

It's not a pleasant thing in any profession when you're confidence gets a one-way ticket to Terry Malloy's Palookaville. But that's what happened to me. I was the Old Man and the Sea. He went 84 days without a fish. His life was over. Even the boy who was always by his side had left him.

I went 19 games without a hit. 76 at bats. I had started my slump batting .355 and as I approached my 20th game, I was batting a plebeian .219.

I grabbed a bat a walked to the plate.

Hector called from the dugout in English. "Put good wood on the ball."

I forgot about all the adjustments I had gone through in the previous 19 games. I just went up to bat. "Put good wood on the ball," I repeated to myself.

And I did.

I hit a line drive off the wall--actually through the wall--in left-center. The ball cracked the wooden fence and stayed there. A grounds-rule double. My first hit in 19 games.

From there on, things returned relatively to normal. I started hitting again, my average began to reverse its descent as did my confidence. I had hit my way out of it, as we usually do when we're mired in a slump. When we can't put wood on the ball. Can't do the job we want to do.

Even today, when I'm stuck on something, I look over to an imaginary bench. I see Hector there, calm and Buddha like.

"Le diste en su manera de salir de ella."







Friday, March 13, 2015

Small Town, USA.

I never read anything by Seth Godin except for the occasional blog post someone sends me. And the two books I've read by Malcolm Gladwell, "The Tipping Point," and "Blink," left me thoroughly unimpressed. It seems these pundits, and pundits like them, state the obvious. But only, of course, after they clothe it in acres of bs and frippery.

A year ago, I was fired.

Fired, expensive and 56 ain't a great combination.

I was scared. Panicked even.

But what I soon realized is that advertising is really a small town. And people who live in this town, for the most part anyway, know me and respect me. In short order, I started get work. Dribs and drabs. Then, as word of my availability spread, I started getting a lot of work.

There's a whole lot of bushwa in the world of marketing.

A lot of hot air will be expended at South by Southwest over the next couple of days. I'm already tasting the vomit in my mouth from the Facebook pictures I'm sure to see.

But all you really need to know about marketing, I think, is this.

People crave living in a small town. Where people are friendly to each other. Where they help each other out. Where merchants earn and reward loyalty and try to serve you.

If you think about it, that's exactly what Amazon does.

They may be vast, but their algorithms act like they know you. And they consistently make things easy for you.

I've had this idea of late--a kind of a Ralph Kramden "Get Rich Quick" scheme. I'll call it "The roll of your life."

Every morning for about five bucks I'll deliver two hot rolls to your door and a cup of java. That's it.

You can't really find a bakery anymore that sells nice, freshly-baked bread.

I think that's what's wrong with the world.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Found copywriting. For Comrades.

Pravda at the Strand. 12th and Broadway.

Found copywriting: Advice for living.



Fifth Avenue and 24th Street.

A walk with Malka.

(With emotions tempered and grammar massaged by the Editor.)

7 September, 1902

I am cleaning up the apartment for Mrs. Weinstock while Rebbe Weinstock is in his usual place, occupied by his usual activity. That is to say he is reading in his study.

Malka, the Weinstock's pretty niece is over, helping Mrs. Weinstock around the apartment. They are preparing for a big holiday or festival of some sort and every pot is on a burner, every plate is being washed and every piece of silver is being polished.

Mrs. Weinstock gives me a two-dollar bill and asks me to buy at the store some various sundries down on Division Street, there's a little place. I put on my jacket to leave when Malka says, "May I go with the boy?"

"Ach," says Mrs. Weinstock, "Cavorting with the Goyim," but she accedes and off Malka and I go on our way.

"This is Rosh Ha-Shanah preparations," Malka says. "The start of the Holiest Days of the Jewish year."

I just nodded silently. I can hardly because she is so beautiful, even talk to Malka.

"This is," she continued, "Like your Easter and Christmas rolled into one."

We arrived in short order at the grocery and I selected that which was on Mrs. Weinstock's note of necessities. It was then I realized something horrible had happened. I had lost the two dollars Mrs. Weinstock had given me.

Malka ever the calm head said to the shop-keeper that I would return with the proper funds. But how could I if I had dropped the bill on Hester Street or Orchard. I was ruined. Mrs. Weinstock and the Rebbe would never again trust me.

I walked slowly to the Weinstock's with Malka, dreading the inevitable. Being turned out into the street, being thought a thief and guttersnipe. But when I arrived, the bill was on the small table where I had mistakenly forgotten it.

All was well.

More later.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

4,500 client meetings.

Yesterday I had a couple of client meetings for a couple of different clients. Today I have a couple more.

I've been doing some calculating. If I've averaged three client meetings a week for the 30 years I've been working, I've had something like 4,500 client meetings.

I guess that's why I don't get nervous about meetings anymore. I get nervous about the work being good enough, but the actual presentation of work to clients, well, I feel ok about that.

Lately, I've been doing something I don't notice a lot of other people do. I reconstruct for the client the thinking from which the ad sprung. I give them the genesis of the thought and then how we built the concept.

They seem to like this approach.

It seems to make what is often a mysterious process and one that's hard to relate to a little more accessible. It also does something that in my opinion, is all too rare.

It lets the client in on your head. It shows them your humanity. While everyone is presenting from research and powerpoint to show how smart they are, I think it sometimes makes sense to show how human you are.

I like to say that in our industry for at least the last three or four years, we've been trumpeting the notion of story-telling. Then when we show work, we present decks. The antithesis of story.

Anyway, this is what I've been doing lately.

Clients seem to like it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Advertising apologia.

For the last few days I haven't done my duty as an advertising blogger. Instead of writing about the "death of this," or institutional hubris and cupidity, or the stupidity of a new campaign, I have reprinted excerpts of a diary I found last weekend in the dark recesses of my deep dark closets.

I have, I guess I am lucky this way, old-school closets that seem to keep going back and up. They hold whatever I put in them and seem, at all times, voraciously hungry for more. It's no wonder, then, that I missed the box for twenty years that help the turn-of-the-century diary of Ned Doyle, a young man a century ago, adjusting to life in America.

Ned's life is surely more interesting than ours in advertising. But advertising is what we do here, and the reason behind this blog. So if you've been disappointed the last few days, fear not. I will come back to ad writing soon.

Thanks for indulging me and my diary.

Doyle learns a thing or two.

(With enthusiasms tempered by the Editor.)

1 August, 1902

Rebbe Weinstock is kind to me. In the evening when the day is done, he calls me into his study. He asks me read aloud to him. Correcting my accent and teaching me some American history in the process. We have read about President Theodore Roosevelt who was born here in New York City and the assassination of his predecessor, William McKinley, by Leon Czolgosz, a Polack and an anarchist. The Rebbe says that to become an American we must learn about America, so he teaches me.

He is also teaching me something of his Native tongue, that being Yiddish. I already know more than a handful of words: schmuck, schmendrik, shande, schmegegge, shiksa, shaigitz and more. I asked him, “does all Yiddish start with the ‘sh’ sound?’ He laughed and patted me on the head.

The Rebbe is teaching me, too, of the Jew Bible, which the Yids call the Torah. Their Bible is our Bible, too or at least the beginning, after which we added to it, the Kikes unable to regard the coming of Christ as anything of importance, failing to recognize it for what it was and so, not writing it down. Is this why they have been condemned to wander ceaselessly with the Mark of Cain and the blood of our Father on their hands?

Mrs. Weinstock too is generous with her time. Though it reddens me to go with her shopping for her Sabbath meal, which they call Shabbos—another Sh-word, I do learn from seeing how a Jewess buys provisions. She argues, she bickers, she pesters, she walks out of the store, until she gets exactly the piece of fish she wants or the chicken or meat. With everything she is that way, from the fabric she buys down on Orchard Street, to the pickles she takes home from a wooden barrel placed on a sidewalk also on Orchard. Everything is a negotiation, she tells me.

Though the Rebbe and Mrs. Weinstock are in America only a short few years longer than me, they know so much more than I do and I am learning from them. As they would say, it is a mitzvah (italics added) that I have met them.


More later, Diary.