Friday, July 28, 2023

Spitting Image.

I had a meeting with clients yesterday.

In a beautiful office space over 600-feet above Grand Central on a blueish day where the air was Canadian smoke-free enough so that you could almost see down to the bubbling asphalt at street-level.

Since covid and, worse, covid-disinformation, darkened the world, in-person meetings have become all-too infrequent. While I'm no great fan of undue schlepping, there is much to be said for shaking someone's hand, sitting down with them and talking through client problems, or as account people call them, opportunities.

This client is the best kind of client.

Not because of their size, or the quality of the seltzer in their office, or how much they pay me, or even because I like them personally. 

They're the best kind of client because they spit.

Let me explain.

After my meeting last night, I hustled uptown on the number 5 Lexington train to meet a friend and fellow ad-guy at a relic of a restaurant, an old Irish bar on Lexington in the low 60s called Donohue's. It's the kind of place Ray Milland might have stumbled into looking for an alcohol coma in Billy Wilder's great movie "The Lost Weekend." 

The decor I'm sure is the same as it was in the early 1950s, as are the gum-cracking-Rosalind-Russell-waitresses. In fact, the only thing that's changed about Donohue's is the prices. A Caesar salad with grilled chicken rang in at $32 which might have led Caesar himself to say, "Veni, Vidi, Brown-baggi."

I was telling my friend about my client meeting and this came out.

"Without over-using the word 'genius' as so many people do today, I've worked with a few geniuses in my time. And one thing they have in common is they often spit when they talk.

"Errol Morris, so-and-so and so-and-so. So-and-so spits all the time."

"Definitely," my friend replied. "So-and-so froths, and so does so-and-so." He mentioned two of the biggest names in advertising from about 1970 till today.

"That's what I had today. Enthusiasm. Excitement. Spitting."

In the Corporatist, Private Equity, Plunderocractic world we live in, it's considered gauche to have a pulse, to get excited, to gush with enthusiasm. Our spiritual role models these days are the tight-assed, thin-lipped money guys with names like J. Frotherington Snottingham. 

To them, any display of humanity, including but not limited to the effusion of vital bodily fluids is to be scorned. They are cold, analytical and emotionless. And that's on a good day.

Imagine if PowerPoint was a person and you've got it.

Since I was 29, I've worked for about a dozen Hall-of-Famers. They all, even if their glory days were long gone, spit. 

They all couldn't contain their enthusiasms.

Today we live in a technocratic world where enthusiasm, even energy, are all-but mandated out of the system.

Do an ad for a social-media channel and you get a list of best-practices, musts, can'ts and other dicta that relegate what you do to near-prescriptive. You're in effect coloring within the lines without even a crayon. Television isn't that much better. There are so many rules and so much surrounding clutter and so many rampant watch-outs that it's all you can do to get through your :06, :10, :15 or :30 without pissing someone in some focus group somewhere off.

If you think about what we do at its most stupidly fundamental, we light fires.

We do work to excite people about the things we're selling.

We're trying to make people spit, in effect.

As an industry, that's not how we think anymore.

We're no longer about saliva.

We're begging for surviva.

And it's not very exciting.

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