Monday, March 8, 2021

Advice for living. From the dead.

One way of assessing what kind of effect I've had on the universe happens when someone I know--and even love--knocks me in the head, or sends me a text, or mumbles in my direction and says, "Did you read so and so's obituary?"

I was born into an admiration of death-notices--and at the near-constant behest of my sporadically-energetic father--often had one ripped out of the morning Times and insistently placed in front of me.

I was just trying to eat a piece of toast. I often ended up with a life-lesson.

The Times does an amazing job with their obituaries. They cover all creatures great and small. They have their lives condensed and intensified--80 years or so turned into a two-minute read. Their life story is theirs, their successes and set-backs, and more often than not, a joke, a story, a lesson that enriches your life.

The fact is, I have become, over my many years, something of an obituary connoisseur. I've read whole books of them--reading the Economist's obituary on John Maynard Keynes, or The Times of London's account of Winston Churchill, or closer to home and less political, the New York Times' recent obituary of David Mintz, the man who invented Tofutti non-dairy ice-cream.


While there are many who decry my love for obituaries and see it as evidence of my lugubrious and dour mien, all I can say is an old New York-ism: "Don't knock it till you've tried it."

I can also recommend the greatest one-volume collection of quirky obituaries ever compiled, "52 McGs: 
The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas." 


If you buy this slim book and don't get handed a laugh or ten, I'll refund your money. Assuming you can find me.

Last week, important in ad circles, The New York Times ran the obituary of legendary headhunter Judy Wald. Wald's selling ability might have led to the rise of the primacy of creatives in the ad industry--at least before the entire industry was subsumed by petty CPAs and cost-cutting Holding Companies. You can read the Times' obituary here. 

Here's one anecdote from the Times that might just indicate how comparatively impecunious the agency business has become. [Wald] "loved to tell the tale of how she had once collected a fee for moving an executive from one job to another within the same agency.

“I wasn’t about to give any freebies,” she told New York magazine.

However, what prompted today's post was my wife, Laura. I had read the Times' obit last week when it came out. But she pours over the Weekend Wall Street Journal (arguably the best newspaper in the world if you can ignore the fascist opinion pages) like Champollion de-coding the Rosetta Stone.

"Did you read the Journal's obituary of Judy Wald," she lovingly asked me.

"No, I read the Times'. It was good."

"Read it," she demanded. She was, in that two-word sentence, more Lavrenti Beria than the woman I married, so I complied within about four seconds.

To be honest, I was a little pissed. I had been in the middle of something, and the Journal retread a lot of the same ground the Times had covered. Then I got to the obituary's crescendo, neatly tucked where it belongs, in its last line. 

"In her interview with New York magazine, Ms. Wald summed up her philosophy this way: 'Love many; trust few; always paddle your own canoe.'”

We live today, it seems to me, in an elder-less universe. Wisdom--and the experience of living--is most-often subordinated to the splendor of the photograph of the grilled scallop you've uploaded or a badly shot short-film of a random person dancing or something equally banal.

One of the reasons--perhaps the main one--I read obituaries is that they contain the wisdom of the ages--often from the mouths and minds of those who have had long and illustrious lives and are asked to reflect. 

A good reporter knows how to listen to those reflections and, with skill, can turn them in the epigrams that in some cases would not be out of place among the 147 maxims attributed to the Oracle of Delphi.

I've highlighted two of these pearls above. I'll put them here again. Because I think they're that good. My guess is, if you follow them--as the Ithakans followed their Oracle, you'll probably have not just a better career, but a better life, too.

“I wasn’t about to give any freebies.”

“Love many; trust few; always paddle your own canoe.”




Friday, March 5, 2021

A Friday One-Act play.

WE OPEN ON THE LAVISH EXECUTIVE OFFICES OF A MID-TOWN AD AGENCY. WAGSTAFF, THE CEO IS SITTING BEHIND A MAHOGANY DESK ROUGHLY THE SIZE OF THE LUSITANIA. BAGLEY, A 30-SOMETHING ACCOUNT GUY CREEPS TIMIDLY UP TO WAGSTAFF'S IMPOSING DESK.



Bagley: You wanted to see me, sir?

Wagstaff: [HE BARELY ACKNOWLEDGES BAGLEY'S PRESENCE. AFTER TOO MUCH TIME, WAGSTAFF LOOKS UP.] Buckley! 

Bagley: It's Bagley, sir.

Wagstaff: What kind of ridiculous name is BagleySir, Buckley? We've got a problem.

Bagley: [STAMMERING] A p p problem, sir?

Wagstaff: Yes, Banfield. A big problem.

Bagley: Sir--

Wagstaff: Bixley, I put you in charge of the agency's digital transformation efforts.

Bagley: Yes, you did, sir. And I thank you for that vote of confidence in me. I've been blowing the midnight wind-turbine on digital transformation.

Wagstaff: Blowing the midnight wind-turbine? What in tarnation are you talking about? 

Bagley: Well, sir, we're completely sustainable here. We're reducing our carbon footprint and...

Wagstaff: Confound it, Bushwack, don't keep jabbering till Hoboken freezes over. What is it?

Bagley: It's just that 'burning the midnight oil is so petro-chemical-based' I changed the metaphor to 'blowing the midnight wind-turbine.'

Wagstaff: Well, yes, whatever. But that's not why I called you in here, Billingham. I put you in charge of digital transformation, did I not?

Bagley: Yessir, you did. 

Wagstaff: Then you, Buttbottom, you're the one responsible for leaving the digital transformer on all last night. Do you know what our electricity costs were last month?! 

The boys from the Holding Company are up my keister like deer-tick gnawing on a cocker spaniel's ass.

Don't you know, Barojas, we operate on razor-thin margins here at Wagstaff, Staffwag and Nostaff?

Bagley: Oh Mr. Wagstaff, sir, the Digital Transformatron, McKinsey Model Six Million never shuts down, sir. It's constantly transforming our digitals.

Wagstaff: Transforming? All our digitals?

Bagley: That's right, sir. The Digital Transformatron, McKinsey Model Six Million, is state-of-the-art best-of-breed thought-leadering digital transformationing.

Wagstaff: Billabong! You're a genius. I'm making you, I'm making you, I'm making you....

Bagley: [EAGERLY] Yes, sir...

Wagstaff: I'm making you a senior unpaid intern!


THE SET GOES DARK. AND THE CURTAIN FALLS.

EXEUNT






Thursday, March 4, 2021

I wonder what would happen. If...




About twice a month I run across a site or an article or a something that absolutely slays me.

In the past when this happened, I'd come to work fairly popping out of my skin. I couldn't wait to share what I had found with my work neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Of course, that neighborliness phenomenon is all gone now. First, I no longer work in an office. Second, no one else does, either.

Yet, one of the few things that make life bearable--and even
fun--is sharing. Sharing ideas. Sharing what you've found. Sharing sparks on our collective human kindling.

To compensate for our lack of community, when the Plague began, I started sending to about seventy friends an email I called "Cool Things for Cool People." 

Though we are all atomized today, I wanted something for us all to share, pass-along, enjoy and learn from. I think that was the original idea behind us all sitting out in the open. That we'd talk and exchange ideas and laugh and learn. 

Not that we'd all sit staring at flickering screens with blather-canceling headphones blocking out everything that we're supposed to be able to let in.

Ergo, my list.

But my emails aren't the point today.

As I sent out my note at 6:30 yesterday morning, I realized I had one Agency CEO on my list. 

Only one.

Yes, he happened to come from a creative background.

But only one.

That's Rob Schwartz. CEO of TBWA\\Chiat\Day NY and a friend and some-time colleague. 

I sent Rob a note about the post. I asked him if I could use his name. Self-important people--ie wastes of protoplasm, hide behind their illusions of importance and take days to respond to emails--if they respond at all. It gives them a misplaced and inflated sense of power. 

Good people respond right-away. No one's so busy that they have the right to stop being human and polite. (As an aside, America's most-famous book editor, Robert Gottleib always reads manuscripts the day he gets them. He has enough empathy to know the writer's soul and to know that hearing back matters.)

In any event, Rob wrote back in about 12 minutes. A little slow for him.

His counsel is as good as you're going to get in any day and age. Here's what Rob wrote:

"I have a deep vein of thinking on this. 

"CEOs need to be product-lovers. Like Enzo Ferrari. Quincy Jones. Anita Roddick. 

"We had this in advertising. Look no further than Bernbach. Or Mary Wells. 

"What about at the holding company level? Bruce Crawford of Omnicom was a creative. That was a good start.

"Closer to home for me...the W of TBWA, Uli Weissendanger was a writer. As was Jay Chiat and Guy Day. (Both ran the agency.) Bob Kuperman was an Art Director before he became president of LA and ultimately, North America.

"Product people who love the product. And then orient the enterprise to produce it and produce it well.

"That’s the way it should be." 

I know a lot of CEOs in the business. But I don't include them on my periodic emails because in my stern judgment, passion for creativity (not just "culture" or trends) doesn't extend, generally speaking, to them.

In fact, I'm not sure there are many in that rarefied suite even know any creatives--real doing creatives, not creatificators. I don't think there are that many in the C-suite where creativity is seen as a unique differentiator. I think it was Bernbach who called creativity "the last legal competitive advantage."

I'm not talking Chief Creative Officers here. I send my e to a gaggle or two of them.

I'm talking about CEOs, specifically. 

The people who should be passionate about the business. 

And, sorry lovers of content, analytics, data, technology, finance, programmatic, strategy, optimization and more. This business doesn't just include creativity. In fact, it should be centered on creativity.

If you're a CEO reading this--or, more likely, a CEO having one of your minions reading it to you because 'it's a lot of words,' send me a note. My email isn't hard to find.

Write to me, show me, prove to me you give a shit about creativity. Tell me your favorite VW ad. Your favorite commercial. Your favorite line of copy. Or headline. Or photographer. Or illustrator. Or art.

If there are enough of you who convince me, I'll add you to my list. I'll also write a blog post called "CEOs that believe in Creativity." And I'll include something about you in the post. 

This post will probably never get written. I don't think there are enough CEOs that care. Certainly not enough at the Holding Company stratosphere.

But consider this:

At the bottom of Rob's emails, there's always some text under his name and title, almost as an afterthought. Something most CEOs would crave, but few actually help earn. 

The type is small but important. It reads:


An AdAge A-List Agency
Back\\2\\Back
2019\\2020

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Spinning.


One of the strangenesses of life, especially modern, up-scale, type-A people's lives, is how much can seem decided for you by forces that go beyond your corpuscles.

So many of us seem to have everything plotted out for us. We go to such and such a school. We enter such and such a graduate program. We find jobs with the right firms. And we work toward the raises we're supposed to get. The jobs we're supposed to jump to. Awards we're supposed to win. Asses we're supposed to kiss. And so on.

Many people, as they make their way or lurch their way through life, hit these markers like a well-trained marathoner, ticking off the miles and the water stops, and the landmarks on the course. They're there to let people know they're moving along--hitting their marks.

I don't find it at all unusual when I hear people say, "my calendar didn't synch." However, it almost always strikes my cranium the wrong way. Nothing to do with synchronization. More to do with  someone or something sinking. Like a spiritual Andrea Doria. 

It seems, too often, that there's a certain sense of horrid predestination in our professional lives. That's a round-about way of pointing out how trapped I think so many of us are. It's almost, without sounding sci-fi about, it as if we are subject to forces beyond our control. Forces that tell us what to do and when and we're trapped by some cosmic plan we never even had the chance to opt-out of.

Of course, I was as trapped, or more, than anyone. I'd been working in the agency business for 37 years when I was tossed out on my 'not inconsiderable obliquity.' My well-established course got land-mined, then nuked, then sprayed with small-arms fire, just to make sure no one was left alive.

Or as Dashiel Hammet wrote in the most important part of "The Maltese Falcon,"

And that's what's weird about all this. Life. The agency business. Getting tossed out on your keister at the age of 62. That's essentially having a beam fall from a skyscraper and strike you. 

You've spent your life sensibly ordering your affairs. Only to find out that the ordering of them got you out of step with the randomness of the universe. 

By ordering my life around a predictable paycheck, predictable assignments and predictable predictability, I was pretending that life and the ad industry wasn't as subject to falling beams as it is.

I should have left Ogilvy before they left me. I should have known the beam was falling--god knows, I'd been seeing and hearing it for years. But I said, 'nah. I'll be ok.'

So I was booted out.

Booted out into a chaotic covid universe.

And you know what?

It's fucking great.

I'm working my ass off with the best people I've ever worked with. With the best clients too. Giving me weird things to do, because they recognize the weirdness in me--and my weird set of talents, ambitions, abilities, and humor.

We laugh, my associates and I. 

And there's no one to scowl or wag a stern finger or say, "quiet," because there's some unappreciative, low-margin client in 11A making the 17th-round of changes on a 728x90 banner that will run in a Estonian-language trade-magazine.

There's no petty bureaucrat giving you a 29-digit timecode and telling you you're over or under hours and you're about to be locked out.. 

There's no one--hahahahahahahaha--telling you YOU'RE OWNED. Like the slave you've been made.

My head came off when I was fired and my brains looked like spin-art done by someone with, god forbid, Parkinson's. It still does some days.

But that's fine. And good. And fucking normal.

Spin-art your head.

Spin-art your goals.

Spin-art your career path.

Maybe spinning counteracts the 1100 miles per hour rotation of the earth as we make our way around our dying sun. 

Maybe rather than knocking you off your equilibrium, spinning puts you instead in balance.

Spinning.

It's life. 





Tuesday, March 2, 2021

My friend, Minnie Minoso, and me.


One of my baseball heroes was "The Cuban Comet," Orestes "Minnie" Minoso.

Part of my affection comes from having met Mr. Minoso. When I was 20, I was a clerk in a downtown Chicago liquor store called Bragnos, right on Rush Street--right across from a bar/brothel. 

Minoso was a sales rep for Old Style beer, which at the time--before everything in American got consolidated, monopolized and blanderized--was the largest-selling beer in Chicagoland.


Minoso walked into the cavernous store, stopped by the counter and shook my hand. Then he generally walked around the store saying hello to everyone. I shook his hand again before he left. And we talked about the diamond-encrusted World Series ring he proudly wore on his giant right-hand.

More than anything, however, Minoso appealed to me because he is the only player in baseball history--maybe the only athlete in the history of top-tier professional sports--to play for parts as five decades.



In our current 'o tempore, o mores,'-times, when people are fired and excoriated for "hearkening back to the 80s," I realized that I have, as have many people of my tenure, also survived and prospered in our industry for five decades. In short, I've worked in the 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s and 20s.

I had a misunderstanding the other day with a friend. He was feeling despondent (or I was and I transferred it to him.) 

He said something to me about "not wanting to continue." About having given enough and being a certain age and being tired of fighting. All feelings I can identify with. Fighting your whole life through your career, making a living, saving, raising kids, having a long marriage. I can hear the Yiddish phraseology rattling through what's left of my brain: "What for am I doing this for?"

I said to my friend, "I am modeling myself to be an advertising Minnie Minoso. Minnie made it into five decades. My sport is not as physically demanding, I intend to make it into six decades in advertising."

We laughed at that. Who wouldn't? The idea of making it eight-and-three-quarters more years.

"I don't know, Georgie," my friend said. "You might be a little creaky by then."

"I've been creaky since 1972, and it's never slowed me down."

We laughed again. As we have so often.

I'm lucky, I told my friend. I need the money, but not really --and even though starting my own business has its own challenges (as does living in Connecticut) I am working with the best people in the business and I have a handful of some of the best clients, too. Besides, I innately love the- solving- puzzles-piece of advertising.

Now I don't know if I'll make it into my early 70s, and into my sixth decade. I don't know if anyone will want to work with me, much less hire me to help them in the many ways I can do so.

But I do know, as dumb and meaningless as life can be some times--many times, there's something meaningful and life-affirming about doing what you do as long as you can do it well.

Hemingway's old man did that. So did Alan Ladd and George Stevens' "Shane," as he attacked the impossible stump, "Sometimes ain't nothing will do but your own sweat and muscle," Van Heflin says.

It takes a lot of living to understand that. But I do. 

So did Minnie.




Monday, March 1, 2021

Lies. And the lying liars who lie them.

Recently my advertising Alma Mater, the place where I gave and gave for parts of four decades, ran a self-promotion on LinkedIn. I don't object to advertisements for "myself." Mine routinely get upwards of twenty-thousand views. What I do object to is a place that has turned hateful masquerading as "woke" and benevolent.

Here's the ad Ogilvy shamelessly ran. This is after 12 or 24 months of purging virtually everyone in every office that is over 40 and was making that thing we once described as a "living wage."

If Ogilvy "mirrors" what society is truly like by reflecting society in its people, they are living in a different world than I am. In fact, according to the fairly authoritative 2021 World Almanac (which is a helluva lot easier to navigate and a helluva lot more informative than the web) there are more people over 65 in the United Kingdom--the country of the ad's origin--than under 15. 
18.5% of the UK is 65+. 17.6% is under 15.


Yet according to WPP's most recent annual report, their mirror is not just broken, it's downright delusional. Perhaps, if anyone's reading this, class-action suit delusional.



As for reflecting society in our people, it's hard to mesh the demographic data I provided above with WPP's depiction of itself in its own most-recent annual report.


I suppose given my long-tenure in the advertising business, my relative success, and this blog--which routinely numbers agency CEOs among its 80,000 readers a week, I am something of a leader in what used to be the advertising industry.

If a Rob Reilly or a Mark Read or a John Wren or even a Martin Sorrell were to call me, I'd tell them that the central issue facing the advertising industry in the years ahead is not revitalizing creativity, honing our use of data and analytics, or even conquering purportedly attenuated attention spans.

I'd say that the key thing the industry must do for itself and its clients is to reestablish the very notion of trust. The idea that people can believe things they read. That people can have faith in the truthfulness of the messages they receive from those paying for the messages.

We've seen the horrible and near-civilization-ending results of a world riven by separate realities. The consequences of disbelief will, if not addressed by the ad industry, destroy literally trillions of dollars of brand value. Why believe in anything when no one believes in anything?

However, if our industry itself lies to our industry, if a formerly leading-light of our industry, Ogilvy, blows its trumpet and says "we are good and righteous" when in fact they are callow, craven and flat-out discriminatory, the long-term viability of such storied agencies will crumble more dramatically than it already has in the hands of its current (mis)management.

Part of me doesn't really care. 

I have a handful of significant pieces of business from ex-Ogilvy clients and citizens. So their diaspora is good for me.

However, call me old and old-fashioned, I don't like being lied at.







Friday, February 26, 2021

Get over here.


Come here.

Now go over there. Further. All the way to the corner.

OK. That's right. Now spin around three times. Stop and face me. Put your hands on your hips. And walk back in this direction.

Stop!

Close your eyes.

Listen to me. Do as I tell you.

Open your eyes. Bend at the knees.

OK. That's enough for today. You can leave the room now.

Thanks everyone, for letting me demonstrate that. For letting me show you what I do. For letting me be my best me at being my best me. That's what I'm best at.

And that, what I just went through above is me being a thought-leader. That's me. That's what I do. I'm forever leading thoughts around. 

Do this. Do that. Do it again. Faster. 

That's how you lead thoughts. You can't be namby-pamby or milquetoast. I'm not a thought-coaxer. A thought-suggester. A thought-consensus-maker.

NO. I am a thought-leader.

And I lead those mf-ing thoughts by the nose. I have those thoughts thinking thoughts like they've never thought before. Those thoughts are the best thoughts because they're thoughts that just don't come from nowhere, they don't appear out-of-the-ether, these thoughts are LED.

And they're led by me because I am a thought-leader. 

Listen, non-leader-of-thoughts, if you want to break out of your slough of mediocrity, you can't just let thoughts happen. You have to show thoughts, my thoughts, your thoughts, someone elses' thoughts, that you're the boss. You have to lead them like they've never been led before.

OK? OK.

I am an informed opinion leader and a go-to person in my field of expertise leading thoughts like a three-legged puppy on a leash. I am a trusted source who moves and inspires thoughts with innovative ideas. I turn ideas into reality, and I know and show how to replicate their success. In other words, I am a thought leader who leads thoughts because I am a thought-leader--a leading practitioner of leading thoughts.

Now, one more thing.

Ask me anything about the Ecuadoran yellow-footed dung-beetle. Ask me anything about it. And I will tell you everything you want to know.

Ask me about the Dred Scott Decision, the edibility of Tide Pods or freeing Britney and I'm at a loss. Ask me the capital of Nebraska and I'll blink at you and stammer. But question me on the Ecuadoran yellow-footed dung-beetle, and I'll carpe your diem for a per diem to die for.

Why?

Because I'm an SME.

A subject matter expert.

I know my subject and am such an expert on the subject of its matter that my expertise on the subject matters.

That's what I do. 

Get over there, you thoughts.

The Ecuadoran yellow-footed dung-beetle can render a man senseless with one swipe of its mighty tail.

That's who I am, you wretched refuse on these teeming shores. A thought leader and a subject matter expert.

Go home.

It's Friday.

Listen to me. I'm a thought leader on that.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Philosophy. Poetry. And most-important, self-promotion.

I don't want to jinx anything but life on the GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company front has been nothing if not busy.

When I started as a soloist, I decided upon a couple of rules for my business. I'd worked for others my whole life. I made a conscious choice not to do that again. So I was going to Sinatra my way through my waning years. My way.

My rules were straightforward. But in this day and age, demanding.

1. I wasn't going to work with people I didn't like. 

2. I wasn't going to work for brands I didn't respect.

3. I was going to price myself at the very top of the market--based on my belief that a bloated ad agency (redundant) would deliver less and charge at least 50% more.

4. I would reaffirm my favorite of David Ogilvy's maxims--one that I believe, most have forgotten. That is, "First-class business in a first-class way."

5. Since I've been working almost 40 years, I have one of the best "Rolodexes" in the business. I'd make every effort to have the industry's best-people working on businesses I tend to. I  never confuse availability and capability.

Just now, on Twitter I read an exchange between two friends I've only ever met online but I feel I could have a beer with, something I don't dole out lightly: Vikki Ross and Dave Trott.

First I read Trott, who quoted one of the B's of BBH, Nigel Bogle.


Not to be outdone, Vikki Ross wrote:


It's hard to bark or argue with a client, but those quotations are a pretty good way of letting your clients know how you and your business are going to comport themselves. They're more than a style guide, though I like their style. They're a substance guide.

All of these guideposts seem to be working for GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company, at least so far.

What strikes me as a bit counter-intuitive is that in the run-by-accountants Holding Company era, my precepts are just about the opposite of how, I think, most publicly-held agencies are led today.

Maybe the difference is this simple: GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company is adding value. InterPutzLeechoCom is a low-cost data and service provider staffed by the cheap and inexperienced.

That's it for me today, except for one more thing. GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company also believes in the power of poetry. In fact, I don't really want to work with clients who don't. (My second client quizzed me on Thoreau's "Walden." When I passed, she gave me a six-month's retainer.)

So, I usually send clients this poem as a way of describing what I try to do differently. Yeah, it's a little sappy. And it certainly isn't hip and cool. But guess what? I don't care.










Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Stormy weather.



It's late Monday afternoon as I write this. I'm sitting upstairs in the rickety 1920 cottage my wife and I bought up here in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Outside my windows, down about 15-feet and over about 30, roars the Long Island Sound.

The sky all day has been as grey as dryer lint or grey as the sad skin under my tired eyes. Around noon, a lashing rain started, blown by a fierce wind. The rain sounds against my windows like bird-shot against an old tin roof. There is the thunder of the surf against the rocks on the coast below. 

It is, in short, storming.

As WC Fields would snarl, "Tain't a fit night out for man nor beast." Except of course, Whiskey will hie us outdoors for two more walks before her day is done. She doesn't much like the rain either, preferring her perch by our stone fireplace--fire burning or not, but she, like me, is a well-trained creature.

Storms, billions of years before there was life on this benighted planet, have always buffeted our galactic home. They are as natural part of the order of our universe as my wife being mad at me for any number of legitimate reasons.

I snored. I got up from the table too soon. I spent the day grumpy. I snarled when I should have smiled. And about two million more things I do that endear me to morticians and tax-collectors and termagants who seem never more than an axe-length's away.

Human storms are natural, too. Take it from me. A human nor'easter from the chilly nor'east.

It's funny to me how many people want everything in life to go smoothly. Whether it's the furor of getting work done for a client, processing a bill, or simply loading up the car for a long road trip.

There's something undeniably pleasant about living in the country and having a fire going in the fireplace, plenty of logs in the garage, whiskey at my feet and in the liquor cabinet and ice cream in the freezer. You know that while shit may happen (we lost power for four days after gale-force winds this summer) for the most part, this isn't Texas, and we'll get through it. We're lucky that way.

However, looking out at the storm, there's no sense wishing for 72 and sunny. The agency or the weather.

The truth is, living is tumult. Working is tumult. Making meetings. Making working. Even, frankly, just showing up on time is sometimes more than any of us can rightfully reckon with.

As Tennessee Williams wrote in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and Big Daddy spat, "Life ain't just a bunch of high spots... Heroes in the real world live twenty-four hours a day, not just two hours in a game....The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman that you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die...Now that's the truth and that's what you can't face!"


That's Tennessee Williams, or Burl Ives in the movie, and no mere copywriter can much improve on wisdom like that.

But a copywriter, especially one like me, is also a coalescer of other people's thoughts. Clients tell me things, or customers do, or account people or planners, and I make them special and memorable and shorter. Or at least I try.

Without bragging too much, I think I can do the same with Mr. Williams' copy as well.

How's this: "There are a lot of storms out there. The toughest ones to get through are the ones that have nothing to do with the weather. Ride through."



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Grumpy.

I read somewhere--I don't remember where--that when Napoleon ruled most of Europe, armies, war and weaponry were closer in spirit and technology to those from Caesar's times--1800 years earlier, than they were to Pershing's--100 years later.

That's a round-about way of saying, I suppose, that the pace of change, which had been stagnant for so long, has accelerated spectacularly since around 1900.


Alvin Toffler, the 1970s futurist wrote in his book, "Future Shock," for instance, that if you charted the fastest humans could travel, from the beginning of time till about 1800, the line would be essentially flat. Humans could go no faster than a horse galloping downhill. 

From 1800 to about 1970 however, the line shot straight up. The train came along. Then the car. Then the plane. Then the jet. Then the rocket. And who knows what Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg or Betsy DeVos have up their sleeves to propel us even further ahead in the not-so-distant future.

Sunday morning, as I do every Sunday morning since the pandemic has caged us in our humble little cottage by the sea in Connecticut, I headed out to the Big Y supermarket. It was, according to the radio, just 22-degrees out, and it took me a good ten-minutes to get the Simca started and chugging. 


The Simca dates from 1966, and once again its newly-replaced heater is on the blink, so my wife gave me an old polyester afghan her Aunt Louise crocheted for me to throw over my legs and, hopefully, keep some heat in. If there's ever been an uglier afghan anywhere on our not-so-green planet, I am unaware of it.

After a short while and after stalling just twice at various stoplights, I finally made it to the giant supermarket. As I said, it was just 22-degrees and the parking lot was piled with dioxide-and-dog-piss-stained snow.

The first thing I saw when I got in the store was a fat 30-something wearing a fleece sweater and a pair of long, baggy to-the-knee shorts.

It got me thinking about how much the world has changed in just a short time. Shorts? In Connecticut? In February? In 22-degree weather.

Then it occurred to me--how much everything has changed. When I was a boy, many stores were closed on Sundays. Something about respecting the alleged Christian god. When I was a boy, TV stations shut down for the evening. Around two in the morning, or three, some network superego essentially said, "don't be a schmuck, it's three in the morning. There's nothing to watch. Go to bed." 

But today, everything is on all the time. There's no time to breathe, to rest, to think, to walk away. Everything is always available, even shorts in 22-degree weather. It's anything goes, whatever you want. 


In fact, right now in my email inbox, I have four emails from Nancy Pelosi. I like Pelosi. And eight times out of ten I agree with her point of view. And I agree that the radical right reverse robin-hood-repugnant party needs to a) pay for the damage they've done and b) be defeated and c) forever.

But Pelosi, like everything else today, has no boundaries. I never gave her permission to write to me. I never said, it's ok to call me George. I never said I want to have notes from you every day. 

Brands and agencies think like this now. You are a duck. There are ten-thousand rifles and hunting season is on.

The big difference, I've read between the monopolistic robber barons from a century ago, is that the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Fricks and others, could only sell you steel, or oil or coal once. They could only make money from you once per order.

The Googles, or Zuckerbergs, or Bezos' are selling your data. And they can sell it a thousand times a day. Every day. They never stop profiting from what they steal from you.

For a very liberal person I have some fairly conservative ideas. For instance, I believe that we were better off when some things were off-limits. We were better off with boundaries. We were better off when news-programs weren't run by the network entertainment divisions. And we were better off when we had a bit of time and space.

That's why I keep my 1966 Simca 1500.

It gives me plenty of time to focus on what's important. 

Like when the engine goes out at a stop-light and I'm shivering under the afghan Aunt Louise crocheted.