Wednesday, February 8, 2023

AI and U.

Greg Hahn of Mischief fame and acclaim and I have never met. We left our big agency jobs (Greg's was way bigger than mine) around the same time and via similar sets of macro-economic circumstances.  That is, our agencies didn't want to pay for talent anymore.

Two years ago, I wrote to Greg and asked him if he wanted some space in this space for a blog post. He kindly said "yes." And responded with this post. You can learn a lot from Greg. And should.

Along the way, Greg's agency Mischief has become the envy of just about every creative in the world and perhaps a thumb in the eye of so many agencies who believe in quantity over quality and tonnage over "stun"-age. Greg and his people do great work. It's great and therefore gains an outsized share of attention for the brands he works for.

Over the last few days we've all been assaulted by hype around the power of whatever specific AI someone is flogging and the changes it will bring to marketing and, of course, our jobs. I've read tons about the technology's capabilities and its writing and thinking abilities. 

What I haven't read or even seen are anything but hosannas. Is anyone considering these questions?

1.     Have you ever gotten customer service satisfaction from a         bot or a computerized voice system?

2.    Have you ever gotten a "data-driven" marketing message           that was really relevant, not borrowed-interest or pandering        relevant?

3.    What percentage of marketing messages do you ignore?

4.    What percentage of marketing messages do you find                   annoying?

5.    Do you like when brands are always-on, and therefore               always sending messages to you?

6.    Do you want more messages?

7.    Or better messages?

If you're like me, god forbid, and you believe as most neuro- scientists and psychologists do, that humans have 'ancient brains,' you probably believe that most people aren't looking for more messaging they're looking for more fun. Or more meat. Or more information. Not just more more.

I'm not saying AI is without value or utility. It can spur ideas from humans--but don't ask it to have ideas.

What's more, no one has yet said, and I've yet to see, a computer make something fun. Or weird. Or something that makes me want more.

That brings me back to Greg Hahn. And his post on Linked In yesterday morning--which is about getting more bang for your clients bucks. (Or as Bernbach put it, “It may well be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we're legally allowed to take over our competitors.”)

This morning Greg's LinkedIn feed pointed me in this direction. It seemed like there might be something worth reading. Because creativity is the art, in a sense, of getting attention amid the clamor of the world. So I clicked the requisite clacks.

Those clicks got me here.

Which brought me here. Where I watched these. Enjoyed these.



And these spots left me with a question.

Can AI do this? No seriously. Can AI make wine or just fill bottles with crap?

And, maybe more importantly, what is the purpose of marketing? To send out so many messages people eventually submit and crumble under the weight of your billions? Or to create something likable so people join you?

How would AI respond to this:

P.S. I'm not trying to get work from Mischief. I don't suppose they could afford me. (Though they could try.)


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

SInking.

As my wife is in the long, winding and expensive process of unramshacklizing our ramshackle covid cottage two-hours out of Manhattan on Connecticut's schrunchy-strewn Gingham Coast, it's fallen upon me--not only to work until the veins in my temples are pulsating out--but to accompany her as we make the vitally important decisions those foolish-enough to re-do a house have to make.

On Saturday morning after scarcely five hours sleep we were up at 7, in -10-degree weather and off for a nine-AM appointment with Chloe who is to expensive tile what Carroll Shelby was to muscle car engines. Chloe's place is called American Tile, presumably because the store itself is three-quarters the size of America and crammed to the dropped ceiling with every kind of tile imaginable, except that which you had your heart set on.


Call me a cretin, you won't be the first to do so. But once you get down to it, choosing between matte and flat or pure white or off white reminds me of sweating in an agency at 3AM, waiting for a "perseverance of art directors" (the official name of a group of art directors) to decide whether the campaign the client will never buy should be set in Helvetica Neue or just Helvetica.

As anyone who's ever been within axe-length of me knows, my furrowed brow turns into a superciliary arch, my lower jaw juts prognathously, and my knuckles scrape the carpet tiles when hours and hours are wasted on decisions that mean nothing. 

I'd wager that no one in the history of our benighted species has ever on his deathbed said, "It all would have been worth it is I only bought the matte-finish herringbone."

From American Tile we drove through what had been battlegrounds, millennia ago between the Mohawk and the Pequot, till good ol' European cowpox killed them all, where we found American Sink, Toilet and Tub, a warehouse roughly the size of the Titanic, only more deadly.

There, with another otiose woman name Chloe or Kelly, we labored over another set of decisions of utmost gravity. Where do we want to wash, brush, shit and shave, and how many possible variables can there be and why are they all so damned expensive.

I couldn't help but thinking the whole time I was in the rest-room equivalent of the Bataan Death March, that there are parallels--a lot of parallels--to the ad business, such as it is today.

Too many things to choose from that add twenty-seven levels of complexity for each tiny notch of intention. Everything has gotten entirely too deliberate, too fussy, too rife with important decisions, too expensive and too slow, all for marginal material effect. 

As I regularly said, again at three in the morning as we labored on pages 58-128 of a creative presentation, from which nothing was bought--ever--after page 21, "we spend eleven cents getting the last dime out of clients."

I know, philosophically speaking, it's heretical to quote Jeremy Bentham and his Utilitarian credo, but I'm all for doing the "greatest good for the greatest number."


As Rick Nelson sang before anyone reading this was born, "you can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself." In other words, stop trying to do something that will appeal to every conceivable segment of the population without pissing anyone of those 39-trillion segments off. It's all too impossible to do anything or get anything done. And not pissing anyone off very much gets in the way of doing anything decent in the first place.

Last week, after having seen about 394-quadrillion fucking posts about the splendors of AI and the massive second-coming-ness of its advent, I posted this on Linked In:


It quickly got about 30,000 views, which isn't bad for anyone not named Sinek, Godin or Vaynerchuk. Then someone wrote this comment:



Quickly followed by this one:


My point in all this is simple. 

Our world and our business is falling apart because we're trying to construct a world where no one ever has to settle for anything that requires adjustment, compromise, mitigation of obsession or, even looking something up.

What we're left with is 927 soaps in the grocery store, 1727 channels on the "connected" TV that tracks your eye movements and 14-trillion opportunities for some oligopoly company to upsell you on something you didn't want in the first place.

I know I'm an old man howling at the moon. 

But I'm tired of all the fucking choices, all of which suck. 

I went to a ball game with a friend a couple summers ago. An opportunity to kibbitz, have a beer and spend an afternoon just goofing off. The game was, like all games now, at a multi-billion dollar tax-payer-financed stadium with a bank's name on it.

I grew up in a world where at the ball game there were five things you could eat or seven. A lukewarm boiled frank, peanuts, crackerjack, beer or coke. Maybe an ice cream sandwich, mostly melted.

Now there are more food choices at a baseball stadium than there are in most European countries.

I just don't see how any of this makes the world better. Just more enervating.

And it's almost impossible to find a good hotdog.








Monday, February 6, 2023

RTO.


A friend of mine has been a successful freelancer for almost as long as she was an owned-lancer. As far as I can discern, she hasn't had a week off involuntarily for more than a decade. 

However, as the vale of Covid seems to be dissipating, she's been asked to come into the office next week for a client meeting.

She hasn't entered an office since Amerika shut down in March, 2020. She's never met anyone she now works with. In fact, no one's ever even seen her except for her thumbnail-sized image on Zoom.

She's nervous about it all. Showing her age, even just, after 36 months, showing up on the carpet tiles of holding company hegemony. Like a lot of nervous people do, she gave me a call.

"George," she said, explaining the situation, "how do I 'hide my age?' I'm afraid they won't ask me back when they see how old I am."

"First off 'X,' (my Kafka-esque code name for her) "you're not old, you look great. Remember, women dye; but men die."

Such platitudizing did nothing to comfort X.

"You're not listening to me," X continued.

"I never do," I admitted.

"Nonetheless, I'm talking to you and have since the 1960s. I'm afraid they'll see me as an old-lady."

"You have to 'change the conversation,'" I answered. "Here's an idea."

"I'm all ears," X said. I assume turning up the volume on her prosthetics.

"Go to a surgical supply store and rent a wheelchair. When you show up at the office wheel yourself into the meeting room.

"Just when people are gaining their composure, start jiggling your legs, like there's some good music is on your RCA transistor."

"Something by Frankie Valli, I presume."

"I was thinking Kay Kayser and his College of Musical Knowledge, but Valli will do."

"Thank goodness," she sarcasticked. 

"After a minute, spring up from the wheelchair and scream at the top of your voice 'I CAN WALK! For the first time in 20 years, I CAN WALK!' I guarantee, after that, no one will remember how old you look."

"Thanks," X said, hanging up the phone. "For nothing."

I assumed she walked off into the sunrise.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Reading and Righting.

I have nothing against sumps, really, but I am positively agape at the slurry that is popular culture. Accordingly, I engage with it with mighty infrequency. The only thing I watch on television is Jeopardy! And that too seems to ask questions only about television from the 80s (those are the hard questions) or music that has been auto-tuned into discord.

I can hardly imagine if the questions they asked were as demanding as a Junior Scholastic news quiz I had while I was growing up. Lest you think I am exaggerating, watch this episode of a game show from 1960, College Bowl, and you'll be flabbergasted.



Of course I also don't watch sports on TV. For one, I refuse to watch anything on Fox for the same reason I would have stayed out of a Woolworth's in 1960s Greensboro, North Carolina. I won't spent my time or money with racists, climate deniers and propagators of "alternative facts" under the guise of news. Further, given the brain-damage football causes, I'm not even sure why, like cock-fighting, it isn't banned or at least discouraged. 

That leaves me, whether I am in the wilds of Connecticut's Gingham Coast or in the wilds of New York's Rodent Respite with little to do with my scant spare time other than read. My therapist of 117 years, who trained with Freud, Owen, calls reading "my restorative niche." It puts back into my head what the world takes out. It gives me a form of escape that also stimulates--I suppose it's like a wicked roller-coaster for what's left of my mind after 42 years making my living in the advertising business.

With all that, let me share a couple of the books I've read of late. These are the things that often give me peace while provoking me. They make me think I am not alone while underscoring my existential alienation. They also make me a better writer, thinker, advertising person and person in general. All for pennies a page. Cheaper than either Psychiatry or Cable.

If you're like me and you consider "dad jokes" an apogee, not a perigee, or if you, like me, appreciate a pun and a groaner, you'll enjoy five minutes or ten with "Have a Little Pun." There's too little laughter in the world and too few one-liners. 





I'm reading now this on the imaginary world of human borders. Where we keep some out and let others in. Where we otherize most and form groups and hatreds as easily as we draw a line on a map. As often as not, these lines are human constructs and lead and have lead to untold bloodshed, deaths and millennia of hate.




If you ever accept the idea of human dominion over nature or consider nature somehow beneath mankind, you'd do well to read about the remarkable abilities and adaptations of the living and breathing things--the things we kill with hardly a second thought, or, for that matter, a first thought. Either of these two books will help open your mind. Though I think they're best read as two faces of the same coin.




The origins and spread of American white, make, christian supremacy through the history of Eufala, Alabama--which wiped out the Creeks, enslaved and re-enslaved more than half the population, and kept things that way, past the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments right through to today.



I dunno about you, but the battles between the people who became known as the Greeks and those who became known as the Persians are battles we keep fighting. After almost 3,000 years, I'm still not sure what we're fighting about. Unless it's borders, see above.


Another thing we're still fighting about is who will take-over Alexander's empire when he dies. Demetrius was kind of a George Bush type--a bumbler. But he appears to have come out ahead. At least from the viewpoint of 2,500 years.



What's that burning smell? 400 years ago all over New England it was people accused of being witches. Today, we find different, maybe crueler ways to punish outsiders and other-ness. I'm in Connecticut now, and all this happened on the frontier between Springfield, Mass and "Indian and Dutch" territory--just 66 miles from where I type this. Fear of the different hasn't diminished throughout human history. And punishment of the different may have gotten more severe.



The origins of dynastic wealth. From the opium trade to today. 



The spiritual predecessor of Sam Bankman-Fried, Elon Musk and countless other rapacious "job creators who pay no tax." Jay Gould cornered gold and built about one of every ten miles of rail in the United States.



Open with fun. Close with fun. Tom Gauld is someone to behauld.








 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

How's Your Ass?

During World War II, there was an American Army Air Force General called Curtis Lemay. His name is infamous now because he was chosen by segregationist racist George Wallace to be Wallace's running mate in the presidential election of 1968.

Wallace and Lemay won five states in that election, and nearly ten-million popular votes, against about 31-million votes for Nixon and Humphrey each.

Lemay was also said to have been the model of nuke-crazy General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's classic "Dr. Strangelove." He was the one, I think, who threatened to bomb the North Vietnamese back "to the Stone Age."

However, when Lemay was leading the American bombing offensive against the Empire of Japan in World War II, he was considered a hero. To find proper bomb locations, Lemay would pore over enlargements of reconnaissance photos of various Japanese cities and industrial outlets. 

Lemay's men noticed that Lemay would spend hours at a time looking at these photos without leaving his seat. That proclivity earned him the sobriquet, "Old Iron Ass."

I am not an admirer of Lemay.

I am an admirer of Old Iron Ass.

In fact, gluteal composition notwithstanding, I am something of an iron ass myself, and my career and bank account is better for it.

Back about a decade ago I was freelancing at an agency that was trying to hold onto a major account. They had created three manifesto films explaining each campaign platform, and they brought me in one evening to write ads for one of the platforms.

I wrote ten ads. Copy and all. 
Then I wrote ten more.
Then I wrote ten more.
Then I wrote ten more.
I wound up writing ads for all of three of the platforms.

The guys running the pitch were the martyr types. They had too much guilt to go home before 1AM. But I was writing ads so fast, I think I scared them. One of them said to me, "You're writing ads faster than I can read them."

Right now I'm about three-quarters through one of the gnarlier assignments of my long abeyance of unemployment. I won't say who what or even where. I will say, it's a mother fucking bear. I will also say, the pages I have to rewrite--to humanize--stretch into the hundreds. Like I said, a bear. A grizzly one.

This is, in the parlance of Chinese Communism, a long march. And it's all due long before March.

So I sit. I turn off the world. I iron up my ass. And I type. I get through one bit and I turn the page and write another. For hours at a time. 


There's very little applause that comes to those who work at the writer's trade. While there might be a soup├žon of acclaim that accrues to those who are working on various Super Bowl spots, there's nothing that goes to the people who load sixteen tons. They merely get another day older and deeper in debt.

It ain't any fun being Old Iron Ass. 

But it pays the bills.

Besides, someone has to do it.








Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A Long Disquisition on Long-Leads.



About one-thousand years ago, I worked on the Mercedes-Benz business. They were introducing a new sports car--the SLK--and they had a problem on their hands.

A year earlier, BMW had introduced a similar car, the Z3 and about half-a-year after that, Porsche had introduced their two-seater, the Boxster.

I learned a couple of conflicting things about $50,000 coupes in 1996. 

1. No one needs a $50,000 coupe. So buyers' can wait. They're typically not someone's 'daily driver.'

2. Rich people and their toys aren't that different from five-year-olds and their cupcakes. They don't like waiting months for something they can have now. Especially if they see their friends having theirs now.

Mercedes therefore had a problem. Their worthy competitors, Porsche and BMW hit the market first. Would anyone wait around for a Mercedes?

This is when I first understood a notion that seems all-but-forgotten today, in person-to-person relationships and in marketing. 

The concept of the "long-lead."

A laymen's terms, when someone has a taste of something in say early February, but won't be ready for the full-meal for another year or two or three, that's a long-lead.

How do you keep them on the hook? How do you remind them you're worth it? How do you keep them engaged in foreplay if climax won't take place for a decade or so?

Here's an epigram that may or may not be epigrammatic. Advertising is more pausality than causality.

In other words, just because you run an ad don't expect an immediate response. Just because you apply for a job, or ask someone for a date, don't expect something to happen toot sweet.

In my waning days at Ogilvy, I started thinking about the difference between "transactional relationships" and "lifetime relationships." There were a core of people I would do anything for. There were more relationships I had that were largely transactional. 'You do this for me, I'll do this for you.' Quid pro quo.

Most of the ads you see in the world are transactionally-based. Get Verizon and for just $49/month and you can get another $49/month in hidden fees and have three out of five of your calls dropped. 

Some ads and advertisers think more life-long. They think in terms of long-leads. I've had a lot of people say to me that they bought something expensive in, say, 2022 based on an ad they saw in 1982. 

The lifetime marketer's trick is cultivating that long lead. Keeping on script but still interesting day in and day out for decades. That's a long-lead. And it's how much of the world works. Too many marketers want the sugar-rush of an immediate win. Often they call those wins "conquests." Like we're living in the middle-ages and they stormed our personal battlements.

For most marketer marketing "one-and-done." Only a few think "long-run-and-never-done."

Back to the Mercedes-Benz SLK. 

I had to figure out a touch strategy. How do you keep people interested? How do you say something interesting over years? How do you keep them defecting to a substitute product?

A lot of people come to me and ask me about finding a job. I tell them, usually, about the concept of the long-lead and the touch strategy. You don't usually decide you want a new job on Tuesday and get one by the weekend. Plus, the higher you get in the food-chain, the longer it takes for companies to make a decision.

You have to figure out how to drip out information and smiles over time. To keep people interested and salivating. 

You also have to look at your relationships with others. And cherish the ones that matter and keep them vibrant, even if "there's nothing in it for you."

Because respect for your fellow human and human kindness is the longest-lead of all. 

--

As an aside, I just saw this headline in "The Wall Street Journal." Bed Bath & Beyond was, to my mind, among the worst of the transactional advertisers. They did nothing to make themselves important, needed or interesting beyond creating the illusion that they had low prices and vast selection. They reinforced that with an avalanche of coupons. That was their "brand." Off-price.

Most big box stores today, and telcos and cable providers and airlines and advertising holding companies operate in a similar fashion. They have you by the ovaries because they have low prices and a near monopoly.

Why bother being decent to people when you believe you own them? For that matter, why hire salespeople, stock your shelves or even clean your store. Monopolies are seldom well-run businesses.

FWIW, Bed Bath and Beyond is the only store I ever shoplifted from. Years ago, they had a store in the financial district that opened at 7:30 AM. I had a client meeting at 8:30 AM. I figured I could pick up a shower-curtain liner and still make my meeting with ease.

It took me twenty minutes to find what I needed because there was no one around to ask for help. Then I walked to the cash registers which were un-attended. 

"Hello," I fairly bellowed. "Hello! I'm trying to check out! Is anybody here?"

I waited a good five minutes and no one responded. I was in danger of being late for my meeting. So I left the store with my contraband. 

That's exactly what happens over-and-again when people don't get treated well. They walk out. With their money.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Death. A Continuity.





Way back in October, 2019, when the world was somewhat cooler and it actually snowed in the winter, I wrote a post about a book I had just finished reading, "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters," by Tom Nichols. Right now, it costs just eight dollars and twenty-three cents on Amazon's Kindle. Which kind of proves the campaign against knowledge that Nichols mentions is actually working.

I loved Nichols' book when I read it 42 months ago. With the onslaught of acclaim for our latest rendition of people-annihilating technology, AI or Chat GPT or Whatever, I thought I'd revisit and see WTFIGO (what the fuck is going on.)

But before I go into today's exegesis, let me leap somewhere I don't think a computer program would or could. I'm referring to this item in the January 30, 2023 online edition of "The Wall Street Journal."


Here's the bit that got my head going: "The details of such ruins are often difficult to discern from ground level through dense jungle vegetation, Dr. Hansen said. 'I’ve walked within 5 feet of a 20-story building and didn’t know it was there because the vegetation made it so impossible to detect,' he said. 

"That is where lidar comes in. The technology works like radar except that laser beams rather than radio waves are used to locate and map objects....

“'You can map in minutes what we once mapped in years'” said Carlos Morales-Aguilar, a geography researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the research.

The new lidar data revealed how much previous excavations and explorations had missed, Dr. Hansen said. 'We never would have found all the causeways and numerous massive platforms without it,' he said."

The above example, I think, is important. It changes things around a bit. Tech doesn't replace humans--and human expertise. Tech makes us better humans.

Way back when I was on IBM, the preferred term among people I knew was that AI should stand for Augmented Intelligence, not Artificial Intelligence. And certainly, the technology being used to uncover Mayan civilizations in Guatemala is deepening human perception. It's augmenting--making us greater than our corpuscles can, if left to their own devices.

Surely, however, thousands of marketers will replace shitty human-derived copy with faster, cheaper, never-needs-a-break computer-derived copy. Just as thousands of marketers replaced shitty human call-centers with faster, cheaper, never-needs-a-break computer-derived call centers.

Here's the thing.

Is any of this any good--human or machine-derived? Most copy I read, as an ex-boss of mine used to say, is flat as a plate of piss. It sticks to you like dogshit sticks to a lug-soled boot. I'd imagine that much of the copy that's foisted upon us does more to depress a brand's value than elevate it. Just because you can annoy me doesn't mean you should.

I feel the same way about phone centers and bots that are supposed to help customers.

Yet, they're cheap. Forget about whether or not they suck. They're cheap.

No question we have the power to bombard every human being on earth with a trillion messages a day. I wonder if we have the restraint not to. Will AI--in whatever form--improve our judgment. Or will it make crap more ubiquitous?

My questions about AI, whether it's augmented intelligence or artificial intelligence are these: 

  • Can AI surprise me?
  • Can AI make me laugh?
  • Can AI understand me and show me empathy--
    cheer me when I'm sad, soothe me when I'm in need?
  • Can AI put two things together that don't belong together
    and therefore create an unexpected effect? A tear? A guffaw?
  • Can AI comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?
    Can AI be thoughtful and kind? Respectful and considerate?
  • Can AI be human or just replace humans?
  • Can AI be nonsensical and weird?
My point at the end of all this is simple. The big schmears that run the giant companies that run our lives will always choose cheaper over better. No matter that cheaper can lead to collapsed dams, cancerous pollution in our rivers and crashed airplanes. The people who ultimately rule our days and nights and lives always choose cheap over better and probably always will. 

I've read a lot about Kings, Shahs, Emporers, Satraps, Presidents and Corporate Titans. They're almost always in the "I'll choose what's good for me" business rather than "the be good to customers/citizens" business. 

I don't know why anyone anywhere thinks this latest innovation, really talented AI, will be any different to anything that's gone before.

Before we embrace anything new, we have to think. Think about the law of unintended consequences. It's this simple: I love ice cream. But there's a consequence. It makes me sick. So, I can't eat it.

I'm not sure we think about future effects in the present. Especially when the rolling acclaim for something new and boffo fills the world with a loud echoing chorus. Who can say "this sucks," when all the mavens say "this is great."

I'd just take it easy with all the effusion.

And look before you leap.






Monday, January 30, 2023

TWTW.

The world of advertising being what it is and me being practically the most-senior of the few senior citizens still alive and still kicking, I get a lot of calls from friends, colleagues and clients.

Friends call me about getting work. 

Colleagues call me about getting new business.

Clients call me about slow sales, or under-performing work.

George, what can we do?

Almost five decades ago when I labored for my one endless season playing la esquina caliente, the hot corner, for Hector Quetzacoatl Padilla, aka Hector Quesadilla, manager of the Seraperos de Saltillo in the Mexican Baseball League, I learned something I think about almost every day.

More often now that I own and operate my own small-large advertising agency.

I think we were up by two runs and it was the top of the ninth and the Tampico Estibadores--the Stevedores--had their player manager Hector Espino coming to bat.

The bases were already loaded, there were two down, we were out of solid pitching and we were facing a future Hall-of-Famer and the best-hitter in the league. Maybe the best player ever to play in the Mexican Baseball League.

With 484 home runs, Hector Espino is considered the greatest player
in the history of the Mexican League.  


The Estibadores had the bases full. All we could hope for was a pop up, or a strike out, or a sudden torrential downpour if we were to escape the friendly confines of Estadio de Beisbol Francesco I. Maduro with a win.

Instead, Espino clobbered a pitch high and inside that went screaming right down the third-baseline at about shoulder height above the faded lime lines the demarcated foul and fair.

Of all the screaming line drives I've seen and heard in my misbegotten days, this one by Espino was the screamiest. I don't know what a German 88mm shell sounds like as it approaches--I know that was the gun that most scared Allied soldiers during World War II--but even with all my faculties still relatively intact, I cannot imagine a terrestrial object moving faster than Espino's line drive.

I instinctively knew I had no chance of reaching across my body with my left, gloved, hand and nabbing it. However, reflexively I stuck out my meat hand at just the right moment and somehow nabbed the ball out of the twilight air. And somehow held onto it. And somehow didn't break eleven bones in the process, though our backup shortstop, "Doctor" Jesus Verduzco, who was a third-year medical student in the off-season at Tecnol├│gico de Monterrey, had me keep my hand in ice for two hours after the game, then compressed it in an Ace-bandage then had me soak it again for two-hours for every day for a week.

Hector Quesadilla hugged me after the game and said repeatedly to me thereafter, "Jorge Navidad, you have tee doubleyou, tee doubleyou. You have The Will To Win."

TWTW. 

The will to win.

To all those calling me about some business or career miasma, I say the same thing. I don't really care if it's not civil or mannerly or kind. I don't really care if it's a little brutal and mean.

I say, pick a person you know from business who makes a lot of money and does a lot of what you want to be doing. Think hard about them and their success. Study them like Joe Louis would study an opponent before a fight. Know their every strength and how to avoid them. Know their every weakness and how to exploit them. Then stick out your hand and be willing to get hurt if that's what it takes to win.

Too many people in the scenarios I've enumerated at the start of this post, look for something that's similar to the something they're struggling through. They're getting snookered at their current agency, so they look for a new agency. Not ever considering that all agencies are pretty much the same. E Pluribus Snookered, or something to that effect.

They don't employ TWTW.

They ain't willing to take a missile barehanded.

By the way, I still feel the pain today. Somedays more than others.











Friday, January 27, 2023

Manimals.


In my voluminous and peripatetic readings, I ran across a sentence that has stuck with me literally for decades. I'm not exactly sure what the sentence was, but I do remember the gist.

It was this: "If you walk too long on concrete, you turn into an animal."

That led me down a path to Jean Renoir, perhaps the greatest film director ever, with I think four movies in the BAFTA top 100 movies. (If you're curious, send me a note. I'll send back a recommendation or two.)

Renoir, son of the painter Auguste Renoir (Auguste slept with Jean's nanny; later Jean slept with her, too) famously said, "Loitering is the source of all civilization."

Let me mix-master those things up together and get to the point of today's end-of-week-post. 

In today's holding company hegemony, downtime, that is 'walking off of concrete,' or 'loitering,' is anathema to the regimens imposed by the holding companies--that is, financial entities with no real acumen in advertising, marketing or even humanity. So, in those holding-company-held agencies that have squoze out all inefficiencies, availability becomes a capability.

So if Henry and Danielle are free, they'll be assigned an assignment with an impending due date even if they know nothing about the topic or the brand. The same way if you worked in the meat department in a grocery store, you might be asked to help out selling tomatoes. 

But in a grocery store, lack of knowledge doesn't really hurt customers. If you buy roma tomatoes and your wife wanted beefsteak, you're out $1.79 and maybe you'll get sent to the dog house. 

In advertising, the stakes are higher. Million-dollar relationships can be compromised. And crappy work often shows up on the air.

Availability being a capability as a business practice, denying downtime is driving our industry further into darkness every day. Good work comes from knowing the brand, knowing the problems your viewers face, understanding the world and its complexities. I doubt someone who hadn't seen despair and poverty and lost dreams could have written "The Death of a Salesman." It takes deep knowledge to do real work.

So much of what I see is a mish-mash of cliches and recycled imagery. 

I think because people don't work from a place of deep empathy. So we write spots that say "Kellogg's Nutri Grain guava breakfast bars are yummy." And then we all dance around a plasticene kitchen. 

My favorite living writer is an historian--a two-time National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer-winner. His name is Robert Caro


I've seen Caro speak twenty times. And in Caro's last book, "Working," he says a line that everyone in the agency business should have on their Macs. Every agency should have it painted on their walls--assuming they have any. It should be the cover page of every pitch presentation.

The sentence is this "Time Equals Truth."

I'm not going to explain what that sentence means to me. That's unimportant.

The question is, what does Time mean to you? To your agency? To your clients? To your work?

We need to stop thinking about advertising as a production line with interchangeable people at each station. We need to start thinking about advertising as thinking that gets people thinking.Then doing.

That takes time.

Because time equals truth.