Thursday, February 28, 2008

You've pissed me off.

Dear Creative People:

It is important to speak and write in clear, concise English.
It can be colloquial, it can be profane, but it can't be sloppy.

We cannot use the word "robust" to describe every web site and every experience.
Robust is a cliche and means nothing because people do not hear cliches.
Their overuse means they wash over us like toxic sludge pouring from an unregulated defense contractor's factory.

You cannot modify the word "unique." Stop doing it.
Stop saying "somewhat unique," "very unique," "really unique."
Unique is an absolute. It means "single, sole or having no equal."
Therefore it cannot be modified.
Just as a sports fan can't say "We're the most number 1!," you can't say this is
"most unique."

Remove every word from everything you write that doesn't need to be there.
Extraneous words do not make you look smart.
They make your presentation or copy labored, boring and self-conscious.

Finally, read this:

It's an article titled "Lazy Language, Lazy Thought."
I particularly liked this paragraph:
"Anyone trying to impress, to sell or to obfuscate is likely to brutalise the language. Prominent offenders are businessmen, with their on-board customer-service representatives, collision damage waivers, non-incremental growth opportunities and enhanced information-management activities, providing innovative solutions and significant leverage in the use of resources, and thus permitting an increasing percentage of senior professional time to be expended on value-added solutions."

Language should be alive, fun, vibrant.
It shouldn't be flaccid and dumb.

8 predictions.

1. It will get worse before it gets better.
2. It won't really get any better.
3. It's always darkest before the dawn.
4. The dawn isn't coming.
5. We haven't seen the last of anything we wish we had.
6. It will come back with even greater vigor.
7. We won't prevail but we will convince ourselves we have.
8. Convincing ourselves will cost hundreds of billions.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Metrosexual Diary: Day 1.

Talent I worked with recently gave me as a gift (or should I use the au courant "gifted me with) about $500-worth of Kiehl's products.

So, after a lifetime of washing and thirty-five years of shaving, this morning I had to learn how to do it all over again. I slathered this, I rubbed in that, I exfoliated, I energized, I stimulated, I rinsed and repeated.

Now I am as smooth as a pre-pubescent cue ball. I'm shiny. My long-absent abs are peaking through my un-buttoned silk shirt.

Look out, Ladies...Here I come!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

W.C. Fields' punchline of the night..

From the Dummocratic debate in Cleveland, Brian Williams says,
"We'll be back live from Cleveland."

Speaking of W.C. Fields, the prop newspaper he used in many of his movies was called
"The Picayune Intelligencer." Would that they were covering this election.

God in the 21st Century.

We've heard it from pony-tailed pundits. It's been uttered by affected Brits in boardrooms across this great land of ours. It's been echoed by two-bit pishers in myriad meetings. "This is the era of Consumer Control."

And now today's New York Times writes "Poll Finds a Fluid Religious Life in the U.S." This article "depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

"For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes."

This got me thinking about Don Tapscott's new book, "Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything."

Has it changed religion as well. Have we moved into an era where authoritative religion, or authoritative god, is dead. Is god no longer Charlton Heston (god forbid) and more Steve Carrell. Just thinking.

I suppose god has always been what we've made her. But has consumer control gone even farther now that we have institutional decline? Have we embraced and do we pray to the Wiki-Deity?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sometimes I doodle.

I often draw during client meetings. It helps me think and focus on what is being said rather than who is saying it. Though I'm drawing, I'm listening and thinking. I think I have dual core processors so I can listen and think and draw all at once.

Most times my drawings reflect my moods while in that meeting. Here's one I did recently. I suppose it was from a typical meeting.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dumb tagline of the night (on the Oscars.)

For GMC, "This is what happens when you never say never."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Customer Service (my shibboleth.)

As regular readers of Ad Aged know (we call them either Georgecolytes or Ad Agedistas) my marketing Shibboleth of late has been customer service. That is, a brand promise not backed up by customer service is more than just an empty promise, it's marketing suicide.

This week's BusinessWeek has an article on this topic and the survival of Sprint
A topic Ad Aged covered just about a month ago here:

OK. If you want your marketing news first and fresh, keep your web dial tuned into Ad Aged. And if you want to stay in business, tell the truth and remember the Golden Rule.

Two numbers.

Earlier this week Commander in Chafe George Walker Bush pledged $700 million to aid Africa. Yesterday a single B-2 Stealth bomber costing $1.2 billion crashed.

Aid to Africa: $700,000,000.
B-2 Bomber: $1,200,000,000.


Friday, February 22, 2008

A reminder.

Before America made the switch from Democracy to Shop-till-you-dropcracy, today used to be commemorated as George Washington's birthday.

In other words, before they were excuses for sale-a-thons and mattress sales, memorial days, days of remembrance used to serve as national social glue--reminders of the virtues of sacrifice and dedication.

Today as a society, we are dedicated to nothing but Mammon.

George W. Bush is our president. And we have gotten what we deserve.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shooting down satellites.

Because China last year shot a satellite out of space, the Pentagon is spending a purported $60 million dollars to see if it can do the same. The Pentagon claims that the satellite, which is the size of a school bus is filled with a toxic gas that could kill you if you stand around and inhale that gas like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. Think about trillion dollar defense budgets like you think about Christmas gifts. When you get one, you want to open it and see what's inside. You don't just leave toys in a closet. You play with them.

Be that as it may, the Pentagon shooting down satellites makes me think of a quip from an ex-boss of mine. (I am especially thinking of this as I head off to see a particularly unimaginative and un-trusting client.) My ex-boss called a particular client a "wit-seeking missile."

I wish we could shoot them down.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Four seconds of John Ford.

Chances are, unless you are something of a cineaste, you know little if anything about John Ford. To confess, I've never put Ford up there in my own personal Pantheon of directors because he shot so many movies with Marion Morrison and I hate Marion Morrison. (Maron Morrison was John Wayne's real name. I always found Wayne to be the worst kind of hypocrite, a war-monger who refused to serve, see Dick Cheney, George Walker Bush, Donald Rumsfeld.)

That aside, Ford directed The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley--great movies all. So when the New York Film Festival rolled around last October, I got tickets to see Ford's 1924 silent movie The Iron Horse. For whatever reason, that showing was canceled and I never got to see the picture. Fortunately for me, there is a Ford renaissance happening now, and two nights ago I finally watched the flick I missed last October.

In a word, "wow."

What I noticed watching this 84-year-old movie was an incredible economy. So much was done so quickly, and of course, it was all done with no words. Here's my titular four-second example. A young boy is leaving Springfield, IL and his girl-friend to go West. Each of their parents are there so they can't say a proper goodbye, ie. they can't kiss. At that moment, Abe Lincoln walks by. Honest Abe immediately senses the affection between the kids, and spreads open his great-coat so the two can sneak a kiss.

It's beautiful. So much was communicated in those few seconds. The greatness and magnanimity and humor of Lincoln (to whom the film is dedicated), the pain of puppy love, the austerity and lack of understanding of parents.

Sometimes I think we can learn more about shooting commercials and how to communicate from the old guys. But I'm crazy.

On my way to work this morning.

I saw this clump of hair on the sidewalk at 84th and 2nd. Maybe it was guerrilla marketing. Maybe it was a gorilla. That's life in New York.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

El Pollo Cubano.

Years ago I did some freelance work for a local fast-food chain called El Pollo Cubano (the Cuban chicken.) My partner and I were charged with introducing an addition to their menu, El Pollo Cubano's fish sandwich. Having a lot of competition in their marketplace and not a lot of money, we named El Pollo Cubano's fish sandwich the "Fidel o' Fish." Both a tribute to the now-retired Cuban president and a play on McDonald's Fillet o' Fish.

I suppose I hardly have to tell you that El Pollo Loco could hardly make enough Fidel o' Fish sandwiches. They were practically flying (fish) off the shelves. The commercials I helped create earned me the first of my many international awards. You can imagine my surprise a couple weeks after the campaign launched that a small package arrived at my desk with my name and address handwritten. I opened the package figuring it was some swag from yet another production company. Instead, it was a box of 24 Corona-Corona's, a signed glossy head-shot and a personal note from the famed dictator. In that note he asked for a half-dozen of his namesake sandwiches. Custom regulations being what they were, I was unable to comply with the bearded one's request. I did start a correspondence with Fidel and we became fast-amigos.

I'll miss you big guy. Eat well, mi amigo, eat well.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Before there was a Presidents' Day.

Before Lincoln, before Washington, before there was a Presidents' Day, America was a different place. Yes, back in that dark, almost neolithic era there was no established time period for a 3-day Mattress Blow Out Mattravaganza. Thank goodness for Mom, Apple Pie and inner springs. I'm proud to be an American.

Kosovo's new flag.

Kosovo, which declared independence Saturday, is in the process of selecting a newly designed flag. Out of 993 entries, the Assembly of Kosovo has selected three designs-- all the designs must reflect the multi-ethnic composition of the state. I've posted my favorite here. Mainly because the spiral in the center is sort of trippy and mitigates somewhat the limbic colors favored by both the Nazis and Verizon.

Kosovo's flag design got me thinking about a few of Ad Aged's recurring themes. The decline of design, the decline of America and the tyranny of focus group consensus. In other words I started to wonder what would happen if for some reason we had to redesign the American flag today. First off we'd argue if the flag should be made of asbestos so as to be inflammable. Of course that would also make it a carcinogen. Then we would argue about having our new flag emblazoned with an image of God. We would also, I believe have heated debates over having fetuses on our "ensign." After all, our one nation under God protects the rights of the unborn, even the unconceived. There would be other miscellany as well, a white married couple, so as to proclaim the sanctity of inter-gendered nuptials, a hand-gun, and perhaps a Wal-Mart logo. If someone out there is a designer, I'd love to see your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An advertising Blockbuster.

Usually I leave the office around eight-ish, hop into a cab and try to make it home in time to spend a minute or two with my crippled twins, Tiny Tim and Tiny Tina, before they have to go to bed.

As I cab uptown I pass a former Blockbuster Video store here, and a former one there, with soaped windows, neon gone, closed forever. Yet another example of a business that dies because it has failed to keep up with the times. (I am talking only about their bricks and mortar business in NYC; I know nothing about their online services. But that's beside the point.)

My point is this. The world has passed Blockbuster by. People do not consume movies anymore the way Blockbuster rents or sells them. It doesn't matter how they stock, how they price, who they employ. Imagine a deli that specializes in tongue. No one eats tongue anymore. It ain't gonna last.

Of course, this brings me to traditional ad agencies. Pumping out TV spots and hoping the rotation of the Earth reverses and we wake up back in 1982. Yes, there is still a need for TV spots. But there are probably too many bricks and mortar outlets selling them. Some of them will perish.

--Percy B. Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Some Ernest words.

Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada [then nothing]. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.

(Hemingway. From "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.")

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

GM is doing better.

GM reported a quarterly loss of $722 million or just over $8 million a day. This is a great improvement over the previous quarter where they lost $5000 a second or $39 billion.

Whew! For a moment, I thought we were sliding into a recession.

A bad poem: "On going to an internal offsite."

Today I have an offsite.
A meeting with all of my peers.
How can we work better together,
Solve problems and have a few beers?

How can we interface and collaborate?
Be supportive, nurturing, kind?
Ground rules: don't check your email and phone.
(I'm sure to go out of my mind.)

Let's join hands and respect one another.
Like bear cubs are soothed by their mother.
I think I'll write more on this later.
But I'd rather shave with a cheese grater.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Clinton pulls a CMO.

Scary Spice, aka Hillary Clinton, did her best CMO imitation today. She attempted to fix the problems in her unlikeable product by firing the political equivalent of her advertising agency, her campaign manager.

Clinton is PC faced with Obama's Mac. One is slow, dumb and beige. The other is sleek, nimble and hopeful. Firing her manager, like firing an agency, won't change much. But since pre-historic times, plutocrats have tried to soothe their worries by sacrificing the little guy. Think Abraham and Isaac.

It usually doesn't work. Or it works for a while. But rot is rot. Dell won't come back guided by Project DaVinci--unless they can be convinced to change how they do business. Sprint will soon fire Goodby (my prediction) but that won't help them either. GM will do its usual agency shuffle. But if your product sucks, it sucks. Cosmetics can't change that.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Why does this poem remind me of advertising?

Buffalo Bill's/ defunct

Buffalo Bill's
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

-- E. E. Cummings

I worry about things.

The average person in America produces twice as much trash as they did just thirty years ago. The piles and piles pile up. Look at the packaging of a package of Hostess cupcakes. A plastic wrapper and cupcakes nestled in little plastic cocoons. We don't even drink water that isn't packaged anymore. None of this plastic ever disappears. I read that the exfolliating soaps people use have led to trillions and trillions of microscopic-sized pellets in the seas. Plankton consume these pellets. Fish eat plankton. We eat fish. And trillions of microscopic exfolliating plastic pellets enter our food supply.

This is the Biblical Tower of Babel. A mass of hubris spread over the planet. It will bury us.

We are consuming ourselves. Shopito ergo sum.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Who are you? What are you? Which are you?

This this from David Brooks of The New York Times.
I think it's good to think about.
What kind of agency do you work for?
Who are your clients?
What do they do or make?

"The essential competition in many consumer sectors is between commodity providers and experience providers, the companies that just deliver product and the companies that deliver a sensation, too. There’s Safeway, and then there is Whole Foods. There’s the PC, and then there’s the Mac. There are Holiday Inns, and there are W Hotels. There’s Walgreens, and there’s The Body Shop."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Pharmaceutical advertising.

For some time now, Pfizer has employed Dr. Robert Jarvik to promote their cholesterol drug, Lipitor. Today the New York Times reports that while Jarvik has a medical degree he is not a cardiologist and he is not licensed to practice medicine. His appearance in a single scull boat is a sham. It's a retouched model.

It's one thing to lie when you're selling bubble gum. But a medicine that is meant to help you prevent heart attacks? Pfizer should know better.

This all leads me to believe that the proliferation of direct to consumer pharma advertising is no different from the turn of the 19th century practice of selling "elixers" and potions that would make life better.

This advertising should be banned.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A couple of things.

Adweek, the advertising trade magazine that focuses about 80% of its attention on traditional advertising (print and tv) has just redesigned both its print issue and its website. When it comes to redesigns, I use something I call the 11-day rule. Usually people hate the redesign. When the Wall Street Journal was changed there was a chorus of voices swearing they'd never read Murdoch's cheery neo-fascist paper again. Mostly their redesign didn't suck. But people lost familiarity with something they spend more time with than their children and so the were discomfited. But after about 11-days or so, you adjust and accept the redesign. I feel the same way about Adweek's new look. The same phenomenon holds true, I've found, for office moves, devastating hurricanes and other major catastrophes. For 11 days, they're topic A. Then people move on. Would that the Bush/Cheney junta didn't realize this.

Now the second of my couple things: has done something very smart. Under each headline they have two clickable buttons. Quick Read and Full Article. Makes sense to me, to give readers the choice to get 50 words of info, or 200. Their choice.

Ad Aged endorses.

Mike Huckabee for President.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

As იოსებ სტალინი aka Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili said...

"It's not who votes, it's who counts."

I voted this morning, "I exercised my responsibilities as a citizen in a democracy" by walking to a crumbling 1930s public school building to cast my ballot on a crumbling 1930s voting machine.

The machine which dated from the first Roosevelt administration (Teddy, not Franklin) is perhaps the last mechanical device in Amerika outside of a prop in a period piece directed by Bogdanovich. Why is it that more modern machines were used by Mexican peasants when they voted for Zapata in the 1910s?

This in a nation that spends $1 trillion on offensive pre-emptive "defense" but has no boots or body armor for its teenage and early-twenties soldiers. And no unassailable way to vote.

Monday, February 4, 2008

That's a "1" with twelve zeroes after it.

The new federal budget proposed by the Bush junta has $515.4 billion for defense, the highest inflation-adjusted total since WWII. It also includes an additional $89.4 billion for "the global war on terror," (a perpetual war for perpetual peace) as well as $70 billion supplemental emergency funding for the war that was supposed to pay for itself, as well as $3.7 billion for "border security," $44.8 billion for "veterans affairs" (wooo hooo) and $37.6 billion for "homeland security." Then there's an additional $60+ billion other "homeland security" expenditure. That's $823 billion of "discretionary" expenditure on defense. When you include debt service to our deficit, defense expenditures total well over $1 trillion--or $166 for every man, woman, child and towel-headed terrorist in the world, or just over $3,300 for every resident of the good ol' US of A.

These are not the spending patterns of a freedom-loving country. They are the spending patterns of imperialistic invaders bent on raping, looting and pillaging.

Suppose they gave an ad and nobody came.

You can find all kinds of empirical data to back this up; I'll leave that to you. But what I've observed, at least anecdotally, is that while the way people consume advertising has changed, the way advertising is created, planned, bought and placed has not. Yet another version of that tired adage "Generals prepare to fight the last war." The same holds true for CDs, Executive Group Directors and CMOs.

If, as nearly everyone says, consumers are looking for experiences not just messages, an experience, except in the most Apple-ian of circumstances, is nearly impossible to deliver via a :30. You will never convince consumers to try Verizon's FIOs via a :30. You need something deeper.

Many ad people have bought into some of the above but not the totality. So they spend millions creating web "experiences" and some of them are quite good, but they spend $0 promoting those websites. In most cases, except of the last 45 frames of a :30, or a 6 pt. url in a print ad, there's no mention of their web experience at all.

What if we looked at the world differently. What if we said the :30 was the movie trailer and the website itself is the movie? That's the way I'm beginning to see the world. But as usual I am vox clamatix in deserto.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How do you deal with the enormity of it all?

Enormity...A question posed by a Fox Reporter to a Patriots player. Perhaps Fox is reporting fairly.

(ĭ-nôr'mĭ-tē) pronunciation

n., pl. -ties.

1. The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness.
2. A monstrous offense or evil; an outrage.
3. Usage Problem. Great size; immensity: “Beyond that, [Russia's] sheer enormity offered a defense against invaders that no European nation enjoyed” (W. Bruce Lincoln).

[French énormité, from Old French, from Latin ēnormitās, from ēnormis, unusual, enormous. See enormous.]

USAGE NOTE Enormity is frequently used to refer simply to the property of being great in size or extent, but many would prefer that enormousness (or a synonym such as immensity) be used for this general sense and that enormity be limited to situations that demand a negative moral judgment, as in Not until the war ended and journalists were able to enter Cambodia did the world really become aware of the enormity of Pol Pot's oppression. Fifty-nine percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of enormity as a synonym for immensity in the sentence At that point the engineers sat down to design an entirely new viaduct, apparently undaunted by the enormity of their task. This distinction between enormity and enormousness has not always existed historically, but nowadays many observe it. Writers who ignore the distinction, as in the enormity of the President's election victory or the enormity of her inheritance, may find that their words have cast unintended aspersions or evoked unexpected laughter.

The Militarism Bowl.

Soldiers soldiers soldiers, in battle fatigues and dress uniforms. Airforce fighters in formation. Guns on display. Martial music. Preparing us, inuring is to more war. A Speerian spectacle. Keep score boys and girls.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Advertisements for myself.

Some weeks ago I got a new job--a very new job. Nothing like I had ever had in advertising before. My first assignment was for American Express. They wanted to make their card synonymous with fashion, using Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to do so.

Were I at an advertising agency, I would have created a commercial communicating this. At an interactive agency, I would have created a website. At a direct agency, I would have created some letters and maybe a guide to fashion.

But as I said, I had just started at a different kind of agency, one that was truly media-agnostic. I blurted out, what if we created an American Express Network that broadcast the entirety fashion week? Six weeks later after the usual internal and external sturm und drang, The American Express Fashion Network launched. The network brings viewers exclusive access to all of fashion week, including live views of over 70 runway shows. All branded with the American Express logo. We're webcasting 96 hours in all, all branded.

This isn't a 30-second spot shot for approximately $1500/frame (that's a spot for just under $1.5 million.) My guess is it does more for American Express than a :30 ever could. Check it out on the lame-o website "Dummitas" designed:

Friday, February 1, 2008

As suicide bombers bomb through pacified Baghdad where all is sweetness and light thanks to the surge and the gallant leadership of General Betrayus,

SUVs are our Lebensraum.
Shopping is our Lebensraum.
Exposed midriffs are our Lebensraum.
This is what we are fighting for,
Not our green and emerald isle,
We are fighting for the marzipan glow of entitlement.
The right to consume
And fart on the ecosystem with the loud rrrrip of good ol’ American flatulence.
The right to be over-fed
Over-sexed and
Over everyone.
Because even Conneticutters have Texas accents and ride their oil-powered stallions over all the dark and swarthy mustachioed people who haven’t Yaled and Exetered and country clubbed their way from third to home without getting their uniforms dirty.
The world is our Lebensraum.
We’ll suck what we can.
Eat what we can.
Medicate what we can
And nuke what we can’t.
Because the world is our Lebensraum.

A protest test.

Fox, the Fascist network owned by Rubert Murdoch.
Fox, the war propagtors.
Fox, the death deniers.
Fox, the global-warming scoffers.
Fox, the smearers, the libellers, the Lohan is more important than Sudan.
Fox, the "We opine, you recline" network.
Fox, I could go on and on.
Fox has sold $260 million of advertising on Stupor Bowl XLII.
Boycott the game.
Listen on radio.
If you can't stand not to watch it, skip a half, or a quarter.
Put the heat on Fox by not supporting their advertisers.
Don't support fascist-smearalism.
It's not much of a protest.
It's not Thoreau's Civil Disobedience.
It's not going to jail.
It's not costing you money. (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek.)
But if we all did it, and all told our friends,
maybe a statement could eventually be made.
"What did you do during the war?" your children will ask.
"I shopped," you'll reply.

And now, a word from Primo Levi,Auschwitz Survivor.

A Warning

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.