Monday, September 30, 2019

Atone Deaf.

If you know me at all, you know I am far from being religious.

I can’t really abide in the “goodness of god” when god has been so conspicuously absent when she was needed most—like when six million of her “chosen” peeps were being shot, gassed, tortured, incinerated and such by the better part of what we used to call the civilized world. As Woody Allen once said, “If it turns out that there is a God...the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.”
However, I am a Jew. My wife believes in a higher power. And there is much in the structure and philosophy of the religion that makes sense to me.

Many of the few remaining Jews left on the planet are observing over the next week or so the holiest days of their year. And while I don’t go to synagogue (it’s so boring, I almost shot myself in the temple) I do, as instructed, look back at my year and consider my actions, atone for all those things I have done wrong, and moving forward make an attempt to be better.

During Yom Kippur, Jews traditionally recite something called the Al Chet ten times. (I realize the Hebrew words Al Chet sound like they belong to a midwestern sports-reporter, so say them the proper Semitic way, with a little spit in them.)

The Al Chet is like Kasey Kasem’s Top 40. They’re the recitation and confession of the biggest, most universal and most human of sins. Not of the “I left the refrigerator door open” ilk. The Al Chet confesses serious shit—hard-heartedness, impurity of speech, disrespect, evil talk. And so on.

It’s how Jews ask forgiveness and atone.

So, simply, I am asking forgiveness and atoning.

From Holding Company chieftains in their wood-panelled, thickly-carpeted, high-floored corner officers…

From dais denizens, pontificators, poobahs and influencers…

From agency CCOs, Group Executive Senior Vice Creative Directors, Global CCOs, North American CCOs, Midwestern CCOs, Northern Ohio CCOs…

From Planners, Strategists, Engagement Strategists, Engagement Planning Strategists, Strategists of Engagement Planning and Unplanning

From Directors, to Producers, Associate Producers, Assistant Producers, Key Grips and that catering woman I insulted in California because my eggs were runny…

From Project Managers and Managers of Projects…

From Time Sheet Tyrants…

From all those entities and more, I hereby confess my many many many sins.

For the sin I have sinned when I have thought differently.
For the sin I have sinned when I made a joke during a meeting.
For the sin I have sinned when I wrote something instead of talking about writing something.
For the sin I have sinned because I am old.
For the sin I have sinned because I am old and still energetic.
For the sin I have sinned because I am old and still energetic and still ambitious.
For the sin I have sinned because I have questioned you.
For the sin I have sinned when I asked you to explain.
For the sin I have sinned when I tried to lead with a channel other than broadcast.
For the sin I have sinned because I made myself a product expert.
For the sin I have sinned because I believe people want information.
For the sin I have sinned because I believe people will read what interests them.
For the sin I have sinned because I favor conversations over texts.
For the sin I have sinned for not using jargon.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t believe ______ is dead.
For the sin I have sinned because I still don’t know what agile means.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t believe agile has a place in creative.
For the sin I have sinned because I believe advertising is a service business, not a servile one.
For the sin I have sinned because I leave nine-hour meetings early.
For the sin I have sinned because I suck at small-talk.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t allow myself to be cookied.
For the sin I have sinned because I use ad-blockers.
For the sin I have sinned because I don’t ass-kiss.
For the sin I have sinned because I trust myself.
For the sin I have sinned because I spend too much time helping young people.

For all these sins and a trillion more, I ask forgiveness and pardon.

And Happy New Year.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Nobody Asked Me But...5779 edition.

Nobody asked me my sporadically irregular tribute to the great New York sportswriter, Jimmy Cannon. When the prodigiously prolific Cannon had nothing to write about, he'd put together one of these miscellanies. I'm no Jimmy Cannon, but I'm doing the same.

Nobody asked me but....

...Despite about 3000 TV commercials to the contrary I don't believe people spontaneously start dancing. In their homes, in their cars, in their offices, or because they've just taken their medication for the relief of the symptoms of ileitis.

...Especially because they've just had some Paprika-flavored Pringles potato-like chips.

...I know it's not nice to trash other peoples' work but sometimes the work demands it.

...This work demands it.

...About once a day I find myself saying, "Doesn't anyone know Bill Bernbach anymore?" 

...Or David Ogilvy?

...Or Hal Riney? Or Lee Clow? Or David Abbott? Or John Webster?

...More simply, doesn't anyone know you should talk to people as if they're people?

...Speaking of people...Do the senior executives who post photos of their lavish lifestyles on Instagram realize it pisses off all those people who haven't gotten a raise since the early days of the first Bush administration?

...Or do they just not care?

...Living in the second largest Jewish city in the world, and working in an industry with a lot of Jewish employees, it angers me that people routinely schedule important meetings during the Jewish holidays.

...They should know better.

...I can't understand why brands and viewers don't boycott Fox. They are funneling money to racists, misogynists, homophobes and other ists.

...surely football isn't that important.

...I've never enjoyed a corporate event, especially when they're mandatory.

...I miss the old New York Coliseum. And especially the old cavernous Coliseum Book Store.

...Not to mention the original H&H Bagels, where pros like myself would feel the plexiglass to see which bagels were fresh out of the oven.

...Does it seem like every agency has the same "About Us" copy on their websites?

...If I'm such a big schmear influencer, why am I still treated like shit?

...The best single sentence in all of American literature is a good way to end this mess. It's from a short story called "The Young Immigrants" by Ring Lardner.

...“'Shut up,' he explained.”

Thursday, September 26, 2019


There’s not a person anywhere, certainly not a person in advertising, who doesn’t get stuck now and again. That italicized word stuck in this context has two meanings.

You often find yourself stuck and unable to come up with an idea.

That’s a painful feeling, a frightening feeling. Especially in today’s parlous era when there’s zero tolerance for failure and zero time to think.

It doesn’t matter that there are three other teams on the assignment, or you have a partner who always comes through. You’re facing the page and you’re stuck.

The second stuck is feeling stuck in a job. Feeling, as we all do at times, underpaid, under-appreciated and over-worked. And there’s nothing out there. Nobody’s clamoring for you—or even returning calls. You’re stuck.

There’s no magic anti-adhesive you can take when you’re stuck. There’s no inspirational cat poster or screaming life-coach who can whack you in the head until you see the light. As far as I know, there’s no bonafide pharmaceutical that can regenerate lost confidence.

All you can do is this.


When I’m stuck, and even after 40 years and 6000 blog posts I am often, you can’t wallow in your stuckiness.

You have to do something.

After all, the more time you allow yourself to be immobilized, the less time you have to work, the more likely that is to heighten your stuck feeling.

I usually do two things.

First, I give myself a really austere deadline. Yesterday morning, for instance I had five fairly onerous things to do for a giant pressure-cooker of a meeting tomorrow. I have been given a ton of information, but none of it was organized and there’s really nothing that even vaguely resembles a brief.

Sorry, work is like that some times. It will do you no good to think that such conditions are situational. They’re chronic. As in everywhere, all the time.

I said to myself, I will do the hardest one first and be done with it by 11. Then I’ll take an easy one and be done by 11:30. Then a hard one and be done by 1.

It’s two now. And I’ll have the remaining two things I have to do—easy ones done by 3:30.

You get things done by doing them. If you’re a writer, just start writing. It’s easier to start over when you’ve already started. It’s easier to rewrite once you’ve written something.

It’s also easier to push something out and then respond to feedback than to tie yourself in knots.

So write something. It doesn't have to be perfect. Write something. Pretend you're blindfolded, and type. Trust yourself.

As for the bigger stuck, the stuck in a place, do the same thing.

Say, by the end of the week I will make five calls, or send five notes. The next week, the same thing.

You can’t make people call you back. But they never will if you don’t put yourself out there. 

A long time ago I shot a bunch of spots with Errol Morris. I went to casting with him, waiting to see his special genius at work.

When actors showed up he had them stand on a piece of tape.

“Do something,” he’d say.

If he liked what they did he had some further brilliant direction: “Do something different.”

That’s good enough for me.

Do something.