Friday, March 27, 2020

"George, I don't know what to do."

A few hours ago I had an online chat with the guy who handles my vast Croesus-like fortune. The ducats, drachmas and dollars I've amassed over my 36 years in advertising.


  • Coach it's suppose to be Opening Day!  What are we going to do?

    Baseball when the grass was real.  Not a problem for Cubs fans. The game was better in these clips anyway. We will survive-- and I'm not looking at my money. Right?

    Thanks Coach and that is right, don't look.  Remember the markets hate the unknown more than anything, and as the unknown becomes known, things will calm down.
  • George Tannenbaum sent the following message at 10:03 AM
Because of my baseball days from so long ago, Marty calls me Coach. And because baseball for many men of my generation is social glue, when we don't want to bemoan the collapse of the markets and the depreciation of our life's earnings we talk about the old game.

If I had to make a wager, I'd say more advertising people are baseball fans than the fans of any other sport. Even as my interest in sports has all but evaporated, baseball has remained steady in my gaze.

Advertising is more like baseball than any other sport. That's why I think it rings true for many of us.

Since the bottom fell out of the world's economy because the leader of the world's largest economy decided not to take a worldwide pandemic seriously (this is his fault) a lot of people have been reaching out to me. A lot of people are scared. I don't blame them.

The economic ship of state seems to have hit an ice-berg and no one quite knows if the damage to our bow is above or below the waterline. In other words, will we get soaked? Or will we sink?

The wise and all-knowing Martin XXXXXXXX does know. He looks to baseball. As an advertising person, I too, look to baseball.

First off, baseball, like advertising, is a game of failure. 

A $6 million a year player hits safely just 27% of the time. And if you are better than that, if you hit safely 31% of the time, you're well on your way to having a bronze plaque in some hall-of-fame somewhere.

Let's think about failure and advertising.

Advertising is failure. 

Even people like me who are judged by many to have had a successful career has been fired four times or five and quit without another job twice, I think, though it might have been three times. I've come up with a lot of work that didn't win awards, that didn't carry the day, that was pulled very nearly a minute after it ran. And, I've probably won fewer than one-third of the pitches I've been involved in and less than one-half of the gang bangs.

I've had accounts taken from me. Bosses who have hated me. Clients who wanted me off their business. And teams that hated working for me. 

I'll betcha if there were some sort of baseball-derived algorithm weighing my advertising failures and my advertising successes, my batting average would be roughly similar to what it was 45 summers ago when I manned la esquina caliente (the hot corner) for the Seraperos de Saltillo and hit a hardly-scorching .277.

But here's the thing about advertising and baseball. Here's the thing to everyone writing to me about our impending employment (or unemployment) miasma.

You go up to bat. You knock the dust out of your spikes. If you're not worried about coronavirus, you might spit on your hands, wipe those hands on your flannels. And you take your whacks.

When the pitches come in tight, you keep your head screwed on tight and you don't bail out. If they're aiming at your noggin, well, that comes with the territory, and you're probably thinking more than is good for you anyway. Who couldn't stand losing a few brain-cells?

If you're lousy with the breaking stuff, move up in the box and swat at the pill before it bends. 

The thing is you take your cuts.

As George W. Plunkitt said a century and a quarter ago, "I seed my opportunities and I took 'em."

As Marty says, "the markets hate the unknown more than anything, and as the unknown becomes known, things will calm down."

Yep. In advertising, too.

Somewhere in this favored land, some executive who's earning her keep is telling her people something smart. 

Here's what I might say: "Hello, friends. This will take two-minutes. Brands need us more now than ever. Brands need to adjust. Brands need to re-locate their centers. Brands need to reconnect with people. Brands need to be useful. Brands create clarity and order. Brands make decisions easier to make. When they do all that--and we, ladies and gentlemen, know how to guide brands in those directions, we will reassert our value as an industry. 

"Not our value to the awards industry. Not our value to cost-cutting corporate doyens and the shareholder value they prop up by undervaluing their employees. But our true value.
Of making brands matter.

"With logic. With emotion. With truth. With relevance.

"Yeah, there could be a depression. Yeah, three-million people filed for unemployment last week. Yeah, a lot of things. But people buy soap, and beer, and burritos and cars. And we need to help them."

Or, as my friend and advertising leader Claudia Caplan said yesterday: 

"I would like to say to all my advertising and marketing friends and all the ad and marketing publications out there who are compelled to send emails about “Marketing in the time of Covid 19” and “Brands reacting to Covid 19” and whether Covid 19 ads should be eligible for awards etc, no one gives a FUCK. Are you that self-absorbed? Just chill. Life will return to ad biz normal - whatever that is, but in the meantime, give it a rest."

In baseball (Claudia is Nat's fan--not the bug, the baseball team) that's called going up to the plate and taking your swats. In advertising, it's called showing up and doing the real work of the business.

You can't do much more than work hard everyday, swing hard every day, and run out every grounder.

And remember, nobody likes anyone who retires without getting his uniform dirty.

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