Tuesday, December 28, 2021

14 Resolutions for 2022.

Like I do every year around this time, I resolve to dedicate the new year to living more like William Wordsworth suggested. Specifically, I will read this sonnet on occasion and try to make the world less with me. If I can't do that, at least, maybe I can accomplish some things on my list below.

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.

1. Block everyone on Linked In who posts a poll. Not only are they stupid, they're stupid. And their stupidity annoys me.

2. Continue to boycott all Fox networks and encourage others to do the same. By watching Fox, in any form, you are giving money to the people who attempted the coup on January 6, 2021 and who propagate hateful sexist, racist and anti-environment lies. If agencies really cared, as they so often claim, about making the world better, how can we send our money to crypto-fascists.

3. Ask for proof when lies are uttered. When some agency wins their 48th "Agency of the Year" award, I'll ask to see some of the ads they did. Not for Scrabble, Lego or KFC with chicken pieces substituted as exhaust or hamburgers growing fungus.

4. Shut off the TV. 99 percent is insipid and by many measures pornographic. As Mrs. Chapin, my tenth grade English teacher once coupletted for me: "If praise from me you wish to brook/Go stick your nose inside a book."

5. Walk. Back to Wordsworth for a moment. It's been said he walked 175,000 miles in his lifetime. Considering he died at just 70, that's 6.85 miles a day for 70 years. It did ok for his creativity. Walking loosens your thoughts much more readily than carpet-squares and ceiling tiles.

6. Talk. I lost my closest friend in 2021. I wish I had him to talk to. Though we talked a lot in our half-century together, we didn't talk enough. I have to be better at this.

7. Squawk. When I see something dumb or hear something said that's backed with no evidence, I'm going to say something.

8. Calibrate.
Back in the early 90s, when I was just a half-a-dozen years in the business, I did something smart: I pegged my salary demands to the major league baseball minimum. Today, I'm three decades smarter. I charge hourly what Fred Smith Plumbing charges. 

9. Write. I've written every day for 15 years. It makes me a better writer and de-positions everyone else as a dilettante. It's my competitive edge. No one is beating the bushes looking for an old, fat, Jewish man with no interest in popular culture to write their ads. But somehow, I stay in demand. It's because I work at the writers' trade. And as I've been told, there are never enough good writers.

10. Don't work with people I don't like. As the t-shirt says: "Life's too short to work with assholes."

11. Be strict. I will not party. Or send an invite. I will go to parties and send invitations. I realize English is a living, changing language. But I have my standards--as outdated as they are--and I will stick to them.

12. Avoid instant replay. My aforementioned best friend of 50 years loved watching sports on TV and hated the concept of the instant replay. I never understood until now. Too many people think life, like TV-sports, comes with an instant replay. That they can do something heinous and get a "do-over." No. Life and our actions have consequences. There's no instant replay.

13. No jargon. Explain things clearly. Be kind to your readers even when you're challenging them. Or as Eric Arthur Blair wrote: 

14. Laugh. And be funny. Especially when it's inappropriate. That's usually when laughter is needed most. The world would be more tolerable if we didn't take ourselves so seriously all the time.

BTW, this will be Ad Aged's last post until January 3, 2022.

Monday, December 27, 2021

A session with the good doctor.

Though my mood and circumstances around my last therapy session of 2021 were dark, my 45-minutes ended on an unexpectedly jocular note.

My therapist wished me a nice vacation (I am headed to Turks and Caicos in early January) then said, "I have to get off. My next victim is here." Referring to patients as victims is not something the good doctor has ever done in the 30 or so years I've been working with him.

I responded: "Victim? I guess that's why they call you 'the Caligula of the couch.'"

That made him laugh and of course prompted a moment's consideration--was there anything deeply meaningful in my epigram. But sometimes, as Freud never said, "a joke is just a joke," and we quickly recovered from my barb.

"I wish you holidays," he signed off with.

"Not 'happy holidays,'" I asked.

"No. I know better than that."

Friday, December 24, 2021

In memoriam.

When my manager, Hector Quetzcoatl Padilla, who I word jumbled into Hector Quesadilla, was a small boy, he was the youngest of nine brothers. The house he grew up in was just two rooms and all the brothers, all nine of them, slept crowded together like possums on a jumble of mismatched mattresses. When one snored, they all woke. When one turned over, they all scrambled for the covers--thin as they were.

Even though Hector became a star in the Mexican Baseball League--a Hall of Famer as a player and a manager--you don't forget about growing up and sleeping nine to a bed. When he began making money--late in his life--there was not a lot of money in Mexico nor in baseball when Hector was a star. When he did begin making money, $200/week, $1000/month, $400/week, he did something he could never have imagined doing when he was just a boy.

He found a shop that sold mattresses and asked to see the owner. 

"I want your very biggest mattress," Hector told him. Even though it was just he and Teresa who would be sleeping in the bed.

"El Rey," the store owner said. "A king."

"No," said Hector. "That is too small. I want you should come to my bedroom and build me a mattress just as big as my very room. I have no need for a nightstand, or a dresser, or a chair even in my bedroom. I want nothing at all except mattress. From window-to-window, from wall-to-wall, from one end to the door, I want nothing at all but mattress."

It took the store almost a year, but they made Hector and Teresa what Hector called, "the biggest mattress in all of the Americas, north and south." You could not be in his bedroom--even when I visited Hector as he lay dying, I had to crawl across his bed to say goodbye and to give him an abrazo of love, honor and respect.

The last time I saw Hector, in his bed as he died seven years ago, he lay in his bed, small against its bigness. He was home there. And like so many people--like most people, perhaps--certainly like me in the sonic boom quiet of my parents' New York claustrophobic assemblage of shingles--he had grown up without having a home.

As a manager, like a lot of managers, Hector spoke in epigrams. He was not very much different from the Oracle of Delphi. Epigrams are short and memorable. If you look, really look, you can find many meanings. If you look with acuity, you can find the correct ones.

"You make your bed, you lie in it," Hector would say. His way of chastising a pitcher for putting the tying run on base with a walk, or a batter in the hole because he swung from the heels when he was told to take a pitch. Hector would not fume. He chided only. "You make your bed, you lie in it."

My best friend since I was thirteen died last night. He died. He was just ten days older than I. We grew up together, grew, maybe wise together, grew old together. And now he is gone.

Fred was the best friend I will ever have. And the very definition of the word mensch. He was not a member of my Tribe. But in fact, he led my tribe. He taught me more about myself and growing up and seeing the world than any other ten people, including my own father.

Many years ago, Fred and I had one of our long conversational peregrinations. He reminded me of a bit of writing from the movie "Stand By Me." "Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a busy restaurant. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone."

Now, my oldest friend is gone.

For over 50 years we shared a lot. Laughter. Tears. The pains of life. And the joys. But mostly love.

That's the bed we lay in.

We were young and lucky once.

Thursday, December 23, 2021


When I was just eight or nine my father--already a denizen of the ad business--had a massive heart attack. Moreso than today, back in 1966 or 1967, a heart attack was close to being a death sentence. A lot of men didn't make it back home from the hospital. Or if they did make it home, it was home to die.

That memory has loomed over me my whole life. 

No matter.

You don't get used to it.

This will be my last post for a while. Because we're at the end of the year and because I've found out over the last couple of days that two people close to me are either no more or about to be no more.

One is my oldest and dearest friend. A person I've known since we were ninth-graders. And fifty years later, we're still kindred. And kin.

His wife just called.

This looks like it.

I've always had a way with words. I've always been attuned to them and I've always believed in their power. 

But there are times--many times, actually--when words are feeble instruments. They are as effective in holding back the pain as King Canute was in holding back the sea.

I have nothing to say now.

But I still have my eidetic memory--which includes about 20 to 30 poems I can call on when I need them. They, too are like dear friends.

This, by Ernest Dowson.

They Are Not Long 

Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam.

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses,
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
The Latin at the start of the poem reads, "The shortness of life prevents us from entertaining far-off hopes" and is a quote from Horace, in the Odes.

More important is this poem. That my friend read at his dad's funeral which took place about 15 years ago. 

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Uncle Slappy's billion-dollar idea.

I was in New York last weekend, coordinating my visit with two events. One, my every-five-years visit to Dr. Schmerin, for my colonoscopy. And two, a visit from my Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy, who had been away from New York since the pandemic began 21 months ago and needed real New York rugelach* and pastrami or, in the words of Uncle Slappy, "we're going to plotz**."

Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie, touch wood, are 94 now. But, again touch wood, they were able to fly up on their own and make it to my apartment all in one piece and without being assaulted by rogue miscreants or even a gypsy cab driver. Touch wood once again, all their faculties remain in tact, and while they move somewhat slower than they used to, they still curse at the TV as they watch Jeopardy and Uncle Slappy still does--before I wake up--the Times crossword in ink.

Of course, there are anachronisms when you're dealing with people who were born in the late 1920s. For instance, Uncle Slappy still calls the telephone "the Ameche," after Don Ameche, the Hollywood star who played Alexander Graham Bell in the 1939 movie, alongside Loretta Young and Henry Fonda,  about the invention of the telephone.

I grew up, too, calling the phone the Ameche. And on occasion, I'll bellow at my wife like Benjy from Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury," and ask at the top of my lungs, "Have you seen my Ameche?" With the patience of Job and the composure of Mrs. VanderLoo, she'll answer, "Your iAmeche, I presume." Thus chastened, I'll repeat the question more properly: "Have you seen my iPhone?"

If you were born, as I was, old, and raised by wolves from an earlier time, you never fully adjust to life in our present benighted state. I'm sure in my waning days at Ogilvy, I was still calling proofs "mechanicals" or "blues," and was on occasion referring to the Avid as a "moviola." 

To be clear I'm not sure I'll ever call Mount McKinley, Denali or ever fully accept that the Houston Astros are now in the American League and the Milwaukee Braves are Nationals. Neither will I ever call Citifield anything but Shea Stadium. People aren't that different from sea turtles. We tend to return to the places we were born. And there's very little anyone can do to break the marrow of habit.

Aunt Sylvie, Uncle Slappy, my wife and I sat down to dinner just a couple hours after they arrived. I had added three-miles to the tally on my Apple watch with the Daily Deli Double. 

First I walked half-a-mile to Second Avenue Deli--which oddly enough is on First and 75th. They have the best health salad in the city. I stopped there first for a two-pound container--basically enough to landfill the entirety of Sheepshead Bay, and a pound of Israeli salad--which the Mexicans behind the counter assured me was not made with real Israelis.

From Second Avenue Deli on First I walked due west--about 3/4 of a mile to Pastrami Queen, formerly of Kew Gardens, Queens, and now ensconced on both the Upper East and the Upper West Sides. 

At Pastrami Queen, I got the Trifecta. Three sandwiches--enough for 12 people, or one medium-sized Shiva, one each of Pastrami, Brisket and Corned Beef. Each smoked meat was, according to the Torquemada of deli meat, Uncle Slappy, better than the previous taste. I also got a two-pound container of kaska varnishka, fifteen sour pickles, and a cinder-block-sized piece of seven-layer cake which is to confections as Reubens was to fat ladies.

The final delicacy I brought home was--a quarter pound (no more, it will go bad) of Pastrami Queen’s surpassing chopped liver which my wife claims is "almost as good as her grandmother’s." That statement is the highest praise a Jew will ever give to anything store-bought. The grandmother is, appropriately, the apotheosis of perfection in organ meats.

In all, I walked a total of three-miles while carrying about fifteen pounds of high-quality cholesterol. If you cut it all properly, the street value would have been in excess of $400. 

After finishing a bissel of this and a bissel of that, Uncle Slappy, like a brain surgeon, lowered the tip of his spoon into the small container of chopped liver. As if by limbic-connection, his eyes closed the moment the substance touched his tongue. His eyes stayed closed for what seemed like ten minutes.

Finally, like Zoltan, the old amusement park mechanical fortune teller, Uncle Slappy opened slowly his eyes.

"Boychick, your own business you are running now?" He asked-answered.

"That's right, Uncle Slappy. GeorgeCo."

"An idea for a product for you, I have."

I waited. Letting the tension of the joke build.

"Frozen chopped liver on a stick you eat like a popsicle."

Again I waited.

"We'll call it," Uncle Slappy said with a smile, "Frozen chopped liver: The Shiver Liver. You'll be a billionaire."

With that, the old man belched a silent belch, grabbed a cinnamon rugelach and went to the living-room sofa for a full-bellied nap.

Peace comes, eventually, to even the schpilkas-riven.


Vocabulary (thanks to Emily S for suggesting this.)

*rugelach--a delicious, small rolled pastry.


kasha varnishka--bowtie noodles and buckwheat groats
with a good amount of grease.

bissel--a little.

schpilkas--ants in your pants.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Ad Aged's Second Annual Holiday Gift Guide, Part Two.

Despite all the Holding Company bombast about diversity, equity and inclusion, the industry can always do more. Now, you can help! Give the agency you love the genuine diversity tip jar. Drop in a dime or a quarter every time you see a person of color. In no time, you'll see that $2 or $3 has been collected. Wow! That doubles or even triples Holding Company diversity expenditures. It's not much, but every penny helps (and pennies are gladly accepted.)


There are no bonuses or raises this year.* *Unless you already make over $600,000. But with the Ad Aged Mask of Happiness you can respond to that sad and repetitious news with a believable ear-to-ear grin. Not only is it convincing, the mask is perfect for kissing executive ass with. Now packaged at a special low price with Ad Aged's Genuine Cognitive Dissonance Glasses. They'll hide your confusion when your agency has another twenty-percent reduction-in-force while winning its twentieth Agency of the Year award.


Since no Holding Company any long provides any sort of training, Ad Aged is proud to bring you the QR Code of Nothingness. Simply point the iPhone that you pay for so your company can reach you 24/7 at the QR code, and snap a picture. In minutes, absolutely nothing will happen. Before you know it, you'll be accomplishing just as much as the worldwide North American Global Chief Creative Officer for EMEA is accomplishing. You'll be every bit as productive as the agency's 17 Chief Client Officers, 21 Presidents and 19 Senior Chief of Senior Chiefs.


Here's a special gift for senior agency players. It's not easy for senior empty suits to issue asinine banalities on Social Media. The Ad Aged Stupid Platitude Generator will do it for them. It's dumber than real life and easier than losing your remaining clients. Check out these random winners:

  • When you wish good things on others, good things come back to you!!
  • Creativity is getting in touch with your inner child.
  • Creativity is nothing but solutions.
  • Collaboration is the art of collaborationzing with collaborators.
  • Our work is both deep and shallow in a deeply surface way.

We all want our agency--and our clients--to be Carbon Neutral.
The Carbon-Neutral Date Maker can help. Just spin the giant wheel and you'll land on a date. Now, make an announcement.

Say, "We'll be carbon-neutral by 2070." Or, "We'll remove all plastic from our executive board by 2090." It doesn't matter if truth has no bearing on your statement--no one ever checks up on anything. That's the beauty of having eliminated investigative journalism and accountability.

The Ad Aged Hands of Time Clock Collection. Because, as you know, your time is fast running out. Especially for me.






Monday, December 20, 2021

Ad Aged's Second Annual Holiday Gift Issue, Part One.

 For your favorite planner, media director or pompousticator, the Ad Aged Offical Big Bag of Meaningless Charts. All your soon-to-be favorites are here.

  • The 8-sided quadrant.
  • The hundreds of small dots on either side of a straight line.
  • The bar chart in undifferentiated shades of blue...And
  • The piker's pie chart. (We're such pikers, it has only one slice.)

Perhaps you've put on a few unwanted layers of avoirdupois this
year, what with sitting on 47 hours of Zoom calls in a purported 40-hour week. The Jumping to Conclusions Trampoline is the ideal gift for that lately-chubby colleague. Hop aboard, shout out something banal like "Moms are busier than ever," or "People are tired of Covid," and call it an insight. You'll be shedding pounds (and brain cells) in no time.

The first extension compatible with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, The Charlie Brown Voice Modulator turns anyone's droning into beautiful symphonic trombone whomps. You never again have to hear sentences like, "There are 17 first priorities," or "I know we took eight weeks to come up with a brief, but the creative is due tomorrow," or "Yeah, that 720x90 banner is good--but it won't win at Cannes."

You know the endless, terribly-acted and amateurishly-produced Holding Company's Compliance Videos some C-level executive's brother-in-law produces for $1,000 and charges the Holding Company $1,000,000 for? Everyone MUST watch them (except the C-level executives actually fined $19 million for bribing people.) The Compliance Video Answer Guide is the gift for you. All the answers, all right here, all for a small consideration.

The RTO (Return to Office Survival Kit.) A two-part gift for that two-faced colleague who's probably double-dipping so she can pay her rent. First, the Cubicle Trap Door. With one touch of a button you can rid yourself of that over-the-shoulder "move-it-over-half-a-pixel" collaborator. Second, the Human Resources Moat--that's right an actual moat around your cube filled with feral HR people designed to keep even-more-feral HR people away from you. Especially this season when there are more HR people than there are creatives.

The "I Wish George Still Worked Here," Stand-Up-a-Tron. Missing the comic relief of George now that he's given up ungainful Holding Company employment for gainful self-employment? These uproarious hi-jinx will help fill-the-void until you hire him freelance to save your proverbial keister. This is a gift that really gets no respect. 

PART TWO, tomorrow or so.

Friday, December 17, 2021


As someone who tries to attune himself/herself/or itself to the vagaries of the English language, I spend a good amount of time with my ears to the ground listening to words and looking for meaning and how we use them. 

What continues to astonish me, as a listening human being, is how few words are used in so many situations so often. This overuse renders a good portion of our lingua franca virtually meaningless.

There's a list of such words and phrases that seems to grow longer and more meaningless every day.



Rib Roast.



Borderless creativity.

The list is a long one. And continues to get longer. 

The problem with using words and phrases and images and designs in expected way is a big and deep one. It's a problem that affects all of us every day.

The normal order of life has a hierarchy. Some things are more important than others. Some chapters lead off a book, or episodes lead off a mini-series. Others follow. I'd go so far as to say that Shakespeare's plays, for instance, are almost all built on the ordained hierarchies of the day. Things went topsy-turvy when order was upset. In other words, order was key.

If you look at the nightly news today, you'll see that the natural order of things is gone. Juxtaposed against something gigantic they'll put in something light. We're not supposed to take even the news seriously. It's under the aegis, nowadays, of the entertainment people. No sense worrying about news when you have to worry about ratings.

The advertising industry also fails to distinguish between stunts and brand building. I can't believe a "Lay's (potato chip) vodka" does anything for any brand--outside of a perhaps temporary sales spasm. The idea, however, probably took as much work as TBWA's old Absolut campaign. I promise it won't have the impact.

I suppose the endemic issue today is our seeming inability to prioritize. I worked for a client once that had 24-straight quarters of decreasing revenue. The agency focused on stunts to bring back their relevancy. Rather than trying to define what that company did, why they were/are important and then figure out how to tell people in an intrusive way, we played games.

There's also a problem with the hype and bombast of the advertising industry. When every sale is the greatest sale of the century, and every minor tweak is regarded as the 21st Century equivalent of the invention of the wheel, nothing anymore has any truth or value.

It's not unusual to find today opinion writers using the phrase (or a phrase like this) "the post-truth era." Unfortunately, post-truth translates into post-reality. It means that there are no facts. And that every opinion is viable. 

You can read a lot, if you can still read, about what noted writers have said about the use of exclamation points. I'm of the school that you should use no more than three exclamation points in your entire life and you probably already used two writing birthday greetings when you were in second grade.

I'm ok with: 

"God returns! Said to be pissed." Or,

"Cancer cured! Billions to be spared untimely illness and death."

Or even, "Mets win weekend series!"

But little else warrants undo excitement.

Today, of course, undo excitement is the coin of the realm. In politics. On the news. And certainly throughout our industry. And, it's enabled by you and me and accepting things without question, exacerbated by the death (or near-death) of investigative journalism.

An agency I used to work at seems, every day, to announce that it's won yet another specious "Agency of the Year" Award. Yet no one says, "The agency had $X billion in revenue at the end of 2019 and now has just $1/2X billion in revenue. How can they be Agency of the Year according to anyone other than a crooked accounting firm."

Or, "Agency of the Year? Terrific. Show me the legitimate work for paying clients that ran in paid media that the agency did."

Maybe, as some people have suggested, I really am an alien from a far-away solar system. Or maybe my mindset is too much in the thrall of Vietnam-era thinking, and I question everything with too much vehemence.

There are some relatively enlightened people in the advertising business who, when they look at work don't immediately say, "what about the 11th client mandatory?" Instead, they say, "Why would anyone care?" Likewise, there must be humans somewhere who look at television commercials, or banner ads or tweets or websites and ask, "Why should I believe that?"

As communication professionals, I think we have a commitment to our craft that we don't spend enough time thinking about. Our craft--and the people we work for, that is, ultimately consumers--deserve to be told the truth. We should also commit to the archaic assumption that people are smart and can smell a rat--or a lie, or an exaggeration a mile off.

As communication professionals, I think we should think about those things. We should think about the lies the industry tells--about itself and for our clients (can you really get a phone for $49/month?) and we should think about the destruction such pathology wreaks.

Virtually everything I see, from pharma spots, to car ads, to telco ads, to technology ads show happy spinning and thinning people enjoying unlimited data and never-ending breadsticks. Everyone is so happy and fit and groomed while everyone I see in the real world is fat, rumpled and teetering on self-destruction.

Sure. That's hyperbolic and dark.

But the least we can do, as an industry and as individuals, is read the ad below once a month, and think about it once a week. 

Is there an agency anywhere, or a holding company, that would care to talk about it?

What does our industry think about the value it provides? How should we treat viewers? What is our job--to serve clients or to train clients in imparting useful, truthful information in an executionally brilliant way.

I'm not in the industry anymore. I run my own industry. But I wish the industry had a point of view. Because it affects the future of our industry.

Do this or die.

Is this ad some kind of a trick?

No. But it could have been.

And at exactly that point rests a do or die decision for American business.
We in advertising, together with our clients, have all the power and skill to trick people. Or so we think.

But we're wrong. We can't fool 
any of the people any of the time.
There is indeed a twelve-year-old mentality in this country; every six-year-old has one.

We are a nation of smart people.
And most smart people ignore most advertising because most advertising ignores smart people.

Instead we talk to each other.

We debate endlessly about the medium and the message. Nonsense. In advertising, the message itself is the message.

A blank page and a blank television screen are one and the same.

And above all, the messages we put on those pages on those television screens must be the truth. For if we play tricks with the truth, we die.

Now. The other side of the coin.

Telling the truth about a product demands a product that's worth telling the truth about.

Sadly, so many products aren't.

So many products don't do anything better. Or anything different. So many don't work quite right. Or don't last. Or simply don't matter.

If we play this trick, we also die. Because advertising only helps a bad product fail faster.

No donkey chases the carrot forever. He catches on. And quits.

That's the lesson to remember.

Unless we do, we die.

Unless we change, the tidal wave of consumer indifference will wallop into the mountain of advertising and manufacturing drivel.

That day we die.

We'll die in our marketplace. On our shelves. In our gleaming packages of empty promises.

Not with a bang. Not with a whimper.

But by our own skilled hands.


PS. You might want to read this. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Next year's out-of-office responses. This year.


Out of Office season is upon us. To make "crafting" those all-important messages a trifle easier, I've worked with two excellent writers, and supplied a couple dozen for your convenience, below.

[The wonderful Andrea Scotting helped me. Andrea's one of those rare birds. She can be funny on demand and she's generous with her wit. Andrea wrote most of the funny ones below.  

Also, my wife, Laura Tannenbaum helped me as well. She's an unusually talented writer. And makes a mean brisket. She wrote the remainder of the funny ones.]

I'll be out of the office through the 9th. The planet is on fire and I'm choking on toxic cow-flatulence.

Thank you for your note. I'll be out of the office suffering from work burnout and 1.5 percent raises every 36 months. I'll return your email when the vultures are removed from vulture capitalism.

I'm out of the office looking for ad people who are over 60. Apparently, they've gone missing.

I'm out of the office looking for ad people who are over 50. Apparently, they've gone missing.

I'm out of the office looking for ad people who are over 40. Apparently, they've gone missing.

Thank you for your email. The holding company failed to pay our electric bill and I did not receive your message until just now.

In metaverse counting my NFTs. HMU on Google+.

I will attend to your note when I return to the office July 9. For the next two weeks I will be crafting my radically collaborative narrative journey and having conversations about brands, particularly brands dedicated to eradicating ocean plastic from our ecosystem by 2080.

I am currently out of the office because I realized there are more important things in the world than your banner ad. Will get back to you when pigs take flight.


Sorry I am not available right now, but I just learned how to use TikTok. So I probably won’t be available for a while.


I am currently out of the office getting a booster for my booster.


I am currently unavailable because I am trying to build a brand on TikTok. This could take a while. Do you know any influencers?

Polishing my Cannes Lions. Seeya in 2023.


Thank you for your email! I am planning on not reading it.


Apologies, I currently have limited email access due to lousy wifi provided by Spectru


I’ve been on Zoom focus groups for three days. If you’re receiving this message, send help. And M&Ms.

Aplgees 4 latt repsobse. Agncy disabbed splle ckk as cost savgn.

Sorry, I can't respond right now. I was 20 minutes late on next month's timesheet and was locked out of the system.

I thought we lost your account. You sat on our latest crash and burn assignment for six months with no response whatsoever.

Hello. I'm taking off through next Thursday. Apparently, my wife had a baby I haven't met yet.

Thank you for your note and apologies for the delayed response. I was either disrupting an industry or reinventing one.

Hello! I tried to write back sooner, but this email has gone through 17 rounds of revisions before my boss said it was ok to send.

Sorry for the delayed response. I was trying to figure out what the phrase 'borderless creativity' means.

Thank you for your patience. It was mandated that we return to the office so our bosses looked good and we all got Covid.

Thank you for your note. I tried to return it sooner. But when I returned to the office, the office was gone.

It was a pleasure receiving your note. I am an inveterate liar.

Thanks for your note. I can't respond, I was fired for hearkening back to the 80s.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Say "Hi," to laughter. Say "Hi" to Ken Marcus.

Not long ago, I asked my friend, Ken Marcus of the Martin Agency to write a post for Ad Aged. Ken was kind enough to say yes and to bring his perspective--and experience--to this space.

Ken's written many of the commercials people actually like and actually talk about. Hundreds of them. 

Chances are, Ken's made you laugh like he's made me laugh. And along the way he's made a lot of clients a lot of money and he's made them laugh, too. 

Making people laugh.

While you're selling your clients' products or services.

That takes a rare talent. 

Ken has it. And he's kind enough to teach even an old goat like me a thing or two. 

Thanks, Ken.


Thanks for having me, George.  I’m a long-time fan of your writing. I’ve been a writer at Martin Agency for almost 15 years and an Adjunct Professor at Brandcenter for 1st-year writers. And I’ve had the good fortune of producing over 100 GEICO spots. (Most with my longtime partner, Sean Riley.) Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:


The Script Is The Starting Line.
Not the finish line. So be open to unexpected surprises along the way. The original script for GEICO’s “Hump Day” was a lot more straightforward and frankly, more cookie-cutter. It was only in the edit did we discover a much better structure and cadence to the spot. Which brings me to my next point…

Hire Great Folks. And let them do their jobs. Don’t fence in directors and editors too much with an “approved” script. Remember, they’ve done this more than we have. So chances are, they’re better at it than we are. Surround yourself with people funnier and more talented than yourself. They’ll make you look funnier and more talented too. It’s worked for me!


But Don’t Hire Divas. If your director won’t let you approach them or talk to them on set? Fuck them. Never hire them again. There are too many talented and collaborative directors out there to work with. Now, more than ever. The days of the tantrum-throwing, “auteur” directors are over. Good riddance.


Casting. Is. Everything. Yes, it’s boilerplate copy in every Director Treatment you’ll read. But it’s true. Actors can make or break your idea. As much as I can get distracted by all the free snacks, I’ve learned to really pay attention in callbacks. Often, an actor or actress can look the part. But do they really “get” the intent behind your concept? Do not wait to find out on set.


You’re Really A Showrunner. People forget than when you’re watching SNL or sitcoms, they have a room full of writers punching up scripts. Not just one writer and an art director. Most comedic actors work in UCB or The Groundlings and are way funnier than we’ll ever be. Create a collaborative space where they feel free to contribute. Actors, directors, editors, producers and yes, even clients.


Allow For Spontaneity. Some of our most memorable moments in spots are when we let actors or directors explore lines that weren’t necessarily scripted. “Expired! Expired! Expired!” in the recent “Aunts Infestation” spot is a great example. (The original line was something pedantic like “This yogurt is expired.” Gripping.) These quirky, unusual phrasings can really cut through the sea of over-researched copy. I find that’s the stuff that folks play back the most.  


Get Over Ourselves. I hate the “leave the creative to the creatives” mentality. Everyone’s seen a commercial. So everyone can have a valid, well-reasoned opinion. Now we don’t have to act on every opinion, but let’s not pretend like there’s some magical wavelength that only the “creative” can possibly tap into. It’s a fucking talking camel. We’re not writing Beckett over here.


Go Grocery Shopping.  Commercial film sets are deceiving. There are all these big monitors, microphones and lights everywhere. It appears like you’re making an honest-to-goodness commercial. No, you’re really at the supermarket shopping for the ingredients to make a commercial. The edit is where you’ll actually prepare your meal. Make sure you have everything you could possibly need, even if you only wind up using a fraction of it.  Be voracious on set. And merciless in the edit.


Map Your Escape Routes. Build in your escape routes ahead of time. Sometimes jokes or bits don’t work like you imagined in your head. Come prepared with a few alt endings or pathways in your back pocket just in case. There’s nothing worse than being on set and realizing something just isn’t going to work. Be ready to cut bait and go to Plan B, C and maybe even D, if necessary.


This Isn’t College. A lot of creatives think production is the time to booze it up. There’s nothing worse than being hungover in the production van. (The suspensions are terrible.) Partying every night while on production is strictly amateur hour. The client is paying too much money for you not to be at your best. Pro-tip: if you’re gonna stay out late one night? Make sure the next day is for Fittings. You get to sit on a sofa all day.


But Have Fun. If there’s one thing eighteen months of “Zoom” shoots have taught me? Well, besides the Craft Services at my house sucks. We are so lucky to go on production. I’ll never take this for granted. This really is the fun part of our jobs. Working with talented, cool people to bring your ideas to life. We really are the luckiest to be able to do this for living.  I know I am.