Friday, February 26, 2021

Get over here.

Come here.

Now go over there. Further. All the way to the corner.

OK. That's right. Now spin around three times. Stop and face me. Put your hands on your hips. And walk back in this direction.


Close your eyes.

Listen to me. Do as I tell you.

Open your eyes. Bend at the knees.

OK. That's enough for today. You can leave the room now.

Thanks everyone, for letting me demonstrate that. For letting me show you what I do. For letting me be my best me at being my best me. That's what I'm best at.

And that, what I just went through above is me being a thought-leader. That's me. That's what I do. I'm forever leading thoughts around. 

Do this. Do that. Do it again. Faster. 

That's how you lead thoughts. You can't be namby-pamby or milquetoast. I'm not a thought-coaxer. A thought-suggester. A thought-consensus-maker.

NO. I am a thought-leader.

And I lead those mf-ing thoughts by the nose. I have those thoughts thinking thoughts like they've never thought before. Those thoughts are the best thoughts because they're thoughts that just don't come from nowhere, they don't appear out-of-the-ether, these thoughts are LED.

And they're led by me because I am a thought-leader. 

Listen, non-leader-of-thoughts, if you want to break out of your slough of mediocrity, you can't just let thoughts happen. You have to show thoughts, my thoughts, your thoughts, someone elses' thoughts, that you're the boss. You have to lead them like they've never been led before.


I am an informed opinion leader and a go-to person in my field of expertise leading thoughts like a three-legged puppy on a leash. I am a trusted source who moves and inspires thoughts with innovative ideas. I turn ideas into reality, and I know and show how to replicate their success. In other words, I am a thought leader who leads thoughts because I am a thought-leader--a leading practitioner of leading thoughts.

Now, one more thing.

Ask me anything about the Ecuadoran yellow-footed dung-beetle. Ask me anything about it. And I will tell you everything you want to know.

Ask me about the Dred Scott Decision, the edibility of Tide Pods or freeing Britney and I'm at a loss. Ask me the capital of Nebraska and I'll blink at you and stammer. But question me on the Ecuadoran yellow-footed dung-beetle, and I'll carpe your diem for a per diem to die for.


Because I'm an SME.

A subject matter expert.

I know my subject and am such an expert on the subject of its matter that my expertise on the subject matters.

That's what I do. 

Get over there, you thoughts.

The Ecuadoran yellow-footed dung-beetle can render a man senseless with one swipe of its mighty tail.

That's who I am, you wretched refuse on these teeming shores. A thought leader and a subject matter expert.

Go home.

It's Friday.

Listen to me. I'm a thought leader on that.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Philosophy. Poetry. And most-important, self-promotion.

I don't want to jinx anything but life on the GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company front has been nothing if not busy.

When I started as a soloist, I decided upon a couple of rules for my business. I'd worked for others my whole life. I made a conscious choice not to do that again. So I was going to Sinatra my way through my waning years. My way.

My rules were straightforward. But in this day and age, demanding.

1. I wasn't going to work with people I didn't like. 

2. I wasn't going to work for brands I didn't respect.

3. I was going to price myself at the very top of the market--based on my belief that a bloated ad agency (redundant) would deliver less and charge at least 50% more.

4. I would reaffirm my favorite of David Ogilvy's maxims--one that I believe, most have forgotten. That is, "First-class business in a first-class way."

5. Since I've been working almost 40 years, I have one of the best "Rolodexes" in the business. I'd make every effort to have the industry's best-people working on businesses I tend to. I  never confuse availability and capability.

Just now, on Twitter I read an exchange between two friends I've only ever met online but I feel I could have a beer with, something I don't dole out lightly: Vikki Ross and Dave Trott.

First I read Trott, who quoted one of the B's of BBH, Nigel Bogle.

Not to be outdone, Vikki Ross wrote:

It's hard to bark or argue with a client, but those quotations are a pretty good way of letting your clients know how you and your business are going to comport themselves. They're more than a style guide, though I like their style. They're a substance guide.

All of these guideposts seem to be working for GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company, at least so far.

What strikes me as a bit counter-intuitive is that in the run-by-accountants Holding Company era, my precepts are just about the opposite of how, I think, most publicly-held agencies are led today.

Maybe the difference is this simple: GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company is adding value. InterPutzLeechoCom is a low-cost data and service provider staffed by the cheap and inexperienced.

That's it for me today, except for one more thing. GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company also believes in the power of poetry. In fact, I don't really want to work with clients who don't. (My second client quizzed me on Thoreau's "Walden." When I passed, she gave me a six-month's retainer.)

So, I usually send clients this poem as a way of describing what I try to do differently. Yeah, it's a little sappy. And it certainly isn't hip and cool. But guess what? I don't care.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Stormy weather.

It's late Monday afternoon as I write this. I'm sitting upstairs in the rickety 1920 cottage my wife and I bought up here in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Outside my windows, down about 15-feet and over about 30, roars the Long Island Sound.

The sky all day has been as grey as dryer lint or grey as the sad skin under my tired eyes. Around noon, a lashing rain started, blown by a fierce wind. The rain sounds against my windows like bird-shot against an old tin roof. There is the thunder of the surf against the rocks on the coast below. 

It is, in short, storming.

As WC Fields would snarl, "Tain't a fit night out for man nor beast." Except of course, Whiskey will hie us outdoors for two more walks before her day is done. She doesn't much like the rain either, preferring her perch by our stone fireplace--fire burning or not, but she, like me, is a well-trained creature.

Storms, billions of years before there was life on this benighted planet, have always buffeted our galactic home. They are as natural part of the order of our universe as my wife being mad at me for any number of legitimate reasons.

I snored. I got up from the table too soon. I spent the day grumpy. I snarled when I should have smiled. And about two million more things I do that endear me to morticians and tax-collectors and termagants who seem never more than an axe-length's away.

Human storms are natural, too. Take it from me. A human nor'easter from the chilly nor'east.

It's funny to me how many people want everything in life to go smoothly. Whether it's the furor of getting work done for a client, processing a bill, or simply loading up the car for a long road trip.

There's something undeniably pleasant about living in the country and having a fire going in the fireplace, plenty of logs in the garage, whiskey at my feet and in the liquor cabinet and ice cream in the freezer. You know that while shit may happen (we lost power for four days after gale-force winds this summer) for the most part, this isn't Texas, and we'll get through it. We're lucky that way.

However, looking out at the storm, there's no sense wishing for 72 and sunny. The agency or the weather.

The truth is, living is tumult. Working is tumult. Making meetings. Making working. Even, frankly, just showing up on time is sometimes more than any of us can rightfully reckon with.

As Tennessee Williams wrote in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and Big Daddy spat, "Life ain't just a bunch of high spots... Heroes in the real world live twenty-four hours a day, not just two hours in a game....The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman that you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die...Now that's the truth and that's what you can't face!"

That's Tennessee Williams, or Burl Ives in the movie, and no mere copywriter can much improve on wisdom like that.

But a copywriter, especially one like me, is also a coalescer of other people's thoughts. Clients tell me things, or customers do, or account people or planners, and I make them special and memorable and shorter. Or at least I try.

Without bragging too much, I think I can do the same with Mr. Williams' copy as well.

How's this: "There are a lot of storms out there. The toughest ones to get through are the ones that have nothing to do with the weather. Ride through."

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


I read somewhere--I don't remember where--that when Napoleon ruled most of Europe, armies, war and weaponry were closer in spirit and technology to those from Caesar's times--1800 years earlier, than they were to Pershing's--100 years later.

That's a round-about way of saying, I suppose, that the pace of change, which had been stagnant for so long, has accelerated spectacularly since around 1900.

Alvin Toffler, the 1970s futurist wrote in his book, "Future Shock," for instance, that if you charted the fastest humans could travel, from the beginning of time till about 1800, the line would be essentially flat. Humans could go no faster than a horse galloping downhill. 

From 1800 to about 1970 however, the line shot straight up. The train came along. Then the car. Then the plane. Then the jet. Then the rocket. And who knows what Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg or Betsy DeVos have up their sleeves to propel us even further ahead in the not-so-distant future.

Sunday morning, as I do every Sunday morning since the pandemic has caged us in our humble little cottage by the sea in Connecticut, I headed out to the Big Y supermarket. It was, according to the radio, just 22-degrees out, and it took me a good ten-minutes to get the Simca started and chugging. 

The Simca dates from 1966, and once again its newly-replaced heater is on the blink, so my wife gave me an old polyester afghan her Aunt Louise crocheted for me to throw over my legs and, hopefully, keep some heat in. If there's ever been an uglier afghan anywhere on our not-so-green planet, I am unaware of it.

After a short while and after stalling just twice at various stoplights, I finally made it to the giant supermarket. As I said, it was just 22-degrees and the parking lot was piled with dioxide-and-dog-piss-stained snow.

The first thing I saw when I got in the store was a fat 30-something wearing a fleece sweater and a pair of long, baggy to-the-knee shorts.

It got me thinking about how much the world has changed in just a short time. Shorts? In Connecticut? In February? In 22-degree weather.

Then it occurred to me--how much everything has changed. When I was a boy, many stores were closed on Sundays. Something about respecting the alleged Christian god. When I was a boy, TV stations shut down for the evening. Around two in the morning, or three, some network superego essentially said, "don't be a schmuck, it's three in the morning. There's nothing to watch. Go to bed." 

But today, everything is on all the time. There's no time to breathe, to rest, to think, to walk away. Everything is always available, even shorts in 22-degree weather. It's anything goes, whatever you want. 

In fact, right now in my email inbox, I have four emails from Nancy Pelosi. I like Pelosi. And eight times out of ten I agree with her point of view. And I agree that the radical right reverse robin-hood-repugnant party needs to a) pay for the damage they've done and b) be defeated and c) forever.

But Pelosi, like everything else today, has no boundaries. I never gave her permission to write to me. I never said, it's ok to call me George. I never said I want to have notes from you every day. 

Brands and agencies think like this now. You are a duck. There are ten-thousand rifles and hunting season is on.

The big difference, I've read between the monopolistic robber barons from a century ago, is that the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Fricks and others, could only sell you steel, or oil or coal once. They could only make money from you once per order.

The Googles, or Zuckerbergs, or Bezos' are selling your data. And they can sell it a thousand times a day. Every day. They never stop profiting from what they steal from you.

For a very liberal person I have some fairly conservative ideas. For instance, I believe that we were better off when some things were off-limits. We were better off with boundaries. We were better off when news-programs weren't run by the network entertainment divisions. And we were better off when we had a bit of time and space.

That's why I keep my 1966 Simca 1500.

It gives me plenty of time to focus on what's important. 

Like when the engine goes out at a stop-light and I'm shivering under the afghan Aunt Louise crocheted.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Every Thursday at 8 AM.

Every Thursday morning since around 1995, I spend a 45-minute hour with Dr. Lewis, my psychiatrist, my mentor, my advisor and my friend.

As a person who is famously hermetic or even misanthropic, I have maintained, somehow counter-intuitively, a dozen or so close relationships for decades upon decades. My wife and I, for all the semi-normal marital vagaries and strains, have known each other, for better and for worse, since the 1970s. My oldest friend and I have been no more than an axe-length's apart since we were ninth-graders together at the age of 13. And a GeorgeCo business associate and I have been close since the late '90s. 

Last week, despite the length of our relationship, Dr. Lewis and I had a fight--an imbroglio, even.

There's no shame in having battles with those you love. As any close study of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, would tell you, there's an atoms'-wide distance separating love and anger. As the song goes, "You Always Hurt the One You Love." I am no stranger to bringing hurt into the world.

Dr. Lewis, from my end of the Zoom sofa, came down hard on me last week. He told me that after 40 years in the advertising business, 40 years of doing what I do, and being liked and respected for it, I should, by now, be over my confidence issues.

I fought back.

Whether or not I should be over my struggles with confidence, I have--to steal from Godot--no lack of void. My lack of confidence is still with me. And, 13 months into "independent living," I still worry that the well-spring of my current fortunes will dry up like an over-fried pierogie in a bad diner in Cicero, Illinois. 

I was shaken by my conflict with Dr. Lewis. I barked at him with some force: "Even Henry Aaron was nervous that he'd look like a fool at the plate. He was afraid, even after 700 home runs and over 3,700 hits, he was nervous." 

Of course, I push through. I don't let my fear immobilize me, but still, it is there. I was troubled by this and I did something I rarely do when I am troubled. I reached out to an old friend.

This particular friend is one of the world's most highly-regarded creatives. He is a leader in the business and as much of a legend as anyone is in this era. Unlike so many legends, my friend's reputation is based not merely on bluster or the awards' circuit but upon actual accomplishments.

"I have to ask you a weird question," I said when he picked up. "You present as person with great confidence. Do you get nervous before you present, before a meeting, during a meeting?"

"George," he said, "Every time I have a big meeting, I have a visitor. I wait for him to come. He breaks through the door and perches on my shoulder. He kicks me and jabs me and head-butts me."

"'That sucks,'" he tells me. "'Did you look at that? That color? That word? WTF are you doing? Are you a hack?'

"I used to fear him. Now I wait for him. Now I welcome him. Now I use him to make me my best.'"

"So even you..." I asked.

"You have it too. That's why you question everything. That's why you write 150 headlines to get one. That's why your phone is ringing. That little man..."

"For me, it's my mother."

"Your mother," he said taking a good Borscht-Belt-beat. "Your mother? That's between you and your therapist."

And he hung up the phone.

Friday, February 19, 2021

A Modern Holding Company Phone Tree.


You have reached the automated response system of GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company. Please listen closely as our menu options have changed. Para Espanol, marque el nΓΊmero dos.

For Generic Agency "About" copy, press one.

For Generic Senior Executive apology copy, press two.

For Generic Service Provider copy, press three.

For Generic We've Laid Everyone Off copy, press four.

For Generic Business Transformation copy, press five.

To repeat these options, press six. Or stay on the line and a representative will be with you never. This call may be monitored to assure lack of quality. 274.

The Generic Agency "About" copy: 
At WinterPubicGroupGroupeGrope, we help brands win. In the ever-shifting media landscape we turn potential into performance and performance into positivity and we negatively charge that positivity to reach new levels.™ That's how we help brands keep and grow their customers, like they're hogs being fattened for the kill. It's through people-centric-centricity™ and experiential experiences™ that enhance the experience of expectations that our people-based Smartketing™ leads to new growth strategies some of which involve getting larger and more profitable.

We have 151 offices in 251 cities around the world and the ecosystem of eczema which will allow us the agility of virility and fragility as well as oops, I spillity. We're always exploring new ways to put people at the people-centricity™ of customer-focused customer-centricity™ with the secondary goal of putting people first.™

The Generic "Executive Apology" copy: 
Recently a statement was attributed to me, owing to me actually saying that statement, when in fact that statement did not say what I meant it to say and subsequently was interpreted in a way that was too closely aligned with its actual meaning and intent, according to my phalanx of lawyers and PR professionals. My children. Misinterpretation. Stress of work. Unintentional. I express my contrition and constipation for those I may have not been sorry about.

Generic "Corporate Provider of Anything" copy: 
Our commitment to not being committed to long-term sustainability includes listening carefully to those who are involved with, affected by, or make obscene amounts of money from our business. To that end, we are pleased to present a new vision for an infrastructure project that will serve as the gold standard for tarnishing the environment.

We will deliver vital energy and football tickets to our C-suite while running commercials where we depict our concern for energy-hungry Americans who look like stock photos. In a  socially responsible manner and to the highest safety and environmental standards we will be socially irresponsible while lowering safety and environmental standards that our expensive lobbyists have already eviscerated.

Our commitment to creating
 a sustainable future for all remains, as always, unsustainable.

Generic "We've Laid Off Everyone" Copy.
As the shifting media landscape continues to be both shifty and ever-shifting, Management has had to make some difficult decisions in order to adjust our staffing arrangements, protocols and exigencies to the shifting staffs of our ever-shifting shift.

As Client needs and the modern marketing social dynamic programmatic digital nimble crm optimized toolkit continues to evolve we are adjusting our old tools to new realities and while bringing in a host of new tools which will surely fulfill the necessary unnecessaries of giving the appearance to shareholders that we are shifting the ever-shifting shiftirization while we shift an ever-greater portion of our diminishing revenues YOY to shiftless people who can't shift for themselves.

While times like these are always difficult, we are in this together, except for me. I am confident I will emerge stronger, more financially secure and better poised for an even more important figurehead position in the not-so-distant future.

Generic "Business Transformation" copy:
Every business is on the cusp of the edge of the precipice of the abyss of perpetual, ever-lasting and eternally evolving change. To stay ahead of that change, we have to transform while transforming transformational transformation. Transforming change so it changes transformation in a transformational and dynamic nexus of transformative change. We work with sustainable and leading-edge leaders who lead the transforming and innovative strategies for digital inclusion and future-looking forward-thinking. We operate at the intersection of data, analytics, creative and robust Colombian coffee from hand-picked robust virgin Arabica beans roasted to a robust transformational robust agility. 

Generic "Rotten Blog Post Apology" copy:
Sorry this sucked. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Copywriting rules.

If you spend any time at all on social media, depending on who you're connected to, you'll find there's no shortage of advice on what it takes to write a decent bit of copy.

A lot of that advice, over the years, I've published here. I think doing so is some rendition of "paying it forward."

A lot of good creative (or even planning, or even account) advice can be learned from David Abbott. There are thousands of rules banging around in the ether, Abbott knocked them down to just a handful.

  • Put yourself into your work. Use your life to animate the copy. If something moves you, chances are, it will touch someone else, too.
  • Think visually. Ask someone to describe a spiral staircase and they’ll use their hands as well as words. Sometimes the best copy is no copy.
  • If you believe that facts persuade (as I do), you’d better learn how to write a list so that it doesn’t read like a list.
  • Confession is good for the soul and for copy, too. Bill Bernbach used to say “a small admission gains a large acceptance”. I still think he was right.
  • Don’t be boring. (You’d be surprised how many folks in advertising struggle terribly with this last bit.)
That's about as good a list as you're going to find anywhere. But many writers, myself included (not that that matters) go even further.

This process, btw, is like going from the Talmud's 613 rules, to the Ten Commandments, to the one golden rule. Like most good communication, things get better and stronger and more memorable when you leave as much out as you reasonably can.

The simplest form of all this advice is this:
Write how you speak.

Write how you speak.
Write how you speak.
Write how you speak.
Write how you speak.
(I tend to repeat myself when I'm fervid.)

Assuming you're not a pompous ass, a pontificator or a blowhard. Maybe think about Bob Levenson describing how he wrote so many great Volkswagen ads while at DDB. For that, I'll turn to the last paragraph of Levenson's obituary as published in "The New York Times."

Right now, there's an ad running for a car called Buick. In it, an impossibly beautiful woman is surprised to find out she's having friends over for dinner at her impossibly beautiful home, with her impossibly hunky husband standing by getting ready to greet the impossibly impossible friends.

Never in the history of Homo Sapiens has someone said, "Alexa, ask Buick to start my Encore GX." Never.

Never has a millennial turned and said to another millennial "Nice Buick." Never. 

The humans in this commercial, and thousands more that blight the airwaves, or the coaxials, aren't Homo Sapiens, however. 

They are Homo MBAens. Homo PowerPointus. Homo Focus GroupGrope. Homo SAGAFTRA.

They are a convolution and a convocation of stupidity, over-think, brand-metrics and ass-puffery that compels Madison Avenue and its rank, rancid and rat-infested side-streets to convince themselves that they're making a human connection via a billion-dollar fireworks display of un-human behavior.

This spot--this brutally ugly and inappropriate vomiting of the brand's name right down to its "GX" (whatever that means)--violates every rule.

Not only every rule of good writing, but every rule period. It is as false as the republican concern about the deficit. It is as phony as a three-dollar bill, a wooden nickel, or a holding company's heart.

70 years ago or so, David Ogilvy said, "The consumer isn't a moron."

We have forgotten that.

And every time we forget it, we insult the very people we want to sell to.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A Now-ist Manifesto.

Many years ago before holding-company corruption sullied the advertising industry into something ugly, brutal and unrecognizable, there was a storied agency that I won't name here.

I won't name it because I'm Facebook friends with one of the eponymous founders who's also a Hall-of-Fame writer, and I don't want to get on his famously belligerent bad-side.

His was an agency that runs counter to the ways of just about every agency still in existence today. (Though with GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company, I've tried to adopt many of its tenets.) 

First, they famously said, "We don't have rules. We have standards." I'm not going to comment on that other than to suggest you let it sink in for a while. Advertising, as Lord Bernbach told us, is persuasion. And persuasion is an art, not a science. And art doesn't, or should not have rules, except that rules are only things which we should break. I'll rhyme it for mnemonic's sake: rules are for fools.

A second tenet, and the point of this post, was this. Advertising is a product, not a service. Our product is brilliant thinking that helps a brand. That's what we make. Not dinner dates and golf outings with clients. Of course, we provide service. But the minute showing up on time, playing scope-poker and grin-fucking becomes more important than work is the minute you should leave the business.

The scion of this agency, a Hall-of-Fame copywriter and my Facebook friend was notorious for believing that it took two weeks to write a good piece of copy. 

One day, legend has it, another storied copywriter took a piece of copy in to be reviewed. The scion grabbed the paper, crumbled it up and threw it angrily in the trash. "It couldn't possibly be any good," his boss said, "you wrote it in a day."

That night, the copywriter went into his boss' trash (these were pre-hard-drive days) rescued his copy and pressed it flat under two things people used to have in their offices: a dictionary and a thesaurus. Two weeks later, he re-presented the copy and it was approved with hardly a hiccough.

I started this blog in 2007 to see if I could do it. To see if I could write every day with a certain degree of cogency, humor or at least punctuation.

Some of it was my campaign--my campaign for "Now-ism."

I often say to a client, "if this were due in two-hours, here's what I would write." Usually, it's pretty good.

The Now-ist philosophy is something I've been following my whole life. I have prodigious powers of concentration, and I'm often half-way through writing something before most people have stopped complaining and have started in on panicking. 

Like I said, this blog, for 14 years has been Now-ism practice. Fuckit. I have to post something tomorrow. So, I write.

Here are my Now-ist Cliff Notes.

You can read them Later.

One thing I've learned through the centuries is that many times the first company on the air or first in the market will carry the day. Today most messages spend more time being revised than they spend being run.

That's why I abide by Now-ism.

Now-ism isn’t about meetings or discussions or deliberation.

Now-ism isn’t about complicated charts and research and re-dos.

Now-ism is about going back to your desk and doing shit.

Now-ism is about taking your best shot based on the brain you were given, the skills you’ve developed and the gut that you trust.

It’s not about doing things when you’re scoped.

Or after the eleven-teen other meetings you have to attend.

Or when there’s a proper brief.

Or after your time-sheets are done.

Or when you're 'inspired.'

It’s about cutting the crap, cutting the cord, cutting to the chase, cutting out the middleman and maybe cutting out early.

So you can get things done.


That's it from me for now.

I have things to get done.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Working in Brazil.

A guy called me up the other day, a young guy. Of course, for me, anyone under 50 is a young guy. 

He said he'd been reading my blog for a while, from way down in Brazil, in a city of 400,000, a few hours south of Sao Paolo. I've been to Sao Paolo twice. Going there was like seeing the first two minutes of Citizen Kane and then the movie shuts off and you're never able to see the rest.

Brazil is an enormous country, with a huge population. Sao Paolo alone is twice the size of New York. And while I hired a tour guide and spent an entire day traversing the great city, I realized I hadn't come close to really being in Brazil.

As Thomas Wolfe's unnamed character says in his great short story, "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn, "Dere's no guy livin' dat knows Brooklyn t'roo an' t'roo, because it'd take a guy a lifetime just to find his way aroun' duh goddam town." You could sure enough say the same thing about Brazil, maybe a thousand times over.

Before I got off the phone with my new friend, I asked him if he could recommend any good books about the history of Brazil. Like most Americans, I know next to nothing about our geographical next-door neighbors, save Brazil didn't abolish slavery until 1888--which seems in its own way remarkably close to my very own lifetime.

He recommended this book, "1808: The Flight of the Emperor." If all goes according to plan, I should finish it tonight or tomorrow night.

I remember when I was in college and taking history courses, I had a professor say with disgust, "The English landed in Virginia in 1607, perhaps the most fertile and abundant land on earth, with fish in the James River and oysters and flocks of birds and game in the forests. Yet they would have starved to death if the "Indians" didn't bail them out."

About 20 million Africans were transported to the Americas during the duration of the slave trade. Half of them died on their way to the sea coast. And of the half that remained, another 25 percent died on the Middle Passage to the Americas. 

You start with 20 million. Halve it to 10 million. Then subtract 25 percent. About eight-million people were brought over here as slaves. At a time when there were probably five-million Europeans combined in North and South America.

Consequently, you didn't have to be rich to own a slave. A slave cost then the equivalent of what a Hyundai Elantra would cost today. So everyone had at least one. Brazilian society could barely have functioned without them. They mined the mines, picked the cotton, sugared the cane, plucked the coffee beans and more.

Because Portuguese colonialization was essentially extractive (think Walmart) they weren't putting down roots. They were going to take the gold, diamonds, coffee and hard-woods and leave. Why build infrastructure? Why build anything?

So, cities had no streets, or sewers, or access to fresh water. Slaves carried human waste and dumped it into the sea. Slaves were needed for that as well.

This is a roundabout way of saying that in such societies, to be elite, or even just to be white, meant you didn't work. You had people for that.

When I went to work for Ogilvy the second time, I was impressed with CCO, Steve Simpson. I was being hired for a relatively lofty position, but Steve made it clear to me that, "everybody works." Meaning, no matter if you had an E or a C in front of your title, you had ads to do. Not just ads to supervise.

If I were a more nimble kind of 200-pounder, I would have clicked my heels on hearing that.

Thorsten Veblen some centuries ago wrote a famous book called "The Theory of the Leisure Class." I've rewritten it for our era, calling it the "The Leisure of the Theory Class." In other words, most agencies have one or two tiers of people who do nothing but critique and/or theorize. They'll tell you how things ought to be--and take two hours to tell you--but they won't take 20 minutes to type it themselves.

I am no longer in the agency business, touch wood. But if an agency contacted me--if they got past my age and my strong opinions and my antiquated work habits and my grizzled gristle--I'd expect everyone around me, especially me, to do the work of work. Not just high-ticket Superb Owl spots either.

Maybe it's this simple: if you can't find some simple pleasure in creating a banner ad, writing a direct mail letter, or doing something no one else bellies up to the bar to do, well, regardless of your age, it could be your time to move on.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Presidents, my sister, and more.

Today in what's left of fascist-ravaged Amerika we celebrate a holiday that's nominally called Presidents' day. When I was a boy, we got off two times in February. First on February 12, honoring Lincoln. Then on February 22, honoring Washington.

Now we've lumped those two solemn days together and honor Raymour & Flanagan's Mattrestravaganza. What had been a celebration of America's foundation mythology has become instead a celebration of innersprings and no payments till 2026.

I wonder how much of triumphant trumpism has been enabled  because we don't any longer think of our history. We have no sense of the past. We don't think of Washington's legendary honesty, or Lincoln's sacred profundity. We don't think of with charity for all, with malice toward none. As I said, more likely we're offering savings for all, with delivery charges for none.

We are a rudderless ship in a sea roiled by hate. We have no history to tether us to our ideals. And when a helot like trump emerges from the filth, the confederate flags are unfurled and millions of racist traitorous losers proclaim unlettered victory.

This year, Presidents Day is being Sale-abrated on February 15th. That happens to be the day after my baby sister was born.

Nancy was born on Valentine's Day in 1960. Like me, she was born in a six-story blue-brick hospital in one of our nation's first malls, The Cross County Center, in Yonkers, hard on the borderline with the Bronx.

Nancy died in a motorcycle crash on Mother's Day, 2007. She was just 47 and had just bought a new red Ducati. She was taking it up the west side of Manhattan, on her way to windier roads north of the city, where she could let the beast roar.

A drunk ran across the roadway at 52nd Street, just a few blocks from where Ogilvy used to be when it was in business. Swerving to avoid him, she went ass over teakettle, the bike landing on-top of her and crushing her to death.

The cops called me on the telephone and moments later showed up politely at my apartment door with their shiny black shoes and her belongings in a ziploc bag. Inside the bag was a pair of glasses, an owner's manual for the Ducati, a set of keys and a few bucks. The next day I walked down to 1st and 31st, with my wife to the Medical Examiner's building to identify her body. 

If you're never called to do the same, consider yourself one of the gods' chosen. Because I will never come close to recovering from seeing her on a slab, bruised and dead, with the slightest smile on her beautiful face.

I think a lot about the demise of things. 

The demise of Amerika and the very notion (however unequal and spurious) of freedom and fairness and equality and democracy. The demise of the industry and the livelihood I loved for so long. The demise of nearly 500,000 Americans because of a president who did nothing and didn't give a shit and who made common sense a political issue. 

But mostly, the demise of my sister.

Nancy had a lust for life. She loved music, food, and whatever dog she was laying on the floor next to, kissing and whispering. She loved her bike and learning and laughter and a really well-played game of basketball. She was small and not a bad point guard, quick and low to the ground.

Up in Connecticut, where I spend so much time on the beach playing fetch with Whiskey, I think about Nancy a lot. 

She would have driven up a lot. Eaten too much barbecue and I would have looked at her judgmentally when she went for yet another beer. I might have tsked a few times, I'm forbidding like that.

But it would have been ok. She probably would have taken over our second bedroom, slept until noon, threatened to steal Whiskey in her backpack. And then, my wife having stowed 40 or 90 pounds of barbecued leftovers onto the back of her Ducati, and me giving her a few bucks just in case, she would have sped back to her small apartment in Brooklyn, always remembering to call me when she got home, no matter what time it was.

I had intended not to write today. It being a holiday, of sorts, in our dying country. 

But I had Nancy on my mind, a heaviness in my eyelids and moisture in my eyes.

Like I said, I think a lot about the demise of things.

And Nancy, who will never die.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Rambling (and depressing) Friday thoughts.πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

On Wednesday, I made a TV appearance on Joe Jaffe's show, Jaffe Juice. I met Joe through this space and while I don't know him well, I respect what he does and how he does it.

Joe is not just a student of the ad business--whether he knows it or not, he's a proponent of Alexander Pope's gendered-dicta that "the proper study of mankind is man."

I had a good 75 minutes with Joe. If you don't get enough of me in all my various channels, you can see me in all my mumbling and erudite ramblings here. I could probably think of better ways to spend an hour and change--there must be a Gilligan's Island re-run on somewhere, but if you're into self-eye-immolation, here it is.

But the reason behind this post is not merely my typical self-promotion, it's really that Joe asked thoughtful questions (he'd be a good therapist) that made me think about this new vector in my career.

Mostly what I've come to understand are a couple of things that are fairly obvious and speak to what I think are some really deep problems with our industry in particular and our economy in general.

I think these problems demonstrate why in so much of our economy and our lives service is slovenly and workers are just a tiny bit disconsolate.

What I've noticed since I've gone out on my own is that the time-worn relationship between hard-work and dedication and advancement is all but broken. While there is no shortage of inflated titles in the agency world, real advancement, real "stake-holderness" has all but vanished. 

I don't think this malady afflicts old-people only. I think it goes up and down, through every level of our business except perhaps the 1% level. Regular raises, meaningful title and responsibility and power increases and, haha, bonuses are virtually no more. This is dangerous.

Successful relationships have a "give-and-get-ness" to them. You give of yourself and you get. Getting is more than just a paycheck. You should be made to feel you, over time, are becoming part of the institution.

If you've ever read a history of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom and you take note of its decline in the 18th Century, you find out that the salaries for ordinary seamen (sorry) remained flat for literally 150 years. That's what led to decline, impressment (which is near slavery) and worse.

Of course ad people won't be impressed. But also, we will not, for long, I believe attract anything that even vaguely resembles the best and the brightest. More likely we'll continue to draw on the mediocre and the mediocre-est.

What's more, the incentive to bust your ass is, today, tenuous at best. If I'm any example, it's been destroyed altogether. 

If there are no promotions, no raises, no bonuses, no security, no becoming part of something, where's your vig for clocking 55-75 hours a week? 

Your lack of getting is probably heightened because the sometimes profligate mores of the aforementioned 1 percent are more public today than they've ever been. Not only are C-level compensation packages often "find-outable," the hoi-polloi can also see the rows and rows of black cars picking up the entitled few 1 percenters as they get driven home. Finally, it ain't all that hard to uncover the Instagram photos of a toothy 1 percenter whooping it up in the Caribbean or the Hamptons.

It's all pretty simple, really.

When I was a kid--50 years ago, the average CEO made about 20-times what the average worker made. In 1970, that might have been a $300K for a CEO and $15K for an average worker.

Today the calculus of American industry and advertising has changed.

More specific to advertising, Michael Roth, outgoing CEO of Holding Company Interpublic Group made, according to the Wall Street Journal, $16,600,000 last year. While the median IPG worker made $72,000. That means Roth made about 230-times what his average employee made.

I'm not picking on Roth or IPG. They were the only Holding Company listed in the Wall Street Journal's report on CEO pay. My point though is simple. As long as such pay disparities exist, the industries they exist in will function badly.

You can't take that much out of a business and expect it to actually work. When it no longer works you'll see what we're seeing now in advertising: no real correlation between work and success. Because all the success (and the rewards that go with success) have been sucked up by the elite.

Happy Friday!πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

Thursday, February 11, 2021

You. Present or missing.

A friend of mine, a brilliantly talented raconteur, film-maker, designer, strategist and art-director, named Nick Ace recently posted a logo he helped design with his talented team at bursting-at-the-seams-with-talent Collins. I saw it on LinkedIn just yesterday.

Nick and I have worked together on and off since about 2014. For brief periods we've been joined at the hip, neck-deep in a particular problem or client. Then we drift apart and go our separate ways. Then, gravitationally, we come back together.

What you find in our estranged and strange business and world is this: when you find someone good who's also fun and also a good human being, you hold onto the friendship. As the kids' ditty goes: "Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold."

I know that's McGuffey's-Reader level-poetry. But that doesn't mean it ain't seminal.

As I was saying, Nick led the redesign for a logo for, which I presume is a dating site, not America's top resource for phosphorescence. He posted it on LinkedIn. I saw it, and I loved it.

Here's the old and the new.

I'll admit, the art of logo design, in summing up the spirit and core of a company in the fewest possible "brushstrokes" is something I don't ordinarily give that much thought to. Especially when there's generally so much lip-flapping about redesigns that are, to my uneducated eye, so small and without meaning or consequence.

However, I love what Nick did here. 

I'm not kissing up or blowing smoke.

The new logo just feels right. It feels like your favorite flannel shirt. Comfortable, worn-in, just right.

What my nearly glaucoma'd eyes zeroed it on (besides the heart period) is that crazy, leaning a.


Somehow that a says everything to me. It says we're not uptight. It says we don't take ourselves too seriously. It says we have a sense of humor. It says it's ok to be you, weird and different. You don't have to be neat. You can have one collar in and one out. You can wear unmatched socks if that's your thing.

You can be you.


I wrote Nick a note and sent him a photograph of something I had seen years earlier: Winston Churchill's tombstone.

I was enchanted by Churchill's R.

It's easy to disparage Churchill and many people do. He had a 60 or 80-year career in politics and of course along the way he did a lot of horrific things. He was human. 

The best humans are right 60% of the time and wrong 40% of the time. Churchill fucked up India. He fired on striking Irish workers. Gallipoli. Narvik. He bombed the hell out of civilians.

On the other hand, he might just have saved Western civilization. That carries some weight with me.

Knowing what I know about Churchill, and still admiring much of the man, I found his creativity and insouciance captured by that R running wild. 

It feels unrestrained, coloring outside the lines, a bit uncontrollable, like Churchill himself.

So much of today's modern folding, spindling and mutilating of humanity is designed to make people feel small, undifferentiated and inhuman. We're all supposed to be interchangeable parts. We're not supposed to put ourselves in our work. We're meant to be orderly and robotic. Not messy and human. We're meant to fit neatly into little excel rectangles and subject ourselves to algorithms.

I don't know anything about logo design.

I really don't know anything about anything. But I do know that putting yourself into your self, into your work, into the vapor around you is a good thing.

It's saying, "I am a human. Sometimes I make a joke. Sometimes my hair isn't combed and I say something dumb. Sometimes I choose an a that leans over like the Tower of Pisa."

At its simplest, it's what we were put to earth to be. Ourselves.

Not a conforming automaton who nods and chuckles and politely applauds. Someone who laughs when things are funny, shouts when they are wrong, and cries when they are hurt.

Like I said, I'm not much for analyzing brand marks, design, color choices or even nuance.

But I do know this: In a world that's grown increasingly ugly and data-driven, where it seems there's more artificial intelligence than human brain-power, if I owned a dating website and if I had 46 different well-funded competitors, I'd want to communicate one thing, Humans Welcome Here.