Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Being avid.

Not too long ago, I read something somewhere about the man who edited Robert Caro's books. 

That might mean nothing to you. But I think Robert Caro can teach a writer more about writing than a dozen or two MFA degrees. I've worked with and for some of the best writers in our industry, I have a Master's degree in English and Comparative Literature from a little school up the Hudson in the Manhattan highlands and I read about one-book-a-week. As far as I'm concerned, if you put digital pen to digital paper for a living, you owe it to yourself to read Caro.

And Robert Caro praised his editor, Robert Gottlieb.
So when this book review appeared in the Times, of Gottlieb's memoir, "Avid Reader," I bought it as quickly as you can say Jack Robinson. 

Gottlieb is like the publishing industry's version of George Lois. A person who became famous making others famous. A person present at the creation of great things. A person who did great work at great places, like Knopf, Simon & Schuster and the "New Yorker."

He's edited, in addition to Caro, Joseph Heller's "Catch-22," works by Toni Morrison, Barbara Tuchman, Salman Rushdie, Bill Clinton and Don Delillo. 

All that's impressive, but what impressed me most about Gottlieb was a habit he had. 

He said, "I can almost always read a new manuscript overnight." He almost always responded to a writer--because he knows the pain of waiting for criticism, within 24-hours. Because, simply, he cared about the people who made him rich.

Admittedly, Gottlieb has legendary powers. He claims to have read Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in one-sitting. But he was no pushover. A fellow editor once scribbled in the margin of a page, "this is the single most boring page I have ever read." Gottlieb read the manuscript next. Under that notation he wrote, "No, Page 511 is more boring."

Caustic commentary aside, Gottlieb once said, "Editing is about making your enthusiasm public."

When I think about big names in the industry, whom I know and work with, quick response and public enthusiasm are characteristics they generally share. They're not too "busy" to look at things--that excuse is a powerplay--or too threatened to praise them.

When I think about big names in the industry, whom I know and work with, they're NOW-ISTS.

A NOW-IST does things now.

Not in a minute.

Not after chit-chatting.

Not after hours of perseveration.


When a NOW-IST is asked to write something, they don't say "it'll take a week or three-days." They say "ok." And they buckle-down and do it.

NOW-ISM isn't an innate ability. It's something people teach themselves. Some of the best freelancers I know know how to never miss an assignment and never miss a deadline and never miss satisfying a client. They've trained themselves to seize their opportunities. So they get a lot of opportunities. 

It's math.

When I played ball, there was always one guy who could be ready to go into the game with just three warm-up tosses. Or another guy who could ride the pine for four straight games then get called in to pinch-hit and lash a double while he still had splinters in his ass.

A NOW-IST seizes opportunities. And gets more opportunities because of their seizing ability.

I introduced a friend to a famous NOW-IST the other day. One of those email introductions you sometimes feel bad about making. A little gushy, sometimes.

My friend wrote to me shortly after I made the introduction. 
"[She] took a whole 28 minutes to answer my email..." 

That's a NOW-IST in action.

NOW, here's a little secret. 

If you get in the habit of doing things the moment they're given to you--if you deliver work on-time, or ahead of time, your career will go better.

I actually think you're work will be better, too.

Because you won't be over-thinking. You'll be dealing with self-imposed pressure and solving problems. 

That's usually good.

NOW, back to work.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A wordless inhumanity.

Of all the great advances brought on by the rise of the internet, perhaps most-seminal is that it's easier than ever to buy expensive socks, teeth-whitening gels and blue-light-filtering reading glasses.

At my advanced age of 19-years-older-and-going-away from Rich Siegel's 44, I no longer have many consumer wants. When we bought our new old house up here on the Connecticut coast, we bought the new furniture we needed and we replaced the washer-dryer that broke and we got some exercise equipment we keep in the basement. But besides those things, I don't crave little accouterments or bric-a-brac that clutter up a home and a life. 

Though we're slowly re-doing things up here. I was told that five-panel doors will complete the cottage look. But I can't make myself care about door opening solutions. And it appears I'll need a separate, and presumably equal, door closing solution.

As for clothing, Covid has meant about a year ab
out evenly divided between baggy shorts and elastic-waisted sweatpants and old t-shirts often with more moth-holes than shirt. 

The fact is, outside of a new electric car and maybe an expensive  Celestron NexStar 5SE programmable telescope, there's really nothing I want. The telescope is to help me start overcoming my complete lack of astronomical knowledge. Outside of being to identify the Big Dipper, the North Star, Orion's Belt, Venus and in the fall, Mars, I'd like to know something of the galaxy. At least 1/10th as much about the stars as an ancient Greek from 4000 years ago, or a Portuguese fisherman from the 15th Century. 

Nevertheless, I live--no matter how I try to avoid it--in a culture where shopping closes in on us like the timesheet police at a money-losing agency. So I find myself, more often than I'd like to admit looking at things I have no intention of ever spending a plugged digital-nickel on.

What I've noticed as I faux-shop my way through the internet is how absolutely divorced writing today is from the cares, woes, joys and concerns of humans. I always think of this ad below as the apotheosis of empathy. Some art director and copywriter and account person and client actually understood what it meant to be on the road, selling, traveling from city-to-city and cheap hotel-after-cheap-hotel night-after-night.

Just last week, I noticed a company called Caddis that makes expensive off-the-rack reading glasses for people with an off-the-rack need to try to purchase coolness off-the-rack.

I hear a lot of talk from the ad community about the poor representation of BIPOC, Asian+, LatinX, Women and LGBTQ people and cultures in advertising. 

I was on a podcast recently discussing it. I said something that was regarded as inflammatory, insensitive and wrong-headed. I said, a bigger issue in advertising is our complete lack of humanity. I'm not denying biases against the aforementioned groups, but there's a bigger bias against treating all people with honesty, intelligence and humanity. We under-represent kindness, understanding and humanness as well.

I pointed to writing like this from the Caddis site. It's not just bad. It's wrong. Pompous. Insensitive. 

It is un-human.

It's written more to convey pretense than meaning.

There's no promise, no truth, not even any words I understand.

Eye appliances.

99.9999999999999% of Americans call them glasses. But you've decided they're eye appliances and that that's a good thing.

Wipe my ass with a feces appliance.

Maybe even worse, I looked at a website selling expensive condos in an expensive suburb outside of New York City. It's built in the middle of nowhere yet, we're perfectly bi-racial and bi-generational. And we caress equines.

After roughly 200,000 years of humans on earth our five senses are coming together in unexpected ways.

Then, there's something they call signature butler service. I suppose that means your butler will sign checks for you.

Though this particular agglomeration of Chinese sheetrock and veneered particleboard is about a mile from the sea, apparently that's close enough to reflect the splendor and allure of the shoreline. Absolutely nothing about red-tide, Coney Island whitefish or beach-syringes, "glimmering off the water."

I'm sorry. This is anti-everything, including anti-corpuscle, anti-DNA, anti-breathing and anti-living. It is not in the least human. It has no relation to realness or empathy.

I have rarely seen the sun lingering on a balcony outside. The sun doesn't linger. The earth rotates around it, and so it moves inexorably. What's more, I've never seen a balcony inside. That's the thing with balconies. In two words: they're outsiders.

Here's the copy from the Hertz ad. I retyped it from the ad I posted above. It's good practice to retype ads you like. It helps your fingers learn.

Notice the honesty. Right down to the candor of the tagline. We can help a little. Not a lot. There's no over-promise here. No transformationalismism. No bombast, hyperbole, bullshit.

If you ever feel the need to read of a piece of copy that really speaks to people, read this. If the male pronoun offends you, change it to something that doesn't. Then read this again. 

If the old references from pre-GPS, pre-ATM times affect your head, find new things that make service matter and mentally include them. If you think there's nothing any advertiser can do to make their brand real and human--you'd be better off not reading this blog anymore.

A business trip is often one minor calamity after another. 


Add them together and they produce a traveler who mostly wants to travel home.


But long before he seems home, he's likely to see a Hertz counter. And, as fellow humans, that gives us some 

obli­gation to do what we can for him.

And we can do more than rent a car.

For instance, if you don't know how to get where you're going, we'll give you a map and diagram the route.


If you run short of money, we'll lend you $10 cash. (Just show us your Hertz charge card and we'll tack the loan onto your rental.)


If you get caught in the rain without a raincoat, we'll give you a raincoat.

If you're a stranger in any of 33 cities, we'll give you a survival manual that tells where to find anything else you may need--from a decent hotel room to dental work at 2 a.m.

If you're in a hurry to return one of our cars, we won't make you stand in line. If you're charging your car, our express check-in lets you toss the rental agreement on our counter and run.

And if none of these solutions solves your problem, we'll work on one that does. Or at least give you a shoulder to cry on. 

Of course, we haven't forgotten the most obvious reason why people come to Hertz.

So we constantly check our Fords and other cars to make sure that what ever else may undermine your travels--they won't.


We can help a little


Then there's this. 

From Papa, who wrote great novels shorter than decks on social media.


Monday, March 29, 2021

My first therapist.

About 41 years ago,  I met a woman who changed my life. I suppose I could start a story a day with those seven or twelve words and never fully run out of fodder. But this particular woman, did change my life.

I'll call her Jill and leave it at that.

I'm 94%-positive people aren't named Jill anymore. Just as they're not named Betty or Donna or if they're boys, Frank or Walter. Names come and go like the tides. And in this generation, I seem to know more women named Alex and Charlie and Sam and even Georgie than I know men named Alex and Charlie and Sam and even Georgie.

Jill was my first therapist and a woman wise-beyond-her-years. I say that because I was probably 21 at the time and she, likely was just half-a-decade or so older. And she was way wiser than I ever was.
Playwright, Eugene O'Neill. Not a laugh-a-minute.

At the time there was some pretty Eugene O'Neill shit going on with my parents, involving things. An etiology, if you want to get hoity-toity about it, that was more Hillbilly elegy than upper-middle-class Jew, though those two cultures probably have more in common than you'd think from watching Jed Clampett, Jethro and Ellie-Mae.

It was enough stress for me, also living in a dorm-room in New York's most roach-filled building, Johnson Hall up on 116th and Morningside Drive, that I knew I couldn't handle it all on my own. Though I grew up with Samuel Goldwyn's one-liner rattling through my head that "anyone who sees a psychiatrist ought of have his head examined," I put aside my mid-century non-modern biases and walked down to a pre-war building on 91st and Central Park West where Columbia had an affiliation with a dispenser of mental acuity.

It was there, for eight-dollars a session, that I met Jill. And continued seeing her once-or-twice a week for five years or six.

In all those years, I can remember just two things Jill taught me, and I'm richer for both of them. 

One was the ultimate human advice, though it was expressed in Upper West Side shtetl terms. "George, be a mensch." 

As I enter, every day, deeper into my achy and bruised dotage, the saliency of those four words reverberate all the louder. I have my own business now and, somedays it seems, more clients than I have fingers on both hands. All giving me assignments at seven at night and expecting something as finely-woven as the Unicorn Tapestry back at seven-in-the morning.

A Unicorn. The real kind.

Looking back on my forty years working in giant world-wide agglomerations of regressions to the mean, commonly known as ad agencies, there was hardly one among them that wouldn't, to that seven-to-seven demand, say "sure."

But that ain't being a mensch. That's throwing shit on a dish and calling it dinner.

Being a mensch, between me and my Account Director--a woman who drips out my time as if I'm trapped inside a giant impecunious eye-dropper, is saying, "George is the fastest writer you'll ever meet. But he needs till end-of-day."

That oh-so-gentle pushback buys me a little time to breathe, and I usually, then, deliver mid-to-late afternoon--still apace but with some time to have walked the dog and actually think with a few laps around the cerebellum built-in. 

"George, be a mensch," is delivering for clients the way only you can. With a timeliness, quality and thoughtfulness unusual in today's processed-cheese-food industry. Also, I am not stricken by 91-rounds of internal review that exist to pump up the egos, and the hollow chests of people who sit in judgment of work but never actually do any. That gives me more time--regardless of the timing--working, and less time placating and politicking for someone's ego's sake.

The second bit of wisdom I gleaned from the woman I'm calling Jill, was a cartoon-metaphor that I think about almost every day. 

"George," Jill would wag her finger at me, "you're like a creature. Every time something upsets you, you crawl under your rock and refuse to come out until you feel once again it's safe."

As I've noticed through the decades this hermetic proclivity, I've learned to shorten, if not altogether avoid, my time underneath mossy igneous. I've learned not to crawl completely under rocks--but with a deep breath and a metaphoric hiking up of my pants--to battle back, that is, be a mensch.

A friend and I spoke for 45-minutes the other day, which might be, for me a during-Covid record. I generally run to the laconic, if not the Taconic.

"George," he, she or it said, "the smartest thing you ever did was those ads for yourself in Futura extra-bold condensed that you run on Linked In. It's you versus Goliath."

Wilt hardly ever wilted.

I completed the sentence, "And as Wilt 'The Big Dipper' Chamberlain once pointed out, 'no one roots for Goliath.'"

I heard this while bearing in mind that I seem to gain a large client each week. Meanwhile, my ex-Alma Mater bangs a broken drum and announces the win of a dead or hemorrhaging brand that won't generate enough revenue to pay for one of the six or nine ex-CEOs they'll keep on full-salary plus black-car and dry-cleaning unto death do them part.

"George, be a mensch." In a lot of ways that makes me bigger than other agencies.

"George, be a mensch." In a lot of ways that keeps me smaller
than other agencies."

That's just the way I like it.

Friday, March 26, 2021

The richest man in town.

I promise I'm not going to use the word humbled.

Speechless is more like it.

On Sunday night my friend Maya and her husband Carl came over to our little house along the sea and we had dinner. Steak.

Though my 63rd birthday was way back in December, Maya presented me with a birthday gift.

And what a gift.

For whatever reason, Maya and Rob Schwartz put together a book called  Fannenbaum: Love Letters to the Legend. A "Fan" book from friends and colleagues--a tribute--believe it or not, to me.

I'm generally speaking a dour kind of a guy. And frankly, though GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company is doing better than I ever imagined it would, getting thrown out of Ogilvy at 62 was a shock to my system. 

I was doing the best work of my life faster than I had ever done it before. I thought I'd be like Douglas MacArthur's old soldier, and fade away from the business while planted on those ugly red carpet tiles.

I felt embarrassed. 

I felt a failure.

I felt at an end.

How do I tell my wife?

I was thrown out. Finished.

The main thing I learned after I was thrown-away was this: like my Hollywood namesake, George Bailey, "No man is a failure who has friends." And also like George Bailey, in many ways, with so many friends, I am "the richest man in town."

To Maya and Rob who created the book, to the couple dozen or so people who wrote me notes in the book, to all you out there in blog-ville who read my writing and smile at me--or at least don't throw rocks--and most of all to my long-suffering wife, Laura, who has to deal with my often mis-firing brain and over-firing temper, well, like I said, I'm speechless.

It would probably, therefore, be a good time to call me.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Holding Company Town Hall.

Welcome friends and all those friends who have not yet been fired.

Welcome to our first Holding-Company-wide Zoom Town Hall of 2021. 

Welcome, it's been quite a year. 2020. Whew. But, while we had some setbacks, like losing seven of our six biggest accounts, or is it ten out of our biggest nine accounts, my friends, the past is behind us and our behinds are past us.

And as we move forward into a brighter 2021, we are already seeing the green shoots of recovery. Or shooting the green seas of recovery, whichever comes first.

My friends, our goal as a holding company is to be the most under-valued by those who most under-value brands. We will forge new paths, grasp new horizons and advance the ball. We will blaze new trails of gibberish and technobabble. We will prove the value of minutia on the most minute scale possible all while narrowing our focus, focusing on the narrow and making sure our focus remains laser-focused on c-suite bonuses and the largeness of largess.

Lofty goals, to be sure.

And how, you ask, in these times of constrained budgets, how will we get there?

Simple, my friends. 

We will get there through our unique combination of creative-centricity and focusing on the centricity and eccentricity of creativity. 

Now, of course, talk is cheap. Unless it comes from a consultant. Then talk is expensive. But as any of our 23,275 consultants will tell you, at the very core of creativity is creativity. And so, as we both forge a path forward and forge a check backwards, we will focus on creativity, creativity, creativity.

How, you may ask. And if you do ask, we will probably fire you. But how?

We will focus on creativity by first focusing on firing all creatives who have experience in being creative. We will replace old people--people who hearken back to the 1980s, people with television sets, people who read...books, with creative people who have never done any of those things before, but who have instead grown up both as digital natives and natively and naively digital. Their ability to think in increments of 140 characters will help us at Interscammyconcom transform businesses of all sizes into businesses of smaller sizes. As we have done with our own business. We will lead business transformations by transforming big businesses, including our own, into much smaller businesses. Small means agile and agile means robust and robust means a stand-up scrum. We will be defined by our lack of definition and be noticeable in our dedication to work that never gets noticed.

Creativity. Creativity. Creativity.


We will spend $200 million on building a brand new bespoke data consultancy from the ground up. Data will make us creative as creative will make us dated. This is about the fusion and confusion and defusing of synergies and sin-orgies, that will drive our creative product forward.

We will invest in creative by investing in data. We will invest in creative by firing all creatives. We will invest in creative by not paying creatives. As we devalue, so do we value. As we disrespect, so we respect. As we lie, so to do we tell the truth. The longest journey begins with a single schtup and so on.

At Interscammyconcom, it's all about creative and creativity and creative posturing.

But mostly, friends, creative accounting. Which is the only reason I still have a job. If I still have a job.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Let's not talk about it.

At my first agency, I was dubbed a print guy. That was distinct from being known as a TV guy.

In those days, at least in New York, the adage went, "print wins awards; TV makes you money." Since I was supposed to win awards I often got an inordinate amount of time to work on an assignment.

After my first year at my first agency, I calculated I had produced more print than any other writer: Twelve ads. If you work 250 days a year that means I sold and produced an ad roughly every 21 days--about one a month.

That was about 40 years ago and the pace of life in an agency has accelerated quite a bit since then. Especially when you consider all the tweets, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook crap we're forced to do. But still, I've always found the pace of agency work too languid for my taste. 

That's one reason I am sometimes less than enthusiastic about books I see coming from ad school students. It seems they get years to come up with ads.

One thing I've learned since being on my own, having my own ad agency--and since I began this blog 14 years ago--is that there's nothing to be gained by procrastination. Maybe I feel right saying that because I don't really believe in the theoretical. I don't like talking about ads without showing ads.

A lot of times people will shoot the shit about what an ad could look like or read like or be shot like or sound like. They'll talk about it late into the night.

My guess is that no one really understands what anybody means when they're describing something until they can actually see it. I could tell you in excruciating detail about a dark blue, almost indigo painting of cyclone-stars and yellow crescents in the sky, but you'd be much better served if I showed you the Van Gogh.

Likewise, business runs much better when you sketch something out with a pencil or type something out using two or more of your typing fingers. In fact, in most cases, I'd say that ten minutes of working trumps ten hours of chatter about working.

One reason GeorgeCo, LLC, a Delaware Company is, for now, doing so well is that I show clients and prospective clients every day what I can do. I post a post. And I also often run an ad. Those ads average about 20,000 views, which ain't bad for a registered misanthrope. 

Most agencies, it seems to me, write bland "About" sections that sound like every other agency's About section. They usually say they have 97 offices in 186 countries and have won more awards than Carter has little liver pills. I've worked full-time at 12 or 14 agencies. To my ears, when they pitch they all sound just alike.

That's fine.

But me, I'd way rather button my lip and type. I'd rather show what I can do than say what I can do.

Now, I'll admit, this hasn't been an especially notable post.

But mediocrity is my metier.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Green shoots.

GeorgeCo, part of the Flypaper Group of Companies, a Division of BlandAdverCom Worldwide and a recently-named leader in Gratner's Magic Sixteenthdrant, is currently looking for a forward-looking, ahead-of-the-curve-careening, compound-adjective-using, transformational-business-leader to help transform our transformational-business-leading transformational-business-leading transformational group.

The successful candidate will be a critical and hyper-critical and overly-critical part of our lean and mission-critical team of problem-solving thinkers, consultants and "Control-the-Room-inators."  The successful candidate can quickly deliver business insights through understanding audiences, developing data-led decisions, customer experiences and strategy direction as well as off-strategy mis-direction, not to mention ms.-direction and Mr-direction.

You’ll be a fast worker, so fast that sometimes you'll be done with your work-week before the work-week even begins. You'll deliver both impeccably and without pecc and on-time, even though time is a man-made and mutable construct with no fixed basis in reality. Unlike this job description and everything else emerges from GeorgeCo (hereafter known as dba Dipshitz) your strategy will be sublimely simple and simply sublime. During the summer when we have cocktails on our rooftop basement, we will serve cocktails with sublime, sublemon and the occasional subolive. And your presentations will be perfectly persuasive and persuasively perfect in an unpersuasively imperfect way.

What's more and most-important, you will derive, present and sell-to-the client substantive reasons why every actor in every commercial we sell, shoot, produce and otherwise sully, begins to break into dance at the drop of a proverbial hat. As if the whole of America isn't mired in an ever-deepening descent into diseases of despair. Because we dance. We dance in car commercials. We dance in pharma commercials. We dance in phone commercials. We dance in cable tv commercials.

You’ll be liaising directly with clients to understand their challenges, and proposing, planning and delivering strategy engagements that will meet their needs. Not only will you meet their needs, you will knead their meats (pending HR-protocols). You will also spend weeks at a time making, concocting and otherwise crafting perfectly stupid words like liaising--when a normal word like meeting would be completely functionizableizationable.

You’ll bring 700 or 7000 or 70 years of strategy double-speaking and e-confusionization™ as a marketer that can translate martech, startech, fart-tech and barftech, understanding into client language with a customer-first mindset; orchestrating communications strategies based on the capabilities, a clients' systems, protocols, beliefs and payments, but equally pushing for a better future state and vision.

You are able to demonstrate your ability to build and maintain strong relationships with clients to sell/deliver work aligned to their organisation's needs; be comfortable with non-linear processes and ambiguity, that is contradiction, lying, lack of clarity and last-minute changes in direction. You'll be a believer in lurching, lunging, lunching, collaboration, turning inklings into insights, insights into possibilities, germs into viruses into pandemics and bringing stories to life in ways that create profitable behavior change and crush the souls of the sentient. You'll be such a team-player and believer in collaborationization that occasionally you'll take home a team-mate's paycheck--after all, you collaborated on the work, you deserve it, goddamn it.

You will also when writing, spell words as they're spelled in England--like organisation for organization and you will at least once per presentation use the word whilst whilst abjuring if not negating the use of the more prosaic word, while. Oh, and cheers. You will say cheers.

You will be responsible and accountable for managing, over managing and micro-managing the overall lack-of-quality, myopic vision, retrograde innovation and execution of all creative and creatives both deliverables and undeliverables. Leading integrated, segregated and cheese-grated, multi-discipline teams. You will ensure that the work is aligned with the client’s marketing reflecting the brand’s equities and inequities and meets the objectives as defined in the creative briefs and the uncreative boxer shorts. You are ultimately accountable for the overall unaccountability therein.

The offer is void where prohibited and prohibited where voiding. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Of Yoyos and Yumans.

A friend called the other day.

He had just gotten a job offer. A rare event these days.

"I've gone more than three years without a raise," he said. "I said to my boss. Don't counter-offer. It's only going to piss me off. You haven't been able to get me a dime since 2017--and now that I'm leaving, if you offer me more money it only points out your insincerity and cheapness."

"You said all that?" I asked. "I guess you're not planning on coming back any time soon."

Another friend called shortly thereafter.

He, not so rare an event, had just gotten fired.

"What happened," I asked.

"Pretty much all of upper-management has left in the last 12 months. My new boss hated me. About three or four other groups wanted me to work on their business--but my boss squashed it."

"That sounds vindictive," I said.

"Yer durn-tootin'. If you're better than your boss and no senior people are left minding the story, you're screwed."

Robert D. Putnam is a Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government political scientist and professor of Public Policy. He's also the author of the best-selling book, "The Upswing."

In The Upswing, Putnam introduces two phrases, or acronyms, that I think have some bearing on life today--and of course on the advertising industry.

The first, harrowing term, is YOYO.

YOYO doesn't allude to the ups-and-downs of today's capricious economy--an economy which since the Ronald Reagan years has presided over a massive redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the mega-wealthy.

It's well-known, for instance, that Warren Buffet, a man with between $50 billion and $100 billion of wealth pays taxes at a lower rate than, say, his secretary. And that the Walton family, which has something on the order of $200 billion of wealth uses government payments to make up shortfalls in their employees' salaries. Even Zoom, you know, that Zoom, paid no tax during 2020, a year where its profits were up 4000%.

YOYO stands for--You're On Your Own.

We see this everywhere in our business. You get no help. You have no security. You get no raises, no bonuses, no training. You have a job--but really no long-term hope. Meanwhile, if you're Instagram friends with some of those in the c-suite, you'll be able to witness their increasingly Lucullan lifestyles--their expense-account dinners, their beach-homes, their braised whatever in whatever sauce.

Putnam is hoping that America can shift from YOYO to WITT. YOYO can be summed up by this anecdotal piece of information. Michael Roth, outgoing CEO of Interpublic makes about 230 times what the average IPG employee makes. Ogilvy alone, by my calculus, has five or seven CEOs and ex-CEOs on payroll right now--at a time when it is hemorrhaging business, revenue and people.

You're On Your Own, as represented in these charts from Forbes magazine.

WITT stands for the diametric. We're In This Together. 

WITT is really the only hope for our industry, our country, our world. 

It means that once again the relationship between hard-work and advancement would prevail. It means that when accounts are lost and revenue plummets--everyone takes a hit. It means that raises are more-or-less equitable, going to the deserved, not just the entitled. It means, haha, employment, loyalty and reward based not on ass-kissing, but maybe on merit and maybe with a notion of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I suppose WITT, if we're going to be fantastical about it, would also be an acronym that informs, if not governs, agency/client relationships.

It's the spirit I've tried to inculcate in GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company. It's the elan, the manners and the deportment that leads to business success, personal success, pride in work and more.

We've survived the "greed is good" era, barely if you consider the late Trumpian-period as the apotheosis of YOYOism. The culmination (I hope) of roughly two generations of wild and widening inequality. The shredding of the social safety-net. The destruction of the middle-class and the evisceration of the lower-class.

I'm an old man now.

I don't really, right now, have much to do with the industry as dominated by the shareholder monopolists of the big 4 or 5 holding companies. I can make and follow my own rules.

It's friends, like the friends I've mentioned above that concern me. My daughters. The industry I loved.

I think we're in this together, WITT, whether or not we act as if we are. And right now, a lot of people are being YOYO'd to death.

Friday, March 19, 2021

A short course on getting off course.

The hardest thing about growing old in a young-person's world is that when you look at that world, you're never quite sure if you're going crazy or the world is.

More and more of what I see and hear online, in articles, in posts, in commentary, from pod-casts, seems to me as alien as Alpha-Centauri. Most people seem to be living in a reality that has no foundation in my reality.

For instance, I hear about brand conversations. But I've never actually had one. 

"Honey, you know what's funny about Saran Wrap?"

"No, dear, tell me."

In fact, more and more of the advertising I do see seems more and more delusional.

This ad below is probably four decades old. It was never great. Not really attention-getting. But at the very least it made a promise to the viewer. It was grounded in facts and consumer needs. I'm not saying this isn't drivel, but at least it's purposeful drivel.

Just yesterday, this ad was pixelling through my social ether. I assume like everything today, from a five-million-dollar manifesto to a symphony of staccato flatulence, it had to go through seventeen-rounds of review in order to get approved.

It seems to me that more and more ads are like the one above. Devoid of promise. Devoid of humanity (humanity does not mean showing a picture of a person. It means relating to a person via something they care about.) Completely lacking in understanding of the product. And with zero truth.

If you're reading this and you work for the agency that created this work, or if you work for the client, I'd love for you to tell me why this ad is good. Why you spent time and money on it. Why was it produced? I'll give you all the space and time you want and need to state your case. Have at it.

To my glazed-over eyes, more and more marketing conversations are about putting the digital mechanisms of commerce in front of people, but there's less and less attention paid to giving people reasons why they should buy.

Digital transformation seems to be all about the HOW of commerce. Yet, we seem to have ignored, destroyed or neglected the WHY of selling. 

It seems our industry's mantra has become "Clickito ergo sum." I click, therefore I am. Very little thought seems to be given to why people act, what they need, what they want, and what makes a product worthwhile, if not superior.

It's hard for me, further, to favorably compare the vapid-celebrity bullshit of this 461-second "film" with any of 100 old Porsche ads done by Chiat, Fallon or Carmichael-Lynch in years gone by.

Whoever is responsible for this monstrosity, whether on the agency side, the client-side or the production side, clearly has no true understanding of Porsche. Again, if you're reading this and you work for the agency that created this work, or if you work for the client, I'd love for you to tell me why this ad is good. Why you spent time and money on it. Why was it produced? I'll give you all the space and time you want and need to state your case. Have at it.

Whereas these ads seem constructed by people who cared, had passion, might have coveted the product, talked to engineers, read a history or maybe even visited the factory.

Today's au courant adverbabble is that no one cares, no one reads, no one has an attention span. Yet, somehow, all that bullshit disappears when an almost eight-minute mindless movie is made.

Chef's don't go into their kitchens saying no one cares if the food is good. Pilots don't start every flight saying no one cares if I bounce the plane about and crash-land. Doctors don't perform surgery saying no one cares if I remove something extra or leave a sponge behind.

Our job as PROFESSIONALS is to make work good enough so that people care. 

Our job is to create something good and true and warm and human and different and funny so that people care. That's how work becomes "part of culture." That's how it becomes "part of the conversation." That's how it helps businesses sell more and succeed. 

We have ratiocinated our way out of this simple logic simply because doing our jobs well is...hard. 

It's hard to set up an agency that streamlines processes so work is about work and not about fiefdoms and metaphorical dick-size. It's hard for client organizations to rationalize assistant brand managers, junior brand managers, brand managers, senior brand managers, associate marketing managers, chief marketing officers and chief commercial officers and more if each one doesn't spray a little pee on the work to make it theirs. And to make it suck. 

It's hard to say to a client the best words an agency can say if they're bent on "protecting the work." Approve. Disapprove. But don't try to improve. It's hard to try day after day against the rising tide and embrace of mediocrity.

Usually, I try to lighten the mood in my Friday posts. I try, if I can, to reach for something funny or to poke fun at something ludicrous.

But the industry's own denigration of our industry has gotten me down. As have the ads below. 

This is a really simple business.

We like brands that act like people we like.
We like brands that are honest.
We like brands that understand our issues.
We like brands that speak to us as equals.
We like brands that don't condescend.
We like brands that don't bullshit us.
We like brands that don't holler.
We like brands that don't tell us how great they are.
We like brands that are honest and admit when they fuck up.
We like brands that tell the truth.
We like brands that help us.
We like brands that listen.
We like brands that are funny.
We like brands that are reliable.
We like brands that are consistent.

I gotta go.
My eye appliances are fogging over.

By the way,