Friday, September 24, 2021

Ambition. A Friday story.



I'm reading a meandering book by Philip Hoare ostensibly on the great 16th Century artist Albrecht Durer. It's called "Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Durer and How Art Imagines Our World." You can read the review here.

I picked the book up because I knew one thing about Durer and I was intrigued by that one thing. That Durer drew his famous rendering of the Rhinoceros without ever having seen a rhinoceros. 


As someone who's often charged professionally with explaining things I'm not sure I fully understand, with some arrogance I likened myself to Durer. We often have to do the best we can with incomplete information. 

For instance, the way I always explained the difference between binary computing and Quantum computing was through this example. If you're in the Library of Congress and someone puts a giant X on one of the billions of pages in their collection, a binary computer, with superfast speeds, will essentially flip through all those pages in order to locate the X. A Quantum computer--through the spooky magic of Qbits, can look at all of those billions of pages at once--finding the X much more quickly.

I don't understand the how. But the example helps clarify the what.

Durer was there, too. Which angels and devils and rhinoceros and sea creatures great and small.

Hoare's book is a ramble. And Wednesday night, I read less about Durer than I would have liked and more about the Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, Marianne Moore.

On October 19th, 1955, Moore was approached by an executive from Ford Motor Company. They needed help in naming a new luxury automobile--and they turned to Moore.

A Mr. Robert Young of Ford briefed Moore with these words:

We should like this name to be more than a label. Specifically, we should like it to have a compelling quality in itself and by itself. To convey, through association or other conjuration, some visceral feeling of elegance, fleetness, advanced features and design. A name, in short, that flashes a dramatically desirable picture in people's minds.

Bad briefs are nothing new.

However, I love the ambition of bringing poetry to commerce. 

From October 21, 1955 to December 8, 1955, Moore sent Ford 43 different names.

They rejected them all. Including the last, "Utopian Turtletop."

  1. The Ford Silver Sword
  2. Hirundo
  3. Aerundo
  4. Hurricane Hirundo (swallow)
  5. Hurricane Aquila (eagle)
  6. Hurricane Accipter (hawk)
  7. The Impeccable
  8. Symmechromatic
  9. Thunderblender
  10. The Resilient Bullet
  11. Intelligent Bullet
  12. Bullet Cloisoné
  13. Bullet Lavolta
  14. The Intelligent Whale
  15. The Ford Fabergé (That there is also a perfume Fabergé seems to me to do no harm, for here allusion is to the original silversmith)
  16. The Arc-en-Ciel (the rainbow)
  17. Arcenciel
  18. Mongoose Civique
  19. Anticipator
  20. Regna Racer (couronne a couronne) sovereign to sovereign
  21. Aeroterre
  22. Fée Rapide (Aerofee, Aero Faire, Fee Aiglette, Magi-faire) Comme Il Faire
  23. Tonnere Alifère (winged thunder)
  24. Aliforme Alifère (wing-slender a-wing)
  25. Turbotorc (used as an adjective by Plymouth)
  26. Thunderbird Allié (Cousin Thunderbird)
  27. Thunder Crester
  28. Dearborn Diamanté
  29. Magigravure
  30. Pastelogram
  31. Regina-Rex
  32. Taper Racer
  33. Varsity Stroke
  34. Angelastro
  35. Astranaut
  36. Chaparral
  37. Tir á l'arc (bull's eye)
  38. Cresta Lark
  39. Triskelion (three legs running)
  40. Pluma Piluma (hairfine, feather-foot)
  41. Adante con Moto (description of a good motor?)
  42. Turcotinga (turqoise cotinga—the cotinga being a South-American finch or sparrow) solid indigo.
  43. Utopian Turtletop
For their new luxury line of automobiles, Ford used a name Henry Ford II had chosen. 

Edsel.

I could find no comment from Ms. Moore.





Thursday, September 23, 2021

I want my Mommy.

Whenever the world throws me a curveball, whenever an ill-wind knocks me a-kilter, whenever, in the words of William Wordsworth, the "world is too much with me," I look to find ways to center myself.

One way I do that is to walk Whiskey, my almost-ten-year-old golden retriever. Another way I try to get some peace is to walk myself, three-or-five miles, sans music or conversation. Just a silent walk, me and the birds and the sea off to one side. 

The final thing I do is read. I read intelligent, well-written things and they calm me down. Like this by one of my writing heroes, Joseph Mitchell. 

His clarity helps me. It's light in a world that's dark.

We live in a world, it seems to me, that is essentially devoid of clarity. A world heaped with bullshit, where confusion is often a bludgeon. Where people assault you with verbal diarrhea and knee you in the groin with a purposefully blunt lack of precision.

In other words, they don't take the time to be clear. They don't take the time to collect their thoughts. They don't in fact, take the time to think. They just spew.

We accept it. Especially if it comes from people in vaunted positions. We respect the no-clothes-ness of our Emporers. We don't call it out. 

We're cowed.

The latest affront is from my ex-agency, Ogilvy.

Once a beacon of clarity and good writing. I was proud to be an Ogilvy writer. It meant something once.

Once it was an organization that hated jargon and pretense.

But just today, I got two separate emails from two different ex-Ogilvy colleagues.

First I got this.

There is absolutely nothing about it I understand. I don't understand the words. I don't understand the utter lack of meaning. And I don't understand what Ogilvy Experience is or what a Global Executive Creative Director does.

Also.

Why run an ad that has no impact or stopping power or meaning? But I suppose those values are passe in today's high-falutin' days. What could be more old-fashioned than an ad that says something and makes you think? Why, that's harkening back to the 80s.




Then from someone else, I got this. Maybe it's even worse. If that's possible.

Again, I don't know what any of this means. Or how anyone involved in that once-great agency could regard these communications as valuable to their brand.


Dave Trott, the legendary ad person, recently asked a very simple question. Why would anyone run an ad that people don't like? Why would anyone run an ad that doesn't make people laugh, feel, smile or think?

I know it's almost 2021.

I know I don't have an advanced degree in whatever people have advanced degrees in these days. I know I don't wear a woolen hat in 94-degree heat, lean in, or live in Bushwick. 

In other words, what the fuck do I know?

I'm essentially unemployed.

But here's what I know.

That shit sucks.

Maybe you should think about that.

Do something about our propagation and acceptance of crap. 

Also, maybe you should watch this.

I know I did.

Two times. And I saved it too.

It doesn't suck.



Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Welcome to our new agency.


We're all about creativity. 
Except when we're all about data.

We want to be the world's most creative company.
That's why we fired most of our most creative people.

We generate shareholder value
by undervaluing our employees.

We're "agents,"
but most interested in self-promotion.

We're completely borderless.
Except don't you dare step foot on the Executive floor.

We're family.
You're fired.

We're looking for innovation.
Tested and focus-group-approved innovation.

We're all for diversity.
As long as it doesn't include people making a lot of money.

We're all for diversity.
Except for senior management at the holding company.

Awards aren't important.
Except when we win them.

We're working to make the world a better place.
By doing banner ads for Hot Pockets.

We believe in data
but only when it supports our POV.

We support privacy
as long as we can retarget ads.

We care about our people.
Enough to offer no severance.

We hire bright, ambitious people.
Willing to work for raises half the rate of inflation.

We believe in work-life balance.
As long as the balance is 80:20.

We're all in this together.
Except we take limos home and you can't expense a cab.

We're all family.
We're the step-mother and you're Cinderella.

We're media agnostic.
As long as we lead with TV.

A big idea can come from anywhere.
Just not from our agency.

Content is king.
That's why ours usually looks cheap and is badly written.

Innovate or die.
Or at least, innovate or get a head cold.

Words matter.
That's why our creative department is lead by two designers.

We care about you.
Stale bagels available at cost when you work the weekend.

Work is supposed to be fun.
Just not for you.

If we hire people bigger than ourselves, we'll be a company of giants.
"Hi, Shorty."

We hire all types.
Just not all opinions.






Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A meditation on Boxing. (Not the sport.)

One of the things I've noticed in life, especially as I've gotten older and am often adopted by young people at various agencies I've been sentenced to, is how the modern corporate structure--under the Draconian-guidance of Frederick Winslow Taylor and Taylorism--is about personnel regression to the mean. 

In English, it's about "the system" making everyone mediocre. So the only outstanding people can be those in charge. (Outstanding threatens the Chieftains. They might have to share control, or give some up. Heaven forfend.)

Some years ago, it started with my friend, a young account person I'll call S.

I remember S--at 26--being in a meeting. Dutifully taking notes while the SVPs were gabbing. S left early, when the oldsters started kibbitzing and one wise older account person said aloud, "I have a feeling we'll all be working for S someday."

One night S came to my corner office. 

Her eyes were red from weeping.

"I'm getting nowhere," S explained. "And people resent me."

I took a piece of paper and a pen--we had office supplies in the office in those days, and I drew this.


"S," I said, "here's how it works. This is a Bell Curve. Bad agencies hire on the upslope. By definition, mediocre agencies hire at the peak. And good agencies--and ours is a good agency--hire on the downslope, where it says G."

S nodded.

"But once in a while, there's a problem."

I drew another Bell Curve.

"That problem looks like this."

If you're X on this Bell Curve, and are far more capable--brilliant even--than the others nominally in your peer group, you cause trouble. If there are eight others in your cohort, most social organizations would rather squash you--you're the outlier--than bring the others along before they're ready. So, they bring you back to where the others are. They keep you in a box, because you threaten the hierarchy, rather than figure out how to let you blossom. HR doesn't know how to free people. Just think of the notion of "salary bands." You fit in a Procrustean bed.

Since I had this talk twenty-five years ago with S, I've had it a dozen more times. I've had it with at least two Ms, another S and an H and a D. I've had it with about 60 percent of the consonants and 4/7ths of the vowels. I've had it, most important with my own brilliant daughters.

There are storied Madison Avenue workplaces (they're not really agencies anymore, since they work not as agents of clients but for their 'shareholders,' they that care only about the bottom line in the short term) that give their offices names like the Nougat Factory or the Caramel Assembly Line.

Really, most places should be called Squash Factories or Zucchini Ziggurats.

They squash the souls of the people they should be promoting. 

There are plenty of reasons our industry is all but dead. I'd say "on life support," but there's little life left and no one is supporting it. 

I wrote the essay below for a client's website once. They didn't buy it. Maybe it was too much for them. So it belongs to me and GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company and I'm pasting it here.

Just consider this a post about un-boxing. 

Un-boxing yourself. For all the world to see.


Hello.

Meet an old acquaintance.

Something you encounter every day.

And have encountered every day

probably every day of your life.

 

A box.

 

Most people live their life inside a box.

A box that tells them where to sit.

What schools they should go to.

What classes to take.

A box that pushes in.

Pushes in, sometimes, from all six sides.

Cramping you.

Closing in on you.

 

Boxes don't go away when you get older.

They don't get any more roomy.
Or flexible.

Or comfortable.

You don't get any more used to them.

Even if--
even when--even though you sometimes try to convince yourself it's ok.

 

A box.

That tells you exactly what to do.

And who to do it with.

And how to do it--the way it's always been done.

A box that tells you to toe-the-line and keep your head-down.

And don't think too much.

And don't speak up, speak out or speak your mind.

 

A box that says,

stay in your swim lanes.

Protect your turf.

Watch your back and watch out for the other guy.


A box that limits.

Closes.

Shuts off.

And eventually destroys.

Your creativity.

Your spontaneity.

Your love of doing what you love.

 

You know what?

The world isn't a box.

Not if there's a place that lets you breathe.
Breathe.

Breathe deep.


A place that's yes, and. Not, no.

A place that values you.

Your thinking.

Your ingenuity.

Your constant stream of what-ifs.

A place that values you because you're you.

Not some homogenized and pre-approved version of you.

Or forced into someone you're not.

 

A place of freedom--not confinement.

Of autonomy not automatons.

A place where people, ideas, enthusiasm, actions, advances

don't end up like everyone else.

 

A box-less,

rule-less,

border-less place.

A group of people--diverse, eclectic, nutty and brilliant.
Eccentric.

Maybe sometimes frustrating.

But
who work with clients, with each other, with the world

to make work better.

 

To bring better products to market faster.

To bring better information to more people.

To bring advancements.

To obliterate stagnation.

To push and fight and learn and laugh.

And to come in tomorrow and do it again.

And to grow and grow and grow.

Yourself.

Your clients.

Us.

 

We could go on about how many people we have.

How many offices.

How many clients.

And how fast we're growing.
We could talk about what we do and what others don't.

 

But this is bigger than that.

This is about doing something different.

About doing something more important.

Pushing full-force against the usual.

Saying NO to the status quo.

This is about destroying that old acquaintance.

That old box.

And imagining the future.

And even more important than imagining it.

It's making it.

 




Monday, September 20, 2021

A f**king master.

No matter what you do for a living, even if you're the Librarian of Congress and you're surrounded by a billion books, there's very little chance that you'll read anything better--today or any other day--than what my friend, Debra Fried, has written below.

Debra wrote a short column a few weeks ago about a bike accident and life. 

Mostly life.

I quickly wrote her a plaintive note. "Won't you write something for my blog? Please."

The best thing about advertising--regardless of what era you're from--is that you're likely to get to work with at least a few people who have a genuine soul. Souls are as scarce as microchips these days. The supply chain seems to be snarled.

Just an hour ago, Debra sent me the story below. 

It's an important story. 

About love of the craft of advertising. Love of doing a job well. Love that can bloom between partners, and how that love can spread through families and last forever.

If you're lucky in life and business, you're lucky not in love, but lucky to have love. It's the one commonality of success. Love of what you do and love for the people you work with.

Thank you, Debra.

For sharing the love in your heart and soul.

Love, me.



A small, very small selection of work from Waring & LaRosa.



The Last of the Great Fucks by Debra Fried.

I was a junior copywriter with a window office, which didn’t make me exceptional – it just made it the 90’s.  Everyone at Waring & LaRosa had offices, except for the assistants – and they hung out in our offices almost as much as we did.  I had been told to settle in, which took all of five minutes, since I had only a rolodex, a stopwatch and an empty notebook, on which, without a hint of irony, I’d drawn a lightbulb with lines emanating from its center.  

 

I was looking out the window toward 54th Street when I heard a voice behind me. “You Debra?”  I turned to see a man who was about my height.  He had an impressive head of silver hair, dark brows, and a mustache, the colors of his hair and brows, as if they’d mated and produced a perfect child. If he’d been tall, he’d have been movie-star handsome.  Instead, he was compelling – the kind of face I’d have been riveted to, had his hands not been so distracting.


He held a blue kneaded eraser, which, like a juggler’s pins, was kept in constant, fluid motion. He stretched it between his hands, as thin as the string in a game of Cat’s Cradle.  “I’m your fuckin’ partner,” he said, and balled it into his palm, giving it a few quick pumps, before pulling it back into a bubblegum-like string, then twirling it, lasso-style, around his forefinger.  Someone walked past and clapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, you fuck!” he called after the guy, then shook his head, smiling.  “I love this fuckin’ place.”  I smiled, not sure how to respond, but he continued. “The fuckin’ account girl has a brief …”


“You mean she has a
fuckin’ brief?” I said, with a conspiratorial grin.


“What?” he asked, looking genuinely puzzled.


I waved my hand as if to erase my attempt at a joke, my mind racing for a new topic.  


“Anyway,” he continued, it’s a good one – it’s AMC – you know that channel? It’s cable.”  Someone yelled “Lou!” from down the hall and he shook his head with a smile. “These fucks,” he said, and I tried to make a face that suggested I understood the fucks.  He stepped over to the window and said, “The fuckin’ Lipstick Building. Who names a building after a cosmetic? Ha! 

xxxxxxxxxPeople.” The same guy yelled “Lou” again, and he shook his head. “I gotta go, Pal.” As he turned and smoothed his hair, I couldn’t help but be a little thrilled at the “Pal."


Later that morning, we sat in Lou’s office. Actually, I sat.  He paced, whipping his eraser into a frenzy.  His office had a drafting table instead of a desk.  Lou was about 20 years older than me and had worked at agencies like Levine and Scali; names even I knew enough to use with reverence.


“We gotta put Frank Sinatra in the commercial.  I fuckin’ 
love Sinatra.  He wasn’t tall, you know.  Little fuckin’ peanut, like me.”


“But this is AMC – it’s supposed to be about classic movie heroes.  And Frank Sinatra’s not really heroic,” I said, with a little laugh.  His long beat of silence made me wish I could take it back.

 

“Frank Sinatra’s not a hero,” he repeated, to a spot on the wall above my head. “Ok.  Fine.  That’s great, Debra.”  He looked so offended, I wasn’t sure if he wanted to hit me or cry. 

 

“How about Marlon Brando?” I asked hopefully. 

 

“Brando!  Hah!  I fuckin’ love Brando!” he announced, pausing between each word.  “I mean, before he turned into a fat fuck. Yeah, we gotta use Brando.”  And with that suggestion, I began to gain the acceptance of Lou Colletti.


Lou used his eraser for more than just stretching and twirling.  As we came up with ideas, he’d hunch over his table, sketching. It took time, and back then, we had more of it than we do now.  He drew characters into the frames of storyboards, mulling, shaking his head, furiously erasing, then redrawing with a level of concentration and thought that doesn’t happen with the click of a delete button. I could always tell how much he’d worked by how blackened the eraser had become.  Every few days, he’d open a fresh one, slowly kneading it from rectangle to ball, as if getting to know a new friend.

 

As he worked, he’d mutter to himself – “fuck a duck, man, fuck a fuckin’ duck.”  Lou used “fuck a duck” to express everything from wonder; “Look at those tulips. Middle of Park Avenue. Fuck a duck, man,” to joy; “Fuck a duck! They bought the spot!” to heartache. When our favorite takeout place closed, he stood on the sidewalk uttering “fuck a duck” so sadly, you’d think he’d lost a beloved pet.


At my first Waring Christmas party, Lou stood near me, looking pale and a little bleary.  Unthinkably, his hair didn’t look good. 
“Fuck!  How could I be sick at the fuckin’ Christmas party?   Well, I’ll just have one scotch, then I go home.  I promised Joan.” 

An hour later, he led a conga line in and out the door, a red Macy’s bag on his head.  As the party wound down at midnight, he taught a shy, awkward girl to two-step. “You got some real fuckin’ rhythm, Pal,” he said, and she giggled as he dipped her.


A few days later, we stood at the mirror in his office, elbowing each other out of the way, as I fixed my lipstick, and Lou combed his mustache.  He pulled a bottle of Visine out of his pocket and leaned his head back.


“How is it that you put that stuff in 15 times a day and always miss your eyes?” I asked. “Shut the fuck up, Debra,” he answered, giving the bottle another squeeze, as more liquid ran down his face. He straightened his head, looked at me for a second, then spoke.


“The doctor says Joan has to have a fuckin’ operation.  She got a little fuckin’ thing – they gotta remove it – the guy says it’s fuckin’ simple,” he said. then added, “Come on, let’s go out.”  Amongst the many things we did in those days, was leave the office at lunchtime.


We did a little shopping, mostly for my stuff, because Joan had already bought presents for their boys.
  As we stood in front of Saks with throngs of others, I said I thought it would be fun to be a window designer.  He looked at me curiously and said, “But we already have the most fun jobs.”  He grabbed my arm and steered me toward St. Patrick’s Cathedral, saying, “You gotta make one stop for me, now, Pal.”  


“I’ve never been inside,” I said as we climbed the steps. He stopped. “You’ve never been to St. Patrick’s” he answered.  Lou’s habit of repeating what I’d just said to underline its ludicrousness both annoyed and amused me.   He shook his head, unable to process my confession. “Wow. Sometimes you kill me, Pal."


We entered to a hush that was immediate and mighty.  We stood in the back. A homeless man crossed himself, then slid into a pew.  He nodded to guy in a suit, who returned the gesture with a small smile. Strangers out there, brothers in here.  I looked to see if Lou noticed, but he was gazing to our left. He took my arm and led me toward the candles. 


“See, you put a little money in here,” he said softly and stuck a few bills into a cup, “then you… well, this is for Joan,” he said, lighting the match. As he lit a candle, a tear landed on his mustache, where it quivered, like a drop of mercury.  “She has a brain tumor,” he said, looking at the flame. Then he met my eyes and whispered, “I’m scared.” We stood quietly for a while, surrounded by flickers of hope and desperation.


The operation took eight hours and the doctor said they got it all.  Lou took some time off and eventually, Joan recuperated, except for a slight loss of hearing.  When he came back, we had a new campaign to do; this one for Fisher-Price toys.  There were a few spots we needed to bang out quickly, before doing a print ad for Mont Blanc.  As the sun went down, I sat, typing, Lou sprawled on a chair, his feet on my desk.  Joe LaRosa and Saul Waring, who owned the place, stopped in front of my door as they buttoned their coats.  “You guys going home soon?” Joe asked.   Lou told him how much we had on our plates, and he said, “Ok, do what you have to.  But try to get home.” 


Saul and Joe made the rounds most nights before they left, like parents, making sure their kids were tucked in.  I told Joe once how I appreciated the way he said “go home” and he answered with a shrug, “It’s really for the good of the agency. We want our people happy.  Go home, go out, have a life. Your work will be better.”  Waring & LaRosa won some awards, but they were by-products, not the focus. Saul and Joe put brands like Perrier and Ragu and Fisher-Price on the map and they made a lot of money in the process. All while creating an atmosphere where people liked coming to work almost as much as they liked each other.


After a while, I moved to another agency, and Waring & LaRosa, along with Lou, and his fucks, was bought by Y&R.  A couple of years later, Lou, who’d been laid off, came to my office to meet me for lunch.  He looked around at the open seating and said, “This was the fuckin’ death of advertising.”  A guy in a baseball cap glanced up, then back at his screen.  “They make you sit like a bunch of fuckin’ accountants,” he continued. “How do you work like this?” The guy looked up again, this time, with obvious annoyance.  “Sorry, man, we’re on a tight deadline,” he said, and I steered Lou to the kitchen before he could say “fuck a duck” in a not-joyful way.

We went to lunch, and I asked if he was going to look for something new. He twisted his ring and said, “Nah… no more advertising for me, man. I did my time.” He didn’t need to say it – we both knew it – advertising had changed, and he hadn’t. And wouldn’t. And couldn’t.


Lou was an ad guy.  He wouldn’t have been caught dead using phrases like “consumer journey” or “brand values” and would have glazed over during conversations about click-through rates or the merits of paid vs organic. He knew how to sell a fuckin’ toy. A fuckin’ pen. A fuckin’ bottle of water. And he did it really well.


“So, what do you think you’ll do?  Retire?” I said.  “Retire?  Debra. What do you think, I’m some old fuck in a pair of stupid shorts?” he said.  He leaned back, eyeing me sheepishly.  “Know what I’m doing? I already started. I’m working for a fuckin’ hospital. Hackensack – best fuckin’ place in Jersey. Look it up.” 


“Oh, cool,” I answered. “So, you’re volunteering?”  He sat up, as offended as he’d been when I’d said Sinatra wasn’t a hero.  


“Am I volunteering.” He sighed, exasperated at my lack of understanding. “Debra. Do I look like a fuckin’ candy striper?  I’m
working.” He took a sip of his coffee. “I’m a security guard. And the best part is that the parking lot is so big, they need somebody to drive people from their parking spots to the front door – you know, the ones that are getting procedures and shit.”  I didn’t know how to respond. But then he continued.  “I take them in my car.  And when I get them to the door, I hop out and no matter who they are, I give them a hug and tell them they’re gonna be ok. Even the fucks. Some of these people, Debra, I’m the last person they see before they go in.  They need a little boost, you know?” I tell him that if I were in that position, he’d be exactly the person I’d want to see me off.


“You know, all I ever really wanted was to be happy, and to make other people happy,” he said.  “Now that’s what I do.  And I get great fuckin’ benefits,” he added, “so who the fuck needs advertising?”

He walked me to my building and jangled the change in his pocket as we talked. That was when I realized what was different. His hands were empty. He gave me a hug that hurt, and as he walked off, turned for one last wave. I returned it, and my smile was big, but I felt a little empty.  Because I knew how much I’d miss the sight of a kneaded eraser being stretched to its limit, by the hands of a fuckin’ master. 

 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Five Minutes with Our CBID Officer.



AD AGED: Thank you for taking five minutes to speak with me today. You're the Holding Company's CBID Officer. Tell me, what does that abbreviation stand for?

CBIDO: Rather than try to tell you in words--let me do something special. Let me communicate to you using the language of interpretive dance. [DANCES]

AD AGED: Lovely. But I have no idea what you as a CBID Officer do. Could you clarify in a more conventional way. Like using words.

CBIDO: Here at the Holding Company, we've discovered something. 

At the big moments in people's lives...when they get a raise, when they're approved for a mortgage or a small business loan, when their microwave rings indicating that their Big & Bold Hot Pockets Chicken Bacon Ranch frozen sandwich is ready, you know what most people do?

AD AGED: They get on with their lives?

CBIDO: Don't make me laugh. 

Normal people--whenever something happens--whether they discover they have breast cancer, or they've bought a new foldable Korean phone ostensibly made by de facto slave labor--they break into dance. Ergo, I am the CBIDO.

AD AGED: The Chief Break Into Dance Officer?

CBIDO: Precisely. What's more natural than undulating in public as an expression of your unbridled joy and lack of inhibition. What could be more human than breaking into dance?

AD AGED: I see. So you...

CBIDO: I make sure every commercial begins and ends with people dancing. What could be more real? More uplifting? More empowering...more Dancetastic!

Listen:

Open on a heavyset African American woman who discovers she has cancer.

Cut to the same woman receiving meds from her bifocal'd doctor.

Cut to the same woman--with friends in her cancer support group...they break into dance! 

That's Beckett! That's Albee! That's Shakespeare! A crescendo of humanity expressed in primordial dance.

AD AGED: Well, thank you for your time today.

CBIDO: I'll dance to that!





Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Was there ever?



Was there...

Bacon before there was applewood to smoke it with?

Thinking before design thinking?

Design before design thinking?

Projects to manage before project management?

Ever a time before prime time?

Truth before we co-opted the word authenticity?

Honesty before we bastardized the notion by calling it transparency?

Reality before reality TV?

Anything well-made before we called it robust?

Or anything fast before we took-over the word agile?

Anyone who hated work before we called them toxic?

Jeans for skinny people before skinny jeans?

Good wages before we invented salary bands?

Getting together to work before we scheduled meetings for every minute of the day?

Planning before planners?

Strategy before strategists?

Opinions before focus groups?

Profits before holding companies?

Raises that come more often than every 36-month cycle?

Salaries that combated labor shortages?

Job security before people became disposable?

HR with real humans?

Ever a cannon that wasn't loose.

Toast before avocado?

Coffee where they could spell your name right?

Service with helpful, knowledgeable people?

Ever a good ad derived from data?

Ever good copy written by AI?

Good copy that's survived 17 rounds of revisions?

An evangelical who believes in the Bible--not just the parts they cherry-pick?

Ever a creative holding company? 

A nice way to end things like this?










Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Never forget. Always forget.

A lot of what I see today in the advertising world is a one-time stunt designed, I think, to break through during a news cycle, not to build lasting brand value.


You'll see a brand like Postmates, above, creating a stunt like this with giant pieces of food, hoping that channel 148 Unction News and the Unction News Team will show 30-seconds of tape on their 11PM report, right after an un-popularly-elected ex-president and six-time bankrupt announces a boxing match deemed illegal in California that featured a 58-year-old man beaten in under one round.

A stunt.

AKA "earned media."

The stuff of a million phony case studies and award entries.

Brand value: $0.

When I grew up, we attached the phrases "Never Again," or "Never Forget" to the Nazi Holocausts which killed roughly six-million people, the vast majority Jews.

Today, we attach the same phrases to 9/11, and I suppose there's really nothing wrong with that.

Except, the short-termness of human memory.

The innate short-termness of human memory.

The ever-pressing onslaught of new horrors and new stunts. The crazy pressures on our time. The constant drum-beat of disaster after disaster after outrage after outrage after existential threat after existential threat.

We will forget.

Something will push the Holocaust or 9/11 out of our memories. A new catastrophe will occur. The people who lived through the Holocaust are all but gone. It will be deemed long-ago and far-away, and we won't remember.

That probably pisses you off. 

But we won't remember.

Give it time.

Just as we don't remember selling children away from their families during slavery times. Or thousands of lynchings a year. Or public swimming pools only the white public can use. Or neighborhoods, bank loans and government support unavailable to people of color.

Just as we don't remember the Never Again of mine disasters, of cops firing on strikers with machine guns, of Pearl Harbor, of the "Maine" being blown up, of the carnage of the Civil War or even the murder of small children in schoolhouses, or in the Civil Rights south, little girls in frilly dresses being blown up in churches by white supremacists.

Never again. 

Never forget.

But, I'm sorry, we will.

When I see stunts trumpeted by agencies, written about in the advertising trade press or as part of an agency brief to create a movement, I get a little sick.

It's not just that I dislike this sort of work.

It's that the notion of a quick boom of impact being long-lasting and leading to long-term business gain is a spurious as donald trump's cranial merkin. 

The stunt that makes the front page today is forgotten literally tomorrow. Because there is something new tomorrow that will "put Shakespeare back with the shipping news."

Most advertising today is like diarrhea. 

Most news today is like diarrhea.

It lasts a few days. It might be all-consuming for 72-hours. But then it, and you, move on.

Long-term effect?

Zero.

If you can take 20 minutes and sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper and write down five taglines you can think of, I'll bet you'll discover or discern something.

Most of the taglines were from the inundation period of media. Many of them haven't run for decades. But we remember.

Because we heard them over and over.

Because clients and agencies didn't believe you could make a lasting impression throwing confetti into a fan.

It takes time. Money. Repetition.

They spent the money. They had the patience to build something. They gave work time to work.

Otherwise, people will forget.

Not never.

But soon.

--

Here are the first 25 tags I remember. 

1. Have it your way.

2. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

3. The quicker-picker-upper.

4. The ultimate driving machine.

5. It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.

6. We try harder.

7. Nixon's the one.

8. Mmmm, mmmm good.

9. Got milk.

10. A different kind of car; a different kind of car company.

11. Don't leave home without it.

12. For everything else, there's Mastercard.

13. This Bud's for you.

14. It's Miller Time.

15. Tastes great. Less filling.

16. Because so much is riding on your tires.

17. Think different.

18. Just do it.

19. Fly the friendly skies.

20. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

21. I love NY.

22. We run the tightest ship in the shipping business.

23. The antidote to civilization.

24. Give a damn.

25. 15 minutes can save you 15 percent.