Tuesday, May 31, 2022


Once back in the mid-80s, I visited my mother and father in the midwest. My father had been transferred to Chicago in 1978 and my parents found they liked the place. About five or eight years later, they bought a small cottage three or four hours north of Chicago, just outside of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, then billed as the "Bratwurst Capital of the World."

At the time the traditional Madison Avenue world of Advertising had been turned on its pupik by Fallon McElligot Rice. A small agency no one had ever heard of came from seemingly nowhere and started not just winning awards, but sweeping awards shows. 

Following Fallon's lead, agencies in small cities across the US were creating award-winning advertising. So, visiting my parents in Wisconsin, I looked forward to seeing Milwaukee's Sunday newspaper. I figured I'd see ad after great ad. I had this notion it would be like walking through Florence in the 16th Century. Renaissance Masters everywhere.

Instead, I saw ads for cars that looked like ads for cars everywhere. And places called Mattress King, Tire King, RV King, Donut King, Golf King, Patio King and, of course, Bratwurst King. For a nation that supposedly has no royalty, America has always had more kings than is good for us. In short, I saw a lot of ads. But no good ads.

I was less cynical about the business then than I am now. But a seed was planted that I desperately tried not to nourish--mostly because I didn't want to. But, a still small voice shouted inside my head like the "Beer Here" man in Yankee Stadium. Maybe the whole system is as corrupt as a $17 bag of cashews at the DoubleTree Hotel adjacent to the airport in Minneapolis. 

Of late, my LinkedIn feed has been cluttered with posts like roaches in a frat house kitchen. Each one of them seems to announce that they've won six white pencils, fourteen gold, two black, eight plaid, three silver, nine bronze, two wood and sixteen made out of a slurry of used condoms and Red Bull. 

These posts come on the heels of what seems like every agency in creation banging a giant cymbal that they've won "agency of the year," "network of the year," "rectangular workspace of the year," "near-abandoned agency of the year," "losing clients after 30 years agency of the year" or a special citation for having been named "reduction-in-force workspace of the year."

Judging by all the awards, ostensibly for quality of work, for efficacy, for running a business that helps clients thrive, you'd think we were living through the advertising equivalent of the ancient world's Pax Romana. It was said, as an aside, that in William the Conqueror's time, a virgin girl laden with gold could walk across the kingdom unmolested. 

With all the awarding, back-slapping and the choruses of speeches on glittering victories, you'd think we were living in advertising's glory years. Imagine the ghost of Bill Bernbach is doing the hora with Phyllis Robinson, Judy Protas, Julien Koenig, Carl Ally, David Abbott and dozens of others. They're ecstatic. The ad industry is great: the work, the profits, its results and its financial stability. Let's celebrate as we're celebrating the final scene in "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Finding the Orwell in this is as simple as finding a fanny pack in Disney World.

Turn on the TV, look online, open one of the last printed newspapers or magazines and everything sucks. 

Talk to anyone over 50 who made a life in the industry, and they've been schmised.

Look at the lack of training, the shrinking sizes and the "no longer important to business" sides of the agency business and the sense of how the industry is doing is dys, not u, -topian.

But Orwell's that Ends Well.

Newspeak is the Lingua Franca of the industry. 

Ask for an accounting from the industry and you get crickets. Ask the trade-press for some real reporting, and you get regurgitated press-releases.

The corruption of our world is easy to ignore. We have mass-murder after mass murder. And as Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said, “and then the country only pays attention for 24 to 48 hours.”

That's about the state of advertising today.

Attention to its carnage lasts 24 to 48 hours. 

Then we throw on a tuxedo and give ourselves an award.


Monday, May 30, 2022

A Child's Carnage in Amerika. (A repost.)


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Some not-so-Swift thoughts.

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great land, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with the bodies and limbs and severed parts and great quantities of blood abound. These gruesome sights do importune and insult the senses of all who pass by. This condition of the present deplorable state of gunshot victims is both an insult and affront to all. These bodies and body parts doth lay there providing no publick weal or well-being in the least.

Now there is no prospect for the diminishment of those struck down by Gunfire, either from villains, their own hand or from those beings which we call domeftic terrorists, active shooters or, simply, Mad men. No, we must posit that a multitude of deaths from gun-fire is as American as frozen Apple Pie made with dessicated and reconstituted ersatz Chinese apples.

Given that We as a Society can do nothing to prevent or curtail the forty-thousand children, women and men who are brought down by semi-automatic weaponry capable of firing prodigiously, on the order of fifty rounds a minute or double that when over-writ with  a bumstock.

Those forty-thousand souls are a blight upon this land, dominating the news media, prefidential press conferences, and the anodyne blatherings of spineless apologists for the industry that propagates such weaponry and carnage.

Now I ask, what of these forty-thousand souls? Why and what have they done to receive the great good beneficence of our Thoughts and Prayers?

What if instead on mere ecclesiastical blandishments, we instead regarded those forty-thousand souls not merely as lifeless forms but as providing more for those who hath survived and must live a life of agony due to their untimely loss due to their inpropitious bodies receiving an armor-penetrating slug at a speed of more than half a mile per second.

As a society we must heal from these deaths. Not with thoughts and prayers. Such homilies will bring no utility to dead forms. But instead of thoughts and prayers, perhaps ketchup and sesame seed rolls.

For simple mathematics will calculate that forty-thousand bodies at an average weight of one-hundred and fifty-pounds each could render us six-million pounds of fresh and eminently edible meats. In more useful consideration, those six-million pounds of meat could deliver unto us twenty-four million quarter-pound hamburgers or if you would so prefer being nonsensical in your use of modern linguistics, hamberders.

At once, merely by the simple instrument of exchanging for thoughts and prayers ketchup and sesame seed rolls, we have transformed these forty-thousand dead souls from a blight unto our nation to a lunch-time repast for every resident of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia and Phoenix combined.

Thus transforming the tragedies visited upon our land caused by these forty-thousand dead into a beneficence is an emanation devoutly to be wished. For whom does say that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Yet here is such a repast for twenty-four million.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the publick good of my country, by ridding ourselves of these daily reminders of the great good beneficence of the National Rifle Association, Senator Moscow Mitch McConnell, the entire Republican patriarchy and sundry other complicit conspirators and pusillanimous politicians. I will profit not a single penny from this proposal, I remain yours, & c.

Friday, May 27, 2022

A Fish Story.

One of today's central problems is that we believe, somehow, in perfection, infallibility. We believe in perfection and, therefore,  one seminal mistake can undo a lifetime of good. We believe, in short, that humans aren't human. That there is absolute right and absolute wrong and that we can navigate the shoals of life and make good decisions all the time--the bad ones be damned.

My lack of belief in ordinary goodness has led me to admiring the Greek and Roman gods over the god of the Judeo tradition and the Christian sequel to the same.

The Greek gods were as flawed as a bald tire or a burnt dinner served cold. They were jealous, unreasonable, spiteful, wicked and cruel. Just like you and me. Whereas the Old and Sequel Testament god is as exacting and stern as a micro-managing boss. And just as hard to live with.

We accept the I-told-you-so-ism of today's modus operandi and not the struggle--the pilgrim's progress--of navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of the pain of life.

We see this left, right and center.

Sports fans blasting coaches for putting in Johnson when Wilson was hot. Agencies for making a bad ad or for screwing up a campaign or losing a long-running account. Of course, 98.2-percent of our political discourse is recounting some heinous thing someone did while running for candy-fair manager in their fourth-grade class back in 1971.

We are so fearful of making mistakes that we either a) posit of perfection and boast how we've got it all figured out or b) we do nothing at all except become part of the Tedocracy and talk tediously about ideas worth spreading rather than risks worth taking.

Having studied history for probably 50 of my 64 years, some time ago I was smitten by this quotation from a book by Nobel-winner Czeslaw Milosz: “When someone is honestly 55% right, that's very good and there's no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it's wonderful, it's great luck, and let him thank God. But what's to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he's 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.”

Yet the 100% "righters" are the ones who infect our daily intercourse with their absolutism and conviction. My rule of thumb is that the only people you should ever trust are people with the letter Z in their first names and last.

I've worked for too many people for too many years in too many agencies who want too many guarantees. They want to believe too much that human endeavor can be an if-then proposition.

My mother used to talk about her father, an itinerant carver of tombstones and an inveterate gambler. On rainy days drinking in some bar in West Philadelphia, he would wager on the speed of raindrops snaking down a pane of glass. Life is about that sure of a thing. There is nothing you can count on.

And, to sully Robert Burns, "the best-laid plans of mice and men," come with unintended consequences.

Every so often I get a call from a plaintive acquaintance. 

"George, I was asked to deliver a eulogy. Can you help me write it?" The last time it happened it was pouring rain and I had no umbrella. My iPhone was drowning.

"I don't know the guy," I always back-peddle.

"But you're good at this shit."

"Listen," I say, "years ago when the great writer Philip Roth hung up his word processor there was a long interview of him in the Times. He was asked to reflect on his 60-year career and a life of having written almost a novel a year for 60 years."


"He quoted the great boxer, Joe Louis. The Brown Bomber. A man of strength, accomplishment, dignity. A Horatio Alger in an era when there were few Algers of Color. Roth quoted Louis in this interview. He said what Louis said: 'I did the best I could with what I had.'"


That I believe is the worthiest summation of any big effort--of any life. Of anyone's participation in a marriage, a career, raising kids, being a friend, running a business.

I did the best I could with what I had.

That's all any of us can do. But in making decisions, it's the goodness of our hearts, the purity of our intent, the steadfastness of our aims that are more important than the smartness of our brains. It's acting with soul and truth and generosity rather than intelligence--or anything that passes for intelligence.

That's my two cents.

Try not for perfection. That's as long-lasting a piece of spinach in the space between a model's two front teeth. 

Try to do your best with what you have. As Churchill said--a man who was often wrong and usually flawed--bring blood, sweat, toil and tears. Add to that humor, honesty and as much pure human-kindness as you can muster--and looking out for the other guy. And you have a chance to be a human. As human as a Greek god, anyway.

And that's the best I can do with what I have.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

A downpour.

We were the three oldest men on the team. The only men, in fact, on a team of 25. Though I was just a boy.

Guillermo Sisto joined the Seraperos just after I did, in mid-June, a mid-season shoring up of the thousand weak spots we had at nearly every position on the field and in our rotation, too. Sisto was probably nearing 45 years of age. He had started playing professionally in Mexico in 1949. "Ha jugado para 50 equipos" the other Seraperos would remark, with reverence. "He has played for 50 teams." 

Sisto played in small towns that had disappeared. He played in large cities that now spewed smoke and souls. And he played in little villages that were consumed by other villages and grew into a heaving, sooty ugliness lightened only by the laughter of boys playing a boys' game in a stadium as large as the base of a volcano, like El Popo itself, towering 18,000 feet above Mexico and angry.

Sisto filled in wherever we needed filling in and was Hector's best-friend. They had known each other when they were teenagers, like I was now, starting out playing ball. And now they were late in their 40s.

Hector of course was the legend. For 32 years he played the game in the Mexican Leagues, amassing over 3,000 hits, 300 doubles, 100 triples and 200 home runs. More people came to see the great Little Cheese manage than came to see us play ball. 

Hector had retired from playing half-a-decade earlier and had grown broad as Mestizos do when they stop running and sweating. He was as wide almost as he was tall. But he carried in his brain and his muscles the beauty and love of the game that went along in step with the ugliness and the hate of the game.

When I joined the Seraperos as a 17-year-old from el Norte, my father one day called me long distance on the phone in Hector's cinderblock office in the clubhouse. I was new to the ball team and alone, which was not new. My father had somehow gotten the number and the phone on Hector's desk rang.

"Come home," my father demanded of me. "Baseball is not a life for you in Mexico. What are you making down there? $200 a month. Besides I am dying and your mother is sick and we need you at home."

Hector took from me the phone and hung it up not-so-gently on the worn receiver. 

"Everyone is dying," Hector reassured me. "You can't do anything about dying. Only your life, living. You no go. You stay here."

From that point on, he called me his "hijo Americano." His American son. And soon I moved into his small house two miles from el estadio de beisbol de Francisco I. Madero, living in his spare bedroom and taken care of by Hector and my new mother, his wife, Teresa.

This night the three of us were on our usual bench seats on the old re-purposed American school bus, painted white with the teal letters Seraperos painted on the side, along with a white baseball draped with a colorful serape.

I sat two back from our full-time driver and third-string catcher, Gordo Batista. Hector sat across from me and Sisto sat one seat in front of Hector. Those were our usual places, while the rest of the team sat crowded in the back half of the bus where they could drink a beer or have a coke or smoke a cigarette or sing some songs of girls they never had.

On some trips, Teolindo Acosta, a scrub outfielder sometimes brought along a small drum-set, with a cymbal and a snare and would play along with Angel Diablo, our shortstop who had a guitar and Orestes "Tito" Puente, our best pitcher, who exhaled into a harmonica and occasionally hit a note that sounded like he knew what he was doing. 

But on most nights, when the sky had darkened and the games of the day were over, the boys in the bus would fall asleep, their duffle bag as a pillow or their worn leather glove and they would spasm through the night with every nightmare waking nearly the whole crew. Gordo would grind the gears of the old bus up the steep mountains, and downshift down, grinding the metal teeth again, yet saving the worn drum brakes that needed saving. We rolled along, going down from 3000 or 4000 meters through a series of hairpins, hoping to slow down in time and always just.

I lay flat on my seat, my head against my glove against the tin wall of the bus. I could feel the vibration of the diesel as we chugged a thousand kilometers through the night to another un-airconditioned town and played another game that meant nothing really to no one, yet we wanted to win. My feet rested on the ridged rubberized floor, sticky with spilled Cokes, and across from me, Sisto and Hector assumed the same position.

We stared up at the ceiling of the bus, hearing the snores from the back, the pinging and chughachugha of the diesel and the cursing of Gordo as he tried to speed the old truck up or slow it down.

"What was the worst," Sisto said to the ceiling.

"The worst?"

"The worst what?" I laughed. "The worst game? The worst girl? The worst meal?"

"The worst bus ride?" Gordo added.

"No," said Sisto. "How did you get here? What was the worst thing that had happened to you? What got you here?"

Two miles passed and Sisto broke the silence he had broken first five miles earlier.

"For me, it was my father."

"His leaving?" Hector asked.

"No. His coming back. His leaving was ok. You get used to someone being gone. But leaving, coming back, leaving, coming back. Never knowing if you had a father or had no father. It's like a pitcher, I think. Do I have a curve? I had one a minute ago. Do I have one now?"

"Not knowing," I asked. "That was the worst?"

"I had eight brothers," Hector said as if in prayer. "I was the youngest. And we all shared one bed. Slowly, my brothers would leave to play ball and that would anger my father. I don't know why. He hardly seemed to notice when we were there. But angry he was because he had nine sons who would all leave and leave him."

Gordo downshifted badly and the gears of the bus grinded like a crocodile's teeth.

"When my time came to leave, I was only 14."

"I was 17," I said.

"My father was drunk and in the yard working on a Ford that hadn't started since before I was born. 'I go now,' I said, carrying my glove stitched together with shoelaces, a worn bat and a clean pair of pants, some undershorts and a clean shirt in a paper bag. He lashed at me with a long wrench as I tried to leave his yard. I punched him in the belly with the fat end of my bat and knocked him to the dust. That was the last time I would ever see him. He cursed me."

"That is a bad worst," Sisto said.

"For me, it was my mother," I began. "My father was the drunk, I suppose he was mean but kindlier than her. No one was meaner than her."

"You called her 'Atilla the Mom,'" Hector laughed. 

"Atilla the Mom came at me with a blade. I think because I got a "C" in Latin."

"El Professor, a "C?" Hector laughed.

"There was a girl in the class. I paid no attention to Ovid. Who will guard the guards?"

"There is always a girl," Sisto said, and he and Hector and Gordo laughed as one.

"My mother turned the knife from me and put the knife to her neck."

"Not your neck?" Sisto asked.

"I could see her blue skin like a gas flame turning red where the serrated teeth were cutting in. 'Just kill me,' she screamed. 'Just kill me.' And I wanted to, but instead, I grabbed at her wrist and took the knife away."

"That is a very bad worst," Sisto said. "I think your worst might be the worst."

The bus ground on in the noisy cicada silence of the grinding gears as we climbed the Mexican mountains.

"The sun will soon be shining," Sisto said. "Another day under the cruel sun of Mexico."

"Sun, yes," Hector summed up "But always in our hearts there will be something else."

We descended the mountain and Hector paused, respectfully, as Gordo went through the ancient gearbox.

"Always in our hearts there will be something else."

He paused again as Gordo guided the bus down the mountain.

"Rain," Hector said. "It always in our hearts rains."

Gordo drove the bus up a thousand mountains and down a thousand mountains. We leaned into a thousand too-sharp turns and hit a thousand coffin-deep chuckholes. The diesel kept pinging and cachugging through the night. Through the dark. Through the glimmer of the dust-streaked sunrise. Through the torrents of rain that poured heavy into our hearts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Leveling off.

I was sitting on the expensive sofa in my rickety yet expensive Covid-cottage on the Gingham Coast of Connecticut. It's an area so rarefied Lily Pulitzer skirts qualify as gang clothing and where the local high school sports teams are called the "Cucumber Sandwiches."

My red iPhone rang. The one that only clients call me on. And then, only when they're in trouble, facing a dire emergency or have a Series D fundraising deck to pull together.

"George," one of my larger clients barked. In between yelps you could hear heavy breathing. He sounded like a cocker-spaniel in a thunderstorm.

"George," he said, "that copy we went over on Wednesday..."

"That copy you said was dead, solid perfect," I reminded him.

"Yes, that copy," he breathlessed. "I need you to re-look at it."

"Re-look at it?" I said.

"Yes." Stealing a joke from an old Preston Sturges movie, his breath was coming in short pants. "It needs a little love," he repeated. "I need you to take it to the next level."

I unplugged my brand-new Mac with the new M1 MaxPro chip. It's a computer so fast it allows me to type copy before I even get an assignment. I walked upstairs away from the suburban cacophony of every middle-aged paunch within 200 yards of my shack power-washing his deck. Up here on the Gingham Coast they clean their floors, and dirty the air and call it a wash. 

"I'm on another level now," I shouted into my red client iPhone. 

"Good," my client said. Like an expensive AI system that can discern anxiety in vocal patterns, I could tell his tremolo had steadied. "You're on another level," he asked.

"Yes," I explained. "I went upstairs. I'm on a completely another level."

"Thank god," my client said. "I appreciate that. But can you take it to yet another level? This Series D meeting is big."

"Give me a second," I said with solicitude. I removed a cedar square from one of our closets and pulled down a set of stairs and climbed into our cramped attic. "I'm on another level now," I reassured him. "I'm up in the attic. Now, what's wrong with my copy."

"I didn't say anything was wrong with it," my client said. "I merely said 'I need you to take it to another level.'"

"I have," I infarcted.

"OK, thanks, George. That's why I love working with you. You're always willing to take things to another level."

"I do my level-best," I answered. And I hung up the phone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


A friend and sometime partner sent me a note the other day. Like smart freelancers everywhere (and he's a smart freelancer) we make a habit of checking in with each other.

Part is because, after working together sporadically for twenty plus years, we genuinely like and respect each other. Another part is that we don't just talk about marketing vagaries like customer relationship marketing, when you're in business for yourself, you're always practicing it.

Not in the way asinine and intrusive companies like Amazon do, "Alexa, what's the notification?" "Your wife bought strychnine tablets six months ago, and she's not done killing you. Would you like to order a refill?" We stay in touch to hear about leads, remind each other of opportunities and to get a sense of which way the mercantile winds are blowing. Like sports teams scout the competition, good freelancers do too. You need to know what's happening, where and why.

My friend sent me a note. "I've somehow lost all my Communication Arts magazines. Do you have any?"

Because of my vaunted position as America's 97th most-read advertising blogger, now and then I get a complementary subscription to this publication or that. So in addition to "Screw Your Neighbor Quarterly," and "The Journal of Geriatric Memory Loss," I regularly procure complete pdfs of Communication Arts Annuals. 

In two-shakes of a false timesheet, I sent my friend via We Transfer a terabyte or so of old issues. 85 in total, including every advertising annual since 1962, except for 1991, which for whatever reason I cannot find.

My pal's response was pithy and appropriate. As good a character study of me as has ever been tautly written.

There are a few points--obtuse and long-winded, I'll admit here today.

One, keep in touch with people and build your network. Constantly.

Two, keep good files and keep adding to them. Not only can you learn from the past--and old stuff is easier to steal from since no one remembers it--foundational work is often not merely stylistic. It was better focused on the fundamentals of communication than just trends.

Three, if you want a CA or two, let me know. Send me an email. I make no guarantees. But see point one above. And toss from work my way. Though I'm as busy as a serrated knife at a bagel shop, I don't turn down work. Work is a force that gives us meaning.

Four, write everything you do down. Tell a story about it if you can. When you've written a blog every working day since 2007, it might come in handy.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A Morass for a Monday.

I started last night, after perhaps the busiest week of my over 40-year career of typing for a living, a book by Vaclav Smil, a polymath and university professor emeritus. The book is called "How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We're Going." 

I'm not sure if "The New York Times has reviewed Smil's book yet, but the fascist newspaper, "The Wall Street Journal" with the world's best book section has. If you can get past their paywall, you can read their dour review here.

If you can't find the Journal's review, here's the last sentence. If it hits you the way it hit me, you might not sleep for a few nights: "One unsettling conclusion of [Smil's] realistic outlook, might be, in the words of Roman historian Livy, that we can survive neither our vices nor their remedies."

As I do often, I'm getting ahead of myself. I fell into my usual restless sleep after page 20 and my ongoing battles with insomnia yielded me only another 15 or so pages. I am right at the beginning of Smil's book. But I am already struck by what he started with.

"By the middle of the 18th century two French savants, Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, could still gather a group of knowledgeable contributors to sum up the era’s understanding in fairly exhaustive entries in their multi-volume Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers....

"In 1872, a century after the appearance of the last volume of the Encyclopédie, any collection of knowledge had to resort to the superficial treatment of a rapidly expanding range of topics, and, one and a half centuries later, it is impossible to sum up our understanding even within narrowly circumscribed specialties: such terms as “physics” or “biology” are fairly meaningless labels, and experts in particle physics would find it very hard to understand even the first page of a new research paper in viral immunology. Obviously, this atomization of knowledge has not made any public decision-making easier."

If you know me, you'd know that the sentence fragment "this atomization of knowledge," got my head spinning. And when my head spins I think often of advertising.

The world--even the world of advertising--has gotten so complex, I think the world of advertising alone can be defined in about 32 thousand different ways.

When I look at the onslaught of chest-beating self-promoting awards for work that scarcely abrades the skin of the viewing public, I ask myself, "if it didn't really run, if it changed no minds or rang no cash-registers, is it advertising?" 

Likewise, when I watch Jeopardy! at night, the one show I watch with regularity and see pharma commercial after pharma commercial as plastic as poolside in Beverly Hills, I ask myself, "is something so phony, so devoid of humanity, something that blathers at me for 45 of its 60 seconds about horrible side-effects, advertising?"

When I see people gushing over yet another Toyotathon, or about their cable service or the ineffability of their 5G phone--as inhuman a portrayal of humans I can imagine, I ask, is it advertising?

And when I spend night after night after day after day locked in zoomrooms with CEOs trying to define their companies in eight words or fewer so they can raise millions to launch their companies, I ask, is it advertising?

The answer, I suppose, in all four of those cases and probably 400 more is "yes." It's all advertising.


Yet somehow, it's not.

This is rough and amorphous--wooly writing as my ex-partner Tore Claesson would say. But I worry that when everything is advertising, that nothing is advertising. 

And without a core of being real, of reaching real people, giving real information, and influencing real results, we are killing our industry. Those seem like givens. Absolutes. Essential, in the Greek sense of the word. 

Our looseness today, in definitions of everything, permits us freedom. The freedom to call Dubble-Bubble and fine French cooking "cuisines." Or tattoos and Caravaggio "art."

I don't buy the equivalency of all cultures or all crafts.

Just as I don't buy all the definitions of advertising above.

I know it brands me as antediluvian, but some things, and some advertising, is more valid than others. It just is.

I will continue to provide non-commoditized help to my growing coterie of CEOs and CMOs.

It's what I do.

And so far, it keeps me off the streets.

So far.


Friday, May 20, 2022

Six Accountability Questions.

There was an article in yesterday's failing--nine million digital subscribers--New York Times about one of the world's most corrupt institutions outside of Matt Gaetz's office and Marjorie Taylor Greene's orthodontist.

It was about Wells Fargo bank--the loser of hundreds of legal decisions over the last few years. This article told that Wells Fardo interviews Black people and women for jobs when there was no job available to them and when they have no intention of hiring them. Here.

I realize believing in accountability in a world that accepts linguistic pablum like "transparency," marks me today as an anomaly. We seem to inhabit a world where very few people question anymore the bullshit they're force-fed. 

I'm a problem in that world because I have an eidetic memory. Once I read something, I don't forget it. (With the exception of names. I can't remember names for shit.) 

So it wasn't that long ago, I remembered, that the older white men who run the advertising industry as an oligopoly all pledged that they would make strides toward genuine "diversity" and combat "Systemic Racism."

It's been about two years since these articles were published. It strikes me as odd--corrupt even--that no one is saying, "hey, how ya doin'?" If I told my internist in January that I intend to lose 25 pounds, he'd check to see how I was doing by my next appointment. You owe it to those you make promises to to tell them how you're doing.

I'm doubtful about promises from agencies because I remember diversity headlines like this one, from a mere 624 months ago. 

Assuming you believe, as Shakespeare said in "The Tempest,"
"what's past is prologue," what have agency Holding Companies done to address "Systemic Racism"?

How about giving us a diversity progress report--since it's been two years and lack of diversity has been an endemic problem?

How about starting with these questions?

1. How much are you spending on diversity recruitment, training and retention?

2. How does that expenditure compare to what you spend on awards entries?

3. What do you mean by diversity? Who does the term apply to and who does it include and who does it omit--for instance, though age is a "protected" group, fewer than 2% of WPP employees are over 60 as compared to 20% of the US population.

4. Outside of people in "Diversity" roles, how much of your senior leadership is BIPOC?

5. Are you resigning clients who advertise on Fox and other propagators of the virulently racist "Replacement Theory"? 

6. Are your media arms refusing to buy time on Fox, Sinclair, OAN and other racist channels?

Recently someone in leadership at WPP accused me of having an anti-Holding Company ax to grind.

I said, "I'm not anti-Holding Company, I'm anti-unaccountability." If you're making progress, why not tell people. As to question 3 above, everyone I know who was 50+ and at a WPP shop has been fired. 

I'd like some evidence of "further actions," some "accountability," some sense that efforts have been "refocused." 

I'm a stockholder in three of the five holding companies. Don't I deserve an answer?

Oh, and to whichever Holding Company has the multi-million dollar Wells Fargo account--are you resigning it, or has money trumped principles?

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Hearkening Back to the 1590s.

Friends, Borderlessites, Creativeators, lend me your timesheets;
I come to praise the Agency, not to bury it.

The evil of accounts ere lost live after us,
The wins are oft interred with our bonuses.

So let it be with all those we have fired,
While we proclaim to the world how much we care.
The noble Holding Company hath told you,
That they are focused on Diversity.

They hireth Chief People People, Chief Diversity People,
Chief Diversity People People. Chief Diversity
Diversity People People But alas,
That Diversity doth not extend to all People.
Not to People over 50. Nay. Lo, those we Dis and Dain.
The Holders hath told you we are Diverseth!
Yet they employ just twenty in one thousand over 50.

Is such contradiction a Grievous fault,
Aye, and grievously hath we Answered it.
For Holding Companies Are Honourable men.

So they are all Honourable men.
They fire all, yes. When the poor have cried,
They have wept. They praise the old they have buried.
For Holding Companies Are Honourable men.

They will Hail their Victory of Nettworke of the Year,
Alas, they show no good work. Or real work.
And, lo, their revenue withers and their coffers empty.

I speak here not to disprove what they have
Borderlessly spoke. For they have said they love the old.
And though they employ not diversity,
Holding Companies Are Honourable men.

You all did love it once, not without cause:
For work, for clients, for raises and growth.
But judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And they have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Holders,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

For Holding Companies Are Honourable men.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Say No to Customer Centricity.


Friends, Sychophants, Members of the Ad Press Who Do Nothing But Reprint Press Releases and Cannes Judges,

For some time now--for years, if not decades, every agency and every process designed to produce award-winning work, you know, the kind of work that, by definition never runs and has no commercial impact, has been dutifully proclaiming itself to be Customer-Centric.

"We put the customer at the center of everything we do," declares one.

"We specialize in customer-centricity," says another.

"We look to be people-focused and focused on the focus of people," says yet a third.

"While everyone is zigging, and some are zagging, our agency, YROMPQSRTEFFDIJK & P, a subsidiary of almost everyone, have a brand-new agency dedicated to zogging. In time pulling together, we will advance to zugging, and eventually scale the heights of zegging.

"So, while everyone else is zigging, we'll be zegging. While other agencies are Human Centric, we will be Human Oblique™. We will put humans off to one side of all our communication."

YROMPQSRTEFFDIJK & P brand planner and Executive Director of Executive Directors, Tiffany Firepit, said, "the core of our philosophy at YROMPQSRTEFFDIJK & P is to do something different. It's to zog, zug, zeg and sometimes zyg while the rest of the industry zigs and zags. 

By doing that, we will be fulfilling the highest mission of YROMPQSRTEFFDIJK & P. We put the customer off to one-side in our advertising. That's why we believe in Human Obliquity."

YROMPQSRTEFFDIJK & P client Miles Togo said "The agency does a great job aligning with our belief in the customer not mattering at all. YROMPQSRTEFFDIJK & P shoves the customer off to one side and doesn't consider them or their needs at all. We'll tell them what we think and we don't really care about them or their desires."

Firepit continued, "Nothing makes us feel more important than making the customer feel unimportant. Other agencies can pretend they follow the notion of customer-centricity. We say, the hell with pretense. We're proud to shit on our customers. Customer-obliquity is ouobloquy and we embrace it.

"That's why at YROMPQSRTEFFDIJK & P, we're proud to not give a shit about anyone."

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Go fractal yourself.

Part of our job as creative people--and all people should strive to be creative, regardless of their job or title--is we have to train ourselves to look at things in at least two ways.

Let me explain what I mean by way of the important scientist Benoit Mandelbrot. Mandelbrot is credited with helping to develop the idea of fractals.

Fractal theory, as my feeble mind understands it, holds that any object, from the seacoast to a piece of string is immeasurably complex. A piece of string might be four-inches long, but when you zoom in ten times, or a thousand times, or a millions times and start to see indentations and outcroppings, there are before long, so many that that string becomes almost infinitely long.

A shoreline or the surface of a tree is built of infinite regressions and outcroppings. There's no way to really calculate its length. In fact, fractal theory is counterintuitive. It suggests that closer you look at something, the more it remains unknown.

So if one way of looking at something is with a super-close up view--whether it's the candy bar you're advertising or a cloud storage service, getting into the weeds--while it explains a lot, can lead to more complexity than understanding.

That's why good creative people also look at things from a distance. They see its simplicity, while also seeing its complexity. They see its uniqueness, while also being able to explain what it does in relatable human terms.

Creative people need two forms of vision. Up-close-and-deep so we understand the heartbeat. And from a human distance so we can explain why a heartbeat is important.

Once, many eons ago, I had to write a two-minute commercial for AT&T. I was asked to explain a typically complicated phone company offering and the thought was it would take me two minutes to do it.

Basically at the time--during the land line era, there were two types of calls. Long-distance and local. There was a third type that the phone company wanted to sell. They called it "interlata." Like when you're in 212 and you want to call 516, ie. from Manhattan to Manhasset. It's not local. It's not long. It's in between.

Here's the sort of definition we got from the client.

What is a LATA?

LATA stands for Local Transport and Access Area. A LATA is a contiguous geographic area. LATA is your local calling area.

Therefore intraLATA means the same thing - your local calling area (inside a particular LATA). A LATA can cover an entire state so all the state will be considered intraLATA, and all calls within that state will be considered local calls (usually for small states). Most states have several LATAs.

InterLATA refers to calls between 2 LATAs. These can be 2 LATAs located in the same state, or 2 LATAs located in 2 different states. Therefore long distance calls.

My partner figured out how to explain it in two words. He called it "Middle-distance." You know, in between local and long-distance.

We didn't need two-minutes to explain the idea. We needed two-seconds.

Because we zoomed in and we pulled back.

Often the trick of creating work that carries the day is to create a lot of work. The best way to do that is not just to shift words around, it's to shift your perspective.

The Museum of Modern Art currently has Matisse's Red Studio on display. They've recreated in a single room all the extant pieces depicted in Matisse's painting. They've also employed a battery of forensic art historians and the most-sophisticated scientific tools to look "inside" the Red Studio. They see colors--vestiges of earlier thoughts, stray brush strokes, a huge mind and a mind that's always changing, that you and I cannot see. They see more than a painting, they see a genius' work style--his creative process.

This is where our business and the work of science come together. Creativity and science are the disciplines of looking so intensely at a subject you can see that subject in a new and interesting way. We can learn, as creatives, from awards' annuals. We can also learn from the $10 Billion Webb Space Telescope.

What if we looked at it close?

What if we looked at it from far away?

What if it disappeared?

What if we talked about the founder?

What if we admit we have nothing to say?

How many points of view can you assume? How many ways can you skin a cat?

That's the trick sometimes.

To keep thinking and rethinking.

Write it long.

Write it short.

Write it in rhyme.

Write it in 1000 words.

Just knock yourself in the head.

Focus. Unfocus. Refocus.





Monday, May 16, 2022

Some Thoughts on Pasta.

Iphigenia in Tauris
 (1893) by Valentin Serove 

I got a note the other morning. 

A plaintive note.

It was from a young man I don't really know but we've had some correspondence in today's prevailing fashion, what the French or the hoity-toity would call a la mode.

My incipient friend has started his own advertising business and has sailed into--as explorers have since the Phoenicians--a sea devoid of wind. The world has turned still. He is becalmed.

He wrote "I am staring out my window and wondering. Does George ever feel this way?"

Oh boy.

Not too many months ago I had a big client presentation. A client who found me out of the blue and whom I couldn't pick out of a line-up. 

I work alone--and rarely show my work to anyone outside of the people paying for it. I hardly even show my wife, who also has 40 years in the business and is most-often breathtakingly level-headed. I work in my head, and always have. Old habits die hard.

For this presentation, for whatever reason, I was especially shaky. I knew the work was good. And I've trained myself to repeat to myself that "my good is other people's great," but I was wracked.

Finally, I called a long-time friend.

"Do you ever get nervous?" I asked.

I got in return a Shakespearean soliloquy on anxiety, lack of confidence, fear and very high stakes.

I thought about all that when I got the note from my young friend about his business slowing down.

I thought about the tortures I put myself through when I have a slow day, or a slow afternoon, or even a slow hour. I thought about all the hall-of-fame people I have known and worked with and still work with, and how the phone not ringing is the same as the bell tolling. Each non-ring is a chime at midnight portending doom, hunger, a life under a highway overpass pushing a shopping cart filled with old styrofoam and discarded rope.

There aren't many people on god's no-longer-green earth who don't have fettuccine issues, except for the 5-percent of us who are psychopaths. The rest of us have I'm Pasta Syndrome--which has been Americanized as Imposter Syndrome.

I call it, rightfully, I'm Pasta Syndrome because I'm a purist by nature--and that was the original etymology. I'm Pasta because my backbone--my spine--which has helped me through so many hardships, challenges and travails, is limp and weak. It is not holding up. 

My muscles, which have always been bursting with sinew, have turned glutinous, flaccid and sad.

My brain, which has always been to the teeth--al dente--strong enough to make others feel something has, at times, the constitution of Spaghetti-O's. Soggy like a worm after a teeming jungle downpour.

I'm Pasta Syndrome, whether it's about running your own business, presenting work, finding clients, entering a room where you know no one else, is part of being a human.

For whatever reason, most people pretend it doesn't happen to them, or they have some sort of godly confidence that shields them from the farinaceous plagues.

Do not go quiet into that good gnocchi. 

Rage rage against the dying of the linguini.

Posit I'm Pasta-ness.

Then use your noodle and move ever forward.