Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Intrinsic. Extrinsic. Sick.

Growing up when I did, the world was very different from the way the world is today.

I'd go so far as to say that in today's world we have lost, somewhat, the notion of "intrinsic" value. In fact, I think the Carl Ally agency's ad written by Ed McCabe for Horn & Hardhart's would never run today. It's all about real value. Not pretense. 

(BTW, today there are junior creatives who have won more awards than McCabe did over the entire course of his career. Trophied or atrophied reminders of the banality of a world without extrinsic value.)

Back in the anti-establishment 60s and 70s, a lot of the world I grew up in was a "show me the money-" world. Your worth, or the worth of a fast-foot joint, or maybe even a political candidate was based more on what you did than on how you boasted.



To my baby-blues, this began changing fast when designer jeans happened. All of a sudden a "last-a-lifetime" pair of Levi's that cost $10 that you bought in the Army-Navy were inferior to something cheap and trendy and ugly with embroidery on the back pockets. There was no intrinsic value in those jeans. Just social cachet.

Social cachet, expressed through a similarly named propellant, social media, is all that matters today.

I suppose the apotheosis of the Bombastocene Era is trumpism in the United States and whatever is going on right now in the United Kingdom.

New kinds of "leaders" have emerged. They have no vision. They have no track-record. They have few ideas. They don't even have the moxie to know how to pull the right levers.

They remind me in fact of the old advertising joke about a woman who was married 55 years and dies and goes before St. Peter, prior to admission to Heaven. Peter looks at her records and says, "You're very qualified, Mrs. Jones. But there's an anomaly here. You've been married 55 years, yet your papers show you're a virgin. How is this possible?" Embarrassed, Mrs. Jones answers, "Simple. My husband was in advertising. Every night he'd sit on the side of the bed and tell me how great it was going to be."

Proclamations of greatness have no place in advertising. Unless they're backed by facts.

Impossibly pretty people high-fiving over a garden salad have no place in advertising.

Superlatives, hyperbole, and the world's entire ecosystem of horseshit have no place in advertising.

To my jaded eyes, Advertising in the Bombastocene has been built on a web of lies about "the next great thing that will change everything."

Every agency (save mine) have a patented system backed by foolish cheaply produced "case study" videos that bolster the agency's spurious effectiveness claims. "We ran an ad on an old mussel shell we found on the beach and got 1.5 billion organic views! AND WE CAN DO IT FOR YOU!!!" 

The reason they're called Case Study videos is that you'd have to be a basket-case to actually believe any of them.

Every monopolistic company, from cable providers to airlines to phone companies to hotel chains have spots featuring the most banal veneer of how friendly their service is, and let's face it, service and treatment sucks, everywhere. 

In fact, I had to watch this Delta video above--a lying commercial, though I paid over $8000 for my seat and it was as uncomfortable as diarrhea on a roller-coaster.

I've lived through a lot of years in advertising. 

If I had a nickel for every time I heard about making an emotional connection through a plasticine smile from a plasticine actor in a plasticine situation so we would build a plasticine affinity for some horrid product or service, I'd be a rich man today.

Decades ago when I was a big cheese at a big New York agency, I was locked into a conference room with about 14 HR people. Someone had decided that a better creative evaluation form would help us become more creative. 

About an hour late for the meeting, my boss came in. He looked at us with disgust. "There's one thing that matters in a creative review form. Answer one question. It's Friday night. The pitch is Monday. Do you want them in on the weekend?"

And again, decades ago, I was working on a large New York-bank that has since been merged out of existence. The bank had a huge amount of retail business and attracted customers by offering often the best loan or interest rates in town.

A pretty banal claim.

I was down at the bank to present some work to a scion of the organization: a Senior Executive Vice President. He was late for my meeting and came into the conference room huffing and puffing.

"I was late and just ran up three flights of steps from the subway."

"You're a senior executive vice president of one of New York's largest banks and you take the Lexington Line?" I asked. "That's how the bank can offer such great rates. You're not lobster at Delmonico's. You're hotdogs at Sabrett's."

A senior executive vice president taking the subway so you can save $75/month on your mortgage shows caring. 

Fake smiles show not caring.

Or even thinking.

--

By the way, I did write a jingle for the bank.

To show them what not to do. 

"Happy people,
Smiling faces,
We've got banks in all
The right places,
We're blank en why,
Come on stop on by.
To blank en why.

We've got Mastercard and Visa,
We're making sure we always please ya',
We're blank en why,
Come on stop on by.
To blank en why.

We'll give a loan, 
We'll cash a check.
We always treat you
With respect,
We're blank en why,
Come on stop on by.
To blank en why.

--






Monday, September 26, 2022

A Crash Ha-Shanah Story. My Father Takes Me Golfing.




I have a two-inch scar on the inside of my left elbow that I got from watching my father play golf.

Sometime around the time I was nine, my father was well-enough recovered from his most recent heart attack so that he was able to persuade my mother into letting him play golf. I don’t know that my father actually even liked golf. However, he had achieved enough career success on his way to his heart attacks and had rubbed enough elbows with enough successful advertising people who did enjoy golf, that my father felt obligated to play the game and probably obligated to say he enjoyed it.

I wasn’t privy to the pre-game conversation my mother and father had about my father playing. But I assume at the end of it my mother reluctantly conceded. My father could play golf as long as my father took either me or my brother along and rode an electric cart. There would be no carrying a golf bag for my father. No walking up hills. No strenuous activity. My father was still recovering from his infarction.

[Of all the things that have scared and scarred me in my life, perhaps the most indelible was seeing my father arrive home from the hospital to the house he worked so hard to afford. There were nine steps up to his bedroom. He would lift one leg, wait, then lift the other leg to the same step. Climbing those nine steps probably took him 45-minutes. It's hard when you're nine to see your father as the walking dead.]

The only other wrinkle of the day is that it was Rosh ha-Shannah. Neither of my putative parents had a shred of religiosity in them and my father had an outright hatred of rules of any kind and regarded ritual as the hobgoblin of little minds. Nevertheless, to play golf on Rosh ha-Shannah in full view of the neighbors, Gentile and Jew alike was uncool. The Jews would disparage you for violating a Holy day. The Gentiles, for getting a day off without their approval.

However, my mother conceded something she did with the frequency of an honest politician and allowed my father out. She was as stubborn as a glacier. Maybe she needed some time alone—my father had been convalescing at home for a good two months. Maybe she simply wanted him out of the house. Maybe she thought the fresh air and an afternoon with his son would be good for him. Maybe it was my father's ability to quip his way through any situation that finally wore her down. "The ol' ticker still has a lot of life in her," he would say when asked how he was feeling. "Ol' blue eyes will be back in no time."

My brother was older than me and was slyer and craftier than I was at getting out of things like accompanying my father. Maybe he used his guile to extricate himself. Maybe, on the other hand, he had some school event or a sleepover party. Whatever the case, I had to go with my father and watch him play.

My father’s reward to me for going with him was he allowed me to drive the electric cart. The cart, though it had but three wheels (two in the back and one in the front, which turned with the steering wheel) was as close to driving a car as a nine year old could get. Wow, I thought. I’m driving. Braking. Speeding up. Slowing down. Driving. Look at me, I’m driving.

I watched as my father got out of the cart on the first tee and selected a club. I’ve lost half my father, I thought to myself. He used to be a big man. A football type gone to seed. Now he was spindly, long and bony. Worse, he walked slowly, like he was on ice and afraid to fall. I had known my father had been sick but it wasn’t until I watched him on the course that I knew how sick he was.

He hit the ball and made his way, on ice, back to the cart.

“That was good, Dad.”

He answered with a platitude. Something like “Oh, I’ll be hitting them further than that once I get my sea legs.” Or “Feels good to get back on the ol’ horse after she throws you.” Or “It ain’t Arnold Palmer, but that wasn’t half bad, was it?”

We continued with our platitudes for most of the afternoon. My father hitting the ball. Returning to the cart and then driving with me until he had to hit it again.

“Nice, Dad.” I’d say.

And he’d respond quickly, eagerly, jokingly with something like, “The old fella’s still got it.”

Occasionally I’d escort him from a shot back to the cart, or take a club myself to dig through the woods in search of a lost ball, or I’d rake the neat white sand of a trap after he visited one.

That was pretty much the afternoon. A sunny day in the early fall, with few others on the course. My father hitting the ball. Me driving the cart.

Then we came to a hill. Maybe midway through the course. It was a downhill and the path down which carts were to travel was studded with small rocks. To my nine-year-old eyes, the path looked good for sledding. It seemed steep and treacherous and so perfect for careening in the snow.

“Dad, I don’t think I can handle this,” I said.

He looked at me, slightly annoyed, and then leaned over on the single seat we shared and navigated the cart down the hill. Or tried to. Halfway down the hill we hit a protruding stone. It upended the cart. The cart turned over, my father’s clubs snapping in half against its weight, one of the halved clubs’ shafts cutting deep into my left elbow. The cart toppled on top of us.

My father lay dead on the ground. My right hand filled with blood as I tried to stop the bleeding from the gash on my elbow. I ran for the clubhouse to try to get help. I found two men there who quickly drove over the course in a white Plymouth station wagon to where my father lay.

The cart was over on its side. His clubs were strewn and bent. The men ran toward him. I wasn’t as fast and trailed a bit behind.

By the time I got there the men had my father sitting up. He breathed deeply and slowly.

He looked at me. Saw the blood on my arm, my pants, my shirt. The two men helped him to his feet and led him toward the Plymouth.

Finally he said to me, “Guess that one got away from me, eh, son? I never even saw what hit me.”


The men in the Plymouth called various local doctors to try to get some help. But most of the doctors were Jewish and were taking the day off. As Jewish doctors had been doing for almost 6,000 years.

 

Ultimately, a cardiologist was found, Jewish, and my father spent the whole way to the hospital apologizing for playing golf during the holiest of days.

Whenever anyone asked, he'd quip, "I got in a fight with the big caddy in the sky."


Fore!


And L' Shanah Tovah.


Friday, September 23, 2022

As I Lay Lying.


If you believe in the old-fashioned ways like I do that being in advertising should be the equivalent to being in the truth business, there's an essay in Thursday's New York Times that you should spend four or nine-minutes reading.

While the article is about the Lieocracy of d*na*ld tr**p and his millions of enablers, it's really about the compound interest that lying generates. You can read it here. 

It’s common to think of money compounding interest but we don’t often think about lies and how they appreciate and add to their mass. But one lie in life, love, politics and business smashes like a mirror and refracts light like a fractal prism spreading its yuck wherever it propagates. Lies beget lies beget lies beget lies. Until you are so far away from the truth that you can never, really, make your way back.

I'm afraid such a pattern has already happened in American politics and is spreading worse than a cancer throughout every other branch of what's left of our society.

If you ask me, someone who was raised by a liar and therefore sensitive to prevarication, half-truths and outright lies of all stripes, there are dozens of channels, services and businesses that have grown up that help in the spreading of lies. If I were elegant, I would create an acronym, LIE…lie impelling ecosystem.

In advertising, LIEs include the trade press who reprint agency press releases under the guise of news. Also, the awards-industrial complex who routinely propagate false work into false claims of genius or quality and then concoct, around those falsehoods, notions like network of the year, etc that have as little legitimacy as so many other conventional measurements, like JD Power awards, Yelp reviews and almost every other spurious calibration that supports our lying flack-o-system, including the rampant bullshit from advertising case studies that infect so virulently our vanishing industry.

If you turn on TV or open a magazine, digital or paper, every ad you see sucks, yet the Cannes Festival of Advertising hands out hundreds of awards, including in 2022 32 Grand Prix, amassing over $25,000,000 in entry fees from over 30,000 entries. There are over 900 other award shows that to a lesser or greater degree follow that pattern. This is LIE, the lie impelling ecosystem.

The real trouble with lying is its self-generating effects. Lies grow until you have an agency dubbed hot which in reality is on the brink of insolvency. Or a "best place to work" when no one over 50 or 60 or of color are permitted within its creaky doors and where the attrition rate hovers in the mid-forties. 

Then of course comes the apotheosis of lying—lying at its apogee. That’s just about how so much is now.





The apogee is scaled when no one can tell any more truth from falsehood, who’s good, who sucks, what’s real and what’s phonus balonus. Worse, no one anymore knows what good work even is. Because good is a function of awardness--not what once had been a fairly broad acceptance of quality. Awards--which used to guide us are often no such guide. 

So, the lies multiply. 

We exist under a pay-to-play system. A system well-gamed by the well-financed and well-shameless.

You have to enter shows because ostensibly being "award-winning" attracts clients and talent. But if there's no linkage between what's being judged and reality. We're living a lie and being judged as well by a false standard.

If you know, at all, Shakespeare, you know that when the universal order was disrupted, chaos ensued. That's where we are now.

Fair is foul and foul is fair. The battle is lost and won. The world is topsy-turvy. Not to mention Tiny Topsy.

I know I’m not the only one who sees this.

I'm just maybe the only one no longer willing to silently cede my soul to the lies.




Thursday, September 22, 2022

Reading and Feeding Your Brain.








Sometime before my wife and I headed out to Lisbon, I heard--I'm not sure exactly how--about a book called Os Lusiadas, an epic poem written by Luis Vaz de Camoes.

Os Lusiadas, first published in 1572 is the foundation story of the Portuguese people. It follows the Portuguese driving the Moors out of what they considered their land. It recounts the bloody kingly wars for independence from Spain. But mostly it heralds the bravery and genius of Vasco de Gama, the first European to round the horn of Africa and make his way to the Indian subcontinent.

de Gama's journeys, his establishment of Portuguese settlements in India, like Goa, and his role in the explosive growth of the spice trade quite literally changed the world. For a couple of decades, de Gama's explorations led to the tiny, poor and lightly-populated land of Portugal becoming the richest and most powerful nation on earth.

Even until the 1970s, Portugal had African and Asian colonies--the populations of which dwarfed Portugal's own.

I've been enjoying the Lusiads immensely. But, being an American, and therefore from a culture that has done a creditable job of destroying its past, before arriving here I didn't reckon that anyone in Portugal would know very much about the epic.

It turns out, nearly everyone did.

And everyone corrected my absolutely horrid pronunciation.

What's interesting to me is how different cultures accept their past and their very often sordid, violent and racist histories. In fact, in the wake of the Queen's death last week, I saw a spate of tweets castigating her as a horrible person because of England's long history of subjugating, if not genocidal, colonialism.

America, of course, has to reckon with a similar set of circumstances. 250 years of slavery and at least 100 years of Jim Crow and racism, not to mention legal "separate but equal" policies that were separate but never even remotely equal. These policies persist, at least in a de facto manner today. 

The problem in dealing with all this is more than just a problem of history. It's a problem of judging the past by the values of the present. Worse, it's allowing yourself to believe that today's values are absolute, true and inviolable. The final words in "truth."

Of course they are not.

This is not to say that I condone or endorse the various horrors of our past. But it is to say that I don't think we should brand all of our forerunners as irredeemably evil because they swam with the currents of the day.

Part of the problem many people have is that we don't have much sense of time. We don't realize how long history is and how the world is ever-changing. I laugh sometimes when I hear someone talking about some horror like 9/11 or Uvalde or January 6th and saying "Never Forget."

As humans we do forget.

I had a client not long ago who rewrote some of my copy. In her rewrite she used the phrase Never Forget. "You can't say that," I told her. "That's the shibboleth of the Holocaust."

However, before the Holocaust, it was used in reference to Pearl Harbor. A tragedy that I'd guess most Americans today have no understanding of. Neither does anyone know of Dien Bien Phu. The killing fields of the Khmer Rouge. The slaughters around the world. And even the facts of the Nazi Holocaust are being undone by our failing memories.

No real point here.

Just to say "read." Read a lot. Read about everything.

And like Buddha said, be gentle. 

No one knows what burdens we carry.

Only that we all carry burdens.

I read that somewhere.





Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Solo.


I'm a sole-proprietor now and have been since I was booted from Ogilvy for having grey hair. I was making them money--way more than my salary. Clients liked me. Dozens of people within the agency looked up to me. And often, in a pinch (and agencies are always in a pinch) I was the one the higher-ups turned to.

I can only conclude that the mean-beans, the counter-counters who know price only and no value, those legume larcenists in charge had concluded that no one who had journeyed around the sun more than 45 times could possibly be worth having around. The holding company denied that, of course. Driveling on about harkening back. But as the Bible claimed it's easier to ride a camel through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven, I would imagine it's easier to ride a blue whale through a button-hole than to hear the truth from a corporate spokesperson.

In any event, I've been a sole-proprietor for almost three years now. In the wake of my TEDxLisbon talk last Sunday, I've been thinking how asinine the sole is in sole-proprietor.

First, there's Marta Gonzaga, the lovely, brilliant woman who coaxed me to Lisbon and advised me on what to do and what to expect. Then, my long-time friend and current business manager and advisor, Hilary. Hilary liked my first draft, hated my second and forced me into writing a third--which is what I went with. It's good to have friends who don't lower their standards, just because they're your friends.

Then there's my long-time and some-time partner, Sid. Sid not only clarified my thinking, he designed--about a dozen-times-over, my slides. My long-suffering wife, Laura, also a creative director advised on my script and helped me rehearse--something I hate doing. As did my two daughters, Sarah and Hannah. They gave me their approval--which isn't easy to get and is important.

Rob Schwartz gave me some valuable feedback, confidence and wardrobe advice. When you're as innately Oscar Madison as I am, you need all the assurance you can get. As always, Rob was there.

Finally, my friend Debra Fried was a one-person cheerleading squad. Reading and advising and encouraging.

All that, and probably some people I'm forgetting, for a solo job.

I love going it completely and utterly alone. 

Especially when I have so many friends and loved ones who come along with me.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

George Meets TedX.


Like many people of my generation, at least people I know who are around my age, I grew up heavily influenced by Looney Tunes cartoons. In fact, from about the age of six or seven on, if someone asked me how a school play or a science fair project or, later a client presentation or new business pitch went, there's about a seven-in-ten-chance I'd answer, "well, no one threw fruit at me."



The idea was that a butter-fingered juggler, a frog-throated singer, an unfunny comic or anyone generally inept and making a presentation would get pelted with rotten tomatoes if they stunk up the auditorium seemed perfectly normal to me. Getting hit in the nose with a fetid cabbage seemed a small price to pay for a bad performance.



All this to say, I gave my first--and I hope not my last TedX talk Sunday. Since then, many people have asked me how my talk went.

Well, as I often say, no one threw fruit at me.

People seemed to laugh at the funny bits and not laugh when I was teetering on the brink of the edge of the precipice of the border of profundity.

And after my talk, which lasted about 14 minutes--slightly less than the 15 to 18 minutes the Ted Industrial-complex recommends, many people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed and agreed with my remarks.

Agreement is not always a sign of success, but as I've said, it beats having fruit thrown my way. 


Marta Gonzaga, the lovely person who organized TedXLisboa found me in the ash heap of LinkedIn, flew me to Lisbon, took me and my wife out to dinner and tolerated me, even after I missed rehearsals because I failed to look at my WhatsApp, tells me that the contents of the event will be posted soon. When they are, I will let my dear readers know.

In the meantime, below is the first draft of my talk. In it I ripped off Tibor Kalman's great piece "Fuck Committees." I wrote my version, "Fuck Machines."

I eventually pulled back from this. I tamed myself a bit, keeping only a small portion of what's below for dignity's sake. Nonetheless, though it's angry, here's my original draft. Maybe a 21st Century Howl, fueled by ice cream, not hallucinogens. I'll call it Bowl. Please throw no fruit.

-

Fuck machines.

Fuck the people, the money-crazed, the arbitraged, the perpetually optimizing,

the squeezers,

the tweezers,

the shareholder pleasers,

who pillage us,

who steal our data and get rich off it,

again and again and again,

selling it to anyone who will buy it

for any purpose,

good or mostly bad,

to fatten their billionaire bitcoin accounts

and moving on to the next victim or victims or people

or class or community or nation or global economy,

before they crash that and move onto the next rotten sphere

and steal their way upwards to mammon once again.

 

Fuck the machines,

the trillionaires who demand bridges be rebuilt because their

300-foot yachts are too big to sail beneath,

spewing carbon and the ashy detritus of lives wherever they go,

they destroy the past and the future with their

mechanizing mechanisms of mass mechanized destruction.

 

Fuck the machines,

who have eaten our privacy in return for our

complicity in destroying democracy,

in destroying responsibility,

in destroying integrity, honesty, kindness,

destroying any sort of evaluation that isn't built

on a machine-made calculus of graft and greed and grime.

And lies with the longevity of volcanic rock,

never eroding lasting longer than Pompei

and ode to the persistent plump of persevering pomposity.

 

Fuck the machines who give to their creators,

or those who stole credit for their creation,

ninety-nine dollars and seventy-five cents out of every hundred dollars,

leaving ninety-nine point seven five people without health, without hope,

without a chance in hell to escape the machine made

interstices that have tied up humanity in their pixeled possessive paws.

 

Fuck the machines

who have processorized work and working into

a maelstrom of meetings and spreadsheets where

the greatest action and reaction comes from pushing the

same piece of digital paper up a Sisyphusian hill until the

end of time or until you reach age thirty-seven-and-a-half,

whichever comes first and they throw you out like

a cosmic apple core browning and stinking to oblivion.

 

Fuck the machines,

who have calculated the cost of everything,

never recognizing the value of anything.

Who have binaried you balls to smithereens eliminating

love and lust and laughter from all life and long as we no longer live.


Fuck the machines,

who make sure a complaint is never solved,

a question is never answered and

satisfaction is as ancient a relic as a long-fanged asp at Cleopatra's lily breast.

 

Fuck the machines,

that make sure everything,

every plane trip, every meal, every hotel room,

every piece of particle board humanity we are induced to purchase

is as decrepit and dumbed down as the last ding-dong of doom.

 

Fuck the machines.

Their insectization of our entire species,

where their promises of ease and comfort and quiet and rest

has created

with their mechanized menace

the soul-chomping opposite,

eating our hopes and loves and dreams and entire planet so

they, machines, can grow bigger and stronger as they grow

ever more all-consuming.

 

Fuck the machines

who trade our bodies for their bots.

That would turn you into a rusty cog,

dead and deadly,

lifeless and limp,

turning and spinning and whirring and

throwing off grey sparks until your gears are sanded down

and insaned and you

are nothing more than

digital disposable detritus

fucked by the human consumption machine

that takes your heart,

takes your love,

takes your soul,

takes your ambitions, hopes, dreams, fears, laughter and hate,

and uses them as fuel

to run itself in

perpetual motion,

its perpetual motion fueled by your perpetual inertia.

 

Fuck the human eating,

love eating

future eating,

got you dead and bleeding,

leave you always poor and needing,

soul-receding,

can't hear your pleading,

machine.

 

Fuck machines using humans.

Fuck machines transforming us into their tools.

Fuck machines eating our data, our privacy, our creativity, our jobs, our lives.

We are humans.

Imperfect.

Silly.

Wrong-headed.

Angry.

Stupid.

Mistake-ridden.

Human.

Us.

Human.

You and me.

Human





Monday, September 19, 2022

Co-Co a-Go-Go.

I've been in the advertising business 64 and 3/4 years or 42 years, depending on how you tally things. Because my father was in the business, I can rightfully say I grew up hearing the stories of the business and commercial breaks in my parents' tilted suburban home weren't times to grab a snack. They were times to listen up.

In fact, I was in two television commercials in 1962, as a platinum blond four-year-old. But the 42-year figure is the one I'll go with because that's when I started writing for a living. Or at least banging on a keyboard if you don't want to lower yourself and say that advertising writing is writing.

Counting that I've had 42 years in the business, I spent 39 of them not realizing one of the most important aspects of the business.

In my first agency job, my very wise partner, Craig said to me, you never stop working on your portfolio.

After 39 years in the business, I finally realized you never stop pitching.

Maybe, if you think about it, working on your portfolio and pitching are essentially one and the same.

What I mean is this:

Whether you're a giant advertising conglomerate or a one-person shop or you're working for somebody else's shop, you have to be on the hunt, always for business, whether it's new business or growth from existing clients.

It doesn't matter if you're already at your capacity. You have to be hunting for more. Simply because the more you do the more of a chance you have to do something great.

What's more, every post you make, every innocuous LinkedIn bon mot, is a prospecting call. Every phoneme you utter, every word you write, is a part of the composite that makes you. And you are always creating, always improving, always growing and always selling you.

I've always had a preference when it comes to the agency business. I hated agency names that tried to show how forceful and energetic they are. So names like Vector, Agitation and Spearhead, were never on my consideration list.

I've also always despised names that were meant to convey how unorthodox, quirky and creative places were. I dislike names like Purple Proboscis, Desiccated Piscine and Dangling Earlobe.

Finally, I'm offended by agencies that are named after people when they've done everything in their holding company's power to distance themselves from the founders' viewpoints and taste and ethics. Those agencies are too numerous, and it would be too impolitic for me to mention them all here. Besides you know who they are. They're all the big agencies, now smallerized via shareholder legerdemain. 

When I finally was forced into starting my own place having been fired for making Ogilvy too much money and doing work that was too well-liked by giant clients no longer considered cool in the new economy where social currency outweighs intrinsic value, a friend said "what will you call your agency?" 

I hadn't chosen a name, but in less time than it takes to fire a zip gun, I said, "GeorgeCo. Clients will come for me and clients will know they're getting me, not some ersatz GLO (George-like-object.)

Whether you're working for an agency or yourself you've got the same job.

You have to build YouCo. 

Every day, you have to build YouCo.

You build YouCo with your work ethic.

You build YouCo with your work.

You build YouCo with your network and your friends.

You build YouCo with your clients.

You build YouCo with your reputation.

You build YouCo every time you work with an editor, a sound guy, a photographer, a planner, a media person, an executive, a stranger.

Building YouCo, whether you know it or not is what you've been doing every day of your life.

Which brings me up to the very opening of this piece.

We're all working for YouCo.

Usually long before we learn it.

Learn it.


Friday, September 16, 2022

Un-Chain Store My Heart.

I just went to the drugstore twice. There and back twice.

I went to get a ton of incidentals for my Ted Talk in Lisbon.

Then I had to go back ten minutes later because the acne behind the counter forgot to put one of the items they charged me for in the bag.

Also, at the pharmacy, I waited watching six employees chat while I couldn't get their attention because their personal conversations are more pressing than customer service.



Of course, the pharmacy was a CVS. Nationwide, roughly one prescription in four is filled by CVS. They probably fill one prescription in two in New England. 

America loves free-enterprise. Until it interferes with monopolistic market-domination, money-making, lobbying congress with tens of millions of dollars and gouging customers.

This post isn't about CVS, however.

It's about advertising.

But I'm starting it per se with a question.

Does anyone anywhere like chain stores? Feel they're well-provided for and well-served?

Yes, I'm a Northeastern snob from a pre-chain-store generation. Republican jew-haters would call me a coastal elite. That's au courant code for Jew or Jew Boy, ie not "christian." (I won't capitalize that word because those so-call christians aren't.)

Back to my questions. 

Does anyone like chain stores?

And does anyone realize that advertising, similar to drugstores, airlines, cable companies, phone companies, hardware stores, etc, are dominated by a few giant "chain stores."

In fact, because the price-of-entry is so steep, even America's politics is, essentially, dominated by two chains. The republican chain. And the democratic chain.

The best they can do is offer a lying, traitorous, philandering bankrupt or a 78-year-old man.

And what choice--beyond the above--do we have?

Advertising today is also a chain store business.

What do I see as the effects of chain store-ism? Due to a lack of a free market, consumers usually get:

1. Bad service.
2. Indolent workers.
3. Undifferentiated offerings.
4. Low-quality merchandise.
5. High-prices.
6. We're the only show in town-arrogance.

I don't know about you, but I feel dirty every time I shop in a chain store.

You can't very well avoid them, but I hate them. I feel ripped off and powerless.

I hate them even more when like CVS or the cable companies they show commercials that feature smiling employees and heart emojis.

It's a bit like when ad agencies say  they've been voted a "best place to work." And bury all data that might reveal they have a 49-percent attrition rate and 300 open hires in a 500-person office.

I think the world loses a lot when it buys into a chain or a conglomerate.

Mostly because you're dealing with 'employees,' not owners or founders.

There's a big difference.

I suppose this is a long-copy ad.

 


Thursday, September 15, 2022

A Pour Problem.

My wife, Laura, who's also a freelancer and I were talking. That
alone could be the start of a blogpost. I mean, after 38-years of marriage, who still talks to their spouse?

In any event, we were talking about how busy we are. In the five years of Laura's freelance she's scarcely ever had a day off. And in the almost three years since Ogilvy kicked me to the curb because I was making them too much money, most often I'm juggling between three or seven assignments a week. I think my revenue is at least two times or three times that of their New York office. But I don't want to jinx myself.

Either my wife or I was bemoaning the constant crush of the work pressure. I think I must have said something particularly Yiddish and lugubrious and Georgian, as if those three adjectives aren’t entirely synonymous.

"Well, it's better than the alternative." 

My wife said, "knock wood."

As I do, I corrected her. "Knock work," I said.

She laughed and repeated, "knock work."

As two-thirds of the industry seems to be unable to find people to work or keep the people they have and, conversely, everyone in a full-time advertising job seems abjectly miserable, I wondered what's wrong with us.

Why are the two of us busy and relatively happy when the industry's rule-of-thumb seems to be more-or-less opposite?

Then it hit me.

Laura and I are engaged in free-enterprise.

1. We set our own rates.

2. We choose our own clients.

3. The more we work, the more we get paid.

Sure, there are downward pressures on all three of those features. The market is marked by low rates--if we're to charge more we have to prove, daily, our worth. That's a challenge.

We can't be so picky with clients that we wind up idle. And we have to curb our work enthusiasm or we'll wither and die of a major infarction.

But the point remains.

In advertising days of yore, you gave up those three aspects of working in return for the appurtenances of agency life. The prestige of working for a big company. The regularity of a scheduled paycheck. Some benevolence on the part of your employer, where maybe you had some sort of security or pension as you aged.


Because you "got" those things, you could rationalize "giving up"
others. Something like above, which is a George chart, that is, it makes sense if you squint.

Of course, today, roughly seventy-percent of the advertising jobs at least in New York are under the stern and penny-pinching gaze of one of four or five global holding companies.

Just about everything in the "GOT" column above has been cost-consultanted out of efficacy's way. 

There are no appurtenances.

Last week, the conservative opinion writer for The New York Times wrote an essay called "The Immortal Awfulness of Open Plan Workplaces."

Open plan workplaces work as a metaphor for the impecuniousness I've described above. Brooks wrote, "For decades, research has found that open plan offices are bad for companies, bad for workers, bad for health and bad for morale. And yet they just won’t die. Human beings, if they are to thrive, need a bit of privacy — walls and a door. And yet employers, decade after decade, neglect to give workers what they need, refuse to do what’s in their own self-interest." And yet every holding company and every agency has glommed onto open plan workspaces as a shibboleth of acceptable meh.

Recently the New Yorker wrote, open plan workplaces “were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking and satisfaction"...they led to "higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation.”

To my jaded and not-so-baby-blues, both these phenomena--the denial of "gots" and the propagation of open plan spaces have worked to destroy the industry.

The moguls will shake their well-coiffed heads. Linked In will be teeming with articles about quiet quitting. Agencies will offer employees $250 to buy a new yoga mat or a similar amount to create a video where employees spew banalities like "you can't pour from an empty cup."

That's true, you can't.

That doesn't mean anyone (besides you) will do anything to fill that cup.

Find a tap. 

I should say, find your tap.

Open.

Drink.

Repeat.