Monday, February 6, 2023

RTO.


A friend of mine has been a successful freelancer for almost as long as she was an owned-lancer. As far as I can discern, she hasn't had a week off involuntarily for more than a decade. 

However, as the vale of Covid seems to be dissipating, she's been asked to come into the office next week for a client meeting.

She hasn't entered an office since Amerika shut down in March, 2020. She's never met anyone she now works with. In fact, no one's ever even seen her except for her thumbnail-sized image on Zoom.

She's nervous about it all. Showing her age, even just, after 36 months, showing up on the carpet tiles of holding company hegemony. Like a lot of nervous people do, she gave me a call.

"George," she said, explaining the situation, "how do I 'hide my age?' I'm afraid they won't ask me back when they see how old I am."

"First off 'X,' (my Kafka-esque code name for her) "you're not old, you look great. Remember, women dye; but men die."

Such platitudizing did nothing to comfort X.

"You're not listening to me," X continued.

"I never do," I admitted.

"Nonetheless, I'm talking to you and have since the 1960s. I'm afraid they'll see me as an old-lady."

"You have to 'change the conversation,'" I answered. "Here's an idea."

"I'm all ears," X said. I assume turning up the volume on her prosthetics.

"Go to a surgical supply store and rent a wheelchair. When you show up at the office wheel yourself into the meeting room.

"Just when people are gaining their composure, start jiggling your legs, like there's some good music is on your RCA transistor."

"Something by Frankie Valli, I presume."

"I was thinking Kay Kayser and his College of Musical Knowledge, but Valli will do."

"Thank goodness," she sarcasticked. 

"After a minute, spring up from the wheelchair and scream at the top of your voice 'I CAN WALK! For the first time in 20 years, I CAN WALK!' I guarantee, after that, no one will remember how old you look."

"Thanks," X said, hanging up the phone. "For nothing."

I assumed she walked off into the sunrise.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Reading and Righting.

I have nothing against sumps, really, but I am positively agape at the slurry that is popular culture. Accordingly, I engage with it with mighty infrequency. The only thing I watch on television is Jeopardy! And that too seems to ask questions only about television from the 80s (those are the hard questions) or music that has been auto-tuned into discord.

I can hardly imagine if the questions they asked were as demanding as a Junior Scholastic news quiz I had while I was growing up. Lest you think I am exaggerating, watch this episode of a game show from 1960, College Bowl, and you'll be flabbergasted.



Of course I also don't watch sports on TV. For one, I refuse to watch anything on Fox for the same reason I would have stayed out of a Woolworth's in 1960s Greensboro, North Carolina. I won't spent my time or money with racists, climate deniers and propagators of "alternative facts" under the guise of news. Further, given the brain-damage football causes, I'm not even sure why, like cock-fighting, it isn't banned or at least discouraged. 

That leaves me, whether I am in the wilds of Connecticut's Gingham Coast or in the wilds of New York's Rodent Respite with little to do with my scant spare time other than read. My therapist of 117 years, who trained with Freud, Owen, calls reading "my restorative niche." It puts back into my head what the world takes out. It gives me a form of escape that also stimulates--I suppose it's like a wicked roller-coaster for what's left of my mind after 42 years making my living in the advertising business.

With all that, let me share a couple of the books I've read of late. These are the things that often give me peace while provoking me. They make me think I am not alone while underscoring my existential alienation. They also make me a better writer, thinker, advertising person and person in general. All for pennies a page. Cheaper than either Psychiatry or Cable.

If you're like me and you consider "dad jokes" an apogee, not a perigee, or if you, like me, appreciate a pun and a groaner, you'll enjoy five minutes or ten with "Have a Little Pun." There's too little laughter in the world and too few one-liners. 





I'm reading now this on the imaginary world of human borders. Where we keep some out and let others in. Where we otherize most and form groups and hatreds as easily as we draw a line on a map. As often as not, these lines are human constructs and lead and have lead to untold bloodshed, deaths and millennia of hate.




If you ever accept the idea of human dominion over nature or consider nature somehow beneath mankind, you'd do well to read about the remarkable abilities and adaptations of the living and breathing things--the things we kill with hardly a second thought, or, for that matter, a first thought. Either of these two books will help open your mind. Though I think they're best read as two faces of the same coin.




The origins and spread of American white, make, christian supremacy through the history of Eufala, Alabama--which wiped out the Creeks, enslaved and re-enslaved more than half the population, and kept things that way, past the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments right through to today.



I dunno about you, but the battles between the people who became known as the Greeks and those who became known as the Persians are battles we keep fighting. After almost 3,000 years, I'm still not sure what we're fighting about. Unless it's borders, see above.


Another thing we're still fighting about is who will take-over Alexander's empire when he dies. Demetrius was kind of a George Bush type--a bumbler. But he appears to have come out ahead. At least from the viewpoint of 2,500 years.



What's that burning smell? 400 years ago all over New England it was people accused of being witches. Today, we find different, maybe crueler ways to punish outsiders and other-ness. I'm in Connecticut now, and all this happened on the frontier between Springfield, Mass and "Indian and Dutch" territory--just 66 miles from where I type this. Fear of the different hasn't diminished throughout human history. And punishment of the different may have gotten more severe.



The origins of dynastic wealth. From the opium trade to today. 



The spiritual predecessor of Sam Bankman-Fried, Elon Musk and countless other rapacious "job creators who pay no tax." Jay Gould cornered gold and built about one of every ten miles of rail in the United States.



Open with fun. Close with fun. Tom Gauld is someone to behauld.








 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

How's Your Ass?

During World War II, there was an American Army Air Force General called Curtis Lemay. His name is infamous now because he was chosen by segregationist racist George Wallace to be Wallace's running mate in the presidential election of 1968.

Wallace and Lemay won five states in that election, and nearly ten-million popular votes, against about 31-million votes for Nixon and Humphrey each.

Lemay was also said to have been the model of nuke-crazy General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's classic "Dr. Strangelove." He was the one, I think, who threatened to bomb the North Vietnamese back "to the Stone Age."

However, when Lemay was leading the American bombing offensive against the Empire of Japan in World War II, he was considered a hero. To find proper bomb locations, Lemay would pore over enlargements of reconnaissance photos of various Japanese cities and industrial outlets. 

Lemay's men noticed that Lemay would spend hours at a time looking at these photos without leaving his seat. That proclivity earned him the sobriquet, "Old Iron Ass."

I am not an admirer of Lemay.

I am an admirer of Old Iron Ass.

In fact, gluteal composition notwithstanding, I am something of an iron ass myself, and my career and bank account is better for it.

Back about a decade ago I was freelancing at an agency that was trying to hold onto a major account. They had created three manifesto films explaining each campaign platform, and they brought me in one evening to write ads for one of the platforms.

I wrote ten ads. Copy and all. 
Then I wrote ten more.
Then I wrote ten more.
Then I wrote ten more.
I wound up writing ads for all of three of the platforms.

The guys running the pitch were the martyr types. They had too much guilt to go home before 1AM. But I was writing ads so fast, I think I scared them. One of them said to me, "You're writing ads faster than I can read them."

Right now I'm about three-quarters through one of the gnarlier assignments of my long abeyance of unemployment. I won't say who what or even where. I will say, it's a mother fucking bear. I will also say, the pages I have to rewrite--to humanize--stretch into the hundreds. Like I said, a bear. A grizzly one.

This is, in the parlance of Chinese Communism, a long march. And it's all due long before March.

So I sit. I turn off the world. I iron up my ass. And I type. I get through one bit and I turn the page and write another. For hours at a time. 


There's very little applause that comes to those who work at the writer's trade. While there might be a soup├žon of acclaim that accrues to those who are working on various Super Bowl spots, there's nothing that goes to the people who load sixteen tons. They merely get another day older and deeper in debt.

It ain't any fun being Old Iron Ass. 

But it pays the bills.

Besides, someone has to do it.








Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A Long Disquisition on Long-Leads.



About one-thousand years ago, I worked on the Mercedes-Benz business. They were introducing a new sports car--the SLK--and they had a problem on their hands.

A year earlier, BMW had introduced a similar car, the Z3 and about half-a-year after that, Porsche had introduced their two-seater, the Boxster.

I learned a couple of conflicting things about $50,000 coupes in 1996. 

1. No one needs a $50,000 coupe. So buyers' can wait. They're typically not someone's 'daily driver.'

2. Rich people and their toys aren't that different from five-year-olds and their cupcakes. They don't like waiting months for something they can have now. Especially if they see their friends having theirs now.

Mercedes therefore had a problem. Their worthy competitors, Porsche and BMW hit the market first. Would anyone wait around for a Mercedes?

This is when I first understood a notion that seems all-but-forgotten today, in person-to-person relationships and in marketing. 

The concept of the "long-lead."

A laymen's terms, when someone has a taste of something in say early February, but won't be ready for the full-meal for another year or two or three, that's a long-lead.

How do you keep them on the hook? How do you remind them you're worth it? How do you keep them engaged in foreplay if climax won't take place for a decade or so?

Here's an epigram that may or may not be epigrammatic. Advertising is more pausality than causality.

In other words, just because you run an ad don't expect an immediate response. Just because you apply for a job, or ask someone for a date, don't expect something to happen toot sweet.

In my waning days at Ogilvy, I started thinking about the difference between "transactional relationships" and "lifetime relationships." There were a core of people I would do anything for. There were more relationships I had that were largely transactional. 'You do this for me, I'll do this for you.' Quid pro quo.

Most of the ads you see in the world are transactionally-based. Get Verizon and for just $49/month and you can get another $49/month in hidden fees and have three out of five of your calls dropped. 

Some ads and advertisers think more life-long. They think in terms of long-leads. I've had a lot of people say to me that they bought something expensive in, say, 2022 based on an ad they saw in 1982. 

The lifetime marketer's trick is cultivating that long lead. Keeping on script but still interesting day in and day out for decades. That's a long-lead. And it's how much of the world works. Too many marketers want the sugar-rush of an immediate win. Often they call those wins "conquests." Like we're living in the middle-ages and they stormed our personal battlements.

For most marketer marketing "one-and-done." Only a few think "long-run-and-never-done."

Back to the Mercedes-Benz SLK. 

I had to figure out a touch strategy. How do you keep people interested? How do you say something interesting over years? How do you keep them defecting to a substitute product?

A lot of people come to me and ask me about finding a job. I tell them, usually, about the concept of the long-lead and the touch strategy. You don't usually decide you want a new job on Tuesday and get one by the weekend. Plus, the higher you get in the food-chain, the longer it takes for companies to make a decision.

You have to figure out how to drip out information and smiles over time. To keep people interested and salivating. 

You also have to look at your relationships with others. And cherish the ones that matter and keep them vibrant, even if "there's nothing in it for you."

Because respect for your fellow human and human kindness is the longest-lead of all. 

--

As an aside, I just saw this headline in "The Wall Street Journal." Bed Bath & Beyond was, to my mind, among the worst of the transactional advertisers. They did nothing to make themselves important, needed or interesting beyond creating the illusion that they had low prices and vast selection. They reinforced that with an avalanche of coupons. That was their "brand." Off-price.

Most big box stores today, and telcos and cable providers and airlines and advertising holding companies operate in a similar fashion. They have you by the ovaries because they have low prices and a near monopoly.

Why bother being decent to people when you believe you own them? For that matter, why hire salespeople, stock your shelves or even clean your store. Monopolies are seldom well-run businesses.

FWIW, Bed Bath and Beyond is the only store I ever shoplifted from. Years ago, they had a store in the financial district that opened at 7:30 AM. I had a client meeting at 8:30 AM. I figured I could pick up a shower-curtain liner and still make my meeting with ease.

It took me twenty minutes to find what I needed because there was no one around to ask for help. Then I walked to the cash registers which were un-attended. 

"Hello," I fairly bellowed. "Hello! I'm trying to check out! Is anybody here?"

I waited a good five minutes and no one responded. I was in danger of being late for my meeting. So I left the store with my contraband. 

That's exactly what happens over-and-again when people don't get treated well. They walk out. With their money.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Death. A Continuity.





Way back in October, 2019, when the world was somewhat cooler and it actually snowed in the winter, I wrote a post about a book I had just finished reading, "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters," by Tom Nichols. Right now, it costs just eight dollars and twenty-three cents on Amazon's Kindle. Which kind of proves the campaign against knowledge that Nichols mentions is actually working.

I loved Nichols' book when I read it 42 months ago. With the onslaught of acclaim for our latest rendition of people-annihilating technology, AI or Chat GPT or Whatever, I thought I'd revisit and see WTFIGO (what the fuck is going on.)

But before I go into today's exegesis, let me leap somewhere I don't think a computer program would or could. I'm referring to this item in the January 30, 2023 online edition of "The Wall Street Journal."


Here's the bit that got my head going: "The details of such ruins are often difficult to discern from ground level through dense jungle vegetation, Dr. Hansen said. 'I’ve walked within 5 feet of a 20-story building and didn’t know it was there because the vegetation made it so impossible to detect,' he said. 

"That is where lidar comes in. The technology works like radar except that laser beams rather than radio waves are used to locate and map objects....

“'You can map in minutes what we once mapped in years'” said Carlos Morales-Aguilar, a geography researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the research.

The new lidar data revealed how much previous excavations and explorations had missed, Dr. Hansen said. 'We never would have found all the causeways and numerous massive platforms without it,' he said."

The above example, I think, is important. It changes things around a bit. Tech doesn't replace humans--and human expertise. Tech makes us better humans.

Way back when I was on IBM, the preferred term among people I knew was that AI should stand for Augmented Intelligence, not Artificial Intelligence. And certainly, the technology being used to uncover Mayan civilizations in Guatemala is deepening human perception. It's augmenting--making us greater than our corpuscles can, if left to their own devices.

Surely, however, thousands of marketers will replace shitty human-derived copy with faster, cheaper, never-needs-a-break computer-derived copy. Just as thousands of marketers replaced shitty human call-centers with faster, cheaper, never-needs-a-break computer-derived call centers.

Here's the thing.

Is any of this any good--human or machine-derived? Most copy I read, as an ex-boss of mine used to say, is flat as a plate of piss. It sticks to you like dogshit sticks to a lug-soled boot. I'd imagine that much of the copy that's foisted upon us does more to depress a brand's value than elevate it. Just because you can annoy me doesn't mean you should.

I feel the same way about phone centers and bots that are supposed to help customers.

Yet, they're cheap. Forget about whether or not they suck. They're cheap.

No question we have the power to bombard every human being on earth with a trillion messages a day. I wonder if we have the restraint not to. Will AI--in whatever form--improve our judgment. Or will it make crap more ubiquitous?

My questions about AI, whether it's augmented intelligence or artificial intelligence are these: 

  • Can AI surprise me?
  • Can AI make me laugh?
  • Can AI understand me and show me empathy--
    cheer me when I'm sad, soothe me when I'm in need?
  • Can AI put two things together that don't belong together
    and therefore create an unexpected effect? A tear? A guffaw?
  • Can AI comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?
    Can AI be thoughtful and kind? Respectful and considerate?
  • Can AI be human or just replace humans?
  • Can AI be nonsensical and weird?
My point at the end of all this is simple. The big schmears that run the giant companies that run our lives will always choose cheaper over better. No matter that cheaper can lead to collapsed dams, cancerous pollution in our rivers and crashed airplanes. The people who ultimately rule our days and nights and lives always choose cheap over better and probably always will. 

I've read a lot about Kings, Shahs, Emporers, Satraps, Presidents and Corporate Titans. They're almost always in the "I'll choose what's good for me" business rather than "the be good to customers/citizens" business. 

I don't know why anyone anywhere thinks this latest innovation, really talented AI, will be any different to anything that's gone before.

Before we embrace anything new, we have to think. Think about the law of unintended consequences. It's this simple: I love ice cream. But there's a consequence. It makes me sick. So, I can't eat it.

I'm not sure we think about future effects in the present. Especially when the rolling acclaim for something new and boffo fills the world with a loud echoing chorus. Who can say "this sucks," when all the mavens say "this is great."

I'd just take it easy with all the effusion.

And look before you leap.






Monday, January 30, 2023

TWTW.

The world of advertising being what it is and me being practically the most-senior of the few senior citizens still alive and still kicking, I get a lot of calls from friends, colleagues and clients.

Friends call me about getting work. 

Colleagues call me about getting new business.

Clients call me about slow sales, or under-performing work.

George, what can we do?

Almost five decades ago when I labored for my one endless season playing la esquina caliente, the hot corner, for Hector Quetzacoatl Padilla, aka Hector Quesadilla, manager of the Seraperos de Saltillo in the Mexican Baseball League, I learned something I think about almost every day.

More often now that I own and operate my own small-large advertising agency.

I think we were up by two runs and it was the top of the ninth and the Tampico Estibadores--the Stevedores--had their player manager Hector Espino coming to bat.

The bases were already loaded, there were two down, we were out of solid pitching and we were facing a future Hall-of-Famer and the best-hitter in the league. Maybe the best player ever to play in the Mexican Baseball League.

With 484 home runs, Hector Espino is considered the greatest player
in the history of the Mexican League.  


The Estibadores had the bases full. All we could hope for was a pop up, or a strike out, or a sudden torrential downpour if we were to escape the friendly confines of Estadio de Beisbol Francesco I. Maduro with a win.

Instead, Espino clobbered a pitch high and inside that went screaming right down the third-baseline at about shoulder height above the faded lime lines the demarcated foul and fair.

Of all the screaming line drives I've seen and heard in my misbegotten days, this one by Espino was the screamiest. I don't know what a German 88mm shell sounds like as it approaches--I know that was the gun that most scared Allied soldiers during World War II--but even with all my faculties still relatively intact, I cannot imagine a terrestrial object moving faster than Espino's line drive.

I instinctively knew I had no chance of reaching across my body with my left, gloved, hand and nabbing it. However, reflexively I stuck out my meat hand at just the right moment and somehow nabbed the ball out of the twilight air. And somehow held onto it. And somehow didn't break eleven bones in the process, though our backup shortstop, "Doctor" Jesus Verduzco, who was a third-year medical student in the off-season at Tecnol├│gico de Monterrey, had me keep my hand in ice for two hours after the game, then compressed it in an Ace-bandage then had me soak it again for two-hours for every day for a week.

Hector Quesadilla hugged me after the game and said repeatedly to me thereafter, "Jorge Navidad, you have tee doubleyou, tee doubleyou. You have The Will To Win."

TWTW. 

The will to win.

To all those calling me about some business or career miasma, I say the same thing. I don't really care if it's not civil or mannerly or kind. I don't really care if it's a little brutal and mean.

I say, pick a person you know from business who makes a lot of money and does a lot of what you want to be doing. Think hard about them and their success. Study them like Joe Louis would study an opponent before a fight. Know their every strength and how to avoid them. Know their every weakness and how to exploit them. Then stick out your hand and be willing to get hurt if that's what it takes to win.

Too many people in the scenarios I've enumerated at the start of this post, look for something that's similar to the something they're struggling through. They're getting snookered at their current agency, so they look for a new agency. Not ever considering that all agencies are pretty much the same. E Pluribus Snookered, or something to that effect.

They don't employ TWTW.

They ain't willing to take a missile barehanded.

By the way, I still feel the pain today. Somedays more than others.











Friday, January 27, 2023

Manimals.


In my voluminous and peripatetic readings, I ran across a sentence that has stuck with me literally for decades. I'm not exactly sure what the sentence was, but I do remember the gist.

It was this: "If you walk too long on concrete, you turn into an animal."

That led me down a path to Jean Renoir, perhaps the greatest film director ever, with I think four movies in the BAFTA top 100 movies. (If you're curious, send me a note. I'll send back a recommendation or two.)

Renoir, son of the painter Auguste Renoir (Auguste slept with Jean's nanny; later Jean slept with her, too) famously said, "Loitering is the source of all civilization."

Let me mix-master those things up together and get to the point of today's end-of-week-post. 

In today's holding company hegemony, downtime, that is 'walking off of concrete,' or 'loitering,' is anathema to the regimens imposed by the holding companies--that is, financial entities with no real acumen in advertising, marketing or even humanity. So, in those holding-company-held agencies that have squoze out all inefficiencies, availability becomes a capability.

So if Henry and Danielle are free, they'll be assigned an assignment with an impending due date even if they know nothing about the topic or the brand. The same way if you worked in the meat department in a grocery store, you might be asked to help out selling tomatoes. 

But in a grocery store, lack of knowledge doesn't really hurt customers. If you buy roma tomatoes and your wife wanted beefsteak, you're out $1.79 and maybe you'll get sent to the dog house. 

In advertising, the stakes are higher. Million-dollar relationships can be compromised. And crappy work often shows up on the air.

Availability being a capability as a business practice, denying downtime is driving our industry further into darkness every day. Good work comes from knowing the brand, knowing the problems your viewers face, understanding the world and its complexities. I doubt someone who hadn't seen despair and poverty and lost dreams could have written "The Death of a Salesman." It takes deep knowledge to do real work.

So much of what I see is a mish-mash of cliches and recycled imagery. 

I think because people don't work from a place of deep empathy. So we write spots that say "Kellogg's Nutri Grain guava breakfast bars are yummy." And then we all dance around a plasticene kitchen. 

My favorite living writer is an historian--a two-time National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer-winner. His name is Robert Caro


I've seen Caro speak twenty times. And in Caro's last book, "Working," he says a line that everyone in the agency business should have on their Macs. Every agency should have it painted on their walls--assuming they have any. It should be the cover page of every pitch presentation.

The sentence is this "Time Equals Truth."

I'm not going to explain what that sentence means to me. That's unimportant.

The question is, what does Time mean to you? To your agency? To your clients? To your work?

We need to stop thinking about advertising as a production line with interchangeable people at each station. We need to start thinking about advertising as thinking that gets people thinking.Then doing.

That takes time.

Because time equals truth.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Great Repression.

Though GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company is essentially a one-person operation, I do have an Account Director who makes a big difference in my life and in my business.

I'm not going to give any personal personnel details here, but an email exchange she and I had late last night is what got me thinking. Thinking not just about my personal situation, but about the macro variables that can help lead to success.

I had written a note to, I'll call her "H," in which I explained my semi-paralysis surrounding a lot of copy I have to write for a complicated brand. They had hired a branding agency to create their look and now had turned to me to create the word part of their story.

In work and in life, we hear voices. 

We read semiotics.

We pick up cues on how we're supposed to behave in a given situation. 

This happens--too often--within the decaying Chinese drywall that encloses the occupants of the advertising industry. When you're incarcerated in such a situation, you quickly discern how you're supposed to act, when you're supposed to speak, who you're meant to defer to. Most social organizations in a sense are self-suppression entities. You conform to them rather than they open up to you.

The writing I have to do is for a very stiff company in a very rigid field of endeavor. You don't hear stand-up comedians doing routines, for instance, based on Collateralized Debt Obligations. There are a lot of companies where humanity and humor (a linchpin of humanity) fear to tread. If I had a dollar for every icy glare I got because I was a wise-ass inside a stiff-ocracy, I'd have enough money now to lay off 10,000 people and not feel guilt.

With all that constraint spinning about me, I was feeling paralyzed--an ad absurdum effect of constraint.

But, I said to myself, the design is avant. The writing should be just as non-cliched and forward-looking. 

But, as I said, I was hearing voices.

Don't. Can't. I wouldn't. They could get pissed. That's not them. You'll get fired. You won't get paid. They'll hate it and force you back.

I shoved them all aside like a husband of 39 years shoves aside the imperative to change a lightbulb in a too-high ceiling. 

And I wrote five bits of copy out of a total of about 10 or 12.

I sent them to my Account Director with a short note explaining my trauma.

In minutes here's what I got back.

"Ok - I get it. YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB WITH THIS. I love how you are speaking. They hired you to be you. Don't be them. The tone of voice is much better than the way they wrote it. Stick with that. You are cutting through the BS, and I like that."

In truth, this is a little thing. 

And I might have gotten there by myself without any help.

But my point remains. Advertising agencies, holding companies, today's greater capitalist system is a self-abnegating construct. We are meant to look, act, and accept like everyone else. As someone said to me when I joined Ogilvy the first time back in 1999, "Don't do anything too good or too bad and you'll be fine. They'll leave you alone."

That might be overly-dramatic for comic effect. But the best work comes from people who have selves and aren't afraid to show themselves. Their ideas, their insouciance, their sparks, their weird connections.

When people use the words culture, inclusion and diversity in business today, I don't ever really know what they mean. It usually gets reduced to stale bagels on Fridays and a ping-pong table near the elevators.

It seldom comes down to being human. 

Being silly.

Being contrary.

Being yourself.

Thanks, H, for the kick and the reminder.

Whatever I pay you, you should ask for double.

I won't give it to you; but you should ask.

You're worth it. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Lauding. And Frauding.


Though I've made my living for the past 43 years typing, first on various IBM Selectrics, then on Macs with various names, numbers and sizes, then for a short while back to IBM machines with working on a variety of ThinkPads, then over to H-P while I worked on their PCs during my one benighted year working on their account in San Francisco, then back to Macs for the last 20 years, I consider myself more a Historian than a marketer.

Anyone can write copy and usually does. [ChatGPT.] Very few people bring a historian's understanding of our time and customs to the marketing business. 

Perspective is not unimportant in writing. Not just what something is. But why it's better, how it works, why it's right for you.



As Cicero (not the city outside of Chicago, pop. 85,268) was said to have said, "O tempore, O mores." Which is literally translateable as "Oh the times, oh the customs." It might be more accurately rendered as "Shame on our age and our lost principles."

Alas, as Cicero might agree, principles today are something that earn the wealthy interest. There are few principles today that guide anyone outside of the obsessive and ruinous accumulation of ever-more crap and ever-more money. 



I think we can take our modren philosophy from Budd Schulberg's Terry Malloy as rendered by the surpassing Marlon Brando during his first date with Edie, Eva Marie Saint. "You want to know my philosophy? Do it to him, before he does it to you."

All that is the overture to the blunt Wagnerian opera we're living through. My belief is that we are today, in America, living through the Era of Flagrant Fraud. "Where fair is foul, and foul is fair; [we] Hover through the fog and filthy air."

From advertising agencies trying to establish their bonafides with fake ads and fake case-studies for fake causes or fake clients that never ran in a fake docket of never-ending awards' shows so they can gain more fake business to line the pockets of the fake oligarchs with fake money while reducing everything and everyone else to the lowest workmen's wages. To brands, like Tesla or Volkswagen or Nike or Apple who fake efficacy, or fake data, or fake a sense of ethics and/or nobility while producing what they produce with near-slaves all so a few can accumulate billions.

We have a thousand-mile-long virtual Mount Rushmore of Fraudsters. The faces of trump, Santos, Holmes, Musk, Shkreli, Madoff, Stewart, bank of amerika, goldman, wells fargo, countrywide, dr. oz, pompeo, lindell and the list is near endless, even longer if you include all the products that don't do what they promise to do and even the bags that they charge you for at the grocery store whose handles break before you reach the street.

We laud those with billions never questioning why anyone would need all that money--money enough to spend one-million a day every day for 2.8 years and still have money left over. You know, billionaires, the people who pay no tax. (By the way, Bezos' one-hundred billions mean he could spend one-million dollars a day every day for 300 years and still have money left over.) 

[BTW: According to ProPublica, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid $1.4 billion in personal federal taxes between 2006 to 2018 on $6.5 billion he reported in income, while his wealth increased by $127 billion during that same period. That's a true tax rate of 1.1%.] Translated to an average Ad Aged reader, that's like earning $2000/week and taking home $1975/week.

We witness and accept the tech giants who've amassed billions then lay off thousands. To the frauds of online surveillance, the bot-ification of truth, the lies, the stumpified trumpism of false claims and false promises and real thievery. And let's not forget that this allegedly "christian" nation has forgotten or chosen to ignore the Gospel re rich men and camels. 

I could go on like Kerouac, but as Truman Capote supposedly said this isn't writing, this is mere typing.

But I'll end with this, to anyone who can still read and who's reading this. 

The central issue advertising must deal with today is simple. How can we truthfully, un-hype-ally re-establish trust with people? How can we be fair, honest and believable? 

That's our job. Be truthful. 

That's what we should be thinking about. How do we resuscitate an industry that's bloated and ablated by lies?

Everything else is death and continuity of the present which is death.

We have to find a way to restore trust.