Careers can be had in Adland but almost certainly not at the same company. Whether one resides on the client side of marketing or plies his craft at an agency, transiency is a fact of life. People come and people go, some egregiously, but most harmoniously. Such is the ebb and flow between marketing’s coral reefs. Few denizens stick around.
Back in the day, a new employee may have entered into a marketing position, say at Kraft Foods or Leo Burnett, envisioning a full career spent in service to his company. That was during the time of gold anniversary watches and company pension plans. Alas, these and most other markers of solidarity are gone. Long gone.
Looking back I can safely say I was among the last rookie classes that actually believed it possible to stay at one company for an entire career. For a long while it appeared I just might. I remained at the Leo Burnett Company for over 15 years (happily, I might add), entering as a junior copywriter exiting as the Chief Creative Officer of an agency within that agency, LBWorks. During that time I even sat among the company’s board of directors. Heady stuff.
But then I took another job. And then another…
I’ve been in my current position as ECD of gyro, San Francisco for almost two years. If you compare that to my marathon tenure at LBCO, it is but a short sprint. However, compared to my fellow colleagues not only am I not considered new I am probably more tenured that half of them! Said another way, since I began my job a dozen or more folks have joined us and about that many have left.
Welcome to Adland, circa 2014. Turnover is commonplace, even normal. Not necessarily indicative of toxicity or any other malady, the myriad species of marketing fish merely change reefs when something shiny distracts them. Why stay? With no equity to be had, or long-term promises to be kept, both employee and employer are part of an ever-changing and fluid ecosystem. Nowadays, and for some time really, we have become so accustomed to transiency that even thinking about a 5-year plan makes us cross eyed.
I don’t believe in reminiscing and I won’t do it here. There are pros and cons to this new world order. But make no mistake it is our reality. Like professional sports, our teams change every season. To remain competitive, one must adapt.
For one thing that means taking it all in stride. Do not look at departures as grave warning signs unless they are part of a mass exodus, which, we must note, are typically referred to as lay-offs. When people do quit, HR still conducts exit interviews, searching for reasons why.
Well here’s one I actually heard: “They offered me a few more bucks and some new things to work on. I figured it might be fun. If it doesn’t work out I’ll come back or try somewhere else.”
How the f**k do you counter that? Why even try? A better move is to thank the man for his great service, sincerely wish him good luck and then offer someone else a few more bucks and some new things to work on. The good news is your mother was right. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
Now that the Superbowl is over (one can argue it was over after 12 seconds), Adland has already begun planning for the Mongolian Cluster F**k that is Cannes. Festival officials have started naming its 2014 jury presidents. The list contains the usual high profile suspects, a collection of CEO’s and Chief Creative Officers from the world’s largest holding company agencies: David Sable (Y&R), Susan Credle (Leo Burnett) and Amir Kassaei (DDB).
Obvious, elitist and conspicuous… Like a surgically enhanced, rich socialite traipsing along the Croisette, Cannes has always been top heavy. I’ve been to my share so I know of what I speak. Of course, by comparison, I was but a sand fly caught upon the sticky, oily boob of any one these big shots. But so what? I was in the South of France. Whether one is A-list or D-list the pink rose is the same.
Over the years, I’ve attended a bunch of these fetes and I’d do so again, if invited. Which I won’t be. My whistle-blowing hijinks at the Dubai Lynx a while back probably ended those dreams. More on that here.
Or did it? The fellow selected as head juror of film (still the penultimate category at Cannes, Cyber Titanium be damned!), only last year called out the festival (see above linked post) for rampant corruption at the highest levels. And yet there he is. Back for more.
More what, I wonder? Methinks it has a lot to do with prestige and big agency politics. You gotta represent! That, and spend another lost week with one’s peers in the French Mediterranean!
For the record, I’ve actually won Gold at Cannes. And ze bronze. Corruption aside, it’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve also given speeches there. Made presentations. Met all manner of marketing legends. Lee Clow. Steve Zuckerberg. One time I literally bumped into Nike’s Phil Knight while jogging! I even had a chance to visit the street address where my grandmother lived after World War II. Goes without saying, it’s a beautiful place. Even when full of people like us.
I would have preferred a snowstorm. Seriously.
Watching the Superbowl was like watching the proverbial car crash. I gaped for a while and then moved on. Honestly, did the Denver Broncos forget what day it was? They were awful.
However, so was most everything else. Including the commercials I happened to catch, which, given I’d stopped paying attention to the TV, were not all of them. I’ll get back to this.
But first the game. Let’s start with Peyton Manning. As good as he has been this season, from the very first botched play, Peyton Manning looked like a confused and terrified little boy. To my chagrin, he made loudmouth Seahawk, Richard Sherman seem prescient. Peyton did “throw a lot of ducks.” Some right into the hands of players from the opposing team. So bad was the “best player on the field” that it will likely eliminate him from the same conversation as Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and even the man he helped defeat two weeks prior, Tom Brady.
Manning received no help whatever from his teammates. The O-line was pathetic. The coaches made no adjustments. At times it was odd and eerie watching this season’s record-breaking offense play so poorly.
Fox was mediocre at best. Granted, they were scrambling with the last minute scratch of veteran broadcaster, Terry Bradshaw, whose father had died the day before. I believe they substituted Michael Strahan, who was game but ill prepared. Beyond that I found the entire broadcast rote. The Superbowl has become a series of sponsored moments, from the coin toss to Halftime to the insipid “How does it feel?” questions at the end.
As for the Halftime show, I will give credit to Bruno Mars for delivering a slick and competent performance. I respect the dude for showing up prepared for such a big stage. The Red Hot Chile Peppers were completely unnecessary. Is there anyone on earth who still listens to this band, even nostalgically? They are like Fallout Boy; only imagine Fallout Boy ten years from now. Ouch.
Rote is a good description for the commercials. Few of them rose above the calculated goofiness of animals behaving badly, celebrity cameos and other super tired super tropes. Sure, I liked a few well enough. The Kia “Matrix” spot was big, fun and it actually sold something, which means it did at least two things better than most of the others. T-Mobile had it’s moments. Couple others.
For controversy we got Coke’s multi-cultural singing of “America the Beautiful.” I’m told the blogosphere lit up with haters and defenders. Meh.
For pre-meditated “shocker” there was the face-lifted Bob Dylan shilling Chrysler. What color do you want, Bob? How about tangled-up-in-blue? When Clint Eastwood and Eminem made similar appearances for Detroit and Chrysler and America everything clicked. Bob Dylan laid an egg.
Frankly, the whole f—king thing laid an egg. #Superfail.
To paraphrase the opening line from Radio Shack’s barrel of retro celebrities commercial: “The eighties called. They want their Superbowl back.”
January 29, 2014
Poetry is a dying vine clinging to the stinking roadhouse of pop culture. Verse and beat and alliteration are now 140 characters, the new haiku. On steroids.
Brand after brand after brand like boxcars moving their freight using the rhyming words of dead men: Walt Whitman. Allen Ginsberg. In the ultimate Meta even the poetic rant of Robin Williams from a film called, of all things, Dead Poet’s Society is the new message for all of Apple’s new, new things. “What will your verse be?” As if Mac needed the incantation.
It is the ultimate irony the demon gatekeeper of popular culture has commandeered poetry. We are hearing it everywhere. Levis gave us the scratchy live recording of a dead poet in their propulsive and romantic “Go Forth” campaign. Johnnie Walker tells us to “Keep Walking.”
And so we do. Mashing words and music and imagery into myriad beats. We iterate. We aggregate. Co-opt and curate. We celebrate the stuff of life.
Copywriters are nothing if not failed poets turning out catch phrases “Just do it” and puns “Nothing runs like a Deere” and those are the good ones! The dusty classics. How many now don’t even compare? It doesn’t matter. We sing the body electric for toiletries and blue jeans. And when our great words are not great enough we simply commandeer someone else’s, someone who came before us, someone who died drunk and broke and likely unhappy but maybe not.
Who cares? Using old poems make advertising feel new and improved!
We wrote poems before copy. We read poetry before streaming horror movies and Old Spice commercials on You Tube. We wanted to be heard. And because the rejections from the New Yorker piled up like delivery menus in the hallway, spam in the inbox, we turned to advertising.
I mean I. Did that.
But We sounds so much cooler. More like poetry. Manifestos begin with “We.” Mantras and mission statements. Let’s motor!
In Adland, our lines mean a little something to all kinds of big nobodies. There we find recognition, awards and a paycheck. There I found an audience. There I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…
No, I will not go there. But someone will. And soon. I guarantee it.