“Land of Dreams” from JWT

Besides the Statue of Liberty, I didn’t realize the United States of America made tourism advertising. Cities and states run ads. But the entire country? Seems an unwieldy proposition, given our nation’s vast size and wildly disparate peoples. But they do. Above is a TV commercial called Land of Dreams produced by JWT, New York. The client is, in fact, the United States Government. I wonder (jokingly of course) if the President approved the concept.

Comprising lush vignettes of different parts of the country, cut to a song by Roseanne Cash, Land of Dreams is a textbook definition of anthem commercial. Most definitely American, it’s a fastball down the middle, with a good song and gorgeous images. I wonder about one scene or another but basically I’m impressed.

Many of you aren’t.

I discovered the commercial while trolling Agency Spy. Granted, that isn’t the place for thoughtful film criticism, let alone compliments of any kind, even so, the tone and level of hatred toward Land of Dreams was downright nasty.

Hating on America is vogue with young people. Hating advertising is vogue for everyone. Therefore hating on an ad for America is decidedly low hanging fruit. Vitriol was aimed at everything from too many scenes of California and New Orleans to the broad strokes of Ms. Cash’s anthem.

Misguided dumb-asses. Do you honestly think shots of tattoo parlors and dank bars would have sold America better? Hip or not, this is the USA Sven and his brood wants to visit. Nothing wrong with Brooklyn, Wicker Park or the Mission but these aren’t tourist attractions. (And by the way, you should be grateful!) Foreigners come to America because of the clichés. Not in spite of them. It would be foolish to advertise our country any other way.

As for dissing Roseanne Cash, you’ve got to be kidding. She makes the fricking commercial. Cash not only has a great voice but, unlike any number of pop stars, she’s credible.

I’m not saying this spot is awesome. It ain’t. But it ain’t bad either. The hate spewing critics need to realize our country is not best sold through the eyes of a 29 year-old, zombie nuking, pierced hipster from Hoboken, let alone an unemployed Internet troll.

Oh, and this: You try selling something better to the United States Government.

Not my family; I don’t frolic.

Halfway through a family vacation in Mexico’s Maya Riviera. Hot and sunny, within two hours of deplaning everyone got sun burned. That hasn’t hindered the girls from recreating, Thank God. Trust me, nursing a red skinned kid with the shivers is not how you want to spend spring break, unless, of course, you want to catch up on Mexican soap operas. Yet, the tropical heat is welcome respite from the endless Chicago winter. We are blessed to be here, one and all.

We are here with my brother, Jeremy and his young son, Jasper. Some of you in Adland might know my brother. Jeremy currently works for JWT in New York. His boy is a firecracker. How the lad is not sunburned is a mystery to all of us. Though my brother, who is a single father rightfully takes credit for militantly applying sun block on his lone progeny.

Today the sky was powder blue with scattered white puffy clouds. My eldest daughter commented that the vista “looked like the opening scene of The Simpson’s.” I smiled, wistfully. Back in the day TV reminded people of nature not the other way around. Still, at least she referenced quality programming in her reverse analogy.

Speaking of technology, I forgot to sign up for an International Plan for my Blackberry. Even before we got sunburned the email came warning me that I’ve already reached my roaming limit, charges will follow. I tossed the phone into our room safe, which is just as well.

We met a nice family from Arizona. They have a girl roughly the age of one of mine. Gwen is brazen for her age. She pointed at my eldest calling her short for her age and later to my middle child calling her chubby. I asked her if she thought she was at a zoo, pointing like that? My sarcasm was lost on her. She has the bad manners of an only child. I’m sure her parents call it confidence.

Last night at dinner I had the whole red snapper, partly because I love freshly grilled fish and partly because I knew the kids would get a kick out of it. Sure enough, the pink head with its big eyeballs was a hit. I made it “talk” for even bigger laughs.

So, that’s the vacation so far. And this is my holiday post, written blissfully on the deck overlooking the brackish river outside our room. Tonight we go into town; such as it is, for more seafood and endless baskets of chips. Adios.

Postaer Men (L-R): Me, Jeremy, Daniel, Jasper, Larry, Jack

My original post was about a new blog that I want you all to experience. Unfortunately, Tumblr hosts the blog and is currently beset by “an issue in one of their database clusters.” It’s been down for 36 hours and counting. Serves them right for playing outside without a sweater! Anyway, I’m not going to pimp a new blog while it’s inaccessible.

So, I’m running an audible. First, by updating my “novel slash social media experiment,” Sweet by Design. About 90 pages remain to be published. I’m trying to speed up the text conversion but the cover design contest will be open until it’s completed. That means you still have time to win the Ipad. You can also vote for your favorite covers so far, by viewing and commenting right here.

At top, I posted a unique photograph comprising four generations of Postaer men. Taken this Thanksgiving, it’s the first one like it and likely to be the only one like it. Grandpa Jack is 97 years old. A Chicago cab driver, shop owner and hardcore sports fan, Jack Postaer gives us all inspiration. Also in the photograph is my father, Larry Postaer (Founder, RPA), brother Jeremy (ECD, JWT), brother Daniel (Director, DMG Media) and nephew Jasper, 4 years old. Besides the advertising that runs in our family, it’s pretty cool having four generations breathing air, let alone in the same area code!

My girls are not in this photo because they’re girls. (It was a guy thing.) But here’s a favorite photo of them taken last summer. Safe to say they do not look like the men. Thank God.

Colette, Camille & Lily

Assuming Tumblr corrects their “data cluster issues” my next post is a doozy. Until then, from my family to yours: Happy Holidays!

Note to agencies: We are not alone

For the last few years our agency’s worldwide mandate has been to “put digital at the core” of everything we do. This means exactly what you think it means. Instead of putting digital in a “bucket” or “silo,” and treating it as one of many marketing services, Euro RSCG revolves the company’s universe around it. And within that scheme, we (the employees) have been strongly encouraged to “get social” or get out of town! These directives are elemental to the agency’s primary purpose of “getting us and our clients to the future first.”

A couple weeks back, JWT named its Worldwide Digital Director, David Eastman, North American CEO. Worldwide CEO, Bob Jeffries indicated that this sent a strong message (to clients and competitors) about what direction the agency was going, and that JWT was serious about putting digital at the center of business operations.

As I write this, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago rehired digital ECD, David Hernandez from Tribal DDB. He’ll “provide digital creative leadership across all agency disciplines,” said Joe Sciarrotta, Chief Creative Officer of the agency.

And so it goes, by hook or by crook, ad agencies everywhere are finding ways to make digital their big story: on our creds, in our case studies, in general. Whether this is done via purchase or through internal machinations or both it is getting done. Some of us are doing it faster and better than others. But it’s a crowded field. And the race is far from over.

My point is not to ridicule this any of this. I wholeheartedly support it. What I find interesting is Ad Land’s belief that this is a media centric phenomenon, that the migration of marketing to digital platforms is somehow unique to our industry.

Everyone is putting digital front and center. Be it media, education, insurance, institution, government, finance, retail, CPG, the dry cleaners up the street. One is hard pressed to find any operation that isn’t doing business online, let alone marketing it that way. Some die trying (Pets.com). Some flourish (Amazon). Most are somewhere in between.

One has already heard the call that consumers are taking over the message. Ad Land’s first reaction was just that: a reaction. Born of fear. That somehow we –the creators and drivers of all consumerism- woke up one day and discovered a new landscape, and one where we weren’t needed anymore. That fear drove us to buy, hire and promote digital expertise with breathless abandon. To play catch up if you will.

But is the fear real? No more than it is for any other business. The only difference is somehow we deemed it our mission to re-take that landscape. Or perish. Perhaps we doth protest too much. By overly stating how important digital is to our operations, we demonstrate fear of being left behind.

I’ve said it before: We are all pioneers. The landscape is free country and has been since Al Gore invented it. We need only apply our vast skills (ideation, creation, brand management and so on) in the same direction as everyone else.

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Do You Realize – that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize – we’re floating in space
Do You Realize – that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die

-Flaming Lips

Do you realize one of the few remaining topics still off limits in general conversation is death? It may be the only one. The other inevitability, taxes is talked about all the time, especially with President Obama promising more and more of them. The subjects we are not supposed to bring up at a dinner party, religion and politics are ranted about with passion and impunity. And sex? Please. Our society has become so hyper-sexualized I can’t feel my dick anymore! The Internet, reality TV, and social media (not necessarily in that order) have not just opened doors of communication they’ve kicked them down and burnt the splinters. Nothing is taboo.

Except death. In particular our death. Save for the occasional funeral, none of us ever talk, text or tweet about death. Not with friends. Not with peers. Not even with our own family. It just doesn’t come up. It doesn’t want to come up. Sure, we can relate to death in the movies and news stories but not in our own lives.

Is that because it’s a downer? Well, so are the Chicago Cubs but we LOVE talking about them. I think it’s more than just being depressing that keeps all of us off the topic. I think our ignorance of death is just too profound to talk about. Ever.

More specifically, our fear of death is too profound. Even the most spiritual among us can’t say with any certainty what happens after we die. Heaven? Reincarnation? Fertilizer? No one knows. Nor will anyone ever know until it actually happens -which it will. And that’s just too scary to think about, let alone discuss. At least openly.

Death is the ultimate common denominator. There is no cure. No one can avoid it. It’ll happen to you. All that other stuff (sex, religion, politics) is inherently debatable. Those topics, if once politically incorrect, now electrify us. In addition, the ability to hide behind online personas makes us impervious to any sensitivity.

But pseudonyms are no protection from the Grim Reaper. Nothing is. Not God. Not even social media. Ashton Kutchner may have more Twitter followers than anyone on the planet but in fifty or so years he and they will all be dead. (You can’t tweet death!) Then what? Oh, I forgot…we don’t want to talk about that.

Check out this dark and lovely video about death by The Headlights (film courtesy of Daily Planet in Chicago.

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