Been there, doing that!

In 2001, I became Chief Creative Office of an agency within Leo Burnett, which we called LBWorks. Our emphasis was on B2B and technology clients. At the time I had trepidations about leaving the world of consumer advertising for the new and intimidating frontiers of high tech marketing. I worried that I wouldn’t understand the client’s businesses let alone their communications. But I had been part of Burnett’s new business machine in the late 90’s and pitched a bunch of dot coms. Therefore, willing or not, I was the right guy for helping my famous agency build out their B2B and technology capabilities.

My biggest fear, however, was about doing good work in a space dominated by technical jargon and business cliché’s. Selfishly, I was afraid of becoming irrelevant, especially in the context of my consumer-focused advertising peers.

Vintage swag from LBWorks…

I soon discovered most of my fears unfounded. To this day, what we accomplished at LBWorks remains among my proudest achievements, surpassing even that of helping create the “Curiously Strong Mints” campaign for Altoids. For all its potential creative limitations, working with truly contemporary clients was a rush, and is one that still has not abated.

Currently, I am the Executive Creative director at gyro (the “g” is small) in San Francisco. Here, we specialize in technology clients that market to information architects, developers and CIO’s, most of them in Silicon Valley.


Just last week my job took me to Cisco’s sprawling campus in San Jose, where we showed them a new campaign. In the last year I’ve visited Twitter, Google, PayPal and CA technologies (formerly Computer Associates). Those are pretty big names. I’ve also created and presented work to myriad smaller but no less interesting companies like Cloudera and Turn. These businesses merchandise in Big Data, the Cloud, software and algorithmic solutions.

Gyro’s vision is to create marketing for these future forward companies free from engineering-speak and tired tropes; to do work that, as we like to say, is more “humanly relevant.” It’s not an easy sell but it is possible. Moreover, it is becoming deeply necessary. The world has feverishly embraced technology. It is no longer just scientists talking to engineers. People at these companies are people we know. They need to be marketed to as such. At gyro, we feel we are ahead of the curve.

Or you can sell this crap…

it’s amusing (though not surprising) how many of my peers still consider consumer advertising the zenith. The companies I work for are changing the world. Right here. Right now. Consumer products like fast food, cars and packaged goods haven’t changed much in a century. If anything, they are old-fashioned, even out of touch with our changing world. I’m not denying that it’s easier to do great work for many of these clients. But they are hardly the end-all-be-all when it comes to relevance. In some respects, they are anything but.

Me, feeling it. (photo by Daniel Postaer)

I’m delighted to receive word this morning that we prevailed in our first new business pitch since I joined gyro, San Francisco.  I cannot name the client but like most of our partners they are a technology concern. Or as I like to say, they make cool shit that changes the world.

A win is always good news for everyone involved but for me this is especially satisfying. It validates what I have known from the moment I stepped foot in gyro: that this place is special and that I made a wise and wonderful decision by joining it.

Visiting with my father and brothers in Los Angeles, I tried to explain how blessed and happy I am with my new job. They know what a major deal it was –is- for me to move my entire family across the country, on just possibilities.

But here is validation.

It being Friday let’s savor the aroma for a few 24 hours. Thank you and congratulations, work family. I am so proud. And to my real family I say go ahead and exhale. This is all going to work out fine!

The presentation. A lot of work goes into one.

I vaguely recall a brilliant quote from Raymond Carver about “the work.” But I can’t find it, even with modern search technology. I suppose I could have looked harder but I got lazy. And besides I’m tired from, you guessed it, the work.

We’ve got two major creative presentations tomorrow, which meant everything had to be packaged up tonight. We are a relatively small office here in San Francisco and so it was essentially all hands on deck.

As the art directors scrambled to address last minute requests and the copywriters (including yours truly) banged away on final, final versions of those blessed sentences that no one supposedly reads anymore, it started to rain outside, hard as hell, with thunder and lightning, a major rarity in Northern California. Like an earthquake in the sky!

There was pizza and two of the account women opened a bottle of wine. The men, dogged clichés, had beers left over from a Friday celebration two weeks ago. Someone turned on the their iTunes. It was almost festive.

And you know what? Getting there was hard as hell but for me it was even more fun than the “wrap party.” Maybe the younger ones won’t admit it but I know deep down they feel the same way, the good ones anyway. And we’ve got a lot of good ones.

Oh, I know we praise God and kiss our children but doing our jobs and doing them well is what it’s all about. There’s something magical about doing the work. From concept to creation and presentation, it’s the cat’s pajamas.

Which is why I thought about Raymond Carver and his lost ode to work, his perfectly crafted stories, brutal and brilliant, and the effort he put into them. Which is also why, in my crappy apartment in this beautiful city, the rain still drumming on my dirty skylights, I wrote this.

A new job, a new opportunity…

I am three weeks into my new gig. Already, I have stood before several clients and showed them work I helped create. Already, I have been on two airplanes for company business, including the one I’m on now. Neither fact is remarkable; it’s my job.

But there is suddenness to it. One day I’m bopping around Chicago in sweatpants. A week later I’m climbing the Filbert Steps with a bag of overpriced and heavy groceries, the infamous parrots of Telegraph Hill mocking me from above with their caws.

Yesterday I said goodbye (again) to my family, even tougher as I’m not sure when next they’ll be back. It was my girls’ first ever visit to San Francisco. A thrill! And it was our first foray exploring real estate. We are still smarting from the sticker shock. Jesus. A million dollars barely buys you a “shack down by the river.” Oh, and there’s no river.

But, man-o-man, there are certainly views. If I had to shotgun a tagline for San Francisco it would be this: “A view from everywhere!” It’s not an over promise. From my dingy bathroom I look out on the bridge, mountains and waters of the East Bay. I am inspired every time I take a whiz. Or a walk. Just opening the front door!

Just down -very down- from my apartment on Filbert…

No question my family’s world has been turned upside down. Save for my wife, Chicago has been our home forever. My children were born in the same hospital I was. Needless to say, there have been tears. And there will be considerably more.

Yet, we are blessed. Starting with me. I have a terrific new job in one of the greatest cities in the world. Upon wiping away the teardrops, my wife and kids are keen for the adventure. Swapping homes will not be easy. But if that is not a high-class problem I don’t know what is. Many, many people would covet my issues, worries and fears. That is why tonight, as every night, when I say my prayers they begin and end with two words: Thank You.

My girls, at the fortune cookie factory in San Francisco…

Would be Technology logos…

San Francisco is the land of tech. This is where all those companies that advertise in airports live. You know whom I’m talking about. But do you know what they’re talking about? Sometimes it’s hard to tell from their ads. Even their names are an enigma. With all those “Q’s” and “X’s” and “Z’s.” And what funny logos they have, those swishes and swirls and crazy colors!

Many are important, big companies. Billion dollar companies. Fact is the modern world could not exist without them. We recognize a few, especially the ones that make hardware and, of course, that one with the cute Apple.

But the other ones.

Mostly makers of software, they represent the lion’s share of companies in Silicon Valley. No surprise some of them are my clients. Or will be, God willing. Hi guys. What’s up?

Do these creators of the hidden wow intimidate me? A little. I did not take computer science in college. The only code I know is the one I punch in the alarm system at home. But it’s not the technology that worries me. It’s the jargon. Especially when it comes to advertising messages. I do not use the word “solution” in every sentence. Or “optimize.” Or “data.” Must they?

A man and his server…

In terms of tired imagery, technology has its pets, in particular the ‘Man and his Server.’ Like every cliché this one might have been cool the first 100 times. Now, it’s practically invisible.

I realize these businesses are not “consumer facing.” (Eek, there’s a phrase.) But that does not mean they have to talk to one another in code. It’s an ad for cool-ass software not a service manual.


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