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What are they looking for? It’s obvious…

There’s a simple and obvious reason why so many people are constantly checking their smart phones. Two reasons actually. Yet, I’ve not seen or read or heard anyone use either one to explain (their) behavior. But that doesn’t make my hypothesis any less debatable. On the contrary, the silence supports it. I think people are embarrassed to admit to one or the other reason. Why? Because they point to our vanity and that makes us uncomfortable.

The two reasons: 1. We don’t want to miss the girl or the boy or the party. 2. We don’t want to miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

Though based on intuition I’m 98% certain that variations on the above two reasons are why so many of us can’t stop checking our smart phones. Girls are waiting for that cute guy to call. Boys are scoping where tonight’s action is. And both sexes like to think a new opportunity awaits them (a job perhaps) in the very next email.

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Anticipating special delivery…

Beneath vanity lies the human instinct for getting something be it sex, money or some other thrilling surprise. Obviously, this desire is older than smart phones. As a boy I can remember running to the mailbox when I heard the mailman walking up our steps. Whether I was waiting for the latest issue of Fishing Facts magazine, The Incredible Hulk or a note from the girl I met at summer camp it didn’t matter. I wanted my thing. Even if I didn’t know what it was. The anticipation was always there. (By the way, anticipation usually far exceeds reality -a lesson I did not learn until much later in life.)

Marketers have wisely and often cravenly taken advantage of our instinctual cravings. Fanning the flames of desire to elicit a purchase or behavior is fundamental to our business. The marketers that understand how to exploit it properly are the ones that thrive. This is why there is so much hype around capitalizing on smart phones. Marketers know people can’t stop checking them in the vainglorious hope something sexy awaits. Ergo if advertisers can tap into that they win. Alas, their spam rarely fits into this paradigm. It gets in the way. Yet, advertisers will keep trying because people keep checking.

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“Let’s check our phones! Let’s not!”

Let me finish by returning to my original hypothesis. If correct, the insight leads to even more interesting ones. For instance, it explains why young people are far more tied to their smart phones than older people. The pat explanation holds that seniors aren’t as tech literate or modern as twenty-somethings and therefore less savvy. But maybe it’s just that older folks aren’t craving hookups and headhunters. Could this mean oldsters are more apt to respond to marketers because their expectations are more grounded?

Getting underneath human behavior is one of the cooler aspects of our jobs in Adland, and life in general. It also puts a premium on intuition versus data.

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Following tradition or just a boob?

I thought Seth MacFarlane’s bawdy opening number at the Oscars, “We Saw Your Boobs” might pass by my radar but the story continues to gain traction, the latest commentary coming from the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. In a formal complaint written to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the group claimed his gig “struck a new low in its treatment of women.” More excerpts from the letter can be found here. The gist of their argument is that women have a hard enough time gaining respect for their contributions in Hollywood, let alone society in general, without sophomoric displays like Seth’s bringing them down and on one of the biggest stages in the world no less.

I won’t disagree. However, I will say that Oscar and Hollywood have objectified women for years, often without comment. It seems every other movie features women in highly sexualized roles, many of them beloved by both sexes. And I’m not just talking about “B” movies, though those are obviously the most blatant examples. but what about the so-called “Bond Girls” which have become a huge part of that cannon’s attractive lore?

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“Ah, so women do have value!”

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Shaken and stirred!

Are not these ladies merely eye candy for James and every other Tom, Dick and Harry? Of course they are. And while a few of these actresses actually could act it was for their bodies they were cast. One literally in gold. Save for ardent feminists nobody complains, least of all the actresses, whom as far as I can tell, covet the part.

There are countless examples of women being subjugated, objectified and demeaned in film and television. That doesn’t make it right but it does make singling out questionable episodes in the industry, well, questionable.

Still, it’s hammering on the Academy Awards that trips me up. For hours leading up to the ceremony itself media from all over the world line up to photograph and film the actresses as they sashay into the auditorium. People adore the spectacle, especially women. On both sides of the camera. So much so it is called it the “Red Carpet” and it is considered a must-see. The next day hundreds of “critics” pass judgment, many of them cruelly. But we laugh. We vote. Indeed, we pass judgment ourselves. Is this not text textbook definition of ogling?

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It’s the Grammy’s so that doesn’t count…

One might reply that it is their clothes we are looking at and not the ladies. True. But it is the dresses that show more of the ladies that draw our attention and the slavish commentary. True? Furthermore, why should actresses be obligated to parade in front of the entire world in flamboyant, revealing gowns in the first place? Especially while most of their dates don black tie. What does that have to do with their acting chops? It doesn’t.

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“This has nothing to do with my ability but I LOVE IT!”

The Red Carpet is tradition. And women adore it. Even I dare say the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. I could end there but I have one more thought. Is Seth MacFarlane taking it on the chin because he’s a man? Let’s say Tina Fey was hosting the Oscars (not a stretch) and she sang the exact same song (not a stretch), would that make it wildly funny instead of wildly inappropriate? You know the answer as well as I do.


Insert big joke here…

A jealous author. A disgraced General. A curvy socialite. Ah, just what the country needs after a super storm and bruising Presidential election: a juicy sex scandal! I don’t have to go into the details. You all know the story, or parts of it. The good parts. We’ve seen the TVs hanging above treadmills and barstools and in our living rooms, saw the file footage of these well-to-do’s, formed impressions, presented opinions, changed our minds, wondered what all the fuss was about while also wondering about the naughty bits: the trysts, the late night emails, the homely wife and what she must be thinking, the bad men and women who succumbed to temptation and found themselves shame-walking across the planet.

It’s been too damn long. Monica Lewinsky’s dress is in the Smithsonian or some rich pervert’s closet to be pulled out at cocktail parties, on bets or for charity. So long ago that the man who made that blue dress famous is now famous again for being dignified and stately, not the disgraced Chief of Staff who lied to his wife and a nation. That is how long it’s been since we in America have been treated to an epic soap opera like the Petraeus Affair.

More like this and maybe late night talk shows will still have a chance. As I write this Leno and Conan are force-ranking puns. For this is prime time. These are real, Real Housewives and Real American Heroes. People with money. People who served our country. Men in and OUT of uniform. Salacious. Irresistible…

Yet completely benign.

Hold on. This involved the CIA. The FBI. Homeland Security is concerned about potential breaches in our nation’s military intelligence. That’s dangerous stuff. General Betray-us could easily have passed along Pentagon codes to his mistress along with his little soldiers. We all know secrets are whispered over pillows. She strokes his trembling abdomen. He giggles about weapons of mass destruction. Oh, General, speaking of which!


Baby, you can drive my car…

Come on, people. This scandal is gossamer. While the principals are no doubt seriously humiliated, there is nothing to fear from it. If that were the case his paramour would have been stymied from writing her bio about him a long time ago. Didn’t happen. No one gave a shit then, let alone was scared.

On the contrary, we are distracted from our fears. Sublimely. For that’s what sex scandals do. They take us out of recession and war and whatever ails us. Horny famous people are the ultimate bromide. Fizz, Fizz, Oh, what a relief it is!


“Are you tickling my palm, General?”

Special Note: I realize there is a theory suggesting the scandal was teased out of it’s boudoir by government insiders to distract from serious hearings regarding military actions in Libya. This then would qualify the story as legitimate news. Until that is verified just tell me what they’re wearing!

I am about to pimp a commercial gyro San Francisco is producing. This is not something I usually do. The last thing I want this blog to be is a shill for my agency. I don’t get that many readers as it is!

So why now? Bunch of reasons. First, this is gyro’s first TV commercial EVER and the same goes for our client. That’s two firsts in one. I’m not comfortable revealing the client’s name (yet) but if you look at our client roster you’ll find only technology companies. So, yes, it’s one of them. These facts alone make it a special event –for them and for us. And given I just started at gyro, you can imagine my excitement.

Fortunately, our debut TV spot is also a barnburner, if I do say so myself: a truly badass piece of filmmaking featuring guns, whiskey, and notorious women. When was the last time you saw a firearm being discharged against a human in a TV commercial? Well, you will in this one. And the bastard deserves what he’s getting. Or does he? Maybe it’s the woman in his arms who deserves a bullet. Either way, here’s the gun.

Let me tell you a little about the director. A Hollywood pro, his very next job after ours is directing the season finale of True Blood. A long time ago he also directed a dark comedy, which is now considered a classic. We are jacked about having him helm our TV spot. Can you guess his name?

Last but most definitely not least on reasons why I’m so thrilled about this project is the media buy. Our spot will be debuting on the season finale of a little cable show called Mad Men.

Add it all up, and this is our Super Bowl. We. Are. Stoked. As for me being coy, why not? The spot has a “Whodunit” vibe and, well, I’m just going with it.


Bad stock photo for elusive great feeling…

Not including sex, when was the last time you were so excited about something you couldn’t think of anything else? We all get angry -at politicians, at bosses, at our significant others. But that’s not the excitement I’m talking about. I’m talking about finding thrills in everyday stuff. Is it even possible? Life coaches tell us to live in the moment and embrace serenity. But, dammit, I crave excitement.

Which is why I love writing. When I’m in the zone –whether personal or for a client- nothing compares to it. Turning ideas into sentences and then better sentences is something that genuinely turns me on. My body buzzes. I lose all track of time. A Diet Coke on my left and a cheap cigar to my right, my fingers dancing across the keyboard, I know nothing as satisfying as that and I never will.

Oh, wait, yes I do: pitching. Lots of creative people dread presentations but I’m not one of them. Yes, your audience might not like what you have to say but I never think about that when I’m walking to the podium. I’m too excited. If writing is like the perfect marriage of heart and head than pitching is a one-night stand. I never feel so alive as when I am standing in front of a crowd.

The ad game, or whatever we’re calling it, is still about creating ideas and presenting them, which is why I can’t wait to do it again… and again and again.

What makes other people tick? Seeing their children born? That’s the Hallmark card answer but, honestly, how many of us (men) truly remember it? I was wired, tired and scared, secretly wishing it were 1962 so I could go down the hall and smoke cigarettes. Ladies- I can’t imagine what giving birth is like. Creating life! It’s like being God. Yet, you were pretty miserable doing it. Hence the epidural.

For a lot of us, sports provide unmitigated excitement. Racing downhill on skis. Setting the hook on a monster pike. Catching the perfect spiral for a touchdown. Maybe that’s why sports are so damn popular…because it’s one of the few times and places where civilized men and women can experience excitement. So potent, it even translates to spectators.

In the end, I like writing and pitching. What about you, Gentle Reader? What makes your motor run?

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