choices

Choose wisely…

Has anyone read The Paradox of Choice (Why More is Less) by Barry Schwartz? I started it the other day. His premise that our “culture of abundance robs us of satisfaction” captivated me. Deep down I’ve always felt –in spite of being a capitalist and an ad man- that having too many choices makes life chaotic. Mine anyway. Here was a book espousing the same idea!

The pressure to keep up is real. In high school and college we are given a syllabus: a defined and finite list of books we had to read. For most of us that was all we could handle.

Upon graduation, we create our own reading list –presuming we still read. I certainly do. However, I also love movies. I make it a point to see every best picture nominee in the Academy Awards. Recently, Oscar expanded that list to what, nine? How am I supposed to see all these films (not to mention the genre pictures I adore) and finish that book I just started?

It would help if I got off the damn computer…

Ah, the computer. Like many of us, I’m hopelessly addicted to the Internet. The trade blogs, the film blogs, the book blogs, and all those I-can’t-believe they’ve-got-a-site sites. Nothing says choice like the Information Superhighway. Damn you Al Gore for enriching my life! Damn you, Apple computers, for creating such glorious shiny, silver hardware.

On my devices I sail down the Amazon. There I can get anything I want -fast, cheap, easy. Do you like Ebay or are you a Craigslist guy? Perhaps there’s another etailer you prefer more – one that really knows you and what you like.

Am I missing anything? That’s the big question, isn’t it? Am I missing anything? The answer is yes. And that makes me nervous. Irritable. Discontent. It’s sort of like New Year’s Eve. No matter which party I chose I was missing another far better one.

But we prefer having choices, right? Sometimes I wonder. I’m relieved when a restaurant has only three dishes on its menu. The chef has chosen for me. Picking one of his specials is a no-lose situation. It’s even relaxing and enjoyable, which, come to think of it, is the whole point to going out for dinner.

Schwartz opens his book by recounting a visit to the Gap to buy blue jeans. Instead of merely having to find his size, which is daunting enough, he is faced with myriad styles to choose from: boot cut, relaxed fit, skinny, distressed, button fly or zipper. Black, brown, white or blue. And so on.

He wanted jeans. Not choices. What should have been a simple task became complicated, even fraught with peril. Yes, freedom of choice is the American Dream. But is it turning into a nightmare?

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Recently, every agency in gyro’s global network convened to watch a live broadcast from our worldwide CEO & CCO, Christoph Becker. It was the anniversary of our company and the man wanted to say a few words.

Our boss is relentless that way. When it comes to driving agency culture, he is a force of nature. Whether speaking about our creative product, various tenants of our philosophy or introducing some new theme (usually all of the above), Christoph is adamant about making it a matter. Whatever anyone thinks about gyro, I can definitively say we are not an agency built on memos and behind closed doors. Gyro wears its heart on its sleeve, and Christoph is both our head coach and number one cheerleader.

God bless him.

After his presentation, I admitted to a colleague that one of the many reasons I mightn’t ever run an agency on a worldwide level is my inability and/or unwillingness to drive culture that way. Don’t get me wrong. I adore making creative presentations. And I love this company. I just am not super comfortable putting the two together on a daily basis.

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Sometimes it just feels like pimping.

Alas, certain days I can’t get it up. Maybe I’m distracted or preoccupied by something at home. Perhaps I am upset with an individual at work. Or is it I’m simply not in the mood. Whatever the issue, I’m not always ready, willing or able to do the deal. I like hearing myself talk but I get sick of me as well.

In the end, I prefer working on ideas. My default mode is to dive into a project. Let someone else coach. Just give me the goddam ball. I like to think of this as leading by example. but I’m not naive. I know one needs to be far more than a worker among workers in order to really lead. Doing the deal 24/7 is a special talent. One needs to be all in. That means celebrating every win, every new person, and every milestone. It also means creating a blueprint for a creative culture and sticking to it through thick and thin, against failure and criticism, versus even crippling self awareness which can make doing all of the above seem like a parody skit from SNL.

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The other day I received a number of messages from various colleagues commending me on having done a good job. The particulars aren’t important to this discussion. Nor, I suppose, is the fact that it happened to me. I do not mean to toot my own horn!

But getting those compliments inspired me. Therefore, receiving kudos from one’s peers is what this post is about. Such a simple gesture saying “nice job” but it is one we often forget. As colleagues, bosses, partners we seldom offer congratulations. I don’t think it’s because we’re insensitive jerks. Not all of us. My theory is that so many of us are busy chasing deadlines and putting out fires that we don’t give success the same attention we give peril. Sort of a twist on the old saying about TV news: If it bleeds it leads. Or the squeaky wheel gets the oil. I fear this is also how we (I) can be as parents. Count how many times a day you admonish your children versus complimenting them. See what I mean?

A shame. Because receiving a pat on the back feels pretty damn good. Especially, come to think of it, when most of our days are in fact spent chasing deadlines and putting out fires!

Alas, I’m afraid good effort (from others as well as from ourselves) is taken for granted. “It’s just doing the job,” we might say… if we say anything at all.

On one level that is understandable After all, we get paid to do a good job. Having done so do we now expect a medal? Of course not. But I bet we’d really like it if someone noticed. I know I certainly did.

In Adland, there are too much politics and Schadenfreude. We creatives are insecure and defensive because our work is always being criticized. Account people grow resentful because their efforts are rarely appreciated. Saying thank you and nice job could easily right these ills and so many more. And unlike titles, respect and validation it cost nothing to give. Food for thought during austere times.

Oh, and lest the receiver of such praises forget: Say thank you!

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The Age of Real-ish…

San Francisco Chronicle movie critic, Mick LaSalle condemns the new Avenger’s movie, Age of Ultron for bunches of reasons: It’s loud, chaotic and interminable. Read the review yourself. I haven’t seen the film so I have nothing to say.

However, something in LaSalle’s review does beg my attention. He writes:

“The action scenes look fake, yet make you wonder if fake is the new real. It was once a mark of shame to make scenes that reminded audiences of computer screens, but that may be the coming aesthetic.”

Hold that thought.

Last week, at work, a group of us were discussing the use of CGI to create human beings for an advertisement, thereby saving us the trouble of casting as well as our client the costs associated with hiring real actors. Not long ago this conversation would have been a non-starter. Replicating ordinary people for ordinary commercials was just not done. Yet here we were seriously considering it. Sure, most of us were ambivalent about using CGI created people instead of actors, because –duh- they would look “fake.” But that’s when I wondered aloud the very same thing LaSalle wrote in his review. That looking not quite real, or computer generated, “may be the coming aesthetic.” In other words, people would not take note of the difference nor mind it.

Think about that. Popular culture is becoming inundated with CGI people, places and things. From big budget movie franchises like The Avengers (Marvel) and Toy Story (Pixar) to special effects laden TV spectacles “Where are my CGI dragons!” and especially the rise of gaming culture, artificial reality has become the new normal.

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“Don’t be calling me a cartoon.”

When was the last time you heard the phrase “virtual reality” let alone used it? It’s just reality now. The more we live in our screens the more comfortable we are with projections. Content is content. We don’t care anymore. Realish. It’s the visual corollary to truthiness.

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No means no… unless you’re drunk.

This week, Anheuser Busch got taken to the woodshed by numerous publications for a tone-deaf piece of copy that appeared on one of its Bud Light labels:

“The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night”

Functioning like Tweets these short bursts of copy or “scrolls” were created in support of the brand’s campaign, “Up for Whatever” created by advertising agency, BBDO.

To say I am not a fan of Bud light’s campaign is an understatement. Douche-y by design, this creative idea casts barely drinking age millennials as bar hopping pinballs with zero on their minds other than having A GOOD TIME!

Before going any further, I should add that I once worked on this brand’s advertising. For reasons I won’t fully get into, I loathed the experience. You might think casting bikini-clad babes in Hollywood a highlight in any young man’s career. I’m not denying that it wasn’t fun… at first. But like any binge, it became monotonous and even disgusting. Casting was a charade. For my stupid scripts, any girl would do. Frankly, the lights had been turned off strategically when the light beer category shifted from being a low calorie option to rocket fuel for party animals.

Yet, even in this hopelessly sophomoric category, “Up for Whatever” grates as much as anything out there. Ever. To me, the dumbass “scroll” about “removing the word no from the night’s agenda” is just more proof that being ‘up for whatever’ often leads to bad outcomes. Like rape charges.

That being said, the harpies digging their claws into AB have blinders on. If one is going to hate on Bud Light do so against the whole campaign not just a pimple on its ass. Any fool can see “up for whatever” is a euphemism for removing the word “no.” Why the hell do you think the brand is waving this flag if not to incite 20-somethings into acting like irresponsible teenagers (or irresponsible teenagers to act like irresponsible adults.) Splitting hairs over a specific execution is hypocritical and silly.

University profs weigh in. More context from Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/three-advertising-professors-bud-light-fiasco-326830

“Up for Whatever” continues to negatively blow up in social media: http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/bud-light-s-label-gafe-lasting-damage/298378/?utm_source=daily_email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=adage&ttl=1431049359

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