When I was coming up at Leo Burnett, promotions were celebrated via “pink” memos, written by one’s supervisor, which would appear on the desks of everyone at the agency. These notes were pretty special, something to show your parents and put in the scrapbook. While memos and scrapbooks have gone the way of the dodo bird I still think there’s something powerful about “seeing it in writing.”

Therefore, I am going to share the “memo” I wrote on behalf of three people, who were promoted at my agency. At first I wondered if this was too private information to post here, but that’s silly: It’s good news for all involved. Besides now these men have a link they can send to their kin!

(For the record, mentions of clients and projects have been redacted.)

It has been years since anyone in the creative department has been promoted. To my knowledge none in our department, past or present, has ever been made an Associate Creative Director. Well, that is about to change. As part of our “intensification” plans for gyro SF we are asking three individuals to step up in their role and responsibility to the agency.

During his time here and over the last couple years in particular, Toby Petersen has elevated his game to heights even I hadn’t thought possible. Happily, I was wrong. His efforts have brought gyro some of our finest work to date. His skills as an editor and with motion graphics are well known to us. More recently, he’s demonstrated a keen understanding of art-direction and become a valuable asset in that regard. For these and other reasons, please welcome and support Toby as Associate Creative Director. In addition to helping Steve with overall art direction, Toby will oversee our burgeoning adventures into film and video production.

No employee at gyro exemplifies deeper loyalty to his fellows, a passion for creative excellence and sheer hard work than Eric Flynn. Often first in and last out, Eric demonstrates a work ethic we all learn from and benefit from. Perhaps more importantly, Eric is a fountain of good ideas that never seem to run out. Basically, he has contributed critical and even brilliant ideas on every project he’s worked on. He gets social. He gets mobile. And he knows how to write well and fast. Therefore, Eric Flynn is now Associate Creative Director, overseeing copy for the agency.

Jonathan Kochan walks softly but carries a big stick. His ability to create and produce work is well known to all of us. How many times have I heard and said, “Where would we be without him?” I don’t want to know. Jon produces digital assets for our clients with quiet calm and unparalleled grace. More than a showman, Jon is a craftsman. I want him to keep doing what he’s doing and to be recognized for doing it. Therefore, Jon is now Associate Creative Director, specializing in Digital.

On a personal note, we also realize that these individuals will need to make personal and professional adjustments as well. Instead of pointing out problems and issues, they will be required to help solve them. Walk the talk if you will. More than a two-way street, this is a busy intersection and everyone has a right of way. We do not want or need traffic cops. I’m beseeching our new ACD’s to humbly collaborate with everyone here so that we may achieve new heights together. Maturing gracefully into positions of true leadership will take extra effort from them and all of us. To be effective, they will need your support as much as we need theirs.

We want everyone here to feel their efforts and achievements mean something. Your careers matter and therefore so do promotions. I have no doubt in time more will come – in all of our departments, for all of our people. Building a great creative culture and an agency culture in general depends on it.

And here they are, in pics I snagged from the fellas’ Interwebs…


Jonathan Kochan


Toby Petersen


Eric Flynn


This is normally not a place for movie reviews but once in a while a film comes along that I cannot help but discuss. Focus starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie is just such a film. Unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons.

Focus is bad. Shockingly, inexcusably bad. The script. The acting. The direction. It’s wrongly made in every way.

Where to begin? The story is about a con man (Smith), who mentors another (Robbie), and the subsequent shit they get into. Forgive my logline. It’s not really possible to put this mess of a narrative into words. The screenwriter couldn’t do it and neither can I. Between elaborate and unbelievable cons the couple falls in love (awkward and painful) and are ultimately involved in a super con that goes awry.

Or does it???

Look. This sort of thing is supposed to be fun (like The Sting or Paper Moon) but alas it is anything but.


Instead we have stereotypical bad guys drawn up like buffoons from the worst Steven Seagal movies: The corrupt Spanish racecar driver! The inscrutable Asian gambler. The funny fat friend! These guys are thrown into the movie like dodge balls. None hitting their mark.

Bobbing and weaving, Smith and Robbie almost get by on their looks alone. That these comely actors fail in every way is alone inexcusable. Margot Robbie is freaking hot, no question. She’s the “It Girl” who blew us and Leonardo Dicaprio away in The Wolf of Wall Street. Yet, half way through this movie I wanted to strangle her. Blame the script and the actress’s ham-fisted efforts to sell it. As for Smith, he hasn’t really done a good film in years (I Am Legend had its moments) and this outing keeps that string alive, achieving a new low. Here he channels George Clooney and comes off more like Rosemary Clooney.

The film’s IMDB page claims it cost over $50 million dollars to produce. After smith’s salary I suppose most of that went into the James Bond-like locations: Manhattan, Barcelona, The Super Bowl in New Orleans! But they are squandered, at best serving as distractions from the ridiculous story.

In the end it is the script that defeats this film. Like a good con we should not be able to detect exposition. In Focus the plot fills and back stories are rampant and obvious. Every con must be explained when it’s completed. And even then they are to put it delicately implausible. At one point we are lead to believe a character makes a bad bet based on subliminal cues, one of them buried in lyrics to a Rolling Stone song played on the radio! It doesn’t work because it couldn’t work.


If the film weren’t so listless it might become famously bad like Showgirls. More likely it will just fade into oblivion, making a portion of its budget back streaming online, yet never to matter ever again.


Pete “The Cheat” Carroll

Bill Belichick

Bill “The Hoodie” Belichick

One could make a case that outside of the Pacific Northwest and New England, the Super Bowl hasn’t a team for the rest of us to cheer for. Just two very successful and unlikable villains. And the winner of the game will likely become even more so. It’s an awesome match-up on paper: the best offense in the league (Patriots) against the league’s best defense (Sea Hawks). Not only that, but the Sea Hawks are defending champions and New England is always in serious contention for the title, having already played in six Super Bowls in this young century.

Like I said, the missive about neither team being particularly “likable” outside of their respective markets has nothing to do with their credentials. With the possible exception of Green Bay, no team deserves to be in the big game more than these two.

Yet, both teams have reputations (much of it self-made) for being arrogant, evasive and just plain douchey. Couple that with a profound propensity for winning and you’ve got a formula for mass hatred. (The New York Yankees are culpable in much the same way.) I don’t even need to explain my position. The team’s marquee players speak for themselves. Their names alone: Bill Belichik. Pete Carroll. Marshawn Lynch. Richard Sherman. Aaron Hernandez.

Not many teams in professional sports elicit such negative opinions from fandom as these two. Ironic that they are both playing each other in the Super Bowl. Ideally, the heel requires a hero for a rival. A Joker for the Batman. Professional wrestling and to a large degree boxing basically exist because of such rivalries. But these two brands are more like super-villains. Two bad guys.

Given the attention paid to advertising during the Super Bowl talking about team “branding” seems especially relevant. I was trying to think of other pro teams (in any league) with similar reputations and could only come up with a few. The first and most obvious would be the Oakland Raiders. From their outlandish former owner (Al Davis) to their gang-banger silver and black threads, no other team embraced their villainy quite like the Raiders.


Evil by design

With the possible exception of the “Detroit Bad Boys” aka the Detroit Pistons. Dennis Rodman. Bill Laimbeer. John Salley. Isiah Thomas. Good players with bad-ass reputations. The Detroit Bad Boys were legendary.

Rounding out the big three sports, The New York Yankees easily hold the title of the most-reviled franchise in baseball. Players like Alex Rodriguez are about as slimy as they come, and Steinbrenner is infamous. But it is primarily because of their mega-deep pockets and Big Apple cockiness that make the Yankees so fun to hate.

One thing all these teams have in common is winning. It is much harder for outsiders to hate a loser. (Just look at the Chicago Cubs, called “lovable losers”) Indeed, once the Raiders and Pistons stopped winning games their bad boy reputations faded like an old tattoo.

Runners-up for reviled franchise: “America’s Team,” The Dallas Cowboys. Across the pond, we have Manchester United. Loved by its fans. Hated by everyone else. Surely there are others?

What do you think of the NFL’s “No More” campaign against domestic violence? If you watch football on TV, the commercials are ubiquitous. NFL players look directly into camera and tell us, in so many different ways, “no more making excuses” when it comes to ignoring domestic violence. In other commercials non-players struggle to “start a conversation.” Men get choked up. Women cry. This stuff is sooooo hard to talk about.

The NFL created the “No More” campaign in response to the withering criticism it experienced for insufficiently penalizing star player, Ray Rice (two games) after a tape came out depicting him knocking out his fiancé in an elevator and then callously dragging her away. The NFL claimed it had never seen the tape, almost certainly a lie. The story blew up all over the world. If that wasn’t bad enough, another star player, Adrian Peterson, was busted for beating the crap out of his very young son with a stick. Peterson, in a pathetic story, claimed it was not abuse because ‘getting beat’ was how he was brought up. The NFL brand and its chief steward, Roger Goodell, took a well-deserved pounding for their indecisive and late reaction, which continues to this day.

Well, I’m also calling bullshit on their campaign. I say “no more” to these annoying and forced commercials. And so are a number of my friends on facebook, many well-known advertising professionals. I’ll let their comments speak for themselves.

These (commercials) are going to do absolutely nothing to help the issue. First of all they’re a complete lie and second they don’t confront, raise awareness, make a point…etc. Nothing. They’re an NFL whitewash…The NFL stonewalled the conversation and now they have the balls to say, “let’s start a conversation.” Unbelievably bad form. -David Baldwin

DO something authentically remarkable and different, and you won’t have to make shitty ads about a significant issue. -Jonathan Hoffman

I HATE them. Why? It’s built on the idea that this really happened behind the scenes. Contrived BS. It’s a lie. -Brian Brooker

Drama soufflé with drama sprinkles. -Katherine Green

Another friend commented the commercials were better than doing nothing. Barely. In my opinion, the NFL is mostly advertising its profound tone-deafness. The ‘crying women’ commercials are painful to watch NOT for the intended reason (the difficult subject matter) but on account of how cloying they are.


We all know these ‘characters’ are not spontaneously crying. To portray them as behind the scenes and breaking down is clumsy at best, at worst callous and insincere. In the spots featuring real athletes, the men look like meatheads reading cue cards. I don’t believe a word. With the “No More” campaign, the NFL players and the brand come off as bulls in a china shop.

Like a lot of people in this country I love watching pro football. I grew up with the NFL. I also create advertising for a living and have done so for a very long time. Finally, and most importantly, I have a wife and three daughters. Save for the abused themselves, I don’t think there can be a more qualified person than me when it comes to calling bullshit on this campaign.


And the men who hold high places…

A classmate from Lane Technical High School in Chicago posted this charming group photograph (circa 1979) in honor of Throwback Thursday on Facebook. It is a photo of the school’s newspaper staff, of which I was the arts and entertainment columnist. That’s me far right, in the second row, donning a full head of hair and a Rush tee shirt (both long gone). Right next to me is the cutest girl in this photo, Suzanne. Alas, I can only assume she was told to sit there. Recall I am wearing a Rush tee shirt, which to this day repels women like few things can.

Of course, I do not recall taking this photo, nor most everyone in it. My long term memory is shot from the rigorous “research” I did whilst attending the numerous rock concerts I weekly reviewed. Cannabis Sativa no doubt added positivity to all my band reviews but deducted brain cells as well.

I do remember how proud I was getting this gig, and especially seeing my byline in the Warrior every Friday. (Or was it Monday?) Regardless, I still have all my clippings in deep storage. Very deep storage. The Internet for all intents and purposes was 10+ years away. Getting one’s name in print was for me a truly awesome experience, or, as we used to say back in the day, e-excellent.

During my two-year tenure as feature columnist I reviewed such bands as Rush, Aerosmith, Golden Earring, AC/DC and Judas Priest pretty much alienating me from 98% of the school’s massive population (6200 students!) and most certainly all of its women. Ah, well. The things we do for our careers. I also reviewed new album releases (from my growing collection) as well as the occasional movie. I reviewed Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which I’m proud to say I adored, even at the fresh young age of 15.

Writing for my school’s paper and subsequently three different college papers remains one of the most satisfying and beneficial things I ever did during scholarship. Now I’ve got this blog, which if my wife and three daughters are any indication continues to repel women.

Author’s note: In the pic’s caption my name is spelled “Steffon,” which is e-excellent!