The older I become the less I covet things. Obviously, I enjoy and require a home and car and the clothes on my back. I’m fortunate that I have these things and that they are nice. But I don’t obsess about them, or other material possessions, like I used to. God, I remember in my 20’s and 30’s how important it was to acquire stuff. Nice stuff. So much of it was for validation. See, I can buy a house. See, I can decorate a house. See, I can buy a cool car. See, I can afford a slick watch. And so on. It kind of makes me feel like a dipshit now.

But I’m guessing I’m not the only one who was or is acquisitive to a fault. Kind of the American way, right? A free market system works best when everyone is freely marketing! Speaking of marketing, I’m well aware that that’s what I do for a living. I’ve always had a tension there. You don’t have to look any further than my blog’s theme for that: “We make you want what you don’t need.”


I don’t think a diminished craving for shit is that big of a deal. However, I do think it is a good thing in my continued development as a human being. The more you become aware that you can’t take anything with you the easier it is to leave it behind – if not stop gathering it in the first place. What a relief this is. I don’t miss the subtle, crummy feelings of envy and jealousy, of wanting what I don’t have. Those streets lead me into a maze, where gratitude and satisfaction got left outside. Now I don’t have to resent people with cooler shit than me, or more money, or whatever trappings I deemed worth coveting.

Look, I am hardly “cured” of obsession over certain peculiar things, like the organisms I put in my saltwater aquarium. Searching for exotic corals and fishes and transplanting them into my reef system is heroin to me.  A couple years ago I was into collecting vintage leather jackets. I justify these obsessions by calling them “passions” or “hobbies.” A key difference is that I don’t care if anyone else sees my fish tank or those jackets in my closet. It’s nerdism more than materialism.

This all being said, I will call bullshit on myself for the simple fact that I happen to already own a ton of really cool stuff. Therefore, all of the above is indeed “easy for me to say.” Fair enough.

In addition, I have a big young family and my girls love stuff. Part of being a kid in the USA. I’m not going to harsh their mellow. But I am glad that they see their dad uninterested in acquiring things for the sake of showing off.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I agree with Adweek. There’s a lot to like about this commercial for Bobble by agency, 72andSunny. The story applies a satiric blend of film clichés skewering millennials for being self absorbed hedonists. We see beautiful hipsters gyrating in nightclubs, a group racing down a coastal highway in daddy’s convertible, others floating innocently in swimming pools and oceans, all the while imbibing bottles and bottles and bottles of bottled water and then discarding the plastic empties everywhere but the garbage can.

Kids these days! Take, take, take…

While I commend the agency and client for using satire against this low hanging fruit something about the concept irritates me. The wrong thing. It’s not the vanity of these kids’ behavior that I find troubling (the commercial’s intent) but rather the way the film overplays the whole thing. It’s like this. Entitled millennials are guilty of a lot of things but littering isn’t one of them. yet, here the kids toss their empties with a thoughtlessness that’s beyond any truth. Therefore, the satire clanks.

Secondly, these same folks understand better than most the inherent vulgarity of drinking from plastic bottles. Especially in places like California, where recycling was born. Again, it doesn’t ring true. A young female jogger tosses her empty on the sidewalk and it’s as jarring as if she spat blood. People like her don’t do that. It’s a weird and dare I say unfair portrayal.

I do believe the creators intended to overplay each scene this way. Stylistically, there was too much done right for it to be a miscalculation. But that doesn’t mean it was the correct decision. We root for the commercial as we would a fake spot on SNL. But like some of those, it overshoots the message and somehow misses its mark.

At the spot’s conclusion the female narrator says, “At least we’re hydrated.” Instead of hating her smugness I’m irked by the copywriting.

No Light Today…

November 14, 2015




It’s only a metaphor… It’s only a metaphor…

I don’t know if every agency has this double-edged sword slicing through it but every one I’ve ever worked for has. I’m talking about one conspicuously large client that takes up as much space as all the others put together. Obviously, this “problem” has its upside. Namely billings. Giant clients bring agencies money. And, well, the importance of that cannot be underestimated.

Ironically, it is often underestimated. Budgets have a way of shrinking. Like any client big ones change their mind. First quarter projections are seldom realized. Half way through the fiscal year agencies are typically chasing a number. It’s never quite what it once seemed. Sometimes it isn’t even close.

In theory, big clients provide numerous big creative opportunities. But that has not been my experience. Why? Big clients are big companies. And big companies are layered, rife with politics. Marketing is no exception. Indeed, it is often the department most challenged by bureaucracy. Marketing is divided into silos. Each silo has a group head. He reports to a marketing director, who, in turn reports to the CMO. The CMO must deliver results to the CEO. The CEO is beholden to her shareholders. Getting work in front of him or her who matters is a merciless gauntlet. Risk aversion is the result. Decisions are made by committee if they are made at all. Really smart people become less so. Fear permeates these ecosystems, obvious as algae on coral. In these conditions, saying “no” becomes the easiest option. This translates into endless, futile presentations, where your audience is mostly worried about what his many superiors will think. Kicking the can is what happens. And that can is creative.

Alas, this is only the tip. Monoliths dominate an agency, changing it, dividing it. There are those who service the big client… and everyone else. A house divided takes its toll on everyone. Resentments develop between sides. The money is over here but the creative opportunities are over there. Some staff work harder than others, logging grueling hours on thankless tasks. When certain individuals get to go home for dinner and others never do, it’s patently unfair. Or the opposite happens. Those not working on the “important” client feel left out, less than. Rightly or wrongly, they may wonder why no one in management cares about what they’re doing. Perception is reality and the perception ain’t good.

The ‘us and them’ scenario is very common in Adland but that doesn’t make it okay. Agency culture, the thing so many of us like to wag about, becomes agency dysfunction. Often the two sides separate, forming agencies within agencies. This works until it doesn’t. Before you know it these kingdoms grow weary of sharing resources. The strong tire of helping the weak. The poor turn bitter from subservience. I give you Game of Thrones.

While the holding company model is often rightly criticized for this very thing I’m saying it can and does happen at any agency, regardless of affiliation. The whale –a dream come true for every agency- can quickly become a nightmare.

What’s the solution? I can assure you it isn’t rejecting big clients. Having been through the looking glass numerous times, I can only offer these suggestions. If camps are inevitable do not allow fences to go up. Smash them wherever you see them. Be open about what is happening but refrain from judgment or cynicism. Rather, think about what the other is going through. Appreciate their value even if you question it. This goes for everyone in the company. Newer recruits must respect the complexities of management and management must remain sensitive to what everyone in the company is experiencing. Easier said than done. But trying to remain right sized in an unbalanced boat is paramount to staying afloat.

Where to next?

September 2, 2015


After almost 4 years, my agency and I are going through a conscious uncoupling. No tears. It happens all the time. Besides, four years in Adland is a good, long ride. Still, I loved that agency and I believe it loved me back. We were good. The admiration and fondness I have for my former colleagues cannot be understated. In particular, my creative team. You’re the best.

So, in the most sincere sense of the word: Good-bye!

I try (and even succeed) at being a glass half full type person. That means no looking back with squinty eyes. And why should I? My former agency got me to the Golden State and the gorgeous Bay Area. I have been smitten ever since.

That job also got me deeper into high tech than most people in Adland ever go. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that many of the clients we worked with are changing the world. And we presented to them! Of course bringing creative business ideas to highly technical companies is a daunting job. But when you click, man is it ever rewarding.

Let’s do it again.  Or something like it. Perhaps we can build the creative capability inside a technology company. That is the new normal. Media companies are looking to evolve the same way. Let me help. Sure, it would be a gas finding my new home in a traditional advertising agency. Like going home. But I’m open-minded.  As anyone in my field ought to be.

So, Hello!


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