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Trumping Chicago…

For all his bluster, bombast and buffoonery Donald Trump is currently leading a massive pack of candidates for the Republican nomination to President of the United States. Whether Trump goes down in history as a freakish sideshow or actually becomes the GOP’s chosen candidate only time will tell.

Rather than get into his competency to rule (I bet he’d like that phrase), let’s discuss something that not only differentiates Trump from the rest of the field but also from every person who’s ever run for President. What I’m talking about is the free advertising his numerous and conspicuous properties afford him, especially in New York and Chicago.

The Trump Tower(s) are brash as the man himself. The ostentatious letters of his name adorn both buildings and are seen by millions. And lets not forget his TV show, The Apprentice, which has gone on for over a decade.

This means, unlike any candidate I’m aware of, Donald Trump has some incredibly valuable media behind him. He needn’t ever run an ad for himself (though I’m sure he will) and he’d still have more exposure than any other candidate.

Wishful thinkers might argue his garishly named buildings will only hurt the man, demonstrating his pretentiousness and vulgarity. Yet consider Trump’s biggest argument on behalf of himself: that he’s a billionaire and won’t be swayed by other people’s money. Like it or not, this resonates with a lot of people. The buildings reinforce Trump’s self-made image, making the signs highly persuasive.

Ironically, Chicago and New York City are huge Democratic strongholds. How infuriating it must be for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to see Trump’s name towering over his city. As it is, the Mayor has already publicly denounced Trump’s ‘ugly’ sign, calling for its removal.

Yet, it remains. As does the candidate.

Sprint has a new campaign featuring retired soccer star and super hunk, David Beckham. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen it. He plays himself looking for a phone plan that isn’t complicated. In the long version (above), he marches from store to store, and is continuously baffled by the salesperson’s spiel. “I’m so confused,” he states. Because he is who he is, more and more fans begin following him on his search for a non-confusing phone plan. At the Sprint store he finds what he’s looking for. The star struck sales gal says, “anything for you, David Beckham.” By then a cast of thousands have accumulated behind him. Upon discovering his “All In” plan, they clamor for the deal as well. In the last scene, David crosses the street, delicately holding up his Sprint yellow bag, creating a wake of fans, one of which blurts (for some reason through a dental mouth guard!), “I love you, David Beckham.”

So, before digging in to this, let me state I’ve always been ambivalent toward celebrity endorsers. When pushed, most copywriters will tell you that celebrity driven adverts are what one does when one has no choice. That’s not to say I haven’t gone down that road. One can’t go 25 years in this business and not. But those have never been among my favorite “works.”

Of course, I get that famous people can sell. But from a purist point of view, I like them to be relevant to the product being sold i.e. athletes for Nike (Just do It) or unique geniuses for Apple (Think Different). I’m also down with certain iconic campaigns that leverage celebrities in an indelible way i.e. the compelling portraits Annie Leibovitz created for American Express. Or, back in the day, retired ball players for Miller Lite.

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Sprint’s Beckham campaign does neither. In my opinion, he would never, ever spend a day traipsing around looking for a cell phone plan. For one thing, Posh wouldn’t allow it. Secondly, he has people for that. Thirdly, a man of his wealth and stature wouldn’t be worried about incremental fees on his phone bill. If he is then he’s the biggest douche bag on the planet.

From an executional standpoint, why does everyone keep saying the man’s full name. “I love you, David Beckham.” “Anything for you, David Beckham.” It’s cheesy. It’s preening. It’s weird. It feels like something a client would mandate. We spent all this money getting David Beckham we better f-cking say his name! Can’t you just hear them? I could.

And what’s up with the strange way he carries that yellow bag? It’s like he’s holding a dead gerbil. Trust me, that was produced into the spot (Hold it up so the camera sees it!) and it’s not normal.

I’m nit picking. But the details will out!

This is an incredibly expensive production. We see and hear many principals, including one mega-celebrity. I’m only guessing but I presume the contract with DB was preordained. So be it. But I would have much preferred a spot where, say, he and his well-known wife have an improbable conversation about choosing new phones. Like “Gee, honey, do you honestly care about your phone plan?” He replies: “I do when they’re paying me 1.5 million Euros.”

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From a business perspective, “creative process” is an oxymoron. Yet, every agency has one. In the age of projects (vs. client relationships) the process looks like hours worked. PM’s and AE’s must estimate how many people to put on a creative project and how many hours they will spend doing it.

With clients choosing agencies like restaurants and ordering a la carte off our menus, a neophyte might think it would be easy calculating the bill. Unfortunately, it is harder than ever.

From a creative perspective, the process defies analytics. The time frame for making creative was, is and always will be a guessing game, fraught with variables. How long does it take to come up with an idea – Two hours? Two days? Two weeks? And how long does it take to flesh out the idea? And how many ideas do you require?

When guessing how long a project will take to complete the guessers would ideally need to calibrate how different individuals create, which is unique. For example, Sally likes to work alone. Jack and Jill work best as a team and Bill, Fred and Mary love collaborating. And what about nights, when I like to write? If one calculated how many hours I play with a paragraph of body copy we’d be over budget on everything.

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In the good old days, an agency had a relationship with a client (with a yearly nut augmented by media commissions), which allowed for expanding and contracting creative resources, contingent upon the growing or shrinking demands of each assignment. Therefore, creative directors could deal in real time, adjusting resources based on immediate needs, wants and capability variables. In a fire drill, we called in resources with impunity. On a pitch, we might give a bunch of newbies a crack. And so on. Though still a process, it was far more fluid and organic than what we have now. The creative department did not have finite budgetary limits.

As a manager, I’m all for tightening the screws and figuring shit out. As a creative director, I know it seldom works that way.

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Jabbing at the keyboard like a monkey…

I’ve written three novels, dozens of short stories, probably thousands of ads, as well as maintained this and other blogs, and I composed all of that content with basically one finger: the index on my right hand.

Weird right? Most professional writers know how to type. Well, one finger has been my normal since I started using machines to compose text.

In high school and then college, I wrote on a typewriter given to me by my father. Back then I drank and smoked (what serious writer didn’t?) and I used my left hand for that and my right to work. Needless to say, I did a lot of both. It all became second nature, especially the booze.

As time went by I stopped drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes but I never learned to properly type. That’s not to say I didn’t evolve; I did. Like every writer, I memorized the keyboard. Subsequently, my finger tapping became faster and faster. I never timed it but when I’m in the zone I can probably hammer out forty or fifty words a minute, maybe more.

I use my cell phone keyboard the same way.

This will never change. I’ve gotten too competent in my dysfunctional approach to bother learning another method.

Oddly, I don’t know a single person who types like I do. All of you seem to engage your keyboards properly. Even you non-professional writers. Am I wrong about this? If so, let me know. I’m curious: Am I the only one-fingered typist who is not a child or a monkey?

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