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.

Not just a TV show…

In my last post I made an argument for the idea that God exists using emotionally rational arguments aka copywriting. No psychic mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I didn’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief argument. When I’m done, I wrote, you may still not believe in a higher power but you will be closer to Him, Her or It than you were before. I did this not to be a missionary but rather to make a case for my skills as a copywriter. In addition to being deeply interested in this topic, I’m currently excited to be looking for a new job and I figured this would be a good, if unusual, way to augment my credentials. While some people debated my arguments (unsuccessfully in my opinion) the tactic seemed to generate buzz as well as looks at my portfolio. Thank you!

For part two, I’m going to flip my position and attempt to dissuade you in the existence of a divine entity. Generally agnostic myself, it seems only fair I give the opposing view equal time.

To begin, I’ll employ a version of the same argument I used to make a case for the existence of God; namely that no proof exists on way or the other. Belief in God is, was and always will be faith-based. Therefore, all things considered, there is a 50% chance that God exists and an equal chance that He doesn’t. Maybe the shinier half is the contrary one? Atheists make an excellent point when they say God has never made a case for himself – that he had to be invented by people. The only reason, non-believers argue, that they have to refute God at all is because human beings brought him up in the first place.


Ask yourself: Why is it that different cultures have different ideas of God? The answer is because they each made up their own. There can only be one creation. That there are many wildly different stories prove that God is just that: a story.

Humans are the only creatures on earth aware of their mortality. In addition, we have plenty of time to think about it.  We grow fearful, haunted by our own inevitable demise. To mitigate this fear, we create mythologies that make sense of our time on earth. So we can tell our children, indeed ourselves, that we exist for a reason. That we are special. That, unlike beetles and slugs, we have souls. This is all quite romantic. And patently false.

Most believers insist that God “doesn’t make mistakes.” So, what do you call us? Our depravities and frailties are too numerous to name. As I write this, CNN is grimly broadcasting the details of yet another heinous act of terror, in Paris (ironically in the name of religion.) Human beings are hopelessly defective, particularly if you apply a God given moral standard. On the other hand, if you take God out of the equation, we are just creatures –apex predators- skirmishing for territory and resources.

God narratives keep society from reeling into chaos by asserting morality. God stories placate the elderly and young, dispelling the fear of death as being a cold, dark and one-dimensional ending. God is the story we tell ourselves to keep from going insane.

There. A compelling case for the lack of God and I didn’t even have to use the most commonly used argument, which is evolution. Evolution is real and can be proved six ways to Sunday. Even the smarter faithful have had to modify their God stories to accommodate it, naming God an Intelligent Designer. Well, I have always valued designers.


I am excited to find a new job. A permanent one as well as freelance. Here are my credentials. However, to prove my chops as as elegant persuader I’m going to sell you on the idea that God exists using purely rational arguments. No psychic mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I won’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief argument. When I’m done you may still not believe in a higher power but you will be closer to Him, Her or It than you were before.


First a proposition: If anyone can definitively prove God does or does not exist I will give them all the money in my bank account. Non-believers and agnostics crave proof of God’s existence and, of course, it never comes. But why is it we rarely flip the question and demand proof that God doesn’t exist? It’s just as impossible.


Let’s go totally left brain and talk numbers. Percentages to be exact. Bearing in mind the above proposition, one must concede there is a 50% chance that God does not exist. However, that means there is a 50% chance that God does exist. In other words, after all is said and done, it’s 50/50 whether a divine entity or Creator exists. Now if you had those odds on the lottery –or anything really- you’d take that bet. You’d be a fool not to.

Yet, so many of us are ambivalent about God or even the idea of God. Why is that? Because we can’t see him? Well, you can’t see gravity either. “That’s different,” the unbeliever claims. You can prove gravity. There are equations.

Okay, smart ass. Do you “believe” in love? For your children? For your wife? Of course you do. Prove to me that love definitively exists. Of course you can’t. You feel love or not depending on your circumstances but you’ll never see it. Therefore, if you can believe in love why not God? They are both faith-based concepts with no rational foundation. Why is one different from the other? It isn’t.

Do you covet money, prestige or status? Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Have you ever been? What about chocolate or coffee? Or your boyfriend? We often make higher powers out of people, places and things. The alcoholic knows this all to well. When she wakes it’s all she can think of. The addict’s drug of choice brings him to his knees every night. They will put spirits ahead of everything else, including jobs, loved ones and personal health. Even the sanctity of human life will not deter the devoted from blindly worshiping. That’s fanatical. That is what ISIS does.

Yet, God forbid we believe in God. No one is more cynical than me. But I believe –even know- that God is a 50/50 proposition. Have I moved you even five percent closer to believing in a higher power?

So, how about that freelance?

Is your agency like this…

Colorful coral reef.jpg.824x0_q71_crop-scale

Or this…


Creative boutique. Process driven. Sweatshop. These are some of the terms we use to describe one advertising agency or another. And while they are often accurate descriptors –delightfully or painfully so- what is less true is that the agency chose to be defined that way.

Allow me a metaphor. In the fish keeping hobby, of which I am a passionate member, we are all familiar with how corals get their beautiful colors.  They do so via a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae, which provide nutrients to the host animal. (Yes, corals are animals not plants.) One square inch of coral may contain millions of these microorganisms, which transmit their iconic gorgeous colors. Or they may be drab brown, depending on the zooanthellae.

For better or worse, an agency becomes the clients they work with. If an agency has one dominating and difficult client it will become a dominating and difficult place – a sweatshop. It matters little if the agency’s beloved mantra extolls a different and virtuous path: “The Power of One” “The Truth Well Told” “Human Relevance” If its clients demand, for example, an endless slew of cheap “how to” videos and “creative wrappers” for their email campaigns and tool kits then that is what the agency will be. Conversely, an agency that is hired to make sexy brand campaigns, and actually produces them, will be known for doing that kind of work. Everyone wants to be the latter. Many become the former.

The coral reef is a fragile ecosystem. Without the right nourishment it bleaches and can die. With fewer and fewer bright corals, it loses its ability to attract. Usually what happens is the reef becomes an ever uglier place, even hostile, with its beleaguered inhabitants struggling to survive, using all their resources just to maintain.

Large reefs can tolerate a fair amount of blah corals and still be healthy. The ugly stuff is swept under a carpet of jewels. Smaller agencies do not have this luxury. Many of those succumb to the prevailing currents. “This is what we do,” they say, about making Power Point for example. And they survive, albeit one dimensionally.

Improving the reef (agency) is rarely just about chasing after better fish (talent). Desirable species would come if the reef were healthy. Management isn’t the solution either, although predation at the top is often an outcome. Above all, the solution is not about redoing the agency website. The mission statement is always aspirational. Who doesn’t want a creative culture? But it matters not if clients don’t adhere to it.

The solution, obviously, is to find those clients –even just one- that arrive with creative zooanthellae alive in their DNA. Even a small “zoo” culture will inspire the host and all those considering residing there. If a small agency cultivates one of these it quickly becomes a “creative boutique.” Big agencies on the cusp of bleaching need to make room for these delicate corals, even if it means expending valuable resources. The smart ones do. The puzzle is how do you attract them if your current culture is meh? It can be done. Back in the day, Fallon McEelligott became synonymous with awesome creative by committing to myriad tiny clients, fanning gorgeousness out of them. Much later Crispin, Porter & Bogusky did the same, using burgeoning social media as their live rock. The corals grew fast and furious. Grey in New York was a big gray slab that hit it big with E-Trade babies. Leo Burnett in Chicago rose above its bedrock of CPG coral with its “curiously strong” campaign for Altoids, which was a tiny speck when it arrived. Later, they achieved amazing results in unexpected places by creating Mayhem for Allstate. Transformation happens. But not without catalytic clients.

Though few like to admit it, luck plays a big role.  Without the right clients, a talented crew and a good leader is a meeting you don’t want to be in.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,492 other followers