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One develops habits as a copywriter. For instance, I need to see what words look like in a layout to truly assess them properly. The art directors were right: a block of copy is a visual. It needs to look right. Losing a word or two in order to accommodate the visual is not compromise; it’s part of creating good copy. Seeing your words in a layout provides concrete proof that what you’ve written is right. The perfect paragraph on Word is almost never correct in situation.

This habit did not change with new technology. If anything it became more pronounced. Now I can see finished looking ads before they are produced. Ancient history, I know. It’s been years since anyone relied on marker comps to sell an ad. We all want to see the baby before its born.

Where it gets interesting for me is in other forms of writing, like this blog. While I write these words in Word, and edit the hell out of them in Word, I’ve really only created a first draft. The true test comes when I create a “new post.” Then I see the paragraphs as you would see them. Suddenly their flaws become manifest, almost like an allergic reaction. Lose this sentence. Change that word. Move the photograph down a peg. Why these things were never apparent on a white screen is a mystery to me.

Perhaps it is also a curse. Many bloggers crank out content because new content is the key to new readers. Like in a MASH unit, they sow up stories and send them to the front. The sentences bleed adverbs and are pockmarked with dot-dot-dots, suggesting the writer had no time to tie up the paragraph or suture a proper segue.

I can’t work that way. Whether it reflects in my writing or not (and it may not), I treat each story as if it will be graded by a writing professor. It’s a habit I got into a long time ago.

See what my writing can do for you: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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My home office: a cheap cigar, a Diet Coke and thou!

Oh, dear blog what shall I write? It’s been more days than I like to spend away from you. But work, family and the great outdoors call me away. That and the whole wide rest of the Internet. The last one is the big devourer of time. What with my shows, that video and this movie.

Often when I’m riding my bike or waiting to fall asleep I think of a killer topic. But then I forget it. I guess it wasn’t so killer after all. More likely I realize the topic is just not right for this forum. New things we are working on at the agency are not appropriate for public consumption. Nor are many of the intrigues we are experiencing. I’ve learned over time, often the hard way that discussing certain items on a blog violates the trust others have put in me. However compelling a challenge at work or home may be, this cannot be the place for it.

My ego is a strong influence. The devil may care, it says. Write, chicken shit, write! It is my lone frenemy.

Here’s the hard part. For provocative and challenging issues I often need to write about them in order to know what I really think, feel and believe. My first thought –Run! Fight! Drink!- is typically not the right one. This blog has been a perfect sounding board for my thoughts to marinate into sound ideas. Until it isn’t. In my last engagement, the agency PR guy came to loathe this blog for my self-disclosure and truth telling. Ironically, he now works at Facebook.

Like you, I am also caught up in the sad, maddening melee of modern culture and politics. What is going on with our police? Were they always this freewheeling with their pistols and we didn’t know about it? And then there is Donald Trump. So much has been said about so much he has said. Somehow he leads the polls to be the GOP candidate for President of these United States. What’s even more unbelievable is that he has made an enemy of Fox News. He would be their torch bearer! In the end, the Democrats need only put out mashed potatoes and win. Hillary you are one lucky woman.

But this blog isn’t about those things. Or so I thought when I sat down to write.

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“Blogging, eh…”

Seven years ago in October, I began this blog. I’ve since written 882 posts. If I’m reading my stats correctly just over one million people have visited Gods of Advertising, far less of them unique (obviously), and a few thousand have left comments. On average about 700 of you visit each day. For the record my best day had just shy of 2,000 unique visitors, for a piece I wrote on the demise of a Chicago advertising agency. Over the course of seven years the most continuously visited story (actually in two parts) was a piece I wrote on the origin of the “Not Your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign, which I helped create at Leo Burnett. Among those readers were several advertising historians, researching that arguably dubious, definitely silly but now iconic campaign. Gods of Advertising has been “freshly pressed” by WordPress two times. In 2012, it was ranked by Business Insider as one of the top 20 ad blogs in the United States.

These numbers are modest, I know, but for me they rank among my most prized personal accomplishments. I’ve never accepted a dime of revenue from advertisers nor have I published a single post from another author. Gods of Advertising is my baby. Depending on your point of view that is either something to be proud of or the antithesis.

Based on my earliest posts it’s pretty clear I began GOA as a means to get more eyeballs on my novels and other writing projects. I’m a big fisherman and I figured chumming the waters couldn’t hurt. I was wrong. One of the first lessons I learned (the hard way I might add) was that you were not interested in being pitched to. Most of my first visitors did not appreciate anything resembling an ulterior motive. Some of you left comments to that effect. Many more trolled other trade blogs, ripping me to shreds. Personal feelings aside, it was a great lesson. I was taught to value authenticity and transparency, in the blogosphere in particular and in life in general. Clearly, to monetize this blog was to ruin it.

Fortunately, a higher calling took over, the same one that has always driven me: to write. You see I love writing. I always have. My passion for the craft (be it fiction writing, poetry, screenwriting and blogging) is worth more than incremental dollars in my bank account. Writing copy has provided me more than ample compensation -a blessing.

Needless to say, I adore reading as well. I can’t do one without doing the other. And so my appreciation for having readers –any at all- is beyond what I can express in this final sentence.

Thank you.

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Is Blogging Dead? was the title of the presentation directly before mine at SXSW. Asking and answering the question was a spritely woman from an aggregator website. I cannot recall her or its name. As I write this, at 35,000 feet, I also cannot access the Internet and provide you with that information. Yet, when I get home I likely won’t do it either. Not because the speaker wasn’t articulate, enthusiastic or charming. She was. But I’ve heard her rhetoric before. Blogging has died a thousand times in the last decade. “Nobody reads them.” I do. “It’s no longer a good marketing tool.” Was it ever?

If you think I took umbrage with her message because I am a passionate blogger you are partly right. But it was her insinuation –shared by countless others- that blogging suffers because it can’t “grow one’s brand” or create “viable revenue streams” that really fired me up.

Maybe if most of these critics were actually writers instead of Internet gurus and professional speech givers they would appreciate blogging like so many others and I do. Blogging does incalculable good for my wellbeing. Measuring it strictly by numbers seems harshly one-dimensional.

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My point in cartoon form, by Hugh Macleod

While I appreciate a growing and loyal audience immensely, I also adore the mental workout blogging provides, regardless of audience size, both in terms of honing my writing skills and expressing myself.

If we are indeed “brands” then mine is a peculiar one. Expressing opinions on advertising, popular culture and miscellaneous is like working out in a mental gym. Joe Blow famously stated, “I write so I will know what I am thinking.” Well, I’m the same way. As a matter of fact I find I often become wiser on a particular issue just by writing about it. Sometimes, I literally change my thinking while addressing a topic. Imagine if other so-called “thought leaders” did the same.

I don’t believe Gidget the Internet Guru had any of this in mind when she harped on blogging. ROI obsession frustrates me. It’s why so many industry leaders come off as geeky pimps. To them, social media, Apps and the like are only as good as their ratings –whatever dubious criteria that’s based on. Which is bullshit.

Don’t misread me. I write for an audience. I do not journal like a college freshman. But exploiting my audience or going off track to get a bigger one is not this blog’s primary purpose. Nor is it mine.

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Yikes. I just realized my last post went up the day after the Super Bowl. In social media time that’s like a million years ago. Lame I know. When I started Gods of Advertising waaaay back during the Bush Administration I made a commitment to posting three times a week and have done so almost without fail. Whether these posts were of equal value is a matter of opinion (I’m guessing not), but in terms of quantity I was generally on top of it.

However, this week sort of fell on my head. Two new business pitches plus an assortment of home front issues have put me behind the eight ball. I beg your pardon.

Friday features back-to-back presentations for different clients, which mean the world to our agency. Therefore, my head space was full up with client-focused issues. I know all of you in Adland feel me. Anyway, as soon as those pitches are delivered I will get back to this labor of love. Hopefully, you will still be here.

Until then…