Last week, ESPN reporter Britt McHenry was caught being very rude to someone working the counter at a car towing facility, where presumably she had gone to retrieve her vehicle and pay the fine. Her diatribe was not pretty. And neither was she in that moment.

This widely seen video prompted another reporter, Rex Huppke (Chicago Tribune) to write that ESPN should immediately fire the reporter. his story is here:

I don’t think so. Britt committed no crime and was not at work, let alone on the air, at the time. Last I checked going off on a rant was not against the law. It’s not nice. But then neither is releasing a video depicting it. In my opinion both acts are forms of shaming, wouldn’t you agree?

Therefore, again my opinion, they cancel each other out. This story should be over. But Mr. Huppke vehemently argues that there is “too much meanness in the world” to tolerate such behavior.

Are you without sin, Mr. Huppke, to cast such a heavy stone? Have you never gone off at the DMV or flipped someone the bird for cutting you off on the highway? In your years on this planet you’ve never had a tantrum at someone’s expense? Called someone a dipshit? I sure as hell have. But unlike Britt McHenry you and I were not caught. Yet.

I’m no Christian but I do believe that Christ’s judgment over those who were stoning a woman for bad behavior to be one of the best lessons from the scripture.


He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Yes, the world is a mean place. It has been since the time of Christ. However, punishing what you deem meanness is also meanness and a very bad road to go down. If saying something stupid were a crime we would all be fired or worse. How often have we seen finger pointing lead to gun pointing? I look at radical Islam and see teachers being harmed for educating young women. I see Putin jailing countless people in Russia for disagreeing with his dogmatic rule. This sort of tyranny often starts with allowing certain people to punish certain other people for merely opening their mouths. Power and the fear of power is deeper rot than rudeness.

From his pulpit Rex Huppke wants to take down a woman for berating another woman. But you are not God, Mr. Huppke. And I dare say you are not without sin. You cross a line when you call for this lady’s exile.

If this argument is too lofty for a newspaperman in Chicago, here’s one you and every journalist can and must relate to: the right to free speech.

Jack Postaer, 1913-2012

Advertising runs in our blood. My father was in it for 50 years, the “P” in RPA is his. My brothers are both practitioners in Adland. Jeremy even found a way to make money as a voice-over. Can you say “Bing?” Before retiring, my mother was an art buyer for several Chicago agencies, including FCB, when they still called it that. And then there’s me. I took to this business as if God himself told me to.

Yet maybe we need to go back farther than my father, to this man, Jack Postaer. My grandfather earned a living actually selling stuff, as a green grocer and later a cab driver. As a teenager he sold ice from the back of a truck, this when they still used horses. Air conditioning was called Lake Michigan. And people surfed the radio. Obviously, I don’t remember him as a workingman (he retired when my memory started!) but some years ago I went through a period when I asked him untold questions about his youth, where he lived, how it was…

My grandfather lived much of his life on Chicago’s south side, going to Maxwell Street to buy and barter: eBay from a truck bay. Hard core retail. For men like Jack, the American dream meant selling. During the Great Depression, selling even harder.

Maybe the Postaer gene for it, then, started with him.

Jack Postaer and his long line of salesmen

When my dad got his first “career” job, writing copy for the venerable Sears Roebuck Catalog, Jack was mighty proud. Brokenhearted when he quit, to write jingles on Michigan Avenue. Much, much later when I started my career at the famous Leo Burnett Company, Gramps was over the moon. If, on occasion, The Chicago Tribune’s George Lazarus deemed one of us worthy of his column the phone rang before we got the paper. Jack understood the greatness in selling and loved that we got it, too.

Grandpa Jack died yesterday, peacefully, at the age of 99. I’ll bet the silver dollar he once gave me that when he sees Leo Burnett in Heaven he’ll be sure and show him those clippings.

Finally, many of you are friends of mine on Facebook. On behalf of our family I’d like to thank you for all the kind words. It was deeply appreciated.

Northwestern Wildcat…or Horndog?

And so we come to the live sex demonstration that took place at Northwestern University following Prof. J. Michael Bailey’s popular “Human Sexuality” class. By now you must know the lurid details. To dramatize the world of kink and fetish, a man penetrated his fiancé with a jerry-rigged reciprocating saw (or Sawzall) in front of some 100 students. If you haven’t heard the story then after cleaning the coffee you just spit on your computer’s keyboard, here is the coverage from the Chicago Sun Times. And from the Chicago Tribune. I’m not going to editorialize one way or the other. I simply don’t know all the, um, ins and outs of this story to put it into context. I understand no laws were broken. The participants were adults. I’m guessing the students were too. It was on the syllabus.

Like most of you, I was flabbergasted by the story and a little titillated. Certainly, because of the subject matter but also because it took place at Northwestern University. Forever, Northwestern has been considered the brainiest school in the Big Ten, sort of the conference’s answer for the Ivy League. With its beautiful and swanky North Shore location (Lake Michigan to the East, stately mansions to the West), it certainly looks the part. In addition, the institution regularly tops out in all metrics related to superb education. Including admission criteria and costs. Even so, it only admits 20% of applying freshmen. To go there is a privilege. Here is where my wife and I –gulp- hoped to send our three daughters one day.

Prestige at a price. That’s not the University’s tagline but, in frankness, that’s the brand. Maintaining a brand like Northwestern’s takes a fine mixture of conservative stewardship and progressive leadership. Negotiating this dichotomy is critical. Mom and Dad want the former. The kids want the latter. There are other targets worth mentioning: alma mater, perspective employers, partner schools and institutions. In the end, it’s not easy getting it right. For over 150 years, Northwestern has done so masterfully.

And then out came the “fucksaw.”

Putting aside all the different hats I wear as a man (father, husband, lover, guardian), what is my position as an advertising man? For better or for worse, the brand got done to it what was done to the woman on stage. Some may view the episode as an example of fearless education in a modern world. Others will likely see it as an awful, awful mistake. Frankly, I’m leaning on the latter. Despite my fervent belief in a liberal arts education, I can’t help but think this was a bad move. When the inevitable video comes out millions of people will experience the brand as if it were nothing less than an episode on You Porn.

The school’s color is purple and a deeper shade now.

Special note: The male in the sex act is a Group Creative Director at Tribal DDB, an advertising agency in Chicago. He is about to become a lot more famous. Let’s hope his clients aren’t too conservative. Wishful thinking I’m afraid.

Angels & Kings. So nice and white.

Last week a group of Chicago Bears were denied entry into the Angels & Kings nightclub in Chicago. Apparently, they were told the club was already being leased for the night and that they were not welcome.

You know where this is going.

By next morning it was all over the Internet and in the press. The primary question was did the club deny entrance to the group because it was comprised of mostly black men? The fact that these guys were famous athletes made the story even more provocative. You’d think they’d want celebrities in the club.

In fairness to Angels & Kings, which is partially owned by Pete Wentz of Fallout Boy (ugh!), another entity was leasing the club that night. In addition, not all the players denied entry were black. And, finally, according to eyewitness accounts, several rejected Bears didn’t seem to give a shit. They would take their copious wads of money (arguably undeserved this year) to some other overrated club in Chicago’s touristy River North district, which is exactly what they did.

Still, the accusations of racial profiling by the club came fast and furious. Sorry, Mr. Wentz, but the “fallout” was brutal. Actually, it’s still going on. Inquiries are being made. The usual denials, rebuttals and arguments…

Why am I writing about racial profiling? Because not only is it disturbing and fascinating but to me it feels awfully similar to target marketing. An advertiser (Angels & Kings) targets a specific group (white men and women) to embrace his brand (upscale & hip), forsaking all others (blacks and other minorities). In fact, one could argue that maintaining the brand’s equity actually requires the brand manager to forsake all others.

Calm down. I’m not a hater; I’m just turning around an argument and framing it in the context of marketing.

But take this truth and suck on it: racial profiling occurs in every club with a gated entrance, bouncer, and cover charge. That’s what the rope is for: Keeping. People. Out.

I’ve spoken to several influential club owners in this town and they all freely admit to racially profiling customers. Furthermore, they claim it’s standard operating procedure. One told me his business wouldn’t succeed if it operated more democratically. How do they get away with it? The easiest trick is invoking a dress code. If an owner doesn’t want you in his club he needs only to find something inappropriate about your wardrobe. This happens all the time. Is it a racist agenda or is the proprietor just trying to protect his brand?

And it’s not just African-Americans getting “blacklisted.”

Recently, a popular club in Chicago’s so-called Viagra triangle became “overrun” with young Indians. According to the owner they were an invasive species, crowding out the regular customers. Via arbitrary dress codes and made up private parties, the bar’s owner began turning them away in droves. It worked. The “locusts” moved on to another field. His words not mine.

What do you think? Does a brand have a right to choose its customers? What about the age-old practice of charging men a cover but not women? Is that prejudiced? If so, where’s the uproar? Before answering any of these questions, ask yourself what you would do if, for example, you owned a club and your regular customers stopped coming in because another group was. Maybe you’re not so liberal in your own back yard.

So far fifty of you have submitted cover designs for my new novel slash social media project, Sweet by Design. Above are six recent ones in no particular order. All fifty are remarkable. I could not have imagined so many enchanting options for the cover of my novel. My appreciation for your creative efforts is only matched by my gratitude. Thank you.

Currently we are on Chapter Seventeen of the story. I believe about thirty chapters remain. When they have all been posted the contest will enter its final phase. A winner will be chosen and that designer will receive an Ipad. Second place gets an Ipod Shuffle. While only one design will become the cover for Sweet by Design, I’ll likely publish all of them as part of the book. For they have become part of the story –a really good part.

My only challenge –if that’s the right word- is that I’ve yet to find a “celebrity” judge to help me choose the cover. Right now the criteria for picking a winning design remains up to you and me. Your comments to the blog and via email will be weighted accordingly and, in turn, I will choose a few of my own personal favorites. From this shortlist a winner will be determined. How fun, though, at this point to have a renowned member of the literary or design community serving as judge.

To that end I’ve asked the literary editor of the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller to participate. Among other honors, in 2005, Mrs. Keller won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Her participation would truly be an honor.

Julia Keller

Alas, my query to this local luminary went unheeded. Perhaps my request landed atop her slush pile along with assorted press releases, manuscripts and promotional materials. That or my email got lost in her spam folder. More likely, I do not possess the necessary gravitas to merit a reply.

But it’s not too late, Julia! If by chance you come across this blog please do consider (or reconsider) my humble request. If it’s any incentive, I receive the Chicago Tribune every morning -the actual paper version! And I look forward to your reviews and stories. Shouldn’t that count for something? If not you, perhaps one of your editors would welcome the gig. I’d be grateful if you forwarded them this link.

Frankly, I’m not worried about finding a cool judge. It wouldn’t surprise me if this very blog post helps me procure one or two. If anyone reading has ideas or wants to help round out the jury, please contact me. Meantime, keep reading the novel and keep submitting your designs. At 50 to 1, the odds are ridiculously low for winning an Ipad.

Take me, I’m yours!