Everyday Magic…For 100K.

Porshe.

Quick, what’s your first thought? Fast? Expensive? Douche bag?

I guarantee it’s not “everyday magic.” But that’s Porsche’s new handle, courtesy of CK in Chicago. Specifically, the tag is “Engineered for Magic. Everyday.” But even adding the performance word doesn’t change the fact that this is very new territory for Porsche.

Is it a good place to park such a famous racing car? One thing is certain: I love that Porsche’s new campaign isn’t yet another car on a road with a pithy headline about RPM’s stirring your soul.

I chose the word “park” because just about every shot in the anthem commercial shows the car not moving. Rather, the sporty vehicles sit there, waiting for their owners to fire them up. This I like. We all know how fast these cars can go. It’s nice to see them idle, kind of like a beautiful woman not revealing too much skin. Such sleek, unmistakable design. Those liquid lines. Fact is Porshes look fast standing still.

As for the ‘everyday’ bit, this likely is a nod to research suggesting Porsche needs to lighten up in the market place. Performance has gotten them as far as they can go. And now they want more. Just as SUVs went from off road to the shopping mall Porshe now wants off the autobahn and into the carpool lane.

As I think about it, the strategy seems sound, even obvious. As it is, Porsche is just too racy for Dick and Jane. We want the middle class, this commercial is saying, and not just when they’re having a mid life crisis. But everyday, be that going to work or picking up the kids at school.

One has to admit there’s something delightful about seeing regular folks doing regular things behind the wheel of these pretty cars. Maybe not to car nuts but that’s a risk Porsche appears willing to take.

Thank you, Chicago Egoist

An artist staring at the truth...

Johnking1956, The Man who would be King is a new blog worthy of our attention. Without breaking his anonymity, John King is the pseudonym of an AD/Creative Director, who used to work at a big ad agency in Chicago before getting laid off and moving to Reno to ply his trade at a resort casino. That alone makes for an interesting tale, right? I mean the creative department of a casino sounds more like the set a reality TV show than a job.

But then the recession hit, clobbering the real estate and gaming industry, nowhere worse than second tier markets like Reno. King found himself out of work. Again. Adding injury to insult, severe back problems, first encountered while working in Hong Kong, came back with a vengeance, filling King’s days with debilitating pain and copious amounts of morphine. He wears a plastic girdle-like brace to keep his spine true and may have to install a morphine pump into his body.

It’s not pretty or easy being King. However, he is still determined to find work. His blog is about that journey, a journey that begins each morning with more pain than you and I, God forbid, will ever know. What makes the story utterly compelling in the man’s bracing optimism in the face of these hardships.

This is one of those stories that breaks your heart but can lift your spirit as well. King’s tale reminds me of Mickey Rourke’s Oscar winning turn in The Wrestler. It’s that painful. That poignant. That good. You cringe but endlessly root for him.

King is talented and deserves another shot. But he is a hard hit man in a hard hit industry and place. Recovery for him or it is far from certain.

And yet, he’s chosen to blog about it.

Not to sound like a film trailer, but if you need to be reminded of the strength of the human spirit this holiday season, consider The Man who would be King: Johnking1956.tumblr.com


bad and loving it…

I don’t like Charlie Sheen. I never have and I probably never will. And I’m guessing he’s okay with that. Actually, I’m not guessing. I’m certain of it. Because Charlie Sheen has built a masterful brand for himself based on being unequivocally un-likeable, playing “cocky screw-ups with a dark side.”

Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Jennifer Armstrong wonders and answers why Sheen, for all his uncouth and downright harmful behavior (to himself and others), manages not only to be “scandal-proof” but “TV’s highest-paid actor on a No. 1 sitcom.”

The answer is obvious but none-the-less fascinating, especially in light of other fallen celebrities who are struggling to get up. Can you say Tiger Woods? A long time ago, Armstrong points out, Sheen made a decision to take on roles that favor his natural tendencies as a white, male, American fuck-up. Unlike Woods, who aspired to be the great American role model, Sheen wisely chose characters that suited him: a skirt-chasing mayor on Spin City and jerk womanizer on Two and a Half Men. Fittingly, both these characters are named Charlie.

In advertising parlance we label this brand authenticity. By being a dirty, rotten scoundrel, the brand, Charlie Sheen is staying true to himself. His brand equity grows with each malfeasance.

Therefore, when Charlie is outed as Heidi Fleiss’ best customer or, worse yet, goes fight club on his soon-to-be ex-wife Brooke Mueller (on Christmas Day no less), his vast array of fans merely chalk it up to bad behavior. If anything, his men behaving badly routine has become an expectation of his public, like when rock stars do drugs, get busted, over and over and over again. We still buy the music. We still watch the shows.

Fact is, when cultivated properly, dark sides make for enduring and lucrative brands. Charlie Sheen is a perfect example. He’ll probably go to jail this summer but you’ll be watching him in the fall.

Thankfully, bad guys can become good guys and stay popular as well. And not just in pro wrestling. Robert Downey Jr. did it. And penchant for smoking dope aside, so did Snoop Dog.

There is no lesson here, no moral to this story. Good and not so good are fraternal, existing side by side, gleefully and lucratively in Hollywood, on Madison Avenue and in real life.

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The “Lonely Man” working late…

Ken Kurson wrote a fine piece in Esquire magazine’s June issue about, plainly and simply, work. Oh, the story had other themes but what I took from it was that work as an operating principle in our lives has gone to seed and, moreover, during economic crisis when we need a work ethic the most, we, as a society, have become indifferent about one, even apathetic. Too many years of entitlement have caused us to atrophy. Instead of digging in to that great American idea known as working we hang on to the notion of saving. Saving is warm and fuzzy, like inside a nest. Working means leaving the nest. Something most of us would prefer putting off until tomorrow.

If I’m reading Kurson correctly -and I might not be- saving alone won’t save us. Politically packaged hopefulness by our government will not solve 10% unemployment. Long-term jobs cannot be handed out like apples. Careers are made, not supplied.

Yet Kurson’s beef is not with our new government. Nor does he fault the old one. Other articles in the magazine do. But not Kurson. He doesn’t mention political parties, or their promises. He is trying for something deeper. I believe he’s suggesting we lack ambition. Success has become a bad word (my interpretation), synonymous with fat cats and greed. Ambition is tethered to albatross like Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand.


Inventor no “slouch”

But Kurson provides living examples, less famous, less flawed. Guys like Andrew Goetting, who invented something called the Slouchback, an inflatable chair perfect for dorm rooms and the parlor. It’s arguably a silly invention, something the world doesn’t truly need. But instead of reviling Goetting for creating another plastic space waster, Kurson admires the young man for his vision.

Vision. Now there’s a word we need to bring back. While “Hope” gets men elected to President, “Vision” changes the world. Vision is an ideal almost always followed by action. Ron Popeil had vision. Lee Iacocca had vision. Leo Burnett had vision. Yes, they were all marketers but they made something too: devices, cars, an advertising agency.

At its best, advertising had vision. We showed the world how it could and should be. We espoused the “new and improved.” We celebrated success on both sides of the cash register. Not anymore. Advertising has become a bad word. Like ambition. Many say it is going extinct. Good riddance.

I’m culpable. “We make you want what you don’t need,” admonishes the header to my blog. Advertising, I declare, is a carrier for sin: greed, lust, envy and sloth. Like Capitalism and jingoism and a slew of other “isms.”

Take workaholism. Instead of celebrating the man or woman preparing for a presentation on Sunday afternoon, society calls him or her a workaholic. As Kurson aptly points out: “Of all the gooey new-age inanities, the one I hate the most is ‘No man dies wishing he’d spent more time at the office.’”

I’ve used that very quote dozens of times, mostly when talking to myself, trying to change my will. Wanting to be a better husband and father, I’ve tried to create devils in the workplace. As a result, it seems I have one foot in the office and the other at home, serving neither too well.


“Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Leo Burnett knew better. He celebrated such a worker, calling him the “Lonely Man.” He imagined a copywriter busting her ass in the wee hours until striking gold, or the account executive toiling over an account -not selflessly but selfishly, because he wanted to get ahead. He had ambition. Mr. Burnett saw great beauty in that. And so did most of us… once upon a time.

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“I can’t find Steffan anywhere!”

Recently I wrote about “choice overload” and its impact on modern society. I was inspired by Barry Schwartz’ book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. Like the author, I wondered if we had too many choices for our own good. Do they jade us? Do they make us restless, irritable and discontent? On a lighter note I ended the piece with a selection of popular choices I had not made in the 21st Century. Two of them were watching shows, 24 and Lost.

That’s right; I have never seen one single minute of either series, let alone an entire episode. I’m not exactly sure why that is, given I’m essentially the target. I’m certainly not going to criticize either show (well, maybe a little), given they were both critically acclaimed monster hits that ran for years.

I was going to watch them. I’d read about them. Knew the actors. Saw the previews. But in the end, I just didn’t.

And now it is the end. Both shows are winding up their runs with big final episodes, which, of course, I won’t be watching.

Lost in particular seemed like something I would be interested in, with its existential tone, and vague supernatural bent. But every time I saw an ad for the show I balked. I kept asking myself odd, arguably silly questions that preempted me from tuning in. Like how come the characters always looked so lithe and sexy? How did that one guy always maintain a perfect five o’clock shadow? Don’t you need an electric razor for that? Don’t you need electricity? Or the babe. She seemed more suited for the pages of Sports Illustrated than a struggle for survival.

Conversely, what about the fat one? How come he never lost weight on Lost? One would think a diet of fresh fruit and fish would trim anyone down in fairly short order. Not this guy. He remained obese throughout the series. I kept thinking about him as an actor in Hollywood, hitting Fat burger, instead of fighting for scraps on an atoll.

I’m sure the show provided reasons for all that but I didn’t care. My belief had not been suspended. My curiosity remained slight. This did not stop me, however, from referencing the show constantly. When I pitched my first novel, The Last Generation to all the networks for a possible TV series, I used Lost as a comparison. My concept, a band of disparate characters figuring out life in a diminishing world, was Lost like in so many ways. Pointing that out to network execs seemed like a no-brainer. And it nearly worked. Touchstone TV bought into it. As did NBC. Alas, The Last Generation never made it to the screen.

As for 24, I missed the premiere and assumed a show that took place in real time required constant and vigilant viewing. By the time the DVD came out I wasn’t interested in making the investment. Watching Jack Bauer chasing the clock seemed so damn tiring.

Both these series were darlings of my peer group. I endured many conversations with colleagues about the latest episodes and later, which season was best. I listened, firmly believing a good ad man has to maintain a working knowledge of all popular culture. But I never watched.

And I never will.

Other hit TV series I’ve never seen: Heroes, Real Housewives, American Idol, Survivor & Conan.

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