Fire & Ice.

February 10, 2020


As a child you feared an impending ice age more than global warming, like the one you were taught befell the dinosaurs. You remember winter in Chicago as eternal, the city defined by it. Wind chill. Polar vortexes. Snowmageddon! From the car, you’d stare at the vast, frozen lake, observing the gulls huddled on chunks of blue-white ice surviving barely, or the poor soul walking his dog amid the ruts passing for sidewalks. Wondering if winter would ever end.

Now the world is on fire, heating up as if in a microwave. From California to Australia all is burning. It has become the new normal. You once read that a frog will sit in a pot of water unmoved by the flame beneath it, slowly boiling to death. (That this craven experiment might occur is not the point.) Unable or unwilling to leave, the reptile allows itself to die one degree at a time. Complacency? One of these days, you need to start driving an electric car.

(Author’s note: This is a small section from an autobiographical novel I have been writing for some time. It’s looking for a home. Thoughts? In the meantime, I appreciate your readership.)

Just do it!

Last year, I took a fall from my bike riding into work. There was a gash in the sidewalk and then a gash in my knee! Given I hit the pavement full on, it could have been a lot worse. I waited out the momentary shock –you perspire, you shake- and got back on my horse.

A copywriter by trade, you’d think I could come up with a better opening to a story about biking to work, especially given this is bike-to-work week in Chicago. But I won’t lie to you. Safeness is not a bicycle’s preeminent calling card, and if one elects to take surface streets in lieu of bike paths, it can get even harrier. Don’t forget to wear a helmet.

Still, riding’s pluses are manifest. Especially in Chicago. Our lakefront path is among the country’s longest and finest urban bike routes, with a Great Lake on one side and a world-class skyline on the other, spanning the leafy suburb of Evanston in the north to I’m not even sure how far south. One rides through Lincoln Park, Grant Park, and various museum campuses. The path even skirts Chicago’s newest jewel, Millennium Park.

Say what you will about Mayor Daley but he loves his parks and recreation. And it shows. Da Mayor is also a huge promoter of urban biking, and our city gets more bike-friendly every day.

Yet scenery is only one of the pluses that come with riding a bicycle and by no means the most desirable one. Public transportation costs two bucks or more one way. You go two ways. Parking downtown can cost over 20 dollars a day. And let’s not even get into the cost of petroleum. Biking is free. No parking. No gas. Even the bike itself is a bargain. After all, the most expensive bicycle in the world costs less than the cheapest car.

Next to running and swimming biking is the best form of aerobic exercise, and it won’t damage your legs –unless, of course, you fall. I’m told Alex Bogusky moved his agency to Boulder Colorado primarily because of the awesome biking opportunities. Perhaps riding to work has something to do with his agency’s prodigious creative output. Physical exercise stimulates the brain. After my morning ride, I know I hit the keyboard with gusto.

Biking is quintessentially green. The Toyota Prius is a gas hog by comparison. By definition riders aren’t driving. Duh. Imagine one thousand less cars on the road, then one hundred thousand. Let’s hope the number only increases as fear of global warming escalates. It has to. The ongoing BP crisis speaks for itself.

But one doesn’t need a heightened social conscience to get on a bike. There are plenty of selfish reasons: your body, your health, your pocket book, and your creativity. And then there’s the best reason of all: it’s fun. Some mornings I feel like a boy again, hauling ass, the wind at my back…

You get the picture. Get yourself a bicycle and ride it to work this week. It will change your life. As for the excuse about showering, there are usually some in every office. We have ‘em. Ask. Besides, most agency guys look like they just rolled about of bed. Axe up. No one will know the difference.

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Euro RSCG’s “Tck, Tck, Tck” campaign

And so we’ve come to the end of another Cannes Festival, albeit a smaller, more restrained version. Having come up empty (save for a humanitarian award given to us by the Mayor of Cannes!), I’m leaving a day early. Let the big winners go to the show this evening. I’m saving my agency many hundreds of dollars by checking out. I hope Angelo, our CFO, is reading!

Of course I’m frustrated by not picking up any hardware. Who wouldn’t be? We had several items I thought maybe, just maybe… mais non!

For me, the highpoint of Cannes this year was the Act Responsibly presentation hosted by Euro RSCG, featuring its Worldwide CEO, David Jones and Nobel Prize winner, Kofi Annan. The topic was Climate Justice. Kofi spoke eloquently about time running out for Earth with regard to global warming. On the theme of time, David introduced an integrated campaign entitled “Tck, Tck, Tck,” designed to convince world leaders meeting in Copenhagen this December to pass serious legislation or face “catastrophic consequences.”

But it was the event’s third speaker, Bob Geldoff who stole the show. He riveted the packed theatre by neither pulling punches nor politicizing the issues. “That’s Kofi’s job,” he said. “Not mine.” Indeed, Geldoff was a house-on-fire beseeching the ad world to do far more than a banner ad here or a poster there. He wanted a full-blown commitment and one, he claimed, few of us are willing to make. However, he said, if we didn’t “by 2050 Cannes would be under water.”

I urge you all to visit the website Euro RSCG created, to see what you can do…and to see a pretty cool, open-sourced, integrated campaign.

Final observations…

I was surprised at how many terrier dogs are kept as pets in Cannes, particularly the West Highland breed. As some of you know, most restaurants (even the posh) allow canines in with their masters. On whole, these delightful dogs are better behaved than some ad people.

How apropos: The Mayor of Cannes is a former advertising executive, having worked at DDB.

Celebrity sightings: Belinda Carlysle, Roger Daltry, Spike Lee and, of course, Kofi Annan Bob Geldoff.

Best meal: Tetu. A seafood restaurant several miles outside Cannes, specializing in Bouillabaisse. To die for.

Big winner: Among other Lions, Queensland Tourism won three Grand prizes before the festival even climaxed.

Favorite Faux Pas: Mistaking Michael Conrad (The Berlin School) with uber-famous French advertising icon, Jean Marie Dru.

Favorite Bob Geldoff quip: calling the Havas network “Hamas.”

Saddest moment: hearing from a former hot shot fellow creative director, now struggling, that he’d paid his own way to Cannes…

Happiest moment: listening to U2’s new album while jogging up the French coast. “Magnificent!”

I wish to thank Talent Zoo for providing me this forum and you, Gentle Reader, for providing me an audience. God bless and have a wonderful summer.

Steff on Twitter

From Talent Zoo, #canneslions