At first glance, this item seems like merely a glib menu item from a bar in Los Angeles. Which it is. But the gimmick of selling patrons a 40-ounce bottle of Colt 45 in a brown paper bag is much more than just an innocuous promotion. it’s a crucible.

Undeniably “creative” in that it is a clever way for St. Felix to make 500% profit from cheap swill and also generate beaucoup buzz. No question the concept will appeal to hipsters looking for “authentic experiences.” It’s ironic. It’s social. It’s the kind of shit new drinkers adore as they search for persons in the bar and personas online. #OldSchool #Chillin #Dawg!

But isn’t it also grotesque because it makes light of skid row and more precisely the American Black Ghetto?  We in Adland remember the embarrassing debacle the seemingly innocuous “Ghetto Days” party invitation created. Heads rolled. Accounts moved. Reputations were ruined. It was a big ugly deal. In my view, selling white boys a “45 in a bag” to get their drink on is basically the same thing.

Deplorable or a small stroke of genius? The question is truly loaded, given the abysmal state of race relations and how angry, sensitive and scared everyone is. These days, a stupid party favor can easily become a fire starter. Is this one?

For creative business ideas that only create “good” controversy: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/



Yeah, these two are the problem.

So, I picked up the latest issue of GQ to read on the plane. I like looking at all the cool shit men can own, wear and do. Provided you’re super f-cking rich. (More on that later.) Anyway, I get to this piece, “The Least Influential People of 2014” and topping the list, at Numero Uno, is “Bono and U2.” The editors were leveling some serious hate on the Irish band because they “strong-armed” their “dad-rock” into your iTunes “without your consent.” For those unawares, U2 released their new album, Songs of Innocence for free. The magazine called it a piece of “direct mail.”

Oh, the indignity!

A little history: Apple and U2 go back ten years in a relationship that helped launch the iPod as well as taking the iTunes platform to a whole ‘nutha level. Remember those iconic commercials in 2004, featuring the band’s hit, Vertigo? Nobody complained.

But that was then. If ever there was proof ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ this latest U2/Apple collaboration is it. Were U2 & Apple presumptuous in their noble deed? Maybe even pretentious? Probably.

But so is GQ. Frankly, GQ has been on a vanity trip as long as Bono has. And as for being “least influential” what exactly has GQ given us, other than inferiority complexes? Who among the working class can even buy anything in GQ? A pair of boots for two grand? A watch for 24k. Give me a f–cking break. “Dad-rock?” Who else besides movie stars and trust-fund babies can afford any of the shit from GQ magazine? That’s right. Dads. And only a small handful of those at that. Hating on a 50-yr-old do-gooder like Bono for giving his work away reeks of annoying millennial hipsterism if not downright hypocrisy.

Speaking of which, in GQ’s advice section, The Style Guy an editor criticizes wearing sweat clothes outside of the gym, blithely suggesting they are “worn by oversize bouncers, bodyguards and repo men in the hip hop industry.” Fair enough. And classist. Yet, on page 34 they show a dude wearing sweatpants ($320!) with a sweater ($400), shirt ($350) and jacket costing one grand. Later, “GQ’s exclusive advertising section” pays tribute to the winner of Express’s Back2Business contest, Nick Taranto. Dude is wearing sweats pants. He is not in a gym. Nick is drinking coffee in someone’s loft. There are other sweats-wearing people in this issue, both advertorial and editorial.


They’re fancy but they’re sweats.

GQ, I’m calling bullshit on your double standards. What’s worse than a man purse? A douche bag.

Final Note: After Bono, GQ chose Barack Obama as the second “least influential person of 2014.” Both men appear before Donald Sterling. Which makes sense, I suppose, if you’re a douche bag.


“Wake me up when we’re cool.”

What is it about spirit’s that leads to advertising that makes fun of people? Well, I’ll tell you. Since advertisers are not really allowed to talk about the intoxicating effect alcohol has on folks copywriters are left with two options: 1) taste and 2) badge value.

How this usually plays out in the massive beer category is that crappy brews (Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, etc) create advertising featuring communities of young, comely and predictable partygoers, who are “up for whatever” and dig silly new bottle designs and “frost brewing” or other made up brewing techniques. Watered down taste is mitigated by the beverages ability to enable your inner douchebag. I worked on these brands and am guilty of perpetrating such goofy myths. I still remember the copy: “The clean, fresh taste won’t fill you up and never lets you down.” Quality beers like Guinnes have a better creative history, either forging terrific myths or speaking to history, heritage and authenticity. Generally speaking, spirits follow similar narratives.

Insert blue joke here…

But within these story arcs we see an ever-widening genre, one that mocks or belittles groups of people who just don’t get it. The “it” changes all the time. When I worked on Johnnie Walker Black and Red, I created two campaigns that endeavored to define “it” for each product. For the more expensive Black label “it” was “Welcome to Civilization.” Black Label drinkers were gentlemen. Everyone else wasn’t. For the cheaper Red Label “it” was an attack on political correctness. According to my ads, these drinkers blew cigar smoke in your face and were proud to be red-blooded men. Or some shit…


COPY: “Our drinkers are men of depth and substance. Which puts our advertising agency at somewhat of a disadvantage.”


That’s telling ’em!

And now we see ads for various spirits taking to task “hipsters” and status seekers. This is tricky. By definition hipsters are cool. That means “it” already is a badge. But for one reason or another this particular “it” has become tiresome. Skinny jeans. Plaid shirts. Ironic beards. Fedoras. Talk about low-hanging fruit. Yet, the attack is specious. Taking down cool people to be cool makes one just as douche-y as the target, casting the hero as a hater, and haters; well they’re lame.


Ooh, the tagline has a cuss word…

Now have a look at this new campaign, from Smirnoff.

We see the bar literally turn from bad trendy to good trendy. Huh? Other than a few more black guys and brighter lighting I can’t tell the difference between the cool kids and the douchebags. I don’t drink anymore but if I did I wouldn’t be caught drunk in either of these places. I didn’t like to drink and dance at the same time. And with that racket how could I hear myself lie?


Next up we’ll see a campaign that celebrates dive bars and sleazy authenticity. And after that one that makes fun of it.

For an extraordinary article on “Hipsters and the Dead End to Civilization” read this: https://www.adbusters.org/magazine/79/hipster.html


Dude, I’m ready for my close up.

Not to sound like a second-rate comedian but what’s the deal with so many actors in commercials bearded and scruffy? Whether it’s the line of hipsters waiting for iPhones in those much-discussed Samsung commercials or teens around the dinner table or even men at work, everyone looks like an extra from Portlandia. It’s like Night of the Living Baristas.

I realize the real world is being reflected here but perhaps too much? When two out of three guys in any given ad have beards and the other one is a minority then I’m thinking hip has jumped the shark. Don’t get me wrong. Dazed and confused dudes exist. Hell, a bunch of ‘em work at my shop but when they’re selling me shit I get the willies. I notice. And then I can’t stop noticing. If counting beards in TV commercials were a drinking game no one watching for over an hour would be sober. Even historically conservative advertisers have tossed hair clippers out of the wardrobe trailer. From Light beer to Mac & Cheese, every guy looks sort of like every guy I knew in high school, just older. I think.

As for women in ads the adorkable “New Girl” look is getting played more than Adele. And often to extremes. Wendy’s new red head is a cross between Zooey Deshanel and Carrot Top. And she may be successful for her bosses, but Progressive “Flo” makes me shudder in all the wrong ways.

Deschanel, Zooeyimages
Zooey. Wendy. Adorkable!

While I love that minorities are now commonplace in mainstream advertising I wince every time I see that cute African American woman with an Afro like Nefertiti. I never see these women on the street. Only in ads. I tell you it’s bizarre. Do these girls go to casting calls like that or is it done to them by the agency?

Everything has gotten so fucking artsy. Conversely, if we are all so damn hip than why are we watching so much unhip content. Reality TV gets dumber and dumber. You Tube is an avalanche of crud. Sure there are veins of excellence. There always will be. But that’s beside my point, albeit a meager point. I’m poking fun at advertising, specifically casting. I know it’s basically a no-point argument. If casting ignored our changing world it would come off as the Republican Party.

Here’s an idea. What if every actor in Adland wore the same garb with letters on their shirts indicating which character they were playing: Perky Mom, Dumbshit Dad, Bearded Dude #1, Etc… Problem is that would be postmodern, which would quickly become annoying as well.


I was here first y’all!