Maybe they’ll listen to you…

The other day I was riding home from a fantastic hike in the mountains, driving my wife’s convertible with the top down, on yet another glorious sunny day in Marin County. In two hours I was to begin a journey to Berlin (I’ve never been!) for a creative conference. So many blessings in my life…

And yet I was fretting. I worried I didn’t have a presentation in order for my bit in Germany. I felt crummy about something I’d said to a family member. I’d forgotten to run an errand and now it was too late! Once again, the committee in my head was getting loud about yet another assortment of issues regarding people, places and things. As usual, it was a mixture of minor nuisances and shortcomings. As usual, they were ruining everything. When I have one foot in the past and the other in the future I am pissing on the present.

Is it just me? Or do you do the same thing?

What is it about human beings that make us unable to truly appreciate what we have and what is right in front of us? Instead of gratitude for my many blessings (I should be marveling at them, frankly) I am fretting about goddamned hangnails. Again.

The committee in my head is comprised of tough hombres. Shame. Envy. Fear. Pride. The usual suspects. The way I’m wired I can never turn them off. Sometimes I can lower their volume but I always hear them in the next room. Conspiring. Doing push-ups as they say.

Bad stock illustration. Even worse problem.

They cause all the “isms” and phobias of the world, don’t they? Take Pride for example. It hangs up great leaders and ordinary Joes alike. Like a lot of creative people, I have a big ego and a bit of an inferiority complex. We believe in our ideas but have endured criticism for them all our careers. Most of us never really get used to it. Not really. Insecurity like that festers in a person. Like the child of divorce, we wonder not-so-deep-down if it’s our fault.

What’s this damn fool going on about? Well, I’m fascinated by human behavior. Particularly my own. Our propensities for wanting and worrying are frustrating on a personal level but endlessly compelling from a writer’s perspective, particularly for us copywriters. After all, we make people want what they don’t need. I have a theory that advertising plays fast and loose with most of our defects (envy, lust, pride, etc.) and, along with other stimuli, foster a society of needy, insatiable narcissists.

One of the reasons I dig Don Draper’s character on Mad Men is because he is simultaneously a victim and perpetrator of his own psychological warfare, which compliments (painfully & brilliantly) his line of work. I can relate.

Am I becoming a drag?

I have not watched a single episode of Mad Men this year. Last few seasons I watched every one. I wrote about them on my blog. I Tweeted. I shared.

Why no interest this year? Maybe I’m too busy –a new home, a new job. But I had those things last year and they were even newer. Besides, the show is on Sunday night. With DVR and Internet, I could watch it whenever I want, anyway. That’s how I found time for The Walking Dead and Party Down.

Too busy is not the reason.

Frankly, I think it’s because I don’t care anymore. Better said, I lost interest. I moved on. Moreover, I have a hunch a lot of other people did too. I don’t know the ratings. But I’m willing to bet they are down. Maybe even way down.

What causes that? I wonder if there’s a psychological reason. I wonder if it’s a marker for something in the zeitgeist. Could it be the anti-hero as portrayed by Don Draper is fading from fashion in popular culture?

It’s possible we’ve had enough of melancholy and dubious motives. Are we over the beautiful downer? The Zenith may have been Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight.

So dark…

After considering that character, to say nothing of Heath Ledger’s Joker, what comes after? And so Batman has given way to a rowdier bunch of heroes. Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are ambivalent studs but their moral compasses are a lot more aligned than Batman’s or Don draper’s. I suppose Tony Stark has some issues but still…

My hunch are shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad and Mad Men have run their course. We may be entering a period where we want more ‘together’ heroes. Let the bad guys be riddled with doubt and pain.

It will be interesting, then, so see how the latest installment of Superman fares, Man of Steel. Director, Zach Snyder recently was quoted saying “Superman must be taken seriously.” Maybe so… Having seen only the trailers, I think Clark Kent won’t be vexed by the dark side; rather I think his problem will be hiding his super powers in a world that desperately needs them.

So steely…

That’s a very different dilemma than Don Draper’s. The titular ad man wants to be a better person but keeps slipping. While I most certainly can relate I’m just not in the mood for it right now. Are you?

God bless my new team…

I say a prayer each morning asking God for help and every night thanking Him for providing it. I know it’s not hip for an advertising man to get on his knees but the ritual hasn’t hurt me so far. Matter of fact, during darker times it may have saved my life.

But these aren’t dark times for me… far from it.

And so tonight, like every night, I say thank you: To God, of course, but also to the fabulous people in my life, the new ones and the precious few I have known for a very long time.

Girls, girls, girls!

To my immediate family: Thank you for allowing me my passion for work and writing. Specifically, thank you for blessing my new job in a new city -one that will soon take you away from your friends and much that you hold dear. You have embraced this tall order and made it vastly easier for me to do so as well.

My work family: The good people at gyro (damn that lower case “g”), I want to thank you for embracing me as a senior member of your team. For trusting me and taking direction. For providing direction. For helping me help you. There isn’t a person at 1025 Sansome I don’t have gratitude for.

Being grateful can be fun…

Thirty days ago, we began an outlandish scheme to make a TV commercial for a new client, Turn. It would be their first commercial. And ours. How we got from “What if?” to debuting on the season finale of Mad Men is a miracle. It took big thinking, a courageous client and lots of luck. But mostly it took trust. Trust in each other. And trust in something bigger than all of us. I really believe that.

Yes, the commercial we made bristles with sin. (Frankly, what commercial doesn’t?) But there is a morality to it. Regardless, I don’t believe God is against film, art, or creativity. The God I pray to isn’t the one politicians talk about in speeches. He likes our playful spirit.

I know this post will cause many to roll their eyes. ‘That Steffan, he’s a real piece of work.’ And so I am. But that’s the way God made me. And I thank Him for it every morning and every night.

Is the unnamed shooter actually Jacqueline Kennedy?

Excerpt: official press release, June 8, 2012:

On Sunday night, gyro San Francisco will debut its first television spot on the brightest of stages. A 30-second spot for technology client Turn will air during the finale of the top series Mad Men.

This bold campaign has already received recognition in the New York Times. In the article, ad critic Barbara Lippert and the editor of Ad Age both applauded the effort. And, numerous other media outlets are already singing the praises of the campaign including Mediapost, B-to-B and Adrants. There is certainly a lot of buzz building with more to come.

The spot, which will be viewable on Monday, at Turn/Decision is a most unconventional effort directed by Michael Lehmann whose credits include True Blood, Dexter and the cult classic Heathers.

Update(Classified) June 9, 2012

Several reporters, including staff from the New York Times noted the shooter in gyro’s Turn commercial looks an “awful lot like Jackie Kennedy.” This has created rampant speculation that, in fact, the TV spot is actually a reenactment on how the former First Lady’s husband, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, truly met his end –not by assassination in Dallas, Texas but, in fact, by his betrayed wife during an office tryst in Manhattan.

The Kennedy motorcade -staged?

Bloggers and conspiracy theorists are now speculating that the entire assassination, and the iconic footage associated with it, had all been previously staged to protect the President’s reputation. This would support the many publicized inaccuracies regarding that fateful day. They also point out that it wasn’t until many years after the President’s death that rumors of his infidelity came to light, calling it a cover up.

Is this the gun that shot President Kennedy?

In the commercial it is unclear if the fired bullet (gun pictured) hits either the man or woman also in frame. Just who was the target? The mystery is also heightened by other factors, including the period nature of sets and wardrobe. To wit, many have noted that the gun-toting female in the commercial is wearing an exact replica of Mrs. Kennedy’s iconic, pink wardrobe from the Dallas motorcade. (See above photos) In addition, the film is debuting on the season finale of Mad Men -a program based during the Kennedy era. In fact, in an earlier episode of the popular show the Kennedy assassination was actually covered in great detail.


Will the so-called “bonus content” on the above-mentioned website shed new light as to what actually happened? As of this writing, the site was still blocked. Sources claim it will go live sometime just before or during the final episode of Mad Men. Though cynics cannot help but wonder, producers for the show deny this is “in any way” a tactic for boosting viewership.

The advertising agency, gyro (San Francisco) and its client, Turn (Redwood, California) have no comment at this time.

A drink before…

I no longer have to be as coy about our first commercial ever- the one with smoking women, guns and, what’s more treacherous, cigarettes! Yes, it’s true. Forgive me God, but my maiden voyage at my new agency (gyro San Francisco) is ripe with deliciously bad behavior. And while I don’t condone smoking, drinking, illicit sex and gun play it sure as hell makes for great drama…and hopefully a fine commercial.

It had better because we’re debuting it on the season premier of Mad Men. The client (the best, most trusting, yet cavalier group of people I’ve ever worked for) is Turn. What they do is deliver advertising to exactly the right online audiences faster than the proverbial speeding bullet. Ergo the most whack product demonstration I’ve ever had the sinful pleasure of producing.

Last I wrote about it, I had to be vague about our Mad Men scheme out of respect to reporter, Andrew Newman. He wanted a scoop and I didn’t want to screw that up. And voila! We have our story: In the New York Times! How exciting is that? Veteran ad sages, Abbey Klassen and Barbara Lippert even provide commentary. And so I held my tongue so that better ones could wag.

Hell hath no fury…

Alas, I cannot show you the commercial or the content-laden micro site. Not yet. For that you will need to watch Mad Men’s finale, which I wouldn’t miss anyway.

Bragging aside, I must thank Turn for their enthusiastic support and courage for doing something so remarkable and in such a short time. Though I guess that’s fitting given their business model is predicated on speed and precision.

Thirty days ago this commercial was merely a suggestion made by our agency’s President, Robert Ray (albeit an enthusiastic one). Our whole agency jumped on it and, well, you can read all about it in the New York Times!

I got the ink but the people below also deserve ample recognition:

Copywriter (gyro): Eric Flynn
Art Director (gyro): Ian Ashenbremer
Creative Director (gyro): Jeff Shattuck
Account Executive (gyro): Quynh “the mighty” Cline
Account Executive (gyro): Natalie Marmer
Media (gyro): Zak Garner
Motion Graphics (gyro): Toby Peterson
Director: Michael “True Blood” Lehmann
Exec Producer (Dark Light Pictures): Vince Arcaro
Producer (Dark Light Pictures): Sharon Groh
Editor: Mauro Camaroda
Music (MusicOrange): Blaise Smith