November 24, 2015
The older I become the less I covet things. Obviously, I enjoy and require a home and car and the clothes on my back. I’m fortunate that I have these things and that they are nice. But I don’t obsess about them, or other material possessions, like I used to. God, I remember in my 20’s and 30’s how important it was to acquire stuff. Nice stuff. So much of it was for validation. See, I can buy a house. See, I can decorate a house. See, I can buy a cool car. See, I can afford a slick watch. And so on. It kind of makes me feel like a dipshit now.
But I’m guessing I’m not the only one who was or is acquisitive to a fault. Kind of the American way, right? A free market system works best when everyone is freely marketing! Speaking of marketing, I’m well aware that that’s what I do for a living. I’ve always had a tension there. You don’t have to look any further than my blog’s theme for that: “We make you want what you don’t need.”
I don’t think a diminished craving for shit is that big of a deal. However, I do think it is a good thing in my continued development as a human being. The more you become aware that you can’t take anything with you the easier it is to leave it behind – if not stop gathering it in the first place. What a relief this is. I don’t miss the subtle, crummy feelings of envy and jealousy, of wanting what I don’t have. Those streets lead me into a maze, where gratitude and satisfaction got left outside. Now I don’t have to resent people with cooler shit than me, or more money, or whatever trappings I deemed worth coveting.
Look, I am hardly “cured” of obsession over certain peculiar things, like the organisms I put in my saltwater aquarium. Searching for exotic corals and fishes and transplanting them into my reef system is heroin to me. A couple years ago I was into collecting vintage leather jackets. I justify these obsessions by calling them “passions” or “hobbies.” A key difference is that I don’t care if anyone else sees my fish tank or those jackets in my closet. It’s nerdism more than materialism.
This all being said, I will call bullshit on myself for the simple fact that I happen to already own a ton of really cool stuff. Therefore, all of the above is indeed “easy for me to say.” Fair enough.
In addition, I have a big young family and my girls love stuff. Part of being a kid in the USA. I’m not going to harsh their mellow. But I am glad that they see their dad uninterested in acquiring things for the sake of showing off.
If I can move you to believing in a Higher Power imagine what I could do for your creative department.
November 9, 2015
I am excited to find a new job. A permanent one as well as freelance. Here are my credentials. However, to prove my chops as as elegant persuader I’m going to sell you on the idea that God exists using purely rational arguments. No psychic mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I won’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief argument. When I’m done you may still not believe in a higher power but you will be closer to Him, Her or It than you were before.
First a proposition: If anyone can definitively prove God does or does not exist I will give them all the money in my bank account. Non-believers and agnostics crave proof of God’s existence and, of course, it never comes. But why is it we rarely flip the question and demand proof that God doesn’t exist? It’s just as impossible.
Let’s go totally left brain and talk numbers. Percentages to be exact. Bearing in mind the above proposition, one must concede there is a 50% chance that God does not exist. However, that means there is a 50% chance that God does exist. In other words, after all is said and done, it’s 50/50 whether a divine entity or Creator exists. Now if you had those odds on the lottery –or anything really- you’d take that bet. You’d be a fool not to.
Yet, so many of us are ambivalent about God or even the idea of God. Why is that? Because we can’t see him? Well, you can’t see gravity either. “That’s different,” the unbeliever claims. You can prove gravity. There are equations.
Okay, smart ass. Do you “believe” in love? For your children? For your wife? Of course you do. Prove to me that love definitively exists. Of course you can’t. You feel love or not depending on your circumstances but you’ll never see it. Therefore, if you can believe in love why not God? They are both faith-based concepts with no rational foundation. Why is one different from the other? It isn’t.
Do you covet money, prestige or status? Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Have you ever been? What about chocolate or coffee? Or your boyfriend? We often make higher powers out of people, places and things. The alcoholic knows this all to well. When she wakes it’s all she can think of. The addict’s drug of choice brings him to his knees every night. They will put spirits ahead of everything else, including jobs, loved ones and personal health. Even the sanctity of human life will not deter the devoted from blindly worshiping. That’s fanatical. That is what ISIS does.
Yet, God forbid we believe in God. No one is more cynical than me. But I believe –even know- that God is a 50/50 proposition. Have I moved you even five percent closer to believing in a higher power?
So, how about that freelance?
The fantasy of “Dark Marketing” and its implication to ad agencies – not to mention society in general.
October 12, 2015
“I just lost my daughter’s college fund on Fan Duel!”
Lot of hullabaloo over the legality/morality of online fantasy league sites, Fan Duel and Draft Kings…
In 2011, the FBI shut down two of the most popular online gambling sites, Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker, accusing their owners of money laundering and other nefarious activities. According to the Chicago Tribune, eleven people were arrested and indicted by the Feds. And they’re gunning for more. Online visitors were greeted with a message saying, “This domain name has been seized by the F.B.I. pursuant to an Arrest Warrant,” and an enumeration of federal anti-gambling statutes and penalties.” Talk about a buzz kill.
While I’m not a gambler, the fantasy league story interests me because several years ago a popular gaming site approached my agency to pitch for its marketing. We could have used the business but I’m happy to say we begged off, mostly for fear of being accomplice to criminal activity. But not before attending a briefing session with the client. Like I said, we needed the revenue; it was hard walking away.
I’ll never forget their presentation to us and, in particular, what the CMO called the advertising for his business: “dark marketing.” Dark marketing, he said, was advertising something that in “certain contexts” was illegal. He likened it to selling alcohol and cigarettes. Yet, in a very real way the term implied heavier baggage and bigger risks, more akin to prostitution and gun running. Honestly, any company that has to run its business “off shore” clearly has issues.
It was a creepy presentation but a titillating one. I felt dirty for having participated and yet also provoked. I knew gambling was considered a vice and a sin. But I also knew the opportunity for doing brilliant creative was high. Edginess equals awards. In the end, the inherent sleaziness of the brand, coupled with a stern caution from our legal department, caused us to bail.
Yet, this notion of dark marketing stuck with me. When it came to making a buck, or winning awards, just how far were agencies willing to go? One wonders what, if anything, will happen to these sites marketing partners. Beyond morality issues, are there consequence to dark marketing? With marijuana rapidly becoming legal and establishing brands, it seems Pandora’s Box is opening ever wider. Recently, Fan Duel and Draft Kings hired big time agencies. We’ll see the fruits of their “dark marketing” soon enough.
More controversy is sure to follow. Wanna bet?
My 50 years in Advertising, Larry Postaer
I first wrote this post when dad’s book came out a few years ago. Happy to publish it again – the least I can do for a man who’s inspired me so much…
In my father’s memoir on his career in advertising, Pickett, Plunkett & Puckett he mentions a test he had to take in order to qualify for a job as copywriter on the Sears’s catalog. In the early sixties Sear’s Roebuck (and its iconic catalog) was literally the textbook for retailing in the United States. Called the “Wish book,” anything and everything could be found in the Sear’s catalog (even houses!) and it was a staple in every home, kind of the Amazon of its day.
Yet, the job was hardly glamorous and wasn’t supposed to be. Sears Roebuck was about as old school as it got: dress codes, pneumatic tubes, and a cafeteria.
All his pages detailing the inner workings of Sear’s marketing department are fascinating but, for me, it was the test he took to get hired that stands out. Anachronistic now, back in the day, psychological profiling was used at companies all over America to determine whether an applicant was the “right fit” for the job and company. Back then folks entered into a career hoping –nay expecting- to work at a given firm the rest of their lives. The companies’ wanted that too and so standardized tests, however futile, were developed to insure its likelihood.
My father singles out one question from the test: Would you rather write the play, star in the play, or sell tickets to the play? My father rightly guesses they are not looking for big creative egos at Sears and answers “sell the tickets.” However, like any writer, what he really would like to do is write the play. These days, I’m guessing that’s what every aspiring writer would like to do. Honestly, the way things are now, I’m betting quite a few young creatives would just assume star in at as well.
It’s easy making fun of this archaic test, so corny and out of touch. But the question is pretty damn interesting when you think about it, as I have. From day one copywriters have wrestled with their urges to be creative versus their mandate to sell. Even now the challenge is still a major aspect of the job. Whether one works at a conservative shop or some rogue boutique, all on staff struggle with it. The lame rejoinder “Well, you gotta do both” is generally where everyone nets out. Sears had no such dilemma, which makes my father’s anecdote provocative nostalgia.
My father writes he faired poorly on the test but got the job anyway. As I said, the stories around this are fascinating and, like many others in the book, well worth reading. It’s available in paperback or on kindle, via Amazon.
The Sears Catalog stopped printing in 1993. Today, the company struggles to remain relevant.