October 9, 2014
So Pornhub (a popular pornographic website) puts up a billboard in Times Square. It’s cute. Plays off of the obvious reason why people would traffic a site like Pornhub: to masturbate. For those unawares (all 3 of you), Pornhub curates and displays thousand of Porno videos, categorized every which way you can imagine. People go there, choose a video that suits their fancy, and well you can guess the rest. Oh, the horror.
Look, I’ve got nothing new to say about pornography. It’s been around since the beginning of mankind. Have you seen some of the content meticulously etched upon the interior walls of the Pyramids? Pharaoh so horny. We all are. And looking at pictures or video of people having sex is a very popular way of satiating one’s sex drive. Very popular. Every day, I’m guessing as many people go to Pornhub and myriad other such sites than visit CNN, Gawker or Gods of Advertising. Combined.
Porn was always popular. The Internet made it, if you’ll pardon the expression, explosively so. No more stealing and hiding dad’s old Hustler’s under the mattress. No more skulking into a peep show. No more fast forwarding the VCR. All one has to do was open his (or her) laptop.
I’m old enough to remember the advent and subsequent collapse of the VCR. For about 15 years, videocassettes ruled the world. And pornography entered what many connoisseurs refer to, as it’s golden age. Not counting the obligatory college outing to Behind The Green Door, the VCR is where I watched my first porno video. There was a shop on every corner. The only problem was you had to go behind a red curtain in order to procure your, ahem, film. Pornography still managed to be the number one seller in home video entertainment. I don’t have the numbers but I know from reading up that porn movies kept a lot of mom and pop video stores open for business. Not Star Wars. Not Back to the Future. But hardcore pornography. These video stars all but killed the porno mag.
And in turn the Internet killed the video store. Online pornography flourishes like blades of grass in the suburbs. Or should I say blades of grass flourish like online pornography in the suburbs?
What this essay is about, then, is not the fact that this mildly provocative billboard got put up but that it was soon taken down “for unknown reasons.” Why are we so afraid of our own sexuality? On the surface I get it. I’ve got three daughters. If my wife is taking them to Times Square I’m guessing she’d rather not explain what Pornhub is. Not that they would ask. Not with all those scantily clad Calvin Klein and Fredericks of Hollywood models staring down at them.
We have such a f-cking double standard in this country. Frontal nudity warrants an NC17 from the MPAA. Viciously depicting the killing of hundreds of people in a film and it will receive a ho-hum PG. The Pornhub billboard showed neither. It was a silly pun and a pair of hands. Below it was and likely still is a gaudy vodka ad. Booze has caused a lot more problems than pornography, let alone masturbating. Trust me.
Honestly, it’s more than a gross double standard; it’s hypocrisy. Made even more ironic given Times Square used to be the peep show capital of America. I’m guessing to a man that every person who had anything to do with taking down Pornhub’s billboard has gotten it up to Pornhub as well. What did Christ say about casting stones? Oh yeah, we always forget.
Sex! Now that I’ve got your attention here’s why so many people hit up their smartphones and other secrets…
March 26, 2013
There’s a simple and obvious reason why so many people are constantly checking their smart phones. Two reasons actually. Yet, I’ve not seen or read or heard anyone use either one to explain (their) behavior. But that doesn’t make my hypothesis any less debatable. On the contrary, the silence supports it. I think people are embarrassed to admit to one or the other reason. Why? Because they point to our vanity and that makes us uncomfortable.
The two reasons: 1. We don’t want to miss the girl or the boy or the party. 2. We don’t want to miss the opportunity of a lifetime.
Though based on intuition I’m 98% certain that variations on the above two reasons are why so many of us can’t stop checking our smart phones. Girls are waiting for that cute guy to call. Boys are scoping where tonight’s action is. And both sexes like to think a new opportunity awaits them (a job perhaps) in the very next email.
Beneath vanity lies the human instinct for getting something be it sex, money or some other thrilling surprise. Obviously, this desire is older than smart phones. As a boy I can remember running to the mailbox when I heard the mailman walking up our steps. Whether I was waiting for the latest issue of Fishing Facts magazine, The Incredible Hulk or a note from the girl I met at summer camp it didn’t matter. I wanted my thing. Even if I didn’t know what it was. The anticipation was always there. (By the way, anticipation usually far exceeds reality -a lesson I did not learn until much later in life.)
Marketers have wisely and often cravenly taken advantage of our instinctual cravings. Fanning the flames of desire to elicit a purchase or behavior is fundamental to our business. The marketers that understand how to exploit it properly are the ones that thrive. This is why there is so much hype around capitalizing on smart phones. Marketers know people can’t stop checking them in the vainglorious hope something sexy awaits. Ergo if advertisers can tap into that they win. Alas, their spam rarely fits into this paradigm. It gets in the way. Yet, advertisers will keep trying because people keep checking.
Let me finish by returning to my original hypothesis. If correct, the insight leads to even more interesting ones. For instance, it explains why young people are far more tied to their smart phones than older people. The pat explanation holds that seniors aren’t as tech literate or modern as twenty-somethings and therefore less savvy. But maybe it’s just that older folks aren’t craving hookups and headhunters. Could this mean oldsters are more apt to respond to marketers because their expectations are more grounded?
Getting underneath human behavior is one of the cooler aspects of our jobs in Adland, and life in general. It also puts a premium on intuition versus data.
February 28, 2013
I thought Seth MacFarlane’s bawdy opening number at the Oscars, “We Saw Your Boobs” might pass by my radar but the story continues to gain traction, the latest commentary coming from the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. In a formal complaint written to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the group claimed his gig “struck a new low in its treatment of women.” More excerpts from the letter can be found here. The gist of their argument is that women have a hard enough time gaining respect for their contributions in Hollywood, let alone society in general, without sophomoric displays like Seth’s bringing them down and on one of the biggest stages in the world no less.
I won’t disagree. However, I will say that Oscar and Hollywood have objectified women for years, often without comment. It seems every other movie features women in highly sexualized roles, many of them beloved by both sexes. And I’m not just talking about “B” movies, though those are obviously the most blatant examples. but what about the so-called “Bond Girls” which have become a huge part of that cannon’s attractive lore?
Are not these ladies merely eye candy for James and every other Tom, Dick and Harry? Of course they are. And while a few of these actresses actually could act it was for their bodies they were cast. One literally in gold. Save for ardent feminists nobody complains, least of all the actresses, whom as far as I can tell, covet the part.
There are countless examples of women being subjugated, objectified and demeaned in film and television. That doesn’t make it right but it does make singling out questionable episodes in the industry, well, questionable.
Still, it’s hammering on the Academy Awards that trips me up. For hours leading up to the ceremony itself media from all over the world line up to photograph and film the actresses as they sashay into the auditorium. People adore the spectacle, especially women. On both sides of the camera. So much so it is called it the “Red Carpet” and it is considered a must-see. The next day hundreds of “critics” pass judgment, many of them cruelly. But we laugh. We vote. Indeed, we pass judgment ourselves. Is this not text textbook definition of ogling?
One might reply that it is their clothes we are looking at and not the ladies. True. But it is the dresses that show more of the ladies that draw our attention and the slavish commentary. True? Furthermore, why should actresses be obligated to parade in front of the entire world in flamboyant, revealing gowns in the first place? Especially while most of their dates don black tie. What does that have to do with their acting chops? It doesn’t.
The Red Carpet is tradition. And women adore it. Even I dare say the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. I could end there but I have one more thought. Is Seth MacFarlane taking it on the chin because he’s a man? Let’s say Tina Fey was hosting the Oscars (not a stretch) and she sang the exact same song (not a stretch), would that make it wildly funny instead of wildly inappropriate? You know the answer as well as I do.
A jealous author. A disgraced General. A curvy socialite. Ah, just what the country needs after a super storm and bruising Presidential election: a juicy sex scandal! I don’t have to go into the details. You all know the story, or parts of it. The good parts. We’ve seen the TVs hanging above treadmills and barstools and in our living rooms, saw the file footage of these well-to-do’s, formed impressions, presented opinions, changed our minds, wondered what all the fuss was about while also wondering about the naughty bits: the trysts, the late night emails, the homely wife and what she must be thinking, the bad men and women who succumbed to temptation and found themselves shame-walking across the planet.
It’s been too damn long. Monica Lewinsky’s dress is in the Smithsonian or some rich pervert’s closet to be pulled out at cocktail parties, on bets or for charity. So long ago that the man who made that blue dress famous is now famous again for being dignified and stately, not the disgraced Chief of Staff who lied to his wife and a nation. That is how long it’s been since we in America have been treated to an epic soap opera like the Petraeus Affair.
More like this and maybe late night talk shows will still have a chance. As I write this Leno and Conan are force-ranking puns. For this is prime time. These are real, Real Housewives and Real American Heroes. People with money. People who served our country. Men in and OUT of uniform. Salacious. Irresistible…
Yet completely benign.
Hold on. This involved the CIA. The FBI. Homeland Security is concerned about potential breaches in our nation’s military intelligence. That’s dangerous stuff. General Betray-us could easily have passed along Pentagon codes to his mistress along with his little soldiers. We all know secrets are whispered over pillows. She strokes his trembling abdomen. He giggles about weapons of mass destruction. Oh, General, speaking of which!
Come on, people. This scandal is gossamer. While the principals are no doubt seriously humiliated, there is nothing to fear from it. If that were the case his paramour would have been stymied from writing her bio about him a long time ago. Didn’t happen. No one gave a shit then, let alone was scared.
On the contrary, we are distracted from our fears. Sublimely. For that’s what sex scandals do. They take us out of recession and war and whatever ails us. Horny famous people are the ultimate bromide. Fizz, Fizz, Oh, what a relief it is!
Special Note: I realize there is a theory suggesting the scandal was teased out of it’s boudoir by government insiders to distract from serious hearings regarding military actions in Libya. This then would qualify the story as legitimate news. Until that is verified just tell me what they’re wearing!
I am about to pimp a commercial gyro San Francisco is producing. This is not something I usually do. The last thing I want this blog to be is a shill for my agency. I don’t get that many readers as it is!
So why now? Bunch of reasons. First, this is gyro’s first TV commercial EVER and the same goes for our client. That’s two firsts in one. I’m not comfortable revealing the client’s name (yet) but if you look at our client roster you’ll find only technology companies. So, yes, it’s one of them. These facts alone make it a special event –for them and for us. And given I just started at gyro, you can imagine my excitement.
Fortunately, our debut TV spot is also a barnburner, if I do say so myself: a truly badass piece of filmmaking featuring guns, whiskey, and notorious women. When was the last time you saw a firearm being discharged against a human in a TV commercial? Well, you will in this one. And the bastard deserves what he’s getting. Or does he? Maybe it’s the woman in his arms who deserves a bullet. Either way, here’s the gun.
Let me tell you a little about the director. A Hollywood pro, his very next job after ours is directing the season finale of True Blood. A long time ago he also directed a dark comedy, which is now considered a classic. We are jacked about having him helm our TV spot. Can you guess his name?
Last but most definitely not least on reasons why I’m so thrilled about this project is the media buy. Our spot will be debuting on the season finale of a little cable show called Mad Men.
Add it all up, and this is our Super Bowl. We. Are. Stoked. As for me being coy, why not? The spot has a “Whodunit” vibe and, well, I’m just going with it.