Intelligent design is divine!

Did you know there are proofs of God’s existence? Neither did I. That is until my daughter informed me at dinner the other night. Camille is a student at Marin Catholic High School. Therefore, in addition to a standard curriculum she is also taking a theology class. It is one of her favorite courses. I’m not surprised. Whether one believes in God or not, religion and spirituality are fascinating subjects.

And so, when I’d remarked, somewhat cavalierly, that all religions are based entirely on faith my daughter was compelled to interject. There are so-called “Proofs of God,” she said. Among the most commonly cited examples is the notion of “beautiful design.”

The “Design Proof” suggests that our world is too perfectly engineered to be a happenstance of nature. Turns out it wasn’t just her teacher saying so… Peter Kreeft, a Professor of Philosophy at Boston College makes the “argument for design” as follows:

“The universe displays a staggering amount of intelligibility, both within the things we observe and in the way these things relate to others outside themselves. That is to say: the way they exist and coexist display an intricately beautiful order and regularity that can fill even the most casual observer with wonder. It is the norm in nature for many different beings to work together to produce the same valuable end—for example, the organs in the body work for our life and health.”

It is summed up nicely on the UK website,

“Is it possible that such an intricate mechanism, from the orbits of planets round the sun to the cells in your fingernails could all have happened by chance? Surely, this enormously complex mechanism has been designed, and the being that designed it must be God.”

Bringing it all down to earth, my daughter suggested baby animals are cute because God made them cute. Interesting notion. Why are babies adorable looking? Science suggests it might be to ward off predators. I don’t know. Baby seals are pretty darn cute and sharks love ‘em to death. Are cuteness and beauty God-given?

Cute by design?

I have long been familiar with “Intelligent Design” as a faith-based take on Evolution. As a matter of fact, on glass-half-full days I believe it. But the argument for design as proof of God sharpens the point. As a creative professional, I’ve long valued design more than most aspects of our business, even copywriting. After all, good design mitigates bad copy far better than stellar copy saves crap design.

In a God-like way, designers make things beautiful. Steve Jobs certainly agreed. For him, and his company, design was God. Apple’s millions of obsessed devotees more than support the notion. The company inspires cult-like behavior because of its product’s impeccable designs. Period.

Is good design a proof of God or just a lovely coincidence? Yes, I first wrote about this last year but I continue to wonder about it now. Truly a fascinating subject…

A genius…and a douchebag?

Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs died one year ago. However, I’m just now reading his biography by Walter Isaacson. Among the book’s many surprises, none are as jolting (to me) as the endless examples depicting Steve Jobs as an egomaniacal asshole. Since so much has already been said regarding these controversial passages, I won’t go into them here. Among other things, he publicly berated his staff, stole ideas, took credit inappropriately and was unpardonably cruel to his family.

This by no means diminishes Job’s enormous contribution to Apple and, indeed, the world. Case in point, I’m writing this on one of his inventions, an iPhone and iPod are in my backpack. I use his stuff every day, constantly. So do most of you. Apple has become the most impressive brand in the world. And Steve Jobs had a lot to do with it.

Yet should that excuse him for having been an “assoholic” as one of his peers called him?

In a rare bit of self-awareness (apparently, he mostly had blinders on), Jobs admitted to being overly rough on his people but he remained unapologetic. He claimed the Mac would never have been created if not for his intolerance and meanness. Many people, including some he was ruthless to, concurred. In the end, according to Isaacson, they didn’t mind getting fucked over by a visionary.

Makes me think. In my time on the planet I’ve been intermittently difficult in matters of social discourse. I’m uncomfortable making small talk and listening to it as well. I’ve been an ass. Perhaps my record at work isn’t as spotty but it’s hardly immaculate either. I can be socially inept.

Granted, I’m not a creative visionary like Steve Jobs was but I am always trying to improve my behavior. What struck me about Steve Jobs is that he never bothered. When a brave insider called him on his bad behavior Jobs berated the man: “You don’t know what it’s like being me!”

Well, now we do.

Jobs’ claimed he was perpetually hard on Apple employees because otherwise the company would have softened, invariably inviting “B” players and eventually “C” players; which, of course, was unacceptable (to him).

Reminds me of Vince Lombardi.

Or Ayn Rand, a notoriously brilliant asshole.

Few of us are “special” like Steve Jobs but then we are not as cruel and unfair as he was either. Does that make us “B” players? Can an “A” player be a nice person?

Precious few creative geniuses grace Adland. Yet, I’m privileged to have known several of these men and women and can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that they’re not assholes, professionally or personally.

Obviously, there are jerks. Talent does not always predict good behavior. The backstabbing, cherry-picking, credit-hogging SOB is alive and well in Adland. While they are sometimes foiled by their own hubris, most hide inside the lingering fat of big agencies, manipulating people and the truth, and making too much money on the backs of others.

We are quick to call them hacks. But that might be a specious declaration. For hacks often possess great people skills. It helps him or her succeed in lieu of talent.

My wonderment is about the very best in our business, past and present. The true creative geniuses. Are/Were any of them assholes? If so, is/was bad behavior tolerated because of exceptional talent? Is “thinking different” a license to kill?


I am officially, unequivocally amazed at the relentless fervor over Apple’s release of their newest iPhone. It’s almost as if the object came with the gift of immortality or offered some kind of glimpse into the meaning of life. People the world over want the damn thing. Are obsessed over it. Will wait in line for it. Over night! On the street! Will pay others to wait in line for it. Over night! On the street!

No matter it cost hundreds of dollars.

No matter it is only incrementally better than the previous iteration (which I own by the way).

No matter it will require costly peripherals to operate.

No matter Apple’s guru, Steve Jobs is dead.

No matter Samsung has arguably a better product and they are advertising it quite effectively.  The “waiting in line” campaign by agency 72 & Sunny is hysterical.

No matter Apple’s advertising isn’t what it used to be.

No matter.

People don’t care. The iPhone 5 is another hit in a long line of hits going back years: iPod. iTouch. iPad. iPhone.


I can’t think of a brand that has created so much heat for so long. Can you? Maybe Starbucks. Maybe Nike. Maybe the Simpson’s. Maybe not. We’re told nothing lasts forever. Especially in the ephemeral world of technology. Motorola. Nokia. I remember when Sony was the shit. Now those brands are also-rans, fading like embers from yesterday’s barbeque.

Even Christianity has seen better days. (Ironic it started with a man biting into an apple!) Cynic that I am I keep wondering if the other shoe will ever drop on Apple. Not when, mind you. “If.” Given there are more Apple products in our house than children and pets combined I’m not holding my breath. Or selling my stock.

First in line…

Fresh news: Apple worlds first trillion dollar company? 49141878

My eldest daughter, immersed.

So, my most-benevolent father gave each one of my three daughters an iPad for Christmas. This absolutely trumps what had been the best present ever, the monogrammed “Hoodie Footies” I’d ordered them, which they adore and wear constantly.

However, while the girls may be donning pink pajamas their noses are buried in iPads. Ostensibly, we are visiting my father for the holidays but, in reality, the little ones are visiting the untold worlds now available to them on the Worldwide Web.

I wonder if Steve Jobs really understood what he was conjuring when he imagined his magic tablet: that human beings would be powerless in the shiny face of its preternatural glow. Of course he did. For him, and millions others, the upside clearly outweighs the down.

There’s a nifty line of copy is a recent car commercial, where the announcer says something to the effect of no one ever grew up wishing they could visit a website. That’s true, I suppose, for some. But my girls? I wonder. Maybe they are in fact growing up wishing they could visit a website; it sure looks like it.

Today, we visited the Apple Store in Santa Monica. It was killing it. Crowds three deep. Shiny, happy people buying shiny happy things. By contrast, the Playstation Headquarters two doors down was deader than a graveyard.

Mr. Jobs- if you’re able to check on your iWorld via some heavenly app then you know Apple blew up Christmas. Again. I’m sure my girls would thank you if they weren’t lost in the matrix.

Digital gone to far (image from Videodrome)

Every time I hear marketing people use the word “digital,” and indeed I use it myself, I keep going back to something Rishad Tobaccowala wrote in his excellent essay, Four Thoughts on the Future of Advertising: “The world might be digital but people are analog.”

He gives plenty of texture around the comment (how agencies overcompensate for various deficiencies by stressing digital, etc.) but one can take the comment at face value and still glean plenty, especially in the wake of Steve Jobs’ recent passing.

From day one, Jobs understood how much technology depended on the human touch, figuratively and literally. And that if there were a one-word catchall it wouldn’t be “digital” but rather “design.” And design, Jobs said, was not merely how good something looked but how well it worked.

To him (and for us), Digital was more than just tools but extensions of our limbs and imaginations. Not hardware and software. Lifeware. Sight, feel and now voice are the operating principles that drive Apple. Not “technology solutions,” a phrase, like the word digital, that couldn’t sound more inhuman if it tried.

Jobs introduces iPad. More than hardware and software…

Oh, the irony! For the last decade or longer we marketing geniuses have gone great guns trying to bolster our digital creds, doing everything in our power to look savvy, often at the expense of working savvy. We learned the hard way that flashy microsites were likely meaningless to our client’s businesses. That hundreds of thousands of views on You Tube often meant winning a popularity contest without any prize. That brands aren’t social just because they’re on Facebook and Twitter. And so on…

The costs have been tremendous. To us and to our clients. But make no mistake clients are as culpable as we are. The clamoring for digital came from all corners. I’d argue that social media (another tetchy term) has exploded the myth of digital, reminding us Tweet by Tweet that people are and always will be living, breathing, human beings; in other words: analog.

However painful the learning curve, for Adland this is good news. Agencies are at their best when we put ideas before clients and, dare I say, technology.