At least he was honest…

The lottery has been trending, hasn’t it? No not the famous short story by Shirley Jackson. (If you haven’t read it you should.) Something about 1.5 billion dollars caught everyone’s attention. Biggest jackpot ever. A “call to action” if I ever saw one. Any direct marketer would salivate if he could generate the response that Powerball did. It made everyone and their brother a consumer. Unfortunately, offering two additional lines for $19.99 on your Family Plan just doesn’t have the same pull.

The fantasy of winning untold riches is at the crux of human desire. It drove countless throngs into the California wilderness looking for gold. A few found some. More died trying. Still, there was that chance…

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The Golden Ticket. It could be in that very next chocolate bar. But you have to buy the chocolate bar. Or hundreds of them.

Or you can rob a bank. Why is it we root for bank robbers in the movies and romance them in our history books? Because it taps into that same fantasy: Getting rich. Now. Safe crackers and masked robbers titillate us to the point where we overlook the criminality of it. Jesse James is revered as a folk hero and not the viscious douchebag he undoubtedly was. It’s not right but it’s true.

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“It’s my time.”

The dream to change one’s circumstances via riches is deeply human and more than a little sad. Obviously, if there’s a God in Heaven, He would prefer we not covet cash. Monetary enlightenment is an oxymoron. We are taught it is the root of all evil. That it corrupts. That the super rich are super assholes. Remember the “Occupy” movement? Down with the 1%.

And yet who didn’t buy a lottery ticket this week? I’m willing to bet millions of people who otherwise despise the 1% stood in line for a shot at becoming one. Perhaps these myriad hopefuls believe, upon winning hundreds of millions of dollars, that they would not become selfish snobs living only for pleasure and hedonism. One need only look at rock stars and pro athletes to see how that plays out. Sure, I’m generalizing (there are plenty of millionaires and billionaires who are great philanthropists) but you must concede the point: We are all willing to chance our integrity for the possibility of riches. It’s the American Dream.

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The firefish goby. (Nemateleotris magnifica) From the warm waters of the Western Pacific, it’s not considered a difficult fish in the reef keeping hobby. Unlike its strong name, the firefish is peaceful. Even shy, often darting into nooks and crannies when alarmed. It won’t pick on other fish or nibble on corals.

I picked one up from my local fish store a few days ago and introduced it into my reef aquarium. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of my tank were not as hospitable to the firefish as it was to them. Within moments of releasing the goby, it was harassed by several different fish. You see, many reef fish are as territorial as they are beautiful. As soon as the startled firefish visited another section of the tank, a resident attacked it. They didn’t want to eat the goby, merely to chase it away. Not in my neighborhood, each told the firefish. Go wave your dorsal fin somewhere else.

The bullying continued and soon I feared for the creature’s life. With good cause. A pecked upon fish is vulnerable to disease. Worse, the wounded animal is easily taken for dinner by the invertebrets living within the rocks and on the sand floor. They aren’t called the “clean up crew” in the hobby for nothing. My crabs, shrimp and snails would make quick work of the struggling firefish.

When the animal disappeared from my tank, I pretty much knew it was lunch. Even so I looked everywhere for it. With a pen light I gazed into every recess, behind every rock. Nothing. Not even a frail skeleton. Terrified, the firefish must have swam deep into a small cave, died and was eaten. Hopefully, in that order.

I’ve lost fish before. Over the years, hundreds. You get used to it. But this one hurt a little more because it touched a nerve. I, too, had to leave a reef of sorts: my job. Only a few days ago I’d been ensconced with my tank mates. And then…

My aquarium had been a pleasant distraction, same as a garden brings another solace and tranquility. The firefish was my first addition since I’d left my post. Now it was gone. I’d failed. The perfect metaphor, yes?

No.

This evening when I was feeding my tank, up from the depths emerged the firefish wielding its great dorsal fin like a sword. Not so shy anymore, he hovered middle of the water column like a samurai. No longer did the other fish bother him. Looking right at me, he took his evening meal. I realized the firefish hadn’t been hiding; he’d been gathering his resolve. And now he was ready to take his proper place, front and center, this coral reef. As he chewed the krill, spitting out bubbles, I imagined him saying: “Fin up, brother. We got this.”

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Up from the depths, front and center…

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I love it when I crack the code on a piece of creative. You might not believe me but I love it even more when someone in my group cracks the code on a piece of creative. Either way, this was, is and always will be the best part of my job.

Which is as it should be. It doesn’t matter how big or small the job or what medium it’s in. That first peek at something that works, that will work, that will please the person paying for it, is bliss. You won’t believe me again but seeing a set of banners that totally nails the brief is as intoxicating as looking at a tight and right storyboard for a TV commercial. Knowing to one’s core that a piece of creative is capable of winning the day is, if I remember correctly and I do, like that first sip of that first martini: so freaking good!

Whether it comes right away or is the result of toiling, bearing witness to the birth of a healthy campaign is why I get up in the morning and go to work. Everything else -operations, meetings and conference calls- is work. It’s the job part of the job. The creative piece is the gift. And as with any good gift the giver feels as good or better than the receiver. Which is also as it should be.

Within the last two weeks I’ve gotten to see such a thing. Twice. Two different projects. With differing people involved, and me to a certain extent. How lucky am I? While it would not be professional of me to discuss specifics or showcase the work, I most certainly can write about the joy that it brought.

So much of what we do in Adland is fraught with anxiety and stress. We bicker over strategy and deliverables and what’s right and what’s wrong that we often forget that in the delivery room are babies (and I don’t mean the creatives). New campaigns, hours old, are things worth celebrating. Of course, we seldom do. They’re fragile here. And besides now we must prep them for clients, tightening the copy, tweaking the art direction, responding to the pokes and prods of our fellows, and otherwise getting them ready for that precarious run up the flagpole.

But sometimes even in this newbie state you know everything is going to be all right. You just know. Internally, with the client, and even the consumer you know you are holding the Ace of Spades.


“I am the shark!”

Last week popular culture jumped the shark. Yes, I know popular culture is always jumping the shark. But not like last week. This was something else. Last week popular culture catapulted the shark.

Thank you, Charlie Sheen. I can’t recall such fanfare for one man –especially such a ridiculous man- in my entire goddamn life. Can you? In 2008, the buzz over Barack Obama came close. But Obama was about to become the first black president of the United States of America. Merely by speaking, Sheen single-handedly knocked rogue-psycho dictator, Kadafi off our front pages and, if we’re being honest, all of our radars. “Rivers of blood?” Yawn. Charlie gave us “Tiger’s blood & Adonis DNA!” By offering the Full-Monty of his Super Ego, Charlie Sheen turned on, turned off and transfixed the world.

Even Mel Gibson’s vile tirades of last year seem small by comparison. Whereas Mel came off sad and pathetic Charlie is…well… glad and pathetic. That’s it, then, isn’t it? His unmitigated glee. The TV shrinks claim we’re seeing mania, the chronic upside to a bi-polar disorder. So, where’s the crash? When does Adonis come whimpering onto Oprah begging for forgiveness? I don’t see it, either. Why should he? In between rants, Sheen jumped on Twitter and in 24 hours amassed over 1,000,000 followers. Now he’s doubled that, and counting. Usually hitting bottom requires the opposite to happen: people abandon you. Not hang on your every word.

Up until a few days ago, Sheen was known primarily for starring in a stupid but popular sitcom and for his relentless obsession with contraband, hookers and porn stars. Like his dad, he’d been in a few movies. Even a good one. But unlike most actors, Sheen stayed popular (and got paid tons of money) despite being a major-league douche bag. His bad boy rep actually seemed to help him.

And now it has catapulted him into the stratosphere. Already, he could make millions just on twitter sponsorships alone. Writing a book, he wants and will get $10,000,000 in advance for it. Of course he’ll do SN&L. Then maybe tour like Conan. And when he returns to Hollywood he’ll be treated like the “winner” he says he is.

Or maybe not. Sheen did a live webcast that by all accounts sunk his battleship.

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