Thursday, January 04, 2007
Saturday, December 23, 2006
But before I bid adieu for 2006, I wanted to leave you with this lovely little story that I found in my inbox this morning. Like all the best stories, this one is true. It happened to my friend and A-list director (hire him) Norry Niven. Here it is, with his permission:
Yesterday evening I stopped for gas on my way home from work and noticed an old stray dog waiting outside the store. Not too close to suggest he was a pet yet just close enough and skinny enough to say he was hungry enough to be there, waiting for anything to eat. He was a large, collar-less, black dog with a mangy, soft coat and big, sweet eyes.
As I went inside to pay I hoped he'd be there long enough for me to get him a bite of something warm for dinner. I scoured the store quickly and purchased a preheated sausage in one of those gas station fried food vending areas; barely qualifying as human food, this was the easy choice.
When I returned outside there was a man, who had his dinner on a newspaper stand and was yelling at the dog to leave saying, "Get out from here dog, this is my food!" The dog started to go back into the street but I got his attention with the grub.
The man said, "Is that your dog?"
I said, "Not mine....that dog belongs to all of us."
The stray ate what I gave him in seconds as I returned to my car.
Driving away I got stopped at the light, looked across traffic and saw something that brought the spirit of the holiday back into my heart.
The man who had been screaming at the poor stray.
The man who snarled at me.
The man who stood there and saw that dog's sweet eyes and who saw how quickly he'd eaten my food.
That man was kneeling down, sharing half of his sandwich with that old, hungry, stray mutt.
And isn't that what giving is all about?
So that others will do the same and eventually the less fortunate might survive through at least one more cold, heartless, winter night.
One good deed to your fellow man, one kind act, that's all it takes.
God bless and Merry Christmas -
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Want to do something good while only lifting your clicking finger? Make isara.com your homepage. It’s a web portal with Google searching built in, so you can go there instead of Google. More importantly, all ad revenue generated by the site is donated to charity. Founded by a fellow film/video aficionado – and all-around better guy than myself – who lives halfway around the world in Thailand. Check out the video for more info. Then go change your homepage.
Monday, December 18, 2006
I’m speaking to the over-thinkers, the focus group wonks, the what-iffers and what-elsers that can’t seem to get out of their own way and actually run a decent ad. Or any ad, for that matter.
You know who you are.
Here’s a newsflash: Advertising is not hard. It’s not easy, no, but it’s not nearly as difficult as some of you make it out to be. The key to creating good ads is the same as it is for running any successful business: It’s the people. Get creatives that can turn the art of commerce into artful commerce. Find account planners that really do become the voice of the consumer and not the voice of the latest research trend. Dig deep and find account people who actually love and understand advertising. They do exist. I’ve met them.
Look around your office. Do you have these people? If so, move to the second, final and most important step:
Let these people do their jobs.
This goes for owners, account directors, CDs and peers. If the only thing you do all day is sit around deconstructing the efforts of others to find the .05% of their ideas that might not work, go away. If you can only ask a creative to sell you on an idea instead of being able to sell it back to them, shut up. If think your job is to make sure an ad is bulletproof before it goes in front of the client, guess again. No ad is invincible. No ad will ever be universally loved. The only way you’ll ever get everyone to agree on an ad is when it reeks. And even then some direct mail person will scoop up the remains and send them out in a “targeted e-blast.”
I know, you know and the client knows there are infinity-plus-one ways to solve a problem. So quit trying to find the one you think is “the best” and look for one (or three) that works. Unless you never have a deadline. Then feel free to tinker all you want. The rest of us will be over here in the real world getting the job done.
If you can honestly help make an idea better, speak up. Most people – even creatives – want the end product to be as great as possible. I’ll even thank you by name when accepting my pencil. But if you’re just in it to cast doubt and aspersions and bandy about fear like a radioactive beach ball, then please, just sit there. Observe. Maybe you’ll learn something.
After all, most of us do know what we’re doing. So get out of our way, and let us do what we do best.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Offended yet? No? Not even a little? Must be losing my touch. Surely, if one believes the Powers That Be in the media, there is no more incendiary salutation than “Merry Christmas.” Why, the mere hint of the C-word will most assuredly send the culturally sensitive among us into apoplectic fits.
But I’m not here to discuss the larger cultural issues associated with Christmas and the repeated attacks it endures each year from the secularists. I’m here to chastise advertisers who refuse to acknowledge the holiday even exists anymore.
Holiday trees. Holiday decorations. Holiday shopping. Holiday get-togethers. Holiday sales. Come one! Come all! It’s the Generic Holiday Season! Buy our stuff!
Here’s my one point: if you don’t mind making 40% of your profits during one six-week period; if you don’t mind advertising sale upon sale and having extended hours during the month of December; if you have no problem decking the aisles with red and green while accepting consumers’ green at the register; if, in other words, you have no problem making money off of Christmas, then come out and say CHRISTMAS.
Who exactly are you going to offend? Hanukkah shoppers? I’ve known several dozen Jewish people in my life and not one ever threatened to smack me down for being overly jolly. Maybe the Kwanzaa gang will come after you. All 54 of them. Followers of Festivus? They party just like the rest of us.
And what if someone is offended? So what? If you really wanted to be all things to all people you should’ve gone into politics. And maybe, just maybe, that .000045% of sales you lose will be up for by shoppers who are happy to have their holiday recognized and respected instead of just ripped off for commercial purposes. Just a thought.
I promise: We Christmas shoppers will not get offended if you have a Ramadan sale. As long as you have deep discounts on flat-screen TVs.
So come on, Best Buy and Target and CompUSA! Join with Kohl’s and Wal-Mart and other merchants who finally realized that the reason their sales drop off dramatically on December 25 is because it just happens to be Christmas.
You don’t have to acknowledge that Christ is Lord. Just acknowledge that, without His birth, you’d be in a world of hurt making your numbers.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
For more information on Mr. Hunt, visit The Kansas City Chiefs Official Site.
So my buddy Mike, co-proprietor of O’Malley’s Irish Pub and the Weston Brewing Company, calls me up the other day and asks, “Who’s the weirdest person you can imagine coming into the pub and playing banjo with Bob [our usual entertainment]?”
“I dunno,” says I. “The guy who played Dauber on the hit ABC series ‘Coach’?”
“Close. Kevin Nealon.”
“Sweet. Now I’m two degrees from Kevins Bacon and Nealon.”
“Well then, Merry Christmas to you.”
Most of our conversations are like this, by the way. Although only 35%-40% feature guys named Kevin.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
We’ll see if I actually manage to make this a weekly occurrence, but after hearing this absurd tagline on the radio this morning I just had to share. Are you ready? Are you sure? Okay.
OmniAmerican Bank is Pioneering forward.
Note the lack of a capital “F.” That’s straight from their website.
How is this awful? Let me count the ways:
- The tagline includes the name of the company. Apparently in hopes of forcing people to remember the name – hey, you can’t remember the tagline without the name of the bank! Good call.
- Wow, you’re moving forward? I was hoping for a more sixth-century acting banking institution.
- Pioneering is not a verb. It’s an adjective. The bank can be pioneering, but it cannot commence with pioneering; e.g., “Hey, Bob, let’s go out pioneering at the Kit Kat Klub later.” The only form of “pioneer” that is a verb is “pioneered,” and it’s transitive. Look it up.
- Did you see #3?
I blame this on Kinko’s. Years ago, while many of you were still tickling your non-TMX Elmos, Kinko’s ran a campaign that turned “office” into a verb. That tagline: The new way to office.
Ten years later, we end up here. Alone and weepy.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Okay, here’s the backstory: The original Rocky, which was released 30 years ago in 1976, is the first movie I remember seeing in the theater. I was four. I can only assume my parents figured I wouldn’t really pay attention. But I did. Fortunately for them, my brother was three years older and I was smart enough to not try whaling on him when we got home.
I loved that first movie. What kid wouldn’t? You’re small, you have no rights, you can’t really do anything, you’re the youngest sibling (in my case) and you’re a bit of an introvert (severely so, in my case). You are Rocky. The underdog that overreaches. The guy who doesn’t just dream the impossible dream, he beats that dream into submission one side of beef at a time. Who wouldn’t like that?
(Apparently, everybody liked it. After all, it did win Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture, along with nominations for Best Actor and Best Screenplay for Stallone.)
I grew up with Rocky Balboa. The sequel where he actually wins the title (forgot that he only tied in the first one, did you?) The third one where Mr. T vows to take his woman and “Eye of the Tiger” sets the stage for one of the Best TV Spots Ever. Rocky IV brought us some sweet jingoism, Dolph Lundgren and the future Ms. Ex-Stallone Brigitte Nielsen, as well as another sweet Survivor tune (“Burning Heart”) that I played in 7th-grade band. I believe there was also a fifth Rocky movie, but most people choose to disavow its existence.
I played “Gonna Fly Now” in the 7th-grade talent show. Maynard Ferguson I ain’t, but I rocked that junior high gym stone cold. Heck yeah.
So yes, I have an affinity for the series as a whole. But I’m also interested in this final chapter because it mirrors Stallone’s own life. Rocky was his triumph. His nadir was, well, how do you choose? Cobra? Over the Top? Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot? Driven? And did I mention Brigitte “Now Ms. Ex-Flava Flav” Nielsen?
But now he’s back. He wrote the screenplay. He directed the movie. His arms are thicker than my torso. He’s even pitching the movie to the faith-based audience.
Are these good things? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll be pulling for the Italian Stallion. After all, I do love a good underdog story.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Here’s an argument that is either for or against CGC, as it is known. Which side of the argument you think it’s for depends on your personal point of view. And if you can't guess mine, you must be new around here.
Monday, November 13, 2006
You’ve heard his voice approximately six billion times. You’ve even seen him in the recent Geico television campaign. Now find out a little more about the man who makes more in one day of talking than I do in over a year of pimping the value. Ladies and gentlemen, Don LaFontaine.
Yes, I know this isn’t a new segment, but it’s still good for the kids.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Jack Palance died yesterday. Or, more likely, he chose to stop living. I doubt death held much sway over Jack Palance. He was one of my favorite actors for a few simple, if possibly odd, reasons:
- He hosted the television version of “Ripley’s…Believe It or Not” when I was a kid. The best part of the entire show was when he would end a segment by intoning, “Believe it! [then he’d sharply inhale] Or not!”
- As most people know, Jack, at age 114, he performed 2,439 one-arm push-ups at the Academy Awards. I’m still working on my first.
- In the mid 90s he cut a commercial for Aqua Velva that included not one, but two eminently quotable lines. “I don’t need some fancy cologne to tell me I’m a man,” and, “Confidence is so sexy, don’t you think?”
Can you argue with either of those statements? No. You can’t. And if you try, Mr. Palance’s disembodied soul will hunt you down and crush you like the Hai Karate-wearing punk you are.
Believe it. [sharp inhale] Or not.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Then stop reading now.
Hate is a strong word. So when I say that I hate the phrase “marketing communications,” you can trust that I’m not using it for hyperbole. I hate marketing communications consultants. I hate marketing communications materials. And I have difficulty trusting any entity that refers to itself as a marketing communications firm. (Double points off if “strategic” is in front of that descriptor. Gee, you use strategy? How novel. We were looking for something a bit more willy-nilly.)
Why such vitriol for the Double M of Mephistopheles? Because the phrase does exactly what “marketing communications” aren’t supposed to do: complicate the truth. Marketing communications – even junk mail, spam blasts and flyers touting the local club for discriminating gentlemen – are advertising. Period. So call it advertising.
People know what advertising is.
Which is, of course, the reason some people don’t like calling it advertising.
Advertising connotes a certain amount of creativity went into the finished piece. A bit of artistry. A touch of inspiration. Basically, the very things most marketing communications materials lack.
Marketing communications materials are by the numbers. They stick to tried-and-supposedly-true formulas. Sending a direct mail letter? Make it a personal appeal from someone in the company, but write it with plenty of bullet points – and always have an odd number of bullet points.
And please avoid any form of mass media. Marketing communications must be targeted according to ZIP, age, income, hair color, religious affiliation and preference for tomatoes or tomahtoes.
Marketing communications materials show their strategy. Wouldn’t want the audience to misinterpret anything by letting a little entertainment value get in the way of the message. And would an exclamation point or three kill you? Didn’t think so!
By claiming to produce marketing communications materials instead of advertising, the offending company absolves itself from having to produce good work. Keep production cheap and response rates good enough and you’ve got yourself a respectable ROI, Skippy. So what if the brand image suffers? Live in the now, man!
Of course, many clients love marketing materials. They’re concrete. They’re measurable. They have a specific purpose. They’re for marketing, by gum, and we gotta sell, sell, sell! Advertising might be about moving the needle, but it might also just create warm, fuzzy feelings in consumers’ hearts. Where does that leave you? People feeling sorry for you when you file Chapter 11? Not on this marketing manager’s watch, bub.
Now, I’ve dealt with agencies that used the term “marketing communications” that were, at their heart, ad agencies. They just got sucked into the jargon a bit. Such is life. I’ve also dealt with so-called advertising agencies that did nothing but produce marketing communications materials. You find a lot of frustrated people (and not just creatives) in those shops.
I’ve spouted this rant to get down to this: Can we please just get back to doing some good ads? People like good ads. They rewind the Tivo for good ads. They email good ads to friends. They remember good ads. They act upon good ads.
Ads, people, ads.
Because no one has ever run up to a friend, their voice quivering with excitement, and said, “Dude, check out these sweet marketing communications I got last night!”
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
Now, I’m fairly politically aware. I even swing to the side of the aisle not usually occupied by my creative brethren. (A fact shocking to no one who reads this blog.) I hate looking at a ballot and realizing that I don’t know who this judge in District 3 is or if he’s a complete schmoe. But the problem with elections isn’t the dangling chads, electronic ballots that run on Windows 98 or that fact that registering to vote automatically throws you into the jury pool.
It’s the advertising. (Duh, like that wasn’t obvious.)
If you need me to explain why political advertising is hideous or need me to cite examples of such advertising, well, too bad. Turn on the TV or your radio and give it ten minutes.
Tomorrow, I celebrate. For then the political ads will vanish and I shall once again be confronted with the eternal question of: Who approved the tagline “Have a happy period”? ’Cause that ain’t right.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
But my mission continues.
Therefore, I present my latest list:
How Justin Timberlake is Bringing Sexy Back
On a slow boat from China
In the back of a 1974 Pinto station wagon
In the expandable front pocket of his Roll-A-Board
Less Cameron Diaz, more Cameron Manheim
Via FedEx 3-day economy
Monday, October 16, 2006
Friday, October 06, 2006
I’ve been at three agencies so far. All run by account guys. I'd like to avoid that again unless said account guy is really an ad guy. And if you don't know what that means, don't call me.
I’m not sure what this fourth chapter of my career will entail. I’ll be looking at more agencies to be sure, and if one feels right I’ll join it. Assuming they ask. But I may also just freelance, attempt to get some voice over work and maybe finish all those other writing projects I never seemed to have time for. Megan and I have been praying for God to open a new door – this must just be step one.
For the moment, send me your leads, your freelance gigs, your tax-free cash gratuities. And thanks for reading.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I don’t know who you are, Mr. or Ms. Minion of The Bounce Agency. I don’t know if you are a copywriter, an art director, a media gal, an account wonk or a bored intern. I don’t know if you are a man, woman or internet-loving mutant goat. I just know you’ve looked at my blog every single day since I installed my site counter. And that was weeks ago.
Why do you darken the door of my AdHole on such a regular basis? Does the natural beauty of South Carolina not adequately fill your soul? Are my observations about life, advertising and lemurs so weighty that you simply cannot wait for a new one to be posted? Are you simply crying out in your loneliness, hoping to find a kindred soul in the vast cosmos of the intergorelactic cyberuniverse?
Or are your motives more nefarious? I warn you: Do not taunt the power of the shiv.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Things to Remember When Creating an Ad (and Other Random Musings):
- Nobody wants to read/watch your ad; give them a reason to.
- You will constantly have to remind others that you don't need to say the product in the first sentence of a TV spot. It's 30 seconds. If you can't hold someone's attention for the 20 seconds it takes you to get to the product name, find some other line of work.
- A technique or look is no substitute for substance. Monkeys, however, are.
- When someone tells you, "We'll really have to do a good job of casting for this one," look him in the eye and respond, "Well, you know, that *is* actually our job." Although I personally prefer something much more sarcastic.
- If a direct-mail person tells you you have to have an odd number of bullet points, use one per subhead. After all, you can't argue with the science behind a 1% response rate.
- Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience. The subtleties of value-priced hemorrhoid cream are lost on few.
- The AE is not your CD/writer/art director/producer no matter what the Wal-Mart account people think.
- The next time someone tells you, "We've got to pick our battles," ask them if they can even remember the last battle they picked.
- Ellipses are the devil's handiwork and/or handmaiden (sorry, Shan).
- Assume you're right until proven otherwise.
- It's the little compromises that add up to a giant bucket of suck.
- Black is still slimming.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
So what about the extreme camps that exist in advertising? The first camp is one that most, if not all, of the people reading this blogtacular prose will readily decry – a group I collectively label The Hacks.
You know The Hacks. They’re the people that keep using stock photos of men shaking hands and men pointing at computer screens and men standing around with a look of unspecified concern. Many Hacks can be found in agencies with names like Awesome Advertising Concepts, SuperPostcards+ and Deutsch. The Hack believes that advertising is a science. A science best practiced through direct mail or, as they call it, The Direct Response Paradigm. They have a euphemistic name for everything. They don’t mail things in boxes or tubes. The send them in Dimensional Mailers. A postcard is a Business Reply Card – the dreaded BRC. And they have rules aplenty. Always use an odd number of bullet points. Always use a lot of bullet points. Oversized postcards really stand out even though everyone else is using an oversized postcard. Put the same message on both sides of the Self-Mailing Oversized Post Message Delivery Unit just in case the spammee doesn’t flip the card over. Even though no one in the history of everything has ever not flipped a postcard over. The Hacks know what they’re doing, dang it. And it doesn’t matter what your brand stands for or to whom you’re advertising – if you want to sell something, they’ve got a formula to do it.
You hate The Hacks. I hate The Hacks. If we have a department of Hacks in our office, we often argue with them. Hacks give the rest of us the stench of hucksterism. And if I’m going to stink, I prefer my own natural musk. It’s kind of like creamed corn. You’d love it.
At the other side of the scale is a group that doesn’t get its nose tweaked very often. A group that is generally praised and even worshipped in the Halls of Advertising. They are The Artistes. Artistes believe that advertising is not just an art form, it’s *the* fine art form of the 21st century. Tapping into the zeitgeist. Altering the zeitgeist. Excessively using the term “zeitgeist.” The Artistes worship at the Alter of Bogusky, even if he thinks they’re all wankers. They wonder – out loud – why Spielberg hasn’t tapped them to pen the next Indiana Jones after seeing their wicked awesome Downy Dryer Ball spot. The Artistes believe in Advertising for the sake of Advertising. A cool ad is a cool ad, so what if no one remembers whom it was for.
The Artistes bug me almost as much as The Hacks. Almost. But I believe it’s easier to knock an Artiste down to the reality of being real advertising creative artist than it is to pull a Hack out the swamp of one-percent response rates (score!). An Artiste usually has a bit of talent whereas a Hack, well, is a hack. Nonetheless, both groups need to be kicked in the head a bit. The Hacks, just because. It won’t help, but it feels good. The Artistes need to be reminded that advertising is not the be-all-end-all of artistic endeavors. Most people, when asked, will not tell you that “1984” is the best commercial ever produced.
They’ll probably stick out their tongue and say, “Whassup?!” And telling them that that is so 2000 is not going to help. There’s a reason we have to give ourselves so many awards. And it’s not because we’re all so flippin’ sweet. So chill out, Chachi.
Make it cool. Make it work. Go home.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
A few years ago, Holiday Inn ran one of my all-time favorite campaigns. You know the one. It featured a 30-something loser named Michael who lived with his parents and grandmother. Instead of getting a job, he kept trying to get perks, rewards and whatnot that prompted one of his cohabitants to query, “What do you think this is, a Holiday Inn?” It was basically the same spot done over a dozen times, yet each one was so well done with such crisp writing and acting that you didn’t care that you knew the punch line. Now that’s good stuff.
Since then, I really have no idea what Holiday Inn has done in the way of broadcast advertising. (And the great Holiday Inn Express campaign doesn’t count as it’s for a sub-brand.) But the company has decided to crawl out of whatever advertising spider hole in which they were hiding to unleash a new TV campaign aimed simply at getting people to rethink their impressions of the chain. Produced by their long-time agency Fallon, these spots feature three coworkers – Ted, Marcus and Zack – on an office trip. Simple, sometimes bizarre hilarity ensues.
I think these broke in June, but I’ve just started seeing them in heavier rotation. Probably because the new season is upon and watch NBC for hours each night just for previews of “The Office” and “My Name is Earl.”
Anyway, go watch.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
Friday, September 08, 2006
Basically, it plays out like a prologue to a remake of “The Birds,” only with cutlery. First there are a few scissors skipping about innocently. The townsfolk are puzzled, yet accepting. Then one of them tosses a credit card – how he knew to do this is a mystery – and suddenly humanoid/shears bonding ensues. The streets are lined with adoring throngs tossing their MasterCards, Visas and AMEX cards to the waiting jaws of what? Credit freedom? Maiming? Death? We even see a little baby (not a frickin’ huge baby like Howard Dean) toss one of her mother’s cards to a scissor.
Awwwwwww. How cute.
But the subtext of this spot is much darker than the happy, shiny blade overlords would have you believe. First, from where did these scissors come from? Satan’s own Office Depot? Newman’s Own desk drawer? Albuquerque? Second, and more important, the townspeople have obviously learned nothing from history. Chamberlain’s attempts to appease Hitler (“Hey, what’s a little Poland between friends, Guv’ner?”) eventually led to atrocities far greater than Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor,” correct? So what happens when the citizens of Hooterville run out of credit cards to feed the scissor overlords? Yeah, that’s what I thought, Mr. Craven.
I’ll stop rambling like an over-analyzing marketing manager now.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
So yeah. I was on the front page of the business section of The Dallas Morning News yesterday. The accompanying photo, as you see here, was taken the day after The Great Hair Reduction of 2006. Good timing. But, more importantly, the article has basically made me the poster boy for Gen Y.
That’s right, people. The Dallas Morning News thinks that a soon-to-be 34-year-old pasty man with lanky overtones is the perfect portraiture of a generation made up of people aged 3 to 29, according to Wikipedia. Good call, guys. Well played.
Granted, the entire article, or a least the parts related to me, is awash in half-truths and misreporting. It’s about how businesses are tooling their spaces to be more Gen Y-friendly. Whatever. We work at an ad agency. Our space was designed by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to be, that’s right, a cool ad agency. Not as a sop to junior folks fresh off the graduation boat.
Anyway, the main quote, “My room – oh, I mean, office,” was just a slip of the tongue by one of my junior writers. The reporter then spun that into making our entire office seem like one big home away from home. She called our concept room a den. It’s not. How many dens do you know of that are T-shaped and have a giant dry erase board taking up one wall? (The space, by the way, is called The Furnace.) And we don’t have a living room. We have a kitchen/lounge area where we get coffee and sometimes eat lunch. Craziness. Madness. Insanity.
Oh, and they misspelled my partner’s name. It’s James Helms. Not Helm. Idiots. And they only show his feet. Although they are, as the ladies will tell you, his fourth best feature.
Whatever. I have poster boy duties to which I must attend. At least until the masses turn their attention from me to Paris Hilton’s DUI. Which should happen just. About. Now.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Yet their sales have been strong the past couple of years. Go figure. And feel free to ride that train as long as you can, Saatchi. I look forward to your Fall Linen Clearance Sale spots.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I liked Target’s advertising so much that I once harassed one of their agencies, Peterson Milla Hooks, about joining them. They were polite, yet somehow unimpressed by my Swan Lake Barbie TV spot for Wal-Mart. Whatever.
On Sunday night, during the Emmy Awards, Target had at least one spot in every commercial pod. Mostly new and none older than a couple of weeks. A few featured their brand name designers: Michael Graves, Isaac Mizrahi, Mossimo, Chef Boyardee. Others were those stylized montages of pretty people with products gyrating about on colorful backgrounds. All very well done. All very much in keeping with Target’s raison d'etre for advertising. I probably saw a dozen or more spots in the space of three hours.
Which is when it hit me: Target advertising is pure associative advertising. (Which is phrase I just coined for lack of a better term.) The only point of Target ads is to say, “If you like this style, this feeling, this image then shop here.” Period. No product benefits. No prices. No talking head trying to tell you how to feel about the great values you’ll find. Nothing about how their stores are less cluttered than Wal-Mart’s. In fact, the advertising is fairly disconnected from the shopping experience. You don’t go to Target to browse. You go buy toilet paper. And if you happen to see a cool clock or t-shirt, you buy it. You don’t really feel all warm and tingly while you’re there. But you *do* feel better when you mention that you went shopping at Target last night instead of the big W.
Target advertising advertises the soul of the brand. Which is why most companies stick to price/item and testimonials. After all, you have to have a soul in order to share it.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Here we are now, infotain us.
People want to be entertained. Advertisers want to inform. Great advertising - the stuff that actually works - does both. It has to. Because an ad with no entertainment will be ignored. And an ad without a message does nothing for the brand. So if you want to move the needle, move the heart. Or make 'em laugh. Maybe even shed a tear. Just make sure they remember who did it. When that happens, everybody wins.
And when in doubt -– CLICK ON THE WHITE SPACE!
On a more personal level, the July update to whoisjasonfox.com is up for those who care. According to my page counter, there are 46 of you. Awesome.
Monday, August 14, 2006
And so it begins.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
• To see a guy about, you know, some stuff. So don’t wait up.
• South Padre
• To see Fountains of Wayne at the Roxy
• On a three-hour tour
• To pick up a carton of Merit 100’s
• Over the river and through the woods
• To a Tony Robbins seminar
As I have no idea what my chances of actually getting posted on McSweeneys.net are, I’ll post my list here for your amusement and possible discomfort.
The Ways In Which I, Jason Fox, Rock
Like a hurricane.
Til we pop.
Like the Rock of Ages.
In the U.S.A.
Around the clock tonight.
In the free world.
At the casbah.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Anyway, here’s an old bit of writing I did back in the day. You know, the day. Don’t ask which day, you uppity punk, it’s just the day. Yeeesh. Yes, it’s very Onion-esque. That was the job at the time. You know, the time back in the day.
Sheboygan, WI--In what one eyewitness described as "the greatest miracle since Jesus smote the hippies," local man Bart Shebangski, 43, walked away from what should have been a tragic end to his weekly poker game.
At approximately 9:42 p.m. last evening, Mr. Shebangski was engaged in a game of five-card draw (jokers wild) at the home of long-time friend Bill "Stinkbomb" Berkowitz, 44. Also in attendance were Charles Nelson Reilly ("No relation."), 39, and Hank Bunko, 41.
Unconfirmed sources report a dog of unidentifiable breed may also have been present.
According to Mr. Reilly, the foursome were "on our fourth or fifth hand and third 12-pack of Hamm's. Stinkbomb had just trumped Bart's two pair with a full house. Boy howdy, Bart almost choked on his pork rinds right then and there. But, you know, he cracked open another Hamm's and everything seemed A-OK."
Mr. Berkowitz continued, "I don't know how it happened. Hank was dealing a new hand and we was all jawing about whether or not you can train monkeys to do your yard work. Chuck says he saw it on an old "That's Incredible!" he saw on Nick at Nite, but even so, I ain't letting no flippin' Chim-Chim within 10 feet of my John Deere. Anyway, I cracked open another Hamm's when I spotted something out of the corner of my lazy eye. Sure enough, there was Bart just sitting there and counting his money as if Kenny Rogers had never been born."
Mr. Shebangski's friends leapt to action. "Yeah, Stinkbomb grabbed the money from him – which was really Pringles and jerky chips since our wives don't let us bet real money – and Hank called 911," stated an emotionally shaken Mr. Reilly. "I cracked open another Hamm's."
EMTs Rick Majors and Eileen O'Nannan responded to the scene and discovered "complete chaos," in the words of EMT Majors. "We found four guys reeking of buck-fifty Macanudos and drunk off their [bottoms] on Hamm's. Hamm's, dontchaknow. Two guys are yelling at each other over how much jerky they should pay the orangutan weed-whackers. One guy's just sitting there cracking open another Hamm's. And the alleged victim's lying on the ground with some sort of dog or opossum getting all carnal with his artificial leg."
"So we left," stated EMT O'Nannan.
"Them ambulance people wasn't too happy with us," recalled Mr. Berkowitz. "So we all drug Bart into my F150, grabbed the rest of the Hamm's and headed for the VA hospital. Bart gets to go to the VA 'cause he was in Grenada."
When asked if Mr. Shebangski lost his leg serving in Grenada, Mr. Reilly stated, "He likes to tell the chicks that, but he really lost it in a wicked Ultimate Frisbee accident."
No one really knows what motivated Mr. Shebangski to count his money while still sitting at the table – a move clearly declared off limits in Kenny Rogers' classic country hit "The Gambler."
"Our investigation could not determine a modus operandi, or motive, in layman's terms," declared Sheboygan police chief Clive Smeggers. "I think it's just a case of temporary insanity. I mean, they made what, four or five of them "Gambler" TV movies? Sure, the ones with Bruce Boxleitner didn't have much of a dramatic arc, but really, Mr. Shebangski had ample warning to not do what he is alleged to have may or may not perpetrated at a certain time prior to now."
"It ain't like he's ignorant or nothing," interjected Mr. Bunko. "Hell, I saw him sing 'The Gambler' once at karaoke night at the Elks lodge. Sounded like the time I snagged my neighbor's cat with my snow blower, but still, he knew the words. He knew what he was doing."
"I don't know what I was doing," claimed Mr. Shebangski after being checked over at the local VA hospital. "My wife collects Kenny Rogers commemorative plates, for cryin' out loud. The one's with 18-karat gold trim, not 10-karat like Stinkbomb's got. I eat at Kenny Rodger's Roasters every Tuesday and Friday. A number three, all white with an extra biscuit. Sweet jeepers. I'm lucky to be alive. I guess Kenny was watching over me."
When asked what the usual consequences were for his actions, Mr. Shebangski muttered something unintelligible about dwarves and genital herpes before hopping into his 1981 Pontiac Trans Am to avoid further questioning.
When asked to comment on the near-fatal gambling maneuver, songwriter/restaurateur/beard connoisseur Kenny Rogers simply stated, "That's got to be the greatest miracle since Jesus smote the hippies. Would you mind shaving my back?"
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Friday, July 28, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
Can you guess what’s wrong with it (no fair cheating, KC natives)? It should be obvious to all enlightened, progressive peoples. This billboard, this posting, this publicly displayed outdoor advertisement promulgates and propagates that most vile of humanity’s offenses: Racism.
I invite you read all about it in this op-ed column from “The Kansas City Star.”
Are you sufficiently educated now? Excellent. I know that I didn’t truly grasp the horrific nature of this ad until Mr. Diuguid enlightened me. I just thought it was a mildly amusing adult-beverage billboard with a fairly worn-out premise. Not a tool of oppression. A tool wielded by The Man himself.
Okay, I’ll grant the rhyme’s history isn’t exactly stellar. But how many people remember it? Sure, I’ve heard the rhyme used that way. I believe it was in fifth grade. Because that’s how those things work. Some wisenheimer (that’s right, I said wisenheimer) comes up to you at recess or lunch and whispers some twisted rhyme in your ear. (Years later, he’d do the same thing but ask if you wanted some weed.) So, I associate the racist nature of “eenie, meenie” with a punk from grade school. And I’ll wager that most people of my approximate age feel about the same. In fact, I never would have associated anything negative about the phrase or the billboard if the beacon of truth, justice and all that stuff known as “The Kansas City Star” hadn’t brought it to my attention.
I’ve written before that words have meanings. Likewise, phrases have meanings. And like words, the meanings of those phrases can change over time. And sometimes those changes are actually for the better. So go. Celebrate catching a tiger by the toe with a cold one. (Just make it an O’Malley’s Irish Cream Ale brewed by my buddy Mike – available at Tanner’s, The Peanut, Charlie Hooper’s, etc.)
Granted, now that I really think about it, that same wisenheimer once told me an off-color version of “Jingle Bells.” Guess I’ll have to bypass Holiday Time this year.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
Reason #1: We don’t care about soccer.
Reason #2: We don’t care about Formula 1 racing.
When France head-butted its way to defeat against Italy some time last week to claim the 2006 FIFA World Cup, approximately 12 million people in the United States were tuned in. This was, according to ABC who broadcast the game, an amazing number. Sure, it paled in comparison to the 91 million who watched the Super Bowl. Or to the 25 million who watch American Idol every week. And it’s about the same number of people who actually enjoy watching Charlie “What Kiddie Porn?” Sheen and Jon Cryer on “Two and a Half Men.” That’s right, the once-every-four-years finale to the Most Popular Sport on the Planet pulled down similar numbers as the Famous Teddy “Duckie” Z does on a Thursday night. Sweetness.
Formula 1 racing fares even worse. Running on a tape delay and getting numbers that would make UPN blush. The rest of the world finds this as puzzling as our refusal to declare the Constitution the property of Kofi Annan.
But why does our collective yawning at these mega-sports validate my jingoistic assertion of American superiority? Simple: These sports are boring, pointless affairs that I would compare to watching paint dry if doing so weren’t an insult to the memory of Bob Ross.
Soccer, which goes by the hardcore moniker of “footie” in the rest of the world, involves a great deal of running about, chasing a ball and, apparently, attempting to tie the other team. As we all know, ties lead to hooliganism.
“But wait,” I hear the Europhiles opining, “America’s favorite pastime is baseball and it’s a yawnfest, too!” Okay, I’ll give you that baseball is much more exciting to play than it is to watch. But still, baseball revolves around a guy throwing a small, hard object at another man’s head at upwards of ninety miles an hour. And to defend himself, we give the other man a stick. Bean balls are hurled. Tobacky is spit. Spikes are spiked. Fisticuffs ensue.
Footie involves an elaborate game of keep-away where touching is generally frowned upon. The toughest thing footie has is tackling. Not real tackling, mind you. Eurotackling. In footie, a “tackle” is when one player trips another and the tripee rolls around in faux pain hoping to draw a penalty. Apparently, when you play footie, everyone is French.
In F1, multimillion-dollar cars form an expensive parade behind the dominant driver and, if we’re lucky, exchange the lead in the pits. It’s a less entertaining display of skill than Sylvester Stallone’s epic drama “Driven.” NASCAR may just be a bunch of guys turning left, but at least they pass each other on a routine basis.
Still with me? Wow, you have more stamina than I.
To summarize: footie and F1 are boring. America is generally smart enough to eschew boring things (as proof I offer non-president Al Ja-gorezza). Europe is not (another “Pride and Prejudice” mini-series anyone?).
Ergo, we rock.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Despite the poor logic of the I'll-starve-myself-so-you-will-change modus operandi, our friends in Hollywood have once again pulled it out of the social protest closet to, naturally, protest the Iraq war. And to prove that their commitment to this cause knows no bounds, over 2,700 activists have pledged to forgo eating for upwards of, wait for it, 24 hours. Here's a blurb from an AFP article:
“Other supporters, including Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, novelist Alice Walker and actor Danny Glover will join a 'rolling' fast, a relay in which 2,700 activists pledge to refuse food for at least 24 hours, and then hand over to a comrade.”
Wow. Twenty-four hours. And we're not talking about a full season of “24” on Fox that takes 22 weeks to unfold. We're talking about a day. Three meals. Maybe a Fig Newton or two before bed. And then you can head back to the Ivy and get your sprouts on.
If you support the war, well, pretty much anything this crowd does reeks of stupidity and hypocrisy. And if you oppose the war, you really have to be wishing that these people would stick to being meat puppets and let others more intellectually astute argue the cause.
As it is, I don't think 24 hours without a protein shake is going to slow Spicoli down enough to matter. Pity.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
This may seem only slightly less obvious than “the sky is blue” or “monkeys are awesome,” but in a world of euphemisms where every American is hyphenated (I’m an Anglo-Teutonic-Pancreatically-Challenged-Differently-Haired-Gentile-For-Jesus-Pasty-American), it bears repeating. Words mean things.
And sometimes, a lack of words means things. My wife and I saw “Superman Returns” yesterday. On the whole, we both really enjoyed it. It may not be the best movie ever burned to celluloid, but it was very well done by all involved and worth seeing on the big screen. But there was one statement in the film that stood out to me. After Superman returns to earth after a five-year sojourn in search of his home planet, “Daily Planet” editor-in-chief Perry White is instructing his staff reporters to find out everything they can about the Man of Steel’s return. Specifically, he wants to know if Superman “still stands for Truth, Justice – all that stuff.”
“All that stuff.”
Hmmmmm. Last time I checked, “all that stuff” was the American Way. You know: Mom, apple pie, sticking it to the Nazis, saving France again for the sole purpose of eating their cheese, Route 66, funnel cakes, purple mountain majesties. Pretty good stuff, really. So, why the change?
1. “Superman Returns” has to play well in foreign markets if it hopes to make a profit on its reported $260 budget. Trotting out such a jingoistic phrase like “the American Way” would drive people away in droves, clamoring for U.N. aid to relieve their post traumatic stress disorders. Riiiiight.
2. Kofi made them do it. In “Superman Returns,” our hero no longer belongs to the United States alone. He’s the worldwide go-to-guy for pulling kitties out of trees and mimes out of their imaginary boxes. He’s U.N.-friendly. He’s SuperKofi. And he’s allowed to act unilaterally, so he obviously isn’t a stand-in for America.
There is some truth to this theory. Much is made of S being (or not) the savior of the world. We see him -- in sweet, A-Team montage fashion – saving people, buildings, etc. the world over. Even if he’s from Kansas, he’s still the BMOE.
3. The filmmakers were just getting back to the original source material. “The American Way” was not originally in the Superman canon. It was added during the Cold War to distinguish him as a truly American hero. Lest he be mistaken for a Laplander, as he often was. Considering the ages of the director and screenwriters, I find this hard to believe.
4. The writers thought it would be cool to jack with a well-known bit of Americana. The screenplay for “Superman Returns” is credited to Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris who are 31 and 26, respectively. They’re young. And, more importantly, they’re writers. All writers have a proclivity for change. We want to tweak sensibilities, twist conventions and, basically, make something our own – especially when we’re reworking an existing source. And it’s not that this desire wanes as writers age – we just learn that some things are best left untouched. Things are iconic for a reason. And it’s best to put your stamp on something by making it the best example of it yet, instead of stripping away the things people love.
So, which theory is correct? Well, I’m going with a whole lot of #4 with a bit of #2 thrown in.
Jim Croce once sang: You don't tug on Superman's cape / You don't spit into the wind / You don't pull the mask of the old Lone Ranger / And you don't mess around with Jim.
And you shouldn’t mess around with the American Way.
Happy Fourth of July,
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
This may be shocking news to most you, but to me it’s just more than a little sad. I’ve dreamed of floating on a six-inch cushion of air my entire life. Ever since I saw the ad in the back of Popular Mechanics for the plans to build a hovercraft out of a vacuum cleaner engine and some dowel rods, I haven’t looked at Hoover upright without wondering if I could cannibalize it for parts.
I mean, who doesn’t want a hovercraft?
Probably the hippies. But everyone else I know out there who isn’t a woman wants, craves and deserves a hovercraft. Imagine floating over road, water and the homeless while feeling nary a bump or wave. It’s like riding on a cloud of pure silk spewed by angels and quilted with Northern Bathroom Tissue®. The only thing keeping you from drifting off and causing a low-speed accident on the way to the Gap™ are 145 decibels of fan motors and 12,000 cfm of moving air. Ahhhhhh. It’s almost like being back in the womb.
Of course, there are downsides to hovercraft ownership. While most seat two people and, therefore, qualify for use in the HOV lane, it is generally not recommended to pilot your craft at highways speeds lest your flotilla of coolness cause accidents amongst the easily spooked Prius owners. Also, hovercrafts rarely have cup holders or space for your golf clubs.
On the positive side, you can often find surplus military hovercrafts with .50-caliber machine guns mounts for under 20 large. Fashion your own micro-tactical nukes to these mounts and you’ll be clearing out traffic like chicken korma through my colon.
G.I. Joe had a hovercraft.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Get thee behind me, Verizon Business! Thou spawn of hacks and sycophants! The power of Postaer compels you!
What we have in this Verizon Business spot is a checklist of what not to do in an ad:
1. Montage of smiling jackasses
2. Smiling jackasses looking confident
3. Smiling jackasses looking confident as they point at computers
4. Smiling jackasses looking confident as they remove their glasses and point at computers
5. Smiling jackasses looking confident while shaking hands in front of computers
6. Michael MacDonald singing “I’ll Be There”
7. Unnecessary celebrity voice over by Kieffer Sutherland
8. Vague promises of support and expertise
9. Smiling jackasses running for the subway without spilling their double half-calf soy mochas
10. Marcus "Respect and Obey My Manifesto!" Nispel directing hordes of smiling jackasses
I know what the client was thinking: “We need to show and tell customers, repeatedly, just how serious we are about being their Global Business Telecom Solutions Provider! By gumption, we’re the best doggone GBTSP out there! Get Jack Bauer on the phone!” The agency, seeing a juicy media commission and a nice production budget (multiple smiling jackasses ain’t cheap), reasoned, “Well, they’re already letting us do that Lion-quality ‘Can You Hear Me Now?’ campaign, so let’s throw ‘em a bone on this one. Gotta pick your battles, after all!” And then jackassery ensued.
The point is this (since I haven’t really made one yet): In an effort to play it safe, the client and agency spent millions of dollars producing and airing pabulum. Creating exactly the thing they wished to avoid – an ineffective spot that irritates without informing.
Kind of like this blog.
P.S. Happy birthday, mom!
P.P.S. If anyone has this spot or a link to it, please email me. I couldn’t find it myself.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
1. Have an idea. Preferably a good one. Resist the temptation to do a Yakov Smirnoff testimonial. “You mean I can get [insert product] for [insert price]? What a country!” It’ll work, but you’ll have to shoot your spot in Branson. I’ve done this. Learn from my pain.
2. Make your idea entertaining. Remember, no one cares what you’re saying. No one wants to see it. No one is hanging around just waiting to bothered with your ad. Unless you’re writing for SportsCenter. Lucky bastard.
3. Don’t do one that the client is guaranteed to like. Because you’ll hate it and they’ll buy it. If you’re so new to the business that you don't already know this, you’re still young enough to get out. Go. Go on. Git.
4. Communicate one message. One. Not one main message with a bunch of sub points. If you have to use the word “and,” you’ve probably crossed the line.
There’s more, but I can see you’re already bored. Fine, go get your freak on at YouTube.com and call it a lunch hour.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
As in, better.
I’ll give my theories on how to do this later. Right now I've got some eBay auctions to snipe.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
How Lifestyle Photography is Stealing My Soul - Part I
If you're in advertising (how to tell: you've ever uttered/heard "Our client-partner wants to leverage the synergies of this campaign in a targeted, opt-in e-blast" and only thrown up a little bit of your morning Frappaccino®), you know what lifestyle photography is. If not, here's a brief lesson:
How to identify lifestyle photography in two easy, yet redundant, steps:
1. Look at a print ad
2. Does the person in the ad make you think, "Why is that jackass smiling?"
If you answer "yes," then you're witnessing the unholy glory that is lifestyle photography. Formerly the purview of royalty-free stock photo houses and back-alley freelancers, lifestyle photography has now seeped into every corner of advertising and into all manner of brands. Almost every web banner ad you see has a lifestyle image, assuming it isn't trying to get you to shoot Osama. Why? I don't know. Maybe an attractive piece of talent is supposed to distract me from the heartbreak of psoriasis or the realization that my office cubicle is probably littered with X10 wireless surveillance cameras installed by my junior writers.
This blog makes her happy. Doesn't it make you happy, too?
Or maybe the people who demanded such me-too fare are just stupid or lazy or both. Here’s a hint: I know your product is supposed to make me happier. I don’t need Mindy from the local non-union agency flashing her bleached chompers at me to get the point.
Enough for now.
Monday, May 08, 2006
And while we're at it, asking a client "are you sure you really want it that way?" does not qualify as pushing back.
You may now return to your regularly scheduled billing.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
I'm a dude.
Okay, for more background info you can check out http://jasonfox.net/bioTableNew03.html. On with the words you won't read anyway.
Today's topic: "I'm not a writer..." "Well, I am. So shut your hole."
Possibly the most common complaint amongst advertising creatives, aside from a profound lack of donuts and Frappuccinos®, is being treated as vendor as opposed to a professional. (Note that I say "professional" and not "marketing partner." Feel-good, jargony, wonk-speak should be left for insecure, jargon-spouting wonks.) Writers, such as myself, and art directors are Professional Creative Individuals. You, Mr. or Ms. Client, hire us via the agency because, for whatever reason, you believe we know what we're doing. So pipe down. If you don't like a concept, that's cool, that's fine, we can handle it. But once you buy off on a concept, cut us some slack. When looking at a layout, think about all the things that work, not the two things that you think your boss might question. And ask yourself this: If I make this change, will it make the ad better or just more to my liking? If it's the latter, move on. As my former AD partner Paul once said, "You're not the target. Would you like to talk about Ayn Rand?" Same goes for creative directors. And account people. And other creatives. Point out flaws in strategy all day long. But if you're picking apart my colon usage, then maybe your own colon needs a little cleansing.
Here's the deal: You may have written on your high school paper. You might even have majored in journalism. Maybe your sense of color came in quite handy when painting the guest bathroom. Fine. If you can proffer comments based on these experiences in an intelligent manner, bring 'em on. We can cope with discourse. But for the love of Sasquatch don't act like your hobby and our professions are the same thing. Everybody is NOT a writer. Everybody is NOT an art director.
The point is, most of us know what we're doing. Some of us have been doing it for a long time for a lot of people at bigger companies than yours. (Sassy!) So please, just assume we know what we're doing. And we promise to grant you the same courtesy.
Sorry to start the blogging off on such a banal rant, but I didn't want to bust out of the expected blog mold too quickly out of the gate.