Monday, December 31, 2007
One thing you won't find on Ebay's "unwanted Christmas present" list is the 1956 Art Director's Awards annual I was lucky enough to receive this year. The 35th Annual cites awards in eight categories, including separate categories for Color Ads and Station Break Art Cards and Record Album Covers. (Hoagy Carmichael's won big that year.) This photo was honored in the Advertising Art category and was shown in the annual as most visuals were, without corresponding copy that mucked it up when it ran. The The photographer was Irving Penn. The art director was a guy named Hershel Bramson. Manuel Grossberg is acknowledged, perplexingly, as "Designer of Complete Unit." Stylist, you think? Anyway, here's to you and the breaking year.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Marlon Brando and black biker jackets became cultural icons after The Wild One was released 54 years ago today. Columbia Pictures kept quiet the fact that Brando and Lee Marvin, both born in 1924, were almost thirty when they played juvenile delinquents in this film considered so scandalous, it was banned from playing in Britain for 14 years.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
But why? Why is advertising one of the world's most reviled professions, one that in surveys, rates below even car dealers? We provide entertainment--often more entertainment than the content into which our stuff is embedded. We can't lie anymore, thanks to a labyrinth of consumer-protecting rules to which copy must comply. (Now, deceptive ads result in expensive lawsuits by entire cities.) And, in best case scenarios, what we do actually constitutes public education. (See Dove.)
But then, I'm knocked off my high horse by something like this. The Wall Street Journal discloses that Wacoal is introducing a girdle for men. The man-girdle is being advertised first in Japan (as if salarymen aren't already under enough pressure) not as a vanity product, but health-promoting. A statement from a doctor claims the underwear helps reduce body fat. It comes (of course) with a promotional DVD jam-packed with product benefits like how the girdle makes you take longer strides, helping you expend calories.
Between this and a scoop from Tangerine Toad alerting me to a SkyMall magazine ad hawking Gravity Defyer Shoes, I see there's still plenty to begrudge about advertising. No wonder I am reticent to disclose my profession in public, as when traveling abroad I sometimes lie about my country of origin (um, I'm from Canada) so as not to elicit in strangers feelings of undue contempt.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
When we got to Philadelphia (hello Liberty Bell) instead of gassing us up and getting us off the ground, as we'd been led to believe they would do, US Air deplaned us and sent us to baggage claim to retrieve what we'd checked. They'd be taking us up to New York... via bus. That's when we broke finally and during the bedlam created by a US Air spokeswoman being rushed, I edged over to a ticket counter to see if there were any LGA flights available. "Nope," snapped Window #1. "All flights today are already booked." Undaunted (our business instills a few useful life skills), I slid down to Window #6 and posed the question again. "Our flights are all overbooked," said a young woman, having the kindness to look disappointed on my behalf. "But let me try something..." After a half hour of key-pecking and placing phone calls, Lorraine Melvin (said her nametag) presented us triumphantly with not one free ticket but four on the next flight to LGA despite the fact that it had been oversold. If CEO W. Douglas Parker could figure that what made her care enough to want to satisfy a disgruntled customer, what made her act differently than her colleague, what infused her with more energy and initiative than any US Air employee I'd encountered that day, well, he might rescue his company from desperate straits. Lorraine Melvin! Lorraine Melvin! I'll write a snail mail letter on her behalf, but first I mean to give her name google juice. Lorraine Melvin!
If I were one of these dandy, well-wishing Boyds, I'd be flying home today in a private plane instead of vacuum-packed on US Airways (recently declared to be the worst performing big airline in the country) hoarding rations of ¼ can of soda and mini-bag of pretzel nubs. Wish me luck. And the miracle of same-day arrival of luggage.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
New York real estate market
Beijing art market
holiday party in West Village apartment
office party in midtown NY restaurant with 65 ft. ceilings and loud music
security line to get in
birthday party in suburban Ohio home
Friday, December 21, 2007
MAN DISCOVERS BIRTH MOM IS CO-WORKER AT LOWE'S.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The days of supplier graft may be over but at least our in-boxes are filled with good card. DailyBiz and adpulp have been delivering the best of virtual greetings but fun stuff still arrives the old-fashioned way. Like this set of six festive paper placemats in holiday themes so while you're eating your cereal you can study Trash Snowmen or a Holiday Survival Guide which includes handy tips for re-gifting (Always spring for a new card) and excuses for arriving empty-handed (Its arm fell off while I was wrapping it). Still, I do miss those 4-packs of Tiffany goblets, don't you?
credit: James Hitchcock oops, James Hitchcock
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Writers can be just as compulsive. I live in fear of mass-produced typos and would probably lose even more sleep at night if I was the only proofreader of ads I send into the world. It's a comfort to know that work with my name on it (so to speak) is read and reread by 5 or 6 people whose initials confirm that it's good to go. Which is to say I am tempermentally unsuited to a profession where there's no time to review work or revise it or correct mistakes before they go out. For this reason, I could never be a political candidate or a stand-up comedian or a live TV announcer like this unfortunate news anchor who may herself be scouting for a different profession.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I am home today while you are at work! I have the day off! And tomorrow and tomorrow...the whole week, in fact. Here's the good thing about being a freelancer: when your partner takes vacation, it's almost mandatory that you take off, too. They don't want to pay you for sitting around diddling yourself which is what they think happens when your partner is gone. (Sometimes, they're right.) So this morning instead of busting to get to the office like you did, I slept in! Went Christmas shopping! Kept a doctor's appointment I'd been canceling for weeks! What a wonderful life. Speaking of which, have you seen this above-standard corporate greeting from World Wide Wadio ? I'm not on their list. I found it on AdFreak.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
So, I wasn't expecting a young producer I was assigned this week to turn out to be the producer from hell. (OK, not hell. But certainly limbo.) At first, she seemed only mildly distracted, a state I chalked up to multitasking. (Oh, for the days you were assigned to only one client.) She'd sent out a 6 PM email advising of a 9 AM edit session the next day. That wasn't the problem: I was still in the office, so I got the email. The problem was, she had neglected to list the address or phone number of the edit house, a detail I didn't notice until I printed out the email, just before leaving my apartment the next morning. It was annoying to have to take off my coat and search for it on the (slow) home DSL, only to discover that, unbelievably, this big name edit house doesn't have a url. I called 411 (for a hefty $1.49 plus airtime; later, I found out about 1-800-FREE411). Even more annoying was to have to call 411 again because the edit house's first listing (don't you love Verizon) was the number of their (screaming) fax machine.
I wasn't in a great mood when I got to the editor's, but I wasn't pissed off, either--not until the producer sallied in forty five minutes late, having forgotten the storyboards she was supposed to bring. "No prob," she said. "I can get them online." She went out of the room, I thought, in search of a computer, but no, she was only looking for breakfast. Edit houses generally set out meals and/or snacks for their clients and she returned to the room not with the storyboard, but with a bowl brimming with grapenuts and white raisins and bananas she'd taken the time to slice thinly.
"Boards?" I asked. "Hangover," she said. She took the bowl to the computer (there was one in the room!) and what with the alien desktop and browser and missed printer connection (not to mention the simultaneous carb-loading) it took another half hour to get the boards. I didn't chew her out--that wasn't my place; as a freelancer, I don't even show up on the org chart. But when, during a difficult spot in the edit, she began applying eyeliner while staring at the back of her phone , I took over her job, directing the editor, freezing her out of the conversation.
Here's the thing: people in this business might go to great lengths to look like they don't care about the crap they work on. The editor, in fact, wore a blue wig as he worked. But don't let that fool you. It doesn't mean we're not OCD about details. Even when the spot we're working on is shit (which, depressingly these days, happens all too often) there's an unspoken agreement that what we're trying to do is to make the spot as unshitty as possible, to salvage some shred of creative integrity. Otherwise, as Jane muses, we might as well be in a higher-paying profession.
When noon came and the edit house took our orders for lunch (fancy take-out at their expense), the producer-from-limbo ordered two meals instead of one. "Dinner," she grinned. It's like her only previous exposure to the business was watching Truth in Advertising, a spoof that came out during the SAG strike a few years ago. (I'll post it for you.)
Rumor has it the agency is doing massive layoffs in January. I'm mentally aiming a pink slip at her.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thank you, mugmuffin, for excavating this footage which is arguably the best psa spot ever made. Only the 7 digit phone number gives away that it's vintage. (1992 PSA for New York Coalition for the Homeless. Credits: Peter Cohen, Lesley Sweet; directed by Laura Belsey)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Ol’ Blue Eyes would have been 92 today and, as a present, the USPS is giving him his own stamp. Listening to his “New York, New York” as a child was one of the things that first made me want to move to Manhattan. Of course, there have been a million renditions of that song, but the most moving use of it was a PSA for Coalition of the Homeless which won every award there was in 1993. Peter Cohen, founder of Street Smart Advertising, and Lesley Sweet spent weeks on the streets of Manhattan filming homeless New Yorkers breaking into the song. In the voices of people living on the streets, the lyrics take on poignancy unattained even by the Crooner himself. Then, the screen goes black and the last refrain is a silent super: “It’s up to you New York, New York.” Sorry I can’t find a copy to post. It’s nowhere in cyberspace.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Today I am briefed on a new drug that hasn't come out yet. We're to do a two part ad campaign for it. The first part is an "education campaign" that reports a particular condition can only be treated with drugs that produce massive side effects. The campaign suggests how great it would be if someone could come up with a drug that worked without side effects. After this runs for six months or so, the second half of the campaign kicks in, introducing the drug. Presto! it says. We've got the drug you've been waiting for!
The meeting takes place in a windowless room with 15 bleary-eyed (it is Monday morning) people from various departments and as we talk CR ads and tip-ins and HCP RMs and launch flights, I'm thinking how much simpler my life would be if we were working on HeadOn instead. I may be the only person in advertising who hadn't seen this spot until recently when I stumbled upon it over at daily(ad)biz. It's the world's worst commercial or best, I suppose, depending on if you're a creative or financial consultant. (HeadOn sales grew 234% in one year--perhaps because the commercials themselves imbued viewers with urgent need for the product.)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Meanwhile, I remain optimistic about finding a podiatrist in Manhattan. If you know of a good one, gentle reader, please post.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
The client loves the ad.
The client loves the ad but wants to change the headline and visual.
If I laugh at the CD's lame jokes, he'll put me on a better account.
I - O
How much longer is this research meeting?
What did R&D say? I am confused.
I can't be productive if I'm not wearing my Ipod.
: - O
The pitch is tomorrow? I thought it was next week.
They're moving our department to the sub-basement? Whatever.
Last year's Christmas Party was better.
; - )
Don't tell him I think his work sucks, OK?
Awesome. T&E approved all my minibar charges.
The client wants the logo bigger.
The logo's so big a blind person can read it.
< : o )
You need the comp now? Want that with fries?
-- with a nod to Tom McNichol
Weeks ago, the day after I was hired for this job, I was on a plane to London to finish an animation spot. (Oh, the joy of business class seats that lie flat, room with a view, trendy new restaurants at the client's expense.) "Couldn't you find an animation house in LA?" I asked the producer, though I wasn't complaining. The producer said no. The London house's work is so cutting edge. The reason it's cutting edge, it turns out, is because they hand draw the cells instead of reproducing them digitally which is how it was done in the heyday of Disney. I wonder if stop-motion photography is also making a comeback, the technique used to make the first music video I ever saw.
Friday, December 7, 2007
The boss was out all afternoon at the pitch that I've been working on for the past week (as a freelancer, I'm rarely part of a pitch; a prospective client might take a shine to me and understandably expect that I'd work on his business.) So I was able to exit the building during daylight for the first time in days. Because the sun sets here at 4:30 (is New York the new Finland?) I got the chance see the Barney's windows in all their luminous splendor. Simon Doonan, the store's creative director (would that every retailer had one) named the display: Give Good Green. In one window, elves carry signs declaring "Green is the New Black" and "The 12 Green Days of Christmas" in which "my true green love gave to me 12 tons of tofu, 11 solar panels...9 organic carob bars...6 compost toilets..." (if these elves are down from the north it must be the upper west side.) Another window is tricked out with Rudolph the Recycling Reindeer made of--what else?--recycled cans bought from the homeless. But what would Gore say? It's not just the concept for the windows that's dazzling--it's the hundreds, maybe thousands of shining green bulbs that pulse 24 carbon-emitting hours a day.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Now, my kids are at colleges hundreds of miles away. Of course, I think of them often and worry about their wellbeing, but for the first time in 21 years, I am not on call. If something should happen, they must rely on more proximate systems of support which I trust (hope) are in place for them.
This realization is, of course, freeing. But, as I pat the pocket where my cellphone should be, I touch on the existence of a greater loss. Which may explain the sudden lure of community, as pointed out by a reader who kindly commented on my last post.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I just got email inviting me (her) to sign up for yoga classes in the cafeteria taught by a Jivamukti instructor (whatever that is.) Another email encourages participation in a company-wide wellness program that will promote feelings of “happiness and health when you wake up every morning.” Downstairs, a company nurse dispenses flu shots for free and if your kid gets the flu anyway, there’s an emergency daycare center upstairs. There’s a coat drive in the lobby and posters in rest rooms encouraging employees to sign up for Letters to Santa and buy a toy for a child in need.
What I’m saying is— there’s community here. It’s not just a place where people work, it’s where (for better or worse) they live, a post-millennial version of Our Town, a citizenry with its own culture and language and customs which I—as a freelancer—can never be part of.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Last week, an art director designing an ad, left out half of a headline I'd written for it. When I pointed out his oversight, he said he'd done it on purpose. That many words didn't look good there, he said.
A writer exhibited equal disregard for visuals by throwing away images I'd painstakingly copied at her request, a process requiring resizing jpegs, making pdf's, carefully calibrating printer colors. I didn't know you wanted them back, she said, uncrumpling pictures she picked from the trash.
Word people and picture people-- their distinct sensibilities rarely intersect in the same place, it seems. So it is surprising to me that this marvelous image appears on the cover of the most prestigious magazine in which a poem (words) can be published. "Flower Skull" by Noah Scalin--great visual for the day the city is hit with first snow of the season.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
A guy at the office showed me a Christmas, oops Holiday gift he's already bought for his wife, a lovely watercolor portrait of her with their kids. He wants to surprise her. He commissioned it months ago from an illustrator and has been paying for it in installments so it won't show up as a big payment on their books, which she keeps. She's a stay-at-home mom whose work he appreciates: she works a lot harder than I do, he says. Though sometimes I despair at inequities in the world, in the business, I'm comforted by this reminder of how far we've progressed since cartoon characters promoted cigarettes to kids on TV (see below) and husbands thought of wives as unpaid personal chefs.
(Tonight, my husband whipped up a great dinner-- thanks, hon.)
Maybe my gravitating to a career in advertising had to do with early exposure to its impact on popular culture. In 1961, I was learning to read, thanks to the forbearance of Sister Elizabeth Ann who taught me and 92 others in a first grade classroom. Her arguing with, of all things, a dictionary, impressed us. A new Merriam-Webster had just come out and our teacher was in an uproar about it because it legitimized an ad slogan she criticized as grammatically incorrect: Winston Tastes Good Like A Cigarette Should. She wasn’t the only one who insisted the dictionary was wrong. The makers of Winston sponsored The Morning Show, but its host Walter Cronkite took a public stand against the slogan refusing to say the line as written, outsourcing the job to an announcer instead. (The original line had been Winston Tastes Good Like A Cigarette Ought To, which a team at William Esty convinced RJ Reynolds to change.) The makers of Winston also sponsored The Flintstones. Fred and Barney blithely extolled the virtues of smoking to children, stirring no public controversy until Pebbles was born in 1963 and Winston shifted their sponsorship to The Beverly Hillbillies.