Thursday, January 31, 2008

youtube for commercials

OK, the site's still in beta so it's a VERY heavy load, but what a great concept: a place you can find, download, share your favorite commercials. Search Firebrand by director, agency, category, celeb. This week, they're doing a promo featuring spots from SuperBowls past. Which is how I came upon this haunting footage which may be the best anti-drug spot ever made. Agency: Y&R. Director: Grant DeSousa. Brain-searing Music: Massive Attack.

[via Firebrand]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

thank you, Nina DiSesa

for having the cojones to say in Adweek what's been said in the women's loo for decades. Of course, unlike the rest of us, you'll never need another job in the business.

While watching Mad Men last year, I was struck by how precisely this brilliantly produced series captured the world of New York advertising as it must have been in 1962, and I was thankful that I didn't work in advertising back then.

I started as a copywriter in 1973, and shortly after that I was working successfully on an automotive additive business for a full year. I was asked off the business when the client discovered I was a woman.

Fast-forward to 1983 when I started at Y&R in New York —eerily similar to the Mad world of 1962—where the going gag was that a woman would never be group creative director, the second most powerful position there, unless she could pee standing up.

It's 2008. How are we doing?

How many women are creative directors in the large New York agencies?

How many women are running advertising agencies that don't have their name on the door?

How many women have P&L responsibilities that indicate real control and authority?

Although I have led creative departments at two agencies (JWT, Chicago, and McCann Erickson, New York), advertising is still by and large a boys club. And I think the few women who hold top positions along with me will agree. It's still big news when a woman is given the top job in our industry. Women in charge at boys clubs are still an anomaly. And it's not just the case in advertising. Forty years after women burned their bras to liberate their sex, only 2 percent of the Fortune 1000 CEOs are women. Two percent!

What are we doing wrong?

First of all, it's not a level playing field, and we need to get over that. Stop complaining about it, stop getting irate and do something about it. And for God's sake, don't bash men.

I have noticed that the women who make it in these boys clubs have a few things in common. The main thing is that almost all of us were promoted and supported by men. The men we worked for and with felt comfortable around us. We learned to adopt some of the male traits that make men so successful, and in doing so, we reminded the men of the thing they admire most: themselves.

Throughout my career I have tried to help women get more in touch with their male sides by being more decisive, focused, competitive and shrewd about asking for what they want and expecting what they deserve. At the same time, we need to exploit our uniquely female traits like compassion, collaboration, intuition and empathy—things a man simply doesn't want to learn.

It's a fine line we women walk when we are trying to become players in the boys clubs. If we are too girly-girly, the men won't relax around us and they will treat us like women. I hate when that happens.

I knew I was in trouble back in 1973 when I met that automotive client for the first time. He needed some copy changed ASAP, so I was introduced to him and fixed his ad while he watched—kind of like when AAA comes to change a tire. He was very polite to me, and that was the kiss of death. With the men he was always rowdy, crude and raucous.

At the same time, we can't become just like the men: We know what those women are like.

We have amazing powers as women. If we're smart and use our powers without malice, we can seduce and manipulate the men in our lives to earn their affection and even their respect.

There is an art to seduction and manipulation. I think I always knew this, but the notion crystallized for me during my first marriage to an out-of-work Sicilian actor who felt it was unmanly to help with household chores. So I worked at a full-time job, then did the shopping, cooked the meals and cleaned the apartment.

One day I bought a super heavy-duty vacuum cleaner, and after a few days I told my husband I was returning it. It was just too heavy for me to manage, I said. I wasn't strong enough to push it around. "I can do it," he boasted, and for the duration of our marriage he did all the vacuuming. My strategy had worked.

The skillful use of benevolent manipulation—where everybody wins—works wonders at work, too. I use the vacuum-cleaner strategy all the time. I play on men's masculine pride and their natural instincts to protect the "weaker" sex.

I can't figure this out and I'm exhausted," I will say to one of the men.

"And if it's not done by tomorrow, I'm dead."

"I'll do it," he'll invariably say.

But his rescue mission isn't as satisfying to him unless I appreciate the sacrifice he is making on my behalf.

This is as crucial as saying "thank you."

"No, no, you're swamped, too," I say.

"I'll make the time for it."

"Thank you. I love you."

"I know."

"You're welcome."

It's like great sex. Everyone walks away feeling fulfilled.

Now, I know that a lot of women will object to the notion of using seduction and manipulation in the workplace.

"Why should we stoop to conquer?" they ask. "We're smart, we're educated, and we work as hard as the men."

That's not enough. We've been doing that for years, and where has it gotten us? In most boys clubs there are token women, just enough of us in enough positions to prove that the old boy network is enlightened.

We've been playing by everyone else's rules long enough. It's time to screw the rules and make up your own. Take it from a woman who has been in advertising for 35 years: The most dramatic change in advertising since 1962 is that most of us have stopped smoking.

Nina DiSesa is chairman (not chairperson?) of McCann Erickson, New York.

[via adweek]

what kind of watch does an old man wear?

New concept for Timex: age appropriate watches.

the man cold

Pharma's got remedies for severe colds, colds with cough, colds and flu, colds with sore throat. But still no relief from the miseries of the man cold, that common condition which afflicts women, too. Demo clip from BBC3's comedy series Man Stroke Woman.
[via valley girl jane]

Sunday, January 27, 2008

be more green

Today, I went to a lecture that was held, because of space shortage, in a pre-school classroom. The classroom was green and called (duh) The Green Room. Green Room Rules were printed in large block, unmissable letters on a wall and the more I sat there and read them, the more I thought they should be posted in ad agencies, too:

1. Don't push, hit, bite or kick.

2. Use your words.

3. Be gentle with others.

4. One person talks at a time

5. No name calling.

6. When you are inside, use your inside voice. Save your outside voice for outside.

7. No cutting in line.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

domain you won't find on getty or corbis

Next time you need a retro image that doesn't cry stock, try MirrorWorld which posts vintage snapshots from all over the planet. Its creator's vision:
The singular brilliance of photography is its capacity for allowing hacks & amateurs to create the accidental, offhand masterpiece. Your grandma has no great unread novels or perfect lost symphonies written by her & still tucked away in a drawer in some upstairs closet - but the odds are she does have a photo or two snapped by Uncle Lou in 1939 with a $2 Brownie that wouldn't be out of place on the walls of MOMA. Hopefully somebody will give me a million-dollar grant to go door-to-door looking for these someday. In the meantime when I get bored I snoop about on ebay, the library of congress, etc, & post the cream of what I find on Mirror World.

Will somebody please give this guy a Guggenheim?

[via ComingAnarchy]

is there an awards category for best travel advisory?

In case you're thinking of shooting your next spot in Mozambique, here's a handy warning from the Ministry of Fish and Wildlife there--
Due to the rising frequency of human-lion encounters... we advise the outdoorsman to wear little noisy bells on clothing so as to give advanced warning to any lions that might be close by so you don't take them by surprise.

We also advise anyone using the out-of-doors to carry Pepper Spray with him or her in case of an encounter with a lion.

Outdoorsmen should also be on the watch for fresh lion activity, and be able to tell the difference between lion cub shit and big lion shit. Lion cub shit is smaller and contains lots of berries and dassie fur. Big lion shit has bells in it, and smells like pepper.

Enjoy your stay in MOZAMBIQUE

(Thanks, DKR, for directions to ComingAnarchy where I poached this post. Fell for it until the last line. Proves even political bloggers can have a sense of humor.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

q-i-g-o-n-g spells relief

In past eras, when an ad broad had a bad day, she'd duck into a smoky bar on the way home, puff a few chesterfields, knock back some martinis, then pour herself into a taxi feeling much, much better. (Though presumably much, much worse the next morning.)

How do ad broads today recover from a week as toxic as the one I just had? They treat themselves to qi gong massage, a therapeutic treatment that's been big in China for 3000 years. (A culture that definitely knows about stress.)

Qi Gong parlors aren't advertised (or regulated). In NYC, they're usually on the second floors of walk-ups. No frou-frou decor--massage tables are side by side, separated only by cloth curtains. (Not for prudes.) No Enya music. No terrycloth slippers. Not even appointments. Just several small women with hands of steel and unerring precision in knowing how to knead your troubles away. Next best thing is the price: about a dollar a minute. But tip well--they'll remember!

Here's a list of a few in New York. The place I go to isn't on the list: it's 214 West 72nd where a sign promises (in twelve different typefaces) that qi gong smooths the process of delivering oxygen to the cells, reduces stress, improves bowel functioning, also alleviates chronic kidney disease, liver disease, lower back pain, myopia, obesity, neurasthenia, paralysis induced by external injury, retinopathy, rheumatism, sciatic neuralgia, sleeplessness, stress, ulcers, and peripheral vascular disease.

Obviously, no pesky DDMAC reviews required for this category.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

pg. 144 of Spring Vogue Italia


MARKETING DIRECTOR: Ey, Capo, you know our spring launch ad?

CANTARELLI: The one that shows guys who wear my suits get big cigars and stacked women-- and guys who don't wear them pretty much suck?

MD: I figured out how to save on production.

C: Mia mamma, what the agency wants to shoot one little picture.

MD: We can just run the comp!

C: Genio!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

flash from holland

Plenty of retail online sites list products for sale, but where else can you see inventory crash and catch fire? Check out this flash design from Dutch department store HEMA. It’s the most fun you can have buying handzeep and damespanties. (Thanks, Garden Broad, for the tip.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

alpha dads

First sightings were in Brooklyn.

According to Amy Sohn in New York Magazine: These are the men you see chastising their wives for not dressing the baby warmly enough or using only the three-point latch in the stroller, not the five. They insist on pushing the stroller on family outings, they crowd their kids on the jungle gyms, they spend hours online researching high chairs.

I'd never had opportunity to meet one myself. The species didn't exist when I was birthing babies in the 1980s. Then, you had to make an appointment with a father to get him to watch his own kids-- which meant his being in the same room with them while he read the Journal.

So when an urgent project I am working on at the agency had to be postponed a few weeks because a team member was out on paternity leave, my brain did a high-five: things really are changing in the right direction for women if men are beginning to sign up for home duty.

Rick came back for the meeting that couldn't happen without him and began it by passing around photos of his newly born son. The scene made me feel all warm and fuzzy: a corporate dad grinning helplessly at his baby's pictures, smitten as any new mom, hungry to hear how much the baby resembles his father, how smart he looks even in his hospital-issued dunce cap.

Someone raised the issue of of childcare and Rick said that he and his wife were in search of a nanny. His wife wouldn't go back to work until the right one was found. Mothers of older kids threw out a few names, but Rick shook his head.

"We have specific criteria," he said, adjusting oblong glasses at the bridge of his nose.

What kind of criteria?

"We want a Tibetan."

"A what?" said my partner, a practical woman wearing boots her teenage daughter cast off after buying them for a Halloween costume.

"We want--we need a nanny from Tibet. Because of the culture. Tibetans believe that as soon as a child is born, it's a god. We decided we could only leave our child all day in the care of someone who'd worship him."

You're going to Tibet to find a nanny?

A fleeting smile. "Haven't you heard? There's a Tibetan nanny connection in Brooklyn. We're looking to plug ourselves into that."

I imagined Park Slope bustling with women in colorful clothing pushing Bugaboo strollers the size of thrones, babies inside made to believe they are Buddhas.

"My kids are being raised to know their place," muttered my partner.

It occurred to me that equal opportunity parenting isn't quite the panacea I'd imagined. But perhaps as more and more fathers weigh in, the balance on the scale will swing to extremes until finally it settles somewhere in the middle.

Monday, January 21, 2008

return of the giants

via giantmonstersattack

Sunday, January 20, 2008

greetings from the tundra

Like DailyBiz, I have family in Minnesota but unlike him, made the unfortunate choice to pick this weekend for a visit which turns out to be the coldest in years. Today, the temperature gauge in our rental hit 13 below.
Still, it is great to get out of New York, especially to a town that is its polar (sorry) opposite, as evidenced by the town's official motto: Cows, Colleges and Contentment. Contentment does seem pervasive, despite the cold. Perhaps this is due in part to a sweet, oaty fragrance emanating from the Malt-O-Meal plant, providing citizens with constant aromatherapy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

wham-o man, first viral marketer

The guy who invented hula hoops and other icons of my childhood--superballs and silly string--passed away Monday. Richard Knerr was the man behind Wham-O, a company named for the sound made by a slingshot, the company's first product. A brilliant marketer, he seeded demand for hula hoops in 1958 by giving them out at schoolyards in Pasadena and telling kids they could keep them if they mastered their use. He also required Wham-O execs to take hoops on business flights so people on planes (influencers, in those days) would talk them up.

His most enduring legacy is the Frisbee which was actually invented by someone else, a guy hoping to cash in on a post-WWII rash of UFO sightings in 1948. Knerr encountered the guy 9 years later in a parking lot still trying to sell his "Pluto Platters" and promptly bought up the rights and added a few aerodynamic rings to the design. He began distribution by giving them free to Yalies throwing pie plates across the quad, plates made by the Frisbie Pie Company.

A salute to Mr. Knerr. And thanks for the memories.

Friday, January 18, 2008

i feel like a naked mole rat

It's a beautiful day but I'm too busy to go outside. My office has no windows. It's days since I've seen sunlight. I think my job sucks but a clip sent by my daughter reminds me it's worse for other working mammal mothers.

even shock artists can't get our attention

Here's what I love about this town. A giantess can be standing in your midst, 35 feet tall, two and a half stories high--pregnant, naked, partially flayed and there is so much to distract you on the streets of New York, you don't notice her for two years. It's "The Virgin Mother", another shock-installation from Damien Hirst, a takeoff on Degas's famous sculpture of the young dancer. See her in the courtyard of Lever House, Park and 54th. (Thanks, EM, for making me look.) Don't miss his pickled livestock and trademark shark display in the lobby.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

miracle of modern medicine marketing

Redeeming my $10 Award at Vitamin Shoppe last night (doing my part for the CRM side) I noticed this product displayed at the register. I'd just spent the day tweaking copy to adhere to FDA guidelines which are impressively strict regarding pharmaceuticals--the drug I was writing about actually does work for most people, but because 1 person in 100 might not find it effective I must say "may result in the appearance of symptom relief" instead of "will relieve symptoms."

So how can a medicine get away with an unequivocal promise to relieve jet lag entirely?

Because technically, it's not a drug. It's a homeopathic medicine. Advertisers don't have to prove that their homeopathic remedies actually work. They only have to show that their remedy has a history of being used to treat a condition. The FDA allows homeopathic products to be sold as long as specific health claims are not made in advertising or on product labels.

It appears as if No-Jet-Lag is promising no jet lag, but according to FDA guidelines, it isn't. No-Jet-Lag isn't a claim, it's the name of the product. On the back of the package, product copy states it's "for the relief of tiredness associated with air travel." But my guess is, if No-Jet-Lag was regulated as other medicines are, they'd be prohibited from making their name a product-promise that's printed no less than eight times in huge type on a package the size of a box of Chiclets.

Impulsively,(it might work!) I threw a pack in my bag and was stunned that it added $11.99 to the bill. Whoever's making this stuff must be raking it in.

When I got home, I looked up the manufacturer on the web. Miers Laboratories is in New Zealand where it makes an array of other miracle medicines, too: Drink Ease, for hangovers. Femme Ease which somehow relieves not only menstrual problems, but infections, PMS, even fibroids. And No-Shift-Lag which purports to relieve night shift workers of increased irritability, moodiness, sensitivity, defensiveness, forgetfulness and/or constipation that comes from late shifts.

They don't sell that one here. But you could probably web order.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

why don’t agencies have phone books anymore?

Are they worried about headhunters trying to recruit? Journalists trawling for quotes? Competitors extracting info from loquacious interns? Terrorists?

How do they expect me to get my work done when so much time is devoted to tracking people down?

The first place I worked (in the Paleozoic era) we received actual bound books with everyone's number. The books were re-issued once a year which, in those days, was enough to keep info reasonably up to date.

The next place had books that were spiral-bound; they reissued update pages every six months or so. The next place shrunk their books down to palm size which I found very handy--being young enough to assimilate words in 3 point type.

The first time I freelanced here ten years ago, they issued printed notebooks with everyone's number. When I came back for the next gig, the notebooks were gone, replaced by a wad of papers stapled together. Next came PDF files you could print out. Now even the PDFs are gone.

Instead there’s a complicated phone system by which you press a bunch of numbers to spell the last name of the person you're looking for. But that system is based on the assumption that you not only remember the last name of the person you're looking for, you actually know how to spell it. Which seems ludicrous in this era of diversity hiring.

The system makes me apoplectic, but it doesn't seem to bother anyone else except my boomer partner who, like me, has given up trying to figure it out. When we want to call someone, we dial (oops, press) O and ask one of the operators to connect us.

We like to think we're not the only ones who do this. But today that illusion is shattered when my partner, who was home sick for two days, calls to be connected to a new producer downstairs.

“Hello,” says the operator. “Have you been away?”

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

welcome to earth and 1977

Thirty one years ago today, the Coneheads made their first appearance on SNL. Sorry, here is the best quality clip I could find.

Monday, January 14, 2008

7 dirty words you can't use in subject lines

George Parker has a few things to say today about the ad school Jane Sample is applying to, but the good news is you don't have to move to Virginia to learn about advertising, you can do it online at Marketing Profs.

Here's a handy lesson I learned just this morning:

The Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say in Email Subject Lines (Plus 100 Others You Shouldn't Use, Either)

If you've ever heard George Carlin's famous "Seven Dirty Words" you can't say on TV, you can safely avoid using all seven in your subject lines. They will definitely get you blocked.

Here is a list of 100 more that you should avoid using as well:
100% free
50% off
act now
all words that relate to sex or pornography
all words that related to cures or medication
anything that looks like you are YELLING
apply now
as seen
as seen on Oprah
as seen on TV
be your own boss
call now
cash bonus
click here
contains $$$
contains word "ad"
Dear Friend
don't delete
double your anything
double your income
e.x.t.r.a. Punctuation
earn $
earn extra cash
easy terms
eliminate debt
extra income
fast cash
financial freedom
for only
for you
free access
free gift
free info
free instant
free offer
free samples!
g a p p y t e x t
get out of debt
home based
nformation you requested
life insurance
limited time
lose weight
lower your mortgage rate
lowest insurance rates
make money
multi level marketing
now only
numerical digits at the end
online degree
online marketing
online pharmacy
promised you
search engine listings
serious cash
starting with a dollar amount
stop or stops
undisclosed recipient
work from home
your family
Your own
You're a winner!

I love your blog and am delighted that you included the 7 Dirty Words on it.

This material is copyrighted and was written by my client, Jordan Ayan, CEO of SubscriberMail.

Could you please include attribution on your posting?


Linda Muskin
Clarus Communications

Sunday, January 13, 2008

help yourself, it's 2008

Like Daily Biz, I've been mulling over Toad's trend predictions and came up with one to add to his list:

#7- Return of Service to Customer Service

I was grocery shopping the other day and the clerk at the register discontinued her (loud) conversation with the clerk in the next aisle, made eye contact with me and asked how I was--for which I felt inordinately grateful.

Since coming of age in an era when waiters did curb-service and elevator ladies in white gloves opened gates in dept. stores, I've downsized my expectations again and again until now I anticipate almost no service from service workers. (The nice clerk's bagger was busy deciding what to order for lunch, so naturally I bagged the groceries myself.)

Perhaps service workers get away with almost anything these days because they are an endangered species. It used to be pumping your own gas would save you a buck and you could make the choice to pump it yourself or not depending on how energetic (or strapped) you were feeling. Now, self-service is usually the only option, and even when full-service is offered, it's inexplicably the same price, unless you count not having to tip. (Exception: it's illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey and Oregon--not sure what this says about lawmakers' view of constituents there.)

Once gas pumping went manual, banks began doing away with tellers. ATMs weren't popular at first--people were scared machines might issue wrong amounts of money, or they'd be robbed by passersby who'd push them aside on the sidewalk and grab the cash being excreted. A friend in the business worked on a bank in the 80s that decided their strategic point of difference would be no ATM's. Headline: Would you rather deal with a human or a machine? Needless to say, the bank went out of business. But now might be prime time for it to make a resurgence: ever try to get a cashier's check or deposit a big payout at one of those ATM-only branches?

I bet I'm not the only consumer weary of superstores making me check out my own stuff or airlines refusing to let me talk to an attendant before dealing first with a kiosk. I predict that consumers will begin to fight back, insist on service that's been lacking of late, even if they have pay a bit more for it. And, in a culture where social status is inexorably linked to monetary value, customer service might transform into a noble profession.

CS professionals might take a lesson from ad grunts who have been servicing customers with a smile for years. Another revision? Want that with fries?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

my mother has a message for dearjanesample

ME: Hi, Mom. What's up?

MOM: So, I've been reading your blog.

ME: Thanks, Mom.

MOM: And you've left the job at the big agency?

ME: What? No, I'm still there.

MOM: I read that you weren't.

ME: Where'd you read that?

MOM: On your blog.

ME: What? Where?

MOM: You said you were happy about leaving the big agency and going to a boutique.

ME: Mom! That wasn't me. That was another blog. You must have pressed the key over one of the blue words that link to Jane Sample.

MOM: You didn't write that?

ME: No, that was Jane.

MOM: Honey, I'm so relieved.

ME: You are, Mom? Why?

MOM: The language she uses is kind of shocking. What would her mother say?

ME: I'll tell her you said that, Mom.

MOM: Tell her language like that is not very becoming.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

sliding doors

The place where I work had a company-wide meeting this morning in which several promotions were announced from a stage. One of the people being promoted was a woman I've gone up against several times over the years. We're about the same age. We used to be freelance writers on the same account. After I turned down a staff position, she slid into it and has spent the past eight years rising through ranks.

Today, she was promoted again. As I watched her from my crappy seat in the crowd (behind a group assistant with really big hair) I wondered if my staying freelance was worth it. I fancy I'm at least as good, if not better than she is and if I'd gone staff,  that might be me up on stage in a trendy dress and serious jewelry glittering under lights, graciously acknowledging applause from (envious) colleagues.

She has two kids years younger than mine and I wonder about what her title has cost her: the missed dinners and bedtimes, school events attended by cell phone, rare sightings of her kids in golden afternoon light. (We chat in the ladies.) She has good help and a participatory husband and seems harried but happy with the choices she's made. But what about when the kids go to college? Will she wish she'd made different decisions?

Do I?

increase your vocabulary

New words I have learned from my daughters in college:

apocolocynposis--the fear of turning into a pumpkin.

pteronophobia--the fear of being tickled by feathers.

sceney--describes a place where people hang to get noticed, as in "Let's not go there, it's become too sceney."

sex positive--a term applied to places of business meaning they are non-discriminatory regarding sexual orientation. "The company I work for is sex positive, our receptionist is a transgender."

transgender-- a man who identifies himself as a woman (transwoman) or a woman who identifies herself as a man (transman)

See how edifying blog reading can be?

UPDATE--two handy phrases learned today in a client meeting led by MBA buccaneer

wetware solution--Attending to a problem via humans (wetware) instead of computers (hardware)

analysis-paralysis--Denigrating term for taking time to consider a project before pushing it forward. As in, Let's not let analysis-paralysis keep us from having a spot on-air right away (but if the campaign bombs it's the agency's fault.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

no new episodes of The Office but at least there's real life

Page 2 today, NY Times Metro Section: Two guys prop a dead friend onto a rolling desk chair and wheel him around the corner to a Pay-O-Matic to cash his last check from Social Security. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, they leave him on the sidewalk. When the clerk asks where the payee is, they say, "Outside." They go out to get him and are busted by passers-by. Even in Hell's Kitchen, people are alarmed by the sight of a corpse flopping from side to side as men try to make him sit up in an office chair.

On the next page: A woman is run over by an SUV while sitting in a booth eating lunch at Arby's.


Where I work you need a magnetized photo keycard card to get in. Most people I work with wear the card on a lanyard around their necks, something I thought I would never do until getting locked out of my floor a few times when no one else was around and schlepping down thirty floors to security in the lobby. Now, I ride the subway every morning with my ID flopping against my front, like a school kid on a field trip. Some people clip their cards to their belts. Others slip it into the back pocket of jeans and if the jeans are tight enough, never take it out, just slam their butts against the security box on the wall, a startling practice that mystified me at first.

My ID photo is recent, taken this fall when I started, but most photos date back a few years--sometimes five or ten. (This place is known for its retention factor.) So I receive disconcerting reminders throughout the day of how this business can age you. My partner is a parent of two with a practical mom haircut, but in her photo, she’s carefree and childless, with long curls and bangs. A disgruntled middle-aged art director leans across my desk and an image of his younger, happier self swings into view: full head of hair, no dark circles under his eyes, a smile exuding optimism only a new job can bring. (Mazel tov, Jane.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

why the bloody hell don't we move to australia

I have no time to blog—I'm on two pitches, remember?

But I did have time to troll the web just now and stumbled across a site that you may already know--The Advertising Agency. It's in Australia, but with the same tsuris-producing clients & clueless management we deal with over here. I almost blew my cover (that I was googling some questions re. our target market) by laughing out loud at a post from last March, titled Being a Writer is Like Being a Cleaner:

You sweep the dirt into one corner and someone says, 'No, I wanted it in THAT corner.'

So you sweep it into the other corner and then someone else - some loser account guy playing devil's advocate for some loser client - comes in and wants it in another corner so you do that and then someone else wants it under the carpet instead of in a corner and then the art director says, 'I'm not having any carpet in my office,' and then the CD comes in and says you're using the wrong broom anyway.

So you get another broom and sweep around for another few hours and then the client comes in and says you should have vacuumed it.

By that stage you've been sweeping so much there is hardly anything left to sweep and now it's five-thirty and all you want is a drink and you think to yourself, 'If I really was the cleaner, I'd be going home right about now.'

I'm thinking of swapping jobs. Do cleaners earn $250,000 a year?

Is that what staff copywriters pull down over there? No wonder Australian tourism ads were banned for a while--lesser paid creatives on holiday there might never come back.

Monday, January 7, 2008

art & commerce

Much has been written about Manhattan's ephemeral nature: a dry cleaner you haven't had time to retrieve clothes from closes shop, the nail place you go to is now a Chipotle, the tallest buildings in town disintegrate without notice. But even after 28 years in the city, I wasn't prepared for the sight of what looked like a giant rhinoceros horn obstructing my regular running route. (Ok, not regular.) Up close, I discovered it was the work of an artist who'd added a practical DR component. But how did he decide to place where he did? Or are his shiny interruptives cropping up all over town?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

ode to kaypro

Kaypro, dawn of my computer age, fire of primal lust for processing words.
Kay-pro. Hi-ho. It's off to work we go.

In today's New York Times Magazine Virginia Heffernan (aka Vladimir) lauds the return of the basic computer screen (black screen, green letters) made possible by the creators of WriteRoom, a software alternative to Microsoft Word. It's for "people who enjoy the simplicity of a typewriter, but live in the digital world." (hello, MFO) Swoons Heffernan: For those of us who learned Basic on a Zenith Z19 and started word processing on a Kaypro (anyone?), the retro green-and-black now takes the breath away.

I am here, Virginia Heffernan! I am anyone! I share your fond recollection of vintage features like floppy disk drives and brightness control knobs and a time before user-friendly interfaces came to protect us from technology’s dark places...[when] the mystery of the human mind and the mystery of computation seemed both to illuminate and to deepen each other. (Not many writers could pull off such heady discourse in leisure mag pages devoted to software reviews.)

My husband bought us our first computer in 1983. Computers, he predicted, will be big. (If only he'd spent the money on Microsoft stock, instead of a Kaypro.) Why a Kaypro? He may have been lured by this Sedelmaier commercial from Della Femina, Travisano in LA. (It won a Clio.)

Or, perhaps it was the print ad that ran before Kaypro makers acquired an agency. According to a guy who claims to be in the know, before Kaypros were actually introduced, the president of the company (geekily named Non-linear Systems) promoted his son to head of marketing. The son loved the Maxell ads that were popular then, and thought it would be a good idea to imitate them.

Non-linear Systems was in California and Junior hopped a plane to New York and tracked down the photographer who did the shot: Steve Steigman. Steigman naturally asked to see the layout, but was told there was no layout. No comp. There wasn't even an agency. Presumably not wanting to lose the fee, he and the marketing guy sat down and sketched out a lame imitation of what AD Lars Anderson (Scali, McCabe, Sloves) did for Maxell: an office situation in which the Kaypro appears to be levitating and blowing air out to passing coworkers, which came to be known to insiders as "the flying fart ad".

What made the Kaypro so appealing to my husband and others besides the all-inclusive price, was its big (9 inch!) screen and the fact that it was light enough to be called "transportable". At 28 pounds, it was a lot easier to schlep around than its competition, the Osborne which was marketed as the world's first "luggable" computer.

Because the Kaypro came in an aluminum carrying case complete with heavy-duty plastic handle, I was able to tote it to my job as copywriter at A Hot Agency where I wrote body copy in Wordstar and printed it out on a daisy wheel printer. Coworkers marveled that I dared entrust my creativity to a machine. The only other computers in the agency then sat on secretaries' desks: Wangs the size of the Lochness monster.

But even Wangs were diminutive, compared to predecessor models which took up entire rooms, as illustrated by this publicity shot for Oracle taken in the 1950s. (Hi, Dad.)

If you missed the Age of Kaypro, it's not too late to get in. There's one listed on Ebay today, starting bid $24.99.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

what george bush and i now have in common

Only one ad blogger (hello, George) is likely to be personally acquainted with the medical procedure I was introduced to this morning, just one of the many joys you have to look forward to after your (count em) fiftieth birthday party. I’ll spare you the details. But one thing they say about colonoscopy is true: the prep is worse than the actual procedure. All I could eat yesterday was plain jello (not red, why?) and an all-liquid diet defined as liquids you can read through (fyi, the list includes vodka) followed by, for dinner, a sadistic cocktail (jeroboam size) of straight Gatorade mixed with something called Miralax. (don’t ask) The exam itself is pretty benign, the worst part being the injection of anesthetic. (Anesthesia is the reason Cheney was president for 21 minutes.) Now, count yourself lucky if you get anesthetic. If you’re insured by Aetna, you’re at the mercy of the only insurance company that deems anesthesia unnecessary, an exclusion that even Medicare doesn’t stoop to. I felt a bit woozy going into the office today, but not noticeably woozier than my officemates recovering from the long holiday. None of whom have commented on my shiny, new colon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

the work/mom dilemma

Now I remember why I went freelance all those years ago. Because being a mom and being an ad broad are often frustratingly incompatible. This is the last day I'll have both kids (technically, grown-ups, but trust me, only a technicality) home from college. It's the last day I'll have them both home simultaneously for a very long time. True, they've been home for weeks, but what with family visits and parties and their social agenda and seeing high school friends (our togetherness not being the priority for them as it is for me) I've not had the chance to be with them as much as I'd have liked. Until today. But today is first day back at work for me. After checking my calendar--no big meetings, no production deadline, no creative due tomorrow--I e-mail in sick. Which means no dayrate today, a definite drag. But sitting with my daughters at the breakfast table at noon, still in our pj's, chatting over cup after cup of coffee: priceless.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

because my brain (and probably yours) is useless today

Every year in the US, 13 people die from falling vending machines.

All polar bears are left handed.

Demi Moore's real name is Demetria Guynes.

In every episode of Seinfeld, you can see something with Superman on it.

Only 55% of Americans know that the sun is a star.

The most common name in the world is Mohammed.

Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots.

In China, there are more people who can speak English than there are in the US.

One of the least common phobias is dendrophobia--fear of trees.

Fifty percent of all bank robberies occur on Fridays.

In 1938, Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" was Adolf Hitler.

Only after introducing Colgate into Spanish-speaking countries did Colgate-Palmolive learn that the name of its toothpaste means "go hang yourself."

-- these and 588 more useless facts can be found in Bla Bla: 600 Incredibly Useless Facts from Nicotext Books.