Sunday, March 30, 2008

elf yourself on the lower east side

Speaking of art, here's a museum you probably haven't tried. The Lower East Side Troll Museum is run by an eccentric, pixie-ish woman who doesn't feel dressed without prosthetic elf ears. She's turned the front room of her Orchard Street apartment into a showcase for 250 troll dolls. Highlights of the collection include the Pregnant Troll, the Ringo Starr Troll and the Troll Who Started It All--the doll she received in 1977, a doll she decapitated and used as a piggy bank. Admission is free. But, as at the Met, a donation is suggested. Her suggested donation is $3000.

how to quit your day job

In case you missed Wednesday's post on the excellent Stuff White People Like, the blogger's got a book deal. According to the NY Times today, the contract is from Random House for $300K. Not bad for an unpublished author unheard of outside the blogosphere. Until now. Congrats, Clander. I mean (now we know) Christian Lander.

Oh, BTW, if you are Erin Malone, please rest assured that I am available.

30 second art tour

We interrupt the crass and commmercial world of advertising to bring you a brief tour of of the world's most distinguished museums. First, these sightings at the Whitney Biennial:

Here is a kitty-litter box the size of a jacuzzi. It's filled with litter, thankfully unused. Like all real art it has a title: Inbox. Get it?

Going with the box theme, now we enter a boxy white room. It's empty but for a huge chandelier. See the awful paintings unframed on the wall? The paintings are meant to be awful. That makes them art! Ironic, isn't it? Those are almost the only paintings in the show.

Let's step over to this shack made of scrap-wood. It's just like shacks you see by old highways in the rural South. (Uber-urban curators love to *surprise us* by importing stuff from the real, un-rarified world.) Inside the shack, monitors show super-long videos of women with super-long (ankle-length) hair. Tending goats!

Let's hurry along to the room wallpapered in Whitney museum logos. Huge clay letters spell out Toothy Smile, Expresso and Focus Group. Why? Why not? Only hucksters will wonder why the chosen words don't include ties, pens, potholders and umbrellas which are for sale a few feet away in the museum store.

Here's an untitled photo of a sign at a funeral home. That'd make a nice blog post.

We've just enough time left to run up the street to the august Met to check out that Gustave Courbet retrospective. But what's this? An larger than life painting of, um, the business part of a spread-legged naked woman? What makes it world class art instead of high-class porn, is the title, of course: The Origin of the World. And, oh yes, the fancy frame. My, my. Look at the crowd. So many well-dressed middle-aged men stepping up for, uh, a closer look.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

correction of the month

Now that newspapers are going out of business, seems like proofreaders are the first to go.
An item...incorrectly identified DJ KaatScratch as transgendered. She describes herself musically as "transgenred."
But what typeface is bold enough for a retraction like that?

From the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard via the New Yorker

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

great product, lame promo

Whoever did promotions for In Bruges should be canned. Poster/trailer makes the film look like another shoot-em-up testosterone fest. I would never have seen this film if I hadn't spent last night in a tiny town in upstate New York where the only other option was Horton Hears a Who. To the glad surprise of myself & my discriminating companion (film-elitist daughter), In Bruges turns out to be a rare piece of footage where everything works: sets, dialogue, lighting, photog, plot, character development. Plus, it's funny as hell. Despite what its promoters have to say.

Of course, it's not the only instance of a film/poster disconnect. Says Craig McNamara.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

it's mourning in adland

Hal Riney, advertising legend, died yesterday of cancer at 75. An "adman's adman" he was considered by many peers (including David Ogilvy) to be the best in the business, responsible for ground-breaking campaigns for Perrier, Saturn, Gallo, even presidents. He created (and narrated) some of the best political campaign spots ever made, one of which (Bear) could probably get a candidate elected today.

From AdAge:
During his career of almost 50 years, Mr. Riney developed advertising around the notion that understatement sold better than overstatement, and any conclusions about a product were better left to the audience. He also pushed against advertising that was intrusive or insulting, and he wasn't ashamed of ads that made people laugh or cry.

Mr. Riney also worked for Republican political candidates and in the 1980s was part of the so-called Tuesday Team, a group of admen working on Ronald Reagan's campaign. His "Bear in the Woods" spot, which subtly compared the Russian communists to a bear in the woods that some declined to see, and his "Morning in America" campaign for Mr. Reagan are political classics.

Monday, March 24, 2008

tart therapy

Just before taking office, Paterson was asked if he'd had any experience with prostitutes. "Just lobbyists," he quipped. One thing that's been clarified lately is no two people imagine prostitutes in exactly the same way. (See post below.)

Nina Franzen was so taken with this idea, she created a website. Project Prostitute posts random drawings by artists and non-artists to explore how "in the action of drawing a prostitute, hidden parts of people become revealed."

Try it yourself. She's still taking submissions. A picture is worth 1000 words from your shrink. But less than $4500/hour.

(Tip to VSL)

people who work in an advertising agency and feel just like a prostitute

A while back, Jane Sample posted about this facebook group, but given that the world's oldest profession is so much in the news, I thought you'd enjoy a reminder of how our own work, um, measures up to it. Here's the facebook description in all of its goodness, a list I wish I had written myself:
The truth about working in an ad agency
1. You work weird (night) shifts...
Just like prostitutes.

2. They pay you to make the client happy...
Just like a prostitute.

3. The client pays a lot of money, but your employer keeps almost
every penny...
Just like a prostitute.

4. You are rewarded for fulfilling the client's dreams...
Just like a prostitute.

5. Your friendships fall apart and you end up hanging out with
people in the same profession as you...
Just like a prostitute.

6. When you have to meet the client you always have to be perfectly
Just like a prostitute.

7. But when you go back home it seems like you are coming back from
Just like a prostitute.

8. The client always wants to pay less but expects incredible things
from you...
Just like a prostitute.

9. When people ask you about your job, you have difficulties to explain it...
Just like a prostitute.

10. Everyday when you wake up, you say: "I'm not going to spend the rest of my life doing this."


2.5 amex miles per minute

Home, sweet. Luggage intact. Taxi line moving. No need to pay the driver with cash. NYC cabs take credit cards now. Priceless.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

easter peep show

tip of the rabbit ear to OwlShit

Saturday, March 22, 2008

how to be happy, 1955

The creator of Miltown died this week, the pill that helped so many women get through their pre-liberated days in the 1950s. (Miltown was the prelude to Valium, christened by the Stones in their first album as "mother's little helper.") The man who invented Miltown, Frank Berger, was also a pioneer in HCP advertising. At first, the company he worked for balked at distributing his invention after polling showed that doctors were lukewarm about it. So Berger put together an industrial showing the drug's calming effect on rhesus monkeys and screened it for an industry gathering of prominent docs. Within months, Miltown was the best-selling drug ever marketed in the US, so popular that pharmacies couldn't keep it in stock. "Out of Miltown" and "Miltown Available Tomorrow" signs became common in pharmacy windows.

A few years later, Berger acknowledged that the pill could be habit-forming. But he placed the blame for such a habit squarely with the consumer, claiming, "One just expects that it will be used properly. There is no warning on scalpels, 'This is sharp, don't cut yourself.'" Oh for a time machine that could zap me back to that trusting era. As a trial lawyer.

Friday, March 21, 2008

i heart kindle

No time to write up a proper post, as I'm about to take off for the Midwestern tundra. Lucky for me, I got on early orders for Kindle, the amazing alternative to stuffing your carry-on with enough hard-copy reading to distract you from the torture that is air travel these days, involving turbulence, lame movies and violation by the seat backs in front of you.

So I'll just crib a description from a friend of NotBillable:
To the uninitiated, the Amazon Kindle is an E-Book reader that uses E-Ink technology. To paraphrase for simplicity, and to drastically understate the capabilities of the device, you can purchase digital copies of newspapers or novels and read for days without needing to recharge the battery.

The most amazing aspect of the Kindle, however, is the ability to wirelessly access the Internet to browse the web or purchase a book from Amazon’s astonishingly vast library. Ditching WiFi in favor of Sprint’s cellular (EVDO) network, or “WhisperNet” as Amazon likes to call it, the Kindle can instantly hop online free of charge almost anywhere you get cell phone reception. Want to read today’s Times or grab a copy of the book your friend just recommended? Simply fire up the Amazon store, click to purchase, and you’re digitally-dog-earing pages in seconds.

Over the past few weeks I have simply fallen in love with my Kindle.
Me, too. I love that it holds not only books but (a few) blogs (like boingboing) and newspapers that download in latest edition of their own accord. I love that I can remember a book I want to read and get it in seconds, wherever there's cell service. I love that a new hardcover costs less than $8. I love that the Kindle is small enough to fit in a purse so I can carry it everywhere and always have it on hand whenever I'm caught with a little downtime. So I can read the unwieldy Times even while jammed into a tiny space on the subway. Even upsize or downsize the type depending on whether or not I've got reading glasses.

Before you rush to get on Amazon's (months long) waiting list, though, you should read the whole post which actually is a diatribe against buying the machine which died on him in an airport and relegated him to a flight so mind-numbingly boring he was reduced to phone-videoing himself in his agonized state. (His post is click-worthy for the AV alone.)

But I say: get a backup battery. Or two.

Maybe his Kindle-bash will go viral which will work in your interest by shaving a few months off the Amazon queue.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

first day of spring! time to fill up the water balloons

New Schweppes campaign in Australia uses old slomo effect to, er, great effect. Garth Davis of Exit Films shot 10,000 fps. Agency: George Patterson Y&R.

via VSL via Duncan's TV Ad Land

and speaking of extinction

What the world would look like if humans disappeared.

(Tip to MFO)

how did the freelancer get away with this

snarky headline for a cemetery brochure? Greenwood is a National Landmark, so to "be part of history" means promising to give them your remains for mulch. Inside subhead: "Come for a visit. Stay for an eternity." Um, I think I'll postpone that visit for a while. My favorite bit of copy: "Join 560,000 permanent residents, including Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed (Boss Tweed?), Jean-Michel Basquiat, Civil War generals, baseball legends, politicians, artists, entertainers and inventors"--in other words, the kind of people you could never share an address with, extant.

But hey, maybe I'm overreacting, just feeling put out to discover I'm in a demographic targetted by solicitations for memorial sites. If anyone out there wants to know about the "wide selection of choices" at this "historic yet state-of-the-art facility", I'm happy to send you my BRC.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

is your doc a secret blogger? examine this site to find out

You know how hard it is to find a good doctor. Well, statcounter shows that, for some reason, docs are finally coming to me. Which is how I discovered this hilarious site:
Random thoughts from a few cantankerous American physicians. All contributors board certified. Trust us, we're doctors.
See, unlike clients who secretly want to be creatives, many docs, imho, could have been damn good writers if they hadn't been sidetracked by the thrill of serial graduations, the selfish need for socially responsible employment, and, oh yes, the prospect of stratospheric hourly rates. 

You tend to hear more about lawyer-turned-writers because (being results-oriented) JDs tend to write stuff that sells. But docs have been known to pen actual literary achievements. I'm not saying you're going to find Checkhov on MDOD. But you will obtain extremely well-written and entertaining advice from people in the profession your life might depend on someday. You'll learn how not to talk to a pediatrician. And (next brand brief for Gilette?) why it's best to avoid those lower-shelf off-brand shaving creams.

another inappropriate greeting from someecards

rules for working in an indian call center

Do I flatter myself to think you've noticed that Ad Broad's posts haven't been daily of late? I've been besieged with networking problems which have kept me on the phone with HP, Belkin and Apple for days, researching the breadth of their tech support capabilities, being flung into the abyss of Indian call centers where I've been disconnected, misunderstood or kept on the line for hours. (This is NOT an exaggeration: my last call with HP lasted 3:34, you can check the LED display on my handset.)

What happened to all those nice techs I used to talk to in Texas and Oklahoma, the ones who talk-fixed my previous products that went on the blink? What are they doing now to make ends meet, or have they all been transferred to Bangalore? I have nothing against India or the people who live there (I've spent months there and want to go back) but if that country is taking over customer service for ours, a few rules ought to be part of basic training:

1. Do not fake an Anglican-sounding name. Insisting, in a heavy Bengali accent, that your name is "Keith" or "Angie" won't fool me into thinking you're not in India. And who cares if you are? All a caller wants is for you to fix the damn thing and get them off the phone as quickly as possible.

2. Note the last three words of #1. For this reason, no matter what your handbook says, don't waste time on chatty pleasantries. Asking in a painfully slow voice, "And how are you today, Ma'am", then repeating the question if her answer isn't forthcoming--this is really, really annoying. The caller knows you don't really care how she is today, and all she cares about you is that you're healthy enough to troubleshoot her machine. The only acceptable opener is "How can I help you?"

3. Realize that by the time the caller has gotten to you, she's already spent at least 20 minutes slogging through auto-identify systems, systems operators, queue masters and perhaps a disconnection or two. For this reason, it is VERY important (no matter what your manual says) to NOT repeat her sentences back at her, even though I know this buys you time to read ahead in the pages you are obviously consulting. For instance, when she says "My wireless printer doesn't recognize my wireless network" do not say "So may I then confirm that the problem you are experiencing is, your wireless printer doesn't recognize your wireless network?" Because of the last three words of #1, this will make her want to reach into the phone and eviscerate you.

4. For the same reason, don't attempt to distract a caller from your ineptitude by asking her how the weather is where she is calling from.

5. When you haven't a clue what to do, just say so and transfer the caller right away to someone in Oklahoma who does. Do not say, "This is a particularly difficult situation and I need to do some investigation," then torture the caller with painful wait times, wrong information, then (and only, then) a switchoff to Oklahoma where a guy solves in a minute the problem you've been wrestling with for over an hour.

6. I trust that there are many exemplary call-center employees in India whose performance is stellar, whom this posts insults. To them, my apologies. So where have you been the last couple of days?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

live from new york: anchor dogfights reporter

tip to M&R

Saturday, March 15, 2008

US district court judge rules websites not responsible for comments

It's a tiny article buried on a back page in today's Wall Street Journal, but its impact on the blogosphere could be momentous: The US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Craigslist "cannot be held responsible for what its users post on its site."

In February 2006, Craigslist was sued by the Chicago Lawyers' Committee claiming that the site violated the Fair Housing Act by publishing discriminatory housing postings. Yesterday, a US District Court judge affirmed a lower court's decision that Craigslist "is not the author of the ads and could not be treated as the 'speaker' of the posters' words."

Given recent controversy on this blogging circuit regarding the parameters of socially responsible posting, this ruling should come as welcome news. Only--would that it had been instituted to protect posts worthier of defense than rental ads stipulating "no minorities."

overheard in Rome on the Ides of March

"If Caesar had stayed home, he'd be alive today."
Tip to sleuth at Tech (not Plato's) Republic.

how to hire a woman, 1943

Unlike the Good Wife's Guide which circulated a few years ago, but proved fabricated using a 1957 cover of John Bull magazine (cut & paster unwittingly left in the Advertising Archives legend, identifying its source) this testament to outdated societal attitudes towards women is real. It's an article that ran in a magazine with the catchy title Mass Transportation, July 1943 issue. It addressed male supervisors suddenly faced with a female workforce after men were recruited for World War II. I especially love the last bit of advice which suggests working women are happiest in tight-fitting uniforms. (Thanks, TKR, for the find.)

Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees

There's no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage. Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from western properties:

1. If you can get them, pick young married women. They have these advantages, according to the reports of western companies: they usually have more of a sense of responsibility than do their unmarried sisters; they're less likely to be flirtatious; as a rule, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it — maybe a sick husband or one who's in the army; they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Most transportation companies have found that older women who have never contacted the public, have a hard time adapting themselves, are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that "husky" girls — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination — one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit but also reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job. Transit companies that follow this practice report a surprising number of women turned down for nervous disorders.

5. In breaking in women who haven't previously done outside work, stress at the outset the importance of time — the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

6. Give the female employee in garage or office a definite day-long schedule of duties so that she'll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be nervous and they're happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. Companies that are already using large numbers of women stress the fact that you have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and consequently is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful in issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can't shrug off harsh words the way that men do. Never ridicule a woman — it breaks her spirit and cuts her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator uniforms that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can't be stressed too strongly as a means of keeping women happy, according to western properties.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

ad broad on the beach

No internet. No newspapers. No CNN. No idea I'd be flying home today to a state with a new governor.

My first reaction? Who are Clients 1, 2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8?

Lucky for them, the Emperor's Club website has gone dark. Curiously, however, its shell site is still live as of this posting. According to Conde Nast, the proprietors of Emperor's Club also run QAT Consulting which gave "emperors" a legit-sounding place to make their payments. QAT puports to offer web design, marketing, strategic planning and other services stated to be "comprehensive and hands on." The price ranges from $600-$3000 "depending on the complicity of the project." At $4300, Spitzer's project was complicit indeed. But why bother hauling bundles of cash in plain white envelopes across state lines, when the website accepts credit cards and PayPal?

if you gave up advertising and moved to a tropical isle

you'd still need an outlet for your creativity. Like this guy hauling ocean back and forth in buckets. I tried to compliment his work as I jogged past, but he waved me away, not wanting to break his concentration. Deadlines, deadlines.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

and speaking of travel

Tomorrow, I'm en route to a sunny tropical isle (ha ha on you in your parka and uggs) where internet access is improbable. Adbroad may be dark for a few days. In spite of SPF 50.

maybe we shouldn't be outsourcing our customer service to india

Irani Cafe, Hyderabad, India

via DKR via coming anarchy via triptouch


Psychology 1504, or "Positive Psychology" is the most popular course on the Harvard campus. Twice a week, over 900 students attend Tal Ben-Shahar's class on what he calls "how to get happy." (He's a lecturer, not a professor. He took himself off the tenure track to reduce stress and make himself happier.)

Some of my colleagues were too busy to attend a recent industry gathering where Tal was invited to speak. So here are my notes. Which I hope make you happy.

1. Don't multi-task when doing pleasurable activities. Spending time at a concert? Turn off text messaging. Quality time with the kids? Don't catch up on emails. Combining two pleasurable activities takes the joy out doing them. Play your two favorite pieces of music together, and they turn into noise.

2. Exercise. The benefits of exercise aren't only physical. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that actually make you happier. So not exercising is like taking depressants.

3. Have a job that is both enjoyable and meaningful. (Hmmmmmm) If this is not feasible (say, you need to earn actual money) build in happiness boosters throughout the week-- moments that give you both pleasure and meaning. For some people, it's volunteer work. For others, it's as simple as taking time out for a friend who needs advice and a beer.

4. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on your state of mind, not on your status or the state of your bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, your level of well being is determined by what you choose to focus on (the bad stuff in your life, or the good) and by your interpretation of external events. (Is your being downsized a catastrophic event or a paid opportunity to find work at a place you'll be happier?)

5. Keep a notebook of things for which you are grateful. Take a minute before going to sleep each night to write down 3 things in your life you are glad for. For reasons no one knows, after a couple of weeks, this actually makes you a happier person.

6. Do the above regularly and you may find yourself the happy recipient of a special congratulatory gift from makethelogobigger.

Friday, March 7, 2008

american idol, circa. 1950s

As an ad broad in formation, my favorite TV show was Leave It To Beaver, created by two renegade writers from J. Walter Thompson--Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher. The show's popularity made it a cultural phenomenon which contributed to the notion of the idyllic Fifties family. Parents never raised their voices or were too busy for the kids. Dad never worked late. Dinner was always a family affair.

The series, which ran from 1957 to 1963, debuted with the second episode, not the first. Because CBS execs wouldn't initially let the first episode air. The premiere showed a toilet, which had never before been shown on TV. But, trained in advertising creative trenches, Connelly and Mosher refused to back down, and the premiere "Captain Jack" episode was allowed to run on week 2. Toilet intact. Only the tank portion showed, though. The bowl was considered to be too risque.

As if there wasn't enough reminder of how much times have changed:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

survivor's guide to starting out in the business

Received email from the other side of the planet this morning (don't you love how this blog thing makes us all so we are the world?) Reader says:

I just need to rant this out.

I am a so-called greenhorn copywriter in this ad agency, and I hate my Art Director. Seriously, I have not harboured so much hate in me, and since no one I knows is in this business, I needed an asnwer for this question.

There's this colleague of mine who had this idea of which she actually copied from an ad book for award-winning projects/pieces. She now wanted me to write a copy for her, in the same direction using different words. Or maybe using different ways but still along the line of the original idea from the book. She and this AD somehow managed to convince our boss and here am I..disgruntled and working 'unhappily' to come up with the copy.

Previously I worked as an interning journalist in a newspaper and decided to switch because I felt the advertising field is far more creative but now that I'm here it seems like the creativity is all coming from other people and these people are just improvising. Is it the life advertising field leads to?

I'm just so fucking fed-up, so based on ur experience as a copywriter, does that mean that I dont fit in here?


Btw, I'm 25.

Oh, and I dont see you as an 'agony aunt' to whom anyone can write in to, to ask for advices, but I seriously do not know where else to vent this frustration. Sorry if you find this irritating. *chuckle*

First, thanks for the read and for troubling to write, Reader. I think there are two questions you're asking here.

Short term: should you write copy for the cribbed ad? (Hey, why not tell her to just lift the copy from the book, only kidding.) I wouldn't write for the lifted ad if there is a way to avoid it. If you feel you must, maybe you could pretend to start writing the copy, then in doing so, come up with a fresher approach to the problem and try to sell your AD on presenting it. Or--is there a way to discreetly get to the boss and alert him to the problem? This can be tricky, though, because he might not care that the ad is a ripoff. You'd be surprised how many people in the business don't, who say there are only so many ideas in the world and they've all been used up, so why not use one all over again.

If you encounter this attitude on the part of your boss--or suspect that you would--you're in the wrong place. The shop where you start is very important because in a way, it can actually determine the course of your career. Did you have a tracking system in high school, with some kids on "trades" tracks, others "university"? That's not dissimilar to the way things work in the agency world. If you've "taken the right courses", ie worked at "the right shops", you'll find it much easier to get to places where the creative means something and you can win awards which translates into more money and better jobs at even better places, or at least not worse ones.

Is your shop a good shop, creatively speaking? Is it a place where you can learn from people whose work you admire? If not, start looking around. What shop would you most like to work for? Make contact with the ECD there. When I was in my twenties I found myself briefly at a BDA (hi, George) and made a point of going to an industry luncheon where the ECD of A Great Shop was talking about a subject that was considered groundbreaking at the time: agencies getting computers for the creative department. I went up to meet him after the talk, wrote him a letter (admiring, but not fawning) and was called in for an interview and was working there a month later. The business is actually a small world and it's amazingly easy to find ways to make a personal connection with someone in it you admire. You might wonder why a name in the business would make time for you. But any name in the business who's actually good knows that maintaining creative chops means remaining plugged in and connected with young people. Your age (or lack thereof) is a commodity you can trade on, something you have to offer that his botoxed-up cronies on the golf course don't.

But maybe you don't have the luxury of switching jobs right away. Job market is tight and your rent is the GNP of a small nation. In this case, Scamp has sage words of advice:

Plenty of great teams started in not-so-good agencies. The key is what you do when you get there. You don't settle. You don't sit on your arse. You spend all your spare time working on the one good account they do have. And the rest of your time working on your spec book. When my partner and I were at a rubbish agency, we spent every night working on our book. Not once a week. Every night.

Don't do what your AD did, lift an ad hoping you won't be found out. Eventually (it's a small business, remember?) you will be outed. Which will reverse any progress you managed to make in building creative credence. Study the ads in the book you like. Figure out why you like them, what makes them good. Then, give yourself an assignment. Pick a product the agency has, that no one wants to work on. Do a concept exploratory on it. Take your work to someone in the shop whose creative opinion you respect--there must be someone. Work with this person to make your book better. All the while, be calling around to people working at the shops you want to work at. Don't ask for a job. Ask for a five-minute meeting to get some advice. People in this business love to give advice. They're always trying to give it and no one--especially clients--ever want to listen. . (Look how long you got me to go on, despite the fact I've got a 4 pm deadline!) Speed-meeting will get you networking with the right people and networking is how you get the best jobs which are never advertised on monster or in the backs of trade journals.

On your longer term question: are you in the right business? Rest assured that everyone--me and anyone who reads this --has questioned their career choice at one time or another. Advertising, as you know, isn't like it is in the movies. True, it's a lot more creative than most businesses (like journalism) are, but bottom line, it's a business, it's not doing art. That's why commercials are, well, called commercials. People outside the business assume ad agencies are zany hothouses full of crazy creatives, but sadly it seems there is less and less room for right brain thinking in these days of earnings reports and holding companies and management teams driven by fear of stockholders. But I still think it's the most fun you can have making money.

Best of luck to you. Hope something here helps. Perhaps others have thoughts they'll share with you in the comments.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

centenarian brand ambassador

According to MySpace, he's 99 years old. Aries. Single. With only 49 friends. And that's including dead ones like Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody.

This month, he's on the cover of Playboy. The back cover.

Speedy Alka Seltzer, from Bayer, the makers of aspirin and heroin, is being revived by BBDO in the hopes he'll hold vintage appeal for a younger market, according to the NY Times today.

Speedy was created in 1951 by the now defunct Wade Agency and dumped ten years later by Jack Tinker Partners, a hot creative boutique in the 60s. (Tinker was formed by CDs tired of being managers at McCann, who wanted to get back to creating work. They convinced Interpublic to set them up in a suite at the Dorset Hotel, next to a great source of visual ideas before the internet: MOMA. Alka Seltzer was among the first clients to walk in the door.)

In the swinging 60s, the Speedy mascot (and stop action animation) was seen as staid and corny and declasse.

Tinker replaced Wade's work with "groovier" spots, including a simple-line animation commercial that William Steig illustrated using pre-computer animation, penning the drawings with a sharpened bamboo reed. Gene Wilder was voiceover.

As yet, there was no plop, plop, fizz, fizz. One of the creatives at Tinker was Mary Wells who tells the story behind the tagline. The creative team milking R&D for ideas met a doctor who said that two aspirins work better than one. Knowing that aspirin is the main ingredient in Alka Seltzer, the team got the doctor to agree that two Alka Seltzer tabs also worked better than one. The client was only too happy to up the dosage on the pack. (When was the last time your idea doubled annual sales?)

Eventually, Tinker lost the account to DDB who did spots that still rank among my favorite commercials of all time:

The spots won all kinds of awards, but the client hated them, contending that indigestion wasn't funny. Unfortunately for the agency, viewers loved "Spicy Meatball" but thought that the product it sold was spaghetti.

The client brought the account back to Mary Wells who by now had left Tinker to start her own shop: Wells Rich Greene. She lured the client with another groundbreaking idea: do 30 second spots instead of 60s.

And today's powerhouse concept for the brand is...recycling?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

global pandemic: dooced in shanghai

Shanghai's Metro Authority has fired a female employee for uploading a security camera video of a couple kissing on a platform, and posting it on Youtube.

The video, imaginatively titled "Shanghai Metro Line Staff Secretly Tape Lovers Kissing Goodbye", includes audio of metro employees watching the hook-up through security cameras and making lewd comments. (Translations of audio: "They're getting so hot and heavy", "Better go get a room","I'm getting turned on", "I want some actions, too.") Their vigilance is commended by our local MTA which urges transit workers: If you see something, say something.

ideas don't care how old, er, senior you are

A new company has come up with a package that sells itself. Literally. No ad budget necessary. Next time you're in a drugstore, look for NXT Shaving Gel. You won't have to look hard. The containers are embedded with LEDs, which lights them up like little lava lamps. The new pack's stopping power means it can be stocked on lower shelves, saving the manufacturer millions on retail real estate. (Purchasing eye-level shelf placement is like buying on Fifth Avenue which is why you usually bend down or reach up for off-brand products.)

The creative genius responsible for this breakthrough product that targets guys 18-24? Some MIT whiz kid? Design geeks in Japan? Nah. An 85 year old chemist who's been coming up with ideas for Gillette and other companies for over 50 years. He's already planning his next product rollout. So take heart, senior creative citizens. There's hope for us dinos in the age of mammals.

Monday, March 3, 2008

don't be a dooce

So. DailyBiz made the mainstream trade press today. Good news for his blogging career. Dubious news for his other career. I can feel tremors set off by HR departments all over town logging onto ad blogs for the first time, trying to suss out if the writer is on their payroll.

And what if we're outed?

In a comment to an earlier post exploring the question of anonymity, DearJaneSample summed up what most of us bloggers hope, which is that consequences would be fairly benign:
I imagine that it would come out via an "enemy" because if you are my friend no way are you blowing my cover. Which means it would probably be spun in a negative light and it would be someone who had an axe to grind.
As such at this point I would be in damage control mode, and I'd have to tell my boss, because it is best that it came from me ... rather then have them find out from someone else, and I would get the dreaded "invite to the boardroom".
I would not stop blogging, but who knows how it would change or how my agency would want to be involved or not? I think they might be excited about the association ... but I would probably have to "edit" some posts.
Adweek contends that "the legal system still works in favor of the bloggers." But I've been doing a little research this morning. And what I've turned up seems to indicate otherwise.

"The difference between blogging about your pets and blogging about who the office skank is? One can get you in serious trouble," reports an online article exploring the question with attorneys.

A lawyer personally invested in the continuance of my job opportunities (hi, hon) warns that if you work for a company in one of the 8 states with at-will employment law, you can be fired at any moment for any reason at all. As long as standard discrimination laws aren't violated. New York happens to be one of these states.

Turns out blogging about work has been cause for termination ever since blogs were called weblogs. In 2002, a web designer was let go because she wrote satirical accounts of her experiences at a dot-com startup on her blog called Dooce. (Which is why being fired for blogging is being "dooced.") She warns fellow bloggers:
I started this website in February 2001. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID.
The growing list of dooced employees (according to, what else, a blog):

1) Michael Hanscom, fired in October 2003 as a temp at Microsoft for posting a picture of Apple Macintosh G5s sitting on the loading dock at MS.
2) Troutgirl, fired from Friendster for blogs that included references to her work.
3) Matthew Brown, fired from Starbuck's for posting comments about the coffee chain, its customers and managers on his personal blog in September 2004.
4) Penny Cholmondeley, terminated from her post as Nunavut (Canada) Tourism marketing officer after someone anonymously complained about her blog to her employer, which included passing references to the locale.
5) Iain Murray, a Brit working in the US, fired from his post as Director of Research at an NPO in January 2003, apparently in part due to blogging at work.
6) Steve Olafson, fired from his job reporting for the Houston Chronicle after another reporter outed him as the anonymous force behind a blog that was critical of local politicians and other news sources.
7) Daniel P. Finney, also fired from a job as a reporter, at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when they discovered he was blogging, in part about his news assignments.
8) Jessica Cutler (Washingtonienne), fired after blogging for a total of two weeks about her sexual exploits with six partners, including a few highly placed government staffers.
9) Amy Norah Burch, who was fired from her job as undergraduate coordinator for the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University, after "a handful of unflattering references to her workplace interspersed throughout the site’s archives raised eyebrows at the department." May 2004.
10) QueenofSky, who was fired from Delta Airlines after she posted pictures of herself in Flight Attendant uniform ("risque" poses?).

Last month, a CNN producer was fired for blogging about media, which he still does. Today's post is titled A Jihad of Fun.

No ad grunts that I could suss out, but the Adweek article today quotes an agency exec who suggests "shops will start to crack down on posts" pointing out that "it's a small universe of people."

There's no federal case to set precedent yet. (Be the first! It's one way to go down in history.) But it appears that First Amendment law does not protect bloggers dishing dirt about employers--even if employers aren't specifically named. Alas, it seems if you work for a place with pockets deep enough to file a John Doe lawsuit , the bottom line is this: You can blog about work. But only if you're ready to be your own boss.