Friday, February 29, 2008

poster child for...?

I waited for a bus today in the cold for what seemed like a millennium. Which gave me plenty of time to ponder this shelter ad and wonder what the heck it was for. Ear buds to block out annoying litanies from your mom? A new line of orange fashionwear? Turns out it's a PSA from The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. According to their website, the admirable goal is to engage men as partners in the fight against domestic violence. This ad is meant to appeal to men? Guess McCann SF won't be landing the Viagra account anytime soon.

Of course, the agency probably isn't solely to blame for this campaign misfire. Nonprofit clients can be hell to work with--bogglingly opinionated and unremittingly directive even when they're getting ad work for free. I've sat around plenty of conference room tables with uber-educated lawyers or academics who wield impressive command of world politics, global economies, a thousand other subjects I haven't a grasp on, yet don't know they are clueless about the art of persuasion. "If we don't tell men to respect women, how will they know we want them to do so?" I can just hear a state-pensioned communications director say. The first rule of working with nonprofits, I've learned, is not to get started by discussing a brief. It's to (gently, gingerly) administer a 101 course in Why Ads Aren't Legal Docs: The Case Against Spelling Everything Out.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

very bad day at the office

TJ in Syracuse is only 24 years old. But his montage seems the work of someone who's held a desk job for years. Music is, appropriately, Bad Day by Daniel Powter. (via Papa Jon, thanks!)

emergency broadcast derails major pitch today during presentation of communications credentials

This is your fire warden. The trouble is over. The alarm went off from a piece of paper on fire on the 6th floor. There is no more fire. The problem has been solved-ed. (CLEARLY KNOWS SOMETHING’S OFF, SO TRIES AGAIN.) The problem has been…solved-ed. Everything cool.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

cube-clinging & canine avoidance

When I got here on Monday, and was appalled by the cube, I asked them to find me an alternate space. This, they said, would be impossible. There is no space--it's interactive, remember? Even the conference room has been pre-empted; meetings take place instead around a long table set out in the open.

This morning, however, they found me a place. I could move into my AD's office; her office mate left for vacation today. Assuming I'd have no objection to this, they'd already filed the job ticket with Operations (yes, you have to file a job ticket to get anything moved, even to get a lightbulb replaced.) But now I don't want to move! The AD I'm working with brings her dog to work. I know I'll probably lose readers with this, but--I don't like dogs! And hers is the kind I don't like most of all--tiny and yippy and always marking his territory by peeing on the absorbent disposable pad the AD lays on the carpet that is already skeevy enough as it is. But I don't want to say so and come off a bigot. It seems I'm the only one not enamored of Pickles. Everyone else stops in to pet him and admire the collar he's wearing each day, which the AD designs herself and color coordinates with her own attire.

I don't want to move for another reason. Sitting within earshot of my boss has been paying off in distinct advantages. He can't chat on the phone without my overhearing, so I get the lowdown on everything first. And in a place this big, knowledge is tradable currency.

It wasn't easy to get them to cancel the job ticket, though. You know when a bureaucratic mind gets set on something, they really, really hate to reverse it.

interactive, neglected stepchild

(Update: Apologies to latecoming readers. Post retracted. See enlightening words on this subject from Jane.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Swedish soldiers want penis back

Nordic military men are in a huff because the lion on their coat of arms was castrated. The emasculation was first said to be the result of pressure by female soldiers, but this rumor proved false. Turns out the Commander in Chief of the Nordic Battlegroup himself gave the lion the snip because, proving that even military men can be sensitive types, he doesn't consider the male appendage an appropriate symbol for his troops to wear into battle--too many civilian women sexually abused in war zones. A military artist was dismayed by what he called the Commander's lack of historical awareness. In former times, the artist said, lions without genitalia were used on coats of arms reserved for traitors. If size of the lion's member was an issue, he explained, “we could have made the dimensions a bit smaller. Once we created a similar symbol for another client-Swedish Customs and [when they objected] we just shrank the organ.” (Thanks, DKR, for the link.)

Speaking of miniature male genitalia, a friend alerts me to a product that’s all the rage in LA: a plug for the L’il Fountain to keep parents of Valley Boys dry during diaper changes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

old dog, new clicks

Years ago, I did a gig at a "virtual" office that had no walls except four glass slabs housing the workings of a futuristic-looking server, an object of such curiosity in those days that visiting clients always asked to see it. "What if it breaks down," I heard a client wonder. "It won't," assured the management supe giving the tour. (It did break down, of course. But only when I was on deadline.)

It was memory of this that made me imagine the interactive floor at a big agency as kind of a futuristic Willy Wonka factory, all chrome and steel and glass housing for spinnning parts and uber-smart, uber-youth pecking at keyboards.

So it was a surprise to show up for my first day this morning and discover a warren of small cubes and dark offices, even smaller and darker than the office I spent the past four months complaining about. In fact, I wasn't given any office at all. Interactive is so crowded, I'm assigned to a cube. I sit secretary-style just outside my boss's (window) office and use an IMac with a monitor the size of a cineplex screen, so that gmail and posting are out of the question.

Most of my first day was spent writing copy for what looks like a web quiz to determine what is your body type, but in actuality, drives respondents to the same conclusion: that they need not just one diet product, but six.

Luckily, I'm an avid reader of DearJaneSample or would have outed myself as a digital poser, first thing. Reading my copy, the art director wondered which blocks were meant to be corporate, which meant to be Jane. Jane who? I thought, but remembered in time. The other term that almost tripped me up was "offline" which is how everyone refers to what I've always thought of as print and TV.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

got testosterone?

Lots of cowboy hats, bared biceps and unshaven jaws out here in Marlboro Country. Dinner tonight at the highly-recommended Cowboy Ciao where menu includes Testosterone Soup and Big Biceps Salad. (Spinach salad, homage to Popeye.) If I'd had an anchor tattoo, according to the menu, it would have been $4 less. But not every guy out here is a cowboy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Monday, I start work in interactive instead of general. For the first time, I'll be sitting on the interactive side of the table. This might feel weird. But hey, it's a dayrate. Speaking of which, is it true that writers in interactive make less than in general? That's what the recruiter tried to tell me which I think is ridiculous. Don't interactive writers actually have to know more?

another inappropriate greeting from someecards

Friday, February 22, 2008

on february 22

In 1879, Frank Woolworth opened his first 5 and 10 cent store.
In 1923, the USPS invented air mail.
In 1974, a assassin failed to annihilate President Nixon.
In 1989, a pregnant copywriter about to give birth had to talk a NY cabbie out of stopping at McDonald's en route to the hospital. Happy Birthday, K.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dinty 2.0

There's this Dinty Moore which you probably know about. And there's this Dinty Moore which you probably don't. Buy this Dinty if you're looking for a quick fix of salt and carbs. Buy this one if you're hungry for a nourishing stew of wise and weird narrative, like:

If you rearrange the letters in Osama Bin Laden, you can form the phrase "A damn alien SOB."

Well, if Osama were an alien--like, from Pluto--then we'd have an easier answer to why he has done what he has done. He came from outer space.

Dinty 2.0's new book is called Between Panic & Desire, named after two towns in Pennsylvania. It's less like a book than a hand-held blog. I'm enjoying it immensely. You might, too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

spotted today in trendsetting tempe, arizona

New concept in hair design. Hope you're able to make out the matching spotted clogs.

potato no longer dieter's Voldemort

Writing this from Arizona where the minute you wake up you're already two hours behind. But have you heard this news flash I caught on TV in the fitness center--it may impact what you order for lunch. A new study (funded by the National Potato Board?) shows Atkins, South Beach diets got it wrong--potatoes can actually help you lose weight. The only (perplexing) catch is, they have to be eaten cold. So at last you can bring on those huevos and omelets without holding the home fries. (Just blow on them, I guess, before eating.) Is it my Irish heritage that makes me hope the potato regains the status it held for years, when it was advertised as "America's Favorite Vegetable" and was such a staple in American homes that the original Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head required them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

microsoft licenses cure for alzheimer's?

Received a hopeful message this morning from the good folks in Redmond:
This update fixes a vulnerability that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your memory with malicious code.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

sunday new york times, biz section, pg 5

Laggard. Instead of spending uncompensated time reading blogs like this, or posting on better ones, you could be making $535/hour brandspeeding. What's brandspeeding? According to a full page ad in today's NY Times, it's a no-nonsense, 10 day alternative to ponderous and overly expensive approaches to new products' and brand positioning creation. (Sorry, no link.)

Brandspeeding sounds like advertising on Adderall. Copy claims that it's helping companies invent a new product, create a brand positioning for it and coming up with a real introductory advertisement--all in 10 days.

How, old-school thinkers may wonder, is this possible? Because Speed allows great ideas to happen before bureaucracy and over thinking gum up the works. At last a way to eliminate client revisions (bureaucracy) and testing (over thinking) so that creatives need never go back to a drawing board.

The going rate for a 10-day brandspeeding project is $42,800. Plus expenses. Pro-rated that's $4280 a day. In a year, you could conceivably rack up over $1.5 million.

How to get started? First, get a client to buy into the process. Then, it's easy as 1,2,3:

#1. First, spend a half-day (a mere half-day!) with 15-20 client personnel in a meeting you call an invention workshop. Ostensibly, this meeting is to gather client input, but my guess is, what it's really meant to do is to fulfill marketing personnel's dream of "being creative"--something ad agency types are forever putting the kibosh on.

#2. Stage another half-day (half-day!) session with 12 invention specialists in varied creative careers. Invention specialists! Inspired title for friends and out of work colleagues (freelancers, failed novelists, artists without grants, photographers who haven't landed a job in years) who can be coerced into an afternoon at a corporate park in New Jersey--say you'll cater the meeting and it should be a cinch.

#3. Pick a product and positioning that comes out of the sessions and develop a real introductory advertisement for it. Thus cleverly short-circuiting the usual ad-making process which allows for pesky client feedback, revision rounds, legal mandates and testing.

I googled the agency that placed the ad which claims in a subhead that their client roster includes 66 of the Top 100 Global Brands. (For speed-mongers, their site takes a surprisingly long time to load.) But all I found posted were print ads for failed or ancillary brand extensions. Like a new sandwich from Wendy's featuring the dubious combination of chicken, ham and pecans. A sonorous spread for a bank service with the headline Be the early bird. Visual: Bird getting a worm.

I have to hand it to them, however, for the genius it took to come up with an agency deliverable that produces more fee than tsuris. And if they can make enough from it to place full page in the Times, just think of the riches awaiting ad grunts with talent.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

it's a wrap

Friday, February 15, 2008

the party's over

You'd think there'd be nothing better for a soon-to-be-out-of-work freelancer than a reunion of your old agency. But not if old is the operative word. Hundreds showed up at a designated restaurant last night, but most were pimping for freelance, just like I was. Common topics of conversation over cheese cubes and mini-crabcakes: how to segue into interactive if you can't program a phone and how to make your hot flashes appear to be something else. The former ECD and office hearthrob who must be in his 70s looked amazingly fit--probably because he now lives in the sunny Hamptons with a jailbait wife and their 5 year old son. Most people, alas, haven't fared so well and would have been unrecognizable were it not for their nametags. Which were helpfully written in 54 point type.

An art director who was "kick-ass" in 1981 bemoaned her new freelance job at a BDA, working on tampons. "I saw my writer for 2 seconds, she just threw me headlines and said to make them look good. They're not even headlines, they're package copy. Two guys in their thirties are each vying to be head of the account. They keep coming to my desk separately, hissing, 'Don't listen to him, you work for me!' "

Of course, I asked her if they needed a writer.

from someecards via goodURLbadURL

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy V-day to you and your monogamous Vole

According to the Wall Street Journal, researchers are using lab science to study the scientific progression of love in hopes of finding a way to reignite passion in fizzled-out relationships. A conference in Stockholm (where else) reported findings from a study on prairie voles, North American rodents that stay paired for life. They’re speed-daters by nature: average courtship is less than 24 hours. But (mammals, they’re all alike) copulation has to be part of the courting process because males don't feel attached to a female until they’ve had sex with her.

When asked about the possibility of a love-again drug, a scientist admitted they’re not even close. “But maybe we'll be contacted by a pharmaceutical company and they'll give us $10 zillion and we'll find something." Pfizer needs another blockbuster as Viagra nears off-patent. I’m loading up on PFE shares now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

७ sins

I’ve been learning a lot from Nina DiSesa lately, thanks to her excellent book Seducing the Boys Club. I recommend it highly to anyone in the business who’s of the female persuasion. And to guys who find that they’re not in the club. (As we all know, it takes more than testicles to get in.)

One of her insights: there are Seven Deadly Sins to avoid when working with alpha men, traits that will convince them that you’re not worth dealing with.
Blind Obedience
Visible Fear

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

aussie ad agency is back

If you've missed this blog as much as I have, you'll be glad to know that Writer has posted today for the first time in months. Does the A in WGA Strike also stand for Australia?

presentation tip #1—to sell crazy boards, look more normal

Today's New York Times cites a study that shows if you're trying to sell something, people are more likely to buy if you imitate (not irritate) them.

Psychologists researching the art of persuasion gave 37 Duke students what was described as a new sports drink, Vigor, and asked them to answer a few questions about it. With half the students, the interviewer mimicked the student's body language, mirroring the student's posture and movements. If the student crossed his legs, the interviewer would wait two seconds and cross his legs, too. If she touched her face, the interviewer imitated that motion. By the end of the interview, students whose motions were imitated were significantly more likely than others to “buy”.

Trying to sell a wacky spot to a creationist brand manager from Cincinnati? Forgo wearing black and cut the Bush jokes. To an overworked (as in nip ‘n tuck) blonde from Southern California? Get that fur out of mothballs, you can wear it today. Imitate your client's annoying habits, but wait a few beats. Don't play back his honking laugh or ear-pulling too quickly, or, the study warns, mimicry turns into mockery and has the opposite effect.

Scamp posts advice along similar lines in a recent blog poll about dressing for creative success.
When John Webster wrote a script for a lager ad about a pool-playing bear, and presented it dressed as a normal bloke, he was subliminally communicating to his audience: "Look, I know a pool-playing bear sounds a bit wacky, but it will appeal to regular blokes, and you can trust me on that, because I am one."

I bet whoever sold P&G on Tide's “Talking Shirt" also talked up a storm about Skyline Chili.

Monday, February 11, 2008

mail order pride

Getting started in the business--any business--is tougher than ever. And brand names in education, as in other categories, matter. A degree from the right school can help you get in the door. But why waste four years and $200 grand in tuition. The helpful folks at M.Lahart will outfit you with accessories from the prestige U of your choice. Wish you'd gone to Princeton? Your keyring will say you did. Harvard? Wear a watch with a crimson H on the dial. Once you're hired (you think HR has time to track down university regristrars?) maintain the image with an engraved pewter frame on your desk with a Facebook photo of a Charles regatta slapped in. You're on your way to stock options and management meetings in Milan. Where no one will give a fig where you went to school.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

subway tip

Say it's late at night and you are on the subway. You're a small woman with a big purse you regret you are carrying. Why did you bring a big purse late at night on the subway. Why are you on the subway at all? It is late at night. You should be in a cab. Curse your lack of patience for waving your gloveless hand in the cold. How do you keep crazy people from sitting near you--the bible-ranters, the garbage-eaters, the woman wearing three coats who smells like pee, the menacing-looking man stepping into the car, fixing his eyes, for some reason, on you. Here is the answer: look crazy yourself. Remember that piece of string that's been at the bottom of your big purse for months? Fish it out. Put it between your lips. Let it dangle. And/or roll up a magazine and beat yourself on the head. No one will want to sit next to you. You get a row of seats to yourself. And peace of mind. Priceless.

where the wild things aren't

Nothing like a good run to detox after a week in the ad mines. I'm lucky to live close to Riverside Park, a waterfront stretch on Manhattan's west side. But what's up with this sign? The only wildlife I've seen there are off-the-leash pooches--by some sort of unofficial dog-owners' agreement, leash laws don't go into effect until after 9 AM. So how does Parks & Recreation get away with this overpromise?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

how to boss ad broads

If you're reading this blog, there's a 72% chance that you're under forty. There's also a 92% chance that you are in advertising. Which means there's a 32%* chance I'll be working for you someday, so here's a bit of self-interested advice about managing ad broads so they don't go home feeling like pieces of bacon:

1. Make eye contact with her. When you're speaking, don't focus only on her (younger) partners, or your Blackberry, or the wall behind her, no matter how uncomfortable being half her age makes you.

2. Don't change her headlines while she is not in the room. This advice is applicable to writers of all ages, but is particularly key to remember when working with a writer who was coming up with headlines while you were singing the Sesame Street song.

3. Don't assume that because a writer is old she wouldn't want to hang with you after hours. Yes, it is rude to ask everyone in the hallway to join you for a drink across the street, except her.

4. Don't constantly spout obscenities when other adjectives will do.

5. When she takes the time to introduce you to one of her kids, politely acknowledge this introduction later.

6. Don't compliment her jewelry by observing it's just like something your mother would wear--she doesn't care that your mom has good taste.

7. Don't ever, ever read her copy submitted to you for approval, then hand it back to her and ask her to read it out loud.

8. Don't call her the name of the only woman in the office who is older than her.

9. When she asks you a polite question about your personal life, making small talk, ask her a polite question about her personal life, too. Don't just stop talking after you've answered her question. She is making an effort. Now it's your turn.

10. When you call her into your office for a meeting, don't make her remove your hipster man-purse from the only available chair in the room before she can sit.

11. Don't call her into the office for the meeting by yelling from your desk, as if she's a dog.

If these simple rules are too hard to follow, as they seem to be for the guy I am working for, I wish you a boss exactly like yourself when you are my age--which, no matter how much you work out, will happen tomorrow.

*all statistics pulled from thin air

is google a feminist?

Thanks, Google, for misdirecting a searcher in Chicago to my site instead of telling him how to say u stupid broad in chinese.

february 7, 4706

It's Chinese New Year today, Happy Year of the Rat, the most industrious sign in the Chinese zodiac. In tribute, here's an inexplicably Chinese-themed industrial video, circa. 1946. It's a sales film for Fairbanks Studios, a Hollywood house famous for creating hilariously stagy and overdesigned post-war corporate videos. The cast of this one includes a copywriter "whose paycheck isn't very big because his copy has to be toned down before it reaches the printed page" and a film starlet demonstrating time-saving advances for the kitchen like (too bad this didn't catch on) a table that slides handily out of the wall, pre-set with dishes and silverware.

For more industrial-strength goodness, go Internet Archive where you can download Once Upon a Honeymoon, a musical made in 1956 to promote color telephones as a decorator accessory and Brink of Disaster which shows how 1960s activism threatens American moral, religious and ethical principles.

And don't forget to stop by Why Advertising Sucks, where Joker is passing out fortune cookies.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

identity politics

The question of anonymity is generating some heat in my little corner of the blogosphere today.

It started with a post over at Marketing Conversations which observed that when social media types blog they give you all of their contact info: their emails, their places on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter... and that, by contrast, most ad industry bloggers post anonymously.

Agency Spy threw out a call to ad bloggers this morning: Why are you anonymous? and Daily Biz admitted in an eloquent post that his main reason for anonymity was so he could write about a co-worker he had a crush on without letting her know. (He's since blown his cover--to no avail.)

Agency Tart guessed that anonymity=her job because You can’t really cut and paste internal emails on the internet and have your boss be okay with that. (She's right to worry. Check this out, one of her many hilarious cut & paste email posts.)

Tangerine Toad, sagely observed in a comment that 'out' bloggers (e.g. Ian Schafer, George Parker, Joseph Jaffe) work for themselves while those of us who remain anonymous work for somebody else.

Jane Sample concurred (in inimitable Jane style): Being anonymous gives you more freedom in your writing... Man, if I think of the watered down shit I would be writing under my own name …. ugh.

Where's My Jetpack protested I’m not THAT anonymous. A few links on my blog reveal who I am. (Really?)

On a FAQ page for Multicultclassics, HighJive attributes his anonymity to avoiding the political retaliation that often accompanies speaking the truth.

Why is Ad Broad anonymous? For much the same reason. I don't want to have to tote a company line which I'd feel beholden to do if I were "out" and fearful of blogging the hands that feed me. (How does Scamp do it?) Plus, I don't want coworkers, bosses, friends clamming up in my presence, suspicious that I am looking to libel them.

And let's not forget that, like all copywriters, I'm accustomed to writing under an assumed name. Ads don't have bylines.

If I were a journalist or social media type, I'd eagerly post my real name in the hopes that some eagle-eyed editor (do editors read these things?) might contact me for an assignment or a book proposal, even. If I were a journalist, I'd have something to gain. But what do I gain by giving Ad Broad my name? Who ever heard of an ad agency CD hiring a freelance writer on the strength of her blog? From an agency's POV, blogging isn't added value, it's a giant red flag of a liability: no agency fancies running the risk of letting its underwear flap in the blogosphere.

Tonight, in a comment on DailyBiz, the writer of the original post, Jonathan Tannen (presumably not an ad guy, writing under his own name) said: I love the fact that I have no idea who most of you are. But there’s a certain sadness to it... For a supposed push-the-envelope industry, sticking one’s neck out individually seems to invite derision.

True, the ad business may be a push-the-envelope industry, but those of us in it know it's not exactly populous with push-the-envelope types-- genuine renegades aren't generally good at coping with commutes and time sheets and deadlines and dress codes. To survive in this business, you've got to make yourself fairly agreeable-- able to endure inane client comments, endless copy revisions, impossible deadlines, counterintuitive research results that kill a spot in production.

So I don't think it's sad that ad bloggers are anonymous. I think it's fortunate, a matter of survival. We've got a place to vent our true thoughts and feelings without the risk of being fired or shot. Take Joker who must have had a meeting today with clients from hell. Without his blog, he might be in custody for manslaughter.

Monday, February 4, 2008

sorry, charlie

I loved (envied) the Coke balloons but the Superbowl spot I most admired was Tide's Talking Shirt because it was made (unbelievably) for a packaged goods company and without a budget that exceeds the GNP of some nations. That's why I also love this spot from Argentina which IMHO was better than any that ran last night. (Thanks, GardenBroad.)

Agency: Grey, Buenos Aires


Agency: wieden+kennedy

Sunday, February 3, 2008

superbowl for grammarians

A few weeks ago, teams of linguists, lexicographers and etymologists faced off in Chicago to determine the American Dialect Society's annual Word of the Year. Among nominations for 2007's most notable new word or phrase:

connectile dysfunction -inability to gain or maintain a connection

bacn -impersonal email such as alerts, newsletters, and
automated reminders that are nearly as annoying as
spam but which one has chosen to receive.

Googlegänger -a person with your name who shows up when you google yourself.

Happy Kwanhanamas! [Kwanza + Hanukka + Christmas] -Happy holidays!

NINJA -real estate term describing mortgage candidate with no income, no job or assets.

quadriboobage -appearance of having four breasts caused by wearing a brassiere that is too small.

tapafication -tendency of restaurants to serve food in many small portions

toe-tapper -a homosexual. From Senator Larry Craig's experience last June in a public restroom.

vegansexual -a person who eats no meat, uses no animal-derived goods and prefers not to have sex with non-vegans.

If I'd had a vote, I would have opted for wrap rage which means anger brought on by the frustration of trying to open a factory-sealed purchase.

But the word most compelling to grammarians was subprime- used to describe a risky or poorly documented loan or mortgage.

Last year's winner was pluto (to be plutoed means to be demoted or devalued) which somehow prevailed over lactard, a person who is lactose-intolerant.

In 2005, it was truthiness (what one wishes to be the truth regardless of facts) although nominations included tantalizing choices like whale-tail (the appearance of thong or g-string underwear above the waistband) and crotchfruit (a child or children.)

Full accounts of past winners and nominations can be found on the Society’s website. In case you're in need of random distractions before kickoff.

[thanks to the lingual vigilance of visualthesaurus and grammar-geek Ellen]

Saturday, February 2, 2008

the bald and the beautiful

Are most people who stalk celebrities bald? Why else would this site be sponsored by this one?

I googled the question and look what I found:

[via Freakingnews]