Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why do I have to work today?

Today is Leap Day.

Did you know that LEAP is actually an acronym for:


And NOT an acronym for:


It's true*! So on this day of eating and pooping, I say, if we can't get a free day off, we at least take an extra long lunch.

*It's not.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I check out a lot of art and design sites and it always annoys me when people get too cutesy. Especially when they are just rehashing maudlin cliches. Most of the time I just pass over them, but I couldn't resist calling out this particular one, especially since it's obvious that they spent at lot of time on their lettering and coloring.

Cash is King

I’m going back to cash. Not completely, mind you—the prospect of carrying around large sums of money (and making it public) isn’t exactly appealing or practical—but for meals out or a quick trip to the store, I’m going to keep the plastic static.

Why? Several reasons.

First, Slate Magazine is running a series on money and cash this week. But their whole article seems to be sponsored by “cashless” businesses (see picture). Objective reporting … suspect.

Second, I’ve found myself making rather impulse and arbitrary purchases lately. By only spending what I have in my wallet, I figure I’ll be less likely to add that pack of cigarettes to my home-colonic kit* purchases.

Third, I like spreading my money out on my bed and rolling around on it.

Fourth, every credit card purchase costs a retailer 2-5%, which in turn is passed along to the consumer in the form of higher costs. And, yes, cash incurs additional costs (time spent counting tills, risk of petty theft, transferring money), but oftentimes the sum total is far less than 2-5%. So going with cash allows retailers to keep more of their money and, hopefully, give them an incentive to stop increasing the cost of goods so rapidly**. Also, it would be nice if everyone thought about the toll their convenience has on the overall cost of goods and didn’t just assume that their “sky miles” were actually free.

Fifth, I don’t like being tracked. I clear out my browser’s cookies regularly. I turn off my location based services on my phone. And I pay cash when buying illicit drugs, hiring prostitutes and purchasing large quantities of knock-off handbags***. Especially when I’m making it rain at the strip club or gambling all night at the casinos. That way, Target won’t know that I’m pregnant and send me creepy offers in the mail (link below).

*Strangely, I’ve never purchased either of these items. I don’t even smoke or colonic.
**Okay, yes, I admit this is more of a pipe dream than an actual incentive. Okay, yes, there is no incentive.
***Again, I’m not sure why I’m providing examples of actions I’ve never performed.

Monday, February 27, 2012


I didn't make it through most of the Academy Awards, but the biggest winner during last night’s Oscars seemed to be racism.
·      Billy Crystal “After I saw The Help, I wanted to hug a black person. But I live in Beverly Hills, so that’s like a 45-minute drive.”
·      Chris Rock: “If you’re a black voice actor, you can play a zebra or a donkey. You can’t play white!”

I only saw one movie nominated for Best Picture, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give my own awards:

Best Looking Picture
Tree of Life

Best Actor delivering two completely divergent performances
Ryan Gossling (Crazy. Stupid. Love. and Drive)

Best Actress based on one scene
Elle Fanning in Super 8

Best Movies involving aliens
Super 8/Paul

Best Pictures involving superheroes
Thor/Captain America/X-men First Class

Best Comedy for the ladies, by the ladies

Best Popcorn Movie
Source Code

Biggest Surprise

Movies that should have been considerably better, considering the cast
Horrible Bosses
Hangover 2

Congrats to all of the winners. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: The Art of Client Service By Robert Solomon

The premise:
Being an account person at an ad agency is one of the most difficult, thankless jobs around. But it’s also one of the most important. And, to top it off, there isn’t any one way to do it right, but there are plenty of ways to get it wrong. Mr. Solomon uses his extensive experience as a guide for anyone looking to better their relationships with their clients.

The good:
Mr. Solomon covers a wide swath of the day-to-day challenges that may arise throughout the career of an account person, and there were plenty of times where I found myself nodding in agreement or shaking my head in disbelief at a familiar situation. He also breaks his advice down into short chapters, which allows the book to be used as a sort of field guide as needs arise. The most important point, in my opinion, was to ask the question, “so what?”

The bad:
The author could stand to dial the ego back a bit—at the end of the day, it’s still just advertising we’re talking about. I’m referring specifically to the guest intro and then two additional intros by the author himself. And he recommends one of his other books as one of the essential books to read. Almost made me question the author’s credibility.

The verdict:
Buy it as a gift for a person just starting out or a mid-level account executive, who might appreciate the advice of someone who’s been there before.

Recently I was checking my credit card statement and was shocked to find an exorbitant charge from a restaurant I visit infrequently. I dug through my records and, sure enough, I had been overcharged to a ridiculous degree. Now, in all truth, my first reaction was that the server had been trying to steal from me. But the amount was so outrageous—more than the entire dinner—that I realized that they must have mistaken the total for the tip and, after some quick math, it became apparent that it was an honest mistake. So I went to the restaurant and asked to speak with the manager. When she appeared, she recognized me and was friendly. When I explained the situation, she immediately grasped that she had made a mistake, apologized, rectified it AND gave me a gift card for my trouble. Now that’s service! I reassured her that it was an honest mistake and we both left feeling that the situation had been resolved amicably and satisfactorily.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tour de Kirkwood

I just signed up for the Kirkwood Triathlon. It's a sprint involving a 400 yard swim, 12 mile bike and 3 mile run. It's also on July 29th, so you have plenty of time to get in shape and/or make signs with taunting phrases written in glitter.

For more information or to register:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Maybe the question should be, "Can we get a better producer"?

Maybe the question should be, "How much fire and brimstone can one album handle"?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Good ad versus bad ad

Two current ads use tragic events for comedic effect. One does this effectively; the other does not. I would let you guess which is which, but this is the Internet, so I’m going to spell it out for you. WARNING: the second one says you have to be 18 or older.

The Crystal Light ad puts the product front and center and directly calls out what some women must already be thinking*—why bother worrying about bikini season if I’m never actually going to be in a bikini? The dialogue does a nice job of naturally (for a commercial) incorporating the product and its benefit into the conversation. And it sets up the expectation that “something” will happen next. I’ll be honest that I didn’t expect the Crystal Light “I believe in Crystal Light because I believe in me” brand to go to a plane crash. The humor in the ad is in the misdirection and subtle acting, but also in the absurdity—this is not a real plane crash; there aren’t any dead bodies; just supermodels and great lighting. And the final line, “I’m going to get wet” is surprisingly double entendre. Refreshing, Crystal Light.

As for the second ad … Oh, PETA. Did you forget that women are animals, too? Shouldn’t they be treated ethically**?

Apparently not. This ad would be controversial or offensive if it wasn’t so embarrassingly bad. Let’s count the ways, shall we?

1. It’s built on the premise that domestic abuse is hilarious
By mimicking the muted colors and serious voiceover style of actual Public Service Announcements, we, the viewers, automatically empathize when we see a woman in a neck brace.

2. It throws out a convoluted “condition” with an unfunny acronym
BWVAKTBOOM? Try again. How about, “Vegan And, Girl, I'm Nasty, Amen”?

3. The message that vegans can “bring it like a tantric pornstar” is dubious.
Are vegans healthier? Possibly. But is it the vegan lifestyle or that they pay more attention to what they eat? If the thought is that fewer vegans have erectile dysfunction, then why not use an old couple? Then it might actually be unexpected to see old people “bringing it like tantric pornstar”.

4. There are too many steps between vegans having rough sex and how that helps protect animals.
I feel as though PETA has fallen into their own trap, whereby they feel that every thing they do has to be “controversial”. Are we supposed to think a vegan lifestyle is “controversial”, too? Will that seem attractive to most people? But, if the message of the commercial is that the vegan lifestyle has many unexpected benefits, like an increased sex life, then why can’t that be the message? It would be much more credible to challenge guys who might be having performance issues*** to try a vegan lifestyle for a month and see if that resolves their problem. Unfortunately, as it stands, PETA is having performance issues all its own.

*Okay, women do not actually think this, but it is a nice set-up.
**Can of worms … opened. 
***No, not me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

So I went to the Library.

Check it out: I may have a problem. And, yes, that was a Library joke.
My Junior year of college I took 15 credit hours across three literature courses and ended up with 1200+ pages of required reading a week*. Not surprisingly, I got to be pretty skilled at skimming large swaths of words and unearthing quotes buried deep in the dense tangle of letters and past participle phrases. I also made the Annual Dean's List that year**. My point is that I now read only for pleasure and if it wasn't for the Public Library, I would be as broke and destitute as an orphan in a Charles Dickens' novel***. But probably not as plucky.

*This was before the Internet wrote the papers for you.
**Heck yeah, I'm bragging.
***Master of the Serialized Novel. Stealer of my Eight Grade Year--Great Expectations, indeed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Your Daily Whoroscopes

Aquarius (Jan 20 – Feb 18) This is the dawning of the age of Chlamydia.
Pisces (Feb 20 – Mar 20) The answer to your question is A. Hepatitis A.
Aries (Mar 21 – Apr 19) Gonorrhea are the days when you didn’t have a VD.
Taurus (Apr 20 – May 20) The back of that Ford Taurus? Herpes.
Gemini (May 21 – June 20) Two faces. One case of pink eye.
Cancer (June 21 – July 21) Yep, you have crabs.
Leo (July 22 – Aug 22) Rworr. Good luck taming those Scabies.
Virgo (Aug 23 – Sept 22) Test came back negative!
Libra (Sept 23 – Oct 22) Trichomoniasis? I barely knew her!
Scorpio (Oct 23 – Nov 21) Let’s give a round of applause for the Clap.
Sagittarius (Nov 22 – Dec 21) Warts going on?
Capricorn (Dec 22 – Jan 19) Syphilis. Sorry.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


My friends/mortal enemies over at ShootPaul created a cool site with a wholly original idea. Then some lazy copywriter/art director team over at some lazy agency did a lazy promotion that basically ripped off their idea.

The evidence:

Instead of compensation, I say the hacks spend a day getting shot by paint balls with the rightful creators pulling the triggers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Motivation for Running (volumes 1 & 2)




Blogger and recreational runner, That Tad Guy, has created a series of Motivation for Running tracks that take aspiring runners through either a 5k race or Half Marathon. 

What is this … thing?
Basically, I provide motivational tracks you can add to your running playlist to help you power through either a 5K race or half marathon.

How is this different than other workout-themed albums?
It’s not music; it’s spoken motivation. A lot of what’s out there is just music with a common tempo. This is me talking to you at certain points along your run.

Do you seriously expect people to want to run with a complete stranger in their ear?
Yes and no. I don’t see it as being all that different than listening to a celebrity trainer. Plus, I have a 9-to-5 job and know how hard it is to find the time and motivation to train for fun runs. To me, it’s what makes these tracks more realistic than just listening to someone whose only job is to workout all day. And I priced them at $1-2 so that money wouldn’t be a barrier or an issue.

So how did this come about?
A friend was training for a marathon and I was joking that everyone should record one funny, inspirational message for each mile. But like a lot of ideas involving large groups of people, it never materialized. And yet, there was something about the idea that stuck with me—probably the insight that running is both intensely individual and oftentimes boring. So I wrote out some fun tracks, bought a Samson Meteor Mic and began recording in Garageband. Before long, it started to take shape and I decided to self-publish using CD Baby for distribution.

Will there be a full marathon version coming out?
Not until I actually run one myself. I felt it was important to have actually run the distances I talk through. There are times during a race when you need a good laugh and times when you need more serious motivation. I tried to strike that balance by using my own personal experiences.

Why are there different prices on iTunes and Amazon?
Not sure. I priced these low so that more people would be interested in them and could enjoy them. I also wanted to sell them as an album only, but I guess each retailer has its own ideas about how to price and distribute them.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gee, thanks AV Club

While reading a review of the most recent Modern Family episode on the AV Club, I came across this little tidbit.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Institutions vs. Individuals

Warning: I’m about to get all political up in here.

While driving to work, instead of learning Japanese like I normally do, I heard a story on NPR about how the Administration* is requiring religiously affiliated institutions, like hospitals and universities, to provide birth control to their employees**. The institutions feel the new rule violates their liberties by forcing them to provide a service they morally oppose. The articles I’ve heard and read make this out to be a religious issue. It’s an issue that involves religious institutions, true, but it’s not really about religious liberties, in my opinion.

The issue is two-fold.

The first deals with the question of institutional versus individual rights. This isn’t about religious institutions, but all collective entities, like corporations***. Do we protect institutional rights at the expense of individual rights? Or do we protect the rights of individuals above all?

The track record is spotty at best, but one similar issue that comes to mind is the smoking ban. When states started to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, one of the key reasons was to protect the health of the waitstaff and bartenders who worked there. The right of the establishment to offer smoking was nullified by the rights of its employees.

The second part of the issue is that healthcare and insurance are tied directly to employment. Let’s not bother with the idea of buying insurance on your own—the two are not even comparable; non-employer insurance is cost prohibitive and only gets more expensive and nightmarish the older and more afflicted a person becomes****. If institutions don’t want to support birth control requirements, or other controversial mandates, they should support universal access to universal healthcare. That way, they can wash their hands of any direct involvement in the health policies of their employees.

That is, as long as they don’t use prescription hand lotion. It’s, unfortunately, not covered by the health plan at this time.

*I’m not going to call it “The Obama Administration”. It’s the Administration until a successor takes over. Then it can have a modifier to distinguish it from other, past administrations.
***Technically, corporations are also considered individuals (although not on this blog)
****Ever tried it? As a freelancer I had the pleasure of buying my own insurance. I quickly became a more cautious person.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Greatest.

Take a whiff of any food item that has turned and you’ll understand that the difference between good and bad can be starkly dramatic. Sometimes nauseatingly so.

But the difference between good and great or great and greater? It's harder to figure out because it’s much subtler. Nuanced shades of grey rather than black and white.

I remember once having the opportunity to sample a thimbleful of Scotch from a $200 bottle. I’m by no means a Scotch connoisseur (or is it aficionado?), but I would like to think that I am able to appreciate greatness in any form. So I tried it and I was underwhelmed by it. It was Scotch; smooth Scotch at that. But put a glass from a $40 bottle in front of me and I’d be hard pressed to justify the extra $160 and yet, there are those who find that slight difference a difference worth paying for. 

And that’s the thing I don’t think people realize: to jump from bad to good doesn’t cost that much. To go from good to great can cost a significant amount. But that next jump, from great to greater or even the greatest, can sometimes be exponential as the skill involved in discerning between subtle nuances becomes more specialize and, frankly, more rare.

A popular sentiment is that "greatness happens over time". Do a good thing over and over again consistently and eventually you become great. Whether that's fixing a drain, catching passes in sporting contests or writing thoughts down on a page. 

For some, good will be good enough. For others, good will always just be another form of bad.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Definitive Super Bowl Ad Review of 2012

What makes my ad review the definitive one? A highly scientific process involving two things:
1. I work in the industry
2. I watch the game for the game. If I happen to remember an ad, congrats, you have a winner. It’s usually when the room goes silent. If I missed your ad because I was stuffing my face, well, then you just wasted $4 million dollars.

First, I sympathize with any Creative put through the gauntlet of peer reviews, client reviews, focus groups, VP/CEO whims and all of the other daunting trials and tests that an idea has to survive to actually make it on the air. Unless you work on the GoDaddy account: then you just have to hate self-respect as much as you seemingly hate women and/or good taste.

Second, if you watched the ads BEFORE the SuperBowl, get a hobby or something. Seriously, there’s more to life than buying stuff.

Third, I will not be reviewing any beverage ads because of a few conflicts of interest. Also, I don’t consider movie trailers “ads” unless they did something unorthodox, like not showing the best parts of the movie.

Fourth, the best line of the night from a person in the room was when Madonna came out on stage: “Is that Betty White?”

Ads I remembered
·      The hot version of the J. Lo car.  A stunning woman* seduces a nerdy dude in Italian or some other language I don’t speak. Va-va-vroom. 
·      The bulldog running in shoes. Entertaining until the end. Did we really need to give Tone-Loc money for “Wild Thing”? Know your joke, people.
·      The spot with the couch and the monkeys. Don’t remember what it was for, but it made me laugh.
·      The kids playing sports. One of the few heartfelt spots of the night.
·      The Seinfeld spot. Not all that funny until Jay Leno saved it at the end. Who knew? Also, it was for a car. Four wheels, I believe.

Ads I remembered for the wrong reasons
·      Audi vs. Vampires. Really? The lights? That’s the best feature on a luxury car?
·      Doritos. The nice thing about these spots is the job security.

*Call me

Friday, February 3, 2012

Now with 100% more Twitter

I like the idea of Twitter more than I do Facebook. But, let's face it, blogging will always be my first digital love. So think of this link as the Cliff Notes' version of the blog you already know and love*.

*Um, that would be this one.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why I won’t be participating in the Facebook IPO

In my opinion, the only people who will be getting rich off of the Facebook IPO are people who already have shares of stock in the company, pre-sale. Everyone else: avoid it for a long time.

Here’s why:
·      Early adopters beware. Tech IPOs have been notorious for jumping up initially and then crashing down to a price lower than the initial IPO.
·      I don’t like Facebook as a product. The interface has always been clunky and it won’t be long before the new “timeline” feature automatically replaces that photo of you puking on a clown with an ad for a fabric cleaner. Puke.
·      Its prospects for growth are suspect at best. Facebook has nearly a billion people already signed up. But how many more of the 6+ billion people on earth really have access to the Internet? Yes, you could say there’s 80% of the market untapped, but I question how many people will still sign up if they haven’t already.
·      Their ad model sucks. I have never clicked on a Facebook ad and I doubt many of my friends have either. Sure, a few suckers might be “fans” of brands, but those brands are probably providing some sort of value. A crappy banner ad … not so valuable to me, the consumer.
·      What, exactly, do they produce? I bought some shares of Home Depot for $21 and they are now worth close to $45. Why? Because people in civilized countries will always have a need for raw building materials. Up-to-the-minute updates from my narcissistic friends*? Not so essential.
·      MySpace. Just sayin’.

*You know who you are, don’t you?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What it’s like to be a voiceover talent (for a day)

First things first: I don’t have a voice for radio*. No one hears me speak and says, “I would like to hear more of THAT”. I have a normal voice with a normal vocal range** and a rather lazy commitment to annunciation.

So it was rather surprising that I was asked by a colleague to come down to a recording studio to narrate a video. It was so surprising, actually, that I didn’t realize what I had signed on for—I thought I was just there to say a few lines, like “I sure like that thing you’re selling” or “I’d buy that for my cousin!” But there it was: five pages of robust narration. FIVE!

The most noticeable thing about a recording booth is the distinct lack of noise. You don’t realize just how much ambient noise fills your day until it’s so quiet that you can hear your blood moving through your veins. Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh!

Also, writing copy and reading copy are two distinctly different experiences. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to read my words out loud. When you do that, you learn what does and doesn’t work***. For instance, “an immersive environment” or “PR ROI” became on-the-fly tongue twisters for me.

And when you’re in the recording booth, where every little pop, slurp and breath is magnified, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the possible ways you can say a line.

Thankfully, sound engineers are used to acting like guardian angels. The great ones are like movie directors—they see the big picture and know how to give direction that will draw out the right reads and nuances. Or at least usable takes in my case.

All in all, I enjoyed my experience in the booth and relished the chance to read each line with a different emphasis or inflection. And while I didn’t do any intentional accents**** or get to say the words “In a world …”, I do feel like I was sufficiently ready for my close up.

*Nor a face for it.
**Unless it’s karaoke night, then I’m a vocal genius.
***Yes, yes, I should do that more often, I agree.
****I sometimes slip into a Canadian and/or Midwestern accent, for some reason.