Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#021 In which our hero embraces his geekitude.

At work yesterday a co-worker said to me, "I am SO excited about the new Spiderman movie!"

Now, if you're a comic book geek like me, you know this is dangerous ground. Even though it appears that comics are chic right now what with a new comic book movie coming out every six months, it can all change in an instant. I remember when I has eight and everyone was playing superheroes (I always wanted to be someone odd, like The Vision) and then BAM! The next week everyone wants to play football. FOOTBALL! Can Roger Staubach make himself intangible and walk through walls? Can he increase his density to that of diamond, making himself virtually indestructible? No and no! I was horrified.

I'm waiting for this comic geek bubble to burst. I really thought that terrible abortion of a movie, The Hulk, would do it. The point is, the comic book geek still cannot live free, he must hide his obsession least he be ridiculed and mocked.

So you can see how I was reluctant to show my true colors about the new Spiderman movie. I mean, I could say how I thought the first one was amazing (no pun intended) and Sam Raimi did a kick-ass job. I could explain how I was, however, a little disappointed that they made Peter's web-shooters organic, and how that was actually James Cameron's idea when he was still attached to the movie. You see, by making them part of his body, you lose the "oh no! I've run out of web fluid" opportunity for disaster that occurred in every fifth book. But, I could continue, other than that little foible, the movie perfectly captured the feeling of Spiderman, even down to certain iconic body positions and movements. Cautiously, I answered noncommittally:
ME: So you're looking forward to seeing it, huh?
HER: Oh yeah! Spiderman is my favorite superhero!
More danger. If she truly has a "favorite" superhero, that means she might actually read comic books. And being that we geeks need to stay together, I might have to extend an olive branch to her. Which I'm not keen on doing since A) I don't need to be overheard talking comics at work, and B) she's fucking nuts.

So I tried another approach:
ME: Do you mean Spiderman is your favorite hero, or Toby McGuire is?
HER: No! I don't care about Toby whatshisname. Spiderman is my favorite. The first movie rocked! Doc Ock looks so cool!
Eh, now what? It's not actor puppy love, but she might have developed this attitude strictly from the first movie, not the comics. But she seems to have knowledge of the villain, Doctor Octopus. What to do? Fortunately, her next comments revealed all.
HER: I never read the comic books or anything, but my brothers did.
Ah ha! Just another comic book pretender! Well, it was clear that I needent waste my breath giving my opinion on the new Spiderman movie. She would never learn my fear that there seems to be a lot going on from the trailer: Mary Jane marring another! Peter Parker walking away from being a hero! Harry Osborn plotting revenge! And Doc Ock! How cool does HE look? His tentacles look PERFECT! And you have to wonder if they're using the traditional Doc Ock origin story, or maybe using John Bryne's revisionist version, circa 1992; or maybe a combination of both... either of which would work, really, since it seems well established now that Doc Ock has a mental link with his metal tentacles and it doesn't really matter if that only works while he's wearing them or if he can exert control over them at a distance like he did when...


The new movie looks really cool, I think I'm seeing it this weekend.

I am SO excited!


#020 In which our hero doesn't like to chat.

At some point, I don't remember exactly when, I got fed up with people asking me "How you doing?" Or "What's going on?", same thing. One or the other of these seems to have become the nation's standard meaningless passing-in-the-hallway greeting. It seems to go something like this:
PERSON A: (8 feet away) "How y'doing?"
PERSON B: (4 feet away) "Good. How'you?"
PERSON A: (-1 foot away) "Good."
I'm not sure why it bugs me; I guess I'm not one for idle hallway chatter to start with; but it's so perfunctory and thoughtless... I guess I'd rather you say nothing than engage me superficially.

So at some point I started to answer "you know." This probably started while I was working in the phone room of the Columbus, OH newspaper; there were a lot of people, and being that I was nominally a supervisor, lots of folks knew my name.
PERSON A: (8 feet away) "How y'doing?"
ME: (4 feet away) "Eh, you know"
PERSON A: (stopping) " ..."
The best part is that since I'm not returning the expected greeting, people don't seem to know what to say next. Often, then just look confused, or just smile and keep going. A few times people have said "Um, no, I don't know," which is bullshit, since if I had just said "fine" they would have kept walking.

Now that I've been saying it for years, it's ingrained in me. I worry that I've become a bit of a hypocrite since now my response - even if it is unexpected - is delivered just as mindlessly as the initial question. But anytime I start to think ... eh, you know.


#019 In which our hero rooms with the French

Reading Mrs. Kennedy's post about her college roommate puts me in a nostalgic frame of mind.

I went to The Ohio State University (it's important that you have the "The" in there... and it's pronounced "THEE," don't you dare say "Th-ah!") in Columbus, OH. At the time it was the biggest university in the nation, but I believe that it's since been nudged out by someplace in Texas. The point is it was big, really big. And being that I came from a small, really small town, it was simultaneously exciting and terrifying for me.

My sister had gone to OSU years before. When filling out my application, her only advice to me was "Make sure you indicate NO OLENTANGY AREA RESIDENCY!" Actually, the only resident halls near the Olentangy River were Lincoln and Morrill Towers, aka the Freshman Factories. There two hulking towers dominated the near west side of campus; twin monoliths of underclassman housing. They were inhabited almost exclusively freshmen, and had a terrible reputation as being cramped, uncomfortable, and wholly undesirable. I stayed in one of the towers for orientation (I couldn't tell you which one) and frankly, it wasn't that bad. Then again, it was just me and two other guys in a room designed to hold six.

So, I completed my application and in the spot for comments I wrote "NO OLENTANGY AREA RESIDENCY!" and underlined it for emphasis. This was the place where I should have written something like "I like horror movies, books by Stephen King, riding my bike, reading comics" or anything else that would have helped resident life pair me up with a suitable roommate. But I didn't and paid the price.

Y'know, looking back, I regret shunning the towers. I'm not naturally that gregarious, and being in cramped quarters with lots of other people would have forced me to meet people. My OSU people-meeting experience was pretty limited - I'm really rather shy around strangers - and I only hung out with a few people from my dorm and those I met through my then-friend Scott. It wasn't actually until my junior year that I really had friends of my own, not friends-of-Scott-that-were-sorta-my-friends-too.

So, on my first day I met Brian, who would be my roommate for the first quarter. He had already hung up football pictures and sports posters. As an aside, I've always found it a little gay when guys put up pictures of male sports figures. But then again, I'm no jock (my wife watches more sports on TV than I do).

In that weird, imperative way that things seem when you're younger I knew I had to counter-balance the room with strikingly non-sports images. Heading off to the local record shop I bought a Pink Floyd poster, some horror movie poster, and the coup de grace: a poster for Plasmatics: Maggots. It was cruel, yes, but as previous stated, it was imperative.

Brian and I mostly avoided each other; not in a hostile sort of way; we just didn't really have anything to say to each other. Brian packed up and moved out at the end of the quarter, either to flunk out or move off campus; I never knew, and didn't really care.

The second quarter my roommate was an Ohio University student that transferred to OSU, but only for the single quarter. I don't remember the details of why that was... just that I knew going in that he wasn't built to stay. It was a shame, too, since he was a nice guy and I got along well with him. I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't remember his name. Brad? It might have been Brad. But, maybe-Brad packed up and returned to the foothills of OU at the break, again leaving me to face a new roommate upon my return.

The third and final of my freshmen roommates was by far the most entertaining. When I got back to my dorm I approached the room cautiously. Strange noises were coming from behind the closed door. These strange noises were... French.

I got a French foreign exchange student as a roommate. His name was Christophe, if I remember correctly. This was well before our nation's preoccupation with hating the French, but I still didn't like the guy very much. He didn't speak much English, so our bonding opportunities were limited. I guess I could have seen it as a unique chance to learn about a foreign land from a native, and tackled the language barrier with gusto, knowing the end result would be worth the work. But at 19, who really thinks like that? All I knew is that I had a gibbering roommate that wore too much cologne.

However, there was one evening when I returned to my room (with my high school girlfriend who was visiting - yeah, I know) to find Christophe stinking drunk in the bed with two concerned (French) friends watching over him. Luckily he was the laughing, giggling kind of dunk, not the combative or sobbing sort.

"Wheee! It's Craig!" he shouted. "And you! Are you Craig's girlfriend? I love you, Craig's girlfriend!" His English actually sounded better when he was smashed.

One of the non-drunk French students pulled me aside, and explained (disdainfully, but in very good English) how so many of his fellow students were going crazy with their new-found freedom, getting drunk and "making love all the time." Of course, this immediately make me scope out the other (decidedly female) French student in my room. Hmm... I wonder if she's making love all the time?

Sadly, Christophe learned his lesson and there were no further drunken declarations of love. The rest of the quarter passed uneventfully, and he packed up and went back to France with a quick "au revoir."

And I returned the next quarter a little wiser, and with a single room.


#018 In which our hero's dog falls ill

This is Tucker:

Tucker is a purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback. It's an unusual breed, certainly not as common as labs or shepherds or Schnauzers. They were bred in Africa to hunt lions, if you can believe it. Not that you'd know it from our dog, who cowers during thunderstorms and whines if you're slow with the dog food. He's twelve years old.

Tucker is really my wife's dog. She's had him since he was a puppy, trained him, and basically made him into the loyal, loving and (mostly) obedient dog he is today. Tucker likes me, but he loves my wife. And I can't blame him, I've only been on the scene for the past three years. And even though I try to be Tough Sword Guy, and my wife is mostly Tough Horse Gal, we both would be reduced to sobbing wreaks if anything bad were to happen to this dog. And that's the problem... right now something bad is happening to this dog.

For a big dog like Tucker, twelve is old. Like end-of-the-line old. My wife has been great about always feeding him good food and giving him plenty of exercise, so he's in fantastic shape for a dog his age. But that doesn't do a thing to offset the fact that he's reaching the end of his lifespan. It's nothing we like to think about, but we've recently been forced to.

Tucker is a sensitive dog... I've always marveled that he'll slink away when I raise my voice to him, even though he could tear out my throat without much trouble. If this 100-pound dog was motivated to fuck me up, fucked up I would be. But he's a big wimp. And this sensitive nature has led to other problems, most notably a delicate stomach.

We feed him special easy to digest food, but there are still times when he gets so upset that he won't eat. There was an especially ugly incident when we went away for a week around Christmas and left him in the neighbor's care. He got himself so upset with separation anxiety that at the end of the week he wouldn't eat and managed to have violent diarrhea all over the carpet. Oh yeah, it wasn't pretty (and smelled worse when we got home).

This happens from time to time, and we've learned that feeding him some over-the-counter acid reducer and switching his diet to boiled chicken and rice fixes him. So that's right, for a week I'm fixing His Majesty chicken and rice for dinner.

Last month Tucker again stopped eating. We sprang into action and whipped up some chicken and rice, which he ate unhesitatingly. And then crapped all over the floor the next day. We took him to the vet, and two ultrasounds, one chest film, blood work and $600 later we were told that he had some non-specific stomach malady. My friend Ragnar (ex-college roommate and emergency veterinarian - sadly in a different city) told us that he probably just licked something he shouldn't have, and picked up a bug. The vet gave us antibiotics and a week later he was fine.

But then, a week or so past that, he was again hesitant to eat. He's on some meds right now (for high blood pressure) that we suspect upset his stomach. We figure that acid builds up for a couple weeks, then reaches critical mass, and he stops eating. Then we feed him chicken and rice, give him Tagamet, everything calms down, and I don't have to rent a steam cleaner to get dog shit out of the carpet.

Well, everything seemed to be following the plan... then Tucker managed to get into the pantry and eat an entire box of dog biscuits (my cat most likely assisted in this caper). This resulted in a huge shitting episode the next day. Ugh... I've cleaned up more dog crap and vomit in the past year than I have in my entire life. The bottom line is that the chicken and rice didn't seem to help, the crapping continued, and we finally had to break down and take him to the vet today.

And he's there right now. After fasting for 20-some hours, the vet is going to scope both his stomach and his colon. Poor guy is going to get it at both ends, yuck.

I'm hoping it's just an ulcer, or something that can be managed with drugs. But secretly I fear it's something much worse.

Hang in there Tucker. You're a good boy.


#017 In which our hero presents his clip show.

There once was a time, which probably lasted all of two weeks, when I was as up-to-date on the goings-on of the Internet as just about everybody else. This was around 1991, just as things were really starting to take off, when people were discovering how cool it was to surf around and have access to damn near anything; medical advice, recipes, free porn. It was magical.

During this time I threw up my first website on AOL's homesteading area. I called it The Cup 'o Fear Coffeehouse.

Tangent #1: the name. My friend Tim and I used to talk at length about how great it would be to open our own coffeehouse. Of course, we were both 24, hated the customer service jobs we both had, and spent a lot of time hanging out in a coffee shop in town. Tim had read something about caffeine having the same affect on the body as when the fear reaction was provoked... not adrenaline per say, but something akin to that. Coffee's like drinking a cup of fear. I like to think that I came up with that name, but I can't remember, really. But we thought it would be great to run the Cup 'o Fear Coffeehouse, hang out with cool people such as ourselves all day, drink coffee, and play cards. I went as far as doodling some logo designs and conceiving of a coffee menu (the strongest, most caffeinated coffee I could find would be brewed dark and served up in a special mug: The Cup of Fear!). That or run a comic book shop.

Tangent #2: I still have an AOL account, if you can believe it. Not that same one as I had back then, mind you, that shared account went away with my girlfriend at the time of the break-up... but that's an entirely different story.

No one had coined the term blogging, yet, but that's what I was doing. Not that I had any sort of dedication to writing; I may have written four or five times before losing interest. My site looked like everyone else's... here's what's on my mind, here's the links I like to visit, here's a little about me... real typical stuff. I went through a lot of different designs, with no continuity between them. Looking back, the site was always more about the way it looked than what it said. The sites I really admired back then looked fantastic; flashy graphics, clever coding, great design. I was deeep into David Siegel's "Killer Web Sites" at the time. It was my Bible. I wanted so bad to make something like what I saw in those pages. But, my lack of talent finally shouted down my enthusiasm. That's what I wanted my site to be, and sadly, it was never even close. I've always enjoyed writing, and my skill at it has always far surpassed any drawing or design skill; it's strange that I never made the connection, closed Photoshop, and just wrote.

Anyway, that site still exists. Alone, never visited, the "last updated" notation forever stuck at January 23th, 1998. (Yeah, you read that right. I just noticed that I screwed up the date's notation, most likely when changing it from the 20th. The twenty-tirth? What the hell is that?) It sits as a odd time capsule of what I though was cool at the time. The links page is especially telling. Let's take a look, shall we?

Water. This site was everything I wished mine was. Great design, evocative writing. I read it day in and day out until... I stopped. I'm not sure why. The address is still valid (even if it's not called "Water" any longer and I'm not so enamored with the new design), but I just moved on. Strange.

The Fray. Another wonderful site; maybe the first real collaborative story-telling site. I actually submitted a story or two back when he still accepted unsolicited submissions. My stories were never picked up (most likely because they were self-pitying weepers that I thought were clever and insightful. They weren't). I still visit this site from time to time, but not as much as once I did. I changed jobs and no longer had access to the email address where I received Fray updates. Never bothered to re-subscribe to the list, and didn't keep up with the new stories.

Dark Horizons. This is a movie news and rumor site (and more, actually, but I only ever read the news part) in the same vein as Ain't It Cool News. I read this site religiously until just a short while ago when the owner changed the design and added seemingly endless pop-up advertisements. I haven't been back in months.

The Internet Move Data Base. Ah, my favorite. I still visit this site at least twice a day. I don't know how I ever got by before it existed. In the past, I would just have to wonder who played the head camp councilor in Meatballs (Harvey Atkin) or what movies that "Augustus Gloop" kid from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory went on to make (none). If not for the Internet, these questions surely would have driven me insane by now.

The Onion. Still a hilarious read.

Alt.Culture. And now we get into the links that are mostly lost. This site, at one time, was a searchable encyclopedia of pop-culture stuff. At one point a year ago or so I looked and it had been absorbed by a larger entity on the Web, but now the link doesn't respond at all. Very sad.

The Amazing Anacam. One of the earlier webcams. Ana is (was?) this artsy/hippy girl that rigged her apartment with a real-time video feed so you could watch her eat, sleep, and make her weird art. Oh, and she often walked around naked. I was obsessed with this site, and constantly went back there. I even bought her strange music/video CD, which I have to this day. But, like so many other of these links, I eventually got bored and moved on. The site still exists, but it seems to be mostly a pay site now. I wonder if she still walks around naked?

The Disfunctional Family Circus. At it's heyday, this site killed me. The site owner would take one of those insipid Family Circus cartoons, remove the dialog at the bottom, and ask readers to submit their own captions. I did this many times, and often had my caption included on the page. Now, the reader-submitted captions were all about being as raunchy and filthy as you could be, often to hilarious effect. It was finally shut down when Bil Keene, the real Family Circus author, contacted the site owner and asked him to remove this feature. Which he did, much to the chagrin of his faithful readers. RIP.

More to come...


#016 In which our hero has a problem with George Foreman.

I have problems with people. Sometimes things, too, but mostly people. I don't mean in a socially withdrawn sort of way (I'm quite social, I think) but with particular people, at particular times. And right now, at this instant, I have a problem with George Foreman.

This problem was prompted by me stumbling across an image of the accursed George Foreman Grill while I was surfing. I hate this thing. Hate it! And it's probably unfair to direct my ire at George, he seems like a nice enough fellow, and is just trying to make a buck. But, it is his name on the infernal burger cooker, so he gets to be the goat.

On a much broader scale, I have a problem with people who say they can't cook. This, of course, is ridiculous. Everyone can cook, to some degree. Now, if you tell me you don't like to cook, well, that's something different altogether. I don't like to clean the gutters, but I can if I have to. If I were to try to tell my wife that I can't clean the gutters; that I'm unable to clean the gutters... well, shortly thereafter I'd still be cleaning the gutters.

My problem with the slanted sandwich maker of scorn is that people that say they can't cook seem to be drawn to the damn thing. MBT, friend of mine, says he can't cook. Far as I can tell he lives almost exclusively on take-out pizza, Doritos and beer. And it's not like the guy is 20, he's in his thirties, a legally-recognized adult! But he "can't" cook and for the sake of argument I'll concede the point. So one day I come over to his house and he has bought one of these meat-searers of shite and has it proudly displayed on his kitchen counter.
ME: What the fuck is this?
MBT: George Foreman Grill, baby!
ME: And you think you're actually going to cook with this thing?
MBT: Hell, yeah! Just last night I made the best burgers ever!
His argument falls flat in that they were the only burgers he's made ever.

Since this was a couple of years ago, I emailed MBT to see what his Forman grillin' status is. Our entire exchange went thusly:
ME: You still using that George Foreman Grill?
MBT: Nah, I lost that in one of my many divorces. Why?
Hmm... he must have gone halfsies with some past girlfriend. This answer wasn't as satisfying as I had hoped.

Looking for more evidence that this thing is junk I visited to check out their customer reviews of the George Foreman counter-top crap machine.

It would appear that most people love it.

Bah, my righteous indignation has never been calmed by facts or reality in the past, and it certainly won't be today! The George Foreman dripping grease device is obviously only used by dullards that can't be bothered to use a real grill or light the oven. And the named one has to shoulder the blame.

Today, I have a problem with you, George Foreman!


#15 In which our hero ponders Satan, soap, and work.

Procter & Gamble are holding an agency review. If you're not in the advertising business, you're probably saying, "huh? So what?" If you are in the business, you're saying "holy shit!" or more likely, "who doesn't know that, dumbass?"

Procter & Gamble are, of course, the 800-pound gorilla of consumer products. Except in their case, it's more like the 800 bazillion-pound gorilla. Everything from Tide to Oil of Olay to Crest to Febreze to damn near everything found in your local supermarket is made by these guys. They're located in Cincinnati, too, so they're relatively close. Needless to say, despite worshipping the devil, the company makes billions. In the consumer products segment, they're referred to as "Proctor & God."

An agency review means that for some reason, P&G isn't happy with their current agency - it's generally tantamount to getting fired. In an agency review other agencies are given the opportunity to present their capabilities in the hope that P&G will pick them as their new agency. Sometimes the current agency is also invited to participate, which always seems like a slap in the face to me. "We don't really like what you're doing right now... but we'll give you one. more. chance."

The new agency (if indeed a new agency is selected) could see billings in the neighborhood of $60 million dollars.

Sixty. Million. Dollars.

What you have to understand that the advertising industry is still in the shitter right now. While it seems the economy is slowly recovering, the ad industry hasn't really rebounded yet. So an account like this is more than enough to transform your average agency president's pupils into tiny dollar signs.

To make things even more interesting, P&G isn't reviewing all their advertising, just their promotions and point of purchase stuff. See, in companies as huge as Proctor & Gamble, rarely does one agency handle all their advertising. One may do broadcast (TV and radio), one may do product packaging, one may do promotions, etc. So it's the promotions and packaging that's up for review.

And that's what the agency I work for does: promotions and packaging. I don't think this agency has seen $60MM in it's entire 20-year history, let alone in a single year. Matter of fact, considering how I was refused a raise (despite my boss's recommendation that I get one) recently, and how we can't see to pay all our vendors on time, I suspect that we're just barely in the black (with strong hints of red lurking nearby).

But as exciting as it would be to work on an account like P&G, it's not going to happen. Not at this agency; we're far too small. I'm the only writer here, for example, and even if I wrote eight hours a day, five days a week just on P&G stuff, we still couldn't keep up. And I don't want to work that hard, anyway. Besides, it would mean that we'd have to dump all our other clients and focus solely on P&G... which would be fine except that our ass-backway president would screw things up sooner than later; and then there would be another agency review, leaving us high and dry.

But, y'know... what's sad is that people around here can't even comprehend something like that. Small ideas abound. Small clients, small ideas, small executions. Keep it small, keep it safe, keep it known. Makes me sad, and more than a little frustrated that this is the best job I could find after 17 months of being laid off. And seven months later, it's still the best job I can find.

Sigh. Hey, Procter & Gamble, if you're reading - I'm more than willing to work for Pringles and Sunny Delight! Call me, okay?


#014 In which our hero chats with a co-worker.

Dear chatty co-worker,

First of all, you're not even really my co-worker - you know that, right? You happen to rent space in the same building in which the agency is located, but if our separate businesses didn't share a men's room, I would never interact with you.

Matter of fact, I'd rather not interact with you. Here's the thing: it is completely possible to pass me in the hall and not comment on the passing. I pass my co-workers (my real co-workers) every day and they don't feel the need to expel some quip to mark the occasion. I don't really think you're sincere when you tell me I'm "Lookin' good!", so you can stow that shit right now. I also don't know "what's the good word," so stop asking. And for the love of God don't ever ask me "how's it hangin'?" again... you're a 50-year-old man for chrissake!

And from this point onward, why don't you just take it for a given that everyone in my family is "doing good." I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but if my wife or child were sick or injured, you wouldn't be the first person I'd consult. Ever.

And finally, I'm okay with you just saying "hi" or "hello" as you pass me, and I'll return the greeting - but if I don't raise my eyes from my newspaper or engage you in further conversation, you can take it as a big hint that I'm not likely to. Again, ever.

You are not a quip-master, playa, or cool cat. I don't want to hear about your grandchildren, your open-heart surgery or your resulting switch to vegetarianism. You seem like a nice guy at heart so let's play it cool before I act on my desire to stomp on your sternum and force-feed bratwurst down your piehole, okay?

I'm glad we had this talk.


#013 In which our hero reveals ad exec archtypes.

As previously mentioned, I work in an advertising agency. And, as previously ranted, I work with account executives which range from "helpful" to "embarrassingly dumb." Conveniently, they, as a group, typify just about every type of AE I've worked with in the past. So, in no specific order, our cast of characters:

The Guy's Guy. The halls of advertising agencies are filthy with these guys. These are the same mostly handsome fellows that shouted obscenities at me from frat house lounge chairs as I walked to the Violet Femmes concert. They smooze their clients over nine holes of golf and comment on the great rack of the drink girl. Some are really good guys; undeserving of my disdain - but most are not. Define themselves by the size of their car, house and bar tab. Built to go far in the business.

The Limited Mobility Matron. Next to The Guy's Guy, the most common type of AE I've encountered. Reasonably hard-working, upwardly-minded woman. Generally a little overweight and not that attractive. Personalities range from sweet to eye-gougingly annoying. This AE has reached the mid-way point in her career, and isn't going to advance much further for a variety of reasons. Chief among them, sadly, is the fact that she isn't cuter. Like it or not, the advertising industry is based on style and appearance, and this attitude trickles down to the human level as well. Men ( who make up the majority of our clients), if they can't deal with The Guy's Guy, want to deal with The Unqualified But Sexy Trollop.

The Ernest Stress Case. Generally an assistant under the control of a full-blown AE. Nice personality, friendly demeanor, hardworking - all of which instantly flies out the window when faced with any real decisions. Usually go mad with perceived power and make unreasonable demands on creative when handling an account for their AE. Are generally ignored or placated until the real AE returns. Will ultimately burn out and switch careers to something less stressful, like air traffic controller.

The Cognizant Short-Timer. This person is on their way out, because of looming budget cuts, relocation, or general dissatisfaction. Depending on their level of bridge-burning, they either strive to do a good job up until the end, or spend their days playing online mahjong as their accounts crumble around them.

The Sad Sack. The AE that's been kicked too many times while he's down. Unwilling to voluntarily contribute anything to the process in fear that he'll open himself up for more ridicule. Often an older man that's just trying to wait it out until retirement; but can also be a young guy that manifests the behavior early in their career. Sadly, they will have a lasting career in the industry, working almost exclusively on accounts that involve me.

The Unqualified But Sexy Trollop. Exclusively female AE's characterized by beautiful hair, big tits, and a complete lack of organizational or customer service skills. Their incompetence will be overlooked by their supervisors since clients will request that the Trollop work on their account personally... often requiring several meetings a month. Her career will proceed swimmingly until she drops the ball in a major fashion; resulting in her being fired by the agency and almost instantly hired by the client she previously served. Tragically, there are no Sexy Trollops at my current place of business. However, I did work with one at my last employer... her (wildly successful) client retention strategy involved low-cut shirts, short skirts and no bra.

The Asshole. Maybe he used to be the Sad Sack or the Guy's Guy, but now he's all Asshole. Abrasive, demanding, and never satisfied with the end result. Will make needless copy changes or art direction to "fix" a problem, often at the cost of the integrity of the work. Never likes anything, but rather finds the work "acceptable" or "good enough to present." Very successful in the business but goes home at night to an empty apartment, quietly drinking milk to soothe his ulcer.

The Buddy. Not content to be your co-worker, this AE also needs to be your close, personal friend. Initiates conversations about his weekend and asks how your kids are doing, almost pausing long enough for you to answer before he updates you on his latest fantasy football team results. Every request is a "favor," and begins every encounter with some bit of your personal minutia saved just for the occasion: "Hey, how's your grandmother doing? Good? Great! Hey, as a personal favor to me could you completely re-write this ..."


#012 In which our hero pisses and moans.

Briefly, here's how the advertising business works, agency-wise: the client wants something to happen (which is always, without exception "sell more of my product." Doesn't matter if the product is shoes or box-cutters or the Republican party. Sell more of it.) The client communicates this desire to their agency via the Account Executive (with whom, I have a big problem. But more on that later). The AE comes back to the office and communicates the client's desire to the Creative Director. Finally, the CD communicates the desire to the actual creative team, which may be the copywriter and the art directors or sometimes, just the copywriter.

As an aside, isn't "art director" a misleading title? In any other industry a "director" level title would mean you're somewhere near the top of the food chain... and even in the same agency you can have "art director" (low level title) and, say, Human Resources Director (extremely high level title). I've often called them "graphic designers" which seems more fitting, but for some reason is taken as an insult. You could also just call them "artists," which I refuse to on the grounds that it sounds pompous and arrogant. Then again, that might just be that no-one EVER calls a copywriter an "artist." Anyway.

The big flaw in the advertising communication process, if it isn't already obvious, is that the people doing the actual work are getting their information second- or third-hand. I rarely hear what the client wants, I hear the AE's interpretation of what the client wants. And even more often, I hear the CD's interpretation of the AE's interpretation of what the client wants.

Now, in an ideal world, the AE would be so in tune with the client that they could provide relevant, goal-focused direction that helps me, and the designers, do our jobs. But of course, we don't live in an ideal world.

Too often the input is slapdash or vague, or at times completely irrelevant to the project at hand. And this leads to my biggest problem with the advertising world:

Account Executives get paid commission.

So they take home a percentage of all the work that gets billed. Doesn't matter if they sat in on every creative meeting, gave suggestions and client insight OR if they passed a hastily scribbled set of instructions to the CD then didn't show their face until the job was done... they still get paid the same.

I don't get paid commission. I get paid the same regardless of how long it takes. Sometimes the ideas come easy and I bang out beautiful, fully-realized copy in one sitting. Other times it's a painful process in which the ideas are slowly pulled out of my head, like a tapeworm unwilling to give up its host. This may involved hours and hours of writing, revisions, consultations with the CD and designers, working weekends... whatever it takes. This isn't the part I'm bitching about really, that's the job and I know it and -more importantly - I love it. But what I hate is that at the end of the day the AE gets to be the hero, and worse, gets rewarded for the work. Work that they may have had very little to do with.

Advertising is all about the big idea. "Just Do It." "We're #2, So We Try Harder." "Think Different." Those are the big ideas. And, as we all know, you can't attach a price tag to an idea.

That is, unless you're an Account Executive.