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


#205 In which our hero drives way too far to judge an art show and drink some admittedly delicious wine spritzers.

My creative director put out an email saying that Kent State was requesting some judges from the agency for a student digital art show. I went to her and said that I’d do it, because I love that sort of thing. But, they’re probably looking for graphic designers, not writers, I said, so if anyone else raised their hand you should probably pick them over me--and at this point she interrupted me to say that no-one else had come forward. So it was all me, baby!

I’ve done the judging gig a few times--but all for advertising shows. I enjoy sitting in a room with other industry people and discussing the work. Makes me feel like maybe I know what I’m doing, huh? But this was a straight-up art show, far as I could tell, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

So anyway, closer to the fact I get confirmation in the mail. I didn’t read the first letter that closely, but it’s Kent State Tuscarawas branch.

That’s about an hour south of Akron. And considering that I already have to drive 45 minutes to get to work from Cleveland, that was going to make for one long drive home.

I knew this going in, but half an hour into the drive I started thinking, “Man, they better really kiss my ass for this when I get there to make it worth my while.” Because I’m an asshole like that.

So I finally get there. The judging is slated for 6:30-7pm, with the public showing starting at 7. There’s about two dozen pieces on the walls of the gallery, and the judges are told to pick five that we really like. And that’s about the sum total of the direction we’ve given: pick what you like.

Now, this show isn’t for fine arts students, it’s for digital arts, through the school of engineering. And that makes for a very odd show.

There are several pieces that are 3D renderings, some impressionist mish-mashes, and a whole lot of manipulated digital photography. And with no input other than “whatever you think is cool” I’m a bit lost as to what to pick.

I mean, one piece is a nice 3D rendering of a grouping of toys on the floor. I can clearly make out what each piece is, and the textures of each are well done… but the piece as a whole is just flat. It looks like the artist (programmer?) assembled geometric shapes in a clever fashion to make them look like something. There’s no real life to the piece. It looks unfinished.

Then, there’s another piece that depicts a beautiful wooded landscape. But it’s really just a nice photograph that’s had a Photoshop filter applied to it. I don’t even know if the artist took the original picture himself. He might be working off of stock photography for all I know. I really like it and find it evocative and pleasing. However, I know the 3D toys guy has a whole hell of a lot more time and effort into his piece that Mr. Select/Filter/Artistic/Colored Pencil has.

I end up considering effort while judging, and pick the five that I think are both cool-looking and well thought out (and demonstrate some sort of effort on the part of the student). Only one of the five I pick win.

With the judging over I’m left with not much else to do but mingle with the other judges and the faculty. As has been well documented before, I’m useless in making small talk, so I mostly hover around the buffet.

As modest as the show is, they’ve put together a nice little spread. There’s the perfunctory cheese cubes and salted nuts, but also a chocolate fountain, mini-quiches and mini-deli sandwiches. Which are all greatly appreciated since I didn’t have time to stop for dinner on the way down. There is also the wine spritzer fountain.

Now, I have a long history with wine spritzers. These are, for the uninitiated, a delicious mixture of white wine and ginger ale. My dad called these “high balls,” and I was always allowed half a glass when my folks threw a party. Since I like my booze to taste like candy, these are the perfect drinks.

I dived right in and filled my glass with these delightful pink ambrosia. After the second one I realized that I hadn’t really eaten anything since lunch, and this stuff, cut with sugar water as it was, was going straight to my head. So I throttled back a hair.

As I was filling my gullet with free wine and eats, the general public started to roll in. This was, by far, the most interesting part of the show.

Tuscarawas is very much rural Ohio. Not that there’s anything wrong with that--Lord knows the crappy little town I grew up in isn’t exactly New York. The crowd was mostly family of the students with stuff in the show. Some made an effort to dress up for the occasion, some stuck to the more familiar flannel and John Deere ball caps. There were plenty of little brothers and sisters; some really into the festivities, others only present by eye-rollingly strict mandates from their parents.

And while I thought the show was mostly a bust (there was only one piece in which I think the artist really took advantage of the digital media and made something unique) the students were bursting with pride. They smiled big as they stood next to their art works while mom and dad took a picture. They talked in excited tones as they explained to their grandparents what exactly they were expressing through the art of digital manipulation.

This show might as well have been held at a swanky New York gallery for the enthusiasm shown by these kids. It was very cool to watch.

Presumably most of these students are local (I find it hard to believe that someone would travel out of state to attend Kent State Tuscarawas) and for some of them, this might be the biggest show they are ever a part of. Especially considering that they aren’t fine arts students, but rather budding engineers, animators and architects. And it was especially cool to watch their parents support them. It’s not hard to imagine that most of these adults were farmers or factory workers… people who might focus more on the actual than the arts.

But for one night they could be proud that their kid’s work was selected for a fancy art show (complete with chocolate and wine fountains) and slap them on the back and appreciate skills demonstrated with creativity, not calluses.

Bolstered by these happy thoughts, the ride home didn't seem so long.


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In today’s Plain Dealer (emphasis mine):
CBS executives deny it, but there’s a growing feeling within the network that Katie Couric is an expensive, unfixable mistake. So unfixable that Couric ... may leave “CBS Evening News,” probably after the 2008 presidential election ... Couric, the former star of NBC’s “Today,” has failed to move the Neilsen needle on the No. 3 “Evening News” since her debut seven months ago. … Already-low morale in the news division is dropping, says a veteran correspondent there. “It’s a disaster. Everybody knows it’s not working.”

Full story here (including CBS’ assurances that Couric isn’t going anywhere).

To everyone who said I was way off base with Katie Couric, I guess you were right. I only gave her six months.




#204 In which our hero discusses a certain bathroom activity of his eldest that appears to be happening everywhere except the bathroom.

So, potty training.

Lily is three, a bright kid, and completely able to articulate what she wants and when she wants it. You’d think she could tell us when she’s about to fill her pants. But no. She appears to have no real interest in pooping on the potty, at least with any regularity (not to say she isn’t regular… this kid craps as much as a construction worker after a pot of coffee). She doesn’t seem to mind have a wet, saggy butt.

Lately, she’s been crapping herself silly at day care; like, through her pull-ups and into her pants. It’s getting a little old to pick up a reeking bag of shit-stained trousers along with my child. Problem is, Lily doesn’t seem to care. We had this conversation last night at dinner:
ME: Lily, did you poop your pants today?
LILY: Yes!
ME: Honey, that’s gross. You should only poop on the potty. You don’t want to have poop in your pants, do you?
LILY: Yes I do!
ME: Ugh, you do? Why? Why would you want poop in your pants?
LILY: Because I’m Poop-Girl!

I’m really torn on how to proceed. I want her to be potty trained, of course. Lord knows it would be nice if the house didn’t constantly stink (side note: thank God for warmer weather, now we can open a window once in a while) and we could save a small fortune in diapers. But I don’t want this to turn into a terrible contest of wills. Because no-one is going to win that battle. Lily is strong-willed (although not as much as her little sister) and there’s already been some instances of The Scientist holding her down on the potty while Lily screams “No! No! I don’t want to be on the potty!” I don’t want to make that a daily occurrence.

Now, The Scientist wants to be more proactive about potty training. Lately, she’s been espousing the idea of punishing Lily when she fills her pants. I’m really not sure if that’s the way to go. While I’m positive that Lily’s past the point where she can’t control her bowels, I don’t think she’s being willfully disobedient with the pants-crapping. It’s not like, “Okay, Mommy, I can’t have a sucker before dinner, huh? Then how about this?!” Pfffffft-plop!

And, y’know, I just don’t want to see my little girl cry. Which will happen if she has to go to time-out three times a night.

Our day care provider has been suggesting that we take something away from Lily when she doesn’t poop on the potty. Like no computer or videos for the rest of the night. More tears.

But, more importantly, I think, is that I don’t believe any of this will work unless Lily has to do it 24 hours a day. And what are they going to take away from her at day care? Would they make her stand in the corner while other kids played? That’s shitty, and I’m not good with that.

Our pediatrician has suggested we take Lily to see a child psychologist about potty training. This sounds like a waste of time and money, but maybe this psychologist has a magic technique to turn Lily’s attitude around. I don’t know… but I’m willing to go. If nothing else, I’m curious how Lily will interact with him/her.

My real fear is that this will lead to big fights between me and The Scientist. We had some colossal arguments when it came to our differing opinions on how to get Lily to sleep through the night; this potty training thing could be another hot-button topic.

It hasn’t been, at least so far. Neither of us wants this to turn into something terrible, and my wife hasn’t pushed the issue (which I do appreciate, honey--honestly). I do find it amusing that this time, I’ve advocating the low-stress, no-cry method while The Scientist is more in favor of doing what needs to be done, and crying be damned.

We’ll see what happens. It would be great to get at least one kid out of diapers before we have to shut all the windows in the house for next winter.




#203 In which our hero discusses a common element of advertising, which is none the less annoying for being commonplace.

A word about disclaimers.

But first, you know what I’m talking about, right? When you see an ad and it says something like “$5 off Colgate Whitestrips*” and the asterisk points to tiny print at the bottom that reads, “*Limit one per customer;” that’s a disclaimer.

As someone who works in advertising, I know non-advertising people think disclaimers are stupid, disingenuous, misleading, deceitful and, at times, outright lies. But here’s a secret about people who work in advertising: we think so, too.

No copywriter or art director ever said “Hey! Let’s throw in a disclaimer in 6-point at the bottom! That will really take this ad to the next level!” We do it because the client asks us to do it… and the client only does it because their lawyers insist that they do it.

And sadly, often the lawyers are right. It’s a little pathetic that we live in a culture where this is necessary, where people try to game the system and sue companies not to recover damages, but just to screw them out of a couple bucks. Next time you see a contest or sweepstakes (is there a difference, you ask? Legally, yes there is) at your grocery or wherever, take a look at the official rules. There’s probably a lot of them. That’s the company’s legal department working hard to cover their collective butts from any conceivable legal threat.

I’ve been thinking about disclaimers a fair amount lately, because I have a client who is, let us say, disclaimer-obsessed. Once again, to comply to “I Don’t Want to Get Fired” guidelines, I won’t give out this company’s real name or industry; but for the purposes of this post let’s say they are a smallish (but still national in scope) retailer of eyeglasses.

As part of their complete service, this company provides free eye exams. This is one of the things they like to promote, as in “FREE Eye Exams!” They never charge for their eye exams… I know this because any time I’ve written “FREE Eye Exam” I’ve had to add an “*” and the words “Our eye exam is always free.”

This disclaimer (one of many they liked to plaster their direct mail pieces with) always confused me… see, it wasn’t “free eye exam with $50 purchase” or “Free eye exam on Mondays only” … it’s a free eye exam. Period. Doesn’t seem to be a reason for a disclaimer. I mean, disclaimers are there to protect the company, but since they’re actually doing what they say they’re doing, I don’t see why any protection was needed.

But by God they wanted--nay, demanded!-- that that disclaimer appear any time the free eye exam was mentioned, which was at least once in every piece.

Now, this client was a bit problematic, which honestly has more to do with the AE on the account than any unreasonable demands, but regardless I’ve learned not to push too hard about questioning these unnecessary disclaimers.


This last round of direct mail was pushing it, even for this client. See, every month the direct mail has an offer, like “Come and get $50 off designer frames” or “Free gift card with purchase.” For the recent DM, the client wanted the offer to be “FREE Eye Exams this month only!” Which is fine, except we’ve been doing a year of DM that reads “Our eye exam is always free.”

Naturally I questioned this, and the AE helpfully told me, “Well, that’s what they want,” and left it at that. I pushed back*, trying to point out how ridiculous it was.

* Hey look! A disclaimer! Actually a note, really. At my agency the AEs always say “I’ll push back on that,” meaning they’ll go back to the client and try to get them to change their mind. Note that the AE never says, “I’ll tell the client ‘no’” or “I’ll make sure the client knows we won’t do that,” because, you see, our AEs NEVER say no to the client. I suspect that most times when they “push back” it goes something like this:

CLIENT: I want you to change that box to plaid.
AE: Um, plaid? You sure?
AE: Okay! Plaid it is!

After this particular AE pushed back, the client came back and said, “look, it’s like this: the eye exam is free, but y’see, this month we’re also going to throw in a free frame fitting, which isn’t free. So that’s the ‘only this month’ part. Get it?”

Which again, would be fine, except that below the disclaimer that says “our eye exams are always free” is another disclaimer that reads, “our frame fittings are always free.”

Finally, the client saw the light and realized that they couldn’t bullshit their way through after they had so thoroughly established this free exam disclaimer. They changed it to just “FREE Eye Exam!” and took out the only this month businesses. Which finally makes it a truthful, albeit weak, offer.

And as dumb as that all was, it in no way prepared me for the following month’s offer.

For the next direct mail piece, the client wanted the offer to be “FREE 30-day trial” (if it doesn’t make sense that a company would make you a pair of glasses to wear for a month for free, remember that this client isn’t really in the eyeglass business, okay?) The client had heard of some businesses like theirs having a great deal of success with a free trial offer, and they wanted to give it a whirl.

So far, so good.

But after I had written the thing (“FREE 30-day trial! No risk! No obligation to buy!”) they came back with the disclaimers. Which read thusly:
* Payment required for 30-day free trial. Restocking fee for returns is $80.

To which I said, “This is a fucking joke, right?”

But sadly, no. It would appear that the trial period was free, but if you didn’t like your frames and brought them back, you had to pay 80 bucks. The only way to really get a free trial was to buy the frames.

Which makes it sound like it’s not really free at all, doesn’t it?

Keep in mind that it wasn’t us--the agency--suggesting this overtly deceptive approach, it was the client. People in advertising have to eat a lot of shit over “tricking” people into buying things, so naturally it really pissed me off that our client was trying to pull a fast one like this.

I voiced my outrage and got a “well, that’s what they want to do” from the AE--which is just bullshit. But, a couple days later I got word that the client was going to change the disclaimer. “Well thank God,” I thought. “They came to their senses.”

The client changed the “Payment required for 30-day free trial. Restocking fee for returns is $80” disclaimer to one that reads, “See store for details.”

Now the client isn’t just lying to their potential customers, they’re making those customers come to the store first so they can lie to their faces.

See? It’s not always the ad agencies. We hate disclaimers as much as you do.




#202 In which our hero rants a bit about the ridiculous state of our fine country.

Couple times now I’ve sat down and started to write down my thoughts about this Don Imus thing. But I just can’t organize my thoughts in a sufficient manner to properly express my outrange about the vast over-reactionism and hypocrisy that has assailed the airwaves these past 10 days. I think I can best sum it up thusly:

America has gone mad.

First, let me get this out: I’m a white guy (and, judging from these photos, I’m just about as white as you can be) and I get it that I’ll never get it. The color of my skin prevents me from ever fully understanding what it’s like to be denigrated because of the color of my skin.

That said, I’m furious about the hoopla surrounding the firing of Don Imus. Understand, I don’t really give a crap about this man; I didn’t listen to his show, and the few snippets I heard of it here and there never gave me any incentive to tune in. He sounded like a doddering old kook with a mouth full of marbles.

But here’s what has me so angry: the constant stream of talking heads on the news who proclaim with extreme confidence that Imus was fired because of his “hate speech;” because he finally went way too far with his insults directed at people of all colors and creeds; that a new morality is sweeping the nation and it’s no longer acceptable to say such things on the public airways.

Which is all bullshit.

You want to know why Don Imus was fired? Here are three reasons:
  1. Procter & Gamble
  2. Staples
  3. Bigelow Tea
These were the first companies to announce that they were pulling their advertising from his show. Here’s six more reasons:
  1. General Motors
  2. American Express
  3. Miralus Healthcare
  4. Sprint
  5. GlaxoSmithKline
  6. PetMed Express
These are companies that quickly followed suit and pulled their advertising from his show. And there you have it, the real reason Imus lost his job: because his show became unprofitable.

And that’s okay… or at least it’s the reality of the situation. I mean, radio is a business, and radio stations want to stay in business. So when a segment of their broadcasting day starts to lose money, they react. This sort of things happens every day; it just so happens that in Imus’ case it happened with great fanfare and in an amazingly accelerated timeframe.

Now, if the radio people would just be honest about this, I wouldn’t care. But they aren’t.

"There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society. That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."

CBS President Leslie Moonves


This isn’t about “young women of color,” this is about money. This is about cutting off the diseased limb that Imus became as quickly and efficiently as possible before it poisoned the rest of the body and sponsors starting pulling their money from other CBS radio programs.

And don’t think sponsors are without blame. They happily shilled their products on Imus’ program up until the second that there was a public backlash.

“Because of the recent comments that were made on the program it did prompt us to take a look at our decision to advertise on the program and we have decided to stop advertising. … Once we became aware of the comment, we sort of stepped back and took a look at it."

Staples spokesman Paul Capelli


There was nothing about Imus’ “recent comments” that was significantly different from what he says on a daily basis. Staples (and any other of the bailing advertisers) didn’t give a crap what the man said until the threat loomed large that Imus’ commentary might reflect badly on them. Then they ran like scarred rabbits.

“[This is] a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation.''

Rev. Jesse Jackson


This is not a “victory for public decency” this is a witch hunt that was quickly and efficiently concluded when one man lost his job. The sum effect on public decently is ZERO because there are a hundred small-time radio personalities that are set to jump in and pick up where Imus left off. If anyone seriously thinks this firing will make a difference in the moral climate of this country, then they really haven’t been paying attention.

And using the airways to “transmit racial or sexual degradation” ? To forestall my head from exploding I’ll just leave you with some lyrics from rap legend The Notorious B.I.G.:
Moonlight strolls with the hoes, oh no, that's not my steelo
I wanna bitch that like to play celo, and craps
Packin’ gats, in a Coach bag steamin’ dime bags
A real bitch is all I want, all I ever had (yeah, c'mon)
With a glock just as strong as me
Totin’ guns just as long as me, the bitch belongs with me

Thank God Don Imus has been stopped. Moral American can sleep easy tonight.


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I generally don't just post links, but I came across this today and have to share.

Renowned (and infamous) chef Anthony Bourdain... um, I was going to write "critiques" select Food Network personalities, but "massacres" seems like a more fitting word. I love it. A taste:
[Speaking of Sandra Lee] This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She Must Be Stopped. Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained.




I came across a link for Monster by Mail a week ago. For $20, this guy will draw you a monster based on a word you send him. And he posts a high-speed video of him drawing the monster. How cool is that? The catch is that you can only send in one word. Some of the words people sent in were pretty predictably, like "bigfoot" or "Cthulu." But some other words were unexpected, and ended us as pretty cool monsters--I especially like "purple," "insane" and "pensive." I figured I could spare twenty bucks, so what the heck. At first I was going to send in "pustulant,” figuring it would make a cool-looking monster. But I decided on something a little closer to my heart. I sent in “advertising.”

And I got an email this morning that my monster was done! I present to you, “Advertising.”

And it’s got tentacles! Pretty cool. I find it really interesting how this guy interprets the words people send him. When I was thinking of “advertising,” naturally I was thinking of it from the creation side, since I’m in the business. But he took a different angle, from the consumer side--which only makes sense. Still very cool. If I could do it again (which I can’t, since he stopped taking submissions after 150) I’d send “copywriter.”

Click here for a YouTube video of it being drawn.

My monster should appear in my mailbox in a week or so. This guy just made $3,000 in a week by putting up a website and drawing cartoon monsters. Once again, I long for the ability to draw.


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#201 In which our hero reveals a dark period of his life.

During Mom Health Crisis 2007 ™ I found myself in my old house (but not my old room, Mom took that over for her office) with a fair amount of time on my hands. I dug through some boxes and found a book I wanted Lily to see (The Laughing Dragon, by Kenneth Mahood. Man, I loved this book as a kid. Lily tolerates me wanting to read it to her every night) and then spent several hours just looking through old photos. In fact, three hours went by before I remembered to look up at the clock again.

Pursuing these old pictures, I was reminded of a particular… problem… I had in high school. There was, of course, the issue of my hair: a fat curly ‘fro that Mom liked to keep big and bushy because she hated me. No, that’s not true, she thought I looked cute. I was so brainwashed by my Mom’s desire for me to have big hair that it wasn’t until after college that I finally said, “Holy shit! What am I doing? I look like a pale mushroom!” and started cutting my hair short every after.

But this other thing, I cannot blame on my mother.

This was a conscious choice I made. A conscious fashion choice which, for anyone who knows me, should send shivers down your spine. And rightly so. In high school I was addicted to… (it shames me even now to admit it)… I was addicted to… suspenders.

I’d like to use the excuse that they were in style at the time, like every girl who had giant hair and acid-washed jeans does. But sadly, that probably wasn’t the case. For some reason I thought they looked cool, and kept buying them.

Are there photos? Of course there are photos.

This is me in our family portrait. I guess I could blame my family for enabling my downward spiral. But maybe they thought the suspenders looked “cute,” especially coupled with my ridiculous hair.

Yep, that’s my senior photo. Suspenders, Bill the Cat t-shirt and Chucks. I think I just scored a geek hat-trick. No idea why I’m posing on a hay bale. Incidentally, this wasn’t my only pose, I also got some photos of me in a nice sweater. My folks mailed those out to relatives and acted like the above atrocity never occurred.

Oh God. This is me getting ready for the after-prom. My girlfriend and I dressed in matching colors but, if I remember correctly, she didn’t wear suspenders. And am I wearing a BELT with my suspenders? Of course I am. Amazingly, I managed to have sex that very evening, and not for the first time. Clearly standards were low in my home town.

What can I even say? Three things you need to know:
  1. There are yellow SHORTS on the business end of those suspenders
  2. The shorts and shirt came together in a set, ala Garanimals. And I bought them with my own money
  3. This was taken at my senior graduation party
So, to sum up: I thought it would be a good idea to wear yellow suspender shorts on one of the biggest days of my life; one in which all my friends and relatives would be over to witness the horror.

Some day my daughters may read this, and I can only say this: girls, things were different in the 80s. VERY different. But more importantly, you’ve inherited your mother’s fashion sense.

So you can stop crying now.





Here’s why I hate getting coffee at McDonalds.
McDonalds’ Employee: Can I help you?
ME: Let me have the number four, to go, please.
McE: Coffee to drink?
ME: Yes, please.
McE: Cream and sugar?
ME: Just sugar.
McE: How many sugars do you need?
ME: Um… ten.
McE: Ten?
ME: Yeah.
McE: In the small?
ME: Yes.
McE: Oh, because most people don’t want us to put that… many… in their coffee.
At this point I almost give my stock answer, which is “yeah, I like my coffee to taste like candy” or I consider quoting True Romance, “I’m not happy unless the spoon sticks straight up!” but I figure it would be wasted on this frumpy woman behind the counter; and it crosses my mind to say that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation but some dumbass McDonalds executive decided that sugar needed to be removed from the condiment station and kept behind the counter like a controlled substance, away from criminals like me, which is sorta a weak argument considering I did ask for TEN packets of sugar for a small cup of coffee so instead I weakly reply, “un-huh.”

Sadly, as I drove to work, drinking my coffee, all I could think was that it could probably use one more sugar.




#200 In which our hero discusses an odd project

We have a presentation coming up next month. It’s a little strange… we are proposing a co-promotion between a major national retailer and a major food manufacturer. Since this is still in the planning phase (even though we should be well past that point, more on that in a moment) it’s not kosher for me to divulge the actual companies. Well, since this is an un-authorized blog, it’s probably never going to be okay for me to discuss work things. But to understand the rest, you need at least an idea of how these companies work together (or don’t).

So, for the sake of this post, let’s say one of the companies is SuperCuts, a national chain of cheap hair cut joints. And let’s say the other one is Breyers, the ice cream company. Again, these are NOT the actual companies we’re pitching, but just placeholders for the following tale of woe.

My agency already does a little business with SuperCuts (not really, but just follow along), but we’re not the agency of record (I’ve discussed the boring details of advertising before). So we have a relationship of sorts with them. We’ve never done work with Breyers, but we’d like to. So that sets the stage.

At some point, some account executive got the bright idea that we should do a co-promotion between the two. Because what goes together more naturally than hair cuts and ice cream, right?

If you’re like me, you first thought was, “Huh? Cheap hair cuts and ice cream?” Far as I can figure, it went down something like this: we work with SuperCuts, but we’d love a bigger piece of their business. We don’t work with Breyers, but would love to add their business to our portfolio. So why not propose a co-promotion between the two, effectively killing two birds with one stone?

Apparently the plan was to go to SuperCuts and say, “Hey! You know who would make a great promotional partner? Breyers! You should totally talk to them!” Then, while everyone in the room was nodding, we’d go to Breyers and say, “Hey! You know who would make a great promotional partner? SuperCuts! You should totally talk to them!” And then we’d facilitate a meeting between the two, they’d develop a mutually beneficial program, and we’d be heroes.

But, what really happened is that when this idea was floated to SuperCuts, they responded by saying, “Breyers, huh? That does should interesting. Do you have a program in mind?” And then, our account executive, not having planned any further than just getting everyone together in the same room, bullshitted his way through the rest of the meeting. “Um, a program? Um… sure! Yeah, we do. Boy, do we ever! We have a program like you wouldn’t believe! Why doesn’t we get back together in, say, three weeks and we’ll show you our kick-ass plan?”

And then he scuttled back to the office as quick as he could and came to the creative department and said, “Holy shit! We need to develop a SuperCuts/Breyers plan right now!

And that’s where I came in.

Granted, the situation is a little messed up, but that’s really what the creative department gets paid for: coming up with great creative solutions on the fly. Three weeks was really pushing it though; it takes time to think up the idea, consider all the production/media issues, design a look, and mock up some props that will express the feel of the final promotion.

And it doesn’t help that we’re talking about two businesses which don’t really seem to be a natural fit.

I mean, it’s not like we’re proposing a SlimFast/Jelly Belly cross-promotion, that wouldn’t make any sense. But haircuts and ice cream? If you think about it for a moment, maybe it does make a kind of sense. SuperCuts, being a price-driven business, works on a lot of kids. Kids who don’t always want to go get their hair cut. But what if they could get a gift certificate for free ice cream as a reward? That might make it a little easier on the parents. And if you’re a harried mom looking for a quick haircut for your kid (and you know it’s going to be a fight) which would you choose: the cheap place that gives you nothing but a haircut or the cheap place that gives you a haircut AND ice cream coupons? Right, no-brainer.

And if you go a little deeper with the concept… what if you actually installed little freezers right in SuperCuts so you could sell ice cream novelties right then and there? You’d probably drum up more haircut business, and you’d sell more ice cream, even to adults. So both SuperCuts and Breyers benefit.

Again, we’re not really talking about SuperCuts and Breyers, but it’s that same sort of “WTF? Are you kidding? Hmm… maybe this could work…” thing.

So we started work. And here’s the big thing to remember: we don’t have enough time to do this right. I mean, in advertising you rarely have all the time you need, but this was pretty extreme, especially considering the level of presentation the AEs wanted.

And it quickly grew frustrating. Given this “I don’t know how it works, it’s YOUR job to figure it out” attitude, I pulled a couple of concepts out of my ass. Things that looked decent on paper. But many of then, for a variety of reasons, weren’t executable. And no-one on the team hesitated to tell me why they wouldn’t work, but didn’t offer any sort of solution as to how to make them work, or suggest something else that would work better. So I wrote concept after concept, just to have them shit on again and again.

Finally, we had two concepts that were pretty strong, seemed to make sense and touch on the hot buttons for both companies. Things seemed to be running smoothly, until the lead AE on the account says, “I really think we need one more concept.”

Here’s the thing: this happens all the time in advertising. You might think that the best course of action would be to develop one kick-ass idea and really put all your best people behind it. But, clients are fickle. There’s always the chance that they might torpedo it for some unforeseen reason. Like, if you present a promotional idea that relies on a heavy radio schedule… then the client tells you they don’t like radio. They may have no logical reason for dismissing radio, but if that’s all you got, then you’re screwed.

So agencies generally like to go in with a couple concepts, three being a popular number. It’s a bullshit apologist approach, if you ask me, and seems to force an agency to present several decent ideas instead of one great one. But that’s what clients expect right now, like it or not.

Anyway, I’m working with a designer on looks, etc., when we have another meeting Thursday. Keep in mind that the actual presentation is the following Wednesday, giving us only three days to hammer everything out. At this meeting, the lead AE again voices his opinion that we need a third concept. So he starts spitting out ideas… “What if it’s a radio call-in promotion? Or something to do with ice cream in the grocery aisle? Or…”

And generally, it’s fine to be throwing ideas out like that, but Jesus Christ we only have three days to finish what we have, do we really need to invent another idea just so we reach a magical number? At this point, we should be waaay past proposing completely new ideas.

I wasn’t happy.

But I write up his idea, and even as I’m doing so I’m thinking this will never fucking work. And when I shoot it out to the team for comment, lo and behold media shoots it full of holes. Like I knew they would.

So I’m facing a long weekend of trying to finalize things, and I’ve already called The Scientist to tell her that there was no way that I could drive to Maryland to visit the in-laws this weekend as planned, when I was saved by the deus ex machina; the client called to cancel the meeting.

It’s been rescheduled for next month. Since then, far as I can tell, work has ground to a complete halt. Everyone is busy with other projects (myself included) and probably hasn’t given it a second thought since the meeting was rescheduled.

I mean, why should we take advantage of this extra time when we could sit on it and do nothing for weeks?

To be continued.


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Before I start, know that Mom came through the surgery with flying colors.

It was a hard thing watching Mom get wheeled off to surgery. This was a fairly common surgery, and Mom wasn’t an at-risk patient, so there shouldn’t have been much to fret about. But every surgery has risks, no matter how small. And with this particular procedure the big fear was that a blood clot could come loose and shoot up into Mom’s brain, causing a stroke. Or worse.

It was with those thoughts in my head that I saw my Mom on the gurney, gowned and ready to be cut open. As I kissed her and told her I’d be waiting for her in the recovery room, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the last time I’d see her alive. Pretty morbid, huh?

Worse yet, I brought the medical power of attorney papers with me. It seemed like the practical thing to do… if something went horribly wrong, the last thing I would want to do is leave Mom’s side and drive back up to Cleveland to fetch some papers that gave me the authority to pull the plug on her life support. But I didn’t have the heart to bring them into the hospital with me… I left them in the car.

But, obviously, I didn’t need them. The doctor came out and told me that everything had gone well, no issues whatsoever. She was in the recovery room (I wasn’t allowed to visit her there) for a long time; turns out that they gave her morphine for the pain and she had a reaction to it. It’s probably best that I wasn’t there to witness my mother puke all over the place. They gave her something else for the nausea, which made her really groggy.

She was placed in a bed in the intensive care unit, which was the plan all along, it wasn’t out of necessity. Well, maybe it was; given my Mom’s age, they probably didn’t want to take any chances. I visited her for a quarter hour or so, but all she wanted to do was sleep and she kicked me out.

The next morning I learned that after I left they gave her something to boost her potassium levels, which made her puke again. Poor Mom. But the doctor released her by 2pm, and she was glad to get home to her own bed.

Mom finally admitted that she had seriously overestimated her ability to snap back from this surgery. She was still weak and a little nauseous after we got home. She dutifully took her drugs and crawled into bed.

The next morning she was doing much better. And she said that once she got some coffee back into her system she felt better yet. She decreed that I had been away from my family long enough and sent me packing. Which is typical.

Now Mom has a horrible scar up the side of her neck. I was under the impression that it would be orthoscoptic, and that she’d only have a small incision. Holy hell was I wrong. She has a jagged six inch scar going from her collar bone up her neck. It’s even worse looking right now because they didn’t suture her, they glued the skin back together! I’m sure it’s some super medical skin glue, but still--looks horrible. There’s something finished looking about stitches; unnatural, sure, but it looks like someone has put some effort into it. Mom’s neck looks like they roughly squeezed the skin together and slathered on the glue wherever it would fit. Hopefully the incision will heal neatly and won’t scare my children.

So it would appear that Mom dodged a bullet, again. She was lamenting that she was basically healthy as an ox for 73 years, then the breast cancer last year, now this. Personally, I think 73 years seems like a pretty good run without major medical intervention. But, Mom is slowly coming to the realization that her health is now a delicate thing, easily upset and not so quick to return to full strength.

It was hard to see Mom laid out on a gurney. It’s harder yet to see the tough-as-nails woman I’ve known my entire life as a fragile old lady.


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