Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ruminations on age.

There comes a problem in the world, what to do with the old people.

Young people, despite their egalitarian protestations, say they don't hate old people. But they do.

For one, they're living reminders that they, someday, will be old.

Two, we old people usually have the best apartments, the most money, the biggest jobs.

In short, we're standing in the way of others' success.

So, as an old guy (when Beethoven was my age, he was already dead) what do you do? How do you find a role for yourself in a world that regards you, at best, as interference?

I often think about what my life would be like if I didn't run out of money in 1980 and had been able to pursue my dream of gaining my PhD. in English Literature and teaching English at a small, but prestigious college in New England.

If I were at such a school, the younger, hotter, cooler assistant professors would be breathing down my neck. They'd be publishing more. Going to more symposia. They'd be more relevant than I.

How could I survive that, I think. Sure, maybe tenure would be protecting me--a big difference from the ad industry--but hanging on with tenure is not the survival I mean. Hanging on is not how I want to spend my remaining years.

I think if I were in that ivy-covered place, the way to have a vital role is to find something foundational that you can do that others can't. For instance, know more about Chaucer--the real wisdom of the man and his works--than anyone else. In my fantasy situation, I might be unable to decipher, critique or write a paper on the trans-gender realities of the Wyfe of Bath, but--certainly after a lifetime of reading, living and working--I would know more of Chaucer's truth than other more callow scholars.

The same is true in an ad agency, I think.

I suck at popular culture. I find it crude, humorless and vulgar.

Don't ask me to do a spot for Doritos.

But if there's a problem--and there always is--that demands a print-like discipline to unravel it, well, that's what 57-year-olds, and 67-year-olds can do. Visually and verbally we can simplify complicated thoughts.

My older daughter is about to earn her PhD. as a Clinical Psychologist. She is a brilliant young woman. She does not do couples therapy, however.

"I don't have the miles in my tank," she says.

I think there are dozens of agency veterans who have a lot of miles in their tank. Who can handle things that few others can do. They have the wisdom of life, some of them.

There must be something for them to do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A fish rots.

When the history of our era is written, say in 20 years or so (if people can still write) I believe in the parlance of Hollywood, it will be called "Gilded Age 2: The Return of the Malefactors."

The CEO of the industry's fifth holding company, Miles Nadal, saw the stock of MDC--his 'gig'-- plummet by 27% yesterday and Nadal was ordered to reimburse the company $8.6 million for expenses. MDC has, to date, incurred $5.8 million in legal fees relating to an on-going Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) inquiry into the finances of the holding company.

Mind you. When Franklin Roosevelt established the SEC during the Depression, he put Joe Kennedy in charge. FDR said at that time "it takes a thief to catch a thief."

It remains to be seen, of course, if Nadal is guilty of anything. If he is a thief.

And I've never worked for MDC or any of its agencies, like Crispin, Kirshenbaum and 72 and Sunny. I'd imagine things under its aegis are pretty standard for the industry. And salaries are in retrograde while raises are sparse and bonuses a thing of the past.

If you know otherwise, I'd love to hear.

Nadal, however, received over $900K in company paid expenses last year.

Elsewhere, it's damn hard to get a $17 taxi-receipt reimbursed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Five minutes with....Our CFAO (Chief Foreign Accent Officer.)

Ad Aged: You’re exact title is “head of foreign locution acuity…”

CFAO: Yes, but I prefer to be called the Chief Foreign Accent Officer. It’s spot on as to what it is I do.

Ad Aged: Speaking of which, what is it that you do?

CFAO: I make the agency seem and sound smarter. For instance, say you’re in a pitch and want to come across as wildly creative and slightly exotic. I put on a Brazilian accent.

Ad Aged: I see.

CFAO: You want creative and a bit ethereal, I summon my Swedish accent. If we need to sound all smart, strategic and plannery, well I can sound more British than Mary Poppins on Benzedrine.

Ad Aged: It’s a gift.

CFAO: Indeed it is. I also keep track of foreign language semiotics. I knew Swedes would be hot when the rest of the industry was still gushing over Aussies. You have to stay ahead of the foreign accent curve.

Ad Aged: What’s next foreign accent-wise, any clues?

CFAO: Three words. The South Seas. As soon as winter comes, I’ll be spending the bulk of my time scouting accents in Hawaii, Fiji, Bora-Bora, the Maldives and Bali.

Monday, April 27, 2015

An unfortunate observation.

As long as I've been in the business, the hours before a creative presentation have always been chaotic. I suppose the feeling is a bit like the pit before a Formula One auto race. There's always a bolt to be tightened, a fluid to top off, or a gizmo to be doo-hickied.

What I've noticed during these stressful situations is that there are two kinds of people. 1) There are people who run toward the fire. These are show-er-uppers, people who shut out all the other crap they have to do and get the deck that needs to be done by 11 done. 2) There are the disappearers, people who are, suddenly, nowhere to be found. They leave scripts un-writ. They leave art files unaccounted for. They questions unanswered and ambiguities unclarified.

This dichotomy is, I suppose, a fact of life. When your dog poops, or your child vomits, or your d-shaped sink is full of dirty dishes, some people show up missing.

No real point.

Just an unfortunate observation.

Preparing for juegos de viejos.

In about a month I will be in Saltillo, Mexico, in uniform, playing in my first-ever juegos de viejos. I got home Friday night, late again, and my doorman gave me an oversized envelope that was too big to fit in my undersized mail slot.

It was from the team, with a hand-written note from the manager, Juan Jose Pacho. Friday evening, May 29th, will be a comidas de veteranos--the veteran's dinner. Then Saturday at 1:15PM before a 2:30 game against the Rieleros de Aquascalientes--the Railroaders, we'll play ball for about an hour.

Sunday, again against Aquascalientes, there will be a day in Tribute to Hector Quesadilla before a twilight twin-bill. Pacho said that over 200 former Seraperos will be there to honor the man and a monument will be placed in a grassy little area they call monument park in left-centerfield. The club will also unveil a life-sized bronze statue of Quesadilla outside of Estadio de Beisbol Francisco I. Madero, where Quesadillo spent over six decades playing and managing.

I'd be lying if I said that the upcoming game wasn't sending shivers up my spine and down my torn right rotator cuff. It's been forty years, literally, since I played competitively. While my wife is afraid I'll permanently damage my as-yet unoperated upon shoulder, I'm afraid I'll have a throw to make from third and bounce the ball around the pitcher's mound.

The last thing I want is 16,000 avid Mexican fans laughing at an old, fat Americano who, in the words of the great Ring Lardner, 'shoulda stood in bed.'

With that in mind, and my wife out of town for the weekend, I woke up early, found my old, worn, Vesuvian-dust-encrusted Brooks Robinson fielder's glove and headed over to Modell's, the last sporting goods shop in the neighborhood, and bought a dozen baseballs. Then, I headed over to Central Park where I figured I could find someone with whom to have a catch. The Yorkville Spring Baseball League is starting, I supposed, and there must be some pity in the world for a viejos looking not to embarrass himself.

I found--at field three on the Great Lawn--I had played there in 1973 and hit two doubles against a strong Collegiate squad, a group of yellow-t-shirted ninth-graders waiting for their team to arrive.

"Anyone for a catch," I asked to the gaggle, motioning to the bucket of balls I had dragged with me.

Two long-banged mops stepped forward and we made an isosceles and threw the ball around. My shoulder hurt like it was twisted backward, and in-between throws, it burned. However, I caught what they threw and looped the ball back with a lazy trajectory. I was too fearful to bring my arm down and put some zip on it.

Like I said, not only have I not thrown a ball with intent for forty years, my shoulder is crying out for the surgeon's laser.

After about 20 minutes the rest of the yellow-t-shirt team showed up, as did 15 or 20 red t-shirts. And my catch-mate victims headed off, politely with a handshake and a wave. Soon two fat umpires appeared too, as did the requisite moms with strollers and dads, like me, wishing they were again young.

I watched the yellows versus the reds for another hour, my shoulder still throbbing and burning. It was time to go. The still cold Spring was wreaking havoc on my right wing and I headed home.

I left the bucket of balls by the yellow-t's bench.

I figured they could get more use out of them than I.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five minutes with our new CCO.

Ad Aged:         So you’re a CCO. In my day, that meant Chief Creative Officer. Tell me,
                         what do those letters stand for today?

CCO:               I’m what’s known as a Chief Coroner Officer. You know, the words
                         ‘coroner’ and ‘coronation’ have the same Latin root.

Ad Aged:         So what is it that you do as Chief Coroner Officer.

CCO:              Well, the job’s been around a long time—it’s only the title that’s new. I pronounce      things dead.

                        I came up with, for instance, “television is dead.” I was in the room when they came up with “the agency model is dead,” “interruption is dead,” “intrusion is dead,” “commercials are dead.” “God is dead.” “Capitalism is dead.” “Conversations are dead.” “The workplace is dead.”

Ad Aged:         It seems someone’s always proclaiming something is dead.

CCO:               That’s what I do.

                         See if this doesn’t raise your blood pressure: “Lunch is dead.”

Ad Aged:         Lunch is dead?

CCO:              Not really, but it’s exactly what I’d say if I were in the business of selling breakfast burritos. See how this works?

Ad Aged:        Anything else we can look for?

CCO:              Yes, saying things are dead? That’s alive and well.


Once again, I've had a load of work to do. So I got up in the fives, attended to my self-care and puppy-care and then cabbed to work.

This morning I had a young Egyptian driver who was more than happy to tell me about his life. There are a lot of Egyptian cab drivers now--I suppose there's been a diaspora of sorts every since the so-called Spring Awakening of four years ago.

I'm a bit too busy to look it up right now, but if memory serves, in addition to all its other ills, Egypt is sitting on a population bomb. It's now a country of almost 90 million people. Up from about 75 million ten years ago. As a consequence a huge percentage of their population is under 25. And there are no jobs. So they drive Toyotas here.

I've been to Egypt twice. Despite the history of animus between Egyptians and Jews, during my cursory trips to Cairo and Dahab and Giza, I've found everyone friendly. I'm not afraid to say I'm Jewish and when I do, no one launches into any sort of an anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist screed. Every one seems pretty live and let live.

This morning my driver, Tamar told me about his home in a small village on the Mediterranean, just outside of Alexandria. With three kids and a wife, he can only afford to go back every three years, though his parents live there, and his brother and his wife's family too. He even has his own apartment there.

"It costs me $15,000 to save to bring everyone," he said. "My parents are too old to travel. It's is $9000 for the tickets, $3000 for food, and $3000 for gifts, and you must bring gifts."

"Makes it hard to pay for your kids' college," I empathized.

I then mentioned how much I enjoyed visiting Cairo's ancient bazaar, Khalid Khaleely.

He corrected my pronunciation.

"Some words come from the mouth," he said. "Some from the tongue. Some from the throat. And some from the stomach."

"I tried," I said defensively.

We reached the little coffee place I stop at.

I said "Shukran," 'thank you' in Egyptian.

He rapidly fired back a "you're welcome" and we shook hands through the bullet proof.

I do love New York.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Five minutes with.

Over the past week, my esteemed position at the helm of this august blog--one of "Business Insider's" "most influential," has allowed me intimate access to some luminaries in our business. The success of these short interviews has, in short order, led to more interviews. As they used to say in the movies, my Christmas tree is lighting up like a switchboard.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be speaking, briefly, with more of our profession's movers and shakers.

Later today, if all goes well, I'll post: "5 minutes with a CGO--Chief Guru Officer."

Going into next week, I have a few more interviews slated. I'm particularly looking forward to my "5 minutes with the Director of Human Homogeneity" who works in corporate over at the Omnipublicom Group.

Following that, look for the following:

5 minutes with the "Chief Foreign Accent Officer".

5 minutes with the "Chief Cliche Officer".

5 minutes with the "Chief Denial Officer".

5 minutes with the "Chief Deck Officer".

5 minutes with the "Chief Buzzword Officer".

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Five minutes with a new CAO. (Chief Apology Officer.)

Ad Aged:  You're CAO, Chief Apology Officer at a major holding company. That's a title I've never heard before. Why don't you tell my legion of readers what you do?

CAO:  I'm sorry you  haven't heard of the title before. We should have done a better job spreading the word about my job. As Chief Apology Officer, I basically apologize for all sorts of things.

Ad Aged:  Give me an example of something you've apologized for.

CAO:  Sure. We don't actually apologize. We do what we call in the trade "ratiocination." Ratiocination is to apologizing what a Ferrari is to a Model T.

So for instance, if one of our agencies produces an off-brand web video that looks more like a junior-high production of 'The Vagina Monologues' than a well-produced commercial, I issue a statement like this: "It's already exceeded our metrics for success and garnered a staggering 500,000 views on a variety of social media channels."

Ad Aged: Very interesting. How about some more examples of apologizing.

CAO: Well say we convince a client to make massive expenditures on marketing efforts that have absolutely no impact on the public.

Ad Aged: How do you handle that?

CAO:  Easy. We haven't failed to reach an audience. Today's ever-shifting new media landscape demands constant experimentation and innovation. We have to be constantly exploring to stay one step ahead of the liquid modalities of media consumption advantaging new channels with robust efforts that circumscribe complacent paradigms.

Ad Aged: How about lay-offs? How do you handle those?

CAO: Easy. I can apologize for layoffs in my sleep. Here's one for you. We've made a 2%-4% adjustment to the ever-changing demands of our clients, the exigencies of new media parameters and the vagaries of the marketplace.

Ad Aged: Thank you for your time today.

CAO:  I'm sorry we had to do this.

Yet another cab ride.

I was in a bad mood last night; I won't tell you why. Just leave it that I was spitting nails.

It was nine-o'clock and I was just getting out of work. That should tell you something. Filling a bucket with sand using a thimble. Emptying the bucket. And filling it again.

You know the drill. We all do.

In any event, my arm went up and a cab without an illuminated off-duty light slowed, checked me out (after 31 years in advertising, I dress and act more like a vagrant than most vagrants). When it appeared I was neither crazy, nor dangerous, nor indigent, he rolled to about five-miles-per and waved me into the back seat of his Crown Vic.

I did what I do, checking his name and his medallion number. It was in the low 500s. He'd been driving for about a dozen years.

He had long white hair and a friendly face.

"Where to, mi amigo?"

"83rd and York."

"You are drinking at the bar there? I go with you."

"No, I live there," I answered. "But if you want to drink, I'll take the cab for the night."

That handed him a laugh.

"I just got on duty," he said "you are only my second fare of the night. I will drink a long time."

"And I'll have some stories to tell."

I opened up. "I'm a little pissed at my wife," I said. "She's always trying to drag me to things I wouldn't want to touch with a ten-foot goat."

"I know what you mean, amigo. I am married 51 years. I have 11 children and 27 grandchildren."

"You've got me beat. I've been married 31 years and know every wife joke ever uttered."

"Tell me one," he asked.

"I haven't spoken to my wife in ten years," I monologued. "I don't want to interrupt her."


"Here's one for the Jews," I continued.

"I'm Jewish," he said. We fist bumped through the bullet-proof glass.

"Why do Jewish men die early? They marry Jewish women."

Laughter again.

"I came here October 6, 1957," he began, "from the littlest town in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Have you been to Puerto Rico," he asked. "I go three times a year. Now my kids send me because they are professionals. They all went to college."

"I've been twice," I answered. "To the old city, to San Juan proper, and to a little town in the southwest called Guanica."

"San Juan is just like Manhattan," he said.

"I call Manhattan 'Little San Juan,'" I joked.

He laughed, "I'm taking that from you. I like that."

We had reached my apartment. The meter read $13.80.

"I am giving you a big tip," I said, handing him a $20. "You made me laugh tonight."

We shook hands again through the bullet-proof.

"Adios, amigo."

We went our separate ways.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pressing the button.

The best thing about writing a blog as assiduously as I write this one, is that you get used to "pressing the send button." By that I mean, I have put upon myself the pressure to write every day and, more often than not, post early in the morning.

I write what comes out of my head and is transmitted to my fingers. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to write, or planning what I'm going to write, or writing ahead of time.

I've got about 30-minutes-a-day allocated to this space. I do what I can in that time.

So, when my time is up, when other demands become pressing, I press the publish button. I post what I've done.

Too many people--and unlike agency holding companies I count writers as people--perseverate over what they're doing. They think and think and think and fret and fret and fret and re-do and re-do and re-do hoping to get things perfect.

For better or worse, I'm not like that.

I write.

I do what I think is good.

And then I press the button.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Five minutes with our new Global CCX (Chief Creative Executive) of International Content Syndication and Procurement.

Q.        What do you think about agency models and new challenges to profitability?

A.        We’re looking to make the brands we work with become part of popular culture so we breakdown the barriers of content and reach consumers as they’re leaning in.

Q.        How can agencies be more vested in the success of their clients?

A.        Diversity and inclusion are at the core of what we do, how we think and how we act. We have made an effort around the globe to widen the scope of our scopes while retaining our focus on what’s really important, such as the widening of scopes.

Q.        Cannes is coming up as are so many other award shows, how do things look this year?

A.        Across our network we are thinking out of the envelope and pushing the box to reach new horizons and plow new highways. We’re, at the heart, an innovation company that brings important marketing ideas to the market. No longer are we a marketing company that markets ideas that marketers market.

Q.        Any final thoughts?

A.        In the end, it’s a question of content. Content is king but so are the channels that put the king, so to speak, on its throne. We have to find new modalities of parameters or the fragmented media landscape will become fractured and metastatic.

A wet Sunday.

When I drive up to the country on weekends so Whiskey can play in the surf, I swing off of 95 around Co-op City and switch to the Hutchinson River Parkway for about two miles. This saves me about five minutes of gnarly Bronx congestion. It also allows me, as we pass over a small drawbridge over a marsh, to see if the tide is high or low.

The tide makes all the difference as to where we romp with Whiskey.

When it's high, as it was on Saturday morning, we head to Edith Read nature preserve. When it's low and Edith Read is a long beach of rough littoral stones, we head to dog beach in Larchmont, which during low tide is a quarter mile in length and fairly ambient.

On Sunday we headed to the latter sea-shore and Whiskey fetched a duck decoy with an articulated head that I had bought from a hunting supply store. This decoy seems to arouse the instincts in her and she's off like a shot to haul in the faux canard.

As the tide comes in in Larchmont, the one beach becomes two beaches, separated by an ever-widening swath of the sea. Around nine-o'clock on Sunday morning, Doberman-Pinschers began showing up at the beach. The Doberman-Pinscher Club of New York City was having an outing at the beach. They were expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 dogs.

Whiskey paid them no nevermind and continued to hunt the throwable duck. She was exhausted--swimming the the cold water two days in a row can exhaust anyone, but she was gamely after her game.

As more Dobermen and Doberwomen arrived, I decided it was time to head home.

Unfortunately, the path between the seas had closed and my wife and I were stranded on the wrong side, the south side of the two split beaches. Us and a dozen Dobies and their owners.

Whiskey (and my wife) gave me a look like Oliver Hardy used to give Stan Laurel. They seemed to say with their limpid orbs, "this is another fine mess you've gotten me into."

However, though our sneakers got soaked, we made it, finally, to dry land. Whiskey dried off in Manor Park and was none the worse for wear. My wife at least removed the sand from her feet, as did I, driving illegally barefoot, hoping my running shoes would dry. They did not.

In the end, all was well.

Dogs get wet, as do sneakers.

Everything dries.

And life goes on.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Lines from the Bronx.

Spring--maybe even summer--appears to have arrived in New York. According to the thermometer on the dashboard of my car, the temperature as we highwayed through New York's only borough which is attached to the mainland, was 79. "That's almost 80," I astutely observed and 80, to me, has always demarcated summer.

We drove through small pock-mocked streets lined with crooked little houses fronted by large SUVs. The laughter of children was missing. It was still too early. But the traffic on 95, blithely called the New England Thruway, though it's far from New England and far from providing a through-way.

The trash on the side of the road was deep. There were the usual legion of cigarette detritus. I saw the frayed cushions of an old sofa and enough old hubcaps and lug nuts to open up a specialty shop in College Point.

The forsythia were in bloom. In bloom in the Bronx. Along the highway there was a stretch where they blazed yellow for forty yards. They brightened the borough. They would not have been out of place in Kauai, Hawaii.

I thought of Ogden Nash, my favorite poet when I was a kid.

In 1931, "The New Yorker" published these lines.

The Bronx?
No, thonx.

Thirty-three years later, a dean at a division of City College, Abraham Tauber, wrote a letter to Nash, complaining about his earlier epigram.

Nash wrote him this back, which was published in "The New York Times" in 1964.

Dear Dean Tauber,
I can't seem to escape the
sins of my smart-alec youth;
Here are my amends.

I wrote those lines, "The Bronx?
No thonx";
I shudder to confess them.

Now I'm an older, wiser man
I cry, "The Bronx? God bless

Seeing the forsythia girding New York's grittiest precinct, driving through the litter and the rickety, I thought of Nash's later lines.

I wrote those lines, "The Bronx?
No thonx";
I shudder to confess them.

Now I'm an older, wiser man
I cry, "The Bronx? God bless