Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why I'm carving "LV" on my wallet.

       Teaching fashion marketing has changed me forever. I like the subject, the students, and the intellectual challenge. It has also changed my world view.

       Here's one example. A week or so ago I was reading about the U.S.-Japan women's soccer game. Not really reading so much as fascinated by the color photo.  It showed American Abby Wambach and Japan's Saki Kumagai head to head with the soccer ball. Did I notice the joy of victory or the agony of defeat on their grimacing faces? 

       No. I noticed that Ms. Kamagai was wearing beautifully colored nail polish. Even in battle her nails were a  work of art.

       A couple of Sundays ago I attended the Picasso exhibit at the De Young Museum here in San Francisco. It was from the National Picasso Museum in Paris, an extensive show through all of the artist's periods --- starting way before his Pink Period and including household decorations and sculpture.

       Which painting caught my attention most intensely? It wasn't a painting. It was the photos of Picasso right before the entrance to the exhibition. What he was wearing, how he presented himself with his family and friends. I made mental notes and now know how to dress if I want to become a famous Spanish painter.

        Fashion, of course, is an art in itself, and has a challenging place in commerce, as well. I'm caught up in both. 

        The tensions between art and commerce, style and emotion, cultural artifacts and sexual attraction, tradition and trends --- these create the ecology of fashion and I'm thriving in it.

         I look at a beautiful woman these days and what's the first thing I see? Beautiful legs terminating in espadrilles.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I love people who love fashion, but why are they so fickle?

        I wish I had met Kennedy Frazer 25 years ago, when I was younger and more flexible. She was the fashion critic of the New Yorker since 1970, and fashion's given her much to criticize. Please remember, criticism is a gift.

       In her piece "The Secret Power of Dress", Ms. Frazer says "we hardly notice the technical details of clothes and have only vague impressions of cut, cloth, and trimmings. Dressing and the choice of clothes is for most women an emotional, illogical business."

       Maybe that's why fashion advertisements are emotional and illogical.

       In a fashion marketing class I taught a while back, I asked the students to please explain a Dior ad I had found. It showed a close-up of a beautiful woman with a shoe on her head. Repeat: shoe on her head. The students couldn't explain it, so I decided to call Dior in New York.

       The advertising manager wasn't in, but the assistant was. I told her I was calling about the woman with a shoe on her head. "I need someone to explain it," I said. "Explain what?"asked the assistant. "Explain why the woman has a shoe on her head," I answered calmly. "Oh, that was the photographer's idea. He said it's never been done before,"she calmly explained.

       I was beginning to lose my calm. "Why is a shoe on a woman's head a good way to sell things that normally go on the feet?" I asked. The assistant had an answer: "It's art. And  Dior is selling art." I had a question: "Are your customers buying art or are they buying shoes?" She said I'd have to ask the advertising manager.  I thanked her for her help.

      Back to Ms. Frazer. She writes about spending a good deal of money on fashionable clothes. "The shopper is often panic stricken as the dress is carried away to be wrapped, but likes to grip the handle of the box on its return. The dress worn three times becomes as friendly as a pair of slippers, or else an embarrassment...If, for many women, the choice of clothes is an anxious, irrational affair, it is made doubly so by our craving to be fashionable."

      Does this sound like art to you? Do we put Dior and other fashion brands on a pedestal? Is there really room for a pedestal in our closets? Well, there's probably a great place for that pedestal in our psyches.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to be anti-social.

       Everyone talks about social media these days, but actions speak louder than words.

       A lot of advertisers really don't know how to act in public, and social media is the worst place to prove it. Here are some examples of where they go wrong:

       1. They crash the party. Everybody else is here to share and learn, but these advertisers want to turn your group into an infomercial. We instantly turn into human delete buttons.

       2. They're hard of listening. One of the best things about social marketing is that you can learn what your customers think about you, the good and the bad. That might be the best way to think of social media---as listening posts. You'll get new ideas for product improvements, language you can use in videos, and find out what people see as your shortcomings. Some companies like Gatorade have whole departments that listen, not talk.

       3. They consume social media, but don't really contribute. First you listen; then you contribute. That's the order. Contribute ideas that can move the discussion forward; add thoughts that can give people another  valid way of looking at things; offer tips, suggestions, and empathy, or a place where others can. It's not so much being uncommercial as being a friend to consumers, the way Johnson & Johnson does with their new mom page.

       4. They interrupt. We social media users don't appreciate commercial intrusions. It's the surest way to bring everything to a halt. Now, we understand that YouTube needs some income, and so we put up with the ads because their service is so terrific. But be careful on Facebook and Twitter. What you really want to do is help. Do something for a charity. Support the arts. Start a sweepstakes that will reward people. Offer an online game relating to the interests of other users. Teach something valuable.

     5. They think of social media as more media. It's not, really. Certainly they allow you to reach people, many times by their specific interests. But you can't just use social media any way you want to just because you're the one paying. On social media, think of yourself as a host who prides herself on a lively party. And if you can't be that, at least be a good guest. But don't come in blasting on your megaphone.

     That's not difficult, is it? Remember, the world is not about Facebook, or social media. The world is about people. What they're interested in, not you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who's the real public for those public service ads?

       Some of the best ads on TV are public service ads. Also some of the worst.

       That's because of the way they're handled by advertising agencies. They're usually done pro bono, and when you work for nothing, that changes everything.

        For some agencies I worked for, pro bono work was a blessing. It gave creative people a break from tough, rigid clients. It also gave them a chance to win awards for the agency, when their regular clients' requirements didn't. So they put their best people on it, and let them show off in a world of show-offs.

       For other agencies, public service work was a pain. It always seemed to come at a busy time, used up resources, upset the normal work flow, and diverted attention from clients. So they put their interns and "kids" on it, and the results were, well, uneven.

        I always loved working on public service advertising. The clients were usually grateful, and let you do your thing. Illustrators, designers, and photographers could be leaned on to contribute their efforts, and we creative people were given free rein to do what we thought was right. Even if it was wrong.

       The work can be gratifying. One public service client of mine was the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. We did the anti-smoking commercials for the government. They only wanted smokers to work on their account, and pack-a-day Harv headed up the crew. When we held meetings, secretaries were  afraid to come in the conference room, because the smoke was so thick. The most famous commercial we did was with Brooke Shields when she was about 16, explaining exactly how she felt about boys who smell from cigarette smoke.

       I've also done work for the United Way (Saul Bass did the logo for us); the Red Cross; The University of Michigan; the ARC; and even the Oakland Ballet and the Oakland Police Department. And the question always comes up: how do TV stations decide which public service ads to run? The answer might surprise you.

       It's not the client or the agency; not even the top dogs at the networks or stations. It's usually left up to the dead-tired engineer on duty, who has a shelf full of them. He picks the ones he personally likes to see, and plays them over and over again.

       Now you know why our Brooke Shields commercial was one of the most frequently-aired commercials in America.

The man with the carmine red mind.

          Fletchie was my first ad agency copy chief. His real name was Douglas Fletchmore, but to the writers, Fletchie seemed more appropriate.  He lived by day in a small office furnished sparingly. His desk, two hard chairs, a glass filled with red pencils, and an ash tray for visitors. No other sign of human life.

          Hover by his door and he'd say one of two things. Either "not now" or "what've you got?" If it was the first, you'd come back in three hours. If it was the second, you'd plunk yourself down and show him what you've written. When it came to grabbing a red pencil, he was the quickest draw in town. He'd look at my hard-wrought ad writing, rolling his red pencil thoughtfully between his fingers.

        "Good," Fletchie would say, "Good." Then he would dive in. "But what if we just did this." He would proceed to cross out my headline and write in one of his own. "You did a nice job," he would say, "but if we change that, we'll have to change the next sentence." Red pencil, new sentence. And so on, until my copy looked like it was bleeding to death. Which it was.

        When the surgery was over, Fletchie would hand me back my copy. "Good job, Harvey, get it typed." I never knew whether that meant job security or a death sentence, but I was glad to get out of there and show everybody so they'd feel sorry for me.

         I asked my friend Dennis about the situation. Dennis said, "He does the same thing to me. I just type words on paper. Doesn't matter what they are. They're red-pencilled to oblivion anyway."

         Having a boss is never easy. Fletchie was always very gentle and calm. When I quit the agency to go somewhere else, I got a call from Fletchie a year later. He asked me to come back, for a nice raise. But I still shiver when anyone --- colleague or client --- picks up a red pencil. Once I told Dennis I wished Fletchie would do that with Hemingway.

        Hemingway would tell him what he could do with that red pencil.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Everything was great till Cinderella.

     The president of Cadillac's and Pontiac's ad agency liked me. Up to a point. We couldn't really get close  because he owned an El Dorado and I drove a Tempest convertible. The only place those two met were in the agency's lobby.

       I liked him because he knew the purpose of advertising. He even wrote a book about it, and gave copies to all of us  employees. I was impressed, never realizing that Bill Bernbach and Leo Burnett, two truly monumental figures in advertising, never had time to write a book. They were busy writing ads.

       In addition to running the Cadillac account at the agency, the president also supervised the Hush Puppies account. Hush Puppies are the soft, brushed pigskin shoes that became a big hit with artists in Greenwich Village. Today Hush Puppies would heavily use social media to get the word out. At the time, television could do the job the best.

      My art-diector partner Marty and I were given this challenge. The agency would give us carte blanche to do an "out of the box" commercial for Hush Puppies. The agency would pay for it to be produced before the client even heard about it. If the client liked it, it would go on the air, and Marty and I could do another one the same way. If the client didn't like it, the deal would be over.

      We jumped at the challenge. The first commercial we did was called "Barefoot", about all the ways our feet help us and why, "whether you have men's feet or women's feet", they deserve Hush Puppies. I wrote it on a yellow pad on the floor of my bedroom, and Marty did the storyboard the next day. We produced it, the client loved it, it went on the air and won awards.

      Then we did another commercial the client loved, and it won awards, too.

       The third commercial we created was about a spoiled American "princess" from Brooklyn. It was the Cinderella story about the glass slipper found after the ball. "It's not mine, Mr. Leotards-from-the-Prince; I only wear Hush Puppies!" she said.  The jig was up. So was the gig. The client didn't understand it, didn't want it on the air, and probably wanted it out of his office. Marty and I were in shock, and the agency lost all the production costs.

       Marty and I went on to other things, spending months getting new clients for the New York branch of the agency. But there was one thing I learned for certain. In advertising, it doesn't take long to turn back into a pumpkin.


Monday, July 25, 2011

The write-to-work state

     Annie, a friend of mine in Toronto, got the word to me on Linked In that I've really got it made...sitting in cafes in Berkeley and writing.

      Annie isn't wrong. But then, writers always have it made. All they need are a pen, paper, and a brain. The rest just happens. Sort of.

      There are times I've written ads or commercials on hotel beds, airplanes, the St. Francis Hotel lobby, Canadian railroad stations, museum luncheonettes, and on the floor in my house, watching TV. (One commercial I wrote on the floor of my bedroom --- about why you owe your feet comfortable shoes --- went on to win my first Addy.)

       When students tell me they can stare at their laptops for hours and nothing happens, I remind them that laptops can't write and maybe they should close them and just let their minds wander for a while. Or even better, just to think about the customer, and what she's interested in and how you can help her.

       There are a lot of writers and art directors who are into techniques, instead of ideas. They're always looking for something that's never been done before, such as the first car commercial that doesn't show the car. (Someone tried that for introducing the Infinity. Nobody showed up at the showrooms. The client changed agencies.)

        One of my friends at DDB in New York tried for months to create "The World's First Engine Transplant" for the VW. It was a parody on heart transplants, and the idea was for the VW to reject another car's engine. He couldn't make it work, and that's probably a good thing.

        Writers all have tricks to get their juices flowing.  Mine is to imagine Woody Allen talking to Annie Hall. Once I get that out of my system, I try other directions...Bob Newhart, a whispering Marilyn Monroe, two detectives, three bank robbers, and so on.

        The main thing is to read and write every day. It's fun and Annie's right. Be an art director or copywriter and you've got it made. Just be prepared for it to take longer to finish your latte.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Are you as anxious as I am?

       Richard Saul Wurman wrote a book whose title describes my feelings about advertising perfectly. It's called "Information Anxiety".

       Wurman says "a weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in 17th Century England." Now, I'm sure a lot was going on in 17th Century England. Shakespeare was writing plays and sonnets, wars were endless, and the Enlightenment was beginning to take hold. But there were no tweets, no friending, no linking in or stumbling upon. The only reality show was when you woke up in the morning, and there were no video monitors in carts, no cable and network TV, and certainly no Kardashians. Want to see the Apprentice? He's behind the barn, shearing sheep.

       Today we probably have enough advertising and media. If people hated advertising before, we now have social media on which to complain about it to our friends and 35 friends of Bonnie. And we don't even remember who Bonnie is or how she wrote on our wall.

      What I'm gracefully trying to point out is that we've never had more competition for the marketing we do. What's more, I'm anxious about what advertising, public relations, and marketing people are doing to get their messages heard in all this clutter.

       Are we dumbing down our messages to make them easier to grasp? Are we leaving out the important stuff so there will be less for prospects to read? Are we borrowing interest in the form of fun and games so people will stick around longer than they would if we actually tried to sell them something? Are we using bizarre but irrelevant visuals and technical tricks to attract attention at all cost---the cost being losing people's interest?

       In other words, have we in marketing lost the ability to persuade and create desire?

      I have anxiety because there's not enough information in advertising and PR, not because there's too much. That's what has made these professions so successful. People actually got something of value out of them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ads, yes. Ideas, yes. Wallpaper, no.

      When I decided to leave one of the biggest and most stressful ad agencies in Chicago to open my own small one, I got an unusual offer from a friend in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Come here and be a partner; we're already set up.

       I took him up on it and moved. I had gone to college in Ann Arbor. It's a lot like Berkeley. It even has two hills.

      The agency was located in ivy-clad Harris Hall, a former university building. We had grown to 16 people when something started bugging me. I was missing something, and finally figured out what it was: stress. Life at our bucolic agency lacked stress, and I missed it. If we were to ever grow, I'd better add it. And I knew how.

      I started making presentations for new clients 40 miles away, in Detroit. I was able to get some appointments, mainly because they were curious.  But our work was surprisingly good, and we started winning accounts. First the Metropolitan Detroit Convention & Visitors' Bureau, of all things. Then the tallest hotel in the world, the Westin Renaissance Center. Then the huge Renaissance Center itself!

      Jim Honick, the Marketing Director of Renaissance Center, took me aside. He said he'd like to do business with us, but they only do business with leaders and leaders have their offices in Renaissance Center. Which explains the office we opened on the 32nd floor of the 200 Tower. I loved it, and spent most of my time there.

       I would do anything for Jim and told all our people to do the same. That's what soon bit me.

       The first floor of the Center was being reconfigured, and raw wood construction walls were everywhere in all five buildings. Jim called up our account executive and told her that the owners of Renaissance Center would be there in a week, to check on the progress. Could the agency design and print wallpaper to cover the wooden walls? She said sure. We designed wallpaper with a step-and-repeat pattern of their logo, and had it printed quickly by a printer who owed us one. The Center's crew put it up.

       My phone rang at 4 p.m. the night before the big owners' meeting. It was Gail, Jim's assistant. She was in tears.

       "The wallpaper's falling off all the walls and rolling up on the floor. Could you come over and put it up by 8:30 tomorrow morning when the owners arrive?" I almost had cardiac arrest. I could see all our new Detroit clients firing us, going down like dominoes and leaving us with nothing to do in a beautiful suite of offices. And none of us knew how to put up wallpaper. Gail said she's try to figure it out.

       I didn't sleep all night, but the problem did get solved. The wallpaper glue hadn't stuck to the wallpaper because our production manager didn't know that wallpaper had to be a certain kind of paper. The client's crew found a thicker, stickier  glue, and worked all night to re-paper the walls in the five buildings.

       Two days later, I met with Jim who was laughing but perfectly clear. "Harvey, please. Stick to what you do; don't agree to do what you don't know anything about. Just say 'we don't do that'. You're not doing anybody any favors."

        That was the first of many good lessons, about real estate, about business, about friendship.  Jim's now in Atlanta and I'm in Berkeley, grateful that someone taught me to say sorry, I don't do wallpaper.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Daddy, where do ideas come from?"

       This morning I met with a client and after I presented and he approved everything, he asked me the same question my students always do: "How, exactly, do you come up with these?"

       I told them I usually go to a neutral corner; a busy cafe. Then I pull out a yellow pad and go to work. Nothing magic, nothing fancy, no trances, no self-hypnosis, no Karen Horney self-therapy. Just work.

       "Your mind works in a different way than mine does," said the client, shaking his head. I think that was a compliment.

       In any case, I thought it might be useful to my students to be a little more specific about what I like to call work. Here's my 10-step program for creating advertising:

       1. Go to a busy cafe.

       2. Pull out a yellow pad and a pen.

       3. Don't write anything. Think about the problem to be solved, in very general terms. Include the audience, the benefit, the reason-why, the client, the product differences, the company and the target market. Keep doing that.

        4. Write down everything that comes to mind. Nothing's too big, too trivial, too silly, too preposterous, too anything. Thoughts, ideas, lines, drawings, art, snatches of conversations, what your mom would say, what Woody Allen would say to your mom.

         5. Go to yoga or a book-signing or a movie, and get a good night's sleep. (Watching Kim Kardashian and texting are not part of this process.)

         6. After coffee the next morning, find your yellow pad. Cross off anything too stupid for an ad (that eliminates very little).

          7. Amplify the rest. Try headlines, story ideas for the Web and TV, bumper stickers and contest ideas. Then put the yellow pad away till tomorrow.

          8. The next morning around 10, try to find your yellow pad. Then turn your thoughts into finished ideas. Clean up your act, in other words. If you're having trouble with the headlines, write the copy first, to get your mind in gear. Then write the headlines.

         9. Edit and polish one more time. Jot down newborn thoughts.

       10. Now you're done, but don't throw anything away. You never know.

       Maybe your mind does work differently from mine, but this is what works for me. Students have told me that if they don't cut corners or settle for less than 15 ideas, my "system" works for them.

       Please try it yourself. With all the bad advertising around these days, we can use all the good stuff we can get.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

I don't look it, but I'm an outdoor kind of guy.

       I think that I shall never see an outdoor board as lovely as a tree. But I respect and enjoy them both.

       In advertising, billboards are either a dream or a nightmare. The outdoor advertising people tell us to use very few words --- 7 or 8 --- for maximum impact. After all, drivers are racing by. They also tell us, though, that most people travel the same route every day, so they'll have more than one opportunity to see your message.

        The Outdoor Advertising Bureau provides tons of help. They'll give you books and presentations on good and adventurous outdoor boards, years of research studies, tools for seeing your layouts the way motorists will see the finished boards, and all kinds of advice. And still, most outdoor boards are terrible.

       Most boards try to say too much, show too much, and use garish colors too much. The writers and art directors obviously didn't want to think too much.

        But like everything else in marketing and advertising, if you look at it as a puzzle to be solved rather than as a problem to get off your desk, you'll do better work and have a lot more fun. Stressed-out drivers will, too.

         To me, the best examples today are the Apple boards. Often no words at all; just an iPad being used for a different thing by a different person. The iPod boards were no-worders, too; wonderful silhouettes of energized people dancing. They make me want to reach out to you and... salsa!

         There's one outdoor board that I've always loved and use as a model for myself when I have an outdoor assignment. It's a board for the iconic Volkswagen bus. It shows six or seven nuns getting out of the bus, in their habits, and the headline, "Mass Transit".  Two words. You have to make the connection. You laugh and remember the message. And it's a clear demonstration of the product's capacity.

       When Lady Bird Johnson was the First Lady, she was worried that outdoor boards were ruining the landscape. I was asked to create Chevrolet's response. I suggested Chevy put their name atop the board, and then remove all the panels inside the frame. You'd see right through into America the beautiful.

        Doing a good outdoor board is hard; a real challenge. But these days nothing about advertising isn't.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear J. Lo, breaking up is hard to do.

       When I heard that Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony were breaking up, the news didn't faze me. But when I heard they are continuing together on their namesake clothing lines for Kohl's, my fashion marketing antennae stood at attention.

        Branding is probably advertising's greatest contribution to marketing, and goes far beyond names, logos and typefaces. Branding involves every association that customers, vendors, employees, and even the government makes with the company and its products. It includes all those feelings and notions and suspicions that we have.

       When I ask my students the difference between Gap and Guess, for example, their response is immediate and vocal. It has nothing to do with stitching and textiles, and everything to do with the people who wear them. My students know exactly which "girl" they'd introduce to their parents --- and to their boyfriends.

       What do J. Lo and her soon-to-be-ex bring to the party? I'm sure my students' images of them are clear. What do they bring to Kohl's? The chain's management is obviously hoping for sales, but it's more than that. It's romance, it's star quality. It's dreams and beauty and glamour, success and sexiness. It's there that with a little grace, go I.

        Personally, I don't want to buy clothes to look like Marc Anthony any more that I want to buy an after shave to smell like Antonio Banderas. But hundreds of thousands of people do, and that's the power of brands. It helps products get people's attention, and meet customers' expectations. Maybe if the clothes would help me get J.Lo, I'll be willing to try them.

        The question is, do the positive images change when the celebrity couple uses the D-word?  Does that make them more accessible in your mind, or less attractive? In my mind the answers are yes and no. So please let the Kohl's people know what you think. Never mind, they'll find out soon enough.

        How about your personal branding? You are a brand, you know, and all the rules apply. Everything you do, say, wear, think and drive might add to or subtract from, reinforce or change your image and identity.

        My brand is probably changing by the day. I hope my friends still recognize the label.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A different guy away from the office.

       I'm still completely enthralled with the thoughts of of Kennedy Fraser, who was the fashion reporter for The New Yorker for three decades.

       For example, this distinction from her book, "The Fashionable Mind": "Taste concerns itself with broad, lifetime progress, and never makes mistakes; style moves by fits and starts and is occasionally glorious...Elegance is static and hermetic, and its moments of its attainment in a life of style are like so many cathedrals along the route of a comprehensive cultural tour."

       Ms. Fraser obviously never saw me on Saturday.

       I've always had trouble with the concept of a weekend wardrobe. I generally end up looking like I forgot to turn on the closet light when I was picking out the stuff. Or decided to put on whatever was hanging on a chair.

       There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who look great on Saturdays, and those who look great on Monday mornings. I used to consider myself a Monday morning type, but lately I've sort of drifted into a late Wednesday afternoon.

       The other afternoon at a cafe in Oakland I noticed a Saturday guy with his girlfriend, and she was a late Wednesday afternoon type like me. He looked almost too-GQ perfect, the male ideal of all those women who take their boyfriends to buy clothes at Banana Republic. Who would want him!

       There's hope for my weekend image. Ms. Fraser says, "stylish people, even if they have to force themselves, are determined to see the world in childishly bright colors." I see things that way most of the time. I just don't look it.

        Truthfully, it's just not the same when you go to Banana Republic on your own. Maybe if I took off my RayBans....


Monday, July 18, 2011

If you can't think of anything to write, write about that.

       The name I gave this site has the potential of adding a shovelful to my stress level. Daily? Does that include weekends?

       What if I can't think of anything to write about? What if I feel lazy, or tired, or cranky and don't want to write? What if I write and it comes out gnarly?

        It happens. But it's all really a metaphor for working for a living. Whether we work for an ad agency, or a retail chain, or a couturier, and there's something due today, no excuses will excuse.

       "Where's the work? This is it? What else have you got?"

       When I first was promoted to associate creative director, I was worried. What if my group let me down? What if they didn't do something good? Or anything, period? Shouldn't I have something of my own in reserve, just in case? For three months I did, although I never let on. My safety net was in my top left-hand drawer.

       It was rarely needed. When you work full-time to support yourself, something serious comes over you. You become more self-disciplined. You know you have to do a good job. Or else.

       Or else there are ten more people to take your place.

       Over the years, I've had a lot of interesting people work for me. The writer who never, ever, came back from lunch, but always left a note on his door telling us what bar he'd be at if he were needed. The art director who always came back from lunch even though I told him not to. (One Thursday afternoon he threw all the agency's potted plants down the elevator shaft.) The guy who always had thirty ideas for every assignment, but could never decide which one was any good.

        There was the writer who cut off her partner's new tie because he wouldn't do the storyboard the way she wanted. And the one who cried at meetings every time the client rejected one of her ideas. (He couldn't take the guilt and changed agencies.)

       It takes all types. But the best creative people --- the ones who do the funniest, craziest, most mind-changing commercials --- always find a way to meet the deadlines, attend the meetings, and always act respectfully.

       Jerry Della Femina, one of the real heroes of the "Mad Men" era, said advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I agree. But you have to love it or leave it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is Annie Hall just around the corner?

       I think the first time I was really knocked out by women's fashion was when I saw the film "Annie Hall". Diane Keaton's wardrobe seemed endlessly perfect to me --- surprising to look at, completely in harmony, each layer covering up more of Annie's self-demeaning personality, and utterly fun and unique.

       Soon every woman was Annie Hall, and I was in heaven. Then the look got diluted, changed a bit, and ultimately seemed to evaporate. Every once in a  while today I spot an Annie Hall, sometimes with a bit of a London twist or a cool hat, and I fall in love all over again.

       I'm bringing this up because I'm reading "The Fashionable Mind", by Kennedy Fraser. She was the fashion reporter for The New Yorker for thirty years and writes about fashion the way I've longed for. She discusses more than color, cut, and shape. She unravels the ideas behind the clothes. For example, Ms. Fraser explains why, when women are confused about their roles, their clothing gets confusing.

        I appreciate the insightful way she writes. "Makeup begins as a trick we play on society, then becomes a trick we play on ourselves."  On sunglasses: "At present, sunglasses are modesty's last frontier, the mask behind which people protect their thoughts."

       Ms. Fraser discusses jeans, and whether they're conservative or fashion-liberal. ("A badge of conservatism in unsettled times.")

        I wish people who do fashion advertising would pull up a comfortable chair and read this book. Their idea of good advertisements would soon be more than hiring a moody photographer and a model with just the right amount of space between her front teeth, throwing in a logo and calling it a day. There would be some substance behind the sell. We might start deepening our understanding about how we want to look and start feeling better about ourselves.

         Returning to Ms. Fraser: "Models rush past us breathlessly, to share a joke with someone off the page. If they chance to remember the spectator, they give us a careless wave. Life, according to these glimpses of it, is an endless, perfect party where each guest is programmed to relate..."

       Kennedy Fraser's book was written in 1981. Dolce & Gabbana and the Hilfigers have arrived fashionably late.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tell me you love me, but leave the reasons till later.

        There have been a number of articles in the marketing press lately about emotion. Dealing with it in a very rational way, of course.

        The general conclusion seems to be that emotion is stronger than rational arguments in selling your brand. Often you need both, but emotion is the key.

        There has also been extensive research in the related area of emotion in memory, which is important because if you don't retain the message, what good is it? Here the research really gets interesting. Generally speaking, we remember emotional events better than routine ones. (The three most important words in the English language are usually whispered: "I love you". Somehow we tend to remember where and when they were spoken, even though we may not remember finishing our chai latte this morning.)

       Drilling down even further, current research indicates that it's which emotions are aroused, not the event, that matters to our memories. 

       Good memories tend to fade faster, and the bad ones haunt us. 

       All of this relates to advertising and marketing. If the emotion aroused is relevant to the product and its benefits, it's remembered better. If the emotional part of the commercial comes after the information is delivered, it can wipe out the message we want consumers to retain. 

       Humor works well when the humor is about the product and its benefits. The same with scary commercials. When the scary part is just borrowed interest, it doesn't help us remember about the product. We're too smart; our brains push the delete buttons.

       Another variable: your mood at the time you receive the messages. If you're watching an intense program on tv and the commercial comes on, you'll probably mentally pull away. A dull show? The commercial might be the most colorful, emotional part, and has a better chance of being engaging.

      These are generalities, of course, but they all add up to one central theme: truly understanding how the customer responds is where it all begins. Which is why you'd better re-read this.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bet you can't think of just one.

        I can always tell when a student came up with just one idea for an ad and then decided "that's done!" It  always annoys me.

        Maybe it's just envy. I could never do one response to a problem and know it's perfectly solved. Advertising doesn't work that way. It's not a Rubik's Cube. 

       Persuasion is an art, not a science. It's probably like psychotherapy. You can quit if you want to, but it doesn't mean there aren't more answers.

       I got to know a therapist in Detroit. She was from Budapest; her name was Noemi. One day we were having coffee and chatting and she said, "I think you have a rich inner life". I still don't know whether that was a compliment or a criticism, but she was right.

       When I'm working on a creative project, I automatically reach into this rich inner life of mine and visualize people and circumstances and conversations and can't stop thinking of more ideas. Only when the due-date says, "Time's up, Harvey, what've you got?" do I wind down. Sometimes not even then. Leo Burnett, who built a huge Chicago ad agency, said it's never too late for a better idea.

       Creative people who jot down the first thing that comes to mind and immediately check their email aren't being very creative. I can't imagine Picasso doing that, or Thoreau, or Coco Chanel.  When you do that you're slamming the door on a better idea, a better job, a better lifestyle, and a lot of fun. 

        You can always do ten ads, or ten designs, and conclude that your first one was best, but unless you do the other nine, how would you know? When we try for a job at an ad agency named Burnett, or Ogilvy,  or Doyle Dane Bernbach, maybe we should look into how those guys got their names on the door.

        It wasn't by doing one quick idea on the bus.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Forward to the Past

       I can't really say I became friends with John Z. DeLorean, but he certainly affected my career.

       You may remember him as the brains behind the car of the same name: the stainless steel sports car that was used in the film "Back to the Future".

       When I knew him he was much more concerned with the present. DeLorean was the head honcho at Pontiac, and I was  v.p. for creative strategy at Pontiac's agency. One day we got a call from him. He wanted to be sure we had seen the new movie "Bonnie and Clyde" because he had the idea of us doing a parody for Pontiac Tv commercials. It was great for Pontiac --- chase scenes, glamour, and great reviews. My art-director partner, Marty,  and I got together, we created three 30-second commercials that DeLorean approved by fax, and I got some good additions to my reel and some awards.  (If you want to see one of the spots, a student found it on YouTube. Look for Bonnie and Clyde Pontiac TV.)

       About a year or so later, John DeLorean was elevated to head of Chevrolet, and coincidentally, I had moved to Chevy's agency as a V.P. -Group Creative Director on non-Chevy accounts. Soon, the Exec V.P. (you get a title and a window as rewards in the ad business) asked me to come to his sunny office.

        DeLorean had just come back from New York where he had acquired a new passion, the Police Athletic League. That's the wonderful organization that helps kids in poor neighborhoods get involved in sports. Police officers voluntarily supply the equipment and coach the teams. His goal was to set up P.A.L. in Detroit with our agency's help, and I was assigned to go to New York,  talk to the P.A.L. people and kids, and come back and do ads to raise awareness and money.

        For three days I stayed on Central Park West by night, and after a buffet breakfast took a gypsy cab into Canarsie. Unmarked, they were the only cabs that would go into the rough Brooklyn neighborhood. I learned about and appreciated P.A.L. a lot.

       John DeLorean loved the ads I came up with and asked the head of the ad agency if I could be assigned to the Chevy account. Within a month I was made Co-Creative Director on the world's largest advertised brand.

       Apparently even though I didn't know much about cars, I knew what John Z. DeLorean liked.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Making ideas dance.

       Contrary to what you might think, I don't know that many ballerinas.

       In fact, Piper is the only ballerina I know. She's with the Lyric Ballet in Chicago and I know her because I knew her dad.  And her dad knew marketing.

       One day walking to lunch, he told me the problem with ballet.

       "The problem with ballet," he told me, "is that men don't appreciate it. And when men don't appreciate it they don't go." That certainly rang true.

       "Piper's work is very strenuous," he added. "If men knew how athletic ballet is, they'd love it."

       Another one to put in my insight cabinet. I asked Piper's dad if I could use that someday and without flinching, he said sure. I plan to.

       So if you happen to know of a dance company that can use a creative director who knows how to build strong audiences, call me immediately.

        While my students of fashion marketing and advertising are dedicated to their crafts, I have to tell them they're really in the insight business.

         It was an advertising writer's insight that young people like sweeter things, which is why they might like Pepsi more than Coke. That brought the Pepsi Generation to life.

         It was the head of Starbucks who had the insight that Americans would appreciate the kind of cafes that there are in Italy, and certainly better coffee.

         It was a Chicago ad person's insight that while original Gatorade didn't taste that good with a sandwich (unless you're hot and sweaty), people would like Gatorade with food if it came in other flavors.

        The list goes on. Where do you get these insights? How do you know where your next insight is coming from? You have to dig for it. You have to be a detective, a psychologist, an anthropologist, and a poet. You have to refuse to accept the obvious. You have to love people, talk to them, take them seriously. You have to be part scientist, part romantic. If your competitors are zigging, you have to be willing to zag.

        Insight-digging takes determination and a tuned ear. It's work.

        After all, insights don't grow on trees. Unless, perhaps, you're the marketing director for a national forest.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How I got into advertising and why they let me stay.

     My first job in Chicago was at Edward H. Weiss & Company. (The phone operator, who had to say that mouthful hundreds of times a day, got it down to one word: "Schweissancompany".)

      Ed Weiss was my mother's cousin's husband, so maybe he felt obligated to hire me. I loved his wife, Ruthie, who had taken me under her wing as a boy and nurtured my interest in the theater, buying me plays for every lifecycle occasion. Both Ed and Ruthie lived big.

       They always had the best art in their house (Ed painted too, inspired by the drip method of Jackson Pollack) ---- and the best parties. Ruthie often invited me, to bring up my culture quotient. Interesting people were always at their house: authors, booksellers, performance artists, doctors, and fellow directors with Ed on the University of Chicago Board of Trustees and the Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis. I begged Ed to give me a job, and Ruthie made sure he did.

      About my third week at the agency a bright young writer, whom the agency hired from New York, walked into my office. His name was Dennis, and under his arm he had dozens of ads ripped from magazines. Using my push-pins, he displayed the ads on my wall.

       "Study these. Read every word," Dennis said. "They're what's happening in advertising. They're changing everything."

       I took Dennis' orders, and those ads changed me. They were the Volkswagen and Avis ads that Bill Bernbach was directing at Doyle Dane Bernbach. I read them, re-read them, studied them, and copied them. And once I got what Bernbach was doing, I could never go back to ordinary advertising again.

       I still read these ads --- I read them to my advertising classes--- and I point out the kinds of things I've learned from them. They're adult, intelligent, human, handsomely art directed and deftly written. They made a cheap foreign car the darling of America, and captured our love of the underdog who tries harder.

      Ed Weiss got me into advertising, Dennis pinned my future to my wall, and making Bill Bernbach's philosophy my own kept me in demand in the business. Today, Ed is gone.  Dennis is a professor of communications at the University of Kentucky, passing along the message he gave me. And in my den you'll find something I found at a flea market. A Bill Bernbach lunch box with his photo on it, apparently made for an agency picnic. As long as I'm in advertising, it's the only place for my pencils.

Monday, July 11, 2011

North of the border and most creative people.

       One of the most beautiful things about the Internet is how it finds nearly-lost people. Some use it to find old sweethearts. I use it to find old art-director partners.

       I knew Paul lived in Toronto and found him not long ago on Linked In. He has his own ad agency there, and still does amazing work. Paul's a brilliant thinker and not afraid to let the brilliance show. He's the one who showed me how good an idea could be.

       Paul's work could be gritty or surrealistic --- just so it hit the audience over the head and made its point unforgettably. He was also a bit of a prankster. I remember the day we almost lost a big oil company account because the advertising manager was convinced Paul and a writer were passing shocking notes about him under the table at lunch...and giggling. Both denied it, but someone must have apologized because all was forgiven.

      We did an ad together for a contest that Time, Inc. was running to demonstrate "The Power of Print" for their magazines.  Our ad was one of the winners; Time published it as a full page in color and our agency sent us to New York to accept our award in a ceremony held in the Rainbow room atop Rockefeller Center. The trophies we received were strange wooden representations of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type.

       Over the years, I've let copies of most of my ads slip through my fingers, but I know exactly where this one is. It's framed in my kitchen. The visual, a blue human eye peering out of a plaster cast of Augustus Caesar, is haunting. Paul created the perfect way to tell our story of how good advertising can crack the shells of people's indifference.

       Paul says he loves social media because it's the most intimate way he's ever found to relate to the target market. I've given this a lot of thought, and of course Paul's right again. It's like being invited into someone's living room and being given a chance to meet their friends. Would you launch into your business pitch right away, or act out your client's TV commercials? Or would you relax and take a moment, get to know everyone, listen closely, and then contribute to the conversation only if you can? Try the first approach and you'll never be invited back. Try the second and you might. Paul knows this well.

       That's today's lesson, if you want one. Truly creative people don't resist change, they embrace it and relish the consequences.

       Which is why I'm grateful I re-discovered Paul.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who wants to be in a third place?

         If Starbucks is, as Mr. Schultz claims, the "third place" to gather at the end of the day, instead of home or at work, most people seem to prefer one of the other two. Or a fourth.

         Why can't Starbucks seem to get an after-work crowd, a later than after-school crowd, or even a before-dinner crowd? Some Starbucks are open long enough to get an after-dinner crowd, and even the wee-hours crowd. Where are all the beautiful people, or all the people that look like me for that matter?

        You'd think a master marketer would be able to figure this out. You're a marketer --- what would you do to get people into Starbucks at the end of the day?

        On a related topic, there seems to me to be room in the marketplace for an Anti-Starbucks. A coffee place that advertises that it calls a large a large, with nothing grande about it. A place that charges less than your lunch money for a latte; makes a double macchiato too proud to be in a paper cup; and laughs off charging an extra half a buck for soy.

        I'm not talking about McDonalds. McDonalds has good coffee, they say, but it's still McDonalds.

        I'm talking about a coffee place. One that still uses the apostrophe in its name. Owned by two guys who know you don't come there to sip the atmosphere, refuse to use tongs to pick up a piece of pastry, and  don't stop brewing decafe around four o'clock, just when everyone's worrying about being over-caffeinated.

       It would be fun to do the advertising  for such a coffee shop and a kick to do some videos we can put on YouTube.

       Maybe we can even be the first to use anti-social media.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Want to go to the Asian Art Museum?

       There have been many articles lately about the financial plight of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

        It's an incredible place ---- palace, really --- in what was the City's main library, in the Civic Center, right down from our school. The permanent collection may be unequalled in quality in the United States. Shows and exhibitions have included "The Dragon's Gift: the Sacred Arts of Bhutan" and "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma". 

       So why are they in hot water?

       This is a good example of a genuine marketing problem to be solved. What would you do to help the Asian Art Museum increase visits, increase memberships, and perhaps increase donations? It's certainly a worthy cause.

       To start, we'd obviously have to do some digging and researching. We need to know where we're going, how to get there, and what to expect once we're there.

       I've had a great deal of experience with museums, including the monumental Detroit Institute of Art, the University of California/Berkeley Art Museum, and the second largest museum in America, the 200-acre Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village. I've also been invited to speak and teach at the Museum Management Institute, sponsored each summer by the Getty Institute. Here are some insights that could be helpful:

        First, visits to museums are endlessly deferrable. It's either too hot, too cold, too rainy, too humid, or too beautiful out, and the museum will always be here. We need to fix the garage, go to the store, water the lawn, cut the grass, paint that room, take a nap, or go to a ballgame on a day like this. And the museum will always be here. The word "museum" even sounds stuffy. Even miniature golf is more fun. So is shopping! Then there's always the "we've been there" plea and its educational variation, "the kids go there with their class".

        My experience tells me there's something else going on with the Asian. I think it's a matter of interpretation. Most of us don't know a thing about Asian art. We don't know what we're looking at, or looking for. We don't know good from bad, or fantastic from the ordinary. A dragon's a dragon. We know who Michelangelo is, and that Van Gogh cut off his ear, but what did Drukpa Kunley do?

       I know it sounds naive to say all this, but it's key.  We're ignorant on the subject of Asian Art, so why should we spend hours looking at things we don't understand and appreciate? It's not just advertising the museum needs; it's education that we need.

       If this insight is true, we can design programs and materials that overcome the problem, and ads that transcend it.  

        When you're in advertising and marketing, you have to take a conceptual leap sometimes, and go beyond beautiful visuals and clever words. You have to question everything until you see the real problem and how to solve it.      

        Even if your problem turns out to be Drukpa Kunley.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The unvarnished truth about Ashley Y.

       Ashley is a fictitious name, but there was no one like her.

       On my first real day in advertising, in Chicago, I was told I was going to share an office with a new writer who had just graduated from the University of Chicago.

       I was thrilled; someone to share this adventure with. Ashley was tall, lanky, quite beautiful and had red Cruella Deville nails. She delivered a sentence like a command from Auntie Mame. Now I knew I was in advertising.

       The office we were to share was immense. Ashley had arrived there the week before, and settled into the desk in front of the biggest window. The flowers on the desk arrived yesterday, she said, from a guy at J. Walter Thompson.

       Ashley couldn't wait to give me the inside scoop. On the creative director: "He's a sculptor. His things are massive."  On the executive art director: "Looks are deceiving." On a junior art director: "He works in pastels. Work with him and you'll get chalk all over your pants."

       Ashley and I soon found we both could get our assignments done quickly, and because our bosses were often too busy to deal with us, had a lot of time on our hands. Our office became the place where everyone hung out when they were too tired or too pissed off to think. Fortunately, we had a long green sofa and two loveseats, which either came from Goodwill or were on the way there.

      Ashley and I stocked candy, gum, and Ho-Hos from the cigar store, and invented some activities to pass the time between assignments. One we called Cliche Adjectives (death was always "untimely", the truth was always "unvarnished"). I pinned up shelf paper to record our hundreds of adjectives, and we soon needed to go into adverbs. Another game we played was trying to cast movie stars for everyone in the agency, in case Hollywood wanted to make the picture.

       I put up a sign over my desk for both of us to absorb whenever someone killed one of our ads. It said "Read a little Wordsworth." That comforted Ashley's intellectual side. So did extended vacations in Latin America. When she was gone  I was left alone in that big room staring at my pad of  blank yellow paper.

       Ashley and I were in different groups. She worked on a mattress account,  lingerie, and a salad dressing. I worked on bourbon, wine, and cereals. She wrote booklets about salad fixings, and I invented mixed drink ideas with the help of the bartender in the lounge on the first floor. Both Ashley and I  worked on trade ads and Ashley came up with a formula for writing  them: SFD=SPT. Translated: Stock, Feature, and Display (the product) for Sales, Profit, and Turnover. It worked every time.

       After a year and a half or so, the agency hired a hotshot art director "from New York", and gave him our big office. Ashley and I were moved into our own tiny offices, but it wasn't the same. We'd still go to lunch together twice a week because Ashley figured out we could see a movie a week if we took our lunch break at 11:30 on Wednesdays and 1 on Thursdays, seeing half the film each day.

       Eventually,  she got a call for a big job at a larger agency, and I left to go somewhere else a few months later. We'd still have lunch once a month, and send off our $15 checks to Stavros, the baby in Greece we supported with Dendy, another friend,  through Save the Children. Then the occasional call, the quick after-work drink...we drifted apart, mailing our checks separately to Stavros for six years.

       Ashley was my buddy through the tenderest  part of my career, and occupies a special place in my heart, by a big window. And no, she's not on Facebook or LinkedIn.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bugbear sighted in London.

       This was in the news on a fashion website:

        "Almost 50% of UK women hate shopping for clothes....trying on clothes is the number one shopping bugbear."

       Personally, I never met a bugbear I didn't like. However we fashion marketers better be concerned.
       Is this also true here in the United States, or is this a strictly British phenomenon, like room temperature ale, and the way Queen Elizabeth waves from her limo? How do we know for sure?

       We'd better do some research and find out. If customers won't try clothes on, who will buy them?

        Happily, this is a problem you can deal with.

         First, you'll want to find out if it's true. If it is, you'll want to find out why women don't like trying on clothes. The bother? Being talked into things by the salesperson? Finding out their real sizes? Drafty fitting rooms? Snickering tailors? Modesty? The time it takes? Having to get dressed again? Something you wouldn't have thought of in a million years?

         Once you know, you can start coming up with real answers and solutions; changes you could make in the marketing mix.  It would make a good assignment for yourself. The trick is to be kind to yourself and not judge your ideas too early. Hold off judging till you've thought of everything. Then evaluate.

         If you're a real pro, you can go the extra step and do an ad or two, or come up with a sales promotion idea that would do the job. That is, again, once  you knew it was a real problem and found out why.

        And what about American men? Do they feel the same way? Is that why they handle a shopping mission like they're Navy Seals, in and out in a heartbeat?

        Actually, I wouldn't be too surprised if it was just a British thing. They're not famous for taking their clothes off.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's not enough to be in vogue.

       I'm writing this in Los Angeles. The Fall Collections issue of Paris Vogue is on the newsstands, and all seems right with the world. Carl Sandburg called Chicago the City of Broad Shoulders. This is the City of Bare Shoulders. Everyone seems to be fit, was fit, or is considering being fit tomorrow.

       With my sprained foot and cane, I'm hobbling through the morning as the beautiful people are stretching in the spas, walking with good chest-out posture along Wilshire Boulevard, and jogging breathlessly to the beach without seeming to pay much attention to the 70%-off windows in the shops.

        We who are into fashion marketing love clothes, of course, and try to be up to the minute on every nuance of fashion. We'd spend our last dime on it. But these are tough times. If people are not personally suffering from the recession, they go through the day half-prepared to be. Spending doesn't come easy.

        Even the affluent are careful not to look too well off. And, of course, we Americans are always our cynical selves. It's not enough to tell us. You also have to sell us. We want reasons.  Which is something we marketeers cannot allow ourselves to forget.

       In our ads and promotions and plans, we always have to be in touch with our customers and what they're going through. They're far more important than our own goals. Research, observation, hand-holding --- whatever it takes to understand our market, we have to meet their needs in order to meet ours. That's what we marketers are paid for.

        Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent were geniuses, of course, but they were also right there on the cutting edge of their culture. Anthropologists tell us that fashion is a part of culture, and we have to become students of our own.

       Read Vogue and WWD, of course, but don't stop there. Study which books are popular, which movies, which TV shows. Read and see everything you can, including The Wall Street Journal and People. 

        That last one's important, because ultimately that's where your future lies. With people.






Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There's a little Jon Hamm in all of us.

       Jon Hamm, who plays me in the TV show "Mad Men", seems to be having a lot more fun than I had.

       We did have some colorful people in the agencies I worked for. There was the writer who always  had a spare overcoat hanging in his office, so no one would detect that he routinely left around 2:30 with his real coat hidden under his sweater. And the associate creative director who sent out a memo re-naming his whole group after the pretty young writer he was smitten with.

        There was the art director who, when presented with his "10 years of service" trophy, simply threw it in the waste basket, grabbed his jacket, walked out of the agency and never returned.And the secretary who couldn't type the client's hyphenated name because, she said, the hyphen key had fallen off her keyboard. Then there was the mat-room apprentice who cut off his thumb with an Xacto knife. He ran out to the elevators screaming, "Don't worry --- I didn't get any blood on the layouts!" ( We were in the General Motors building and the GM company doctor sewed the thumb back on. When the bandages came off weeks later we all discovered a slight mistake. The thumb was sewn on backwards.)

        There were many more individuals, but with all the goings on, we were pretty serious about our profession. We  showed up at meetings on time, and never failed to have our work in hand. We didn't drink in our own offices, rarely flirted before 5, and always met deadlines no matter how unreasonable. When we got an assignment we were our own worst critics and sweated it out till we had something we could be proud of. If you "couldn't think of anything" you had to start thinking about getting a new job.

        As a creative director, I always told the group they had two weeks on every assignment; one week of play time to fool around with crazy ideas, and one week of serious time to put the crazy ideas to work.

        Advertising and marketing aren't at all like "Mad Men". They're more like working for a living.



Monday, July 4, 2011

"To be or not to be," he blogged.

       I'm beginning to wonder if the blogging life is for me.

       For one thing, you'll notice I've had to put my first name in the masthead. A woman from Maine, I think, has had "The Daily Bailey" as a title since April, 2009, and she'll get all the hits because she's prettier than I am.

       For another, I'm constantly blogging in my mind. The notebook I used to carry around in case I had an idea for a class, or a commercial, is now filled with notes for this blog.

       Right now I'm in a Starbucks in Santa Monica and instead of reading The New York Times, I'm writing a blog and getting maple oat scone crumbs on everything. I sprained my ankle last night looking at an art construction on my friend Arnold's lawn, so I should be home with my leg elevated, but I'm here blogging.

     My first real mentor in  advertising (and life) was Tom Murray. He used to tell about people who would come to him and say they couldn't decide whether to be  copywriters or art directors. Tom would answer fiercely. "Become an art director! Writers know they have to write."

       I think that's true and an important career lesson. I'm not happy on a day when I haven't written something, and blogging helps.

       In advertising and marketing, you learn to condense, simplify, shorten, and eliminate, and I might be over-trained. If I had to write my autobiography, it would probably turn out to be no longer than six paragraphs and end in a preposition. The history of Western civilization? Give me 30 seconds.

       As you can see, blogging can be more leisurely, and they say stretching is good for you. I tell myself  that I'm writing these blogs to encourage my students when the next quarter begins, but the truth is, writing is fun. I suggest you get a thick notebook and write your own blog.

       Soon I'll start putting ads to critique on here and I won't even have time for the scone.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Please drive safely. Blog readers are hard to find.

       This week I saw a sign in a liquor store that said "Buy a fifth for the Fourth".

       Catchy, but I hope it doesn't catch you. The July Fourth holiday is the deadliest of all for alcohol-related accidents and deaths on the road. Even more than New Year's.

       Years ago I created a series of two-page ads (they're called "double trucks"or "spreads") for General Motors. The ads were filled with holiday safe driving tips, and appeared in 600 newspapers. The ads were quite popular, and talk show hosts across the country actually read them on the air.

        But still, with all being written and said, year after year, some people don't buckle up, have one for the road, don't pay attention, get distracted, and die on the highways every holiday.

        Please don't drive and drink. Please don't have a fifth on the Fourth.

        As one of my ads said, "Don't turn Independence Day into Memorial Day".

        You're too important to me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mr. Hopkins' Hat Trick

       Every morning that I don't teach an 8 o'clock class, there's a good chance you'll find me at Pane Italiano Qualita, the incredible new bakery and cafe in Berkeley.

       I've always had more success working on ads and commercials in cafes than I do at my desk, and there's something about PIQ that I like even more than the chocolate croissants, the strong coffee, and the breakfast pizzas: the people who traipse through the place.

        Being with what the Dove campaign calls "real people" has always comforted me.  PIQ attracts slick millenials, anxious young mamas, sleeveless students and all kinds of other happy, grumpy, busy civilians coming in slightly stressed and leaving with renewed optimism. At least something went right in their day.

        I've always seen myself as going through life as sort of a camera, taking in people's looks, their tones of voice, snatches of conversations, public posturing, lover's glances, and everyone's worries.  Am I the strong, silent type? No, the advertising creative type.

       To be good in advertising and marketing, you have to love people. You have to embrace their vulnerabilities. You have to try to understand how they think. You soon learn there's more to life than just doing it;  more to be concerned about than squeezing toilet paper. All of us have real dreams, hopes, and fears. These are the realities that are stronger than most  ads and marketing plans.

        Claude Hopkins, a successful early advertising copywriter, was asked how he gets ideas. He said he performed his hat trick. He put on his hat and went out to observe people in stores, in restaurants, in their daily lives.

        I recommend the hat trick. Any time you need a fresh idea, you'll find it over there --- with your customers. Concentrate on their needs and you'll never go wrong.

        Grazie mille.