Tag Archives: advertising

shadowy subjects

It was just last week that a certain rodent allegedly popped its head up to predict the weather. According to the “experts” they’re predicting 6 more weeks of winter weather.

From where I’m sitting, I’m seeing things a little differently. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m sitting here in short sleeves in the middle of February and it’s supposed to climb near 70F today (as it did yesterday).

Mostly, it’s because I believe my future is facing the sun, leaving my shadow — and this supposed bleak next few weeks — behind me.

I’m feeling good about the steps I’m taking even if at times it feels as if I’m just walking in place. I know that any movement is better than no movement. More important, you gotta know where you’re going if you want to end up in the right place.

No more throwing darts at a map. No spinning of globes and stopping the world with a fingertip in some random way. Now’s the time for planning, dreaming, organizing and just plain getting my head on straight.

One step — and day — at a time.

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power play

Sure, I believe some of the stuff I’ve written over the years has played a role in a purchase decision or two. But I never imagined I could have this much power. (cue wringing hands and sinister laugh)

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of praise and copiers

“The average company takes better care of its copiers than it does its talent.”

So says an article for BusinessWeek.

I recall many days/weeks/months when I was punching a time clock (well, since I was salaried, there really wasn’t one) that I, like so many coworkers and others out in the business world, were putting in the extra effort under the guise of “it’s the right thing to do.”

Or was that more “I have to do it. Otherwise, someone else will, and I’ll find myself in the ranks of the unemployed.”

So I stayed chained to my desk. There was one stretch at one company where I ate 9 straight meals at my desk. Sure, I got to go home and sleep (a little), shower, change clothes, only to be back with my shoulder to the grindstone. But as my loved one (who I was barely getting to interact with, let alone see) reminded me….

“If you dropped dead in the office, they’d just step over you on the way to the copier.” Turns out it didn’t really matter. Despite the heroic effort put in by the whole team, the agency still lost the piece of  business, which led to all but 2 or 3 finding themselves relieved of their positions.

Kinda harsh. Then again, this economic environment is harsh. Sure, there is good news on the horizon. Recent numbers are showing that there is an increase in jobs popping up on the horizon, with fewer people competing for these new jobs and other vacant ones.

As a current freelancer who hopes that the right full-time job will come along soon, this is good to hear. Sure, freelancing has been good. But there have been obstacles. As more freelancers compete for opportunities, it often turns into a bidding war. But just how low can you go? There is a long comment stream on a group posting for freelancers who (for the most part) chastised one freelancer for (albeit innocently, for all general purposes) charging too little and over-delivering. The mob consensus was A) the guy was doing a disservice to himself by shortchanging his contribution to this particular project/company, and B) ruining it for all of us by charging so little.

I’ve been lucky to find companies who appreciate what I bring to the table, and pay accordingly. That seems to be one of the positive statements in the BusinessWeek article. Seems that the workforce is starting to wake up and realize they don’t have to settle for just any job. There is something to dignity and self-respect, even in this harsh, competitive market.

Only those companies that make the effort to keep their employees productive by treating them decently can expect to see continued productivity gains.

I’ll continue to freelance while building relationships with local companies in the hopes that I prove to be too valuable to not bring on full-time. And when I do, I’m hoping to hear these encouraging words….

“We’re hiring you for your talent—now go do something brilliant.”

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i guess advertising really does suck

As pop culture goes, so goes some advertising I suppose.

It all started back in the summer when I was concepting new brand spots for a state electric company. One of the messages we wanted to get out was about “energy vampires” (aka phantom energy). We even did a radio spot, with accompanying print ad and billboard, that helped get the word out about all they wasted energy people are paying for just by leaving things plugged in when not in use.

It’s only once these started hitting the market did I began to notice a similar theme in other advertising. (It’s probably like, once I have my eye on a new car that has my interest that I start to notice them all over the place.)

Here’s one print ad I recently came across in Wired magazine.

Even Microsoft is taking a bite outta the hype that is Twilight.

All told, I can’t be too surprised by all the different advertising messages using similar (if not the same) themes. But I am grateful that I didn’t have to sell my soul to continue working in a biz I really like….but not ready to die for.

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seeing the fruits of my labor

We recently relocated from Surf City USA to the Land of Enchantment. This move was for a few reasons, mainly lowering our cost-of-living and the potential of full-time employment.

Since we’ve been here, it’s been fun to drive around town and see the results of my creative collaboration with the agency here. Whether it’s the billboard along I-40, the print ads in the various local publications, or even a TV spot during the Olympics the other night, I still get a kick out of seeing my work out in the market. (I’ll admit to never listening to the radio in my car….so I haven’t had the chance to catch one of the radio spots.)

Here’s the main “brand” TV spot I contributed to back in the summer.

It’s great to begin the process of settling into a new area, and to be surrounded by such amazing beauty. The fact that I get to continue working with such a talented team — and seeing the results all across town — is just icing on the cake.

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barking up the, uh, wrong….tree?

I have two adorable, intelligent, feisty little girls who I’m lucky to share my life with. Not only do they provide unconditional love, they are also a great source of laughter. And blog topics.

These girls, by their very DNA, are ratters. This inclination not only shows up on walks, but also in chasing any shadow or reflection that might appear inside or out. But due to our living sitch, these are definitely city girls. And let’s just say they can confuse their genetics with their environment.

Our neighborhood has a fair number of new “critters” that have moved in. I’m sure it’s a combination of food supply, and having their previous residence submerged as a result of the new inlet to the wetlands. We’ve seen possums, shunks, coyotes, rats, and squirrels (to quote Carrie from Sex In The City, a “rat with a better outfit”). We have managed to avoid any major interaction with the first 3 (including keeping shunk scent remover handy). Ah, but the squirrels.

There’s one that likes to taunt the girls from the patio walls and surrounding trees. Well, that is until I get the hose out and chase it off.

The girls love to chase after the squirrels, and are usually quite proud of “treeing” them. But now that we’re finding a whole new batch of bunnies in the ‘hood, the girls get a wee bit confused.

Last night, while walking the girls, we came up on a cute lil Thumper. It tried to go unnoticed, but the hunting prowess of Allie and Cody kicked in and soon they were straining at the ends of their leashes, sending the bunny scampering away. It disappeared into the shrubs. And my girls. My brave little hunters. What did they think of their efforts?

They proudly stood and stared, daring that little bunny to show itself. Up in the tree. They haven’t quite grasped the difference between a squirrel and a bunny. Their thought process is A) we chase, B) chasee runs and climbs a tree, and C) we stand proud in our accomplishment.

So why does this story belong in a blog about my life in advertising? It makes me think of clients I’ve encountered who think the same message, delivered through the same media outlet, will reach the right target. Even when that message, intended for bunnies, ends up in the trees.

I know that my job is to provide leadership and guidance, along with the right message, and then deliver it to the appropriate audience. Whether that is up the trees, or to an audience of squirrels, all depends on the product/service. And what is best for the client.

I won’t stop my girls from being proud of their treeing prowess. I will stop a client from wasting time and money on barking up the wrong tree.

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I’m happiest just being a fish

As I continue finalizing my plans to move to Albuquerque, it’s interesting to hear some of the comments of fellow creatives and/or recruiters. Most don’t understand why I would even consider thinking about leaving SoCal.

Sure, I’ve had the pleasure of working on not just national, but international brands. I’ve had work recognized not just for creative excellence, but also for effective communication and measurable results.

But nothing has sent me giggling like a school girl than seeing outdoor boards I worked on this summer lining the streets and highways of Albuquerque. And the back-to-back print ads that appear in the “Best of” issue of Albuquerque magazine. I only wish I had seen one of the TV spots, or heard a radio spot while we were driving all over town looking at the vastly diverse neighborhoods.

Sure, there is some appeal to working on national messaging. And already this week, I’ve received 2 calls from recruiters for positions with companies here in LA. But, right here, right now, I much more excited about the prospect of working on regional — even local — ads. There just something satisfying about not only seeing the work around your neighborhood, but also seeing a business that is hopefully thriving in this current market because of it. (It doesn’t hurt that the agency I’ve been working with is comprised of a group of amazing people with no ego, just the desire to do great work that is best for their clients’ needs.)

With this desire to go more regional, does this make me think of myself as a big fish in a small pond? Absolutely not. I know I’m just a guy who uses the power of words to help market a wide variety of products and services. And as long as I get to continue producing work like this…

I’ll keep swimming along, content and happy in my lil bowl called Albuquerque.

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Loyalty vs Survival

In today’s job market, which is stronger? The need to remain loyal? Or the instinctual desire just to survive? Based on recent polling numbers, I’d say the pendulum is swinging toward survival when only 45% of those currently employed can express any type of job satisfaction. And seriously, when the second best reason those polled state as a “good thing” about their current position is the commute, there’s something very wrong.

When I explore my feelings on this subject, it’s from a different perspective. I don’t have a full-time gig. I’m one of those currently swimming in the independent contractors’ pool. But I AM being faced with a similar dilemma.

Do I continue to remain loyal to the small, regional agency I’ve been freelancing for over the past 9+ months with the hopes that the “job offer” they verbally extended months ago will actually materialize? Or do I respond to the job posting for one of their competitors?

My heart tells me to remain loyal because I’ve really enjoyed working with the agency. And feel the work has been outstanding.

My bank account says “go for the possibility of a regular gig that is currently open.”

Sure, this is totally hypothetical. First, the current opening is just a posting on a job board. There’s no guarantee that they’ll A) be interested, B) actually want to interview me, and C) offer me the job. Granted, there’s no way to know if any of that actually happens unless I pull the trigger and send out the email that has been sitting in my Draft folder for days.

The challenge with all of it, is an upcoming trip planned to the city where both agencies are located. I need to respond to the posting soon if I hope to have any possibility of an interview. But if I do, and because it’s a small market, do I run the risk of spoiling any possibility with the other agency I’ve been freelancing for? I mean, these people have to talk. And when I list some of the work, people are going to connect the dots.

I’ll admit that I’ve been struggling with this. I believe my pendulum continues to swing more toward the loyalty side. But I have to be realistic that, with our desire to locate to a smaller (and more affordable) market, my choices are more limited. Sure, I continue to get freelance from other agencies, but the whole battle to keep work coming in gets tiring. Especially if one of my biggest sources is the one agency.

I have about 24 more hours to struggle with this before I need to “shit or get off the pot.” And this decision is honestly causing mental hemorrhoids. And I’m not satisfied with that in the least.

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redundancy

I love the English languange. And in this particular case, I’m talking about the Queen’s English.

Recently, during a lull in freelance projects (Why is it that projects all come in at once, and then, like the ocean’s waves, all go out to sea at the same time?) I sat down and watched the movie, Kinky Boots. It’s the story of an old world shoe factory that has to come to terms with a changing marketplace.

And like so many companies, trying to create a niche wherever they can find it. (I won’t spoil the storyline of the movie by saying exactly what this niche was for this particular industry.)

But what I did find relevant, is that this factory was facing the same issues our current workforce is dealing with – layoffs. Or as the English like to call it….redundancy.

I’ve never felt redundant in any position in my life. I always felt like I was bringing something unique to the table. But apparently that isn’t always enough to keep your job. And now, those that are lucky enough to still have a full-time position, it’s not just a fear of redundancy that is creating tension.

Last Sunday, I was reading an article in the Los Angeles Times (pictured here with a link to the article). In it, they talk about the current workforce is toiling longer and harder just to keep their job.


Many U.S. workers are being pushed to toil harder and shoulder the load once carried by colleagues who’ve since been laid off. That can mean long days without overtime pay or raises, less family time, and more mental and physical fatigue.

Don’t like it? Walk out the door and you’ll join 15 million unemployed Americans, the largest segment of whom have been idle for more than three months. Your former boss will have plenty of replacements to choose from. There are about six job seekers for every opening.

I’ve been in those situations before. My first job after post-grad work was for a publishing company. My next door cube mate was released of his responsibilities, which I inherited. On top of all my other ones. And, of course, without any additional compensation. But I needed the job. So I did it. (Granted, I made more money working 3 nights/week waiting tables and bartending than I did in 40 hours there, but it was the experience I needed.)

Another time was back when I was managing a restaurant in Texas during the oil bust of the mid-80s. There were no PR jobs, so the only thing my recently acquired college diploma was good for was wall art. While managing, a sr. manager (to me) took a “medical leave” which left me doing all my normal duties AND hers. So when she came back, of course I naturally assumed that she’d take them back over. Oh contraire! I was actually reprimanded for not performing all these duties because “once I’d taken them on, I had to keep doing ’em.” Granted, what I didn’t know at the time was that this particular manager was “doing” the regional manager who just happened to be married. To someone else. But that’s a whole other story….

I can honestly say that, no matter how stressful the constant search for new projects can be, that this “break” from punching someone else’s clock has been good for me mentally/physically/spiritually (and probably kept me from punching someone’s head during the past few months of my most recent FT gig). And I’ve managed to do pretty good for myself, and produced work that I’m quite proud of.

And I know, that while I’m ready to consider (and hope to find) a position with a new agency or company, that I’m not ready to sign back up for 12+ hour work days. Or picking up additional work when someone is made redundant.

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colorful language

“Almost all words do have color, and nothing is more pleasant than to utter a pink word and see someone’s eyes light up and know it is a pink word for him or her, too.” (Gladys Taber)

Back in my post grads day at the Ad School in Atlanta, I had a copywriting mentor (the actual head of the writing department at the school) who did a lot to challenge my writing style. My first few quarters there were all about settling in and embracing the process. But, as she reminded me on a few occasions, writing is about a conversation. Not a lecture.

Or as she used to say to me…. “Stop being so preachy!”

She was the one who introduced me to the writings of Tom Robbins. Still Life With Woodpecker was the first of his novels that I consumed. And there have been plenty more since. Doreen (the mentor) encouraged me to loosen up (I was heavy into preppy clothing, and she chided me one time during an end-of-semester review that the ads and copy I was showing for the final “looked like they came from someone wearing suspenders and a bow tie”). She quipped that I needed to “fill your bed with Jell-O and roll around in it nekkid.” For a kid from West Texas, this was just too….wild. (But boy has that, well, boy changed a lot over the last 20 years.)

She was also the one on the other end of the phone line that would remind me that “I had a quirky writing style that not everyone was going to get….let alone like. The secret to my job searching success would be finding the right place with people who DO appreciate my writing.”

But over the years, I have encountered some polarity to my writing. I guess I’ve had to face it through every interview I’ve been in. Or every time I’ve shared my portfolio with possible agencies.

The best thing, though, is when I HAVE found those connections. Having clients/employers/partners who totally get what I’m saying through my word choices.

So, as I’m sitting here thinking about the possibilities that 2010 will bring, I’m reminded by not only the words of Doreen, the grad school mentor. But also the quote from Gladys Taber.

Gravitate toward those who gravitate toward me. Those who don’t just see “pink” but actually feel pink when they see the word.

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