Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Time to wake up!

Don't be chicken–time to wake up
Isn't it time we all woke from our "Dreams"?

It's time to put the ad industry on blast. Advertisers need a wake-up call. We need to have a moratorium on the way advertisers communicate with us – and it starts with the word "dreams".

Ok so that may not have been where you thought this post was going but hear me out. Every advertisement; print, web, television–even radio–is talking about how a particular product or service is going to help me fulfill my 'dreams'. Really? How is that possible–especially since you don't even know what they are?

I mean let's call a spade a spade here, nothing advertised fulfills dreams. What we're talking about are aspirations. I know, I know, the word 'Dreams' sounds sexier. It's compelling–even seductive–yet elusive. It's ill-defined but totally captures the imagination. 

Yeah, yeah. We get it. Why is it bogus then? Our first clue is that politicians use the word all the time to get us all riled up over their bills, policies and laws, like so:

Ahh, the dream of endless paperwork
"Now, American families, long-denied the ability to secure a home for their family, can at last realize the American Dream of Home Ownership."

Hard to believe I just made that up, huh? It's because it draws on familiar language that we all have been fed over and over–for years. We don't even notice this word as it plays on our emotions, or perceptions and our morality. So now, it needs to go. In fact it is my "dream" not hear or read that word ever again.

"Standby, a lawyer has been
dispatched to your location!"

This jargon has been pirated by advertisers who really just want your money. Anything else is FUBAR

Here then, is my top five dream-busting points to remember when you are about to throw down some touchy-feely emotional swill from your favorite advertisers:

1. Drop your pants & bend over. ANY insurance or medical institution who pretends to support your dreams–doesn't. Just ask anyone who has ever been in an automobile accident, had a home insurance claim or a serious medical procedure done. They'll drop you faster than a drug-smuggler with a 10-kilo haul at the border.

2. Just kidding. So when you actually have a legitimate claim, insurance companies will haggle with you and lower your claim to the lowest possible payout in the history of humankind. That's not a dream by the way–it's more like a nightmare!

3. Show me the money. When financial institutions need to constrict payouts or values, you're the first to feel it. When they need raises and bonuses for shares worth 2% of their value just a year ago–well, I hope it's your 'dream' to foot the bill for someone else's Porche. It's a self-awarded job well done by the very people who write you letters that say "we regret to inform you that your account has been closed due to poor market activity". Thanks for playing (…suckers!).

4. Please take my money! Banks don't make your dreams come true, especially with monthly fees, service charges and insufficient funds. these are all fees leveraged to make them billions collectively every year.

5. Wake-up call.
Anyone who mentions wanting to help you realize your dreams in their advertising is lying. Wake up! You're just an account number to them. Deep down, you already know this.

Mmm... pie in the sky
As a Dad, bashing the concept of dreams is a sobering thought when I think about my children and their future. I know that the words in this blog will serve as an account of who their Dad was years from now, long after I am gone.

So here it goes; kids, any "Dream" you hold is likely centered around money and financial standing. Just trust in your ability to to earn, your values and your self-worth—trust in God and in the values I tried to instill in you–through hugs, discussion, shouting, threats, pleads and reasoning. If you aspire to be good people, good citizens of humanity and strive to leave this world just a sliver better than you found it–well, that is all I could EVER hope for from any of you.

And for me, that would be a dream come true.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, February 27, 2012

LEGO Creativity

Those little colorful bricks have built more than toys since 1891

If you never played with Legos as a child, please stop doing whatever you are doing right now–even reading this blog post!—and go to your nearest toy store and buy a basic $40.00 set. This is NOT a request! You have (somehow) missed a critical, viable part of childhood and you need to be saved!
Prepare for the Raptor

LEGOs have become the symbol of imagination and creativity since their invention in 1891. Created by Danish inventor, Ole Kirk Christiansen, the company is named after the toy. LEGO from the Danish phrase leg godt or play well.

No I don't mean the ones that are in preconceived play sets like Harry Potter, Star Wars or Batman. Those to me are marketed to Children with no imagination or adults who need to be reminded of the possibilities of of the toy so they can be persuaded to buy them for their tykes.
Tanks for everything

No this post is dedicated to Imagination. To the hours of fun re-imagining my LEGOs into whatever I could envision–space ships, astronauts, futuristic armies, laser guns. Yeah, yeah these are all weapons and LEGOs are about building
Plane & simple
things–thanks for judging me. Your armchair psychiatry is much appreciated. Now please head down the hall to room 0 where all the closed minded people are playing with dolls and firetrucks. Thanks for coming!

As a father, an advertiser and professional creative, I would have given anything to work on the LEGO toy account. And, since I have NOT done an ad review in a while, this is the perfect opportunity to share some real gems from the world of advertising promoting what is arguably the world's most perfect toy.

1. "The Force is strong with this one…"
this campaign shows off simple what if scenarios using colors and positioning for scenarios from the Star Wars movies. Playful and thought provoking, these ads reminds us of a time of fun from "A long time ago…". Fun, they are...

"Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster"– indeed

True love knows no species; "Once you go Ewok..."

Han always had to toss Chewie a Bone...

Haha! Force choke this, Anakin–!

2. You should learn to LEGO.
In this series of fiction ad student concepts, adult themes are critically re-imagined with LEGO props. Thought provoking and mindful of the power of creative thinking… 


LEGO my cleavage

LEGO the trigger

3. LEGOs do a body good.
Nothing shares the versatility of the LEGO toy better than the LEGOs themselves. For me these ads just click (ahem—sorry about that one).

4. The REAL Never-Ending Story. This last series of award-winning LEGO ads tells highly imaginative stories using LEGOs as the foundation to creativity. These are seriously, some of the best ads I have EVER read (the last one really brings them all together).

If only the world could piece together an imperative on building and creativity as inspired by the ads. Just imagine a world where children actually learn to build things and and were entertained by something without buttons. It's easy if you try… 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cream-filled Contraband

What satisfying my eighth-grade sweet tooth taught me about sales & marketing.

Remember how downright awful school cafeteria food was? I do. Even attending very well-to-do schools in Massachusetts didn't stop the tater-tots from tasting like ass. My children tell me the quality or taste hasn't changed much from the midday school menu–even clear across the country–so hopefully the following tale won't inspire any of the following hi jinks.I had a lot of time on my hands before getting on the school bus in the mornings. I was always the last one to be picked up and my not-so-friendly fellow school bus riders didn't let me sit anywhere good, constantly trying to discourage me from sitting next to any of them.


There was however one nice advantage, being the last one picked up, I could stop off at the convenience store across from the bus stop. I could take (at the time anyway) a couple bucks and gorge on several days worth of junk food awesomeness–potato chips, cupcake (hostess), Twinkies, candy and the holy grail of middle-school snack foods–soda!

I'd spend between $1- $4 a day on junk food (I know, far from healthy) and it was awesome! It was the one point in the day where I felt I had something over all the others–friend and foe alike–that gave me control over what was an otherwise life completely OUT of my control.
When you're popping open a Coke in the lunch hall 3-4 times a week and knocking back Snickers, cupcakes and deli-wrapped sandwiches in middle school, well, people begin to take notice. It wasn't because the the kids couldn't get those things, it was because they couldn't get them at school. After all what parent in their right mind gives their kid Milky Way bars and Cheetos for lunch?

Everyday, kids would ask for a sip, a bite, offer "I'll trade you" bribes or ask, "how can I get some"? So I did what any enterprising young American kid would do–I started taking orders.

In no time, business was booming.

With a modest mark-up I would deliver practically any treat–cans of soda (then .50¢ for $1), .10¢ lollipops went for a quarter, and Hostess cup cakes? A .60¢ three-pack would go for $1.25. These kids had money–I had product. Simple supply and demand dynamics. At the time I was clearing roughly $30 a week–not much by today's standards, but at age 14, in the 80's–that was insane money! Customers were happy, demand was high. Most orders were paid-in-full, all up front. Some kids asked for six-packs of soda–I charged $5, making $2.50 profit on each! Kids who couldn't pre-pay? No problem, an additional service charge – a credit account if you will – would be offered, paid on delivery. Soon, I needed a ledger, a bigger back pack and customer retention programs like: "Hey order between now and fourth period and all orders are 10% off!" or "Tell you what, I can see you're in a quandary between the Ring Dings and the Ho-ho's, buy both and I'll toss in a Tootsie Roll for free." Sold.

Eventually however, all rides must end. One day, my bus was late, and I got to school just before homeroom began. Now to illustrate this properly, I had two sets of customers, the morning munchers (MMs) and the lunch-timers (LTs). The MM's were always better because they would commonly have pre-paid for their treats and would usually have orders–with money in hand–for the next day or two.

So here was the scenario; roughly 14 kids from all three middle-school grades, standing in a nice neat line at my homeroom desk, all with money in hand, like they were at a check-out counter, patiently awaiting my arrival. I stroll in, giant back-pack full tummy teasing treats, soda, sandwiches and candy, strung over my shoulder. Just as I begin shoeing people away, the homeroom teacher comes in; "What's going on?" "uh, nothing" I say wryly. At this point, Mr. Summergrad knew me well enough then to believe that. "What's in the bag? Why are people waiting at your desk with money in their hands?" Without missing a beat I say; "I'm a very generous person, Mr. Summergrad, I lend people lunch money when they need it and these good kids just wanted to get it back to me." [cut to scene of all 14 kids scattering] "Let's see what's in the bag..." he said.

Minutes later I was in Vice Principle Shay's office receiving a long-lecture about intolerable behavior, two-day suspensions, calling my Mom, blah, blah, blah. My treats-for-tykes operation was shut down. I was forever banned from doing my year-round paid Santa impersonation. Not however, before I learned some valuable intel. First, people will pay almost any reasonable price for what they want. Second, being the local go-to guy had it's perks. Lastly, my enterprising nature was not only a hit with the girls, but also impressed some of the schmucks who wouldn't let sit next to them on the school bus.

Honestly, for that kind of end result, the whole ordeal was worth every moment of Mom's lecturing–and couple of new friends is a happy ending to almost story, don't you think?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Maybe, the problem... is you.

Turns out the fix to many of the world's problems starts with a Y and ends with U.

We all know that person that brings the room down. Or complains incessantly about things (unlike this blog which is pure ranting–!) and of course, the doomsayer, the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and that the end is near. These are also, ironically, the same fools who believe the current President, the current congress, the Russians, the Chinese, the Klingons or big business is destroying our health, our families and our way of life.

Anyone else done with these ding-dongs? Look we all have the right to voice our opinion(s) and I am thankful every day I live in a place where I can say so. Lord only knows, this blog is a testament to that. But is the world really that bad? Or are you really just that ornery and you can no longer see the bright side of anything?

For people like this, my grandmother used to have a saying, "… don't let the door hit ya, where the good lord split ya!" Some of you might better know it as "Don't let the doorknob hit you in the ass on the way out–!" And if you still don't know where I'm going with this, it means you can always leave. Leave the room, leave the country, leave the planet.

However, if you think you've got a little more juice in your charge, why not make some changes? Heck just look in the old mirror and scrutinize what you see there. To help, I offer my list of the top five things we can all do to make the world a better place:

1. Blame it on the rain. No, don't start busting out a Milli Vanilli tune, just stop blaming everyone else for your lack of happiness. The world's a tough place, it's not their fault. Not the republicans, not the liberals, not the terrorists. You can choose to be a happy person. It's that simple.

2. Last man standing. Everyone isn't stupid. That's just not possible. If you think that everyone is just an ass–except you and the people you know–guess what? You have officially lived too long. Time to close-up shop.

3. Remember the time. With all due respect to the late Michael Jackson, stop pinning away for yesteryear. The 'good old days' aren't coming back. You know why? Because they already happened. How about making today tomorrow's 'good old days?'

4. Can't we all just get along? Yes, we can, Rodney. Things–and people–don't suck just because you don't like them. Music, food, different people, foreign customs and religions that aren't yours aren't wrong or dumb just because they aren't yours.

5. That tastes funny. Variety is the spice of life–the world's your oyster. Why not try new things? If you're reading this, chances are you aren't a toddler, so don't act like one when it comes to new things like food, tolerance and acceptance. Come on–join us.

This is the stuff I preach to my own kids, pretty much verbatim. Since I know they read this blog, along with their teachers, their friends and other family members, I thought I would share it with the blog-osphere. "You know–for the kids."

Look, life dishes out enough downers to have to deal with fatalistic weenies. At last count, approximately NONE of us is perfect. That's what makes us all so interesting! We all get pimples, we all do stupid stuff when we're young and we all drink waaay too much soda. That's the beauty of it all. The very things we complain about are often the very things that define us. Diversity is a gift. Adversity is how we grow. The change starts with you, embrace it.

Hey, all the kids are doing it.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, February 6, 2012

No plan B–Just Me.

As it turns out my Plan B… is me.

I remember having the 'Plan B' discussion with various, adults as I was growing up. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" was a favorite question of any Baby Boomer or adult I would meet. I was a pretty big kid, so I would always hear the same lame-o suggestions. "... what a big fella! You should be a football player!" To which I would reply, "... actually, I want to draw comic books." Which was THE BEST answer you could give because no adult had any frame of reference as to even how to respond. They would always expect something vapid and unimaginative like Policeman, Pilot or Plumber. Mostly jobs they either did or could relate to. [TIME OUT: If you are saying to yourself, 'hey, my Dad's a cop or 'Pilot's make lots of money' I want to applaud you for completely missing the point–you may click away here, it won't get any better from here forward].

Of course now–decades later–I have great answers I would LOVE to give my seven-year-old self. Like 'New Media Content Developer', 'Ad Agency Copywriter' or 'Digital Illustrator' (all positions I have held). I would give just about anything to watch those closed-minded, uninformed heads burst like watermelons on the pavement while trying to figure out what these answers even meant!

Later as I got older, it was evident I wasn't going into the NFL (especially since I really didn't play), the inane questions would cease, mostly because I had declared I was going to art school–and that was where the REAL fun would begin. "Well, that's all well and good, but if it doesn't work out, what's your 'Plan B'?"

Plan-B? What the heck is THAT?

"That's a back-up plan to your life–in case things don't pan out?" What the hell does 'things working out' have to do with my life ambitions? Even at age 11, I knew NOTHING in life went according to plan. Why would I have a 'back-up' plan? I didn't even have a primary plan fully figured out. A back up–what am I, a hard drive?

Look, we all do what we have to do to survive, some borrow money from wealthy parents, others mooch off spouses, some wear paper hats and super-size value meals, some manage hedge funds (whatever THAT means) and others sling rocks. Whatever you do, that is what you have decided is your best, most reasonable path to making a living. But YOU are the plan. What you do does not define who you are, it is simply what you do. Your "plan A" should be to become a success. Period.

Here's the steak: One of my sons wants to be a doctor. I told him he must do everything he can to stack the deck in his favor. You have to put the time in,"pay your dues" get great grades, research the best medical schools and so on. At age 11, he is already asking about Harvard medical school and has human anatomy flash cards.

Success means hard work (or the good fortune of having a wealthy family). I have found many are NOT willing to do what it takes to make their dreams a reality. To conceive of a "Plan B" means the of failure of Plan A is a possibility. At that point, you're lost. You must have a single, cyclopian focus on achieving success. Turns out, that can be much harder than most think. Only a single, driven focus will get you what you're after in life. Everything else is just bad advice.

Legendary east coast ad man, Ernie Schenck had a great dissertation concerning "Plan B". When asking his teenage daughter about her plans for college she shared she wanted to become an actress. He asked her about her plan B to which she replied: "Funny thing about Plan B, Dad. It's amazing how fast it can become plan A."

Amen, young lady. I couldn't have said it better myself.