Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hey kids! How about some real funny stuff?

No matter what, Dave Barry (right) makes me laugh. Out loud. Every time.

I make it a point never to read anything of his while I am a funeral or something.

His Review of 2008 is simply hysterical. Enjoy

Death, Taxes and Capital One

The word is that nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes.

I have something else to add. No matter who the agency is, no matter how many smaller banks they buy, no matter what happens or doesn't happen in the bank bailout, Capital One will continue to run the dumbest commercials on television.

This is something I felt I had to say out loud before the year slipped away.

I thought about including a YouTube clip here, but just didn't want to befoul JITD, so here's a picture of a stuffed bunny rabbit instead.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I swear to God, I am not making this up

We're watching Maryland (at the moment) thump Nevada in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl and this genius, one Brock Huard, referred to the "historicity" (his-tor-ICITY) of the Rose Bowl.

Then again, you didn't think ESPN was going to assign the A team to call a bowl game sponsored by a chain of truck stops (I'm not making that up, either) played on a blue field on a Tuesday afternoon in Boise, Idaho, did you?

There are so many jokes lying around at this game, I think my head may explode.

You probably saw this, but just in case . . .

This was an ad Chrysler ran in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today recently.

At least they were polite enough to thank us for the money.

Kazillionaire Mark Cuban said it best on his blog: "Let's see, is there anything more idiotic than spending more than $100,000 on a full page 'thanks for letting me waste your money' ad ?"

All this via the Cajun Boy in the City blog.

Greed Addendum -- Pot and Black Kettle Version

Friday night, after putting up a post about small business and greed and all that, I saw the tail end of "Greed Gone Wild", a 20/20 piece about, guess what? Greed.

It opened and closed with one Geoffrey Raymond who had painted portraits of some of " the business titans some say are responsible for today's financial crisis." Seems that Mr. Raymond is taking his paintings to Wall Street and offering passersby a chance -- via red Magic Marker -- to make their own comments on the paintings. You can imagine the comments.

But the closing part of the segment was what attracted me. I couldn't tell exactly which side of the equation 20/20 was coming down on, but they did point out that Raymond is selling those paintings for anywhere from $20,000 - $28,000.

Karen and I have noticed that in the midst of this financial crisis, there are all kinds of folks -- those who charge homeowners a fee to restructure their mortgages, a service that non-profits perform for free, for example -- who are busy trying to capitalize on this mess. And for my money, Geoffrey Raymond is one of them. Under the pretense of making some sort of statement about, um, greed.

I checked out his blog, linked from ABC. His plan, he says is "to become the pre-eminent American portrait painter of the 21st century. This blog chronicles that journey."

His art is actually pretty good. But I'd say he is more on the way to becoming one of the country's pre-eminent hypocritical scuzzbuckets.

The sad thing is, people are actually buying the things.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pepco? Dominion? Washington Gas? Are you listening?

Check out this spot produced by Famous in Belgium for Electrabel, a Belgian power company.

I found it on the Tangerine Toad blog.

Love it.

This is great

From MDB Communications in Washington comes this pro-bono spot for Samaritan Inns. It makes you look at the homeless in a different, more personal way, I think.

Truth be told, I had no idea how to spell Samaritan until now.

Very nice work from a D.C. agency.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Calendars are just SO confusing

The Washington Redskins, American's only professional sports team owned -- check that -- being run into the ground by a Greedy Yard Gnome, were getting set to play the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco Sunday when I heard a :60 spot urging Redskins fans to drop by the Bud Lite Pavillion at FedEx Field on home game days 2-3 hours before kickoff to whoop it up and -- presumably -- get good and drunk for the game and subsequent drive home.

The thing is, the last home game was last week.

Was nobody anywhere paying attention?

This one is better than the other one, I think

Thanks to my 13 year-old nephew (and technical advisor for anything relating to my cell phone) Joe Nasuti, I managed to get this picture off my cell phone and onto my computer.

It's the Christmas Tree at the U.S. Capitol Building. The one that is much more interesting than the one on the Ellipse, but almost nobody ever goes to see for some damn reason.

Karen and I like it lots better.

Apologies for the camera-phone quality of the picture.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Something doesn't add up

(Note: We're a small business, many of our friends and clients are small businesses, and we're in advertising, so this post is relevant. Even if it isn't, it's our blog, so we get to decide what goes in it and what doesn't.)

OK, I got this from the Wall Street Journal this morning:

Small business is defined as those with fewer than 500 employees (which, I suppose, makes us a micro-business).

99.7% of companies with employees are small businesses.

Small business employs about half of all private-sector employees and accounts for nearly 40% of the total U.S. private payroll.

Small business has generated 60%-80% of net new jobs over the last 10 years.

There's more, but I think that sets the stage. Because in all the flurry of bailout this and economic stimulus that I don't see anything that will directly benefit small businesses. Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's supposed to be a trickle-down effect and banks are supposed to be making loans with a lot of that bailout money, but this is reality here.

A) It's not happening that way and B) even if it did, most small business can't wait for it. Small businesses usually don't have big cash reserves or stock they can sell to generate cash. (Or employee pension plans they can raid.)

Here in Washington, PNC bank just used some bailout money to buy Chevy Chase Bank. Funny, I thought the bailout money was supposed to be used for loans. And as far as stimulus plans go, there is an editorial in today's WSJ that lists some of the 800 pages of pork money that the country's mayors want from Obama's new economic stimulus plan. Don't read it unless you have a high threshold for disgust.

(Hint: $35 million for a music hall of fame in Missouri, $3.1 million for a swimming pool in Tulsa and a $6 million renovation of Surfers Point beach in Ventura, California. It goes on.)

And the banks who were supposed to use at least some of our bailout money to make loans and extend credit are doing just the opposite, tightening down on credit, cutting lines of credit and making credit harder to get.

Whether it's an ad agency, or a pear jelly company of gift shop (two examples cited in the Journal story about how the slump is affecting small business) a small business works with a much smaller amount of cash flow than a big business. And in many cases -- fortunately for us, not ours -- they need to have access to cash, credit or credit cards to buy the raw materials to actually produce what they sell or the products they re-sell. Cash is hard to come by, since sales are down and people are paying more slowly, banks are not trying very hard to make loans and credit card companies are cutting credit limits way back.

Remember those American Express ads they used to run about how they were the company for small businesses and how they wanted to be a partner in your success and yadda, yadda, yadda? Haven't see one lately, have you?

Now, I'm a reasonably intelligent man, except when it comes to knives and pumpkins, and I think I would have noticed if anywhere in any of the talk of economic recovery there was anything directed directly at America's small businesses. I haven't.

But I have seen scores of incompetent, greedy bastards line up at the public teat in hopes of a handout -- of taxpayer money -- whether they deserve it or not.

I'm not saying that big business doesn't need help. One way to look at it is that even though they f***ed up so badly, the impact on everybody else would be chaotic if they totally failed. I understand that.

But the U.S. of A. isn't made up of just big business. In fact, as you see above, there are more small businesses than big ones, accounting for most of the new jobs, employing about half of the employees and paying almost half the payroll. But we're all being ask to sit on the sidelines and watch the buffoons, the slimebuckets and the greedballs get a handout.


And in the midst of all this, the New York Yankees are going to spend nearly a half a billion dollars on just three players.

I don't get it. I'm going to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. Come get me when it's over.

Or when the revolution starts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our loss is San Francisco's gain.

Well, as I write this, our Jessica is on a plane on her way to Green Bay for Christmas before she relocates to San Francisco.

With any luck at all, she'll beat the horrible weather I hear is brewing in the upper Midwest.

We really hated to see her go. The two years she was with us just blew past -- as things do when you enjoy them. Jessica was more than just a good art director to us. She was always in a good mood -- except for the several times she lost her driver's license and the day after she broke her wrist in a soccer game. But even when she was surprised by the rain and had to walk from the subway with no umbrella, she came in with a smile.

A Dexter fan AND a True Blood fan -- what more could a co-worker ask for?

She's one of those people whose first reaction to things is to smile and laugh, and speaking for Karen, Tracy and myself, she's a treasure. So if anybody in San Francisco is looking for a good designer/art director, I know one who is available.

Actually, that's all a lie. We all thought she'd NEVER leave.

No really, we'll miss her.

I'm lying. We've forgotten her already.

Seriously, we wish she was still here.

Did too.

Did not.

(P.S. She and I usually disagree about which pictures of her are good ones and which ones aren't. But since I dragged this one off her Facebook page, I'm guessing it's OK. If not, I'm sure I'll hear about it.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The funniest Christmas song. Ever.

I don't know who did this, but they deserve the Nobel Prize for something.

You've probably heard it already, but God bless whomever put it on YouTube and made it easier to share.

Enjoy. And Merry Christmas from J.I.T.D.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's got my vote

I was trying to find this commercial to post a couple of weeks ago, but finally gave up.

Then what to my wondering eyes should appear this afternoon, but this Old Spice commercial nominated on Adfreak as one of the freakiest ads of 2008.

There are just all sorts of disturbing imagery here. Whatever happened to that whistling sailor?

More freaky ads at Adfreak.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This is a relevant message today

Found this on Larry Hinkle's web site.

I think it resonates with the Circus. There are a lot of folks out there trying to deal with a new circumstances by doing what they did before.

Yeah, it's specifically about consulting, but the message has broader meaning, I think.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Three thoughts at the Circus

Herb Stein was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Ford administration.

Ford didn't want to get everybody all worked up about problems with the economy, so he told Stein not to use the word "recession" to describe a recession. So "from now on," said Stein, "I'll say 'banana.' When I say banana, think 'recession'."

I'm going to go with "Circus". From now on, when I say Circus (or "The Circus" ), think "recession". Unless I really am talking about a circus in which case I hope you'll know the difference without any hints from me.

In any case, we think people are looking for help these days. What to do? How to do it? Most of us have never had to deal with a Circus quite like this one before. So here are three thoughts Karen and I had over beignets and cafe au lait at the Louisiana Kitchen and Bayou Bar :

Do Something

"Everybody talks about the weather," said Mark Twain, "but nobody does anything about it." The same can be said about business during The Circus.

We hear a lot about how the economy has impacted business, but there is an awful lot of "ride it out" thinking out there. That's a mistake. I'm not saying advertising and its cousins are the complete answer, but the fact of the matter is that if you want to get a fair share or more-than-fair share of the smaller pie of business, you have to communicate with your customers. You have to give them a reason to do business with you, to spend the money with you instead of somebody else, or a reason to spend the money at all. Whether you're selling window treatments, hotel rooms or beignets, your prospects need some encouragement.

Pulling the covers up over your head and planning to stay in bed until it's all over is a bad idea. Re-allocate the budget, cut somewhere else, but don't stop selling yourself.

Do Something Now

It's odd. One might think that with a Circus at damn near full swing around us there'd be some urgency about. Instead, it seems like people are taking longer and longer to decide what to do. Thinking about it. Meeting about it. Stewing about it. Meanwhile the world keeps turning and the trapeze act is overhead.

Years ago, when I was an annoying client, I wrote a headline that said "Tomorrow may be too late for the right answer." Whether it was a good headline or not is beside the point right now. What is relevant is the message. If you don't make a decision, as often as not, a decision will be made for you.

"We're putting our whole budget in the web"

We've heard a lot of that over the past couple of years.

And now that businesses -- especially hospitality, where we heard so much of it -- need to differentiate themselves and promote their brand to hold onto or capture reduced dollars in the market, SEO and PPC simply can't do the whole job. Nobody looking at a Google listing can know anything about your brand or why your hotel or product or service is better than the next guy's. Or why they ought to pay a premium for your hotel room or your remodeling service.

For example, Karen heard a number of resort properties yesterday talking about the "AIG effect" and how the perception of high times at a "resort" was politically incorrect and was hurting the groups business at their properties.

Several years ago, we tried to get a hotel client to brand their meetings, not the location where meetings were held. We wanted them to really go to the trouble to work out what makes a business meeting -- a business tool -- a good meeting and a cost-effective business expense. And focus on the ROI of having a meeting there.

No sell. They are currently spending their budget dollars with a web marketing firm -- one of many in the hospitality arena who promise lots of web hits (I'm not sure where they stand on actual conversions).

I thought then, and I think now, that if they'd focused on the ROI of a meeting expense and branded their meeting and understood that that was what they were selling (as opposed to rooms and beds and golf and dining) they'd be in a bit more of a Circus-proof position than they are now. And the AIG effect probably wouldn't be much of a factor.

Seems to me that a smart resort could still use that approach.

Tell me how a paid or organic search can do that all by itself.

Karen tells me she thinks this post needs some sort of summary, so here it is:

Do something.

Do something now.

Told you so.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


(Forgive two consecutive posts that have nothing to with advertising, but I'm a Local Boy, and this one is important.)

Sammy Baugh died yesterday.

Sammy Baugh was probably the greatest Redskin who ever played. He played for 16 years, back in the day when they played Both Ways. I think one year, he led the in passing, punting and interceptions (interceptions he caught, not interceptions he threw -- he played both ways, remember?).

There is a great story about the Baugh and the day he showed up for his first pro practice after a great college career at TCU. The head coach -- whose name escapes me -- said "I hear you're quite a passer."

"I can throw a bit," said Baugh.

"Let's see you hit that receiver in the eye," said the coach.

Baugh replied "Which eye?"

I don't know if it's true or not, but I don't care. Sammy Baugh was cool, back before so many pro football players were thugs and criminals and before the Washington franchise was systematically ruined by a nouveau riche little yard gnome.

R.I.P. Sammy Baugh.

Everybody ought to be thankful for something. I'm thankful for the Tastee Diner.

(Another post that has nothing to do with advertising)

About a year ago, we moved our office from a fairly desolate part of Silver Spring to the middle of Bethesda.

Now, not only can Karen and I bike -- or even walk -- to work, but also, we're in the middle of a great neighborhood. One of the Washington area's hot restaurant districts. But people who know me, know that my very favorite restaurant on earth is right across the street. It's the Tastee Diner, a gen-you-wine diner, circa my age.

Karen and I have been eating breakfast there every Friday for years, and now I can pop across the street for breakfast or lunch whenever I want. I had breakfast there this morning with my friend Dan Rosenthal of Rosenthal Partners. But even if Dan hadn't shown up, I wasn't alone. Marty was sitting at the next booth. And, of course Beth was working, Mario was cooking, Singh was up front -- it's just a wonderful little place. Heidi and David weren't there this morning, but we'll see them tomorrow. Along, probably, with Rich, Bob and Paul and a half-dozen other familiar faces.

There is pretty much nothing like the Tastee Diner. I'll put it up against any local diner in any city in the world.

And when I'm officially an Old Coot -- which could be any minute now -- I'm going to hang out there all day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Probably not viable at all

I just finished interviewing for a new art director. Well, I didn't just finish. But I'm done.

We found a good one, and we're all pretty excited. More on that later.

But along with the exhilaration of finding someone who you think is going to come in and really add something to the company comes the total buzz-kill of having to say "no" to a lot of other talented people. Some of them are looking for a job and some are looking for another job. But if you thought enough of someone to bring them in for an interview, you usually hate like hell to turn them down.

So if I win the lottery, I'm going to buy a building in (naturally) a cool part of town and put together a creative commune. Open to art directors, copywriters, web designers, graphic designers, producers, etc. and etc. Nobody gets turned down as long as there's room. Do your freelance thing, partner, pitch, team up -- whatever.

And prospective clients could wander in more or less like foremen who stop at the 7-11 to shop for day laborers. They'd step in the door and call out something like: " I need a copywriter who can write and produce radio, two art directors and a web designer! $85 an hour. Cash!"

Well, maybe not that last part, but the sort of "creative commune" idea is appealing. It would take all those talented people who ought to be working somewhere and put them together.

All I have to do is win the lottery first.

I'm not sure why I like this. I just do.

I think it's funny.

I mean, WTF, you know? It works.

(If you can't read the copy, it says "Now in the Swiss Countryside. Fashion Outlet."

For Fashion Outlet Zurich. I found it on I Believe in Advertising.

Friday, December 12, 2008

But I wish I had

My friend Mike Neff sent this to me and asked me if I'd written it.

Needless to say, I was flattered.

(P.S. Splint off the wounded hand and typing with two full fingers now; useless blog posts to increase in frequency soon.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

And once again, I didn't agree with anybody

We belong to Second Wind, a network for small agencies. It's a terrific resource for people like us.

One of the features they have is forums where you can post appeals for help or insight or just about anything. People ask if anybody knows where to get plastic job jackets, a good retail copywriter in Cleveland or what to do about spec creative in an RFP. Like that. It's all over the place and, like I said, a great resource.

But last week, someone put up a post, and the response from members -- and even the Second Wind staff -- surprised the hell out of me. The question was from someone who was using their client's competitor's name as Google search words. Not in the ad copy or web site anywhere. Just in the search terms. The competitors sent a cease and desist. "We believe they are just blowing smoke", the post said, "Are we right?"

Here's what shocked me. All of the replies were pretty much centered around whether or not the competitor could stop them -- not whether or not using the competition's name as a search term was ethical in the first place.

So I wrote a comment and allowed as how I didn't know whether or not the cease and desist would hold up or not, but that I thought the practice of using the competitor's name was pretty sleazy. Why, I asked, did they feel the need to trick people into coming across their client when they were searching for a competitor? I suggested they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

His reply was that he was never ashamed of putting his client's name in front of the public. "Isn't that the goal of advertising?" he said. He and another commenter both said they considered it giving the consumer a choice. A chance to "comparison shop".

What a bunch of crap.

I think this kind of trickery is pretty much the same as that practiced by those sleazoids who send you letters that are supposed to look like some kind of official government letter. If I had a client that had so little to offer that we had to resort to the Internet's version of bait-and-switch, I'd resign. And if I couldn't think of any better way to promote my client they should fire me.

(Full-disclosure: This exact thing is happening to a major client of a friend of mine. So I've seen this from the other side.)

I think it's two kinds of sad commentary on our business that a) this sort of trickery is practiced in the name of "advertising" and b) so many posters on Second Wind bought into it as an acceptable way of doing business.

Postscript: The next day somebody hijacked the comments on this blog and put up an ad for some sort of scam. Coincidence? I don't know. I have had this blog set up so that, unlike some blogs, I don't have to approve a comment before it goes up. I want the open exchange. But maybe that's a mistake.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blame everybody -- especially people with money

Let's get one thing out of the way and understood.

I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Jdimytai Damour, the security worker who died in the crush of a Black Friday rush at Wal-Mart last week. And nothing but contempt for whomever's job it was to provide adequate security for the crowd.

That said, to blame the marketing and advertising as his family has, according to Ad Age Daily, claimed in their lawsuit is ridiculous. Wal-Mart, they say, "engaged in specific marketing and advertising techniques to specifically attract a large crowd and create an environment of frenzy and mayhem". I seriously doubt that Wal-Mart engaged in specific marketing and advertising to create frenzy and mayhem (mayhem?), but I do understand that the point of advertising for a Black Friday is precisely to attract a large crowd. Right? I mean, well Duh? as people younger than me used to say.

There is plenty of blame to go around on this one, but for crying out loud, don't blame the advertising. That's just stupid.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Poor quality -- funny joke

Sorry about the quality here, but this is a scan of a photocopy of something I found in CA years ago.

I just ran across it looking for something else and thought I'd share.

You know, absent a post of any real substance.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This a little much, I think.

In fact, it's my nominee for the worst tag line of the year. Sharp Aquos. For this gem:

"Change your TV. Change your life."

Change your life? Really?


Once again, I am stunned that somebody got paid for that.