Monday, November 5, 2007

Here's To You Sara Lee

I just finished a two week contract at Digitas, one of the largest, most respected interactive agencies in the world. Never before has my love for junk food made me so preeminently qualified.
As well as doing really good work, what struck me at most at is that all the folks I worked at Digitas seemed really, really happy there. Maybe I was lucky to be working in the division I was assigned to, but the people were all cooperative, creative, and concerned about doing the best possible work for their clients.
It was also terribly exciting to be in a place where the creative, marketing and IT people worked together so seamlessly. As a result, you get a better workplace, and a better product for their clients. Positive energy is such a valuable commodity, in your marketing and with your marketing partners. So here's my advice to marketing directors who may be looking for an agency: besides case studies, industry experience, awards and all that blah blah blah, remember people who smile are far more likely to produce advertising that makes customers smile. And not too many people buy while frowning.
While it's sure to be a while, watch for Sara Lee's new, improved THEJOYOFEATING.COM web site to take its rightful place in the junk food aisle of cyberspace. And pass me another slice of carrot cake.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Power of Letters

During the recent Jewish High Holidays, I led some workshops about the mysticism of the Hebrew Aleph Bet, something I find pretty darn fascinating. To the Jewish mystics, the Hebrew letters were more than system of communication. Each letter had it's own spiritual energy and direction. This is such a huge conceptual leap for us.
In English, an A is an A. But to some, an Aleph is more than the first letter. It has the strength of an ox and unites the heavens with the earth. Our B is a B. But a Bet has the essence of home in it, of warmth and new beginnings. Each of the 22 Hebrew letters has its own unique attributes.
For the mystics, the power of the Aleph Bet was undeniable. The letters, or at least their spiritual essences, existed even before creation. After all, in Genesis, the world is created by God's words (Let there be light) and we can't have words without letters. In another tale, the mystics comment that when Moses broke the stones of the 10 Commandments, the rock shattered but the letters ascended to heaven.
Clearly, as writers, (and more importantly, as people) we need to be aware of the power of our words. Do we choose them to create or destroy? Do we use them to comfort or hurt?
Every now and then, we owe it to ourselves to ponder the power and the process of communicating. Oh yeah, let's not forget to dot our iiii and cross our tttt. Who knows what will happen if we start to abuse them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Someone Wants To Put You In New Box

Well, they're at it again. There are now 7 more categories of consumers that you are supposed to identify with. According to this article in AdAge, there are 7 new models of consumers.
Well, maybe I'm just not spending enough money these days but I can't seem to find one that even comes close to fitting me. How about you? Be honest. Do you aspire to be Al Gore or Johnny Knoxville? Gwen Stephani or Rachel Ray? After reading Harry Potter this weekend, if I can't be J.K. Rowling, I wouldn't mind being Neville Longbottom. There must be some brands out there who want to reach people who grow brave and strong, heroic yet humble.
As an advertising copywriter, market research can be my best friend. But lets not get carried away with it. Can you imagine the day when a client says, "I really like the concept but why don't we use the same type face as the Gore campaign?"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Big Ideas. Low Budgets.

One of the challenges regional advertisers face is knowing when and how to use TV. Targeted cable buys make it easier for clients to afford broadcast advertising. But producing the spots is a whole other matter. While a local sporting goods store may run a spot on the local buys of MTV or ESPN, it still is being aired and compared to the national spots running around it. If you're advertising a local restaurant, how can you create a spot that competes against the Olive Garden spot running right after it. (Let's assume, of course, that when it comes to the quality of the food, there is no contest!)
It is a difficult dilemma. I was lucky enough to have a camera store client with an attic full of home movies. One of their spots won a $10,000 cash prize as the best retail advertising of the year from the Photo Marketing Association of America.
And I'm proud to point out that my ex-partners at Rattle Advertising have done a great job creating a funny and smart campaign for Kittery Trading Post, a famous outdoor store just over the Maine border.
If you're thinking of advertising on local TV to build your business, don't just think about the media buy. Think about a production budget, too. No one, except maybe a fixtures salesman, is all that interested in seeing another local cable company produced walk around your store or another owner pledging their commitment to service. On TV, you are up against the big boys with the big budgets. When you can't outspend them, out think them.
Find a way to make people smile and they'll find a way to visit your store.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Welcome to the new wwworld

As progressive and techno-savvy a middle-aged guy like me tries to be, I must say, this has been a pretty exciting day. My web site is now up and open to the world. How the site came to be is part of this new wwworld.

It was designed by Margarida Girao ( in Portugal. I found her on one of the better web portfolio sites. We emailed back and forth about what we like. And once we negotiated the price and figured how to pay in Euros, it was easy.

Despite differences in language and the silly emails they caused, it went very smoothly. Like any good designer, she was able to offer suggestions that helped me clarify how to convey my brand of advertising. It was a micro example of what our macro world has become. Talent is only as far away as your mouse (or should I say iPhone or Blackberry).

I don't know if the world is flat as the futurists say. But I do know its easier to contact more people, learn more things, and find more intriguing talents than ever before. For me, this past month has been a living example of how it makes advertising and communication more exciting. Heck, not just

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Tribute To Ray

I was planning on my first post being about creating my own website and reentering the freelance world but something more important has come up.

I didn’t cry when John Lennon died. I was more of a Stones fan. But when I found out that Ray Welch had cancer a few weeks ago and that he died just yesterday, the tears appeared. Ray was a friend. But before that, he was an icon. He was the advertising writer I most wanted to work for. The guy I always wanted to impress.

I will never forget the day I met him. After putting together my first portfolio and revising it endlessly (I still am revising it, in fact), I finally got up the courage to show it to this legendary raspy-voiced copywriter and storyteller. I called his office and asked the receptionist how a new writer could see Mr. Welch. “He really doesn’t meet with people when reviewing portfolios. But if you are in the area at 4:30, on occasional Wednesdays, he sometimes finds ten minutes.” The next day, I called back, “I can be at your office in 5 minutes if today is one of those days Mr. Welch is reviewing portfolios.”

Five minutes later, I am brought into his office. He had one of those big old wooden desks that you just don’t see in a cubicled world. At least I think it was wood because it was covered with empty beer cans. Ray offered me a beer and went through my book. Not for 10 or 15 minutes but for an hour. He even went through one of my ads (I think it was for floppy discs) word by word. “I like that word. “ “That’s a good word” “Why did you write SO, it’s lazy.” His insights and attitude and charm were overwhelming.

He took the time to help some shmoe from off the street understand what it took to be good in this business. He did it in a way that met the highest possible standards for advertising, but even more importantly, for humanity.

Though I never did get to work for him, I was lucky. Somehow, probably from giving him some voiceover work, I got to be one of his many, many, many friends. He would always introduce me to people as “one of the good guys” which I always took for high praise.

The last time I saw him, we played golf. I brought my friend Todd who was smitten with his spirit, too. He brought Geoff. And throughout the round, I got a glimpse of how much fun Ray was and how deep his friendship was with Geoff and what a damn good short game he had once he got going.

When Ray emailed me how sick he was just a few weeks ago, I wrote back how happy I would be to visit him if he just wanted some company or some chicken soup. He said he would look forward to both.

Not nearly as much as I, Ray. Not nearly as much.