Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Fondly: This is Exposition

October 16, 2014


How did I get here?

How did I end up in a van full of sideshow freaks and burlesque girls? I wasn’t a part of this world—I wore suits and manipulated the public’s idea of needing.

Of wanting.

I was neither artist nor musician, my wife made sure of that.

But there was something about her. I was attracted to her; less like a bee to a flower, more akin to a moth to the flame.

So I got in.

Work would understand, my wife would not.

I didn’t really understand it either.

Truth be told, I was just happy to feel something again. Something other than remorse and loneliness. Something other than resignation and defeat. Even fear felt better, at least when coupled with big blue eyes and a smile that worked more effectively than a cattle prod turned up to eleven.

How quickly and easily the unassuming romantic can be swept away by a soft pair of lips—wrapped up between the legs of an idea far more pure than any one person.

The moment I got in that van I knew; I had a lot of decisions to make—a lot of changes to contend with, save for one.

One choice was made obvious and clear, for once you jump down that dark deep hole you simply must chase the rabbit all the way to the bottom.

Jumping head first ensured I would fall, never once thinking about the abrupt landing waiting just below.

I was too busy feeling weightless to notice my stomach drop.

Just where were we going, anyway?


Hemingway and the Art of Being Concise

December 10, 2013


For sale: Baby Shoes, never worn.

Six words, one very full story.

As the legend goes, famed author Ernest Hemingway won a bet with those six words. While lunching with friends at the Algonquin, he wagered ten dollars to everyone sitting at the table (and probably a bartender and a few waitresses) that he could craft an entire story in just six words.

And then he did—on a cocktail napkin.

Six words. That’s all it took to make an impact. Hemingway proved that you can get right to the point, without missing it.

He’d probably punch me for saying it, but he would have been one hell of an ad man.


There’s a lot of similarity between that storied literary tale and advertising; beyond scribbling something on a cocktail napkin, a concise message must tell a whole story, and it’s worth far more than a few ten dollar bills over lunch.

It’s the difference between making your point, or blending in with the rest of the white noise.

The average focus-attention span for a human is 7 seconds, and it decreases annually—that’s two seconds shorter than a goldfish. Divide that time in half while in motion.

That isn’t a lot of time to make an impact.

You don’t have time to explain every detail, but if done correctly, it’s enough to stimulate the desire to know more.

How does one say so much with so few words?


It’s a matter of selecting the words carefully, and with both sides of the brain—and what is left between those words, is the true craft of writing.

Be it humor or wit, a touching moment, the beginning of a mystery or a desire to grab a person by the shoulders and scream, “LOOK AT THIS,” the only way to say more is to get their attention in the first place.

In about six words or less.

Hemingway proved it can be done. Now it’s up to us to continue doing it correctly.

What will your six words be?


Fondly: Postponing truth

June 29, 2013


I knew the question before she even asked it.

She was just trying to process everything, and I understood, but I was tired; exhausted from justifying my decision again and again, trying to find the proper explanation to appease her.

If divorce were my client, and she was the target market, I was failing miserably at my job.

I knew the question was coming, yet I still couldn’t seem to find the answer she wanted to hear. Being a writer was working against me. It suddenly made her wonder about my ability to deceive.

Advertising was close, but it wasn’t fiction. She couldn’t see the difference.

To her, being a writer meant I was a grand and professional liar.


I was sitting at my desk in our home-office chain-smoking; she was standing outside the door, just out of sight. How do you talk to someone when you can’t even see one another?

She asked the question, merely a disconnected voice emanating from the hallway.

All the cards, letters and poems professing an undying love—was any of it true, or just my innate talent for bullshit?

I sat quietly for a moment, trying to think of the right thing to say. Instead, I told the truth.

I told her, perhaps, I was writing what I wished were true.

She asked me the question, and I answered—poorly.

Perhaps this wasn’t the right night to tell her I found a place. Maybe I’d wait to tell her I’d be moving out at the end of the week.

Is postponing the truth the same as lying?

I did it for ten years.


Fondly: Because I could…

May 14, 2013


I stood at the edge and looked out at the sun; hot, orange and far, far away—slowing sinking behind the city skyline. It wasn’t as congested and “majestic” as her city, but I loved it all the same. The silhouette of the Arch, rising up amid the old brick buildings. I never got tired of it.

Jazz was born over those bricks. Hearts were broken over those old buildings.

I stood on the roof and took a drink. Top shelf scotch. I swirled it around, re-mixing the sugar sitting at the bottom of the glass with the melting ice and took a deep breath.

It was all about enjoying the view and not drinking too much, while I waited.

It wasn’t my turn just yet. They were still a little too sober.

Business is one thing, ideas are another. One keeps the accountant happy, one proves we’re different than the others. Better.


I lit a cigarette and leaned on the rail.

I felt good. Damned good. My suit was tailored, my drinks were free and the setting allowed me to wear sunglasses, protecting my worse tell—my eyes.

I also smiled when I lied.

In my mind, I had already gotten away with it, before I even finished saying it. I never got away with it. So I quit lying. I didn’t need to.

I just had to be who I never knew I was before I met her.


It was somehow easier when she wasn’t around, so long as I didn’t think about the fact that someone else was probably inside her while I drank and schmoozed and patted myself on the back for my life.

But I didn’t know. I never did with her, until I did.

She only told the truth after I’d caught her in a lie. And right now, she was many state lines away most likely acting her age.


I looked across the rooftop bar, and watched our clients. I listened to their conversations, and watched for their ticks. Their tells. The uncomfortable shift when a subject was brought up that shouldn’t be. The half smiles that came with each new cocktail. The flicker of the eyes when something clicked. By the time it was my turn, I’d know what to say, and what to keep to myself.

It was not unlike the game we play for love.

By the time it was my turn, I would already know how to convince them my great idea was theirs, stepping over the other creatives to ensure it was my strategy they wanted to put into place. They were better strategies. It wasn’t manipulative, it was being smart. It was protecting the client.

Or so I told myself.

It wasn’t lying. That was out of the question. It was merely consideration.

Calculated strategies are far easier to stomach than selfish manipulation.


The bar was open, and I had no plans of going home at the end of the night.

Below the bar, about 10 floors down was a room, paid for by my company. I had no intentions of going any lower than that after the schmoozing ended. No intentions at all…

…Unless you count the fact that the room was for one of our clients, and she had already made it clear, I was welcome.

I didn’t even want to. I just wanted to know I could.

In the end, I never did. In the end, I always took the long elevator down at the end of the night, a happy client settling in, buzzing with booze and a refreshed confidence in what we do, wishing I had stayed, though thankful I had left, most likely thinking about what I would have done to her, had I stayed.

In the end, I just wanted to know I could.


Think, thank, thunk

April 23, 2013


I essentially get paid to think. That’s my job more than anything else.

To simply think.

Nothing happens when we don’t.

I’ve had my fair share of mind numbing jobs, behind counters and in cubicles.

Working. A warm ass filling a seat, another body to wear an apron. No thought, no pride. Just work, and maybe a nametag.

Work that made me wonder if I’d ever be anything else.


But now. I get paid to think.

Which got me thinking.

About thinking.

Divergent thought. Convergent thought. Lateral thought.

These are all modes of thought I use on a daily basis, but never really took the time to hone before recent years.

I never thought I’d find myself voluntarily studying the philosophy of thought.


My mind is a tool, when used properly, a weapon when used carelessly.


In the coming months, I’ll be exploring these styles of thought and the tools that work within them. I’ll be trying to figure out how to get the best aspects out of them to form my own train of thought.

But first I’ve got to build the tracks.

Stay tuned.


Mad Man, I: Selling Thought

April 18, 2013


Sometimes, this business is built on a vicious series of reactions, rather than solid strategy. Far too much time is spent speaking to the existing message, rather than changing the conversation entirely.

Now, as a Creative, I could very easily (and often do) simply blame the Account team. Their sole objective is maintaining a good relationship with the client’s money by virtue of keeping said client happy.

Far too often, what keeps the client happy in the initial phases of a campaign are the very things that sabotage its impact upon launch. If we back down from our strategies, we aren’t going to succeed and risk losing our client. But if we push too hard for our ideas, we risk losing our client.

It’s a very thin tightrope that must be walked.

By someone other than me.

I have never been an Account Executive, but I was married to one once.



By the estimations of most Creatives, it’s the Account’s job to take our ideas and convince the client they were theirs; it’s about providing the client with the confidence to let us do what they hired us for in the first place—convincing people to buy things sold by other people.

If Creatives don’t think deeply and thoroughly, we fail our ideas, and our client. If an AE doesn’t sell our ideas, they have failed us.

But they cannot sell what they don’t understand. They have to believe in the idea before anyone else will. And that requires a deeper collaboration between two very opposing schools of thought.

That requires the Account people to trust our ideas, as we must trust that they know what the client ultimately requires to remain a client.


As a Creative, I get to hold tight to my ego by virtue of a false artistic integrity. I only have to think of the challenge at hand, relying on my creative prowess over statistics and test marketing, human nature over strategic complacency.

Because I can.

Where others in the business react, I get to step back, light a cigarette, have a cocktail, and just…think.


I’m not discounting the importance of research. Research is crucial at the beginning and throughout every process.

It’s just not always right.

It’s not about what people do. It’s deeper than that. It’s about what makes them do what they do.

What truly influences their decision?

Peer pressure? The color red? Celebrity endorsements? Sex?


But…why do these things influence a decision?

That is at the root of every client challenge I face as a creative strategist.

To work in the creative part of this industry you have to be one part temperamental artist, one part psychologist and one part fortuneteller. You have to change a person’s perception. More challenging, you have to make them want to.

I suppose, that’s what the Account Executive does too, on a more singular, personal level.

So we have to come up with an idea, they have to convince someone it’s good.

Which one is really the Creative?


Those who think. Deeply.


It’s the best strategy we, as persuaders, can offer a client.


Tangle of Lights: Perspective.

April 9, 2013



I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but not in the capacity gained through time and space—more a literal approach to the exploration.

This isn’t a dear diary, self-help post, after all.

This is art, dammit.

The idea of perspective has interested me for a fairly long while.

It’s been a consideration in both my visual art and my novel, Fondly.


I originally began writing Fondly in third-person, with a non-linear timeline. It became hard to follow and even more difficult to write.

It became hard to believe in.

So, after a lot of consideration I went back through what I had written, kept the timeline but switched to a first-person narrative. This is all fine and good, and the voice works well, even in a jumbled time frame.

Now I sit at another crossroads, as I consider the notion of putting both narratives in, but all from one singular voice. This is a design to better push the slow mental breaks within the main character, and I think it could create a very interesting way to tell a story.

My concern is the readability of it. The flow.

Though framed as small vignettes that elude to other periods of time and the propulsion of a plot, I don’t want to lose the reader by switching too much.


If I do it correctly, there are a lot of ways I could take this style of narrative to push the story arc, and add to the symbolism and complexity underneath.


I’m also working on a fairly large-scale piece for an upcoming gallery show at the end of the summer. I don’t usually  have enough time to put a decent amount of thought into submitted work, or to actually work on it. There are enough deadlines in my life, both at work and at play.


This time, I have time.

I have time to really think deeply about what I want to say, and just as important in the visual arts, how I want to say it.

Writing is an entirely different kind of execution with far more immediate results.

Think it.

Write it down.

Rinse and repeat.

It’s not quite the same thought process, or energy extolled as creating something visual.

Honestly, I love them both, and perhaps it’s the variety in my process that keeps me spinning in so many different directions most of the time.


I digress.


This time around, I actually have time to think about the piece. Really think about it, from multiple directions.

Tonight, I’ve been working on the approach and execution, not the imagery itself.

I had a thought. Okay, it’s more a stolen idea.


I stole it from myself, so I can sleep at night…or at least stay up with a clear conscience.

A few years back, or maybe just one, it’s hard to keep track, I conceived a campaign direction for a re-brand for a client that was having some mild identity issues.

Most people hadn’t heard of them, and those that had, hated them.

Once we convinced the client to make some large adjustments to some underlying problems, it was our challenge to get people to give them another try.

Of the ideas, I was most excited by one of mine called “Shift Your Perspective.”

It was designed to utilize a variety of media executions, all revolving around a “different perspective” illustrated through various optical illusions, negative space, building installments, anamorphous perspective and many, many other executions. I was inspired by all the great street art, which I often think is more appealing than just about any billboard I’ve ever seen…

This would not only help reinforce a change in the client and the consumer’s current opinion but would be an engaging, impactful approach, grabbing the consumer’s attention, forcing them to pause and spend more time with every billboard, print ad, television commercial, guerilla/environmental installation, etc.

If you can’t change someone’s mind, shift their perspective and let them change it on their own.

This could have been the type of campaign that would have made me known throughout my industry, if executed correctly, or…you know, if executed at all.

I spent a lot of time researching some interesting eye-benders and how they worked, and feared I would never get to use all this new information.

We presented a variety of directions. They went with the safe option. They always do. All of them. The client literally told me it was too intelligent of an approach for their demographic. I tried to explain that I was trying to get them a better demographic.


Short story long, I’m taking one of the outdoor print executions and using it for good, rather than the cruel mistress that is the fickle client.

I know what I want the basic idea of the image to be, and a fair idea of how to create it. The message is there and it’s just ambiguous enough to make you draw your own conclusions. I even have the general idea of how it should work, in theory.


It’s the construction and ultimate final execution that must be figured out first.

Now I must rely on science or something.

My plan is to create a large-scale lenticular, to hopefully tell a full story, but only once you’ve seen it from both angles.

So I made a miniature mock-up. I’ve been known to do that from time to time.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the images themselves, I just threw something together through the miracle of selfies and photoshop for example’s sake.

I started with two images.


Then I cut them up and rearranged them.


After that, I printed it out and corrugated it.

Here’s a shaky, lo-fi example of my shaky, lo-fi mock-up…just imagine this being about 5-10 feet wide or so…for starters.

The real question is, where can I push it from here?


In both cases, I’m utilizing the literal idea of perspective to push the more metaphysical meaning of the word out to the viewing audience, but without screaming it at the top of my lungs. Nobody wants to be told what to do.


If they’re not careful, they just might accidentally get a fresh perspective from my work.


Mad Man, I: The greatest work you’ll never see.

March 18, 2013


For close to a month I’ve been in campaign mode at work. It’s the best part of the job, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the audition process, as well as the overall production, filming, and editing. It’s nice to see something develop from a tiny spark into a fire.

But it’s that spark that gives me the most fulfillment as a writer in this business.

It’s all about the concept. That big idea that everything is built upon. That underlying voice, tone and strategy. The message. It is the beginning.

The beginning of everything.

It has to be. Without a concept, all we have are pretty pictures that miss the real challenge of convincing someone to stop, pay attention and ultimately, consume.

The challenge doubles, then triples the more times you have to sell the same thing.

Moleskines are filled, and walls are covered in staples and tape, as if our brains have exploded outward.

This moment is electric. The big idea. I’ve had a few now, but none have ever seen the light of day. Not how they should. Because ultimately, there is always a client, and I’m not always there to convince them to make the bold move.

This campaign, I poured myself into five different directions, all of which could be effective and successful, one of which would truly stand out: A simple story about a boy, a girl and some olive juice. A direction that saw me working late into the night, and early into the morning for weeks trying to create something effective and cohesive; something beautiful, relevant and most importantly, something real.

Something strangers would invest their attention in.

Tomorrow, when we make our pitch, it will most likely fall to the wayside with so many other ideas. But we’re a better agency for offering it. And I’m a better person for having thought of it.

The toughest part of this job is letting go of something. Our best work is crumpled up on a creative director’s floor.

I create the greatest work you’ve never seen, and I’ll do it again and again until someone runs with it. Then I’ll keep on doing it.


Fondly: Strangers

March 12, 2013


All I could do was sit and think.

The problem is, I really couldn’t. I tried, but I was far too lost to come to any conclusions. I didn’t want her. I knew that. There was too much sitting behind us. Too many moments overshadowed anything else. Everything else.

So why did I do it? Why did I even care?

Who she is, who she’s with, how she lives…None if it pertained to me, and that was my decision. A decision I made years before this. And I was fine with it most of the time.

Except those other times.

I sat quietly, my dog at my side. Tired, comfortable.

Love has layers. Levels.

I was starting to fear that I however, did not.

I wondered if my pup even knew what state I was in.

Defeated. Deflated.

It was a punch in the gut to sit and realize that no woman I’ve ever been with would ever have me back.

I suppose in the end that was fair.

My words somehow fell short. They were sharp, and always seemed to stab someone whether that was my intention or not. My mind was barbed, my heart was bruised, my soul was broken.

I kept thinking in circles, unfinished thoughts digressing into unwarranted scenarios, spinning into a deep dark hole I had little energy to try and crawl out of. The fear of making the wrong choices in life. The fear of throwing away everything for an unknown future with no plan, no endgame, no strategy.

If my life was an ad campaign, nobody was buying, and the client would have fired me.

I saw her. Her choices. I saw her life in an instant. I saw him put his arm around her back in a comfortable, familiar way.

The way we never could.

I still went home and bent a nobody-in-particular over my dining room table, but I was thinking about her.

She, however, wasn’t thinking about me.

And that was what bothered me the most.

And that’s why I could do nothing but sit and think, while some stranger slept in my bed.

And I wasn’t talking about Miss nobody-in-particular.

I woke up with a more familiar stranger every morning.

Humble Abode: Billboard Edition

November 18, 2009

There are two types of creatives in this world:

Those that are threatened by their peers, and those that are often humbled.

I fall into the latter category. Whenever I get too big from my britches, all I need to do is find some stunning work from another to remind me I’m not the sun.

I stumbled across these on Huffington Post this morning…

It’s a reminder of just how far outside the box you can go.

I know, I know…

The phrase “thinking outside the box” has become such a corporate cliche. The phrase is used so much that thinking inside the box has become the new outside of the box.

Just ask my last boss.

But sometimes, ideas like this happen:

Please note the blood spatter makes it all the way onto the parked cars on the street…

You can read the original article and see more here.

Mad Man, I: Marketing v Advertising

June 7, 2009


I’ve worked both sides of the coin.

I’ve been that guy wearing hip bulky glasses and a black turtle neck riding around the office on a scooter and playing foosball. Yeah, I was that guy…

I’ve also been that guy who dresses corporate casual and sits in a cubicle all day working for the same client day in day out…

Advertising Agency v In-House Marketing Department…they both have their pluses, they both have their minuses…

When it all boils down, I’m just happy to be employed during these trying economic times

I could lament for weeks on end about the two…but I think it’s much easier to use visual aids to show the difference…

so here it is, in a nutshell…

Advertising Agency:

and now, a great example of what it’s like working in-house…