Monday, June 26, 2017

Shakespeare, Hamlet and Saturday night.

On Saturday night, my wife and I taxied to the Public Theater to see Oscar Isaac in Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

I've seen a lot of Shakespeare in my day--going back to visiting Stratford, Connecticut when I was in high school for a performance of "Macbeth."

My wife and I have been supporters of the Public for about 20 years. So we, more often than not, see two performances of Shakespeare a year, outdoors in the Delacorte Theater.

I've seen Anne Hathaway. Al Pacino. Sam Waterston, John Lithgow, Kevin Spacey and other names I'm sure I've forgotten.

I dig Shakespeare.

It's not always easy to get through--and Hamlet, at 3 1/2 hours is his longest and most challenging play--the most Wagnerian of his opus.

A lot of people avoid things that are long and challenging. It seems to my jaded eyes that virtually every movie out today is essentially a video version of a comic book story I outgrew when I was 12. However, Shakespeare is Shakespeare. He deals in eternal truths and the rawest of conflicts and emotions.

Oscar Isaac, who blew me away five years ago in the Coen Brothers' "Finding Llewyn Davis," gave the greatest Shakespearean performance I have ever seen. 

Usually, when the Elizabethan English starts, your ears buckle for a bit and you miss 2/3rds of what's going on until you adjust to the 16th Century.

But Isaac's performance brought the language to life. The theater was silent when he spoke.

I leave you with this.

Perhaps the greatest passage in all of English literature.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The last of the breed.

This morning I had one of those happy circumstances.

My wife, an inveterate veteran freelancer, gets to bring Whiskey, our five-year-old golden retriever to her current office, and we share a cab to get there.

I hailed a beaten Toyota Prius as I was exiting my building and a cab-driver with a leonine grey mane screeched to a halt. As I was sliding across the vinyl, I checked out the number on his hack license. It was in the high 300s.

“You’ve been driving for a while,” I began.

“Ah, you noticed my white hair.”

“No,” I said, “I looked at your number. 35 years?”

“40. I’m the last white, English-speaking, Jewish cabdriver in New York.”

“You own the medallion, I take it.”

“Worthless. We’ve been done in by Uber, Lyft, Gett, Jett, Via, Scmhmia and Gonorrhea. There are more ride services than you can shake a lug wrench at. There are 60,000 cabs on the streets.”

We were speeding down Park, where the rich folk (the ones who get tax cuts live.)

“What was the best cab you ever drove?” I asked.

“The Checker. No more iconic cab for New York than the Checker. Just two problems with it.”

He waited with Jack Benny’s timing.

“No heat in the winter, no air in the summer. Outside of that, you could fit five people in it and they weren’t even touching.” I thought about my family, when I was young, piling into the back of one. My brother and me on the rickety jumpseats, my parents and sister sitting in the bench across.

He turned, disconcertingly while we were crossing East to West on 47th, to pet Whiskey’s head through the opening in the bullet-proof plexi.

“This is a dog,” he began. “My mother just got Chloe, a Muttipoo. Half-poodle half something else.” He showed me a small picture on his flip-phone.

It was time for me to exit the cab.

We shook hands goodbye.


“Julian Krause,” he said with his grip. “The last Jewish cabdriver in New York.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A modest Cannes proposal.

Publicis, the holding company with the ugliest name, announced the other day that the 693 agencies under its hairy corporate umbrella will not be permitted to enter awards shows in 2018.

I am a rare creative in that I don't gives a rat's ass about awards.

Not that I don't have an ego.

But when the awards shows started awarding fake work--or nearly fake work--they became meaningless to me.

When the awards shows started handing out awards by the scores, they became meaningless to me.

When awards, not a client's business success, became the motivating force in our industry, they became meaningless to me.

In any event, let's get back to Publicis.

If I were the bushy-eyebrowed Maurice Levy, or whatever of his acolytes made this fiduciary decision, I would have done so with more balls.

I would have done something with more balls--something simple.

I would have said, "We spent XX on award shows last year. And awards are about us. We want to do something for our industry and the world. Not about us. So we're taking half the money the holding company spent, X, and we're dedicating it to diversity efforts. We will become the most diverse agency network in the world--and in so doing, the best. That is worth more than all the awards we could possibly win."

That would be better for all of us.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nobody Asked Me, But....(Longest day of the year edition.)

Nobody asked me but is my periodic tribute to Jimmy Cannon, a great sportswriter for various New York newspapers--when New York had half a dozen or more papers competing for readership. When Cannon was blocked and had nothing to write about, he'd scribble one of these.

Nobody asked me but....

...if someone set up a hammock outside my office building, I'd take a nap.

...and I'd probably wake up more productive.

...I can't help but think marketers spend 11-cents getting the last dime out of their customers.

...I'd rather have a black and white soft-serve cone than just about anything.

....I can't think of anyone less well-suited to enjoy Cannes than me.

...of course, I've always been an iconoclast.

...misanthropy is something I've acquired as I've aged.

...and I'm proud of that.

...and I've earned it.

...if you want to see how dumbed down our world's become, watch an early '60s game-show, like "College Bowl" on YouTube.

...Those Facebook "placards" with quotations on a brightly-colored background make me admire Charles Whitman.

...Chances are, you'll have to look that last one up.

....There should be no such thing as a Kindergarten graduation.

...The longer the day of the year, the shorter women's dresses.

...I've never learned anything from a top-ten list.

...Most lists, including (or especially this one) are dumb


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five minutes with a CIDO. (Live from Cannes.)

AD AGED: Hello, I hope you’re enjoying Cannes as much as I am. And thank you for agreeing to spend five minutes with me.

Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is a CIDO?

CIDO: Well, look around you. And it’s obvious what my job is, what I do and why I’m needed.

I am a Chief Is Dead Officer.

AD AGED: A Chief Is Dead Officer? I’m sorry, I can’t quite fathom that. Perhaps you could elucidate.

CIDO: It’s simple, really. I proclaim things dead.

AD AGED: So, you’re something of a corporate coroner?

CIDO: Not exactly. I say things are dead when my agency isn’t able to do them.

So, if we’re staffed more with technologists and financial people than creative people, I’m in charge of saying “Creativity is Dead.”

AD AGED: I see. Is it?

CIDO: That’s not the point. Because if you get right down to it, Reality is Dead. Big Ideas are Dead. Television is Dead. Print is Dead. Digital is Dead. Radio is Dead.

AD AGED: You’re pretty good at this dead thing. Anything else?

CIDO: Not to be harsh, but the fact is, insipid interviews like this…they’re dead, too.

AD AGED: Well, thank you for your time today. One more question. Is there anything that isn’t dead?

CIDO: Yes. Rose´.


  

Vox clamantis in deserto.

Every day I hear people in advertising prattle on about how much people hate advertising. 

They don't say people hate being yelled at.

Or people hate having their intelligence insulted.

Or people hate being baited-and-switched. Targeted and retargeted. Cookied and tracked like an escaped convict in a Southern Gothic prison movie, running through the swamps trying to throw the dogs off their scent.

No. They just say how much they hate advertising.

I'm more than a little tired of it. Mostly because I don't believe it.

I think people who say people hate advertising hate advertising themselves.

What people hate from marketing are the same things they hate in life.

Deception. Double dealing. Mealy-mouthed craptastic prevarications.

I think I probably make two or four big purchases a year. I buy a camera, or a portable air-conditioner, or some decent luggage, or every seven years or so, a new used car.

I'd love it if someone helped me with those purchases. If someone, some advertiser, helped me make an intelligent assessment of the product.

This, it seems to me, is the sort of thing that isn't done anymore.

Because the prevailing wisdom is that people hate ads and won't read them.

So we instead run ads that do virtually nothing but disseminate smiling models.

I refuse to believe that no one anymore makes a decision based on hard data.

I refuse to believe that advertising can't be useful, helpful, persuasive.






Monday, June 19, 2017

Father's Day darkness.

My father and I were never really close, though I like to think that we both wish we had been.

The truth of the matter is my father was very much an absentee kind of guy. And while my mother was a raging termagant, he decided his life would be better served traveling for business than protecting his kids from what we call today "a borderline personality."

As a consequence, my old man and I had very little to do with each other for most of my life. In fact, after I left my parents' tilted little house for the Mexican League in June, 1975--42 years ago--I barely went back at all and had very little contact with them once I was no longer bound to them financially. It wasn't unusual for me to go decades--literally decades not speaking to my father and mother.

So, father's day is never an easy day for me, not that many days are. But seeing people's old Kodachromes and nostalgic memories of their dad's make me especially cognizant of my paternal lacuna.

He was never a guy you could count on. And never a guy who would put having a catch in front of having a conference call, or, a secretary.

Somehow, though, I think I've been a better dad to my daughters. I must have read somewhere that a parent's job is to give his kids roots and wings. And I've tried with my kids--and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

I guess my main thing with my old man, with growing up in darkest demoral'd suburbia can best be summed up by Robert Frost's definition of home from his great poem "The Death of the Hired Man."

"Home is the place where,
When you have to go there,
They have to take you in."

My old man never took me in. Never accepted my stubbornness and unwillingness to accede to my parent's dictates.

So, father's day always brings a little sadness with its dadless.

My wife and daughters make it better.

Still, I wish I had had an old man to have a catch with.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sucking and writing.

I’ve been writing like a sonofabitch lately.

Since my week off in Cape Cod, I’ve come back to a storm at work. And sometimes, at least for me, the way to get through a storm is to stick to doing what you do best. For me, that’s staring a problem down and trying to write my way out of it.

I worry often about my inability to stop being a creator—to stop writing ads and turning fulltime to reviewing ads, critiquing ideas and improving them. I do that, too. But I feel just as I’d feel if I were in a busy kitchen.

I don’t merely want to see if the sauce needs salt, the meat is tender enough, or if the sprouts are browned properly. I like being in the kitchen. And I like cooking.

Sometimes I worry.

Of course I worry.

Worry is what I do best.

Have I, old as Methusaleh Bernbach, kept at it too long? Is it undignified to still be pitching ideas? Is it indulgent of me to still be writing—everything from social tiles to spots?

I also worry about how much I have left. There’s that feeling I’ve always had, since Hector was a pup. What if I fail? What if I have no ideas? Or worst, what if the ideas I do have suck?

Yeah.

I go through all that and more each time one of our creative imbroglios rears its powerpointed head.

But then, as I do, I do what I do.

I write something.

Sometimes, it doesn’t suck.