• Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #8: Ryan Johnson

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    Dear Me,

    Congratulations! You’re a copywriter. In about four years, your parents will figure out what a copywriter does. Good for you.

    So, you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’ve got a brief on your desk with three tactics—some print, a TV spot and a little radio. What’s that? You only have five weeks to concept? Dear lord! How are you keeping it together? You should be curled up in a bathtub right now, drinking peach schnapps and listening to Joy Division on repeat.

    Oh you precious little kitten, get over yourself. Cherish this time. Cherish it like a simple ball of yarn that’s going to turn into a 12-page media flow chart.

    The Internet (or information superhighway) is about to get all up in your business. You currently use it to pass along obscene photos your brother sends you or to watch cartoon hamsters explode in microwave ovens. Well, apparently they’re researching bigger and better things to do with the Internet. By “they” I mean the people who invented it, which is the government, the porn industry and the NFL. Never mind that.

    That list of tactics you’re sweating is going to multiple by 50 and the timeline is going to get hacked. But the Internet will provide countless opportunities to reach consumers. You’ll get to do banner ads, which are like miniature outdoor boards except they animate. Or sometimes they animate and sometimes they don’t. Or sometimes you’ll think they can animate and you’ll concept them like that, and then you’ll find out the ad servers have a file size limitation and they can’t really accept anything more than a flattened image or something like that.

    Whoa. Don’t freak out, kitten. Everything is going to be all right.

    Technology is your friend. And it’s a friend to your friends. See all these friends you’re making now and you think you’ll lose touch with after careers pull everyone in different directions? You’re going to be connected forever. More than that, you’ll know exactly what they had for breakfast, when they buy new pants and when they’ve got a violent case of the flu. Also, you’ll share photos of sunsets, which are nice things to share.

    I understand this is probably a bit much to take in. And, quite frankly, there are going to be plenty of times in the future when you’ll certainly want to curl up in the bathtub with that bottle of schnapps. The good news is you’re going to have a crazy-ass smart phone from which to write this note to yourself.

    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #7: Mark St. Amant

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    Dear 1991 Mark,

    First, get comfy, because this is a long one…

    Congrats, 24-year-old Me, on your new job as Junior Copywriter at one of Boston’s top ad agencies, Arnold Fortuna Lane! I guess recently getting fired from your account coordinator gig at that high-tech public relations firm – your first real, big boy job post-college -- was a blessing in disguise, eh? Hey, don’t get pissed that I brought that up; I would have fired you, too. All you did was write terrible short stories in your cube all day when you were supposed to be pitching high tech magazine editors on behalf of your clients.

    So, if you’re reading this, former PR boss Marijean Lauzier: on behalf of both 1991 Mark and 2013 Mark, you were right to shit-can us. No hard feelings. We were the polar opposite of a good employee. (And we were hungover at work a lot, too. LOOK AT ME, I THINK I’M STILL IN COLLEGE! WHEEEEE!) So I guess this is Advice #1: Mark, do the job you were hired to do. Every time out. Do even more whenever possible, of course. Be reliable, and at the very least deliver what they expected of you when they started paying you. If you don’t, they will – and should -- fire you.

    Speaking of Arnold, you will work at the many iterations of this particular agency on three separate occasions between now and 2009. Arnold Fortuna Lane; Arnold Fortuna Lane & Cabot; Arnold, Fortuna, Lawner & Cabot; Arnold Advertising; Arnold Worldwide; Snyder Communications (for a brief moment, more on that below); Arnold again; and inevitably Arnold-Publicis-Romijn-Stamos-Omnicom-Sleater-Kinney-al-Qaeda-Cougar-MDC-Mellencamp. So Advice #2 is: Just roll with the changes. Sorry to get all REO Speedwagon on you, but advertising is a transient, often heartless, cold, all-business business. People get laid off/move around all the time. There’s little to no loyalty, and everyone – even those with their names on the door -- is expendable no matter how important they believe they are. So when Arnold lays you off eighteen years from now, in 2009, seriously, don’t sweat it (even though your wife will be pregnant with your second child and you’ll freak a little bit). It’ll lead to your landing in gorgeous Boulder, working at Crispin, and eventually starting your own agency up near CU with some awesomely talented friends. So it’ll be for the best, trust me.

    Anyway, as I write this, it’s December 12th, 2013 and I’m – we’re – 45-years-old now. We even have tiny flecks of gray in our stubble (when we don’t shave) and go to bed, on average, around 9:30 p.m. most nights. Terrifying, right? You think I’m pretty lame, admit it, what with my wife of twelve years, two kids, mortgage, Subaru Outback, and other trappings of middle age. And I laugh at your Harry Potter glasses, 21 Jump Street haircut and non-existent savings account. So suck it. Which leads me to Advice #3: Don’t take jobs for money. Yes, agency-hopping is one of the primary ways we get raises. But there will be jobs you almost take for a small bump in salary, and I’m happy to report you turn most of them down. Key words: most of them. Not that I have THAT much more money in 2013 than you do in 1991, but please be smart with your cash. Save enough to live for a couple months if the shit goes down, which it usually does in this business. (Thankfully, you’ll marry a woman who’s much better with finances than you are -- a former broadcast producer, of course – but still, don’t go buying that matching set of gold-plated jet skis after your first raise.)

    Advice #4: Sometime around 2015, “Advertising” will officially change its name to “Prankvertising”. So start thinking of some brand-building pranks, stat.

    Actually, according to my iPhone calendar, we’ll be 46 in ten days. Sorry -- an “iPhone” is a futuristic communication/information/fellow human-ignoring device created by a brilliant sociopath named Steve Jobs. Jobs’ company, Apple, created that 1990 Macintosh Classic upon which you’ll now be writing your god-awful headlines and scripts, and whose various technological iterations – laptops and such -- will be your life’s blood for the next two-plus decades. Get used to Apple products, man. They’ll be more vital to your survival than your spleen (whatever one’s spleen does). And speaking of headlines and scripts, for a long while, you will do nothing but write shitty ones and have hare-brained ideas that you think are brilliant. But they’re not. They’re probably derivative and unfunny. So I guess Advice #5 is: Don’t get indignant when your Creative Director kills them. Because better is always out there. Don’t be so blinded by pride or frustration that you miss it. And when writing, be brief. Sparse. Economical. Don’t say in ten words what you could say in five. Ironic advice, considering this letter will go on for another 27 pages. But in the future, due to a lethal cocktail of text messaging-fueled laziness, high-fructose corn syrup and something called “Twitter” (don’t ask), peoples’ attention spans will be shorter than a hummingbird on crack. So write accordingly, because annoyed commenters in blogs like the Denver Egotist will bitch and moan that you yammered on too long…and they’ll be 100% right. (But for those of you who stick with me until the end, there’s a reward of sorts waiting for you. Promise.)

    Speaking of crack cocaine, here’s Advice #6: Mark, I know it’s your first day, but get out of advertising and into politics, get your Canadian citizenship and become the Mayor of Toronto. Talk about job security! You can apparently do anything short of choking out an underage hooker on top of the CN Tower -- and you could probably even do that – and still remain employed. Just a thought.

    Now, Advice #7: Lose the tie. Even though it’s your first day and still a relatively prehistoric 1991 where you are, creatives just don’t dress like Don Draper anymore. (Sorry. That reference will be lost on you. The advertising-themed television show known as Madmen on a cable network called “AMC” won’t exist for another sixteen years because its creator, Matthew Weiner, is still writing for Becker and its handsome star, Jon Hamm, is still playing Hamlet in summer stock theater in Bakersfield. Madmen will also make AMC think viewers would enjoy another advertising-themed show called The Pitch, which, in actuality, will only make them want to brutally murder people in advertising. But I digress…)

    So, yeah, no necktie. But just for now. Because this dovetails nicely into my next word of semi-wisdom. Actually, that reminds me, let me first inject Advice #7.5: Never use business cliches like “Dovetail”, “Think outside the box” or “Ideate”. And certainly don’t refer to even the most talented ad professionals as “rock stars”. Jimmy Page is a rock star. Eddie van Halen and Davie Lee Roth (he wrote, only to appease his myopic colleague, Jeff Graham) are rock stars. But a senior copywriter wearing sunglasses indoors at Chez-Jay? That’s just an asshole.

    On a related note, Advice #8: Don’t waste energy and time trying to look creative; just be creative. Too many closet hacks – many of them your future colleagues and bosses -– will judge you on style over substance and make you secretly worry that you’re not as “cool-looking” as those sporting gang tats, quintuple lip piercings and generally disguising themselves as 16-year-olds straight outta Dogtown despite being 38-year-olds straight outta Dartmouth…all to hide the fact that they couldn’t write a coherent sentence or come up with an original idea if their clip-on dreads depended on it. So don’t lose a second of sleep about why you’re not being given the secret handshake to the Cool Creative’s Club and getting those killer creative assignments as quickly as you’d hoped/expected. Instead, make the best of what you ARE given to work on. Make your own great projects. Keep your head down, keep working your ass off and trust that you have the talent to succeed. People who know the difference will be able to spot the genuine article, and won’t hire/encourage/mentor/promote you simply because you look like Travis Barker. Some of the best creatives you’ll ever know over the next twenty-plus years will just be regular guys and girls who aren’t trying too hard. Who aren’t spending an hour in the morning making their hair look like they just rolled out of bed AND TOTALLY DON’T CARE. Be yourself, yes. But if you have to emulate someone, be more like those folks who just ARE creative. Shut up, listen, and learn from them. Everyone else is just meticulously unkempt static with relatively short shelf lives.

    Advice #9: No matter how attractive it might seem at the time, do NOT start an agency with Wade Paschall. Just don’t. This is non-negotiable.

    What else? Oh, Advice #10: It will take you almost thirteen more years from now until you finally realize one of your childhood dreams and get a book published in 2004, and another in 2006. That’s great and all. Pop some champagne, for sure. But it should happen much sooner. You need to make the writing time while you don’t have kids whom you love more than anything and with whom you want to (have to, but mostly want to) spend all your free time. You need this other writing. Sure, advertising is fun and keeps your creative juices flowing. But you –- all creatives – need outlets with which you can express said creativity. Outlets that you AND ONLY YOU own. Whose edges can’t be sanded off by focus groups, hand-wringing account people, chief creative officers or anyone else offering what might pass as an “opinion”. Whether it’s writing poetry or screenplays, painting, sculpting, teaching SCUBA diving, rock-climbing, triathlon-competing, bull-riding, hobo-killing -- whatever it is, find that outside outlet, pursue it, and guard it as desperately and selfishly as Gollum guards his Precious. Unless that outlet is, in fact, hobo-killing. That I would not advise. Unless you’re really good at it, in which case I say, Godspeed, I-95 Rest Stop Killer!

    Advice #11: When a man named Kanye Omari West asks you to co-star with him in a music video titled “Bound 2,” respectfully decline.

    Time to wrap this up, 1991 Mark. I know you have to get back to that Boston Gas bill stuffer brief you were just handed. (For those of you here in 2013, a “bill stuffer” was a tiny little “ad” that retailers and utilities companies once “mailed” with “bills” and self-addressed return “envelopes”.) But before I let you go, I also want to give you Advice #12: At some point in the early 2000’s, a pint-sized jackal of a man, who made his millions in wallboard marketing, database marketing (a.k.a. junk mail) and product sampling, will buy and briefly own Arnold. One day you will find yourself standing next to him on the elevator. And due to the noxious aura of evil pulsating around him, you will just stand frozen, a little scared, staring at the wall, silent. Now, I realize this isn’t as historically impactful as those “If you could time-travel back to 1905 Vienna and kill a then-innocent Hitler, would you?” scenarios. But still, when you do find yourself standing next to one Daniel Snyder, please, when the doors shut, put him in a sleeper hold, force a cyanide capsule down his throat KGB-style, and dump his lifeless body down the elevator shaft. Legions of future Washington Redskins fans will thank you.

    Advice #13: Invent Facebook and/or the Tesla.

    Finally, Advice #14: You’re about to embark on a career that doesn’t involve shooting others, being shot at, or being imprisoned for your beliefs. It doesn’t involve smokejumping, digging ditches, assembling Steve Jobs’ tiny electronics, testing rectal thermometers, breaking up prison yard brawls, serving small children sloppy Joes, wearing theme park mascot uniforms, making change at tollbooths, handing out mints in restrooms, mining coal, cleaning up crime scenes, performing triple bypasses, or any other far more mentally/physically/soul-crushingly grueling tasks. No, we have it relatively easy in advertising. We’re lucky. We’ve worked hard and made our own luck, mind you. But still. So many others in this world have it far, far worse than we do. So, whenever you get “stressed” or “agitated” about something utterly insignificant in the scheme of life, please, appreciate every single minute you have not only in this business, but with your friends and family. Because when you turn 46, you’ll be more than halfway through the average white male lifespan. So do us both a favor and, when you get to December 12th, 2013, promise yourself – promise us -- to make the absolute best of whatever time we have left.

    Oh, and speaking of not wasting time, Advice #15: Don’t start watching Lost in 2004. When it ends six years later, it’ll just make you absolutely furious.

    Your pal,
    2013 Mark

    Okay, that “reward” I mentioned earlier. This is an advertising blog, as you know, and a very good one. Meaning some of you might be out of work creative looking for jobs/new opportunities, which is always harder and more discouraging around the Holidays. Trust me, I know. So if you are indeed job-hunting – in the Denver/Boulder area or elsewhere – send me a link to your work at mstamant@grenadierco.com, with the subject line “Your Egotist piece sucked & violated me with boredom” (or just a simple “My link”.) If your work’s good and you seem nice, I’ll happily pass you on to anyone I know in this business who might be hiring. (I wish we were, but Grenadier is still a relatively small shop and our hires are few and far between.) Maybe our great partner agency, Barkley. Maybe someone from my old haunts in Boston. Who knows. But we’ve all been there, and there are a ton of smart, talented, driven people in this region who just might need a little luck or extra push to get that “in” they need. So I’ll do what I can to help. Happy holidays and thanks for enduring my yammering.

    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #6: Evan Fry

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    Dear 24-year-old Evan,

    Hey man, it's me. Rather, it's you. From 20 years in the future. How you doing? Aside from dealing with that terrible haircut, I mean.

    Let me get to the point. I'm writing because today is your first day in your first ad gig. And there's some things I want to implore you to not lose sight of as you progress in this business.

    And you might lose sight. Because it's going to be hard to get where you know you belong. To scrap and fight your way out of your first gig, out of the mediocre shops, and earn your way into a truly great ad agency will require dedication and single mindedness.

    And it's going to be even harder once you crack that elite level. It'll take years, too. But you're going to do it. Cuz you're not going to give up.

    But. Here's the thing I want you to do for us: As your career success accumulates, and the added responsibilities pile on, stay honest with yourself. OK?

    What I mean is, if at any point along the line you realize you don't really love what you're doing, don't stay in it just cuz you look down and find you've become shackled in "golden handcuffs."

    Don't misunderstand. I know you need a job right now. A real job. A career. And this one for sure seems like the right one for you right now. You've shown some promise in school, it seems like a lot of fun, and I get why you're doing it. It's one of the best "jobs" any lucky 1st-world sucker could score.

    But please keep perspective. Don't get so focused on trying to "make it" that you discount the very true fact that you need to do what makes you feel satisfied. Time will pass fast. And unless you stay honest, you might one day realize that you were so concerned with career success that you didn't plot out life-success.

    And what I mean by that is: Doing for a living that which fosters your sense of well being and happiness. Money cannot — and will not — make up for doing anything short of that.

    OK. That's it really. Now go get a better haircut. Oh and dude, be cool to your first Creative Director. She knows a shitload more than you do. Be nice.

    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #5: Jim Elkin

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    Dear Jim,

    There is no easy way to put this. You're a jerk. You're sitting there in your comfy office at J. Walter Thompson thinking you're so amazing, really incredibly good looking and a fantastic Jew. Well, you're not, you've got a bad haircut and chances are you just finished a BLT with extra bacon. Take a look around...look out the window of your fancy office to the streets far below. Do you really deserve all of this? Do you really think you should be so cocky? Do you really think you're that special? Things are going to change and you are not ready for it...not at all.

    In about 1 minute from this moment...your life will completely change. Well, actually 1 minute and about twenty years later, but one thing is certain...things will change. You'll be standing in a delivery room with your wife in the middle of the night with snow falling gently outside the frosted window. Your baby daughter was just born seconds ago, but she's not breathing. In fact, she's completely blue. Your wife will start to cry. You're now beginning to cry too as each second ticks by. The doctors are rushing around you with masks on trying to appear calm. You'll stand there wishing you could take back every bad thing you've ever done in your life. You start to concentrate on the sound in the room. You hear your own breathing now and that's all you hear. You're now wishing your daughter was able to breathe instead of you. You want to take her place. She's still not moving. You're beginning to panic. Your breathing is getting more shallow. You're sweating on your upper lip. You're beginning to sob. Your wife is inconsolable. She's begging you to do something. You're completely helpless. Another minute...

    This all started where you're sitting now. You will sacrifice everything in your life over the years for your work. You think it's worth it. Every choice you make is for the better good. It affects everyone around you. Your closest friends. Your family. People you wish you treated much better and with more care. You'll lose people you care about. You'll have relationships that should have lasted a lifetime. Friends...lovers...wives...but you will lose them.

    In twenty years and 2 minutes you look down at your daughter. She's lying in a warming tray now. Her color is a deeper blue…as blue as the ocean. Doctors are storming into the room. They crowd around you and the baby. Watching both of you intensely as if you have some control over any of this. Your tears will stream down your chin now and reach your shoes. You can hear your soles squeak from the salty water rubbing on the linoleum floor. This can't be happening you tell yourself. This is a bad dream and I'm going to wake up. But, you can't wake up when you're not dreaming.

    Look around the office again. What do you see that is worth anything besides the awards you’re dreaming about winning? There is a picture. The one good thing you put in that office. A picture of your family. The people who raised you. They taught you what is truly important in this life. They taught you the difference between right and wrong. They taught you that doing the right thing means making hard choices. It means to sacrifice the things you really want and take care of the people you love. Remember those things. Remember to be kind above everything else. There are other things besides this office…besides the awards you want to win…besides the work. Remember to put the work aside every now and then. Go home and be with the people who love you. You’ll thank me for it.

    Twenty years later and 3 minutes now doctors are rubbing your daughter's back on a small metal tray. She still isn't breathing. You think to yourself that this can't be it...hundreds of years of medical knowledge and they just rub a newborn's back. How can that help? Then you hear a sound out of the silence. A breath. The most incredible breath that you've ever heard in your life. The blue skin that made your daughter look like a human Smurf begins to change...like some kind of real-life perfect special effect. The color changes from blue to orange. You reach out and touch her hand...she squeezes it. Life. You're so happy that your tears turn into something different. You've never cried before. Not like this. Not like a happy cry. Your heart leaps from your chest right into hers. It all makes sense. Life makes sense. Your daughter squeezes your hand harder. She's alive. She's beautiful. The doctor asks what her name is...as the nurses are crying with you. You look over at your wife…and turn back to the doctor…“Violet,” you say wiping away your tears. “This little flower is going to need you to grow,” said one of the nurses patting me on the back. It turns out in the end, she will be the only award you ever need.

    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #4: Jeff Graham

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    Dear Me,

    This is the 43-year-old you writing to the 21-year-old punk I used to be — to offer a word or two of advice as you start your journey into the wonderful world of advertising.

    Here’s the thing. What you learned about agency account service in college centered around big, traditional, corporate-style agencies located in the usual places like New York and Chicago. What they didn’t tell you is there’s an entirely different way to be an agency account person — in smaller creative shops, located in places where ad agencies aren’t supposed to succeed. Places that will allow you to be a ‘creative account guy’ of sorts. A partner in the process with your creative counterparts; and with a genuine sense of ownership in the creative product that happens on your watch.

    One day soon, a creative director you work with will hand you a stack of One Show annuals and CAs, and you’ll wonder why. He’ll tell you to study them and have a point-of-view about what you like, what you don’t, and why. You’ll see it as a challenge; but it’s actually an invitation. Take it. It’s what will start you down this alternative path of account service; and change the trajectory of your career in ways you can’t imagine now.

    ‘The work is all that matters’ — make this your new motto. Be the only account guy you know who carries a book — just like any writer or art director. Sweat the two big things you can actually control each day — how hard you work, and the attitude you bring to it. Keep your head down, dig your ditch, and let your work do the talking for you. Approach all of it with passion and tenacity. Oh, and don’t be a dick to anyone. Ever. This business is rife with insufferable jerks who might look successful to you now; but they’ll soon be unemployable washouts. This is a very small industry. Be humble. Be nice. Do your job in service of these simple principles, and you’ll find a lot of other stuff will naturally fall into place.

    And while this advice will help you do a good job at work — don’t forget to do a good job at life too. Don’t let work steal away the moments that really matter with your family and friends — this line of work has a way of doing that. You’ll just regret it later. Remember, we’re not curing cancer here — it’s only advertising.

    Always Be Closing,

    Jeff Graham

    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #3: Rajeev Basu

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    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #2: Rachael Donaldson

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    Dearest Rachael,
    Welcome to advertising.

    When I peek into the prism of your soul I want you to know that being the real you is always more beautiful than trying to be someone else. Don’t let anyone else define who you are. If they try to, or if they crush the light in you, move on and seek similar ethos. Your instincts are really good, learn how to listen to them.

    Lean in every chance you get (someone else will write this book). When you stumble (and you will) get up and lean in again. Everyone stumbles. Don’t run from the hurt or the lesson, absorb it and your strength will flourish. This will be far from easy but will set the stage for your true path in life, not just advertising.

    Oh, and don’t be so fucking Type A that you miss the great moments in the every day. You’re surrounded by amazing people, experiences, shoot locations and food (don’t even get me started on the food - there will be many, many client dinners and even though you’re working, you’re also eating at places you won’t be able to afford yet, so enjoy it). Be present instead of always focusing on the next day, the next presentation, the next promotion.

    Take vacation time. It will never ever be a ‘good’ time to leave the office. Travel fills up your creative reserves and exposes you to life experience that makes you a better person, not to mention better at this job.

    Be confident even when you don’t feel like it, because everyone else in the room has fragile, creative egos too—not just the creative team—and confidence is magnetic.

    Smile. Be bright. Be courageously you.

    Much love.

    PS: stop putting off learning Photoshop and some light coding, you won’t have time later.

    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • Dear Me, On My First Day of Advertising #1: Jonathan Schoenberg

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    Dear self on your first day of work,

    You don't suck as much as you think you do. And, if you do suck that much, nobody has figured it out yet, so try and relax and see if they figure it out.

    Ok, not that relaxed, you should not be drinking at two in the afternoon on your first day of work. I take it back you should be insecure and you are an idiot. Ok sorry, you do write pretty well buzzed, but not as well as you think.

    Those thrift store dress shoes from the 1940s/50s that you keep wearing are not that cool, and they are gross. You can't really clean "vintage" shoes , and there is something very unclean about wearing other people's old shoes. These geriatric shoes don't make you more interesting, they make you look like you live with your grandfather and borrow his old shoes.

    Account people are your advocates, don't be one of those infantilized junior creatives that argues about dumb shit that does not impact the idea. Be that young person that accepts you have been in the business for 10 minutes and should talk less and listen more.

    Keep writing those "thank you" notes, even in the future when nobody writes handwritten "thank you" notes. You got into this business by accident, and by the generosity of people who could have easily been less generous with their time, please don't forget it.

    Don't grow a goatee in the summer of 1995 like every other junior copywriter in NYC. You will look like a douche. You are sort of a douche already so the goatee is really gonna put it over the edge.

    Thanks for reading my note and please know that you are going to enjoy your career a great deal. Even if you will spend your first several years not listening, drinking too much, wearing old shoes, and growing that douche goatee.


    Your future self.

    To read the entire 2013 'On My First Day of Advertising' series, click this.

  • I Was Right. Spike Lee’s an Even Bigger Dick Than I Am.

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    When I went off on my Kickstarter rant, I got the usual abusive comments from my beloved Egotist readers. Oh the hate and the vitriol, all because I tried to stick up for the little guy. What a complete douchebag I am.

    Anyway, although I aimed the rant at many celebs, it was Spike Lee that I was most pissed at. He has made some incredible movies, and has also shown the tenacity to get things done. But he has also been a prize twat. And when Juan Luis Garcia wrote an open letter to him recently, telling him how his key art agency blatantly stole his Old Boy poster designs, Spike tweeted something I can only describe as really dickish.

    If you haven’t seen the letter, or the designs, the original post has been yanked for who knows what reason but you can see a portion of the post here. It’s fairly obvious the agency ripped off the guy because he didn’t accept their piss-poor buyout offer.

    I should add at this point that Juan is either really naïve, or really dumb. As many people in the industry commented, you need a contract when you’re working with agencies like this. They have a reputation for being less than honest, and without some legal support you’re completely screwed. In some respects, Juan had it coming. His open letter is also somewhat transparent. He’s really laying it on thick. But all that aside, he was a small guy who was beaten up by a massive Hollywood machine. And he reached out for help to the one man who may actually have the power to help…

    …the director of Old Boy, Spike Lee himself.

    So when Spike replied with the following tweet, you could actually hear the entire design industry drop their shoulders and sigh. It was another “fuck you” from a man who was once a nobody, and now thinks he’s above everybody. The tweet read:

    “I Never Heard Of This Guy Juan Luis Garcia, If He Has A Beef It's Not With Me. I Did Not Hire Him, Do Not Know Him. Cheap Trick Writing To Me. YO."

    Yeah, YO.

    When one follower of Spike’s replied “Dude, pay the graphic artist,” something Spike could do without making a dent in his massive fortune, he replied:

    “Why Should I Pay Someone Who I Never Met Nor Had Any Contact With Ever? He Never Made Any Deal With Me. Why Don't You Pay Me For Your Stupid Text On Thanksgiving Day?"

    Jesus, Spike.

    Let’s not forget, this is the same Spike Lee that sued the TV channel SPIKE for infringing on his name! And as this suit was settled, we know Spike Lee got something out of it.

    But this is not a series of isolated incidents. It is obvious that Spike Lee has quite the high opinion of himself, and believes he is superior to most of us. When George Zimmerman was on trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, most of us were appalled by Zimmerman’s actions. I was. I probably wanted to say what Spike Lee said, but here’s the thing. Even though I have a very small following, I know it is irresponsible to do something that would incite violence.

    Spike Lee, with his 545k followers, decided to retweet the address of George Zimmerman. Why? Well, you can ask Spike, but common sense would make it clear he wanted people to pay George a visit. And as it turns out, he retweeted the wrong address, putting an elderly couple, the McClains, in fear for their lives.

    And then there’s the late Patrice O’Neal, a great comic who died way ahead of his time. He talked openly about the Spike Lee cartel just a few months before he died. Some people say the two are connected, I doubt that. But we do know Patrice was way too honest for Hollywood’s liking. When he talks about the Spike Lee cartel (it starts around 16:30 on this recording) he basically says that if you say no to Spike Lee, you’re done. No second chances. No more help. Turn him down when he asks for a favor, he’ll torpedo your chances of success. Not my words, the words of someone who worked closely with him…until he crossed him.

    And how did he cross the great Spike Lee? Patrice said he wanted Spike to go through his agent for a part he had lined up for him, so his agent didn't get screwed out of a deal. For that, Spike Lee shunned one of the great comedians of our time. He’s not well known, he should have been huge. And now, sadly, he won't get another chance.

    Here’s another example of Spike Lee’s ego. He attacked the great Clint Eastwood for not depicting black Marines in the World War II film Flags Of Our Fathers, or his previous film Letters From Iwo Jima. As Clint pointed out, telling Lee to “shut his face,” there were no black marines involved in the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi. Still, that didn’t stop Spike Lee from coming back at Clint, calling him an “angry old man.”

    Who needs historical accuracy, Spike? Well, when it comes to historical films, I think we all do don’t we?

    At the time of writing this “attack,” Spike Lee’s remake of Old Boy (a film that did not need to be remade AT ALL) has been a complete financial failure. It’s tanking, big time.

    Maybe that’s a good example of poetic justice.

  • I Don’t Mean To Be Too Altruistic

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    Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, I don’t mean to be too altruistic, but…” The but is usually followed by the admittance of an act of generosity that they recently committed, like giving money to a charity or volunteering their time to support a cause. But instead of proudly owning the thoughtful gesture, they qualify the good deed so they won’t be labeled a “do-gooder.”

    That has never made sense to me. I’ve never understood this attitude or where it came from. Why apologize for doing something good for someone else? I mean, shouldn’t generosity and kindness be something we are proud of? And why worry about being too altruistic? Wouldn’t it be better if people were even more altruistic in their attitudes and their actions?

    Personally, I think answer is yes. Here’s why. First and foremost, giving and contributing to organizations and causes absolutely matters to the people it helps. More importantly, it is true that you always get more back than you give. Call it karma, or just needing to know that you matter, but community service makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. And finally, giving with pride sets an example that encourages and inspires others to do the same. So yes, I believe altruism is a damn good thing and something we should be proud of.

    I tend to be a very private person, and the last thing I want to be accused of is being “preachy,” but I also believe in speaking the truth from the heart, so I’ve decided to share my story. Doing meaningful work that makes a huge impact is the driving force behind Cactus and a mission that we have been pursuing as an agency since 1990. But my journey started a few years before that.

    After graduating from college, I landed my first professional job at an agency in Denver. I learned the ropes from some true pros, met some wonderful friends and began to explore what a career in advertising was all about. But after a year on the job I was miserable. I did not have an affinity for the clients or the kind of work I was being asked to do. And I definitely felt like a cog in the bill-more-hours-agency-machine. I was at a low point in my very young career and I longed for more. I needed to know that my work mattered and contributed something positive to the world.

    Around that same time, a co-worker gave me a book called “Critical Path” and told me the story of Buckminster Fuller, or Bucky as he is affectionately known. You never know how an act of thoughtfulness may affect someone in ways you can’t even imagine. That one book changed my life, and I can honestly say it has been the driving force of my career since I read it in 1989. It set off a firestorm inside of me that burns bright today and I am so grateful for the inspiration it gave me at a time when I needed it the most. After reading it, I saw the world in a different way. I knew my life mattered and that what my dad told me wasn’t just parental rhetoric, but it was actually true –– that I really could do anything I set my mind to.

    Why did Bucky’s story have such a profound impact on me? Because his life was living proof that an individual’s work does matter, and that it can have a profound impact on the world. Here’s the short story. Bucky Fuller was a brilliant man, but he considered himself a failure because of his frustration working within the corporate system of America and the bureaucracy of government. So when he was a young man in his 30s, with a wife and daughter, he made the decision to end his own life. At the eleventh hour, he decided that if his life had come to that point and wasn’t worth anything, he might as well conduct an experiment with his remaining years. He vowed that from that day forward, any and all work he would do had to benefit 100 percent of humanity. What a bold statement. Talk about your big, hairy, audacious goal. Really, everything you do. Benefit every human. Really? Yet that is exactly what he did.

    Here are his most noticeable accomplishments: 28 Patents; 30 Books; Geodesic domes –– the strongest most sound structure system in the world; Dymaxion House –– a more efficient way to build a better house; Dymaxion Car –– 3 wheels, sat 12 and got 60 miles per gallon; Dymaxion Map –– a new map of the world that doesn’t distort actual land mass like a globe does; World Game –– think the opposite of War Games and the notion of dividing and conquering; Coined new concepts –– Spaceship Earth, Synergy, and Tensegrity; and Fullerenes –– carbon molecules that were named after him because they are shaped like geodesic domes.

    So, yeah, he mattered. I would call Bucky Fuller probably the greatest altruist that ever lived. He proved that only good things can come from being an altruist and being proud of it. Bucky had a profound impact on the world and his contributions are enormous. Altruism fueled his life and he went on to create for five more decades. His life and work encouraged thousands of others to do the same. And I am one of those people he inspired.

    So in June of 1990, I founded Cactus with two partners who took that leap of faith with me. From day one, part of our vision was to help support the growth of non-profit organizations by bringing to them the same level of branding and marketing usually reserved for big companies. Together with my business partner Norm Shearer and the other 48 people at Cactus continue this commitment today. And we believe that we can do meaningful work that makes a huge impact for all sorts of great brands in the private, public and non-profit sectors.

    Over the past 23 years, we have had the honor of working with 78 cause-related organizations. Most of the work was pro bono, some of it was heavily discounted and even some of it was paid work with big media budgets. But all of it meant more than a job to us. It meant that we were bringing the power of branding, marketing smarts, creative solutions and world-class production to non-profit organizations, government agencies and foundations. This work has included a diverse range of issues, including sustainability, environmental, public health, tobacco cessation, mental health, obesity, housing, employment training, violence prevention, substance abuse, health screening and prevention, human services, fine arts, culture and outdoor recreation.

    I am proud to work in an industry where creative agencies of all sizes and types contribute thousands of staff hours and millions of dollars in pro bono services every year. Our industry has enormous power because of our ability to solve any problem through innovation, ideation and creativity. And I’m happy to see more and more agencies talk boldly about doing work that makes the world better rather than worse.

    The most famous example is creative icon Alex Bogusky, who after moving to Boulder and leaving CBP, publicly renounced the sins of his past and made a commitment to get to get back creating positive change in the world. Alex has a huge following and a loud voice and I was really glad to see him use it that way. It surely inspired even more creative agencies to do the same. The important thing to remember is that we all have the power to influence society, in either direction.

    The reason I started to do some soul searching on this topic was because of a recent invitation I received from AD2, the young leaders of the Ad Club of Denver. They asked me to give a talk about the value of public service work in the creative community and a behind-the-scenes look at the Man Therapy campaign. The event is a fundraiser to support AD2’s public service campaign for this year’s non-profit partner, We Don’t Waste, an organization that works to ensure that good, quality food from restaurants and caterers does not go to waste. The event is $20, which includes free food and craft beer from our friends at the Odell Brewery. The event is Thursday, December 5 at 6 p.m. at Thrive in Cherry Creek. Please RSVP for the event at http://adclubdenver.com/ad2-public-service.

    Keep up the good work.

Rocket Fuel