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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Travel: airberlin to Germany

Okay, so where am I?

Have you ever been in the middle of a fairly tale?

Where can you plan a trip that could indulge you in ways you never thought is possible?

There’s a place on earth that has created controversies at its highest level in history, yet oozes uniqueness in its recent transformation to a young city with free spirit.

It’s Germany, a country that has navigated future away from the past and lifted its consciousness to a worldly attraction. Sometimes, it’s easy to pigeonhole a country, tying it a bleak existence that was once a reviled nation. That reality is about as far in the rearview as a land can be these days.

Brandenburg Gate: The Berlin Wall once stood in front.
Germany is lush with some of the world’s hidden gem cities. Many should never be missed. Berlin, Düsseldorf, Wiesbaden, and Schwangau.

Although we know Germany was rebuilt with a brilliant combination of efficiency, innovation, and intelligence, it seemed to have risen from the ashes as if by magic. No wonder why Walt Disney’s Imagineering mind brought the splendor of Schwangau’s Neuschwanstein Castle back to Southern California as the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” The place has that magic (more on that later…).

Before you do experience any of this, you need to get there. If you’re anything like the Media Guy, you’ll agree that flying anywhere these days is quite the drag. One of the most important parts of your travel planning is picking the right airline. After trying it out, I have to tell you that airberlin’s business class service from Los Angeles to Düsseldorf is the essential element to getting there with style and hospitality.

Whether you are on a business trip or planning for a holiday getaway to Germany, flying airberlin sets the stage for a fantastic adventure. Germany's tourism numbers are up for the sixth year in a row. As one of the 480 million visitors to the county every year, you have plenty of options to get you there and it just so happens that airberlin is my new fave.

Why is that you ask?

Simply, business class on airberlin is an unbeatable journey as one of the most refreshing and rewarding times you can have thousands of feet in air. Once you reach a certain point in your life, the mad airport scramble is simply unacceptable. That’s one thing we really liked about airberlin: the smooth efficiency you would expect from a German airline is evident. Gate check-in, personal ushering from the business class lounge to the gate, timely boarding, and then addressing you by name in your seat—all nice touches.

During the almost 11-hour flight, there were cocktails, fluffy pillows, designer toiletries and, of course, the thing you want the most in business class, seats that recline all the way. If you’ve never indulged, once you push that recline button and keep it down until you are fully extended, you’ll finally understood why that extra cash is worth it.

A pod built for comfort and work...
Want more? Here are some of my top reasons to splurge:

  1. You can work: I’m note sure about you, but carrying around designer headphones can get pricey and that’s not to mention the risk of loss or breakage. In airberlin’s business class cabin, every seat comes with a lush pair of headphones that immerses you in a vast selection of tunes that range from classical to rock to popular. Your seat, or should I say, space, puts the business in business class. There’s an abundance of legroom for any working position, a Swiss army-type table with shelves, pockets, charging stations for your tablet, smartphone, and laptop. 
  2. Three-Course Fine Dining: Business class meals are a far cry from the foil-covered trays you get in economy class. We’re talking a three-course gourmet meal with a chilled vorspeise (appetizer), salad, a choice of three entrees, a dessert/cheese course and the aforementioned wine service. And as if that weren’t fancy enough, there’s even metal cutlery, actual china, real glasses, and white tablecloth service.
  3. Wunderkind: We all know flying wrecks mayhem on our appearance. For all us beauty-obsessed travelers, the airberlin business class ticket comes with a lovely black 'culture and hygiene' bag containing high-end Wunderkind accessories. The chic kits include: Wunderkind lip balm and facial moisturizer, plush sleeping mask, toothbrush and socks. Yep, my bag still goes with me on every trip.
  4. Real Dreams: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve resorted to a sleeping pill to get through a flight. Turns out, a fluffy pillow, eye mask, the best airline slippers ever (yes, I still wear mine around the house) and a fully articulating 180-degree flatbed seat go a long way to get some rest in after finishing that deadline project and a fine meal.
  5. Dreamy Wines: An hour into our flight, I was swaddled in a lush blanket watching a Bill Murray movie with gratis luxury headphones, with a bowlful of fine nuts at my fingertips. To say I was in the clouds and not worried about the seven projects due before landing was an understatement. But then the wine menu came around. Did I want the 2016 Kaapzicht Cuvee Anna White or the 2014 Chateau de Capitoul Syrah Grenache Charles Mock? Uhm, both please! Right about then is when I started fantasizing that the flight would never end.
  6. The Ultimate Vacation: When I’m on a flight, I want 100% relaxation time. The unwinding time that business class travel gives is just what I needed to get me away from my daily non-stop energy push. To unwind is to reboot my system so my creative work and responsibilities operate at maximum speed. On our flight, I was given a “Caribbean getaway” right from my seat. With my headphones plugged into therapeutic music, I felt my wings filling with air, flying to that state of mind where nothing existed but ultimate vacation time. The quiet and friendly atmosphere translated to a spirit of luxury service. Inside, I was awakened to a delightful bite and a romantic voice preparing me for the landing. I could not believe how fast time passed and how incredible I felt preparing for a journey of a lifetime.

So, as they say on board, “Angenehmen Aufenthalt an Bord! (Have a pleasant flight!)”

Business Class Menu

Vorspeise / Appetizer

Fresh Garden Salad with Parmesan Shavings
Crôutons and Balsamic Dressing

Wild Mushroom Terrine with a delicate Quinoa Gemüsesalat
Salad and Dijon Mustard Sauce

Nordic Midsummer Salmon with a fine
Honey-Mustard Dressing and a Latvian Potato Salad

Heißes Gericht zur Auswahl / Your Choice of Hot Dish

Chicken Breast in a creamy Pepper Sauce with
Mustard flavoured Mashed Potates and creamed Leeks

Slow cooked Beef with Rosemary Jus, Polenta,
Ratatouille and Edamame Beans

Fillet of Cod in fine Tarragon Sauce on black
Beluga Lentil with and yellow and red Carrot Cubes

Nachtisch / Dessert

Cappachino Mascarpone Tart

Semi-hard Cheese with Raspberry-Mustard Crust
And Dofino Cream Cheese

Lindt Chocolates!
Awesome Slippers (See #4).
Wunderkind (see #3).
Dreamy Wines (see #5)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

KELLOGG'S: You Should Have Called The Media Guy!

Surfing around Amazon today and I came across an oldie but a goodie written by yours truly: European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970, in the Australian National Gallery Hardcover – 1992. Yeah, you can buy the book on Amazon but the $1800 price tag might scare you aware from this out-of-print beauty.

In a related story, there's no truth to the rumor that the book has gold-tipped pages. It's just hard to find these days. Yet, I digress...

Okay, so where am I?

I'm on a bit of a retreat as I search my soul to find a handful of Big Ideas for some upcoming campaigns. It's a lovely property with butler service, 24-hour gourmet room service, sounds of the ocean from my lanai, and a pond with huge lily pads. It's the perfect mix of civilization and nature that inspired the right blend of inspiration and meditation to spark the creative juices.

A goo place to start the creative process is to look at what's out there. The more I scrape the bottom of the creative barrel, the older I know I am. I mean, I feel like I'm the only guy that watches television commercials anymore, but based on the soaring budgets for these spots and the cost to do media buys, the more I know it's simply a myth that commercials don't work. They do, and when you get a solid spot with a decent media plan, the word spreads fast.

So there I am flipping through shows and maybe the worst example yet of awful, New Age “femvertising” pops up in the form of a Special K commercial...take a peek:

“Women? We eat. We don’t doubt it. We own it.”

Wait, whaaaaaat? As a reformed misogynist, every time I see a spot like this I feel like I'm reverting to my old Mel Gibson What Women Want ways and needing a good hair dryer zap to fully get me in tune with advertising geared at women.

So there I was watching this commercial saying "who in the holy hell is writing these inane commercials" while looking for a pencil to jab into my eye so I could stop the pain of ingesting these kinds of ads. Any wouldn't you know it, there wasn't a pencil to be found to end the suffering.

If you don't think I'm a man of simple tastes and pleasures ask me what the highlight of my last vacations was...


Still waiting...

A properly-filled scantron was the first step towards an A test!
Give up? Well, I checked into beautiful European hotel and boy they don't skimp on the super neat amenities. In my room, sitting atop the note pads on a Resolute Desk replica were elegant golden pencils. New pencils. Erasers unused with lead at a fine point. My memory drifted back to a noisy fourth grade classroom as I searched for the fresh scent of new pencil shavings as the formed a mini mountain underneath the manual sharpener.

Memories moved to the odd lectures from mostly well-intended teachers urging you to fill the circles completely on your scantron in order to receive proper credit for all of your guesses answers. Remember your teachers reminding you to use your mighty yellow Ticonderoga pencils with the ever-important number two lead? I sure do! Begrudgingly tolerated the of the mechanical pencil.

Try and find a pencil at home or in your office these days. Impossible! What ever happened to the noble pencil?

Most of this monster was started with a pencil...
History romanticizes the quill pen. It begrudgingly tolerated the unnatural abomination of the mechanical pencil. It resigned itself to the mass production of Bic's ballpoint. And all the while, the pencil was there being taken for granted and waiting for nostalgia to sweep it back into relevance.

Yeah, we are still waiting and waiting for that to happen.

It wasn't pens that beggars sold from their tin cups during the Great Depression, it was pencils. The world greatest sketches and poetry arose from lead points. Even the art of pencil sharpening was a way to both take a break during a difficult quiz and simultaneous show off to your classmates as you shaved the wood head with economical strokes that told your world you were a true craftsman.

All of this was during my time when cursive writing wasn't banned in school and pencilmanship was still a grade that counted towards your elementary GPA. It was a time when the US Postal Service bustled with snail speed to deliver the letters we wrote on fine linen stock. I digress yet again.

At the end, I called several of my female friends, imploring them to watch the Special K commercial with me on youtube and the general consensus was that the spot was terrible and they were searching for pencils too.

The moral of the story? The marketing execs at Kellogg's or even the ad men at Leo Burnett (the agency that handles Special K) should have called the Media Guy to write their "We Own It" spot. I guarantee you I would have crushed it, Clio-style or worked for free.

Looking back though, I thank America's apathy for the pencil for saving my left eye as I searched for that Big Idea today!



Check out this fun story about a professional pencil sharpener with Mo Rocca of CBS Sunday Morning:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Finding the Perfect Media Guy House...

LA is a gentle line of homes without a city // 
You see some summers when a row of properties burn like a sacrifice above the desert //
Moreover it's more really the slow sleepy whip of driven-by Starbucks in strip malls //
It's a petro haze // 
A lowrise watercolor forever outshone by its projections // 
Various ghost cinema selves destined to be always banished by the sunshine // 
And you can shoot great in this light but you can never watch it back here // 
But I don't want the meaning exaggerated like that // 
Just my memories of once longer mornings, garden decades, clubhouses and garages // 
Forever permanent childhood Saturdays //


Okay, so where am I?

I might be on the search for the perfect home. I need something eclectic, yet futuristic. Something that can host some killer media parties and where return visits are sought. I was looking at something futuristic, yet not ridiculous.

There's a ton of wildly fun homes in the Greater Los Angeles area. If you're waiting for the future, no need. Thus kind of architecture was already dreamed up in the in middle of the twentieth century. As a mater of fact, space age architectural design was essentially invented in L.A. We were given the Theme Building at LAX, Johnie’s Coffee Shop, and whimsical homes that would make the Jetsons proud.

Join me on my tour around SoCal and the genius of the land...all I need now is a realtor like Phil Dunphy.

Architect: John Lautner

When the 45-degree slope in the Hollywood Hills proved to be too challenging, a new concept was born. Rest an octagonal-shaped wonder on a 30-foot-tall pole. Getting to the front door is not problem. Simply take the funicular to ring the bell. You would think that this would be the safest home around until you discover that the home’s second owner was stabbed to death during a robbery attempt.

Garcia House
Architect: John Lautner

Another Lautner Hollywood Hills creation rests on what looks to be thin legs. The ceiling-to-floor walls makes the views of the city nothing short of spectacular. Movie buffs like me will remind you that Mel Gibson destroys this house in Lethal Weapon 2 after a bunch of South African diplomats kill his new girlfriend.

Futuro House
Architect: Matti Suurone

This masterpiece was conceived as a pre-fabricated portable ski chalet. The house is mosty made of plastic with stairs that fold out from the entry hatch. You know, like the the Millennium Falcon. Less than 100 were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s with only 50-60 still remaining. This one sits literally next door to the Chemosphere. Han Solo would be proud to retire here.

Al Struckus House
Architect: Bruce Goff

Situated in the San Fernando Valley's bedroom community of Woodland Hills, this hippie New Age home is built out of repurposed wood. The house is said to have an energy that gives an aura off that makes you feel like you are in a world without atmospheric friction.

Bubble House
Architect: Wallace Neff

Some of the original inexpensive housing were the bubble houses, circa 1940s. They were by inflating a giant balloon and then covering it with spray-on concrete. I'm not kidding here. Overseas, they were grouped together in a cluster as you would imagine a Martian colony would look like. This one resides in Pasadena, California, home to the Rose Bowl.

Bob Hope House
Architect: John Lautner

Bob Hope’s Palm Springs home, aka the “UFO House”, was created in 1973 to be reminiscent of volcano with a circular opening in the courtyard roof. If anything, it looks like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind with the mothership touching down on Planet Earth.

The only truly acceptable place for a UFO house is on top of the cinder core of a dead volcano in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Designed by Harold Bissner Jr. for the guy who patented the original skateboard, the 1968 home (near Barstow) is tricked out with a moat and rooftop observation deck. Oh, yeah, and for a number of years, it was owned by Huell Howser—precious Huell Howser—who eventually donated it to Chapman University.

Volcano House
Architect: Harold Bissner Jr.

In 1968, the guy who patented the skateboard decided to built a UFO house on the top of dead volcano in the heart of the Mojave Desert. It even has a moat and rooftop observation deck.

Elrod House
Architect: John Lautner

Designed by John Lautner, the official king of spaceship homes, this Palm Springs treasure was featured in the James Bond classic Diamonds Are Forever. See it in high def below.

See the Houses in Action:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How Learning How to Put on a Bra Can Solve Road Rage...

Okay, so where am I?

I just pulled off an impressive haul at the 38th Telly Awards. I'm stuck in traffic on the 101 Freeway near Hollywood, watching the world swirl around me in a rage (more on that later). One good thing about traffic is that you get a lot of chance to think.

Who wore it better...yeah, Adele did...
I've been to 38 states and spent considerable amount of time in 18 different countries. I've lived on the west coast and the east coast. I've spent upwards of 1,000 days in the Middle East. Having seen the world through different eyes, this expanded living has immensely helped me in my career as an ad man.

"Why is that?" you ask...

...simply you have to live to understand.

Understand the people.

Understand the micro-cultures that exists in pockets of the globe.

You have to get stuck in a traffic jam there. Eat there. Deal with the weather there. You have to deal with a crisis. You have to build a rapport with the people there. Understanding is the key to great advertising, marketing and public relations.

Through all of these experiences you begin to see the differences beyond the stereotypes and the superficial reporting of the media. You see how united we are and how divided we are. But the power of culture is an overwhelming attribute that many mid-level media types miss when researching a new project or campaign.

Yet I digress in traffic as people yell at one another, salute with their middle finger, and slam their cars into each other while texting.

Can we calm America’s road rage? Seriously we all need to take a deep breath. Road rage is frightening. Sometimes it’s deadly. It's where flaring tempers mix with two-ton machines and continues to be a problem on America’s highways, leading to accidents, assaults and occasionally even murder.

It’s a perplexing problem in part because it can happen at anytime and anywhere that roads and vehicles are involved, yet specific statistics on its frequency are hard to come by.

All that aside, though, there are solutions that can at least reduce the number of road-rage incidents. People who are easily angered by slower drivers, detours and other traffic disruptions can be taught to be more aware of their responses and modify them to reduce accident risks, according to research published by the Society for Risk Analysis.

That let’s-calm-down approach is applauded by Scott Morofsky, author of the books “The Daily Breath: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time” and “Wellativity: In-Powering Wellness Through Communication."

“Sometimes there’s this tendency to throw on the brakes when someone is tailgating us, or use an obscene gesture at an aggressive driver,” says Morofsky, who developed the concept of Wellativity, which helps people address any behavior that inhibits wellness.

“But when you encounter an aggressive driver, you don’t want to engage them or do anything to further agitate them.”

What are some of our behaviors that can aggravate other drivers? The No. 1 culprit is drivers who are texting, according to the Expedia Road Rage Report. Those texting drivers upset 26 per cent of us. Other offenders, in descending order, are tailgaters, left-lane hogs, slow drivers and drivers multi-tasking.

Of course, those examples represent situations that can raise your ire after you are behind the wheel. Often, the foundation for fury on the highway was laid before you got into the car. Maybe you had an argument with someone earlier. Maybe you are stressed because you are running late for an appointment.

“Probably all of us at some time have been angry and someone wisely told us to take a deep breath,” Morofsky says. “That’s actually good advice because breathing and taking in oxygen plays an important role in every area of our health and well-being.”

He offers these tips for heading off your own road rage or avoiding the rage of others:

  • Don’t turn that ignition. If you are feeling stressed and anxious before you even start your trip, then the time to calm down is now, not after you are on the highway. Get a grip before you start the car, Morofsky says. Take that deep breath you always heard would work. You might even try counting from one to 10, inhaling on one, exhaling on two, up to 10 and back to one again. “You want to be relaxed before you head out,” he says.
  • Stop right there. If you are already driving, and you feel your anger is starting to impact your judgment, pull over for a few moments. “Breathe and ask yourself, is my problem important enough to risk lives?” he says. “Taking a few conscious breaths could prevent a catastrophe.”
  • Don’t react or retaliate. You can’t control those other drivers, but you can control how you react to them. If someone is tailgating you, flipped you off or is just infuriating you with bad driving habits, ignore them, Morofsky says. Engaging in some sort of road-rage argument will just further raise your blood pressure, and could prove dangerous in some circumstances. This is just one more opportunity to take that deep breath, he says.

"How to Put on a Bra"

There's been a lot of talk recently about hacking, spy work and the like. I remember back in the day working on an intimate line of clothing and trying to push the envelope on the commercials I wanted to make. Alas, could not get my cutting edge ideas to air. I stumbled on this clip recently and whenever the road idiots get in my way, I imagine them being one of these keystone cop types against this brilliant atomic blonde.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cutting Corners, and Lackthereof

Everything starts with denial.

"I don't need my glasses."
"I’m not gaining weight."
"I’m not slowing down."
"I’m not out of shape."

But I was.

All of it!

The 1920s penny scale in the entry way and the notches on my belt didn't lie. Those bastards have crystal balls. So about a year ago, I decided to face facts and make some changes.

The ad game is a lonely expedition.
Now I’m lighter and back into jeans that aren't rapper baggy. I’m downward dogging through yoga classes. And I’ve got energy to spare. I feel pretty good about this, but I keep remembering how much I disliked it all and how long it's taking An entire year of my life to get within shouting distance of getting back in shape.

You see, I’m the kind of (media) guy who wants results immediately. I mean, who doesn’t? Well, there are some people who don’t, but they’re about as intelligent as a bag of bricks and I don’t like folks like that. I'm all about getting things done.

But over the years, I’ve grown to understand that speed is not always practical or possible. As a purveyor of all things marketing, I adjust my expectations when I start advertising campaigns because I know every campaign isn't an award winner or designed to make the phone ring off the hook. Sometime, it’s a longer process. So instead of expecting things to go through the roof, I’m satisfied with brand extension -- campaigns designed to maintaining the good work and gaining good feedback. These is the work that builds the foundation and eventually leads to campaign greatness.

My desire to create genius ads like this...
Every now and then, you hear about an ad (wo)man who graduated from college and six months later rose up to director status at one of those big agencies landing account after account. Well, that person is the exception, not the rule. The majority of us serve in the trenches for years before they catch that big break.

There’s no instant gratification in the ad game.

The key here, for both Media Guy and client, is to recognize that results take time. You can’t have one without the other. If you don’t agree, you’re a walking contradiction, and that path leads to failure.

One of my issues with the powerhouse companies that get featured in Adweek and AdAge week after week is that most of them don’t know how to develop campaigns. Those ad guy sign clients and from day one, they use their big budgets to overwhelm consumers with commercial after commercial, massive social media pushes, and favored induced earned media. That’s called swinging for the fences, and it’s a bad idea because the competition is fierce and the odds are stacked against you. Sure, the clients are excited by those opportunities because they feel like they’re cutting the line, but after a year of flat sales, the powerhouse agency will probably create an internal conflict and leverage it into landing a competitor, leaving them with little to show except a stack of inane commercial spots that may or may not have resonated with new customers.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to take your time—creating guerrilla and micro campaigns that that lead to bigger ones, carefully building your circle of engagement, working toward a successful annual strategy built on a foundation of hard-earned wins?

...led to creation of this masterpiece. PERSEVERANCE!
There’s no cutting the line in this industry. Not to get all Tony Robbins on you, but I genuinely believe you must fall in love with the process. That means embracing the bumps in the road.

It’s knowing that every campaign that doesn't send metrics completely through the roof is giving you valuable experience.

It's the perseverance to lead a diversified campaign and not put all your eggs in one basket.

It’s realizing that resting on yesterday's success won't give you the resources you need to book your business class seats for that Italian vacation.

Embrace the journey, not just the end of the road.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Idea

In the beginning of advertising, it was all about The Idea.

The goal was to be talked about, from the playground to the bar. To be a cultural icon. Viral before viral was viral.

The goal now? I have no idea. We’re not talking about commercials, jingles, and magazine ads anymore. They aren’t about us.

A long time ago, the goal of advertising was to connect.

Now it’s numbers. Adtech. Data. Internet. Machines.

Why? Because ads are created and clicked on and measured by machines. Engagement is an algorithm, not a feeling.

Where did the message go?

When did the users become less important than the technology?

For all the clever metaphors you’ll ever come up with, for all the phrases and images, the formatting breakthroughs, the clever taglines, and everything else… nothing will pack more career-building punch for a copywriter… than mastering the art of coming up with “big ideas.”

By no coincidence, that alone could take you a lifetime of writing.

Great copywriter and originator of the “big idea” idea himself, David Ogilvy, once claimed that he came up with only about 20 so-called “big ideas” in his entire career. And yet, that was enough to more than create his fame and fortune.

So what does a “big idea” look like? I’ve seen many try to define it.

Here’s one more list of filters to add to your collection…

If you want to realize your dreams, you gotta believe.
Big Ideas Have Instant Appeal:

Have you ever had a ‘gut’ feeling about a person? Have you ever asked a long-married couple when they decided to get married, only to find out they ‘just knew’ after just meeting each other?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Blink,” calls it ‘thin-slicing.’ And it’s what we do, naturally, whenever we encounter something new.

Your target audience will do it too. Which is why you have ZERO luxury for trying to convey a complex idea in that very first instant your copy flashes them in the face.

They’ll “thin-slice” you, as a reflex.

They’ll compress all their judgment about whether to read on into that moment. If you don’t manage to win them over, in milliseconds, say hello to the trashcan.

So, the Big Idea is an idea that can be sorted, absorbed, and understood instantaneously. Which is why cleverness and complexity in advertising can be so dangerous for even the most skilled of copy wordsmiths.

Big Ideas are Tightly Expressed:

Just because an idea has impact, doesn’t mean it has to be dense. In fact, the opposite is the idea. The more insightful the idea, the tighter you can usually sum it up.

And you should aim to do exactly that. Preferably in 8 words or less. And as early as possible, so that your reader knows as soon as possible what you’re getting at.

Big Ideas Have Momentum:

Gladwell has another more famous book that I’m sure you’ve read, “The Tipping Point.” He starts off talking about a suede shoe.

It was big in the ’70s, and then disappeared. Suddenly, over 20 years later, it came back with a vengeance. First, on the hip street corners of Manhattan’s East Village. Then across town… uptown… then to young and artsy areas in cities across the U.S. Why?

Nobody, even the shoemaker, could tell.

Only that an idea started to build. It spread. By the time everyone noticed, it suddenly petered out again. It was too late. The trend had come and gone, elusive to all who’d tried to do anything but hang on for the ride.

Ideas are like that.

They catch on, they build, and then, just when you least expect it, they can recede out of popularity again. The best marketer is plugged in enough to see the swell of the wave coming, before it crests.

Big Ideas Are Timely:

Related to the idea of momentum is the timeliness of an idea, especially when you’re selling information products. How so?

I write almost exclusively, these days, for financial products. My best promos tend to hinge on what’s happening in the markets.

For example, when oil sold at $147 per barrel, anything I wrote about oil and energy related investment products was almost a sure bet to do well.

In the mid 1990s, the market’s mind was elsewhere. You couldn’t say anything about investing without talking about the Internet, telecoms, or biotech.

When that market crashed in 2000, the tide of desire had shifted over night. Trying to write tech pitches suddenly became about as tough as talking a tabby into taking a dip in a hot tub.

Of course, the greatest asset you get by finding the timeliest ideas is that timeliness brings with a sense of urgency to your message. Maybe as a warning. Maybe as an unfolding opportunity.

But either way, you’re much better off when you’ve got that element to whatever you’re writing.

Big Ideas Are Original:

Ideas feel biggest when you’re among the first to deliver the message. When you’re playing catch up to everyone else, not so much.

Even an idea that’s already current, already popular, and already talked about… gains new life when you can make it even more ‘new,’ simply by finding the extra twist.

This is why headlines built on “secrets” are so effective. We naturally want to read the story nobody else is telling.

The new angle… the new information… the overlooked discovery… there are many ways to do this. All of them, almost always, are buried in the unique details of the story you’re telling.

Big Ideas Have Depth:

Yep, I said that ideas need to be simply and clearly expressed. But can you have clarity and substance, even in a short line?

Absolutely, you can.

When we say that Big Ideas need “depth” what we mean is richness and life-altering impact. Ask yourself; does the Idea suggest major change ahead? Is it something that will shock, awaken, or fascinate your reader?

If not, why would the reader want to read on? And why would you want to get the success of that letter… or your business… on something that thin?

Big Ideas Are Emotionally Stirring:

Too often, we mistake the preponderance of proof behind an Idea as all the “Bigness” we need for selling.

With smugness, we script any old headline, knowing it’s just a set up to hit the reader with blazing, double guns of the most rock-solid bullet points and factoids you’ve ever seen.

Sure, proofs matter in persuasion.

But, in the end, the one thing that makes one Big Idea compelling beyond any other, is it’s ability to sneak behind that locked door of the mind, where the emotional reasoning resides.

It must make a connection with that core, unspoken, and perhaps unrecognized place where the reader’s heart really resides.

Are there other ways to know if you’ve got your mitts on a “big idea” or not? Absolutely, there are. But this is a pretty good start. Try putting your next piece of copy through these paces and see for yourself.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Great Ads Come From Old Typewriters and Unibomber-style Hoodies...

Okay, so where am I?

Yesterday's email from the Telly Awards letting me know that I am now an 11-time winner launched a quickie celebration until the very next email reminded me of the pending deadlines I have on a handful of  projects, each demanding their own slice of greatness.


Just great.

Where to begin?

So now I'm hunkered down Unibomber style with a hoodie on covering my forehead, face barely visible as I chug caffeine trying try to craft that unicorn of a big idea I drone on about endlessly.

It's been a process on my old 1940's typewriter as I pound out rotten idea after crummy thought after regrettable copy. Yeah, the creative process can be drag, but usually it all works out at the 11th hour. I love to work alone in the middle of the day, blinds closed with a stray light somewhere near and talk radio blabbing on about everything and nothing at the same time. When I work in a team, I tend to drive people a bit insane. I talk and talk a lot once I grab the floor of the conversation, filibuster-style, never relenting long enough without recapping a life of dreams, with just the right blend of decades-old agency stories and ex-wife nightmares. Or so I think at the time. This is, after all, my strong suit. I love to lecture about our moral responsibilities in advertising.

Sometimes being alone allows me just the right space to find the right mix of genius and tact necessary to deliver a winning campaigns.

One thing I've discovered is that the first step to creativity is knowing how to ask the right questions; and it doesn’t have to happen on a hilltop while meditating in Zen mode during deep Buddhist chanting while birds chirp the rhythm of your future jingle.

No...creativity comes out when you need a solution -- and none of the old solutions work. That’s when you get imaginative.

A Harvard Business Review article on creative thinking says it this way:

...Imagine ways out of the fix you’re in by imagining that the circumstances blocking your progress are being lifted one by one. This produces different versions of the challenge. One of these new hypothetical versions may well resemble a type of problem that you have solved in the past. Your mind will then fire out a whole new set of solutions, one or more of which may work. If the solution you select for the new version of the challenge is untypical for the original version, it can certainly qualify as a creative solution to the new one...

It’s like dreaming. One of the theories about why we dream states that we dream to prepare ourselves for things that maaaaaaaaybe, just maybe, will happen to us. This exercise in creativity goes the same way: by reimagining our situation to appear a tiny bit different, maybe we’ll see an out -- or an in -- that we couldn’t imagine before. You know, goof old fashioned mental magnet flipping.

When I'm stuck I pull out the typewriter and churn out lyrics from the Rolling Stones or The Dave Clark Five. It gets the melodies flowing in my head and the creative flows a bit better. Another motivational tool is looking at classic ads to reveal the brilliance and spark new thinking.

I stumbled across “Madman,” a Nike running classic from 1990. The mind can only remember so much, so when I see this ad, I can't but marvel at it's everything. The photography, the copywriting, the's one of the seminal pieces of advertising craft.

It's perfectly crafted with an economy of words that somehow has always driven my core feeling that less is more and more is less:

Mothers, there a mad man running in the streets,
And he’s humming a tune,
And he’s snarling at dogs,
And he still has four more miles to go.
Just do it.

Click to enlarge
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
Art Director: David Jenkins
Copywriter: Jerry Cronin
Photography: Arthur Meyerson
First Published: Runner’s World, January 1990