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Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Before I get to the AD OF THE WEEK/MONTH/WHATEVER, I need to get something off my chest about the box office gorilla, Titanic.

If you think I'm going to bore you with the myth :they could have fit on the door but Rose just wouldn’t share," then think again. It's been proven (somehow) that they could not fit. I mean Jack tried to get on the door and it started to sink because they were too heavy. Pretty much that's the end of that discussion.

Any pictures of those grandkids? Nope!
What I wanted rail on is that when Rose dies at the end of the movie, she goes to that shiny Titanic in the heavens and meets Jack at the top of the staircase. How furious do you thing Rose's husband is while he waits for her at the Pearly Gates?

I mean, this lady has a wild, one-night stand with Jack and she's going to meet him at the end of her long, selfish life?

Did everyone forget that she was married and had a bunch of kids with this husband?

Did the writers forget?

She was married for decades for goodness sakes! To a good man it seemed. A man that Rose was using so she could ride horses, jump in planes, and pose for boudoir pictures.

Rose shouldn't be going to see Jack on that fresh shiny staircase. She should be going to see her husband. And right there you realize that Rose DeWitt Bukater might be the most selfish character in the history of film.

Let's draw the line even further. Kate Winslet's Young Rose was someone I would have loved to hang with in a post-Prohibition USA. Filled with moxie, highly educated, and quite adventurous. I imagine her to be quite the wingwoman as well.

It's Gloria Stuart's Old Rose that I take issue with here.

Old Rose is the villain you missed the first time you watched!
Old Rose set the stage with helping us forget. In the last few minutes of the movie, we see all of those pictures on Old Rose’s night table. Are they pictures of her family? Maybe a wedding pic? How about those cute grandkids Jack foretold as he was getting ready to die in that freezing water?

Nope. Just her. And what about that necklace.

Yeah, I get that your douchebag fiancé gave you that Heart of the Ocean necklace (aka Le Cœur de la Mer) and even though he's dead now, you really want to keep sticking it to him by throwing it overboard, but for goodness sakes, that Louis XVI diamond is worth $250 million.

Maybe it's just me that had to scrub toilets to pay a bar tab in 1990 when my original wingwoman went home with my date and my wallets, but $250 million is a truckload of cash. Oh Old Rose. Think about all of the people you could have helped by selling that gem off at Sotheby's and creating the Old Rose DeWitt Bukater Foundation. Maybe, just maybe, chucking a priceless necklace off the side of the search boat is a bit irrational.

Did I say priceless? What I meant was two hundred million dollars! Which brings us why you where asked to come aboard Mr. Lovett's private funded ship in the first place...

No, it was because of your emotional voice-cracking Titanic testimonials. The sole reason you were invited by Mr. Lovett was that he found out that scandalous drawing of a lady wearing the Heart of the Ocean was you.

Yes, he happily invited you aboard his boat, and why not? His life's work was spent studying the Titanic and developing the needed technology to explore the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and find this precious gem. Surely you knew this going in Old Rose, didn't you?

Now that I've gotten that off my chest...

"Gorilla" - 1970
Company: American Tourister
Ad agency: DDB/Doyle Dane Bernbach

DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach) specialized in self-effacing styled advertisements in the late 1960s / early 1970s. The geniuses at this firm brought this style to America Tourister, mocking nearly all aspects of the consumer culture.

Before the "Gorilla" spot, DDB put the American Tourister through the rigors of life, showcasing the product's resistance to accidents, clumsiness, and malicious intent. The long running campaign provided ample real estate to render more realistic instances of a consumer's life. People ran over American Touristers in cars and were dropped from airplanes. DDB took full aim at the beloved advertising icons of yesteryear, lampooning the compliant porter, the admiring butler and the Philip Morris bellboy.

The 30-second spot entirely of a gorilla (actually a man in a $20,000 ape suit) in a zoo cage, slamming an American Tourister suitcase against the bars, walls, and ceiling -- all while the stereotypical 1970s deep-voiced male voiceover calmly and sarcastically assured us that the product could withstand the beating without worry:

Dear clumsy bellboys,
brutal cab drivers,
careless doormen,
ruthless porters, 
savage baggage masters,
and all butter-fingered luggage handlers all over the world
have we got a suitcase for you

One could (and should credit) DDB for American Tourister's continued growth through the seventies. By the time the "Gorilla" commercial was winning awards, the company was one of the most popular manufacturers of mid-priced luggage in the United States. A general industry upswing in the 1970s helped the firm rise to a new peak in sales. Luggage owners replaced cases at a more rapid rate and leisure travel in general was on the rise. These trends and the company's entrance into the growing market for business cases helped the company achieve record sales.

The Gorillas of the Ad World

Bill Bernbach and Ned Doyle worked together at Grey Advertising in New York, where Bernbach was Creative Director. In 1949, they teamed up with Mac Dane, who was running a tiny agency, and together they started Doyle Dane Bernbach in Manhattan. Dane ran the administrative and promotional aspects of the business; Doyle had a client focus and Bernbach played an integral role in the writing of advertising, serving as the creative engine of the agency.

The agency's first ads were for Ohrbach's department store and they typified the new "soft-sell" approach using catchy slogans and witty humour in contrast to the repetition and hard-sell advertising that was in vogue until then. The new agency was initially successful in winning business for clients with small budgets. As of 2013, DDB has had the Volkswagen account since 1959. Their campaigns for Volkswagen throughout the 1950s and 1960s were said to have revolutionized advertising. Notable campaigns included the 1959 Think Small series of Volkswagen advertisements, which was voted the No. 1 campaign of all time in Advertising Age’s 1999 The Century of Advertising. In 1960, the agency won the account of Avis, then the number-two auto rental company. The tongue-in-cheek approach, "We Try Harder Because We're Number 2," was a major success (and remains part of the company's slogan today: "We Try Harder"). The DDB "Daisy" ad is considered a significant factor in Lyndon B. Johnson's defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election and landed Maxwell Dane on the infamous Nixon's Enemies List. 1972's Little Mikey commercial for Quaker Oats ran continuously in the U.S for twelve years.

A branch office was opened in Los Angeles in 1954. In 1961, DDB opened its first international office in West Germany to service Volkswagen. Significant growth came in the mid-sixties after the firm signed Mobil Oil and the available budgets grew materially. Offices in London and other European locations were opened. Bernbach was appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1968 when the agency was publicly listed; he became Chairman of the Executive Committee in 1976.

The impact of Doyle Dane Bernbach's creativity on advertising around the world, and the history of management crises that led to merger in 1986, are detailed in the book Nobody's Perfect: Bill Bernbach and the Golden Age of Advertising. Written by journalist Doris Willens, who served as DDB's Director of Public Relations for 18 years, the book is based on oral histories and interviews with the three founders, the line of the agency's presidents, and key creative and account people. By 1986, four years after Bernbach's death, the agency group had worldwide billings of USD $1.67B, 54 offices in 19 countries, and 3,400 employees, but showed profits declining 30% on the prior year.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Do's and Don'ts of Rejection

Before I get too deep, there's been a lot of crosstalk, emails, and text messages talk about the usage of "do's and don'ts"...I want to clarify this for all of the Grammar Nazis out there...:

"Dos and Don'ts" or "Do's and Don'ts"? The spelling of do's and don'ts is inconsistent.

Generally, you don't use apostrophes to make words or abbreviations plural (e.g., CDs, 1970s, books), but English has a few exceptions. For example, you can use apostrophes when they help eliminate confusion, which happens most often with single letters. Mind your p's and q's is the typical spelling, and we write that the word aardvark has 3 a's, not 3 as.

Dos and don'ts is an especially unusual exception. The apostrophe in the contraction doesn't seems to make people want to use an apostrophe to make do plural (do's and don'ts), but then to be consistent, you'd also have to use an apostrophe to make don't plural, which becomes downright ugly (do's and don't's).

Style guides and usage books don't agree.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style and others recommend dos and don'ts.
  • The Associated Press and others recommend do's and don'ts.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves recommends do's and don't's.
What Should You Do? Unless your editor wishes otherwise, if you write books, spell it dos and don'ts; and if you write for newspapers, magazines, or the Web, spell it do's and don'ts. If you're writing for yourself, spell it any way you want. Just be consistent.

Okay, so now that I sorted out the dos and don'ts of do's and don'ts*, where am I?

The day started like any other day.

-Wake up at 5:00 A.M. write and re-write my book.
-Revisit rewrites for the Japanese television show.
-Envision my real work day and map out meetings.
-Buy my lottery ticket.
-Drive 14 miles down the 101 freeway through Hollywood to work.
-Be a genius.

Same old, same old.

Little did I know the day would end with yours truly locked in a death dance with the worst form of evil this town has ever known.

The first sign of paranormal activity appeared around 2:00p. I had just reviewed the bottom end analytics on yet another incredible recruitment campaign when the temperature started going crazy in my office. One moment, the air was boiling hot and the next, it was colder than a Antartica spa.

The next sign was when one of our vendors popped in. Normally, I don’t mind these guys dropping by to say hello, but this woman comes in every few days. Fed up, I was about to ask her to cut back on the social calls when her eyes glazed over and her voice went flat. “I’m sorry, Michael. I’ve been selfish and your time is valuable.” And then she turned and left.

Drastic temperature changes in a Hollywood office? A considerate vendor? What the heck was going on?

The brown stuff really hit the fan when I came back from lunch and found the floor empty. As in, where the heck was everyone? And to make matters worse, the power had gone out and the emergency lights were on, casting a red hue over the entire office.

I moved carefully down the hall, searching for signs of life. That’s when a misty figure stepped out of the shadows. Her movements were stiff and unnatural. Then others appeared. More and more. They all looked vaguely familiar.

The woman stumbled over, her eyes deader than the future of non-cloud-based media. “Do you not remember me?” I shook my head and explained that I meet a lot of people in my line of work.

“I am the memory of the first client you ever dropped.”

That’s right!

Her name was Susan something or other. Her business didn’t produce a single competitive product during our year together so I was forced to drop her. And that’s when the other faces around me clicked into place. They were all former people I worked with!

There was no doubt about it. The office was haunted. But by what? It couldn’t just be bad memories. Then every marketing department would be the devil’s playpen. There had to be something else. Something bigger.

As the figures swarmed toward me, I made a run for it. Where the heck was my assistant? It’s her job to help in these kinds of situations!

I raced toward the far side of the office and found myself in the storage area. I had never been there before, and what I found made my blood run cold. Someone had stored all our unwanted designs in there. The room was packed, floor to ceiling, with rejected arts and floppy discs.

This explained everything. The floor was haunted by rejection!

Moving quickly, I found an old rag, doused it with turpentine, and set the whole mess on fire. As the pictures burned, I could hear the faces scream. Then the memories of former vendors and clients faded away and the floor came back to life.

Nightmare over.

The events of that drean still haunt me. And they left me pondering a heavy question: Is rejection evil or is it an act of kindness?

Happy Halloween!


* - Full Credit on the Dos and Don'ts goes to the Grammar Girl!

Monday, October 16, 2017

NSFW: At the Baghdad Cafe with Margrét, My New Favorite Amazon Model

Very little has shocked me like Volkswagen's “Luv Bug” commercial did this past week...

Basically, the spot goes something like this:
  • Over Dean Martin's brilliant rendition of "The Birds and the Bees," the ole "if it's a rockin' don't come knockin'" adage rolls through the first ten seconds, complete with foggy windows and a magnificent view of what appears to be the suburbs of Los Angeles.
  • A sweet-looking, midwestern type couple, baby in tow, appears at the dealership watching their beloved babymaking vehicle roll away with a bigger VW taking its place.
  • Cut to the woods with a voyeur owl looking on as the couple saves hotel money to go back to what [apparently] do best.
  • The next scene shows the couple with a new baby in hand and their now older daughter saying goodbye to their mobile motel, only to be replaced once again.
  • And one we go two more times, until the couple lands safely in a seven-seat Atlas VW... forget the recap, let's take a look:

As I was saying all that's needed to make this into a TV show is some nudity and some racy dialogue.  I mean basically VW is saying if you bang a lot in our cars without protection, we will be here with a vehicle to suit your needs. It was then, I actually felt a twinge of guilt feeling this way about this spot that is somehow (and surprisingly) wholesome.

Speaking of nudity, has it really been over two years since we caught up with Margrét, my "New Favorite Amazon Model"*?  Regular readers love the beautiful brash model whom I introduced in my most-read article of all time detailing my experience at a nude modeling class with a big, snakey twist.
Not so nude...also not so safe for work!
As of late, these same readers have been emailing me a lot asking if she's okay since I haven't posted a column about her lately. I am happy to report that Margrét is definitely okay. She's been the feature model in three European art gallery exhibits, went on a five-week spiritual trip to Tibet and Malaysia to find some inner peace, hiked to a plane crash site in the Andies, played a nagging ever-pregnant pilates wife in a straight-to-video NC-17 movie, went to Shanghai Disneyland and built a new bed from scratch. Whew, some would say that "okay" is an understatement.

Jeez, maybe I need to pen a premium cable television show about her and her experiences, which I guess I will get to as soon as my Media Guy script gets it's long-awaited greenlight to film its pilot's to dreaming once again!...yet I digress...

Okay, so where am I?

I'm meeting Margrét at the Baghdad Cafe in Newbury Springs, California just off I-40 about 15 minutes south of I-15. Let's not confuse this place with the Syria version that I hung out quite a bit from 2008 through 2010, nor should we harken back to the the short-lived Whoopi Goldberg/Jean Stapleton show that was obviously inspired by one of the two. What makes this typical dusty desert diner noteworthy is that it was at the forefront of a pretty crappy 1980s French/German movie and because of this, the place is a bona fide tourist spot among the Euro crowd. The walls are covered, floor to ceiling with signed headshots (including a nice one from Celine Dion), postcards, stickers, business cards, and just about anything you can imagine could be stuck on a wall.

Not Syria's version....
Honestly, I wouldn't have picked this spot to be the backdrop of any nude photo shoot, or any other for that matter, but Margrét cared to differ...

Margrét, My New Favorite Amazon Model: I'll agree the cafe is not really an ideal spot for nudes since there are a ton of people and kids hanging around. But next door there's a cool abandoned motel next door. For the right audience, this place is a real winner. Also, down the road are some incredible sand fields that are great for sunset shoot.

Media Guy: Sounds like you've got the right vision for what you want, but have you ever wanted something different?

MMNFAM: I always thought it would be über-cool to be one of those nomad gypsy-type models. So when one of my favorite French photographers invited me to come shoot some advance guard setups in Shanghai, I decided to make it a modeling roadie. I posted a casting call on Model Mayhem, and next thing you know, I have five days of shooting lined up at a rate quadruple to my US rates. Six months of pay in one work week.

MG: So just you on the road with your French photographer?

My sis agreed to come along with me, so we could to make it a real adventure and the hope was that having her there would deter the really freaky affluent amateur photographers

MG: Does it get freaky often?

MMNFAM: Not all my gigs are freaky, though. I actually do a few normal, “nice girl-type" jobs. You know, just to keep my nice-girl skills from rusting over. One night I worked a charity fundraiser wine-pouring event for this smoking hot Australian winemaker, who used to be a rugby star but retired to open a winery in the south of Portugal. Anyway, he only showed up for photos at the beginning of the event, and then delegated the job to his assistant, this adorable little Romanian hottie who took a liking to me. I offered to give him a ride back to his hotel after the event, because there were no taxis at the venue, and to thank me for my help he hooked me up with two cases of bad-ass high class Canadian wine that I flipped into suite tickets to a Katy Perry concert. SCORE!
Not this one either...

MG: Nothing freaky at nice girl events?

MMNFAM: More than what happens is who attends these nice girl events. I was a little nervous about pouring high class wine for all these cork-sniffers. After all, this is a well-known event they hold every year, and the Hamptons Society of Botoxed Frankenmatrons who come out to show off their new breasts, lips and foreheads while spilling their fancy-talk about decorating, wine, and new sculpture commissions while their husbands perv on all the model servers.

MG: Does this ever worry you?

MMNFAM: I didn't need to be worried. Everyone was so freaking wasted it was embarrassing. These dumb-ass poseur chippies would stumble up to my table with their wineglasses held out for a pour, and the Romanian hottie would start blathering about the notes of oak and flowers, and you could see these clueless socialites had zero idea what was being said — nor did they care, they just wanted to get wasted for free. Some kind of collagen-plumped power trip.

MG: But these good girl events sure must be better than doing convention center trade shows you once loathed.

MMNFAM: Very good memory! I always loathe the trade show. I worked one recently that wasn’t so bad because I was working with a girlfriend of mine who makes things fun. Pass along this note:
Dear Prospective Trade Show Clients: if you are looking to hire a model for your booth, please consider hiring two of us! I find that two models are waaaaaaaaaay more effective than one, because we can tag team these poor conventioneers on a $50 a day per diem and hustle them into signing up for your iPad drawing or whatever-the-hell grifter scheme you have going to generate leads. Yep, much MORE effective!
Anyway, the  best part about working these events is the corporate balderdash they have you parrot, to hypnotize in prospective leads. At this on I was told to say that “we” (and by “we,” I mean the client, not “me”) are a cloud-based project management solutions platform. Now, you tell me….what the hell is a “cloud-based project management solutions platform?

Yes, this one!
What’s really fascinating is that you would think that booth models who actually grasp what they’re saying would be the most effective, but, of course you’d be wrong. It doesn’t matter one bit if the model understands the first thing about cloud-based project management solutions platforms, or CBPMSPs, as long as she’s attractive, personable, and calls the guy by his name as seen on his name tag). Really, as long as she's hot, she can pretty much talk him into signing up for anything.

MG: I should assume you have seen this regularly...

MMNFAM: Oh yes, I’ve seen this firsthand all of the time! Take this Bulgarian model I was working with. First, you can be assured that she was hired without ever speaking with her. She was beautiful, super flirty and very aggressive. But her accent was so thick that I'm 99% certain that all of the guys she hustled in had no idea what was going on. They just did what she wanted, because she’s hot, persistent, and was wearing the clothing minimums. She could have been signing them up for chemical castration for all they knew. I really like working with her because she’s a lesson on how to do it right.

MG: And how is the payday?

MMNFAM: They do pay pretty well and I get to keep my clothes on. CBPMSPs aside, they can be fairly interesting every now and again. But I do have to tell you that I have a difficult time getting those gigs, because when it comes time to apply, I have very few “decent” photos I can submit, like a quality headshot. I mean a quality headshot can cost you $250 and I have to admit I pretty cheap.

MG: No headshots among your entire portfolio?

MMNFAM: I mean I have thousands of of photos, but in most of them I’m nude or wearing a some sort of Crusaders helmet or something. So, you know, I can’t use them to get nice girl work. So I can get some low hanging fruit work, I booked a session to get square shots. But good gawd, it’s so boring. I shot with my one of my favorite photographers last month for the sole purpose of getting a boring-ass headshot, but things escalated quickly. The next thing you know, I was doing gymnastics on the scaffolding wearing nothing but a Michael Myers mask. I just can’t seem to keep it together long enough to be normal.

MG: So what happens when you can't be normal?

MMNFAM: The easiest solution to this predicament is to dial up the unorthodox gigs. I did one where you are supposed to be in a snazzy furniture Beverly Hills showroom and the models replace the furniture. This was one of the most bizarre shoots I ever did. It was a thirty-minute video with no dialogue, great lighting, and I was just sitting there with nothing on holding a telephone and an office plant while standing in for a designer desk. Weird! I can’t believe I got paid to something like this....weird!


* Previous Margrét, My New Favorite Amazon Model Articles:

Introduction: Nude Modeling
Part Two: Catching up with Margrét, My New Favorite Amazon Model

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Little Closer to Hell...

You won't be seeing this guy on the Oscars Red Carpet anytime soon...
I'm watching another Hollywood career move to life support as Harvey Weinstein's atrocious behavior is coming to light with a never-ending barrage of A-listers leveling allegations of sexual harassment ever since The New York Times published their exposé.

I mean, when Oscar winners Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie start talking about you saying they are done keeping his secret now, because “women need to send a clear message that this is over” then rest assured, it's going to be over.

Yeah, this won't end well.

I have to say that I jumped on the anti-casting couch bandwagon over a year ago when I penned a column about "Casting Call, The Project," where real women read real casting notices. Maybe Weinstein should have read this...maybe he did and didn't care. Regardless, R.I.P. to Harvey Weinstein as a Hollywood mogul.

Speaking of dying careers, I hope Donna Karan is ready to see a dip in sales because her troublesome and downright idiotic opinions about the alleged serial sexual predator Harvey, you can expect women to stop buying DKNY fashions for the foreseeable future. The Daily Mail interviewed Karan on the CinéFashion Film Awards red carpet and said this:
"I think we have to look at ourselves. Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it’s been a hard time for women.
"To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?"
Did she really just suggest they were asking for it? But did she stop there? Not even close! I can only imagine the reporter’s concealed delight knowing that this interview had more crackpot gold in those mountains as Karan finished her red carpet tour de force with this nugget of wisdom:
"You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble."
Yeah, this won't end well either. So, not to be flip, but speaking of death...

...Okay, so where am I?

Seems I have spent a lot of my trips recently near or in cemeteries. On this trip to Poland, I have visited the death camps in Auschwitz and Majdanek and felt the immense pain of death of the people
The final feet of railroad that leads into Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
interned there. Going to Majdanek was a day of remembrance to those we, as a people, let perish through racism, ignorance, and indifference. Majdanek was a concentration and forced labor camp that evolved into a death camp. It opened in September 1941, initially for Soviet prisoners of war, and was liberated by the Soviet Army in July 1944. During this time approximately 360,000 victims died or were murdered, 120,000 of them Jews.

The inmates of comprised people of 54 nationalities from 28 different countries. They included Soviet prisoners of war and Jews from Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, France, Hungary, Belgium and Greece. In addition, many non-Jews from Belorussia, the Ukraine and across Poland were taken to the camp as political prisoners or slave laborers.

I see these atrocities up close and wonder how there can ever be resistance to giving support in any form to stop the genocides that are still occurring in our world. No amount of photos or thoughtful words can capture what I saw. Truly heartbroken.

The only thing that got me through this agony of all of this was the lunch I had a couple of months ago to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to see where Johnny Ramone is buried and saw the most bizarre thing: a cemetery jogger.

Running a few steps closer to hell...
One upon a time we respected the dead and didn't need a life manual to tell us to either. It just came naturally. Dying is the only thing we spend our lives preparing to do, so at least give credit to the time and effort dedicated to do it. Instead what you see at cemeteries now is pretty unsettling. If you believe in the concept of people spinning in their graves, one can only image the anger, commotion, and outrage going on six feet under.

I was paying my respects to Rudolph Valentino, the actor who played Larry Tate on Bewitched, and Peter Lorre when I was stunned to see a twentysomething year-old huffing and puffing down the cracked cement path that separates the grave sites. She passed me and then two other women in short-shorts who were power walking almost slamming to a man walking his three dogs.

Seriously? It's a cemetery for goodness sakes!

Also seen at the cemetery...ugh!
There's headstones and monuments and ghosts trying in earnest to rest in peace! This is hallowed ground and not your playground. Whenever I see a jogger sprinting through a cemetery, I secretly wish he was screaming as a dozen ghouls and zombies chase him down with a book of etiquette. I mean, how tone deaf can you be to think that your pursuit of fitness extends to desecrating sacred resting places with your exercise? I mean just because it's quiet and green, does it give you a pass to take over? What don't you lay out a picnic blanket over that fresh mound of dirt, set up a barbecue and cook a filet? Better yet, lay out your yoga mat and find your zen spot.

C'mon people, a little respect please...leave those souls in the ground some dignity and solitude. This isn't parking on Hollywood Boulevard. We don't need no jogging signs to point this out, do we? I mean there aren't signs in church that say no iPods in the sanctuary, but you know not to bring those things there.

Leave the dead their peace.

Stop vandalizing grave sites with your running shoe footprints which bring you a little closer to hell with each step.


Harvey Weinstein was personally thanked or praised by name in at least 34 Oscar speeches from 1993 through 2016...ugh!:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Getting Social at the Emmy Awards

Past Media Guy Oscars Emmy Columns: 2016 - 2015 - 2014

Okay, so where am I? 

I'm at the Microsoft Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles taking in the 69th Emmy Awards and trying to get one of those drinks loaded with bitters that Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel are sharing.

No luck.

Speaking of luck...last year I waxed poetic (very much tongue-in-cheek) about flirting with the Emmy statuette and her going with a hundred or so other writers, producers, actors, and actresses. This year was different. Sometimes you get lucky a second time.

Flirt no more...
This year also saw my return to the red carpet, and honestly the two best parts of my night was watching Lena Headey and Sophie Turner (both of Game of Thrones) scarf McDonald's fries and milk shakes on their way to the red carpet. At the end of the entertainment debauchery, it was a fantastic night for Hulu, which proved to be a late bloomer to the original scripted series game. Sunday, it became the first streaming service to win an Emmy for Best Series for The Handmaid's Tale, leapfrogging Netflix and Amazon.

Hat's off to the marketing folks at Hulu. Seriously, how much of the public do you think has seen The Handmaid’s Tale? Certainly the voters have (again a credit to Hulu marketers), but it goes into the category of the things that make you go "hmmmmmmmm." Does this show have 1/100th the audience penetration of This Is Us? At the end, it was a triumph for not-widely-viewed series, led by The Handmaid’s Tale and Black Mirror (Netflix). It was also a big night for Big Little Lies and Veep which held onto the best comedy series and best lead actress in a comedy series titles. Women broke that glass ceiling through with wins for Lena Waithe and Reed Morano (you'll have to look them up to know more, sorry. I didn't know who they were before last night). 

Back to the red carpet...whatever you think the carpet is like, think again. Here's a taste:

During the show, I decided to troll celebrity and celebrity-ish Twitter accounts looking for behind the scenes tidbits. I mean celebrities are people too. Right? Let's see:

Red Carpet Gallery
Maybe because there's no McDonald's north of the wall...
Nice that Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman stopped their PDAs long enough for a few pictures. 
Anna Chlumsky, robbed again.
Poor Justin Timberlake...
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys of The Americans. In my world, these two would win every year.
Yeah, I don't get this guy either.
Alec Baldwin. Genius. Pure.
Another win for Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The new Dream Team (if you don't know who these ladies are, watch more movies)
Just some serious eye contact with Reese Witherspoon is all...
This streak you have going is pretty, pretty, good!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Opera of Orgasms

Okay, so where am I?

I'm preparing for an other trip...and another surgery...yeah, getting old sucks. I'm also prepping for the Emmys on Sunday. I got a new lens to break in. You know I'll post pictures. Stephen Colbert is hosting...more political humor. Ugh! I'm thinking Louis Vuitton for the red carpet. Yeah, that's the ticket...yet I digress.

I bring up the traveling because it's a little known fact that I see a classical music performance or an opera in every country I visit that offers such a thing. In Europe, it seems every major city has a beautiful opera house. Ah, the Opera...a kid I remember it being something you were taught to avoid. It was a old school meant to be enjoyed by the stuffy, nose-up crowd in tuxedo tails and shiny shoes.  The opera was strictly for the high cultured. As I aged I learned to truly appreciate it because I get to use my slim knowledge of classical music and study up on the stories and the history of each type of performance.

Regardless of how well I've aged and how cultured I've become, the fact remains that it is still a difficult sell for younger audiences.

Swedish opera house Folkoperan knows this fact and decided to pick the easy path to try and reach Swedish millennials is to use the old advertising adage that "sex sells."

To promote the premiere of Puccini’s Turandot, Folkoperan and its agency crafted a commercial called “The Opera of Orgasms” that is devoid of words, just moans and groans and, well, orgasms.

So much for high culture...

If you are new to opera, the connection to sexual situations isn't a stretch by any means. Opera is peppered with fables spun from of unbridled yearning, retribution and heartrending losses. Elevating its more applicable qualities was invented yesterday either. Last year, the Paris Opera recruited Bret Easton Ellis to craft a modern version of “Figaro,” a story as contemporary and depraved as you can get without dolling our red-light district ticket prices.

Turandot is especially suitable for this kind of interpretation. First released in 1926, it narrates the tale of Prince Calaf who falls in love with the unemotional Princess Turandot. To gain permission to marry her, potential suitors have to solve three riddles; any wrong answer results in death. Yikes!

“We live in a society where we’re constantly encouraged to indulge life, but it’s often in very superficial ways,” says Mellika Melouani Melani, director and artistic director at Folkoperan. “In our interpretation of the opera, we want to pay tribute to the urge of desire and the total devotion that comes with it. In our film, the orgasm symbolizes this.”

In the commercial (the Folkoperan marketers call it a film), people in diverse—not necessarily glitzy—sexual circumstances express their apex to the tune of the Nessun Dorma aria. It’s a festival of unlimited longing, those moments when you’re so close to metaphorically falling off the cliff that things like environment, expectancy and social norms no longer carry any weight. And it exquisitely echoes the state Turandot’s admirers find themselves in, one in which the proximity of pleasure is so painful that nothing matters more than finding release, not even oblivion.

Now trust me, having an orgasm might actually be the closest you and I get to singing opera. Both are big physical experiences that release endorphins and oxytocin, but this piece just rings wrong with the current state of advertising. It’s over the top and getting ample amount of press but it’s done so well, it’s much too hard to be incredulous.

So what do I know?

I do know this—it's becoming all too easy for brands to use sexism as low-hanging fruit to go viral. Time after time, we rise to the bait, giving the brands exactly what they set out to achieve: Internet Fame.

On an almost daily basis, sexism in headlines, adverts and newspaper front pages is getting taken to task on Twitter. But, by tweeting about those brands and making them go viral, are we giving them exactly what they want?

As Oscar Wilde said "the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about". Brand managers are well aware of this," says Anthony Patterson, professor of marketing at Liverpool University. A "response — whether outrage or support — demonstrates that consumers are engaging with their brand."

Take the London's Daily Mail. On eve of Britain triggering Article 50 and officially entering Brexit negotiations, it was #LegsIt (not #Brexit) that topped the UK's Twitter trends. The newspaper's headline declaring "Forget about Brexit, who won Legs-it!" alongside a photograph of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and British Prime Minister Theresa May and a pain staking analysis of their legs, prompted the ire of thousands on social media.

A statement from a Daily Mail spokesperson (which began with "for goodness sake, get a life") only added fuel to the fire. "Sarah Vine's piece, which was flagged as light-hearted, was a side-bar alongside a serious political story." The Daily Mail wasn't sorry. And, why would they be? We, by venting our outrage on Twitter at their "light-hearted" sexism, made #LegsIt the most talked-about story of the day.

Long story short: Women shouldn't be roadkill in a brand's race to get viral fame. Brands, it's time to get your act together and find another way to get internet fame.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

You Can Lead A Horse to Water...

Okay, so where am I?

Sistine Chapel: God creates Adam
I'm at the Vatican and anyone in the advertising game will tell you that this is probably the last place you want to be potentially facing the wrath of God for all of your past sins stretching the truth and checking the Federal Trade Commission manual to make sure your spot doesn't mislead consumers. Anyway, that's a story for another day, but seriously, the Vatican, especially standing at the entrance/exit of St. Peter's Basilica in the August/September with the sun reflecting off the limestone is no place to be without a bottle of cold water.

The Vatican Museums: Heed the Advice
Yet, there I was, baking in the sun as the Pope waxed poetic in Latin over the loudspeakers and my tour guide going on endlessly about how lucky we were it was a Wednesday and everyone is watching the Pope and we had early access to the Raphael Rooms, Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican itself. Meanwhile, all I could think about was my brain NOT exploding from the heat and when I could make a beeline for an eight Euro bottle of water with gas.

Blah blah blah, alright already...I need some water! Speaking of water, it's become quite an industry, right? Give a nod if you remember water. You know, regular classic water where you turned open the knob and lifted the level to the very top? It was refreshing, divine, perfect; the ultimate drink that you enjoyed for pennies a glass. Now, water as we once knew it is dead swallowed by our obsession for what's next...our mistaken ideal that everything could always be improved upon.

Water is now bottled water, spring water, artisan water, antioxidant water, flavored water, carbonated water, fizzy water, water with gas, flat water...jeez, I sound like a thirsty "Bubba" Benjamin Buford Blue...

Gustave Leven, Super Genius
All of these waters are simply capitalistic spins on original water with consumers in their sights because companies know that the gullible will drink it up. There are three things that should never cost money: sunshine, air, and water. Now you go into a fancy restaurant and they ask you if you want sparkling or flat water. If you ask for regular water, the server's face grows into a passive aggressive sneer with a complimentary warning that it will come from the tap! Seems "free" is not really an option anymore.

Now one of the trendy waters is Norway's artisan water Voss, you know that cylindrical bottle with the silver top? Well guess what? Norwegian television has reported that Voss has the very same sources as tap water from a municipal source, contrary from it's snooty marketing and big price.

Many people think the designer trend started with Evian, which ironically is naive spelled backwards. But really, who convinced us that water should or could be sparkling you ask? Well I have the answer...

Meet Gustave Leven. He had a bold idea: Convince Americans that they wanted to drink Perrier, aka “Earth’s First Soft Drink.”

In the 1970s, you can imagine that Americans weren’t so open-minded about opening their wallets for water, instead openly laughing at paying astronomical markups for a liquid that flows freely, and usually safely, from their home taps.

That all began to change sometime in seventies, with a nutty idea from a Frenchman who peddled fizzy water in green glass bowling pin-shaped bottles. His company was Perrier, and its carefully constructed, impeccably timed advertisements paved the way for one of the greatest marketing scams this side of Barnum and Bailey.

Perrier’s campaign created a massive new market for the American beverage industry, and it still serves as a playbook for how to convince people to pay for water. At the same time, it does not fully account for what remains an even greater mystery: the enduring appeal of bottled water.

Whether they choose fizzy Perrier, flat Poland Spring, or a different label, Americans are guzzling more bottled water than ever before. And in an era defined by speed and convenience, they show no signs of slowing down.

Perrier’s American transformation began with television ads in the spring of 1977. They were straightforward, but eye-catching and ear-catching. The company spent somewhere between $2.5 million and $5 million on the groundbreaking campaign.

“More quenching, more refreshing, and a mixer par excellence,” intoned the rich baritone of Orson Welles in a Perrier advertisement dated 1979, as a bubbling stream cascaded from a green bottle and swirled into a clear goblet.

“Naturally sparkling, from the center of the earth,” the actor continued. He wrapped up the ad with a single word, the “r”’s perfectly French: “Perrier.”

Perrier’s advertising was selling a specific message, and it targeted a specific population: well-to-do baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, as they entered adulthood. It sought to assure them that those who partook of Perrier’s sparkling waters were sophisticated, classy, and conscientious. It conferred, in a word, status.

So capsulizes the story of Gustave Leven, Marketing Genius.

What seems abundantly clear, however, is that the powers of marketing are as limitless as the water we drink and the air we breathe. Last year, Vitality Air, a Canadian company started offering “fresh air,” in three and eight-liter bottles.

“Remember the day when people laughed off bottled water?” the company explains on its website. “The truth is we’ve begun to appreciate the clean, pure and refreshing taste of quality water.”

“Air,” it says, “is going the same way.”