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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hail the Public Relations King of the Middle East

Okay, so where am I?

No I'm not on vacation—more on that later—right now, I'm hunkered down, barricade-style, on a mission to finalize my Clio submission.

Yes, it's awards season in the ad world and fresh off my Telly Award wins (hate to brag, well, no, it's nice to be able to...), I felt it was time to try to add to my collection of Clio Awards from my work in the 1980s and 1990s (yikes, I must be old!). I did some really nice work this year in Japan, Hollywood and the Middle East. The entire submission process to even be considered for a Clio isn't easy. Last year I found this whimsical little article by Xanthe Wellson on How to Win a Clio Award: 10 things I learned as an award judge. Since I didn't use a sumo wrestler (which isn't so simple to exclude when you work in Tokyo) in my ads, I just may have a shot at another golden statue.

My guesstimate is that I'm asked how to get a leg up in the media world about ten times a month. While I offer my baseline advice ...
  1. Go to school, 
  2. Work for free in one of the great agencies and, 
  3. Be either unique or great (hopefully both) ...

... the first thing I want to say is look up hall of fame art director George Lois. "Who is this Lois Guy?" you ask. Only one of the greatest art directors the advertising industry has ever seen and is said to be the inspiration for the character of Don Draper—a charge he denies with Draper-like passion. He is probably best known for over 92 (yes, ninety-two!) covers he designed for Esquire magazine from 1962 to 1972. However, his signature work for MTV, VH1, ESPN, Tommy Hilfiger and USA Today validated his proclamation that advertising is an art and not a science. AND, he's a Clio Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Time Magazine once gushed, "The first step in selling is stopping the eye. No one has mastered that rule as well as George Love. For Esquire, the media renaissance man concocted a fresh style for magazine covers - smart, fun, funny, and visually fluent. He has married the outrageous to the fantastic." Zip on over to the master's website to read the insights and commentary on his Esquire covers.

The ironic part of the Clio process is that in order to win an award for your :30 second commercial, you might have to create a mini documentary to pimp you entry. This is actually more work than the creative you are submitting your work for...after this I may need a vacation.

One of the Clio Awards in my office.
Speaking of vacations, it turns out you might want to take more of them if you're angling for a promotion. The conventional wisdom says that you should work, work, work and work some more in order to secure that precious promotion; vacations are for the weak and the unworthy-of-promotion! But new research indicates that the opposite might be true. As it turns out, bosses actually recognize that all work and no play makes for unhappy, unproductive workers. Just make sure you get permission first—going AWOL is a recipe to get fired, not promoted.

Vacations, Part II
In the not so distant past, my tourism work netted a would-be $5 million dollar contract with the Syria Department of Tourism. Yeah, I know when you are saying: There are two words that do not belong in the same sentence: Syria and Tourism. That turned out to be true, because as soon as the ink was dry, civil war broke out and the contract evaporated in the abyss known as Isis. But in 2010, I was the PR King of the Middle East. I convinced The New York Times to pop Damascus into their 31 Places to Go in 2010 as their #7 selection. Read this and hail the king:
7. Damascus
The next Marrakesh? Perhaps mindful of the way that renovations of historic roads have drawn upscale travelers to Marrakesh, Damascus hoteliers are trying to mine tourism gold in the rundown buildings of the Syrian capital’s Old City. These 18th-century homes — many with inviting courtyards and rooftop terraces — are now boutique hotels, like the nine-room Old Vine ( and the Hanania (, which doubles as a hotel and a small museum.
A Meaty Story
If you're stuck at the keyboard with writer's block, nothing helps more than a great burger. Every ad man knows that. Benjamin Wallace penned the Story of the Hamburger and its rise from a lowly patty of chopped meat to the aristocracy of foods; its charismatic and delicious descendants; the arguments it inspires­ — over ethics and blends and tastes; and Silicon Valley’s attempt to replace it with a meat that is not meat at all. Make sure to read it if the words aren't flowing in the screen...

Shia LaBeouf Believes In You
After this psycho pep talk, you'll just want to DO IT!


The Most Obscene Billboard Ever

Costa Rican drivers are getting an eyeful when they pass this billboard for Republica Parrillera Pilsner beer. Looking at the front of the billboard, nothing seems amiss. But when viewed from behind … well, yeah, that does look like a giant penis, doesn't it?

As always with such placements, there's debate over whether this was intentional or a mistake. Proponents of the former say it's brilliant marketing, as drivers who approach the ad from the back are probably fairly likely to check out the front of the ad as they pass—behavior that precious few billboards provoke. Those who think it's a mistake can't fathom the kind of balls it would take to put a giant phallic symbol on a billboard.