Insurance or entertainment?

In the beginning we didn’t set out to create an entertainment brand. We set out to use humor to sell direct-to-consumer car insurance. But by staying true to our brand strategy and our brand voice, over time, instead of a distraction, Geico ads became a destination. Here’s a recent screenshot from Geico’s YouTube Channel. AsContinue reading “Insurance or entertainment?”

Maybe I’m feeling blue.

Obviously, I’m not a singer of songs. But every so often I’ll send one that I’ve written to a real musician to get his thoughts. On this one, the person simply said, “Man, you’ve gone through some tough breakups.” Haven’t we all? So to all the broken hearted people living in this world, I dedicateContinue reading “Maybe I’m feeling blue.”

Nobody knows anything.

I love this quote from William Goldman who, among other great screenplays, wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He was referring to Hollywood studios and executives who try to predict the next blockbuster. But nobody knows anything for sure. Not the studios. Not the screenwriters. Not the directors. Not the investors. They make theirContinue reading “Nobody knows anything.”

The bravery of long-term branding.

It’s easy to get caught up in the next ad campaign, the next competitive onslaught, the next agency shoot-out because fourth-quarter sales were off by half a percentage point. It’s harder to look at a brand as a journey, a journey that if the brand and the agency have done their jobs bravely, the brandContinue reading “The bravery of long-term branding.”

The Robin Hood of Savings.

Here’s a story about my first job interview. After months of sending out resumes to agencies from New York to LA and getting rejection letters from agencies from New York to LA, I finally got an interview with a small agency in Florida. They were looking for a junior copywriter. Perfect. They didn’t come anyContinue reading “The Robin Hood of Savings.”

Advertising needs you…

…more than you need advertising. This is my shortest blog so far. It is also the most important. The most powerful advertising doesn’t come from our brains. It comes from our lives. Our life experiences, our beliefs, our truths. Or, more accurately, from your life experiences, your beliefs, your truths. And if advertising ever neededContinue reading “Advertising needs you…”

Curse of the Flying Monkeys.

Once upon a time there was a young creative director who promised his client the best commercial ever made. Instead, the young creative director delivered the worst commercial ever made. His arrogance and his ignorance were his downfall. The end. This would be an excellent place for me to end my story, especially for me.Continue reading “Curse of the Flying Monkeys.”

Are you a (expletive deleted) idiot?

My first job in advertising was working in the Communications Department of an electric utility. I was the client. One of the best agencies in the southeast worked on our business. My boss, the Communications Director, tasked the agency with creating an ad campaign that would prepare the utility’s customers for higher electric bills duringContinue reading “Are you a (expletive deleted) idiot?”

Storytelling in advertising.

According to one Stanford study, using stories to communicate facts is 22 times more effective than using facts alone. If you’ve ever taken a history test, this makes perfect sense. Sure, you can memorize a list of people, places, and dates the night before the test. But it’s the stories surrounding the facts that you’llContinue reading “Storytelling in advertising.”

Is this the best the ad could be?

This is not a trick question. I really want your opinion. And there is no right or wrong answer. Here’s the backstory. During my career, I got to work with some of the best art directors in advertising. They saw things I didn’t. They asked the tough questions. When I started to back off aContinue reading “Is this the best the ad could be?”

A lesson from Lee Clow.

When I joined Chiat-Day in the late ’80s it was a place where anything felt possible. Four years earlier, Chiat-Day had created Apple’s 1984 ad. Directed by Ridley Scott, it changed forever how people watch the Super Bowl. Today, brands spend millions of dollars a minute to make the first Sunday in February as muchContinue reading “A lesson from Lee Clow.”

How not to build an airplane.

Two summers before I got my first job making ads I got my first job building airplanes. My dad was an aircraft engineer for Lockheed. His amazing career spanned more than 40 years. He got me a summer job as a riveter on C-130 wheel pods. What’s a C-130? It’s a four-engine turboprop military transportContinue reading “How not to build an airplane.”

Too lazy to write a resume.

At a certain point in your career, you’ve either accomplished a few things or you haven’t. Hopefully some of my work speaks for itself. Other than that, moving forward, I guess I’ll just have to depend on my rugged good looks. (Okay, you’re right. I’m in big trouble.) The truth is, I’m too lazy toContinue reading “Too lazy to write a resume.”

How would Geico do it?

Testimonial advertising has been around almost as long as advertising has been around. Usually it follows one of two formulas. One, hire celebrities to endorse your product. (Entertaining, but does anybody believe they actually use the product?) Two, hire real people to endorse your product. (Often awkward and not entertaining, but their stories come fromContinue reading “How would Geico do it?”

Where do ideas come from?

Answer: From anywhere and everywhere, and often when you least expect it. Here’s one example. A writer and art director are working together on a new savings campaign for Geico. It’s late at night at the agency. Everybody else has gone home. The creative team is stuck. Really stuck. They have a few ideas, butContinue reading “Where do ideas come from?”

Inspiration is not your friend.

The creative presentation is Thursday and it’s already Tuesday night. I have no ideas, or at least no ideas worth sharing with another human being. Yes, I have a few scribbles on a piece of paper. Half-baked ideas, ideas that have nothing to do with the client’s problem, ideas that are all style, no substance.Continue reading “Inspiration is not your friend.”

Always Be Crafting. (Apologies to David Mamet.)

ABC. Always Be Crafting. From the moment you come up with the idea to the moment it appears on air on in social media, craft is what separates the good from the great. God isn’t in the details. You are. And so is every other person who touches your idea. And if there are peopleContinue reading “Always Be Crafting. (Apologies to David Mamet.)”

The man who wrote The Yellow Pages.

Years and years before you were born, there was a book called The Yellow Pages. Once a year It was delivered free to every household in America. The book listed all of the local businesses in each city and town. The more that people used The Yellow Pages, the more the client could charge forContinue reading “The man who wrote The Yellow Pages.”

How I got into advertising.

One of my therapists once told me that each of us makes up stories about our lives. We take moments–happy, painful, and otherwise–and try to connect them with narrative threads. Live is chaotic, unpredictable, random. The stories we make up aren’t reality. There is no cause and effect. But the stories are real to usContinue reading “How I got into advertising.”