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Category Archives: Creativity
Leaving on a jet plane.
Who knows why couples divorce? Obviously, there are as many reasons as there are couples. If Dr. Phil doesn’t have the answers, I certainly don’t. Nevertheless, after 25 years of marriage, my mom and dad decided to call it quits. What led up to the divorce? My dad had been commuting from LA to AtlantaContinue reading “Leaving on a jet plane.”
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?”
We’ve all had them. Those love/hate relationships we can’t live with and we can’t live without. For me, one of those relationships has always been with the wind. Sure, the wind and I have had our good times. Flying kites together. Watching wind farms. Going sailing. I still don’t understand how the wind moves aContinue reading “The Nor’easter.”
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.”
Below the blue line.
I’m standing in the middle of a large, white room. On all four walls of the room is a blue line exactly a third of the way up from the floor. The line is actually blue masking tape. It is level and perfectly straight. Below the blue line is a curious mixture of visual referencesContinue reading “Below the blue line.”
What’s in my wallet.
Like you, I carry an assortment of cards in my wallet. Let’s do a little archeological excavation. The cards I pull out of my wallet the most are, of course, my credit cards. I imagine you do the same. However, in our defense, with the exception of muggers, our digital world can’t seem to beContinue reading “What’s in my wallet.”
Indulge me if you will in one of my meditation exercises. You’re standing on the edge of a green field. It’s a spring day. The breeze is gentle. The sun on your face is warm. Above you white clouds float effortlessly across a deep, azure sky. In the distance an occasional birdsong welcomes you in.Continue reading “Go play.”
Best Friends Forever. It’s somebody who is always there for you no matter what. They often understand you better than you understand yourself. They share your most intimate secrets, triumphs, and fears. A BFF is somebody you may not talk to for months or even years. But the moment you reach out, you pick upContinue reading “My BFF.”
The Ghost of Christmas Future
When I moved from Virginia to New Jersey one of the things I needed to do was find a new doctor. Dr. Klassett in Richmond had been my doctor since I was in my early 40’s. So when I went searching for a doctor in New Jersey, I had to fill out all new paperwork.Continue reading “The Ghost of Christmas Future”
When I was 15 I got a work permit so I could get a job at Ogletree’s IGA. IGA stands for Independent Grocers Alliance. You find IGA’s in mostly smaller towns, and unlike the big grocery chains they are almost all locally-owned. Mr. Ogletree owned the grocery store in Sandy Springs where I went toContinue reading “IGA”
The P 5 1/2.
In the About section of my blog you’ll learn a little bit more about me including the awards I have won. But none of them, not even the Cannes Grand Prix, compare to The P 5 1/2. Neel Williams and Justin Harris, two of my creative heroes at The Martin Agency, captured the moment onContinue reading “The P 5 1/2.”
Why I write.
When I was in the fifth grade, my English teacher gave the class an assignment. Read a short story and write a one-page paper on it. The next thing I did goes against every molecule in my body. I raised my hand. I asked the teacher, instead of reading a short story could I writeContinue reading “Why I write.”
Two love songs written 50 years apart.
Let me make it perfectly clear. I am not a musician. But I do like writing songs. If I were to start a band I would call it GBV. Garage Band Virgins. Not only can I barely sing or play, I know only the rudiments of how to record on Garage Band. The two songsContinue reading “Two love songs written 50 years apart.”
My Martin Minute.
In 2006 I had an idea to promote The Martin Agency. Each employee would produce a one-minute video and talk about what made Martin special to them. To get the ball rolling a young, talented assistant producer and I created three sample videos. She directed, shot, and edited them. For various reasons, the idea neverContinue reading “My Martin Minute.”
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.”
I’m not a car guy.
For someone who worked on Nissan, Mercedes, and pitched the Honda account, this is probably not the most re-assuring headline I could write. But even though I’m not a car guy, there were four car moments in my life that gave me at least a glimpse into why car guys (and any other genders) areContinue reading “I’m not a car guy.”
My conspiracy theory.
I don’t watch the news on TV anymore. I get it fed to me online. I have no idea where my newsfeeds come from. They just appear out of thin air on my iPhone seemingly at their own convenience and pleasure. When I used to watch the news on TV, I always watched NBC NightlyContinue reading “My conspiracy theory.”
Before Elon Musk and Tesla there was Steve Bassett and Pivot. Both cars had supply chain problems, but there was one big difference. Pivot wasn’t real. The backstory. One of our clients wanted to promote their new Supply Chain Maximization or SCM. (Does that roll off the tongue, or what?) I did some research andContinue reading “Introducing Pivot.”
You can’t say penis on TV.
This is a story about Mike Henry and the short time I was privileged to work with him at The Martin Agency. For a brief time out of college Mike worked as an account executive at our agency. Meaning no insult to either Mike or Account Executives, Mike looked and acted like an AE. HeContinue reading “You can’t say penis on TV.”
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.”
This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions? Remember that ad? Any guess as to when it was done? Try 1987. I don’t remember my own ads from 1987. But that PSA for Partnership for a Drug-Free America was and still is part of the American lexicon. Talk about simplicity. Talk aboutContinue reading “A PSA.”
An ad for Elizabeth.
In an earlier blog I said the best thing in my college portfolio was a talking baked bean. Why a talking baked bean? Because the only thing I could draw with any accuracy was an oval. Draw an oval. Add stick legs and stick arms. Add eyes and a mouth. Color the oval brown. AndContinue reading “An ad for Elizabeth.”
Who’s your favorite artist?
It could be a painter, a composer, a filmmaker, or anybody else whose creativity changed the way we see ourselves and our world. It is someone who connected the dots in a way that had never been connected before. And because they did, they elevated their particular art form to a new level, a levelContinue reading “Who’s your favorite artist?”
Google made the woman I love cry.
This is Fari when she was 17 in Tehran. Two of the many things I love about Fari are her empathy and tender heart. She cries easily. And when she cries she gets a headache. And when she gets a headache it turns into a migraine. And when it turns into a migraine she suffersContinue reading “Google made the woman I love cry.”
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.”
Interview the past.
When people ask me about my earliest memory, I tell them it goes back to 1903. Since I was born in 1949, either dementia has set in or I’m hiding a DeLorean in my garage. Let me suggest a third option. Long before she died I asked my grandmother about her earliest memory. She couldn’tContinue reading “Interview the past.”
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?”
The first tiny house.
Is this Method Acting or Pissed Off Acting? From where I’m sitting, behind the director, it’s hard to tell. We have crammed our two actors into a five-foot-high set built on a Hollywood soundstage. The house looks like a real house, only tinier. And the director keeps asking for one more take. In the spot,Continue reading “The first tiny house.”
Oh, the places you’ll go.
In advertising, you don’t just sit in a room and think up stuff. Once you’ve thunk it up you have to go out into the world and make it. Over the years I’ve helicoptered onto a glacier to film snowboarders weaving downhill on virgin powder. I flew to Prague to film fashion models create beautifulContinue reading “Oh, the places you’ll go.”
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.”
A brief history of storytelling.
42,000 B.C. 2020
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.”
The elevator pitch.
In 2004 people were just starting to buy things like books and music online. Geico asked, can we make it just as easy for people to buy car insurance? That was basically the creative brief: geico.com makes shopping for car insurance easy. An important sidebar here. I love when a creative brief is this single-mindedContinue reading “The elevator pitch.”
What’s on your screen saver?
Here’s what’s on mine. Meet Ross, Kate, and Elizabeth Bassett. When people ask me how I was able to survive such a long career in advertising, I show them my computer screen. It occurred to me, I’m kind of like the Navy pilot in Top Gun. You know, the one who had a picture ofContinue reading “What’s on your screen saver?”
You can’t skip this ad.
Remember when you couldn’t skip ads on YouTube? You came for videos of cats playing the piano or dads falling off of stuff. What you got was a 15-second pre-roll commercial that was usually just a cut-down of a TV ad you’d seen dozens of times before. The brilliant creative team working on the projectContinue reading “You can’t skip this ad.”
The Gecko writes a book.
Several years ago, Workman Publishing came to us about publishing a book written by the Gecko. We checked with the Gecko. He said he had never written a book before, and he was reluctant to take on the project. He made a lot of excuses, but what it really came down to was his armsContinue reading “The Gecko writes a book.”
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.”
It rained all morning when we started shooting. Now it’s just after lunch and the sun is coming out. The morning scenes aren’t going to match the afternoon ones. We’re going to have to put up huge scrims to minimize the harsh, noon shadows. This will take the production company an hour to set up.Continue reading “Stunt possum.”
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?”
In the land of dreams.
My favorite move is Chinatown. It’s a 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston. It was directed by Roman Polanski. One of my heroes, Robert Towne, wrote the screenplay. The film was inspired by the California Water Wars. It depicts Los Angeles in 1937, a small city built on the edge ofContinue reading “In the land of dreams.”
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.”
Connecting the dots.
As humans, connecting the dots is a survival mechanism. We each look for patterns in life that bring order to the randomness of existence. What we have seen in the past helps us predict what we will see in the future. Connecting the dots protects us from harm and chaos. Exhibit A #1. A campfire.Continue reading “Connecting the dots.”
How not to shoot a gun.
It’s 1956. My mom and dad just bought a brand new Chevrolet Bel Air. We are taking a road trip! My parents, my younger brother, and I are driving from Los Angeles, California, to Decatur, Illinois, to visit my dad’s family. The distance to Decatur is 1,941 miles. Our road trip is what you mightContinue reading “How not to shoot a gun.”
The director yells, “Cut!”
“He needs to stand higher on his legs. Can you get him to stand higher?” asks the director. “And we need him more in profile. He’s facing the camera too much.” We’re on a closed-off road in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. We have rented the road for the day. We have rented a stuntContinue reading “The director yells, “Cut!””
My Blue Period.
Like Picasso and van Gogh, I too had a Blue Period. It usually occurred during my two divorces. Is there anything more pitiful, more blue than a man drinking alone at a bar? How about a man drinking alone at a bar and taking pictures of it? Here are just a few works from myContinue reading “My Blue Period.”
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.”
The power to unsell.
There’s a picture on my iPhone I can’t stand to look at. So whenever I know I’m about to see it, I scroll past it as fast as I can. Like a man walking through a graveyard late at night, this is no time or place to linger. It’s a photo of my dad duringContinue reading “The power to unsell.”