Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 11.38.13 AM



For your viewing convenience, I’ve gathered nine of the finalists in the One Show Interactive awards.




Leo Burnett, Sydney

“Small World Machines.”


“The Ugly Truth” (truth has to be one of the best clients in the world.)


Australian Bureau of Statistics

Leo Burnett, Sydney

“Run That Town”


Lincoln Motor Corporation

Hudson Rouge

“Hello Again” (Incredible production values)


Easy Way Language Center


“Easy Way Subtitles” (No sound, but not sure if it’s supposed to have no sound.)


Sunshine City Corporation


“Penguin NAVI” (No sound, but 35 seconds in you get the concept. Very cool.)


Oause Home Entertainment

Akestam Holst

“Stockholm Home Equalizer”


Hyundai Motor America


“Epic Play Date”



Hello Monday

“Into The Arctic”

Assigned reading.

Assigned reading.


“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

                                                  –Gustav Flaubert.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

I love that quotation.

I’d like to act all high and mighty and say, “What?! You haven’t read Flaubert?? Duuude!” But, the only Flaubert I’ve read is this one line. Still, it sure has stuck with me, because it’s such good advice. In fact, it’s good for anyone who fancies him or herself a creative.

If I may be allowed a wee generalization, we creative types are complete knuckleheads. Because the very thing that makes us slightly weird and left-of-center, also makes us procrastinators and  – hey look, a shiny object – distractible.

This is why I’ve been telling juniors for years “to temper your Irish with German.” (Another one of my favorite quotations).

Temper your Irish with German.

See, the Irish is the fun part, the party dude, the part that produces brilliance out of the clear blue. German? Well, I guess that’s the part that has some discipline and follows the rules. The German part fills out his time sheet so the Irish part can get paid and go out drinking.

But I digress.

So, today’s assignment is to go get this little book and inhale it. Its title sorta says it all: Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind.

Authors Jocelyn Glei and Scott Belsky have filled this book with cool chapters full of brilliant advice and titles like “Training Your Mind To Be Ready for Insight” and “How To Create Amidst Chaos.”

The chapters are short (perfect for us ADD’s) and the book isn’t but 240 pages long. I highly recommend it. There are tons of books out there about creativity (mine included) but very few address this issue of using discipline to sharpen one’s creative edge.

Alison Turner is one of our wonderful students here at SCAD in Savannah. Though she came here to study art direction or copywriting, she’s discovering a love of all things social-and-interactive along the way. Now even account planning is a possibility with Alison. She’s a delight to hang out with in the hallways of SCAD and, unbidden, she sent me this nice long e-mail with some good advice for students everywhere. Thanks, Alison. 

First starters, I want to say that I’m absolutely in love with this place [Razorfish]. The people are amazing, they actually let us interns dive head first into everything; and of course also help us along the way. The work done here is so cool, and they work hard to educate us about every aspect of the industry. Twice a week we have “Lunch and Learns” where someone from a different department talks about what their department does. So far we’ve had HR, User Experience, and Account Planning.

I just ordered my copy.

Today the founder of Razorfish, Bob Lord, came to the Chicago office and gave a speech. He and another top officer wrote a book recently called Converge. Bob Lord was here to share some “Cliff’s Notes Insights” as he called them. Here are the top five insights he gave us:

1. Put, and keep, the customer at the center. I quote, “Treat the customer journey as Gospel.” I know we do a lot of this at SCAD, but it’s a good reminder that sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of the customer experience, in exchange for flashy things (it is at least for me; can’t speak for anyone else). Razorfish puts a ton of focus on making sure the customer has an easy time navigating everything and that everything we create is useful an/or fun. “Always make sure it improves their lives in some way.”

2. Think of the brand as a Service. I love this. It’s a great way of thinking to make sure everything you do serves both the consumer and client. A great example is Special K . They took the “Special K Challenge’” a campaign from decades ago, and turned it into an entire weight management service.  And it’s free. Basically, the CEO was saying “Fulfill a real need.”

3. Reject silos. This was probably the best advice I heard and basically it’s the whole idea of understanding more than your individual specialty. You are made better at your own job by understanding the jobs of others. It’s good to be curious and understand more than your own little box.

4.Act like a startup. Basically here he just meant don’t forget to be agile and take risks

5. Embrace Diversity. This is the idea of being T-Shaped. This one is all about how you need to understand more than just copywriting or art direction to be successful in today’s world. SCAD does a great job helping us remember this.

The last thing I wanted to cover here is the Account Planning Lunch-and-Learn we had today. I know a lot of students are starting to express interest in account planning as SCAD, so I figured I’d add the tips a  senior account planner here gave us. The type of person that tends to get hired in this position seems to have these attributes:

Curious: They REALLY want to see that you are curious about all kinds of people and curious about the way people think.

Confident: They want you to KNOW what you want and to know your abilities, but don’t get cocky

Demonstrate a basic understanding of what account planning is (obviously):  They recommended tarting with Truth, Lies, and Advertising by Jon Steel. They said it’s the quintessential account planning book. Treat it like your career Bible.

Take a class: They’d love it if you’ve taken courses in it

Have a good understanding of people: They want to see that you have good people skills, and one of the most important they mentioned is the ability to work with creative people.

Have a perspective: They want to see that you have a perspective on things, but not a harsh one. Have an opinion.

Last but not least?

Your personality is your best weapon: They said, and I quote “The truth is, at some level pretty much everyone has the same education. Everyone has the same resumes. What we value most is who you are. We want to know you’re passionate and that you’d be fun to work with.” They care a lot about personality in that department.

Sorry about the novel length email. I just had a lot of interesting experiences lately and I wanted to share them.

–Allison Turner

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Thanks Alison: Here’s the intro copy of the book Converge taken from its amazon page.
The leaders of Razorfish share their strategies for merging marketing and IT.

To create rich, technologically enabled experiences, enterprises need close collaboration between marketing and IT. Converge explains how the merging of technology, media, and creativity is revolutionizing marketing and business strategy. The CEO and CTO of Razorfish, one of the world’s largest digital marketing agencies, give their unique perspective on how to thrive in this age of disruption. Convergeshares their first-hand experience working closely with global brands—including AXE, Intel, Samsung, and Kellogg—to solve business problems at the collision point between media, technology, and marketing.

With in-depth looks at cloud computing, data- and API-enabled creativity, ubiquitous computing, and more,Converge presents a roadmap to success.

  • Explains how to organize for innovation within your own organization by applying the principles of agile development across your business
  • Details how to create a religion around convergence, explaining how to tell the story throughout the organization
  • Outlines how to adapt processes to keep up with and take advantage of rapid technological change

A book by practitioners for practitioners, Converge is about rethinking business organizations for a new age and empowering your people to thrive in a brand, new world.

Here’s the thing. I went to a School School but now I teach at an Ad School. And it’s really different.

At School School, you study the books they assign you, do the homework they give you, take the tests they hand out in class. You’re checkin’ the boxes so you can make your parents proud and get good grades.

Good grades are fantastic if you want to be a certified public accountant or a lawyer. (Please, don’t be a lawyer.)

However, for those of you trying to get into the ad business (or any creative industry for that matter), let me assure you that no recruiter or CD will ever ask you what your GPA was. They will not care what school you attended, nor will they care if you even graduated. All that counts is your book. “Show me the work” comes before “Show me the money.”

But getting to a great ad portfolio is very different — and much harder — than getting great grades.  Mostly because there’s a single correct answer for any test question, one you can usually find written down somewhere in a book. A great portfolio, on the other hand, is a big hot mess of mind-roastingly cool ideas pulled out of the thin blue air and executed so well they raise the hair on an interviewer’s arms. But the main difference is this: the really great books are the ones filled not with problems someone solved, but problems they found.

Problem finding is way cooler than problem solving. Problem solving is easy. You just wait at your desk and after a while someone brings you a problem to solve. And even if it’s a hard problem, it still has an answer, maybe several, but there is an answer.

The thing about problem-solving in advertising? It’ll never take you to an entirely new place. And if you’re not doing something entirely new, well, it’s a little bit like this marvelously snarky news item from The Onion.


“LOUISVILLE, KY–With great fanfare Monday, Taco Bell unveiled the Grandito, an exciting new permutation of refried beans, ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and a corn tortilla. ‘You’ve never tasted Taco Bell’s five ingredients combined quite like this,’ Taco Bell CEO Walter Berenyi said. ‘With its ground beef on top of the cheese but under the beans, it’s configured unlike anything you’ve ever eaten at Taco Bell.’”

See? You’re just sorta reorganizing things, stuff we’ve all seen before. But problem finding?

Problem finding is about exploring a thing so thoroughly, digging so deep, and thinking so creatively, that you begin to see around corners, and start asking questions — usually really stupid questions – and finally you flip the game so hard on its head that instead of thinking outside the box you sell the goddamned box on eBay and reinvent the problem, opening a hidden door that leads to more doors that all open into new and interesting places.

Remember, there was no job order for, say, Halo, or iTunes. Nobody walked in anyone else’s office and said, “Damn, if only you could solve this problem.”

Back in school, yeah, we solved problems; we sought order and found it in the predictable corners of the isosceles triangle. But in ad school, we’re looking for solutions to problems we don’t even know we have. Think about it. What “problem” did Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band solve?  What problem did YouTube solve?

Where problem solving ends after you solve the problem, problem finding means you’re just gettin’ started. And these cool discoveries, almost all of them happen out of a sense of play, not work, but play; they come out of the clear blue; out of a “Hey what if we…”

This leads me to a piece of advice I see becoming more and more relevant: “Always be inventing.”

Inventing means making something new; which is basically problem finding in my book. Inventing things uncovers new problems because with each iteration of a new idea, we see what are called “adjacent possibilities,” the definition of which somebody (can’t find the source just now) put this way: “The adjacent possible is what can be done with the next iteration using the elements present in this one.” The boundaries of the adjacent possible just keep growing as you explore the boundaries; doors opening onto doors.

So, don’t worry about grades. Just keep inventing.

(Or if you prefer, the Ellen-DeGeneres version from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”)


The quotation above is from the famous Bill Bernbach. I think it is one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard and is such a great way to truly describe what the word “principle” stands for. The best single example of somebody standing up for a principle (and having it cost them some money) was what my old friend, Wendy Ludlow Clark, did when my agency pitched for the company she worked for. Without saying names of brands or names of agencies, suffice to say that I was the CCO at the “losing agency” she mentions in her article below. I was there the day she came to our office to tell us who had really won the pitch (>ahem<)….and why it went to someone else. Wendy went on from that day to rise to the highest echelons of a far bigger brand (Coca-Cola)  and yet what she did on that long ago day is what I respect her most for. Excerpted below from the site LeanIn, this is an example of someone with principles in a business not famous for them.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Early in my career I encountered a situation that challenged my personal ethics and became a Lean In moment that forever shaped my life.

I was about 10 years into my career running an agency pitch for a campaign that would almost certainly gain national prominence. I was a director level/middle manager within the organization, but I was leading the campaign, so it was my responsibility to successfully lead the agency review.

Accepted practice when you run an agency review is to provide a fair and balanced opportunity for all the competing agencies in the process. Each agency is given equal access to internal knowledge, data, insights, experts and so on.  During the review period, agencies are not permitted to curry individual favor, time or insights with company contacts, as it can provide unfair advantage and can also muddy the clarity of decision-making for those involved from the client side.

In this instance, as we were ending the agency review (an intense 10 weeks), I discovered that an executive from one of the participating agencies and one of our senior executives had spent extended time together (a weekend golfing) during the review process.

Perhaps it was my naiveté, but I was shocked. To me this was, without question, outside of acceptable and appropriate boundaries and significantly compromised the integrity of the review and, indeed, the results.

Following corporate protocol, I immediately voiced my concerns to my direct boss. I was disenchanted and disheartened that this could have happened under my watch and my first thought was: How can I ever explain how this happened to the other competing agencies who have worked nonstop, in good faith, for the last 10 weeks?

Instead of agreeing with me, my boss essentially told me “sometimes things like this happen in business” and “to be a good soldier.” When I argued my point further, he said the agency decision had been made and that it came not only from him, but from his boss as well.

I was stunned. That night I sleeplessly wrestled with this outcome as I weighed my options. The same thoughts played through my head: This is not how you want to work. You know the chosen agency did not win the review. This can be the company’s decision, but it doesn’t have to be yours.

Adding to the dilemma was my personal life, including a new marriage and a new mortgage. I gingerly approached my husband about the possibility of separating myself from the decision and, therefore, my job. To my delight, the next morning I found a spreadsheet outlining our current financial situation. While we’d have to make some adjustments, we could meet our commitments without my salary.

So that day I went to work and resigned. News of my decision traveled rapidly through the organization.  Our CEO, confused about why his advertising director had quit, came to my office to express his disappointment, but I held firm.

Within a day, there was press coverage on my exit. That coverage was like a free want ad for a job and I received numerous job offers. I was amazed by the many emails and messages I received from friends and strangers alike congratulating me for “standing up for my values and principles.” And notably, while not a consolation, the “losing” agencies did feel some sense of vindication. Most importantly, I felt proud of myself for standing up for what I believed in.

Perhaps the most important learning from this experience that I carry with me today is this:  I’m pretty sure at the end of my life no one is going to wax lyrical about some advertising campaign I launched in 1999. But, if I do my best to lead with values, purpose and principles, they just might say that I was a decent person. And to me, that’s a far greater achievement.

> ahem <

Yours truly is happy to be included on a list from Forbes — “The Top 100 Global Agencies That Know Social Media and Google.”

Full disclosure, however. Am no longer a global agency. Sad to report the closing of’s Auckland, Amsterdam, Berlin and London  offices. Just the one office here in Savannah now. Had to let everybody go.

Yukfest aside, there are some really cool people and agencies on the list you oughta make sure you click on from time to time. My old agency, GSDM, is there. So’s my other alma mater, Fallon. Plus social superstars like Brian Solis and Edward Boches and places like Big Spaceship. Man, this is some seriously good company. Thank you to Forbes and author Scott Goodson (founder of Strawberry Frog) for putting it together.


Full disclosure: This isn’t a post about advertising, but it’s a piece of writing I’m proud of just the same. And it actually IS what the title says — the single most interesting night I had all of last year. It was my stay overnight in the massive empty house that I grew up in, the house I wrote about in my memoir, Thirty Rooms To Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

“Why, yes! I would love to spend the night in the empty gothic house where I was terrorized by my psychotic, alcoholic, gun-waving father.”

This is usually the part of the horror movie where someone in the audience stands up and yells, “DON’T GO INTO THE HOUSE!

But this isn’t a horror movie. As it happens, I actually am saying these words to a very nice man on the phone, a realtor who has the listing for the house where my psychotic, alcoholic, gun-waving father terrorized and abused the family – my mother and my five brothers. The realtor and I are finalizing arrangements for a tour of the house, after which I will spend my first night there in 45 years.

After we agree on my arrival time, I hang up the phone. It’s here they usually cut to the rotating newspaper and the headline: “AREA MAN FOUND SLAIN IN CHILDHOOD HOME.”

There is, actually, a headline about me in today’s Rochester Post-Bulletin but it’s just about my little 8pm book reading downtown at Barnes & Noble. It reads: “Brilliant Mayo Clinic surgeon created a private hell at home for family in this memoir of ‘50s and ‘60s Rochester.” My book I’ll be reading from is titled, Thirty Rooms To Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic. (It’s kind of like The Shining, but funnier.)

As I start the drive to Rochester – where I will both read from Thirty Rooms and walk through them – the whole thing actually does start to feel like a movie. Because after the bookstore event some 100 readers will be driving out to take a nighttime tour of the house. There will be wine and cheese and the realtor will be on hand to point out the home’s wonderful selling points. I’ll be skulking about 10 feet behind him quietly pointing out which horrible things happened where.

(“That’s where the axe thing happened. That’s where he kept the gun. That’s where he bashed my brother’s head against the fridge.”)

Should be fun.

• • • • • •

You don’t just pull into the driveway of the home my father purchased in 1954. That would be the cymbal crash without the drum roll. No, first you have to drive up into the hills outside of Rochester and after turning off onto successively thinner and thinner roads, you will come at last down a lane shadowed by 50-year-old balsam fir trees which stand like bodyguards obstructing your view of the house until the last possible second.

And then … then when you turn into the driveway between the giant stone gate posts, you’ve had the proper warm-up for your first viewing of the great house we called the Millstone. This would be the part where the movie music crescendos and the camera pulls wide to take in the four glorious acres of Minnesota that are its kingdom.

It isn’t just the size of the Millstone or its grounds that make you want the house. It’s the sense of stability to the thing. It had already been here a quarter-century when my father first pulled into the driveway in 1954; its walls already thick with ivy, the red slate roof veteran to a thousand Minnesota snowstorms, and the windows on the third floor looked down on every trespasser and said no matter how long you live, the house will outlast you. Even the owners only rent.

I pull into the Millstone’s driveway at noon and the realtor is out front to greet me. Nice enough guy. He hasn’t read the book but he knows I’m some author guy who used to live here. I tell him I’m hoping to spend a few daylight hours inside shooting pictures before the reading. I’ve brought along a folder of old family photographs from our years in the house, images I’d like to recreate shooting from the same spots my father stood when he took them.

There’s a jangle of realtor’s keys, a quickening of heartbeat, a push against the thick oaken door, and we’re inside.

• • • • • •

This isn’t my first visit back to the Millstone. All six of us have returned to this door many times; sometimes in twos, threes, sometimes alone, arriving over different years, always asking the same thing, hey would it be okay to maybe step inside and just sorta contemplate the smoking apocalyptic battleground of our traumatized youth?

Considering the stories in Thirty Rooms To Hide In, why any of us ever wanted to return is a mystery. On the other hand, if we’d had idyllic childhoods here, would we have been drawn back to visit so many times? (“Oh, and remember what happened over there by the pretty balloons? That time we all smiled?”)

But here I am again. And the first thing – it’s always the first thing – is that ancient smell; of wood, of stone, of time. And the second thing – the silence. Near complete silence. Standing inside the empty house, what I can hear is the page turning in my head to Shirley Jackson’s opening lines of The Haunting of Hill House:

“Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

And, as my realtor might add, “Walked alone … through a stunning 5-bedroom, 4-1/2 bath, 1920’s beauty. Check out this woodwork.”

We close the front door behind us revealing the entryway closet, a feature the realtor is already busy selling. “Check out this big ol’ walk-in, perfect for kids to set their muddy boots!” Meanwhile, my memory conjures a somewhat darker sales patter. “And this shelf here? Perfect for storing rifles to wave in the wife’s face if she just won’t SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

We walk into the main hallway and at the bottom of the stairs I pull the first photo from my folder and hold it up. And the six ghosts appear, standing at the top of the stairs, still waiting for the okay to come thundering down to Christmas, 1962.

I ask the realtor if he’s ever had houses with ghosts.

“No. Don’t much believe in ‘em,” he laughs, adding, “Just the same, I’m glad it’s you bunkin’ here tonight, not me.”

Maybe it’s time to admit that I am a little afraid of the supernatural. Most of the time my western education prevents such fears from bubbling up. But ever since parking my car in the shadow of the great house, the kevlar vest of rationality I‘ve been wearing all these years suddenly doesn’t feel as snug as I’d like it to.

The realtor and I lock eyes, both smiling at our private musings. I shake mine off thinking Hey! If there are ghosts here, they’re gonna be cute little boy ghosts; laughing holograms of boy-energy still wandering the grounds of a house they loved and lost many years ago.

Outside again, I discover another little clutch of spirits, standing both directly in front of me as well as in the year 1956 under a summer rain that falls onto the dry patio stones under my feet, and as my poor head tries to reconcile the permanence of place and the fluid mystery of time, my reverie is broken by the arrival of a car and the year 2012. My brother Dan, age 59, steps out, says we’re late.

• • • • • •

The Barnes & Noble in downtown Rochester is housed in a beautifully preserved movie theatre called The Chateau, the very place my brothers and I first saw movies like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Mary Poppins.” That wobbly feels-like-I’m-in-a-movie feeling  sharpens into Technicolor as I realize wow I’m signing books about my childhood right in the Chateau Theatre, ground zero of so many vivid memories. And to thicken the plot even further – thank you very much – two more of my brothers arrive at the reading; Collin and Chris.

Books are signed, hands shaken, coffee drunk, and more than one reader leans in a little close but very grateful, saying, “It’s so freeing to know my crazy family wasn’t the only one.” And before you know it, the as-promised Warholian 15 minutes of fame have come and gone and I’m getting into a car with three of my brothers to drive though the night to the home we left 45 years ago. Along the way, Dan expresses interest in staying overnight in the house with me. Secretly, I’m relieved.

There are many strange “firsts” this night. Not being able to find a parking space at my childhood home is one; not being able to find standing space inside it, another. And then to stand and speak honestly and openly about my angry, abusive, alcoholic father – in some of the very spots where I used to hide from him – strangest of all.

The crowd is big and as I go through the house describing what happened here, there is a cleansing feeling, one I attribute to the power of storytelling; to the power of witness. The nodding heads and looks of empathy surround me like a benediction and their public condemnation of the story’s villain helps to cleanse the rooms like the smoke of white sage.

• • • • • •

The crowd is gone and the four youngest of the family end the evening sitting quietly in our old living room in front of its iconic fireplace.

Our mother and father often posed for pictures here before heading out to Mayo Clinic parties; nights that routinely ended of course with Dad in a drunken rage. Earlier, I held up one of the old pictures to the scene and was surprised by how short my parents were. Tonight, we all wonder again how a man as slight as my father was able to get away with abusing and tyrannizing what was basically a crowd of seven people.  Dammit, we could have just tackled the fucker, just covered him in a huge pile and sat on top until the cops pulled in.

It simply never occurred to us we had the power.

Brothers Chris and Collin have plans that keep them from joining Dan and me in our overnight stay and, after hugs and warnings to watch out for vengeful zombie dads back from the grave, they head for the Twin Cities. By 11:30, Dan and I are alone in the Millstone.

We turn to begin clean-up and to shut the house down for the night. Picking up plastic wine glasses and flicking off lights here and there on the ground floor is an agreeable enough job. But we soon remember the lights have been turned on everywhere for the open house; including way up in the attic and way down in the basement.

One would think that two grown, college-educated, otherwise-sane men from the 21st-century would not get all heeby-jeeby about having to go alone to an attic or a basement and turn off a damn light for Christ’s sake, but as Dan and I look at each other it’s clear we both harbor a very small but very real hope that maybe the other guy’s going to volunteer for the job. Then, perhaps remembering that tomorrow we each have to be able to look our wives in the eyes, we divide the duty; one up, one down.

This of course is the part in the movie where we’re picked off one by one. But curiously, we manage to turn off all the lights in the house and neither my brother nor I are slain by vengeful zombie dads back from the grave.

We end the night in the living room again chatting by firelight. Dan’s going to sleep in the master bedroom upstairs, I here on the couch. And tonight, after 45 years of thinking about this house, and dreaming about it, and talking to psychiatrists about it, we realize we are finally its equals. We’re okay with it. It’s just a house; a house we loved and one we’ve been happy to visit again, but it’s just a house.

As if to test this new feeling by inviting fear into the room, Dan recounts a nightmare he had only a week ago. In the nightmare, he was here in the Millstone, up in his old room, and “something horrible was floating just outside the window. And there was a rage, a malice directed into the room. ” That’s all he remembers. Malice and rage, floating.

A week later, Dan wrote to me, “Even after that nightmare earlier in the week, and even as you and I sat there in the dark, my imagination couldn’t conjure anything evil or sinister about the house.”

He was right and that night we slept without dreams, like happy guests in a huge bed-and-breakfast, without the breakfast. The next morning we took one last look around, pulled the oaken door shut behind us, and drove away; Dan to the Twin Cities, I to the airport and on to Savannah.

“When I left that morning I had a good cry in the car,” Dan continued, “and I didn’t know why. I still don’t really know. It was a sweet sadness. I guess it felt like the last time we’d be truly alone with the house. It felt like the Millstone embraced me one last time and bade me farewell.”

For me, my emotional moment happened the day before when I was in the house taking pictures. Several families had been invited by the realtor to tour the property and as I came around a corner I almost tripped over a very cute 7-year-old boy. He was coming down the stairs from the top floor, followed by his mother, father, and little brother.

“What a big house, Mom!”

And so I told him all about the horrible raging man who once lived here and threatened little boys with axes and guns.


What I said to him was, “This is a big house. I think you ought to tell your mom and dad to buy it. You will have so many happy times here.”

I give the parents a wink, partly to apologize for putting them on the spot and partly to hold back a tear, because the moment feels like I’m in yet another movie, but this time in a happy one.

(Interested readers can view more family photographs, letters, and videos on


Check this site out. It's funny.

In your career you will hear many very stupid things. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to keep a straight face and not laugh out loud. And this site just posted a nice series of some of the silliest client comments turned into posters. It’s very funny, very cool. My favorite client story is the “Mr. Froggy” story. It was a tale of such immense stupidity that you’ll just have to take my word for it that it really happened. I put it in my book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. But here’s the excerpt:

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Koncept Krushers can be bigger machines than just a client’s research department. The whole company may, in fact, be structured to blowtorch new ideas. This sounds cynical, I know, but I’ve seen it. I’ve stood right next to these furnaces myself and felt the licking of the flames.

Try this on.

The client in question was one of those Sisyphus accounts I described earlier. A big Fortune 500 company. Huge. The kind that asks for tons of stuff that’s always due the next morning and you find out later it’s for a product they’re thinking about introducing 10 years from now.

So, anyway, this poor art director is stuck on a Sisy Corp type of account. She doesn’t know this, so the day she gets a job for a big TV commercial, she’s excited, right?

Well, she and her partner begin working on it. After a vast amount of work, they have a couple cool ideas. I mean some really smart things that also happen to be potential award winners (or “podium wobblers,” as they’re called in Britain).

Cut to next scene, meeting number 1 with the client — all of their ideas are dead. The reason? Doesn’t matter. (You’ll see.)

So they get to work on another series of ideas to present in meeting number 2. Days later, there’s excitement in the creative department, rejuvenation. “We’ve done it again!”

Time wipe: It’s meeting number 3. The client opens the meeting by announcing they’ve changed the strategy.

Okay, here’s where we cut to that movie cliché — the clock hands spinning ’round and ’round, the calendar pages flying off the wall. The changes keep coming in. The client doesn’t like the idea. Or they cut the budget. Or they change the product, or they change the strategy. One time it’s the client himself who’s changed — fired, actually — and now there’s a new client who wants something totally different. Whatever it is, it’s always something.

It gets worse.

During meeting number 4 through number 63, the campaign is watered down, softened, and diluted so much that the final commercial is precisely as interesting as a bag of hair. The last interesting thing in the commercial is successfully removed in meeting number 63. An optimist might say that things should have gone smoothly from here on out. (“For cryin’ out loud. It’s a bag of hair! What’s left to complain about?”) But there are no optimists in advertising.

It’s Friday. The scheduled day of meeting number 64.

Meeting number 64 isn’t even a very important meeting, given that the CEO signed off back around meeting number 50 or so. But there needed to be a few dozen more “For Your Information” sort of presentations, and if any of them went badly the agency would have to start over.

The meeting begins. The art director goes through the old moves, trying to remember the fun of presenting it the first time. But there’s no spark left. She just . . . presents it.

The client sits there. Says nothing at first.

The client then reaches down into her purse and pulls out a small Kermit the Frog doll. (This really happened.) It’s one of those flexible dolls, and she begins bending the frog’s arms around so that its hands are covering its ears. Then the client says: “Mr. Froggy doesn’t like some of the things he’s hearing.”

This really happened.

The client actually said, “Mr. Froggy doesn’t like some of the things he’s hearing.”

Let me put it this way. There are two kinds of hell. There’s “Original” and then there’s “Extra Crispy.” This was Extra Crispy.

Well, Ms. Froggy-Lady, as she came to be known, wasn’t able to kill the commercial, only make it a little worse—a feat in itself. And so, finally, in meeting number 68, the whole company had signed off on this one storyboard.

All in all, it took 68 presentations to hundreds of MBAs in dozens of sweaty presentation rooms. In fact, there were some sarcastic agency memos to the media department suggesting that since the commercial had been shown to thousands of people already, there may not be a need to air it at all.

The creative team went back to the agency, opened two beers, and sat looking at the sunset through the windows of their offices on the 30th floor. There, over the body of the original storyboard that lay on the floor, they performed an advertising postmortem, discussing the more shocking moments of its horrifying death.

Eavesdropping, a casual listener might have thought the two had just come out of the theater and were talking about a horror movie. (“Yeah! And remember when that one guy came in and ripped all its guts out? Man, I did not see that coming at all.”)

That’s when they noticed something out their window — something disturbing.

Outside their window was a 40-story building.

The thing is, the 40-story building wasn’t there the day they began working on the commercial.

With horror, the creative team realized that a building had been raised, built from a 30-foot-deep hole in the ground and 40 stories into the sky, faster than their little 12-frame storyboard had been destroyed and approved.

Why do I tell you this? To chase you away from the business?

No, to steel you for it.

This stuff happens all the time. And keep in mind, none of these clients were stupid people. (Well, we can discuss Froggy-Lady later.) They were all pretty sharp businesspeople, trying as hard as they could to solve a problem for their brand. But as smart and nice as they all were individually, a calcified approval process had crept into the company’s structure, and it became completely impossible to get a decent idea out the door.

This happens all the time. Be ready.

Everybody’s got their faves from the commercials on the Super Bowl. But let’s talk about the bottom feeders.

(Okay, fine. As for favorites, mine happened to end up pretty far down the list of the infamous USA Today Ad Meter: the spot for Oreos (“Whispering in the Library”) made it to only #26. I also happened to like #20, the silly argument between Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd for Samsung. Both spots had all the right SuperBowl-ness to them while at the same time building their story directly around product benefits.)

Nah, favorites have been done. But what about the bottom feeders?

Calvin Klein Guy in underwear
Anheuser-Busch Black Crown party
Anheuser-Busch Beck’s Sapphire fish singing
Anheuser-Busch Black Crown “coronation” Bar Refeali make out

Between you and me, I sure wouldn’t wanna be the brand manager at Calvin Klein who said, “Trust me, this is a Super Bowl spot.” Fact is, the CK spot would’ve sucked on the local farm prices report. Sue me, but I think fashion is the last great hold-out to good advertising. The whole fashion category still seems convinced advertising has to be flash without substance. As long as this belief persists, fashion brands will continue to be the bimbo of the advertising world.

I’m still scratchin’ my head about Anheuser-Busch’s three crappy spots. A-B usually occupies the top spots of the list but this year they stomped $11 million down a rat hole with three commercials that prove yet again your strategy has to be just right, before you do the creative.  In fact, it’s hard to find any strategy at all in the spot titled (ironically) “Here’s to Taste.”

The opening line? “We summoned the finest of this nation to help us taste and choose a golden amber lager.”

The helpful video shows us that the “finest of this nation” is a fake-roomful of AMW’s from Los Angeles. (AMW’s – “actress-model-whatever.”) Criminy. It reminds me of one of my favorite toasts — Steve Martin in the movie Roxanne: “I’d rather be with you people than with the finest people in the world!”

And yet, even after Anheuser hit bottom with “Here’s to Taste”, they kept digging the rest of their way to China with another commercial further defining “the finest of the nation.”

The VO says: “The loud. … The savvy. … The famous. … It took all of us to taste and choose the new Budweiser Black Crown.”

Seriously? Somebody needs to hang up a sign in Anheuser’s break room that says “Crack is for weekend use only.”

The final spot where A-B blew $3.8 million was for Beck’s Black Sapphire. Here the “idea” was a Pixar-like black goldfish sorta swimmin’ around the bottle. I’m guessing they got to this idea by first seeing the beer as “black gold” and then taking that > > > to black goldfish. (“Dude, a black goldfish. You nailed it!!”)

Typically, I never criticize other people’s work in public. Fact is, I’ve done some pretty miserable work of my own. Still, I’m making an exception of these three spots because Anheuser-Busch, … they should know better.

I’ll also happily make an exception to criticize the annual national embarrassments that are the commercials  from GoDaddy.

Yes, bringing up the rear — the spot with the poorest rating – was GoDaddy.  Once again, they didn’t disappoint and aired an execrable spot in which a curvaceous model French kisses a guy who has the skin condition known as rosacea; complete with the squirm-inducing wet sounds of a serious make-out. This isn’t marketing. It’s a drunk frat boy with $3.8 million to blow. Too bad, especially considering GoDaddy ran another spot that wasn’t about boobs or bad taste; it wasn’t half bad. Go figure.

In any case, there you have it. The five worst commercials of Super Bowl XLVII. They cost $11 million in media alone.

If only they had listened to my marketing plan I could’ve made these companies millions in cold hard cash. Here it is.

“Don’t run these spots.”

Boom. $11 mill, right there. You’re welcome.


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »