Sunday, December 31, 2006

National Oil

Tourist Athens, tourist brands: BMW and McDonald’s, Gucci and Bill Blass and all the others. Starbucks is here, though Jacobs Coffee, a German brand owned by Kraft Foods, is giving it a run for its money in Flocafe cafes throughout the city.

Local brands are a bit harder to find unless you go into the local grocery stores. Nevertheless, there are some powerhouse brands here: Ioli Water, a product of Athenian Brewery, is constantly top-rated by reviewers. Its bottles feature labels by various artists.

Through great personal effort, Barbara and I tasted a large number of different ouzos, the licorice-tasting aperitif that’s Greek indeed. We can report that the very best is Sans Rival Ouzo from P. Thomopoulos & Son SA, produced in Piraeus for about a hundred years.

My favorite (and not so local anymore either) is probably Minerva Olive Oil – which is no small brand here. In 1904, the Karakostas-Giannakos Company expanded its activities and began to trade in olive oil, the most valued product grown on Greek soil. The Minerva bottles, with the goddess Athena as the company’s symbol, are obvious on Greek grocery store shelves. I don’t know why Athena is on the bottles when the name is Minerva...I suspect it has something to do with Athens being the company’s home base. Its original office, as far as I can understand it, was here in Omonia where we are staying.

Since it’s now an international company itself with a wide range of products, it’s not so surprising that its agency is TBWA Athens – its web site was created by “Greek Geeks.” Really.

But you do have to get off the tourist squares and streets to find the local products...not just branded ones, either, but the staples of everyday living from fresh fish and meats to nuts and bolts. That’s the best way to tour anyway, no matter where you are in the Euro Zone.

Happy New Year to oil!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Talking Turk

Is it possible to have an outstanding customer experience in under two hours? Apparently it is, with Turkish Airlines – Turk Hava Yollari. This carrier supplied the link to Athens from Istanbul, the only non-KLM leg we’ll have flown.

Our very early AM check-in went smoothly and we ambled down to the gate to find a rare light flight, maybe because it was early, Maybe because it was Tuesday, maybe because the “second day of Christmas” is a holiday in Greece. The THY check-in agent was completely friendly and when she saw my height, she changed our seats to the emergency exist row without being asked. The THY Airbus 330-200 was immaculate; the aircrew was capable and everyone smiled.

A call to the airline number in Istanbul on 25 December had already prepared me in a way – impressed the hell out of me in fact. Come to find out that THY has already won a couple of awards for its call center.

I read in the airline’s flight magazine, Skyways, that THY’s Chairman, Candan Karlitekin, had laid down these “good customer” initiatives at the beginning of 2006. They had a positive and measurable effect on us in what is, after all, an hour-and-forty-minute flight. THY code-shares with American Airlines (yuck!) to Chicago from Houston and thence overseas. It’s an airline that deserves a second look – especially since it’s the off-season for Istanbul.

What’s a good customer experience worth to THY? About $500 for our two tix, this time.

The key point is that this relationship started with the call center – your choice of Turkish or impeccable English, helpful and friendly in every way. Once again, it shows how critical an outstanding call center is to good customer interface…and a worthwhile try-out if you’re looking for good call center examples. Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Flying Carpets

Merry Christmas Eve from Istanbul – would you like a kilim with that?

There are three kinds of legal businesses here. The first is the kind you and I think about, banking, insurance, advertising – the hundreds if not thousands of white-collar activities of the modern world. Then there is working business, everything from hardware stores to appliance stores to supermarkets.

Tourist business is the third. The work starts in front of the shops and stalls...the minute you come into visual range [and with me that's easy because of my height]. Even in the better districts, never mind the bazaars, the front men work hard and vigorously to earn your attention. The guys on the sidewalk may be touts or shills or even the owners themselves. They ingratiate, they wheedle (but never whine), they joke wıth you until your defense shows the slightest gap. Then it's have a glass of tea and let me show you my carpets and kilims – the finest in all the city!

Why this relentlessly friendly assault? Because in the heart of each and every carpet shop owner is the concrete belief, the utter certainty, that every tourist wants a carpet. Or a kilim.

There is a difference to be sure. A kilim is a pileless carpet. The kilim's design is made by interweaving the variously colored wefts and warps, creating what's called a flatweave. In a pile rug, individual short strands of different colors, usually wool, are knotted onto the warps and held together by pressing the wefts tightly against each other. No pile. Pile. Simple.

When they have you in their clutches, drinking their hot apple tea, they do make their carpets fly.

They are artful and experienced presenters of their rugs, flinging them down in front of you, flipping them upside down or end-to-end to show off the designs, the colors, the (apparently) distinctive double knot that distinguishes a Turkish carpet from a Persian rug.

You think you have great salespeople working for you? You should only wish you had salespeople like this. Software. Drill bits. Downhole chemicals. Magazine space. Hire a Turkish carpet shop owner; or better yet offer him a piece of the business. Your fortune is made!

Resistance is futile. Unless, as in our case, you have made up your minds in advance that you are resolutely, positively, definitively NOT going to buy a carpet, kilim, runner, rug or ruglet of any kind whatsoever.

We bought ceramics instead.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The I-Mod

The least interesting thing* we did on Friday was go to the Istanbul Modern Museum, across the Galata Bridge on the south shore of the Bosphorus. Just beginning its second year, it is an 8000-square-meter building that is a fine venue for a fresh institution that intends to set the art agenda for modern small thing for a nation uncertain of its future secular existence.

That Turkey – and Istanbul in particular – has a modern and contemporary art scene is not unexpected but it is difficult to find for the common-or-garden tourist. Istanbul Modern is so new that it is not in the current Eyewitness Guide (2004).

In the initial year+, I think the I-Mod has done the proper thing with its primary installation, tracing the history of Turkish Modernism from the end of the 19th Century to the present. There are few names familiar to a second-class Western art follower like me, though Arslan is one. I said proper above but what I really meant was instructive...I do not know modern Turkish art and was glad to be able to see its rise.

Barbara created some participatıon art and I joined her. The cloakroom gave us small metal tags for our winter coats...numbered tags on tiny rings. Barbara put hers on her glasses, it was a great idea; so I dıd the same and we wandered throughout the I-Mod wıth them, jıngling away up and down the aisles. The attendents had a bit of a laugh and we enjoyed it.

There is also a fine Venice-Istanbul Bienalle exhibition with a typically hilarious outdoor piece by Juan Munoz, along with works and installations by Donna Conlon, Bruna Esposito, Subodh Gupta, Mona Hatoum, Emily Jacir, William Kentridge, Bülent Şangar, Berni Searle, Valeska Soares, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Joana Vasconselos, Robin Rhode and Antoni Tapies. The Guerilla Girls are always a treat and always provocative.

The biggest surprise (for us ignorants) was the art of a remarkable Turkish woman, Semiha Berksoy, whose paintings are a single facet in the career of a genuine barrier-buster who died at the age of 94 still making art and life happen. Her art from the 60s and the 70s is just plain stunning in the simplicity of its statements.

So – do not miss the I-Mod when you come to Instanbul. It be an education.

*The most interesting and enjoyable part of the day was our visit to OYKU/Dialogue International, of which much more in a coming post. Berksoy paintings from with thanks.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

We see the Blue Mosque from our hotel window here at the Arcadia in Dr. Imran Oktem Street. It is just two blocks southwest outlined against the Sea of Marmara and the Asian shore. In case I fall back asleep after the 6AM telephone ring, the call of the muezzin wakes me back up again...five times a day the Muslims of Istanbul are called to prayer.

Up close and inside the Blue Mosque is a wonder of open space, space for more that 8000 to worship.

The streets are a mixture of the familiar and the utterly different; rather like this Turkish keyboard I am using to write this post. To see Hotmail in Turkish demands a mental translocation. Familiar brands are here. The UPS store in the next block not only has the familiar brown and gold logo but two giant plastic figures of the brown uniformed deliverymen suspended from the second story of the building.

If you wonder at the strange punctuation, it is because the keyboard does not seem to want to deliver the normal marks in the right places. As we run up to Christmas here in the Near East, I hope to figure it out but I am not holding my breath.

If you are attracted at all to Turkish carpets this is definitely the place to be.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Season’s Greeting

Gaudete! Gaudete! “Rejoice!” is what the old hymn tells us. Take up the feeling of joy in what the world brings us.

You’ve brought pleasure and delight to my life through your participation in it. This past year, you have contributed to a year’s worth of adventures, visits, programs, conversations, arguments, developments, successes; an entire 12 months of joy and – I hope – a little grace under pressure.

I am grateful for the work, the relationships, the collegial enjoyment of many hours spent with fellow professionals, friends and family.

Humorist and cartoonist Kin Hubbard said that next to a circus, there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit. Better to remember what Charles Dickens wrote. “Keep Christmas in your heart all year long.” Maintain a spirit of giving. A sense of good will towards all men and women.

My personal thanks to you. My heartfelt best wishes for a world full of joy this season and for the year ahead.

Thanks and special wishes to Gayle Smith for this year’s illustration, and to Paul Leigh for constructing this year's electronic greeting card.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gaudete, Omnes!

The title for this year’s holiday card is Gaudete, “Rejoice” in Latin.

I first heard it as an á capella song from Steeleye Span, the British folk-rock band formed in 1970 and still active in 2006. I loved the song – and the band – then, and I love them still.

In 1972, the single ‘Gaudete’ from ‘Below the Salt’ belatedly became a Christmas hit single, reaching number 14 in the UK Charts. ‘Gaudete’ is one of only two songs sung in Latin to reach the British Top 50. If you go here, page down and click on Number 7, you can hear a bit of it.

Gaudete, gaudete christus est natus
Ex maria virginae gaudete

Gaudete, gaudete christus est natus
Ex maria virginae gaudete

Tempus ad est gratiae hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete christus est natus
Ex maria virginae gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete christus est natus
Ex maria virginae gaudete

Deus homo factus est naturam eraute
Mundus renovatus est a christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete christus est natus
Ex maria virginae gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete christus est natus
Ex maria virginae gaudete...

Photo: West Window, Monks’ Choir, Ampleforth Abbey.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Feliz Navidad

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring – Caramba! Que pasa?
Los niños were tucked away in their camas,
Some in long underwear, some in pijamas,
While hanging the stockings with mucho cuidado
In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado
To bring all children, both buenos and malos,
A nice batch of dulces and other regalos.

Outside in the yard there arose such a grito
That I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.
I ran to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world do you think that it era?
Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero.
And pulling his sleigh instead of venados
Were eight little burros approaching volados.
I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:
“Ay Pancho, ay Pepe, ay Cuco, ay Beto,
Ay Chato, ay Chopo, Macuco y Nieto!”
Then standing erect with his hands on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chiminea.

Then huffing and puffing at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala,
He filled all the stockings with lovely regalos
For none of the niños had been very malos.
Then chuckling aloud, seeming very contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.
And I heard him exclaim, and this is verdad,
Merry Christmas to all, and Feliz Navidad!

This Tex-Mex version of “Night Before Christmas” is a long-time favorite of mine. It is credited to Jim and Nita Lee (Dec. 1972). Santa Claus store display, 1958, from Coca-Cola Image Gallery con muchas gracias.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Prism Parties

One part of Christmas is the family letter. I get quite a thrill when I read that Uncle Schmuel and Aunt Sadie’s youngest has completed her third rehab program successfully. Way to go, Roxanne! It’s awesome to learn that the second ex-wife of my best friend's ex-husband has graduated with honors from Beaumont Beauty College. One of my brothers-in-law is recovering from that little accident with the combine-harvester and he’ll be walking again by next summer, for sure.

Then there are the Christmas parties, the “holiday” get-togethers. There’ve been some interesting occasions this year, especially the one where the Creative Director from You-Know-Which Agency got his head stuck in the – never mind.

A serious stand-out, though, was the excellent Prism Design holiday dinner at Bistro Calais this past week, which Barbara and I enjoyed utterly.

Sincere thanks to client and colleague Susan Reeves and all the Prismatics for the excellent time, fine meal and barrel of laughs. Here they are, left to right: Terry Teutsch, Stacy Allen, Susan herself, Amy Puchot, Anne Stovall, Paul Leigh (kneeling).

May all your Christmases be bright. (Stay away from farm machinery.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Draft Bagged

Let’s start with this: the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Standards of Practice. One of the initial ‘graphs states:

We hold that, to discharge this responsibility, advertising agencies must recognize an obligation, not only to their clients, but to the public, the media they employ, and to each other. As a business, the advertising agency must operate within the framework of competition. It is recognized that keen and vigorous competition, honestly conducted, is necessary to the growth and the health of American business. However, unethical competitive practices in the advertising agency business lead to financial waste, dilution of service, diversion of manpower, loss of prestige, and tend to weaken public confidence both in advertisements and in the institution of advertising. [Emphasis added]

Tell me, now that Draft FCB’s rep is thrashed, do you think it’s time for some remedial reading?

In the very early 80s’ I was a copywriter at BBDO/Minneapolis. I worked on the Honeywell business, because BBDO had the advertising assignment. That’s the first time I met Howard Draft. He was a young account executive at Kobs & Brady in Chicago, handling the direct mail portion of Honeywell’s Protection Services business. We used to shake and howdy at various client meetings in Minneapolis.

Kobs & Brady became, as I recall, Kobs & Draft. Then Draft Worldwide. When Draft bought FCB, one Chicago newspaper called it “one of the darkest moments in the history of an increasingly troubled ad industry.”

It’s even darker now: Draft FCB got kicked off the $580 million Wal-Mart account it just won this past week. It wasn’t any prettier than the much-hammered ad Draft/FCB ran – briefly - for last year’s Cannes winners.

At the same time, “one of the most colorful and influential” client-side marketing executives, Wal-Mart’s Julie Roehm, has left Wal-Mart just two months after leading Wal-Mart's advertising account review – out after less than a year on the job. Sean Womack, vice president of communications architecture, who served Roehm closely during the course of the review, is following Roehm out the door.

The story has gotten full play in The New York Times, complete with extravagant gifts, some rather expensive dinners and passions that Wal-Mart’s other executives didn’t find very amusing – or ethical. In one ‘graph, the Times points out:

[Ms. Roehm] was spotted taking a ride in an Aston Martin owned by the chief executive of one agency, Draft FCB. At another time, she was seen riding in a BMW convertible with the president of another, GSD&M, according to people familiar with the matter.

Wal-Mart has strict rules. They prohibit employees from accepting gifts of any kind, as the Times mentions. So – if the gifting and the partying happened – what were Draft/FCB and GSD&M thinking? Yeah, yeah, $580 million in billing was on the table. So what?

Is there some part of ethics that ad agencies don’t understand? (And whoa-boy, I know just as many stories as you do – including the time a Boston agency picked up part of a major energy account by sending the decision-maker live lobsters.)

Tell me, are reputable advertising agencies going the way of HealthSouth, WorldComm and Enron? Tell me, is the ad industry as a whole ethically challenged? Or is this an outlier, a freak occurrence?

More recent stories, like one yesterday in the Chicago Tribune, quote people as saying that maybe it’s not such a big deal – and who needs the Wal-Mart account anyway? I say it’s a big deal.

“A couple of lunches” is one thing. This is another. Howard: what’s the story?

Thanks to Rita Dutt, James Gardner, Angela Natividad, Rob Schoenbeck, John Shanley, Pat Tobin and Buddy “Friendly” Wachenheimer for their help and perspectives.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Free Woodcuts

I’d be hard put to recall how often my creative teams went through books of clip art – especially old Victorian woodcuts, to develop concepts or campaigns. Mark Self, Rick Reigle and I invented a pair of award-winning campaigns for Exxon years back, based on steel engravings of 19th Century paper-making plants and farm scenes.

While there are a few sources for electronic versions of the old printed assemblies of woodcuts and steel engravings, one of the most resourceful collector/artists is now making his compilations available on the Worldwide Web. The late 19th and early 20th Century line engravings painstakingly gathered by Jim Harter are now available here.

Retha Oliver, in Art Lies, used Harter’s self-definition as an “image archivist” in a 2003 review:

Based in San Antonio, Harter is the man behind many of the “public domain” image collections that are published by Dover Press, among others. Over twenty-five years, Harter has researched thousands of images from 19th Century etchings and engravings. One driving impulse was no doubt a fascination with these quirky, carefully executed line drawings. Another was to enrich his own store of imagery from which he makes collages and prints.

His website is an excellent source for such hidden treasures, with affordable downloads. It’s like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He even offers some free examples, like the one above. Get them here.

Many thanks to Harter Images for “Leprechauns.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Barclay’s War

Sixty-five years ago today, the Japanese Navy attacked the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor and America joined the fight against the Axis powers. Here’s one story about American advertising at war.

McClelland Barclay, born in 1891, was one of the foremost commercial artists of his time when the war began. He’d created great illustrations– usually with gorgeous women – for General Motors and Texaco, General Electric and Camel cigarettes. He’d done magazine covers and movie posters.

Barclay, a US Naval Reserve officer, reported for active duty on 19 October 1940. He was 49 years old. He created some of the great recruiting posters of World War II. When the US entered the war in 1941, he volunteered to become a combat artist. “Man the Guns” comes from this period.

On 18 July 1943, Barclay was aboard LST-342 (Group 14, Flotilla 5) when it was torpedoed by Japanese submarine Ro-106 at 1:30 a.m. He had been on board since the first of the month, sketching and taking photographs, during which time LST-342 had been carrying ammunition and supplies to Rendova, New Georgia in the Solomon Islands from Guadalcanal.

The torpedo struck the aft portion of the ship where officers and others, including Barclay, were berthed. The stern sank immediately. Barclay, along with most of the crew, perished. The bow of the LST remained afloat and was towed to a beach on the island of Ghavutu so that any useable equipment could be salvaged. Remains of the ship are still rusting there today. Barclay was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal, and entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal; the American Area Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
(US Naval Historical Center)

You can read all about him here. Pass the word.

“Man the Guns - Join the Navy” by McClelland Barclay, Oil Painting (above) and Poster (below), 1942. From US Naval Historical Center.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rhinarians, Unite!

Why would a woman stick her nose into a fishbowl?

Even though I was on my fourth cup of coffee, I glanced at the half-page ad in this morning’s Houston Chronicle and thought the headline (in 36-point type) said “Rhinarian.”

It’s actually an advertisement for Rhinaris, “your portable dry nose humidifier.” This product comes to us from Pharmascience, a company based in Montreal. (Canada again!)

How much it costs compared to my usual winter standby, Ocean? That’s $4.29 for 1.5 ounces at Walgreens. One ounce of Rhinaris is $6.99. The Walgreens generic moisturizing spray is just $2.99 for 1.5 ounces. With Rhinaris, you…pay through the nose. (I sent for a sample here – you should too, because it’s free.)

However, I do prefer the idea that Rhinarians walk among us. For years, I’ve envied wine experts who talk about the value of a “good nose.” There are professional smellers in the coffee and tea business, in the fragrance industry, in certain of the food segments. How about the overly sensitive relative to whom something always smells funny?

These are the Rhinarians. The lady above is smelling her fish. Why? To see if it’s fresh? To determine if it’s time to change the water? Do Rhinarians walk around with their noses in the air? Are they snooty?

Unite, Rhinarians of the World! Don't let society lead you around by the nose.

Photo from Pharmascience. All rights reserved, which is probably quite reassuring to them.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What “Canada?”

See this billboard? Yesterday, Paul Hoven sent me half-a-dozen photos of funny signs, under the title “Do Canadians Have a Sense of Humor?” Several were amusing, but the board above tickled my sense of the absurd.

I Googled restaurants in Saskatoon, presuming that it would naturally be in Canada, right? Saskatoon, in the Province of Saskatchewan? Right?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Just as I miss-identified the SOG of Canada in an earlier post, the Saskatoon Restaurant is in – ready for this? – Greenville, South Carolina. The owner, Edmond Woo, echoes the Great Canadian Plains province right on the restaurant’s attractive website:

Come taste the unique Northwest outdoors. Pull on your hiking boots and bush poplins or come dressed elegantly casual! Either way, you’ll hear the rainbow trout sizzlin’ in an iron skillet and smell the hickory wood coals, just like an open campfire. It’s calling you to Saskatoon.

In Greenville. South Carolina. Just 2052 miles from where it’s supposed to be. A mere 33-hour drive.

The restaurant billboard promises “wild game.” The menu’s sure enough got your Buffalo Flank Steak, your Wild Game Sausage and your Elk Tenderloin. You can also Saskatoon Shrimp and Kangaroo Steak – two critters not usually associated with the upper Canadian Midwest.

Laugh if you like: George Gardner, writing in The Greenville News last year, give the restaurant a strong review:

Be sure to bring your sense of adventure to this restaurant. The menu is unapologetically meaty and a bit bizarre, but the service is top notch and the decor is woodsy and inviting, like a cozy hunting lodge. I had the quail appetizer, which was baked and served with a rich, delicious sauce and a spicy bread and bean stuffing, with warm bread and sweet berry butter on the side. The entrees come with a garden salad, and mine was fresh and crisp. I had the kangaroo steak medium-rare. The meat was lean, yet tender and graced with a sweet orange sauce, which I thought was scrumptious.

From the website photos, it looks like a warm, attractive place. But it was the creative billboard that caught my eye. I’d like to find out who did Woo’s creative – you can see more of it in on the website under the heading “Saskatoon Apparel.” The beer list is pretty nice, too.

One client, Mustang Engineering, has a business unit in Greenville. Maybe I’ll get a chance to try the Saskatoon Restaurant for myself: it’s only 1.3 miles away (according to AAA).

Meantime, who created the restaurant’s billboard? It’s really very funny. Even if it’s not Canadian.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Marine’s Christmas

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,

Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn’t too near,

But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was nearS
tanding out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light

Then he sighed and he said, “It’s really all right.
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.

“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

“My Gramps died at Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ’Gram always remembers.
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ’Nam,
And now it’s my turn and so, here I am.

“I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.”
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,

The red, white and American flag.

“I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

“I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?

“It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,“
Just tell us you love us, and never forget:

“To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.

“Is payment enough, and with that we will trust
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

By LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN, 30th Naval Construction Regiment, OIC, Logistics Cell One, Al Taqqadum, Iraq. This poem has appeared on many blogs and was forwarded to me by Paul Hoven. USMC photo by LCpl Jonathan P Sotelo: An M16 A2 rifle, a pair of boots and a helmet stand in memory of Sergeant Padilla, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, killed in action in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Advertising's Present

Go ahead: Accuse me of inconsistency. In an earlier post, I urged you to “think outside the bottle.” I was talking about new bottle shapes specifically. Then, in “Rob’s Perrier” and “Ambitious Brew” (also below), you heard that there are quite a lot of new ideas that aren’t really new, just re-discovered or re-invented.

No matter how often you have been told to think outside the box, I stress (after three decades as a creative) that there’s a hell of a lot inside the box.

In fact, our box is positively stuffed with great ideas ‘cause a huge number of creative people have been stuffing the damn thing for years and years – and gift-wrapped it for you.

Look: every year, colleagues and clients have urged me to read the latest book about the “new marketing,” a long line of them from Marketing Warfare to Crossing the Chasm to The Tipping Point. Damned if I didn’t start way back with Antony Jay’s books, Management & Machiavelli (1968) and Corporation Man (1971). I still think Corporation Man is one of the best books ever written about corporate life.

I have to agree with Steve Lance and Jeff Woll in The Little Blue Book of Advertising, their new work:

First, there’s no such thing at “new marketing.” There are new ways to reach your target audience; there may be new media alternatives and new ways to cut through the clutter; but all consumers of every age are still motivated by the same things that motivated consumers since the first caveman coveted his neighbor’s cudgel: needs, status, a belief that the product will improve the perceived quality of their lives, or just an unexplained “I gotta have that” impulsive action.”

They point out there are four basic questions you can ask, if you’d just step back and think about your creative or marketing challenge. “What are we doing?” “How are we doing it?” “Why are we doing it?” and “How do we know if it’s working.”

The answers to these foundation questions are already inside the box: hundreds or even thousands of creative ideas, concepts, promotions and programs that have been thought up and produced since small-type ads for fresh fish appeared in Colonial American newspapers.

Think of what’s inside the box as Advertising’s evergreen present to you – and your career’s future.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ambitious Brew

There are so many satisfactory micro-histories, or niche histories, available these days, you’re forgiven if you haven’t read them all. (Think of it as a holiday dispensation.)

The truly great ones, like The Pencil by Henry Petroski, and Cod by Mark Kerlansky, are so compelling that it’s easy to forget you’re reading about a single item. In the end, each one is about society.

As marketers, then, read Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. It is a history of beer and brewers in the US by Maureen Ogle – just published by Harcourt, Inc. It’s a dandy.

You have to forgive the Harcourt blurb writers: the fly-leaf states this is “this is the first-ever history of American beer.” It’s not. But it is the newest, most up-to-date and enjoyable history of the subject.

I’ll leave you to read a précis of Ambitious Brew here. The salient point for us is that Ogle’s book is as much about the trends of our American society, past and present, as it is about breweries. In an eminently readable way, Ogle relates how changes in our society over the past two hundred years have had a variety of impacts on beer development and marketing.

It’s a book about great brewers and beers. It’s a book about very smart (or utterly unconscious) marketing. But more than these, it’s a book about true believers. The true believers in these pages bend or break with the times in which they live.

We’re living with changes every day, faster and faster. Can you say for certain you know which ones will affect your product or your market? That’s why you should read a history like this: to understand where you want to go, you should have a really good idea of where you’ve been. Beyond beer, it’s what Ambitious Brew is all about.

If you’re good, perhaps there’ll be a copy of this book in your Christmas stocking. Or better yet, a six-pack of your favorite brewski.

Hardcover, ISBN-13/EAN: 9780151010127, 432 pages. Book cover photo from Harcourt, Inc., with thanks.