Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mosey on over to my new web page

Now that I've got a new website with a blog on it, I'm going to be posting stuff over there, for the most part. The new site is more for potential clients to view, so I may reserve this one for occasional, more off-the-wall topics.

Anyhow, come on over and see the new website, blog and writing samples.

See you there.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Palm Pre TV: What th'--?

Haven't you always wanted to be surrounded by hundreds of orange-clad dancers making YOU the center of an elaborate dance routine? If so, you'll love the new Palm Pre spot. It is all about YOU, or rather, a strange woman apparently meant to stand in for you, effortlessly controlling her world by using her brand-new Palm Pre. And for no apparent reason, being danced around by a whole bunch of people in orange outfits.

In the introductory TV spot, the otherworldly girl casually walks to a big rock in the middle of a green field, then climbs up on it to fiddle with her Pre. Instantly, a human mandala of hundreds of dancers in orange Japanese outfits encircle the girl and begin doing a large-scale routine. Hey, are these the "Thriller"-dancing Phillipine prisoners? Or are they monks with AFTRA cards?

From far overhead, then, we see the swirling dancers creating various symmetrical formations around the girl on her rock, ala Busby Berkeley, only without the sexy legs. Finally, we return to ground level to see the girl, Pre and big rock, the dancers gone. The girl's voiceover talks about all the lives of ... what the heck is she talking about? as she pushes different images across the screen of the Pre. I gather it's something about "flow."

A grandiose production number like this would look right at home in "The Last Emperor," but for the introduction of a dumbed-down iPhone?

Then there's the principal talent. I don't know what she's supposed to be. Pale, nearly featureless, wearing a sliplike garment of no-color, her golden hair pinned up on the back of her head in a shape resembling The Visible Man's intestines.

I would love to have been in the room when this concept was presented. Then maybe I'd understand it. I sure don't get it from watching the commercial.

Now there's another Palm Pre commercial featuring the same woman. No dancers, just the woman, the digestive tract hairdo, the face of the Pre, and the greenscape background. Did she just say, "reincarnation??" Oh, I get it. We all have various connections, wear various hats, have different organizations and all. And the Pre can help us keep track of them. But that message could apply to the iPhone as well as the Pre. Advertising 101 says you have to have a meaningful point of difference from your competitor. Not just weird commercials. And these certainly qualify as weird.

Monday, July 20, 2009

If you hate infomercials, you'll hate FedEx's new YouTube videos, too.

When FedEx declined to advertise on the Super Bowl, for the first time in 18 years, a ripple ran through the advertising world. Not advertise on TV's biggest show of the year? What's up with that?

Fact is, FedEx has lost ground (so to speak) to alternate means of sending documents online. FedEx lost more than $800 million in the second quarter of this year. And the high cost of gas hasn't helped the company's bottom line, either. So they decided spending more millions on Super Bowl spots didn't make sense. But maybe going YouTube did.

According to an article in the NY Times, the cubicle lunch crowd has turned out to be a sizable YouTube audience, rivaling the home TV audience. To reach them, FedEx created 3-minute spoof infomercials touting FedEx's benefits. The videos, starring the wonderful Fred Willard as pitch person, debuted on YouTube today. BBDO Worldwide, New York is the agency.

Fred tries to play it straight, and for the most part, he succeeds. I'll hand it to the creators of the videos for neo-realism: a couple of female co-stars, who are WAY over the top, make me want to hack up a hairball, just like the raving idiots on real infomercials.

In terms of effectiveness, I have three concerns about these videos:

• I wonder how many infomercials the cubicle lunch bunch watches. They're at work during the day, then after work, they watch their favorite series or movies. If you've never seen what is being satirized, does the the satire lose its bite?

• The gag is obvious after seeing one of the videos. So will you bother to watch the others?

• The videos are fast-paced, and FedEx's many features and benefits are sort of stuffed into nooks and crannies between sight gags and other distractions, so I wonder if the audience will get the sales message. But if the point is simple awareness, then perhaps the videos score well.

These 3-minute FedEx playlets have their funny moments, but I hate real infomercials so much, I could only stand to watch two. Take a 3-minute break and see what you think.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Vendor Client relationship - in real world situations

When you put certain client demands in real-world contexts, you see how weasly they sound. Thanks to Ted for the link to this video. It'll make you laugh while you squirm. Or vice versa.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lousy pay, death by blog, and other complaints

The great Benjamin Disraeli said, "Don't explain. Don't complain." He was a wise man.

However, I now will ignore his sage advice and complain, loudly, and explain why.

Like most other creatives these days, I look at the classified ads for creatives. And what I see is horrifying. Most ad agencies or companies dealing with communication want to hire one person who can write and design -- AND manage a department, keep track of a budget, split atoms, and juggle knives, bowling balls and flaming torches while making Belgian waffles. And worst of all (I shudder at the thought.), know Excel.

In normal times, these jobs would take three people to fill: a writer, a designer, and at least a Creative Group Head. But that was before The Great Recession, aka The Never-Ending Ca-Ca Doo-Doo Economy. No kidding, I saw an ad for a Creative Director job in Kansas City with all the above requirements (I think gene splicing experience was also "preferred."), and the salary was... wait for it... $35,000 per year. Yes. And they'll probably get some recent college grad to do it. Or outsource the job to one of the highly educated unemployed in India, who will do the job for 12¢ per day.

I received an email recently from some Chinese person offering to do design work. China has an overabundance of smart, well-educated university grads, too, looking for paying work. Is it too late for the U.S. to become an isolationist country?

This global low-balling is playing hell with the creative fee structure. I post my print samples at, but I gave up trying to bid for jobs on that site long ago. Because most of them involve a lot of work and the pay is listed as "under $500." Most of the clients are not what you'd call professional. And you see jobs like the one I came across the other day, offered by a client who sought a "top-quality" copywriter to produce 60 (that's sixty) 500-word articles, every one "original," with "no cut-and-paste," all proofread and perfect. And the fee he would pay for all this quality and perfection? $125. One hundred twenty-five dollars. Which I guess is equivalent to approximately $7 million in India.

I'd have to move to India to afford to take any of those jobs. Well, I've always liked the food... But no! I refuse to be used by clients who want the whole world for a crummy penny.


Today, out of curiosity, I did talk to someone who needs 15 500-word blog articles on a subject I know virtually nothing about. It would require research, of course. And then there's the writing. Guess how much they're paying. Seven dollars per 500-word article.

Now, I asked myself, how long would it take me to write one such article? Depending on how perfectionistic I'm feeling that day, I might spend two or three hours, even without the research. That's because I generally like to polish my writing to at least a dull sheen before letting go of it. With this client, taking time for that would be highly optional, if not completely insane.

To write, let's say, three 500-word articles in a day, I would make $21. Or $30, if I "work up to" a higher rate after a few months, they said.

No surprise, this potential client told me they've had a hard time retaining writers, and they can't figure out why. Well, heck, it isn't rocket science: a writer would do better working at a McJob or retail clerk job than s/he would "writing" (I use the term loosely.) for this company.

The gaping maw of blogdom eats up "content" so fast, eventually there will be a need for "content-producing machines" to keep feeding the beast. There already are bots that can answer simple questions, and online, there is a Postmodernism Generator. It rearranges a bin full of postmodernist terms around verbs and adjectives, and in a micro-second, voila! There's your postmodern essay. Postmodernism doesn't make sense to begin with, so even a postmodernist couldn't detect the phoniness. From a Barnes & Noble review of Alan Sokal's most recent book:

When physicist Alan Sokal revealed that his 1996 article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," published in Social Text, was a hoax, the ensuing scandal made the front page of the New York Times and caused an uproar among the post-modernists he had so hilariously—and convincingly—parodied.

Back to the topic at hand:

Commercial blogs offer content that is optimized with keywords that will cause the post to turn up on search engines. "SEO," or "search engine optimization" is the talent most sought by Web marketers. If a blog or site is well optimized with plenty of appropriate keywords, readers will be lured to marketers' Web lairs to see a sales pitch for something or other. So the writing is not the point, it's the bait. And it can even be stink-bait. It doesn't matter, as long as it's full of the right keywords.

Until this relatively new Internet-blog-as-marketing-device phenomenon -- which set off the explosion of "content" available free online -- writing was an art and a craft. In this terrible economy, we writers can be tempted by the need for income to take assignments that don't require art or craft, but only speed and physical endurance. While so-called "SEO experts" rake in the dough. More's the pity.

Truman Capote once said of Jack Kerouac's work, "That's not writing, that's typing." And boy, was Kerouac a league and a half better than any high-output blog writer. When the talent you've honed over decades no longer matters, and any kid with nimble fingers tapping away on a laptop in his parents' basement can underbid you for work, it's a sad situation.

But I do have hope. Next week, I am meeting with a new client about a project. And it will pay more than $7.00 per 500 words. So at least for now, I need not worry about being a blog-slogger or a retail clerk. Whew.

BTW, just to prove I'm not one of those commercial bloggers, I probably will not be able to publicize this blog post anywhere for fear of angering others in the world of blog-based marketing. I'm just whinin' for the sake of it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Writing on the sides of big trucks

I said I hadn't done any writing on the sides of big trucks. That's true. It sounds like a singularly uncreative assignment. But one KC agency proved you can do something creative, no matter what the medium.

Like the writing on the sides of the big Mid-Continent Public Library trucks. What a brilliant idea!

Thanks to Joe for the link.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

So, what do you write?

When people ask what I do, I tell them I'm a writer (or sometimes, freelance writer). Looking a bit puzzled, they'll ask, "Well, what do you write?" My top-of-the-head answer is, "Everything!"

In a writing career spanning a couple of decades, it might be easier to say what I haven't written. Okay, I haven't written copy to go on the sides of big trucks. There.

What I have written, at ad agencies and as a freelancer, includes the following:

• Print ads and campaigns
• Radio and TV spots (and produced them)
• Website copy
• Web banners
• E-newsletters
• HTML e-mails
• Training video scripts
• Trade show materials
• News releases
• Brochures
• Graphic standards manuals
• Annual reports
• A children's TV show pilot
• A TV comedy pilot (Won an award, too.)
• Bus benches
• Bus signs
• Billboards
• Twelve :60 radio infomercials about horse racing
• Self-promotional postcards
• Product fact sheets
• Concepts for focus groups
• Satirical songs for an improv group
• Sketches for the same improv group (No, they don't make up absolutely everything!)
• A children's cookbook
• A novel (unfinished and now lost due to technological changes)
• Short stories
• Business articles for KC Small Business Monthly
• Non-fiction articles published in two books and one science-oriented magazine
• Weekly online news updates for a not-for-profit organization
• Blog posts
• Interviews
• Tattoos
• Just kidding about that last one.

Oh, yes. I did write copy for a seed packet that went into a direct mailer, too. The point is, a good writer should be able to do virtually any type of writing. The trick is tailoring your writing to the medium by which it will be distributed. That's where experience writing for lots of different products, services and media becomes important.

For example, communications on TV can be more purely graphically oriented than newspaper ads. Because TV has three characteristics that newspapers don't. The first is Z-axis, or depth. The second is motion. The third is sound. Put 'em all together, and you have a visually powerful way to present ideas to the audience. That is, if there's a strong strategy behind a great creative execution. But that's a whole other blog post. See "Creativity Without Strategy is an Empty Pinata," below.

By the way, some of my print samples are online, and I invite you to take a peek. You'll find them at

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Creativity Without Strategy is an Empty Pinata

Or maybe it's more like a fancy house built on a sand foundation.
Or a snazzy sports car without a steering wheel. You get the point.

In advertising, some people (mostly creative people) think creative is king. But the real king is strategy. Marketing strategy and creative strategy. Without sound strategy to guide it, even a highly creative advertising or communication campaign won't get the terrific results a strategy-based campaign might have.

If you're looking to win an ad show award, by all means go for an eye-popping, off-the-wall creative execution. But is your execution what the client needs to increase business? Or it is just meant to wake up a bored out-of-town Associate Creative Director on Addy judging day, so s/he will notice your clever, cute, or outrageous piece and bless it?

Please don't hear me saying when strategy comes in the door, creativity goes out the window. The fact is, I've found that working strategically pumps up creative energy. You can get on the right track immediately, instead of aimlessly flailing around for some wild graphic or bit of wordplay to hang a campaign on, or some lame "borrowed interest" execution. With a strong strategy in hand, you know the target audience, you know their hot buttons and the message they want to hear, and you know what media will be used. You're practically home-free! Nothing left to do but let the creative juices flow! Fun, fun, fun!

As a longtime agency creative, I admit I'm proud of the handsome Omni Best of Show award (bookend) on my office shelf, and the others. But I'm much prouder of the great results strategy-driven creative has won for my clients. Like the following:
• A manufacturing company whose multi-media campaign earned them a 1400% return on their investment.
• An insurance company whose three-part direct mail campaign achieved 400% of goal -- after the first mailing.
• A full-page newspaper ad that drew 150 applications for 12 positions with a KC company opening a new office in Jefferson City, MO.
Also as a longtime agency creative, I've been able to borrow (or steal) some pretty cool tools for formulating effective marketing and creative strategies. The process starts with asking the right questions. From there on, the rest falls into place naturally.

Let me show you how strong strategy plus on-target creative execution can work for you. Call or email me now. Let's get started.

Walt Disney and Salvadore Dali Collaboration

The short (6:46) cartoon, "Destino," is the result of an unlikely collaboration between Walt Disney (everybody's nice old uncle) and Salvadore Dali (the Surrealist who painted all those melted clocks). Dali was listed as one of the "writers," probably means he concepted and storyboarded it and told Disney's animators what actions he wanted between the still frames.

You see the familiar melted clocks and barren landscape, and bicyclists riding along with loaves of bread on their heads, and stones falling away to reveal bleeding flesh underneath. It's pure free-association imagery, some rather scary and/or gross. The music track, a faux Spanish love song with corny Mantovani-style orchestration, is disturbing in its own way.

I found out from another blogger's 2007 post that:
Dali worked on Destino between 1945 and 46 until the money ran out. It was recently taken from the Disney vaults and completed using details notes and drawings using modern technology.
Kids, don't watch this on acid.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Telling and selling is dead.

"The old model was informing, persuading and reminding... the new model is demonstrating, involving and empowering." -- Mitch Matthews, Head of Marketing, Microsoft
Have you ever seen the ancient Anacin TV spot where headache pain is represented by a hammer banging away inside a man's head? The copy, too, was pounded home as forcefully as hammer blows. Anacin quells headaches three ways! It gives you "Fast, fast, FAST relief from headaches, neuralgia, and neuritis." Over and over and over again. Loudly. If the CIA had played this commercial to Gitmo detainees for an hour or so, there would have been no need for other "enhanced interrogation techniques."

I'm sorry to say that one of my early heroes in advertising, Rosser Reeves, was the mind behind the hammer. Well, TV advertising was in its infancy, so he can be forgiven, I suppose, for using its superpowers wrongly.

But today, we're all modern and sophisticated. It's not cool to "tell, sell and yell" at potential customers. You have to seduce them. Pique their interest. Invite them in, rather than bashing them over the head and dragging them in the door. Give them value, not sales pitches. That's why social media marketing is such a hot new thing.

On Twitter, for example, with an intriguing 140-character message, you can entice a reader to follow a link to an interesting article that relates to your field -- or a new post on your blog.

Websites of companies offering SM or other marketing advice give away amazing amounts of useful information in the form of free webinars, book downloads and educational videos. The idea is that if you chomped on the lure they threw you for free, they might then hook you into paying for a monthly newsletter, an eight-week online course, or a seminar. Once you've savored that tasty lure, you're more likely to, aren't you?

"Give? What is this word, 'give?'" My biology teacher, Mr. Webster, used that line on students asking that he give them a point on a test. It's counterintuitive, perhaps, but these days, giving is the way to receive. And the thing you must give is value. Why? In order to build a relationship with the recipient. You want to do that so your prospect or customer stays around. It's easier to ditch a stranger than a friend, isn't it?

In building relationships, trust is everything. Honesty and integrity are vital. You can give someone free stuff to get them interested in paying you for some more valuable stuff, but you have to make sure the stuff they pay for really is valuable. No bait-and-switch moves. And no popups for questionable or totally unrelated sites on your site.

The ancient money-grubbing instinct must now be tamed in service to kinder, gentler methods of commerce. Thinking back to the old Anacin head-pounder, what value did it offer the viewer? The information that there was such a thing as neuritis or neuralgia? And what kind of relationship did it build? Assailant and victim? Was it honest? I don't know. That "three ways" thing rings kind of false to me. Not to mention the lightning bolts in the guy's head. I think even Rosser Reeves, were he alive today, would agree the old Anacin style is defunct.

So the point is, if you want to receive something of value, you have to give value. And if you want people to hang around with you, you have to build relationships with them. And if you want to keep those relationships, you have to be honest, so they know they can trust you.

Wait a minute. Aren't those the old-fashioned values our parents and grandparents grew up with? Wow. The new-fangled way of selling is just old-fashioned decency. Makes it pretty simple after all, then, doesn't it?

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Time to Let Things Go

Memories seem to attach to things like barnacles to a pier. The things themselves are just a collection of atoms arranged to form a doll, a piano or a chair. And the memories aren't really attached to those things, but to some synapses running through my brain.

Will I forget my Great-Aunt Sophia, now that I've sold Mary Ann, the antique doll with the beautiful bisque head, that she gave me when I was tiny? I saw her infrequently and hardly knew her, yet it seems important to remember her.

Will I forget my grandmother (Sophia's sister, Ophelia), having removed the needlepoint cover she made for a stately armchair that was passed down to me, and then, unable to reupholster the chair or even to put the cover back on, having set the poor, ravaged thing out at the curb for the trash men -- or just anyone driving by?

Will I forget my dad, Ophelia's son, Roy, who used to play the Baldwin Acrosonic spinet that's been sitting unplayed in my extra room for years, the one I learned to play on, now that a young couple with a baby are coming Saturday to buy it and take it away?

No, of course I will not forget any of them. But if the physical evidence of their existence is gone, will they become more distant from me? For heaven's sake, they've all been dead for years. How much more distant could they be? And I have boxes and boxes of photographs of them, if I care to reminisce.

Damn! It's so silly to feel bereft, or queasy, or whatever it is that I'm feeling now. I always impatiently snap at others to get rid of things they don't need or use. It's easy, I say to them: just pitch it. I love the way they plow through and get rid of clutter on "Clean House." (Niecie is my role model.) So what is this tightness in my gut?

Wrong question. Right question: Can I allow myself to grieve these losses, even if it doesn't make sense? I say, "Yes."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let Me Tell You A Story

A couple of quotes from a great Business Week online article by Carmine Gallo, a communication skills coach:
Most business communication is dry, writes David Meerman Scott in his new book, World Wide Rave. "People love to share stories. When someone says: 'Let me tell you a story...' you're interested, right? When someone says: 'Let me tell you about my company's product' is your reaction the same? It doesn't sound like a way you want to spend your valuable time, does it? Stories are exciting." Tell more stories to create excitement. . . .

If you want to connect with your audience, inspire them, and motivate them to action, start telling stories.
From the looks of many (mainly local) TV commercials, the people who write them learned in the "bash 'em over the head" school of advertising and promotion. Read Gallo's examples of stories that invite prospects to learn more about your product or company here. Isn't an invitation much more appealing than an order?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Laziest Nigerian email scam ever -- and another even lazier

Here is the email I received today, in its entirety:
Good day,
I have a Business for you to handle with me. Should you be interested please contact me.
R G Barber.

I am online waiting for your reply

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 7:57 PM

Message contains attachments

[attachment link was here]

The attach has the message, please read the attach

Yeah, right. And I am online waiting for the ultimate in lazy email scams. No message, just a link labeled "Sucker Clicking Here."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Popchips: New Product, New Media Campaign

Hey, snack lovers --

Look for this new "junkless junk food" product on the shelves: Popchips. They're a fat-cutter's dream: potato chips that are "popped" rather than deep-fried. I'm fascinated. How the heck do they pop potato chips? But even more fascinating is Popchips' creative, multi-faceted media campaign. It employs social media alongside traditional and outside-the-box media to make a big bang -- or in this case, a big, healthy pop.
The campaign includes extensive outdoor advertising; a Web site along with presences on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; an e-mail newsletter; ads on the video screens in taxi cabs; a sampling program with its own “mobile snack tour,” with a goal of giving away 500,000 bags of Popchips; public relations by Formula PR in New York; and an outreach to trend-setters that seeks to generate positive buzz.
Hey, I want to know when that "mobile snack tour" will be roaming the KC area. And I'm on pins and needles waiting for them to call me, a well-known trend-setter, to promote Popchips to my extensive circle of ultra-trendy friends.

[Read the article here.]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Casebook of Quality Control Officer 896

Case 555: “Busting the News”

The streetlight had just flickered on outside my office window, and I was sorting through some paperwork. I heard the doorknob rattle and looked up to see Bug-Eye slipping in, finger to his lips. After examining the ceiling panels and flowerpots for bugs, he fell into my comfy chair, let out a sigh and shook his head.

“What is it, Bugs,” I asked. “You look all in.”

“I’ll tell ya. So many grammatical and syntactical infractions out there, I can barely catch a Z. I ran out of tickets.”

He skipped the empty ticket pad across my desk blotter.

“Okay, so go home and take a rest.”

“I will, but first, I’ve gotta tell ya…

“Tell me what?”

“Well, ya know that newscaster, Cynthia N.?”

“Well-dressed, well-groomed, well-spoken, on Channel 5?”

“That’s the one. I couldn’t believe it. Two infractions in one newscast!

“Bugs, TELL me, already!”

He peered up through beetled brows. “Said something about windows being ‘busted out.’”

“Cynthia N. said windows were ‘busted out?’ Ugly. Are you sure she didn’t say ‘shattered,’ ‘broken,’ or ‘smashed?’”

“Naaw. And there’s more. A minute later, she said some guy ‘snuck’ around a corner.”

“’SNUCK?’ Good grief! ‘Snuck’ is a non-standard corruption of the word ‘sneaked.’ It’s used only by the uneducated. Certainly not a class act like Cynthia N.!”

“Yeah, I know. I looked it up at But she did use it. With thousands of viewers as witnesses. So whatcha gonna do?”

I frowned. “She’ll be looking at two counts of aggravated verbslaughter.”

“Hey, that’s a little rough, isn’t it?”

“Bugs, the English language is going to hell in a handbasket, whatever that means. We’ve got to uphold the standards. It’s our sworn duty.”

I opened my top desk drawer and touched my QCO badge thoughtfully, then turned to gaze out the window at a few stars glimmering in the darkening sky.

“Sure, it’s a harsh sentence, but getting tough is the only way to stop these perps from infecting the rest of the population with horrible word usage. Just think of the little children, Bugs, trusting and open in front of the tube, soaking up lousy language along with pitches for Lucky Charms and Picnic Barbies. It’s enough to make you cry.”

Turning from the window, I noticed that Bug-Eye was snoring softly and drooling down his clip-on tie. Let him sleep, I thought. He’s done plenty for one day. I sneaked around the desk, stepped out, eased the door shut, then ambled over to Kelly’s to ponder the sad, broken state of our language.

After ordering a beer, I began ruminating. QCO 896 does a lot of ruminating. And a lot of beer. I wasn’t looking forward to slapping the cuffs on Cynthia. She’d have to serve 60 days of hard labor: reading the Oxford English Dictionary cover-to-cover and memorizing ”The Wordwatcher's Guide to Good Grammar & Word Usage.” But as Baretta said, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Guess he learned the truth of that statement himself later on. So I’m sorry, Cynthia, but you’re going over.

Folks, word crimes are on the rise – on TV, radio, in newspapers and magazines -- and they’re dangerous. So if you see or hear of verbslaughter, nounicide, adverbial assault or any other attack on proper usage, leave me a comment for me, Quality Control Officer 896, here. Together, we just might be able to save the English language from wrack and ruin, whatever that means.

# # #

©2009 Liz Craig
All rights reserved.

Something stinks in the state of... Ghana?

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a "Jim Lee" which read:
Hello C/S I am Jim Lee and i will like to know if you can print flyers or brochures with the size of 1. measures 8.5' x 11' (2. )80# Gloss Text or (3.) 0.25 - White boarder (4.) One sided (5.) Full color and what i need on the flyers is ( Glory Be To God ) and the background should be in yellow and the writing black and so let me know the total cost of 120,000 copies and 100,000 copies and also the form of payment you accept so that i will know what to do next hope this will help . pls advise . May God Our Lord Be With you Jim Lee...
This is the second e-mail I've gotten from someone I never heard of asking me about printing. I wrote back to the first one informing him I'm a writer, not a printer, and heard no more. But today, here's another guy thinking I'm a printer.

I have no idea what the "C/S" in the e-mail means. And the requested flyer is incredibly simple. I mean, if "Jim Lee" has a computer with Word, he can probably do this himself and find a FedEx Kinko's or other printer nearby. Weird.
But being the capitalist I am, and being curious as well, I went ahead and got a legitimate printing bid, tacked $200 onto each figure for my efforts, and sent the bid to "Jim Lee."

He wrote back today saying everything looked hunky-dory:

Hello Liz,
Thank you for your email and am obliged for your quotation ,i find the price satisfactory and i give you my order of the 120,000 flyers at the price you stated and i will like to put the request of the 100,000 flyers on hold for now and proceed with the 120,000.I was suppose to arrange for and come and pickup the flyers at your location but unfortunately I got off the phone in aboutr two hours ago with a doctor in Italy that my wife who is there for vacdation has been admitted at the hospital and i have to take the next flight out to Italy to see her and will be very grateful if you could assist in shipping the flyers to the desired location.I am sending this flyers to one of our Church ministry that is located in Accra-Ghana and I have a Shipping Company that has been handling my shipment for me so I want you to contact them with the total weight of the banners to be shipped and get me Freight charges and contact me back with it so that I can email you back with the full payment information details for the payment charges on the Order and Shipping.
This is the contact details for the Shipping Company as follows:
And there was the name and address of a Rev. George Morris in Accra-Ghana(!), plus the contact info for the shipping company. Wow. It was really going to be expensive to send these flyers to Ghana, of all places. Continuing, Jim wrote:
I want you to email them with the pick up location address and the total weight of the ( flyers he Sizes and the Quantity of the ( flyers ) instead of the weight and also the Ship to address and get me the Freight charges and contact me back for the payment and also please do try to leave me with a contact number so i can call you.

NB: the Shipping Company will also handle the packaging and crating and pick up and shipment from your location.

Mr.Jim Lee
Okay. The religious message on the flyers (or banners?), the ship-to address of a minister in Ghana, the idiotic simplicity of the flyers, the information that Mr. Lee had planned to pick up the flyers himself, only he had to fly to the side of his wife, who was sick on "vacdation" in Italy, and the fact that he wanted me to tell him the charges, AND my phone number... it started smelling like another African e-mail scam. I wrote Jim Lee back and told him so. I don't expect I'll hear back. But I hope Mrs. Lee's illness doesn't ruin the rest of her "vacdation."

I guess that "C/S" might be code for "Christian Scam." What I can't figure out is how "Jim Lee" gets any money out of this. Say I front the money to the printer. Then the printer gets my money, and I'm stuck with 120,000 stupid flyers. The shipping charges may be even more than the printing, so if he expected me to front that, he or his colleagues in Ghana could score a few grand. But I've never seen this type of scam before. I guess my mind isn't devious enough to figure it out. Anybody know this particular scam, if it is one?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When Networking Becomes Not-Working

Networking is huge. I'm doing it, you're probably doing it, lots of talented people are doing it -- to make contact with people who might have jobs or projects for them.

Networking, if done properly, can provide you with some great contacts. But it also can backfire if done thoughtlessly. I hope you won't be guilty of any of the following networking boo-boos I've encountered.

• Case #1: You know me, Joe. Don't you?

A guy I'll call "Joe" greeted me and welcomed me to a recent networking event. We chatted for a minute and exchanged cards. I remember Joe because he was the first person I saw there. But apparently, he didn't remember me. A couple of days later, I received an e-mail from him containing some text about his company which was evidently cut and pasted from a printed piece (It referred to some coupon "below" which didn't exist in the e-mail). Talk about careless.

Also, Joe didn't bother to add a personal salutation. In fact, there was no salutation at all. No "Hi, Liz. Good to meet you the other night. Thought you might be interested in this. Take care, Joe." Joe probably sends out the same e-mail to everyone he meets, and he can't be bothered with niceties like addressing recipients by their names. Oh, yes, and there was a PDF of a printed brochure attached. Think I'm going to take time to download and read it, after being treated like a nobody? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Moral: When following up with people you meet at a networking event, at least be polite enough to personalize your e-mail. You now know the person a little, so don't treat them like strangers and expect them to become customers or clients.

Case #2: Spam-a-Lot

A Meetup group I signed up for a couple of weeks ago hasn't met yet. But last week, I received an e-mail from a member of the group asking if I wouldn't like to host a sex toys party in my home. Mind you, this person has never met me, yet she feels fine about urging me to let her come into my home and demonstrate God knows what kinds of sexual devices. Hey! I don't THINK so!

I e-mailed her back, informing her how rude it was to send a total stranger a marketing message and asked if she had spammed all the members of the Meetup. I have received no reply, no surprise. My conclusion: She joined the Meetup only to get to more prospects. Rude! Bad Netiquette!

Moral: Don't use people. Don't spam people. Be nice, get to know them, and If you're joining a primarily social group, just be yourself and enjoy the companionship. Eventually, your business will come up, and once people know you, they'll be more receptive to hearing about it.

Case #3 - The Handshake of Death

One way to kill a relationship before it gets started is to give someone a bad handshake. One that's limp and clammy. Or one that makes you wonder if you'll come out of it with finger bones intact.

I met a woman last night at a networking event. I will never forget "Lou Ann," because if I see her again, I'm going to avoid her like a rattlesnake. Lou Ann's handshake is hazardous. A handshake is meant as a gesture of friendship, but Lou Ann's is an instrument of torture. When she gave me her Handshake of Death, I nearly cried, "Help!" After I started breathing again, I commented on the pain-producing power of her handshake. She explained that she'd been practicing a firmer handshake because someone had told her she needed to. Well, firm is one thing. A vise-grip is another.

Moral: If you're not sure how your handshake is, practice it on a few friends. See if they recoil in disgust from a "dead-handed" shake or howl in pain from your Hulk-like grip. If they do neither, you're probably okay.

If you've encountered any networking boo-boos, please let me know. And if you're a friend of someone who commits them, please let them know. You'll be doing them a big favor.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Post Shredded Wheat "Progress": 30

Best TV spot I've seen in a looooong time. I love "We put the 'no' in 'innovation.'" And every detail of the commercial is perfectly concepted and executed. Next time you see it, listen to the music track and really listen to the copy. It's brilliant. Study the set, "Frank's" tufted leather chair, the lighting and wardrobe. All just... well, perfect. Not to mention the casting of "Frank" himself.

There's a :60 version on YouTube, too. I didn't want to watch it, though, for fear it wouldn't be as perfect. Sometimes time limitations force you to be a better creative.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Watch Out for Net Scam: Contact Scraping

Left: Hey, don't you recognize me? I'm your friend!

I thought I'd heard of all the phishing and other scurrilous scams on the Internet, in some cases by receiving their messages. The Nigerian prince, the bank I never heard of asking me to verify my information, the PayPal request to do the same, when I didn't even have a PayPal account. I thought I knew them all. But "contact scraping" was a new one on me.

The author of this article in the NYT was victimized, as were all the people in his address book, by contact scraping. Lured by two e-mail invitations from a couple of people he hardly knew to see some photos each had posted, he entered his user name and password to see the photos, only to find there were none. The invitation was just a ruse to get hold of his contact list and send everyone on it an invitation to join a certain website. In this case, it was "Tagged." But users have had similar problems with a couple of other, similar websites.

“They’re using your good name to establish a connection,” said Peter Cassidy, secretary general of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a nonprofit organization with representatives from law enforcement, industry and government. . . .

"How do the companies benefit? They are expanding their user population, Mr. Argast said, which they can use to attract potential investors or advertisers. Whether those users are willing participants, or people like me, is another question."
So if you don't want some company to spam all your contacts with phony invitations from "you," be wary of giving up your password and username to anybody you don't know, or to websites whose integrity is questionable.

The Internet: it's a jungle in there.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Global low-balling plays hell with creative fees

Seems like every ad agency or company dealing with communication these days wants to hire one person who can write AND design -- and manage a department, keep track of a budget, split atoms, and juggle knives, bowling balls and flaming torches while making Belgian waffles.

These creative jobs would normally take three people to fill: a writer, a designer, and at least a Creative Group Head. But that was before The Great Recession, aka The Never-Ending Deep-Doo-Doo Economy. I kid you not, I saw an ad for a Creative Director job in Kansas City with all the above requirements (I think gene splicing experience was also "preferred."), and the salary was... wait for it... $35,000 per year. Yes. And they'll probably get some recent college grad to do it. Or outsource the job to one of the highly educated unemployed in India, who will do the job for 12¢ per day.

This global low-balling is playing hell with the creative fee structure. I post my samples at, but I gave up trying to get jobs on that site long ago. Because most of them pay "under $500." And most of the clients are not exactly professional. And you see jobs like the one I came across the other day, offered by a client who sought a "top-quality" copywriter to produce 60 (that's sixty) 500-word articles, every one original, with no cut-and-paste, all proofread and perfect. And the fee he would pay for all this quality and perfection? $125. One hundred twenty-five dollars. Which is equivalent to approximately $7 million in India.

I'd have to move to India to afford to take any of those jobs. Hmm. A Plan B? Well, I've always liked the food...


Nothing says cutesy like -- Jack Russell Terrier Pups -- Live!
EXCERPT from the website:
This show is taking place just north of Syracuse, NY. The mother's name is Lizzie and there are five puppies. They all have coats that are the same color/pattern style as their father, Ollie. He waltzes in and out of the scene on occasion. The long-haired dachsund's name is Meri and she's a grandma at over 10 years old. Ollie and Lizzie are from Jack Russell farms in the Baumholder, Germany area. My wife and I lived there for a few years and brought them back with us.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Adventures in Adland

Every day brings new technoid stuff to learn about and new ways for people and companies to connect to... well, everything in the whole danged world. For example, the social media phenomenon. It's exciting, overwhelming, fun and mystifying. I want to advise potential clients how I can help them get more business with it, but I'm still not sure how. In reading lots of articles about it online, I'm not sure anybody has really figured it out. Seems perfect for reaching teens or college students (BK recently had a successful "Drop 10 Facebook friends for a Whopper" promotion), but more mature people, or small to mid-sized companies?

To keep learning more, I'm doing a bunch of online networking -- Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook -- but since face-to-face networking is more touchy-feely, it seems more likely to lead to friendships and clientships (Is that a word? Guess it is now.) More fun, too. But if I don't bump into you at a live networking event, you can sort of meet me online here. I have a portfolio of my award-winning, results-getting work up there, so take a peek. (Gawd, I hate to promote myself so blatantly, but sometimes ya gotta.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Medieval helpdesk with English subtitles

Thanks to Phil Watkins for the link to this great video. Switching from sheepskin rolls to books with pages proves to be a vexing experience for a medieval reader.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

E-mail to an AdSense advertiser

Wisely or not, I signed up for AdSense on this blog. Occasionally, ads for direct competitors appear beside my timeless copy. But judging from my lack of revenue from AdSense, I doubt if they're getting many clicks.

Today, an ad for a design firm caught my eye because it was so blatantly wrong and stupid. It bugged me so much that I went to the advertiser's website and e-mailed the company president:
Today your AdSense ad appeared on my blog. Here is what it says:

"Your In Good Hands With Our Exquisite Designs & Attention to De"

First, the correct word is "You're," not "Your."

Secondly, your "attention to de" leaves something to be desired. Didn't you bother to count the number of characters allowed in the ad?

Just thought you ought to know what you're showing the world about your company:

A, we're illiterate, and
B, we don't really care about de

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To the manor born? WRONG.

Left: "Hamlet and Horatio" painting by Delacroix

Here is the most comprehensive list of common errors in English I ever have seen. Some of them are less common than others, though. For instance, "to the manor born." That's incorrect. It's supposed to be "to the manner born" (Not that anyone could tell if you were speaking it, but you should know the correct form if you intend to write it.) From the Web page:

Hamlet complains of the drunken carousing at Elsinore to his friend Horatio, who asks “Is it a custom?” Hamlet replies that it is and adds, “but to my mind,—though I am native here and to the manner born,—it is a custom more honour’d in the breach than the observance.”

“As if to the manner born” is used to praise someone’s skill: “Reginald drives the Maserati as if to the manner born” (as if he were born with that skill).

PBS viewers might be cut a bit of slack in this case, I think, since one of the popular Brit series several years back was titled, "To the Manor Born," a pun on the original phrase. Jolly good series, that was.

Peruse the list and see if you have been torturing the King's English unwittingly. You might be surprised.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Web Design: Data beats guesses 2 out of 3 times

Jakob Nielsen*, Web usability guru, offers priceless advice to Web designers and others interested in having their websites be visible and maximally accessible to users. His advice isn't based on style preferences or mere guesses, but on empirical evidence: data compiled by observing actual users attempting to navigate Web pages and sites. He reports eye-tracking studies to identify the hot spots on Web pages, talks about placement of photos, colors, and so on, for maximum usability.

This week's edition of his e-mail, Alertbox, is about font size. A Web page is one area where size does matter, because if your user can't see your brilliant text, they can't read it. But what the hey -- Most people know how to adjust font sizes on their monitors anyway, right? Well, no. Read what people guess about this issue, and what is really true, here.

Jakob Nielsen*Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., is a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group which he co-founded with Dr. Donald A. Norman (former VP of research at Apple Computer). Until 1998 he was a Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer.

Dr. Nielsen founded the "discount usability engineering" movement for fast and cheap improvements of user interfaces and has invented several usability methods, including heuristic evaluation. He holds 79 United States patents, mainly on ways of making the Internet easier to use.

Mad Ave Blues: Tech Has Taken Us for a Ride

This parody of "The Day the Music Died" is very well done, and unfortunately true. Question: How's an ad person supposed to make money when magazines and newspapers disappear, TIVO lets people skip over the ads, and there's no mass audience for any TV program anyway? Take a look at this YouTube video and sing along.

Maybe the chorus should be, "Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo..."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How to Make Sure Your Blog Isn't Completely Rubbish

Blogging: How To Make Sure Your Blog Isn't Completely Rubbish

Could You Become a Savant?

Left: Autistic musician Derek Paravicini performs his first professional concert at St Georges Hall, Bristol, UK (Image: South West News Service / Rex Features)

How to Unleash Your Brain's Inner Genius

An article in the latest online New Scientist suggests we all may have the stuff to become savants. You may know about savants, like the character Dustin Hoffman planed in "Rainman," who was able to memorize phone books and count at lightning speed. Or Derek Paravicini, who can play complex piano compositions after hearing them only once. Here's a fascinating mini-doc (9:58) about him:

The brains of savants and non-savants look different. However, the differences sometimes are not present at birth, but rather seem to emerge over time. Interestingly, the same thing is true of London taxi drivers, whose hippocampus regions grow in size as they memorize more than 25,000 streets and spots of interest.

[BTW, I understand a prospective London cabbie must study what is called "the Knowledge" for three years before being licensed to drive one of those iconic black cabs. Since London streets change names every time they jog one way or the other, I can certainly believe that. The cabbies' hippocampus regions then begin to shrink after they retire and no longer must store all that information in their memories.]

If you're wondering if you could develop some special skill, the answer is "yes." And you don't have to be autistic to do it. But autistic people have one key advantage over you: they focus fiercely on developing their one talent, and they practice it incessantly. But you probably have many different interests and duties, which keep you too busy to practice 12 hours a day, say, memorizing a phone book. Well, at least I hope you do.

If you're interested in brain function, motivation, and becoming a savant, read the article here.

P.S. To see if you have a "prodigious talent," go here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Elance: A Great Place to Post Your Freelance Work

I've found to be an excellent place to post my print and Web work. Wish they could handle video and audio files, too, so I could have all my samples in one place. But nonetheless, being able to present a broad range of writing in one place, plus your picture, info and resume, is a real help for a freelancer like me.

You just can't cram all the print work a prospect might possibly want to see into a leather portfolio. You'd need a forklift to carry it around. But online, there's practically no limit to what you can post. And your potential client can pick and choose what to view.

I should mention that Elance is a bad place to try to get freelance jobs (which is its whole raison d'etre). There are thousands of jobs posted, many of which I could do. But there also are thousands and thousands of freelancers bidding on the same jobs. And most of the jobs are pretty low-paying. Some clients want you to write an article ten different ways for a grand total of $20.00. Most projects are budgeted at $500 or under, and the clients are not what I'd call professional clients. That said, I still recommend it to freelancers as a way of showing your work to prospective clients in the easiest, most efficient way for them and for you.

See my portfolio here . I have ads, articles, short stories, blog posts, and other stuff there for your reading enjoyment. I just added a couple of new items today.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Can the Depression Raise Our Spirits? Advertisers Think So.

Right: A Depression-era insurance office was depicted in a campaign for Farmers. One of the company’s executives said the point was that “there have been hard times we have weathered together.”

The Depression began with the stock market's unstoppable crash in October, 1929, and economic hard times continued until the U.S. entered WWII. Families struggled to put food on the table, and mothers made dresses out of flowered feed sacks. With so many men out of work with no social safety net to catch them, the only help to be found was in a soup line. People sold apples on the street for a nickel each. They did anything they could just to get by from one day to the next. If you have a parent or grandparent who lived through it, you know the Depression had deep and long-lasting effects on a generation of Americans. My mother, for one, became a saver of everything from rubber bands to newspapers to file drawers filled with obsolete information. In her refrigerator, I once saw a plastic margarine container with a paper note on top reading, "Peas." It contained exactly three left-over peas. She once nearly dove down my garbage disposal to save a tomato slice.

Folks those days had it hard, for sure. But now, the Depression is providing inspiration to recession-stressed Americans, via new TV commercials by Farmers and other insurance companies. The message: We've survived terrible economic times before, and we can do it again.

The message is a welcome upper for all of us who have been beaten over the head endlessly with talk of economic gloom and doom, wars, crime, and everything other negative story the networks and newspapers count as "news."

It does seem odd to be using the Depression as a marketing tool. But the ads are upbeat, nostalgic, and historical. They put that bad old past into the black-and-white realm of experience once removed. These ads encourage us. And these days, I'll take encouragement anywhere I can get it.

By the way, if you want to hear from Depression survivors exactly what it was like, read Studs Terkel's great book, "Hard Times."

Friday, May 22, 2009

How to Create a Freelance Contract

Working for a client without a contract is like walking a tightrope without a net. It's risky and could be hazardous to your (financial) health.

If you wonder why you should get a signed contract from your client before embarking on a creative project, see the post below. I learned a costly lesson by NOT having one. A contract between a freelancer and a client protects both parties. It eliminates misunderstandings that can lead to hard feelings. It's just the right way to do things.

This article on takes you step-by-step through the process of creating a freelance contract. This article tells you specifically how to create a freelance desktop publishing or graphic design contract.

You can do it! So do it!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 10 Lies Told To Naive Artists and Designers

Certain clients are not worth having. The ones who either lie to you or try to cheat you out of your rightful fee.

I am acutely aware of this because recently, I plunged heedlessly into a project for a man who was starting his own consulting business, and as a result, I took a bit of a bath.

The entrepreneur needed a website, introductory letters, e-mails, maybe a brochure, etc. Like any good creative, before getting into the specific tactics, I began laying the groundwork for the campaign, via a three-stage process: First Questions about the client and the competition; then Marketing Strategy; and I was about to start on the Creative Strategy when I sent him my invoice for the work up to that point, about $600.

When he received my invoice, he phoned me, flabbergasted at the amount. Why, we hadn't actually produced anything -- that he could see. It was then that he informed me that his entire budget for the debut of his consulting business was $1,000.00. Website, identity package, minor adjustments to the (bad) logo he'd already paid for, e-mail letters, introductory letters, perhaps a brochure... One Thousand Dollars. Yikes. Didn't see that one coming.

In light of that, I advise other creatives to begin by finding out exactly what the client is asking you to do. Second, give him or her a bid and explain what it covers. Third, get a signed contract outlining the agreements between you.

I am undeniably at fault in this case. First, I didn't listen carefully when the client told me what he wanted me to do. I heard him, but unlike him, I knew what would be involved in doing it. I didn't explain the thinking part of the process -- the strategy part -- to him so that he bought into it. To analogize, he wanted me to build him a house, but he didn't want me to create a blueprint for it.

I also did not give him an estimate or bid, assuming (wrongly) that since he knew my hourly fee, he could extrapolate and figure out what roughly what his project would cost. He told me he had founded the company he was leaving after 20 years, had done the website, marketing, etc., etc. So I thought he was a sophisticated client. Remember Ass-U-Me? Now I do.

Finally, I did not draft a contract that made each of us aware of what we would do, and what it would cost. Dumbkopf!

In the end, this $1k client talked me down from $600 to $400 (Since, you see, he only had $1k all together, if you can believe that.). As it ended up, he was going to build his own website on Microsoft Office Live -- which has the ugliest templates on the planet. The best farewell advice I could give him was to check out GoDaddy's templates instead. They're boring, but at least they're not garish.

After years working in agencies and working freelance, how could I have made all these rookie mistakes? By being careless. By assuming because I liked the man, I could trust him. By believing all the stuff he told me about being a President of his own company for 20 years and knowing everything he said he knew. Later, I wondered, if he was all that and a bag of chips, how come he only had $1k to start his own business? Something stinks in Denmark... or in this case, Topeka.

You/I have to be extra-careful with entrepreneurs or "amateur" clients. Don't assume anything! Talk about it up-front and get a signed contract. Your client may or may not decide to pay you, but at least you both know what s/he's not paying you for. If your client is in Missouri, I understand, you have to go to small claims court and try to get a judgment in your favor in order to get the client to pay. If the amount is not large, you may decide to skip court in favor of moving on to the next (better) client.

Anyhow, fellow creatives, as they used to say on "Hill Street Blues," "Be careful out there."

Thanks to KC CopyDiva for the link to this article.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Twitter tweets up business

At first, people used Twitter to tell their friends what kind of latte they were having, and where, that they were walking the Schnauzer, and that they had holes in their socks. Ho hum. Now, though, businesses are beginning to understand that Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool. Especially locally.
Twitter Proves Its Worth as a Killer App for Local Businesses

New Orleans Pizza Joint, Chicago Yogurt Chain See Results From Promos on Microblogging Service
by Abbey Klaassen
Published: May 18, 2009

NEW YORK ( -- All those brands trying to figure the ROI of Twitter? They might do well to follow the lead of the local pizza joint.

NAKED PIZZA: Recent Twitter promotion brought in 150% of a recent day's business.

NAKED PIZZA: Recent Twitter promotion brought in 150% of a recent day's business.

Naked Pizza, a New Orleans healthful-pizza shop that's hoping to go national -- Mark Cuban is a backer -- has been marketing itself via the microblogging service. And recently it has started to track Twitter-spurred sales at the register. In a test run April 23, an exclusive-to-Twitter promotion brought in 15% of the day's business.

"Every phone call was tracked, every order was measured by where it came from, and it told us very quickly that Twitter is useful," said Jeff Leach, the restaurant's co-founder. "Sure, there's the brand marketing and getting-to-know-you stuff. ... But we wanted to know: Can it make the cash register ring?"

Mr. Leach is one of many small businesses using Twitter as a marketing tool -- and his group could turn out to be a lucrative market for the fast-growing site if other local entrepreneurs have similar experiences.

[Read more.]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Insults Had Class

Years ago, wit was acerbic and sharp, and a finely worded insult was a work of art. Here are some of the best I've seen. Enjoy!
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."
Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
Abraham Lincoln

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."
George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second...if there is one."
Winston Churchill, in response

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
Paul Keating

"He had delusions of adequacy."
Walter Kerr

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."
Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."
Thomas Brackett Reed

"He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them."
James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
Billy Wilder
And as a bonus, some great quotes on a more serious note:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense."
Dwight Eisenhower

"Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but both look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect. "
— Freeman Dyson, On Receipt of 2000 Templeton Prize

George Gerbner, who headed the Annenberg School for Communication for 25 years: "Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures. … They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities."
Quoted by Molly Ivins

From a letter from President James Madison to the Baptist churches on Neals' Creek and on Black Creek, North Carolina, in which the President wrote about his February 28, 1811, veto of a bill passed by Congress and the Constitution's guarantee:

"I have received fellow Citizens your address, approving my Objection to the bill containing a grant of public land, to the Baptist Church at Salem Meeting House Mississippi Territory. Having always regarded the practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, I could not have otherwise discharged my duty on the occasion which presented itself."

- - - - -

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Scientists Could Communicate More Effectively

Sent by a friend:

The following is an actual sentence, copied from a posting to President Obama's request for input from the science community on the hiring competent scientists, by a chemist from San Diego. Is there any doubt that scientists need to focus on their communication skills? If a normal sentence were a sprint, this sentence would be a marathon.
Please consider encouraging, in publicly funded projects, and incentives similarly in the private sector as well, more opportunities for “on-the-job” training/re-training for scientific, engineering and other technological positions for American citizens that have sufficient or nearly so academic education and sometime more than adequate, but due to various situations have not obtained as much professional experience in some narrow area that one may be well aware of the usefulness of acquiring experience in this, given their both theoretical and practical academic training, and thus actively seek to develop this as such, or even conversely speaking for example, with something commonly used, yet by sheer coincidence the professional experience obtained from the given jobs that one is hired for instead involve something narrow that is not common to other similarly classified positions rather than either not or only not very extensively involving this marketable skill set resulting be passed over in favor of foreign workers on H-1B or other such visas who may in fact, have even less or at least roughly equivalent, thus far before the time of hire, overall combined cumulative academic/professional experience!

Daydreaming Works Out Your Brain

Got a tough problem to solve? Try daydreaming.

Contrary to the notion that daydreaming is a sign of laziness, letting the mind wander can actually let the parts of the brain associated with problem-solving become active, a new study finds. -- - May 13, 2000

This is good news for me and my fellow wool-gatherers. It means that while you're gazing out a window or into your cat's blank eyes, seemingly thinking about nothing in particular, you're actually doing a brain workout. Parts of the brain’s "executive network," which is associated with high-level, complex problem-solving, light up when you’re daydreaming.

Certain ad agency account people I've worked with have not understood this concept. Nothing against AEs and ASs (Oops, didn't really mean an insult there -- but you know who you are.); they're always running a mile a minute, churning out meeting reports, Gantt charts and whatever other paperwork they have to do for clients to prove they're working. The idea that sitting around thinking is "work" just doesn't compute.

Long ago, I worked for a small ad agency whose owner was alarmed by the sight of me sitting at my desk staring at the wall. He would whisper to others, "What is she DOING?" I imagine he saw a dollar meter racking up the money he was paying me while I sat there, apparently producing nothing. He fired me on my birthday. I considered it a great birthday gift, since the boss's idea of "creative" advertising was P&G coupon ads. "New!" "FREE!" These "creative" words had to be included in every ad. Tip to creative job-seekers: be sure you find out what your prospective boss means by the term, "creative."

The fact is, the creative process includes a lot of daydreaming, wall-staring, doodling, humming, walking around, and so on. Typing doesn't mean you're producing anything usable. Not typing doesn't mean you're not.

Here's how the creative process works in an ad agency. Typically, there will be a big kickoff meeting where everybody on an account will receive input from the account people about the project at hand. Afterward, creatives will gather to discuss and propose some initial ideas, most of which are lousy. This is normal. Then they go away to their individual cubicles and do that all-important daydreaming. While a creative sits around looking inert, new input integrates and coalesces in the brain. A few halfway decent ideas may emerge later in the day or the next day. [AEs and ASs, please understand that the reason creatives hate tight deadlines is not that they're lazy and don't want to work; it's that tight deadlines don't give the creative brain enough time to work.] Coming together again later, writers and art directors compare their ideas, combine, sort, discard, and eventually arrive at two or three workable concepts to present to the CD.

The best, most effective campaign I ever worked on took several weeks to develop. The art director and I took walks in the park, lounged in the creative conference room staring at the ceiling, drew pictures, exchanged jokes, did word-association, whatever. The resulting multi-media campaign netted a 1400% ROI for the client. We had time enough to be creative. And we had a very good client, it should be said.

The point is, very little of the creative process occurs during the execution part. By then, the blueprint is done, the materials to build are on hand, and the brick-and-mortar work begins. Not that creative ideas are banned at this stage. They may enhance the original plan. But the point is, ideas come out of thinking and daydreaming, not looking busy.

Account people, relax. When your creatives are daydreaming, they're doing exactly what they're being paid to do: create successes for you and your clients.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Know I'm off-topic here, but...

If you, the reader, are a bit puzzled as to what the heck the theme of this blog is these days, well, so am I.

It started out being about advertising and marketing. Then I started discovering the most mind-blowing, creative ideas out there in the rest of the world. Things that make you go, not "hmmm," but "Omigod!"

Ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world. Wild with crazy, artsy, wonderful stuff that defies definition or categorization. Often, even reason. Stuff that makes your brain go "Bzzt! Hello!"

If you experience a painting, a performance piece, a film, a video, or even an exquisite meal -- and something that was sleeping within yourself stirs to life, well, isn't that what living is all about?

Life lived creatively, swimming in ideas, gargling music, stroking art, is rich. Life without transcendence is not life. So say I.

And I still don't know what the heck the theme of this blog really is. I can't wait to see where it goes next...