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In 1968, Andy Warhol famously said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Ever since, we’ve all been working on trying to prove Andy right. But it’s hard.

Even with computers, laptops, notebooks, smartphones, social media, seven degrees of separation and our constant relative proximity to Kevin Bacon, getting famous is a royal bitch.

And “world famous”–– well, that’s a very tall order.

But some people do it. They win the fame lottery. They have their moment and bask in their fifteen-minute spotlight. And others, like those named Kardashian, we know every little thing they do or say for ages and ages–– as if they are fonts of eternal wisdom.

God help us.

Years after Andy said his famous quote about fame; he said this: “I’m bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is ‘In 15 minutes everybody will be famous.’”

And that’s where we are today, everyone striving to be famous. We write our posts, tweets, blogs, comments, rants, raves, bitches, reviews and churn out pictures and videos like Hollywood and Bollywood combined. We curate our lives of eternal happiness and perfection on social media and wait for the world to follow us as we stockpile ‘likes’ like they are currency, and we are broke.

In a world full of people starved for attention, you, dear marketer, must somehow pierce the veils of self-obsession on screens and make your brand famous.

Good luck with that.

If you need some help, call. We’ll use empathy and creativity to create some work that will do Andy proud.

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Over the weekend, I saw Dirty Harry’s movie “Sully” starring Forrest Gump.

You know who I’m talking about.

I highly recommend this film, even though I know you already know the story. This movie details what happened on January 15, 2009, after Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger made a forced landing of an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River, saving all 155 lives on board.

It’s the story of a mortal using judgment to override airline protocol because he believes his decision to be the best and only hope for a good outcome.

And then, that person’s judgment is called into question by bureaucrats using technology as a measurement tool, a proving ground, a whip, and a smoking gun.

In other words, it’s a humanity versus technology tale. The same battles that marketers face daily.

Do you go with your gut? Or, do you go with the numbers?

Ad god Bill Bernbach once said: “Safe advertising is the riskiest advertising you can do.”

Yet, every day marketers seek CYA numbers to make their decisions.

Maybe they shouldn’t.

See “Sully” and enjoy the ride.

As we come down the final stretch of the political season, I’m avoiding the news. I can’t take the endless stream of sensational stories designed to stir emotions.

The country feels angry, divided, in turmoil. And the internet makes it easy to justify whatever point-of-view you choose. We live in an age where we are all always 100% right.

It’s not good.

Enter artists.

Art has always been the salvation of humanity, providing us a relief valve for the pressures of life.

I was recently contacted by a couple of artistic friends in Baltimore, Wall Matthews, a music composer, and David Simpson, a commercial director and photographer. I’ve worked with these guys professionally over the years on a variety of commercial projects, and they’re terrific. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in working with them on a music video.

Wall is part of a band named Twisted Vines who have just released a CD. David was asked to direct a video for the band’s excellent rendition of the classic song “Keep On The Sunny Side.” David had an idea for a story, and he asked if I would help write it.

I jumped at the opportunity. We wanted to show the world through the eyes of a Vietnam veteran with a simple overriding message, one that hopefully will resonate for the times we live in.

The video is posted below. If you like it, please share the video and treat yourself to the entire Twisted Vines CD. Thanks.

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AD AGE published an opinion piece article this week proclaiming the creative director’s role of today will be obsolete in a decade. In the author’s brave new world, artificial intelligence will be critical to marketing success.

The creative director will be a shepherd corralling all those 1s and 0s to build the voice of the brand and serve the right message to the right person at the right time.

The author of the article gives the example of Starbucks serving a digital message to potential customers in Dallas with the headline, “Hey, Dallas!”

A pretty profound marketing insight there. I think that digital ad would probably pull better than one that read, “Hey, St. Louis!” running in Dallas, but a simple A-B test would hopefully give the definitive answer.

This article is another canary in the coal mine proclamation for our industry. It’s the point of view that continually marginalizes creativity for the importance of technology.

At the root of this is the belief that advertising communications are more science than art.

I don’t buy it. Most of what the author wrote about was basic modern marketing. We get it–– customize, geo-message, opportunistic analysis of search data, blah blah blah.

That stuff can and should be done by computers. There is little nuance, psychology, human understanding involved. It’s number crunching.

Get to it computers, crunch away, and no breaks!!!

But the real value that a marketing firm brings a marketer has always been ideas. Human ideas that will pique interest and engage an audience, then create preferences for products and yes, ideally trigger an action resulting in sales.

That’s a tall order, especially when there are 32,498 different media channels available in reaching a consumer. You need more than messages tailored to the geography. Somewhere along the line, there has to be a human connection.

Great campaigns are ones that do that; they are based on insights, empathy and understanding the human condition and how a particular product can benefit it.

Because people are involved, it’s unpredictable. Great creative is playing 3-dimensional chess; there are countless variables and many roads that lead nowhere.

That’s why there are so few great campaigns. As a friend once said, “If it were easy, it’d be easy.”

Or, as the philosopher Ringo Starr said, “It don’t come easy.”

I’m sorry to all those who want technology to solve the dilemma of marketing in the 21st century. I don’t see that happening, not as long as our audience is people.

But maybe if we could implant chips in their head, then the technocrats might have a chance to win.

“Hey, Dallas, buy this–– NOW!!!!”

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I recently attended an interesting panel discussion with industry experts on the subject of social media.

Here was the overriding takeaway: people don’t like ads, so make messages that are entertaining, engaging, educational and uplifting.

Millennials especially hate being assaulted with boring advertising, so give them some sugar, baby!

Who knew?

Look, no one likes bad ads, no matter what the media. You know who zaps commercials most often? The people who make them. We have very low tolerances for inane, insipid, boring, stupid, borrowed interest concepts. (We’re picky that way.)

But all human beings are attracted to entertaining, educational, enriching messages.

Some of the messages I’ve seen in social media are so soft, I wonder how they got approved and produced. The product has minimal relevance to what’s going on. It’s there only to foot the production bill and slip a product or logo in there somewhere.

These films are like a granddad who gives neighbor kids crisp dollar bills to get them to like him. Sure, he may smell like stale tobacco and sour breath, but he’s a pretty popular guy.

Another thing I heard at the conference was the need for brands to keep their content fresh. Apparently, the more units you produce, the more your engaged audience will appreciate them.

This insight came from someone representing a major brand. This same brand runs the same thirty-second spot ten times during the same sporting event.

Game after game after game. For weeks on end.

What’s the logic of that?

Online, fresh is best–– but on air, it’s one and done! Keep hammering that sucker into their thick skulls, eventually, they’ll surrender!

They have to.

We live in strange times, people, but never forget that people are people and they require some empathy in communications in all media.

Please feel free to share this on social media, this is my crisp dollar bill.

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I just read a fascinating article about the importance of touching.

The upshot of the post is this–– humans need human interaction, human touch. We crave it.

Hugs, kisses, hands held, touch, massage, cuddles–– it’s all good. All natural. All perfectly human.

It’s how we’re wired, baby.

Yet, sadly, most of us get precious little human interaction. We exist and interact on digital leashes. The article mentions that the average person touches his phone 85 times a day.

It appears our relationship with inanimate objects is far stronger than our relationships with each other. And given the way we incessantly grope our smartphones, we should clean their screens much more often than we currently do.

But we need more than smartphone play. I think deep down we are hungry, starved for physical interaction because it feeds our mental well-being and happiness. It nourishes our souls.

I firmly believe in the not too distant future, people will pay for human interactions, not sex–– people will always pay for that, but just human encounters that will get our serotonin levels juiced.

As we become further plugged into technology, further submerged and dependent on the grid for interaction, let’s not forget we are physical animals who like to herd.

Let’s run again with the pack. And we can blog and post about it later.

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Years ago, I made a disturbing observation–– people don’t have as much fun as they used to.

Think about it: is there less fun in modern society, or more? I posit there’s less, much less. In fact, I’d say we’re in a fun drought.

Tune in to Turner Classic Movies (TCM), and you’ll see people having a grand time, even in the depths of the Great Depression. Sure, it’s Hollywood, but the nation put on a happy face and people went along for the ride. “Dust stew for supper again, Ma? Aw, that’s swell, anyhow. Ain’t hardly nothing as comforting as a bellyful of your homemade dirt. Let me sing a song and play some spoons…”

Movies today? They’re comic books brought to life with impending evil always striking, and CGI catastrophes of all kinds befalling humanity. Manhattan didn’t know how good it had it back when King Kong was it’s only worry.

The news today? If it bleeds it leads–– murder, rape, death, disease, and destruction are on an endless loop. Pessimism and fears fester. There’s an ISIS terrorist hiding under every bed.

Goodnight, America, sweet dreams. Don’t forget your sleeping pill.

The digital age gives us endless diversions and opportunities for obsessions. The internet is a minefield of rabbit holes and black holes that will suck your time and lifeblood with every click. But any opinion or belief can be affirmed, any conspiracy theory proven, and any rant or insulting comment unloaded.

You can even do it under the cloak of anonymity. Snark safely in the shadows.

Then there’s reality, and frankly, reality is no longer good enough–– now it must be augmented.

Hey, look over there, is that Zapdos and Articuno?!!! Got to catch those elusive bastards!

We engage in social media and shun social interactions. Do you recall the last stimulating conversation you had? Is socializing a thing of the past? Read about salons, Hemingway and his crew in Paris, the Algonquin Round Table, bridge clubs, the Rat Pack, gatherings at Rob and Laura Petrie’s house, Warhol’s Factory, on and on.

What’s our equivalent today? A spirited Facebook string? A Twitter meltdown? Instagram hearts?

We’ve become overly-politicized, rigid in our perspectives with reinforced narratives that become our unshakable worldviews. When a different point of view is expressed, we react like Frankenstein’s monster reacted to fire, and we stumble away.

Americans also design their prisons with our workaholic 24/7 mindset. We check business emails at bedtime, work on weekends and vacations, conduct more than just personal business on toilets, and shush our kids so we can make the final tweaks to the PowerPoint presentation.

Modern people are in ruts, and we must force ourselves out. Marketers can help with empathetic engagements that enrich and lift spirits. We should at least try.

We must live again, laugh again and who knows, maybe even dance again. Why should the twentieth century have all the fun?

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Remember starting out in your career–– how hard it was because so few people spent time with you sharing their advice and wisdom, and how frustrating it was?

I remember. And it fueled my passion and commitment not to be like some of the people I met.

I recall one interview with a creative director at a hot creative agency in Cleveland. I had been trying for months to get an appointment with him. It was like getting into the Emerald City to see the great and mighty Wizard of Oz.

I finally got my day and was ushered into the grizzled adman’s office. It was decorated with various awards he’d won. He barely acknowledged my presence, he immediately asked for my portfolio–– no small talk or human interaction.

He flipped from page to page, barely scanning the contents. He was like an Evelyn Wood speed reading graduate on a cocaine bender. When he got to the end, he slammed the portfolio shut.

“What do you want?” he asked in an accusatory voice. I cleared my throat.

“Well, I was wondering if you had any copywriting jobs––”

“No,” he barked, shoving my portfolio away from himself as if it was toxic waste. “And if we did, we wouldn’t hire someone like you.”

He told me to get a job in the ad department of a large department store, work there three to five years, then go work at a small ad agency for three to five years, then, maybe then, come back to see him.

The last thing I ever wanted to do was see that miserable bastard again.

I left his office lower than whale turds. Yes, he was a decorated creative, his name would live on in award show books and etched on ad hardware, but he was a first class jerk.

I’ve thought about him throughout my career and have done my best to never be like him. If someone wants to see me, I’ll do my best to do so.

If I review work I don’t like, I explain why–– in a gentle but supportive fashion. Sometimes, to quote J.K. Simmons in the movie “Whiplash”, it’s just “not my tempo.”

Hey, it’s a subjective business.

But I try to be open, honest, and supportive. Our business, every business, is hard enough without dealing with assholes.

Please, be empathetic to those who seek your wisdom. It’s the right thing to do and it will be appreciated. And, it will pay rewards for your psyche and well-being.

May we never live through another week like the last one.

We saw unspeakable acts. We shared grief, rage, and pangs of hopelessness.

People retreated to their political camps and shrouded themselves in like-minded crowds.

But how many of us actually put ourselves in another’s shoes? Did we feel the pain others felt? Did we try and imagine and experience what they must be going through?

Unfortunately, these days our minds are more closed than ever. Blame it on social media and human nature to cocoon ourselves in the comfort of those who share our points of view.

But until we can truly try and feel what others are going through, until we can comprehend and appreciate their emotions, we are doomed to stay the same.

And after a week like the one past, that’s tragic.

Remember what a wise man said in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

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The restaurant chain Chili’s just broke a new ad campaign and it’s really good.

The campaign is rooted in Chili’s roots, going back to the ancient time of 1975, when hamburger hippies still roamed the planet and they had simple ideals and values–– to serve good burgers, fries, chili, beer, and good times.

Sounds like a winning recipe, right?

It was. The Chili’s chain grew like kudzu on a diet of Miracle-Gro, water, and eternal sunshine. Chili’s popped up everywhere, and unfortunately, over the years its menu also grew. Like many restaurants, they had The Cheesecake Factory menu envy.

Chili’s started adding everything but tequila-grilled sushi to its offering of simple staples: eggrolls, flatbreads, wings, queso, fried-just-about-anything, three soups in addition to chili, a slew of salads, burritos, tacos galore, mango-chile chicken, fajitas, ribs (“I want my baby back, baby back, baby back…” you know the rest), steaks, fresh Mex bowls, a sandwich board of sandwiches, warm quinoa & wheatberry (?), shrimp, salmon, enchiladas, tostadas, quesadillas, pastas, chicken crispers, mango-chile tilapia–– you get the drill, a menu the size of the IRS 1040 filing instructions, and almost as confusing.

And guess what? With the ever-expansive menu, the food quality dropped. I used to be a big Chili’s fan. I loved them when I lived in Dallas in the 80’s. Back then, the menu was simple and consistently delicious. Chili’s chili was terrific.

I recently ate at a Chili’s in Atlanta and tried a bowl of the original red. They’ve even screwed up their signature chili. The burgers now taste processed, and the atmosphere is artificial (how many pieces of flair can you wear?). The restaurant felt like the front end of some distant commissary in an industrial park; an antiseptic place churning out soulless fare.

As much as I like their new ad campaign, I know it’s a lie. The Chili’s experience is not the one depicted in the “hamburger hippies” TV spots. Today’s Chili’s feels like the “product of a boardroom” and managed by “a bunch of stiffs”–– the ones these new spots use as the antithesis of the restaurant’s humble and idealistic beginnings.

Unfortunately, now Chili’s is a monolithic factory manufacturing high caloric processed foodlike mouthfeels.

Which is a damn shame. I loved Chili’s and I want them to be the restaurants with the spirit of the hamburger hippies spots. It’s a great story, a terrific legacy, but it doesn’t hold true today.

Bummer, man.

Bill Bernbach said great advertising will put a bad product out of business quicker. The reason is the ads will set high expectations, and if reality delivers disappointment, well, people know the score and won’t be back.

I wish advertising could fix operational issues, but it can’t.

There’s a lesson for all marketers to remember. We’re only as good as whatever it is we’re putting in the spotlight, and unfortunately, sometimes our ads are better than what’s being advertised.

And that’s dangerous.

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