Writer/director Jordan Peele describes his new hit movie “Get Out” as a societal thriller.

Produced at a budget of $4.5 million, chump change in Hollywood, the film has already done $133-million at the box office and has a 99% positive Rotten Tomatoes score.

What’s the secret to its success? Empathy.

Jordan Peele is biracial and understands what it’s like living in a black and white world. As half of the very successful comedy team of Key & Peele, he helped write and act in some of the smartest comedy sketches produced in the last ten years.

With “Get Out”, Peele has written and directed a film that is informed and intelligent. The movie lets white people get an inkling of what it’s like to live as a black man in our alleged post-racial American society.

Oh, but this film is not preachy or heavy-handed. It’s fun, funny, thrilling and surprising, and makes its point that we live in a divided society where race determines behaviors–– for whites toward blacks, and blacks toward whites.

In an age where blockbuster movies are usually driven by CGI effects and proven pop culture properties, “Get Out” stands as a testament to great, original storytelling and compelling performances.

See it.

This weekend, you can feast your eyes on the special effects extravaganza of “Rogue One,” the new “Star Wars” movie, or, perhaps see “Manchester By The Sea,” a film with no special effects and a budget that was probably less than the craft services budget of the sci-fi thrill ride.

Do yourself a favor and see “Manchester By The Sea”–– if not this weekend, sometime soon. I’m sure “Rogue One” will be incredible, but you don’t need a cavalcade of special effects to be moved emotionally. You just need a good story, well-told and well-acted.

“Manchester” is a simple story exploring the complexities of the human condition and the frailties of living comfortably inside one’s skin.

Casey Affleck delivers an incredibly poignant and restrained performance of a man wrought by guilt and shame thrust into being the caretaker for his nephew when his brother dies.

Can he care for another when he barely can care for himself?

Lucas Hedges is terrific as the nephew, likewise Michelle Williams as Affleck’s ex. All the performances are true and striking in their honesty.

Don’t mistake this film for a complete downer; the story is told with intelligence, humor, wit and grace.

With no car chases, superheroes, battle scenes, or cities annihilated while masses run screaming, “Machester By The Sea” does what great cinema has always done–– touch us with its humanity. The performances make you feel empathy for the characters, and you’ll feel richer for the experience.

See it. The film is a great reminder that in marketing, the most powerful messages are the ones told with empathy so people connect emotionally.

And, yes, also see “Rogue One,” which I’m sure has a human story fueled by millions in computer-generated pyrotechnics.

cvvgfqowyaaawgsWe have just witnessed a World Series for the ages: The Cleveland Indians playing The Chicago Cubs. Two perennial losers going toe-to-toe for their long-suffering fans.

And both teams won.

Congratulations to The Cubs for earning the trophy and doing it in true underdog fashion, coming back from being down 3-1 games (just like the Cavs did earlier this year–– oh, irony, you’re something else!).

And Congratulations to The Indians for having an incredible post-season after being riddled with injuries.

Both teams played with heart, were scrappy, and exhibited true sportsmanship throughout. Both are managed by masterminds. And both epitomized the absolute best of America–– optimism, work ethic, determination, and willingness to succeed.

It’s sad that the purity of beautiful games had commercial breaks showing negative political ads foretelling doom and gloom and slinging mud. Since 9-11, we have become a fearful people.

I won’t get political, but I will say that we need to cheer up and celebrate what’s great about America: the character we saw exhibited on the field by two great baseball teams, and the purity and timelessness of our beautiful sport.

Thanks, Tribe and Cubbies, for restoring my faith in humanity. Now, can we get this damn election over with and get on with life?

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.


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.


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.”


Forget diet and exercise, this year I’m resolving to become a better person and more effective adman. Maybe you, too, can benefit from adhering to my resolutions.

1. Talk less, listen more. You learn nothing when you speak.
2. Don’t jump to conclusions. Past actions may lead to predictable outcomes, but the present is made fresh daily, where randomness and chaos are as natural as air.
3. Be more generous. Know that when you give you get.
4. Patience. I used to say, “I can’t wait until I learn patience.” A good joke, but a bad way to live. Things do work out. Always. Eventually.
5. Relinquish control. The firmer you grasp, the more slippery and more tentative your hold. Control is an illusion and one that will lead to frustration.
6. Do more. Rather than dream, do. It’s a simple way to learn what works and what doesn’t.
7. Respect all. It’s easy to be a jerk and look down on others, but you know nothing of them, their struggles, their challenges. Practice compassion and may it be returned.
8. Embrace failure. You don’t have to like it, but you can always learn from it.
9. Communicate better. You can trace 99% of all problems to poor communications. Be clear.
10. Smile more. Seriously, lighten up. It’s all good.

Oh, and eat right and exercise, too. Can’t hurt.

Here’s to a healthy, prosperous and happy 2016!