Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

2010 Comes To An End

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

It’s almost done. And what started out as a year full of excitement around creating a Super Bowl spot and great mobile app for one client, turned into a very strange, humbling, surreal, and “full circle” kind of year for me and my career.

The year took me from Los Angeles to New York City, or home as it were.

In between those two points, January 1st celebrating the new year at the Viceroy with Monica in Santa Monica, and today at my desk here on Park Ave. there’s been a lot of turns. I went to Seattle, San Jose, San Francisco, back to Seattle, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff Arizona, Roswell New Mexico, Dallas Texas, Little Rock Arkansas, Memphis Tenn., Nashville Tenn., Miami Florida, Boston MA, Denver Colorado, and Atlanta Georgia.

This year was a wild ride. I solidified a few friendships, made some new ones, met and dated a few new people, and all in all learned a lot about myself in 2010.

What do I want from 2011? I want that travel list to include many places outside the United States. I want to continue meeting new people and making new friends. I want, more than anything, to keep and grow the friends I have made over the years.

It wouldn’t be a 2010/2011 post without a list of some sort, right? So here goes… this is what I want to accomplish in 2011…

  1. At least 3 trips to Europe
  2. At least 2 trips to California (1 to SF and 1 to LA) to see friends and enjoy those two cities
  3. Spend more time with the family, especially my parents
  4. Less beer, more wine
  5. Continue to kill it at work
  6. Give to charity, find a few that I believe in and give to them
  7. Get that movie script started
  8. Invest my time wisely… more relationships and people
  9. Continue doing what I do well, not sweating the small stuff
  10. Connect with my nephew more, he needs my help
  11. Get more out of NYC, culturally, and conversely, get out of NYC more
  12. Read at LEAST 1 book a month
  13. Of course I’ll put the obligatory gym-3-times-a-week-thing in here
  14. Be inspirational
  15. Be less of a cynic (in NYC this actually more difficult than you might think)
  16. Really make an effort to write more often. This blog and my half-assed attempt to make it something interesting needs much more of an effort from me. 2011 will see that effort.
  17. ——–
  18. ——–
  19. ——–
  20. ——–

I’m actually leaving those last few blank for now. I’m sure that there will be stuff to add later. So that’s that. I’ve made my list. Let’s see what I write come December 2011 when I look back at this list. I really hope to write something along the lines of “I had a little more beer than I’d like, but overall, I got it all done.”

How To Be a Real Man

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I’m not going to get into the inspiration behind the point of this post simply because it would take too long to write and it would muddy the purpose.

A conversation I was having with a girl friend of mine got me thinking about what it means to be a real man. I’ve been reading GQ and Esquire every month for the better part of the last few years. Esquire more than GQ often cites small examples of what it means to be man, a gentlemen, basically instructions for how to behave in situations ranging from the professional, to the personal, to the intimate.

If I were to distill this overall “man” behavior to one word I’d say that word is respect.

Respect for oneself. Respect for others. Respect for tradition… and to some extent, change.

Respect for oneself can be defined in so many ways. My means to defining respect, in all it’s forms, is not an exhaustive list of rules. No. It’s more a general set of guidelines that provide a little room for interpretation given that every man and every situation he faces has different variables.

  • It can be expressed in the way you dress. Style is subjective and can run the gamut of tastes. But taking care to make sure it’s clean, and that it at least looks like some degree of thought was put into your outfit, that’s a form of self respect.
  • Speaking in public spaces about topics that are better left between friends in a more private setting.
    • Don Draper (of Mad Man fame) has a classic line. He said, “take off your hat.” In a short elevator scene on the way up to Sterling Cooper, Don is in the elevator with an older woman. Two young guys step onto the elevator and continue their off-color conversation. Don shoots a look. They continue. Don then says, sternly, “take off your hat.” Straight-faced, eyes focused and unwavering. The guys knew his statement had zero to do with hats and everything to do with ending their conversation while in the presence of a woman. The woman glanced back over her shoulder and Don did nothing other than stare at her briefly. No knowing head nod or wink to let her know he had taken care of it. For him, it was all in a day’s work of being a man.
  • Try to do it well. Whatever “it” is doesn’t matter. When a man engages in an activity, it is a reflection of his values and his capacity to do. If “it” is his career, the effort he puts into it is a reflection of his work ethic. If “it” is the shelves he is putting up to house his entertainment center, the effort he puts into making sure the wires aren’t visible and that everything is level and clean is a reflection of his character.
  • A gracious loser. A man knows he cannot win every time. Despite his best efforts, which are a reflection of his mettle, there will be losses. Respect yourself and your opponent enough to be gracious about your defeat… just make sure you learned from the loss and obliterate them in the rematch.
  • No man is above apologizing… or crying.
  • I once read a quote that said something like, “A man’s true character lies in how he treats someone who is of no consequence to him.” Basically meaning that a CEO who treats an assistant with respect by offering a “please” and “thank you” rather than a barked order is a man of quality and professionalism. Respect for others.
  • Although this sounds cliche, a man knows the right thing to do isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
    • This probably needs it’s own site the topic can be so vast and confusing, but the truth is simple… when a man is breaking up with a woman, he knows that being direct, honest, and having that conversation as soon as you begin feeling like it’s time to move on is what it takes to remain true to what it means to be a man.
    • Esquire had a great table of how to break up based on how long you’ve known each other. Like one date meant you could call her to let her know you weren’t interested. Three dates or more, in person. Text Msg, never.
  • A man isn’t scared to fight. He doesn’t go looking for one as that is the province of juveniles and the uneducated. Solving differences of opinion with words is the truest form of being a man. Defending oneself when if something should come to blows is another one of manhood’s truest forms. Provoking a fight, is unacceptable.
  • Love in all it’s forms is where a real man has lots of room for interpretation. Writing poetry, buying flowers and candy… sure, for some men that’s fine. It pushes the boundaries of my definition, but those things have their time and place. Holding her pocketbook while she shops, that’s tough, but also semi-acceptable. Reading to his children and acting like child when playing with them, completely acceptable form of expression of love and still being considered a real man.
  • Opening doors, listening, being patient, honest, and complimentary are all the qualities a real man has when he is around women.
  • A real man can mix it up when he is with the boys. Crass remarks, the retelling of ethnic jokes, bathroom humor, also acceptable forms of being man… so long as their done during long car trips, at a camp site, and no women are around to hear the men let loose and unwind.
  • Real men believe in something and would fight for that belief. Political, religious, whatever. A man doesn’t impose his view of the world on others, no, but he will listen, discuss, and debate his points of view with anyone.
  • Gentlemen are well read, traveled, and know a thing or two about other cultures.
  • Men should their way around a woman’s body… although lots of practice is the preferred way of men, paying attention to her movements, subtle gasps, twitches, leans, and words is another way.
  • A man doesn’t use pick-up lines. He uses genuine interest in the woman and conversation.
  • He can spot the clues. A touch of her hand on his shoulder, a lingering stare, the closeness of her body to his when there’s plenty of space to keep a distance.
  • Even if she’s open to it, a man knows to limit the dirty jokes around her (and by limit I do mean RARELY). Sure they can get a laugh, but too many and you’re pervert. One or two and you’re a man who can push a boundary but in a comical way that breaks the tension and shows a lighter side to balance his serious one.
  • A man always expects to pay. For dinner. For drinks. For the cab. If she offers, decline. If she offers again, accept. This changes when there is a relationship there, several months long and a stated commitment. A dating man is a gentlemen and when he does the inviting, he’s is paying.
    • If she invites, still expect to pay. If she’s worth your time, she’ll offer to pay before the bill comes or when she invited you.
  • Men shouldn’t gossip. It’s unbecoming. Sometimes a story needs to be retold, or a rumor needs to get some clarity or confirmation. Things aren’t always so cut and dry. A man can rise above this stuff, and should, but every now and then it’s ok for a man to get a little more information about something. “Did she really do that? Wow.”
    • A man doesn’t start the rumor. He also, when possible, removes himself from the area when certain topics are being discussed. Especially when in the confines of a professional setting. Sure the intern is cute, but that’s something you tell only your closest friends and outside of the office… if at all.
  • Honest with himself and others. He doesn’t tell half truths. He stays silent or doesn’t comment.
  • He faces problems and asks for help if he needs it.
  • He understands that he is not an island and the weight of the world isn’t on his shoulders. He realizes that his actions affect others.

There is a lot a man should be, but is not. All men should aspire to live to these ideals because even if you can’t hit upon all of them, you may achieve many of them. And well, that’s not so bad.

Go forth and be men… ya jag-offs.

On Wine

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

At times, I can be that guy at a restaurant. I try hard not to be, but given that I like the stuff so much and actually read the magazines about it, it’s tough to keep from applying what I know.

I’m talking about being the guy who accepts the one ounce (or less) pour of wine, swirls it a bit, pushes his nose into the glass to take in the bouquet, and then says “alright.”

Back in early 2003, when I was 28 years old, I began drinking wine. I had no knowledge of the stuff whatsoever. I thought I liked Cabernet more than Merlot and I knew I liked red more than white. That was the extent of my knowledge. A good bottle, for me, was something in the $12 to $20 range.

My girlfriend at the time wasn’t a beer, or mixed drink, drinker. She liked Merlot. I was coming into my own professionally and emotionally. I had been through a 4 year relationship that taught me a lot about myself and I was feeling more, “adult.” I began reading, and still do to this day, Esquire magazine every month. You know how in their magazine in the MAHB section (Man at His Best) they have “The Rules” at the bottom of the page? There was one rule I read that stated “Know wine, but don’t say you know wine.”

It was then that I began watching Simply Wine, at show on Fine Living hosted by Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. In the 30 or so episodes I watched over the course of 6 months I learned SO much about regions, varietals, vintages, blends, and wine making in general. My girlfriend couldn’t stand Andrea. She could come off a little annoying at times, but that Andrea definitely knew her wine.

Simply Wine wasn’t the only thing I used to teach me about wine. I was reading Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast every month too. I began to understand what a vintage report meant and how to use it. I read them so often that after a few months I was able to walk into a wine shop and know without referring to the vintage report cards which region, during which growing season, produced what varietals, best.

The first bottle I bought that cost over $20 was a 1999 Silver Oak. It’s a Napa Valley cabernet aged in 100% new American oak barrels. I bought it on a wine shop on Beacon St. just outside Fenway in Boston. It was close to $70. I remember when we opened it up and had a taste. The difference could be said to have come from my mind as much as it was from the wine itself, but it was SO MUCH better than anything I had before. From that point forward I began buying bottles at an average of $45 to $60 per. Honestly, none quite lived up to that first Silver Oak experience, but the quality of the over $40 bottles was easily distinguishable from those under the $20 price point.

I won’t get into it in this post, but in 2005, about two years into my passion for wine, I wound up moving to San Francisco with my girlfriend. We spent just a smidge under 2 years there and we went to Napa almost every month. My wine education was catapulted, not into snobbery, but into a full-on hobby. I upgraded from a wine rack to a 20-bottle fridge, then to a 35-bottle one, and then onto a 50. Decanters, restaurant-grade corkscrews, Riedel stemware, all these could be found in my home.

Aside from my first sip of Silver Oak, my most memorable wine experience came in September 2005 in Las Vegas. My best friend and I went to Vegas together about a month or two ahead of his wedding. I brought with me a bottle of 1967 Chateau Latour. It was funny because I flew to LV from SF and he came from NYC. The bottle was at my sister’s house on Long Island and I made him pick it up from there to bring to LV for us to have with our big dinner at the top of the needle at the Stratosphere. He was so concerned about how “gay” we looked that every chance he had to put into the conversation with the hostess, the waiter, the sommelier, and even the chef when we met him, that “my best friend and I are in Vegas because I’m getting married to a woman in a couple of months.” It was hilarious.

What I remember about that wine wasn’t so much the wine as the experience. The sommelier came over with the bottle and said, “Wow, we don’t see many of these come through the door. Where’d you get it?” I told him about Wine Commune’s web site and how I bought it at auction. He hadn’t heard of it and so he wrote it down and said he’d def. go there to check out the auctions.

I had learned from my reading wine magazines and web sites that if you offer the sommelier a taste of your wine, they’re more likely to wave the corkage fee. Towards the end of our meal, I asked the waiter to bring the sommelier over. When he arrived I offered him, and the chef, a taste. He was so genuinely happy to accept that he rushed away to get himself and the chef a couple of glasses. They came over, chatted with us for awhile, and asked if we enjoyed everything.

When the bill came, no corkage fee was applied and the desserts were on the house.

What I’ve found in the last 7 years of drinking wine pretty regularly is that what I remember most about the great bottles I’ve had isn’t so much the wine as it has been the occasion… and the people with me during the occasion. There’s the 1997 Groth I had when I left Boston to move to Los Angeles. It was at my going away party and I had several friends there to drink it with me. There was the 97 point 2003 Sea Smoke Ten I drank on New Year’s Eve 2006 in San Francisco at One Market. The vertical of Sea Smoke Tens (2002, 2003, 2004) I had with a special someone on Long Island in March 2008 before I left for LA.

I guess the last thing to say about wine is this… you can buy really good, quality wines for less than $20 (try Cabs from Washington State and South Africa, Malbecs from Argentina, Pinots from Oregon, Chards from Santa Barbara or Long Island, and Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand), and you won’t really taste the difference between those and $50 to $75 bottles. The difference will come from the occasion surrounding the more expensive bottle.

What Can :30 Seconds Do?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Until recently I used to say “it’s not a matter of life and death” or “it’s only advertising.” 

Those statements are meant to provide perspective; for the person saying it and for the people hearing it. They both do a little bit more than that. Those statements create an excuse. They can also minimize the impact and significance of what we can do.

That’s unfortunate.

Advertising isn’t like treating or curing a disease. Of course it isn’t. And it’s certainly not akin to, or even in the same ballpark, as providing food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, or sanctuary for abused children or battered women.

No, it’s not like that either.

At it’s very best, advertising can be a lot like art. I’m not saying those infomercials for Oxy Clean, Life Alert, or even the Snuggie, are forms of art. I’m definitely not saying that.

What I’m saying is that advertising can be a lot like art in that while the purpose is to inform a large audience of message or product “X,” a person can take something away from it that’s inherently more personal.

For instance, when my sister got married I wish I had done something like this, which isn’t to say I was chubby bumbling idiot like the brother in that commercial. Well, at least I wasn’t a bumbling idiot.

Tell me you can walk away from this longer-form ad without holding back a tear and I’ll call you on cold-hearted son of a bitch.

And this commercial just rips me up. My father is getting older. He’s moving more slowly, napping more often, and the thought of losing him has been on my mind more and more these last few months. It’s painful the mere thought. This commercial visualizes it. Ugh.

I think that after those three videos I’ve made the point and you’ve understood it. Right? Mass messages, pimping a product or service, can do, if done well, so much more than “sell” and “inform.”

I guess the reason behind my writing about this today is that I’m surrounded by what seems like meaningless, shallow, and sometimes empty opportunities to create an ad for a client. In taking a step back every now and then, I allow myself to think about what can be. And what these opportunities can be are inspirational, life-altering, and moving… but sometimes, they can just be funny. And to be honest, after writing all this gut-wrenching stuff, I can use a laugh.

When Dating & Advertising Become One

Friday, May 7th, 2010

I really thought I’d be writing in this blog a lot more.

Anyway, I was chatting with a good friend from OMD today. She and I were catching up and she asked about my office crush. You know what an office crush is, right? It’s that person who even if you’re dating someone, engaged, or married, you just like. She (or he) is just nice, or cute, or sexy, or whatever. There’s just a little chemistry there that you’ll never act upon (at least not without copious amts. of beverage) but you like to use as a fun distraction during the day.

My OMD friend and I were chatting about my new office crush. I gave her some details and left it at the basics. OMD girl said, “I hope it works out.” To which I replied, “No no, this is an office crush. Nothing is ever going to happen. I’m dating someone else.”

OMD girl asked, “Did you know her from before you moved to NY?”

Here’s the story, quickly, we met the weekend after Thanksgiving in NYC. I came back for Christmas, she and I had our first date. I flew back, just to go out on another date with her, in late January. I began interviewing in NYC in early March, was flown out for a face-to-face, and went out with her again. I moved to NY a few weeks ago.

OMD girl said, “you flew across the country for her?”

“Yup. I’ve put in some effort. It’s like 95% me in terms of effort.”

And that’s when I went full-on nerd. You see, being an advertising professional it’s tough to separate work from regular life. Since OMD girl is in media, I thought it was best explained in this way (I’ve bolded all the industry terms)…

The campaign to build positive brand image and awareness in Alex© began slowly because my impression levels were low (i.e. I was only able to see her once a month). My impressions were strong because there was a lot of time spent. We’re talking several hours of time spent per visit! But like most brands, if frequency and recency aren’t there, the brand’s lasting impression and eventual recall metrics begin trending downwards. Having localized my campaign (i.e. my move to NY) the impression levels have increased and there’s a chance we can get this girl to convert. I have no idea if she is into other brands (that would suck) but as she is an attractive consumer I have to acknowledge that other brands are definitely interested in adding her to their loyalty programs.

My campaign has some positive word of mouth going. It’s not paid for either, this is unaided WOM that’s going on. My ex-girlfriend’s good friend is a teacher at this girl’s school and as recently as last week said some very positive things about me. Unsolicited votes of confidence in a product (or brand) usually do well for conversion rates. It’s proven.

I’m not sure how long I’m willing to commit funds to this campaign. The early numbers don’t provide a clean read. Different DMAs, campaign tactics, etc. Now that I’ve ironed out some kinks (3,000 miles of them) the numbers should provide a roadmap that will help me decide whether or not to fund phase II.

I would say that I hope this works out, but David Ogilvy once said, “Hope is not a strategy.”

We’re Not There Yet

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

This is going to be a little bit of a rant that hopefully turns into an enlightened moment.

For a little while there today I was blaming everyone else. Older people, the media team, my agency’s culture… all of them. I was raging today because of several things that just continued to show me “people just don’t get it.”

The “it” in this case is “Interactive” or “Digital” or “the Web”. Choose any one of those words or phrases to describe. You know what I mean. The situation has got to be the same in other agencies. The team works so hard to put a lot of work and thought into some ideas and concepts that are so on point and so strong strategically that you feel proud to have been a part of it. The work gets packaged up with everything else that is going to go in front of the clients and then…. BLAMMO! The agenda is:

1) TV

2) Print

3) Some more TV

4) Let’s revisit strategy

5) Wait, what’s the objective? It’s NOT ______??? It’s _____?!?!!?!?

6) Let’s revisit TV

7) This meeting is a disaster… oh yeah, let’s see the digital stuff…

8) Actually, we’ve run out of time. Tell the digital guys they just need to mimic the TV.

Why is digital work still such a fight? Why, despite all of the measurements and accountability, does it still play 3rd and 4th in agendas? How is it that despite all the mainstream media coverage and acknowledgement of the changing landscape of consumer behavior, media consumption, and near constant connectivity to the Internet, marketers and advertisers STILL DON’T GET IT!?!?

Something obviously happened today that has caused me to go damn near psycho about my agency and this industry.

But after a half day of being angry I had that moment of enlightenment that I so desparately needed. I blame myself. I blame anyone who reads this and is in the industry as a digital professional. Whether it’s in Account Management, Creative, or Media, if you aren’t working to convince those who don’t understand, that they should understand, then you’re to blame.

Too many times I can remember sitting in meetings thinking to myself, “no no no, it’s not only about _____ it has more to do with this _____ because that’s where the people are spending their time,” only to sit there and continue listening to old solutions trying to solve today’s problems.

Jerry Maguire. He had that moment of clarity late one night. I arrived at mine today through a fit of rage. A last straw if you will. He wrote a mission statement (it wasn’t a memo, remember?). I wrote a blog post. Jerry placed the mission statement in everyone’s mailbox. I’m going to speak with the people in charge.

Why? Because a good friend here at the agency told me people around the office “seem to just be waiting for someone else to do something.”

Isn’t that when someone should? Isn’t that called leadership?

Yes and Yes.

Happy Birthday To Me!

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

So today is my 35th birthday.Three. Five.I’m the same age Jerry Maguire was when he wrote his “mission statement” (remember it wasn’t a memo). Should I stand up today, make a huge scene on the basketball court in the middle of my agency (I work at Chiat\Day), and exclaim that the fish have more loyalty than anyone in the building?Nah. I’m going to go through my day and bask in the glory that is 35 years old. I figure here are the benefits of this age, both personally and professionally.Professional benefits

  • Closer to the age where considering me for Group Account Director positions isn’t outrageous.
  • Still young enough that to achieve a position like a GAD is an accomplishment and “ahead of schedule”
  • Seen as an experienced Account person in the eyes of my clients
  • My earning power is that much higher

Personal benefits

Do I feel differently? Not really. The only age in my last 10+ birthdays that affected my thinking was when I turned 30. Oh man is there a story around that birthday. Ugh. Anyway, I expect 40 to play on my brain a little bit, but overall 35 isn’t much different than 34 was or that I expect 36 will be.I’m 35 years old and today is the first day of the rest of my life.