Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I just had a struggling copywriter sitting in my office.
She's trying to write the mission statement for a probono/non-profit/apparel company.
And she's concerned that the client doesn't know what she's selling.

My response: clients rarely understand what they're selling.
Because while the eyeballs may say we're selling beer or soap or a trip to Disney World, we're almost never selling those things. If we were selling those things, we'd just put a big picture of them, along with the price, on the nearest flat surface and wait for the phonecalls and the dirty folk and the drunks to show up.

We're selling the idea. We're selling the club. We're selling intelligence. We're selling "But I'm worth it" and "Man Laws" and the feeling of a quarterback who's just won the SuperBowl, but whose only thought - the only thing that could top the feeling of winning the fucking superbowl - is going to Disney World.

We're not selling actual plane tickets., hotel rooms and 7 dollar ice cream cones.

At least I'm not.

My job is magic. There is no inherent magic in a case study or a bar graph or a 3.5% increase in sales. That's math. You hire mathematicians and that's what you'll get. You hire a media company and they'll increase your GRPs. Shuffle your budget to maximize the impact of your message - hit the right target. Or suggest sticking your idea on the side of a bus. But an unmagical message on the side of a bus is just as unimpactful as if you stuck it in your underwear.

You want magic, you'd better not depend on a mathematician. A microsite or an SMS campaign or a brand manifesto is a great thing. But it isn't magic unless, by encountering it, once gains a profound new emotional opinion of the product or service you're researching. Magic takes parity out of the equation.

Look at the difference between the Zune and the iPod. They do the same thing. They both play music. A thinking man says, buy the cheaper one. But we are not just calculators. We care about the way things feel and look and, yes, the way they are advertised. We define ourselves with our mp3 players- not just our music - and who wants to be brown?
Unless you're UPS - who has found a kind of magic in Brown. Not to suggest that iPod's magic is in the color of the device. iPod's magic is in selling freedom and expression and customization and uniqueness. iPod is a spaceship. Zune is a brick.

People spend ludicrous amounts of money on things based on magic. You won't find it on a spread sheet. Or in the transcript of a focus group. Or in a graph plotting your budget and your bottom line.

Magic is scary and inconclusive and risky and all the things we hate in business. But when you get it, you love it, you ride it for all it's worth and you long for it when it's gone. Magic is a one night stand. You make it with truth and luck and a couple people who believe.

Magic is not units or dollars or a big logo.

For the most part, clients can't make magic. Or they'd do it themselves. Like Target. But damn do they need it. And if your agency can't make it, they'll find one that can. I don't blame them, either. You don't stick with an agency for 20 years because they're nice. You stick with them because they've managed to keep a spark alive in your brand. That spark is M-A-G-I-C.

And when the magic gone, well, you know the rest.

My Christmas list - an open letter to Santa, etc.

Dear Santa.

I'm feeling very overburdened with the impending doom of the planet from various ills and nastiness. That in mind, I'm going to ask you to forgo the typical christmas presents (a video iPod, some socks, a new battery for my old digital camera) and instead consider filling my stocking with more environmentally and socially conscious trinkets:

15 CFL lightbulbs (we'll worry about where to dump them when they burn out in 5 years)
A Noritz hot water heater (various sports talk show jockeys can't be wrong)
Anything Red, as worn by Jennifer Garner, Dakota Fanning, or, most importantly, Bono.
A used copy of the Inconvenient truth DVD
A bigger heart. (preferably more sympathetic, not merely enlarged)
A new bike.
A brisket smoker.

You're doing a hell of a job.


P.S. You'll be excited to know that my new fireplace is much less creosote-y than my old fireplace.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I've already said I love Gyro.

So I don't feel too bad tearing up their latest spotted trend.

C'mon. 'Nerd Chic' isn't a trend.

The raunchification of pop culture is a trend.
The decline of civilization is a trend. Like Plaid, for instance.
The rise of WOM as a viable media option is a trend.

Two people in Buddy Holly glasses: not a trend. Yet.

You want a trend? Here: Pick a trend.

last to know

Holy crap.
This looks unbelievable.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rikki gets tricky

Rikki is making patterns.
Who wouldn't want a tie with one of these designs on it?
Just in time for Christmas.

The truth

I explained away most of the mishaps of my childhood as "I fell out of a tree." As my mother found out this Thanksgiving, this was merely the answer I devised to make me seem less stupid (actually I jumped off the roof after I lost my housekey).

My mother remembers that my sister loves white chocolate. Actually my sister HATES white chocolate. "I knew there was something with her and white chocolate" mom says with a shrug.

These are the topics that crop up after Thanksgiving dinner. The misinterpretations and made-up truths that have become legendary in our household.

Half-truths are the stuff of brand legend, as well.

Floating Volkswagens. Safe Volvos. Indestructable Timex watches. If you say it enough times, you'll believe it. If you say it memorably enough, it becomes the truth. To the point where the real truth is a let-down.

The truth is I was only a little drunk at my cousin Kathy's wedding.
The truth is my Volvo V70 turbo only needed about $3000 worth of repairs. The stupidity lay in buying a car out of warranty, not a car from the russian mob in used car lot in Kensington.
The truth is, Santa is a left boot and an artful bite out of one of the carrots.
The truth is, my brain wasn't going to rot if I got water in my ears.

We don't want the truth. We want a good story. A convincing reason to believe.
We'll make up the truth, and remember it to fit our needs.
My mom doesn't want to know the truth. And neither do you.

Be memorable. Not correct. You'll still end up an authority.