Category Archives: A day in the Life

These are gone. I’m still here.

I turned 60 today. Thirty six of those 60 years have been spent in The Belly of the Beast, churning out ads.

While the plot lines of this business are as well-worn as an old married couple’s arguments (clients are tasteless/account people are spineless/creatives are clueless), the vocabulary used to express it has changed. Here are 20 terms and names in common use in ad agencies when I started which are no more, thanks to technology, death and consultants: 


Hot type



Copy contact


Double truck




3/4 inch

Slop print




Burke opening

Spec (as a verb)


Above the Line/Below the Line

Elbert Budin

Want to know what these terms mean and too lazy to google them all? Go to, my agency’s blog, for the full rundown.

Tagged , ,

Welcome to the Machine

Us, and them 

and after all, we’re only ordinary men

–Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon”

Well, it’s not as exciting as Megan tidying up the ruins of last night’s party in her undies, but the scene in last night’s “Mad Men” season premier in which Don failed to go to bat for Peggy’s Heinz creative work certainly got my attention.

First: good for Peggy to try to do something other than the expected bite-and-smile formula for a food product.

But shame on her for substituting a technique (high-speed macrophotography) for an idea, which the dancing bean campaign conspicuously lacked.

And shame on Don, who was too busy thinking about Megan’s undies the new airline account, for not killing it before the client meeting.

Be that as it may, Peggy had her selling shoes on in front of the Pittsburgh posse, to little avail. Don’s lame “I hope you’re as excited about this work as we are” line as he arrives late to the meeting does nothing to change that. And when the Heinz guys begin the death-by-a-thousand-cuts, Don’s silence is deafening—and infuriating to Peggy.

Peggy, Peggy, Peggy….welcome to the machine. Don used to be Us. Now he’s Them—agency management that looks at Heinz and sees a mortgage payment, not an idea-killer. Don’s not building his portfolio anymore…he’s buying snow-white wall to wall carpeting to zooba-zooba on.

Peggy doesn’t know it, but she’s in the sweet spot of her career: as a creative supervisor, she’s senior enough to make an impact, work on the best briefs (letting Megan do the coupons), and see them through to presentation. Yet she can remain pure. She has no payrolls to meet, no office rent to pay, no client CEO to answer to (at least directly).

In modern big-agency hierarchy, this sweet spot lasts approximately through Group Creative Director level. Once Executive or—God forbid—Chief becomes part of your title, the dancing beans go back in the can and life becomes much more complicated. Yes you make more money. Yes you have more power.

But you have Peggy’s eyes, bright with fury and disappointment, boring into you.

Thanks for the support, asshole.

Tagged ,

Maybe if you play with the rabbit ears it will get better.

There’s a new empathy-building exercise that doctors, physical therapists, and others who deal with the elderly do to help them better understand what it’s like to be old–at least physiologically. It involves things like goggles that restrict their vision, ear muffs, weights on their shoes and clumsy-making gloves. Pretty clever idea, actually. But if they really wanted to enhance the experience, they would also ask participants to watch “Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood” on CBS on, well, Sunday morning.

The show itself is the antithesis of modern visual style. The camera is still. the frame is uncluttered. People talk in quiet, measured tones and tell their stories in leisurely fashion. Everyone behaves properly and is appropriately attired. There are profiles of nice people and pictures of nature.

Hello? Are you still with me? Would you rather watch something that involved death, despair, generational squabbles about money, and unfulfilled sexual situations? That would be the commercials on this show. In one pod, you might see  advertising for Cymbalta, Flomax, , reverse mortages, estate planning, United HealthCare and a spirited defense of the dead-tree version of the New York Times.

Now obviously, these advertisers are all here for a reason–they’ve come for the Early Bird Senior Special–but the cumulative effect for the audience has to be depressing. And (to borrow from the hilarious Direct TV campaign) when you’re depressed, you stay in bed. When you stay in bed, you get bed sores. When you have bed sores, you get cast as a zombie on The Walking Dead. When you get cast as a zombie, somebody sticks a hunting knife in your skull.

Don’t wind up with a hunting knife in your skull. Watch cartoons on Sunday morning.

  1. Ask your doctor if Cymbalta is right for you.

Tagged , ,

Sharing is work.

No one would ever confuse me with one of Malcolm Gladwell’s Connector types. I’m not a schmoozer and I dislike blurring the boundaries between personal and business, much to my own detriment no doubt.

But let me state this plainly: sharing is work. I look at the pyroclastic flow of Tweets from that Mashable guy and I just get exhausted. And a little sad.

Last weekend I was a bachelor because Lindsay was visiting my daughter in DC. So I decided it would be my weekend of being digitally social. I would be multi-platform, synchronous, dynamic and engaged.

First I decided I would Tweet (I’ve had a Twitter account for a month, totally inactive). But about what? And to whom? And if I riff on someone else’s stuff, how do I keep the url of that person’s Tweet or post or whatever from hoovering up half of my 140 characters?

Also, if I Tweet, do I tell people about it on my blog? Or is it the other way around–tell people on Twitter I just added a blog post? And does that show up on Facebook? Should it?

Now my agency has a blog and a Twitter feed. Am I supposed to keep them all separate? Isn’t that the virtual equivalent of being schizoid?

Look, here’s an interesting article. Do I hog it for myself to RT on my own Twitter account? Do I take one for the team and send it to Seiden?

Are there people you can hire who will spend all day on Google looking for the urls you need to link your references?

I mean, who wants to do that? That’s worse than digging fence posts.

At least when you’re digging fence posts, your mind is free to wander.

Spending your day staring at 4 open, blinking dashboards, wondering how to parse your thoughts into packets to disburse into these gaping maws, is like putting your brain through a potato ricer.

And one more thing–there’s absolutely nothing refreshing about refreshing your page.

Tagged , ,

Because "very small" didn’t sound right.

John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics. These are the “finished” words. The other side of the page has even more scratch-outs.

Sold at Sotheby’s on Friday for $1.2 million.