Hey CMOs, to #TakeOurIndustryBack, march those pitchforks down the hall

Reading the ANA’s #TakeOurIndustryBack manifesto earlier this week, I found myself disproportionately pissed off.

Growing talent, promoting transparency, being inclusive, advocating for causes – nothing in this one-page, CMO-driven manifesto is particularly objectionable.

Except it’s basic premise.

That somehow these things are the solution to reversing declining ad effectiveness and the general consolidation in our industry. That somehow, these small-minded, perhaps no-shit-Sherlock, initiatives are the Mount Sinai stone tablet solutions to a huge issue.

Guess what, CMOs? The real root of the problem is sitting a few doors down from you and drawing a salary that makes yours look like a naughty kid’s milk money. Those CEO paychecks makes your humble millennial marketing coordinators’ salaries look even sadder.

So while advocating for better media transparency is a great idea, if you want a solution for growth, perhaps you high-falutin national advertisers should just pay your people better.

You see, gross income inequality, lack of prospects, disloyal employers and crippling uncertainty have bred an entire generation of Americans without the hope and certainty it takes to buy a whole bunch of stuff. I'm buying a house right now, and I'm scared as shit because that means I'm dependent upon you fickle and undependable assholes.

It’s thanks to your crap policies that your millennial employees have developed a frugality borne out of skepticism that’s pressure cooking our industry. This marketing industry – caught between a young public that’s not buying what we’re selling and a completely irresponsible corporate leadership whose skyrocketing expectations are only outpaced by their irrationally ballooning salaries.

All of this shit runs on hope and optimism. All of it. You know, just this little thing we call capital-C Capitalism.

Seriously, even crap marketing works better when people feel hopeful for the future. Imagine what the good stuff can do under those circumstances. 

So here’s a better answer to how to bring back prosperity in marketing: just fucking treat your people better. Pay them better. And while you’re at it, try paying your agency and media partners better. Stop this RFP-fueled race to the bottom behind dog-whistle terms like best practices and analytics and fresh thinking.

Because we hardworking under-40 agency folks like me are your potential consumers. So stop being such entitled messiah-complex dickholes. Get your bosses to loosen up those gravity-strained purse strings and watch us buy a whole bunch of meaningless crap just like our forefathers. 

XOXO – Some Nobody Fucking Copywriter
 

ADDENDUM: Lest you think I'm just some entitled young'un who thinks the world owes him something, consider the fact that the Economic Policy Institute is saying pretty much the same thing. Oh, and here's The Atlantic and Fast Company covering the shift in millennial consumption trends. For what its worth, I think the Fast Company thesis that a shift in attitudes towards ownership is a much smaller factor than the economic trends. Millennials would have cat-with-heart-eye-emoji feelings for just as many products if we hadn't had the stars knocked out of our eyes by massively depressing economic factors and general hopelessness.

Jacob Edenfield: Drowned in Drool from Donut Dream

Jordan says it's the best epitaph ever. I am glad it is not my epitaph. Here's the story. 

I am off work today, so I took a short, inadvertent nap with the cat I am fostering. I was petting him on my bed. Lights out.

I had a dream, which is not entirely uncommon when I nap. This one was one of my vivid ones, though. 

I was working as an actor on a "scripted" series about a haunted house. Only it was in an actual haunted house. Real crew, real actors, real ghosts and ghouls. And I suppose all of the excitement helped me work up an appetite because I was straight mashing craft services donuts in my face after every take. Talking three, four donuts at a time. And they were the really good, cake donuts, too. Chocolate glazed ones, blueberry sour cream ones. So good. My favorites.

I was actually eating my third blueberry sour cream cake donut when I woke up. My eyes opened, and then my mouth opened, leaking what felt like a cup and a half of drool onto my pillow. My whole mouth full of drool, my whole face covered in drool, because of a dream about donuts. 

The end.

The Creeping Vine

The good ache of crawling inside.

Holding you up. 

Tearing you down.

The distinction withers.

Because all of this is you now. 

This is growth.

And growth is beautiful.

"1459 Days"

7/29/14

Monday, July 14, 2014. It's a slow start to the day for the German contingent at the Geneva headquarters of the International Future Affairs Bureau. Amongst the tall cafe tables in the common room, there's a queue at the coffee maker and bleary eyes staring into the middle distance as Rolf Diller starts the Monday staff meeting. 

Through the glass wall behind him, the Swedish contingent is coming off their shift in The Pool. Their deep black wetsuits seem to absorb all the light, and the shimmering water dripping off their bodies seems to to cast its own shadows, independent of the overhead lights.

"Alright, people. Welcome back. And congratulations, Deutschland! Hooray." 

The group puts up a hoarse, tired half yawn, half cheer. 

"Sure, we all saw it coming for quite some time, but it doesn't make the moment any less exciting if you ask me."

A middle aged woman is dozing off leaning on one of the cafe tables near the back of the room. Rolf claps his hands, and she jolts awake, eyes wide. 

"Now, I hope you all had a chance to sleep off the worst of last night's parties. Maybe not you, Tara." 

Rolf walks over to a lovely blonde in a mini-dress made to look like the national jersey. Chuckles ripple through the room as he picks a piece of condom wrapper out of Tara's still-mussed hair and places it in her hand. She smiles, keeping her teeth to herself, as her face flushes deeper than the red on the bust of her dress. 

"Okay, yes. It would have been nice to declare today a work holiday, but as you all know the future waits for no one. Nothing lasts forever. Especially a World Cup win. And right now we only have 1,460 days to make good on this victory." 

Rolf gestures to a lithe man with jet-black hair, olive skin and an indistinguishable age who is leaning against the wall.

"Thanks to Steven's enterprising swim half a decade into the future, we all know that Portugal gets their turn in four years, so what are we going to do for Deutschland while we're on top? We need to start seeding our suggestions into The Pool right now if we're going to make these projects happen.

Several in the group shift from foot to foot. They reach into bags and satchels, removing their wetsuits that seem to dim the light around them.

Rolf extends his hand to a middle-aged, completely bald man with enormous bags under his eyes.

"Okay, Paul, you're up first. What've you got for us?"

Scratching his balding head and screwing up his face in thought. "We could, uh, inspire a few developers to build a new bridge over [river] painted like the national jersey."

Rolf nods, more in encouragement than approval. 

"Bridges. Alright, Paul, that's a good opening suggestion. We do have lots of rivers. Those rivers mostly do have bridges already. But we'll leave it on the table. What else? Sarah?"

"We could use the goodwill to drive giving to our national charities."

"Raise the standard of living for those most in need. Nice suggestion, Sarah."

Sarah smiles and nods at the approval. Another young woman a few feet behind her takes a generous swig of an energy drink and fires off: 

"Maybe it would be good to get the public health services to invest in more dream therapy, meditation and programs that would help deepen the consciousness. A stronger stream would improve our contribution to the whole. And it would certainly make the swimming a lot easier." 

Chuckles and agreement sound off through the group. 

"Great idea, Amanda. It's only been a week, and I already can't imagine our team without you."

Amanda raises a smiling toast with her giant can before taking another pull.

"Okay, well, that's a strong start, people. Keep thinking about your suggestions."

Rolf gestures through the glass wall to The Pool.

"Now, we'll spend the morning just surveying the waters and getting a sense of what's rattling around in the collective consciousness in the wake of the victory. Then we can start talking about how to implement these suggestions at the afternoon strategy meeting."

Rolf inhales deeply as his face drops. He eyes two burly gentlemen in suits as they enter the door in back.

"Okay, before we move on there's one unfortunate piece of business to take care of. It has come to my attention that we had a security breach over the weekend."

Heads turn as the group surveys one another. A young man in brightly patterned shorts and leather sandals begins to back up. His mouth is open, moving but soundless. 

"Freidreich, please stop there. Don't make this difficult."

Freidreich spins and breaks into a run toward the door, leaving his sandals behind. The two suited men converge, and Freidreich throws his messenger bag at one of them before bending into a wide right turn along the wall and toward the entrance to The Pool, weaving between his frozen coworkers and knocking over a cafe table, leaving the two agents behind. 

He reaches the threshold, arms outstretched, just as a third agent swings into the room, and, diverting his momentum, slams Freidreich into the glass partition. A queasy thwack and thrum as the hard and soft parts of Freidreich's face impact and reverberate the large glass pane. 

The sound mingles with gasps as Freidreich's body crumbles to the floor. A small pink smear is left on the shuddering window, and the three agents dog-pile the wild-eyed fugitive, flipping him over and zip-tying his hands behind his back. As two of them jerk him to his feet the third gathers his sandals into the messenger bag, shouldering the lot.

"No, please. I only talked to a few people. Please. I just thought if people knew about the important work we do, maybe – people should know. Please." 

His nose and a cut in his eyebrow both bleed freely as his wild eyes search the room of shocked faces. Rolf swivels to address Freidreich and the group of shocked onlookers.

"I'm sorry about this, Freidreich. But you took a pledge to this work, and you've betrayed that commitment. You've betrayed the work – and all of us, your friends and colleagues. And for what? For what?" 

The agent with the messenger bag turns and heads to the door. The two agents holding Freidreich's arms jerk him along behind as he continues to cry, "Please, Rolf. Please, Dieter. Please. Please." 

The agent in front silences him with a quick elbow to the solar plexus. And the only sound is the smack and drag of bare feet accompanied by click of stacked leather soles receding on the tile floor.

Rolf widens his eyes and gives the group a slight shrug. 

"Well, that was a little more excitement than I was hoping for on a Monday morning. But let's just all remember that we're a team, and we need to be able to depend on one another's discretion to do our work. I trust there's no one else who wants to join Freidreich for interrogation and a memory excision."  

Rolf surveys the room as several employees shift from foot to foot before asking, "Okay, what about any other business for the day before we get started?"

Amanda tips up the last of her energy drink and crushes the sides of the can in her fist, "The cluster valves on the condensers are getting a bit clogged. The future is literally getting hazy." 

The fog hanging in the room dissipates as everyone enjoys an easy laugh.

Miss Midnight

Smile, lips, teeth, mind. 

The vision behind your eyes. 

In the black and white of no light. 

Miss Midnight, who are you? 

Strange, that. Falling in love with a stranger in dreams.

Feels more familiar than waking.

Whose dream will we meet in tonight?

Living the dream

A few weeks ago, I had a pretty unsettling dream. It has stuck with me ever since with all its questions, validations, hopes, futilities and intrigues. I'll convey it to you as it appeared to me.

I'm waking up, but I can't see anything.

A picture of a body encased in plastic floats into my mind's eye. You can't move.

Someone is communicating with me, but it's not with words. It's with music, pictures and direct meaning. Well, I guess I can't move.

A scene of doctors in scrubs and masks. You're going to see doctors.

Oh, fuck.

Don't be alarmed. Pictures of babbling brooks and peaceful waters bombard my mind. 

Okay, I can deal with this.

You had an accident, and it's a miracle you're alive. Here's what happened.

That's me, falling off a 30-foot ledge, head-first into the concrete below. What I can only assume is the embodiment of my consciousness falls through the scene.  

Rapid-fire images of friends and loved ones in hospital settings. Frowning, smiling, talking. They're visiting. They're visiting me.

Why can't I see my face? Why can't I see my head? What the hell is going on? Is that a diagram of my nervous system and my neural network?

Who are those guys in weird mascot suits? Is that cheering? Why are my coworkers here? Um, this is the Super Bowl, and I'm under the field. Oh, I'm going onto the field through an elevator. I'm in some sort of wheelchair. I use my will to move, but I get a wheel stuck on the edge of the elevator. My coworker, Jared, helps me get unstuck. I catch my reflection in the glass of the elevator. I don't even seem human.

Ugh, it's really cold. I wave to the crowd from the screen mounted to my chair, a cheery avatar of myself acting out my thoughts. 

Darkness, stillness and waking again. Is that me? Am I that surgical armature? Smiling, proud engineers are finalizing connections on the machine. But the machine is me. My consciousness, my personality, my life in a non-human shell. I can feel the excitement in the room. The excitement is my own. Did I make this possible? 

And now I'm in a dark box. In front of me, light seeps in as the wall folds down into a ramp. I have cameras. I can see myself. I'm a car. A really rad Nissan touring car. I'm a fucking real-life KITT from Knight Rider, and I'm making my debut at some demo event.

This must be the future. i guess everyone is kind of Tibetan/Mongolian in the future. I'm musing on the attractiveness of the quasi-Asian ladies surrounding me. They're giggling because my thoughts are projected for everyone to see. I'm embarrassed. But I'm a machine with human personality, consciousness and intelligence. Who am I trying to impress?

Wow, I'm cold again. Where am I now? I hear music. I see more Tibetan faces. It looks like they're uncovering my camera lens. How did I get buried?

Welcome to your first day on the job. That's the seeming message of the music piping into my thoughts. No words. Just meaning. Meaning and music. Why can't I open my eyes?

We need to run some calibration tests first. Can you move your fingers? Your hands? Now your arms. Now your hips. Concentrate on moving forward. Now on turning. Stop trying to use your eyes. We need to calibrate your infrared and radio frequency sensors first.

Over the course of the tests and the chatter of the music, I learn that my landing module has just dropped me off on an exoplanet outside our solar system. I'm a rover, and I'm here to explore on behalf of what's left of mankind on Earth. 

Okay, this is fucking rad. But that means that everyone I've ever known or loved is long dead. 

Nope, they're here with you. You'll always carry them with you. They are your thoughts, your memories, your experiences. You can summon them whenever you need. 

You are humanity's emissary. Go out and touch the universe. And let us know when it touches back.

It's hard to laugh and cry at the same time, but that's what's happening in my mind. I'm alone. In space. To explore for probably thousands of years. Awe, shock, fear, loneliness and empowerment settle onto my head like a stocking cap. Except I don't have anything even resembling a human head. This is going to take some getting used to. But I guess I have plenty of time.

Let's give those optical sensors and locomotion a try. 

My mind's eye lights up with new sensory input. There's a topography map, wavelength data, transmission readout. These new senses are overwhelming but oddly familiar. I guess I've lived longer as a machine than I did as a human. I'm ready for this. 

I wheel and tread down the mountain, getting a sense of my bearings. The first conscious being outside our solar system. And I don't even know if I can call myself human.

It's a bittersweet immortality.