Think Outside the Wheelhouse

On the latest episode of The Pitch on AMC, we saw an almost all-woman ad agency pitch a beauty product against an agency of mostly men. Guess who won.

The men.

A few years back, our agency had a jump ball project for a line of toys. My creative partner and I were the only ones at that agency without kids. Our work ended up being picked.

Every time someone tells me a project should be right up my alley or in my wheelhouse, it’s not.

Ideas are assholes that way. They never show up when they’re supposed to. They always visit the wrong brains. And, if you try to control them, you’ll only piss them off. And, then they’ll never show up. 

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Shows People are Talking About (except Game of Thrones)

You know how it is when everyone is talking about a TV show that you’ve never seen? Well, I put away my fair share of TV now that I’m freelancing/unemployed and here’s my quick rundown of shows I’ve seen.

  • Sons of Anarchy: About a motorcycle gang that spends more time hugging each other and hanging out in a hospital than riding bikes.
  • Californication: It’s about a guy who can’t stop getting laid written by a guy who never gets laid. No one in the world talks or acts like the characters on this show.
  • Homeland: It’s 24 only Jack Bauer is a woman and crazy.
  • Walking Dead: Survivors of a zombie holocaust debate whether they should stay where they are or go somewhere else. Every once in a while some zombies show up.
  • Mad Men: Unhappy people who only find happiness when making other people unhappy.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Should be called The Neil Patrick Harris Show. No one cares how the other guy met “the mother.”
  • Breaking Bad: Adventures of super smart guy and his really annoying sidekick who uses the word “bitch” a lot.
  • True Blood: Overacting with lots of nudity and annoying accents. Seriously, how hard is it to do a Louisiana accent?
  • American Horror Story: If you tell your gay friends you watch it, you’ll be in their cool book.
  • 2 ½ Men: When I drink all day and hit on girls way too young for me, it’s sad. When Charlie Sheen does it, its funny and sad.
  • The Killing: I tried to watch it. Really, I tried. Might be good. Not my thing.
  • Hannibal: CSI with more blood.
  • House of Lies: Be careful. I like this show so much that I started talking like Don Cheadle at work and it may have gotten me fired. 

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Ninja Slackers may have already invaded your office space.

There’s a new breed of slacker out there. They’re hard to find because it’s so easy to create the illusion of hard work in this digital age. Sometimes, they don’t even know they’re slacking. I’m not talking about the guy you busted checking Facebook or Funny-or-Die, I’m talking about these people:

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The Meeting Stretcher: No meeting should last any longer than one hour. As much as we hate meetings, this slacker gets a weird sort of comfort from them. He or she gets to talk, others have to listen—it’s a good feeling. They’re kind of like that guy at the bar during last call who won’t leave.

The Laurel Rester: This person accomplished something great six months ago. They may have won an award or picked up a client. Whatever they did, they’ll be sure to remind you of it when you ask how their current project is moving along.

The Tortured Soul: They were here until three in the morning last night. They haven’t slept in 3 days. They don’t get to spend enough time with their family. They love to complain about how the job is torturing them and always try to one-up other Tortured Souls since they seem to attract one another. Who knows if they’re any good. The only thing we do know it that they’re working hard and hating it.

The “I Agree” Person: We get paid to find solutions, make decisions and take risks. This is sometimes the hardest part of the job yet the least time consuming. That’s why this slacker is usually overlooked. They just say, “I agree” when a safe or popular decision is on the table—a decision usually made by someone in senior management.

The Super Multitasker: This slacker is usually doing 100 tasks that are actually pretty easy but makes them look hard. They plan the birthday parties, organize the softball team, pick out the new carpeting—that kind of stuff. They make sure their plate is full so that they’ll have the excuse of being “too swamped” when their real assignment falls apart.

The Bus Rider: Why isn’t this slacker’s job done? It’s always someone else’s fault and they’re not afraid to throw that person under the bus.

The Smart Person In Meetings: This slacker has been around forever. Their biggest accomplishment is saying something just smart enough when senior management is in a meeting. “We’ll implement a strategy that generates buzz through viral media with cost-effective growth if we analyze the key components…” Yeah, that person.

I get it. You’re paying these people. How can you tell who’s working and who’s slacking? My suggestion: Don’t evaluate the workers. Evaluate the ideas. Evaluate the results. This new economy is being fueled those ideas—not time sheets.

Or, just hire freelancers. I happen to know of a really good freelance copywriter.

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A message to all ad agencies: I’m single (again).

Jobs are like marriages. On the day you’re hired, it’s one of the happiest days of your life. And, usually, that’s the happiest you’re going to feel at that job. I’ve been married 8 times (in other words, 8 different jobs). I want to spend the next year dating. Or, as I like to call it—freelancing.

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Paying the bills used to be my ultimate goal. I’ve accepted jobs in the past that weren’t right, but were right now—when I needed the money. On this new adventure, paying the bills will no longer be a priority. I will get by the old fashioned way—by picking up odd jobs and begging friends and family. BTW, mystery shopping pays well and gives you plenty of free meals. My priority is to find the right job. I want to freelance my ass off. I want to work for big agencies and small agencies. The creative shops and the conservative ones. It doesn’t matter. It’s time to sow my creative oats.

HERE’S MY PITCH:

I want to be your freelance copywriter. I want to help you with big ideas that solve problems. If we hit it off, hire me for another project. Let’s see where it goes from there.

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The most valuable lesson from The Karate Kid

Actually, there are a ton of valuable lessons in the movie but this one is my favorite.Be a creative agency “yes” or be a creative agency “no.” If you be a creative agency “guess so,” you’ll get squished just like grape.

Most people seem to take a stand only when it’s convenient or when it’s safe. But, if you spend most of your time in meetings just agreeing with others—you’ll eventually get squished just like grape.

Or, maybe you won’t. What the hell do I know? I live my life according to movies from the 80s.

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Jerry Maguire is a movie about assholes.

As I was rewatching everyone’s favorite feel-good movie from the 90s last night, I realized it’s about a bunch of assholes. Here’s why:

Asshole #1—Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is an asshole for writing a mission statement for a company he does not own. He didn’t even run it by management. He just assumed he owned the company and rewrote the rule book. Then he dumps his fiancee after she gets understandably pissed when he screws up the Cush deal. She’s still loves him, she’s just mad. He’s also a crappy salesperson. He begs Glenn Fry to give Cuba Gooding Jr. a 10 million dollar contract as a favor. Way to sell, Jerry. The only reason his #1 client got the huge deal was because he faked an injury then acted like a buffoon on the football field. He didn’t do shit to deserve that long hug at the end of the movie. He even stole his company’s fish because they have manners. Sending out a mission statement without the bosses approval is pretty freakin’ impolite Jerry.

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Asshole #2—Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is an asshole gifted enough to start in the NFL, but boo-hoo, isn’t making shoe, soda and video games commercials so he blames his agent. To get people to love him and his major deal he has to fake and injury and then act like a buffoon on the field.

Asshole #3—Dorthy Boyd (Renee Zellweger) is an asshole because she’s a single mom, freeloading in her sister’s house who quits her job to work at Tom Cruise’s unstable company. Then she gets all bitchy at her sister who is basically supporting her ass—her asshole kid’s too

Asshole #4—Ray (The kid) for guilt tripping Tom Cruise into marrying his Mom. But, he’s a kid. We’ll let that one slide.

Asshole #5—The Football Fans for only liking Cuba Gooding Jr. after faking an injury and acting like a buffoon. When he was “keeping it real” they didn’t like him. Only when he acts like a jackass do they give him love.

Asshole #6—Frank Gifford for his “who cares” remark after Cuba acts like a jackass and earns a penalty flag. Who cares? We care. These freakin’ games last forever. Quit acting like a buffoon so we can kick the extra point.

Notice how all of these assholes get mad at normal people (movie villains) just for acting like rational adults.

Bob Sugar (Jay Moore) runs a company and gets rid of slackers who try to rewrite the rule book.

Kelly Preston (Avery) is a nymphomaniac willing to try lesbianism just to turn on her fiancee but gets a little pissed when the dumb ass makes a stupid mistake that has serious consequences to her life as well as his.

Don’t get me wrong. Still a good movie. Just shows how a good film maker and a cheesy Bruce Springsteen song can make us like a bunch of assholes. It’s all image and perception, right?

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The Illusion of Work

 I wasn’t a great student growing up. On nights when I was supposed to be studying, I would open a book and pretend to study whenever my mother walked by. I was only hurting myself but at least I would get sympathy from my parents instead of anger when my grades were bad. I wasn’t doing my homework, I was doing the illusion of homework.

 Today, I look around the office and see coworkers doing the illusion of actual work. They show up on time, stay late and always have their timesheets done. They love to attend meetings. They participate by agreeing with safe decisions. They rarely bring anything to the table. 

 Ask these workers if they’re busy–they’re swamped. They love to brag about their workload. Have they accomplished anything major? Who knows. But, if they were here until 10pm last night, you’ll know. They’ve spent a career doing what I did when I was 15.

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